Wine And Cheese Friday http://wineandcheesefriday.lan reviews of Wines, Cheeses and all things related Sat, 17 Nov 2018 22:22:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/tablas-creek-vineyard-paso-robles-ca/ Sat, 17 Nov 2018 14:59:43 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=3044 Fall VINsider Shipment at Tablas Creek, Paso Robles, CA

There was one place remaining in our big intro to Paso Robles wine tasting day, Tablas Creek Vineyard. Lori told us it was a must-visit to close out our day and when we found out that Tablas Creek was instrumental in the AVA too, we knew we had to continue tasting. (Rough life, I know). The tasting room opened in 2000 and this winery was the first to plant Rhone varietals in Paso. They are actually the ones who brought the grapes from France through Cornell University. Well now I’m even more excited to taste! As we walked through their front patio, we saw the mother vines of these original varietals. I can already tell this is going to be a great tasting!

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

We worked with Cindy that day and she told us how innovative the winery is! They currently use biodynamic growing practices in their vineyard and soon they will also be dry farming. This part of California has an interesting environment. Ocean crusted bones and shells in the earth as well as nearby sulfur springs show through in their wines. Tablas Creek is a great resource for all things winery and vineyard related too, check out their blog. Seems like a great place to have on your list of places to visit.

Their main tasting menu contains 6 or 7 wines for $15 but they have many other wines available to try if you see something you are curious about. That was the case when we were there. Since all of us are in the wine industry, we each found a few wines to ask about.

Côtes de Tablas Blanc 2015 (viognier, grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne)
Roussanne 2015
Picpoul Blanc 2017
Esprit de Tablas Blanc 2013 (roussanne, grenache blanc, picpoul blanc)
Picardan 2017
Vermentino 2017
Dianthus Rosé 2017 (mourvedre, grenache noir, counoise)
Patelin de Tablas Rosé 2017 (grenache noir, mourvedre, syrah, counoise)
Côtes de Tablas 2016 (grenache noir, syrah, mourvedre, counoise)
Grenache 2016
Esprit de Tablas 2015 (mourvedre, grenache noir, syrah, counoise)

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2015 Roussanne

Out of all the wines we tried, half of them were white wines. Its not all that often that you even find this many whites to try! Our tasting began with the Côtes de Tablas Blanc, a wine with floral, mineral and clean aromas. We both picked up the acid in the wine but I found it to also have mineral, oak and dry flavors. Neil thought this wine tasted like petrol and was a bit syrupy. Roussanne, a wine that is often compared to Chardonnay, is one I take every chance to taste. This white had oak, toast, soft, buttery, caramel and citrus aromas. Neil picked up round, citrus, oak and honey flavors. I thought it was light with an oak flavor, but couldn’t find the buttery caramel flavors that I usually look forward to. I’ve never tried a Picpoul Blanc wine before but Lori did a segment on it for Winephabet Street if you’d like to learn more. I’m always excited to try something new so let’s see what this white tastes like? I noticed mineral, light and honey aromas. There was a good mouth feel, light, soft and tart, mineral, clean, and floral flavors. Wow that’s all kinds of aromas and flavors. I’ll have to keep my eye out for this varietal in the future.

Wine Tasting at Tablas Creek, Paso Robles with Lori and Vegas

Continuing through the white wines, we tasted the Espirit de Tablas Blanc, the flagship white wine. I noticed the aroma of Roussanne and toast while I swirled the wine. Neil described the aroma as honey, citrus and melon. The flavor was filled with smoke, funk and smooth texture. Neil found it to be rich and balanced with mineral flavors. Next we tried another new varietal, Picardan. I can’t say I’ve had a white wine before that had black licorice aromas, how interesting! In addition to the black licorice, I noticed dry, honey and mineral aromas and Neil added in a lemon aroma. Neil noticed mineral, lemon and oak flavors. I thought this wine was crisp and light with honey and spice. Another wine that I always try to taste is Vermentino, some of you might remember that I tried this wine at the very beginning of, I’ve continued to taste it out of curiosity. This one had lemon and mineral aromas and Neil described the flavor as lemon and citrus. I tasted fruit and minerals with a crisp flavor and a chalky feel on my teeth. I’d say these are all similar tasting notes to that first time I tried it but it’s worth continuing to taste.

Tablas Creek carries two rosés, which we’ve been really enjoying this summer so we knew we’d be comparing them. We began with the Dianthus Rosé that was filled with light, soft, citrus and mineral aromas. As we sipped it the wine was dry with a strawberry flavor, spice, and a crispness. The Patelin Rosé smelled like citrus and I could feel the acid on my teeth. This wine reminded me of pink lemonade while Neil described it as well-balanced and tasty.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2016 Granache

We were getting a bit tuckered out with all this tasting but we were able to squeeze in a few red wines before we wrapped up. Our first red wine was the Côtes de Tablas, which we both agreed had strawberry aromas with a ruby color. This rhone style wine was dry and chalky. The Grenache on the other hand, had dark fruit and earthy aromas. It was a flavorful wine with licorice and dry flavors. We ended with their Flagship Red wine, the Esprit de Tablas. The wine had earthy and licorice aromas with fruity and dry flavors.

grapes at Tablas Creek, Paso Robles, CA

If we had begun the day at Tablas Creek, I think we could have spent the entire day. There were so many wines to taste and a few that were new to me. I’m happy we had a chance to try the Picpoul Blanc and Picardan. I’ll certainly keep my eye for these again. It was also terrific to have the opportunity to try so many white wines. Thanks to Lori for including this in our Paso Robles introduction. And thanks to Tablas Creek for bringing all these tasty Rhone grapes to the area!

This entry brings our Paso Robles tasting rooms to an end. I hope you all had fun and will now consider visiting this part of California on your next tasting trip!

Want to see which bottle we took home that day?

WeLovePaso License Plate, Paso Robles, CA

Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/brecon-estate-paso-robles-ca/ Fri, 09 Nov 2018 18:12:17 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=3031 Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA

Brecon Estate,, was our third stop on the Paso Robles day of Wine with Lori. We were delighted to see that they had a cheese plate to pair with their wine tasting. As you know, we love pairing wine and cheese but were also happy to have a bit of food during our tasting. This tasting room was set up differently than other places I’ve visited. The people pouring the wines were indoors but we could either sit at the bar on the outside of the building or at the picnic tables. The weather was terrific so either option sounded good to us. This winery had different grapes than we’d seen earlier in the day so let’s get started and find our favorite!

2017 Brecon Estate Albariño, Central Coast
2017 Brecon Estate True Acacia Head Albariño, Central Coast
2016 Brecon Estate Zinfandel/Tannat, Central Coast
2016 Brecon Estate Syrah, Glenrose Vineyard, Adelaida
2016 Brecon Estate Reserve Feral Underclass, Adelaida

We began our tasting with Erica, who told us a little about the wines and the winery. Brecon grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Malbec, all Bordeaux varieties, on their property. What a beautiful display of vines as we walked in! This was a pretty laid back atmosphere where we’d be tasting wines at our own pace. And let’s not forget the cheeses specially selected by Fromagerie Sophie to accompany the Brecon Estate wines. Lori has been to Brecon Estate before but she happily sat back and retasted through the wines. Even Vegas, her dog, was having a good time, entertaining all the other winery guests.

Brecon Estate Tasting Room, Paso Robles, CA

Cheese Pairings:
Albariño with Cana de Oveja (Spanish sheep)
True Acacia head Albariño with Alp Blossom (Austrian cow)
Zinfandel/Tannat with Beaufort (French raw cow)
Syrah with L’Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda (Dutch cow)
Reserve Feral Underclass with Stagberry Salame

The first wine we tried was the 2017 Brecon Estate Albariño which we identified tropical, mineral and clean aromas with a hint of cat pee. This white wine was citrus and tangy with tropical flavors including pineapple and grapefruit. I also made note of the acid in the wine. Our second wine was another Albariño but this one was aged in acacia wood barrels. I found the aromas of the wine to be softer than the first but still tropical and Neil noticed stone fruit aromas. I thought this wine was drier than the first with flavors that were tart, citrus and mineral. Neil thought the wine tasted sharp with stone and peach flavors.

2017 Brecon Estate True Acacia Head Albariño

We didn’t really make notes about how the cheeses changed with the Albariño but we did write a few cheese tasting notes. The Cana de Oveja (top left in the photo) was rich and flavorful but surprisingly reminded me of goat cheese not sheep. The Alp Blossom cheese (bottom left) smelled like funk and had flavors of butter, herbs and some sweetness. After tasting all the cheeses, the Alp Blossom was definitely my favorite. We purchased a wedge a few weeks later to share with friends. (See the alp blossom on our IG page)

Cheese Plate at Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA

Moving now to the red wines. The Brecon Estate Zinfandel/Tannat was a new type of wine for us to try. Erica told us the Tannat grape is the national grape of Uruguay and that this blend was produced with almost half this varietal. Knowing that we already like Zinfandel, we were excited to give this blend a taste! I picked up dark fruit, and a mix of soft and spicy aromas. Neil felt it was jammy with big fruit. It’s starting out well! The wine tasted dry, fruity, spicy with an oak softness and yogurt flavors. Neil agreed with the spice but called it jammy! It was suggested that we pair this wine with the Beaufort cheese (bottom right in the photo). The cheese was funky, funky, funky! When I paired the wine with the cheese the funk from the cheese transferred to the wine. Neil thought the wine was more grapey and jammy. I also paired the salami with the wine but it made the wine taste like bubble gum. We really liked the flavor of the wine and decided we should pick up a bottle to try more pairings at home.

Our next wine was a Syrah, which is apparently a pretty popular grape for the Paso area. Fine by us, we like that grape! Neil found the Syrah to be even jammier than the Zinfandel/Tannat but he also noticed spice and green leaf aromas. As I swirled the wine, I picked up dark fruit (blackberry) and soft aromas. This was a soft wine with a hint of sweetness, dark fruit flavors and a spice finish. We’d be pairing this wine with a Dutch Goat cheese (top right) that was smooth and milky. The wine didn’t change much when paired but it was a bit lighter and grapey.

The Brecon Estate Reserve Feral Underclass would be our final wine of the day. It is a blend of petite sirah and zinfandel that Neil described as smelling like huge fruit, some spice and cassis. I thought the aroma was more like dark fruit and dry. Neil sipped this smooth, fruity wine with spice while I made note of it being dry with black pepper spice and a bunch of flavor in the throat. The Stagberry Salame was dry and flavorful with a pepper spice that actually made the wine seem lighter. I’d say that was a good way to balance both the food and wine.

Happy we took the trip out to Brecon Estate for wine and cheese, a new varietal and an outdoor tasting room. And there was still one more winery to visit that day. Check back here to see the pairing of Zinfandel/Tannat and cheese.

Wine Tasting at Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA

Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/dracaena-wines-paso-robles-ca/ Fri, 26 Oct 2018 16:51:58 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=3021 Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc, Paso Robles, CA

We made a plan to hang out with Lori from Dracaena Wines, during our trip to Paso Robles. She was so excited to show us all the iconic places of the region, and I was hopeful that we’d get to see her vineyard and winery, too. I met Lori on #WiningHourChat and knew we’d be friends once I found out they made a Cabernet Franc. After hearing about their wine for a couple years on the chat, this was the day that I was finally going to be able to taste it. I’m not a Cabernet Franc expert, by any means, but I used to pour one at the Winery Collective and I always enjoyed it. My favorite part about the plan was that we’d get to taste the Dracaena wine next to the vines that produced it. How cool!

cabernet franc grapes at Plummer Vineyard, Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA

Since this was our first visit to Paso Robles, Lori was telling us a lot about the area. She explained that the 40 degree shift in temperature from night to day contributes to the unique flavor of the wines. This temperature gradient combined with the town being only 14 miles from the ocean is what makes Paso a great place to grow grapes. Her wine making facility and vineyard are both located on the East side, near the airport in Paso Robles. They make wine in a shared facility but they are considered their own winery because of the licenses that they hold. Funny thing about the area where you find their winery is that it’s a commercial area “that will be developed soon”, apparently these signs have been in place longer than she can remember. The day that we visited, there was winemaking in process by the other co-owners so we weren’t able to go inside.

Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA

Nearby, we found Plummer Vineyard with the Cabernet Franc grapes. Lori and Michael work with Joe, the grape grower who tends to their crop. It is part of a larger shared vineyard where multiple people “own” different sections. They even have more than one section so they can have a variation in their two Cabernet Franc wines. They check in with Joe throughout the year to ensure the grapes are progressing as they expect. They’ve found that they can achieve the wine flavor they want by waiting until the seeds inside the grape are brown. This seems pretty meticulous but that’s no surprise when you consider that Lori and Michael both have scientific degrees. Michael is the winemaker and splits his time between his day job as food scientist and the winery.

Cab Franc grape, Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA

Lori has been studying forever, earning a total of 3 degrees, and now she spends her days teaching. This prevents her from being in California full time, but she more than makes up for it with all the social media, podcasts and newsletters she creates for Dracaena Wines. I’ve seen her social media presence and all the different projects she’s involved in and can’t believe she can do it all!

Dracaena Wines Rose of Syrah, Paso Robles, CA

Now that we knew a little more about the winery, vineyard, and Lori and Michael, it was time to taste the wine! Lori started us with their 2017 rosé of Syrah, a new part of their portfolio. We swirled the wine and checked out the grapes surrounding us. Although the Syrah grapes don’t come from this same vineyard, it was great to sip this chilled rosé on a warm day in California. I picked up aromas of strawberry yogurt and citrus. The flavor was light and clean with a soft finish, while also being zesty. Like I said, a perfect wine to sit outside and relax with. Our second wine was the Cabernet Franc that I could hardly wait to taste. The wine we’d be tasting was one of the final bottles of the 2015 vintage. This wine had dark fruit, earth, blueberry and yogurt aromas leaping from the glass. I felt the wine was dry with dark fruit, soft and smooth, a nice amount of acid and a light spice. I knew I’d want to try it again so we purchased her last bottle to bring home and pair with some cheese.* We probably spent about 30 minutes sipping that glass of Cabernet Franc, taking photos and just enjoying the day. It was all I hoped it could be!

Vegas in the Cab Franc vines at Plummer Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

Dracaena wines is only a few years old but they’ve won quite a few accolades for their wines as well as their blog. If you haven’t had a chance to try their wine yet, you’re in luck because they just released their new vintage at the beginning of the month. Maybe you’ve met Lori online and know her as the lady who has the dog on her label. As you flip through today’s photos you’ll see their second Weimaraner, named Vegas, the spoke dog for their Wine Club. The dog on their label is Draco, their first weimaraner and inspiration for the name Dracaena Wines.

We were able to spend the entire day with Lori, but we had to bring our time at her vineyard to a close. What a personal experience to have! During a visit to another winery that day, we heard that Lori and Micheal will be considering a white wine for an upcoming vintage, so keep your eye out for that in the future. For now, if you can’t find their wine, look online for Lori and she’ll definitely share all her wine tips and tricks with you. Did you know they offer weekly wine blog posts? So much to find on!

*This cheese pairing will occur any day now so check back to read all about it!

Maria and Lori in Plummer Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA drinking Dracaena Wines

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/eberle-winery-paso-robles-ca/ Fri, 19 Oct 2018 15:48:06 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=3007 Eberle Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Eberle Winery is located in Paso Robles, CA which was unchartered territory for Neil and I. When we lived in California, we focused on the wine regions immediately surrounding San Francisco. We took the opportunity during our recent trip to California to explore some new wine regions. As luck would have it, Lori from Dracaena Wines volunteered to bring us to some of the landmark wineries of the area as our introduction to Paso Robles. She knew it was only appropriate to begin at Eberle Winery where we could experience the winery responsible for getting the AVA started. Not to mention, that Eberle Winery uses many Rhone varietals, grapes that Neil and I enjoy very much in wine.

Eberle Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

When we arrived at Eberle, I had to take photos of the sprawling vineyard of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Muscat Canelli. The tasting room had just opened for the day and we were anxious to start learning about the winery and the area. Eberle Winery opened in 1983, the same year that the AVA was approved. Gary Eberle, the current owner, was instrumental in this process. In order to prepare for his winery to open, he created his first batch of Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes from the 1979 vintage. Since this first batch they’ve won many awards and have become very well-known; Gary himself is known as the Godfather of Paso. One of the things people in the area know about Eberle Winery is their wine cave and the tours they offer throughout the day. We were excited to hear about the wine and cheese pairings you can also participate in during the cave tour. If only we had more than one day to fit all these Paso Robles tastings into, we’d get to try out that cheese supplied by Vivant Fine Cheese.

Our complimentary tastings were lead by Kaelin, a sommelier who was pleased to see how detail-oriented we were with our note-taking and wine tasting. Our tasting included these wines:

2017 Côtes du Rôbles Blanc (grenache blanc, roussanne, viognier)
2017 Viognier
2016 Côtes du Rôbles (grenache, syrah, mourvedre)
2016 Zinfandel
Full Boar Red (cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, barbera, syrah, sangiovese)
2016 Syrah (100% syrah)
2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
2017 Muscat Canelli

Eberle Winery Viognier

We began by tasting two white wines, their white rhone blend, Côtes du Rôbles and Gary’s choice, the Viognier. I am usually drawn to white rhone blends so it was an easy choice to include in my tasting. I described the aromas as clean, mineral, and honey. Neil can always identify the fruit side of the wine, finding apricot and tangerine aromas. The fruit continued to come through in the flavor for him with apricots and pears. He thought it was light and refreshing. I noticed a smooth flavor with some oak and apples. As we swirled the Viognier, I picked up petrol, peach and sweet aromas but Neil identified caramel and a slight creme brûlée aroma. I questioned if I detected oak in this wine but with Neil’s description of aromas and round, caramel flavors, he definitely did. I found the wine to be more mineral and citrus and Neil added a melon-cantelouple flavor too.

Eberle Cotes du Robles

Next we moved on to the red Côtes du Rôbles, a wine we had just tried a week before with Pam in Seal Beach. She received a bottle at the Pacific Rim wine competition where she had volunteered and met Gary. Not only do I like white rhone blends but red rhone blends are great too. It was pretty cool to get a sneak peek at a winery we’d be visiting soon. This wine had soft, strawberry aromas and some spice. It was dry, light, soft, and spicy with a nice amount of acid. When Neil tasted the wine he thought it was different than he remembered from Pam’s house. Neil opted to try the Zinfandel next, finding jammy and lightly spiced aromas. As he sipped it, there were flavors of blackberry, jam and licorice. I thought it’d be fun to try the red blend and see if I could taste all the different grapes. There were red fruit and licorice aromas with a light texture, soft and dry flavors and red fruit. Guess I didn’t really call out any grapes but it was time to try the Syrah.

wine tasting at Eberle Winery, Paso Robles, CA

The grapes for this wine come from the Steinbeck Vineyard and it’s another example of how Gary is a wine pioneer. He made this wine using 100% syrah grapes, which hadn’t been done since Prohibition. It’s so great to be around innovations in wine! He actually came in the winery during our tasting and pointed up at an older photo very casually saying “that’s me up there”. I picked up aromas of meat and smoke in the Syrah but Neil found the terroir this time calling out “rocks”. We both described it as dry but Neil still found those rocks and some dark fruit. The estate Cabernet Sauvignon, is the red wine you’ll usually find Gary sipping as he greets visitors at the entrance. I enjoyed it’s savory aroma that reminded me of olives or salt. Neil noticed the aroma to be big dark fruit and leather. He called it one of the most interesting Cabernet’s he’s ever had, since it was fruity, smooth, velvety and dark. I thought it was dry with cherry, dark fruit and a nice amount of acid.

As a sweet treat, I ended my tasting with the Muscat Canelli. I used to pour this varietal in one of my previous tasting room jobs so I figured I’d give this one a try. There were sweet and tropical aromas with a smooth, soft, fruit flavor. They grow these grapes here on their property. At 7% residual sugar, it really wasn’t overly sweet, just pleasant.

Vegas and Kaelin at Eberle Winery

We decided to purchase a bottle of the Viognier at the end of the tasting that we would bring to our friends in San Francisco. They are fellow winelovers and will certainly enjoy hearing the story of Eberle Winery if they aren’t familiar with it. Thanks to Lori for starting off our Paso Robles wine tour with Eberle Winery. She already knew these wines but happily tasted alongside us that day. Her dog Vegas was even enjoying himself by showing us his dog tricks in order to get a treat from Kaelin. And now, onto the next Paso Robles vineyard.

Later on that day, we returned to Eberle Winery to pick up our car. It was then that we saw Gary and some friends sitting outside enjoying some of his Cabernet. I went over to say Hi. We spoke of favorite chefs that had visited the winery for events, local restaurants and the wine and cheeses served during the cave tour. What a terrific way to end our day in Paso Robles!

Hitching Post 2 and Buellton, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/hitching-post-2-and-buellton-ca/ Fri, 12 Oct 2018 15:37:07 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2984 Hitching Post 2 Restaurant

You’ve heard that we went on a Sideways Wine Tour of California and this entry will be a continuation of that series. Have you been to Buellton, CA? Any superfan of Sideways probably has and this was actually our second trip out there. No trip would be complete without visiting The Windmill Inn (now called Sideways Inn), The Hitching Post 2, and maybe you’ve even gone to see those pesky ostriches that nipped at Jack?

Ostrichland, Buellton, CA

We knew this would be a full day with all that we had planned. As we traveled down the main road of Buellton, we passed The Hitching Post 2 and Ostrichland. I stopped for a few quick photos but knew we’d be coming back that night for all the Sideways fun! We were on our way to Solvang which doesn’t have a huge part in the movie but I figured it would be a good way to take a little time off from all our wine tasting.

Wheels N' Windmills, Solvang, CA

Solvang is also known as Little Denmark which is pretty self-explanatory when you arrive. There were windmills, pretzels, aebleskivers and belgium waffles as far as the eye could see. The architecture is quite authentic too. We weren’t sure what we’d find other than all these Danish touches but there were lots of gift shops, tasting rooms, and plenty of people watching. We even found a classic car show called Wheels N’ Windmills happening that day. Neil is interested in old cars so we opted for the car show instead of more wine tasting. (We’ve had plenty of opportunity for that already.)

A quick bite to eat at Bit O' Denmark Restaurant, Solvang, CA

The weather was gorgeous and surprisingly much warmer than Lompoc, CA where we were staying. We enjoyed the entire day exploring the town and grabbed a quick pumpernickel sandwich and some Akvavit before we headed back to Buellton and the Hitching Post 2. What a relaxing day of sightseeing! Now we can have some more wine.

Maria arrives at the Hitching Post 2, Buellton, CA

I was so excited as we pulled up to the Hitching Post 2! I had Neil photograph me with the sign and crossed my fingers that there would be a seat available at the bar. We had already decided we’d go for appetizers and a glass of wine and thought the bar would be a perfect place to make this happen. As luck would have it, we walked right in and grabbed a seat. You probably already know that Hitching Post produces wine but did you know that they have a handful of Pinot Noir wines to try? Can you remember the name of the Pinot that Miles and Jack drink there? Yup, it’s Highliner! Obviously we got a glass of that! We also tried a glass of Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir. Of course, there was 10-15 minutes of obligatory photography before any of the wine tasting actually began. It’s like my mecca and if I didn’t get the right shot, I would have regretted it.

Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

The Highliner was great! We picked up berries, earth and fruit aromas with a softness and a hint of spice. The texture of the wine was light then medium bodied and velvety smooth. The flavor had spice, a hint of banana pepper, a great balance between fruit and earth and a smooth finish. Needless to say, we both sipped and savored it for quite some time. We tried the roasted artichoke appetizer which didn’t disappoint. It was a great choice to just sit there and enjoy throughout evening! The Sanford and Benedict was pretty different from the Highliner. Neil noticed mushroom and cedar aromas which I called dark fruit and woodsy with spice. This Pinot Noir tasted like spice, woodsy but very little fruit. I also picked up some vanilla. It was definitely an interesting wine but the Highliner was so smooth, we couldn’t get over it!

drinking Pinot Noir and eating roasted artichokes at The Hitching Post 2, Buellton, CA

Being the wine nerd that I am, I took some notes about the wine when paired with the artichokes too. The Highliner acquired a flavor of roses with the food and then turned into raspberry. Even more points for this wine! The Sanford and Benedict seemed spicier with the food but then turned into more earth. It’s always so great when wines take on new flavors when paired with food!

Sideways Wine Bottle, Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

While we sat at the bar, a giant bottle at the end caught our eye. I wouldn’t say it was a Nebuchadnezzar but it was definitely big! To be honest, I thought it might be inflatable at first glance. This bottle was perfect for our trip out because it had a label with the movie art from Sideways on one side and the Highliner label on the other side. More photos ensued and I think we even had a bit of wine left in our glasses. We probably spent a couple hours there but it was great fun!

Andrew Murray Syrah with dinner, Lompoc, CA

On our way home, we picked up a bottle of Andrew Murray Syrah, another movie wine from Miles and Maya’s heart to heart on the back porch at Stephanie’s house. This wine had aromas of dark fruit, earth and spice. As I took a sip, I picked up dry, meaty, spicy flavors that shifted into smoke by the end of the night. Neil said it was good although he thought it tasted like a grape lollipop. What a lucky find at the local grocery store!

visiting the Windmill Inn, Buellton, CA

You may have noticed our day didn’t include a trip to the Sideways Inn. That’s because we went the day before when we arrived in Buellton. In 2013 we took our first trip here and took a photo of Neil with the iconic windmill. At that point it was a Days Inn hotel but now it’s officially branded as the Sideways Inn. I took my turn in front of the windmill this time around.

We hope you enjoyed hearing about all our Buellton destinations as much as we did visiting them on the Sideways Wine Tour!

Sideways Inn, Buellton, CA

Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/fiddlehead-cellars-wine-ghetto-lompoc-ca/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:12:02 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2978 Missing 7 wine at Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Our weeklong wine tasting trip was called the Sideways Wine Tour. Imagine how excited we were to find Fiddlehead Cellars in the Wine Ghetto. Do you recognize this brand from the movie Sideways? It’s from the scene during Miles and Maya’s double date with Jack and Stephanie. Maya has a glass of Fiddlehead Cellars Sauvignon Blanc that Miles tastes and likes. Maya says, “We should get you a glass of your own”. Obscure reference, maybe? but I’ve seen it a million times so I recognized it in the list of tasting rooms at the Ghetto.

Sideways 2

After seeing the Sauvignon Blanc in the movie, I was a bit surprised that there were so many Pinot Noir to choose from in the tasting room. I should have known since we are in Pinot Noir country. Fiddlehead Cellars is a very small operation, only 3 people, winemaker, assistant winemaker and Sadie, who did our tasting. Despite their size, their winemaker, Cathy, has been making wine for 30 years. Since we are new to this region, we were happy to see the wine map showing the Santa Ynez Valley and learning how the cool air in the Santa Rita Hills AVA comes from the West and South to help the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow.

Tasting Menu at Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Their tasting menu changes weekly so it might be different if you visit. Our wine tasting was set up little out of the ordinary with red wines first and then white and bubbles.

2017 “Pink Fiddle” Rosé of Pinot Noir, Fiddlesticks Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills
“Missing 7” Pinot Noir, Fiddlesticks Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills
2011 “728” Pinot Noir, Fiddlesticks Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills
2011 “Hunnysuckle” Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
2013 “Bubbles” Blanc de Noir, Fiddlesticks Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills

Lots of the wines come from Fiddlesticks Vineyard and when we visited, it was only a few days away from harvest. Our tasting began with a rosé of Pinot Noir that was aged in stainless steel. There were soft, fruity, floral, sweet and cotton candy aromas in this wine. The flavors were candied, tangy, sweet, smoky, floral, and tart. Neil thought it was interesting but sweeter than he’d like for a rosé.

We tried two Pinot Noirs next. Sadie told us the wines that Fiddlehead makes is driven by the LA crowd. It was also interesting to hear that these wines have no additives or protein fining agents therefore their wines can be considered vegan. The first wine is called Missing 7 as a play on the next wine titled 728. So what’s the significance of all these 7’s, well, the Fiddlesticks Vineyard can be found at mile marker 7.28 on Santa Rosa Road. As we swirled the Missing 7 wine, we picked up all kinds of aromas including light berry, fennel, floral notes, spice, cherry and blackberry. Neil called this a very, very interesting wine that was soft and then slid into something great! He identified vanilla and good fruit while I thought it was dry with berry and spice. The 728 wine was different than the previous wine with it’s berry, stone, smokey meat, pepper, and cherry cola aromas. I thought that wine felt thicker with spice, cherry and dry flavors. Neil picked up stone, fruit and spice flavors and described it as round, balanced, tasty and fun. Then in the finish, he got something delicious.

Santa Ynez Valley AVA map

During our tasting, Sadie, told us a little about the Santa Ynez Valley. There were a few winery recommendations that came up including Stoltman Winery because they use carbonic and concrete fermentation. She said it’s fun to go see something a little different. She also mentioned that the town of Los Olivos has tons of wine. That’s another great suggestion for us to add to the list for our next visit. One of the things that surprised us was the shift in agriculture to Cannabis. She said since it’s being grown in the area, it’s actually taking the migrant workforce away from the vineyards. Who knew that would be a side effect of Cannabis being legalized?

Wine Tasting at Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

We only had two wines left to try, a Sauvignon Blanc and some bubbles. As we swirled the Sauvignon Blanc, Sadie told us that the grapes are exposed to a lot of sunlight out in Santa Barbara. The aromas were very different from what we’d expect for this grape. We noticed oak, honeysuckle, watermelon rind, a hint of sweetness and flowers. Then when I took a sip, I noticed it to be smooth, caramel, and creme brûlée. Neil described it as honeysuckle, white flowers and light honey. If we had to guess, I think we both would have said Chardonnay before Sauvignon Blanc. Guess that’s why it was a good wine to feature in the movie, something a little different. The sparkling wine smelled like oak and burnt caramel to me but Neil thought it was honeydew and cantaloupe melon. The flavor was light, clean, mineral and citrus.

Winery tour at Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

At the end of the tasting, I was looking through the window in to the production area. Since the tasting room was about to close, Sadie said we could go peek in the back. It took me back to my days of working in a small winery. She showed us the equipment and described her role in the winemaking process. Always fun to be part of a small team! They were about to start production once those Fiddlesticks grapes came in. Sadie’s favorite part is the crusher, she said it’s like her fort. What a fun way to wrap up our day of wine tasting.

We didn’t purchase any wine here because we knew we had so many more places to taste in the upcoming days. It was a great first day in our weeklong Sideways Wine Tour. Wish we had more time to explore the Wine Ghetto, it’s so convenient with all those tasting rooms in one place! Keep checking back to see where else we visited.

Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

*Movie Photo found on

Pali Wine Co, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/pali-wine-co-wine-ghetto-lompoc-ca/ Fri, 05 Oct 2018 13:35:22 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2970 Pali Wine Co, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

We began our Sideways Wine Tour in the Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA. First stop was Pali Wine Co., thanks to a recommendation from our AirBnB host, Edward. He was previously part of the wine industry and happily suggested Pali wines. I’ve heard of the Wine Ghetto but was open to places we should taste in the area. He told us about it since we wanted to try some local Pinot.

We were greeted by Cindy when we arrived and had the whole tasting room to ourselves. The flights cost $12 per person but there are 2 for 1 coupons that you can find at some of the local wineries. Cindy let us know that Pali stands for the California Palisades and that although their winery is located in Lompoc, CA, they have a handful of tasting rooms all over California. Their wines are grown locally in the Santa Rita Hills AVA but they do have a few wines from outside the area too. In addition to the Pali brand, they also produce Tower 15. We happily grabbed a barstool and began our tasting.

2014 Huber Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills
2016 “Alphabets” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
2015 Pali Estate Vineyard, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills
2015 Rio Vista Vineyards, Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills
2013 “The Jetty” Rhone Blend, Paso Robles
2016 “The Swell” Bordeaux Blend, Central Coast

Pali Wine Company and Tower 15, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Our first wine of the tasting was a Chardonnay from the Santa Rita Hills, called Huber. There were funky, oak and honey aromas. We both agreed that this wine was on the lighter side. Neil described it as very well-balanced and very good. I thought it was a little on the tart side.

Wine Tasting at Pali Wine Co, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

It caught us both by surprise that our next wine was from Willamette Valley in Oregon. The Alphabets wine began our tasting of three Pinot Noirs. It was quite the aromatic Pinot Noir with us picking up scents of berry, herbal-parsley and fennel, licorice, and driftwood. This wine was pretty light too and Neil thought it was too light for him. The flavors were dry, a little bitter, wet forest and black pepper. Although we were excited about the aromas, we were ready to try the next Pinot Noir from the Pali Estate Vineyard. I found this to be the Pinot Noir with spice. I could feel the spice but also picked up big berry aromas and grape flavors. Neil noticed dark fruit and bell pepper aromas. I could tell this would be his favorite Pinot of the tasting when he said he could “live in this bottle!” He described the wine’s flavors as light pepper, fruity and super approachable. The final Pinot Noir was the Rio Vista and it was a bonus pour for those of us that were in the tasting room that day. We noticed earth, berry, menthol, smoke, pepper and aromas that ranged from dark cherry to plum. The body of the wine was thicker and not that light to me but Neil thought it was “deliciously light! “ We had a lot to say about the flavors too. Neil found this wine to be round, ruby, and described the flavor as cherry jolly rancher. I though the wine was soft and dry with menthol flavors and a spice finish. This was my favorite Pinot Noir of the three.

There were two blends remaining in our tasting, one using Rhone grapes and the other with Bordeaux grapes, both combinations that we usually seek out. The Jetty Rhone Blend had big licorice, chocolate, graphite and dark fruit aromas. I called this a dry wine with strawberry and spice flavors. Neil agreed with the heavy spice but thought this was a sweet wine with plum-ish and earthy flavors. The Swell, a Bordeaux blend, was modeled to be similar to a Right Bank blend. Neil found alcohol, petrol and pepper aromas and called this a heavy wine. I noticed earth, blackberry and vanilla aromas and thought it was a dry wine. I noticed spice and berry flavors and Neil thought the flavor started as big fruit but then it changed to jammy as he sipped it.

Pali Wine Co, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA 2

We had a great time enjoying all these aromatic wines but couldn’t agree on which one to buy. What a great first stop that included so many of the types of wines we like. It’s like Edward, our AirBnB host, already knew us.

Thanks to Cindy for telling us about the Central Coast Specialty Food store,, for cheese. I wish they stayed open later, we never made it over there before they closed. We got a couple other recommendations for wine tasting in the Ghetto too. Flying Goat Cellars specializes in sparkling wines, we’ll definitely put them on our list for the next time we’re in Lompoc. Not much time left for our tasting today and we still have to head over to Fiddlehead Cellars before they close. Join us as we continue our Sideways Wine Tour of the California coast.

Pali Wine Co and Tower 15, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA 2

6 Mile Cellars Wine Tasting, Erie, PA http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/6-mile-cellars-wine-tasting-erie-pa/ Fri, 14 Sep 2018 19:28:13 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2956 6 Mile Cellars 1

We had so many wine experiences during our summer trip to Pennsylvania that we still have a couple we haven’t told you about yet. Today’s entry is about our wine tasting at 6 Mile Cellars with Aunt Kathy, Marilou and myself. 6 Mile Cellars is just down the road from Aunt Kathy’s house but strangely, we had never visited. That’s likely due to the fact that it’s only open on Saturday and Sunday, so we made a point to check it out during our past trip. Although Aunt Kathy gets to enjoy the wines we bring back from the wineries, she’s never had the chance to come wine tasting with Neil and I. Neil’s sister, Marilou, was in town too so we decided to take a girls day out and enjoy a little vino.

6 Mile Cellars 3

This winery is relatively new, having only opened in 2012. Curious about the name 6 Mile Cellars? It refers to the creek that runs just behind Aunt Kathy’s house (6 Mile Creek). We enjoyed seeing the grapes on the exterior of the tasting room but found out that they only grow Niagara grapes on their property. The rest of their grapes are purchased from neighboring vineyards including Mazza, Arundel, and 21 Brix*.

6 Mile Cellars tasting menu

When we arrived, we were the first people there to taste the wine but we happily signed up for the set of 5 wines for $5 which included our souvenir glasses. All of us chose different wines but I do have a list of a few of the wines Marilou and Aunt Kathy tried in addition to my own notes.

Pinot Grigio
Strawberry Traminette
Derby Red
Derby Red Sangria
Cabernet Franc
Marechal Foch
Old Snapper

I began my tasting with the Pinot Grigio. This wine had dry, pear aromas and a little bit of a toasted flavor. The other white wine that I tried was the Riesling. I mentioned in our entry about Johnson Estate Winery that I was doing a bit of an experiment and trying all the Riesling’s I came across during this trip. The Riesling at 6 Mile Cellars smelled floral but tasted like fruit and oak. Aunt Kathy tried the Niagara, that is grown on the property, and knew she liked it. She decided to take home a bottle of it that day.

6 Mile Cellars 2

Marilou tried the Strawberry Traminette and decided it was just what she was looking for to sip on that Sunday afternoon. She brought home a bottle to share with her cousin. She also tasted both the Derby Red and Derby Red Sangria. I was familiar with the Derby Red after trying it a few times from relatives that live nearby. This wine is a blend of Concord and Fredonia grapes and I like that it’s both flavorful and light bodied. The Derby Red Sangria is a blend of the wine with fresh squeezed lemon, lime, orange, strawberries and pineapple juice. Both of these wines come in a can, and are so convenient, as well as tasty. It was an easy decision for Marilou to purchase both of those that day as well.

6 Mile Cellars wines

I had fun to watching them taste and enjoy their wines while I spoke with the tasting room associates and learned more about the winery. I found out that they use Hungarian Oak barrels because this type of oak has thicker grains. The wine can spend less time in the barrel for the same oak flavor that would take longer in other types of barrels. Pretty cool! Also 6 Mile Cellars is the same climate as Toreldego, Spain, I never would have guessed that. They were also excited to tell me that they are in the process of making some coffee wines in the future. How different! We’ve never tried anything like that before.

6 Mile Cellars wine tasting

I tried two red wines that day. My first red wine, Cabernet Franc, had berry and floral aromas. The flavor was light, with dark berries, black pepper and a hint of dryness. I liked it and decided I should purchase a bottle. The other red wine was Marechal Foch, one of the lesser known grapes that grows in this area. This wine had aromas of red licorice and flavors of cranberry, raspberry, and dark fruit. It was also a dry wine that I enjoyed.

I finished out my tasting with the Old Snapper, Ginger Snap Cider. I’m not usually a fan of beer but it seemed like something that would have all my favorite flavors of Autumn. I really liked the apple pie aromas, bubbles, and light ginger snap flavor. It was very nice and fun to try something a little out of the ordinary.

I’m glad I finally got to have a wine tasting experience with Marilou and Aunt Kathy and from the amount of wine we brought home, I’d say they liked it too. I even got a couple suggestions of other areas of the US that have wine trails to look for in the future. What a nice wine trip on a Sunday afternoon! And now we’ve been to 6 Mile Cellars, a place we had driven by so many times and always wondered about.

*We went to 21 Brix on a past trip out to Pennsylvania,

6 Mile Cellars Derby Red, Derby Red Sangria, Niagara, Strawberry Traminette, Cabernet Franc

Sideways Wine Tour http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/sideways-wine-tour/ Fri, 31 Aug 2018 23:17:20 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2953 Sideways Wine Bottle, Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

For how many times Neil and I have watched Sideways, we’ve never been to the region to try the wines. We made a point to take a trip to the Santa Rita Hills AVA this summer to follow the Sideways tourist map. We were calling it our Sideways Wine Tour and it would begin outside of Santa Barbara and end in San Jose with us stopping every day or two along the California Coast.

We’d be staying in Air Bnb’s in each location and including some beach time in addition to all the wine tastings. Our route included Carpinteria, Lompoc, Buellton, Solvang, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, and Carmel.

We’re still working through all those wine tasting notes so today’s entry is just the introduction but you can see all the wineries we included in the tour. Miles and Jack would have been so proud of us for the quantity of Pinot Noir that we tried. And honestly, I don’t think we tried any Merlot in any of our tastings!

In the end we tried wine from Santa Rita Hills, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles, Monterey, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains, Carmel Valley, and Arroyo Seco. Find the winery list below and a few of the photos from this Sideways Wine Tour. And be sure to check back on this entry in the next couple weeks to find the links to the full entries for each winery.

Pali Wine Company, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Pali Wine Company,

Fiddlehead Cellars, Wine Ghetto, Lompoc, CA

Fiddlehead Cellars,

Hitching Post, Buellton, CA

Hitching Post Restaurant,

Andrew Murray Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Andrew Murray Syrah,

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Eberle Winery,

Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, CA

Dracaena Wines,

Brecon Estate, Paso Robles, CA

Brecon Estate,

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA

Tablas Creek Vineyard,

Holman Ranch Estate Vineyard & Winery, Carmel, CA

Holman Ranch Estate Vineyard & Winery

Scratch Wines, Carmel, CA

Scratch Wines

Vinebox 3 with Campo cheese http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/vinebox-3-with-campo-cheese/ Tue, 21 Aug 2018 23:59:44 +0000 http://wineandcheesefriday.lan/?p=2948 Domaine de la Renne, Château Les Palais, and Reserve de la Roncière Cuvée traditionelle with Boxcarr Campo cheese

Have you been following through our gift subscription to VineBox? Well this is our last entry of the 3-month subscription. Did you miss our introduction explaining Vinebox? We’ve really enjoyed this service and might even start it back up again if we end up staying at the same address for more than a week. Today’s entry has all French wines; one white wine, 2 red wines and another North Carolina cheese by Boxcarr Handmade Cheese.

Domaine de la Renne 2016, Sauvignon blanc, Loire-Touraine, France
Château Les Palais 2016, Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, Languedoc-Corbières, France 
Reserve de la Roncière Cuvée Traditionelle 2016, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Côtes du Rhône, France

Vinebox 3

We began our tasting with the Sauvignon Blanc from Loire Valley, after Neil took a quick peek at the tasting cards to rearrange the wines. The white wine was screaming peach aromas to me but Neil identified lemon and orange citrus. I found this wine to be crisp and tart with juicy peach flavors and a little funk in the finish. Neil noticed lemon-orange citrus with butter flavors and a hint of caramel. I really liked it, too bad there’s just a small sample of each wine.

Then we moved onto the cheese. I knew I wanted another North Carolina cheese to wrap up our Vinebox entries but I must have stood in front of the cheese counter at Whole Foods for 45 minutes trying to pick one out. We’ve had the Boxcarr Handmade Cheese brand before ( and it was delicious so I finally decided on the Campo.

It was definitely a stinky cheese! There was funk coming out while it was sitting next to me. So much funk that it tingled the inside of my nose. The funk flavors were milk, hay, pungent, feet and then baby powder. Once I tasted it, the cheese was smooth with a rind that was ashy, like it was burnt. Neil thought the texture was rubbery and soft. Although Neil recognized the flavor, he was having a hard time placing it. He knew it was a strong cheese with maybe flavors of a grassy field, or maybe hay but a little sour. I thought it had a hint of sweetness and brine. We both had input on what the rind tasted like. Neil picked up seeds and nuts similar to sunflower seeds and I thought it was like mustard and herbs. What a flavorful cheese!

You know how it works, next we paired the Sauvignon Blanc with the Campo cheese. I found the wine to get more tart but still peachy while developing a grapefruit flavor too. Neil wasn’t a fan when he tasted a huge mouthful of cheese funk during his sip of wine. Neil and I both noticed the cheese to get buttery from the pairing. I liked the pairing a lot but Neil said it was a No!

Our first red wine was from the Corbières region of Languedoc, France. This wine smelled really good when I swirled it and I picked out red and black fruit, vanilla and earth aromas! Neil found big berry and black pepper flavors and aromas. He said it was a jammy wine that had a lingering flavor of black pepper. This purple wine had dark fruit and vanilla flavors with black pepper spice. We’ve recently determined we like this region of France quite a bit. Curious about other wines to try from this affordable part of France, check out our post from Languedoc Day.

During the pairing of Château Les Palais and Campo cheese, I thought the cheese turned buttery again. I could also smell more earth in the wine but the wine lightened up and it wasn’t as good. The earthiness really stuck out from the earth in the wine and the earth in the rind of the cheese. Neil thought the spice decreased in the wine and it became drier. We both felt the wine would be better alone.

We ended our Vinebox samples with the Cuvée Traditionelle from the Rhone region of France. I didn’t think this red wine was quite as aromatic as the wine from Corbières. I only picked up aromas of red licorice but Neil was able to identify black fruit, prunes and black pepper. This was another purple wine that had spice but it was pretty dry. So dry that I didn’t notice much flavor either. Neil agreed that it was a very dry wine with spice as well as black cherry.

When we paired this dry wine with the cheese, there seemed to be more aromas in the wine and I noticed a flavor of graphite. The cheese helped the wine and it became more milky with some funk. Neil thought the wine got less dry with the cheese too. He even noticed a little more red fruit in the wine. Strangely though, he found less funk in the cheese, but did agree that it was more buttery.

In the end we disagreed if the cheese helped or overpowered the wines. Neil thought the cheese was too big for the pairings. I found the cheese to be very versatile because it turned buttery with both the red and the white wines. And regarding the wines, Neil and I both liked the second wine, Château Les Palais from Corbières, but my favorite was the white wine.

Overall we really enjoyed our Vinebox subscription. It was so fun to have 3 mysterious wines show up each month and I enjoyed the surprise of seeing what they sent each time. Is there a rosé? Are they sweet or dry? Where are they from? Also it was kind of fun to just get a sample of each! It was plenty for each of us to have a taste and even some to pair with cheese. I also really enjoyed having 3 different wines to pair with each cheese so we could try all kinds of pairing options. We’d both recommend giving Vinebox a try if this sounds like something you’d enjoy .

vinebox 3 with Boxcarr campo cheese and info cards