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Municipal WinemakersJason and I stopped by the Municipal Winemakers tasting room on Saturday 2/20 to help celebrate the grand opening.  Judging by the crowd it was a resounding success.  Seriously…people were crammed into the tasting room like sardines.   We managed to squeeze our way in the door and then after many “excuse mes” made it to the table where the Municipal Winemakers 2008 Bright White was being poured.  This is a dry Riesling which would match well with ceviche, flip-flops and a casual, sunny Santa Barbara afternoon.    After this we tasted the Municipal Winemakers 2007  Bright Red which is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah – in the Cotes du Rhone style.    Next up was the Municipal Winemakers 2007  Dark Red which is a blend of Shiraz and Cabernet.  Winemaker Dave Potter used fruit from outstanding vineyards in order to make this wine.  The Cabernet Sauvignon is from Star Lane which just happens to be one of my favorite vineyards located in the newly created Happy Canyon AVA – (American Viticulture Area).   He also used Syrah from Tierra Alta and Fess Parker’s Camp Four vineyard.  Some Syrah made from Camp Four fruit have some interesting smoky undertones –  like the Consilience 2005  Syrah Camp Four Vineyard.    The Municipal Winemakers 2007 Dark Red is good wine for backyard barbeques.   Lastly, we tasted the Municipal Winemakers 2007 Fizz which is a sparkling Shiraz which is sealed with a crown cap like what you’d find on a soda bottle.  While this type of closure seems a bit unusual, it is actually fairly common in Australia where Potter learned quite a bit about making wine.

Winemaker Dave Potter

Municipal Winemaker Dave Potter

After this Jason and I managed to find Potter in this mob of people to congratulate him on the fabulous turn out.

Then we walked over to the Kunin/Westerly tasting room where we found enough space for the two of us at the bar.   I have a few favorites here.  First  the Kunin 2006 Viognier Stolpman Vineyard.  This is a classic Viognier with floral and apricot aromas.  On the palate it is soft and rich – truly a beautiful wine.  My other favorite is the Kunin 2007 Pape Star – this is a red blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah in the style of wines of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC in France.  Kunin’s Pape Star reminds me of  wines we tasted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC with Jason – back when the exchange rate wasn’t so bad.   We decided to taste a few wines, head to head from the Kunin library:  2001 Syrah Alisos Vineyard, 2003 Syrah Alisos Vineyard and 2004 Syrah Alisos Vineyard – almost a vertical flight.  The 2001 had more of a nose and oddly enough more fruit than the ’03 or the ’04.  The ’01  had flavors of black cherry, white pepper with some faint herbal notes on the finish.  The ’03 was a bit more reserved and featured less fruit and spice than the ’01.  The ’04 was the earthiest of the three wines and Jason thought it would be good with a cigar.   All in all a good day of wine tasting – and only 10 minutes from our house!

Library Vertical tasting at Kunin

Library "almost" Vertical tasting at Kunin: 2001, 2003, 2004 Syrah Alisos Vineyard

Margerum Wine CompanyThere are only a handful of days that the Margerum Wine Company is open to the public – the rest of the time it is open by appointment only.   February 13th was one of those public days, so my husband and I headed on down to the winery to go taste some vino.  We bumped into our neighbors Pamela and Albert who asked us to join them for dinner at the Ballard Inn.   Jason and I are big fans of chef Budi Kazali’s creative and flavorful menus so this was a welcome opportunity to go there with fellow foodies.   More on this later!

Here is the list of wines from the “official” tasting list of the day (which didn’t include all the surprise bottles that winemaker Doug Margerum  opened) and some comments:

2008 Margerum Chenin Blanc – light yellow color, crisp on the palate, flavors of white grapefruit – perfect wine for scallops and other seafood.

2008 Pinot Gris – fermented in 75% stainless steel and 25% barrel, high acid, lean wine

2006 Grenache – my husband Jason (a dedicated Grenache fan) really liked this one.  It is expressive, but not dark or big or high in alcohol.  It is subtle and would complement many foods…salmon or pork loin came to mind while tasting this wine.

2007 M5 – Jason and I have been fans of Doug Margerum’s M5 blend for many years.  The 2007 offering had some interesting notes of sasparilla that I don’t recall from previous vintages.  I’d recommend cellaring the 2007 M5 one 3-5 more years to increase the flavor integration.   While we were tasting the 2007 Doug opened up a bottle of the 2008 M5 which is scheduled to be released in mid March.  The 2008 is fruitier and very approachable now.  You can drink the 2008 M5 this one while you are cellaring your 2007.

2006 Syrah “Alisos Vinyard” – This is an absolutely beautiful Syrah from its color all the way the finish.  The only bad part was that so few bottles were made…only 50 cases.

2006 Syrah “Alondra De Los Prados Vineyard” – This was my favorite wine of the day – which is a high compliment because I tasted some beautifully made wines.  The Alondra De Los Prados Syrah or ADP as it is called for short, is actually 5% Viognier.  The Syrah and the Viognier are co-planted and co-fermented.  The resulting wine has some floral notes which Viognier is known for the Syrah takes center stage with its intensity and power.  Margerum recommends that this one be cellared for a few more years, but I will have a hard time keeping the corkscrew away from the case I bought.  Only 125 cases were produced, so I highly recommend ordering a few while you still can.

2006 Syrah “Black Oak Vineyard” – This was another great example of the fabulous Syrahs that Doug makes – mmmmm…black cherry and hints of anise.

2006 Syrah “Colson Canyon Vineyard” – Aromas of florals, cassis and anise with flavors of cherry, black plum and white pepper.  I bought a few of these to cellar for about 5 years.   If you’re into wine scores, Stephen Tanzer rated this one a 90.

2006 Syrah “Great Oaks Ranch Vineyard” – Wines made of fruit from Great Oaks tend to have spice characteristics that I really enjoy.  This intense wine offers flavors of anise, cracked pepper, coffee and black cherry.

2006 Syrah “Purisima Mountain Vineyard” – Flavors of cassis, dried cherries, black plum, blackberries and some earthy notes.   The finish was long and lovely!   Wine Spectator gave this wine 90 points.

2006 ÜBER Syrah – This is an extremely well planned wine.  Margerum sourced Syrah fruit from seven different vineyards, and then picked and co-fermented them over 45 days.    Then he blends in carefully selected barrels of single-vineyard Syrah – resulting in a powerful, dense wine.  This is one of my favorite Syrahs because there is so much going on in the glass – rich, powerful and layered.  Drink ÜBER and treat your mouth to an adventure.  =)

1995 Antinori Solaia - one of the most famous Super Tuscan wines in the world

1995 Antinori Solaia

There were a few other wines that we were able to taste that weren’t on the official list.   The most exciting one for me was the 1995 Antinori Solaia.  This is one of the most famous “Super Tuscan” wines in the world, made by the Antinori family who have been making wine for six centuries.   Needless to say it was a real treat to taste this wine!   It is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc. The years in the bottle were well spent, leaving soft, well-integrated tannins.  On the palate, flavors of blackberry, currant, boysenberry lead to a long and fruity finish.

The lineup for the evening.

The evening's lineup of wines.

After the event at the winery was wrapping up we headed over to Doug Margerum’s house to continue our wine tasting adventure.  (Thanks again for your hospitality Doug!)   Doug opened a number of wines from his collection including a 2001 Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  Châteauneuf-du-Pape happens to be one of my favorite wine-producing regions in the world.  Clearly this is my lucky day!

After enjoying Doug’s hospitality and  some really interesting conversations (“Hi” to Fisch and Blaine), Pamela, Albert, Jason and I headed over to Ballard Inn for dinner.   We ordered most of the appetizers – *all* were wonderful, but my favorites were the “winter turnip soup with duck confit and Fuji apple salad”, the “red roast Kurobata pork belly with Napa cabbage fondue” and the “panko crusted sweetbreads with Madeira sauce”.   It was hard to choose an entree because they all sounded so good.   The “pan seared duck breast with sweet potato puree and balsamic reduction” is what I usually order, but the “Australian rack of lamb with creamy farro, leeks, fennel and star anise glace” sounded amazing.  I eventually settled on the “crispy skin arctic char with roasted fingerling potatoes and horseradish nage”.   Everything was beautifully presented and incredibly flavorful!   Kazali’s food was the perfect ending to a decadent and fun-filled day!

Disco ball hung in the doorway to the Margerum Wine Company barrel room

Disco ball hung in the doorway to the Margerum Wine Company barrel room

Jason, Pamela and Tony in the barrel room at Margerum Wine Company

Jason, Pamela and Tony in the barrel room at Margerum Wine Company

The aftermath of some serious wine tasting at Margerum Wine Company

Who knew that pork cracklins pair so well with sparkling off-dry German Rieslings?

Pork cracklins + sparkling off-dry German Rieslings = Strangely wonderful wine/food pairing

Wine is good living.

The text on this painting from Doug Margerum's collection reads "wine is good living". I couldn't agree more.

Municipal Winemakers

2/20 tasting room grand opening 2pm-6pm

Don’t miss the grand opening of the Municipal Winemakers‘ tasting room 2/20/2010 from 2pm-6pm.  Taste some wine and enjoy h’ors d’oeuvres and wish winemaker Dave Potter congratulations!  The tasting room is located at 28 Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara.  It is located behind the Kunin/Westerly tasting room.  If you decide to go taste at Kunin/Westerly too, make sure you taste the 2007 Kunin Pape Star.   It is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Mourvèdre and 15% Syrah aged for 10 months in neutral oak barrels.  Enjoy!

A foodie friend of ours Lee from Vancouver was going to be in Los Angeles and called to see if we wanted to meet up for dinner at Animal a couple nights ago.  Jason and I haven’t seen Lee in a while and we love to try out new restaurants so we accepted the invitation.   There were 7 of us who ended up at Animal at 8:45pm on a Tuesday night.   As we waited for our table to open up, someone spotted Bobby Flay eating at a table near the bar.   That is a good sign…I figure Flay knows a little something about food.   Another good sign was a local who’d eaten there numerous times who was also waiting for a table absolutely gushing to us about the menu.  He listed about 6 things off the menu that we “had to order”.   I noticed that many of the tables were full in spite of the fact that it was late on a Tuesday – another good sign.   The restaurant was sparsely decorated…actually to call it “sparse” implies too much.  There were bare lightbulbs screwed into sockets on the walls and a couple of framed animal skulls hanging on the walls.  Clearly the decor won’t be distracting us from the food.   We were seated and started ordering almost immediately.   I was pleasantly surprised to see the 2008 Dragonette Rose (Grenache / Syrah) on the bottle list.  Dragonette is a premium quality, boutique winery located in Lompoc in an area affectionately called the “wine ghetto”.   They’re making some beautiful wines – we barrel tasted there a few months ago and I fell in love with a barrel of co-fermented Syrah and Viognier.   The rose was a perfect beginning to a fabulous meal!  We ended up ordering nearly everything on the menu – it was all outstanding!   Here is a photo of the menu for the evening that we were there.

Menu at Animal in Los Angeles

Menu at Animal: 435 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036 (323) 782-9225

We loved everything with the exception of the green garlic broth with grilled toast, but there were a few dishes that you really must order.  First and foremost, the barbeque pork belly sandwiches with slaw.  We ordered this dish three times over the course of the evening and each time when it arrived at the table, I wasn’t able to get my camera out quickly enough to snap a photo before the food was devoured!  Suffice it to say it was amazing – especially with the bottle of 2005 Anjou Chateau Perray Jouannet (a red blend dominated by Cabernet Franc).   Another dish that went too fast for me to get a photo was the pig ear with chili, lime and fried egg.  I like bacon – alot- however pig ear sounded more like something my dogs would enjoy.  After tasting the saltiness of the pig’s ear countered by the tart acid of the lime juice , I won’t be sharing this with my dogs, ever.  Wow – this was really good!  Also, the rabbit loin with parsnip, pear mostarda and Benton’s bacon was fabulous (this dish and the barbeque pork belly sandwiches were my two absolute favorites of the evening).   Skatewing isn’t something you see on menus in the United States much – this preparation with collards, rutabaga and grainy mustard was wonderful.  We ordered two of these because the other side of the table kept hoarding the skate.  Skatehoarding is not a crime!   😉  Sorry, I just had to say it.  If you are into foie gras, Animal offers some really creative and very tasty versions.  a) Foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy and b) foie gras loco moco with quail egg, spam and hamburger.  Both were out of this world!    By the time we got to the end of the meal we were all too full for dessert…this fact wasn’t enough to stop us from ordering every dessert on the menu.  The tres leches with dulche de leche was rich and sweet – my husband gave it two thumbs up.  I was partial to the bacon chocolate crunch bar with s&p anglaise…bacon, chocolate and anglaise.  Need I say more?  Joe’s doughnuts with cinnamon sugar and caramel were also very good and so was the panna cotta with saba (which I learned is a sweet reduction of grape must).   Ultimately, I cannot do the food at Animal justice with words and photos…you simply *must* go there.   Better yet, go with a group so you can order the whole menu!

Foie gras loco moco quail egg spam hamburger

Foie gras loco moco quail egg spam hamburger

Sweetbreads, creamed spinach and hen of the woods mushrooms

Sweetbreads, creamed spinach and hen of the woods mushrooms

Melted Petit Basque with chorizo and grilled bread

Melted Petit Basque with chorizo and grilled bread

Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar

Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar - Poutine ("poutine québécoise") is French Canadian comfort food.

Skatewing with collards, rutabaga and grainy mustard

Skatewing with collards, rutabaga and grainy mustard - Skate hoarding is not a crime. 😉

2008 Dragonette Rose

2008 Dragonette Rose and Animal's by the glass list

Foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy

Foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy

Rabbit loin with parsnip, pear mostarda and Benton's bacon

Rabbit loin with parsnip, pear mostarda and Benton's bacon

Sallie, Michael and Maggie - Note the incriminating balsamic barbeque sauce on Michael's fingers from the pork ribs. 🙂

Liz wonders who ordered the vegetables as she eyes the balsamic glazed pork ribs.

Liz wonders who ordered the vegetables as she eyes the balsamic glazed pork ribs.

Happy Birthday Lee!

Happy Birthday Lee!

On the way out to Los Olivos for a wine tasting event, we stopped at Brander.  I’d served Brander’s 2008 Purisima Sauvignon Blanc at a wine dinner a few weeks ago.  I’d been meaning to come back to buy more ever since.  One of the guests at the wine dinner, a self-proclaimed “reds only” guy, tasted it and said “I’ve been wrong about white wine my whole life”.   Truly a high compliment – and a worthy wine.  Many Sauvignon Blancs, especially those with aromatics of grass or “cat pee”, are totally lost on me.  This Sauvignon Blanc has heady floral aromatics and a great balance of fruit and acid.  It will be a great match for seafood!   In addition to the Purisima Sauvignon Blanc we tasted a number of other wines from Brander.  The 2008 Cuvee Nicolas, a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon, was another well balanced white from Brander.  It spent 5 months in neutral French oak before it was bottled.  It is slightly rounded on the palate, though it still has good acidity.   An all-around great food wine!   We also tasted some of Brander’s red wines.  The 2008 Brander Merlot is really wonderful with flavors of black cherries and chocolate.  It only spent 5 months in French and American oak – so the flavor of the fruit really shine.  Priced at $20 a bottle (or $216 a case), this wine is an incredible value – lots of bang for the buck!    Another great red is the 2007 Brander Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Even though it is young, there is already fabulous flavor integration and it is drinking well now.  I grabbed a few of these so that I can have Cabernet to drink while I am waiting for my Napa Cabs to sufficiently age.  =)

Bob Lindquist, Ethan Lindquist and Paige Lindquist

Bob Lindquist, Ethan Lindquist and Paige Lindquist

After Brander we headed to Los Olivos to the Qupe tasting room where winemaker Bob Lindquist lead a tasting of all the wines that Qupe makes from the Bien Nacido Vineyard.  It was an impressive lineup of whites and reds:

2008 Qupe Bien Nacido Cuvee – this is a blend of 50% Chardonnay/50% Viognier.  Qupe has been making this blend since 1992.  For this blend the Chardonnay fruit is picked underripe and the Viognier is picked slightly overripe – resulting in good structure, freshness and balance.

2008 Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido Y Block – This wine is made from fruit picked at varying times which means that the wine is both crisp (from earlier picked fruit – at 21 brix) and lush (from later picked fruit – at 25 brix).

2007 Qupe Chardonnay Bien Nacido Reserve Block 11 – This Chardonnay has 22% Roussanne blended into it which gives the wine headier aromatics.   Bob Lindquist says that “this wine can age beautifully for 10-15 years.”

2007 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – Roussanne is a challenging grape on many different levels.  It is difficult to grow well and it is also challenging in the cellar.  This wine is fermented and aged in barrels that were used once for Chardonnay.   This year’s vintage is more crisp and minerally than past vintages and should develop into a more complex wine over time.

2006 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – Named “Best New World Wine” by Decanter magazine, this is a perfectly balanced 100% Roussanne grown in Block 10 of Bien Nacido.  The vines are Tablas Creek clones; these are originally from Chateau de Beaucastel in the Chateauneuf du Papes.

2000 Qupe Roussanne Bien Nacido Vineyard – At 10 years of age, this balanced wine is drinking really beautifully.  The fruit for this wine was the first crop off of a custom planting at Bien Nacido.  It was fermented and aged in one year old Francois Freres French oak barrels (that had been used once for Chardonnay) for 15 months.

2007 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido – 3% of the Syrah fruit was sourced from the new Sawyer-Lindquist Vineyard.  The weather during fruit set was very windy, which caused yields to be low and increased the intensity of the flavors.   Lindquist says that this one can be cellared for 8-12 years.

2006 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate – The fruit for this Syrah is from a 5 acre southwest facing slope called Z block.  This block is farmed organically to Qupe’s specifications.  This is Qupe’s 20th vintage of Syrah.

2006 Qupe Syrah 25th Anniversary Bien Nacido X Block – The block where this fruit was grown is farmed biodynamically by the Bien Nacido team.  Lindquist used 50% whole clusters in the fermentation which adds layers of spice and complexity.  He made this wine specifically to cellar – he says you can lay this one down for 20-25 years.

1999 Qupe Syrah Bien Nacido Hillside Estate –  Lauded by critics (96 points from Wine & Spirits magazine) since its release in 2002, this wine is drinking beautifully in 2010 with flavors of fruit, spice and smoke.  1999 was rainy and cold and the grapes ripened very slowly.  In fact, the grapes for this wine were harvested on November 18 at 22.5 degrees brix – later than any other Qupe vintage to date.

Lindquist was clearly in his element pouring wine with help from son Ethan and daughter Paige.   After we tasted through the entire list of wine, Lindquist told stories.  He said that Paige’s first word as a child was “cheese”.   Of course!    We also played a few rounds of 1960’s music “name that tune”.   Jason and I didn’t recognize a single song; sadly we didn’t win any wine.  Oh well, we didn’t go home empty handed – we picked up a few bottles of the 2007 Qupe Central Coast Syrah, 2006 Qupe Syrah Alisos Vineyard (one of my favorites!) and the 2007 Qupe Grenache Purisima Mountain Vineyard.

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