Monday, May 22, 2017

Road Trip with Margie

Friday, May 19, 2017

For the month of May, Margie arranged for her "wine activity" a road trip to the San Diego area to visit numerous wineries. It consisted of Escondido, Ramona Valley and for those who stayed on Sunday the Warner Springs and Northern Wine Trail,

I left work at 1:00 pm for an approximate 3 hour trip.  5-1/2 hours later I arrived in Rancho Bernardo.  Seems there was a major accident at Oso Parkway on the 405 freeway in the morning and it shut down the entire south bound side.  Big rigs, haz mat, the whole works.   Needless to say I was exhausted when I arrived and checked in to hotel.  I had about 40 minutes before showing up for dinner.

Out first dinner was at Pegasus Café. Family run Greek restaurant.  I ordered the lamb shank which seemed to be popular with others at the table. It was very good, lots of flavor and very tender. Vegetables and sauces was excellent. Ate the meat but just could not finish the plate. Hated to see it be taken away but with leftovers not being in the game plan not much else I could do.  I did not bring any bottles of wine with me for this trip. I could always order by the glass which I did. Had a glass of a Greek red wine which paired well with the lamb.   I did have a pour of a Lancaster Cab that was brought along with an Albarino.   But being so exhausted from the ride down I really did not have the energy to get into drinking that evening.

There were a few wines brought by others. 2011 Puma Road Chardonnay, 2015 Turonia Albarino, 2015 Tablas Creek, Patelin de Tablas Rose and a 2009 Lancaster Cabernet Sauvignon.

Saturday morning we boarded  a mini bus to take us to 3 wineries. First stop was Hungry Hawk Vineyards in Escondido. Small family run, less that 1,200 cases.  I thought thy were the best wines of all we ended up tasting today. We did a barrel tasting of a blueberry wine that they are making into a sparking. You would not think that this was a fruit wine. I would be interested in tasting it once it is bottled. They offered a vineyard tour which a few people did partake in.  I just wanted to be inside. 90 degrees today and heat is my enemy.

Then off to Cordiano Winery for lunch. Somehow this establishment really messed up the reservation. Nothing was taken care of ahead of time. No one seemed to know what was going on. Finally the manager showed up and admitted it was his fault. He comped  those who had ordered salads and gave us free desserts.  They do not have a tasting room here. Seems it is set up as a destination for pizza etc.  But the view is beautiful. The wines were not.

Last stop was Turtle Rockridge winery in Ramona.  The wines were just OK, the view outstanding, the owner delightful and the entertainment was good. Lots of young people showing up for a "destination event".  It was the most enjoyable. It also was staring to cool just a bit and they did have adequate shade.

Dinner tonight was at Le Bistro de Louisa.  I was absolutely wined out so I ordered a cocktail which really tasted good.  There were two wines brought,( $20 corkage), a 2013 Cake Bread Pinot which I did not taste and a 2009 Chateau Lynch-Bages, Pulliac (Bordeaux). I did taste this wine. Big Cabernet and needed a big piece of red meat for it.  I ordered a bowl of onion soup and a Foie Gras Ravioli for dinner.  Both very good. 

On Sunday morning I left to return home.  Made it in 90 minutes. So much nicer than Fridays trip.  This adventure was good  but I think the heat really did a number on all of us. It was nice to try the wines of the area.  I wasn't expecting anything stellar but they were drinkable. On the same line of Temecula style wines.  They also bring in fruit from other areas so it is not all estate grown.  Interesting to try  but this area would not be a destination for me for regular  wine tasting. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

If it's Monday then it's Dim Sum at the Seafood Palace

Monday May 15, 2017

It has been a few months since I have joined the boys for Dim Sum. Timing and illness interfered.  Five of us today to celebrate CJ's birthday. 39 + and still with us. Lots of pluses.

We started out with a few dishes off the cart. Two we had not had before. Not sure what to call them but they were tasty.

A ground pork and vegetable wrapped in dried tofu. Non descript. Take it or leave it. Also a  round of crispy tofu with a mix of fish and meat paste on top. Another non descript.

The came the sticky sweet rice  with Chinese sausage wrapped in Lotus leaf and some  Shu Mai.  Then off to the good stuff.

Bowl of the sweet, sour soup was on the house.

Shrimp with a special egg noodle. Shrimp were fresh and sweet. Sautéed with a very light coating on them.  New dish and very good.

Beef with black bean sauce and fat noodles. Lots of red wine today so this was a must dish.

Last dish was deep fried scallops. Very fresh and very good,  sweet taste to them, Exceptional flavor.

Finished with the Egg Tarts which is a must have. We get our order in at the beginning so we don't do without.

Wines were bigger today. Fortunately someone brought a bubbly which really helped on the seafood dishes.

2005 McKeon Phillips BPR, Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 McKeon Phillips BPR

2008 Kosta Browne Russian River, Pinot Noir

2013 Firestone, Sta Rita Hills, Pinot Noir

NV    Lucien Albrecht, Brut Rose, Cremant d'Alsace

All the wines were good. Nice to try the 05 and 08 BPR side by side. So similar but the 05 held a slight lead.

A fun time with the boys and we will be doing Dim Sum again very soon.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Waterline Restaurant and Joseph Phelps Wines

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Waterline restaurant at the Balboa Bay Club hosted Joseph Phelps Winery tonight. Unusual to have a wine dinner on a Friday which is usually a busy night for most restaurants. As I was waiting in the lobby area I noticed numerous people heading for the restaurant only to be turned away because of the private dinner. They even closed the bar area to the public.

At 6:00 the doors opened and we were shown our assigned tables and then informed that the reception would be held outdoors. Wasn't too bad in spite of the heavy winds. We walked out and there was no table set up for wine and or glasses.  I spied a small table on the far side and snagged two glasses that had been poured and gave them to my dining companions. I went back to get a glass and a younger man poured me a real heavy dose of the 2015 Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc wine. He was seven sheets to the wind.  I then found out that is was a private pre-wedding dinner group.  No barrier or signs to indicate. Very confusing. No information seemed to be forthcoming on where to get your wine. I assumed later that you went to the bar when you first came in.  Absolutely no information or guidance from the staff.

I never saw anyone pouring wine for our group at the beginning. Later the wine rep came by with some  bottles.  I feel this was very poorly handled. Confusing for something so simple. In the meantime I went inside and asked where I could get a refill (didn't want to invade the wedding party again). One of the staff took me to the bar where I asked for another pour. Someone remarked that there would be plenty of wine at the dinner. My retort was dinner was a long way off and that I do a lot of wine dinners and never have a problem with getting additional pours. A one hour reception with only one pour of wine is not acceptable to me. Either pour more wine or shorten the time to 30 minutes.

Back in the patio area the appetizers were coming out fast. A really good selection. Favorite was the raw oysters with a drop of a caviar.  We had a nice conversation with Bill Phelps, the current owner. His father Joseph Phelps founded the winery in the 70's.

At 7:00 we were told to be seated for dinner. After at least ten minutes they got around to pouring a 2014 "Freestone" Chardonnay ($55) . A bit oaky, heavy viscosity, a little buttery. Not my style. But I felt it would pair well with the first course of a Lobster Bisque which showed up at least 15 minutes after the pour. The bowl had the lobster, mussels, caviar and sea beans in it. The staff then came around and poured in the broth. This was a very good soup. Loads of flavor and the seafood was very fresh. And the wine did pair well.

By 8:00 we had only had the soup. Very slow service. The wedding party was seated in the back area with one long table. They did get served first. Which was probably a  good idea.

Finally the second course came out. Wild King Salmon, seared with the skin on, morel mushrooms, spring asparagus ( I have never seen such tiny asparagus) and wheat berries. Salmon was good, I felt is was slightly overcooked, I was comparing it to the Scottish salmon that I had a Chianina a few weeks ago, No comparison. Chianina's  was far superior. Mushrooms were wonderful. This was a well composed dish. A 2014 "Freestone" Pinot Noir ($55) was the paired wine.  I did not like this Pinot. Had an off taste to me.

The main course came out of the kitchen a little quicker. A prime filet of beef crusted with ground coffee, cauliflower (micro), gnocchi (1) and a huckleberry BBQ sauce. An excellent cut of meat. Extremely tender and flavorful. Sauce was very good.  I had them box it up to take home as I had reached my saturation point. And there is dessert. Two wines were poured for this course. A 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) and a 2013 Insignia ($250).  I liked the Cab much better especially after it opened up. I was very disappointed in the Insignia. This is their flagship wine and it fell short. Maybe after 6 or 7 years of aging it may improve. I thought it was too simple, too light and lacked good structure. No tannins so I don't know how well it will age.

Dessert came out - a Apple and Marscarpone Mille-Feuille.  Green Dragon apples, mascarpone cream, phyllo and apple sorbet. A very nice, light, refreshing dish. I really liked the apple sorbet. They also had a micro thin sliced, dried ( fried or baked)  apple as a "sail". That had a nice apple tartness to it.  They poured a 2016  "Eisrebe" Late Harvest Scheurebe ($40). This wine was slightly sweet, had good acidity and a nice tart apple underlying taste. Besides the Cab it was the next best wine.

They then presented each of us with a box that held 6 house made candies.  Have not tasted them yet but I am assuming they will be very good. I thought that this was a very nice touch to the event.

Food was good, service was good. Ambiance was great. Kitchen was way to slow. A definite lack of information and organization by staff.   I will probably do the Far Niente / Nickel and Nickel dinner next month at the Waterline - see if the same things happen.  Just because you are a high end resort does not mean you have your ducks in a row.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Utopia Spring Wine Dinner

Thursday, April 20, 2016

First wine dinner of the year at Utopia in downtown Long Beach.  Their dinners are nice, not spectacular but reasonably priced. $55 against $125 that most others charge.

The wines were all private label from a tech firm in the south bay area. A different take and very different bottles.

One problem at Utopia is that they never offer bread or rolls. You have to ask for it. I suppose it does save money.

First course was a warm French brie cheese with spicy mango chutney, crisp bread and thin strips of pickled red peppers. Peppers looked pretty but that was it. Brie and chutney were a nice combination They poured a  2016 "Summer Water" rose. A blend of Grenache and Syrah. Very Provence style. Not too thrilled with it. Strange back palate taste.

Second course is a arugula and mixed green salad with cherry tomatoes, roasted walnuts, goat cheese and a house made  balsamic dressing. Not over dressed which was nice for the wine pairing. A 2015 Field Theory Lodi Albarino, Andrus Island Vineyard. This was a good wine.

Third course is  grilled  lamb chops with a port reduction sauce, spring vegetables (two small this slices of zucchini) and mashed potatoes.  The chops were at least pink in the middle but I doubt if they were more than 5/8" inch  thick.  Paired with a 2015 Field Theory Paso Robles Blaufrankisch, Pomar Junction Vineyard. I did like this wine. It is a an Austrian grape varietal.  Not a heavy red but still had some punch to it.

Dessert is a vanilla ice cream with Trentadue chocolate port. A light dessert which was welcomed.

Amir also gave our table a glass of the port.

When we were seated they waitress asked if we wanted still or sparking water. We opted to the still. It came out in a blue bottle with a screwcap. The meal was prepaid. She brought a bill for $13 for two bottles of water. That is why some people had pitchers of water on their tables. We were never told there was a charge to begin with. Told her next time I would bring my own damm water in and that Michaels and Chianina only charge $2 and they are much higher end restaurants.

Next time I am in Utopia I will talk with Amir about the deception.  Do not like that kind of service. I can tell by the dinner that he is trying to hold the prices down and not raise them in spite of everything going up in price. But I would rather pay $60 and have him go back to what the dinners were.  Next wine dinner at Utopia is in June.

Antica Wines at Chianina

Tuesday. April 18, 2017

Really looking forward to this dinner. Have been out of the social scene for close to three weeks due to whatever creepy crud that is making its way around the nation.  Have not had a taste of wine in that time also.

Chianina in Naples,  www.chianina.com,  hosted Antica wines tonight which is the US operations of Antinori from Italy.  Michaels restaurant hosted a tasting earlier in the day for these wines. Had to work so I could not attend but two of my dining companions went. They did taste wines that were not on tonight's menu.
.
When the basket of bread came out I limited myself to one. A salted honey roll. I could make a meal out of the bread they make here along with the marscapone butter

We started out with a glass of Proseco and an Amuse Bouche not listed on the menu. Chianina is always good about little extras. The trio consisting of braised pork meat on a mini crostini, mini lasagna bite and a foie gras laudron.

Then onto the menu.  First course was a roasted scallop, fennel, PEI mussels, fava beans and saffron emulsion. Excellent flavors. A good start. Paired with a 2014 Chardonnay. A little oaky, heavy viscosity. Did pair well with the scallop but not my style of chardonnay.

Next was a spring pea agnolotti with prosciutto, fennel and parmiggiano. Nice that they gave you a spoon to get all the flavors of the broth that was poured onto to the dish tableside. A 2014 Pinot Noir was the selection. It was ok but again not to my taste. Just did not knock my socks off. It was Burgundian style but had a strange back palate taste.

Third course served is a superior farms lamb lion, green garlic, fiddlehead ferns and ramps. Ramps have a garlic taste to them so this dish was my kind of  good. Lamb was very tender and had great flavor. Two wines were paired. A 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2004  was best by itself and the 2013 went with the food. Both very nice wines but pricey

Main course consisted of ribeye with roasted mushrooms, yukon gold potato confit and crispy sweetbreads. Perfectly cooked. Very good dish.  Paired with a 2012 "Townsend" Cabernet Sauvignon. Best wine of the night but also the most expensive.

Dessert was a pistachio sponge with a preserved bing cherry, candied ginger and ricotta ice cream. Glad I only had one roll at the start of dinner. Portions are always small but the food is always on the rich, decadent side so when you are close to the end you are starting to feel very full. The served a 2013 G & G Soracco with the dessert. Not overly sweet and a nice pairing.

Along came another small plate of tiny cookies. Chianina loves tiny cookies.  A lavender maccaron, honey, earl grey tea and meyer lemon cookie and a toffee truffle cookie

A really good dinner again. My taste buds are still off I found out. So hopefully by next week when I do the Joseph Phelps dinner at the Waterline restaurant at the Balboa Bay resort they will be in better shape.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Hall and Walt Wine Dinner at Chianina

Wednesday. March 22, 2017

Packed house tonight at Chianina in Naples. www.chianina.com,  Kathryn Hall was in attendance with a selection of her wines.  Apparently a lot of investors in her winery were here also.  Winery is located in Napa. www.hallwines.com, www.waltwines.com

We started out with a trio of "Amuse Bouches" . A Green Garlic Arancini, Scallop Tartare and Foie Gras Terrine on Toast with Rhubarb.  Bite size and all were good but the Scallop was the best of the trio. But I would eat a plate of each one they were so good.  A 2016 Hall Sauvignon Blanc. Nice grapefruit flavor, not too acidic. Retail price tag of $28.

Second course served was  Scottish Salmon, Spring Peas. Morel Mushrooms and Puffed Rice. Great flavors and the salmon was so silky in texture. A beautiful piece of fish. Paired with a 2015 Walt Chardonnay.  Stainless steel fermented. I was not impressed with this wine. Retail price of $44.

Next we had a Nettle Chitarra Pasta. Chitarra means guitar and the pasta is square instead of round. Rabbit Sugo, Blistered Spring Onions and Tarragon. Excellent flavors but I will say it did have a strange look to it. A green pea foamy concoction with these squiggly pieces of pasta on top. Not for the people who have overactive imaginations.  The wine was a 2014Walt Pinot Noir. Grapes were sourced from Clos Pepe vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills.  Hall has leased the vineyards for 15 years starting in 2015. This was by far the best wine of the night but the pairing was off as were most of the pairings for the evening.  A price tag of $81 is so out of line. Twice as much as Clos Pepe gets.

Fourth course is a Lamb Ribeye, Charred Eggplant Puree, Fava Bean Fritter and Greek Yogurt.  At this point I am getting stuffed. Had one bite of the lamb which was cooked perfectly and had them save it for me to be boxed with the next course. Otherwise no dessert.  Wine was a 2013 Hall Merlot. Took a few sips and sent the wine away. Priced at $44.

Fifth course was outstanding. A Prime Beef Striploin with Asparagus, Roasted New Potatoes and Mustard Moussaline with aus jus. A 2013 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon was the wine choice. Not impressed. Not much going for it. Pruiced at $44.

Sixth course was Humboldt Fog Cheese, Compressed Beets and Walnuts. Beets are sweet so they really added a nice touch to the cheese.  A 2013 Kathryrn  Hall  Caberent Sauvignon was the selection to pair with this course. Big, overly fruity wine. At $175 . I have had so many other cabs at less money that I enjoyed more.

The food was excellent. The wines mediocre and the pairings were off.  Yes, I did has stuffed sinuses tonight but the others at my table agreed.  Hall wines have a big following but I am not overly impressed especially with the pricing for what you get. But a very enjoyable evening and we did make reservations for the next wine dinner in April at Chianina..

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dinner at Aroma

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Margie's monthly dinner was held at Aroma's Ristorante in La Palma. www.aromalapalma.com.

18 people in attendance and 22 wines. Impossible to taste them all. As usual I kept my tasting down to a  minimum. Large menu to select from and I ended up with the Veal Chop. Very large chop, nice madeira sauce . Tender and flavorful. Good selection of mixed vegetables and potatoes in the plate.
Opted for the salted caramel gelato for dessert. That's was very good and a nice end to a heavy meal.

We had a very large table with 2 people seated at each end  and 7 people on each side.  Conversation was limited to those on each side of you. Made it nice for all the wine bottles and glasses but conversation  got lost.

I brought a 2012 Clos Pepe HTC (Homage to Chablis) Chardonnay which was showing very well.

Other wines were:

2012 Cinquain Cellars Cab/Syrah blend - did not taste
2013 Tobin James Fat Boy Zinfandel -  big and sweet
2011 Clayhouse Temp/Cab/Syrah blend - did not taste
2014 Cowhorn, Marsanne/Rousanne - did not taste
LeCuvier Red Bat Cuvier - did not taste
2011 Tobin James Silver Reserve, Syrah - did not taste
Tobin James, Liquid Love - did not taste, I have had these wine numerous times before
2013 Gattauercchi, Vino di Montepuliciano - did not taste
2-11 Castello D'Alboila, Chiantio Classico - did not taste
2015 Seal Beach Winery, Sangiovese - did not taste
2011 Kuleto, Sangiovese - did not taste
2012 Grassini, Equipo, red blend- nice wine
Domaine Chandon Etoile - always a good sparkling
2014 Amici, Chardonnay - did not taste
2013 J.Christopher Pinot Noir - did not taste
Herzog, Rose Brut sparking - clean with a slight strawberry taste
2014 Ferrari-Carano  Pinot Grigio - I do not do Pinot Grigio's
2014 Abacela Fiesta. Albarino  - nice clean, well balanced
Mumm Napa - always a good sparkling
2008 Artiste, Meritage  - this wine was very good, old enough to be soft and silky