CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Wine

13 Nov 2013
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My husband and I live in different states and maintain two separate households. That gets expensive, so we’re budget-conscious when we can be. Yes, life’s too short to drink bad wine, but balance exists between special-occasion reds and house wine—the everyday stuff you sip while watching reruns of Arrested Development on Netflix. Discount wine. I didn’t want to knock it ’til I’d tried it. That’s why we recently checked out the wine selection at a discount grocery chain, aka a flea market for food. My neighbors recommended the store a while back. Good selection, ever-changing. I tried not to wrinkle my nose or say: “Wine there? How do you know where it’s been?” I kept those thoughts to myself, hoping the neighbors wouldn’t think me a wine snob. To prove my lack of pretentions, I made the trek and discovered a chaotic variety. The store sells cupcake pans and organic…
01 Nov 2013
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For Tulip Hill Winery president Kristi Brown, one day per year is usually better than every other—and it’s not even a holiday. It's the day when winery staff, family, friends and wine consultants meet to blend Tulip Hill’s wine. “A fun day is a blending day,” Kristi Brown says. “You sniff them all, taste them, look at their color. One might have a great bouquet, another nice color, another fruit or acid or finish or tannin.” Ten to 15 people sit around the table, tasting. Each blend may take four or five—or maybe 10 attempts. Each time, the mix shifts incrementally. They’ll try 3 percent petite sirah, instead of 2, Brown explains, or 11 percent merlot instead of 9. She thinks back to earlier days, when the blending partiers would watch winery founder Robert Henderson “Budge” Brown Sr., Kristi’s father. They’d know when a mix of varietals hit the mark.…
15 Oct 2013
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The night we drank California’s best zinfandel, a 5.0 earthquake jiggled tectonic plates off the Pacific Coast. We didn’t feel it. No tsunami warnings ensued. Dave asked me if I would like to feel Adventurous. I said I did. He was washing dishes. I was scalding tomatoes, making them into a salsa with avocado, lime juice, late-harvest green onions and fresh basil. The chunky concoction tasted more Italian, like something you’d put on bruschetta. We ate it with tortilla chips. Dinner was on the grill: St. Louis-style barbequed ribs, a rack and a half, which is all that fits on my small portable gas grill. What wine goes best with ribs? Syrah! Malbec! Zinfandel! Tough choices. We chose to celebrate. Because it was Friday. Because Dave’s a federal employee who’s still working—he’s “essential”—but not getting paid. Because we have enough wine to ride out a couple of weeks of shutdown.…
02 Oct 2013
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“Take me to the volcano!” —Joe Banks, in Joe Vs. the Volcano. We smelled Bumpass Hell well before we careened down the trail into acres of steaming ponds, boiling mud pots and fumaroles. Signs warned us to stay on the boardwalk as we toured the lakes of glurbing grey glop and sulfuric steam. If you step on the crusty surface—and break through to the 198-degree mud beneath—well, you could lose your leg. That’s what happened to Mr. Kendall VanHook Bumpass, the 1860s tour guide for whom the trail is named. Nothing like the threat of an amputated limb to add texture to a Northern California hike through a national park. “This is better than Yellowstone,” said a fellow hiker. I agreed. Before the government shut down this week, closing all national parks (speaking of threats and amputations), Lassen Volcanic National Park was better than Yellowstone. Its surreal hydrothermal features like…
18 Sep 2013
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“California has a climate which is not well suited for growing grapes to make the finest wines. There are rather too many years when the sun scorches the grapes, so that the wine lacks the finest flavor.” —Excerpt from dog-eared copy of Wines and Spirits of the World (1958), read by Temecula winemaker Phil Baily. The sunset sparkled rosé over the rolling fields of grapes west of Callaway Vineyard and Winery. Matt Russell, offsite events manager for Lorimar Vineyards and Winery, poured me Lorimar’s 2010 Syrah. In the waning light, the wine appeared inky and luscious—a dark contrast to Frangipani Winery’s well-rounded 2010 Cabernet Franc, which I’d enjoyed at a nearby table. Lorimar and Frangipani, relative newcomers to the Temecula Valley, were two of 35 wineries pouring at Crush 2013, the apex of California Wine Month festivities in Temecula, on Saturday, Sept. 14. The valley had cooled since I’d arrived…
04 Sep 2013
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I might be stressing out the college-aged woman who is pouring wine in Renwood Winery’s new Napa-tacular tasting room. She’s been working for four months at the renovated Amador County winery. She’s memorized piles of information—including the single vineyard designate for each wine we taste. She lists these and pauses, expectantly. “You get an A-plus,” I say. “It must have taken you a while to learn all of that.” “It did!” She seems relieved and pours more wine in my glass. Over the Labor Day weekend, we visited Amador County. We anticipated Rim Fire smoke from what’s now being called California’s fourth-largest wildfire ever, burning an area said to be larger than the combined square mileage of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. After a bit of morning haze, though, delta breezes whisked toxic air from leafy rows of vines laden with ripening, violaceous clumps. We haven’t been to Amador…
21 Aug 2013
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If you’ve seen Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories or you’re a faithful fan of The Bachelor, you’ve seen Napa marketing genius Dario Sattui’s castle, located in Calistoga. On the north end of Napa County, Castello di Amorosa isn’t exactly ancient. The 121,000-square-foot winery and eight-level playland opened to visitors in 2007. Think Citizen Kane’s Xanadu—except this rich dude’s over-the-top architectural fantasy has a twisting, turning cave maze lined with wine in French oak barrels. The Empire Sattui makes wine, too. No, Castello di Amorosa wasn’t an Italian castle brought over to the United States brick by brick and reassembled. But, yes, bricks were brought over, along with doors, hunks of iron and various medieval fixtures—all used to generate the 107-room, $40 mil-ish castle, including its moat, drawbridge, torture chamber and wine caves. It’s a larger-than-life-sized model of a medieval castle as researched, imagined and re-created by a U.S. winemaker with a…
07 Aug 2013
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I’m sitting at a table in a parking lot—at 18 Hangar Way, Suite C, in Watsonville, to be exact. Near an airport. There’s an airport in Watsonville, a farming community between Santa Cruz and Monterey. And there are wineries. Today, 10 of ’em all, in one place. Here. Am I slurring? Talking too loud? Where’s the restroom again? That's right. It’s under the gorilla. “And he doesn’t peek,” says Al Drewke, owner of Roudon-Smith Winery. Drewke’s referring to an ape face painted into a jungle mural on the wine-warehouse wall. I’m outside, taking a break, snacking on cheese and chocolate from Original Sin, a Soquel, Calif., caterer. It’s 2 p.m. I started tasting wine around noon. I might be tipsy, animated. Babbling on and on (and on) to a Bay Area couple about this unexpected treat. A tiny, tasty wine event, well, here. Rather than in Santa Cruz. Or Monterey.…