Winey Things Archives

January 3, 2009

California Wine Varietals - Who Knew?

Have you ever wondered what kinds of grapes are grown in California? Being a "numbers person", I always wonder about statistical things. I know that is kind of boring to a lot of people, but numbers can be kind of interesting, especially when we are talking about wine!

I got this information from the September 2008 California Wine magazine from the San Francisco Chronicle. The figures are from the 2007 grape harvest.

The top wine varietals grown in California, according to the article, are:


Chardonnay - 589,664 tons of grapes
Sauvignon Blanc - 106,119 tons
Chenin Blanc - 84,919 tons
Pinot Gris - 79,342 tons
Viognier - 15,757 tons
White Riesling - 13,880


Cabernet Sauvignon - 425,172 tons of grapes
Zinfandel - 406,630 tons
Merlot - 304,078 tons
Syrah - 126,945 tons
Pinot Noir - 89,518 tons

Chardonnay and cabernet are at the top of the lists, of course, but other varietals are gaining ground on them.

I was particularly surprised at how much zinfandel is grown in California - almost as much as King Cabernet!

Also, there seems to be lots more reds grown in the Golden State than whites. Does this mean that people are taking the "French Paradox" seriously and drinking reds for health reasons?

California produced a whopping 3.24 million tons of grapes in 2007, which makes California the fourth largest producer in the WORLD - following France, Italy and Spain.


January 6, 2009

Great Source for Wine Info

I don't know how many of you have come across this website. I can't even remember how I found it - probably searching for information on a particular wine. But, it has become my go-to place to look for wine information because it compiles info from articles in all of the major wine publications.

You can Browse for Wines by region, type, food pairing, price or rating. You can Search for specific wines. You can "Help me find a wine" based on criteria like "that is a good value", "that goes with dinner", "for a special occasion", or "for a gift".

They also send out a weekly newsletter (which I just received, and that is what reminded me to write this) showing wine articles that have recently appeared in the Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, the LA Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Wall Street Journal. Really great, current info!

So, you wine lovers out there might want to check this out:


January 14, 2009

The Wine "Bible"

Almost everyone who drinks wine on a regular basis also reads Wine Spectator magazine. That is kind of a generalization, I know, but since 1976 Wine Spectator has been the go-to magazine for wine ratings.

They also publish special issues each year - the 100 top wines of each year, bargain wines, and travel issues to wine areas around the world. I love those because they highlight places to stay and top restaurants to dine in, along with the local wineries and restaurant wine lists.

I just logged onto their website, and they were featuring covers from past issues. Here are a few:

Special Italy Issue - December 15, 2007
I LOVED this issue! So much information on Italy wine and food!

100 Great Cheeses - September 1, 2008.
And what would wine be without its bosom buddy, cheese?

Robert Mondavi - July 31, 2008
Ahh, Robert Mondavi! He was indeed an icon in the California wine industry. I met him once in the mid-90's. I had bought a few shares of Mondavi wine stock and decided to attend the annual shareholder's meeting in the Napa Valley. There was a reception where Mr. Mondavi was signing copies of his newly released book. I even have a picture with him somewhere.

San Francisco's Best Restaurants - October 7, 2006
Lots of travel issues like this one on San Francisco.

California's New Frontier - May 7, 2006
My favorite, Paso Robles, is one of the upcoming wine areas featured in this issue.

All of this wine talk calls for a glass of something good to drink - hmmm, what shall it be? Cheers!

February 9, 2009

Wines of the Week - #1

When I taste a wine that I really consider outstanding, I want to tell people about it. Shout it out from the rooftops, so to speak.

So, here I am on my rooftop shouting: I loved both of these wines!

At the Slow Bowl in Paso Robles a week ago, my sister and I wanted to start out with a white wine, but not a chardonnay. Although I still like good chards, I've been there and done that.

So, Shannon poured us each a glass of 2007 Peachy Canyon Viognier. Wow! We both loved it!


Here is what Peachy Canyon says about the viognier:

2007 Viognier
Smells like a bowl full of tropical fruits followed with bright and crisp flavors. Peaches, pineapples, bananas and other citrus notes make up the flavors and aromas. There is a slight hint of oak to give the wine a bit of tannin on the palate and some minimal spice aromas.

Although it seems expensive at $25 a bottle (I have only found it on sale on the winery website), I am going to keep my eye out for some discounted bottles. Because it was really GOOD!

My second pick of the week also came from Paso Robles - I bought it at the PR Vons on my way out of town because it was on sale. 2005 Opolo Sangiovese. Another Wow!


This is from the Opolo website:

2005 Sangiovese
The Sangiovese is a full bodied wine featuring fruit forward characteristics of raspberry and black cherry. It is easy to drink and has soft tannins and subtle oak nuances. This is a very food friendly wine. It is great with red tomato based sauces, sausage, peppers, pizza and even hearty enough to pair with lamb, veal or braised beef.

I have tasted quite a few bottles of sangiovese lately, but this one surpassed them all. If you get a chance, give it a try. $24 a bottle on the winery website, but you can find it for less at other locations.

Every so often, I will post another couple of wines that I have really liked. Stay tuned!

Peachy Canyon Winery

Opolo Vineyards

April 22, 2009

Bonny Doon Wines

Continuing on from yesterday's post about Santa Cruz, today I want to talk about a Santa Cruz winery - Bonny Doon.


This is Randall Grahm, who started Bonny Doon in 1983. The website says:

Based in Santa Cruz, the heartland of New Age thinking and dreaming, Bonny Doon Vineyard has a not so surprising history of idealism and innovation. Founded in 1983 by Randall Grahm, Bonny Doon is known for strikingly original wines made from “lesser” known grape varieties, the so-called vinous Ugly Ducklings. Originally focused on pinot noir, Bonny Doon Vineyard made its mark on the vinous world with its pioneering work with Rhône varieties and innovative production techniques. Since the adoption of Biodynamic® farming practices in 2004, Bonny Doon Vineyard wines evince a deeper sense of place, complexity, varietal expression and a noticeable sense of organization.

An even better recap of Grahm's career with Bonny Doon is this article on TribLIVE website Here's an excerpt:

Creative label art and pun-laden wine names became synonymous with Grahm's unique brand of salesmanship and outsize humor. He never took himself too seriously, but he embraced any gambit to sell quality wines at good value.

The labels are indeed very creative! All kinds of colors and images. I would buy the wine just for the wonderful labels! Take a look at this row of bottles and all of the colorful labels:

And the wines are unusual - Rhone style, some with grapes you have probably never heard of. Personally, I like trying unusual types of wines

Another excerpt:

Grahm also earned a well-deserved reputation for irreverence toward the sacred cows of the uptight, pretentious wine establishment. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, he penned "Periodic Transmissions From the Mothership" in hilariously esoteric and satirical newsletters now collected on the Web site.

The Bonny Doon newsletters have always been witty and off-the-wall and absolutely hilarious. Take a look on their website for some examples.

I received a gift of two bottles of Bonny Doon wine recently - 2007 Ca' Del Solo Orange Muscat and 2005 Bonny Doon Syrah Le Pousseur. Both very tasty. And look at the beautiful labels:



PS - I had a comment from Cubbies, one of our Slow Travel members who told me that the New York Times had just published an article about Randall Grahm.

May 21, 2009

Summer Wines


Now that the hot weather has set in (at least here in SoCal), our wine-drinking thoughts turn to cool summer wines. But, which wines do people prefer? I did a little research on this and discovered some things I didn't know.

Food and Wine magazine had an interesting article in June of 2008 about summer wines. The author pointed out that people drink cheaper wines in the summer because they drink more and entertain more and need to economize on the wine they buy. I guess it sounds logical.

LifeinItaly also talks about Italian summer wines. I liked their list of wines (all whites), although I have never had Gavi or Arneis. I will take care of that in September!

The Consumerist has a more international list of 25 Delicious Summer Wines. Please note that this was also published in 2008, so the vintages mentioned are probably not available. Personally, for summer wines, I like to find under $10 choices instead of $25!

I also came across a blog entry about "doctoring" summer wines to make them acceptable to more drinkers. Interesting stuff. I do love Bellinis and Mimosas, but I don't usually add any mixes to my wines.

Now to get down to MY personal favorites. Most of the time, in hot weather, I prefer white wines. I like sauvignon blancs (New Zealand makes some good ones) and viogniers (lots of good ones on California's Central Coast). But, my go-to summer wine is Prosecco! We have been buying a lot of Zonin Prosecco at Trader Joe's - $5.99 a bottle - a bargain, I think.

Does anyone out there have personal favorites they would like to share?


May 26, 2009

Treana Winery, Paso Robles

We had a wonderful bottle of Paso Robles wine last night that I just HAVE to tell you about!

When I was in Paso Robles at the beginning of May, I stopped by a wine shop (actually the local Von's) and bought a few bottles of local wine to try.

This was one of them - 2007 Treana Central Coast White. It is a blend of Viognier (53%) and Marsanne (47%). Wow! It was outstanding!


Treana also makes a red blend, predominately cabernet but blended with Syrah. I haven't tasted that one for a couple of years, but it also has been terrific.


From their website:

The name Treana symbolizes a trinity of natural elements – the sun, the soil, and the ocean – elements that make Paso Robles, and the rest of the Central Coast, an exceptional area for wine grapes.

Treana wines reflect local geography and climate: rolling hills, calcareous soils, sunny summer days tempered by cool afternoon ocean breezes and as much as forty-degree temperatures swings between day and night. The grapes respond accordingly, with good sugar levels and balanced acids.

Treana is owned and operated by the Hope Family. They have grown grapes in the Paso Robles area since 1978 and began making their own wines in 1990.

Treana (Premium blends, white and red) has other sibling brands: Liberty School (Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah), Austin Hope (Syrah, Grenache and Roussanne), and Candor (Merlot and Zin).

One of these days when I am in Paso, I intend to go to the winery to taste ALL of their wines. I know I like the Treana blends, so I would expect the others to be good too.

By the way, The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance is a great resource for wineries in that area, with profiles of each one.

June 9, 2009

I didn't know that!


My July Food & Wine magazine came yesterday. I usually read it from cover to cover - it is my favorite food and wine magazine. I came across this feature: What Chefs Know Best: 20 Lessons from the Pros. I guess it is a recurring feature because I got a long list when I did a search.

The first two items on the list were things I had never even considered, so I thought I would share them with you.

Lesson 1 - Perfect Sangria

"Use Viognier - it has a nice balance of fruit and acidity," says John Besh of Restaurant August in New Orleans. Here is the featured recipe:

Mango-Peach Sangria
* Recipe by John Besh

Total Time: 30 min
Makes 4 Servings


1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup Grand Marnier
1 bottle Viognier
1 mango, chopped
2 peaches, cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup mint


In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves; transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate until cold. Stir in the Grand Marnier, Viognier, mango, peaches and mint and serve over ice.

Lesson 2 - Best Wines for Barbecue

“Wine is to barbecue what pickled ginger is to sushi—a palate cleanser,” says Adam Perry Lang, owner of Daisy May’s BBQ USA in New York City and author of the cookbook Serious Barbecue. “I like to drink crisp Riesling with my meat, like the 2007 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica.”

So, check out the article in Food & Wine - you may find a few things you didn't know!

June 13, 2009

Eberle Winery - My Favorite!


I have written about a couple of other wineries in Paso Robles, but I think it is time to tell you about my favorite winery there, Eberle!

Gary Eberle was one of the pioneer winemakers in Paso Robles. He began his career making wine for his family's winery, Estrella River (now known as Meridian) beginning in 1973. In 1980 he formed Eberle Winery, and his first wine was the 1979 Cabernet Sauvignon.


Since that time Gary has continued to produce outstanding wines, and his awards and gold medals are too numerous to mention. You can always count on the Eberle Cabs to be tasty, rich wines - I love them!

The name Eberle means "small boar", so it is logical that the winery logo should be a boar. At the tasting room entrance is a large bronze boar, and it is said that good luck will come to those who rub the boar's nose and drop some coins into the fountain (sort of like Trevi Fountain).


In addition to the outstanding cabs, Eberle also sells great barbera, cab-syrah, Cotes-du-Robles (a Rhone blend), sangiovese, syrah, zinfandel, and my low-cost favorite, Full Boar Red (sold only in the tasting room). And those are just the reds!

On the white side, there is chardonnay, viognier, and a new entry, Cotes-du-Robles Blanc (a white Rhone blend). Also syrah rose and muscat canelli.

My folks lived in Paso Robles for about 30 years, so I visited there quite often. I began going to the Eberle winemaker dinners and joined their Friends of the Winery (FOW) group of supporters. I think I was one of the early members of that group - whenever I buy wine in the tasting room, the people there always remark that my member number is 30-something.

November 5, 2009

A Quick Trip to Paso Robles

I decided to make a quick trip to Paso Robles this week. When my sister and I sold our folks' house in August, I asked the next door neighbor to keep some of the gardening tools for me, so I knew I had to go and get those.

The weather had been beautiful, but I knew that winter would arrive here one of these days, and I hate driving in rain or snow (over the Grapevine on I-5)

But the determining factor was that my Slow Travel compadre and fellow "Wine Snob" Shannon was going to be in Paso for a couple of days, and I wanted to help convince her to put Slow Bowl IV on the schedule for 2010.

I stayed at my friend Marianne's, but it was really strange not to have our own house to go to. I did get to meet the man who bought our house when I picked up the gardening tools, and he was really nice, so that made me feel good.

But, back to Slow Bowl and wine . . . Shannon and Marianne had never met, so the three of us went to Villa Creek restaurant in downtown Paso for Taco Tuesday. Had some very tasty tacos with a bottle of Albarino and lots of wine-related conversation. Here we are:


On Wednesday, both Marianne and Shannon had to work, so I drove over to Cambria, my very favorite little beach town. On the way I stopped at Peachy Canyon Winery to see if they still had their great Viognier - I had tasted it at the Slow Bowl dinner last February and loved it. It must have just been released at that time because they still had it - in fact, it was the only white wine on their tasting list.

Peachy Canyon Winery is known for their red wines and specifically for their Zinfandels. They had seven Zins on their tasting list, only one of which is distributed widely (Westside). I liked them so much that I went ahead and joined their twice-a-year Zin Club and picked up the shipment of six wines that had just gone out. Zin is Bill's favorite red wine, so he will be happy!

On to Cambria for lunch! The morning fog had still not lifted by the time I got there, so I stopped at the little bakery in the East Village (they have a dynamite onion-dill bread that I love) and then headed down to Moonstone Beach Drive to sit outside at Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill for clam chowder in a bread bowl. Really yummy!


I had some seagulls to keep me company, but they had signs all over not to feed the birds, so I waited until I left and took the remains of my bread bowl across the street for them to eat. It was a lovely setting , even with the fog.



Continue reading "A Quick Trip to Paso Robles" »

December 23, 2009

Mission Inn Christmas Lights

I have a confession to make - I LOVE the Mission Inn at Christmastime!

For those of you who don't know, the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA holds a Festival of Lights each year - from the day after Thanksgiving to a couple of days after New Year's. Millions of lights are strung, along with animated figures both inside and outside of the building. It is just spectacular!

I grew up in Riverside and have watched the Mission Inn go thru both bad times and good times thru the years. It is a historic site and one of the highlights of visiting the Inland Empire area of Southern California.

I still go to the beauty shop in downtown Riverside, and my hairdresser (and friend) Arlene and I always go to the Mission Inn in December for a glass of wine and to see the Christmas lights. Tuesday night was our night.

The real bonus of visiting the Mission Inn was the fact that they opened a new wine bar in November - it's called 54 degrees. Nice high-end wines and three different choices for the size of your tastes - 1.5 oz, 3.25 oz and 6.5 oz. I tried a half glass (3.25 oz) of Far Niente chardonnay and a half glass of Duckhorn pinot noir. Nice appetizers too - I had a huge stainless steel martini glass filled with mashed potatoes and topped with a lamb "lollipop". Arlene had a delicious rice-filled martini glass with Jamaican shrimp on top. Yum!!!

Last year Palma and Brad joined Bill and me for a tour of the decorated Mission Inn and dinner across the street. Here is her post about that evening.

My pictures aren't as good as hers, but here are a couple of exterior photos.




January 27, 2010

Gayot Best Restaurants List


I got an interesting email newsletter today from about their 2010 restaurant issue. It includes links to the following lists:

Culinary Trends
Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S.
Top 10 New Restaurants
Top 40 Cheap Eats
Top 10 Steakhouses
Top 10 Hotel Restaurants
Top Restaurateur: Wolfgang Puck
Top 5 Rising Chefs
Top 5 Food Trucks

Lots of good information on the Gayot website, including Food & Wine pairing tips, along with its own Top 10 lists related to wine and beer.

Check it out - you might learn something new!

May 30, 2010

Palmina Challenge #1


Our weekly Sunday Slow Suppers is finished, and our next weekly cooking challenge will not start until July, so I decided to challenge myself in the meantime.

You may recall that back in February I attended the mini Slow Bowl in the Santa Ynez area, and one of the wineries we visited was Palmina. I blogged about it here.

I joined their Stagioni wine club that day, and I have received two shipments of three bottles each. The fun thing is that for each wine, there is a recipe to go with it.

So, my challenge to myself is to prepare the recipe that goes with each wine. That means controlling myself and not opening the bottles when they first arrive. So, here goes with the first recipe and wine.

First, the wine. Palmina's tasting notes say:

Traminer is an ancient grape varietal, with written notes on this green-skinned grape going back to the 11th century. It is named after the alpine village of Tramin (Tremeno on the Italian side), and is likely the parent of the more well known Gerwurtztraminer (Meaning spicy Traminer). Many ampelographers (those who study the orgin of wine) believe that Traminer may be the most ancient cultivar still in existence. Obviously a hardy grapefine with not only its longevity but its preference for cool climates, it thrives in the maritime, hilltop Alisos Vineyard.
A wine that attains even more character with cellaring, Traminer is also delightful immediately at release. It is a beautiful food wine, particularly with the hearty dishes of its orgin. Dishes with eggs, potatoes, herbs and cheese will never disappoint!

I bet you didn't know you would get a history lesson along with the recipe, did you!

Continue reading "Palmina Challenge #1" »

June 27, 2010

Palmina Challenge #2


Before our next Sunday food challenge starts in July, I am doing a self-imposed challenge - to prepare the suggested recipe from Palmina Winery along with one of their wine club selections. This time my challenge is Spring Meatballs & Spinach Potato Casserole with Barbera.

A little wine history from Palmina:

Barbera has often been called the "people's wine", vinified from a much-loved grape that grows easily, produces wines of great color, soft tannins and lively acidity that can be enjoyed relatively early in their life. In Italy, it is grown in the same regions as Nebbiolo, and is thought of as the good-natured counterpart to the finicky Barolos and Barbarescos. There is a saying in Piedmonte that Barbera is "what you drink while waiting for the Barolo". And what a delight it is! So beloved that in the 19th and 20th century, it was brought to California by the waves of Italian immigrants who settled here, but wanted a bit of the "old country" in their new home.

The challenge dishes turned out very well. I will definitely make them again. The wine pairing was wonderful too - we definitely loved the barbera!



Here is my previous post in the Palmina challenge series:

Palmina Challenge #1

Continue reading "Palmina Challenge #2" »

July 5, 2010

The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro


We met up with Palma and Brad and Shannon in Palm Desert Saturday night to have wine and appetizers at a brand new wine bar there, The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro. Here is the announcement I found on the Palm Springs Life Magazine website.


What a neat place! Not only do they have a huge selection of GOOD wines (remember I am a wine snob), but the bar area is darling! And if you buy wine in the wine shop, you can take it right over to the bar (or the bistro) for a shockingly low corkage fee of $5. This is my kind of place!


We sat in the bar area and ordered several appetizers to share. Our wine guru Shannon picked out a couple of pinots, and several of us chose glasses of white wines to start. Great by-the-glass selections too - that's a definite plus in my book!


Continue reading "The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro" »

July 20, 2010

Palmina Challenge #3


I began doing my Palmina challenges in June when our Sunday Slow Kitchen was dark and I didn't know what to do with my Sundays! Here are the first two:

Palmina Challenge #1
Palmina Challenge #2

Let's start with the wine. It is called Savoia and is a proprietary blend that Palmina makes (50% Nebbiolo - 25% Barbera - 25% Syrah). A little more wine history was provided in the tasting notes that accompanied the wine club shipment:

"Savoia" is a reference to the ancient House of Savoy, a melding of a kingdom made of parts of modern day Germany, France and Italy. Savoia was the longest reigning royal house in Europe - ever. And the wine named after this peacable realm? Winemaker Steve Clifton's passion for tradition and history, challenging tradition and history, and crafting wines made for the table

He stresses that good things do come in threes - the three wines in Savoia, three vineyards from which the grapes are harvested, three years from harvest to bottle, The tasting notes are always very informative - Palmina does a great job with their wine club shipments.

Now, on to the food! The recipe that accompanied the wine is something that not everyone will want to try - Steak Tartar. Raw meat and a raw egg yolk are not to everyone's liking. Both Bill and I have enjoyed Steak Tartar in the past, so we decided to take a chance.

We followed the recipe exactly and ate it with two accompaniments - chopped hard-boiled egg and red onion. It went well with the wine and was a lovely warm-weather dinner.



Continue reading "Palmina Challenge #3" »

December 29, 2010

The Mission Inn - An Annual Tradition

I wrote last year about visiting the Mission Inn during the Christmas holidays with my friend Arlene. Well, we did it again last night and (as usual), it was spectacular!


We arrived about 4 p.m. after my beauty shop appointment, so it was still light outside.


The lobby looked beautiful - a huge decorated tree and fireplace.


We headed over to the wine bar, where we sampled some really good wines with our appetizers. Kind of fun - they have three different sizes of wine servings - 1.5 oz, 3.25 oz and 6.5 oz. Arlene and I each chose a white and a red - two cabs that were both great - a Jordan and BV Georges de Latour. The BV was a 1998 - they must have been cleaning out their wine cellar or something. The chardonnay that I chose was wonderful - a 2005 Simi Reserve.

Here's Arlene and me:

Continue reading "The Mission Inn - An Annual Tradition" »

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