Monday, June 29, 2009

Bouchon in Santa Barbara: good food and a great wine-by-the-glass service

On our way to L.A., we stayed overnight in Santa Barbara. This was a nice break: the town has pretty beaches, downtown shopping is great and dining options are plentiful. Looking for a good restaurant, our internet query listed Bouchon on Victoria Street, a block away from State, the old town's main artery. Although a dressy attire seemed to be recommended on the Yelp website, we decided to have a look at the place anyway.

We found out that the restaurant had in fact a lovely and inviting patio and the atmosphere seemed pretty casual. The food was wine country cooking and the wine list offered an extensive choice of wines from Santa Barbara County. So we decided to stay.

We had a great dinner there but what was most remarkable about the restaurant was the special attention given to the wine-by-the-glass service. Each bottle was brought to the table so that we could look at the label (and take a picture of it!), and taste the wine before generous pours were served into large glasses.

The wines we tasted:

• 2007 Ojai Viognier Icewine Roll Ranch: according to the winery's website, ripe viognier grapes are taken from the Roll Ranch vineyard to a commercial freezer in Oxnard, and when they are solidly frozen they are transported back to the winery and pressed immediately. The first juice that is pressed out is fermented in older barrels, stopping the fermentation before the alcohol level gets too high. The wine was extremely sweet with some good acidity and aromas of apricot and muscat. A good match with the Pan-Seared Foie Gras althought slightly too sweet for our taste.

• 2006 Consilience Roussanne Santa Barbara County: Consilience is a small Santa Barbara County producer loosely focused around typical Rhone varietals. In the northern Rhone Valley, Roussanne is usually blended with Marsanne but here, Roussanne is bottled by itself. The wine had a deep golden color and a nose of cane sugar juice. It was rather dry and tight on the palate but opened up nicely as I was enjoying my Flatbread with Roasted Tomatoes, Artichoke Hearts & Fresh Mozzarella.

• 2007 Melville Pinot Noir Estate Santa Rita Hills: sourced from the estate vineyards of Melville Winery in the Santa Rita Hills appellation. The wine had a herbal nose of menthol and eucalyptus with aromas of dark cherries and caramel. Good accompaniment to the Bourbon & Maple-Glazed California Duck Breast.

• 2006 Tercero Cuvee Christie: Tercero is a small boutique label produced by Larry Schaeffer, assistant winemaker at Fess Parker, and his wife Christie. The wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre from Santa Barbara County. Each component was fermented and aged separately, and the final blend was combined about a month before bottling. The nose showed aromas of figs cooked with spices. On the palate, it had a rich and velvety texture. Delicious with the Venison Loin.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Will Sell Husband for Wine!

Guess what? My husband bought me this new tee-shirt the other day. It has a big quote that says: “Will Sell Husband for Wine!” But the best part is the tiny note just below it:

“If wine is REALLY good will throw in kids with husband. If wine is REALLY good and huge QUANTITIES are involved, will throw in House and Cat with Husband and Kids. No substitutions. No exchanges. Very Limited warranty on husbands.”

Hilarious, even if you don't have a cat!

The tee-shirt itself is wine dyed: “Straight from the vine come our shirts dyed in rich red wine. ” says the website. And there are many other Gourmet Dyes available depending on your taste, including Kona Coffee, Beer, Chocolate, and Key Limes. Too bad they just smell like plain cotton!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

An apéritif of Gougères and Bourgueil Rosé

Gougères are a specialty of the Burgundy region. These small cheese puffs are usually served as apéritif with a glass of Kir. They are delicious and easy to make, basically a cream puff dough (pâte à choux) with grated Gruyère cheese added to the dough before baking.

There was no Kir with our gougères, but instead, a light Rosé from the Loire Vallée, the 2008 Bourgueil Rosé Domaine de la Petite Mairie. Bourgueil is one of the major red wine appellations in the Loire Vallée. Wines are red or rosé and made from Cabernet Franc, locally called Breton. The story is that Cabernet Franc was introduced to the Loire Vallée by Cardinal Richelieu in the 17th century and planted at the Abbey of St-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil under the care of an abbot named Breton.

The wine had a bright salmon color and floral notes and citrus aromas on the nose. On the palate, it was dry, juicy, fruity, and very refreshing. If you're looking for something light, fresh, and tasty for the summer, this is exactly what you need, and don't forget the gougères!

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

How to taste like a Pro

I don't think it is too hard for anybody to follow the ABC of Wine Tasting, which involves 5 basic steps also known as the 5 Ss: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, and Savor. But if you want to drink wine like an expert, things become significantly more complicated. This article lists the ten most important attributes that one should look for in a wine, according to winemaker Aaron Pott

The first two, Typicity and Sense of Place, are I think the hardest to perceive. How to identify the unique properties that identify a grape varietal, or the land, the terroir from which the grapes are grown? These two are also tightly related: “A wine with a sense of place has typicity and wine that shows typicity shows a sense of place,” says Pott.

As I looks at the next seven attributes listed, Complexity, Integration, Elegance, Length, Balance, Power, and Texture, I think Integration, Balance, and Elegance are the ones I personally care the most. They're also related: “Elegant wines don't necessarily need to be complex but most certainly are integrated,” says Pott. Moreover, elegant wines don't require power and length, but they do need balance.

Now, the last attribute is for me the most important of all: Pleasure. “In the end,” concludes Pott, “the only question is, Do I like this?”

The whole article is here.

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