Tag Archives: Edna Valley

MY YEAR IN WINE – 2016

2016 was a year of travel for Dorianne and me. Since we sold our home in early 2015, we have been on the road. 2016 found us in the U.S. and Europe, on a Mediterranean cruise, and in the Middle East. We traveled in 8 states and in Spain, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Poland, England, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Malta. There were wine experiences everywhere. Here are some highlights and “bests” of a very interesting year:

MOST INTERESTING WINERY VISITS:

In July, we went for a day of wine tasting in Rhonda, Spain (LINK). I blogged about it at the time. What made it special was the beauty of the countryside and the fact that it is such a small wine region. You can read about it at the link.

 

Merecouri Estate, Korakohori, Greece (LINK). We visited during a cruise at the port of Katakolo. This is a very interesting winery and vineyard, where the 4th generation of the family is making some good wine. The tour is fun, lots of history, even a museum. The tasting is good – 4 wines and cheese and other snacks. One of the better cruise-related winery tours I have been on. I had a chance to speak to the current patriarch of the family, Christos Kanellakopoulo about wine making techniques. Some of their wines are exported to the U.S.

BEST WINE EXPERIENCES IN A RESTAURANT:

Osteria Barberini, Rome, Italy (LINK). This gem of a restaurant on a very narrow side street near the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Barberini, was both a revelation and a great find for Dorianne and me. We were arriving in Rome from Lyon at about 8:00 pm, and I looked at Trip Advisor for something near our hotel off the Via Veneto. I made a reservation via email for 9:15 pm, as that was the only time available; a good thing, as our flight was late. When we arrived, they were turning people away from what turned out to be a very small restaurant seating about 36 people in three small dining rooms.

And the food! They specialize in truffles, black and white, and we had three wonderful meals there (we went back two more times). A small but well-selected wine list of mostly Italian wines was also a highlight. Here are the wines we had there:

 

‘l’Institut’ Paul Bocuse Restaurant-école at Bellecour Lyon-Centre, Lyon, France (LINK). This restaurant is part of the Bocuse culinary school. It is beautifully designed and everyone there is a student or a teacher. The food is exquisite, the atmosphere is modern and very classy, and there is a very nice wine list with relatively low markups. We had a fabulous meal there, which I blogged about (LINK).

 

TOP FIVE WINES ENJOYED:

I’m limiting this list to just five, but there were many more – hundreds actually. These sort of separated from the herd for one reason or another.

  1. 1994 Harlan Estates, Napa Valley, CA, enjoyed in Agoura Hills, CA
  2. 2012 Jean-Luc & Eric Burguet, Gevery-Chambertin Symphonie, Burgundy, France, enjoyed in Macon, France
  3. 2009 Firriato Quater Rosso, Sicily, Italy, enjoyed in Rome, Italy
  4. 2005 Diamond Creek, Gravely Meadow, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA, enjoyed in Pismo Beach, CA
  5. 2003 Gruppo Matarromera Bodega, Cyan Prestigio, Castilla y León, Spain, enjoyed in Granada, Spain

 

BEST OVERALL WINE EXPERIENCES of 2016:

Sharing wine with good friends – or new acquaintances – is, to me, the best part about enjoying wine. This year we had many chances to do just that, and a few of them stand out as very special.

We opened the year with two nights in Pismo Beach, CA, at the mid-century gem, the Kon Tiki Inn with two other couples. Wine tasting ensued, both in terms of bottles brought and a tour of some of the Edna Valley wineries, just west of Pismo Beach. Great meals, and a wonderful two days. We will be repeating the experience again this January 1-4.

Sharing a very special case of wine with my good friend Richard Clark in the early part of the year was very special. Richard received a gift case of selected top-of-the-line wines from California, France, and Italy from his employer for Christmas. One of my top five wines, the Harlan Estates was in that case, along with many other gems that could also have qualified.

Wine dinners in Cambridge, England and in Macon, France with friends that we made through Dorianne’s interest in chamber music were also very special. Wonderful wine, wonderful food, wonderful conversation, and wonderful music ensued.

Two meals with good friends in Rome – one at a great wine bar, another at their beautiful apartment – featured wonderful Italian wines and, again, great food and conversation. You can see Francesco perusing the red wine list at the legendary Rome Wine Bar – Enoteca Ferrara (LINK).

Just this week at Roam-Miami, where we are staying for most of the winter, Dorianne and I hosted a wine tasting and presentation for other guests and their friends. We sampled four varietals/blends – one of each from the Old World and the New World. There was some very nice French and Spanish cheese and dark chocolate; and a glass of Cava to get things rolling. It was a great evening of fun and some of the young people attending learned something about wine.

While there is still some time left in 2016, I am also looking forward to 2017. Our plans include visits to Mexico, Canada, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, California, Oregon and possibly, Washington state. Summer will take us back to EuropeIreland, Scotland, then to France, where we intend to find an apartment in Lyon to be our new home base. Of course, we never know where serendipity will intervene. I will keep you informed.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard

A DAY IN EDNA VALLEY AND A STOP AT KEN BROWN WINES

We went up to Pismo Beach to join two other wine-loving couples for a couple of nights R&R on January 1st (I know, we just got back from Paso Robles on the 30th, but NYE was stressful). We stayed at the Kon Tiki Inn in Pismo (LINK), one of the better kept secrets in the area – no online registrations, you have to call!!!

We had some great meals – dinners at Avila Gardens Restaurant (LINK) and Guiseppe’s Cusina Italiana (LINK); and great lunches at the Los Olivos Cafe (LINK) on the way up; at Novo (LINK) in San Luis Obispo; and one at the Spyglass Inn in Shell Beach (LINK). All worth a visit.

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But this is about the wine. And we did visit three, and only three wine tasting rooms on the trip. And the other couples brought some exceptional wines that we shared and took to dinner (a strategy: take your own bottle, but order a restaurant bottle first. It is likely that your bottle will then be served with no corkage fee – we did not aim for this, but that is what happened.).

The wineries, in order:

Baileyana/Zocker/Tangent/True Myth/Cadre (LINK): A tasting room outside of San Luis Obispo in the Edna Valley. All of the labels represented are made by a single producer and one winemaker. I am a fan of the Zocker label wines (and bought some) – a Grüner Veltliner, a Reisling, and a Late Harvest Grüner Veltliner. All are very true to the Austrian origins of these varietals. Light, crisp and refreshing – actually, great summer wines. The remainder of the 15 or so wines poured here are good, but not great. The tasting room and environs is very inviting, with boccie ball courts, picnic tables, etc., and there is a nice selection of wine-related gifts inside.

Talley Vineyards: An Edna Valley legend, Talley produces very good to excellent Burgundian-style wines. Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, especially the single vineyard productions, are wonderful. And their prices have hardly risen over the past decade. There is also a second label, Bishop’s Peak, with some nice red wines. The tasting room is beautifully appointed and overlooks some of the vineyards to the west. Out front, a beautiful courtyard has tables and chairs around a lovely fountain that has been converted to a succulent garden due to California’s drought.

Mike, our tasting room host, has been there a long time. He was curiously unwilling or unable to answer some basic questions about the winery, such as was there a map of the vineyards, etc. It was busy, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. We left with some single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

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Talley Tasting Room
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Talley Vineyards
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The Converted Fountain at Talley Vineyards

Ken Brown Wines (LINK)Dorianne and I stopped at Ken Brown Wines in Buellton on the way back down to Agoura Hills. Ken is one of the founders of the Santa Rita Hills AVA, and is responsible for the Zaca Mesa  and  Byron labels there. He decided to step back from large production and specialize in managing a few vineyards and producing some very fine wines in limited production. He produces six single vineyard Pinot Noirs, four Pinot blends from various vineyards, a fantastic single vineyard Chardonnay, a single vineyard Syrah, and several other wines, all in very small quantities – nothing over 240 cases per year.

I blogged about a visit here last year (LINK), but Dorianne wasn’t with me, hence the stop on this visit. Well, we might have stopped even if she had been along on the earlier visit.

We had another very enjoyable trip through parts of California’s Central Coast with friends, great wines, wonderful food, and all of the natural beauty that goes with this special part of the world.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Copyright 2016 – Jim Lockard