The skies were dreary and overcast. My wool pea coat was a must and was destined to be drenched multiple times. A pub and a pint by a crackling fire beckoned, but I was on a gastronomic mission – to eat at as many great restaurants in Winchester as possible.
We were visiting my sister, a recent Masters graduate from the Winchester School of Art. People had made fun of our culinary pursuits while in England – don’t they boil everything? – but we persevered and were rewarded with a week’s worth of wonderful meals. Winchester is actually a hub of a town with a teeming culture.
To begin our eatery extravaganza, we did in fact choose a pub. We were in England after all! At the Royal Oak, I opted for the Fish & Chips, and I was not disappointed. The haddock had wonderful flavor, the batter light and crunchy. The serving was huge – too much to consume in one sitting. The only unfortunate aspect was that it was presented on a wooden tray that had obviously been abused with frequent washing. (I was also not a fan of mushy peas, sorry!)
Trying Indian food was a must. I grew up in Yuba City (it’s often referred to as “Little India” because of the large Sikh population), which means that I also grew up with Indian cuisine, and I was curious to experience the differences – if any – from across the pond. The waiter didn’t believe that I could handle the spice in my meal, I ordered madras, but I could have handled more. We shared some lovely garlic naan and a bottle of Riesling for a very satisfying meal.
At Rimjhim, we waited – and waited – for the bill. We had encountered the lovely, non-pushy restaurant culture in Great Britain. They’ll let you sit there for hours if you don’t tell them you’d like the bill that last time the waiter or waitress stops by and asks if you’d like anything else. (When we ended up wanting dessert at another place after our meal, we had to practically pounce on a member of the staff in order to procure our bill.) After being left alone for what seemed like an eternity, we finally walked up to the register.
With traditional pub food and Indian out of the way, the next stop on our culinary journey was, of course, Italian. Zizzi was a bit haughty, and they sat our riffraff selves in a corner behind a life-sized statue of a horse, but my Ravioli Di Capra was divine, and the Barbera De Asti Superiore 2010 D.O.C.G., Chiarlo Piemonte was quite lovely with the food. It did sport more than a touch of Brett, to which I’m very sensitive (I think it tastes like Band-Aids), so it wasn’t my favorite, though that Brettanomyces, along with its restrained mineral characteristics, made it very European.
On our last day, we kept it Mediterranean and headed to Spain. El Sabio had a wonderful assortment of tapas. My choice of three dishes, Croquetas De Setas y Queso de Cabrales, Ensalada Mixta, and Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate were perfect and packed with flavor. We shared a bottle of Tempranillo, Marqués de Verdellano for a very easy-going, and very filling, lunch.
I think our favorite stop of all was The Black Bottle – not a restaurant, though they do offer food, but rather a wine bar. With a card that had been charged from money given at the register, you could choose wine by the glass in 125 ml, 175 ml, or taste sizes. I had a grand time skipping around and sampling various wines from the automated dispensers until I happened upon my favorite, Masseria Pietrosa Malvasia Nera, and had a glass. I love it and am hoping to find a distributor here in the States. Thank goodness I live with a wine buyer!
All in all, our gastronomic tour of Winchester was a rousing success. We had a wonderful experience, and with all of the walking we did, I managed not to gain any weight, so, WIN!
Recently, I needed to create a new food blog location for work. Seizing the opportunity, I created it for me, too. I'll be posting most of my recipes, coffee, etc. writing over there. I'm still deciding on wine and beer -- I may post both places, I may just post there. But if you enjoy my foodie nature, please visit Sapid Cellar Door.
One of my Charles' wine vendors keeps inviting us to events. It's terrific that he thinks of us and gives us the opportunity to do enjoyable, wine related type things. It's just been a tough year for extracurricular activities -- work and family matters taking priority over things we might find fun.
Saturday, we decided that it was high time for a treat, so we went to work early and then went to the Festival.
We, obviously, tried wine at each of the places we stopped. We didn't eat at every location. Sometimes the lines were just too long to attempt it, others just didn't look that appealing. Carpe Vino made a kick-ass pumpkin soup with vanilla brown butter. It made me feel all soft and squishy when I sipped it. Awful Annies served us a seafood chowder that was to die for, and Bootlegger's had a shrimp dish that was the perfect amount of decadent as well as a cheese and prosciutto plate that was scrumptious.
It was interesting to discover that the Nevada County wineries tended to be better than their Placer County counterparts. I don't think it was just because we're more acquainted with the Nevada County wines. They seemed more polished, mature, and had a better sense of self. Of the new wines tried, Vina Castellano and Fawnridge were the big winners. We were the most impressed with Fawnridge. (They were the only winery that was graced with one of my Charles' business cards.) Their Chardonnay had a touch of Orange Muscat that gave it a lovely, unique flavor, and their red table wine was a pleasure.
After all of that wine, (we tried two to three wines at each location) we needed an actual meal. We stopped at our Auburn standby, the Auburn Alehouse for some tasty pub food. It didn't disappoint. We both opted for the Alehouse Brisket with fries. Man, their fries are tasty! Their menu describes the Alehouse Brisket as a "slow smoked Angus beef served with sautéed onions, our Old Town Brown BBQ sauce, and house slaw on a garlic-grilled French roll." Their slaw is pretty groovy too. Plus, the portions were large enough, we had leftovers for lunch on Sunday.
The Company is located in an historic building on Mill Street in downtown Grass Valley. The interior is rich with walls of brick, murals, and gorgeous accessories including plush couches and leather stools. Multileveled, it’s a glorious place for events or just to hang out with an excellent bottle of local wine.
For the pre-grand opening, tables were set up around the perimeter of the lower level, each table representing one of the four wineries. Two choices of wine and one excellent dish from Jim E’s were available at each stop.
My Charles and I started at Montoliva’s table. Mark Henry, the owner and winemaker, was pouring. He was also the lovely individual who invited us to the event, so starting at his table just felt right. Plus, he’s such an easy person to talk with, it made it easy for us to relax and feel a part of the group as a whole. Mark’s table had the most wonderful roasted tomato and goat cheese tarts, and they paired gorgeously with his yummy wines.
photo by GVWC
We then drifted, talked, and made our way over to Solune’s table. This was exciting for us, as we hadn’t had a chance to make it out to their winery and taste their wines. It should come as no surprise that they were terrific, and their food for pairing was a braised sausage. I didn’t try the sausage, as I was still rather full from an early dinner and the amazing goat cheese tart, but my Charles enjoyed every bite.
Our next stop was Pilot Peak and their awesome wines. This time, I couldn’t say no to Jim E’s creation – chicken, wrapped in bacon, with chipotle basil sauce! Mmmm… taste sensation heaven. I was tempted to take another, but my full tummy and good manners prevented such a social faux pas. And again, the wine paired perfectly.
The last table was Bent Metal’s. Their wines were paired with meatballs in a Dijon mustard sauce, which I wanted, but that lovely bacon had taken up the last of the food room in my belly. My Charles said they were mighty tasty, and I was content with that. This was the first time either of us had met Judy Brown of Bent Metal, and I gotta say, she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met in Nevada County.
While this could have been the end of our evening, we decided to extend our night just a tad further by purchasing a glass of wine each. My Charles chose Solune’s 2006 Petite Sirah. The grapes were sourced from Clarksburg, and the wine was fantastic. While it would be good with steak, you may think I’m nuts, but I think this wine would also go terrifically with sushi, especially ahi. There were enough levels that told me they’d compliment the green saltiness of nori, the smoky base of wasabi partnered with tamari, and the flavors of the tuna, that I’d love to try this pairing. I had a glass of Pilot Peak’s LiVedo, one of my favorites, and one that I thought would end the evening on a high note. I was right. Oh, for evenings that end on a contented sigh…
There's something so rejuvenating about driving around the foothills on a sunny day, listening to good music, chatting with great people, eating yummy food, and drinking WINE.
Saturday, Charles and I did the Northern Sierra Wine Trail. It happens every year, but this year was a bit different than in years past. This year, we knew people. And we got to do one of the things that we thoroughly enjoy -- we got to talk about wine.
All that gabbing meant that we didn't make it to too many wineries -- only three to be exact. We started off at Montoliva Vineyard & Winery. There we picked up our glasses, had some of Mark Henry's always lovely wine offerings, and even got to try some of Mark's home brew. The man knows how to make a good beer. Besides getting to chat with Mark, which is always a fun time, my favorite experience at Motoliva was getting to barrel sample his 2008 Teroldego. I can't wait until this beauty, with its nose of wild roses and vanilla bean, is ready for the bottle!
Then we were off to Naggiar Vineyards & Winery. They were recently voted Best Winery in KCRA's A*list. Now, we've been fans a long time. I even wrote an article about them a couple of years ago. We tried every wine they offered for tasting during the Trail. We couldn't say no to any of them, they're just all so spectacular. Then Diane Naggiar discovered us and made sure we were fed. We were served a lovely pulled pork sandwich along with a plate of fresh fruit and another plate of fresh vegetables and paired that with their wow-factor Petite Sirah. After chatting with Mark Foster from Nevada City Winery and purchasing a bottle of wine, we were off to our last stop.
All of our great chit chat over the course of the day had really eaten into our five hours of Wine Trail. We wouldn't have had it any other way, and it meant that we got to end our afternoon at Pilot Peak Winery. Again, we tried every wine offered because how could we resist? We love it all so. Which meant that yes, we needed to eat some more food. Hooray! We were lucky enough to have their famous coleslaw and omg! tri-tip sandwiches. We paired our food with one of my favorites, their Cabernet Franc. After purchasing another couple bottles of wine, we drove home, full and contented and wishing it wasn't another year until our next Wine Trail.
Sunday found Charles and me at Pilot Peak's White Wine Release Party. (You can see us in the upper left hand corner. Just look for the arrows.) Besides getting to have some super awesome wines, we also got to have some very yummy food. We paired our amazing crackers, soft cheese, and Pacific Rim Chicken Salad with a sparklingly complex Sauvignon Blanc.
We were also lucky enough to try their wonderful Late Harvest Viognier which was the perfect amount of sweet and paired beautifully with white chocolate dipped strawberries. We purchased a bottle of Viognier which was light and refreshing. (It's also the only white you can still purchase, so hurry, hurry, hurry!)
And if all of that fun, sunshine, great food, and amazing wine wasn't enough, we also got to try some local, chocolate truffles which were so good, I hope we start carrying them in the store. I'll have to tell our Perishables Buyer they're a MUST have.
Some days are just so terrific, the only way to finish them off is to sigh in contentment and dream about wine, food, and chocolate.
This weekend was the store's first of its new series of wine tastings, Second Saturday Sipping. This is MY event, really. I do the organization, the press releases, the postings on Facebook. Bob from the Northern Sierra Wine Country Association is helping me by booking the wineries, but so far, everything else has fallen to me.
Our first winery was Sierra Knolls. They're very nice people, and they have nice wines. We had a few people come in to sample the wine varieties, but nothing close to what I was hoping for. Then we went to a new winery, Bent Metal, that was holding a grand opening of their new tasting room. Their wines show promise, and everyone was having a great time. They had good music, yummy food, but we had already had a very long day at work, so Charles and I tasted and ran. I'm really looking forward to how their wine making matures, but let's leave it at that for now.
The next morning, we decided to go on a hunt for some more firewood. This extra long snow season has caught us with a bit of a shortage of burnable wood for the stove. The hunt was somewhat fruitless since this IS California and it IS the middle of April, but while we were out and about, we did run across a little comic relief. A certain discount grocery store, a bit of an Outlet as it were, forgot to double-check their signage before making it really big, and putting it out on the shelves. The best part is, the new wine variety that they created happened on MORE THAN ONE SIGN! I loved it! While we may have had an anticlimactic wine weekend, at least we got to have a little laugh.
A week ago today, I was sitting at a table putting wristbands on ticket-holders for Downtown Grass Valley’s Foothills Celebration.
It was chaotic. It was loud. I had face time with hundreds of strangers. It was great.
It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who enjoy wine and enjoy talking about it. As we put on wristbands, I and my fellow volunteers talked about the glorious selection of wines that our area has to offer. I loved it!
Not only did I get to hang around and chat wine all afternoon, I also got to say hello to a lot of the local winemakers, vineyard, and winery owners. If Charles had been with me, it would have felt like a little slice of heaven.
It’s interesting to realize that I get along better with the winemakers and winery owners of this area better than I do with almost anyone else. Did I miss my calling? Of course, it’s the same for Charles, so did WE miss our calling?
After volunteer time, I got to wander around town with my own complimentary wine glass and food tickets. Food-wise the flavors that flew me way above the rest were the lovely sampling of goodies at Jim E’s Club 141. Wine-wise – well, that would be tough. I tried a lot of lovely wines. I sipped small amounts so as to avoid palette fatigue, but I sampled some lovely fare from Avanguardia, Montoliva, Lucchesi, and many others.
Maybe the most glorious thing of the whole day was knowing that even after the event, I still had access to all of those wonderful wines and fabulous foods. Now I just need to break it all down into more manageable time frames. And of course, blog about it here.