Category Archives: wine

totally was not drunk

Did you have a good weekend?  It seems our weekends have been flying by, although we managed to do a lot this time.  We started with a trip to a homebrew store, which was not air-conditioned so it was nice and hot and stuffy, and spent an hour listening to the guy talk about the nuances of chocolate vs. black malt, what happens when you go beyond 6 pounds of sugar, and the difference floculation rates makes when considering yeasts.  Granted, T was probably actually interested in these tidbits, but all I could think about was how hot the store was.  I was also probably hungry, which didn’t help matters. 

We almost ate dinner at Mesquite in Scripps Ranch, but I looked at the menu and couldn’t bring myself to go in.  Their dinner menu is pretty pricey, and I’m reluctant to spend a lot of money on food that may or may not be spectacular.  Especially when I can get sushi, steak, seafood, burgers, or salads somewhere else at a better price and I know it’ll be delicious.  So, has anyone eaten at Mesquite?  Is it worth trying?  Or is it good but still overpriced?

We filled up Saturday with wine tasting and my company Padres game, which was all fun but slightly exhausting.  We really only tasted at Longshadow Ranch and Cougar Vineyard and then picked up our wine shipment from Leonesse so we could make it back home in time to drive to Petco Park.  Longshadow Ranch is probably one of the best places for a picnic lunch, especially since you can do tastings outside and go back to your table in between sips.  Cougar is pretty new in Temecula and I think I’d give them a few more years before going back.  Their glasses are really cute, though!  And, of course, we always recommend Leonesse.  We actually passed our wine club tasting tickets to friends, but I told T that we practically broke even on the wine shipment with that, since tastings are now $10 a person (and we get 4 free tastings as members).

Now, when we go wine tasting, I’m usually good for about 2 wineries.  Then I get a little tipsy and a little tired.  I split a tasting at Longshadow and didn’t finish most of the ones at Cougar.  But we did all share a bottle of almond champagne at Wilson Creek (bought at Costco for practically half the price!) and I think that’s what threw me off balance.  However, I maintain that alcohol was in no way responsible for the fact that I tripped over a candle-tree-display-thing at Leonesse (but didn’t fall or knock it over!)  I blame the entire incident on the fact that some blonde was headed straight for me with boobs practically jumping out the front of her green dress.  I was completely distracted by those things and didn’t see where I was going.  Not my fault.

Also, we were coincidentally wine tasting during the Temecula Wine Festival, which made for lovely empty wineries.  I guess everyone was at the festival?  If that’s the case, I highly recommend going when a festival is in town.  Even though Wilson Creek was still packed, it was nowhere near the craziness it usually is.

The to-do list came out Sunday morning, and it was really helpful as we started crossing things off. 

  • Both guest rooms got cleaned and organized for our upcoming guests. 
  • We shopped for, and eventually bought, a second portable AC for the back guest room (the castle room!)
  • We found a suitable ceiling fan for the dining room and poor T installed it at 9 pm.  Without the remote control transmitter because we couldn’t figure out what to do with the extra wire.  Consequently, we discovered that the circuits in the house are really weird and I think it will be very complicated if we ever upgrade the electrical.
  • I painted drywall inside a garage closet to make it “cleaner” for beer brewing equipment storage.
  • Since I had the paint out, I finally painted the linen closet doors with the accent color I picked out, um, three years ago?

Things that weren’t on the list?  Well, we were drawn to Joey’s Smokin’ BBQ for dinner and it was, as always, pretty awesome.  It’s one of the few places where I order a salad because it has enough meat to satisfy any meat cravings but is also a really good salad.  Plus, I had enough tri-tip leftover to add to my salad for my work lunch.  T had the brisket sandwich and it was beefy, soft, and tasty.  Yum.  Then it was off to Patrick’s so the boys could break in their new Patrick’s mugs (which are really cool with the etching and also 20 oz!) and we could catch up with friends.

Now we’ve got a night at home, then dinner at Stone for a Keep the Pint night, then possibly another night at Stone to watch 300 Mystery Science Theater style, friends in town, a tri-tip to grill, an upcoming birthday (and also going-away party, ahem, an announcement we have yet to hear from the source and instead have to rely on other people telling us), and maybe finally scheduling our landscape work!  Whew.  June is going to be over before we know it.

Leonesse pick up night

You already know we like Leonesse wines. You already know we belong to their wine club. You may not know that they are currently sold out of their Port and this makes us sad. I also may or may not have subtly threatened the poor guy pouring samples (who probably never works the counter except for these occasions) if the new port release isn’t as good as the last.

On our one free weekend at home (that was no free but really really busy) we decided to check out this wine pick-up night with free appetizers and jazz music. We drove up to Temecula (I feel like we’ve done this drive too much lately), not really knowing what to expect. Did you know Leonesse has overflow parking? And that there is a cute grassy picnic area by this overflow parking? Now we have somewhere to go other than Wilson Creek for picnic lunches!

Leonesse has finally opened their new restaurant, Block Five. They are open for lunch Thursday through Sunday and open for dinner on Friday. Wine club members get 10% off food (yay!). To showcase the new restaurant, some appetizers were available at the pick-up night.

When you check in, you get a glass (not to keep) with tasting tickets, a food ticket, and a ticket for a full glass of wine. Apparently, you can also combine tastes to get 3 tastes in one glass. I think they were only tasting the wines you get in the wine club shipment – Sauvignon Blanc, Four (a Cab/Zin blend), and a Syrah. We tasted them and I got a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy. Then we stood in line for food, which was a plate of 2 calamari, some curry chicken salad and pita bread, and some brie-stuffed figs. I don’t know what time they really started, but we were there just a little after 7 pm and it was already packed! If we wanted to sit, we’d have to join someone at their table.

Of all the tables to sit at, of all the people we could have met that night, we spent the night talking to a couple of engineers who moved to Temecula to start making wine. What are the chances? It was actually a lot of fun and we enjoyed talking with them. I’m looking forward to when they open to the public so we can taste some of their hard work.

The appetizer samples were interesting. I think the brie and figs would be better if they had been served while still warm and the cheese was gooey. The calamari had a nice, light coating and was very tender. Not tender enough to cut with a fork, but soft enough to bite easily. I didn’t like the curry chicken salad – I think it wasn’t flavorful enough. My mom’s recipe is better. But, based on these tastes and a potential 10% discount, I’m looking forward to the next time we can spend an afternoon wine tasting. Now we have a place to go for lunch! We’d also like to go back to Keyways and really get an idea of how their wines are. The last time we were there, we’d had too much wine to really pay attention.

It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I’m glad we went. Depending on the format of the next one, I’d consider going back to pick up our wine shipment.

Tablas Creek at Thee Bungalow

Wednesday we went to Thee Bungalow for their Tablas Creek wine dinner. We had gone to their Tobin James wine dinner before, and of course our girls night for the anniversary menu. I like Thee Bungalow. I’ve said it, I mean it, and I really don’t get why I never hear of other people saying they like it. Are you eating food that I’m not ordering? Are you getting service from some bad server who is hidden when I go? Do you just shun it based on its Cohn ownership alone? Do you know something you’re not telling me??

Okay, sure, the fact that they’ve added $2 valet parking is kind of lame. And, yes, it’s silly that their overflow valet parking is the softball field parking lot that we park at and walk the whole 50 feet to the front door.

I like wine dinners, but I don’t like paying $80 for 3 courses and a passed appetizer bite. That’s too expensive, people! Thee Bungalow has wine dinners for $60 with a passed appetizer, 3 courses, and dessert. The last time we were there the passed appetizer was a house made cracker/flatbread with a crab or lobster or something in a cheesy sauce. It was so good! And we got, like, 3 each!

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This was the passed appetizer bite. It was like half a shrimp on top of edamame and cucumber. I have to say, this was my least favorite bite, although the spoon is really cute. I did taste the orange zest on the shrimp and the edamame were nice and crisp, but the ginger vinaigrette didn’t really come through. And we only got one. Still, the Esprit Blanc that it was served with was very nice and I had 2 glasses. I felt silly taking pictures, especially when I had to turn on the flash, but I still did it, just for you.

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We moved on to the bacon, mushroom, and cheese ravioli in a clam infused butter sauce. This was the best dish ever. The pasta had the perfect chew to it, the bacon and cheese stuffing wasn’t too smoky or salty, the mushrooms were meaty, and the butter sauce was so good. So good! Meaty bits of clams with the mushrooms and just a rounded velvety sauce that you could lick from the plate. Which is kind of what we did, but we used bread so as to be civilized!

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Oh, the Roussanne that they served with this was like a lighter Chardonnay. It was T’s favorite wine of the night and it cut perfectly through the rich sauce.

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Then came the rack of lamb on a bed of braised lamb shank and white bean cassoulet. I love rack of lamb, but the braised shank and white bean was just so comforting and tasty. I preferred it to the rack of lamb. But I did eat it all, plus the extra piece of lamb that T didn’t want. We drank the Esprit Rouge with this and it actually wasn’t too bold for the lamb. A little dry, but a bold red that was pretty jammy. It was right about here, too, that I started getting tipsy. And a little full.

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But not too full to scarf down some Kobe skirt steak on arugula before I realized I didn’t take a picture. Believe me, the steak looked much prettier before I started pulling pieces off. It was meltingly tender and you could taste the happy cow fat that had been lovingly massaged into the beef. Now, I don’t know if this was real Kobe or the Americanized Wagyu, but it was probably the best example of Kobe beef that I’ve ever had. Sometimes I’ll taste it and think regular beef is just as good, but this? This was perfect. Medium rare and not chewy at all. The arugula was a little bitter, but I think that’s how arugula is, which isn’t great because we just got a big bunch in our CSA this week. The Cotes de Tablas they served with this was very bold and dry, a little tart, but it actually had a smooth finish. I think. I was getting to the point where I couldn’t taste wine any more, I was so full and so kind-of-drunk.

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For dessert, I ate a piece of the cheese before taking a picture. But then I didn’t want to take a picture because the chef was standing right behind us. So, of course, when he comes to our table to make sure we were enjoying everything, T asked if he would mind posing with his dish for a picture! Ah well, Chef Niles is a nice guy and he makes good food and he’s pretty easy on the eyes, too. He is holding a plate that contains some grapes (sweet and crisp), 2 slices of apple (meh), 2 slices of sage infused derby cheese (because I had eaten the 3rd piece already), and 3 small chocolate truffles sitting on minty sugar sauce. Don’t ask about the Mourvedre we were drinking because I don’t even remember. It’s a dry wine, not like a port, not sweet. Okay, the fruit? Good. Standard. The truffles? Better than those buttery ones from Trader Joe’s! Melty and perfectly balanced in sweetness, not too dark chocolate truffley, you know? The mint sauce? Mmm… like minty crack sauce! You could taste the herbalness of the mint leaves, which infused the sugar sauce, and then it just melted away and you were left missing it and wishing you had more. But the cheese! I looked at the green striped cheese and thought it would just be cheese. Why would I want sage in my cheese? Well, I don’t know, but that cheese was the best thing on that plate. Considering I will do nearly anything for chocolate and/or sweet desserts, that’s saying a lot. It’s such a different flavor than dried ground sage. It’s fresh. It taste green, but not grassy. It gave the cheese this entirely new dimension, because derby cheese, I think, isn’t all that impressive usually. So, does anyone know where to buy this sage derby cheese?? Because I was too drunk to even ask.

The portions of food are so large, to me. Add some veggies and a potato and you could eat any of those courses and a large entree. I would have eaten a pot of those ravioli, personally. All this for $60 plus at least 5 glasses of wine (these are not 1 oz tastes they’re pouring!) Why would I pay $80-100 for a wine dinner when I can get all this for so much less?

Also, their anniversary dinner goes through the end of August. Half a crisp roasted duck for $12.95. Their other popular dishes are practically half off. We’re going back next week. Are you?

Thee Bungalow on Urbanspoon

Wine Fridges and Roses

 

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this is to entice you to read through my babbling until I get to the point

For Christmas (or was it my birthday present?) last year, T bought me, among other things, a small wine fridge.  It’s supposed to hold 35 bottles, and it pretty much does with some creative positioning.  We have a couple less than that because we also shoved some champagne California sparkling wine in there, too.  It apparently gets poor reviews from Amazon.com, but one of them has to do with shipping, which didn’t apply to us.  The thing is really quiet and for a while I kept wondering if it was still on because it wasn’t making any noise.  I did stick a small refrigerator thermometer in there because the control is just a dial with no numbers or any sense as to where it is.

The reason I got the wine fridge (other than the fact that T is awesome and buys good presents) is because the summer before, we had this ridiculous heat wave that no one knew how to deal with –

side note: Typically, we in San Diego struggle through 2-3 really hot days in a row.  We complain, the news reminds us to keep electrical use to a minimum to avoid rolling blackouts, the weather goes back down to 80 and we all forget it ever happened.  This happens maybe a few times over the course of the summer.  Last year, it lasted well over a week (I know, I know, a whole week) or something and it was hard to sleep, to move, to do anything but lie still and melt.  I finally caved in and bought a portable air conditioner for the bedroom so we could sleep comfortably and ended up spending most of my time in the bedroom, with my laptop, just to stay sane.  My point, anyway, is that the heat wave was so bad that when we thought to buy a window unit for the family/dog room, stores were sold out of air conditioning units of any kind.  They didn’t know when they’d get a new shipment in, they didn’t know what kind they would get if they got them, it was crazy.  I even considered going to Vegas to buy a unit to bring home (my parents live there, so it would be like an errand/visit).  But then the weather got nicer and we forgot about it for the most part.  Before this summer hit, though, I bought a window unit for the family/dog room, just in case.  And we have turned it on a couple times already.  The end.  So much for just a quick side note.

– anyway, we had this long heat wave and the few bottles of wine I did have ended up going bad.  Thankfully it was nothing special we had been keeping, but I still was sad that I had no way to protect future wine from the evil summer heat.  And that is why I got spoiled and have a 35-bottle wine fridge.

Along with the wine fridge, we hit BevMo! for some wines with which to stock the fridge.  We went by intuition, reading point values on the little cards, prices, wineries we’d heard of, and stayed away from Puppy Dog Syndrome.

another side note: Puppy Dog Syndrome is when wineries put some cute picture or label on the wine to entice you into buying it.  Odds are the wine will not be good and you will have become their latest sucker.  We first discovered this at Wilson Creek Winery when they had some awful wine that suckered me in because it was named after the two new Golden Retriever puppies at the winery, whose pictures were also on the wine label.  Thankfully, I had only lost a tasting ticket and not a bunch of money.  You have now been warned.

We found some really good wines and some okay wines.  I don’t think we had any bad ones (see above re: stay away from Puppy Dog Syndrome).  We also went back for the BevMo! 5-cent sale in February (?).  Something we (okay, T figured it out) learned about the 5-cent sale is that they take all these wines and put them back at their “retail price” and then say you can buy a second bottle for 5 cents.  However, if you had been there the week before, that same wine might have been on “sale” for half the retail price, meaning you could have bought 1 bottle for the same 5-cent sale price but only have to invest in 1 bottle of the unknown.  Does that make sense?

Example: A bottle of XZY No Puppies Pinot Noir retails at $20.  BevMo! regularly sells this wine for $11 (sale or no sale, due to whatever markdowns BevMo! gives its customers).  But, for the 5-cent sale, you can buy 1 bottle for $20 and another for $0.05, making each bottle about $10.  What if it’s not good?  Then you would have spent $20 on 2 bottles of not-good wine instead of just trying the 1 bottle for $11.  See?

So, now I’m going around flipping price signs, doing calculations, trying to see which wines are a good deal and which ones we should just wait on.  Also, the wine fridge is pretty full already so I have to make sure I don’t buy too many bottles.  We did okay with our picks, but so far the favorite one we got was the Mas de Caralt Rose.  Most roses I’ve tasted are nice, but a little too sweet for something I want to drink with dinner.  But for a lot of warm summer nights, you don’t want a heavy Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.  You also don’t want Chardonnay.  I forget what we ate with the first bottle of the rose we opened, but I remember that we finished the bottle, and considering I’m a total lightweight that’s saying something.  We took the other bottle to a friend’s house for dinner where he was making chipotle bacon pork chops (oh, they were so good) and we thought a rose would be a nice complement to pork.

It’s a light wine, with hints of strawberry (much like a white Merlot) and apple, but it’s not sweet.  It’s not dry or tart, but you don’t drink it and feel a sugary taste in your mouth.  It’s just a clean wine to enjoy with a good meal.  I am terrible at describing wines, but this is a really good one, trust me.

Leonesse Cellars

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You may have noticed a wine bottle in the picture from our Sunday dinner from a jar.  That was the white Merlot from Leonesse Cellars in Temecula.  We first found Leonesse (well, I did; I didn’t know T at the time) the first weekend they were open when a bunch of us went out wine tasting in Temecula. 

First, a note about the Temecula Wine Country.  I’ve been to wine country in Paso Robles (I did go to Cal Poly, SLO, after all – Go Mustangs!) and in Napa/Sonoma.  Each region has their stars and not-so-greats.  As much as I’d love to say we have wines here that give Napa a run for their money, I don’t believe we do.  I’ve had wines up there (and from there) that make me think I’m tasting wine for the first time, it’s so good.  However, we do have wines that can be had for less than $30 a bottle and are very nice to drink.  Leoness is one of them; Wilson Creek = not so much and you can buy their almond champagne at Costso for much less money.  I now return you to my rambling post.

T and I went through Temecula right before the new Leonesse tasting room was done and then also right after.  Each time, we really enjoyed their wines and always said, “We should join their wine club” and just never signed up.  We weren’t sure if we wanted to commit to one winery or if we should join one of those clubs that sends you various wines from all over.  Finally, after visiting Leonesse again (we do visit other wineries when we go up) on a wine tasting trip with fellow nerdy young engineers, I really liked their white Merlot and Pinot Grigio.  Then we found out that, along with a Merlot, those two wines were in the Wine Club shipment.  We would also get discounts on any additional purchases of those wines, discounts on any other wines, and discounts in their restaurant whenever it finally opened.  Maybe it was the port, or the sale mentality, or just an excuse to finally sign up and spend more money, but we did.  We now belong to the Leonesse wine club.

Shipments in the regular Vineyard wine club, for there is also a special Cellar wine club, cost $50 for 3 bottles and you have the option of having them ship to you or going to pick it up.  If you have your wine shipped, you do pay for S&H.  The nice thing is, though, that they tell you when the new shipment will be available and throw a pick-up party (sort 0f) where you can mingle with other club members (doesn’t that sound all snooty?) and get your wine shipment.  If you choose not to pick it up, then they will ship it to you.  We’ve set our default delivery method as “ship” – if we can make it up there to pick up the wine we will, otherwise we won’t worry about it.  I do like having an excuse to go up and hope that by the time our next shipment is ready the restaurant will be open, too.

Most wineries tell you that they specialize in something – whites, red, big reds, ports, blends.  I know Leonesse is very proud of their Port and I almost prefer it to Wilson Creek’s Decadencia Port.  While I wouldn’t say that Leonesse specializes in one type of wine, I do prefer their reds to their whites. 

The white Merlot, however, is deceiving.  It’s pink, which makes you think it’s a girly wine and will be sweet.  It’s actually not that sweet – not like a Riesling – but not dry and it’s refreshing.  I always buy Riesling and Muscat because I think I’ll sit on the patio during the summer drinking a cool wine, but I never do.  The white Merlot I could drink, and we did.  I wish we had bought more bottles of it.  It’s light on the tongue, with a hint of strawberry, and then it just trickles down your throat with no sourness or brash flavors.  It’s now my perfect summer wine.