Tag Archives: Conejo Valley

ALMA SOL WINERY – SMALL PRODUCER GETTING BETTER AND BETTER

Dorianne and I returned to Alma Sol Winery’s tasting room the other night with three other couples. Alma Sol Winery (Link) is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of John Shaw and Lisa Cuevas Shaw.

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The heading of the tasting list at Alma Sol Tasting Room in Thousand Oak, CA

John Shaw, who serves as winemaker for the couple – really a two-person operation, from the vineyard to the tasting room – met us at the door. Lisa Cuevas Shaw was inside with a bottle of wine in her hand. We began the evening’s tasting, which John had selected from his list of Bordeaux-influenced wines.

“It’s a cool evening,” he said, “so it’s all reds and all full-bodied wines.”

The wines he poured were indeed, red and were generally fuller bodied wines as well. The exception was the first wine, a 2010 Cuevas Cabernet Sauvignon, which was very elegant and a fruit-forward wine. After that, the wines had more of a mineral presence and varied as to the fruit presence. I won’t go into detail, because these wines are produced in such small quantities that they are very unlikely to show up outside of the tasting room. You can obtain some of them at the website (link above).

We first met John and Lisa at the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival a couple of years ago. They told us that they would be opening a tasting room in Thousand Oaks – our neck of the woods – very soon. The location is shared with Sunland Vintage Winery (Link), whose mostly Italian varieties we plan to return to sample soon. Alma Sol, using mostly grapes from the Cuevas Vineyard in Paso Robles and other fruit sourced from Paso and as far north as Napa Valley. In fact, we tasted a blend of five Napa Bordeaux-style grapes in the tasting – it was made in a middle ground between the French and California styles –  fruity and elegant, but higher in alcohol.

We finished the tasting with their dessert wine: 2012 Almazan Dessert Wine, Paso Robles ($34.00)

From their website: This Portuguese Port-style wine uses both Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional grapes from the east side of Paso Robles.  The beautiful nose is made up of cherries and cranberries and follows through with a very fruit forward, elegant mouth feel. The finish is long with a touch of fortified wine that lightly warms your mouth. This wine pairs great with your favorite dessert, Dark chocolate raspberry truffles, or a cigar (if you like them, of course).

Production: 70 cases   

We bought a bottle. Very nice!

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It is really nice to see more tasting rooms open in the Thousand Oaks area. Alma Sol is a great addition to the local line up – I look forward to seeing how John and Lisa continue to develop as winemakers.

BIRTHDAY DINNER AT A RESTAURANT – SOME INTERESTING WINE EXPERIENCES

Words in BOLD BROWN are links.

Last night, we celebrated Richard Clark’s birthday – Richard is the winemaker of the Conejo Valley Wine Co-op, which I have blogged about in the past. So six of us went  to Cafe 14 in Agoura Hills, CA, a restaurant known for good food and good wine.

Richard brought a bottle of Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2012, a very nice wine made by one of the better craftsmen in Santa Barbara County, Wes Hagen. The wine did not disappoint, as Wes’ wines never do. His Pinots are rich, made in the Burgundian style, with some creep toward the fuller California style in recent years.

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The 2012 Clos Pepe Estate Pinot Noir and the 2012 Rombauer Zinfandel

Next, we ordered a bottle of 2012 Rombauer Zinfandel. The last Rombauer Zin I had was the 2010. Rombauer makes big wines and is probably best known for their Chardonnay, which is a classic rich, buttery version of that varietal. I also am a fan of their Merlot, which is often a bargain in restaurants.

This Zinfandel was a surprise – very rich, almost syrupy, with strong overtones of caramel and vanilla. Everyone at the table agreed that it was too sweet for dinner. Oh, and it weighed in at 15.9% alcohol. The heat of the alcohol came through, even with all the sweetness. I was surprised because I remembered the 2010 Zin as being more restrained. We set it aside to save to have with dessert.

So on to a third bottle, a 2008 Chateau la Caminadi La Commandery Malbec from Cahors, France.

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The 2008 Chateau la Caminadi La Commandery Malbec

The Malbec was a perfect compliment to the dinner. Dry with hints of dark fruit, it balanced well, even though a couple of our party were having fish. Not a great wine, but a very drinkable wine.

The food at Cafe 14 is very good. The service tonight was a bit slow – hard to tell exactly why. The wine was delivered to the table after a delay because, apparently, only the bar tender can go to the wine storage area to get wine and the bar was busy (?), a questionable policy. As a result, the waiter ended up taking the $20 corkage fee for the Clos Pepe off of the bill to apologize for the slow wine service.

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Bouillabaisse at Cafe 14
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The amazing Braised Short Ribs

Dessert was a caramel pot-au-feu with creme fraische – so rich that we could only eat a bite or two each – but delicious. The Rombauer Zinfandel was a good accompaniment to this rich dessert.

So Happy Birthday, Richard!

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