Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.


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Tempranillo with Paella – A Match Made in Heaven over Spain

It was a busy week for the winos, so last weekend we celebrated Tempranillo Day (a few days late, ironic since Tempranillo translates to early) with a delicious paella party and several different Tempranillo wines to taste.

Tempranillo Day celebrations originated with the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) in 2011 and this year was celebrated on November 14.  They have great information on their website ( http://www.tapasociety.org/) about this grape grown in Spain as well as Argentina, Chile, and many more countries. For 2014, the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting is scheduled for Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the Presidio in San Francisco.  Save the Date!

paellaNext, the paella. There are different types – Valenciana, Seafood and Vegetarian.  To accommodate some allergies to shellfish, our hostess prepared a delicious chicken and sausage paella.  this was perfect for Tempranillo.   With seafood paella we may have been inclined to try white wines.  Just so you know, Juan Galbis from Valencia is listed in Guinness World Records for te world’s largest paella in 1992, but he claims to have made an even bigger one in October 2001 that fed about 110,000 people.

Finally the wines, everyone brought something different,  all from Spain, ranging from $40 to $7.

Tempranillo

  • Pago de Sangara, Ribera del Duero Seleccion Especial 2006 – Fantastic, so smooth and everyones winner
  • Pago de Sangara, Ribera del Duero , Crainza 2009 – From the same winery, a bit younger, but just as smooth
  • Albardiales, La Mancha 2012 – Too light, I don’t think hyperdecanting would even help this one.  The paella overpowered it.
  • Luna Negra, La Mancha,  Reserva 2007 – Modest and easy to drink, but after the Pago de Sangara it was a tough act to follow for any of the wines
  • Gorrebusto, Rioja 2012 – we didn’t open this one, that’s the truth.

Looking forward to Tempranillo Day 2014!

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Celebrations – Life, Love & Learning in North Lake Tahoe

Weekend Winos in Lake Tahoe

Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe

The bi-annual celebrations weekend took place in North Lake Tahoe, California.  This is a tradition where the winos get together for a long weekend to celebrate events of the past six months.   Birthdays, weddings, kids off to college, life or just being with friends.  North Lake Tahoe is so relaxing in October – the skiers have not invaded for the winter season, the summer vacationers are home and prices on home weekend rentals are quite favorable.  We found a lovely home Speckled Tree House that we used as the base camp. Adding a few more homes in the surrounding area we managed to keep the whole group within walking distance.   We researched a few of the restaurants in the area and left the rest to chance. 

Highlights:

  • Happy Hour/Sunset at Big Water Grille:  It was Thursday and the place was alive, we immediately knew that the weekend was off to a good start.  Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon and Kim Crawford Chardonnay were the favorites, although the Skyy Cosmos and the well priced beers were also a hit.   With football and baseball on the TVs the sports aficionados (men and women) were happy, and others found peace and quite watching the sunset from the outdoor deck.
  • Lunch at Gar Woods after a walk around Tahoe City:  a go-to destination for views of the Lake and pitchers of Wet Woodys.  Yes that is what they are known for, the group selected 18 Year Old Woody ( with 18 year old Flor de Cana fine rum) and The Black Seal (with Gosling’s Black Seal 151).
  • Dinner with Dehliger:  Everyone cooked and the 1999 Dehligher Syrah and 2000 Dehlinger Pinot Noir were the perfect pairing for the pork loin main course.
  • Brunch with Mumm:  The group split up, some stayed home and popped open magnums of Mumm with a very healthy, home-made chicken salad.
  • Au Revoir Dinner at The Soule Domaine:  A charming log cabin and one of the best local restaurants. The 2012 Laetitia Estate Chardonnay with appetizers,  followed by a 2001 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon were the perfect ending for this weekend adventure.

Weekend Winos Dine with DehlingerWeekend Winos Dine with Dehlinger SyrahWeekend Winos with WoodysWeekeend Winos Dine with ArrowoodWeekend Winos Dine with Laetitia


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Ribera del Duero vs. Rioja – The Lady Winos Choose Rioja

Still on vacation the weekend winos enjoyed a week in Spain split between Madrid and Barcelona.  FreixenetHalf the group had not been to Spain before and were looking forward to the adventure.  We were also lucky to have some seasoned travelers, fluent in Spanish, who quickly helped us find our way around.  It was still very hot in September so the refreshing citrus and fruit sangria (red and white wine) and Cava (sparkling wine) were the most popular choices in our frequent stops between museums, churches and parks.  Freixenet which many of us recognize in the US as the “black bottle bubbly”  Cordon Negro is a family owned company that today is the world leader in méthode champenoise sparkling wines.  As is the case with many wines, the beauty of visiting the country of origin is that you have the opportunity to taste the different varieties which are not exported to the US.  Cava, in contrast to Vinos de Pago where the location is very strict, is produced in several of the 17 Autonomous Wine Communities of Spain.  In Madrid, the iron-and-glass Mercado de San Miguel, just outside Plaza Major, gave us ample opportunity for tastings.  What a great concept, a market by day where locals shop for vegetables, fruits, olives, meat and fish, turns into a tapas, wine and beer destination at night. Pinkelton & Wine at the Mercado became one of our favorite destinations.

Rioja vs Ribera del DueroIt was at dinner time in Madrid, that the Ribera Del Duero vs. Rioja debate started.  A few of the winos had read a lot about Spanish wine, but the majority were happy to ask the server for their recommendation and when it came to red wines, we found that many had strong opinions about Rioja and Ribera wines.  We were a large enough group that we had the opportunity to taste many wines from these different regions.  Ribera del Duero, north of Madrid, is from the autonomous community of Castile and Leon, a producer of high quality red wines primarily from the Tempranilo grape.  The wines are aged in oak and that comes through in the profile with some blackberry and licorice overtones; darker in color but not heavy, it paired well with meats. The men winos consistently preferred Ribera.   On the other hand, the lady winos were drawn towards the Rioja wines, from La Rioja, also based on the Temperanillo grape, aged in oak. Lighter in color, with strawberry and cherry overtones and a touch of vanilla, we found ourselves drinking the Riojas with most everything we ate.

Marques de Grinon

On our last day in Barcelona we stumbled upon Vila Viniteca as we were walking around the Barri Gòtic.  What a great find!  The store has been around since 1932 and was stocked with thousands of different Spanish wines and cavas with some Italian and French wines sprinkled in.  Our plane did not leave till late in the day, so we had time for a few more tastings. That is where we discovered the Marques de Grinon 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Dominio de Valdepusa, the first estate to receive Vinos de Pagos status, reserved for estates that consistently produce high-quality wines.  Not inexpensive, deep red in color with a profile of spices and red berries, this wine was without a doubt the best we had in Spain. It tasted like a great California cabernet – maybe we were ready to head back home.


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Red, White — It’s All Greek to Me!

The weekend winos finally made it to Santorini!  Let me first start by saying, what started as a novice adventure into the world of Greek wine turned out to be a really fabulous experience — on multiple fronts.   We tasted an array of refreshing whites and some very unusual reds.  All proved to be quite good and paired wonderfully with the Greek cuisine.  Many of our meals incorporated their sweet vin sant (which is typical of the area) into the cooking as well.  But let me start from the beginning . . .

Greek red and whiteTruth be told, it was an interview that American journalist Lisa Ling gave several years ago that first caught my interest in Santorini.  She stated unequivocally that of all the places she has traveled throughout her career — Oia in Santorini was the most spectacular.  I quickly penned a note to myself and years later, finally set sail for a new adventure.

Upon our arrival, the locals schooled us in Santorini history and told us that wine was born in the island of Santorini more than 3500 years ago.  A few of the oldest vineyards in Europe are here in Santorini, where the vines grow in curls, low to the ground to avoid the strong sea winds. The volcanic soil would lead you to believe that nothing could grow on this terrain, but the Santorinians combine modern technology with tried and true techniques from the past to produce amazingly good quality wines.

Wine tours can be easily organized and the wineries are extremely welcoming.  It is openly acknowledged that the Greek wines are quite difficult for foreigners to learn about, given the language and alphabet barrier.  The grapes  have different names like assyrtiko, aidani and athiri.  Since the language was not recognizable, we found ourselves at the mercy of our various hosts’ recommendations regarding which wines would pair best with our selected meals.  Despite the various challenges, we unquestionably had one of the most memorable experiences of our lives.

Oia, SantoriniThe town of Oia is charming with many art galleries and some fantastic jewelry. There’s only one word to sum it up — WOW!   If you can swing it, definitely splurge and book one of the Canaves Oia Suites (preferably the one with its own infinity pool!) and you will experience one of the most serene and tranquil time of your life.  They provided us a refreshing bottle of white Assyrtiko Santorini in our room upon check-in, which definitely kicked off the experience!

Known for its fabulous sunsets, the town can get flooded with tours buses from time to time — but go for a stroll prior to 9 am and you will have a very different experience and discover an entirely different town.  Both the crowded and serene versions of the town are incredibly enjoyable though.  The buzz is exciting and the merchants are all welcoming — then when everything is closed, it’s something straight out of a quaint date movie.  Volcanic rock lines the streets and hundreds of steps will entice you to explore.  From the famous windmill to the taverns down by the sea, it is nothing short of a piece of paradise.  Weather-wise, It was hot — even in mid September.  The sun is so bright it is blinding, so this is the perfect time to sit back and enjoy the white wines —many similar to Chablis — and wonder how such beauty resulted from a volcano eruption.

Most of the weekend winos were just delighted to have experienced Oia;  I am genuinely energized to learn more about Greek wines, in hope that when I return I will retain my appreciation and interest in these wines that are difficult to find, but worthy of the search!


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Wine Flight – First Class Tasting Across Time Zones

Last weekend a few of the weekend winos set off  for a well deserved wine tasting experience in Spain and Greece.   With much anticipation about the Spanish reds and no knowledge of Greek wines at all, little did we know that the adventure would begin on American Airlines.

AA First Class Wine List

AA First Class Wine List

At 7:00 am en route to a layover in  NYC (First Class upgrade) we started with a Valdo Prosecco Brut.  They describe it as well-balanced, flavorful and aromatic — I say let the vacation begin!   We reached our cruising altitude and soon discovered that we were  just at the start of a tasting adventure in the skies

  • Ardenwood Chardonnay
  • Turi Sauvignon Blanc
  • Castle Rock California Cuvee Pinot Noir
  • Viansa Vino Rosso

After a couple of rounds to “make sure” we had a well formed opinion, the Pinot Noir stood out as elegant, smooth, medium-bodied with aromas of cherry, tea and spice.  Note:  for proper context, these were true tasting size pours, the flight attendants were delightful and in no way did we over imbibe.  Nothing worst than a drunk passenger on a long flight, except maybe a screaming baby.

AA Business Class Wine List

AA Business Class Wine List

Before we knew it, we arrived at JFK and looked forward to our next wine flight to Spain.  Grateful for the upgrade to Business Class we were greeted with a lovely Gosset Brut Excellence glass of champagne.  The original plan of a good night’s sleep was quickly replaced by a lively discussing of what to taste next from the 7 options available:  2 white, 2 red, 2 dessert wines and a special selection from Ken Chase, the AA Consulting Enologist/Viticulturalist.

  • Villa Solais Vermentino di Sardegna DOC
  • Domaine de Martinolles Cuvee Saint-Hilaire
  • MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva
  • Spotted Owl Vineyards
  • Bodegas Lustau Sherry, Jerez
  • Senhora do Convento Vintage Port

The champagne was the best match for the smoked salmon with blinis and cream cheese starter, and the MontGras Cab for the grilled fillet of beef crusted in Boursin cheese served with spinach, balsamic grilled tomatoes and whipped potatoes.  Unfortunately, exhaustion took over and I was asleep before the dessert cart arrived.  I missed the last leg of my “flight”, I guess you could say . . .

A few hours of sleep was enough to rejuvenate, however, and begin the search for Spanish reds!


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Wine Aerator on Steroids – Really? Winos to the Test

This weekend the group wanted to lay low and just relax.  Thanks to our host we gathered in a beautiful home on the hills and decided to experiment.  Yes we put wine in the blender = Hyperdecanting.

Hyperdecanting in ActionWe are novices, and many of us tech geeks, so after recently reading about this from a twitter follower the first thing we did was a google search for hyperdecanting.  The result was 25 pages displaying 243 of the most relevant results going back to 2011 with write ups in the NY Times, Businessweek, Der Spiegel to name a few  ( I have to believe there are many more, but it still was impressive).  We all bought our Venturi aerators when they first came out,  I use it for red wine.  Our host had several: red wine, white wine and even a spirits aerator – do you need all that?  (Note to self –  subject for a future adventure).

Apparently there is science behind this,  and former Microsoft CTO and master chef Nathan Myhrvold writes about it in his book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.

So we set off to do a blind taste!

Hyperdecanting Sample

Hyperdecanting Sample

We selected a few bottles from those we intended to drink first, all red, and with great doubt and trepidation we started blending.   One by one we uncorked the bottle, tasted, took notes ( we knew we would need them at the end of the evening) and then blended, tasted, took notes.  Some cringed as the blender swirled and the wine foamed.  The habitual wine swirling snobs (a term of endearment) felt a little odd when someone pointed out that the wine had just been blended and that it probably didn’t need any more air.  It was quite the experience,  I’m not sure I’ll ever look at my blender the same way, and for sure I will leave it impeccably clean after “normal” use for the next time I open a bottle of red.

The results?  Oh yes, in all cases the aroma and taste changed and most agreed that it was better, mainly smoother.  As the scribe, I brought everyones notes home only to find many red wine spots and the sad fact that most of the handwriting was illegible, next time we’ll do a recording.

See you all next weekend!


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Party in Your Mouth! SF Chefs 2013 Grand Tasting Tent

A Great Time under the Tent on Union Square in SF!

SF Chefs 2013 Tent

SF Chefs 2013 Tent

 

This weekend we started off with a little misunderstanding about the time we would be allowed in for the 5th Anniversary Friday Night Opening Celebration because the tickets were printed in such a way that caused much confusion (we were not alone).  Being the overachievers we are, we arrived early so we were first in line for the 7:15 pm (not 6:30 pm) entrance.  We put the time to good use, chatted with a charming, very polite and very apologetic greater who clarified the situation to hundreds who approached her, and also met people around us who had been before and gave us some very good tips.

We were prepared with what we learned: (1) the drinks are mostly in the center and the food around the perimeter; (2) to take our time because everyone is there all night and they just keep cooking and pouring; and (3) to enjoy the experience even when it is crowded.

At 7:15 pm sharp they let us in, they had been looking at us for 1 hour and 15 minutes so I had no doubt they would be prompt.  It was immediately obvious that what we had learned from our early-to-queue compadres was spot on!  Everyone got a lanyard (really, not another lanyard), this one actually held your wine glass which proved to be of great assistance as you savored all the tasty bites.

It is a big tent and it was crowded, so the group dissipated and inevitably met as everyone was doing the rounds.  I am pretty sure I remember the highlights we discussed to be as follows:

* Tyler Florence is even more handsome in person.

Tyler Florence

Tyler Florence

* Mixed drinks were one of the stars of the party, form Elixir To Go, Campari, Chambord, Rum, Gin, Bourbon,  even Stella was there.

* Wines were good all around. From Chile to Portugal , a good representation from California and Washington State,  and super rich and smooth Rhone Valley Wines, all fantastic.

* The food that stood out was the risotto from Kuleto’s and all the delicious poke and prawns from the restaurants around it , the ham and warm apple something or other from Wayfare Tavern and El Paseo, the caviar blintz roll from The Plumed Horse, something fantastic from The Beach Chalet and great lamb meatballs from a sponsor who also has I love lam chap stick ( I hope it was mint).

* Cakes and sweets, yes they were there and we were asked to vote for our favorite cake in the competition, which we could not do in all good faith.  With all respect to the pastry chefs, they were a bit lost in the sea of libations and mouthwatering bites.  Does no one in the group have a sweet tooth?

* Russell Jackson (Food Network Star Finalist) was also there without his Guilty Pleasures briefcase.  I wonder how many will be voting for him?

So how do you end a night like this?  Well….. with handfuls of  Fig Newtons and Port that also doubled as a breakfast of champions, the Fig Newtons of course with Starbucks.

See you all next weekend!