PJanuary 29, 2016 Lunch – Doc Martin’s, three wine seminars, birthday dinner for Rebecca and Mickie
We awakened around 8:00 and ate some Nutella Baba that Mickie brought from New York with coffee and tea.
At 10:45 Suzette and I drove the short three miles to town and parked at Taos Inn. We were hungry so we went to Doc Martin’s Restaurant at 11:00 when it opened. We were tired of Mexican food and I wanted a duck confit salad and was pleasantly surprised to see a duck, confit salad with blue cheese and walnuts on the menu, so I ordered it. The other interesting item was an Elk meat burger, which Suzette ordered with home cut fried potatoes. The items were $12.00 each and the kitchen split each item for us.
I loved both items. We were not hungry enough to eat all of the salad, so we put about 1/3 of it in a to go box. We heard later the Billy and Elaine also ate ate Doc Martin’s. Billy ordered the Huevos Ranchos and enjoyed it.
After lunch we called Elaine and found out that she was shopping at a book store on Bent street, which was 1 block from the Taos Inn, so we walked to the book store. I saw a paperback copy of “Blood and Thunder” on sale, so I bought it as a birthday gift for Mickie and the bookstore was nice enough to gift wrap it for me.
Elaine bought note cards with images by Gene Kloss on them and a book.
We then walked the 1!/2 block to Robert Parsons’ Gallery, where we saw more Gene Kloss prints.
It was 12:10 and the first wine seminar started at 12:30, so we bid Elaine goodbye, waked back to the car parked at Taos Inn, and drove the ½ mile to Monte Sagrado (Sacred Mountain in Spanish).
The first seminar was a vertical tasting of Ridge Winery’s Monte Belo Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. As stated in Wednesday’s blog,the Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet is judged to be one of the best wines in the world. We first tasted the 2004 and 2012 Chardonnays to compare how they aged. The 2004 tasted amazingly fresh and fruity, which is unusual for an 11 year old white wine. There was some discussion about how this could occur and Eric Baugher, VP of Winemaking suggested it was due to the stressed environment of the hillside on which the wine grew that developed higher alcohol and tannins in the wine. He said the winery was trying to make the vines relax a little to reduce the alcohol and the winery fined the wine with egg whites to reduce the tannins in the wine. Apparently tannin is attracted to a chemical in egg whites and subsides out. The winery experiments with the number of egg whites per barrel and has used up to 7 per 60 gallon barrel. The other noteworthy thing about Monte Belo is that it makes a Bordeaux style Cab in which small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdote, and Merlot are blended with the Cabernet Sauvignon until the wine has the preferred flavor. The wine is aged in mostly American barrels made with eastern Appalachian oak from Kentucky, which is the oak with the most stressed and thus tightest or hardest wood. Eric thought the Eastern oak barrels were comparable to French oak and cost less than ½ the amount of French barrels. Ridge buys about 10 to 15% new barrels each year and reuses the barrels for about 12 years. The grapes are processed and fermented in small lots of about 1 ½ tons each and then blended later after they have fermented and aged. There is a lot of care taken to separate the early juice flowing from the press from the later juice.
Eric moderating the Ridge wine tasting
The other really interesting aspect of Monte Bello' viticulture is that it raised by dry land farming. There is no irrigation. The vineyard relies upon the 20-30 inches of rain that falls on the Santa Cruz Mountains annually plus all that ocean fog.
I was astounded with the amount of science and record keeping associated with a great wine. We then drank our way back from the newly released 2012 Monte Belo Cab, to the2004, the 2000, the 1995, the 1992, and finally the 1985. I found the 2000 and the 1992 to be the most enjoyable, which was interesting because both of those years, according to Eric, were hot years with below average rainfall, so the grapes took longer to mature and therefore produced more tannin because the seeds inside the grapes np matured and turned very brown. So a hot year with less rainfall in an area with a large diurnal shift in temperature is good for great wine.
I think Eric said that Monte Bello Mountain contains some limestone and sits next to the San Andreas Fault. It is located in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains at 2300 feet on the ridge between Southern San Francisco Bay (Cupertino) and the Pacific Ocean on its west and Santa Cruz to the south. Eric studied science at UC Santa Cruz before going to work for Paul Draper the wine maker at Ridge in the late 70’s.
After the Ridge tasting Suzette and I went to the billiard room and played a game of eight ball and each drank an extra glass of Monte Bello cab with our PPI duck confit salad.
At 2:30 we attended an Italian wine primer given by Shelley Lindgren, who has been associated with Italian wine for many years and is sommelier for three Italian restaurants in the Bay Area, including SPQR.
Here is the tasting sheet of wines and notes. My favorite was the Lambrusco rosato prosecco named Cleto Chiarli from Modena, which is located in Emilia-Romagna, east of Tuscany near the Adriatic.
After the tasting we bought the SPQR cookbook and Shelly autographed it to Suzette. Here are the pictures.
Greg, who is the organizer of the Winter Wine Festival invited us to stay for the Calera's wine tasting with Josh Jensen at 4:30. I am not sure whether he was trying to fill seats, liked my questions, liked that we bought a cookbook, or was honoring the years of support Suzette and I have given to the Festival, but we stayed and enjoyed a rare opportunity to hear the history of one of America’s premier Pinot Noir wineries from its founder.
Josh Jensen became interested in French Burgundy and worked in the Cote d’ Or as a young man for five years where he learned wine making from the best in France. He became aware that the best burgundy was produced on the eastern slope of the Somme Valley because that is where there was an ancient sea bed that left a shelf of limestone. So when Josh returned to California in the early 70’s he began looking for an area with limestone and finally found a mountain of it at Mt. Harlan in the northern Gavillan Mountains on the boundary between Monterrey and San Benito Counties, where he bought his first land and planted his first vines in 1975.. He now has six separate vineyards surrounding Mt. Harlan, with the youngest, De Villiers and Ryan being 17 and 18 years old, respectively. The tasting included the six vineyard’s 2013 pinots. All the pinots rate from 91 to 98 in the Wine Spectator, so these are America’s best pinots. They are chalky, full bodied wines with great complexity and that austerity and elegance of great pinot. Josh has single handedly transferred the great wine making traditions of France’s Burgundy region to the U.S.
Amazingly, Mt. Harlan is at 2200 to 2500 feet in elevation and clings to an equally steep hillside as Monte Bello Vineyards. Josh’s explanation for the grape growing is, “the vines are naturally stressed” from the hard limestone laden soil. Also, the last four years of drought have intensified that stress. Calera’s production has dropped in each of the last three years. Josh seemed resigned to the fact that he had to live with what nature provided, both good and bad. If history is a guide the 2015 vintage could be one of the best. It relies on some irrigation, but Josh noted that the salty fog from San Francisco Bay imparts some saltiness to the wine and of course provides moisture for the vines.
After three terrific seminars we were a little tipsy, but managed to drive to Smith’s to buy cilantro, blackberries, and lemon sorbet for dinner and then made our way back to the house by 6:30.
When we arrived Billy was cooking in the kitchen, Rebecca had finished sautéing her zucchini and eggplant marinated in lemon juice, parsley, and olive oil. Elaine and I de-stemmed about 1 pound of sugar snap peas and we steamed them when Billy thought his chicken and rice baked with onions and currants and seasoned with cumin and cinnamon was nearly ready. We opened the two bottles of Wellington 2007 Mohrhardt Ridge Vineyard Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. This is another of those wines grown high on the ridge line next to the Pacific Ocean where there is the largest diurnal shift between day and night temperature but I don’t think there is any limestone on Mohrhardt Ridge and the wine pales in comparison to the Ridge Vineyard Cab. Of course it is 1/7 the price of Ridge’s Cab and rates a very respectable 88 to 91 points to Ridge’s 94 points and Calera’s up to 98 points, both of which are in the $170.00 to $200 range per 750 ml. bottle.
We enjoyed a hearty dinner of chicken thighs and rice, sugar snap peas, and the marinated eggplant and zucchini with the Wellington Cab.
Then we celebrated Mickie and Rebecca’s birthdays, which are on February 2. Billy’s is on February 6, so I will give him a bottle of Wellington Noir de Noir, which is his favorite Wellington wine.
We ate a lovely dark chocolate torte from Whole Foods with the lemon sorbet and blackberries and opened a bottle of Gruet Brut Amy and Vahl had given us for a lovely dessert.
Suzette and I went to sleep after our full day of wine drinking around 9:00.