Wine making in the back country of San Diego, Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona AVA

Aug 20, 13 Wine making in the back country of San Diego, Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona AVA

Posted by in All, California, N. America, Travel

I try to visit the States in the summertime to keep a finger on the pulse of the American wine world and of course, to visit family and friends. This year, one of my first stops in the US was San Diego, Ca. I went to university in San Diego so I have a bit of a soft spot for the region but back in the day, there weren’t many wineries in the back country of San Diego around. Or, maybe there were but back then I was more interested in tequila then wine 😉 Anyway, I attended the first American wine bloggers conference back in 2008 and it was there that I met the owners of Eagles Nest Winery, Dennis and Julie Grimes. They were very friendly and invited me to visit them the next time I was in the area. Forward to 2013 and we’re tweeting each other, arranging my visit to their vineyard. Dennis and Julie started Eagles Nest about 10 years ago, clearing and planting the hillsides on land they bought in the Ramona Valley. Ramona Valley is in the foothills of San Diego but the beach can seem a million miles away, driving along the dry and dusty hills. That’s what I’ve always like about my home state – the variety of climate and landscapes all encapsulated in one place. Be it rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes or the sea, it’s all here and within easy driving distance. The Ramona AVA is a relatively new designation but the vineyards there are cranking out award winning wines. The AVA has over 20 wineries, which grow both red and white varieties. As the valley is nestled in the foothills of  the coastal mountains, it benefits from the coastal marine layer and fog that rolls in most nights. This being California, the days are hot and the nights are cool, all of which are great for the maturation of  the grapes. At Eagles Nest, Dennis and Julie grow both red and white grapes...

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Hahn Estates Wine Country Tapas in London

Nov 15, 12 Hahn Estates Wine Country Tapas in London

Posted by in California, Food and Wine, restaurants

Although I’m from California, I’m really not all that familiar with the wines of California. Of course, I know your Mondavis and Fetzers but as so many of California’s wines don’t ever make it to the UK’s shores, I am a bit in the dark as to what they are doing over there. So, I was quite pleased to be invited along to Automat American Brasserie in Mayfair for what was billed as a “Wine Country Tapas” tasting with Hahn Estates wines. Wine Country Tapas? Well, why not. I’m a bit tired of Spanish tapas anyway. Turns out the idea behind the tapas is to showcase the local, fresh and sustainable produce of the region and pair it with Hahn Estates wines. They have an Estate Chef, Brian Overhauser, who has created dishes specifically for this culinary program. As we were in London, we got a taster of California cuisine, including seared scallops, wild mushroom risotto and, one of the most interesting dishes – smoked egg yolk and autumn vegetable salad. The winery sells these wine country tapas on site, along with a glass of wine, so that guests can see how food and wine matching works for themselves. But what about the wines? Hahn Estates is located in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the Central Coast of California. If you’re familiar with CA, it’s close to Monterey. One of the main draws for Hahn Estates was the fact that the Santa Lucia range is very much affected by the “Blue Grand Canyon” – a very deep canyon (more than 2 miles deep) just off the coast, the cold water creating a cold wind that is funneled into the appellation. This wind has a huge affect on the grapes, helping to extend the hang time and development of the grapes. The soil of the Santa Lucia Mtn range also had very good drainage which gives added depth and complexity to the pinot noir, especially, that is grown there. Bill Leigon, President of the company, and...

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Clos du Val Merlot 05, Cab. 05 – Napa Valley

Getting a winery tour or tasting can be difficult with some wineries requiring reservations up to 3 months in advance! Fortunately, many have tasting rooms that don’t need any such thing. Driving down the road, you just look for the little A-board signs sitting by the roadway, inviting you in for a taste. Clos du Val was once such winery. I’ve had their wines before and vaguely remember enjoying them. The hostess was a very friendly sort, although she did ask me for ID to prove I was old enough to drink. Let me tell you, she made my day! Clos du Val was set up 35 years ago by the Frenchman Bernard Portet. His mission was to produce classic estate-style wines and to that end, I think he has succeeded. I tasted and bought the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2005 Merlot. The 2005 Napa Valley Merlot is a Bordeaux blend, as are most of the wines from Clos du Val, primarily merlot with a bit of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon added to give it structure and balance. California merlot can be flabby and jammy but this blend was most definitely not. Pleasing aromas of plum and blackfruits, a rounded, full bodied mouthfeel and juicy blackberry, licorice and sweet spice flavours. Well balanced acidity was another big plus along with a nice long finish. A smoothly elegant merlot to have on it’s own or with a meal. The 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic Bordeaux style blend of cabernet sauvignon, cab franc and merlot. It’s big and meaty with plenty of tannins in there to help it age gracefully. Lots of currants, blackberry and cassis with a generous bit of spiciness and cedar to finish it off. One of the perks of dining out in Napa is that all the restaurants allow you to bring in your own wine for a reasonable corkage fee (usually between $15 – $20). I took one of my purchases with me to dinner at...

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