Happy National Drink Wine Day

I wasn’t going to miss this one…

Mocadeaux Wine collage

Happy National Drink Wine Day!!!

Cheers!

 

 

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Pizza Is Nature’s Perfect Food. Add Wine, Even Better!

How on earth could I have missed National Pizza Day on February 9th?!?!?!

Me, the gal for whom pizza is the universal cure for what ails me and the dish I would request for my death row meal?!?

Me, the one who was an advocate of “Pizza for Breakfast” long before scientists proved its health benefits?!?

pizza for breakfast

I’m so ashamed.

I can remember the first time I tasted pizza. I was about 5 years old, 1962 or so, when a trip to the Round Table Restaurant on 4th Street North in St. Petersburg, Florida, changed my life.

And, because the internet is amazing, I can show you this from eBay:

Round Table Restaurant

Holy trip-down-memory-lane, Batman! Even now, I can remember the taste of that ooey, gooey, delicious cheese pizza and how excited I was any time my family dined at the Round Table.

Over the years my love of pizza has taken many turns.

During stretches of my life, the Dark Days as I like to call them, I had to be content with frozen pizza, managing to get by, doctoring up Stouffer’s French Bread Pepperoni Pizza, adding a little extra mozzarella cheese.

In college, Food Service pizza purchased from the little kitchen in the basement of my dorm became an all too frequent late night treat. #Freshman15 …Also…  #SophomoreJuniorSenior15

Upon graduation, I was lucky enough to move to Chicago, otherwise known as Home of the World’s Best Pizza.

Now I know that some folks disagree and say that New York pizza is better or that Chicago deep dish pizza isn’t really pizza.

Those folks are wrong.

I’m a bit of a traditional purist when it comes to pizza – just one or two toppings, red tomato sauce, and plenty of mozzarella cheese (the chewy, stretchy kind not the fancy fresh mozzarella which belongs on a caprese salad or a gourmet flatbread).

You’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, Mo. We love pizza too and heartily agree that Chicago pizza is the best pizza. But we were promised wine!”

OK, let’s go.

Pizza and wine – the perfect food made more perfect.

Here’s the thing…

Pairing wine with pizza shouldn’t be complicated. It’s all about choosing pizza toppings you enjoy and a wine you like to drink.

If you are a Chardonnay fan who loves a veggie pizza, go for it!

Pair your meat-lovers pizza with Cabernet Sauvignon? Great!

Pinot Noir, the perfect middle-of-the-road-food-wine, can be a good choice for those who can’t decide and/or simply love Pinot Noir.

But if you want to think outside the box a little and explore some new taste treats, how about one of these:

SYRAH

 

2012 Blair Fox Syrah

2012 Blair Fox Syrah from Santa Barbara County

Syrah is a full-bodied wine that combines luscious fruitiness with a bit of smokiness and spice. It is an excellent foil for the spice and heartiness of traditional pizza meats like pepperoni or sausage and also works well with my favorite topping: green olives.

We are particularly fans of Syrah from California like this Blair Fox wine from Santa Barbara County. Other Santa Barbara favorites are Foxen, Fess Parker, Jonata, Kunin and Andrew Murray.

2009 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch "Gianna Marie" Syrah

2009 Martinelli Zio Tony Ranch “Gianna Marie” Syrah

In Sonoma, Martinelli makes a number of great single-vineyard Syrahs. And in Paso Robles, a new favorite is Terry Hoage.

If a straight-up Syrah is not your thing, how about trying a red blend containing Syrah?

We have plenty of wickedly good Syrah blends from Napa’s Alpha Omega and Lewis Cellars in our wine collection. Fess Parker makes “The Big Easy” which should be available at your favorite wine store.

Syrah is a frequent ingredient in red wine blends so do a little exploring and ask your favorite wine salesperson for some suggestions.

Zinfandel

If you are enjoying a pizza that is hearty, rich, and topping-packed or a fabulous Chicago style deep-dish pizza, you might want to give Zinfandel a try.

Zinfandel is best known for its notes of pepper and spice. No shrinking violet, this medium to full-bodied wine stands strong to balance equally bold foods.

Zinfandel is famous for its compatibility with barbecue flavors so if a BBQ chicken pizza is your jam, Zinfandel might be your new best friend.

Hendry Zinfandel

2010 Hendry Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel

We are huge fans of Hendry’s Zinfandels from Napa. (By the way, if you want a really unusual, deep-dive wine experience that you will never forget, visit Hendry. You can read more about the Hendry experience here.)

Stroll the aisles in the Zinfandel section of your wine store and you will see great, reliable producers like Duckhorn, St. Francis, Frank Family, Klinker Brick, and Seghesio.

Just as with the Syrahs, if you want to dip your toe into the Zinfandel pond slowly, consider a red wine blend. Rely on the knowledgeable folks at your wine store. They know their stuff, love wine and want you to have a positive wine experience!

Enjoy your pizza! Enjoy your wine! Life is good!

Designated driver, Uber or cab

Or, serve your pizza and wine at home and save the cost of the Uber ride!

No one paid me to say this.

Thanks for stopping by,

 

 

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(The Long Overdue) Paso Robles Part 2

We’ve been so busy enjoying the wines from Paso Robles, I’ve been quite remiss in posting Part 2 of our travels. So much wine, so little time to drink and post at once.

When last we were together you might remember that I said I always learn something new on wine tasting trips. In Paso Robles, I learned of some new-to-me varietals thus expanding my repertoire of California wines.

Tablas Creek

Show of hands: How many of you have heard of Counoise? Tannat?

Tablas Creek Counoise and Tannat

Although a name you might not recognize, Counoise (pronounced Coon-wahz) is used in many Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Tablas Creek has been growing Counoise since the early-1990s. 

Counoise is a medium intensity wine with a bit of spiciness and plenty of fruit. Think of it as a Syrah with the volume turned down a few notches.

In particularly noteworthy vintages, Tablas Creek bottles Counoise as a single varietal wine but more often it is used in red blends to soften and complement bolder wines.

Tannat came to Tablas Creek purely by chance when their French supplier decided to throw some of the vines in with others that had been ordered. A happy accident that has resulted in a very successful and relatively easy to grow wine.

Tannat can be pretty intense. In fact, in Europe Tannat is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to calm it down. But this bold wine loves the growing conditions and climate of Paso Robles which allow it to more fully ripen, releasing its beautiful true self.

The Tablas Creek tasting room is worth the stop to explore a wide range of varietals. Plus, they have a killer gift shop.

L’Aventure

L'Aventure Tasting Room

How gorgeous is this place?

At L’Aventure we tasted a wonderful Rosé (made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot) and three additional blends from some combination of these same red wines with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in for good measure.

L'Aventure Estate Cuvee

This 2014 L’Aventure Estate Cuvée (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah and 15% Petit Verdot) convinced us to join the wine club.

If you are keeping score, that is wine club number 14 for us – the first, but not last, wine club we joined on this trip.

The stop at L’Aventure was also educational as they displayed this sample of bark showing how corks are born.

Cork bark

Pretty cool, right?

Caliza

We quickly learned that wine tasting in Paso Robles is all about fun and wine blends and more fun.

Caliza

At Caliza we started with yet another Rosé, this time a blend of Grenache and Syrah. It has taken me a while but I can honestly say that after this trip I am firmly on board the “Rosé all day!” train.

Next, we enjoyed a series of red wine blends – combinations of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo.

Caliza’s wines have garnered some great and well-deserved scores from the experts.

Thatcher

Our visit to Thatcher on this gorgeous day started with a taste of – what else? – Rosé. Thatcher didn’t make much of this wine, only 90 cases, and I’m sure it sold out fast!

Thatcher Winery

Thatcher also poured two single varietal wines: a Syrah and a Zinfandel. After tasting so many blends, it was interesting to get back to a couple of wines in their “pure form”. I’m a big fan of both Syrah and Zinfandel. These did not disappoint!

Of course, we also sampled some of Thatcher’s blends (combinations of Syrah, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, and Grenache).

Thatcher is serious about their wine making but has a great sense of humor in naming the wines. Oxymorons are their game.

“Controlled Chaos”

“Constant Variable”

“Original Copy”

“Normal Deviation”

“Resident Alien”

You get the idea. Well played, Thatcher.

Our visit to Thatcher also coincided serendipitously with the occasional visit from our most beloved, the sentimental favorite, will always be #1 in our hearts, Paso Robles wine producer:

The Farm

The Farm

The Farm winery is tiny; proudly boasting a mere 4 employees. They do not have their own tasting room nor really enough wine to supply a full-time tasting room so twice a year or so they set up a folding table on the patio at Thatcher and share their magnificent wines.

The Farm’s stated goal is

“to make small amounts of fine red wines with the very best fruit from Westside Paso Robles (Adelaida and Willow Creek Districts).”

And YES they do!

The Farm Wines

We first met Jim and Azmina at a Family Winemakers of California tasting event. The Farm was brand new – this was their first or second vintage. My husband had not heard of The Farm before and he was curious. Because they were so new, their table wasn’t mobbed with fans so we had the opportunity to chat with Jim and Azmina and hear their story.

Their partner/winemaker is Santiago Achaval, the legendary winemaker from Argentina.

The wine was love at first taste. Big, bold reds beautifully crafted, expertly decanted, a joy to drink.

Jim and Azmina

Since that first meeting we have (of course) joined the wine club and introduced The Farm to friends and family who have joined as well.

By the way, if you are in the Paso Robles area, there are a couple of places you can taste The Farm’s wine by appointment and I would enthusiastically encourage you to do so.

We always look forward to crossing paths with Jim and Azmina. Seeing them reminds us why we love to visit wineries and attend wine tasting events, particularly the Family Winemakers of California event.

Having the opportunity to meet the people responsible for the wine and to learn about their journey and their passion adds so much to the enjoyment of the wine.

Well, not only was this post long overdue, it is LONG. I will save the rest of our Paso Robles tales for Part 3. Look for more fun, more wine blends, a craft project and a character. I’ll be back soon!

 

No one paid me to say this.

Do not drink and drive!

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Paso Robles Wine Tasting – Part 1

Each time I go on a wine tasting trip I learn something new.

For instance, on our recent trip to Paso Robles, California, I learned that I have been mispronouncing “Paso Robles”. Rather than using the Spanish pronunciation of “Paw-so Row-blays” locals go with “Paw-so Row-bulls”.

Or you can just stick with “Paso”.

Paso Robles

We have been trying to schedule this Paso Robles wine tasting trip with family and friends from California for quite some time. The California gang made a few reconnaissance trips without us, diligently doing research for this excursion and compiling a list of favorites for us to visit.

Located on California’s Central Coast about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles has been in the wine-making business since the late 1800s. Paso grows over 40 different types of grapes some of which, I have to admit, are completely new to me.

See? Wine tasting is educational!

Paso Robles Wine Festival

Paso Robles Wine Tasting Festival

Serendipitously, the dates chosen for our trip coincided with the Paso Robles Wine Festival. This four-day event takes place in the park in the middle of downtown Paso Robles and features wine and food from local businesses.

We chose to sign up for only the Reserve Tasting Event on Friday afternoon figuring the crowds would be at the festival all weekend and we would have wineries’ tasting rooms to ourselves.

Paso wine festival reserve tasting

The Reserve Tasting featured the best wines from a limited number of wineries along with tasty bites from local restaurants. It was a great Paso Robles introduction.

EPOCH ESTATE WINES

Epoch Estate’s tasting room is a gorgeous blend of old and new.

Epoch tasting room

Originally the home of York Mountain Winery –  the very first winery in the Central Coast, dating back to 1882 – this structure was destroyed by an earthquake in 2003.  Seven years later, the owners of Epoch Estate, purchased the land and the rubble and set out to reconstruct the historic building using all of the original materials, painstakingly, piece by piece.

Epoch even managed to bring back York Mountain’s 100+ year-old wine press which now holds a place of honor in the open loft of the tasting room.

Epoch wine press

Our tasting flight included a lovely Rosé (made from Mourvèdre, Grenache, and Syrah grapes), a white blend (Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne), three red blends (varying combinations of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Tempranillo) and one 100% Syrah.

Epoch White and Rose

I brought these two bottles home for Girls’ Night In.

Guyomar

In 1996, modern day pioneers Mareeni and Ishka Stanislaus moved west to Paso Robles. Mareeni was recruited to be the area’s first OB/GYN and Ishka set his sights on starting a winery.

While we didn’t get to see Mareeni or Ishka on this visit – he was out of town and she was on call at the hospital – we did enjoy a lovely tasting, complete with a cheese and charcuterie platter, in the dining room of their home.

Guyomar tasting

We enjoyed tastes of Guyomar’s Rosé (made from Grenache grapes) and four different red blends (varying combinations of Zinfandel, Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah).

Guyomar The Editor

Given the fact that the majority of our group was made up of journalists and English majors, Guyomar’s delicious blend (69% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Zinfandel, and 4% Petite Sirah), “The Editor”, was a fan favorite.

Law Estate

Law Estate

The California gang discovered this fabulous place on their first visit to Paso Robles and have been anxious for us to meet Law’s yummy wines.

Law Estate barrel roomOur young winery guide, Maggie, impressed us with her knowledge and delighted us with her stories about discovering her passion for wine at the family dinner table and her dad’s help in furthering her wine education. Maggie’s dad is being rewarded now with the family discount at his daughter’s place of work and access to some incredible wines.

While nestled in the gorgeous room just beyond the barrels, Maggie poured us an array of red blends with descriptive names like “Audacious” and “Sagacious” (combinations of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon) and”Intrepid”, of 100% Syrah.

The names of these blends prompted us to imagine what we might name our own signature wines. As you might guess, the English majors and writers among us were more skilled at this game than we accountants.

The best I could come up with was “In The Red” which doesn’t have the greatest connotation although it does describe the financial situation of many who try to start a vineyard.

Still, I think I will leave the wine naming and winemaking business to talented and experienced professionals like those crafting the delicious wines at Law.

mocadeauxFolks, we are just getting started on our tour of Paso Robles.

Up next, some wine varietals you may have never heard of and our #1 sentimental Paso Robles favorite.

Stay tuned!

 

No one paid me to say this. Do not drink and drive!

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