31 October, 2011

Apothic Red - Perfect Halloween Wine

 Boo!  The only thing scary about this wine wine is how well it goes with candy (like we need anything else to make fun sized bars go down easier at this time of year).
'09Apothic Red, Red Table Wine, California, USA:  It had a pretty, dark color, a smooth mouthfeel, round, tasty flavors and an overall soft feeling.  A blend of Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel, it managed to meld characteristics from all three varieties in an interesting, if kind of sweet, way.  I got black cherry, molasses and red fruit in the flavors, along with something dark, like coffee grounds.  We tried it with brie and crackers--- not so tasty.  But with a salty cheddar it was very good.  And with salted dark chocolate covered caramels, it was enchanting.  At $14, pick up a bottle when you replace those trick or treater candies that mysteriously disappeared over the weekend.  Target stocks this as does Safeway.  I am looking forward to trying it with some spicier autumn fare or pumpkin pie.  Or maybe with some half-off Halloween candy

I received this bottle as a sample

18 October, 2011

Hopland Passport Festival Contest!!!

Are you free October 22nd and 23rd? Thanks to John Cesano of Destination Hopland (and McFadden Vineyards) Brix Chicks readers have the opportunity to win a free 2-day passport to the festival to visit all 16 wineries. WOOHOO! All you have to do is read the post I wrote below and answer this question: What are two of the wineries participating in the Hopland Passport Festival? (Hint: there is a link in that post to help you out.)

So just drop an email to Brix_Chicks@yahoo.com and be sure to include your full name along with your answer.

Who will be the lucky ones?

14 October, 2011

Hopland Passport Festival! Five questions with John Cesano, Secretary of Destination Hopland

The weekend of October 22nd-23rd I will be visiting the town of Hopland located in Mendocino county where they are holding the 20th annual Hopland Passport Festival. I got to do a little Q&A with John Cesano, Secretary of Destination Hopland (and Manager of McFadden vineyards) to learn about the region and what it has to offer wine-lovers.

Q1.Is Hopland an American Viticultural Area?

No, Hopland is in the larger AVA of Mendocino, but is in the Sanel Valley which is pending AVA approval.

Q2. What is special about the terroir and growing conditions of the
Hopland region?

Hopland features diverse topography, and is home to the highest concentration of certified organic and bio-diverse winery tasting rooms anywhere.

Q3. Which varietals do the best in Hopland?

A3. Because Hopland has a diverse topography with grapes grown on the
slope of Duncan Peak to the banks of the Russian River, and a climate not
too hot and not too cold but just right, many varietals grow great in the
Hopland area. From Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet
Franc and Sauvignon Blanc to Burgundian varietals like Chardonnay and
Pinot Noir, and Rhone wines like Syrah and Grenache to Mendocino County's
flavorful Zinfandel, Hopland is an area with great, medal winning, wines
for lovers of all different varietals.

Q4. Why should wine-lovers visit Hopland?

101 miles up Hwy 101 from the Golden Gate Bridge, Hopland is the antidote to living and working in city cubicles all week. Organic, sustainable, unexpected, real farmers, rural, small town, and genuine all describe Hopland.

It is in this environment that people can relax and enjoy the taste of honest wines, wines with varietal correctness and sense of place.

It makes no sense to escape to wine country if the wine country you run to
has been overtaken by the shops of the malls and cities. There aren't
men's suit shops, ladies dress stores, and half a dozen antique shops
wedged in between Starbucks and Banana Republic in Hopland. We have
everything real people need and nothing they don't here in Hopland.

Q5. What is not to be missed while visiting Hopland?

As the manager for McFadden Vineyard, I would say McFadden's tasting

As the secretary for Destination Hopland, I would say all of our wineries.

As a really large man with a really large appetite, I would say the $1.25
pastor tacos (ask for grilled onions and peppers - at no additional
charge) from the taco truck parked on Hwy 128 just 50 yards off Hwy 101. I
get three and give up a $5 bill, with the change as a tip.

Here's an itinerary:

Breakfast at the Bluebird Cafe, taste wines, lunch at a taco truck, taste wines, maybe buy a wine-themed cap or shirt or sweatshirt, join a wine club, check in to the Lawson Station, Campovida, or Hopland Inn. Play and wine at Sho-ka-wah Casino, and enjoy a really great buffet dinner. Two days in Hopland is great because you haven't caught a garden tour at Campovida, played Bocce, walked a vineyard row, or visited the Solar Living Center yet.

Thank you John. Wow, taco trucks, casinos, bocce and a Solar Living Center, who knew! I hope this has picqued your curiosity so check out the Hopland Passport Festival at www.hoplandpassport.com for a list of participating wineries and to buy tickets. I hope to see you there!

11 October, 2011

Close Encounters of the "Crush" kind - First Crush Winemaking Experience in Paso Robles!

Yes, it is autumn and harvest is upon us. That means there will soon be a lot of picking and crushing going on and the Brixchicks are going to be part of the action thanks to First Crush Winemaking of Paso Robles, CA. (and thanks to Brix Chick Liza who could not make the festivities.)

First Crush Winemaking Experience is a company that specializes in educational wine encounters in which consumers can learn about the wine-making process from harvesting, crushing and destemming grapes to bottling the wine. And drinking it of course. Each encounter includes a lecture by a viticulturalist or winemaker, and a specialty themed lunch (Hawaiin, BBQ or Mexican.)

I cannot wait to learn about the "terroir" and the growing conditions of Paso Robles and the unique wines they produce. And yes, this will be my first time to actually stomp some grapes. Hmmmmmmm....

If you are an aspiring wine-maker or just a curious wino please go here for more info: www.firstcrushwinemaking.com

08 October, 2011

Beginning and End to a Full Week

I had a full and challenging work week when I made no time to care for what I ate or drank. Yet I bookended it well with homey meals and good-value wines thanks to the fresh, seasonal bounty of Berkeley Bowl, the earthy, creamy goodness of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, and the fine recommendations of David Sharp at the Wine Mine in Oakland.

Last Saturday and Sunday, I poured a 2010 Biohof Pratsch Grüner Veltliner from Neiderösterrich, with its bright, effervescent green apple, lemongrass, and white pepper flavors and minerality on the finish, to contrast a bold and earthy soup made with roasted Roma tomatoes and Rancho Gordo alubia blanca beans—a genius and simple recipe from the Coppertop Kitchen that sustained me throughout the week.

When Friday finally arrived, I unwound by cooking “clean-out-the-fridge” style. I dumped the last two inches of the Grüner Veltliner into a skillet of sautéed leeks, onions, red bell peppers, tomatoes, chicken garlic sausage, and leftover beans and baked it all with breadcrumbs for some kind of delicious faux cassoulet. To go with, I opened yet another gem from the Wine Mine—a 2007 Gerard Bertrand Côtes du Rousillon Villages Tautavel Protégée “Grand Terroir” (Grenache, syrah, carignane). Its funkiness and deep black cherry, green pepper, roasted red pepper, and tar notes and structured tannins complimented the beans and stewed vegetable flavors in the dish even though the wine hadn’t fully opened up after three hours. Both the bean dish and wine should be even better today. I’m curious what the wine would be like decanted and in another year or two. Now well-restored by simply good food and wine and some rest I'm ready to go explore the changing colors of this beautiful fall day.