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Next Exit? Buellton!

The Hitching Post II is a great restaurant in Buellton, CA, a small town smack dab in the middle (maybe not literally, but dang close) of the Santa Ynez wine region in California’s Central Coast AVA. You may know of The Hitching Post from the 2004 hit movie Sideways! If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing the movie, you undoubtedly know of the wines associated with this popular restaurant too!

Hartley-Ostini Hitching Post Wines is the collaboration of two good friends who seem to have very different backgrounds. Gray Hartley (a former professional fisherman) and Frank Ostini (chef and owner of The Hitching Post) first made “home wine” in 1979. Their first Pinot Noir came in 1981, and their wine “project” moved to a winery in 1984. Initially the wines were made exclusively for The Hitching Post, but now the country is happy to have them distributed so that we can enjoy them even when we’re not visiting California!

My husband and I have visited Buellton and The Hitching Post II several times, and we’re always sure to stock up on some of their wines to bring home with us. They make a fun Rosé, some nice Merlot and Syrah, and an interesting (and very affordable) red blend called “Gen Red”. Their specialty, though, is killer Pinot Noir!

The other night I pulled a Hartley-Ostini 2012 Pinot Noir Highliner out of our cellar. Their flagship wine, this Pinot Noir has a beautiful nose! With aromas of violets, cherry, raspberry and some wet earth, this wine rocks. The velvety palate has bright cherry, raspberry, pomegranate, and that lovely earthiness that I pray for when cracking open a Pinot. This is one heck of a wine!

Whether you enjoyed the movie or not, definitely check out The Hitching Post II and the lovely Hartley-Ostini wines! The Santa Ynez Valley is a fabulous wine region to visit, so if you haven’t been, definitely put it on your bucket list. The fabulous wines, the delicious food and the gorgeous scenery will entice you to go back time and again! Just make sure that you’re not chewing gum while tasting!

Check out the Hartley-Ostini wines here:

https://store.hitchingpostwines.com/storefront.aspx 

 

Did You Know that March is Taste Washington Wine Month?

March is Taste Washington Wine Month so I thought that I’d join in the festivities!

I’m not able to get to the fine state of Washington this month, so I did the next best thing! I cracked open a bottle of Washington wine!

A few years ago my husband and I made a really fun wine trip to Washington State. We flew into Seattle and started the wine journey in nearby Woodinville, a delightful little town full of fun tasting rooms and restaurants. From there we headed to the Cascade Mountains and spent a few days in the adorable and wine friendly Bavarian town of Leavenworth. We hit the road again and hung out in Yakama Valley for two days and then on to Walla Walla, where we spent the majority of our time. We ended our trip in Spokane and flew home from there!

It was in Woodinville that we discovered Mark Ryan Winery. When we were there six years ago this was a small, quiet tasting room with a friendly and knowledgeable gal named Kyra pouring their fabulous wines. Considering the quality of the wine my guess is that this tasting room is no longer small or quiet, but I’d put my money on the fact that the wines are still fabulous!

Sadly, the bottle I pulled from our cellar last night was the last of the Mark Ryan wines we bought on that trip. It sure was lovely, though! The 2008 Mark Ryan Winery Water Witch is a blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot and 2% Malbec. All of the fruit is from the Klipsun Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA, a warm sub-appellation of the Yakima Valley.

Dark ruby in color, this Bordeaux blend has cherry, currant, some vanilla and baking spices on the nose. There’s some violet there too! The palate is cherry cola, cherry cola, and cherry cola!!!!! The vanilla and baking spices are there as well, along with some chocolate and sweet tannins. How can you go wrong with chocolate covered cherry cola???? The finish is long and graceful!

The ’08 Water Witch is drinking absolutely beautifully right now. Do you have a case of this wine in your cellar? If you do … I’ll be over ASAP! If you don’t, but you are curious, you can check out Mark Ryan Winery here: https://www.markryanwinery.com/index.php

Cheers!

 

More to Napa Than Cab Sauv? Oh Yes!

There’s a lot more to Napa than Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh sure, Napa knows how to do “Cab”, but there are a lot of varietals that perform well in this famous Northern California AVA.

Last month I attended another great tasting hosted by Master Sommelier Matt Stamp and sponsored by the Guild of Sommeliers. We tasted three flights of great Napa wines. Today I’m going to tell you about the second flight; a somewhat eclectic group of red varietals OTHER than Cabernet Sauvignon.

The first wine I’ll highlight is a really fun one! Heitz Cellars (famous for their stellar Cabs) does a 100% Grignolino! Mostly grown in the Piedmont region of Italy, there is very little Grignolino grown outside of this region. The one small exception is California, and Heitz Wine Cellars does a great job with this unique grape in their Napa vineyards. The 2014 Heitz Cellars Grignolino is a light colored red, resembling a Gamay.  Check out the color in the photo of the flight! It is very floral on the nose, with violets, plum, strawberry and cherry! Served slightly chilled, this would be a great “patio pounder” in the summertime!

Next up is the Land & Reed “Two-Fourteen” Cabernet Franc. Two-Fourteen is the name of the clone used from Chinon in the Loire Valley. Land & Reed does a lovely job of keeping an Old World feel to this wine, with lots of blueberry, raspberry and floral. Land & Reed was one of the first wineries to do a 100% Cab Franc from a Napa vineyard.

The 2013 Farella Merlot from the Coombsville AVA is lovely. This dark ruby colored Merlot has lots of blue fruit and cherry with great acidity. It’s not a big fruit bomb, but it has softness and a depth that makes this a great food wine! This is my kind of Merlot!

I’m a huge fan of Syrah, so I was excited to see the Lagier Meredith (a favorite producer of mine when it comes to Syrah in the New World) being poured! The 2012 Lagier Meredith Mt. Veeder Syrah speaks of place. Ahhhh. The lovely earthiness is almost garrigue like! This wine has a meatiness and olive essence that I so love about Syrah. The fruit is lovely too! There is black cherry and black currant, along with some licorice. This is definitely a complex and dignified wine! I wish I had a glass right now!

So … as you can see there is a lot more to Napa than Cabernet Sauvignon. Do the Napa appellations make a great Cab? Heck yes. But this tasting reminded me that they make a lot of great wine from a lot of different varietals!

 

Canada Meets Thailand = YUMMY!

Riesling is the perfect grape. Well, that’s what a lot of wine pros think anyway. It pairs with a vast array of dishes. And when it has a touch of residual sugar, balanced by the high acidity, it is the perfect match for a spicy dish.

That’s why when I made a Vegetable Thai Green Curry for dinner last night, I cracked open a bottle of 2013 Fielding Estate Riesling to serve alongside. The pairing was perfect!

Fielding Estate Winery is nestled on Niagara’s Beamsville Bench, a sub-appellation of the Niagara Peninsula VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) located in … yes … Ontario, Canada! Many people are shocked to learn that this area grows great wine grapes!!!! Yes, Vitis vinifera!!!! The region is at about the same latitude as Northern Italy, and think of the great wines THEY produce. Plus, Lake Ontario, along its northern edge, moderates the climate making it very similar to the climate of Burgundy! Their terroir and microclimate suit Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and more!

The 2013 Fielding Estate Riesling is pale straw in color. On the nose are peaches, citrus and a nice minerality. Peaches, lemon drop and lime are on the palate. This is an off-dry wine with a lively acidity that balances the wine beautifully.

The sweetness of the wine’s residual sugar offers a refreshing contrast and moderates the heat and spice of the dish. A high alcohol and tannic wine will clash with the Thai Green Curry’s spiciness, making it feel even hotter.

Even if you’re not normally a fan of off-dry Riesling, you’ll be amazed at this pairing. You’ll end up loving the wine! And at only 10.5% alcohol, you can enjoy an extra glass!!!!

So, the next time you’re enjoying a spicy dish, grab a glass of Riesling to help wash it down. In fact, try a Fielding Estate wine! You can check them out here:  http://www.fieldingwines.com

 

MVP Wine from Charles Woodson!

I make no secret of my love of wine AND football! My friends, family and colleagues know that I’m pretty much obsessed with both! So when I discovered that one of my favorite players of all time, who also happens to have a wine, was going to be in Orlando ON MY BIRTHDAY … well guess what happened! I went!

Charles Woodson is a defensive back that played for Michigan, the Oakland Raiders and my beloved Green Bay Packers. His football stats are amazing. He won a National Championship with the Michigan Wolverines as well as the 1997 Heisman. He was the 4th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders, where he won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He won the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the year and Super Bowl XLV with the Green Bay Packers. These are just a few of this Hall of Fame lock’s gazillion awards and accomplishments during his football-playing career.

He now uses his knowledge, good looks and eloquence on ESPN’s NFL Countdown show!

But where am I really going with this???? HIS WINE!!!!!!! And boy oh boy has Woodson scored again! Charles has had a lot of picks in his career, but this may be his best pick yet!

The 2012 TwentyFour by Charles Woodson has bright cherry and vanilla on the nose. The palate has chocolate covered cherry, ripe dark fruit, tomato, some nice earthiness and a touch of oak! This well-balanced wine has velvety tannins and ends with chocolate on the long finish.

I was truly impressed with this lovely wine. It’s not overdone like some Napa Cabs. It is approachable now, but can lie down for another ten plus years.

Charles’ wines should definitely be included on your wine “fantasy team”!!!  The wine is fabulous, and the NFL great behind it is a really nice guy. What a nice bonus!

 

Check out Charles Woodson Wines here: http://www.charleswoodsonwines.com

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