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Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Santa Ynez Valley

April 11, 2013

Rounded Acidity: Tercero 2010 Grenache Blanc

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Tercero 2010 Grenache Blanc

I think my very favorite thing in wine is acid. I’ll take an elegant, restrained and acidic European wine over a Napa cult cab or Paso fruit bomb with any cheese plate! Acid in wine is what makes it go well with food. Think of it as the lemon on your fish, lightening and freshening the dish. It also helps clear your mouth between bites and get you ready for more. If you are eating a heavy meat with a heavy sauce, think about what that would be like with a heavy wine as well! Not easy to digest my friend. I would suggest a wine with some acid in it.

But the best wines have a perfect balance: a good amount of acid as well as balanced fruit, interesting flavors and a well-rounded body (kind of like the perfect mate). And the Tercero 2010 Grenache Blanc achieves that beautifully. Tercero wines in Santa Barbara wine country are consistent year after year in their superb ability to go well with food. Larry Schaffer has been making wines for almost 10 years including a stint learning the craft at Fess Parker winery in the Santa Ynez Valley. Now he single-handedly runs his small boutique wine company, making over 13 different wines for his tasting room in the bustling town of Los Olivos while concurrently raising 3 children and being active in the community. Kind of like the perfect man.

This 2010 Grenache Blanc is fresh, crisp and has notes of fresh fruits like peach, orange and lemon as well as some mineral/stone flavors. It’s medium-bodied with a long finish and is perfect for a variety of foods (great for pasta with spring vegetables) or just chilled on a warm day. It’s kind of like the perfect white wine.

Bonne Digestion!

La Rioja,Provence,Santa Ynez Valley

July 15, 2012

Summer Wines: Rosé from Provence, Rioja & Santa Ynez

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My favorite summer wine is rosé. Its lovely pink hue and delicate flavor win me over at almost every meal, as it flirts with me from the bottle; I just can’t’ say no to it. It’s as refreshing as a crisp white on a hot day, but slightly big enough with a few tannins and flavors from the red grape skins to complement grilled meats, heavy meats, grilled vegetables and summer desserts. Rosé will pair up with almost anything, making it the summer wench of wine.

Triennes Rose wine from Provence, France

My favorite rosés are those that are light in color and alcohol, but medium to high in acidity. Rosés from Provence are the originals, and could easily be called the best. Triennes rosé is a favorite of mine, made from Cinsault blended with Grenache, Syrah and Merlot. It’s light yet flavorful and is the perfect accompaniment to a summer dinner.

Bodegas Muga Rose wine from Rioja, Spain

Another rosé I love is from Bodegas Muga in Rioja. This one is a darker pink color; a rosy-cheeked minx, with a heavier flavor that can stand up to meats and cheese, but still having that bright kick of acidity.

 Verdad rose wine from Santa Ynez Valley, California

And finally, a California rosé I love is from Verdad Wines in the Sana Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara county. Louisa Lindquist makes this European style rose from the Garnacha grape of Spain, with an alcohol level of 11%. It rivals these French rosés in all the things I love about rosé wines, with the bonus that I can buy locally! My local harlot…

Try finding one of these rosés, and pair it with your favorite summer meals. You’ll see that even though she gets around; she really is the best companion on a summer evening.

Santa Ynez Valley

February 25, 2012

Wine Country Runs: the Only Way to Workout

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Santa Ynez Wine Country

So, the only real reason I have ever run a half-marathon is because there’s wine tasting at the finish line. Ok, ok… and maybe also because my brother inspired me just a little (he’s run at least 12 real marathons)…and come to think of it, there was an ugly breakup with a two-timing boyfriend that conveniently coincided with my first-ever run as an adult. But, the only lasting reason is the wine.

This means I get up before dawn and run/walk a god-awful amount of miles (13.1) and as soon as I finish, make a beeline for the wine tent. For me, this is around 10:00 am – which is pretty much starting the day with wine. And these end-of-the-race festivities are extremely rewarding: my smiling lady friends who have also run the race (finishing way ahead of me of course), my mom handing me a spotless wine glass, the California sunshine filtering through the trees and the charming windmills of Solvang surrounding us.

Solvang windmill

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate propelling our almost mid-life bodies through 13.1 miles of Santa Ynez Valley’s rolling hills covered in vineyards, ranches, wineries and horses. Horses that get so excited from the energy of the runners going by that they join in the run, if only inside their own fenced pastures. It is truly a gorgeous run.

Santa Ynez Wine Country

And Rosé and Chardonnay have never tasted so good! After getting some lunch into our tired and wine-filled bodies, we head out to do more wine tasting, at which point we are even more indebted to my mom, the mom of our whole group at this point. She keeps us on schedule and herds us into the right tasting room, as well as keeps us on time for dinner and in our seats with her soothing voice. Not to mention her sober driving…thank you Mom!

pasta from Trattoria Grappolo

With all the wonderful restaurants in the valley, we always indulge, treating ourselves to a nice pasta dinner at Trattoria Grappolo and after the race, plenty more wine. Many of the restaurants here make their own wine – but remember to book early; reservations fill up quickly on this yearly Mother’s Day weekend.

Tastes of the Valleys Solvang

And finally, no half-marathon trip to Santa Ynez Valley is complete without a glass of wine at the local wine cave, Tastes of the Valleys (now called the Good Life in Solvang; you have to go to Pismo Beach to visit this exceptional wine bar). Here we let the knowledgeable staff help us determine the best choices for each of us, and we rest our weary legs plus the heavy medals we’ve been wearing all day in front of the cozy fire listening to live guitar strumming.

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon medal

We sigh and feel a lovely sense of accomplishment and we all know we’ll sleep very well tonight. Wine country runs are really the only way to go. Until next year!

Santa Ynez Valley

September 25, 2011

Los Olivos for Grownups: Alta Maria Vineyards

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Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room in Los Olivos, CA

Alta Maria wines (along with Native 9 wines and Autonom wines) have been around for almost a decade, but now that they’ve opened a tasting room along the main drag in Los Olivos – the tasting room town of Santa Barbara wine county – I’m even more inclined to make a run through town.

Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room in Los Olivos, CA

In a typical weekend rush of tourists from Orange & LA counties plus Santa Barbara wine tour companies, the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room is a lovely and cool respite from any wine-tasting-bachelortte-or-birthday-partying on the street. It’s sophisticated and down-to-earth. It’s western and classy. It’s minimalist and Pottery Barn.

Alta Maria Vineyards Chardonnay & Pinot Noir in Los Olivos, CA

The wine on the tasting list also demonstrates such duality. In addition to the Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Alta Maria is known for, they have a unique Sauvignon Blanc and solid Cabernet Sauvignon on the list, just created for the tasting room. The Chardonnay is half oak-fermented and half stainless steel to give us a lemon cream tart with lots of acidity. And the Alta Maria Pinot Noir is a perfect blend of fruit, wood and earth, a basic Pinot Noir that’s a steal at $28 a bottle.

Autnom Syrah & Native 9 Pinot Noir in Los Olivos, CA

But the list has more. Viticulturist James Ontiveros is pouring his baby here: Native 9 Pinot Noir. And this is the only place you can taste the 2009 Pinot Noir. This wine is from a vineyard on his multi-generational family’s property in Santa Maria valley, where he grows 8 different clones and blends different concoctions each year to create a fuller, exotic Pinot Noir.

And the winemaker of the duo, Paul Wilkins, got his love for Rhone varietals working for John Alban of Alban Vineyards. His Autonom SM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) is almost sold out because if its nose of bacon fat and pie crust (this sounds like heaven in a glass) and perfect balance, and his Autonom Syrah is a blend of cold-climate fruit and warm-climate fruit that manages to be vegetal, fruity and spicy.

Grown-up heaven.

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