Thursday, August 7, 2008

I've moved

It may seems as if I have bagged out of blogging but not true, not true at all....just moved my blog to Samantha Sans Dosage @yahoo360.;_ylt=ApRejghKvMzRS55BT2FDnBrlAOJ3

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Husband's Eye View of Samantha Watching Lakers Playoff Basketball

I married a Saint, anyone that knows me knows that to deal with me day in and day out requires the patience of a Saint. For your typical, "girl" stuff I am pretty easy, I loathe shopping, don't care a thing about money, own two pairs of shoes...and a pair of flip flops, avoid the phone like the plague, know I "look fat" in everything so I never ask, would rather watch basketball or football than snuggle, and for the most part find babies icky. So the whole gender conflict is a non issue for my sweet husband but he is stuck with the challenging arguments about a, "woman's role" in history or the bible, (he is a religious studies major) the, "I don't care if we have known them forever. They bore the crap out of me and I don't want to hang out with them anymore" conversation, and if he ever tries to pull the, "because we are supposed too" is met with a raised eyebrow, slightly sneering Sam face and a, "Who says?". Poor thing right? The once or twice a year that we have a real fight...he knows he cant win, doesn't even really try but "Mans up" and tries to get all fierce on me..."Yea okay honey, that is kinda cute". Seriously the sweetest man ever, I am very lucky that he finds my difficult nature endearing...I make him laugh and shake his head a lot.

So what does this sweetheart get to see on game six of the Lakers vs Jazz game? Me rushing through the door, dumping off my purse and computer on the nearest chair. Changing out of my work clothes into my most comfy jeans and the biggest white T-Shirt I can find. Now tonight because it was like 400 degrees I soaked the shirt in cold water to cool me off....uh huh wet T-Shirt right?? Yea now imagine that if you will with me doing the fist pumping, screaming with little bits of spittle and standing up to do the whole pelvic thrusting, simulated spanking who's your daddy dance.....aww poor Sam's husband!

The one civil thing he got to see was me sipping away on the world's best Rose, the 2007 Tempier Bandol Rose (37.99). Try as I might to be angry at the ever rising price of this wine each time I have it I just say, "Damn". It really is worth the price as much as it makes me cringe to say so. The length, depth, texture, minerality and power just cannot be matched. You may not be able to buy it by the case but you really do owe it to yourself to savor at least one bottle, see what the best tastes like. We get only 10 cases for the year so while I assume it wont fly out the door you might want to get your hands on one or two as soon as possible.....last year we were hit hard with Internet sales from states that got less as a state than we got at The Wine Country!
Lakers up by 8 with 2 minutes....."Roarrrrr"!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Wine Country's 1st Wine Brunch! June 1st 2008

This last minute opportunity landed in our lap and even though we did not have time to get it in the newsletter and promote it properly I had to jump at the chance. We have never done a wine brunch before, not sure how people feel about getting all tingly in the middle of a Sunday but I for one am for it so there has to be others out there right? Some of you may have noticed that we have not been doing as many French wine dinners as we used to, and the number one reason is that I felt they were getting..."Crusty" for lack of a better word. We were kind of churning out the same ol' same ol' and the result was smallish turnouts and very little by way of sales. These events take a lot of planning and work and when they are not grabbing the crowd or generating sales then they just aren't worth it. We needed something new, cool and exciting and I think this brunch may be just the thing I was waiting for.

Amy and I have had lunches at Cafe Arte with Chuck Morris of Beaune Imports and I can tell you that the place is a steal. The food is always tasty, the portions on the larger side and the prices are beyond reasonable...almost laughable really....even this brunch 5 courses for $40.00 including wine? I mean, "Shut up"!

I am very excited and hope this first wine event with Cafe Arte is a smashing success. I think Amy, Jeremy and I are going to meet with Chuck Morris there on Monday, (May 19th) for know, just to do a little research, make sure the food is a good as we all remember...for all of you of course!

Sunday June 1st 2008 12:00 PM
Cafe Arte
12741 Towne Center Drive
Cerritos California
For Reservations Please Contact Cafe Arte 562) 865-2783

$40.00 Per Person Plus Tax and Gratuity

First Course
Frittata with Grilled Vegetables
2007 Chateau La Canorgue Rose

Second Course
Seared Scallops with Polenta
2006 Domaine Gaujal Picpoul de Pinet

Third Course
Mixed Greens with Almond Crusted Goat Cheese
2006 Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Blanc

Fourth Course
Seafood Paella
2006 Xavier Clua Terra Alta Blanco
2006 Xavier Clua Terra Alto Tinto

Fifth Course
Caramelized Apple Crepe
2006 Eric Bordelet Apple Cider Doux

Hope to see you there!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Go Lakers!!!

I'm sitting here watching my Los Angeles Lakers in game five of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz and I only have two things to say;

1) Watching MVP Kobe Bryant is just damn exciting! I catch myself letting out a roar and pounding on my chest after watching one of those sweet layups or slick passes...oh and that dirty little dunk, don't get me started!

2) Where does Utah coach Jerry Sloan buy his ties? Is there like an ugly tie store out there that I don't know about?! Dude seriously....Macy's, look into it!

What a Difference a Winemaker Makes!

When we got the phone call from Anthony Anselmi, our Kermit Lynch Representative asking if we would be interested in doing an evening tasting at our shop with 8 Kermit Lynch Rhone producers all I could think to say was, "Well duh". This was an amazing opportunity to have our customers meet the people behind the bottle and there is just nothing like that experience to create life long relationships between the consumer and the estate.
Kermit Lynch has some of the most sought after estates in France's Rhone Valley but for some reason the wines, that sell out days after they are released in stores all over the United States just sit on our shelves. It has always astounded me and I knew that once people met these winemakers everything would click.

These French winemakers are not your, "I made a million on the Stock Market and want to make wine" kind of people. These are farmers complete with calloused hands, sun worn skin, humble demeanor and a knowledge of their little piece of land that flows through their veins just as it did the generations before them.

As each of these soft spoken farmers stepped before the sell out crowd you could feel their trepidation, their cheeks would turn slightly pink and they all took a second to ask us to forgive their was just so inviting and somehow made these, "special wines" all the more real, welcoming, familiar and in some way even more special now that you have met the people that make them for you. Meeting a winemaker is fantastic but meeting 8 was just remarkable and wines that at one time sat on the shelf flew out the door that evening...what a difference 8 winemakers make!

Philippe Faury:
Philippe and his wife Daniele Faury both stood to speak about their Condrieu and St. Joseph, Philippe in his fanny pack and Amish looking beard just smiled while his wife spoke of the estate and fielded questions from the crowd....Philippe was not so much with the English if you know what I'm saying. Their wines have both power and grace and I thought the Condrieu was perfectly balanced.
2005 Condrieu (57.99)
2006 St. Joseph (34.99)

Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The very young but square shouldered Caroline Maret was here on her second visit to the US to promote her family's wines. Her father is has been making the wines but she has been assisting him and has plans to someday take over wine making for the estate. She was very focused and didn't loose her cool when she was challenged about the 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape we were pouring which was showing some baked, over ripe fruit, "That is the 2003 vintage" she said, "That is what the vines gives us and that is what is in the bottle". I loved that!
2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (27.99)
2006 Vacqueyras (N/A barrel sample)
2006 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Brusquieres (N/A barrel sample)

Auguste Clap
Olivier Clap is the third generation winemaker for this famed estate. No problems with English what so ever but still a touch shy, tall and lanky with a lumberjack looking beard hugging his very young looking face. So sweet and humble it was hard to wrap your head around the fact that he and his family make the most famous Cornas on the market.
2006 St. Peray (37.99)
2005 Cornas (99.99)

Gros Nore Bandol
Alan Pascal spoke not a word or English, was short but thick and looked like a man that could and probably has taken down a bear with his bare, rough hands!
2005 Bandol (34.99)

Tempier Bandol
Daniel Ravier was the tallest and definitely the most comfortable with the English language and helped translate for poor Alan Pascal from Gros Nore. Daniel was charming, funny and sucked the crowd in the second he opened his mouth and started cracking jokes. He had a confidence about him and that came through in his stunning wines...they were remarkable and my favorites of the night.
2005 Tourtine (sold out)
2005 Migoua (sold out)

Le Goeuill
Cathrine Le Goeuil had a slight advantage as her wine was the most affordable and the most accessible of the evening. We had a attendee named Randy Johnson that had been drinking her wine with dinner before the class..he didn't even know she was going to be there so it was quite a treat for him! Cathrine oozed a comforting feeling that reminded me of my 5th grade teacher and her wine was juicy, earthy, full of spice and very easy to drink. The three cases we had sold out that evening!
2005 Cotes du Rhone Cairanne Cuvee Lea Felsch (16.99)

Poor Guillaume Demoulin's wine was not cold enough to poor at the beginning as we had planned, (barrel samples as the wine had not yet arrived in the US) so he kept getting bumped back all night long. We ended up pouring his bright and zippy Tavel Rose at the end of the tasting and it ended up being a rather inspired way to end the night....after a bunch of big ass reds that tangy Rose just hit the spot!
2007 Tavel Rose (17.99)

It really was a eye opening night and I thank all that made time on a Tuesday evening to join us for what was a one of a kind tasting. I hope everyone learned as much as I did and found a new spot both in your home and in your heart for the wines from those wonderful people.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Night of Artisan Bubbles

While I love a lot of the tastings I do at The Wine Country there is one that gets me fired up like no other....Artisan Champagne. Most of my Champagne department is made up of small growers so it is not like it is unusual for us to be tasting, drinking or featuring wines from the small houses but this one night a year I put together my favorite wines from various estates that are drinking beautifully right now. See that is the thing about Champagne, it is ever changing, we get new batches, wines that were tight six months ago have filled out or we get our greedy little paws on some rare vintage wines that we cant wait to share. I spend weeks making a mental list of what to pour and spend the days before the event re-writing it. My goal each time is to show people what truly fantastic wines these are, not just yummy fizzy wine but wines with depth, texture, layers and length.

Anyone that has ever attended one of our bubbly events knows that it tends to be a party atmosphere. We start out trying to parcel out bits of information but by the second flight the attendees are in full chatter and the only time they look to us is when their glass is empty. This, "arrangement" works splendidly for me as I freak out having to be in the front of the class...seriously, my face starts burning, I can feel my stomach churning and it takes all my strength not to hurl. It's terribly traumatic but on this one night a year my desire to make a point, make them understand and make them really taste the wines crushes the nausea and leaves me just a little more steady on my feet.

This was the quietest party I had ever attended....these people were so quiet, they would whisper back and forth but for the majority of the tasting the crowd was shockingly studious. I was starting to get nervous and began asking the crowd if they had any questions....they didn' steady feeling became a full out panic complete with a stream of sweat trickling down my back. At that point if I could tap dance I would have....anything to entertain the crowd. We poured the third flight and the decibels increased, fourth flight we are in full roar and the final flight...silent again. The wines were simply stunning and the crowds reaction, while I didn't know it at the time was exactly what I wanted, they got it, they understood how serious these wines were and they were rendered almost speechless.

We broke records that night, those 27 people purchased more wine that night than we have ever sold on any night ever!! Hooray Artisan Champagne! See it's not just me!!!

Featured Wines
Flight One
NV Jean Milan Carte Blanche Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Clean, bright and loaded with citrus. Would be awesome with oysters!
NV Jean Mialn Cuvee Speciale Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Lovely lemon like flavors with a toasty bready quality.

Flight Two
NV Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Always a special bottle for me, (those of you that have seen my tattoo know why) roasted apples, buttery crust and a beautiful long finish.
NV Agrapart & Fils 1er Cru Rose (49.99) Our favorite batch of Rose from the house so far! Tart but deeply fruited with bits of minerals and a creamy but bright finish.

Flight Three
NV Rene Geoffroy 1er Cru Cuvee Empreinte (52.99) So delicate and floral. A pretty wine with such a graceful gentle handed finish.
NV Rene Geoffroy 1er Cru Brut Rose (63.99) Packed with wild strawberry and cream, almost too easy to drink with tiny bubbles and a creamy finish.

Flight Four
NV Camille Saves Carte Blanche (59.99) The first blockbuster of the night, high in Pinot Noir the wine is both weighty and delicate with tons of baked fruit and buttered toast...scary good.
NV Camille Saves Brut Rose (68.99) Busting with deep sweet red cherry and vanilla. Seriously layered wine with a massive mouth feel and a powerful finish.

Flight Five
NV H. Billiot Grand Cru Brut Reserve (51.99) Another monster Pinot Noir based wine with a massive richness and loaded with baked fruit, red apple and yeast.
1999 H. Billiot Grand Cru Brut (63.99) The 1996 vintage of this lovely wine was our wine of the year a couple years ago and the 99 is no runner up I assure you. Doughy, full, sexy as hell and serious enough to shhhh even the loudest of party goer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bad Blogger!

OK I admit it, I have been a bad blogger, not that I'm fully convinced that anyone, (other than Nancy) reads this thing! The last couple of weeks were insane with everything from Artisan Champagne, Michael Sullivan and Yves Orliac for a Beaune Imports/L'Hortus tasting, taking Yves Orliac, (L'Hortus) bar hopping "Wine Country Girl" style....lots of bars and lots of drinks, 8 French winemakers from the Rhone Valley, a wild trip to San Francisco, my wonderful son, Jeremy coming home from his first year of college and then Mother's Day......whew! I might just need a vacation from my work playtime. There are some notes on both the Champagne event and the Evening of Kermit Lynch Rhone Producers that I will post tomorrow as it is getting late tonight but I do feel terrible about waiting so I said, "Bad Blogger".

Saturday we had our annual Alsace tasting at The Wine Country and although the crowd was on the smaller side they were full of opinions and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Jack, Andy, Bruce and Dunbar, (regular Saturday tasters) were divided like I have never seen them before! It was pretty amazing to watch these four men that seem to agree pretty often jump up and down on each other arguing about which wines were balanced and which wines were too soft, too acidic or too sweet. It was pretty thrilling for me because it meant that the wines on the table were interesting enough to get these guys all riled up!

I'll post the wines poured along with short tasting notes very shortly....being a bad blogger I left my tasting notes at the shop. I just wanted to let anyone know, that might follow these posts that I have not given up posting, just been wicked busy and when not busy, recovering! There are a bunch of fun stories and really wonderful wines to come...still trying to get used to making this blog-thing a part of my daily/weekly rotation....I'll get better....maybe Nancy will rub off on me and I will rise each morning and post.....right now my mornings are coffee, jammies, cigarettes and me barking at MSNBC for an hour before my shower. Blogging might just be a refreshing change....but knowing myself for almost 37 years my guess is my posts will flow more freely after a glass or two of wine, after dinner, curled up on my ridiculously comfy couch with my laptop humming away and warming the tops of my thighs.
Thanks to all that have been reading and commenting, (to me in can post here ya know!) and I promise to try and keep you entertained and updated on what I've tasted, eaten, done and wish I hadn't done!

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Nightly Tango With My Inner Wine Monster

I have this "friend" that I visit with on a weekly basis. He loves to chat in my ear and I find him horribly seductive, he has this knack of creeping inside my brain and saying just the right thing...which in turn gets me do the absolute wrong thing. He can coax me like no other, and the mere knowledge of his impending visit can work me into a frenzy. "I will resist him tonight" I tell myself. "He will see how stalwart I can be" becomes my chant, but even as the words loop around in my head I can feel myself softening. I busy myself with other tasks but find that my head swivels with each sound....wondering if that is him at my stoop.

I pour myself a glass of wine to "fire my inner feisty" assured that this glass will strip away the protective layers and reveal the me that is willing to put up a fight. "Now I'm ready" I tell myself but find that with each crunch of a crushed leaf under someones foot my heart races...not ready yet....maybe one more glass. As I reach the bottom of glass number two a sense of gooeyness takes over. My body is warm and relaxed, there is a quiet hum that is pouring from the inside out, I begin touching my hair a lot while singing my favorite songs aloud..."Shit, this is lovey Sam! Must kill it" and here comes pour number three.

Half way through glass number three and my thoughts shift to my jammies, (I am a jammies freak! I have more pairs than are reasonable and there is no end in sight...I love them like most women love shoes...I have two pairs of shoes and two drawers full of PJ's) my eyes feel tired, I am super mellow and longing to wash the day's yuck from my face, but before I more sip. Returning to the couch freshly washed, moisturized and a touch parched from the vigorous face washing, I refresh with the last bit of glass number three.

With my mind shifting from relief to disappointment with regards to the non-visit I begin to think this is a good thing. No morning after feelings of guilt and yuckiness. My morning will be full of hope and promise. I will rise and take on the day with vigor leaping each challenge like OJ Simpson in those Hertz commercials, "Yes...hooray me" and just when I feel all empowered I hear, "Psst"....oh no!

My teeth dig into my bottom lip and I take a breath so deep my lungs feel like they might explode, "Not now...too weak" I think, but his warm breath swirls around my ears, "Dance with me Sam, don't you want to Tango with me tonight?" Can you say goner? As I let little bits of air excape I try to sound firm without letting him hear me almost gasping for air, "I...I shouldnt, I really cant. I have to work tomorrow, I should get to smell so good". Mellow, freshly washed, lovey, slightly tough, jammie clad, armour shed and so happy to hear his voice.

"Glug, glug"
I am yours number four....lets dance.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How Can You Not Like This?!

Last night I was watching Step It Up and Dance on Bravo, (Okay you caught me...I love me some reality t.v.! Top Chef, Work Out, Blow Out, Step It Up and Dance....I even watched The Real Housewives Of New York...could not get into the Orange County Housewives one, Intervention love, love, love it) and the challenge was stomp, (making of music with your feet, banging trash can lids and brooms) I was spellbound! I was on the edge of my seat, watching them thump around pounding their feet on the ground in unison had me bouncing my shoulders and wanting to dance. I called over to my husband who was working on the computer, (working is a stretch..he was playing like Frogger or something) "Isn't this amazing? Watch this, did you see that? God, doesn't this make you want jump up and start stomping your feet" to which he said, "No, not at all". It got so quiet in my living room I could hear my eyelashes slapping together with each stunned blink of my eyes. Tiny audible gurgles came out of the gaping hole that was my wide open mouth. "Are you high? What is the matter with you?" was my brilliant retort, because you know nothing will change someones mind like making them feel like you think they are a complete idiot....

I sat there shaking my head wondering how you could not be moved it occurred to me, just as much as I love that thunderous thump of a hard base line, the way it seems to slither into my spine and take control of my whole body is as much as my husband hates it. Much in the same way his guitar screaming, mumbling lead singer college complaint rock makes me want to curl into a ball and eat my own hair. So who is right?! In a very "grown up" moment I had to concede...we both are.

Now what the hell does this have to do with wine you might ask....wait for it....oh yea...points and wine writers. I've tasted a few wines that have given super high scores by Robert Parker and more often than not I thought they were clunky, insipid and over saturated. A wine he gave a 98 to I would give a...uh...yucky, blech, please hand me a glass of water to wash that down with. The Wine Spectator does not fare much better with my palate and when I taste these wines along with the write ups I think, "Are you high. What is the matter with you?". So who is right? Dammit it has been one humbling week for me, the answer is we all are....but who is right for you? A number means nothing to your palate. Does a 98 sneak into your spine and move you? If you are a fan of the wines that get a 85 does that mean you have cheap taste, have no taste, (like in the case of my husband and his music) don't get it or are less enlightened than the so called professionals? If the high scoring wines hit you the right way then might it just mean that you have similar taste with the pen yielding number giver? For me, if I had to consume the wines that are considered the, end-all-be-all by the wine press.....I would drink less wine. Not their fault, we just have very different taste. So what to do now, in the whole who is right thing? The answer is you are. What you like to drink is worth 100 points plain and simple. Find a retailer, (ahem...much like The Wine Country in Siganl Hill CA...ahem or 800 505-5564) that can work with you, learn what it is that makes you move, makes you happy and remembers it! A relationship with a wine shop is the key to a lifetime of 100 point palate happiness.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Reason I'm Here

You ever look at your life and ask, "How did I get here?", and no I'm not being all existential looking for the meaning of life, or what hand fate or destiny have in where we end up. I'm talking about what little unforeseen events land us in our current state. I was in my French department this afternoon, listening to one of my favorite Cd's pound through the speakers box cutter and price gun in hand, wheeling cases around preparing for this weekends tasting, admittedly shaking my hips and singing aloud, (sorry to anyone that heard's bad I know) timing the click, thunk, click, thunk of the price gun to the beat of the music when it hit me....."This is what I get to do for a living...this is my life?". Now trust me when I say that there are also days when I crawl home, back screaming in pain, wounded by the memory of a grumpy customer, palate fatigued and frustrated asking myself the same question...but today was a good day so I'm feeling much more romantic about the whole thing. I work with people I adore and spend most of my free time with, I get to taste some pretty freaking amazing wines, travel to Europe, (3 times in 5 years...I'm 36 that is pretty amazing for a girl that grew up in "assisted single working parent" housing...that's a nice way to say the projects) dine in some of the most amazing restaurants and have partied with winemakers that many only dream of meeting. Seriously how did this happen?!

It started with Randy Kemner, (Owner of The Wine Country) my second or third cousin that I saw maybe once a year as a kid, I knew he was larger than life and seemed to take up all the air in a room...even then I could see that he was force but was unsure in my awkward pre-teen state of mind what to think of him. He was too Euro for my milk toast way of life and to be frank he made me skiddish. Full on the lips kisses and fighting with me about weather Pretty Woman was sending a tweaked message to young girls was more than my self interested teen aged mind could process. Little did I know then but he was curious, an instigator and full of the kind of self assured, "I'm going to call you out on this" personality unlike anything I had ever seen. It was Randy that first brought wine into my life, he had to do so with me at 25 dragging my heals and fighting him the whole way. I refused to taste wines in front of suppliers and would stand in front of him red faced with steam pouring from ears trying to assure him that, "I cant do this". He would let that beautiful smile spread across his face and in his most calm voice say, "Sam, yes you can". Very annoying to a know-it-all twenty-something that was sure he was wrong but there was just something about his nature that made me want to try, try and please him, make him proud of I did keep trying and one afternoon with a glass of wine from Alsace he got me! I've been his ever since. Even now I wait with baited breath as he tastes a wine that I brought he going to like it....will that grin spread across his face in that way that lets me know that I, "did good" or will he crunch his nose to let me know that it is not to his liking? The older I get the less the "crunched nose" gets to me but I still love that grin.
Without Randy there would be no "Me" at The Wine Country and after years of laughter, tears, pain and pleasures unlike any I could have ever imagined I can only offer a humble, "You are the reason I'm here".

My other, "Inspiration" was Michael Sullivan of Beaune Imports. I first met Mr. Sullivan on a rainy afternoon umpteen years ago when he was tasting Randy on some of his wines. Randy yelled my name across the store and I lumbered over to the tasting room, (a dance that had been going on for some time) to taste this, whatever wine that blew his mind. Meeting an importer to me was akin to meeting a movie star and being the horrifically shy person that I am....I basically wanted to die! Michael Sullivan stood there with the confidence that can only come from a wicked wealth of knowledge and a comfort in one's own skin that comes from growing up in a life very different than mine, so in short he scared the shit out of me. I was a mute that afternoon as I was on the next few visits but after a couple of years I started to find my voice if you will and even found myself commenting on his wines here and there but an actual conversation was more than I could even imagine dealing with...he was just too huge and his wines were without-a-doubt my favorites in the store.....what could I say to him? Fast forward to November 2002 when I pick up the phone to hear Michael's voice say, "is this you are coming on my trip to France next year" ACK!!! I tried no fewer than five times to get out of it, don't have a passport, too short on money, not able to leave the store because we were short staffed...none of my lame excuses worked and I boarded a plane for the trip that would change my life. I left a too afraid girl and came back a woman with a passion that was, and is insatiable.....I have never looked back.
Michael was, (and still is) an amazing teacher that has shared his knowledge with me in an effortless coolness that has formed my personal's grape juice...lets not get all serious. French wine and Beaune Imports by way of founder, Michael Sullivan remain my favorites and without that trip and Michael's nurturing I simply could not be where I am today. So you, Michael Sullivan are also The Reason I'm Here.

I bring this up now because this Saturday I will have both of the people responsible for my personal growth, or plight depending on which day you ask me will be at The Wine Country at the same time...Saturday April 26th from 1-4 PM a tasting with Beaune Imports founder Michael Sullivan....and the ever grinning Randy Kemner. Come in a meet the people that make me try harder and push me to find the very best for all of you!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wine and Cheese Fest!

For this years Cheese and Wine Fest I wanted to change things up a little and put a twist on the conventional, "Wisdom" of cheese pairings. First of all I am a strong believer in white wine being better suited to pair with cheeses, there is just something about the acidity and brightness of white wine that balances the richness in most cheeses in a way that red cannot so we featured more white than red....something that seems to surprise a lot of folks but I only seem to hear the, "What more white than red" comments at the beginning of the tastings not at the end...I think people are getting on board! I also wanted to offer more unusual pairings this year, everyone knows Stilton and Port taste fantastic together but what else might work with such a great cheese? I was very committed to my whole, "Thinking outside the cheese box" thing, in fact so much that I ended up in a bit of a pickle when it came to actually putting the pairings together and then putting them in an order that made sense for both the wines and the cheeses which ended up being no easy feat. After a long afternoon of chompping, sipping and the occasional, "Blech...try a different wine" the line up was set and ready to go.

We started with N.V. Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, (44.99) paired with St Andre, (Cow's Milk) smeared on potato chips. It was a decadent way to start but who wants to dip their toes in the pond when you can go splashing around with both feet! It turned out really nice, good balance between crunchy, salty chips, creamy soft cheese and toasty refreshing Champagne.
Second was more of a classic pairing, Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, (9.99) with Capri Chevre, (Goat's Milk). I called this the green pairing as is was so bright and refreshing.
Third was the first of our, "Say what?" pairings. Groth Sauvignon Blanc, (16.99) with a young Spanish Manchego, (Sheep's Milk). I almost always pair Manchego with red but there was a waxy note to this young cheese that just needed a wine with a little more lift so I went with the Sauvignon Blanc. The pairing was very nice but in my opinion not stellar.
Fourth up Jean-Pierre Seve Macon-Solutre, (15.99) with Comte and the pairing was quite lovely...on the rich side but in a good way. The Chardonnay, (Macon) had just enough sweet fruit upfront to highlight the fruity nature of the cheese.
Number five was one of my personal favorites, Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Rose, (18.99) with Abbaye de Belloc, (Sheep's Milk) and both offerings were so delicately beautiful but together....damn!
Six was the first red, Zenato Valpolicella, (13.99) paired with Fontina Valle d'Aosta, (Cow's Milk) and the creamy earthiness of the cheese really made that wine pop...quite yummy.
This was Nancy's suggestion and she was dead on! Delvil's Corner Pinot Noir, (14.99) and Sottocenere al Tartufo, (Cow's Milk..with truffles). This one was tricky as the truffles in the cheese were pretty aggressive but the tangy cherry in the wine just lifted the cheese in the nicest way...bravo Nancy.
This is where things kind of go a good way. N.V. Balivet Bugey-Cerdon, (19.99) with Beemster XO Aged Gouda, (Cow's Milk). The sweetness in the Cerdon balanced out the nutty richness in the cheese perfectly, this is a pairing I would do for a dessert course to blow my guests minds.
I thought Randy was gonna freak when I put this on the table! Domaine Piquemal Muscat de Rivesaltes with Farmhouse Stilton, (Cow's Milk). Most Muscat is too delicate to hold up to a cheese as powerful as this Stilton but this is a rich, very sweet style with just enough weight to hold its own. Another wonderful option for a dessert course.
And how do we finish this monster event?? N.V. Stone Brewing Double Bastard Ale and Idizabal, (Sheep's Milk, slightly smoked) yes, yes we did! The cheese has a waxy, very faint smoke flavor and with this hoppy beer it just sang...such a cool way to finish, not to mention the crispness of the beer helped cut through all that cheese.

We had 109 people show up but there were only a few times when things felt seriously crunched, (there was a bit of cluster______ at the first pairing but that was just a spacial issue and from that point on things went really smoothly. A giant thank you to all that complimented my pairings I send you all virtual hugs, (those work better for me because I'm really the touchy type) and my gratitude for your kind words and continued support.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tickled Pink

As the customers trickled through the door yesterday afternoon my standard, "How are you" was met with a flat, "I'm hot" and I could feel myself getting grumpy. I am a Southern California native but once the temperature starts to click above 85 I start to feel uncomfortable and that makes me, well....pissy. I don't love sweating for no reason and find that I have a general lack of motivation when the simplest of tasks makes me puddle. I was quite glad that I was at The Wine Country where it is always a cool 60 something degrees but each time a customer walked through the door I could smell that cooked asphalt and I dreaded the moment when I would have to get in my, cooking in the sun all day car for the ride home.
I tried to keep myself busy with article writing and helping customers and just as my pouty, "Why is it so freaking hot" attitude started to vanish I got the call...."What do you want for dinner"....Ugh! My daily call from my husband has become a bit of a chuckle for me and the rest of The Wine Country staff as it happens everyday and even Randy has said, "Was that the whats for dinner" call? I was tired, (Late night at Amy's house), slightly cranky and in no mood to cook. I couldn't even wrap my head around the idea of cooking so I suggested sandwiches....cold sandwiches, thankfully he was drained from watching The Masters all day in the heat so he didn't put up a fight.
He was in charge of getting bread and various cold cuts and my job was cheese, (lovely Comte left over from the tasting on Saturday) Red Pepper Pesto, (we love this on our sandwiches as it brings a brightness to the doughy, meaty, cheesy flavors) and wine...sweet we had all of that at The Wine Country so no stopping for me! Now, what wine? Not knowing for sure what meats my dear husband would come home with but after 14 years together I was pretty sure there would be turkey, ham and roast beef, (and guess what..there was turkey, ham and roast beef) and as the ideas swirled around in my head the front door swung open and a blast of hot air hit my back as if to say, "Hey jackass are you not standing in front of piles of pink wine?". I grabbed fist fulls of Rose and tossed them in the cold box and began to see a light at the end of my roasty tunnel.
I walked in the front door and saw that the all day golf fest was now going to be an all night hockey playoff viewing on television, my plan to get right into sandwich assembly was replaced with a corkscrew and a long pour of 2007 Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet Bourgogne Rose, ($18.99). My glass already frosty from the icy cold wine joined me on the couch where while trying to ignore the "Slap, Bang, Crash" and toothless bloodied face hockey players, I pulled off my shoes and socks and let myself exhale.
Everything about this glass of wine made me happy, the color made me smile, the coolness of the glass in my hand felt wonderful and the bright refreshing flavors that spilled across my palate were soothing, they calmed me and "chilled" my inner cranky.
Sip, "Slam..cheer"
Sip, "Bang, cheer, scrape"
I was tickled pink...