Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.


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Spirits Alley Alameda – Vacation 30 minutes from Home

What a nice surprise!  We had planned a fun brunch with winos from Alameda to explore the island. As the sun started to set, we found ourselves drinking wine with a fabulous view of the SF skyline from the former Naval Air Station on Alameda Point. After 4 hours, we were still laughing and relaxed – it felt as if we were on vacation.  But…I am getting ahead of myself.

We had researched bars and restaurants on Park and Webster. We noticed the Pacific Pinball Museum (yes we have some pinball fans in the group), the historic Alameda Theater, and a rich variety of architecturally diverse homes from Bungalows to Victorians. We never expected to discover the tasting rooms at Spirits Alley (walking distance from Alameda’s Main Street Ferry Station) and the fabulous food that appeared from that little window at Scolari’s at The Point 

At first, the huge hangars and old buildings made us wonder what we had gotten ourselves into, then we started seeing names we recognized – Hangar 1 Vodka, Rock Wall Wine Company, Faction Brewing, St. George Spirits, and Building 43 Winery. We were determined to visit all of them.

IMG_9122Well, that was the plan. The reality is that we started at Rock Wall Wine Company and that is where we stayed.  The tasting experience was excellent (5 tastes from an extensive selection + and extra bubbly to start) and you can buy wines by the glass so everyone can have exactly what they want.  That is enough of a good start, but combined with the delicious food from Scolari’s, the comfortable seating area (some of it reserved for adults only), the SF city skyline view and great conversation and laughs with  our group – it was spectacular. Did I mention that each person could buy wine by the glass (in hindsight we should have just opened a few bottles) so everyone could drink exactly what they wanted. During the week, they even have Happy Hour with a 50% discount on select glasses of wine.

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There were many medals displayed, no doubt a result of the skill of Winemaker Shauna Rosenblum.  But over the course of 4 hours of fun and relaxation – we were determined to judge for ourselves, and we did!  Some of the standouts came home with us: 2013 Tannat “The Palindrome”, 2015 Sparkling Grenache Rose , 2014 Chardonnay from Sonoma,2012 Le Mur de Roche ( a special treat) and 2015 Zin Nymph.

We will definitely be back to create new experiences at the other tasting rooms we did not get to this time.

 

 

 

 

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Paella Feast

paella1

The group gathered for a house-warming party and what a treat to be part of it!  It was a large crowd and everyone had a great time.

The hosts hired  Hola Paella  to provide the delicious food and a fantstic show.  They cooked the paella as we all watched. Step-by-step they showed us how its done and our appetite just kept growing and growing. Gratefully the delicious appetizers (Serrano ham and melon mini-skewer; Manchego cheese, Spanish chorizo and Spanish olive stuffed with pimiento in a toothpick; and vegetarian empanaditas) were being served with wine, beer and sangria while we watched.

Making paella is an art form, and Chef Fernando and Team at Hola Paella sure have the experience and love that it takes to make this tasty dish.

paella7paella5The Paella Valenciana is my favorite with all the seafood (mussels, clams, calamari, scallops, peeled and devained shrimp), chicken, Spanish chorizo, pork sausage, timely prepared with rice and vegetables (sweet peas, green beans, garlic, onions, roasted peppers, Spanish saffron and spices. They also prepared, for any guests with allergies,  an All Meat Paella with rice, boneless chicken, Spanish chorizo, pork sausage and green and red roasted peppers, green beans, sweet peas, garlic, onions, Spanish saffron and spices. Both were served with a house salad (Mixed organic baby greens, red peppers, & walnuts served with honey Dijon vinaigrette dressing) & a French Baguette with Butter.

paella3paella9We all chipped in on the drinks and desserts and I assure you nobody left hungry.  The small donuts with dulce de leche filling were the first to disappear. The peanut butter pie with whipped cream was a close second.  Many guests asked to take some of the peanut butter pie home, because they heard it was good but had not had a chance to taste it.  I should have thought of that!

I must confess I did not pay much attention to the libations, my glass was always full with something special that one of the weekend winos had brought to share. I do know that I started with a delicious home made Sangria — must get the recipe.


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The Common Folk Wine Descriptors List

wineIt is with great respect to sommeliers and wine experts around the world that our group took on the subject of creating the “common folk” list for describing wines.

Just Google “wine descriptors” and you find 393,000 results in 0.32 seconds, they include how to articles,  infographics, posters, charts, Wikipedia, descriptors for dummies, and obviously many, many more.  Just videos you find 50,600 and there are lots of photographs too.

On a Friday night, after a long work week, we each brought a bottle of wine ($10 to $60) an made notes of terms we would use to describe them.  At the end of the evening we each handed in our notes (some more legible than others, many with red wine stains) and agreed we would get back together to discuss.  Remember, we are just a group of common folk that enjoy getting together to learn about wine and other libations.

The Common Folk Wine Descriptors List  (in no particular order)

Red, White, Rosé, Bubbly (yes, we did have some champagne)

Buttery: creamy, oily, smooth

Robust: best with food, feels heavy

Smooth: a pleasant experience from beginning to end

Jammy: like jelly

Fruity: peaches, apples, citrus, you know it is some fruit but not really sure what

Light: refreshing (in this case applied to a white wine)

Bold: from the first sip, wham, it hits you hard

Complex: lots going on, can’t really pinpoint a unique quality

Elegant: simliar to smooth

Juicy: very light red wine, almost like grape juice

And of course: Like, Don’t Like

I must admit, our list does not appear to be very profound or sophisticated compared to the more official lists.  Well, we’ll just have to keep tasting and studying to become more proficient.  In the meantime, just knowing what we like is a good start.

 

 


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Pop the Cork – It’s a New Year!

Champagne 2014Happy New Year! The Weekend Winos wish you a year full of health, happiness, good food and libations!

The group agreed that at our first gathering of 2014 we would share a bottle of champagne that we enjoyed during the Holidays. What a treat! The only disappointment was that some of the winos were still traveling and could not join the tasting.

Of the five champagnes we tasted, only one was vintage. Vintage champagnes are produced from grapes grown during that specific year, and usually it is a very good season.  The process is also longer, vintage champagnes have a minimum of three years’ aging which is typically just the minimum as most are aged for a longer period.  The result is usually more complex, layered flavors than its nonvintage counterparts and also a champagne that you can keep in your cellar for longer.

The three champagnes that the group enjoyed the most were:

  • Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Vintage 2002: A notable difference from the nonvintage bottle.  Light in color with a hint of citrus.
  • Duval-Leroy Design Paris Brut: The silk-sceened bottle, signed by LeRoy Neiman, is a work of art and set the tone for the overall experience.  Gold in color, dry with delicate fine bubbles.
  • Comte Audoin de Dampierre Ambassadeurs Brut: We learned that this champagne is served at embassies around the world, as well as presidential and royal receptions.  Elegant and delicate it was perfectly balanced and so easy to enjoy.

This is the start of a new tradition that I am confident the group will repeat every year.


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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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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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Bubbles and a Ray of Sunshine on the Bay

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, CA

This weekend the group was determined to relax, enjoy the fresh sea breeze and make the most of this sailing adventure.  The captain was set and the boat was ready to sail.  All the nautical libations had been researched – we quickly found out there were no rum fans at all, so Captain Morgan would stay on shore.

Did I mention that we were in Santa Cruz, California?  Locals know that the fog stays low till after noon and the wind picks up at around 1 pm.   No problem, we planned accordingly and decided that we were committed to relaxing no matter what the weather had in mind for us.

Starting point was lunch at the Crow’s Nest, casual, tasty food with a good variety of drink options. The group quickly gravitated to the nautical drinks:

Kamikaze Sailor

Kamikaze Sailor

  • Kamikaze Sailor: Stoli vodka, lime juice & a splash of Cointreau.
  • El Capitan Margarita: Herradura tequila and Patron Citronge on the rocks with a blend of sweet & sour juices.
  • Crow’s Nest Sailor Jerry Mai Tai:  A polynesian blend of five rums & fresh fruit juices.
  • Champagne: before, during and after boating.

Sailing not exactly,  we did go boating in a very nice sailboat, the wind did not cooperate but that wasn’t going to stop us from having a great time.  The clouds covered the sky as we left the marina in Capitola;  the captain made sure we were safe and had as smooth a “sail” as possible.  As we “sailed” towards Santa Cruz a ray of sun broke through the clouds and magically followed our boat as we travelled north and then back to the marina.  The prosecco kept flowing and everyone agreed we would be back to try our hand at sailing the next time.

See you next weekend!