Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pine Ridge Winery Dinner

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Pine Ridge Winery dinner was held at Z'Mario Restaurant in Irvine,, This used to be the Chanteclair Restaurant. Dinner was held in a separate room from the regular dining area. There were approximately 25 people in attendance and the table was set up in a "U" fashion which made for good conversation with several people.

Dinner was scheduled to start at 6:30. I arrived abut 6:05. We were allowed to enter the dining area at approximately 6:20. It was a little strange to have bread & butter plates but no bread. I would have thought that they would have provided that while you were waiting for the dinner to begin. Bread is relatively cheap. At around 6:50 the wine rep started pouring the first wine. A 2006 Chenin Blanc Viognier blend. This was really a very clear crisp wine with a slight sweet taste at the end. They did pour a second glass of this wine when the appetizer arrived at 7:05. I personally find that 35 minutes after the supposed start of the dinner the first food arrives unacceptable, especially when we had no bread or crackers. I can give 15 minutes leeway but 35 minutes is too long.

The appetizer was a very nice crab cake with a beurre blanc saffron sauce, It was topped with a butterflied shrimp which I found to be totally tasteless. No flavor at all. I do not know if it was a frozen shrimp or farm raised but they could have left it off the crab cake for what it added to the dish.

Next course as Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi with baby vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes and a small clam. This was an extremely good dish. It was paired with 2005 "Dijon Clones" Chardonnay which saw 9 months in French oak. It was still a tad to oaky for my palate. Others raved about it.

The lamb chops were served with a port reduction sauce and they were nicely seasoned. They were cooked just right for me. Rare. They chops were good but I have had better quality meat so I am spoiled. This was served with a 2004 "Crimson Creek" Merlot. This was a very "BIG" merlot. Bold and Big. It did open up after having swirled it for several minutes. This wine may have been better served, decanted. It was a very good combination.

The main course was an Angus Filet Mignon with a green peppercorn sauce and served with polenta and baby vegetables. The meat was cooked to just past rare and was very tender and had good flavor. The wine with this dish was 2003 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon. Again a very good combination.

Dessert was a "Chocolate brownie filled with raspberry sauce, chocolate ice cream canelle and fresh berries. The menu indicated whipped cream and nuts but I didn't see or taste them at all. The 2004 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon was served with this dish.

Big difference in the Stags Leap and the Rutherford Cab. Interesting to taste both of them at the same time.

For the most part this was a very nice dinner aside from a couple of "faux paux's". Well worth the money. If I was managing this restaurant I would have some way of putting up drapes over the french doors that look out onto the bar area. Even if there was a temporary way of hooking them onto the doors. Not only was the noise from the bar noticeable but you could see the bar lights through the glass. I was sitting on the inside of the "U" and had a full view of the bar. It was at times a little distracting. Drapes would have blocked some of the noise and all of the lights. When I "dine", I do like quiet. If I want noise I can "eat" at a chain restaurant.

The food was good and the wines were excellent and the company was great. Makes for a very pleasant evening. I would dine at this establishment again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monthy Wine Soriree

Sunday, August 19, 2007

This was our monthly meeting of "the winos". As the host always selects the theme, and today's was Zinfandels and Pinot Noir based Rose Sparklings & Champagnes. 20 bottles were opened for consumption.

There were only 3 bubblies today, which was unfortunate as the temperature was "arising".

Personally I cannot handle red wine in the heat unless I'm in a very cool air-conditioned environment.

I tasted all the bubblies and about 6 of the Zinfandels. I took about a 3/4 ounce pour on the reds which was all I could handle. Even drinking copious amounts of water could not rid me of the headache I acquired. Which is too bad as I would have like to tasted several of the zin's that I was not familiar with.

I did taste the older zins that were brought. It is always interesting to taste older wines and see what they were in the past. There was a 1990 Gallo, Frei Ranch and a 1991 Segehsio Sonoma. The old zins lose their "zinnest" and start to take on the caricature of Cabernets. That's why most people enjoy Zinfandels that are young.

As always the food that was brought was good and there was a lot of it to choose from.

I left about 7:00 and the temperature was starting to cool down to a comfort zone. Maybe we should have started this soiree at 7:00 instead of 3:00

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Dinner in The Vineyard

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sure glad I was not the designated driver this trip. After an afternoon of Pinots and bubblies we wandered back down 246 to Ballard Canyon Road to look for the balloons on the gate at Stolpman Vineyards. This we found without having to back up or make a u-turn. (amazing) .

The festivities started at 4:00 and we arrived about 5. They had some Poetry in Red wine still out, The L'Avion, Rosato and the Poetry in White had been sucked up by the thirsty horde. An appetizer table was set up with salami, sausages, olives, crackers , and a fruit studded melted brie which you spooned up onto small slices of french bread. Stolpman olive oil was on the table for dipping. After everyone had their turn taking the tractor ride around the vineyard, dinner was served.

This dinner was so much better that the one served last year. (we won't even go there) We had salmon with a cream/caper sauce, pork loin, wild rice, roasted potatoes, salad, Dolmas and grilled vegetables and Foccaia/Garlic/Cheese bread. Frankly I'm not to sure why the "Dolmas" (stuffed grape leaves). It didn't seem to fit but the catering company spokesman said he was trying to do a "Mediterranean theme".

Bottles of Stolpman Sangiovese and Syrah littered the tables. We did not want for food or wine.

After dinner plates of cookies, biscotti and cannolis were put on the table.

Then they passed out a paper with a quiz on the history of Stolpman Vineyards with the winners getting a bottle of wine for a prize. I ended up with a 2005 Stolpman Estate Syrah. Our group got 3 bottles of wine to take home.

So at dusk we left (there are no lights in the vineyard or on the roads). Bottles of wine, bags of cookies and grapevines to take home to plant our own syrah vines - are hands were full, our stomachs ached from all the wine and food we "had" to endure today but we had smiles on our faces.

Another successful weekend and I hope that the two events will be held on the same day next year. (only 1 motel bill)

Clos Pepe Release Party

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Drove up to Buellton/Lompoc area today to attend the 2006 release party at Clos Pepe Vineyards.

We stopped in Summerland on the way up (just outside of Santa Barbara) and managed to get a parking space which is hard to do in that blip of the road. Tasted a few wines at the Summerland Winery tasting room. I found them all pleasant wines and nicely priced. Worth a stop if you are in the area.

Since we were meeting our guests for the day at 1:40 we have a little time to kill so we hit the "Shoestring" Winery. On 246 on the way into Solvang. It is close to hwy 101 so it was a convenient stop. Apparently they had cleaned the floor (which is made of sawn timbers that have creosote in them) that morning and the smell really took over the tasting room. I'd rather have a dirty floor that the smell.

Met up with our guests and boggied on down 246 towards Lompoc. Clos Pepe is right after Melville and Babcock and the driveway has Italian Cypress trees growing next to it but every time we seem to miss the driveway by a hundred feet of so and have make a U-turn . Today was no different. After finally driving through the correct gate was were stopped by the "keeper of the list". If your name was not on that list you got no further. After finding that indeed my name had not been deleted (I'm always amazed) we were allowed to enter.

The release party was held at the main house (magnificent) as it was last year. New West Catering was busy making gourmet pizzas and grilling vegetables and sausages. As usual they were really good. Saw quite a few people that I knew from various events. Old home week.

We tasted the 2006 release of the Estate Pinot, the VS Pinot and the Chardonnay. All were excellent. Then off to the table with the 2005's. The Estate Pinot is the only wine available from that vintage and it is in short supply.

We headed to the library table with vintages from 1999 to 2004. Ken Brown was there pouring his 2003 and 2005 Clos Pepe Pinot. The 2003 is really drinking nice. Arcadian was there pouring his 2005 Clos Pepe Pinot which will not be released until 2008. I really liked this wine. I will have to check out their website.

Bubblies were the theme of this years addition to the party. Every year they have a theme and ask people to bring a bottle per their group to add to the festivities. I remember the first year I attended the theme was Burgundies at least 10 years old. I remember I tasted a 1970 something Romanee Conti. This time with the bubblies it ranged for high end Champagnes to inexpensive Proseco's. A fun time was had by all.

The house was fully opened to everyone and you could sit any where you wanted. I heard a glass break and I really hope it did not have wine in it. The house and the furnishings are outstanding.

They had an auction of various items to raise additional money for the familes of the two workers that were killed in an accident this summer in the vineyard. A bottle of burgundy went for $3,100. A lot of high rollers in this group.

Clos Pepe has a small breed of English sheep that they keep in the vineyards to weed between the rows. The sheep are so small they cannot reach the grapes so they just keep munching away on the vegetation close to the ground. They have a new ewe and had a contest to name it. I sent in the name "Penelope" and that was chosen for the new ewe. I was given a bottle of 2000 Clos Pepe Pinot for my effort.

It was starting to get close to 4:30 so it was time to say our goodby and head on down the road to the Stolpman Vineyards for "Dinner in the Vineyard"