Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tasting and a potential book pairing

Hubby and I live in an area of Atlanta that's frequently called a city of functional alcoholics. I would say I don't know why the Decatur/Avondale Estates part of town has that nickname, but we do have a lot of great pubs, bars, restaurants, and wine, beer, and liquor shops.

One of our favorites is the Little Wine Shop in Avondale Estates. We're members of the wine club there and are regular attendees of the wine club tastings, which occur on the first Tuesday of the month. Typically a representative from the distributor will come and talk about the wine, and one of my favorites is Jeff Hagley from Atlanta Wholesale Wine. He's helping me with a blog project, and hopefully I'll be hearing from him soon. Meanwhile, I'll talk about last night's Spanish wine tasting, which occurred in the lovely loft space at TLWS:

Photo shamelessly borrowed from TLWS website.

When Jeff lined up the bottles after the tasting, he put them backwards, so, from right to left, here's the lineup:

And the highlights:

The first bottle, the bright green one with the yellow label is the Ulacia Txakolina, which is a lovely crisp white with a little frizzante, which is wine-speak for some fizz but not sparkling-wine level bubbles. This would be one to impress your friends with.

Of the reds, I liked the 2012 Al-Muvedre Monastrell from Alicante. The nose promised blackberry and dark cherry, and after some determined swirling it delivered, but in a nice, elegant way. The term used for this one was "quaffable." I agree.

Finally, my favorite of the evening:

This was the "bonus wine," a chance for Jeff to bring something special in his portfolio. The 2009 Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial from Ribero del Duero is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah. It got a "wow" from me in my wine notes for its spiciness, but in a good flourless chocolate cake kind of way. Alas, it was only available for special order, and the price point - $33.

If you like to pair wine with books, check out the Little Wine Shop's Wine, Women & Words book club, which meets quarterly. My book The Mountain's Shadow is the selection for May, and there are still spots available. You can purchase your tickets here. The cost is $15.00, and that includes two wines with tasting notes and munchies. I'll be there to lead the discussion, and of course I'll have goodies to give away. Yes, it's for women only. Hope to see you ladies there!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kitchen playtime: Easter weekend

Hubby and I always look forward to Easter, which we feels gives us the opportunity for some serious kitchen playtime. We start discussing the menu weeks in advance, and there is a careful selection of recipes as well as strategizing what to pick up where. Yes, I just made up a word.

So first, the cooking wine:

Yes, that is the 2013 Blanc de Syrah Brut from Wolf Mountain Vineyards here in Georgia. They make fabulous sparkling wines, and while they do have one sweeter one, the rest are nice and dry. This one is like spring strawberries in a glass.

And now the recipe sources:

Those would be the November 2014 Cooking Light (chard salad), John Sarich's Chef in the Vineyard (roasted lamb with cherry sauce), and perennial favorite Brother Rick Curry's The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking.

Of course the first part of the meal to be started was the yeast rolls since they rise twice. One thing to remember about the recipes in this book is that the dough tends to be very soft when you turn it out to knead. My best trick for dealing with this issue in this particular recipe is after the initial mixing/kneading period, switch to the dough hook and knead for two more minutes adding 1/2-3/4 cup more flour. It really helps. So, here they are. Rise, my pretties!

And baked. Seriously, I love this recipe.

And now for the Chopped Chard Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette:

This is a great salad for when the farmers' markets are still full of wintry stuff. Yes, come on, spring! I'm ready for some good spring and summer produce. The salad is just as good with feta instead of goat cheese. And hey, it's Cooking Light, so it's healthy.

Finally, the roasted leg of lamb with cherry sauce. Being half Belgian, I'm a sucker for meat/fruit combinations. I might have gotten a little too into the stabbing it before stuffing the herb mixture into the crevices and rubbing it:

But stab, stuff, and rub I did. Here's the cooked leg of lamb:

And Hubby engaged in his own knife work:

Ta da! Easter dinner (salads in bowls on the side):

The cherries in this sauce added more tart than sweet notes and made for a nice acidic foil for the meat. 

And, of course, the Easter wine, the 2012 Les Serrottes from Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Yes, this one is unfiltered and needs to be decanted for at least 30-60 minutes for that reason and to let it smooth out. Once it did, though, it went great with the roasted meat and cherry sauce.

Whatever you did, I hope you had a lovely Easter/Passover/spring weekend!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The blog is risen!

So now that I'm probably in trouble with half my readers for that blog post title, here's the scoop on what's happened over the past year and a half.

First, I'm sorry to have disappeared for so long. I actually ended up getting a fiction book deal, and then it turned into another, and then the third in the trilogy was contracted, and, well, you get the picture. The first two are available in ebook and paper, and the third is currently ebook only.  All of them involve much eating and drinking of alcoholic beverages.

And then book four, which is a stand-alone, is coming out on May 12. It actually has a character who's an oenology student.

For info on the books including links to excerpts and places where you can buy them, please visit my writing blog, Cecilia's Random Writings.

Second, there's been a lot of personal and health stuff that I'm not going to go into and some major developments with the day job. Yep, it's been busy, and I now have a minion. But never fear, through it all, we have continued to drink lots of wine and eat really good food. In fact, here's what I'm drinking today:
Wolf Mountain Vineyards 2013 Blanc de Syrah Brut

Oh, and we got a kitten. Kittens are bad for productivity, but at least he knows what one does with a bottle of wine. Yeah, it makes me worry that he's observed us open a few too many of these that he knows that the top comes off.

Meet Timothy Mouse. Look at that smug grin.

I couldn't find evidence of him decanting it.

So here's what Hubby and I have planned moving forward:

1.  Since we do most of our cooking over the weekends, we end up doing most of our food and wine pairings then. I'm going to try to write about what we ate and drank as well as recipe commentary. With regard to cooking expertise, I'd rate us as moderately proficient, which means we're still learning and making mistakes. Yes, I'll post about the mistakes, too. Just don't ask about the purple tofu.

2. I'm going to try to bring some of my psychology background into the blog with interviews of people in the wine industry. If you are such an individual and would like to be interviewed, please email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

3. Continued commentary on wine, wineries, and restaurants.

4. More random posts from Hubby because he's good at random, and he's really funny.

5. An updated site. Yep, it's in progress. We'll let you know when we move it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wines and Wineries - Our Weekend Dash Through Sonoma County

Okay, wow, where did September and October go? I had every intent to post this soon after returning from our California trip, but yeah, life got busy, I released a novel, and I had two of the busiest weeks ever at my private practice. Although I've been drinking plenty of wine, there hasn't been much time to write about it. I do intend to tell y'all about the vertical Claret tasting we did today at Wolf Mountain winery, but I'll do that next weekend.

Sonoma County will always have a special place in my heart because that's where we went in May, 2005 for my "Holy crap, you're finally done with school!" trip. Although I wouldn't officially graduate with my Ph.D. until August, we partied like I was already a doctor. Wine -- it's medicinal, right?

This September, after two whole days of PowerPoint Slides at the APA Work and Well-Being Conference in San Francisco, I needed some wine. The conference was good, but I have a low PowerPoint tolerance.

We started out from San Francisco on Saturday morning after having stopped at Molinari's Deli and gotten sandwiches. Here's a picture from inside the Deli, which is on Columbus Avenue. Yes, this is where Italians get to stop by on the way to Heaven if they've been very good:

After navigating through a bunch of traffic, we finally made it up to Healdsburg and Unti Vineyards, where Hubby went inside to go to the bathroom and came out with a bottle of 2012 Rosé (83% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre) and a couple of glasses. We enjoyed a late picnic lunch with the sandwiches. We discovered Unti on one of our previous trips to Healdsburg because they do wines with Italian grapes. Annoyingly, my notes wandered off between the end of the trip and now, but the wines were just as good as I remembered, and the 2011 Barbera came home to Georgia with us. 

We checked in at the Haydon Street Inn and wandered into Healdsburg for more wine. Of course we had to stop by Selby Winery because we're in their wine club. Their big, fruity reds are a must for chilly nights with hearty dishes. Highlights on this tasting trip included:

2012 Sauvignon Blanc:  Yay! More floral and tropical fruit aspects than grass, but still with good structure.

2012 Rosé of Syrah: With a "kiss of Grenache," this one is nicely balanced.

2008 Cabernet Franc:  Nice and fruity without the harsh tannins sometimes found in Cabernet Franc.

2008 Petite Syrah: This grape can sometimes come across with grape soda flavors, but not this one, which is very nice and elegant.

2009 Old Vines Zinfandel:  Yes, Selby does Zin very well.

2010 Bobcat Reserve Zinfandel:  Always a favorite.

Next stop was Roadhouse Winery, which had some decent Pinot Noirs and a good Zinfandel, but nothing spectacular. To be fair, I'll admit that by September, I'm pretty over Pinot Noir because it's a go-to summer red. Next year I've got to follow through on that perpetual vow to drink more French and Italian reds to find some other light-bodied options for summer.

We went to the Topel Winery tasting room next, whre we tried both the Red Flight and the Winemaker Special Flight. A lot of the grapes came from outside Sonoma. I don't have detailed notes, but the highlights included the following:

2010 St. Helena Battuello Vineyard Gamay:  Not Beaujolais Nouveau by any means.

2007 Mendocino Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 Mendocino Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2009 St. Helena Battuello Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Finally, that evening at the B&B, there was a tasting with wines from Portalupi. Three out of the four got a "Very Good" rating from me, the 2010 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley), 2010 Barbera (Shenandoah Valley -- the West Coast one), and 2011 Old Vine ZInfandel (Dolinsek Ranch, Russian River Valley). 

We met some very nice people and even shared some of our Unti rosé with them after the tasting. We finished it up later by the fire pit:

Sunday morning, we drove town toward the town of Sonoma itself and hung out with our friend Ed Thralls, who works for Flowers Winery and is now making his own stuff. His first vintage was promising, and the Pinot Noir we tasted from him this time around was very good. He's going to be one to watch. He also has an awesome view from his back door. No, his wine isn't that light in color, it's just how the light is hitting it.

We didn't do much tasting in Sonoma itself, just stopped into wine bars and explored the town by the glass. The night ended somewhat randomly when the sound of jazz lured us into the Erick James tasting room, where the winemaker himself as "Sonoma Satchmo" and his band played to a small crowd. It was random but fun.

If you're wondering about my book, it's an urban fantasy mystery featuring werewolves with a scientific twists, and it's available in all ebook formats. You can get the details including summary, excerpts, and links to buy it at my author website. Yes, my characters eat and drink well. It's also very helpful during harvest and while sampling Malbec grapes:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Know Your Saints: Saint Maurice

September 22 marks the feast day of Saint Maurice.

Some people call him Maurice.

Why ever is he here? Read on!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Central Coast California: Day Three

I'm taking advantage of the free wireless at Eno Wine Bar, which is off Union Square in San Francisco, to post this, the last report from Paso Robles. Later this week, I'll be sharing our adventures in Sonoma. I'll also be doing that from a computer, so I can get my links embedded beyond the first picture, which just isn't happening on my iThing. The events below happened on Tuesday, September 10.

Any day that starts with a hot tub and massage is a good day. Yes, this was the day we spent the morning at a spa.

We decided to mosey on after our relaxation-fest to Hug Cellars, where we enjoyed talking to Raquel. She also has a nifty reference book collection and gave us some great recs for when we return to San Francisco. Seriously, though, I could definitely stay in Paso Robles for a while. Because they have fried Mac and Cheese (at Pappy McGregor's):

Okay, back to the Hug wines. We liked all of them. We joined their wine club. No, this was not under the influence of hot springs and massages, they were just that good and highlighted how good Paso Robles winery do Rhone blends.

Then we moseyed on to Eberle (, which we'd been wanting to visit since a friend of ours discovered their Zin at a wine bar in Atlanta. As we expected we liked their big reds the best, but some of the whites also surprised us, specifically:

2012 Estate Chardonnay:  Although it had a hint of smoke on the nose, it was mostly tropical fruit and green apple on the palate.

2011 Mill Road Vineyard Viognier

2010 Barbera:  Came back with us, didn't last the afternoon

2010 Steinbeck & Wine Bush Vineyards Zinfandel

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah

2010 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

We only bought one because they have a lot of distribution, including to our area, and the guy we were talking to gave us the contact info for the distributor. We'll likely be reaching out to them once we get to big red season. They also had the nicest views so far:

Then we went on to Pear Valley Estate ( I liked:

2012 Viognier: very nice, especially on the finish

2010 Zinfandel: no comments, just yum

2009 Inspiration: 59% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 9% Mourvedre
Yes, another GSM. I'm telling you, they know their Rhone grapes here.

2009 Syrah: see Zinfandel

And that was it for the wine tasting for us. We were insane to tackle eight wineries the day before, so we decided to chill and write blog posts for the rest of the afternoon. This occurred in an Irish/Scottish pub, so we felt right at home. Now if we can only get The Marlay House, our Irish pub at home, to start doing fried Mac & Cheese...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More Tipsy Musings -- California Central Coast, Day Two

I wrote this on Tuesday and am posting this from our hotel room in San Francisco. We're headed north today to Healdsburg, and then to Sonoma tomorrow. I really did mean to post this earlier this week, but I was busy being a psychologist rather than an oenophile. Okay, I was drinking wine as well -- in San Francisco, how can you not? -- but wasn't in the blogging frame of mind.  Due to a glitch in the Blogger app and some disagreement in the browser, some of the links are embedded, and some in parentheses after the places.

Back to the show...

When you're tasting wine in Paso Robles, there's only one number you need to know:  46, as in California Highway 46. On Monday, Hubby and I headed down CA 46 West for some tastings.  Eight to be exact. When we told people afterward, they weren't sure whether to congratulate us or put us on a liver transplant list. How much of the wines from the last few vineyards did we taste? Who knows? I got cute cat pictures, though.

We started at Turley Vineyards, home of the Zins. It seems like Zins should have an adjective in front of it like "Fighting," but let's be real -- Zin, in all its fruity glory, is a lover, not a fighter. In hindsight, it was probably not the best idea to cuddle up to a 15+% wine first thing in the morning. Granted, we'd had a good breakfast and had even stopped off for Pringles because we couldn't find a freaking grocery store anywhere -- seriously, what do you Paso Robles people do for groceries? Grow them yourselves? If that's the case, we're totally raiding your Triscuit trees next visit. Those are our wine tasting starch of choice.

Anywho, we ended up with one of the "younger" Zins, younger defined as the vines being 50 or fewer years old. Then we moved on to Red Soles, where my favorites were the 2012 Flop Flip Viognier/Chardonnay blend and the 2011 Kick-Off, a nice smooth Zinfandel, Petite Syrah blend. Since we tend to run short on whites, we got the Flop Flip.

Hubby decided we needed a breakto move on to somewhere a little farther away, so we ventured out to Tablas Creek (, which several people had recommended to us. This was where we discovered how well Paso Robles does Rhone grapes. I liked a lot of their wines, the highlights of which were:

2010 Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc:  60% Roussanne, 35% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul Blanc
Okay, so first, kudos for planting the Picpoul, one of my favorite whites. This one had nice, light fruit with honeysuckle overtones. Trust me, I'm from Georgia, where honeysuckle pops up in the middle of one's garden completely uninvited. If I say it's nice, it means it's nice. This one is named for the estate in France they have a partnership with.

2011 Mourvedre: It's a 100% Mourvèdre, and no, we're not sharing the bottle we bought.

2010 Esprit de Beaucastel: 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache Noir, 21% Syrah, 4% Counoise
Is it just me, or does talking about Counoise make one feel slightly dirty? Seriously, it sounds like a French euphemism for something naughty. Either way, this was a lovely blend with a little more tannin but still very good.

Then we moved on down the road to Oso Libre (, which translates to "free bear." We didn't see any bears, but they do raise black Angus cows. I couldn't help but envision a pre-emptive pairing:

The Oso Libre tasting room is a refreshing change from the somber wood, glass windows to the barrel room style of most California rooms. They blast country music (okay, I wasn't so much into that part) and have a sort of diner-themed motif:

The wine highlights included:

2011 Volado Viognier:  good and fruity balanced out by nice floral notes

2005 Jovis Sangiovese:  great smooth fruit

2005 Revolucion Syrah:  velvety and fruity

2011 Carnal GSM: very good and smooth

NV Primoroso, Winemaker's Blend:  interesting layers of flavor

We bought a bottle of the GSM.
One thing that's imperative to know about Highway 46 West is that apparently the county has cracked down on wineries serving food, so alas, most of the places listed with food on the wine country map don't have food at the moment. This includes Grey Wolf and Cypher. 

We did taste at Grey Wolf (, where we were served by an elderly lady whom Hubby decided reminded him of John's Grandma in the Garfield comic. In other words, she's got plenty of attitude and might ride a Harley home. I didn't get a picture of her but did get one of Jake the cat, who was not interested in me or much of anything:

The wine highlights there included:

2011 Pretty Girl Pink, a nice rose blend of Cab, Zin, Grenache, and Syrah.

2011 Barton Simple Man Zin:  nice and fruity but not too heavy

2010 Lineage:  a nice blend of 60% Cab Sauv, 15% Carmenere, 15% Malbec, 5% Merlot, and 5% Cab Franc.

We took a Pretty Girl home with us. Wine, you pervs. We're not into that kind of thing.

Then it was seeking food, for realz. The only place allowed to serve food on the 46 West corridor is Aron Hill Vineyards ( Luckily they're pretty cool and have a nice tasting room. I particularly enjoyed:

The PrimRose. It's not a white Zin, it's a dry white Primitivo. Totally different!

2006 Primitivo:  this was a dry year, and something nearby burned, so there's a little smokiness to it

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon:  lighter than they would have liked, but still good.

We didn't buy anything there -- room is getting scarce in Bertha the wine safe. Josh and Nicole in the tasting room were great, and he gave us some recommendations for the rest of the day. He also had me sign one of my book postcards and took a picture with me for his website.

Then it was off to Peachy Canyon ( because, being from Georgia, we had to make sure they were indeed peachy. I'm not sure if they're truly Peachy, but they were definitely Zinny. I particularly liked the 2011 Snow Zinfandel (not Snot Zinfandel, which my iThing just tried to make it), 2011 Mustard Creek Zinfendel, and the 2012 Rose. I also enjoyed petting the cat Peaches, who was slightly more awake than the aforementioned Jake:

Our final stop was Cypher Winery (, which had also been recommended to us. They also had a cool red, black, and white tasting room:

The highlight for me there was the Freakshow "Peasant" GSM, which should actually be an MGS to reflect the percentages of grapes in it.

By that time, our palates were fatigued beyond belief, as were we, so although we had time to hit a few more, we opted to head back into town and meet up with Matt and Annie Browne. Matt tweets as Matthew Liberty (, and he was instrumental in guiding us to the best wineries for us among the 200+ in the area.  He and Annie were also online "on call" for other questions for us while we were here, and I can't express how much we appreciated their advice. We even found a new wine club to join, but more on that tomorrow.

We met up with Matt and Annie at La Cosecha (www.lacosechabr), a cute Spanish/South American restaurant and had drinks since we were still stuffed from our 3:00 lunch at Aron Hill. Then Hubby and I headed to La Cosecha's sister restaurant, an Italian place around the corner from our hotel called Il Cortile ( We'd been told to try the beef carpaccio, which we'd never been brave enough to do before. It was served with a creamy truffle sauce and shaved truffles. Then I enjoyed the beef cheek tortelloni and finished up with the chocolate lava cake. We sat outside, and the lighting wasn't right for photos. We also shared a bottle of Terry Hoage red, but the wine list crashed the web site, so I can't tell you which one.