What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Friday, 24 May 2013 13:52

May 24, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

 

IS Old Vine Zin NV lg Picmonkey

 2011 “Old Vine” Zinfandel

 

 Ironstone Vineyards

 Appellation: Lodi

 Alcohol: 14.5%

 Suggested Retail: $10

 

“This Ironstone wine exhibits the traditional Zinfandel personality and has a hint of the pepper that's lost in too many current big Zins. It's full, but strikes a winemaking balance between that leaner old style and the voluptuous treatment. There's a trace of residual sugar, but it stops short of the sweet, syrupy and high alcohol profile favored by some wineries whose Zinfandels tend to be blowzy caricatures of the varietal.

“This is a very appealing Zinfandel and, at $10, a great bargain. So much of what we consider the taste of wine is actually determined by the aromas that precede each sip and this wine has a wonderful nose. Take a whiff—there's lots of blueberry and blackberry qualities, with subtler aspects of ground pepper and licorice. The first sip reprises these characteristics, maybe concentrating on the blackberry component."

Food Affinity: Good choice with barbecued ribs or burgers. Also appropriate with pastas, especially those prepared with red sauces. 

SteveAndOrlando PicmonkeySteve and Orlando

Hot on the heels of the San Francisco Giants World Series win, Ledson Winery is re-releasing limited quantities of its wine collaboration featuring legendary former San Francisco Giant baseball player and Hall of Famer, Orlando Cepeda. Proceeds from the sale of Ledson’s “Baby Bull” Zinfandel will benefit the Ledson Harmony Foundation for Children (www.ledsonharmonyfoundation.com). The special price is $50 per bottle and $70 for a signed bottle. This special offering runs through December 15.

 

“The Giants are successful because of these young new players like Posey, Baumgarner and Lincecum,” explained Harmony Foundation head Steve Ledson. “They were just kids the other day themselves. So we have this special price to recognize the Giants, but just as important give every kid a chance to become a professional and help us build America’s future, our kids.”

 

harmony orlando cepeda 05 PicmonkeyThe Ledson Harmony Foundation was started to give kids a leg up, something in short supply these days. The Foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to deserving children’s related endeavors including local girls softball teams, Make-a-Wish foundations, Anderson Valley school district, Sonoma Charter school playground, Flowery school in Sonoma, Sonoma Jazz + music programs to name a few.

 

Previous high-profile celebrity humanitarians to be honored with wine bottlings include singer Michael McDonald, actor Jeff Bridges, San Francisco 49er Dwight Clark, and most recently baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda. All proceeds from the Harmony Collection Wines have gone to youth related organizations.

 

Local builder, philanthropist and fifth generation Sonoma winemaker Steve Ledson founded Ledson Winery and Vineyards in the Kenwood area of the Sonoma Valley 1993. More information about the winery and the commemorative bottle can be found at www.ledson.com.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 17:49

Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandel

Zinfandel: A Reference Guide to Zinfandelby Cathleen Francisco

The Wine Appreciation Guild

315 pages, $24.95www.wineappreciation.com

zinfandel 

As a kid I often looked for a series of books in the local public library called "All About" books. They were good for the beginner introducing himself to a subject but were written with a scrupulous attention to the technicalities that gave texture and structure to the subject as well. This book works similarly. If not "All About" Zinfandel, then it is a very good step toward All About.

What does this book say about Zinfandel? Organized alphabetically by winery the author tells us the name of the winery, its history, ownership, winemaker and winemaking philosophy. She sets out vintage notes for the 1998 vintage as applicable to the winery and its wines.

The book lists for each wine discussed: appellation, composition, vinification and, if applicable, the vineyard. She sets out next, the alcohol percentage, residual sugar, brix at harvest, harvest date, bottling date and production data. The winemaker’s notes let the maker tell us what he wants us to know about the particular wine, well probably just some of it. Some winemakers are generous enough with their knowledge of their wines to include suggestions for food pairings.

As a courtesy to the winery and help to the reader, the author provides winery location, information about visiting it, website and telephone number and a list of the winery’s other wines.

Ms. Francisco writes a glossary. If you have heard a certain term and wondered what it might mean, whether the term is an artful one such as "bouquet" or technical and scientific like "carbonic maceration", the glossary is helpful. By doing this she provides help to getting at both the magic and science of winemaking.

As a further aid she discusses blending varieties in a separate section called A Guide. She names various blending grapes and describes them in terms of what winemakers think they may contribute to a zinfandel. She includes the places of origin or common use of these varieties so the reader can do more research about their attributes. Ms. Francisco gives us a good introduction to tasting wines featuring those grapes.

She also provides a guide to American Viticultural Areas or AVAs. She tells us the origin of the terms in Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms regulations and its legal definition. The author tells us a bit about each California AVA and what it means for the grapes grown there and the wines made from them. In addition, she describes the requirements for the use of certain terms such as "county", "vineyard" and "estate" on labels.

The author succeeds in giving a reference guide to zinfandel and much more useful information about wine.

 

--reviewed by Mike Petersen

San Luis Obispo County has all the ingredients for a delicious culinary adventure. Area farms and orchards SLO Snacks and Wine SMALLproduce fresh, seasonal fruits, nuts and vegetables. Ranches raise natural beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, while coastal Pacific waters offers more fresh choices for discerning palates. A gourmand's playground, the dining scene has exploded with new restaurants showcasing innovative dishes prepared by chefs choosing local, organic and sustainable food available in San Luis Obispo County. Complementing the culinary experience are award-winning vintages produced by the many wineries dotting the Paso Robles wine country and San Luis Obispo County landscape.

Fastest Growing Wine Region

San Luis Obispo County is the third largest and fastest growing fine wine region in California.  There are two distinct wine grape growing areas - Paso Robles and Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande - with over 200 wineries and 125 tasting rooms featuring award-winning vintages and innovative varietal blends.  It is the ideal destination for wine lovers.

The long, hot summers and cool nights, and chalk/limestone hillsides of Paso Robles wine country yield award-winning reds, especially superb Zinfandels and Rhône varietals.  The cool climate and marine sediment of San Luis Obispo's Edna Valley and Arroyo Grande wine regions combine to produce some of the most highly regarded rich, buttery Chardonnay grapes in California wine country.

Annual wine celebrations include: Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival (March); Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles (April), the world's largest celebration of Rhône variety wines; Paso Robles Wine Festival (May), the largest outdoor wine tasting in California; Roll Out the Barrels Weekend in San Luis Obispo (June); Pinot and Paella Festival in Templeton (June); and Harvest Wine Weekend in Paso Robles (November), featuring winery open houses. (Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance www.pasowine.com; San Luis Obispo Vintners www.slowine.com)

If time is limited and one prefers wine touring on foot rather than by car, the Paso Robles Inn offers a one-night Taste Around package pointing visitors to six of the town's City Park wine tasting rooms with complimentary taste certificates, as well as tastes and a gift from a local olive company and artesian cheese maker. Including breakfast for two, the package starts at $205 based on date of stay. (www.pasoroblesinn.com)

Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast - a Foodie's Disneyland! SLO savor logo cmyk  SMALL

Sunset magazine and the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau will partner for the third annual Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast celebration of food, wine and good living September 27-30, 2012. The event showcases area winemakers, chefs and artisanal food producers and Sunset magazine's expert editors guide attendees through outdoor adventures and farm excursions. Over 7,000 visitors are expected to attend this year's event and enjoy the beauty, bounty and flavor of this largely unspoiled region. Special evening events, like Paso Robles' Paso Glow will be complemented by culinary seminars by celebrity chefs on cooking with local, seasonal ingredients during the Main Event at the Santa Margarita Ranch on September 29 and 30. The four-day foodie delight kicks off with a special food and wine extravaganza at the Central Coast's crown jewel, Hearst Castle, and also includes the Sunset 2012 International Wine Competition in Pismo Beach. (www.savorcentralcoast.com)

Wine Country Cuisine

With so many wineries, farms, ranches, and two fishing ports in San Luis Obispo County, it's only natural that country dining. With local bounty to point to, the farm-to-table movement is alive and well, as local chefs support local farmers to make sustainable culinary masterpieces available. Leaders of the movement in Paso Robles include Thomas Hill Organics, Artisan, Il Cortile, Villa Creek and Farmstand 46.

During the month of January, more than 30 restaurants prepare special menus at appetizing prices during Restaurant Month.  For 30 days, participating restaurants feature three-course prix fixe menus for only $30, plus tax, per person.  Meals can be paired with award-winning wines from Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo wine country for an additional charge. (www.sanluisobispocounty.com)

Straight from the Farm

Farmer's markets can be found throughout San Luis Obispo Country almost every day of the week. The one that set the standard for all others in California, however, is the Farmer's Market in downtown San Luis Obispo on Thursday night from 6-9 p.m. Six blocks on Higuera Street (between Osos and Nipomo Streets) are closed SLO vegetables Stock 3501073 SMALL to traffic and feature booths lining both sides of the street selling produce, fresh flowers, barbecue ribs, chicken and sausages, sandwiches, pizza, arts and crafts. Music and dancers often add to the ambiance, and shops and restaurants along Higuera Street stay open late. Another notable farmer's market to check out is on Saturdays in the quaint city park in Templeton.

For the foodie wanting to discover the source of the fresh ingredients that make up their San Luis Obispo County dining experience, take an Ag Adventures tour. From chickens and eggs, fresh seasonally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs (pick your own in many cases), wine, olive oil, and lavender (yes, lavender is edible), San Luis Obispo County farms, ranches, orchards, nurseries, wineries and farm stays offer something for everyone. (www.agadventures.org) Also check out Mt. Olive Organic Farm (Paso Robles), Jack Creek Farms (Templeton), Stoltey's Bee Farm (Atascadero) and Central Coast Lavender Farms (Paso Robles).

What is an Olallieberry?

Resembling a blackberry, the Olallieberry is about two-thirds blackberry and one-third European Red Raspberry. It is the primary fruit grown by the Linns and is featured in Olallieberry products that are popular items at their Fruit Bin Restaurant and Original Farm Store in Cambria, including Olallieberry pies, preserves, dessert wine, oat bar, curd and syrup. (www.linnsfruitbin.com)

Olive Oil

San Luis Obispo County has become a major producer of award-winning premium olive oils featuring a wide variety of olives, styles and oils infused with lemon, orange, tangerine and lime. A large festival dedicated to all things olive (plus a rich selection of gourmet vinegars to complement the oils) is held annually in the downtown City Park in Paso Robles in August. (www.olivefestival.com)

For an instructive olive oil tasting experience, visit We Olive gourmet shops in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, (www.weolive.com) or scenic Pasolivo (Willow Creek Olive Ranch), long-time producer of local award-winning extra virgin olive oils in Paso Robles that has a tasting room and boasts the largest and newest olive press of its kind on the Central Coast. (www.pasolivo.com) Other local olive oil producers to check out include Tiber Canyon Ranch (SLO), Mt. Olive Organics and Olea Farms (Paso Robles).

For another nutty twist, taste walnut oil produced by Limerock Orchards at their stunning walnut orchard in Paso Robles. (www.limerockorchards.com)

Catch of the Day

Commercial fishing boats moored in San Luis and Morro Bays provide local restaurants with fresh seasonal local seafood, including halibut, sanddabs, sole, crabs and albacore.

Located in Cayucos, The Abalone Farm is the largest and oldest producer of California Red Abalone in the United States. The aquaculture facility, a proud participant in the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, offers a legal and sustainable source for this prized seafood.  The Abalone Farm's Ocean Rose Abalone is freshly harvested, cleaned, tenderized and vacuum packed for weekly shipments to customers. (www.abalonefarm.com)

Authentic Flavor of the American West SLO Hearst Pool IMG 0472 SMALLWilliam Randolph Hearst's pool.

San Luis Obispo County has a history tied to the American West, including vast rolling hills populated by cattle and cowboys. For natural beef with an extraordinary flavor, foodies should try Hearst Ranch Beef. Raised on the Hearst Ranch surrounding Hearst Castle and the Jack Ranch in Cholame, the cattle are grass-fed, grass finished, humanely raised and never given growth hormones or antibiotics. Hearst Ranch products include aged steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs, beef jerky, plus sauces and olive oils. (www.hearstranch.com)

Speaking of Hearst, Friends of Hearst Castle offer two very special evening food and wine events on the Enchanted Hill: Twilight on the Terrace on June 2, 2012 and Enchanted Evening on September 22, 2012. (http://www.friendsofhearstcastle.org/special_events.asp)

Feel Good Chocolate

Sweet Earth Chocolates, based in San Luis Obispo, is one of a handful of Organic and Fair Trade chocolate makers in the United States. The company was founded by Tom Neuhaus, a California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), San Luis Obispo Food Sciences professor, trained French chef, chocolatier and humanitarian, who also teaches the only university level class on chocolate in the United States. What makes Sweet Earth Chocolates different from other chocolate makers is their advocacy for Fair Trade and the West African cocoa farmer; Neuhaus visits West Africa every year to help out the farmers who live in poverty despite supplying America with 75 percent of its cocoa. The benefits of Organic and Fair Trade are the all-natural ingredients used to produce the chocolate - no slave labor, no chemicals, no pesticides. (www.sweetearthchocolates.com)

Say Cheese

Visitors to Paso Robles can taste a unique selection of exceptional handcrafted cow, sheep and goat milk cheeses from around the world at the Vivant Fine Cheese tasting room. They offer nearly 200 kinds of cheese that can be paired with Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo County wines and beers. An added incentive to visit, Vivant's building basement houses aging caves, the first of their kind on the West Coast. (www.vivantfinecheese.com)

Happy Acres Family Farm is a California state licensed working goat dairy that is new and unique to the Central Coast. Happy Acres started with one special goat named Stella, whom owner Stephanie Simonin got to help feed orphan calves her husband brought home. Stella still leads the ever expanding herd of goats, today made up of four unique breeds totaling over 200 head. Happy Acres' goat milk is all natural and hormone-free. Stop by the farm in Templeton to taste the cheese or pick up some goat milk products from the Happy Acres farm stand. (www.happyacresfamilyfarm.net)

Beers

San Luis Obispo County is known as wine country, but beer enthusiasts can please their palates here too with distinctive beers and ales produced and poured locally. Breweries to explore include Firestone Walker (Paso Robles),Tap It Brewing (San Luis Obispo), Pismo Brewing (Pismo Beach) and Dunbar Brewing (Santa Margarita Ranch). A brew pub not to miss is The Pour House in Paso Robles. (www.pasopourhouse.com)

The county hosts two beer festivals. The California Festival of Beers on Memorial Day weekend in San Luis Obispo benefits the volunteer Hospice of San Luis Obispo (www.californiafestivalofbeers.com) and is now in its 27th year, while the new Firestone Walker International Beer Festival takes place during Pioneer Day Festival in Paso Robles in June (www.firestonebeerfest.com).

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The 11-acre Cal Poly Organic Farm on the campus of California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) San Luis Obispo has as its primary mission to provide undergraduate students a place to experience hands-on learning in organic and sustainable farming and gardening practices. Vegetable production includes dozens of varieties of produce that are marketed in several direct sales events like farmer's markets, a campus farm market and to local vendors and restaurants. Produce that is not sold is donated to the Food Bank. In addition to produce, various organic products (honey, chocolate bars) plus cheeses and meats are marketed under the Cal Poly brand. Members of the Cal Poly Organic Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) receive a weekly "harvest box" of fresh seasonal produce. (www.aeps.calpoly.edu/organics)

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of San Luis Obispo County, as well as links to hundreds of lodging and dining options there, can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

Page 3 of 3