Field Blend Thursday

Field Blend Thursday from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

Mount Charleston is a great Spring Getaway, pair this with Bel Vino/Stuart Cellars Field Blend you have the Perfect Day Off.

After an afternoon hike at Mount Charleston, it was time for a simple but delicious dinner.  I had discovered beets in the garden this morning (I thought it was chard before!) so I planned to pull those up and roast them for a salad, on the way home I looked online to see what best compliments a beet salad and came up with….Riesling, pinot noir, pinot blanc, rose, and French Chablis.

We headed to Whole foods to be inspired by a protein.  Michael picked up 2 macadamia nut encrusted Mahi Mahi fillets and then some Thai quinoa salad.

In looking up pairings for the Mahi Mahi, I found some sort of matches…a pistachio crusted Mahi Mahi suggested a Pinot Noir other suggestions for Mahi Mahi included Gewurztraminer, Sav Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Malbec and Merlot…  And the Alton Brown recipe for Mac crusted Mahi suggested a buttery Chard!  What’s a girl to do?

Michael was definitely in a mood for white wine, so we settled on a Bel Vino Stuart Cellars Field Blend.  It is a blend of Viognier, Riesling and Muscat, so on the sweeter side.  We will pull it out of the wine cooler about 20 minutes before we plan to eat.

The Mahi Mahi will not have any sort of sweet glaze or fruit with it so the sweeter wine should pair nicely.  The beet salad will have Gorgonzola, herb greens and roasted salted pecans with a balsamic dressing, again not on the sweet side so the wine should be good with it.  Sweet wines should be sweeter than the dish they are paired.  I look for the saltiness in the salad and the fish to pair well with the wine.  The Thai spiced Quinoa should again be toned down by the wine and pair nicely.  Now I guess we wait and see what we get!

Overall the wine went fine with everything.  The quinoa turned out to be pretty bland, the salad with the beets, roasted salted pecans and Gorgonzola went nicely (especially the gorgonzola).  The fish smelled delicious and buttery and the initial taste was savory.  When paired with the wine it brought out a sweetness in the coating of the fish.

 

This was a perfect evening to enjoy dinner outside.  Who knows perhaps the gods will be kind and we will get another week or so of nice weather that we can enjoy before the heat takes over and we long for fall.  We will take advantage and enjoy it while we can!

Avant Tapas and Wine Bar. I have found my Nirvana.

Avant Wine & Tapas from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

So…after our first day of tasting on our trip.  Hitting Santa Barbara and then a stop in Los Olivos, we checked into the hotel and headed out for dinner.  With my pre-planning we had picked up a Groupon for Avant Tapas and Wine Bar in Buellton, which gave us $40 in wine for $20 as well as 20% off of any Tapas we ordered.  When we checked into the Hamlet Inn (which is fabulous!) the person at the desk suggested Avant for dinner and highly recommended the “Yuppie Crack”.  So after settling into our room at the extremely adorable Hamlet Inn we set out.

Avant is in Buellton.  If you have seen “Sideways” you remember the town with “The Hitching Post”?  Yep!  Just across the Highway from “The Hitching Post” and down a long drive into a small industrial park you will find the Terravant Wine Company Wine Center.  This 40,000 foot Wine Center is a full service wine industry support facility.  They have a state of the art analysis lab as well as refrigerated, controlled warehouse storage. They also provide distribution and direct to consumer wine services.  As well as office space for wine makers and industry professionals.  It has become an incubator to support many Santa Ynez wineries.  They provide custom crush and alternating proprietor space.

Avante Front Entrance

Avante Front Entrance

When you arrive you drive to the back of the facility to the Avant entrance.  The two-story entrance leads you upstairs to the Tapas and Wine Bar.  The space has a wine wall with a wine dispensing system.  You purchase a card and load it up with the amount you would like to spend.  Michael and I had our $40 card to share.  Each wine is listed by price for a taste, a half glass or a glass and there are 52 wines to choose from.  You look out from the second floor through glass windows onto the tank room.

Michael and I were in heaven.  We chose several tapas dishes and then went to town each getting a taste of a wine and then sharing to see how they paired with the food.  Really I would eat here every day and do this if I could.

We tasted through at least 16 different wines.

  • Beginning with roses from Dragonette and Fiddlehead
  • Riesling from Code Quest
  • Lucas and Llewelyn Gewurztraminer
  • Zotovich 2009 Syrah
  • Reeves Ranch 2008 Syrah
  • Longoria 2010 Albarino that was perfect with the shrimp
  • Open Field 2010 Chardonnay
  • Brander 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Baehner V3 Cab Blend
  • Ground Effect 2010
  • Chennin Blanc Blend
  • Insomnia White Blend
  • Ken Brown 2010 Chardonnay
  • Sort This Out Muscat…that’s all I can remember.

To eat we had the,

  • Wood Fired Shrimp (which I mentioned was perfect with the Longoria Albarino!)
  • The Mac’N’Cheese
  • the “Yuppie Crack” which is Apple-wood smoked bacon, dates, goat cheese, balsamic reduction and basil oil drizzle.  This stuff is REALLY amazing!
  • We did the Rosemary Chicken Skewers
  • Seared Scallops with Madeira, dijon, thyme and micro greens.

We finished with the chocolate cinnamon bread pudding which we paired with the Sort Out Cellars Muscat.  Turns out the muscat and the bread pudding were great on their own, not so good together.  We found the Insomnia White Blend went pretty well with everything!  The Ken Brown 2010 Chard was really good (and I’m picky about my Chards) and I really enjoyed it paired with the Mac’N’Cheese.  I also really enjoyed the Brander 2009 Cab with the Lamb Meatballs (brown rice, mint, rosemary, lemon zest and white wine).  The cab seemed to have a little eucalyptus on the nose and that melded perfectly with the mint in the meatballs.  The Yuppie crack was good with the syrahs, but really shone with the Gewurztraminer!

In addition there was music on the night we were there.  The Trio was playing and singing from the corner was lovely.  Really we could not have asked for a better end to our first day.

They have since change their Restaurant name from  Avante to Terravant Winery Restaurant

Pairings – Scallops w/ mango salsa and Sauvignon Blanc and more…..

On our recent trip to Santa Barbara we picked up a bottle of Carhartt’s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  On the tasting menu it suggested a pairing of scallops or  mango salsa, sooo last  Thursday night we combined both.

Carhartt Pairing W/Scallops

Carhartt Pairing W/Scallops

Carhartt 2012 Sav Blanc

Carhartt 2012 Sav Blanc

The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is from the Santa Ynez Valley with 47% of the fruit coming from the Carhartt vineyard, 17% from the Faith Vineyard, 18% from La Pressa and 18% from Curtis. (This is the geeky stuff I love that Carhartt kindly puts on the back of their labels!  Ready to geek out some

more?) The wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, clone 1 on 101-14 rootstock grown on a vertical trellis system.  This was whole cluster pressed and fermented in 50% stainless steel and 50% neutral oak for 6 months.  Only 750 cases were produced.

The mango salsa I created was a simple recipe with mango, green onions, lime juice, cilantro and olive oil.  My mango was not fully ripe, so it had a little tartness to it.  Michael cooked the scallops in butter and olive oil with just salt and pepper.  We did a fresh herb salad from the garden with a sesame dressing, quinoa with herbs and some avocado/cucumber rolls from Whole Foods.

Michael remembered that we had 2 other whites open (we have a vacuum sealer and they had only been opened the day before!  Don’t worry!).  One was a Field Blend from Stuart Cellars.  This wine was 45% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 5% Muscat.  The Muscat definitely adds a sweetness to this wine.  Stuart Cellars was a winery in Temecula California, they were bought out by a company an are now named Bel Vino.  We had a bottle of Bel Vino 2012 Viognier also open, so…we thought we would give them all a shot! The Viognier I had really enjoyed the day before and the Field Blend is Michael’s go to.

Tasting Notes:

Bel Vino Stuart Carhartt

Bel Vino Stuart Carhartt

Carhartt Savignion Blanc 2012-17% from the Faith Vineyard, 18% from La Pressa and 18% from Curtis.

  • This wine was lovely on it’s own.  When we opened it I got lots of tropical fruit on the nose.  A little citrus, not overly grapefruit.  Later on as it opened up I got more apple, and a softer apple like a Fuji apple or a macintosh.
  • Scallops/ Mango-The Sauvignon Blanc held up to the mango salsa, and slightly tempered the brightness of the flavors.  It would be interesting to see how it would taste with a riper mango.  The flavors were nice with the quinoa and salad (I think it played nicely off of the sesame dressing) but with the avocado/cucumber rolls it was really nice!
  • Avocado Cucumber Rolls– …by far the Sav Blanc was the best pairing here.  It enhanced the cucumber causing the flavor to burst in cool refreshment in the back of my palate!

Bel Vino Viognier 2012

  • Scallops/ Mango– With the scallops and mango salsa the Viognier was very nice bringing out the sweetness in the scallops, it held its own here.
  • Avocado Cucumber Rolls- the Viognier was better with the roll as it had a little less sweetness and held it’s own.

Stuart Cellars Field Blend-45% Chardonnay, 35% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Viognier and 5% Muscat.

  • Scallops/ Mango- The Field Blend was the overall winner with the scallops and mango.  It brightened the mango and pulled out the sweetness in the scallop and while not an over the top OMG pairing, it was very nice.
  • Avocado Cucumber Rolls-The Field Blend was just a little sweet with the roll.  It picked up on the rice wine vinegar but it was a little sweet and heavy to pair with the cucumber/avocado. Had this been a roll with a little crab, the Field Blend would have probably been better, pairing with the sweetness of the crab meat.

This could become a Thursday event!  Look forward to some Pizza pairings and then possibly a take off on “The Taste” with spoon full tastings to pair.  This promises to make Thursdays my favorite night of the week!

Monte de Oro – “Vines, Wine, People”

Monte De Oro depcicted in oil

This Temecula Valley winery is impressive as you drive up toward the end of Rancho California Road. The building sits on a rise and is expansive and inviting. In the early mornings there are typically balloons taking off from here making for picture perfect morning shots with their vineyards out front.

Monte De Oro Tasting Room Window View

Tasting Room Window View

The Monte de Oro winery is owned by OGB (One Great Blend) Partners, which is a collection of 68 family owners from across America, South Africa and the UK.

The Vineyards are located around the valley. The first, Vista Del Monte was planted in 2002 with 18 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They added 18 acres at the DePortola vineyard and 23 acres at the Galway vineyard in 2003 planted with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat Canelli.

In 2007 they broke ground on the winery and in 2008 planted their 4th vineyard at the winery growing Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tempranillo.

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Monte de Oro Underground Cave

Committed to sustainability the winery created a basement wine cave under the winery rather than building a barrel room above ground that would need to have a system for climate control. One of the most impressive sites in the building is walking across the glass floor that allows you to see down into the barrel room. They are also planning to build a gravity flow winery which reduces the energy needed to pump the wine as well as being gentler on the grapes, and they are looking to add solar panels to supply energy in the future.

The tasting room here is huge with beautiful views of the patio and beyond that the valley. They offer a variety of tours and private tastings that you can schedule in advance in addition to the Standard and Black Label Tastings available daily in the tasting room. Also open on the weekends is the MDO Bistro offering a Bistro menu Friday thru Sunday from 11-4.

Monte de Oro patio

Monte de Oro patio

When we visited the winery was busy and it was towards the end of the day. We tasted through a wide variety of their wines, most of which they produce about 250 cases each. All of the wines are very affordable running from $18 to $33 per bottle. watched a group head out for a tour while we were there and I would like to return to do a tour and learn a little more about their wines.

Wilson Creek, so much more than Almond champagne

Wilson Creek Sign Art in Oil

I will admit to a bit of snobbery.  I really had no desire to go to Wilson Creek in Temecula. I mean you find bottles of their Almond champagne in Long’s Drug Stores (well you did when they were around).  I figured how could they be creating wine I would like to drink?  Well… there is a lot more to them then the Almond champagne.

Wilson Creek is located at the far east end of Rancho California Road and it is rare that you will get there and find the parking lot not full.  While the grounds are huge and beautiful, a favorite for weddings and the buildings and event center large and impressive, this is still a family affair at heart.

Wilson Creek View

Wilson Creek View

Gerry and Rosie Wilson acquired the 20 acre vineyard in 1996 with the simple intent of running a fun family business and making great wine. With the entire family, children and grand children as well as 5 golden retrievers who can be seen often on property, they have succeeded in making this a family affair.

The Lower Garden is open to parties of 10 or less for picnicing. They just ask that you don’t come to camp!  No tents or shade covers, ice chests or animals and no outside alcoholic beverages.

The Creekside Restaurant offers a menu for lunch that can be enjoyed around the grounds.  You place your order at the Concert Stage and it will be delivered to you in the upper garden.  You can enjoy this in the lower garden also, but you will need to pick up your order.  The menu includes a variety of lunch items as well as a full wine list, beer and other beverages.

With their Event Center Wilson Creek stays busy with Corporate Events and private parties.  The Event Center includes 3 spaces that can accommodate 50-300 people each with a dance floor.  In addition they have two stages that can accommodate up to 400 guests.  Really this place can be party central for 6 or 7 large parties at time!

Bill Wilson is the son and owner.  He works with his Mom & Dad, Brother & Sister, Wife, brother in law & sister in law.  (Did I mention that this was a family affair?) Bill’s Mom and Dad can often be seen on the grounds with their two golden retrievers. They have 92 acres and grow 12 varieties on the estate and then source some grapes.  The varieties used in their wines include: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel.  They also . When you listen to Bill you know that you are not dealing with a corporation, this is a joyful family affair.  They incorporated what they loved about the wineries they visited when they created Wilson Creek.  And it’s not just about their winery, they want to promote Temecula and encourage people to come and taste, enjoy and learn.  Listen to the great interview with him at http://www.temeculawines.org/videos/ and see exactly what I mean.

I didn’t think it was possible that Wilson Creek used Methode Champenois for their almond champagne, and I was right. There is no way they could do that and sell it at that price!  What I was surprised by, was that they do use the Charmat method which is fermenting the wine in bulk in stainless steel tanks!  The final method they actually refer to as “cheating” on their site.  In this method CO2 is injected into the wine.  Typically this method causes very large bubble that can cause Huge headaches!  They do not cheat at Wilson Creek.  They do, by the way have a wonderful section of their website on wine education called Wine 101 that Mick Wilson put together with fascinating information on Barrels, Port, Champagne, Wine Varietals and much more.  http://www.wilsoncreekwinery.com/Wine-101/Default.aspx

Wilson Creek Picnic View

Wilson Creek Picnic View

The next time you are in Temecula, drive all the way out Rancho California to Wilson Creek, taste some wine, stroll the grounds and say hello to the Wilson’s.  You will know them by the golden retrievers at their sides!