I spent the afternoon at Total Wine. I know…it’s a big corporate wine store. But I find I am lacking on small wine shops on my side of the valley. Khoury’s, you know I love you, but you are on the other side of the planet. And Marche Bacchus..well, I wasn’t planning on lunch and I can’t resist that if I stop by.
So, I’m wandering the aisle at Total Wine. This is because I need a bottle of wine to enjoy tonight. Michael is working and I can’t just pop a bottle from the cellar! That wouldn’t be fair. So I am off to find something else, something meaningful, but not so expensive that I feel guilty drinking it without Michael. I find myself drawn to the domestic wines. I really want to be a “buy local” kind of girl! So I stroll though and find myself only looking at the top shelfs. Well, there are two things about this. First, those are the more expensive wines. But second, that is where you find the smaller vineyards and wineries. I’m looking to avoid the giant consumer conglomerate wines. No Constellation or even Terlato for me! I look for names that I know or recognize as smaller vineyards. I found a Tablas Creek wine over in the Alternative reds today! I was drawn to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay today, because of my current infatuation with the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. There was a Sanford Chard and Pinot, but…they are owned by Terlato. I found a Grgich Hills Chardonnay and Fume Blanc (the Fume Blanc came close to hitting my basket!). On the Pinot Noir aisle I look longingly at a Trisae Pinot Noir, as well as a Monkey House from Argyle, both vineyards I love in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
I was looking for a smaller winery. Who I support is important to me. I must admit a little disappointment in the recent Wine Enthusiasts Awards. Barbara Banke, Rodney Strong and Paso Robles….well, this is a little establishment based. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Kendall-Jacksons wines as well as Rodney Strong and I have spent quite a bit of time in Paso. But this seems extraordinarily mainstream. There is so much more out there! My current infatuation is with Sta. Rita Hills and the entire amazing Santa Barbara County. And I do love Paso…the Adelaida district has my heart….But I’m looking for more. Yes, I am a sucker for the story. I am not a wine reviewer. I don’t need blind tasting. For me the experience is part of the tasting, the atmosphere, be it restaurant, winery or home, has alot to do with how I enjoy the wine. I return to my favorite wine quote: “I like drinking wine made by people I like!” (this fabulous quote I got from John Hilliard, as he repeated a comment by a winemaker he met at a major tasting…forgive me for not remembering her name…I’m sure she is very well known and I should!). This is the bottom line. I don’t like or dislike varieties or wines by their alcohol percentage, they just need to be balanced. But I do like wines better when I like the people who make them. If I have a bad experience in the tasting room, the wines won’t taste as good (keep this in mind when you hire tasting room staff!) and an educated winemaker who is passionate about what he or she is doing will always make the wines taste better to me. I cannot separate these things.
I left with a Chenin-Blanc Viognier blend from Pine Ridge in Napa. They were the last vineyard we tasted at on our trip that way and a favorite of my friend Kathy. I remember pulling up at the end of the day and strolling through their demo gardens out front, then wandering in to the lovely tasting room and having a pleasant tasting. Not the best ever, but quite pleasant and knowing how much my friend Kathy and her husband love this place has warmed my memories of it. I had a pasta with shellfish blend in a red sauce planned to curl up with for dinner with a side salad, so this should be perfect. I ended up with Orecchette with the shellfish blend in a marinara sauce with a little lemon zest and some chipotle dusting to kick in a little spice. This went beautifully with the wine. I ended up skipping the salad…no one was home to see me enjoy two bowls of just the pasta, and you won’t tell, right?