Posts tagged #Sangiovese

First Impression: Wineries in Fallbrook

Our terrible photography skills are on display outside The Rib Shack in Fallbrook.

It started with a quest for barbecue. 

Our friends Alisa and Ken told us about a great place in Fallbrook called The Rib Shack. Another couple we're friends with, Karin and Jeff, recently went there too and confirmed it was legit.

So Sally and I decided to take a Sunday drive to Fallbrook for some barbecue. Fallbrook is an unincorporated community in northern San Diego County, so we thought it might make for a nice ride. And hey, while we were up there, why not check out a few wineries?

First, we're happy to report the barbecue at The Rib Shack is outstanding. Sally is a Texan with a pretty high barbecue standard, and she enthusiastically declared it barbecue she could stand behind.

On to the wine.

There are only a few wineries that are open for public tastings on the weekend. (A few others do tastings by appointment only.) Our new friend, Marcia, at Toasted Oak Winery gave us this cool hand drawn "Almost a Wine Trail" map of wineries that are open for walk-in tastings on the weekend. Most are open 12pm-5pm.

Fallbrook Almost a Wine Trail Map

You can download a PDF of the map here. The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce also has a more extensive list of wineries available on its website. 


Toasted Oak Winery

There's a cool story behind the name. The entire property was burned by the 2007 Rice Canyon Fire and only one oak tree survived. That's the toasted oak you see here.

The surviving oak tree at Toasted Oak Winery.

Owners Marcia and Roger bought the property in 2008, but just opened their tasting room in April, 2017. The winery consists of two acres and they produce approximately 200 cases per year.

Marcia was our host in the tasting room and she was a lot of fun! It's clear that she enjoys sharing wine, just like us.

One thing I really appreciated is Marcia didn't try to give us tasting notes before we actually tried the wine. (Huge pet peeve!) In fact, she asked us what tastes and smells we were getting from the wines and compared them to her own notes. That's truly the way to taste wine since there's no right answer, and it made for a great experience.

We also enjoyed listening to Marcia's stories about running a small winery. She explained how the high price of oak barrels has made them rethink their oak program and even consider using flex tanks for future vintages in an effort to keep costs down. Winemakers will often add barrel staves or oak chips to impart oak flavor despite not using oak barrels.

Sally and I generally aren't fans of this winemaking style, but you can easily understand why a winemaker would choose to do this. The wines were all priced at either $25 or $28 per bottle and its hard to keep those price points at a small production winery.

It was also fun to hear how she and Roger navigated a lot of ups and downs that come with running a small winery, such as a bought of a grape fungus called botrytis that wiped out 75 percent of their crop one year and the scare of a big fire last fall.

This winery is definitely worth a visit if you decide to tour the region!


Estate d'Iacobelli Vineyards and Winery

This experience could not have been more different than our visit to Toasted Oak Winery. 

Our host didn't know much about the wines she was pouring and didn't seem to care. We tried asking a few questions, such as how the wines were aged and were consistently met with a flat "I don't know."

It's okay to not know. We never expect anyone to be an expert and it's perfectly fine to look something up or ask someone. But it's a huge bummer when the person pouring your wine doesn't even care and can't be bothered to try.

Strangely, many of the current releases were from the 2010 vintage, which is unusually old wine for a winery to be pouring for tastings right now. You expect a little brick coloring on wines as they age, but the 2010 Sangiovese was extremely brick in color. It had a distinct raisin taste, which usually suggests the wine may have been "cooked" or overheated at some point.

We asked our host if the brick color was normal and she again replied, "I don't know," before adding, "I don't really pay attention to the color of the wine." Yay.

The lack of any enthusiasm was a little disappointing. The good news is there are more wineries in Fallbrook for us to try the next time we go on a barbecue run!

Posted on February 25, 2018 and filed under Tasting Experiences, Adventures.

Wine for your favorite cheese

Cheese is without a doubt my favorite pairing with wine.  Our friend at AGirlintheSouth is running a monthly, “You Asked…” column.  So, of course I took the bait and asked about her favorite cheese – on its own, and to cook with.  Here are recommended pairings to her responses, which happen to be some of my personal favorites as well! 

 “…my favorite cheese is Blue Cheese”

Blue cheese is wonderfully sharp and salty, and goes well with a fruitier cabernet, or even a merlot.  If you really want to be different, pair it with a port.  Slice into some Roquefort, and pour a glass of our favorite, Heitz Ink Grade Port.  It would make a great beginning, or end to your meal!

The port is currently available in limited supply at select Spec’s stores

I cook with parmesan more than any other cheese…”

As you start to build your Italian feast, open a Sangiovese or Sangiovese blend (like a Super Tuscan).  Sangiovese typically has high acidity and moderate alcohol, which makes it a great match with tomato-based dishes.  We enjoy Cosentino Sangiovese, especially with pizza!

“I must admit to also loving to cook with feta”

I must admit, I love cooking with feta, too.  One of my favorite go-to apps is feta whipped with basil, lemon, and pepper.  Spread this on a baguette, and pour a glass of Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay.  It is well balanced, without too much oak or citrus, and would let the feta remain the star of the meal.    

What's your favorite cheese and wine pairing?


Posted on July 17, 2013 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Days Off – Road Trip!

One of our guilty pleasures is a super delicious mac & cheese ‘recipe’ from Sam the Cooking Guy.  Earlier this week, as I was adding in the blue cheese, onions and bacon for this dish, I wondered what wine would go well with it ~ needed something not too strong, but strong enough to stand up to the blue cheese.  That’s when “Stan & Barbara” came to mind!

We discovered the fun-labeled “Days Off” wine while visiting the Andrew Murray tasting room in Los Olivos, CA earlier this year.  We very much enjoyed the dessert wine, First Kiss. Tonight, it was time to pop open (uh, unscrew) and try another one from the limited collection, Road Trip. 

Road Trip is a super-Tuscan inspired red wine blended with 80% Sangiovese, 10% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet.  This is a heavier red, without being overly bold.  It opened with dark fruits (think raspberry and black cherry), and a slight hint of spice, with solid but not overpowering tannins.  While this wine would definitely be drinkable from ingredients to dessert, we let it breathe a little and enjoyed every drop of it alongside the sinfully delicious mac & cheese! 

Unfortunately, it appears it may be very difficult to get your hands on a bottle of Road Trip.  Only 30 cases were produced.  However, you should check out some of Stan & Barbara’s other “Days Off” adventures.  All are very well priced, especially for limited production, and delicious wines!

Posted on October 21, 2011 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

A great Sangiovese for pizza and game night

Friends and family frequently ask to go wine tasting when they visit us at our home in San Diego.There are wineries scattered throughout San Diego County and nearby Temecula, but we find this wine region, well, hit or miss. Every now and then we stumble across one that surprises us.

One great surprise is Robert Renzoni Vineyards in Temecula.They have produced a couple of wines that have put smiles on our faces.

We recently opened a bottle of their 2007 Sangiovese to enjoy with pizza while hanging out with friends on game night.

The Sangiovese grape matures best at elevations less than 1,500 feet, and thrives in hot, dry climates. Temecula is an excellent region for this grape because it sits at an elevation of about 1,200 feet, average annual temperature is near 80 degrees and annual rainfall is about 13 inches. Growing the grape is one element. Turning it in to a tasty treat is another, and this winemaker gets it right.

The '07 Sangiovese is a medium body red, with a good balance of fruit and spice. The sweetness up front and slight bite on the finish makes it a great match with tomato based pastas and of course, pizza. With a price point of $28, it's not an every day wine, but you don't need to save it for a special occasion. I am glad we have a couple of bottles of the ’08 sitting on the shelves ~ next time,we will have to try it with mom’s famous lasagna.

If visiting the area, check out theRobert Renzoni website for a 2 for 1 tasting coupon.  And, while enjoying a sip of their wine in the tasting room, don’t miss a bite of their delicious pasta sauce ~ it’s just as tasty as their wine!

Posted on May 12, 2011 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Cosentino Sangiovese

A few years ago in Napa, while sitting at the bar in Silo's we were introduced to Cosentino Zin. We really enjoyed the wine, and made note to add it as a winery stop on a future trip. We made that stop this past January, and found some affordable, tasty of which is their 2006 Sangiovese.

This Sangiovese is a Tuscan style red blend made from three key vineyards in California. The blend is 80% Sangiovese, 20% Bordeaux varietals. The wine is made with punch cap fermentation in open tanks, followed by 20 months of oak aging. It has a balanced taste, not too spicy, not too sweet.

We actually savored this wine over two nights. The first night we enjoyed with a simple meal of spaghetti and meatballs. And the next night, pizza! This is a fantastic pizza wine. I highly recommend it with a big slice with pepperoni and black olives!

Posted on February 27, 2010 and filed under Wine Discoveries.

Day 3: Three perfect days in Napa and Sonoma Valley

This is Day 3 of our recent wine tour to the Napa and Sonoma wine regions. Napa Valley can get a little crowded on the weekends, so we like to head over to nearby Sonoma Valley which features a lot of great wineries, more reasonable prices, and fewer people. Gotta love that combination!

Valley of the Moon. Our first stop of the day was terrific. Their tasting room is a two-fer: you can taste Valley of the Moon wines and Lake Sonoma Winery wines. It's interesting to compare and contrast the two styles. Linda, our host, played along and poured several of the varietals side-by-side, so we could blind taste them and try to guess which was which based on the descriptions. Lots of fun! The stand-outs for us were the super refreshing 2008 'So Co' Pinot Blanc that was very crisp and would go well with lighter foods. We also enjoyed their 2007 'So Co' Sangiovese. Sangiovese is a very versatile red wine, and this one had a nice oaky finish that will allow it to go well with pasta. Finally, we really enjoyed the Lake Sonoma Winery 2007 Dry Creek Zinfandel which has 94% Zinfandel and 6% Petite Syrah to give it some bigger tannins and a little complexity.

Benziger. Plan a trip here if words like "organic" and "biodynamic" ring your bell. You may also want to try Benziger if words like "really good Pinot Noir" and "big, big Cab" resonate with you. Either way, they make good wine. Our favorites were their 2007 Giusti Vineyard Pinot Noir which had deep fruit and a very Pinot earthy finish. Their 2006 Gordenker Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was a BIG cab that hits you with lots of fruit (without being too jammy or showing too much alcohol) and smooths out on the finish. Their 2006 Port was made from late harvest Syrah and Petite Syrah and has a nice balance: not too sweet and not too tawny (think caramel).

Artesa. There's a lot to love about Artesa, from their sweeping vistas, to their beautiful tasting room, to their outstanding wine. Even with a large Saturday afternoon crowd, our wine host, Marie, was very attentive and informative. We particularly enjoyed their 2005 Tempranillo and their 2005 Cabernet Franc. Tempranillo tastes like a Spanish cousin to Sangiovese, though a bit bolder. It is a well-balanced red without too much fruit or too much tannin, and would go well with a variety of richer foods. The Cabernet Franc has a lot of deep fruit on the mouth and finishes softly (for a Cab Franc). Yum.
We found an awesome place for lunch called Sage Fine Food and Provisions. This is really just a fancy deli that has tasty sandwiches made with fresh ingredients and a variety of salads. It's directly across the street from Gloria Ferrer (which we did not enjoy - it's really a wine bar rather than a tasting room). Dinner was at Brix in Napa. The ideal time to go to Brix is in the Spring or Summer, when you can stroll through their vegetable garden while you wait for your meal to be served. It's a different experience in the winter, but the food is outstanding California Bistro fare and the service is always very professional and attentive.

Day 1: Three Perfect Days in Napa and Sonoma Valley

Sally and I have just returned from our annual tasting trip to Napa Valley and the surrounding regions. This year, we spent two days tasting in Napa Valley and one day in Sonoma Valley. As always, it was a terrific trip with lots of great wine, food, and adventures!

We spent most of Day 1 tasting at wineries in the town of Napa.

Jarvis. It's worth the trip up here for the tour itself! They are located in the hills east of downtown Napa and you can get some impressive views from the grounds. The entire wine-making operation is located in caves dug into the mountain, so it is a very unique experience. We half-expected Oompa-Loompas to appear while we were on our tour because it has many Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory qualities. Their wines are incredibly flavorful and delicate and the wine maker has clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. This comes out in the taste and the price ($90+ for most of their wines).

Details: $40 per person for a 1.5 hour tour. Call 1-800-255-5280 ext. 150 or book online.

Cosentino. We visited their Napa wine room (they are also in Lodi) and enjoyed some big, very drinkable wines. Our favorites were the '07 Napa Chardonnay (crisp without being too acidic, very nice for every day drinking), a '06 Sangiovese (smooth and well-balanced to go well with a variety of meals), the '07 Zinfandel ("the Zin", jammy and yummy), '06 Estate Zinfandel (peppery taste with a smooth finish, a good pair with 'earthier' food), and the '05 Cabernet Sauvignon (a solid cab with soft tannins that would go well with food).

PlumpJack. Their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a special treat. We always stop by for a bottle of their current release when we are in Napa.

Jessup Cellars. We got a hot tip (and a coupon for a free tasting) from the Napa Valley visitors center. What a great experience! We were offered a cheese plate as we walked in and were invited to sit down at a table. Their wine room has a lot of small tables in different nooks and corners and everything is surrounded by art. Our host sat down with us and explained the wine as she poured and we tasted. The highlight for us was definitely their '06 Zinfandel Port, which was sweet with a pepper finish. Yum!

We stayed at the Napa River Inn. This place is a real gem. It's located in the heart of downtown Napa, so there are many restaurants within walking distance (important after a long day of wine tasting). Their service is excellent and the rooms are comfortable and nicely appointed. Spend a couple extra bucks to upgrade from their standard room and you'll get a fire place and/or a balcony (we had both). Their complex also has two restaurants (Celedon and Angele), a wonderful bakery (Sweetie Pies), and a wine and jazz club (Silos).

Breakfast: We always start our days in Napa at Sweetie Pies for three reasons. First, their light pastries and coffee is outstanding. Second, its a good source of scoop since many locals drop by in the morning and are happy to share some tips. Third, we get a free breakfast with each night's stay at the Napa River Inn.

Lunch: Our lunch was at another favorite stop - Oakville Grocery in Oakville. Their deli is amazing and the bistro tables and picnic tables scattered around the grounds are a great way to enjoy a light meal while taking in views of Napa Valley.

Dinner: We dined at Ristorante Allegria, which offers good "comfort" Italian food at reasonable prices and is stumbling distance from the Napa River Inn. Their service is always warm and friendly and their bar will serve up your favorite cocktail or a nice glass of wine. What's not to like?

Posted on February 3, 2010 and filed under Adventures.