Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Monday, June 29, 2009

Capone's Cucina is a restaurant in Huntington Beach that I had not been to before. This evening they were having a wine dinner priced at $62. Friends wanted to go so here we were.

Capone's is in a shopping center between Adams and Yorktown on Beach Blvd. Small neighborhood type of establishment.

I ran just at 7:00 which was the start time. I have such a hard time with the OC beach bimbo's driving their SUV's, drinking Starbucks and holding a cell phone (yes I know there is a law but have not seen an enforcement of it yet) God save me from these drivers. Their IQ's are smaller than their boob size.

Fresh bread was served and it really had great taste. A little olive oil and balsamic and we were in heaven.

First up was "Swordfish Rolled & Baked With A Fresh Tomato Sauce". This was a nice dish, good but not outstanding. It did pair very well with the 2007 Orvitto Trappolini.

Second course - "Insalata Valentina". A Red beet, arugula salad with toasted nuts, goat cheese and lemon vinaigrette. This was paired with a 2008 Catello Maggiort Pinot Grigio. Low acidic wine to blend well with the acidity of the salad. It is difficult to pair salads and wine. This was a nice combination

Next course was "Polenta Al Ragu Di Funghi" . The wine was a 2006 Buccication Montepulciano D' Abruzzo. This actually was the best pairing of the night. I did think that the polenta would have made a better plate presentation if it had been cooked, molded and then cut in slices and grilled. As it was it was just a blob of "grits" on the plate. The ragu of mushrooms was good. But the color on the plate was a turnoff. Grey ragu on a off white polenta on a white plate.

Main course - "Filetto Alla Veneto", beef tenderloin topped with a red wine mushroom sauce and baby vegetables. Nice portion, very tender, decent flavor. What I missed on this was maybe a little bit more searing on the outside. Some crispness to the meat before it was finished in the oven. The pairing of the wine with this was not the best. I feel that the wine would have been much better with an Osso Buco. The wine was very good on its own.

Dessert was Rasberry Sorbetto with a 2007 Baldi Moscato D'Asti. The sorbet was very good, The wine was very good. Again the pairing let me cold. Perhaps the sorbet should have been a very small portion and served as a palate cleanser between the grits and the beef. And then have a shortbread type cookie with the Moscato.

I would try this restaurant again. The food was good, not outstanding. I feel the price of this dinner should have been in the $50 range. The pours were generous, service was good. But it somehow lacks a certain something.

I will go back and try some other dishes as sometimes wine dinners are not a restaurants best show. It seems that they may try to hard to impress. They would be better served sticking with the tried & true menu items they are known for. They can always add a little flair.

June's Gathering of The Flock

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Today was our monthly gathering of the wino group. Toady's theme was Gervey-Chambertin vs Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Bottles had to be brown bagged so no one was influenced by labels.

The turn out for this was good. The food was good and lots of it. It also was close to the wine so it was very convenient for nibbling between tastes. Barbara is getting to be the "Queen of Triscuit".

This time she brought triscuit crackers topped with stuffed mushrooms. They were gone quickly. Only 2 desserts today and odd enough both were cheesecakes. One was a Key Lime and the other a Margarita.

They were 25 wines brought, unfortunately 5 were not conforming to the theme. There were a lot of surprises when the bags were taken off the wines. It was nice to have a variety of Chambertins show up as it is an expensive wine.

This was one of the better tastings we have had in awhile.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Since I needed to deliver some wines to friends we decided to meet at Buhkara, which is an Indian restaurant in Huntington Beach. I'm not a big fan or Indian cuisine but I really enjoy the food here.

We had our standard appetizer plate along with lamb, chicken and shrimp and garlic Nan bread.

But the big hit of the evening was the wines we each brought. Since there were only 3 of us we could afford to indulge. Terry brought a 2004 Roar Garys Vineyard Pinot Noir. I brought a 2003 Linne Colada Rising Tides which is a blend. I remember when I bought this wine, Marc & Edie were with me in Paso Robles and we stopped at Linne Colada for a tasting. Marc did not think much of this particular wine. Said it wasn't very good. My comment at that time was wait a few years and this wine will be outstanding. I was proven to be right.

It was really nice to share it with good friends who appreciate quality.

OC Second Harvest Food Crusade

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This was about the 8th or 9th event I have attended for this charity group. They usually have 2 events a year, one in June which features wineries and one in the fall that features beers.

It has always been held at the "Crystal Court" at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

This year an organization named "Learn About Wine" got involved and I have a real swing of emotions about this. They brought in a stellar line up of wineries. "The Starts Of Santa Barbara" which was a great group of wineries . But they decided to have it at the Bridge of The Gardens which was between Nordstrom's and Macy's. It was outside which was nice for the evening but when it got a little dark you could not see well. Could not read what was on the labels, etc. They also crammed 37 wineries and 10 eateries into a very small space. It was way overcrowded. The tables to sit at were down a very narrow path in a back area. I don't think they had to wash too many tablecloths. No one seemed to know they were there. Also they had shoved about 6 wineries and 2 eating stations back in no man's land. They were not visited by too many people.

It area was also on 2 levels with a stream flowing between them. One of the eating stations moved their equipment next to the stream to prevent anyone from falling in.

I got to maybe 10 wineries and 3 food stations. Personally I thought the whole venue sucked.

I really hope that enough people complain (I heard many) so that next year it is back in the Crystal Court area where they is an abundance of room.

What I did taste and eat was very good but somehow the whole experience was not enjoyable. The ticket price was much higher but that was not an issue because of the quality of the wines and it also goes to charity. Maybe next year.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Arcadian Wine Dinner

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sage Restaurant, www.sagerestaurant.com, hosted an Arcadian, www.arcadianwinery.com, wine dinner this evening. I was really looking forward to this dinner and was glad to have company.

The dinner got off to a late start as the owner/winemaker got stuck in traffic and he had the wine.

The restaurant a guest chef this evening from Spanish River Grill-Bistro Latino in Florida. Seems like the owner of Sage and the winemaker know the chef of Spanish River Grill. Turns out it was a good combination.

A tray of appetizers was put out and they started pouring the 2005 Arcadian Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay. A tad to much oak for me .

First course was "Skatewing with Brown Butter, Dandelion, Heirloom Tomato & Black Olive Slaw with a Lemon-Thyme Foam. The fish was cooked perfectly and the oaky Chardonnay paired beautifully with the brown butter sauce.

Second Course - "Pan-Seared Wild Alaskan King Salmon with Jaime Farms Radish Slaw, Carmelized Sweet Weiser Farms Bermuda Onions and Parma Ham Jus". The jus cut though all the acidity of the dish and really played well with the salmon. The wine served was 2005 Arcadian Dierberg Vineyard Pinot Noir. Another very well thought out combination.

Next up was "Seared Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast with Blueberry, Shallots, Sage & Demi-Glace. Duck was cooked to perfection, very tender and not overdone. The blueberry sauce really went well. A nice touch and not the same old cherry combination that most restaurants do. This was served with a 2005 Arcadian Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir. A perfect match

Main course was "Chipotle Barbequed Hanger Steak with Pickled Vegetable Salad & Sweet Corn Bread Pudding". This again was a great pairing with the Arcadian 2005 Stolpman Vineyard Syrah.

Dessert was simple which was great for me. Pozo Tomme Chese & Chocolate Chili Truffles. The wine was Arcadian 2004 Westerly Syrah. A nice touch to close the meal.

I was stuffed after the salmon so I took home most of my duck and I had one taste of the Hanger Steak and took that home also.

So far I have had 2 wine dinners at this restaurant and have been ver pleased with both of them. It is a little drive from work but coming home is a breeze.

R & D in Santa Monica

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I needed to make a quick trip after work to Santa Monica to pick up wine that Stan brought back for me from the Sta Rita Hills.

The three of us ended up at a restaurant on Montana just a few blocks from their house called R & D. It is part of the "Houston's Chain". The R & D stand for research & development and that is what this restaurant does. Has a very small limited menu and they try out recipes before they are put on the menu at Houston's.

We ordered a couple salads, a hamburger, fries and meatloaf with potatoes. All the dishes were good and reasonably priced.

Best of all "no corkage". Stan brought a 2007 Sea Smoke Botella to try. The 2007 vintage is the first for the new winemaker. When the wine was poured we could tell it was much lighter in color and the previous vintages under Chris Curran. The taste was lighter, not so much up front fruit. It was a very good wine. A little more food friendly that the past years.

I enjoyed the wine immensely. For those that have been smitten with the big, bold Sea Smoke in the past this may be a shock.

This restaurant takes no reservations. It was packed when we got there and was packed when we left a few hours later, No sign of a recession here.

By the end of the evening traffic had died down and it was a reasonable drive back home

Belated Birthday Party

Friday, June 12, 2009

Got an invitation for "FAWG" (Friday Afternoon Wine Group) for this day. I'm not a member so I only attend a function a few times a year. Theme for this event was "Best of Syrahs". I was wondering how you can bring a "best" of syrah when the hosts own a vineyard that produces some of the best syrahs around.

I think there was over 40 bottles of syrah brought and quite a few of them were really outstanding.

The host's grilled pork tenderloin and sausages and there was an abundance of food.

The view of the Los Angeles port and harbor from their patio that night was spectacular.

Turned to be a belated birthday (the big 60) for the host. Of course we all have to sing "Happy Birthday" and have a piece of cake to celebrate.

I left at a reasonable time. It's an hour's drive for me to get home. I curtailed my drinking earlier in the evening.

Saw a lot of people that I had not seen Orv's funeral last year so it was nice to catch up.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tablas Creek & Sage On The Coast

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sage On The Coast restaurant, www.sagerestaurant.com, hosted a Tablas Creek dinner this evening. $60 for 5 wines and 5 courses. A bargain these days. This restaurant had been recommended to me by a "wine and food" geek who really knows his stuff.

A friend who was to go with me came down ill and could not make the dinner so I called the restaurant to find out their policy on singles. They are very accommodating and said it was no problem. I was seated at the the table with the rep from Regal Wines and Jason Haas, the general manager on Tablas Creek, www.tablascreek.com, . A couple who were wine club members rounded out the table.

They served a tray of assorted appetizers and paired it with the 2008 Vermentino. This is a really nice refreshing wine for summer. So far we are off to a good start.

Next up was "Coconut Coated Scallop with Shitake Mushrooms, Roasted Carrots, Coconut Rice, Bok Choy and Sweet & Spicy Sauce". The scallop rivals Delius. I was impressed. The wine was a 2007 Cotes de Tablas Blanc. A blend of several Rhone white varietals. Good pairing.

"Oxtail Ravioli with Spigarello and Oxtail Jus" was the next dish. This was an excellent dish and the pairing with the 2004 Mourvedre was spot on. A perfect pairing. I soaked up the Au Jus with bread and it was great.

The next dish was "Roasted Rack of Lamb with Eggplant Parmesan and Roasted Tomato Sauce. The lamb was rare the way I like it and the sauce was excellent. Very good flavor. I would have thought it had roasted red peppers in it but it did not. The wine was a 2006 E'sprit de Beaucastel, Rouge. Good pairing and this wine is always excellent.

Dessert was a "Peach Tart Tatin with a Tart Cherry Sauce". The dessert wine which was not overly sweet and went excellent with the tartness of the sauce was a 2006 Vin de Paille. Tablas Creek makes such a small amount of this wine that you can only get it at the winery. They do not make enough to put it out to their wine club members. $65 for a 375ml bottle.

I would go back to Sage because I found the food excellent and on the same level as Delius which I make all comparisons to. Delius is my benchmark for taste and quality of food. I do take into account pricing and adjust my comparisons that way.

Sage is past the Pelican Hill Resort by approximately 1 mile at the most. Coming from work in Torrance it took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to drive there. Driving home it was 25 minutes straight up Pacific Coast Hwy. They are hosting an Arcadian Wine dinner in a few weeks and I hope I can make that dinner also.

Steve Summers Summer Wine Clearance

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Steve who has been collecting wine for a couple of years now decided to relieve his cellar of a few bottles ( to make room for some more). We all brought appetizers and he furnished all the wine. Not a bad deal.

He put out a eclectic mix of wines. I did not keep track of them but everytime a bottle was emptied another would appear to take its place.

A good time was had by all and hopefully Steve will see the need to relieve his cellar of some more wines this summer.

Huber Wine Dinner

Friday, May 29, 2009

Delius Restaurant, www.DeliusRestaurant.com, hosted the Huber Wine, www.HuberCellars.com, dinner this evening. Norman and Traudl Huber the owners of the winery were in attendance and being a single I was at their table. I have met the Hubers several times at different functions and they are a delightful couple. I was looking forward to this dinner as they make a Dornfelder wine, which is a red grape from Germany. Their Dornfelder is from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA and it is a really big wine. Much bigger than the wine from Germany. Norm Yost of Flying Goat is their winemaker and Brewer-Clifton are their vineyard managers. Not a better combination around.

When I was up in the Sta Rita Hills last October for Steve Pepe's birthday and Oktoberfest party. I went to the Huber's afterwards and tasted their new Dornfelder Port. At the time they did not have label approval yet so it was not available for sale. I was hoping they would have it with this dinner and was disappointed to not see it listed. Norman said not to worry he would pour it as an extra with dessert.

First course was "Chilled Lobster Salad with Tomato Tartar, Micro Greens and Blood Orange Vinaigrette". The vinaigrette was really refreshing and paired nicely with the lobster. The wine served was a 2007 Chardonnay ( slightly-oaked). Good pairing.

Second course was " Crispy Braised Pork Belly with Asian Pear Slaw and Honey Ginger Glaze. (no steak knife with this pork belly as with DaVicini's). This dish was paired with the 2007 Chardonnay (non-oaked) . When I saw this on the menu I was surprised as I would have thought a Pinot would have been poured. I would never thought to pair a Chadonnay with Pork Belly. But as it turned out to be a very perfect pairing. Everyone was really surprised and Norman Huber looked at me and "who would have thunk".

Third course was "Pan Roasted Duck with Sweet Potato Gnocchi and Carmelized Onion-Cherry Compote". This came with the 2007 Pinot Noir. Duck and Pinot are always a good match. This duck was much more to my liking that the one with the Argentine wine dinner but I think I have surmised that I really prefer to have my duck sliced before they present it to me. Its my own personal preference.

Fourth course was "Braised Boneless Beef Short Rib with Herb Polenta Cake, Baby Carrots and Red Wine BBQ Sauce". The beef was so tender it pulled away with a fork. Excellent flavor and the polenta cake was a nice touch. This was the best dish of the evening. All the food was really very good but for some reason the short rib really tasted extra special. The Dornfelder was paired with this dish and it again was an excellent pairing.

Dessert was "Chocolate Terrine with Carmelized Banana and Toasted Almond Cream". They took the banana and sliced it very thinly lengthwise ans carmelized it in a simple syrup. The banana was like along banana chip, crunchy and slightly sweet. The chocolate was so dense and rich. My kind of chocolate. The Dornfelder Port appeared. I ate my dessert first and then enjoyed the wine on its own. I do not care for sweet with sweet. To me its overkill. But I will say the Dornfelder Port was not overly sweet. An extremely nice wine.

This again was an excellent dinner and wine pairing with Delius. Their dinners are always good and a few are really outstanding and I would put this dinner in the later category.

Best wishes and a speedy recovery to Traudl Huber. She will be having a kidney transplant in July. Because she is 75 years old she could not get on the waiting list for a new kidney. A neighbor has donated a kidney to her. Turned out to be a perfect match and we wish both the doner and donee a fast recovery. How lucky Traudl is to have such a generous friend.