The Garagiste Festival – Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker

Xochitl Maiman – August 2015

The Garagiste Festival offers wine enthusiasts endless adventures in wine discovery.

The Garagiste Festival

As their website describes it… “Garagiste, a place for the underground, the different, and the cutting edge of small production winemaking with no rules.” The Garagiste Festivals, now at three per year, embody this definition and showcase the artisan winemakers of California, all with production under 1500 cases of ultra-premium, hard-to-find wines. Indeed, many of the wineries have no tasting room and their production is so small you won’t find their wines on store shelves. So, the only way to explore and experience these wines and the artisans that create them, is at one of the 3 annual festivals.

The first Garagiste Festival was held in November of 2011 in Paso Robles as a way to showcase the garagiste movement which had clearly taken a hold in that wine producing region. The event also served to raise funds for the Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture Program, which provides future winemakers with an education in all aspects of the wine business from the vineyard to the table. The Festival continues to support this program and its young winemakers of the future. With the movement growing throughout the California wine producing regions, and interest and awareness growing on the part of the wine consumer, the annual event schedule has grown to accommodate 3 festivals – adding festivals held in the Santa Ynez wine growing region of Santa Barbara County and in Los Angeles.

Garagiste Festival Paso Robles 2015Traditionally, the Santa Ynez Garagiste Festival, named “Southern Exposure” is held in the spring, the Los Angeles Garagiste Festival, “Urban Exposure” in the summer, and the Paso Robles festival in the fall.  So with just one more event left for 2015, now’s the time to save the date for November 7th. Actually, the November Festival has been expanded to include events over a 3-day period, beginning with a “5th Anniversary Dinner” at the Carlton Hotel in nearby Atascadero on Thursday, November 5th.  A “winemaker mixer” follows on Friday, with a series of events scheduled for Saturday, November 7th, including seminars, the Grand Tasting and an after-party.

With all the wine tasting events held every year, the Garagiste Festivals are my favorite, providing a fun and unique opportunity to taste wine while meeting and chatting with the actual winemaker. Hearing from them personally, as opposed to distributors or reps, takes the tasting experience to a much higher, memorable and more meaningful level.

While I have made friends of many of these winemakers over the years and enjoy visiting with them and tasting their new releases, I also always look forward to meeting the “new guys” or first-timers to the festival. Dozens of varietals and blends means there is something for every palette. From Albarino to Viognier, this is one tasting event you won’t want to miss.

Garagiste Festival at Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles 2015Here are some of my favorites from this year’s Southern Exposure and Urban Exposure Garagiste Festivals:

Alta Colina Vineyards – Paso Robles – Consulting winemaker: Jeff Cohn  Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Grenache Blanc
  • 2011 GSM

Archium Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemakers: Zack Jarosz & Ian Sergy  Cases per vintage: 300

  • 2013 “Haven” Grenache

Ascension Cellars at Garagiste Festival 2015Ascension Cellars – Paso Robles   Winemaker: Erick Allen   Cases per vintage:1000                         Fruit sourced from the CASS Vineyard.

  • 2013 Halo Viognier
  • 2013 Gossamer Wings White Rhone Blend

Artisan Uprising – Paso Robles – Winemakers: William & David Vondrasek   Cases per vintage:275

  • 2012 Merlot
  • 2012 Malbec

Diablo Paso – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Enrique Torres   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2014 Albarino – Edna Valley
  • 2013 Tempranillo

Larner Winery – Santa Barbara -  Winemaker: Michael Larner   Cases per vintage: 800

  • 2014 Malvasia Bianca
  • 2010 Elemental GSM

MCV Wines – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Matt Villard   Cases per vintage: 500

  • 2014 Viognier

Shai Cellars Garagiste Festival 2015Shai Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Shawn Shai Halahmy  Cases per vintage: 350

  • 2009 Adome (65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2009 Grenache

Stanger Vineyards – Paso Robles – Winemaker: JP French   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2008 Syrah, Library Reserve
  • 2010 Master (55% Cabernet Sauvignon/36% Syrah/9% Tempranillo)

Tercero Wines – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Larry Schaffer  Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2010 The Climb (Syrah/Petite Sirah)

The Farm Winery – Paso Robles  – Winemaker: Santiago Achaval   Cases per vintage: 650

  • 2011 Touchy-Felly (Grenache/Syrah)
  • 2011 The Big Game (Cab/Petit Verdot/Syrah)

Vines on the Marycrest – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Victor Abascal   Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Summertime Rosé

Weatherborne Pinot Noir Garagiste Festival 2015Weatherborne – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Cris Carter   Cases per vintage: 400

  • 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills

The Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles, is scheduled for November 5-7, 2015. The fall is a beautiful, and popular, time to visit wine country. Plan your visit early by booking your lodging and ordering your Festival tickets as soon as possible.  For more information on The Garagiste Festival events, participating wineries, and to purchase tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival website.

Wine is an adventure, with every bottle offering a new experience. Thank you to the passionate and talented garagiste winemakers for your perseverance, dedication and for sharing your art. Thank you also to the outstanding team at The Garagiste Festival for bringing all these fine winemakers together under one roof where we can meet and celebrate them and their wines. Happy 5th Anniversary!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Wine Pairing Dinner in California’s Gold Country – The Independent Restaurant & Bar

by Xochitl Maiman – July 2015

The sun was setting in spectacular fashion over the Sierra Foothills of El Dorado County, which meant it would soon be time to head over to the evening’s scheduled wine-paired dinner at The Independent Restaurant & Bar in Placerville.

Sunset over El Dorado Wine Country, California

Day 1 of a recent trip to El Dorado’s Wine Country in the Sierra Foothills of California ended, also in spectacular fashion, with a wine-paired dinner that showcased half a dozen of the beautifully crafted Rhone wines of the area, from three different wineries.  The winery owners/winemakers were present at the dinner, which gave us, (a small group of wine writers), an opportunity to learn more about their stories as their wines were poured. The location was The Independent Restaurant and Bar in Placerville, expertly managed by Ben Carter, who was our gracious and doting host for the evening.  The food was “white tablecloth”, but the atmosphere of The Independent is comfortable in a chic, rustic, neighborhood favorite sort of way – a “go to” restaurant for any occasion.

Our winery hosts for the evening were Josh Bendick of Holly’s Hill Vineyards, Carey Skinner of Skinner Vineyards and Winery and David Girard and his wife Sandy Raney of David Girard Vineyards. I was especially happy to meet Josh as I had tasted his Rhone varietal wines a number of years ago and have been an ardent fan ever since. In fact, all the wines that evening were of Rhone varietals, which thrive in this area – all elegantly crafted with great varietal characteristics. After introductions all around, we sat down to our first course and wine pairing…..

Winemaker dinner menu at The Independent Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

First Pairing: Holly’s Hill Vineyards 2013 Grenache Blanc

Holly's Hill Vineyards Grenache Blanc

Eggplant Bruschetta - The Independent Restaurant and Bar Eggplant Bruschetta: Chinese Eggplant, Cherry Tomato, Shallot, Basil

Notes: Holly’s Hill has 11 Rhone varieties planted and produces between 4000-5000 cases per year. The Grenache Blanc vineyard is 6 years old. 2013 Grenache Blanc has a full mouthfeel, opening up to good acidity with some baking spice in the finish.

Second Pairing: 2013 Skinner Vineyards & Winery – Seven Generations Walnut Prawn Salad - The Independent Restaurant and Bar

Walnut Prawn Salad: White Tiger Prawn, Mixed Greens, Avocado, Candied Walnuts, Orange Wedge, Walnut Vinaigrette

Notes: With vineyards as 1400 feet and 2200 feet elevation, each with different soil composition, Skinner’s Rhone varietal wines take on unique characteristics indicative of “place”. The “Seven Generations” is made from 52% Grenache Blanc, 21% Roussanne, 17% Marsanne, 9% Viognier, 2% Picpoul Blanc. Full, luscious mouthfeel, balanced with minerality and acidity.

Third Pairing – 2013 Holly’s Hill Viognier Steamers at The Independence Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

Steamers – Manila Clams, Mussels, White Wine Garlic Shallot Broth

Notes: This ripe, crisp Viognier was just lovely with this dish – ‘nuf said.

Fourth Pairing: 2011 David Girard Coda Rouge – 46% Mourvedre/36% Syrah/15% Grenache/3% Counoise

Notes: Most of David Girard’s 36 acres of granite vineyards, planted in 1998, are dedicated to Rhone varieties.  This red blend was light on the palatte, but with great fruit and a bit of baking spice on the finish.

Salmon and Risotto at The Independence Restaurant and Bar - Placerville, CA

Honey Almond KIng Salmon – Grana Padano & Leek Risotto

Fifth Pairing – 2012 Skinner Mourvedre

Filet Mignon at The Independence Restaurant and Bar in Placerville, CA

Certified Hereford Filet MIgnon – Grilled Asparagus, Peppercorn Demi Glace

Sixth Pairing – 2010 David Girard Syrah

Chocolate Cheesecake with David Girard Syrah at The Independence Restaurant and Bar Placerville Ca

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Needless to say, the evening was enjoyed by all – each course a culinary delight, and another great opportunity to focus taste the wines from the El Dorado wine producing region – a region offering tremendous diversity, (50 grape varieties planted) and worthy of further exploration. With over 70 wineries in the region, this could take some time….

Special shout out to The Independent’s culinary team: Ryan Montgomery, George Fechter, Andrew Starr and Michael Moreno for an outstanding menu!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Wine Country Beef Stew is a Dusi of a Recipe!

by Xochitl Maiman – May 17, 2015

Paso Robles Wine Country Cooking for a Crowd – Dusi Family Beef Stew

Wine night happens pretty regularly around our house. And for those of you who know me and are saying, “Isn’t that every night?”, well, yes could be the answer. But, I’m referring this time to gatherings of thirsty wine-loving friends that happen every couple of months, ranging in size from 6 people to more than 40. But whatever the size, one of the challenges is figuring out what to feed my guests that is delicious, satisfying, wine friendly and can be prepared in a large quantity and ahead of time.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

In my quest this year to cook my way through my friend, Lisa Pretty’s cookbooks, “eat this with Paso Robles Wine”, volumes 1 and 2, I came across a recipe for Beef Stew… with a provenance.

Sylvester and Caterina Dusi immigrated to the United States from Northen Italy in the 1920′s, settling in Paso Robles. In 1945, along with their three sons, Guido, Dante, and Benito, they purchased land on the west side of Paso and planted Zinfandel. It is on this estate and in this esteemed vineyard that Janell Dusi was raised with the vines and today makes wine under the label of J. Dusi Wines. The highly sought after fruit from the the Dusi Vineyard is also used by other Paso Robles wineries such as Turley, Tobin James, Brochelle and Cypher.

Janell Dusi

Last year I had the opportunity to tour the Dusi Vineyard, meet Janell and taste a number of wines from different producers using Dusi Zinfandel. While nuances varied from wine to wine, the common denominator was rich, ripe, bold wines with layers of flavors. All would pair nicely with a hearty beef stew. (Visit my Dusi Vineyard Tour photo album)

Stew and polenta has been a Dusi family favorite for generations, and Janell shared her family’s recipe with Lisa for publication in Volume 2. Like most cooks, I couldn’t resist “tweaking” the recipe a bit, but the result was probably the best beef stew I ever made. Of course, Zinfandel is wonderful with this stew, but other red wines pair nicely too, making it the perfect dish to serve when many different wines are being tasted. While I didn’t have any of Janell’s wines on hand, I did have a bottle of Parrish Family Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel (not Dusi fruit) that I was anxious to try and turned out to be a delicious choice.

So gather some friends, open some bottles of zinfandel, get out your stock pot and give this recipe a try, The recipe below is my version for a crowd, but can easily be cut in half. Please, also check out the original recipe in Lisa’s book, along with all the other Paso Robles wine country recipes to share with family and friends at “wine night” at your house.

DUSI BEEF STEW WITH POLENTA – Serves 16

Dusi Beef Stew

Stew:

4 lbs cubed lean stew meat

3/4 cup flour mixed with 2 tsp instant espresso powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning, salt and pepper

Olive Oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

Parrish Family Vineyards Zinfandel Paso Robles

1 1/2 cups celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal

10 large carrots (rainbow if possible) sliced on the diagonal

2 large leeks, dark green parts removed, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced

2 lbs of baby white fingerlings, scrubbed and sliced in half lenthwise

8 cups of beef broth

1 bottle of dry red wine (I used Primitivo)

2 Tablespoons anise flavored liquor ( I used Jagermeister)

1 Tbsp each dried oregano and basil

1/2 cup of coffee

1 sm can tomato paste

2 ozs dried wild mushrooms (re-hydrated in boiling water for 20 minutes – then drain, and coarsely chop. RESERVE LIQUID

1 cup sweet baby peas

For the Stew: Toss the cubed beef in the flour mixture. Heat 3 T. olive oil in large skillet – Working in batches, add meat to pan (do not overcrowd) and brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed.

In each of two dutch ovens, heat 3 T. olive oil. Add half the onions to each pot, cooking on med-low for a few minutes. To each pot add half the garlic, celery, carrots, leeks and potatoes. Stir and cook for 3 minutes over med high heat. Add the beef broth, wine, liquor, coffee and herbs, half to each pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer while preparing mushrooms.

In skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook till beginning to soften. Add all but 1 T. of the can of tomato paste to the pan. Stir to cook paste. Add reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful to retain any sediment. Cook mushroom mixture a couple of minutes then stir into stew pots. Cover pots and simmer stew on low 2-3 hours till meat and vegetables are tender. If stew is too thin, remove cover and cook till desired consistency. Five minutes before serving, add the peas.

Polenta: 

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

3 c. chicken stock

2 c half-and-half

2 c whole milk

2 c polenta

1 container mascarpone cheese

1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Fried onions (like Durkee)

Crumbled gorgonzola

For the Polenta: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and slowly sprinkle the polenta into the hot liquid, stirring constantly with a whisk. (Grandma Dusi said to always stir in one direction) Cook, stirring constantly until polenta thickens and bubbles. Stir in mascarpone and parmesan cheeses and continue to cook, gently, stirring, until polenta is tender ( 5-10 min). Season with salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper if desired.

To Serve:

Place 1/2-3/4 cup of polenta in pasta bowl. Ladle stew over polenta. Top with fried onions and crumbled gorgonzola.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

 

 

 

Wine Regions – A Matter of “Place”

by Xochitl Maiman – May 2015

The more I learn about wine…the more I explore wine regions and varietals, the more I come to find out there is so much more to learn! And taste! And therein lies the intrigue, mystery and compelling nature…and fun, about wine.

One of the most interesting aspects of “wine”, in the broadest sense of the word, is the concept of “place”, and I don’t just mean terroir, but historical identity that connects people to a region and to that region’s culture, food and agriculture. Many “old world” wine regions are small, some nothing more than  large communities, that have existed for generations and, at some point in history, may have been remote or secluded. Their culture was driven by weather and soils and what those influences allowed them to grow and cultivate.

As far as wine production, these small regions often identify with and make wine from one grape varietal, sometimes with a couple of supporting varietals. Often, wine production is a tradition for a family that dates back many generations. They have made wine from the same grape(s), on the same land, sometimes employing traditional methods, sometimes modifying to accommodate changing times, palates, technologies and global influence. But no matter how big the world gets, the people of these regions value “place” and  what is historically and indigenously theirs.

Naoussa – Can you say “Xinomavro”?

With 330 grape varieties indigenous to Greece, it is Xinomavro, a robust red grape varietal, that is the star of Naoussa, a tiny wine region 75 kilometers from the ocean in the heart of Western Macedonia – Northern Greece. With the entire area running only 30 miles, end to end, the vineyards are located in the plains and south eastern slopes of Mount Vermion – and that is where this ancient area’s history begins. According to mythology, Mount Vermion was the home of Semele, mother of Dionysus, the god of vine and wine.

Though cultivated for hundreds of years in different areas, it is in Naoussa that Xinomavro is able to reach perfect maturation. Despite the destruction of Naoussa’s vineyards by phylloxera in the 1930′s, area producers remained dedicated to reviving the area. In the 1960′s the vineyards were replanted, and during the 1970′s, along with improvements made in farming, the modern age of wine production for the area began. There are now 20 wineries in Naoussa.

Aging in oak for 12 months helps to soften the considerable tannins that give Xinomavro great structure and ageability. The wines are deep red in color with red fruit characteristics and great acidity, (a comparison to Nebbiolo would be appropriate), making these wines fantastic with the meat and tomato dishes of the area.

Wines of Naoussa to try:

Chrisohoou (oldest winery in Naoussa) – Estate 2008             Estate Chrisohoou - Xinomavro - Naoussa -

Dalamara – Naoussa 2012 – (Kostis Dalamaras is 5th generation of his family to farm at the Dalamara Winery)

Uranos – Thymiopoulos Vineyard – 2011

Ktima Diamantakos – Naoussa 2008

 

 

 

Garganega and the wine region of Soave.

Soave

Soave, located just 12 miles east of Verona and whose picturesque castle and rock walls date back to the year 934, is also home to 16,000 acres of Italy’s total 27,200 acres of Garganega. Dating back to the thirteenth century, Garganega is the principal grape of Soave, an area that produces one of Italy’s leading wines – a white wine of place.

There are now almost 100 wineries in the Soave wine region, producing wines that are a far cry from the boring whites you may have seen in your local market.  These are wines of character and even ageability. Although the best wines of Soave are generally produced from 100% Garganega, (Italian wine law mandates a labeling minimum of 70%), Trebbiano di Soave (adds tropical notes) and Chardonnay are also used. Almost no oak barrels are used in production – flavor profiles rely heavily on “place”. Depending on the source site, characteristics of wines made from Garganega can include lemon, white peach, lemon thyme, minerality, and almonds. The wines are usually made dry and their crisp acidity allows them to pair beautifully with dishes that feature citrus flavors, seafood, poultry, risotto, paella and pastas with cream or butter sauces. Recioto di Soave is a sweet wine made from dried grapes and is the perfect accompaniment to desserts that include marmalade, figs, marzipan or toffee.

Soave wines to try:

Sandro De Bruno – 2011 Soave Superiore DOCG “Monte San Piero”

Gini – 2007 Soave Classico DOC

Monte Dondo – 2006 Soave Classico DOC “Casette Foscarin”

Franchetto – 2012 Recioto di Soave DOCG “Santin Dulco”

These are just two of the many wine producing regions in the world that are associated with a specific grape varietal. So much more to explore and taste. Meanwhile, I strongly recommend you check your local wine shop for wines from Naoussa and Soave, plan a menu and let your taste buds take you on a trip to a faraway….. “place”.

I’ll Drink to That!

 

 

 

 

The Wines of El Dorado County – Part 1 Skinner Vineyards

by Xochitl Maiman – April 13, 2015

Skinner Vineyards – Where the past is the driving force for the future.

On a recent visit to El Dorado Wine Country in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California, it became apparent that the new “treasure” of this historic “gold country” is wine. The choices of tasting experiences are abundant and diverse – the area has more than 2,000 acres planted, producing 50 grape varieties for more than 70 wineries. With so much to cover, this post will be the first in a series, each looking at the area from a slightly different perspective or focusing on a specific winery.

The “gold rush country” of  California is rich with history and so it makes sense that many of the wineries in the region have deep historic roots. Such is the case with Skinner Vineyards and Winery

After a series of serendipitous events led to the discovery of  family ties, dating back to winemaking in the Sierra Foothills in 1861, Mike and Carey Skinner began to acquire property near where they learned the original Skinner Winery site had been.  In 2006, compelled and inspired by the story of Mike’s great-great-great grandfather, James Skinner, Mike and Carey began to build their “state of the art” winery in Somerset, near the area’s hub city of Placerville, and reclaim their family legacy. The winery was built with respect for the environment and the land that connected the generations to one another, and the family plans on taking their sustainable farming practices to 100% organic by 2016.

In addition to Rhone varietals, the Skinners have planted some of the heirloom varietals known in James’ time, but long forgotten, in hopes of bringing their past into the present to carry forward into the future. Their wines are testament to the fact that the region is perfectly suited for growing Rhone varietals. With their vineyards at different elevations, winemaker, Chris Pittenger, has myriad choices of the same varietal to craft the wines, creating nuances in the palate that make them exciting to pair with different foods.

Skinner Vineyards

1861 – an homage to Skinner HIstory

Shortly after my return from El Dorado, I attended an LA Wine Writers luncheon at the West RestaurantHotel Angeleno, which featured Skinner Vineyards wines, wonderfully paired with dishes created by executive chef, Laura Scollan.

mussels and risotto

White Wine Steamed Mussels – Curried Risotto – Spring Peas – Paired with 2013 Seven Generations White Blend

Skinner Vineyards Grenache

Seared Ahi Tuna – Vegetable Sushi with Beurre Blanc – Tempura Asparagus – Paired with 2012 Grenache

Duck Breast

Crispy Duck Breast, Marinated in Allspice/Orange Sauce – Coconut Bamboo Rice – Ginger-Honey Glazed Baby Carrots with lemon,honey, rosemary and thyme – Paired with 2010 and 2012 Eighteen Sixty-One Red Blend

Teres Major with Skinner Vineyards Wine

Teres Major – Truffled Potato Gratin with garlic, cream,rosemary and parmesan – Roasted Romanesco – Paired with 2012 Mourvedre and 2010 Syrah

Learn more about Skinner Vineyards and their wine region of El Dorado by following their Facebook page.

Wineries of El Dorado video

Watch Wineries of El Dorado County – video

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

 

 

Archium Cellars

by Xochitl Maiman   March 27, 2015

Archium Cellars at Garagiste Festival-Solvang

One year ago, at the Garagiste Festival in Solvang, I met Ian Sergy and Zach Jarosz of Archium CellarsIan and Zach of Archium CellarsActually, it was the night before at a pizza party “sneak peak” at Cecco Italian Restaurant in Solvang. They were tucked away in a corner with really poor access as the crowd of tasters continued to pack the space. I think it was the label artwork that first drew my attention as I was trying to leave at the end of the night and almost out the door. So I decided, one more, why not? Good move on my part…

Archium Cellars Dissident

 

 

 

Zach was completely personable, (never ceases to amaze me how the winemakers stay personable after hours of pouring for the masses), and introduced me to his small, but impressive line up of wines. (They produce about 250 cases per year, at this point) Their first vintage was 2011, and that weekend we were tasting their ’12′s and a simply wonderful 2013 Rosé of 100% Grenache. Archium Cellars Rosé Inspired by the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, their wines are all made from Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, sourced from renown Santa Barbara County vineyards such as Stolpman, McGinley and Watch Hill. They do have a small “test vineyard” planted in the Thousand Oaks area where Zach and Ian hone their vineyard management skills, and which actually produces the fruit for their “Briar Bluff Vineyard” designate, Syrah.

Archium Cellars - Briar Bluff Vineyard

Archium Cellars Briar Cliff Syrah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like so many other passionate winemakers, Zach and Ian both have careers in other industries, which adds time management to the myriad challenges a winemaker faces. Ultimately, like most passionate winemakers, they find making their own wine to be a truly rewarding endeavor. Their pride in what they do was evident as they showed me around their Ventura Briar Cliff Vineyard Archium CellarsCounty vineyard one afternoon last May. They view each vintage as an archive of their efforts in winemaking, thus their name, “Archium”, latin for archive. As a consumer, that really brings home the concept of taking in and appreciating all that goes into that glass of wine, even before tasting it.

Earlier this month Archium Cellars bottled their 2014 Rosé and I’m anxious to taste it and any other new releases they may have at this weekend’s Garagiste Festival. Like so many of the wineries pouring at the festival, they do not have a tasting room, so this is a rare opportunity to taste their wines and over 250 other wines being produced in small quantities in the Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles wine regions. Here is a complete listing of the wineries pouring each day at this year’s event, March 28-29, 2015. Who will stand out this year?

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

Live Long and Prosper, “Mr. Spock”

Is there someone who has touched your life – changed your life – inspired you – facilitated an epiphany, an “aha moment” that altered your course – your personal evolution? For some that person might be a parent, a friend, an activist, an author, a spiritual leader, a musician, a painter…. but a fictional character?

Spock,_2267

While you come to this blog to read about food and wine, today I ask for your indulgence as I devote this space on the world wide web…and indeed a space in my heart…and soul, to “Mr. Spock” and the actor that brought him to life – Mr. Leonard Nimoy. How ironic that a character so purposely void of emotions could evoke such a wide array of emotions in me today in learning of his passing and in the many years that I have spent remembering and putting to practice Mr. Spock’s logic and ideology.

Even at a young age, Mr. Spock’s logic and view of the world…or in his case, the universe, resonated with me. It just made sense. Objectivity, intelligence, focus and clarity. The emotions of love, respect, trust and fear were all there, just kept in check so the job at hand could be accomplished. Well, perhaps I was never going to be a “Number 1″ on an intergalactic airship, but I would have many opportunities in my life where those attributes would provide me with the foundation necessary for the situation at hand.

Juxtaposed against the logic, there seemed to be a spiritual component subtly implied in the character of Mr. Spock. Indeed, Mr. Nimoy explained that even the iconic split finger hand gesture, generally accompanied by the words, “Live Long and Prosper”, was derived from a gesture made by practitioners in a synagogue he witnessed as a youth. In later years, Mr. Nimoy would write many books of poetry, illustrated with his own photographs. As a poet and photographer in my teens, again, my connection with the passion, introspect and the emotion of his written word, ran deep.

Having lived in Hollywood my whole life, movie star sightings are pretty common place. But only once, have I actually wanted  to verbally connect with one of those stars. I had gone to see a musical performance at the Hollywood Bowl that was being narrated by Mr. Nimoy. When his portion of the show was finished, I darted to the backstage artists’ entrance to hopefully see him and let him know how deeply his artistic endeavors had touched me over the years. But as fate would have it, he had left quickly and I had missed him. Today, it saddens me that he shall never know.

So today, I will raise a glass to toast a mentor and thank him for sharing and for the many lessons well taught.

Is there someone who has touched your life – changed your life – inspired you – facilitated an epiphany, an “aha moment” that altered your course – your personal evolution?  If you can, why not thank them today?

And as always……

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

Artisan Uprising

by Xochitl Maiman – January 30, 2015

Before the popular Garagiste Festival brought about awareness of the artisan winemaker movement in the Central Coast, two brothers from Reseda, California were beginning their own “artisan uprising”.

The Vondrasek Brothers-Aritsan Uprising

David and William Vondrasek had been following a decades old family tradition started by their grandfather, of making wine for family enjoyment. Their first home vintage was in 2001, but it wasn’t long before they were producing more wine than they could drink, so….well, you know the story….one thing leads to another and in 2012 they celebrated the release of their officially licensed first vintage of Artisan Uprising.

Artisan Uprising wine Paso Robles

“Art is what you do with the science”

Having already developed a winemaking style that they felt was unique, David and William also wanted their branding to convey their message and their desire to build up the artisan winemaking movement. While their wine, made from fruit sourced from two premium Paso Robles vineyards, clearly reflects their artisan touches, the label on the bottle serves as the gateway to the concept. Created by one of the Vondrasek sisters, the label depicts an artist “leaving everything behind him except the tools he needs to create his art.”

These dedicated “artisans” shared their wines with a small group of wine writers yesterday, presented with the divine culinary stylings of Executive Chef Laura Scollan, of WEST Restaurant and Lounge at the top of the Hotel Angeleno. (Note: I’ve attended wine tastings in some very interesting and often historic venues in Los Angeles. Oddly enough, having lived in L.A. my entire life, I had never been inside the iconic round hotel located just off the infamous “405″ freeway at the Sunset Blvd. offramp. While previously owned by the Holiday Inn chain of hotels, it is  now privately owned and completely renovated, feeling very much like a boutique hotel)

Our wine pairing luncheon was served in a private suite one floor below the restaurant, (views were spectacular in every direction!) and closely supervised by the hotel’s food and beverage director, Steffen Mrowczynski. Each course was presented by the Chef and served by an excellent wait staff.

Course 1: 2014 Rosé of Merlot (24 Cases) – Gorgeous salmon color, dry, rich mouth feel, tiny bit of watermelon jolly rancher in finish – beautiful rosé.

Cider Glazed Scallop - Artisan Uprising Tasting

Cider Glazed Scallop – Tri-colore Cauliflower, Truffled Parsnip Purée

Course 2: 2012 Merlot (124 cases) – Unfiltered, earthy nose, rustic, yet “silky-smooth”, beautifully balanced and integrated. Touch of dark chocolate in long finish. Just loved this Merlot!

Chicken Roulade – Wild Mushroom Mousse, Prosciutto

Chicken Roulade - Artisan Uprising

Course 3: 2012 Malbec (37 cases) – This malbec with 5% merlot to “open it up”, reins in the alcohol at just 13.8%. Good fruit and acidity – long finish.

5-spice duck - Artisan Uprising

5-Spiced Duck Breast on Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Micro Greens – Duck Confit Spring Roll

Course 4: 2012 Petite Sirah (39 cases) – Thick and deep berry red. Bit of anise in the finish. Wonderful now, but has great potential for aging. 

Braised Short Rib on Sunchoke-Okinawan Purple Mash, Baby Spinach

Braised Short Rib - Artisan Uprising

Interestingly, I found that while the food pairings were spot on, I enjoyed these wines more on their own without food. Their complex flavor profiles would be enjoyed immensely served with great conversation, a good  movie, or …….. a spectacular view!

View from Hotel Angeleno - Artisan Uprising tasting

Whatever the occasion, check these guys out. The case production was small on their 2012′s, so try them soon while they last. Good news, though, the 2013′s, which we also tasted, show great promise and they are expecting their case production to grow to a whopping 375 cases with that vintage!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

The Adelaida Road Wine Trail – Paso Robles

by Xochitl Maiman – December 2014

Wine tasting along Adelaida Road blends local history with modern day winemaking.

There are many options to choose from when deciding where to spend the day tasting in Paso Robles wine country. As a frequent visitor to the area, I find there is also a tendency to want to spend time at the familiar wineries that over the years have become  favorites where I like to “check-in” and say hi to friends. So on a recent trip, a rare rainy weekend, I focused my attention on Adelaida Road – a stretch of windy country road that runs along the northern side of the region between Highway 101 and Vineyard Drive, and located primarily within the boundaries of the newly designated sub AVA known as the Adelaida District.

View from Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

The road is a portal into a parallel universe of pastoral vistas and quiet tranquility. Old oaks line both sides of the narrow road meeting in a leafy canopy that dapples the sun on the windshield. Around each turn is a landscape of hillsides and fields corduroyed with perfect rows of vineyards, at this time of year turning myriad shades of gold. Deer gather in groups, seemingly plotting their covert entrance into a yard or vineyard and hawks hang motionless in the sky above. On this particular day the much needed rain quietly added its glistening touch to the scenic canvas.

Our first stop – the brand new (literally open just a few days) tasting room and winery facility of Alta Colina. Last time I had visited, on a 100+ degree day in late August, it was still very much a construction site so I was excited to see the finished product. Bob and Maggie Tillman were both there to greet us and Bob suggested we start with a vineyard tour. Never to be kept out of a vineyard by a little rain, we jumped into his truck and slowly made our way up the hillside of the 130 acre site – the vineyard elevation reaches almost 800 feet with stunning views in all directions.

Alta Colina Vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso jRobles, California

Planting of the 32 acres now under vine began in 2005. The vineyard is dedicated to Rhone varietals including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, mostly Entav selections with one block dedicated to Alban grafts. The Tillman’s maintain an organic vineyard – no synthetic soil additives and cover crops are all naturally occurring grasses.

Once back at the winery, Bob gave us a tour of the new digs – his excitement with the new place and how it had turned out was a pleasure to experience.  Architect Rebecca McKay of Real Architects in San Luis Obispo, created a lofty, contemporary 8,600 square foot facility which includes a 650 square foot tasting room – a big jump from the 150 square foot tasting room they previously occupied up the street. With all the new winery space, the Tillman’s project an eventual case production increase to about 4000 cases from their current 1800 case production. The facility also includes the first Tesla charging station in Paso Robles.

Wines from Alta Colina, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Maggie and Bob Tillman, Alta Colina Vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Maggie and Bob Tillman, Alta Colina

Favorite wines tasted at Alta Colina:                                     Tasting at Alta Colina, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

2011 GSM

2013 Grenache Blanc

2012 Claudia Cuvée (Marsanne)

2011 Toasted Slope Syrah

2011 Block 2 Bio Syrah

The Alta Colina tasting room is open Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 2825 Adelaida Road.

Lone Madrone Wine, Paso Robles, California

Our next stop down Adelaida took us to Lone Madrone and an epic tasting with winemaker, Neil Collins. Indeed, the tasting notes sheet I was given had 20 wines on it! Clearly something for everyone here. It seems Neil has deep rooted relationships with many local, mostly “west-side” growers that afford him access to a large number of varietals from which he makes his single varietal and blended wines. (Important to note here that, while managing his own wine program at Lone Madrone, Neil is also the winemaker at the highly esteemed Tablas Creek down the road. He credits his ability to stay on top of things to the great teams he has working with him). The winery takes its name from the lone Madrone that stands in their original vineyard and the tasting room is warm and inviting in a refurbished horse barn. (Loved the old hot walker in one of the outdoor sitting areas.)

Neil Collins, winemaker, Paso Robles

While Neil and I chatted about all things Paso Robles, including the new AVA’s, the push to bring attention to Paso Cabernet Sauvignon, organic and biodynamic farming practices, and changes in the local farming landscape over the years, he poured for me some of the wines in his lengthy line-up. And even though Neil produces so many wines, I’d say there was no compromise on quality here. This description taken from their website says it best: “The wines of Lone Madrone are all unique and yet characteristically balanced with structure and finesse.” Of the 13 wines I tasted, here are some of my favorites:

2013 Chenin Blanc – dry farmed, 43 year old vines

2013 Picpoul Blanc

2012 Points West White – blend of viognier, marsanne, rousanne and picpoul blanc

Lone Madrone wine, Paso Robles, California

2011 Points West Red – blend of Mourvedre, grenache, syrah, cinsault and counoise

2012 Bailey Ranch Zinfandel

2010 Tannat

Lone Madrone vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

The vineyard was beautiful in the rain, but I will definitely return to enjoy the view and a picnic on the patio on a sunny, dry day. The Lone Madrone tasting room is open daily from 10:30am-5pm at 5800 Adelaida Road.

Halter Ranch Winery, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Halter Ranch is a parallel universe unto itself, seamlessly juxtaposing historic Paso Robles with modern day winemaking. Located at the intersection of Adelaida Road and Vineyard Drive, the first thing you notice on arrival is the grand Victorian farmhouse built in 1885.  A drive across a long covered bridge takes you to the recently constructed winery facility, looking much like a mountain ski resort, but housing a large “member lounge” and the state of the art winery.

Covered bridge at Halter Ranch Winery, Paso Robles, California

Visible from the lounge through floor to ceiling windows is the multi-level winery which utilizes gravity flow to gently get fruit from de-stemmer to tank.

Halter Ranch winery

While a large facility, with case production at about 12,000 annually, Halter Ranch takes great pride in their sustainable practices across the board – They are SIP Certified and maintain a 3 mile wildlife corridor through the vineyard, which I found particularly interesting. Unique to Halter Ranch is the 22,000 square foot cave system accommodating 2500 barrels. Winery and cave tours are complimentary and given Saturdays and Sundays with reservation. Plan on about 45 minutes – well worth the time.

Halter Ranch, Paso Robles - caves

The vineyard is planted with 19 grape varieties – 60% Bordeaux, 40% Rhone, plus Tempranillo. Halter Ranch is a member of the Paso Robles CAB Collectiveand last April at one of their tasting events I was able to try a couple of vintages of their flagship wine, “Ancestor”, a Bordeaux-style reserve blend named after the large coast live oak located on the property. The current 2012 vintage is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and would be lovely enjoyed with some hearty winter dishes.

The Halter Ranch tasting room, located at 8910 Adelaida Road, is open daily from 11am-5pm.

Tablas Creek Winery sign, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Almost to the end of Adelaida Road lies Tablas Creek, a winery for which I could devote an entire article. I have visited there many times and always learn, see or taste something new.Tablas Creek is about all things Rhone, and indeed they envision their vineyard with all thirteen Châteauneuf du Pape varietals. The project, started in 1985, is a partnership resulting from a long standing relationship between the Perrin family of  Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The vineyard is certified organic and some blocks are farmed by even stricter biodynamic standards. The wines, born of vineyard soils similar to those of Châteauneuf du Pape, and crafted by winemaker, Neil Collins, are traditional Rhone blends, complex and elegant. The grounds reflect their philosophy of working with the land, and I was particularly impressed with the retaining wall created from the calcareous shale native of the area.

calcareous shale

Calcareous wall, Tablas Creek, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Tablas Creek vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Tablas Creek vineyard in summer

I am a huge fan of the Tablas Creek blog - always a great read full of wine info, vineyard updates and local area news. It is maintained by Jason Haas, Partner and General Manager at Tablas Creek, and supported by a team of contributing writers. The tasting room at Tablas Creek, featuring a large and thoughtfully curated  selection of gift items, is open at 9339 Adelaida Road, and is open daily from 10am-5pm. Don’t forget to check out the corral of working animals too!

 

Llamas at Tablas Creek, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Just a bit further west on Adelaida, history once again beckons you to stop and travel back to a Kiamie Wine Cellars Meritage Paso Roblessimpler time of country living. Located on a small portion of the land homesteaded by the Ramage family in the 1800′s, and occupying one of the original buildings, is Kiamie Wine Cellars. Partners Aram Deirmenjian and Greg Johnson realized their dream of developing a fine California winery with their first vintage, 2005. They moved from a downtown area tasting room to their current location, nearer to the westside vineyards where they source their fruit, in 2010, renovating an old tack room into a cozy, rustic tasting room. Arriving here is like visiting old friends – greeted by Aram or Greg accompanied by one or more of their dogs, you’re welcomed in, poured your first taste, then escorted outside to relax, breath and forget about whatever big city you’re visiting from.

Personal note: It was about 7 years ago that I first met Aram at a tasting event in the San Fernando Valley. During a brief conversation, he made a career suggestion for me involving social media and wineries – thanks Aram for encouraging me to pursue the work I have been very happy doing ever since.

Learn more about Kiamie’s Rhone and Bordeaux style blends.

Also, not to be missed while touring and tasting along Adelaida Road are the Re:Fined Alex Villicana - Re:find DistilleryDistillery hand crafted spirits being produced from wine grapes (really!) by Villicana Winery’s founders Alex and Monica Villicana. Their gin is my personal favorite – just lovely! Visit them and enjoy this unique tasting experience at 2725 Adelaida Road, daily, 11am-5pm.

As always, I’d like to thank all the winery owners and winemakers for their generous hospitality while taking time to show us around and share their stories. It is truly the people of Paso Robles that, along with the land’s beauty and bounty, make Paso Robles an ideal destination for wine tasting and touring.

View the complete photo album for this Paso Robles tasting adventure.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

Eat this with…Paso Robles Wine

by Xochitl Maiman   October 16, 2014

Food and wine pairings from Paso Robles wine country.

Just a short 3 and a half hour drive north of Los Angeles lies the tranquil Paso Robles wine region. But don’t let the laid back feel of the area deceive you. Not only has Paso Robles solidly established its place as one of the premier wine grape growing regions of California, but it has developed a food scene to go along with all that wonderful wine. Exciting restaurants fill the downtown area with more opening on a regular basis. Farm to table dinners are now a mainstay at many of the local wineries, pairing locally grown and produced food with the area’s rhones, zins and cabs. Brigit Binns, renowned cookbook author has opened a cooking school and Lisa Pretty, winemaker, writer, foodie and author, has written two cookbooks focusing on the pairing of simple delicious recipes with the wines from the region.  ”eat this with …Paso Robles Wine “- volumes 1 and 2, feature recipes from local wineries, chefs, caterers and Lisa herself with a selection of wine pairing options. This is “no brainer” wine and food pairing for any home cook, that will make you the the star of your dinner parties and weeknight family meals.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

Since I usually have a fair amount of Paso Robles wines on hand, I’ve begun to work my way through LIsa’s recipes and wine pairings and I figured I’d share some of them with you here on my blog.

Nothing says weeknight comfort food like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. Lisa’s recipe in Volume 2, p. 118 for Turkey Loaf was my choice for last night’s dinner, as I already had most of the ingredients on hand. (No marketing is always a good thing after a busy day at the computer). This recipe features plenty of veggies in the mix for extra flavor and moistness. As for sides – I made mac ‘n’ cheese with Boursin and asiago, and hericot vert, cooked crisp tender with just a sprinkling of salt, pepper and thyme. Lisa suggested 7 possible wine choices from rosé to cabernet franc, but as it is Merlot Month, I went with the J. Lohr Merlot – 2012.

The turkey loaf turned out to be easy to make and really good – I’d definitely make it again. The wine, which I’d never had before, was also a winner. A complex nose of cedar, black pepper, cinnamon and dried strawberries – hints of tobacco and blueberry on the palate – a medium bodied wine with a very satisfying well rounded finish. (As a side note, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year!)

Paso Robles wine and food  pairing

I’m including the recipe below, but I think you might want to get your own copy of these books so you have all these great food and wine pairings on hand for any occasion. They’d make great gifts for the foodies on your holiday shopping list too.

TURKEY LOAF by Lisa Pretty

serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated carrots ( I used purple and orange- added great color)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery ( I didn’t have celery, so I substituted orange bell peppers)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock ( I used chicken)
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ddried thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I substituted 1 T. dried basil)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce]
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used french bread crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup tomato based chili sauce ( I used 1/3 cup of catsup mixed with about 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce)

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add onions and garlic, sauté for 3 minutes. Add carrots and celery then sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl mix ground turkey,eggs and bread crumbs. Stir in the vegetable mixture and a little salt and pack into a non-stick loaf pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with chili sauce. Return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!