Thursday, April 30, 2009

2007 Vintage From Francois Chidaine (Written For The Wine Country's Spring Newsletter)

Anyone that has been shopping at The Wine Country for any time is aware of our nearly fanatic adoration for the wines from the Loire Valley, these are the wines we drink the most often, the wines we find pair the best with the foods we eat and the wines that inspire our customers to utter phrases like, “I have never tasted anything like that before!” one winemaker in particular has converted more non wine drinkers to aficionados, red wine drinkers to white wine worshipers and pulled more domestic wine drinkers into the French department, that winemaker is, Francois Chidaine.

I remember standing in Francois freezing cold cellar, tasting wines that were as close to perfection as I had ever had and looking over at this wide eyed, horribly shy, soft spoken, humble man thinking, “He, he made these?” I could not get over how gentle he was, how softly he moved and how he seemed to be trying to read our faces, like he was wondering if we approved of his offerings. I just remember thinking, “He has no idea, no idea how unbelievably perfect these wines are” and each year when the new releases are presented to me I look at the prices and think, “He still has no idea”.

Hands-down the most undervalued wines we have in the store, these are some of the most concentrated, precise, focused wines I have ever tasted and all of them are under $30.00 a bottle?!

Francois is masterful in his ability to coax Chenin Blanc into revealing its truly noble expression of place and vintage. His Montlouis and Vouvray offerings are wildly diverse and with each vintage we are stunned by his ability to let each wine show what the weather, the vines and the soils gave him. Once considered the “man to watch” in Montlouis his wines now sell out immediately upon release and grace the lists of the finest restaurants the world over.

2006 was a warmer vintage and the wines displayed a richness and slight to high level of sweetness but the 2007s are much drier, more mineral driven but still retain that rich, full texture and sexy, lush mouth feel. If you have yet to taste the wines from Francois Chidaine this is the perfect vintage to start with, they are some of the best I have ever had from the estate and I don’t think you can call yourself a wine lover and not experience these wines.

2007 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin $26.99
Quite floral with green pear, herbs and tart tangerine rind flavors. Extremely supple on the palate with a smack of cold wet stones in the middle and a crisp bone dry finish.

2007 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Les Argiles $23.99
Stony and nutty with orange blossom, minerals and a green herby note. Quite dry with a lovely mouth feel and long but fruit driven finish.

2007 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Le Bouchet $23.99
Super ripe pears, warm baking spices and peaches. Long, ripe, powerful almost chewy in the mouth with a stunning crisp, dry finish

2007 Francois Chidaine Montlouis Les Tuffeaux $24.99
Ripe mango aromatics with just a kiss of herbs and white flowers. Ripe pears on the palate with just a touch of that signature baking spice flavor in the plushy mouth feel. The finish is remarkably balanced, just enough acidity to leave your palate tingly but still tasting this stunning wine.

2007 Francois Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert $26.99
Thick and luscious looking in the glass, this wine is all about texture! Warm peaches in a buttery crust, almost oily in the mouth, sexy, full and concentrated but the brilliant acidity keeps the wine perfectly balanced.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proof That God, Or Whomever Is In Charge Of Crap, Wants Me To Stay Chunky

So Saturday evening I found myself with a little extra, “rawr” in my step, (to understand “rawr” you have to picture me with a saucy face, looking to do something with her pent up energy…sometimes helps if you picture me with my hands in a Cat Woman pose and an eyebrow raised, there ya go) so rather than write, clean or do something otherwise productive, I decided to hop on the treadmill, aka The World’s Most Expensive Hanger. I went for it, pulled the deposited clothes that I never wear, but never remember why until I try and put them on…”Ugh! Horrid” toss on the “hanger”….off the treadmill and plopped them on the bed, put on sweats and a t-shirt, laced up the now dusty running shoes and fired up the ipod. I so looked the part, if I had a sweat band I would have been sporting that mother f’er, I was a maniac, maniac on the floor-or.

Poured myself a deep glug of wine in my short stemmed glass, which fits beautifully in my cup holder on the “hanger”…don’t judge, some people drink those fruit flavored waters, others drink their 1500 calorie caramel coffees, I drink wine while I power walk and pretend to be Mary J. Blige. Glass of Domaine Sorin Rose, ($9.99) frosty and sitting in the holder, music blistering my ear drums and giant pile of ugly clothes sitting on the bed, I got my work out on, shifting the music to suit my mood, from Mary J to Guy, the whole time having a blast with my simple but mineral driven pink wine and baggy sweats. Just as I was getting to my, “wow I’m getting tired” moment, (which is, I mean who are we kidding, like 30 minutes in) I felt a little pang of, “ouch” in my left….hind quarter, not to worry, I was just about outta “rawr” anyway so I jumped off the hanger and bent down to untie my shoes….damn, OUCH! “Stretch it out” I told myself, you know…like the athlete that I am, stretch and bend and, Dammit…OUCH!

Spent the evening favoring my left backside, trying not to enflame the already annoyed area. I have had lower back and sciatic problems for years, ever since I had my son almost 20 years ago…it has gotten better and my bouts with back pain have been lessening over the years but I could tell that I had better take it easy. Had a bit of a restless night, my natural instinct to turn on my side was met with a teeth jarring pain and the need to flip into an unnatural position. Woke up Sunday morning feeling hazy, not that unusual but this time it was not booze induced, I hadn’t slept that well.

When I came to enough to climb out of bed, I took it easy, shifting a bit under the covers to test the ol’ back waters…..things seemed okay so I sat up and placed my feet on the ground, scrunching the carpet fibers between my toes and stood….dammit OUCH, clearly worse. I made my old lady walk to the living room and tried to ready myself for a day full of social obligations, lunch with my buddy Nancy and her husband and dinner with Merritt, her family and her new boyfriend, I would be playing the part of parent “buffer” for that event, no time to be all wounded, I had things to do. Hurt at home or hurt out with friends, friends that might be willing to get me a drink to help dull the ache that was creeping up my entire back and down my leg…gotta go with the friends on this one.

I swear I must have looked like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings in the shower that morning, hunched over, shivering and clearly in ugly pain. Got ready and met with Nancy and Johan for noodles and beer, I passed on beer and had a couple glasses of Albarino with my noodles…that I ate on the backless bench the restaurant had as seats…whimper. After lunch the group wanted to take a little walk around 4th street…”why do you all hate me?” I thought, but walk I did…for a bit before having to admit that I was done and needed to lay down, (shaking fists in the air) “damn you weak back…damn you”. Came home, sprawled on the bed, on my tummy, which for busty girls…not so comfy, and drifted off for a much needed 30 minute nap. Played around on the interwebs for a bit, touched up my sleepy face and headed out for dinner.

Couple of glasses of double IPA and some marginal BBQ later, I was talking with Merritt and the group in front of the restaurant, talking led to laughter, which led to me being bent over like a jackass on Main Street in Seal Beach, trying to quiet the screaming in my back. I needed bed and I needed it then, so what did I do? Yeah, I sat up drinking a bottle of 2007 La Cabotte Cotes du Rhone, ($10.99) letting myself get lost in the plumy fruit and sexy spice, enjoying the upfront roundness of the wine and diggin’ the wicked sharp acidity that kept the wine from clunking up my pouty palate, bed schmed…this was wicked tasty.

Woke up at like 3 something in the morning, hobbled to the bedroom, brushed my wine covered teeth and flopped into bed. Monday morning I was hoping that things would have loosened up but my little couch nap did nothing but piss off the pain in my ass…awesome. Had nowhere to go so spent the day puttering around the house trying to take it super easy on the lower back/bum. This morning I woke to find that I had a splitting pain in the freaking center of my back…wtf?! Turns out all the favoring of my “ouchie” had created another, the center of my back, right between my shoulder blades was swollen and too sensitive to touch…rad.

Now the shower, when you are a gimp…well, it just blows, I know all my bits aren’t as clean as they should be but that reaching and bending was more than I could bare today…at one point my left leg went a bit numb and I felt like it was about to slip out from under me…”That’s it, I have to see someone. NOW” Sent a text to work letting them know I might be a bit late and made my way to the back fixer guy. “Well you’ve done a number on yourself here. Wow, that must feel like someone took your legs and your shoulders and twisted you in two opposite directions” the doctor dude chuckled. Now I don’t know if it was the pain or lack of sleep but it took everything I had not to rip his stoopid doctor head off, “Oh really asshole, you think that is funny or useful in some way? You went to school for this?” my “rawr” was back but not in the fun Cat Woman hand pose way….I was about to go all Pitbull on his ass.

“I’m going to start you on steroids and I recommend taking 3-5 days off, just to be off your feet and let the swelling go down. After that I think physical therapy might be in order” my back felt tighter than ever, I can’t take that much time off, not to mention I would go batshit laying on my back for three days, seems worse than the dagger plunging pain in my left haunch. I made it to work only to find after a few hours that I was done for, I had to have at least one, flat on my back day so tomorrow it is…shit.

The moral of the story is the powers that be have punished me for trying to work out…I think whomever is in charge rather likes having us chunky girls around, maybe he/she is a chubby chaser, maybe he/she needs us here to remind those barfing girls not to eat too much…dunno, but the powers that be are not playin’ and this girl has heard the word….for now. Thankfully I have killed enough of my brain cells that I will likely forget all about this and attempt a work out again, someday soon, let’s just hope it is with better results!

A Case For The Truly Noble Cabernet, Cabernet Franc

You know, I get that people love Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a full flavored, often densely textured wine that is high on the yummy scale, the thing that I never understood is what makes it a “noble” variety? I may have just come into wine too late to experience those great rustic, rugged, powerful Cabernets that everyone speaks about. The Cabernet Sauvignon now is often plush, juicy, chocolate laden wine with a thick body and soft-ish finish. Easy enough to suck back for sure, but what can you eat with that and what are they going to taste like with a few years in the cellar? I’ve seen professionals taste a big-in-a-juicy-fruit-way Cabernet Sauvignon and say things like, “It needs a few years”….huh? A few years to do what? Oak tannin doesn’t really soften, in fact with time I have tasted nothing but wood tannin in an aged once rich wine, no more fruit, or very little of it and harsh, bitter wood tannin, you really want your juicy wine turning into bitter wood juice? I think those juicy Cabernet Sauvignons should be consumed young and enjoyed for their lusciousness, but at the table….I think there is a better wine to accompany our meals, Cabernet Franc.

There is no better place to taste the purity of what I believe to be a truly noble variety than France’s Loire Valley. These wines are very fine, elegant, firmly structured and they just play so damn nicely with food. Something about the wines reserved textures and slightly savory flavors seem to lift even things as simple as a grilled steak to a whole other level. The acidity in the wines cut the fattiness of meat and the flavor of the meat brings out the fruit in the wines, harmonious pairings are easy to be found with a bottle of Loire Cabernet Franc on the table.

Think about the flavor of meat, it is a big, rich flavor, how do you best frame that flavor…with more big and rich? That is like drinking chocolate milk with pudding, just too much, what is needed and more balanced is a wine that is reserved, refreshing and has enough acidity, (not tannin) to lift that richness right off your palate leaving you ready for another bite.

While these wines may not hit that “sweet spot” for cocktail style consumption, (but truthfully once you have grown accustomed to the acids they become craveable) they are a far more food friendly than the more prestigious Cabernet Sauvignon, not to mention they are WAY more affordable!
Bring on the grilled steaks, spring lamb and the last of the slow cooked, richly braised foods, we have the perfect wine to showcase, (not lambast) those flavors, discover the nobility of Cabernet Franc.

2007 Domaine Bel Air Jour de Soif Bourgeuil ($15.99)
A cuvee from this estate that is meant to be consumed young, this fresh tasting little red is the perfect match for everything from beef to braised chicken. Light weight in the mouth with a lovely little Beaujolais like quality and a crisp almost crunchy finish.

2006 Domaine Bel Air Bourgueil ($16.99)
What a difference a dollar makes! Deep blue fruit with a core of rich minerals that reminds me of a freshly sharpened pencil. Medium weight in the mouth with a spicy and long floral finish.

2006 Yannick Amirault Les Quartieres Bourgueil ($26.99)
So powerful and hauntingly beautiful on the nose, cooked blueberries and wet stones with a punch of violets and black pepper on the very long but balanced finish.

2006 Philippe Alliet Chinon Vieilles Vignes ($28.99)
Such a sultry wine, tons of roasted meat and herby almost rosemary like aromas with a dark berry flavor that dominates the mid palate and an earthy finish that goes on forever. A very limited wine that deserves a spot in the very best of cellars.

2004 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny ($41.99)
One of the most sought after wines in the Loire Valley, and it is less than $50.00?! As refined a Cabernet Franc as you will ever find. This wine needs time or rigorous decanting to show all its, spice, dark, crunchy fruit and minerals but when it does show, it is a show stopper but still shines with the proper meal.

(Article written for The Wine Country Spring newsletter)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wow, Makes Me Feel Kinda Fancy And Stuff

So Friday afternoon I got an email from Tom Wark of Fermentation, (a blog about the wine industry and Tom has been a BIG supporter of wine blogs for years, even started the Wine Blog Awards) asking me if I would be willing to be Bloggerviewed, which is a series of interviews he has been doing on wine bloggers. After making one of those utterly embarrassing, high pitched, girlie sounds I fired an email back saying that I would love to, spent the rest of the day feeling really shocked, (you know that he had even really read this blog) but more than that I felt excited and a bit humbled.

It’s a constant wonder to me why people seem to enjoy my rants, reviews and stories of over indulgence, a warm fuzzy wonder, but a wonder none the less. Now the idea that a bunch of new folks might be viewing for the first time had me freaking out just a bit….sure, people that have been reading for a long time get my style and know that my blog is more about lifestyle and less about hard hitting “educational” articles or spotlights on regions or wineries. They know that Amy is my partner in crime and often the reason I feel like ass the morning after. They know that Call-o is what our almost 3 year old neighbor calls my husband, (Carl) we all love it and call him Call-o all the time now, my longtime readers know all this stuff…but new people….dammit, the more I thought about it the more I freaked out.

I really do wish I was one of those, “whatever, I don’t care what people think” people, in some ways I am….the looks thing I gave up on in high school, can’t fight Mother Nature and the lifestyle stuff, well I really do not care what people think about that, but writing, that is where my soft underbelly lies…getting swiped in that department tends to sting a bit, and now there was going to be a bunch of people that might do just that, (strapping on the armor) “I just won’t read the comments” I told myself as I sent the completed questionnaire back to Tom.

Now I thought it might be a couple of weeks before the Bloggerview would be up, um…yeah, I clicked on Tom’s site this morning and WHAMO my big ass mug was right there…rather shocking early in the morning I really must say. I have to admit that it is unbelievably flattering to be chosen and I had a bunch of fun answering the questions, the whole thing made me feel all special and junk the whole weekend long! So I wanted to thank Tom for, well for reading my too longs posts and for finding something in my crazy ramblings that he thought was worth sharing with others….this wine slinger is truly humbled.

One more quick note to any new comers, I just moved my blog from another spot so many of my photos did not make the move....I've been working on it, (far too slowly) but many of my older posts are sans pictures right now...maybe this will light a fire under my bum!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mr. Cranky Pants

“Have you heard about the shit storm that is going on over on the eBob board?” our domestic wine specialist, Bennett asked me the other day. “Um, you know I don’t belong to that board dude” I replied. “Well I know but I thought maybe you would have heard about it, it’s about blogging” he said and plopped down in front of the store computer to send me the link. I went about my daily doings figuring I would get to it when I got a chance but Bennett kept looking at me as if to ask, “have you read it yet” this was clearly something he thought I needed to see, so I got to my laptop and took a peek….

I read the original post, for those of you that don’t know, the jest of the post was that wine bloggers have no credibility because they accept samples, trips, lodging, dinners and stuff like that and while I’m sure that is true for some, it is not true for all…not that I am sure that matters. The whole post reminded me of one of those movies where the “cool kid” feels threatened by the new kid in town, gets all pissy and does all he can to dig up dirt or otherwise make the new kid look foolish, therefore protecting his place as “most popular guy”, it always backfires leaving the swiping, once most popular guy looking like a douche, you know, this thread followed that tried and true script.

I read the whole thing and looked forward to following it for awhile but true to “that” boards form, the thread was locked so no new comments could be posted, sheesh board honchos, undies in a bunch much?! Why not let people talk it out, share their feelings on the issue? Oh, that’s right…it’s the emperor’s house, we wouldn’t want some mouthy kid telling everyone he has no clothes. I found the thread pretty interesting and was sympathetic to both sides but to pinch off the hose of communication like that? Well, it just smacked of imperialism and reminded me of why I would never belong to such a narrow minded board.

I’ve never been a fan of Mr. Parker’s, I think the 100 points scale for wine is not only ridiculous, but it is not at all useful to the consumer and my palate has just never jived with his…I don’t hate him nor would I ever want him banned or denounced, can’t say he feels the same about others in his field. Now it wasn’t Parker that started the thread, (it was however a friend of his) but he did chime in on the issue, and I thought his comments were incendiary, condescending and were reminiscent of our former administration, that “you’re either with us or against us” bullshit. Once he slung the mud by calling bloggers, “blobbers” I just shook my head, and I felt a little pang of “awe, your poor thing” and pictured him waving a big stick while swarms of people with purple stained teeth, armed with laptops descended upon him.

Robert Parker, whether you like his palate or not, is an icon in the world of wine, there are millions of people that love those rich, full wines that he gives high scores to and those that have learned that if Parker gave it a 86 it might be more to their liking, the end result is people buying and enjoying wine, and that is a very good thing for this industry. What I do take issue with is that exclusionary attitude and being dismissive of another way of thinking, I just don’t get it and I don’t think that it will bring new wine drinkers to the table.

There are lots of us that have no use for Parker or grading wines at all for that matter, those of us that want to shed that cloak of snobbery that has for too long been a barrier for new wine drinkers. Those of us that are inspired by those little country wines that never grace that pages of fancy pants wine publications, people that dig wines of place, people that believe there are no “off” vintages, just vintages and rather like seeing what the vines offer even in difficult years… what about us? Are we to just burry our heads in the sand and not share our passion and excitement because we are not, “wine critics”? Well, I for one don’t want to be so “critical” about wine, I’m not here to judge it, I can like it or not, detect if it is flawed or not but I have no right to yuck anyone else’s yum….no one does.

The term, wine critic just seems so asinine to me, a wine specialist I can almost understand, people that have attained a certain level of knowledge about wine, but even they cannot and should not tell people what they should be drinking. Everyone’s palate is different so the idea that there is only one way to make, taste, drink and write about wine is just retarded, ineffective and does nothing to grow this business, it does the opposite actually. I know if I were to only taste the kind of wines that seem to get big scores, well, I would not be a wine drinker and would have never gotten into this business, they just don’t taste good to me….am I flawed or might I just have different taste? I think there is plenty of room for all of us, so I don’t get why Parker and his cronies have to lump us all together and denounce us as irrelevant….I mean, if we were why would they bother saying anything at all…me thinks thou protests too much.

Now to the matter of free junk, and offering high praise to those that give said junk…because you know, a glossy publication would never give high marks to say, someone that does a fair amount of advertising…..who cares? I think most credible bloggers would NOT write a glowing review of a wine they thought was bad, just because it was given to them, they were taken to dinner by the importer or they had a fantastic winery visit, and if they do I think they would lose their readership pretty damn quick, credibility is all we have…shit, most of us are not even getting paid for this, we do it to share our love of wine with others, so why would we lie?! Now if they were to write about the dinners, importers, or winery and the fact that they had an amazing time….well, that’s not “improper” and I find that with wine, the setting is part of the whole experience and where you are and the people you are with can definitely affect how things taste to you, (yet another reason I thinks scores are lame). I don’t see it as a big deal or an issue and if it becomes one for a particular blogger, well then stop reading them, problem solved.

More voices, more flavors, more diversity =’s more people drinking wine and both the retail wine store manager and the passionate wine lover sides of me think that can only be a good thing. So everyone needs to pull their crunders outta their cracks and move on already. You do your thing with your readers and just leave us alone to do our thing with ours, thankfully there is no monopoly on taste.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Last Minute Dinner And A Beautiful Pairing

We were busy yesterday, not complaining mind you…it was awesome, but at the end of the evening there were only two of us on the floor, customers outnumbered staff 3 to 1 and of course the phone is ringing with someone that has had a problem navigating the online store so, “can I just place the order on the phone?”….sure but I’m gonna have to call you back. Just as I dropped the phone into its cradle, to help someone on the floor, the phone rings again. “What might you want for dinner?” the hubby and the daily what-you-want-for-dinner call….crud. “Honey, I don’t know and I can’t talk right now” I answered, so NOT his favorite answer, see this disrupts his pattern, the go to the driving range, call the wife for a shopping list, and go to the store pattern. I could tell by the longish pause that I had thrown him off, but I had no time to worry about it, people needed help in the store.

“I’ll just get stuff for a big salad” he sputtered, sounding slightly wounded, and we got off the phone. I rushed around helping folks on the floor, Merritt returned the online order call and finally things settled right before closing….then I started thinking about dinner, the salad dinner, the SAME salad dinner we had 2 nights ago. See while my husband is wonderful, he is not so inventive when it comes to flavor combinations, so we would in fact, be having the same dinner we had, he would only have to remember the list from 2 nights ago…argh! I hopped on the phone and gave him a call back, “I so don’t want that salad for dinner tonight” I confessed and hearing that he was in the car I asked, “Do you have a pen” he did not, crap. The other thing with my sweetie pie is if there are more than 4 things on a list that he has to “remember” something will be missing. He is always so sweet to rush back out to pick up the forgotten item or items, but I just hate making him do that, so I knew I had to keep it simple.

“Okay, get some boneless, skinless chicken, lemons, garlic and a tub of marinated artichokes from the olive bar” I ordered, the whole time wondering just what I was going to do with the, hopefully 4 items. I walked to the food section of the store, grabbed a bag of Orecchiette pasta, off to the cheese case I grabbed a chunk of Parm and then I started thinking about wine. Now while an Italian white would have been perfect, there was a new wine in the store, (I had a special order for 6 bottles of the wine, so there were 6 left on the shelf) from a producer I adore, Henry Pelle from Menetou-Salon in the Loire Valley. I was pretty sure that a Sauvignon Blanc would pair nicely with something lemony, that is loaded with garlic, so I went for it.

The second I walked through the door I plunged the bottle into the fridge and got to planning dinner. Got some water on for the pasta, cranked up the heat on my favorite sauté pan, seasoned the chicken, (simple salt and pepper) and squeezed the juice of two lemons. Fearing that I would need more, “sauce” I pulled some stock from the fridge and got it warming on the stove top while I tossed the chicken in a screaming hot pan, grated about ½ a cup of Parm, and minced 4 cloves of garlic, turning the chicken after it turned crispy and deeply brown on one side.

Once the chicken was cooked through, I removed them to a plate and covered it with foil to keep it warm, tossed the minced garlic, lemon juice and 2 cups of stock into the sauté pan, the whole time scrapping up the yummy bits off the bottom, cranked up the heat and let the sauce reduce by a third while I drained the pasta. Tossed the warm pasta back in its cooking pot and sprinkled it with half of the cheese, then stirred, chopped the chicken in good sized pieces, poured the collected sauce from the plate where the chicken had rested into the reducing sauce, dumped the chicken in with the pasta along with the artichoke hearts. To thicken the sauce I spun in about 2 tablespoons of butter and the rest of the grated cheese, then poured the whole thing into the waiting pasta pot….um, can you say grown up mac and cheese?!

One of the best, “tossed together” meals we have had in some time and the 2007 Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Les Blanchais, ($24.99)….remarkable! Deep intense tropical notes, weighty…I almost thought there might be some wood, although I could not detect any wood flavor, it was just so full and concentrated, almost creamy but it was all fruit and limestone on the palate. A seriously explosive wine that was simply beautiful with the intensely tangy dish…might just have to make this wine a regular player in our Loire wine section.

A Word To The Lakers

Just a word to my beloved Los Angeles Lakers, (because you know, I'm sure they check my blog daily) I implore you...tonight when you take on

for game 3 of the playoffs:

Do NOT let Utah control the tempo of the game

Do NOT act like this should be easy

Do NOT eat any fry sauce before the game (I just don't know what it is and it's creepy)

Do NOT forget that while Kobe Bryant is a force, he is NOT a team...

Do NOT forget how it felt last year

Do NOT feel pity for "questionable" injuries...if someone is carried off, writhing in pain, then comes bounding back in the second half to kick your have been punked

and most important of all.....

Do NOT forget

He is waiting for you!

Life Long Laker Lover

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Handful Of Refreshing Pink Wines For This Gawd Awful Weather

Holy Mother of all heat waves, it’s blistering out here. I know many of my readers are from outside California but let me just tell you….it’s like walking on the surface of the sun around these parts, and for those of you that are from southern California, does this blow or what? It’s April dammit, like two weeks ago we were still wearing sweatshirts now I am having to wet my shirt just to keep from being a cranky bitch….(grumble). Yesterday was ridiculous, just moving made me sweat and sweating without the benefit of like burning calories, or havin’ a little fun, (if you know what I’m sayin’) is just annoying.

I was uncomfortable all day, and reading posts, or tweets or whatever they are called over on facebook, the others in the area were very much in the same boat. Sweaty, swollen, uncomfortable and cranky, oh and clearly whinny as well, it was craptastic. I tried everything to shift my “tude” but little was working, that was until I remembered that I had a few bottles of Rose in the fridge! I had grabbed a bunch to write more extensive notes, so hard when a supplier comes in with like 12 Roses to taste….I mean in that setting the notes start looking the same. I wanted to spend more time, taste them with food and focus on that side of the wine’s personality…um, yeah did I mention I was cranky and looking for something to soothe me?!






5 bottles opened, sweaty hair pulled back in a ponytail, and pen in hand, I attacked. I’ll fully admit that at first I was kind of guzzling, they are just so damn refreshing that I was finishing my glass, (it was not a full glass mind you…sheesh whadaya think I am?!) before I had even three lines of notes. I toyed with the idea of telling my husband that it was so damn hot that the wines were evaporating, but fearing I was in no mood for his mockery I let it go. I let my palate get saturated and then it was time to get serious, well, as serious as one gets with Rose anyway.

Here is a smattering of what will be the giant piles of pink wine that will grace the front of our store, we have about 8 now, more to come next week and waaaaayyy more in the weeks after, it’s damn hot people, get your pink on.

2008 Chateau de Pampelonne Cotes de Provence Rose, (16.99) We first flipped over this wine with the 2006 vintage but many of us felt the 2007 fell a little short, sad part is, it hadn’ just needed time. I had a bottle in January and it was absolutely delicious and when I tasted the 2008 it reminded me of the 2007 with a few months of age on it. Soft fruit, almost like strawberry hard candy sans the sweetness, so like cooked berries with a pretty little middle of wet stones, in the mouth the wine is full and quite gentle with a crisp not too tart finish. A wine I would love with spicy grilled shrimp, chicken or anything with a little punch of aggressive seasoning.


2008 Domaine de Fenouillet Cotes du Ventoux Rose, (11.99) Of the five wines this one was the one that showed the most upfront fruit, again like cooked berries but deeper like raspberries with a sprinkle of white pepper. Plump in the mouth but with a sharp, ultra refreshing snap on the finish.


2008 Patton Valley Pinot Noir Rose, ($14.99) This was one of my favorites last year so I was pretty thrilled when we got our little stack in…but, um…I think this wine needs just a couple of weeks to pull itself together, it’s kinda all over the place. It has all the pieces, racy tart melon, lemon rind and a light delicate body but I think it needs to settle a bit, showing a bit of spritz at first that gives way to a super sour finish….like I said, I have had this wine and love it so I am sure it is just a little disjointed right now and I will report back when I re-taste it in a couple of weeks.


2008 Domaine de la Petite Mairie Bourgueil Rose, ($16.99) Now I ordered this wine without tasting it, I was going with the whole, “Loire Cabernet Franc is on fire" angle and just crossed my fingers….dude. Rose petals, spice, delicate and round enough in the mouth to make you believe you are drinking a red wine…but a super tangy refreshing one! Randy and I both flipped over this one, he even called to see if we could more than the 3 cases I ordered, we did, 18 more bottles…doh! Gonna fly and as I am planning to pour it this weekend for our Cabernet Franc tasting, well I don’t suspect it will be around too long.


2008 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Rose, ($22.99) “Cha-Ching” as far as Roses go, it is clearly up there in price but it is worth every penny. You want to know what “serious” Rose tastes like? This is it, minerals, watermelon rind, wild strawberry and a lean tight body of thirst quenching acidity. Bring on the grilled veggies, thick garlic mayo, charred meats and fresh seafood

Monday, April 20, 2009

Decadence, Dogs, Bubbles & Fried Cheese

“So, do you think Carl would like to drink that new Dagueneau Sancerre for his birthday dinner?” I asked Bennett just before leaving the shop on Friday evening. After laughing and giving me the, “Oh sure it’s for him” ribbing, he rang me up and I headed home for a very needed 3 days off. This weekend my beloved hubby turned 36 and we have a fairly new tradition with Amy and her husband….we do birthdays big! Not a bunch, (or any in some cases) gifts but we sure as shit celebrate, for Amy’s we went to Craft, her husband’s we went to Chicago and for Carl’s this year…we were going to the much talked about, Palate Food and Wine in Glendale.

I first heard about Palate when Gary Menes, long time customer and as it turns out, partner and executive chef for Palate came by The Wine Country a few months before it opened. When I asked what he had been up to, (he had been a chef at one of the Patina Group “Pinot” restaurants) he told me, with exuberance about his new project in Glendale, a few months later I opened the Los Angeles Times food section to see a 4 star review, I could not have been more happy for him, but part of me felt a little bummed that it would probably be some time before I could get a reservation.
We pressed Carl for weeks to try and think of where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner and in true “my hubby” form he procrastinated, and as of the week before his birthday we were still without a reservation for his big day….dammit it Call-o! By Tuesday I was up in his grill, as sweetly as possible mind you, but we needed to get moving on this thing, I mean his birthday was Saturday. I started throwing out ideas and sending him links to restaurants and some reviews hoping that something might inspire him, dude is so low key that it seemed the more options I gave him the more befuddled he became, “Well hello Mr. Bull, my name is Sam and I will be grabbing you by the horns” I had to make something happen, and fast. I checked Open Table, which for an 8 something reservation on a Saturday…well, choices were more than limited, I was feeling less than inspired myself so I took a gamble and sent off an email to Gary…yes, yes I pulled some strings…shoot me.

Got an email back the next morning saying he would check and get back to me, 20 minutes later he made my day by telling me that he could seat the 4 of us at 8:30, I fired off the, “Thank you so much” and “Gary got us in!!” emails and started getting excited. Food and wine is our number one form of entertainment, it’s where we spend the chunkiest part of our cash and where we have the most fun, we are way into it and hitting up a much talked about new spot is like going to an art exhibit for some….thrilling. I know there are those, “foodies” that go into these places looking to find something wrong just so they can sound authoritarian and contrary, that is so not us, we are there to have fun, taste new things and hopefully have a delicious meal, we’re easy that way!
Tossed the 2007 Dagueneau Sancerre, ($114.99) in the fridge before heading out to the mall on Saturday afternoon, was trying to get a new outfit for the evening but kind of struck out, or fell back on an old favorite, crisp white men’s dress shirt and a funky new, greenish gray tie with polka dots….it’s comfortable for me and it’s not like I was gonna get all girlie, even for the hubby’s birthday. We met at Amy’s, (they were driving) at 6:45 and popped a bottle of NV Jean Milan Carte Blanche Blanc de Blancs to kick off the evening, such a clean crisp Champagne, full of apples and toasted bread with tiny bubbles and a very fresh finish. Sancerre and a bottle of bubbles that Amy bought were placed in the wine bag and off we went for the haul to Glendale.

We made good time and were half an hour early for our reservation so we had a few drinks at the bar, once our table was ready we were led to the back of the restaurant which was where the wine bar and retail store is, pretty cool, bustling spot….but we would have to finish our cocktails before we were seated as they didn’t have a license to serve hard alcohol in the wine bar, made sense to me as we cannot serve booze at The Wine Country either, so no biggie, I was dying to try the Dagueneau anyway!

Now even though Amy brought bubbles we started with the Sancerre, the bubbles were of the Pinot Noir based variety, so I thought it might trounce the young Dagueneau, plus I had waited like 5 days and some junk, (since the wine arrived) and I was chomping at the bit to sniff, swirl and slurp a wine made by someone I adored, admired and whose passing, when I think about it, can still bring tears to my eyes. Our server, (Simone) got to opening the wine and took our first round of orders; the Porkfolio, a platter of cured meats, the Mason Jars, which are squat jars with confied meat….um, yeah, we got duck and more pork and finally the pickled veggies, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and onions.

Seeing as I was “the wine girl” (or the one that pulled the, “hey this is Sam from The Wine Country” to get the reservation) I was first up with the Dagueneau Sancerre. I spun it in the glass and very true to form the wine was oily in texture, much like you find with a brilliantly made white Burgundy….a visual texture if you will. I buried my nose in the glass and waved to Simone that it was fine and to pour for the table….thing was, not much going on in the glass, drat! Spun some more then took a tiny sip, “Oh Didier…” I oozed, there was all that mineral and tropical fruit but I have to admit the finish was a touch short….until the pork and pickled stuff arrived, SHAZAM. A food wine without-a-doubt once we had those savory meats and pickled veggies in our mouths the wine pounced to life and even gave the meats a run for their money.

I sent a glass of that spectacular wine to the kitchen for my friend Gary as a thank you and because, dammit, when you have something that rare, you just want everyone to taste it, and then went to checking out the wine list. One very great thing that I had heard about Palate was that they price their wines just a bit over retail, how freaking cool is that?! Wonder how much more wine they sell….I can tell you there was not one table that was without a bottle the night we were there. It took only but a moment before I spied what I wanted, (now this is where I ask you to remember that I said we do birthdays BIG) on the list there was a bottle of 2004 Comte Lafon Meursault for $185.00, now that is a lot but not too much over retail and we were being all high roller anyway….I went for it, and this was my only issue with the place… was not a wine brought in through the proper channels, it was gray marketed and I hate that, but alas I did not know until the wine arrived at the table and we were already a good clip into it….so I won’t rant too much, but I really think gray market wines are a crap shoot, (never know how they were transported) and I think the practice of going around the “proper” importer is bullshit…there.

We ordered our next round, (it is a small plates joint) Scallops, Pork Belly, Beef Cheeks and Asparagus with Fried Egg while I played with the Meursault, stunning wine…rich, crazy sexy in the mouth with crushed nut shell, something savory like salted butter toast and orange zest all with an almost butterscotch like flavor on the finish. We poured some for Simone and the sommelier while we munched on our shared dishes. All the food was fantastic, clean, and precise and focused on stellar ingredients…but for me, that fried egg was by far the best I have ever had and it still has me thinking about it…how many eggs can do that? Found out from Gary, (when he came out to say hello to the table) that they buy those eggs from a farmer who wins prizes for his chickens year after year…I can see why. The food was all spectacular and I will be going back as soon as I get a chance….they are so getting it right up there.

I went back to the Dagueneau Sancerre after the Burgundy and the wine was showing so much better! It had opened and I think the wine needed to be poured after the Meursault, just that big and powerful, not what you hear very often about Sauvignon Blanc but exactly what Didier always thought, that he could make wines that could rival those of Burgundy….he did.

Amy took a trip to the cheese room, yes there is a cheese room at Palate and made the cheese plate “go” and we popped the 1999 Billiot Brut Reserve Grand Cru, ($63.99) to wash down the cheese course. I have to say, Palate served up the best cheese plate I have ever come across,,,hands-down. Perfect size, perfectly aged, wonderful combinations and with just a kiss of the condiments, (I feel that some people go a little nutty with the compote on the ol’ cheese plate) couple drops of honey, tiny smear of fruit puree and a dollop of a slightly sweet chili thing…rawr, and with that Champagne, “Holy crap”…the hubby’s exact words. The wine is full of graham crackers and baked apples with a super long, brown butter finish, amazing with the cheeses. The kitchen sent out a trio of desserts, for Carl’s birthday, (very sweet) and the boys ate the bulk of it; Panna Cotta with tiny sweet-tart blueberries, Banana Bread with some kind of caramel sauce and the densest, richest chocolate pudding ever….Carl ate the most of the chocolate and when the General Manager, (Francois) heard Amy say, “Oh I didn’t try that” he brought another one for the table….service, they are good at it there at Palate, laid back and super cool but on top of it in a big way.

We said our goodbyes to the crew at Palate and played with the idea of going home….”You want to go to Pink’s?” Amy’s hubby asked, “Heck yeah” I piped in and off we went. Carl had never been to the legendary hot dog stand, so I thought it was a must. We stood in line at 1 am for an hour to get our bacon chili dogs that we washed down with water and diet Coke, Amy and I did try and hit up and AmPm MiniMart place trying to get beer but they wouldn’t let us in…awe.

Tummies stuffed to over full we made our way back to The Vortex where more wine and other assorted goodies kept us from heading home…..they even had a cake decorated with “Happy Birthday Call-O” on it. Too many drinks later and the birthday boy and I headed home, after 4 am and at the protest of the other party goers that thought we should pull an all nighter and head out to breakfast….non, we need some sleep, plus we have “birthday part deux” on Sunday with Merritt!

Woke up at 11:30 Sunday morning, with that “not so fresh” feeling….one eyed stumble to the coffee pot, then I sent the text to Merritt, “Just woke up, out till after 4, need wine” got the text back, “have a bottle of 2002 Agrapart Mineral with Poppa Call-O’s name on it”…God, I love her! The plan for the day was to hit the Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax for what we like to call, “Destination Tacos” at Loteria! Some of the best and most craveable shredded beef and potato tacos ever. My sister was on facebook so I invited she and her hubby to join us so we all met at my place, drank that amazing Champagne and headed out for tacos. We switched from the Farmer’s location to the newer one in Hollywood because we knew it would be air conditioned….oh, and um, they have tequila at the Hollywood location.

It was hot Sunday, I was hungover but feeling a touch better from the Agrapart Mineral and there was serious traffic on the 4-zero-five freeway……grumble. Took forever to get there but once we did, we went large…pretty much ordered everything on the menu. Tiny taco sampler, Ceviche, Carne Asada, Queso Fondito with Chorizo and this supper delicious crispy fried cheese thing that is served with a astonishingly fresh tasting green sauce….Merritt got a Margarita made with fresh watermelon juice and Wayne, (my sister’s husband) and I got a tamarind one….or two. We ate until we could eat no more, and that is a crap load for this crowd and then began the trek home, puffy, hot and nearing the end of the limits of partying.

Dropped Merritt off with her boyfriend, (because she was having dinner with his family…poor thing) at his work where he promptly got us beers….pushing maximum density at this point, could not finish it. Walked through the front door at 7:30, laid on the couch and crashed until 10 something…woke just as the swollen birthday boy was thinking about going to bed, instead we sat up and went over the weekend events, talking about the people we love, the things we tasted and just how incredibly lucky we are for all of it….a bit of a “too much” weekend but well worth it!
Thank you Palate Food + Wine 933 South Brand Blvd Glendale, CA 91204 818) 622-9463
Thank you Amy and Mr. Amy, you guys rule and it would have not been the same without you…time to get ready, my birthday is next!
Thank you Merritt, Tessa & Wayne, we love you three and would pound tacos with you anytime.
Thank you Didier Dagueneau and Dominique Lafon for a night of breathtaking white wines…oh and a shout out to Serge Billiot, that 1999 is a haunting wine if ever there was one.
Spent the day recovering from the weekend’s festivities and getting some much needed down time…off to work for more adventures tomorrow!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Color Me Happy, They Are Back!!

So for quite some time my little, go-to white wines have been the Francois Chidaine Touraine and the Pra Soave, both wines are brilliant with almost any food, (although I did discover that Touraine and Pastrami don’t play nice together….one of the worst combinations of flavors…ever) they are so bright, crisp and shamefully each to drink, and I do….drink them in “shameful” amounts, but they have both been out of stock for a bit…until today!
When I saw Randy wheel out the 5 case stack of 2007 Pra Soave Classico, ($13.99) I yelled across the store, “Yay, my when in doubt wine is back” because you see, when someone has a difficult dish to pair I will often suggest the Pra. The wine is loaded with floral, herby notes, has a nice roundness to it and really seems to sing with any food that is highly seasoned or has a bunch of fresh herbs in it, in fact when I am having Greek food this is the wine I drink….something about the way it plays with lemony flavors is simply sublime!

The Francois Chidaine Touraine, ($11.99) has been out of stock for close to a month and I have been hitting the Veramonte, (my other beloved Sauvignon Blanc) pretty hard waiting for it to come back, it did, today and it’s a new vintage so I, (you know in the sake of research) had to open a bottle….just to um, make sure it isn’t yucky and some junk. (Like anything Francois Chidaine makes would suck) This new vintage has way more of that chalky minerality that I absolutely love about Loire Sauvignon Blanc, and tons of lime rind comes exploding from the glass, kind of like getting bonked over the head, like the wine is shouting, “You WILL pay attention to me!” On the palate it still has that lovely silky texture, it is just short of being chunky when you first sip it but BLAMO, the fierce acidity comes screaming in and you are left with a tingly mouthful of citrus and wet stones…damn I love this wine! I got in three cases to start and I know that in a week’s time I will have personally gone through about a case.
Guess I know what I’ll be drinking on over the next couple days….sooooooo excited!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


So I just woke up, stumbled to the kitchen for my wake up juice, (coffee, milk and half a teaspoon of sugar) made my daily one-eyed waltz to the couch and turned on MSNBC to see what is going on in the world. The news that I was fed? Apparently, there are a bunch of people with their undies in a bunch about….ready? A couple of Burger King commercials…..blink….blink, really, this is news?

So a bunch of folks are all offended about a mock rap video commercial that features Sponge Bob and another, (which I have not seen yet) promoting some kind of Texas burger or whatever and the offensive part? A Luche Libre, (masked Mexican wrestlers) dude is in it…sigh. Now I cannot comment in depth about either commercial, like I said I’ve never seen the Texas burger one, the other I have kind of seen but never even really noticed that Sponge Bob was in it….know why, I don’t really watch commercials, let alone let one offend me!

So the Sir Mix-a-Lot add, the one with Sponge Bob has a bunch of girls in shorts shaking their backsides….gasp, how horrible to market sex to children by putting a Sponge Bob in the commercial….um, parents you might want to take a gander at the other junk on television! This kind of outrage is just….outrageous. People spend so much time trying to keep the “bad” or “dangerous” influences away from their kids, you know so they can feel comfortable with their kids watching television in the back seat on the way to the grocery store, or watching their ipod during dinner in a restaurant…..that they don’t have any time left to actually teach their kids what is appropriate and what’s not. So lazy!!! “I don’t want to actually talk to my kids or do the work, so I’ll just make sure the airwaves are free of the filth that may make them do bad things”….here’s a thought, arm your children with the confidence and intellect, to make the right choices no matter what is in their face.

If your little ones are people that you won’t even bother talking to, well….then there is a problem far greater than jiggling backsides. So if you’re offended by the new adds by all means boycott the fast food chains, I encourage it, not because of the commercials per se but because you probably shouldn’t be filling their little bodies with that garbage anyway, garbage in….garbage out, as they say. Stop caving and giving in when the wee ones throw a fit or whine when they want a kids meal….show those advertisers how you feel, drive right past those multi-colored domes of grease, drive home and make the tots a sandwich…that’ll teach those smarty pants smut peddlers…

So vote people, vote with your

Or there is always this option

And be sure to have a conversation with your kids, make sure they know you have stopped supporting fast food joints for their safety…because in a way, you are.