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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Stroll The Alameda Part Deux: New Finds!

This year, our second time attending, we had no trouble convincing the winos to join us for a fun afternoon of wine & beer tastings as we visited the merchants on The Alameda.  Much like last year, we met early and endeavored to visit all the locales.

IMG_8803This is the sixth year that the Shasta / Hanchett Park Neighborhood Association and the Alameda Business Association organize The Alameda Wine & Beer Stroll. Armed with our wine or beer glasses and official yellow wristband we were off.  

We recognized some of the participants from last year:  Travieso Winery (should have been back at the tattoo parlor), Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Coterie Winery and The Wine Affair.  There were some new participants that made our day!

Umunhum-Brewery-LogoUmunhum Brewing:  Great Beer!   They say it is California’s first co-op brewery,  a growing group of dedicated members who are passionate about great beer, customer service, sustainability, and great food (supporting local and organic farms where possible). We were so impressed by the beer, we joined the co-op!

ZonaRosaSangria at Zona Rosa: The sangria was very good and at this half-way point we also sat down to enjoy their decadent guacamole (yes, that is bacon and nuts) and home-made chips.  We agreed that we would be back soon to the restaurant to try other items on their menu.  It is a small place and always packed.  Everyone there recommended we make reservations and insisted that we would not be disappointed with the meal.

Like we said last year…This is an event that we will add to our regular list.  Already looking forward to the 2017 Stroll, and in the meantime we will be back to enjoy the new acquaintances we made.


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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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Box Wine – Tip It Maggie Style!

Box WineYes we did!  We all walk by the box wines at the grocery store, local pharmacy and corner stores.  We talk about them, in theory, and debate if they could be as good as wine in a bottle.  Well, we bought some and put them to the test.

First, Tip It! We drank a toast to Maggie Griffin, our favorite TV mom, and actually Kathleen’s (Kathy Griffin) mom. She almost single-handedly made box wine popular. We met her on the TV show: Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and at 90 years old she published her book Tip It! The World According to Maggie.  She says: “You know how a box of wine is never empty just because the spigot seems to have run dry (There’s always a little more if you just tip it!)”

Box Wine

Box Wine

This was a first for all of us! We focused on 3 different brands of Cabernet Sauvignon, all 2013 vintage (I think). Overall, the Tetra Pack® box seemed to be a standard.  Boxes are convenient, earth-friendly, they look  good and the functionality is as you’d expect, they all open and reseal easily and tight. And yes, they are all very affordable around $4 for the 500 ml box. In all cases we aerated them, for some we should have hyperdecanted them.

Liberty Creek: From Modesto, CA, a good table wine.

Vendange: From Acampo, CA (near Stockton), a bit lighter than the other two in color, body and taste.

Black Box: From Madera, CA, the grapes they use for the cabernet are from Valle Central Chile.  This was our favorite! An excellent price/quality ratio.  A full-bodied, yet very smooth cabernet.

I guess it is no surprise that like all wines, everyone has their personal preference and some wines just taste better than others. I know that I will try other box wines, especiallyBlack Box, to see if my first try was beginner’s luck or if they are just very good wine, especially for the price.

 

 


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Amarone della Valpolicella – A New Find!

Amarone

Amarone

At a recent group dinner, we discovered Amarone.  What a treat!

A couple of weekendwinos had just returned from Italy and were delighted to find that the restaurant we selected offered a great selection of Amarone wines and they were eager to have the group share what they had experienced on their trip.

The wines full name is Amarone della Valpolicella, it is made in the Valpolicella region north of Verona in northern Italy.They use the same blend of grapes as Valpolicella but the grapes for Amarone are laid to rest and partially dried for 3 to 4 months. This approach, called appassimento, results in grapes of an intense flavor and high sugar content,making Amarone a very rich and complex wine with 15% or more alcohol.

IMG_1694The word Amarone translated to English means bitter, this was intentional to differentiate this robust wine from the extremely sweet Recioto also produced in the Veneto wine region.

We were fortunate to enjoy two very good bottles, the Amarone Classico was smoother and of higher quality, but both were perfect with our Italian dinner and embellished many of the stories from recent rips to Italy.


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Escapade to Portland’s Urban Wineries

Portland Urban Wineries – what a treat!

We only had 4 hours of free time in Portland and we were determined to make the most of our search for fantastic Pinot Noirs. That is how we uncovered that although Oregon’s wine country encompasses 16 specific AVAs and spans all the way down to California there are some fantastic urban wineries right in Portland. Oregon produces wine varieties from Albarinho to Zinfandel, which we will gladly return to taste, but that day we sought out the Pinot Noirs.

TesoariaPortland is easy to navigate with its 4 distinct quadrants.  The airport seemed closest to Northeast Portland so we stayed focused to the East of the Willamette River and prioritized those that were open before 4 pm.

First stop TeSoAria,  all the reviews said this was one of the best and they are right. Since it was around 3 pm the tasting room was quiet and we had the luxury of meeting the founder and winemaker John Olson and his chef who was getting ready for the after work crowd.  Yes we were focused on Pinots which we did taste, award wining and it was fantastic, but we also enjoyed the barrel cabernet and merlot blend. John gave us a great overview of wines in Oregon and promised that when we return he would gladly help us plan a 4 day tour not a 4 hour dash.

Coopers HallWith only a few hours to spare and traffic starting to slow things down we dashed off to Coopers Hall which was only 4 blocks aways from Cyril’s at Clay Pigeon Winery.  Great Choices!

Coopers Hall is a great place, they were getting ready for a corporate event that afternoon on the top balcony level but we were always well attended and offered a chance to see all the barrels behind all those wine spouts on the wall. How cool!  The tasting sizes were perfect for our goal of tasting variety.

Less than 2 minutes away we stopped at Cyril’s where we had a delicious cheese plate and a large glass of a very smooth 2012 Clay Pigeon Winery Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir. The outdoor patio looked like a lot of fun and the logo with the symbol of hands making a shadow puppet of a bird is very clever.

There were so many more wineries we wanted to visit: ENSO, Hip Chicks Do Wine (great name) and others, but we had reached our limit of time as well as consumption in that short time.  No doubt we will plan a more relaxing, 4 day tour with a driver!