What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
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in California State

Morro Bay Oyster Co PicmonkeyMorro Bay oyster harvesterTASTE News Service, January 14, 2015 - San Luis Obispo County, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on California's breathtaking Central Coast, offers an assortment of locally-sourced and produced food and drink. The area's range of coastal and inland influences is demonstrated by its broad assortment of gastronomic treats ranging from fresh foods, innovative spirits, unique craft beers and much more. The destination is overflowing with an abundance of great products found only on the Central Coast.

 

Locally Sourced Foods Flourish in San Luis Obispo County

There are a wide variety of new and interesting farms and fisheries across San Luis Obispo County that specialize in unique foods including shellfish, meat, produce and dairy products supplying local restaurants and markets. You can taste the fresh farm fare from the producers below at one of San Luis Obispo County's restaurants or farmer's markets:

Morro Bay Oyster Company: Morro Bay holds a long-standing history as a thriving seaport with beautiful ocean views and a tranquil yet productive estuary. Morro Bay Oyster Company harvests Pacific Gold Oysters by hand directly from the pristine water, which are then sold to local restaurants and to the public at farmers markets and off its barge in Morro Bay harbor.

Thursday, 03 December 2015 10:27

Wintry Holidays in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Courtyard PicmonkeyA typical Santa Barbara courtyard

TASTE News Service, December 3, 2015 — Looking for a unique way to celebrate the winter holidays? One way is to escape to Santa Barbara to rediscover your joy and cheer.

Voted “Best Beach Town” by Sunset magazine in its inaugural travel awards in May 2015 and one of Condé Nast Traveler's “30 Best Small Cities in America” in its Readers' Choice Awards, Santa Barbara is located 92 miles north of Los Angeles and 332 miles south of San Francisco, on the Pacific coastline.

Friday, 27 November 2015 15:56

November 27, 2015 Beer Pick of the Week

Firestone Walker Union Jack Picmonkey

Union Jack

 

Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Paso Robles and Buellton, California

Style: West Coast IPA

Alcohol: 7.5%

IBUs: 70

Serving Style: 12-ounce cans, 12 and 22-ounce bottles, kegs (our sample from draft)

Availability: Year-round in much of the U.S.

 

Appearance:   “Light amber or dark golden in color. Creamy head that dissipated quickly.”

Aroma:   “Pronounced citrus nose. Mostly grapefuity, but there seems to be some tangerine or orange notes and a bit of spice, too.”

Taste:   “Strongly-hopped, but great balance here. The malt is very welcome. Seems to be reminiscent of British IPAs, though I know it has much more hops. A lot of personality in this beer. Good carbonation, too. One pint invites a second.”

Food Affinity:   “Given the flag reference, I’d think a Scotch egg with some Colman’s mustard would be nice right now, as would some really good fish and chips done in a light, clean batter.”

  --Guest reviewer Stanley Morrison is an English ex-pat who does kitchen remodels in California.

Sunday, 08 November 2015 02:18

November 6, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

Hahn GSM 2014 Picmonkey

2014 GSM

 

Hahn Family Wines

Central Coast

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $14

 

“GSM is California shorthand of the day for a blend of three grape varieties native to the Rhône Valley of France. However, in this case the Grenache (65%), Syrah (31%) and Mouvèdre (4%) were grown on the Central Coast of California. If Bordeaux-based varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.) have accounted for most of your wine budget lately, Rhône-style wines are certainly worth a try.

Pebble Beach Stave Wine Cellar PicmonkeyA comfortable addition to Inn at Spanish Bay

TASTE News Service, August 25, 2015 – Pebble Beach Resorts has further expanded its offering for wine aficionados with the introduction of Stave Wine Cellar at Spanish Bay. The facility, which takes its name from a stave (one of the individual strips of wood that form the sides of a wine barrel), invites visitors to indulge in wines by the glass, small bites and a selection of hard-to-find bottles for purchase.

“When we were designing Stave Wine Cellar, our vision was for it to be a place that reflects the charm and casual character of The Inn at Spanish Bay, but with a contemporary style all its own,” said Wendy Heilmann, Director of Wine and Spirits for Pebble Beach Resorts. “Stave Wine Cellar is all about exploration and the experience of different varietals, and this is a place for anyone and everyone curious about the world of wine. We are excited to share the passion we have for wine with our visitors.”

Anchored by a double-sided stone fireplace that is the centerpiece to the room, the space is appointed with a cozy leather couch and chairs, dark wood tables, a communal high-top table and a wine bar.

In addition to more than 30 wines and eight craft beers by the glass, the room features more than 250 wines for purchase by the bottle. To expose visitors to new and unique tastes outside of Monterey County, wines by the glass include regional and international wines that hail from countries like Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Argentina, and California regions including Sonoma, Mendocino County, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. A menu of cheese and charcuterie plates to complement the varietals is offered and winemaker tastings, wine walks and monthly events are planned.

Editor’s note: Readers considering a visit to Pebble Beach—or any of the Monterey Peninsula—may want to consult Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. In the Central Coast section there are links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to Monterey and Santa Cruz Wineries and Craft Beer specialists.

Pebble Beach Concours Best of Show 2015 PicmonkeyPhoto of winning Isotta Fraschini Cabriolet courtesy of Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

TASTE News Service, August 17, 2015 -- An Italian Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Cabriolet that once turned heads and garnered top prizes in the classic era glided to victory at the 65th Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday.

The competition drew 219 cars from 16 countries and 29 U.S. states to the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links. It also raised over $1.8 million to help people in need. Through the Pebble Beach Company Foundation, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, these charitable funds will benefit 100 local charities.

The winning car is built on an extremely long 145-inch 1924 Tipo 8A chassis, which was acquired in the early 1930s by Swiss Carrosserie Worblaufen to be used as the basis for a new sport cabriolet. The finished car was displayed at the 1932 Geneva Auto Show and won the Grand-Prix d'Honneur at Cannes in 1933. After being shown, the car passed through the hands of just three owners prior to being purchased by current owner Jim Patterson of Louisville, Kentucky.

Asked what he loved most about the massive cabriolet, Patterson chose to focus on its small details. "I love the cigarette lighters," he said. "You should see them! I wondered a while ago if they worked, and I've got a blister on my finger to show they do."

The car's win at Pebble Beach marked the second win for Patterson. His 1933 Delahaye D8S De Villars Roadster was named Best of Show in 2010. "I won here in 2010 with an all-white car, and now I've won with an all-black car. I don't know if I've run out of colors or what," he joked.

There were many strong contenders for Best of Show this year, including a 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Kellner Torpedo Phaeton owned by Doug Magee Jr. of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire; a 1937 Delahaye 145 Franay Cabriolet owned by Sam & Emily Mann of Englewood, New Jersey; and a 1953 Abarth 1100 Sport Ghia Coupé owned by Grant Kinzel of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Concours Chairman Sandra Button said the win by the Isotta Fraschini wasn't a surprise given its provenance: "From the moment that Cesare Isotta and the Fraschini brothers founded their company, they were known for building prestigious cars, and this particular car is very stylish and very powerful. Even when resting on the stage, it seems to be in motion, and it is filled with emotion. There is a lot of passion in this car."

Ferraris were featured in great numbers this year, along with classic era duPonts, antique Popes, British prewar sports cars and postwar Cunninghams. Special classes celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Shelby GT350 and the 75th anniversary of the Lincoln Continental, and Mercury Customs were displayed for the first time.

Editor’s note: The complete list or winners is available at www.pebblebeachconcours.net. If you’re thinking of visiting anywhere on the Monterey Peninsula, first check Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of Monterey County Wineries and Craft Beer purveyors.

Ferrari 1949 Touring Barchetta Picmonkey1949 Ferrari 166 MM Touring Barchetta. The first Ferrari to race in the Pebble Beach Road Races when it competed in 1951. photo: Steve Burton/Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

TASTE News Service, August 8, 2015 - Ferraris return to compete on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links this August 16 when the marque of the Prancing Horse takes center stage at the 65th annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.

"Our plans to feature Ferrari have been many years in the making," said Concours Chairman Sandra Button. "But it seems particularly appropriate to be showcasing this marque now, since a Ferrari earned our top award this past year." That car, Jon Shirley's 1954 Ferrari 375 MM Scaglietti Coupe, was not only the first Ferrari to be named Best of Show at the event, but it was also the first postwar car to win in nearly 50 years.

Some of the special Ferrari classes at the forthcoming event will focus on Preservation Ferraris and Ferraris that Raced in the Pebble Beach Road Races in the 1950s.

Additional Features at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours include the following:

duPont: The duPont family played a major role in establishing General Motors as we now know it, and their chemical company's fast-drying paints paved the way for the use of vivid color schemes on factory-produced cars. The 2015 Concours will focus on the marque that bears the duPont name. Just over 30 of these American classics are known to exist.

Designs by Carrozzeria Touring: This Italian coachbuilder, dating from 1928 to the present, has a reputation for elegance and innovation. It was the chosen carrozzeria for many significant marques and models, including the very collectable Alfa Romeo 8C, Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta and Ferrari 212 Inter/Export.

Pope: At one point, the world's largest bicycle manufacturer, Colonel Albert Augustus Pope built automobiles from 1903 to 1915 in many configurations, including some early electric vehicles. Pope also founded the Good Roads Movement, which paved the way to small towns all over the United States.

Postwar Cunninghams: Briggs Cunningham, who served among honorary judges at the Concours, was an American sportsman who won the America's Cup and built race cars in an attempt to win at Le Mans. In addition to his rare race cars, examples of his exceptional Vignale-built C3 sports cars will be exhibited.

Historic Mercury Customs: Mercury was the marque most popular for customizing from the late 1940s to early 1950s. It is considered by many to be the definitive custom car.

Japanese Motorcycles: Introduced to a global audience in the 1950s, Japanese motorcycles gained prominence in the 1960s and dominance in the 1970s. Now they move to the fore at the Pebble Beach Concours.

British Prewar Sports Cars, the 75th anniversary of the Lincoln Continental and the 50th anniversary of the Shelby GT350 Mustang will also be featured.

Editor's note:  For more information about the Concours and related automotive events visit www.pebblebeachconcours.net. If you're planning a trip to this beautiful part of California first visit the Resource Directory of Taste California Travel. In the Monterey County section within the Central Coast listings you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to area Wineries.

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 17:23

Navigating a Wine Wall

winewall Picmonkeyphoto courtesy of Peachey Canyon Winery

By Robert Henson, winemaker at Peachey Canyon Winery

August 5, 2015 - If you’re not lucky enough to be a winemaker (ahem) you probably get most of your wine from the wine sections of grocery and specialty stores. Unlike winery tasting rooms, however, stores have giant walls of wine and no friendly tasting room associates to help you navigate their depths. Plus, you’re probably in a hurry. So with that in mind, here’s some insider information about how to get the most out of that wall of wine.

Don’t limit yourself to wines at eye level

You know how it’s well-known that grocery stores put all the sugary, “kid friendly” cereals at equally “kid friendly” heights on the shelf? It should not surprise you that they do the same with just about every other kind of merchandise. What the store is trying to move is what’s going on its eye-level shelves, and while there’s nothing wrong with those wines, it’s definitely worth your time to explore the many bottles on the top and bottom rows.

Take advantage of endcaps and sales

There’s nothing wrong with a wine on sale, especially in a retail environment. I’ve had people ask me if there’s “something wrong” with wine that’s on sale… and the answer, thankfully, is no! Unlike wineries, stores can sometimes use wine as what’s called a “loss leader,” meaning they can sell wine for a loss in order to entice customers to buy. If wineries did that we’d be out of business fast, but big companies like Costco, Beverages and More, and Trader Joe’s can make up their profits outside the wine aisle.

Don’t judge a wine (only) by its label

This goes both ways: wines with old school labels showing a chateau might be great, and so might be wines with a super modern label (what the wine industry keeps referring to as ‘millennial’). A winery that chooses to invest a lot in its label isn’t necessarily ignoring its wine, they’re just also focused on enticing their customers with some great art. And a winery that hasn’t changed their label since circa 1983 might just be too busy making wine to do so… it’s hard to tell until you try the juice.

Listen to what a wine label does tell you

While the styles of wine labels vary widely, the regulatory government bodies that oversee wine production in the U.S. require a lot of things to be included on the label, and many of them are useful to consumers. Many wineries also include descriptions on their bottles to help consumers choose wines that they like. Look for varietals and blends similar to what you know you like, and try exploring regions too. Wine labels often show the wine’s AVA — like ‘Paso Robles’ — take advantage of that to try more wine from a favored region.

Rely on scores that reflect your tastes, but don’t only rely on scores

Wine scores are popular with shoppers because they’re easy. What’s easier than choosing a 93 point wine next to a wine without a score listed? Of course as a winemaker, it’s always an honor to get a good score — it means someone likes the wine, never a bad thing! The thing is, however, scoring wine is actually a complicated subject, and scores are only worth something to you if you take the “scorer” into account. Let me put it this way: do your tastes align with Robert Parker’s, or do your tastebuds have more in common with Matt Kettmann (of Wine Enthusiast)? Because they don’t have the same preferences all the time, and you probably don’t either. If you’re going to use scores when finding wines, make sure you agree with the person assigning the scores. Not to mention that not all wines are sent out for scoring — plenty of great, small lot wines aren’t sent to very many publications, so of course they get less press. It doesn’t mean the wine’s not good.

Use technology

We live in an era connected by the internet and most wineries are now using websites and/or social media. Our [Peachy Canyon’s] wine labels include a link to our website, and I know that is not unique to us. Many wineries include links, QR codes, and social media indicators on their bottles now specifically to help connect to consumers. If you’re in a store and you have a question about a wine, often the winery’s website can help… and it’s conveniently right there on your phone. Some wineries, like mine, even try to answer questions on Twitter in real time. You won’t always get someone immediately, but it’s easy and worth a try.

One of your greatest resources as a wine drinker are the wineries. Most wineries — especially here in Paso Robles — want to connect with you and give you all the information you need to find what you like. Whether on Facebook or face-to-face, we want to interact with the people interested in our wines.

Editor’s note: We think Robert Henson’s article is full of good advice. If you’re thinking of visiting wineries in his part of the world (Paso Robles), we suggest you check the Central Coast listings in Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of Wineries, Lodging and Dining options, and even Craft Beer purveyors.

Anacapa Brewing in Ventura PicmonkeySidewalk cafe atmosphere at Anacapa Brewing

TASTE News Service June 9, 2015 - Microbrews have hit Ventura County in a big way with more than a half dozen breweries and brew houses opening in the last few years. It only makes sense that area wine festivals now include beer tastings and craft beer events are growing in popularity.

The first microbrewery to take off was Anacapa Brewing Company. Open since 2000 in a beautiful 140-year old brick building in the City of Ventura’s downtown, it creates 33 seasonal varieties at different times through the year. Handcrafted ales and lagers are produced in a seven-barrel brewing system. Most popular are the Pierpont IPA, Santa Rosa Red and Seaward Golden Ale. An added bonus is Anacapa’s food menu, which is filled with locally grown vegetables and fresh seafood from just off the coast. “We’ve definitely seen new breweries pop up around the area, which is great for beer lovers,” says Danny Saldana, Anacapa’s owner. “As a small brewery, we’re always looking for new, local ingredients for flavor. Our quality products and staff of long-time employees make our company unique.”

Close to Ventura’s beaches, Surf Brewery is the only packaging microbrewery in the county, self-distributing in kegs and bottles. Bring your own food (or buy from food trucks on the weekends) and sip its award-winning pale ale, County Line Rye Ale, the South Swell Double IPA and specialty beer blends.

A newcomer to the scene is Institution Ale Company in Camarillo. As a family-owned microbrewery producing only 500 barrels of beer a year, their philosophy is definitely quality over quantity! Poseidon Brewing Company in Ventura is another newbie. Their brewmaster is known to get creative—such as charging the beer with nitrogen instead of the usual carbon dioxide or spiking the beer with fruits and spices. Topa Topa is scheduled to open in June in the City of Ventura.

For sheer quantity of choices, head to The Yard House in Oxnard, one of the hottest new brew houses in Ventura County. Or, try Barrelhouse 101 in Ventura and BJ’s in Oxnard. All three offer favorites, limited and seasonal drafts on tap—with plenty of savory pub grub.

Numerous wine tour packages and brewery tours are now available on the south Central Coast. Helping patrons get to and from breweries safely are two new brewery tour companies: Brew Bus 101 and Jump On The Brew Bus. Both offer general and private craft beer outings.

As a testimony to the growing brew culture in this western part of Ventura County, the first Surf ‘n’ Suds beer festival will be held at Ventura Harbor Village on Saturday, June 13, where 45 breweries will be pouring. Later this year the Ventura County Beer Week, celebrating all things beer, will be from September 13 to 20, culminating in the annual California Beer Festival, September 18 through 20 at Mission Park in Ventura.

Editor’s note:  A good source of information on beer, wine and food events in the area is www.venturacountywest.com. If you’re thinking of visiting this part of California first check out the Central Coast listings of Taste California Travel’s Resource Directory. There you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as links to the sites of Wineries and Craft Beer Purveyors.

Sunday, 22 March 2015 20:47

March 20, 2015 Wine Pick of the Week

JLohr 2013 Riverstone Chard

2013 Rivestone Chardonnay

 

J.Lohr

Arroyo Seco/Monterey Co.

Alcohol: 13.88%

Suggested Retail: $14

 

“Sourced from grapes grown in the Arroyo Seco region of Monterey County, renown for its Chardonnay. Aromas and tastes of tropical fruits (pineapple, mangos, papaya), pears and peaches. Soma vanilla and buttered toast aspects. Substantial feeling in the mouth and a long finish. Creamy and substantial, this is a good example of the lusher style of California Chardonnay at a bargain price.”

Food Affinity:  “Veal medallions in a sage cream sauce. Sliced Portabella mushrooms sautéed in butter and parsley."

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