Tuesday, May 19, 2015

¿Decopas? A glass?

Each day in Argentina, thousands of colleagues, family and friends turn to each other and ask: “¿Decopas?” Buenos Aires slang for “By the glass?” this joyous invitation signals the start of Happy Hour! Just in time for Spring weather and lighter fare came two sample bottles of Decopas Wines, the 2014 Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc.

¿Decopas? A glass?

Tasting Notes:
100% Malbec; cold macerated, then fermented in stainless steel; aged 4 months in stainless; deep violet color; red berry, spice, and subtle earth aromas, with the same on the palate; mild tannins and a touch of acidity make this a great food wine; twist-off closure; SRP $12.
100% Sauvignon Blanc, hand harvested; cold skin contact before fermentation in stainless followed by one month aging in stainless; straw gold in color; citrus, subtle tropical, and floral aromas; light melon, floral, touch of tropical, and floral flavors; twist-off closure, SRP $12.
Both of these wines go with a wide variety of foods and are able to stand up to a little bit of spice as well. These are not complicated, but rather fun and tasty wines, perfect for drinking outside on the deck or on a picnic. 

Wines provided for review purposes, all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wine of the Week: Holman Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

In the heart of the Carmel Valley, Holman Ranch Vineyards and Winery have their hands in a lot of projects: weddings, events, an olive grove, stables....oh, they also make some really great wines. Originally, the ranch was part of the lands bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo. When the Mexican government secularized the mission lands, one of the first ranchers in Carmel Valley, Don Jose Manuel Boronda, was granted the Los Laureles Rancho—6,625 acres that included what is now Holman Ranch. In 1989, Dorothy McEwen planted the vineyards and created the ranch as it is known today, though the current owners, Thomas and Jarman Lowder, planted the olive groves. The estate wines of Holman Ranch include: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Wine of the Week: Holman Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc

Tasting Notes:
Estate grown Musque clone grapes; pale, almost not there yellow color; starfruit, talc, and white floral aromas; muskmelon, tart lemon and subtle mineral flavors; bracing acidity; a light bodied, refreshing wine; cork closure; SRP $19.

Holman Ranch Vineyards and Winery Video

This wine was received for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey

Thematic restaurants can be a tough go, with a tightrope act needed to pay homage to the theme without being cloying and also appealing to current tastes and paradigms. Originally opened as The Brass Monkey (by Untitled Supper Club's owner Marc Bushala and chef Ryan Wombacher), the restaurant was '70s-inspired American and French, with menu items from both countries. Laima and I were invited to a media dinner there last week, tasting through the current iteration of parts of the menu.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

#BeChildish (as in Julia Child, not infantile) was the theme, with updated interpretations of classic American fare to be had, with some unusual twists to be sure. Making food from a decade where convenience was key and most ingredients came in a can, was no easy feat, but they definitely pulled it off. The decor is also more highbrow than low, though a trip to the bathrooms downstairs shows that the seedier aspect of the 70's is acknowledged, with a wall of Playboy covers featured and a darker atmosphere in general.  The soundtrack has some nods to the obvious hits, but it's mostly more obscure, with a colossal selection of songs in the restaurant soundtrack.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

For our dinner, appetizers were served family style on a side bar in the vinyl-themed private dining room, the collection of 70's albums a colorful counterpoint to the high ceilings, enormous windows, and interesting tile throughout. Seeing a bowl of wild boar meatballs, mini sliders on a plate, and other appetizers served this way brought me right back to my parents' parties of the time. While all the appetizers were tasty, my favorite had to be the Baloney Sliders (with pickles, melted fontina, caramelized onion, and garlic aioli), just a great way to kick off the meal.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

Tastes of available cocktails were served throughout the dinner, with playful interpretations the norm. With names like SoCal75, Tang (yes, the rim was crusted with a powder that evoked that classic astronaut drink), and Side Seat Driver, you know the team had some fun with these. One of my favorites, and perhaps the best named cocktail on the menu, was Chicago River Water, a tasty concoction that in its opaque, greenish-blue glory truly evoked our city's river.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

Entrées were served all at once, with diners taking tastes as they wished. The TV Dinner is an obvious choice and does not disappoint, though to me, the Amish Chicken (broccolini, roasted tomatoes, potatoes, lemon-truffle chicken jus, connection to the 70's unknown to me) was the highlight, tasting almost more Thai than Amish. Not a single entrée was left on the nearly empty plates, even though we all knew dessert was on the way.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

Not on the menu for the evening, but available as sides every day, were the Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Macaroni and Cheese, more goodness and definitely evoked my childhood, though Brussels Sprouts became an acquired taste later in my adulthood. These my kids would happily eat. The Macaroni and Cheese had everyone raving and, when chef Ryan told us that they use no flour in the sauce, amazed at the creaminess. Two sides definitely worth ordering.

#BeChildish Dinner at The Brass Monkey Brasserie

Something I've never understood is restaurants that don't take desserts seriously (if I owned a restaurant, a good pastry chef might be the first person I hired). Brass Monkey does not make that mistake however, with all four desserts offered updated and unique interpretations of these classics. Initially I thought the S'Mores might be my favorite, but ultimately the Bananas Foster Pudding, served parfait style (banana cream pie meets bananas foster. vanilla wafer crumble, banana pudding, Angel’s Envy Bourbon caramel, caramelized bananas) won me over, much to my surprise. I'm used to the classic method, with flames burning off the alcohol, but while more theatrical, it's not as tasty as this version.

Overall, I'd say I was surprised by the high level of detail that went into the decor of the restaurant, along with the food and drinks. What I really enjoyed was the subtlety and creativity shown when reinterpreting the food - most things were identifiable as their namesakes from the 70's, thought the fresh ingredients and twists on the recipes made them stand on their own. Slightly off Restaurant Row, this is an establishment worth veering off the beaten path for, it's that good.

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This dinner was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lodi Celebrates Earth Day with Wine and Cheese!

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to sit down with some Lodi Wine bottles and paired cheeses (by Cindy from Cheese Central). Sine it was Earth Day, the discussion revolved not only around the very tasty items we were sampling, but also sustainability efforts in Lodi, most notably the Lodi Rules™. Launched in 2005, Lodi Rules™ for Sustainable Winegrowing is California’s first 3rd party-certified sustainable winegrowing program. Lodi Rules™ takes a comprehensive approach to farming that goes beyond just pest management to promote practices that enhance biodiversity, water and air quality, soil health, and employee and community well-being. It's great when producers realize that they better take care of the land they are utilizing if they want continued success. Kudos to Lodi and all the producers who adhere to these environmentally friendly practices!

Lodi Celebrates Earth Day with Wine and Cheese!

The sustainably grown Lodi fruit and their fabulous (and also eco-friendly) cheese pairings were as follows:

  • Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards 2014 Picpoul Blanc (SRP $24.00) paired with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, Arcata, CA: estate grown grapes sourced from 100 vines; light yellow color; floral, citrus, and melon aromas; tree fruit, citrus, floral and melon flavors; nice acidity; 98 cases produced; cork closure. The light fruit flavors, especially the melon notes, were a nice contrast to the nuttiness of the cheese.
  • Oak Farm Vineyards 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $19.00) paired with Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog® Grande, Arcata, CA: grapes sourced from the Mohr-Fry Ranch; extremely light yellow in color; fermented in stainless steel; tropical fruit, lemongrass, citrus and melon aromas repeat in the mouth with beautiful acidity; 229 cases produced; cork closure. Fruit flavors popped when tasted with the cheese, with the ash and herb notes in the cheese more noticeable.
  • St. Amant Winery 2013 Barbera (SRP $18.00) paired with Fiscalini Farms San Joaquin Gold, Modesto, CA: grapes sourced from 42 year old vines; aged 10 months in 20% new American oak; pretty ruby color; dark berry, earth, and subtle herb aromas; dark berries, toast, herb, cherry, and earthy flavors; subtle tannins; cork closure. Fruit in wine was a nice contrast to nuttiness of wine.
  • Michael David Winery 2012 Tannat (SRP $35.00) paired with Central Coast Creamery Seascape Paso Robles, CA: aged 16 months in French oak; deep, dark, and sinful looking; red berry, dark fruit, and leather aromas; similar flavors in mouth; plenty of tannins and alcohol - needs time to coalesce; roundish mouthfeel that finishes long but hot; cork closure. Overwhelmed the cheese, needs serious meat for pairing.

As always, special thanks to Charles Communications for organizing the tasting! Charles Communications Associates is an independent creative marketing firm that employs traditional public relations and new media strategies to assist companies, organizations and non-profits in the creation, development and marketing of interesting and compelling brands. Recognized as one of the most effective PR firms in the wine industry, we have an exceptional track record of promoting products in the gourmet, natural and organic food and beverage categories, from wine and tea to top shelf spirits and luxury goods. We consider ourselves fortunate to work with clients who share our philosophy of social responsibility in work and everyday life.

These wines and cheeses were provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.

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