Mary Branscombe (marypcb) wrote,
Mary Branscombe

Wine a little, you'll feel better: travels in California

We've reached a short break in our back to back conferences, nicely coinciding with the long weekend (on both sides of the Atlantic). After BlackBerry World in Orlando and Google IO in SF and Teched in Atlanta and Maker Faire in San Mateo and Future in Review in Laguna Beach and all the writing that goes with them, we marked the end of the week with an In-N-Out burger and a lie-in on Saturday morning and a soak in the pool and breakfast at the bright yellow Egg Plantation, where they have 101 omelettes (and a dozen or so benedicts and other breakfast options). We had corned beef/swiss and crab/avocado/mushroom, and watched the pomegranate seeds in my Pometini bounce up and down in the bubbles from the sparkling wine before driving up the scenic section of I5 and out into the Tejons through Frasier Mountain and Pine Mountain Club. We stopped a couple of times to enjoy the view and just before the Bitter Creek condor reserve we saw a condor swooping lazily overhead. Wait, two condors; wait, three, no four, is that five condors? Amazing sight.

Down off the Tejons and up the coast; I actually fell asleep for much of the drive so I can report only that the sun was bright, the sea shiny and the much-mocked barge of the Mercury Grand Marquee delightfully comfortable. Dinner in Paso Robles at Artisan; the burrata I had as a starter (with peach, prosciutto and almonds) was so rich and soft I practically needed a spoon. Simon's shredded pork trotter cakes on apricot sauce were unctuous and porky, and his hanger steak is the kind of hefty amazing steak you can really sink your teeth into. My lamb was a mix of tender juicy cutlets filleted, sliced and topped with unfeasibly rich lamb (shoulder?) and interspersed with huge mushrooms and tender pea pods (I'm never quite sure about pea pods and pea shoots as the flavour is so pronounced but these were tender enough and small enough that it wasn't too overpowering). The truffle arancini rice balls on the side were so rich I ended up saving them for lunch.

I can't speak for his fried chocolate spring roll weirdness with cherries, but my blueberry crisp/peach buckle/peach creme fraiche ice cream was very excellent (I don't think I've ever eaten anything at Artisan that wasn't excellent, and last time we were in we discovered that the owner knows our next door neighbour by one of those convoluted coincidences that make the world so much fun). I liked all the wines we had with dinner - Tint 'lighter shade of pale' Cinsault/Mourvedr/Grenache rose from Central Coast, Halter Ranch Roussanne/Grenache Blanc/Marsanne/Picpoul, a Toft Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache - but Tint was the only one I'd want to track down specifically to find out more, and having finally found them (on Facebook) they look to be doing the wine festival circuit and just getting into distribution. You heard it here first...

And today we went out wining with local friends - who again we met by convoluted coincidence - and they suggested two wineries we'd never tried. Hansen is off out along Templeton Gap, where the views are big open sweeping hillsides; the winemaker collects vintage barbed wire and the wines are all varietal and spend up to four years in barrel (moving from one type of barrel to another to get the result he wants). It must be incredibly labour intensive and ends up with enormously flavoured cab sauvs without then becoming too big or tannin heavy - and an old vine Zinfandel that is utterly strawberry. A complete contrast at Epoch wines up at York Mountain winery, on a twisty tree-shaded road: the tasting room is a pre-fab delight of wooden walls and windows with a view over the slopes, next door is the winery they need to renovate (until then they're making the wine at Denner) and next to that is Paderewski's house - he came for the hot springs and stayed to make wine. Again the rose was excellent; the tempranillo gets tasting notes of supple, I think it's just too soft - maybe a few years in bottle will firm it up. The Ingenuity blend is more interesting, but my favourite was the more complex Authenticity syrah/mouvedre blend - olive and cedar and cassis and tannin and fruit as well. Plus we got to drink and chat with friends and enjoy the sunshine and meet Epoch owner Bill Armstrong who was hanging out outside with his family, and pet the new winery cat (a very Jeffrey-like Maine Coone). Excellent thai for dinner at Basil too.
Tags: food, travel, wine

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