Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reyes Winery Hike - Lunch - Tasting - Tour

I enjoyed a little hiking in the Sierra Pelona Mountains, some wine tasting, and a gourmet lunch with winemaker Robert Reyes at the Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce last Saturday.

The morning started with 16 people on a vigorous walk uphill...
and it continued uphill from there.

The vineyards were just starting to sprout leaves.

Reyes Winery is located just off Sierra Highway in Agua Dulce.
Robert Reyes Oil Painting

We enjoyed a taste of the Reyes 2010 Chardonnay and the 2010 Estate Bottled Syrah was served with lunch.   

We ate a fantastic lunch prepared by gourmet cook Beth Heiserman.  She managed to create every single dish with wine added to it!

After lunch Donna Harris poured her guest wines from Harris Vineyard & Winery in the Leona Valley: Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  They were all very good and recently bottled for this event.


I'm looking forward to attending the First Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival on April 20th. It will be held at the Reyes Winery in Agua Dulce.  

Robert Reyes is a very knowledgeable vintner and a talented painter. It will be interesting to taste his works of wine art.

Reyes Winery
10262 Sierra Highway
Agua Dulce, California 91390

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Cuvée Terrace

Grand Opening Weekend at Cuvée Terrace 
 717 Lakefield Road in Westlake Village
From Lakefield Road it doesn't appear that there are places to taste wine hidden away in this industrial complex.  This mini Westlake Village Wine Trail includes J Hamilton Wines and Cuvée Terrace.
The newly remodeled Cuvée Terrace celebrated the beginning of their grand opening weekend with members of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and other visitors on Thursday, March 21, 2013.
The new patio, bar and dining room look like comfortable places to enjoy food and wine.
Cuvée Terrace will be featuring Guy Riedel's small batch, hand-made, ultra-premium wines beginning this weekend.
Owner Jackie Shane and General Manager Bill Quinn welcomed everyone before the ribbon cutting ceremony.  They spoke about their plan to continue serving the favorite foods requested by loyal customers of the Plug Nickel and their unique wine discoveries.

Left to Right:
(Person at bar), Don Phillipson, (Cook), Jenny Henzell, Jackie Shane, Paul Dryman, Bill Quinn, Dee Crawford (front row), Kym Odney (back row), Lisa Oliver, Robert J. Fisher, Dennis Rehm

It's official! Certificates of congratulations from the Chamber and recognition from the California Legislative Assembly were presented to Jackie and Bill.
Yulupa Cuvée Brut sparkling wine from Kenwood was served with a nice selection of appetizers.
More pictures of the event are available online, just click on: Cuvee Terrace Opening.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Pinot Noir: Santa Barbara vs. San Luis Obispo County

My first "Wine & Dine" at Max's Cucina in Santa Barbara was a very good time--sort of like a one night wine club.  It was a different experience for me to taste wines without someone from each winery pouring, although the winemaker from  Summerland, the featured winery for the evening, was there to showcase his wines.  I really enjoyed meeting other Pinot Noir fans and listening to comments about why they brought a certain wine.  The theme of Santa Barbara County vs. San Luis Obispo County was a good comparison to make.  Now I just have to find a wine and dine dinner in San Luis Obispo County to try the same experience from the opposite perspective. 

Numbered glasses ready to go
Etienne Terlinden, Summerland Wine Maker

A nice homey atmosphere at Max's

I started the St. Patrick's Day tasting with a sample of the just-released 2012 Summerland Viognier from Paradise Road Vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  It was fantastic and for a second I thought I wouldn't mind staying with white wines for the rest of the evening, but I got back on track and focused on Pinot Noir wines until dessert.
C'est Cheese provided a nice variety of cheeses made from sheep milk, cow milk, and a mix of sheep/cow/goat milk.
For the rest of the evening, whenever I took pictures of people I told them to "C'est Cheese" ...

Henrietta, the owner, making sure the wines are available

SBC, SLO and the Others
The following is my personal tasting record and the results of rating wines on a scale of 1 to 5 (I avoid higher math when tasting).  I'm sure other people will have different tasting results.  And I know I missed out on the 2006 Laetitia (SLO) and the 2010 Byron (SBC); maybe they were just the second bottles for individual tables to enjoy.
There certainly were a few more wines from from SBC (11) than SLO (6) from what I could find.  And then there were five other wines from other counties - what's up with that?  Wines from Mendocino, Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties were brought by people who either flunked geography or don't need any stinkin' rules!  They were pretty good wines anyway, so I'm not complaining.

I rated the SBC wines an average of 3.8, with favorites from Foxen, Foley, Vino Sapien, and Pali.

As a group, the wines from SLO were clear winners (even if I removed the lowest 2 of the SBC wines) with an average rating of 4.4. The Claiborne & Churchill, Talley, and Windward* were all excellent.
* The 2002 Windward aged very well!

The Other wines from all over California tied SBC with an average rating of 3.8.  My favorite was the Testarossa from Los Gatos, Santa Clara County.

After the initial wine tasting we had a break so the staff could remove the wine and cheese and set the tables for dinner.  The back parking lot was the scene for enjoying a few interim sips. A little strange, but if you keep pouring wine you can herd people almost anywhere I guess.  I was glad to catch up with good friends, world travelers, and wine connoisseurs, Jennifer and Teddy, and talk during this time.

The dinner began with a few words from our Wine & Dine organizing friend, Leslie Thomas, and then an interesting discussion about wine with Bilo Zarif, Summerland Proprietor, and Etienne Terlinden, the winemaker at Summerland. 
Leslie with Wine Bell - getting ready to warm up the crowd
This group was serious about wine!
Bilo telling us about the wine biz
Richard Salzberg in action - the man to know for great finds and refills!
 The people in the back were having a very good time
Etienne answering a technical question

The Duck Confit Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce was a winner!  Pasta with butter, duck and a bit of salt was a nice appetizer to start the meal.

The Coq au Vin over Grilled Polenta, with Lemon-Garlic Broccolini was good.  How did they know I like the leg? It may have been over the grilled polenta when plated, but jumped off on its way to the table.  I liked the lemon-garlic broccolini and pearl onions as the vegetable.

When I saw Lavender-Infused Creme Brulee on the menu I thought that this was not going to be a good way to have creme brulee, which I otherwise enjoy, especially if I get to operate the flame thrower.  I like to smell the lavender growing in our back yard, but not so much as an added flavor. Well what a surprise!  The amount of lavender flavor was very subtle and it was a great dessert - especially with the 2010 Summerland Late Harvest Viognier (Paradise Road Vineyard
).  A perfect finishing touch for the dinner!

Chef Peter demonstrating how large the chicken must be to feed 60 people

I can't think of any better way to dine out and have a wine club/seminar experience than participating in the Wine & Dine dinners at Max's Cucina.  It was a great theme, a nice mix of wines and people, and gourmet food.  

And a special thanks to Leslie Thomas, the wine and food guru that organizes these fun eventsCheck out the BYOB Wine & Dine Calendar for 2013 here.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Virtual Tour of Paso Robles Wine Country

We could have visited these 20 wineries in Paso Robles and traveled 295 miles in about 8 hours of driving (not including tasting time).

Or we could taste the same wines in less than 3 hours at The BookBindery in Culver City.
What a great option! We dropped our car off at the free valet parking service and saved lots of time and gas.

A well-attended Paso Robles wine seminar about their wines and the region was held before the tasting event. 

It was a GRAND tasting tour with 40 wineries pouring the blends and styles of Paso Robles Wine Country. It's not surprising that I liked many of the Rhône-style wines, Zinfandel, Bordeaux-style blends, and Viognier being served. I liked the blends: GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvèdre), SMG (Syrah-Mourvèdre-Grenache) and even an MTG (Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Grenache). Funny, there weren't any MSG blends... 

A popular white Rhône grape, Viognier, added to other white Rhône grapes, like Roussanne and Marsanne, was in some very nice white wines like Lone Madrone's 2010 Points West White and Caliza Winery's 2011 Kissin’ Cousins.

Devon and I liked the first wine we tasted, a Viognier, at Adelaida Cellars - the 2011 Viognier Anna’s Estate Vineyard.  Then we took different routes around the BookBindery covering 20 of the wineries.

Adelaida Cellars
Ancient Peaks Winery
Bodegas Paso Robles
Our collaborative ratings for the top wines were:

Cass Winery
Hunt Cellars
Ratings for the best wines related to the price:

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
Niner Wine Estates
My favorite top 10 wines:

During the 2 1/2 hours we managed to visit half of the 40 wineries and taste 67 wines - an average of 8 minutes per winery and 2 tastes per winery. Two thirds (66%) of the wines we tasted were rated at 4 or better (out of 5), and 30 of them were 5 (or 5+) out of 5!  A great tasting opportunity and we only wish we'd had another few hours to visit the rest of the wineries.

Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards
The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills had a nice selection of cheeses, olives, and various appetizers to complement the wines.  Their table was a major hit and the food disappeared as fast as they could bring it out.  I was lucky to snap a picture of this platter before several people - waiting for me to take the picture - jumped in with tongs!

The Paso Robles Grand Tasting Tour was a great  event and we're looking forward to our next trip up there - even if we do have to drive around to the different wineries.

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