Happy winehikers, cavorting along a woodsy path on a late-September morning. These folks joined me last year; would you like to join me this year? If so, you’ll find all the details on my Romp through the Redwoods page.
The 6th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is a five-day wine and food extravaganza featuring 170 world-class wineries and spirit producers, 70 of San Diego’s award-winning fine dining restaurants offering gourmet foods, celebrity chefs, wine dinners, cooking classes, and live silent auctions, personalities, and unlimited food and wine tastings. It is the largest event of its kind in Southern California and may draw a crowd of over 8,500 wine & food enthusiasts.
The Festival runs from November 18th to 22nd. Though he’d love to, this winehiker cannot attend, but perhaps you can! Tickets are now on sale for the event; see this page for a price breakdown.
Check out the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival’s fan page to learn more.
If I was to combine the best of the European sense of community with Silicon Valley sensibilities, I would present healthy, well-prepared foods and fine locally-made wines in an atmosphere that promotes easy relaxation and stimulation of the senses, and have it all be very affordable. And to top that off, I’d want passion and education to be a part of the mix.
Thank goodness I don’t have to do that now, because it’s just what Randy Robinson has done with Vino Locale of Palo Alto, California.
On the surface, Vino Locale is what its Italian name implies – a purveyor of local wine. But it’s so much more than just a cozy little nook off a major Palo Alto thoroughfare. What it’s not is a typical wine bar, restaurant, or bottle shop. With artisanal cheeses, breads, and meats, a fine selection of wines lining the shelves – all produced within a 100-mile radius – plus local artists’ crafts on the walls and a Victorian house to show it all off in, Randy’s got something worth waxing passionate about.
A buddy of mine, Mike Grey of Blue Yuki Photography, joined me last evening for what promised to be a fun affair at Vino Locale; we had been intrigued by a posting on localwineevents.com for an event that offered a tasting of five wines for $5. But the price of this tasting was not the intriguing part. What was intriguing was that for those five bucks, we’d get to taste three components of a Bordeaux-style blended wine, next taste the blend of those three components, and lastly contrast that blend with an actual wine from Bordeaux.
It turned out to be the next best thing to blending the wine ourselves.
For me, it would be an exercise not only in tasting wines made within mere miles of my front door, but also an opportunity to guess the proportions by which Randy concocted his blend. So, after a nice repast of Westphalian Ham, Buendnerfleisch, Danish Salami, Dijon mustard, sliced baguette, a cheese plate nicely strewn with a fine mix of blue and dried cheeses and fruits, all of it liberally dosed by Vino Locale’s friendly and generous wait staff*, Mike and I visited Randy’s tasting table and held out our glasses.
We first tried a Cabernet Sauvignon from Solis Winery of Morgan Hill, which was laden with blackberry flavors and a toasty oakiness that I found quite favorable. Randy then poured one of my local favorites, a Cabernet Franc from Burrell School Vineyards of Los Gatos (see my recent post about a Burrell School winehike). I love the lush cherry fruit in this wine, which is distinctly different and much less acidic/tannic than any other locally-made Cab Franc that I’ve tried. And though they’re no longer pouring this particular Cab Franc at Burrell School’s tasting bar, I was glad to see plenty of it on Randy’s shelves.
Next came a Merlot pour, also hailing from Burrell School, its sensuous cherry flavors and mouthwatering textures making a fine stand-alone Merlot (I came home with a bottle of this one, my palate – but not my budget – having been won over at Burrell School earlier by their Zins and Syrahs.)
Now it was time to taste Randy’s hand-decanted Bordeaux blend. And right away, I appreciated his touch. While very smooth and round with texture, flavor, and finish, this blend eschewed pretense and instead seemed entirely distinct from each of its components. A well-rounded balance of acid and fruit suggested complexity and an expert integration of berry and slight earth flavors not entirely obscuring the Burrell School cherriness. I savored its finish, and made a mental note: “Do try this at home.”
A follow-up taste of a $10 Bordeaux purchased at a local Trader Joe’s was an anticlimactic contrast lacking in all but earthy aromas and flavors. Obviously the focus was the local blend.
I sensed Randy was about to divulge the formula for his tincturing, and I politely interrupted, wanting instead to hazard my own guess. I estimated 40-45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30-35% Merlot, and the remainder Cab Franc. Apparently my palate guessed pretty close to the actual blend proportionality, which Randy pronounced as being 2 parts Cab. Sauv., 2 parts Merlot, and 1 part Cab Franc.
I instantly was no longer intrigued. Instead, I was hooked on the idea of attending more of Randy’s fun approaches to local wine, art, and produce. And you can bet I’ll be blending a few upcoming winehiking tours with visits to Vino Locale in the year ahead.
*If you should visit Vino Locale, please tell Randy I sent you to try the Fleming-Jenkins Rosé of Syrah.
If you haven’t done so already, I recommend you check out localwineevents.com, a marvelous events site that lists wine tastings, dinners, and classes all over the country. I subscribe to it for events in my area, and in fact I’ll be attending one of them this evening, a Bordeaux blending class. I’ll even be posting wine tastings and hiking tours to this popular site in early 2007, if not sooner.
Anyhow, Local Wine Events is holding a “vote for your favorite wine blog” contest, and I could really use your support. Click on my voting page and help me find my way to fame, fortune, and a new Mercedes! A lifetime supply of Vasque hiking boots! One million frequent flyer miles and a ski condo in Gstaad! A fully-stocked 2000 square-foot Vinotheque walk-in wine closet in my very own wine cellar!
Well, OK, maybe just some helpful PR.
If you are so inclined, you can even vote “Chicago-style” which, as some of us may recall, used to mean “vote early, vote often, and vote Daley!*
*Richard J. Daley held six terms in office as mayor of Chicago, from 1955 to his death in 1976, and was often accused of corruption, but never indicted. I’ll never be indicted for my vote-mongering either, even if you don’t vote for my blog on a daily basis.
7.5 winehiker points*
Every once in a while, we wine lovers find that promise does not deliver what expectation anticipates. You can read all the words that are written to describe a wine; most of us want to believe them enough to reach into our wallets if we are at all tantalized by the copywriter’s scribblings. But then you taste the wine, and you wonder if maybe you’ve had a head cold for a week.
Such was my experience with the 2001 Boundary, a Bordeaux blend from Te Awa Farms in the town of Hastings, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
A case in point on the copywriting, from The New Zealand House of Wine:
“A delicious wine with melting tannin and complex layers of flavour. Intertwined aromas of fresh leather, dark cherry, bramble and plum on the nose. A supple, round attack opens to show layers of flavour on the palate, which reflect those of the nose. The tannins are now well integrated giving the wine depth and length.”
From Bottlenotes, from whom I purchased the wine:
“A high quality, high value New World Bordeaux blend. Smooth and lush with aromas of cedar, sweet tobacco, blackberry and a bit of spice. On the palate, the wine is quite smooth with moderate tannin, a bit of leather and dark berry fruit flavors.”
My own tasting notes:
“Medium garnet-colored Bordeaux blend, strong earthiness on nose, but with mild elusive fruit aromas and slight fragrance of wood and spice. Moderate balance aspects, with slight tartness, agreeable bitterness. Medium body, good mouthfeel, but heavily lacking in fruit flavor; very short finish.”
Hmmm…. I was not attacked by supple round plums, especially on my nose. Which New World are we talking about here? Were my defenses too solidified? I thought I should clear my throat, blow my nose, and try again. So I did, three more times over the course of the evening. Up until I tried this particular wine from Bottlenotes, I had been pretty pleased with their selections. Fortunately with Bottlenotes you can share your tasting notes with them so they can further tailor their selections to your palate. In fact they actually ask you to do so.
And I’ve been doing that. Perhaps not enough, truth be told. I guess we still have some tailoring to do.
At any rate, I tried this wine again after 45 minutes in the decanter, then again after 2 hours of opening. Still, after four hours, the 2001 Boundary tasted way way way too [insert your own invective here] earthy. You know, being a winehiker and all, I’m a big fan of earth. I like it beneath my feet. A lot, in fact.
I just don’t like it in my mouth. At least not that [invective] much of it. I think I’ll stay on this side of the Boundary for a while.
Often I find that the earthiness aspects of some wines dissipate within a short time of opening or decanting. Perhaps my problem is that I didn’t try this wine with roast lamb, roast beef, game, or grilled duck, as suggested by the well-meaning folks at Bottlenotes. Heck, Te Awa Farms even has its own restaurant, which is considered to be one of New Zealand’s top six dining establishments. Says something about the NZ palate, perchance. They must quite naturally be pairing their foods with (or is that to?) their wines.
So, I suppose I’m remiss for not suckling on a duckling for this one. Nevertheless, good food does not make bad wine better.
So sayeth I.
OK, so that’s my first stellar review of a not-so-stellar wine. There are bound to be more.
$30.00 at bottlenotes.com; priced at $22 elsewhere online. That is, if you really want to buy it after reading this post.
Disclosure: I am a member of bottlenotes.com’s Limited Addictions club; this wine arrived in their summer shipment and was purchased by me.
*Rated on the 20-point Davis scale using my Wine Scoring Sheet.
As a follow-on to my previous post, Beau Jarvis over at Basic Juice offers a fairly detailed perspective about the other wines and Crus of the Beaujolais region – a “Wine 101: Beau Knows Beau-jo-lais”, if you will.
As a lead-in to a discussion of the better wines of Beaujolais, Beau writes:
This past summer I came face to face with Francois Mauss, the French wine critic who referred to Beaujolais as ‘not proper wine’, and ‘vin de merde‘. In fact, upon meeting Mssr. Mauss, his guide/translator excitedly told me that, “this is the guy that called Beaujolais shi**y wine.” Were this bloviating critic referring only to Nouveau, I would be hard pressed to argue with his summation (let’s face it, B.Nouveau is, in the pantheon of wine, fairly unremarkable). However, to drag the oft decent Beaujolais Villages and frequently fabulous Beaujolais Crus into the merde is, in my opinion, wrong.
For more of Beau’s fun and informative read, I invite you to click over to Beau Jo Crus.