Austin Hope Winery, Big sur, Big Sur CA, biscuits, CA, California, dessert, Family, Firestone Walker Brewery, Food, Foodie, Pismo Beach, Red Wine, Road, Road trip, Travel, Treana Wines, West Coast, Wine, Wine Tasting
* Disclaimer This is a food and drink trip.
Monday: We leave Carmel Valley around 10 AM and head towards Paso Robles where we have a great lunch, meet some fine people and experienced delicious beer at the Firestone Walker Tap Room and Brewery.
Then it was onto Pismo Beach. After settling into our hotel room (Inn at the Pier) we took a little (read nap) break before venturing out for a frozen yogurt snack at Pismo Yogurt. Need to keep the strength up for walking around Pismo Beach, which is a pretty cute place with funky shops and lots of places to eat and drink. Dinner was at the Oyster Loft, excellent raw seafood and a fun, lively atmosphere even for a Monday night.
After dinner we walked back to the hotel and had a night cap with a slice of decadent chocolate torte with ice cream. We were able to try a 2017 Treana Cabernet Sauvignon, which really brought out the rich chocolate flavors of our dessert. It was a little tight at first, but when it was swirled and it got some oxygen it opened up and was impressive even at its’ very young age. It was definitely sweet dreams for us. Snore.
Tuesday: Next morning we strolled to Beachin’ Biscuits for a hearty breakfast. This place is so cute and the biscuits are heavenly. A former nurse decided to follow her cooking passion and opened up this lovely restaurant and the locals and tourists couldn’t be more delighted. Totally scrumptious biscuits and other breakfast delights.
Even if you’re eating low carb or keto you can leave satisfied here. They have excellent scrambled (if you don’t want them with cheese, you need to let the staff know when ordering) eggs, bacon, sausage and linguica, not to mention potatoes if you’re yearning for something other than biscuits. Very good coffee, cappuccino, mocha ,etc. also help get the brain fog cleared. To go available.
Breakfast done, we were rolling out of town and decided to got to Treana, which is actually a label belonging to Hope Family Wines.
Seriously folks, this is the best! Amazing hospitality and magnificent wines! (Interview coming soon) .
We continued down 46 West to the coast and drove north to Cambria for lunch at Linn’s
Do not miss their Oallalieberry pie, it’s legendary! I have to have mine with McConnell’s Vanilla ice cream and then all is right with the world. The food is delicious, they even have good salads and burgers!
Hwy 1 going North or South right now is under a lot of construction and there are a lot of one way closures, landslides and other stuff that may make some drivers wary . If you do take Hwy 1 from Big Sur down south just be prepared to wait and drive the speed limit, nj. (no joke) But that didn’t stop us, oh no, we just rolled along until it was time for a break and a class of wine and a beer at Ventana, which is ALSO under construction. Their parking lot, to be exact. But the views are inspiring and it’s a perfect place to hang out for the afternoon and soak in the air, the Big Sur vibe and chill.
We finally made it home and are getting ready for the next road trip!
This is a wonderful and refreshing interview with the winemaker of De Tierra Vineyards, as Zack is so humble and yet he is an extraordinary winemaker. We met at the tasting room in Carmel, CA. Zack points to a map of the Russell Vineyard and refers to the grapes as we talk and taste our way through at least seven wines (background noise is people enjoying the wines!).
Click here to listen to the recorded interview.
On Sunday I entered Mercy Wines tasting room with an open mind and left knowing I had tasted some incredible wines made from grapes sourced from local Arroyo Seco vineyards. They’re really doing some delicious and interesting palates and focusing on a traditional representation of the varietals. I think you’ll love these wines. I had the good fortune to meet one of the owners, Mark Dirickson and Sean, the manager.
Mark Dirickson and his partner Mike Kohne are both vintners with long careers in the wine industry (45 years between them) and they have settled into making small production, finely crafted wines, with esteemed winemaker Alan Phillips. Right up my alley. On the day I was there they offered seven wines for tasting. We began with the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite varietals and one that has been too often made to be pretty generic. Not this S.B.; the grapes are from the dry Riverbed and uses the underutilized Musque clone. Fermented in Stainless steel it is crisp, tropical, and has fragrances of ripe melons, bergamot , citrus blossoms and of course a distinct minerality delivered from the Riverbed.
Next we tried the 2009 Chardonnay form the Zabala vineyard. It was my favorite due to the smooth mouth feel, well balanced acidity, round oak and the pear, butterscotch, crème brûlée flavor aromas. Absolutely deliciously mouthwatering. A Chardonnay not to be missed.
The 2012 Riverbed Chardonnay, which Mark explained is actually a riverbed vineyard of the most forboding rock and brutal ground you would ever find. The meager, nutrient-deficient topsoil which feature cobblestone beds of granite and shale, the locale of the riverbed channel also is noted for its extreme climate, as forceful winds and dense fog persist throughout the growing season. I cannot even imagine growing anything in such a barren place, let alone such amazing wine. Obviously it is very low yield and small cluster so they really get a rare product from this challenging vineyard. It is a combination of the Zabala and Griva vineyards and has a wonderful acidity, bright tart apples, citrus, some spice and the minerality characteristic of the landscape. Refreshing and delightful.
There are also three Pinot Noirs on the menu now, the 2009 Zabala, the 2010 Cedarlane and the 2012 Riverbed. Each one is distinct in personality, flavor profile and style. I tasted the 2009 Zabala first, it features the 115 and 667 clones, classic in Dijon. It is fermented and aged in French oak and has rich boysenberry, black cherry and earthy notes, with some spice and musk.
After that came the 2010 Cedarlane a very classic Pinot Noir that is 50/50 Pommard and 667 clones. Again fermented in small bins and then aged in French oak, it is succulent and elegant with cranberry, raspberry, and winter spice notes.
The final Pinot Noir is, interestingly, a sophisticated blend of several clones, namely – three “Dijon” clones (115, 667 & 777) and three classic clones (Pommard (4), Martini (13) and La Tache – all join together in harmony to celebrate Pinot Noir. This has loads of cherry, rhubarb, violets and spices notes that all marry well in a delicious mouth with a luscious finish.
Finally, the 2009 Syrah from the rocky Zabala vineyard is a blend of three clones, the 7, 470 and 877. It is aged 21 months in neutral French oak. It has a beautiful creamy quality and notes of raspberry, plums, lavender and chocolate, with a rich and velvety finish.
I recommend you check out Mercy Wines.
One unseasonably lovely Sunday in February we sat down with winemaker-elf Rick Hutchinson at his winery, Amphora Wines, in the Dry Creek region of Sonoma and proceeded to go on a wine wild ride. He was incredibly generous with his time and his wine; and we were blown away.
Even though there are constant demands for his attention and advice, he still managed to focus and really be present when speaking about his extraordinary wines and describing the terrior, the soil and the foundation for his wine making philosophy and style.
We tasted right in the room where all the wine magic happens. Amid French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, we sat at a table with a white table cloth and embarked on an unparalleled wine adventure.
The first wine we tasted was a 2009 Chardonnay from Peter’s Vineyard (the palate prep) in the Russian River Valley. Aged in French Oak, the wine has a rich full smooth feel on the tongue (some call that buttery) with just the right amount of acidity and the delicious flavors of stone fruits and apples. Nectarines and peaches come forth especially creating a bouquet of luscious warm scent. The soil at Peter’s Vineyard, Rick explained is loamy and sandy, giving notes of flint and minerality to the wine balancing and giving it depth. It is no surprise that this wine took the Gold Medal at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine competition.
Next we had the 2009 Pinot Noir, also from Peter’s Vineyard. This is a classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a delicious berry palate; really definitive of the Pommard clones. Even though there are these distinctly strawberry and cassis flavors the wine still has a backbone and a fullness that is so desirable.
It was followed by another 2009 Pinot Noir, this one from the Sapphire Vineyard. A 777 clone depicts an apparent difference from the previous Pinot, coming from the location of the vines, the climate, as well as the soil. This Sapphire Vineyard wine was bright with raspberry fruits had a drier quality with some hint of rubber note that was so interesting but not repelling at all.
Rick definitely has a true artist’s heart and this is what he listens with in the whole creative process of wine making. For him it is an entirely organic process, unfolding and developing as the grapes grow and mature and then are harvested and the fermentation and aging begins. They are the canvas that the wine takes shape on.
The 2009 Lakeville Vineyard Pinot Noir is a clone combination of 777 and the Pommard (50% each). The soil base there is marine and saltier resulting in a delicious jammy fruit forward, superbly rich and smooth wine. The fruits are fermented separately and blended 50/50 according to Rick’s taste profile.
Three Pinot Noirs, three distinct wines. All wonderful.
From Pinot Noir we went to the Land of Spain for the Grenache or Granacha grape and sample the 2011 Clarksburg Grenache. It is a newer grape for Rick along with the Mourvedre, Syrah and Alicante Bouchet he’s using now. This wine wakes you up with ripe, tart berries and silky smooth mouth feel, well structured tannins support and balance the substantial fruit profile.
Rick is also passionate about showcasing the characteristics and personality of the grapes in each wine. No grape is ignored. Like the grapes, these wines are highly individual and fascinating in their own ways.
He then brought out the 2009 Carignane, from the Forchini vineyard. These are very old vines and are dry farmed (meaning they are watered sparingly) to produce the most concentrated of flavors. Here almost cotton candy like tastes mesmerize in this deliciously creamy, low acid wine. Open tank top fermentation employed.
The 2010 Merlot from Timber Crest Vineyard has wonderful floral notes in the nose and the intense berry flavors were fresh tasting and mouth watering. It is structured and it finishes so nicely with vanilla and soft spice.
Cabernet Sauvignon has been, in my opinion, really over produced and has lost some of it’s uniqueness but not Amphora’s 2007 Clone 7 from Dry Creek Vineyard. It is a fabulous and complex wine, giving the taster a complete experience of distinct dark fruit, tobacco and violets with a strong but not overwhelming tannic foundation.
The 2010 Barbera from the Heringer Vineyard was iconic with rich brambley, chocolate, currant and dried fruits. As always with Rick’s wines the tannins are so well structured and balanced that even in the Cabernet and this Barbera they do not overtake the wine.
Next Rick brought out the 2011 Tempranillo from the very established Heringer Vineyard in Clarksburg. Tempranillo is a gorgeous grape and this is an elegant, perfectly balanced wine with tart fruit, crisp clean flavors and medium tannins. He never takes a rape for granted and this is so evident in this Tempranillo.
Comparatively the 2011 Mourvedre has raspberry and red berry flavors with a lovely mouth feel and balanced tannic structure.
Rick affectionately calls the 2009 Teroldago, also from the Heringer Vineyard, “Black Beauty” due to it’s prominent black fruit flavors, black berries, dark, dried sweet cherries, and gorgeous inky color. It’s just amazingly delicious and for a grape that is rarely produced in California, probably a huge hit.
The 2008 Cabernet Franc from the Pedroni Vineyard was also expectedly pleasing with Cherry Coke flavors and a vanilla richness that I kept tasting long after the last drop was gone.
Following that we had a 2010 Petit Verdot from the A. Forchini Vineyard. This is a sophisticated wine with dark cherry, black currants and plum flavors on the onset, then it opens up with herbal flavors, white pepper and barrel aroma. A grown up wine with powerful fruit and a strong tannic structure. Not for whimps.
My boyfriend then casually asked Rick what was his oldest vintage or first wine and Rick immediately scampered off and returned with a 1998 Syrah. He opened it and before it really had time to breathe we tasted it. The first taste was disappointing; it tasted like old hay and seemed flat. But then Rick, who had run away again, arrived with a platter of gorgeous sliced Italian salumeria, cheeses and bread. After eating we tasted the wine again and magically it had transformed!!! It was incredible. It was rich and flavorful, the delicate dark berry flavors had come out, there was complexity, forest flavors and the tannins suddenly woke up. This was the most educational tasting I had ever been to.
But wait!!! There’s more!. …I know!!!
After that incredible tour de force Rick began introducing his Zinfandels. The first was the 2009 Tre Torrente. It had delicate pine notes and is low acid, with classic dried fruit and dark plum flavors. Next the 2009 A. Forchini Vineyard Zinfandel presents with large fruit and cherry jam and a good tannic backbone. Then came the 2009 Dry Creek Valley blend with grapes used from both Tre Torronte and Dry Creek Vineyards. Also, delicious, smooth and bursting with big fruit. Finally the Zin tasting came to a close with the 2009 Timber Crest Vineyard vintage, this presented classic dark fruit flavors balanced with clover honey, lavender and raspberries, a real meadow blend.The stiff tannins make this wine absolutely balanced.
Finally we ended this amazing journey with the 2011 Aglianico from the Heringer Vineyard a six generation farmed vineyard. It was magnificent, true alchemy. Robust and powerful yet a variety of delicious fruits both light and dark balanced by developed tannins and a lovely finish.
We are so grateful to Rick for providing us with this extraordinary experience. One I will definitely never forget.
Next post will be all about Rick Hutchinson, the mad genius behind all these wines.
In the middle of November I found myself an opportunity to go to Sonoma County on my own and it was a lot of fun and a revelation. I enjoyed traveling by myself (once I got over my initial fear). During my travels I met a lot of neat people and tasted some really fine wines. Then at Thanksgiving I went back this time with my partner, and had another wonderful experience. I just love it up there, and while I adore my home base on the Monterey Peninsula, it would not take much to convince me to move up to Sonoma.
So onto the wines! I arrived Friday evening in Healdsburg and stayed at the Best Western Dry Creek Inn, which for that type of chain was surprisingly good. I recommend if you choose to stay there to get a luxury room as they are much better than their standard accommodations. I went out to dinner to a wine bar restaurant called Zin and sat at the bar. After ordering a flight of Zinfandels to taste and compare, I asked Christian, the wine-tender, for some suggestions for wine tasting the next day. He was so helpful and thoughtfully recommended about ten wineries, way more than I would ever go to in a day but enough to keep in mind and visit upon my return, which I was already planning. 🙂
Saturday morning, after a hearty breakfast at Costeaux Bakery (you must visit!). my first stop was Trione. This is a gorgeous estate winery, with a fantastic tasting room and beautiful grounds. I was intrigued since I am usually more interested in small wine production, these fancy wineries leave me cold but I was so happy Christian recommended it and that the grand appearance did not dissuade me.
At Trione, family owned and run, there is great care taken in making their wines; which are well balanced, elegant and full bodied with a distinctive rich flair. The top 3% of the fruit grown in their vineyards across Sonoma County is painstakingly culled to ensure an extremely high quality end result. Then Scot Covington, the winemaker since 2005, does his magic thing.
I tasted everything and even did a side by side tasting of two Syrahs. All of the wines are characteristically well crafted and it is a challenge to pick a favorite. I chose two that I thought were the best representations of what Trione does really well.
Briefly, we’ll touch upon the excellent whites, the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2009 Chardonnay. The crisp floral and tropical Sauv. is absolutely delicious and one of my favorite white varietals. It has a lovely finish and would be perfect with pasta, seafood and just by itself. The Chardonnay is very clean yet velvety rich creamy with baked apple flavor, with a bit of minerality and crispness. Still the mouth is full bodied and layered.
My attention was undeniably captured by the reds. They were consistently good and memorable. Especially the 2008 Syrah, which comes on powerfully; fruit forward (like I adore) berry flavors with jammy plum and dark currant richness with spice completes the complex profile, the well structured tannins make sure the wine holds up to the lingering and excellent finish.
I am partial, however, to the exceptional 2008 Red Wine, because it is just so well done. Yes, it is a classic Bordeaux blend, but with so much personality. At the same time that it is earthy, it is also uplifted by the delicious dark fruit palate intensified with black currant, rich berries and good, strong well structured tannins. Lovely smooth finish with a lasting taste. A great blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
They do it well at Trione.
Jeez. There is so much to say. I just can’t stop talking about boutique wineries. I mean, really, if you love wine, really good wine that is created with a consciousness and awareness of sustainability there is no way you will not try to find out more about good wine-making and exceptionally talented winemakers.
We have beautiful wines, here on the West Coast, and I will do my best to illuminate the reader and drinker. So, we went to a wine maker’s dinner and it was pretty spectacular. Great food to compliment the incredible wines. Baker and Brain was the featured winery. They define their passion and green approach to winemaking here:
“The Baker & Brain family is committed to utilizing scientifically based sustainability practices in every aspect of our business, this includes partnering with ecologically responsible growers, utilizing winemaking practices that are environmentally friendly, making our wines at a solar powered and sustainably certified facility and promoting the brand in an
environmentally conscious manner.”
We were fortunate enough to taste five of their amazing wines.
Starting with the Gruner Veltliner we experienced traditional slate tastes. It is crisp, flavorful and absolutely delicious. A lovely wine that cuts through any heavy fats like those that you might find in melted cheese, to bring you back to reality, that is the flavors of meadow flowers and fresh grasses. Remarkable nose and really quite soft. A California GV, which is a good thing. If you’ve never had a GV, you must try this. It will expand your palate and take you into another dimension of wine. Paired with Grilled Flatbread with Speck and Carmelized Shallots we started off happy.
Next we tasted the Central Coast Pinot Noir, 2011. These grapes are grown in Monterey County which is a very good place for Pinot Noir, BTW (By The Way). It presents very well, not overly assuming or over powering, a good introductory Pinot Noir. If you’re just drinking this, you won’t be disappointed. It’s friendly, open and has the established and expected flavors of raspberries and strawberries which add that delicate seductive fruitiness. What sets it apart is its’ jewel like clarity and light refined finish . We had it with a Passionate Berry Salad ( Raspberries, Blueberries and goat cheese with Fried Shallots (loved those). Pretty sexy.
We followed with the McIntyre Pinot Noir 2010 (Santa Lucia Highlands). It is truly is spectacular. Really, I do not throw that word around flippantly. The flavors of ripe blackberries and secondary rich red berry flavors continue to expand on the palate. This wine is complex with spices, earth, leather and perfectly balanced tannins. While dense, the oak grounds the wine; otherwise you’d just be spinning off to heaven. Rebellious Asparagus, Romesco Sauce and Saracena Aioli added a challenging note. This is so satisfying.
Now comes the Le Mistral Vineyard Grenache. Uber yummy. From the Joseph
Phelps vineyard, this Grenache delivers a very deep concentration of fruit. It is bright and sophisticated at the same time with stabilizing tobacco, ash and developed tannins. This wine stays on the palate and finishes beautifully. Paired with Lamb Chop over Sticky Cabbage and Wild Mushroom Ravioli it was a victory.
We finish with the Le Mistral Vineyard Syrah, which is my favorite. this one is brambly, like thickets of wild berries and vines. Super concentrated, with that dried fruit body and jammy flavor. Once oxygenated; which the presenters did, it developed that plummy and spicy flavor that is so traditional to Syrah. Rich and full mouth with a velvety lingering mouth finish, this wine stood up to the Quail stuffed with Chorizo and potato.
Brief: Baker & Brain produce exceptional wines that are gorgeous and delicious.
Very small production makes for exclusive and elusive wines. We want these wines, but we want this winery to stay true to their values, vision and esthetic.
♥ Check out Stonecreek Kitchen for fabulous wine maker dinners, classes, deli and wines.
A sexy blend. Full mouth. Syrupy. Delicious Big Nose and an equally Big Taste. Mourvedre is prominent at 48%, Grenache comes in strong at 28% and the Syrah balances and grounds it out at 24%. We loved this wine and felt it even at one glass. Drinker beware (in a good way). Yah, really into the blends done well lately.
A truly amazing Syrah. This wine is form the pure Syrah grape made by a masterfulwine maker. Deep gorgeous color and a lovely fresh nose with the ripe berries, plums and cherries and violet notes that distinguish Syrah. Wonderfully balanced acidity and full bodied, with pronounced tannins.
The grapes for the SBC Syrah were sourced from the same five vineyards used to make the 2010: Camp 4, Mormann, Tierra Alta, Thompson and Colson Canyon. Robert Parker called the 2010 SBC Syrah “one of the finest values in Syrah.”
Tensley’s wife Jennifer makes some wines also and they are quite lovely. I am especially fond of her Syrah Rosé. This is the only rosé I am aware of in California to be made from single parcel, single vineyard Syrah grapes picked specifically to be rosé wine. Jennifer destemmed the grapes for this wine by gravity then crushed the grapes by foot with the help of her adorable 9-year-old son, Oliver. They used food-grade boots, of course. Half of the fruit remained on the skins for only three hours before being pressed to French oak barrels. The other half stayed on the skins overnight before going to the press. It is dry, not sweet, though it is brimming with mouthwatering fruit and floral components. Look for notes of strawberries, raspberries and rose petals complemented by citrus and exotic hints of guava. So unexpectedly delicious, this wine is not only wonderful for sipping, it is also an excellent companion to spicy Thai, Mexican or Cajun dishes.
This delicious red blend reminds me of a yummy mixed berry pie, flavorful and nuanced. The grapes making up this wine include Counoise, a Rhone grape, adds a peppery note and good acidity, Grenache from Spain is a generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, and Syrah, a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines, adds the body, or spine and a full mouth feel. Paso Robles is the perfect place for this kind of grape that requires big heat in order to come into full sugar. Expertly blended, this wine is satisfyingly rich yet not overpowering. Very enjoyable, fragrant aroma and beautiful garnet color.