Sunday, May 27, 2007

Century Club

There is a website I came across quite awhile back , " Its members are devoted to tasting at least 100 varietals of wine. There is a chart that you can download to keep track. You can also add varietals that are not listed on the chart. When you have 100 varietals tasted you send the chart into the Century Club and get a certificate that you are now a "member".

Its strictly the honor system. If you are a cheater no one knows but you. But people who cheat are not honorable, they are only interested in what they perceive others think of them. An ego booster without doing any work.

I now have 104 varietals tasted. Its taken me some time to do this but it has been a lot of fun. Every wine I taste I find out what varietals are in it. It is surprising what shows up in different blends. Some of these varietals would never show up as a single wine. They are strictly for blending which according to the rules is permissible.

Cafe Ambrosia Wine Dinner

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The monthly dinner of "CJ's Wine & Dine" group was held tonight at Cafe Ambrosia in Long Beach. I had not been to this restaurant before. When I first received notice of this dinner I was very apprehensive about it. This was the first time a dinner had been planned that all the wines were to be provided. (we always bring a bottle). Also the price was set at $60 inclusive. Which wasn't out of line, but with the Greek wines I have had in the past I wasn't to sure it was going to be the best dinner.

Was I ever surprised. Not only was it a 12 course dinner, the wines were very good. There were 29 people attending this dinner. So needless to say after a couple of glasses of wine the noise level rose considerably. Dinner started at 6:00 pm and I got home at 12:30 pm. Anyone that knows me, realizes that this is remarkable for me to be out after 10:00 pm. I'm such an early riser that I find it hard to get to excited about keeping night owl hours.

We started off with 4 Greek spreads, Skordaia (really garlicky), Tsatziki, Hummus and Taramosalata along with pita bread (warm from being freshly made). I need to find out how to make the Skordalia and Taramosalata, both I found were very good.

Next came "Flamed Saganaki", a Greek cheese flamed at the table. It was gooey and soft right from the pan, but hardened up slightly and on the plate. This was a big hit.

Plates of feta with olives were served. Very good mild feta cheese (not overly salty).

Then came the charbroiled octopus. This was so good. I have had octopus before but never cooked this way. It had olive oil and red wine vinegar on it and I would go back to "Ambrosia" just for this.

The Dolma and the Spanakopita came along. I was starting to get full by this time but you just kept nibbling away at the dishes brought out because you feel that you might miss something if you don't. The Spanakopita was one of the best I have ever had. Light, fluffy and very tasty.

The Keftedes was next. Meatballs with a spiced tomato sauce. These very good but if I had to cut out a dish from the menu this would be one of them.

The Felafel was served. It was OK but I felt it was a little dry . I could have missed this dish from the list.

The vegetable Mousaka found its way onto the table. Again, excellent

Somehow our end of the table missed the Pastichio (Greek Lasagna) and the Gyro. ( we had 15 people at our table) It was getting very crowded at the table with all the food dishes, the bottles of wine and all the wine glasses. Maybe it was a good thing because next came the lamb chops.

I can really get into lamb. I have liked this meat since I was very young These chops were sizzling when served. Very good grilled flavors and very succulent.

There were 11 or 12 wines served. There were so may bottles on the table that it was really hard to keep track of them . Also the lighting was set for ambiance and not for an "older than dirt" person like me to be able to read, or keep any kind of notes. All were surprisingly good. A couple that I really liked were the 2005 Semeli Moschofiler, the 2003 Chateau Semeli and the Grande Reserva Naoussa. You could purchase these wines tonight for a discounted price and an additional 8% off if the total of all the orders were 120 bottles. I had to keep saying to myself, "do not buy", "do not buy". I have to get my wine inventory under control before I purchase any more wines.

Wine & Beverage Trade Show

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I managed to get a pass to Wine Warehouse's trade show. For this I took off work early. The show started at 3:00 and went to 7:30. There were approximately 700 wines available for tasting along with beers and spirits. Saw several people I knew there. If you attend enough tasting's through out the year the distributors start knowing you by your first name. That always leads to something being offered from under the table.

I did get to meet Richard Sanford for the first time. Nice, unassuming man. He had his line of "Alma Rosa" wines along with a barrell sample of the new 2006 La Encantada Pinot Noir. This is going to be an excellent wine. Found out that he will be moving back into the original tasting room July 1, 2007. Patero Group has had the lease for the past couple of years and it has now run out. Naturally, Richard Sanford is not going to renew the lease. He can no longer use the name "Sanford" on his wines. Thus we have "Alma Rosa" (after his wife I was told) I have tasted the new "Sanford" wines and they do not hold a candle to "Alma Rosa" wines. Patero Group will be riding on the reputation of Richard Sanford for awhile until people start realizing that Richard Sanford and Bruno are not making the wines anymore.

I also got to meet Steve Clifton (half of Clifton-Brewer). He was pouring his own label today, "Palmina". These are wines are all Italian varietals. He does have a couple of whites that I intend on purchasing because they are made with obscure grapes . (I'm on the hunt for the "Century Club" certificate). I plan on stopping into his tasting room on June 23, when I will in Lompoc for the Clos Pepe dinner.

It was impossible to try all the wines. A few that I really liked was the 2005 Ken Brown Cargassacchi Pinot Noir, 2004 Niner Estates Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles, Fog Catcher (meritage), 2005 Di Bruno Badge Pinot Noir, 2003 Di Bruno Stolpman Vineyard Sangiovese, 2005 Dutton-Goldfield, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Chardonnay, 2004 Dutton-Goldfield Cherry Ridge, Russian River Syrah, 2004 Dutton-Goldfeild Russian River Zinfandel, 2002 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet, 2001 Heitz Trailside Cabernet, Quady Deviation Apertitif (sherry like), 2005 Kenneth Volk Santa Maria Pinot Noir. Peachy Canyon also had a 2005 Zinfandel that is a blend of several of their vineyards and is made strictly for the restaurant trade. It was lean but very food friendly.

I did add a new opener to my collection, "Heitz". They had about 10 their were giving away and I managed to score one for myself.

Somehow I missed the Sea Smoke table. I never saw it but it was listed in the booklet when I really read it through later. I would have liked to taste the wines I just bought.

I only tasted a few of the spirits (I did have to drive home) But there was a gin put out by Philadelphia Distilling named "Bluecoat American Dry Gin". I thought this gin was great. It had a very distinct botanical taste to it. I will have to try and find this for my next "Mary's Martini Madness". The next table had "Mojito" mix. I tasted it plain and then I added a little of the gin to it and I thought it was a great combination. When I left the guys at both of those tables were mixing my new drink.

The only aspect of this tasting that I had a problem with was the fact they had all this great food but no plates. You had to put your food on napkins. For the cheese and dry types of food that was ok, but when you had sauces, marinades etc., it became a problem. I was told by the wait staff that plates were not ordered because whomever did the ordering of food did not want to have paper plates left all over the tasting tables. So what happened ? They had paper napkins left all over. The wait staff at the Hilton did a very good job of keeping everything bused up. Paper plates would not have been a problem. In fact they did have some at the dessert table, so I snagged a few to use for the meats. The quailty of the food was good. The lamb chops and the beef tenderloin was perfect.

All in all it was a very good afternoon. And the price was right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

French Champagnes & Bordeaux - Right Bank

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Our monthly gathering of "winos" took place today. This could have been called Grand Cru St. Emilion. Of the 12 red wines brought, 8 were Grand Cru from St. Emilion. I wonder what will happen next month at our "Grand Cru", "Premier Cru" & "First Growth" tasting in June.

A few things stood out today. One of the champagnes I really liked was the NV Agrapart & Fils, Les 7 Cru, Brut.

There were two older wines brought, both 1993, Grand Cru, St. Emilion. Different Chateaus. Old wine is very interesting. The color turns copper, the fruit becomes less jammy, but the wine still holds a certain elegance to it and you can still taste the layers and complexity. I think it becomes an aquired taste (like scotch)

I did like the 2000 Chateau Couey, Montagne - Maurese, St, Emilion.

Strange that I do not care for Merlots, yet that is what these wines were. Perhaps California winemakers try to make Merlots to take the place of Cabernet and miss what the wine should really be.

Nothing to exciting to "blog" about except that we always seem to have a couple of wines brought to our monthly gatherings that do not meet the theme. This time I was the culprit. I have had a "champagne" in the vinotemp waiting for this tasting. When I looked at the label when I was getting ready to leave my "casa" the label indicated "Blanc de Noirs" Traditionnelle Methode. It was a French sparkling brought in by Charles B. Mitchell Winery in Fairplay, California. They were the "negociant" of this wine. Everyone agreed that it was very nice, but alas it did not meet the criteria for the theme. For this I get 989 lashes with the "wet noodle". Senility is getting closer all the time.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oregon Pinot Noir Tasting

Friday, May 18, 2007. Wine Country held a "World Class Oregon Pinot Noir" tasting and seminar. Greg Sanders of White Rose Wines was there talking about his wines. Most of the wines were OK. A couple really stood out for me. The 2004 Domaine Serene "Evanstad Reserve" at $49.99 and the 2004 White Rose "Dragons Bluff" at $55.99. I tasted the 2003 Stoller, at $31.99 which had a very odd taste to the back finish. When I said something about it, Kelly went and got a clean glass and re poured the wine for me. The odd taste was not there in the second glass. Makes you wonder, if the first glass was not rinsed thoroughly and still had soap residue in it. The 2005 Chehalem 3 Vineyard at $23.99 had so much Brett that I found it unpalatable.

Apparently Wine Country now has a policy of pre-selecting where you will be seated at the tables for these seminars. They had name tags on your place. This was explained to me by Kelly that the "reason" was so that larger parties coming in and wanting to sit together would not be broken up by ones and twos. Since I usually make my reservation as a single and meet people there that I want to sit with, this new policy is not "sitting" well with me. I arrive early and I always take an end seat and if I am meeting someone will secure their seats next to my "end" seat. If I am alone I still take an end seat so not to break up couples, etc. I have certain areas that I like to sit at. I stay away from the cooler, because of the noise and I like to be fairly close to the speaker. I have a problem with hearing when there is a lot of background noise. Also when people get into their 3rd or 4th glass of wine their conversations become louder and it makes it difficult to hear if you are in the middle or back. I do attend the seminars to learn, not to get buzzed or because it is a happening.

My thought is, if you have several people in your party and want to sit together then someone should come early and secure your seats. Don't come in at 7:25 and expect everyone to shuffle around to accommodate you. That's just as rude as a single taking a seat right in the middle of the row.

Needless to say I was very vocal about the new arrangements. Several people agreed with me but didn't have the "%^&$%^#@" to say anything. They just mumbled to themselves.

I am signed up to attend their seminar on New Zealand Wines next week. If I still have to sit someplace that I'm not comfortable in, then it will be the last time I attend a seminar at Wine Country

Last Call at Delius

Saturday, May 19, 2007 was the last day at the now "past" location of Delius Restaurant. I stopped in Friday night for "Last Call". It is sad to see it close after all these years. The understated elegance, no loud blaring music, no televisions to distract you from conversation made this my "watering hole" for the last 8 years or so.

All the furniture, paintings and accessories were either sold to the "regulars" or Dave & Louise took them home. I did purchase the stands that held the cloth hand towels in the women's restroom. Not to sure what I am going to use them for. They could hold candles, glass balls, etc., When I get them home I will find a place for them.

I ate my last meal, Friday. A must have of Duck breast with polenta and asparagus. I wish I could cook a duck breast like Louise does. Hers is always so succulent and juicy. Just perfect. Also a must have was the "Russian Cream" for dessert.

The new location will be opening on Friday, June 1, 2007. The renovations are almost complete. The outside of the building looks like an art deco structure from South Beach. I am so looking forward to seeing the inside. I will have that privilege with a few other select people next week.

Everything at the new location will be new. Complete bar, new menu, open for lunch and walk in dinner. The "prix fixe" dining area will still be there. Louise will be the chef for the "prix fixe" dinners and the other half of the kitchen will handle the walk in trade. Two different menus. I have met the new bar manager "Ed". I refreshed his memory on how the make a "Sidecar". That will be the first drink I order.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Where Are People's Common Sense When They Drive

I know this has nothing to do with wine & food, but lately I have had more than a few instances lately of people cutting over lanes to make a turn, or just plain stop in a lane and try to merge over to make a turn. This is on city streets not the freeway. (That's another story) I would assume that you should know where you are going and if you are going to be making a right or left hand turn. Even if you are using a map or directions you still know which way you will be turning. It seems that it would make common sense to get into the appropriate lane at least a few blocks before you need to make the turn.

Competition Judging

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Felt like a work day. Had to get up , eat breakfast, dress and leave my "Casa" to head on down to the Orange County Fairgrounds and sign in to attend a "Judging Seminar and Workshop" for the Orange County Fair Home Wine Competition. This is put on by the Orange County Wine Society.

Came across my friend Clyde walking in at the same time and then David Scales of MAWL wines showed up.

The workshop consisted of the objectives for judging, discussion on how awards are given, the Davis 20 point scoring system, smelling different components of wine, both good and bad and going over the Peterson Method of Judging Large Flights of Wine.

After a short break we then proceeded to taste and score some practice wines. 8 wines in total, 4 whites, 3 reds and a dessert wine. At least my scores were fairly consistent with other people in the panels that I was on, so I wasn't in over my head. I did seem to score a few points lower than most but I was still in the range for same award given by the others.

I found it to be quite an interesting experience. You cannot take a long time to evaluate because of the amount of wines that will be entered in the competition. So you go with your first reaction and don't over analyze.

I do not know if I will be called for the actual judging in June. I hope so, as I feel it will really be something out of the ordinary for me. If not, then I still have had an unique experience just in attending the workshop and I did learn some things from it.

A day without learning something new is a wasted day.