Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rodney Strong Vineyards Symmetry Blending

 Blending a new Meritage Red Wine

And you thought wine blending was what you did with leftover wines after a party…

I was recently invited to a Rodney Strong seminar/blending party that focused on the five classic Bordeaux varieties grown in Alexander Valley that are used in making Symmetry Meritage Red Wine.
The setting was at the historic The Pierpont Inn & Raquet Club (aka Pierpont Inn & Spa) in Ventura--established in 1910 by Josephine Pierpont.  I'd always wondered what that place with the mission-style fonts was like on the inside as I drove by on the 101. The inn is located on a scenic bluff overlooking Pierpont Bay in an area between the Ventura Harbor and San Buenaventura State Beach.

Ventura County's own Gwendolyn Alley, the 'Wine Predator' organized a fun group of writers and social media users that focus on wine and food for a blending party and a dinner afterwards that featured Rodney Strong Vineyards

We were educated and entertained by Robert Larsen, the Director of Communications at Rodney Strong, with a great overview of the wines used in blending Symmetry and then we were given some time to experiment with our own blends.

The 2010 Symmetry Red Meritage has 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot.  A Meritage is a blend of two or more Bordeaux grape varieties; for red wines these include any of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Gros Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, or St. Macaire. The 2010 Symmetry has a bouquet of blackberries, cassis and sweet spices that leads to layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice on the palate. It's a very nice blend and I definitely noticed the chocolate.

The blending party had an added level of interest with the three  tables of wine friends competing for the best blend. Winning team members each won a bottle of Rodney Strong wine and I was lucky enough to team up with a creative group that won the competition.

I was on the team that blended 'Quartet Ventura,' a fine blend of four wines that won the competition. Although it was based on Malbec instead of Cabernet Sauvignon, it was a very enjoyable red blend.  My personal blending experiment turned out to be based on a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Petit Verdot in
three equal parts.
Shawn, Tom, Jason and Annie from the Serenade team.
Fellow Quartet Ventura blenders included:
Shawn Burgert, the 'Wandering Wino'
Tom Plant, WINEormous
Jason Hendrick,'The Hungry Man' on Tom & Sandy’s 805 morning show at KVTA 1590 AM.

Robert Laresen announced the runners-up , which were 'Fourplay,' that he thought would go well with food, and 'Serenade,' which was described as an amazingly balanced wine, good to drink now, and that might age well also. Robert's description of the Quartet Ventura Malbec-driven blend  included "notes of a dusty forest floor, kind of rustic (from the Malbec), with a backbone of fruit (also from the Malbec), and a lush mouth feel."

An interesting side note was that two of the three teams didn't use the Cabernet Franc. Although this was one of the best Cabernet Franc wines I've ever tasted (without a bell pepper experience), I thought it was OK to skip adding this component.

After the fun blending experience we all enjoyed dinner in one of the Pierpont's dining rooms. 

We had the opportunity to taste the Rodney Strong 2012 Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Charlotte's Home and 2011 Estate Chardonnay, Chalk Hill Estate with appetizers and starters. I enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc the most of the two white wines and heard a few others mention it was their favorite too.

Photo of Shawn Burgert's camera
With dinner we had the 2010 Symmetry Red Meritage and a 2010 Alexander's Crown, a  single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the southern part of Alexander Valley.
Rober Larsen and Gwendolyn Alley toasting

I selected the Grilled Natural Angus Beef Flat Iron Steak entrée with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Roasted Tomatoes, and a Mushroom-Burgundy-Burgundy Reduction. It went especially well with Alexander’s Crown, which I thought was a real winner!
And the Alexander’s Crown went very will with the Cup O' Lava Cake I had for dessert too.

Overall, it was an excellent time, informative and a nice opportunity to meet others interested in the same topics. And a special thanks for Rodney Strong Vineyards' Robert Larsen for sharing his wines, knowledge and stories about wine blending. 

Have you blended wine before?

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Monday, August 5, 2013

A Taste of Camarillo 2013

The Taste of Camarillo food and wine festival was lots of fun last year, so I was looking forward to it again this year--plus the Wine Auction Gala & Dinner held the night before.  I took my DSLR camera and HD videocam planning to capture the essence of both events, but I think I ended up capturing almost all of the events! So if a picture is worth a thousand words, along with HD video, I've got a few gigabytes of words.

The Wine Auction Gala & Dinner started with a silent auction on the side of the Camarillo Ranch house. Domaine Saint-Vincent Methode Champenoise Brut and Bridlewood Reserve wines were poured along with Hors D'Oeuvres:

  • Lobster Salad in a hand rolled chive crepe and topped with caviar and micro greens.
  • Chicken & Black Truffle Pate in pastry with fig preserves.
  • Fava Bean Tapenade served on crostini with pickled onions and artichoke heart.
  • Mushroom Tarts with French brie cheese.
  • Beef Wellington wrapped in pastry with a tarragon dijon sauce.

The Big Little Jazz Band provided some nice background music, the dinner was fabulous and the live auction was a hoot!  

Click here to watch a video of the Gala.

A Taste of Camarillo wine and food festival had a very good mix of wineries, beer, and food.  I managed to take pictures of about 50 wineries, but I'm sure there were a couple more there.  Out of the new wineries (to me) that I found interesting were Barr Estate Winery, Frolicking Frog Cellars, Hidden Oak Winery, J&J Cellars and Sextant. Some of my favorite wines tasted were: 
  • Alma Sol 2010 Cuatro Caminos, Paso Robles
  • B&E Vineyard 2009 Merlot
  • B&E Vineyard 2008 Rhythm
  • J&J Cellars 2009 Tempranillo, Estate, Paso Robles
  • Pear Valley Estate Wine 2009 Distraction (27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 24% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petite Verdot).
  • Sextant Wines 2010 'Night Watch' (69% Zinfandel, 23% Petite Sirah, 9% Syrah).
Towards the end I sampled some beer from Sierra Nevada, Enegren Brewing Company, Ninkasi, and Surf Brewery.  Most were IPAs and very hoppy!

All of the food from Billy D'z Backyard BBQ, N'Awlinz Bistro, Spanish Hills CC, Sushi Fresh Ventura, Tierra Sur (Lamb Bacon!), and Twenty 88 was fabulous!

And the Cover 2 Cover band covered a lot of great songs!

Click here to watch a video of the Festival.