casa del vino

Where wine is on the table everyday


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Day 165: Laissez les bons temps rouler . . .

Phoenix 2Phoenix 1

So, here we are – Fat Tuesday 2013.  Although we aren’t from Louisiana,  we are of Cajun persuasion, meaning we do love a reason to get together and enjoy a celebration.  And . . .  what better reason to get together and celebrate as we prepare for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  We had quite a bit of Mardi Gras over the weekend, so kinda laid low this evening – but wanted to make sure we pulled something special off the rack that was up to the occasion.

And knowing us – off we went to the land of Paso.  Cypher Winery split off from Four Vines in the not too distant past after a dispute amongst the troops.  We must admit, we are HUGE fans of Four Vines and are saddened by this separation – however, as sad as we are . . . life goes on and we must persevere.  Tonight we popped the cork on a 2009 Syrah – Freakshow Phoenix.  We had sampled this wine while at the tasting room in October and truth be told had forgotten how good it was.  This wine actually comes as a “three-bottle set” with a right-wing, left-wing and middle thingamabob that we aren’t too sure what it was – anyway, we purchased the right-wing – must stick to our beliefs.

As the cork came out the bottle so did the wonderful nose of fruit – mostly the red berry variety, but toss in a hint of oak, caramel and anise – yum!  Must admit, this is a “just smell the glass” kinda wine or as we like to call it – – – “do the Deb” . . .  which means you only need one glass and when finished can just enjoy smelling the empty glass for days as the aroma is so wonderful.  Taught SW the trick and he has been known to indulge in it from time to time.

The palate continued where the nose left off, layers of fruit danced across our tongues and tickled our throats – silky smooth and the taste hung around.  At first the finish was a bit on the tart side, but as the wine opened up, the finish got softer and smoother.  Can imagine that this is a wine that could get better if laid down for a bit.  While the wine was super good solo – we enjoyed with a garlic pasta with chicken, roasted red peppers and black olives – gave the wine even more of a bounce.  You can order the wine online, but can’t seem to find at any of our local haunts – are thinking we need to invest in another bottle or two at some point . . . maybe Day 366!

So, we weren’t in N’awlins – or even Kerrville for the annual Mardi Gras festivities – but felt as though we had our own parade.  Hope you enjoyed your “Fat Tuesday” and remembered to enjoy responsibly and recycled whenever possible.


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Day 46: Lending a Helping Hand

We had an amazing day today – it was our final day in beautiful Paso Robles.  After terrific stops at a variety of places, the one place we  hadn’t spent any time at was our host vineyard .  .  .  Barr Estate Vineyard.  This place was the epitome of class – we stayed in Tealy & Greg’s home and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  A great kitchen, patio with a pool and hot tub and all surrounded by grape vines was hard to pass up!  We used their house as our base for touring the Paso Robles area and it was, for all three nights, the perfect place to retreat to for an evening of food and relaxation.  With today being our last day in Paso, we decided to start it with the Barr Family.  You see, they are in the middle of harvesting and processing their grapes.  Their winery is the consummate family-run business.  Father, mother, son and daughter – they all have a role in this operation, but at picking and production time, we learned that more hands are better than fewer!

So, when Greg’s son told us that they could use volunteer help starting at 7:00 a.m. in the morning, we figured, why not!  Up before the dawn this morning and dressed and ready to go, our party of six was ready to donate an hour or two to their cause.  After meeting John and Jimmy and a couple of other guys, we were told what we needed to do – help pick out leaves, stems, bugs, worms, lizards or any other foreign object from the harvested grapes so they could be further refined and ready for juicing.  We had NO idea how much work went into this process.  Yes, we’d previously been through numerous tours of wine making facilities and knew about the grapes coming in and the juice getting squeezed, BUT we never knew how much work was needed to get the grapes ready TO BE SQUEEZED!  Each of the tubs that Greg dropped had a half ton of grapes in them.  These were Malbec grapes that Jean and Elle Mae had kinda sorta helped pick yesterday – and with three people on the primary sorter and five people on the secondary sorter, the idea was to eliminate as many non-essential elements as possible.  One hour disappeared in what seemed like 20 minutes and before long we were at two hours and there was still 5 or 6 tubs left to be sorted; however, with a check out time approaching and a lot of driving to be done, we bid adieu after two and a half hours.  What an amazing experience to be able to help someone in their endeavor, but at the same time learn to appreciate one of the many aspects of wine making.

After getting cleaned up and packed we stopped at the wine making process to offer our thanks for the accommodations and the opportunity to volunteer and help them.  We also asked if we could taste and buy some of their wines which Tealy was happy to oblige.  When she opened the doors to their tasting room, we could tell that this was going to be a place to be reckoned with in the months and years ahead.  Our first sample was their Albarino white wine and, while we will talk about this wine separately in a future blog, we want you to get a bottle of this wine and sample it.  WOW, it was delicious, fruity, crisp and ready to drink.  This wine was followed up by their 2008 Malbec which was absolutely magnificent.  We can’t wait to share more about this delicious, structured, full-bodied wine in future blogs.  The malbec was followed by their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and their special dessert wine.  Each of these had their own special characteristics and traits that produced great noses and tastes and finishes.

We thoroughly enjoyed this part of our trip to Paso Robles.  It wasn’t expected, but we both feel like we’d like to do this “volunteer” work again.  There is something so amazing about the wine making process.  It doesn’t just “HAPPEN” and as Jimmy, one of the great volunteers we met today confirmed to us, there is a lot of truth to the bumper sticker that says, “Will Work For Wine”!  While we don’t think we’d ever go to that extreme, we do understand the passion that people have for making this product.  For us, it’s an opportunity to learn and appreciate something we’ve come to enjoy.  For you, two things:  if you can’t get a hold of Barr Estate  wines – GRAB THEM.

We made one final stop to visit an old friend before head north to San Francisco via Highway 1 – Cypher Winery.  When we came this way years ago our first stop was Four Vines and we fell in love with their wines, especially their “Naked Chardonny – made in stainless steel tanks, this wine became, and still is just about the only white wine we enjoy.  Not being fans of creamy, buttery Chards, this crisp alternative really grew on us.  Anyway, long story short – the owners of Four Vines opted to go two different directions and hence Cypher was born.  Cypher Wines are a little bit more edgy than Four Vines and host a crop that include names such as Heretic, Loco, Left Wing, Right Wing and the one we had with lunch today 0 Peasant.  We enjoyed this wine along with a wonderful fresh sandwhich from Hwy 46 Farmers Market.  While not carrying the same label as Four Vines – the wine was definitely a close member of the family.  The was 48% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache and 24% Syrah.  This wine had a great nose – full of flavor.  Our glasses contained spicy black cherry fruit brought to life by a vibrant acidity that keeps this wine alive and makes the fruit dance with long, graceful mouth feel and a long finish of  cedar, nutmeg, and caramel.  We picked up one to bring home to enjoy with some ribs off the smoker or just about anything else.  We miss our friends at Four Vines, but know where to find them – in the meantime, will make a visit to Cypher every now and then and stop in and catch up with Britta.

Heading north we stopped and said hello to the herds of Sea Elephants lounging in the sun, the beautiful CA coastline, Big Sur Park (Yes, Jean got to sing the “Big Sur Park for Me” song and relive a childhood memory) and finally San Francisco – all packed and ready to head home in the morning.  We will miss CA and our new friends, but somehow are confident we will be back!

And finally, when you find the wine that you like or love, enjoy it responsibly (with friends or family) and please remember to recycle whenever possible!

Brian sorting grapes at Barr Winery

Jethro and Elle Mae working hard at the stem sorter

A beautiful drive up Highway 1

Our new friend