Paso Robles Harvest 2015

If you have never been to Paso Robles during the harvest season, you have missed an excitingly crazy time.  Most wineries were having pairing or serving hors d’oeuvre with their wines.  Lucky for us, we arrived at the tail end of events and got to taste some really good wines in a low key atmosphere.  Wine brings people together.  It’s not just the wine, it is also the experience.  We visited seven wineries.  We met good people and had a great experience.  I highly recommend visiting them.

Kukkula Winery is one of my favorites.  If you like fruity, well balanced, complex Rhone blends that linger just right on your tongue and lead to a silky smooth Finnish (All the wines have Finnish names.. I couldn’t resist.), you will love Kukkula.

TH Estate Wines (formerly Terry Hoage), has a variety of Rhone Blends and GSM’s.  The price points are good for the style and quality of theses wines. Continue reading

Chicago Is..

IMG_20150623_102710872Let’s do some word association. If I say Chicago, you say…………………………..Well if you are anything like me (and not from Chicago) then you think if things like big city, mob, cigars, sports (you pick, Cubs/Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks), and most of all COLD. What I do not think of immediately is food, or at least not good food, maybe a dog and a big steak. But when I stated telling people I was going to Chicago for a conference everyone started giving me lists of places “I had to try”. Fortunately I was going with another “food person” (not cool to call us foodies anymore) who had been to Chicago recently and knew a little bit about the landscape. After reviewing all the “lists” and doing a little bit of research we started to put together our game plan. Dinner was relatively easy aside from getting the reservations we wanted. The real trick was figuring out what parts of the conference we could duck out on to get lunch and when we needed to get back, but needless to say we had our motivation.

I landed late Monday evening. My colleague was not due in till the next day. He was not IMG_20150622_215404204interested in trying any Chicago style pizza, so I figured this was my chance since I had never had Chicago style pizza IN Chicago. As you can imagine I had lots of options, but given the time and location it was narrowed down to Giordano’s and Pequod’s . I chose Giordano’s even though Pequod’s had somewhat better reviews. I just wanted a classic, old fashioned stuffed pizza and Giordano’s seemed to fit the bill. IMG_20150622_212052251It came out looking exactly as I had envisioned and after eating the first piece while it was still too hot (and burning the roof of my mouth as I have done with hot pizza since childhood) I let it cool a little to let the flavors settle and mature. I was happy I did, not only did I stop burning the roof of my mouth but the pizza came alive and tasted, dare I say, exactly as I had envisioned. Lots of cheese, a dark robust tomato sauce, sausage, mushroom and olive. All of the flavors playing off each other along with the light crunchy crust. I am usually a thin crust pizza guy, but after that I will go for a real Chicago stuffed style pizza any time. Continue reading

Going home: Red cups and ribs

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I recently went home to Virginia to visit the family.  My parents are getting up there in years and other relatives are dropping like flies.  I met up with friends from high school, toured the Capitol with Hill, and we even had time to hit a couple of the local wineries. Pearmund and The Winery at La Grange. The tasting room at La Grange is circa 1790.

The one thing I looked forward to is hanging out with my sister and brother-in-law.  Naja and Biggie (his nickname is fitting), epitomize values we were raised with.  Family, friends, love and humor.  All are present in their home all the time.  Also present in their home all the time Is food.  Biggie loves to cook and I love eating Biggies cooking.  Ribs, chicken, mac and cheese, collard green, potato salad, all the standards we love.  Everyone has their own recipes for sauces and cooking techniques but no one will share.  Biggies is no different.  He made a flank steak that was marinated in one of his concoction, absolutely delicious.  He still hasn’t told me what was in it.  Even if he did, I wouldn’t tell.

This visit, the cocktail was Zaya  Rum and coke.  I like it with diet coke.  If you have not tried it, you will appreciate the vanilla and oak notes and smooth finish.  To me, the diet coke does not over power or cover the characteristics of the rum. 

Artist talk about the love, sweat and pride they put into their creations.  Biggie is no different, except for the sweat.  You can taste the love for his family and his pride in every bite.  I’m getting homesick thinking about it.  Until my next visit, love your family and be good to them.    -Brax

Silverado Trail part 1

I have decided to challenge myself, this summer, to visit all the wineries along the Silverado trail.   I know i know.  It is an ambitious under taking, that will be limited by hours of operation and state DUI laws.  But I am up for the challenge.  I have no plan or order in mind.  My wine glass will be my guide.  I will keep it Short and sweet and try to help you decide if the winery is worth a visit or not.  The first three on this adventure, I believe,  are all worth a visit. Black Stallion and Darioush have beautiful tasting rooms. Darioush is modeled after an ancient Persian palace and all the stones were imported from Iran.  First stop, Black Stallion.

Black Stallion.  I did the all red tasting.  We started with the 2013 los carneros Pinot Noir. $35.

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Black fruit and spice.  Aromas of black cherry.
2012 Napa Valley Merlot. Dark fruit and oak on the nose.  Silky black cherry on the tongue lite tannins. $40.
2012 Napa Valley  Syrah. Aromas of spice and blackberry.  Medium body wine with flavors of berry fruits and hints of vanillla. Nicely balanced. $40
2011 napa valley Cabernet sauvignon. Bold black fruit on the front incooperated into a medium bodied wine. A little dry for my tastes but still enjoyable.  $75.  Next stop Darioush. Continue reading

Arizona…Not Forgotten

It’s been a while, ok it was August, since Troya and I visited Arizona. I know, that was my first thought too, AZ in Aug, that’s not very smart. But off we when to Sedona for a little well deserved relaxation and time together. I have been to Phoenix several times and I have to admit that my impression of the state was influenced by what you see in and around Phoenix. I had seen pictures of other parts of the state, most notably Sedona, but in my mind AZ had heat, Saguaro’s and, well, heat. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on several levels.

First of all driving up to Sedona from PHX airport is a trip I recommend. You get a real feeling of how not all desert is the same and you can definitely tell when you are in different parts of the state. Then, when you get to the Sedona area and see all the red

rock mountains rising up from the desert floor you know right away why this is considered a special, and for many people a spiritual, place. The resort we stayed at, L’Auberge de Sedona , was an incredible place with individual cabins overlooking a brook with running water and surrounded by tree’s and greenery, yes all this in AZ in IMG_20140807_174748726Aug. Can’t find that in California in August. Each cabin had its own deck and outside shower, Troya’s favorite part.  While it was hot, mid to upper 90’s, it never felt uncomfortable or limited us in doing anything (it’s a dry heat, right). Not only did not I expect our resort to be right on the brook, with an outdoor eating and imagelounge right on the banks, but I also did not expect water (outside of needing more while poolside) to play a major theme for the whole trip, from our afternoon picnic and wine sitting on the shores to a slow water river rafting trip with Verde Adventures. They also offer Wine tasting tours. What, you say, wine and rivers in Arizona?

And this brings us to the second big surprise of the trip. I knew that some people were making wine in Arizona but I have to IMG_20140808_140434903admit that I imagined it as roadside swill with little character. With the smile that comes with humble pie I can say that they are doing some truly amazing stuff with their wines. To appreciate AZ wine you will have to put aside your pre-conceived notion of what Arizona is and what it is not. Yes, Phoenix is Phoenix and I will not try to change that perception, but not one is growing grapes in Phoenix and not all of AZ is the valley of the sun. The state actually IMG_20140808_152429759_HDRhas many different climates and soils, all the ingredients for terrior. And while wine has been made in the state for many years at this time the big production wineries have been slow to take advantage. That means that the wines you do find here are generally smaller production with all the good and bad that comes from that. We spent our “wine tasting” time in the Cottonwood and Jerome area of the Verde Valley Wine Region. We did find some pretty bad wine, but IMG_20140808_153428243_HDRwe also found some really amazing wine with more flavor, layers and character then I would have ever expected. Caduceus Cellars really stood out with some amazing Rosé and one of the best Sangiovese’s  I have tasted. The highlight of the day was spending time at Passion Cellars IMG_20140808_161608651_HDRand getting to meet Cody Burkett, aka The Wine Monk. Passionate and entertaining, he was able to give a very concise overview on the history and business of Arizona wine. It’s a budding industry there but do not be surprised if they start making some noise and giving Cali a run.