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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Antique Fair Led to Santa Clara Valley Wine Discovery

GoatHillThe group had the Goat Hill Fair on our “list of places to explore” for some time.  The vintage theme, antiques and hand-made items were primarily of interest to the ladies in the group……. then, we discoverd that there are more than 20 wineries around Morgan Hill and Gilroy so the gents were happy to join.  The Goat Hill Fair outgrew its origins in a real 14 acre goat farm in the Santa Cruz mountains and now takes over the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds in Watsonville, CA for a weekend each May and Novemeber.  With more than 80 vendors participating, there is something for everyone.  These are real antiques and vintage items, and we made the most of our afternoon at the Goat Hill Fair.

We knew we would not be able to visit all 20 wineries, and realized that we knew very little about the Santa Clara Valley Wineries.

FortinoThe website is very informative and reminds us that : “Silicon Valley” – it’s easy to forget this area’s role as California’s first premium wine production region – the Santa Clara Valley. Native Americans named it “the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” French and Italian immigrants who settled here during the Gold Rush era recognized the rich soils and Mediteranean climate as the perfect New World home for their European grape varietals. And so it begins…

I must confess the decision of what wineries to visit was based on what time the tasting rooms opened, since we were, afterall, on our way to the Goat Hill Fair.  So we started at Fortino Winery, they opened at 11 am and then visited the others around Watsonville Road and Hacker Pass Hwy 152.   Solis Winery, Sarah’s Vineyard, Hecker Pass Winery were within walking distance, and 3 or 4 more were just up the street, but we wisely decided to make a point to return some other time to visit the rest.

The overall experience was fantastic and very realxing. There were no crowds,  people were friendly and very knowleadgeable and the wines were good.  Many of the vineyards are family owned and they mostly produce small lots that they are very proud of.  Unfortunatly our time was limited, but no doubt we will be back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Olympic Gold – 1999 Zin Rules!

This weekend a few of the winos gathered to celebrate the athletes and events of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  With temperatures in the 70s in California and 60s in Sochi it just did not feel like winter, and the slushy snow and tourists in short sleeves confirmed that. What happened to the ushankas (Russian fur hats)?

Starting off a bit unenthusiastically, have no fear, once the wine bottles were opened the group fully enjoyed the grace and skill of the ice skating competition taking place in the background.  The plan was to focus on red wines, in no particular order, and enjoy some appetizers typical of different countries – spanakopita, empanadas, meatballs, tomato-basil crostini and a large platter of charcuterie.

photoThe top four, we could not agree on three, included some very diverse wines.

  • 1999 Zinfandel, Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley: Bold, red color and complex cherry and spices aromatics. This was a pleasant surprise for the Zinfandel novices in the group and the overall winner.
  • 2004 Syrah, Midlife Crisis Winery in Paso Robles: This winery closed in 2009 with only 800 total cases produced. It was the short-lived dream of a Hollywood couple who bottled their first wines in 2004, a total of 80 cases.   The wine was very smooth and easy to drink.  The fact that we would probably never have it again, and the name, gave it an extra edge.
  • 2008 Pinot Noir, Pichetti Trouchard Vineyard in Napa Valley: A favorite winery of one of the weekend winos, we can always count on them to bring a bottle from Pichetti.  Fruity and spicy the French barrel oak comes through.
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Zolo Gaucho Select from Mendoza:  Yes, this was a Cabernet, not a Malbec and it was rich with hints of chocolate and black berries.  Perfect with the meat empanadas and something I will buy for my next steak dinner.

Only one person in the group had been to Russia, some questioned the politics and leadership, but we all agreed that the history, art and the vodka would all be good reasons to visit some day.  Wine in Russia?  We’ll have to look into that!


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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!