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30
Mar
10

Los Olivos… wine, wine, wine…

It’s Tuesday, and I’m sitting in a cozy little coffee shop. I’ve just finished eating my breakfast special – egg, bacon and muenster on a jalapeño bagel, and now I’m sipping on my café au lait as I type this post.

I guess you could say today’s post is about living well, but then again, I kinda think all my posts (at least most) are about living well! It’s often ironic that I work in the wine world helping new wineries get started, and I seldom find the time to get out and taste wine. So, I’ve marked my calendar March 29 and 30th as wine tasting days. What better place then Los Olivos to taste.

We started at Buttonwood – small, charming, great inexpensive wines, and amazing grounds to relax and enjoy the beautiful day, peach trees with baby fruit, cherry trees with blossoms taking off – it was the BEST way to start our tasting journey!

What I find amazing is when you take the time to actually talk to the good people who work behind the wine counters, you discover so many enriching things, not just about wine, but about the people pouring the wine. For instance, the friendly elderly lady at Buttonwood, works just two days a week and her pay is wine – she’s collecting whites at the moment for her pending summer sipping. Then there was the totally eccentric lady at Rideux winery – she was wearing a wild psychedelic dress;  an artist who pours wine, because we all know most artists starve for their passion. From there it was on to Beckman – one of the highly regarded winers in the area, nice, but a tad uppity when they heard I worked in the Temecula wine business – their Grenache was amazing, but we decided not to buy. Three wineries in three hours, time for food. If you’ve seen Sideways, you’ve seen the sidewalk cafe that served as our lunch spot – FUN!!!

Since we were in town, it was time to visit the Los Olivos tasting rooms in this order – Carina, Tensley, Longoria. Adjectives to describe were: Carina – enthusiastic, Tensley – bothered, Longoria – real deal.

Needless to say, we joined both of Longoria’s clubs, the basic and the exclusive that only basic members can join – expensive, but we only have to accept one club shipment and then we can cancel if we wish… try getting that deal from a Napa winery… HA! Our last winery of the day, Rusack, was probably my favorite, not because the wine was the best, we picked good wineries all day, but because it was out in the country, on a screaming twisty-windy road, and the tasting room pourer – Georgia, was wonderful.

She was funny, sarcastic, not afraid to tell us where to taste, and let us go out the back road since we got there 5 minutes before closing and the main gate was closed off while we were there. She saw us coming in, watched us pause at the gate due to the time, and yet come in anyway, originally she said she’d only pour us two tastes, but ended up giving us the royal treatment – even gave us her 50% discount on the two Pinot Noirs we purchased; moral of the story – flirt BIG time with sassy ladies presiding over the tasting room!

Time to go – gotta go pick-up wine client wine samples from Rideux, then it’s off to the trifecta of Foley, Foxen and Gainey – I’m sure I’ll have more insight on living well tomorrow – hope you take the time to live well today too!!!

12
Feb
10

Dry, traditional, pink and all very Explosive!!!

While sitting for my WSET (London Wine and Spirit Education Trust) certification, I had two random essays to write. To my profound relief, one of the essays was on Champagne. I love Champagne! I am a self-professed Champagne geek!  I could happily focus on the process of making champagne, how it’s blended, fermented, dosaged, riddled, racked and disgorged. But it’s safe to assume you’re not as enamored as I. I could also focus on the sight, nose, taste and finish of champagne, but again – do you really care about the concentration of bubbles, the smell of yeast, caramel and green apples, its mousse, or the taste of… well the same. Do you really want to know whether its finish gives clues to its cuvee or vintage? I bet not! You might be interested, however, in a few cool facts for your upcoming love feast.

  • True Champagne must come from Champagne, France… all else is sparkling wine made in the “Methode Champenoise” style.
  • Dom Perignon is considered the father of Champagne, yet he never actually drank it.

  • Veuve (the widow) Clicquot figured out how to freeze the sediment in the neck (disgorgement) to create clear wine.

  • There are literally hundreds of miles of underground Champagne lime cellars in France, dating back to the Roman Empire.

  • Champagne is generally a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunior.

Once again, I digress… it’s Valentines weekend. What you probably care about is planning your love feast. Here’s where you can think outside the box. Traditionally, Champagne is the quintessential wine for love! Not only for Valentine’s day, but for weddings, births, promotions and christening of ships! I’m here to suggest that you have options: traditional, out of the ordinary, and down right breaking the rules.

The traditional pick is easy; pick a respected, quality Champagne or sparkling wine and plan to let it carry the mood from start to finish.

For the out of the ordinary, pick a sparkling wine that reflects who you are. Italian? Go with a Prosecco. Latin? Go with a Cava. German? Go with Sekt.

Finally, for you rule-breakers, if you love dessert as much as I (you know who you are—you willingly skip the main course for dessert), consider a fun sparkler for the dessert. There are some beautiful sparkling wine choices that pair perfectly with dessert. But (trust me on this) brut, extra sec and extra dry are not among them – in spite of the whole strawberries and Champagne myth. I must display my blatant preference here: follow the Italians. After all, they own the patent on passion and romance! Check out a Brachetto D’Acqui, It’s pink, sweet, and bursting with luscious fruit—perfect with the decadent chocolate dessert recipe I’m posting tomorrow. If you really want to throw a “LOVE FEAST”, do all three!

Whichever option you choose, make it special and memorable—something that fits who you are. Create the perfect memory for your special day, and by all means do it with passion!




Patrick Bartlett


A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!

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