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.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

California Dreamin': Central Coast Trip, Day One

My brain is weird. I never have stress dreams about work during the week, but just let me have a long weekend or vacation, and three to four nights in, I'll have work-related dreams. Typically it's some sort of scheduling problem, like three new patients show up at once, or like this morning, a particularly difficult patient has been scheduled for every Tuesday at 12:30, which is a two-fold problem because I have a regular patient scheduled for noon on Tuesday, and my appointments are an hour with 1:00 being my lunch hour. Yes, I get really pissy when people mess with my lunch. In general, it's like my little overachiever Type A mind can't let go of having to do something or be somewhere. Seriously, brain, chill!

I'm writing this post in a hotel room in Paso Robles. Hubby scheduled a couples' massage for us this morning at the River Oaks Hot Springs Spa. I was expecting the massage, but he surprised me with an hour in a hot springs hot tub and mimosas. Yes, ladies, you may be jealous now. I'm also very relaxed and drinking Eberle Barbera out of a hotel water glass, so I apologize in advance if this post is a little discombobulated. Hey, at least I'm drinking water out of a hotel coffee cup to hydrate and balance things out:

Random fact:  apparently the Milwaukee airport has a Recombobulation Area just beyond security, but no one is ever in it because Americans suck at vocabulary. A friend who flies for Delta told me that.

We flew into San Francisco on Saturday. The best part of the flight was finally getting to see the most recent incarnation of The Great Gatsby. Holy crap, airplanes still show movies sometimes! It was definitely a Baz Luhrmann film, but eh, whatever, he gets better with every movie IMHO. I like Tobey Maguire, and I always wondered about the character of Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book. Hubby, who grew up in Montgomery, never read the book because my MIL hated F. Scott Fitzgerald. She also hates me, so I'm in good company. Maybe my books will be shown as airplane movies someday.

Wow, this first post in a while is rambling. Perhaps I should get to the wine...

Our first stop off CA Highway 1 down the coast, which may or may not be foggy, so you may or may not get to see stuff, was at  Beauregard Vineyards. Admittedly, we saw a sign pointing to a winery down Bonny Doon road and thought we were going there, but happened upon Beauregard instead. This was a happy happenstance. The highlights for me were the 2012 Metallique Chardonnay (yes, a Chard -- there are people fainting at this right now) and the 2010 Merlot Zayante, which got a gold medal from the vaguely named Beverage Institute. I have a beverage institute. It's called my kitchen. Anywho, we started our California trip by getting the f*cking Merlot. Take that, Pinot!

It was at lunch at the West End Tap & Kitchen in Santa Cruz that we got the news our diabetic cat was in a bit of a crisis with multiple accidents and growling at the cat sitter. This is normally a very mellow, if bossy, cat, so we knew something was very wrong. Hubby understandably didn't want to get out of cell signal range until he could coordinate care between the cat sitters, emergency vet, and possibly our regular vet, who is closed on Sundays. So, we stopped in Monterey, which is where I now want to retire with a view like this:

We even saw a wild seal, who was not very graceful maneuvering the rocks. I tried to get a picture of it, but it's hard to get a good shot through an iThing when you're not sure what rock you're aiming for. Okay, we might have been drinking at the time. Really, did you expect otherwise? This was actually a good stop because the wines are from grapes grown in a cooler climate, so they set up a nice contrast for the Paso grapes.


2010 Cambiata Albariño: This was a gorgeous white, big with a lot of fruit and a mineral finish.

2008 De Tierra Merlot:  Grape stem nose with nice cedar overtones.

2011 Parsonage Syrah:  Smooth with a nice balance of fruit and spice, chewy texture.

In general, I've liked the cooler-climate grown syrahs better than the desert ones this trip. As we were told, the cooler weather gives them a better balance of fruit and spice. The fog in this region is incredible, sort of like the Smoky Mountain plumes but extending for miles in gray clouds that carry their own little bits of coldness. You can see the clouds in this picture taken over Monterey Bay when Hubby and I were kicked back with glasses of that fabulous Albariño, which we also got a bottle of:

Okay, will post more about the Paso Robles wines tomorrow.

Oh, and the cat is fine. She likely had a hypoglycemic episode and is now boarding at her vet.