Saturday, February 28, 2009

Grand Tasting - Paso Robles

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This event was held at the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin. I was not aware that this place existed but will have to go back and take a look another time.

The event was held around the collection of race cars that the museum has. It made a really nice venue. 44 wineries from the Paso Robles area were represented. I came across a few new ones that I will have to check out when I am up in the area in September.

One was J. Dusi Wines. This is the famous Dusi vineyards that sell grapes to many winemakers but do not want to make wine themselves. Along comes Janell Dusi, a cute little thing, who decides she wants to make wine. She only bottles a zinfandel but I found the wine clean and not overpowering. She may be on to something. No tasting room but keep an eye out for her wine in the wine stores.

Another new one was Stanger Vineyards. I plan on checking them out in September. They made a nice Viognier and a Tempranillo.

Roxo Port Cellars showed 3 different port style wines. Interesting combinations of grapes.

I only got to about half of the tables but I did have more than enough to taste. I did have to drive home.

They had a few food stations set up. Deborah's Room at Justin Winery was serving an abalone soup. It was to die for. The abalone shells they had sitting on the table were about one sixth the size of the abalone that I had in the 1960's. Of course these are all farmed raised abalone. Not much left in the wild anymore and what is there is protected. Abalone are extremely slow growers so it does not take much to wipe them out if they are harvested by divers.

Artisan Restaurant was serving strips of flank steak on potato rounds. Very good.

Paso Robles Inn & Steakhouse was serving a halibut ceviche which paired excellent with the Derby Fifteen 10, a blend of viognier/roussanne/marsanne.

Villa Creek Restaurant was serving a short rib from the Hearst Ranch.

This was a first for this event and I hope they continue to be a tradition. I was impressed with the food, wines and the venue.

February's Monthly Gathering of The Wino Flock

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Today was my time to host the "winos". My theme was Wines Rated 93 to 100. I started this theme several years ago when I got tired of people bringing grocery store or Trader Joe wines to our gatherings. At least now they have to look a little for quality.

This day was unusual as most of the appetizers brought were some sort of seafood. Most of the wines were heavy reds. 1 bubbly, 2 white wines and 19 reds.

It's always interesting to me that some of the wines are gone before others are a quarter done. That means many people are going back for second and third pours before others have a chance to get their first pour.

The 3 wines that were drank immediately were the 1991 Silver Oak, Napa, Cabernet, 2005 Lorng, Clos Pepe Vineyard, Pinot Noir and the 2005 Roar, Rosella Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. Obviously these were the wines that people liked the most.

The India Restaurant

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This was the first of CJ's Wine & Dine dinners for 2009. The India Restaurant is in Artesia which is known as "Little India". About a mile strip of Pioneer Blvd is full of shops, grocery stores and restaurants where people of Indian ethnic background (along with those who love the area) come to shop and dine for items and food from their home country.

22 people attended tonight's soiree. A lot of bubblies and champagnes were brought which went excellent with the food served. Some of us die hards brought red wine which did not blend with the food but we drank them anyway because they were really good. I brought a couple of bottles of Cristalino Cava (Spanish bubbly, cheap but good) and a 2003 Rusak Anacapa (Bordeaux blend). Since I do not keep track of the wines most I cannot remember but Terry & Cora brought a 2005 Roar Pisoni Pinot Noir. I always like to try someone else's wine so I don't have to open mine. I thought its was tight but it opened up well after an hour or so. I do not plan on opening mine for several years.

CJ said this dinner was going to be different than the ones we have had at India Restaurant before and it was definitely that.

I personally found that it was too much onion for me. I know its part of this style of cooking but I was overwhelmed with the amount of onion. Everyone else seem to like it so it was my own problem.

The appetizers were:

Chicken Chat - small pieces of chicken with tomato, bell pepper, onion, black salt, lemon juice and Chat masala. The chicken was moist and tender and the masala had great flavor.

Paneer Tikka - marinated paneer (cheese) sauteed with bell pepper, tomatoes and onions. This dish also was very good.


Aloa Gobi - cauliflower & potatoes sauteed with spices and tomatoes

Nan - leavened bread

Garlic Nan - leavened bread with freshly chopped garlic (my favorite)

Lamb Sheekh Kebab - Minced lamb with onions, herbs, spices - skewered and tandoored. This was excellent with the Raita (yogart with cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes)

Channa Masala - garbonzo beans spiced with fresh ginger served with its own sauce. I really like this particular dish. Just enough spice to be interesting

Tandoori Jumbo Shrimp - very tender jumbo shrimp mildly spiced with masala and tandoored ( this dish was excellent)

Chicken Tandoori - chicken marinated in yogurt, herbs and spices then tandoored in the clay over (the chicken was extremely tender and flavorful)

Lamb Madras Curry - boneless lamb cooked with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, herbs and spices in a coconut cream sauce. (I liked this dish but by now the onions were getting to me)

All the food was very good, the wines and bubblies were great and the company was outstanding. My only negative would be the size of the group, the onions and how dark the restaurant was. I could not read the menu and for me I had a hard time deciding what dish was what. Even with glasses on I had a hard time. We have dined at this particular restaurant several times before but it was always 6 to 8 people. More intimate and easier conversation. For me some restaurants are better suited to large groups. I did not find that this was one of them. But that is my own personal thought. Everyone had a good time. There were several new people in the group but because we were at a long table you only had conversation with those at your side or across from you.

Vino Cucina Again

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another stop at this great little restaurant. 4 of us met tonight on the spur of the moment. We ordered 3 appetizers and shared them. One of the appetizers was calamari which I had not tried here before. Light batter and tender pieces of calamari. Very good. A dish of the fried baby artichokes which I have eaten several times and a prosciutto wrapped shrimp with asparagus completed the appetizers. A couple of the shrimp were not cooked all the way through. They did apologized and redid them for us. I liked Vino Cucina's version better than Delius's. They were moist and flavorful. I find this same dish at Delius to be a little on the dry side and several dollars more on price.

Tonight I had farfalle with light tomato sauce and vegetables. Very flavorful and I did not miss having a protein in the dish. Again I took leftovers home.

Although 5 bottles of wine were brought we only opened 2. A 2005 Stolpman Sangiovese and a 2003 Stolpman Nebiollo. Both were showing well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

LMU 28th Annual Wine Classic

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This annual event at Loyola Marymount University is one of the best tastings around for higher end wines. This is the 5th year that I have attended and it never disappoints me. The only negative about this event is usually the food stations. This year they had two stations and set up ropes so that you had to stand in a very long line to enter, then make your way around the station to put things on your plate. One of the biggest problems was that some people as they were filling their plates, stopped to talk, eat in place and that really held up the line. They seemed completely oblivious to the fact that other people were behind them. I put these same people in with the people that are on their cell phones constantly. At the grocery store, at dinner, where-ever. I wonder what shallow lives these people live that they have this overwhelming need to be in contact with a voice 24 hours a day.

Getting a taste of wine was much simpler than getting the food this year.

I saw about two dozen people I knew or had met someplace. Much more this year than in the past.

The wines I tasted are listed below. I only tasted at about 1/3 of the tables that were set up. I was driving myself so I needed to make sure that I did not get impaired.

Arns, 2004 and 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, $75 each

Corison, 2000 Caberbet, $70 & 2005 Cabernet $75

Frazier Family, 2004 Frazier Cabernet, $55, 2005 Frazier Cabernet, $55 & 2005 Memento Cabernet, $110

Miner Family, 2005, The Oracle, Bordeaux Blend, $90

Niner Wine Estates, 2005 Fog Catcher, $50

O'Shaugnessy Estate Winery, 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet, $75 & 2005 Mount Veeder Cabernet, $ 95

Saddleback Cellars, 2005 Cabernet, $ 54 & 2006 Nils 25th Anniversary Cabernet , $100

Smith-Madrone 2004 Cabernet, $40

St. Francis Winery, 2006 Old Vines, Zinfandel, $22 - Since I had net Chris at a wine tasting in 2008 he remembered me and gave me almost a full glass, which I did not need.

Lane Tanner, 2006 Bien Nacico, Pinot Noir, $33, 2007 Julias Pinot Noir, $36 & 2007 Tempranillo, $24

Kenneth Volk, 2006 Sierra Madre Pinot Noir, $36 ( very good), 2006 Bien Nacico Pinot Noir, $36 & 2007 Negrette, $24 (another grape varietal to add to my list)

William Cole, 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, $150.

All total there were 152 wines being poured and I tasted 22 of them. The other wineries that were pouring that I did not taste were, Astrale & Terra, Barnett, Benziger, Blackford, August Briggs, Cafaro, Cottonwood Canyon, Robert Craig, Falcone, Ferrari-Carano, Foxen, Judd's Hill, Robert Keenan, Karl Lawrence, Krupp Brothers, Lewelling, Livingston, Moss Creek, Ortman, Paradigm, Patz & Hall, Riverbench, Rombauer, Sawyer, Sonador, Spelletich, Talbott, Tandem, Vinoce, White Cottage, White Rock & ZD. A few of these I have have tasted their wines in the last 6 months or so.

This is always a great tasting and I'm really looking forward to next years event.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pinot/Cab Tasting

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I was invited to a "hi end" Pinot/Cabernet tasting tonight. There were 8 in attendance. We all brought appetizers and a bottle of wine with a value of $75 or more. The host put out salmon and beef tenderloin to accompany the crab stuffed mushrooms that I brought along with the egg dish that was topped with white truffles that another guest brought. These were fresh truffles that were sliced over to top of the eggs as they cooked along with truffle salt that was also used on the beef tenderloin.

The host put out a bottle of white wine to start the appetizers with. The label was Jada from Paso Robles and it was a blend. Unfortunately it was slightly corked. There was a 2003 Kistler, Dutton Ranch Chardonnay opened. It was very good if you are into oaked wine. It had just a tad too much oak in for my personal palate.

We gathered into the dining room to start the "red" tasting. First up was a 1997 Arcadian, Pisoni, Pinot Noir. This was excellent with the mushrooms and egg dish.

Next was a 2003 Arcadian, Pisoni, Pinot Noir. Unfortunately this wine was corked also. It would have been real interesting to compare the 2 vintages.

A 2001 Williams Seylem, Flax Vineyard, Russian River, Pinot Noir was poured. This wine went very well with the salmon. It seems that you just can't beat a Williams Seylem wine. Consistently good.

Next in line was a 2006 SeaSmoke, Ten, Pinot Noir. This wine is showing very nice and looks like it will hold for several more years. SeaSmoke Botella seems to lose its fruit early but the Ten is for laying down.

The wine I brought was a 2005 Kosta Browne, Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir. I was surprised at how big this wine was. It was very tight but after about an hour it really blossomed. This again was a wine that could be out down for awhile. I do have a least 1 more bottle so I won't touch it for several more years.

Next the Cabernets showed up. a 1999 Sterling Reserve, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. This too was slightly corked.

1998 Silver Oak, Napa was next. It was showing really well. I'm not the big cab fan so maybe it gets lost on me, but I personally have never been overly impressed with Silver Oak. I think they are way overpriced for what they are. But they do have their cult like following.

Next out of the decanter was a 1994 Opus. It was showing well also. Again I feel overpriced to begin with. It was nice to taste the wine, but I'm not plunking down $100+ dollars for any wine. Those who were really cab fans tonight liked both the Silver oak and the Opus. So my opinion is strictly biased.

Last cab of the evening was a 1997 Arrowood, Sonoma. I liked this one. I'm not sure why but I found it more pleasing to my palate.

Since I have allergies and they were in full bloom tonight it may have compromised by palate and nose. All the wines really opened up after a second pour. They improved with aerating. I took the Kosta Browne and poured it back and forth between 2 glasses and it improved a lot. Got rid of the tightness and softened the wine.

It was interesting to have 3 corked wines tonight. I don't know what the odds are on that. 12 wines so that is 25%. Unemployment isn't that much.

Dessert was served, an array of chocolate cookies, brownies and cake. The host brought out a 1998 Carmody-McKnight Late Harvest Cabernet Franc.. This I did not taste. Sweet with sweet to me is overkill. The desserts went well with the cabs. I prefer sweet wines with savory's. Cheese, nuts etc.,

We had such a good time we started making plans to do another "higher end" tasting in a few months.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Birthday

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A group of us decided to go to Vivo Cucina. 5 of them had not been before so we set the day. It was not intended to be a birthday dinner but it just happened to fall on that date. Several people did not know about it anyway.

After doing a Zin tasting at Wine Country I drove to Vino Cucina which is within a few minutes of the wine store. I arrived before 7:00 and we were not meeting until 7:30. I decided to inside and let them know there would be 8 for dinner. The place is small and they have to rearrange tables to accommodate larger parties.

I spied a couple of friends who were dining there for the first time. It was Luann's birthday also and Vino Cucina is where they decided to go. They liked the food as much as I do and they will be back.

After the restaurant set up the table for 8, Remy called on cell phone and told me John's flight had been delayed and they would not be joining us. So after a small adjustment 6 of us sat down for dinner.

I had forgotten my wine at work so I ordered a bottle off the wine list. The prices are reasonable and they are all Italian. So naturally they go well with the food. Three other bottles were brought and all the wine was good.

I ordered an appetizer that was sauteed mushrooms on polenta topped with shaved parmesan cheese. Very good but with the polenta I filled up fast. There was the fried artichoke dish ordered, bacon wrapped scallops (which I will get next time), caprese and a salad. Everyone liked their dishes. My entree was a risotto with shellfish and white wine sauce. Rose ordered it also. It was very good. Two people ordered the porkchop with a caramelized peach sauce. The chop was good size and they indicated it was good. It sure looked good. A dish of beef & sausages and a seafood linguine rounded out the entrees.

A couple of desserts were ordered. I had bite of a creme brulee cheesecake which was awesome

They brought be a couple canolli's with a candle in it and sang happy birthday in Italian. There were 3 birthdays in the restaurant that night so the cook was kept very busy.

I really like this place and hope to get back there in a few weeks. Great food at reasonable prices. Good service and nice people.

Super Bowl

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Friends hosted a small Super Bowl" party which I attended. They have a large 52" plasma which makes seeing the game a difference experience than my 32". Everyone brought beverage of choice. A brought a 2007 Kosta Browne Pinot Rose which was ok but not to what I thought Kosta Browne should be producing. I like Clos Pepe Pinot Rose much better. I also brought a 2003 Turley Juvenile Zinfandel which was showing very nice.

The hosts decided to have a "Panni" buffet. You build your own sandwiches and put them into the panni press for a few minutes. Seemed like a lot of work to me. The first sandwich I made I used the press the second one was a plain old fashioned sandwich. We all brought side dishes and we feasted at half time.

The game was good this year and most of the commercials were not. Watching the game on that big of a screen was great but seeing as a few of the "female" guests were not into football their mouths runneth over. I was ready to scream "shut up". But as I was in someone else's house I did keep my mouth shut. But it was hard.

Sunny's Birthday

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tonight 7 of us gathered at Utopia Restaurant in Long Beach for the celebration of Sunny's birthday. This was a big one for her so we wanted it to be special. No one beside myself had been to Utopia before and they all said the food was great.

I brought a bottle of 2003 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir and Alan brought a 1996 Clos du Marouis Saint-Julien. Since this was not a very wine savvy group I think the only ones that really appreciated Alan's wine were Alan, me and the waiter. Everyone else preferred the Pinot. Which is a very good Pinot but its a California style with upfront fruit. They did not appreciate the complexity and balance of the other wine.

We had a great dinner, several people bought individual glasses of wine and I purchased at bottle of Chenin Blanc to start the evening with. I ordered a fried artichoke appetizer and had the lobster stuffed ravioli with grilled scallops for dinner. As usual the food was very good and reasonably priced.

Monthy Wino's Gathering

Sunday, January 25, 2009

This was our monthly get together. Todays theme " The Barossa Valley". We had 28 bottles of wine to taste and there was not a bad one in the bunch. Some were very good, but they were all good wines. A couple of stand out labels were D'Arnenberg, Henschke & St. Hallet.

Paul & Margie hosted this event and they went all out with the food. Ribs and chicken with all the fixings from Naples Rib Company. With all the sides and desserts that were brought, the table runneth over.

As usual a good time was had by all. Next month is my turn to host this event

Vino Cucina Again

Wednesday, January 22, 2009

I liked this restaurant so well I went back with Terry & Cora who are always looking for a good place to eat.

We started off with the same deep fried artichoke hearts stuffed with marscapone & ricotta cheese. Still tasted great

Terry & I had the pork loin special and Cora had the chippino. Both were excellent dishes.

Terry brought a bottle of Barolo which was enough for us since Cora drinks very little.

This place is so good that I can't wait to go back.