Five Days…How Many Wineries?

A wonderful selection of wines from the central coast.
Day 1 – Paso Robles
: Winding roads, beautiful views…every taste was delicious. Yep, that sums it up!

Adelaida CellarsFirst vinery, every single sip was delicious! Great place to start out a five day tasting tour. Of course, it was also fun to taste a few sips off the tasting menu (and take a bottle home).

Dauo Vineyard: A recently opened tasting room. Breathtaking views with a great list of wines. We went home with a bottle, of course. And, we will come back. With a picnic to enjoy.

Tasting list included: ’10 Chardonnay, ’10 Grenache Blanc, ’10 Chemin de Fleurs, ’08 Petite Sirah, ’09 Zinfandel, ’09 Celestus (blend of Sirah, Cab, Petite Verdot), ’09 Micho (named for winemaker’s sister; a Merlot & Cab cab blend), ’09 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Day 2 – Arroyo Grande, San Luis Obispo: Perfect sunny day for Chardonnay tasting

Laetitia: What a great place to start (especially since she asked for my ID!)

  • Sparkling: ’08 Brut de Blanc, ’06 Brut Coquard, ’07 Cuvée M, Brut Cuvée
  • White: ’09 Barnwood Grenache Blanc, ’09 Barnwood Roussanbe
  • Pinot Noir: ’10 Pinot Noir, ’10 Estate Pinot Noir, ’10 Reserve du Domaine
  • Red: ’09 Barnwood GSM Blend, ’09 Barnwood Temparillo; ’09 Nadia (Cab), ’09 Barnwood Trio

Baileyana &  TangentA great little place in the Edna Valley set in a little old school house and filled with fun shopping. Of course, the wines were good, but not our favorites.

Edna Valley: Maybe my favorite place for Chardonnay…maybe it was helped by the view. The tastes I enjoyed and got to bring home:

In the vineyard, the grapes were allowed extended time on the vine in order to develop appealing fruit and floral aromas, nuances of rose petal, orange blossom and Meyer lemon.  By avoiding malolactic fermentation and aging for a short time in older French barrels, we preserved the natural acidity of the grape, keeping this wine fresh and crisp.

This barrel select Chardonnay shows ripe and tropical flavors of peach, tangerine, and citrus. Aged 11 months in French oak barrels other flavors of baking spice, honey, sweet caramel oak and clove abound. A mouth-filling viscous wine with a long finish and refreshing acidity is sure to impress the Chardonnay aficionado.

Other tastes included: ’09 Pinot Noir, ’09 Zinfandel, ’09 Grenache, ’09 Petit Verdot

Tolosa Winery
My favorites where the ‘o9 No Oak Chardonnay (super balanced and light citrus) and the ’09 Grenache Noir o9 (a pure purple delight with notes of berry, floral tones and a little sage). But my real favorite was the flyer for their wine and cheese pairing over the weekend: Humboldt County…”Where the men are weak and the cheese is strong”.

Day 3 – The Coast: Just by luck, we found wineries when we were headed to a castle. Who knew?

Cayucos Cellars: On the way to Hearst Castle, we needed to kill some time. We stopped in a little seaside town, found a parking spot and looked up to see a winery. It is 11 a.m. so they just opened for us! Many Zin’s, a nice dessert wine and we walked out with more wine to add to our collection. Plus, the funniest photo of a wine maker was posted in their tasting room (and it looked nothing like the real wine maker when he arrived in the middle of our tasting).

Moonstone:  I could blog just about our experience here. We went for a taste, left and hour after closing after making many new great friends with the dozen or so locals hanging out (and a few others in town to taste). Of course, over the two plus hours, we tasted some bottles more than twice. And we brought home the ’09 Tempranillo and ’09 Cabernet Franc.

Odd fact of the day: Voignier comes from the “road to hell” in that they were a challenge to grow – about 350 B.C.

Day 4 – Back to Paso and focused on Zin.

We roll up to Zin Alley, ready for our first stop (a suggestion from one of our new Moonstone friends). The first sign read “Hippies enter around back” and then the next sign read “holler, in the vineyard”. We knew this was going to be  good! And it was fabulous!

And the wine maker sent us over to Caliza and Booker. Booker sells out of their wines early every year, and they are just opening their wine for the upcoming year. Solid wines that should age well. Caliza suggested checking out what Brian Benson was doing with his Zin blends. Actually, my favorite part of this tasting was the painted wine bottles.

Odd fact of the day: Counoise translates as “the forgotten grape”.

And then we found our favorite winery. Le Cuvier. Sip after delicious sip. We wanted to taste again! I must admit I joined my first wine club. Took two bottles home. Can’t wait for my first shipment in March.

Then we headed to Halter Ranch, a place we almost made it to on Day 1. The grounds were so amazing, I had to go back. Older farm house with amazing architectural details. Tablas Creek Vineyard finished up our day as the sun set and lit up the hills with rich, warm colors. And we picked up another bottle great for every day drinking.

Day 5 – Heading North with a final “layover” in Paso. 

J Lohr: I have to say this was the most surprising place to taste. I have picked up many J. Lohr bottles at my local store to enjoy every day. It was fabulous to learn that they have two boutique lines: the J. Lohr Gesture  and the J. Lohr Vineyard Series. And, wow, some great wines in both lines!

Gesture: ’09 Zinfandel

Vineyard Series: ’10 Carol’s Vineyard Sauvignon Bland, ’10 October Night Chardonnay, ’08 Arroyo Viast Chardonnay, ’08 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon, ’05 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon, ’08 Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and ’09 Tower Road Petite Sirah

The most fun was tasting the ’05 and ’08 Hilltop Cab in a head-to-head taste. Seeing how the ’05 matured was fabulous…and worth bringing home at least a bottle.

Graveyard: Our final tasting place was filled with good wines and witty illiterations. Our favorite tastes included:

  • Tombstone White – a four white aromatic blend
  • Tombstone Red – perfect red bland – do we need to order a case? Maybe.
  • ’08 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – an incredible bottle
  • Deliverance – a premium port touched with chocolate – never thought chocolate and wine could be that delicious

The cliff notes:

  • Total days: 5
  • Total wineries: 18
  • New bottles brought home: 26

2007 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

On our Walla Walla trip, I was blown away by by a bottle of Cab from Tero Estates just before we left town. We finally drank it! For the birthday dinner. My birthday dinner.

2007 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Tero Estate

This Cabernet is the result of blending the fruit from five outstanding Walla Walla Valley vineyards.  Windrow, Dwelley, LaTour, Les Collines and Spofford Station. From an early age, this wine has shown complexity, and continues to evolve.Baker’s chocolate, orange zest, grapefruit, blueberries, black pepper and a hint of cigar leaf finish with huckleberry.

83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot.

And for dinner, my request was my Mom’s homemade potato rolls, roast, mashed potatoes and gravy. Followed by the best blackberry pie and ice cream. Yum!

2010 Predator

An old vine Zin, the 2010 Predator has gorgeous deep ruby color (don’t know how many times I swirled my glass up to the light), very fruitty and strong aromas filled my noes and then lingered across my taste buds. Yum!

And the winemaker says: Our second vintage of Predator is a rich ruby color – an intense wine with juicy fruits, spice and silky smooth tannins.

Bright Aromas: Bing cherry, blackberry jam, French vanilla, and white pepper.

Big Flavors: Blackberry, spicy white pepper, French vanilla and spearmint.

Devour with bbq ribs or pasta with spicy sausage!

Roast, Part Duex

When I am 2,000 miles from home, it isn’t often that I choose to re-visit a restaurant (to be honest I didn’t choose this time, but I didn’t turn down the invite either). Plus, the one makes Bailie JEALOUS!

I return to Michael Symon’s Roast.


2008 Victor Hugo Cabernet Sauvignon Intense aromas of black cherry and chocolate with wisps of spice are complimented by a background of subtle oak. Rich flavors with layers of large, soft tannins interlocking with complex oak tannins for a long, elegant finish.


Scallops cauliflower, almonds, raisin brown butter – Light and refreshing way to start knowing the heavier food was coming!
Beef Tartare cold poached egg, avocado, lime & crostini – Of course, I had to try to bite (or two).
Beef Cheek Pierogie horseradish & mushrooms – Worthy of a good plate licking, this pierogie will make my mouth water for days!!!


Although I was surrounded by roast beast of the day and large steaks, I choose to dine on something more unique. Something that I wouldn’t get just anywhere.

Seared Duck Breast farro, swiss chard, golden raisins

It took a bit of decision making to decide on this plate. But the staff confirmed my pick. The best bite was the one that I could get all four components in one mouthful. The combination of flavors and textures – DEVINE.


Rosemary Fries – If I had more time in town, I would come back for a beer and an order of these fries!
Whipped Potatoes – Only a small scoop was needed. So creamy, I think the potato to butter ratio is 2:1.
Fried Brussels Sprouts – The only way I want to eat brussels sprouts from here until I die. ONLY time I have ever wanted more. 

Dessert Selections

Beer & Pretzels Guiness ice cream, chocolate pretzels, caramel foam

Covered with a pile of caramel foam, I think I took three bites from the beer mug before I got to the ice cream layer. I thought it was good until I hit the ice cream. It is a whole new level of good when you get a bite with all three textures and flavors. The crunch of the chocolate covered pretzel, the cool and very creamy guiness ice cream and then the sweet caramel. YUM!

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Of course, each course was accompanied by red wine. I could have skipped eating for two (or three) days. Although I didn’t.

The location:

Roast | 1128 Washington Blvd. | Detroit, Michigan 48226 | 313.961.2500 | Website

2009 Oakville Zinfandel

Just one word needed…FABULOUS! I like the fruitiness of this 100% zin – and that the taste lingers long.

The winemakers notes…

At Oakville Winery we strive to produce wines that represent our land and its heritage. Our 2009 Zinfandel exhibits flavors of berry, black cherry, juicy plum, spices; such as pumpkin pie spices and lightly cooked pear. In addition; there is a subtle hint of coffee as well. On the palate this Zinfandel is medium bodied with soft tannins, it is supple well balanced and has a delicious lingering taste. This Zinfandel is like a chameleon, in the glass it is constantly changing. A food friendly style, this wine will pair well with pork and lamb dishes; as well as BBQ meat served with a hot and tangy sweet sauce. Aged 12 months in a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak barrels, 50% new.

Next time I am in Napa, Oakville will be a must stop!  


Champagne Lesson #2

To follow the traditional started at Mercer 10 last month, I was schedule for another night of palate retraining. Hoping to overturn the red wine taste buds and replace them with champagne ones.

This time the six flights of champagne were poured at Pike & Western. But first, dinner was enjoyed (devoured) at Seatown.  All six were again grower champagnes (Grand Cru) from France. The first two glasses were even poured by a French man.

Instead of talking about each of the six tastes, I am going to focus on just the best one. The Le Brun Severnay.

Most information online talks about the wine maker. Facts like “Patrick Le Brun is a fastidious producer whose Champagnes are classic examples of Avize terroir,” “Founded in 1933, with 8 hectares of vineyards predominantly in Avize with some Cramant and Oger.”  Or stories like where the writer first tasted a bottle of Le Brun. Visits to the Le Brun estate. They export very little champagne.

My opinion: Generally the bubbles tickle a bit. This time they were smoother. Even smoother on the second taste.

And the tasting was followed by dessert at Pink Door.

2007 Kestrel Raptor Red

What better way to finish off  Thanksgiving evening but with a great bottle of red wine. This signature edition wine from Kestrel was delicious! The deep, rich red color filled by my glass. My palate loved the rich fruit flavors. It was perfect with a dark chocolate covered red velvet cake ball.

Kestrel’s Notes…

The Winemaking
Raptor Red is our flagship wine.  Each vintage Dirk, my assistant winemaker, and I choose the six finest barrels from the cellar.  We blend these together to create the best that the vintage has to offer.  In 2007 we chose to blend two barrels of Kestrel Vineyards Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, two barrels of Kestrel Vineyards Malbec, one barrel of Olsen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and one barrel of Olsen Vineyards Cabernet Franc.  The resulting Bordeaux style blend created a superior wine with unbelievable depth and breadth.  This old world creation is velvety smooth and bursting with ripe fruit flavors.

The Wine
The color is intense black cherry, finishing to black at its core.  The aroma is supported by generous quantities of sweet black cherries, blackberries, black currants, blueberry jam, and elderberry.  The fruit elements are perfectly balanced with dried herbs, tea, clove, nutmeg, cigar box, cocoa, cedar and a hint of floral.  This wine has exceptionally rich flavors, complemented by ample body, velvety smooth tannins and a lingering finish.

The Joel Palmer House

Another night, another FABULOUS dinner.

Tonight was rainy and cold, a night you want to curl up in bed and eat frozen pizza, curled up with a good book. Instead, we headed south to Dayton. A town of maybe 1,000 people. And the home to The Joel Palmer House. Where the menu focused on mushrooms. Even giving you the option of a multiple course mushroom meal.

Their website introduction summarizes: Experience an internationally-inspired menu of WILD MUSHROOM DISHES paired with FINE WINE in the comfort of a HISTORIC OREGON WINE COUNTRY HOME.

Of course, we had to indulge in “Mushroom Madness”…

Chef Christopher’s

Mushroom Madness Menu

This tasting menu is a selection of the best that the Joel Palmer House has to offer. Three generations of Czarnecki chefs have dishes represented and mushrooms are integrated into nearly every course, including dessert! Since our menu is focused strongly on wild mushrooms I recommend Pinot Noir to accompany your meal and our sommelier is happy to assist you with a selection.

 Amuse – Wild Mushroom Risotto with house-made Oregon White Truffle Oil and Parmesan Reggiano

 Matsutake Mushroom Chowder and Joe’s Wild Mushroom Soup

 Oregon White Chanterelles in Bacon Cream over Puff Pastry

 Heidi’s Three Mushroom Tart – this tart is the essence of what wild mushrooms are all about and has been on the menu for over 30 years

We added the Pinot-Noir Poached Torchon of Foie Gras 

 Sorbet – Concord Grape with Rosemary

 Marinated Sturgeon – over Quinoa with Wild Mushrooms and Cayenne Aioli

 Filet Mignon – Painted Hills Oregon Beef with porcini, Schezwan Pepper and veal demi-glace

 Trio of Candy Cap Mushroom Desserts

 Selection of House-Made Chocolate Truffles

We accompanied the meal with a bottle of Pinot Noir selected from over 500 bottles (of Pinot Noir) on their wine list. We enjoyed a Ken Wright Cellars 2007 Pinot Noir from Canary Hill Vineyards. The critical acclaim:

“Deep red. Smoky raspberry and cherry-cola aromas are complemented by dusty spices and herbs. Fleshy red and dark berry flavors boast very good concentration and good nervy cut. Offers a suave blend of depth and energy, with excellent finishing clarity and lingering sweetness. ”
— 91 Points, International Wine Cellar

The Location:

The Joel Palmer House | 600 Ferry St. | Dayton, OR | Website

Paley’s Place

We arrived in PDX in time for a evening out in Northwest Portland. It was a perfect evening to stroll through a few shops on 23rd before dining at Paley’s.


Brick House – Les Dijonnais – 2009 Pinot Noir


George’s Gathered Greens, Lemon, Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Taste of Three

Chicken Liver Pâté
Pork & Cherry Terrine
Oregano & Garlic Salami

Wild Mushroom & Delicata Squash Risotto, Parmesan & Smoked Marrow Butter
Fall Vegetable & Heirloom Bean Cassoulet

Brussel Sprouts, House Bacon & Créme Fraiche

{dessert menu}

Our Classic Warm Chocolate Soufflé Cake toasted hazelnuts, honey-vanilla ice cream

Every course was F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S! We were so satisfied when we headed out that we missed picking up their cookbook. Thankfully, Powell’s Bookstore was a short walk from our hotel. And, we can’t wait to test out a recipe (or two).

The location:

Paley’s Place | 1204 Northwest 21st Avenue | Portland, OR 97209 | 503.243.2403 | Website

Champagne Tasting

I admit it. I am a red wine drinker. Most people who know me, know that.

However, one person is trying to open my mind (or palate) to champagne. It is starting to work a little bit. {{At least I don’t just get annoyed by the bubbles. I am starting to taste actual notes when I drink it. Before the bubbles just tickled my nose and my palate, masking the ability to notice anything else.}}

Tonight we tasted three champagnes. All grower champagnes from the Champagne region of France. {{There is a fancy French word for grower champagnes, however French words have never rolled off my tongue (way too much time as a Spanish student).}}

  • Pierre Peters N/V Brut Cuvee de Reserve – I like the appley flavors in this one. Made me want some dark chocolate caramels to eat along with it.
  • Gaston Chiquet N/V Brut Tradition Carte Verte – My least favorite; it was sharper in flavor. The bubbles maybe bothered me a bit.
  • Margaine N/V Brut Rose – This one was my favorite. It was fruity, but not the way a red wine can be fruity. The flavors lasted much longer.
The other thing that is a bit fun about champagnes is the producer/growers don’t get all caught up in the vintage. They mix and match as they want to. Which actually sounds more complicated than making wine. But maybe not.
For now, my major breakthrough about champagne is that I can drink it without mixing it with orange juice. Progress? I’ll leave that to you to decide.