Posts Tagged ‘kara’

“Now THAT’S Italian!”

February 12, 2012

This past Saturday, Kara and I hit up Cin-Cin Wine Bar in Los Gatos with our friends Dave and Kara Thevegetarian for another one of their HUGE tasting events.

The theme?

Italian Wine…

Hecka Italian

Dave’s dad always says, “Italians invented wine!”

I’m pretty sure that’s not true, but one could make the argument that they did a good job perfecting it.

Let’s take a look…

First... Table 4

La Colombera Bricco Bartolomeo 2010 ($20): This white wine was all about the citrus fruit.  Tons of lemon and orange with a good hit of minerality.  86+

Poderi Foglia Conca Bianco 2010 ($21): Another white wine.  Totally different profile.  White peach.  Soil.  Lime.  86+

Cantine Del Indie Vino Rosso di Popolo 2010 ($18): The nose on this wine is a trip.  It smells like candy corn.  Straight up.  Candy.  Corn.  I asked Kara, Dave, and Kara if they were getting that aroma too.  They were all, “No.”  But, on the real… That’s what it smells like.  Not very Italian.  On the palate, this red was light in body.  It brought some good, spicy tires and red licorice.  88

Podri Foglia Conca Rosso 2009 ($24): This red wine has a wicked butter cream nose.  It totally caught me off guard, but it was kinda nice.  Loaded with condensed red fruit and spicy tires.  88+

Not a bad start…

Second... Table 1

Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco 2008 ($27): On the nose, the Vietti brought this great tomato soup aroma.  After I mentioned that to Dave, he got mad at me.  He is the only Italian guy I know who hates tomatoes.  I, on the other hand, LOVE tomato soup.  On the palate, this wine brought a balanced attack of chocolate, tomato leaf, spice, and chalk.  This is a dope wine.  90+

Piancornello Poggio dei Lecci Sant’ Antimo 2010 ($24): This wine is primarily Sangiovese.  Cocoa and pepper pop on this nose.  Bell pepper and raspberry on the palate.  89

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Grasparossa di Castelvetro, Amable, NV ($12): Here’s the thing about Lambrusco.  It’s basically Manischewitz with bubbles.  It’s fun.  You’ve got the nose-tickling frizzante action.  You’ve got concord grape juice with a hint of blackberries.  It’s just fun.  85

On to the next table…

The Next Table... Table 3

Nino Franco Rustica Prosecco di Valdobiaddene, NV ($15): From bubbles to bubbles… This Prosecco brought a great, crisp, palate-cleansing acidity of lemons and minerality.  Simple and fresh.  86+

Bertani Velante Pinot Grigio, Veneto, 2009 ($10): With a nice nose of fresh bread, this Pinot Grigio brings clean flavors of lemon and stone.  85+

Hofstatter Meczan Pinot Nero, Alto Adige 2009 ($21): This Italian Pinot Noir tastes like it sounds.  Leather.  Cherry.  Acid.  Spice.  Earthy nose.  Good stuff.  88+

Trerose Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2007 ($20): A really nice Earthy nose with loads of cherry.  On the palate, this Vino Nobile brought it with big, bright cherry, soil, and spice components.  I looked over at Dave, and he was all, “Now THAT’S Italian!”  I could not agree more.  90

Le Ragose Ripasso Valpolicella 2007 ($29): Ripasso is kind of a fun wine.  It’s a Valpolicella that has been run across some Amarone.  The nose was a cross between raisins (from the Amarone) and band aids (from the drug store).  On the palate, this Ripasso brought some concentrated bright cherries and notes of soil.  Good stuff.  90

On to the last table…

Last... Table 2

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut NV ($29): Yeasty lemon peel on the nose.  Crisp acidity and minerality on the palate with hints of brioche.  87

Decugnano Dei Barbi Orvieto Classico il Bianco ($25): Look… When you taste this many wines in one sitting, some become instantly forgettable.  My note book says, “Floral nose.  Creamy –> Lemon Acidity”.  I did not write a score.  Take this however you would like.

Renzo Masi Rufina Chianti Riserva 2008 ($15): This Chianti was easily the best deal of the tasting.  Mushroom.  Cherries.  Fennel.  90+ points.  Keep an eye out for this one.

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cerviolo Rosso 2007 ($39): This Super Tuscan is made of Sangiovese and Merlot.  The nose is loaded full of big cherry fruit and tires.  On the palate, it is a chalky, Earthy beast with red fruit goodness.  Fantastic!  91

Azelia Margheria Barolo 2006 ($83): On the nose, this Barolo brings soil, raspberries, and cherries.  On the palate, this wine is all about subtlety and nuance.  Spice.  Tomato skin.  cherry.  Bell pepper.  The wine of the day.  91+

As we were bouncing around to the different tables, we discovered a few dessert wines that we wanted to save for last.  Here they are…

Mionetto il Moscato NV ($12): It’s a fun melon.  That’s it.  86

Badia a Coltibuono, Vin Santo, 2005 ($38): This Vin Santo reminds me a lot of that Yalumba sticky I had a while back.  Nutty toffee and coffee on the nose.  Sweet espresso on the palate.  This is the goopy stuff that drives me wild when it comes to dessert wines.  Love it.  90+

All in all, this was a fun event.

Maybe Italians did invent wine…

Stay Rad,


Wine and Food… Dude!

February 6, 2012

I’ve been on a good run in picking wines over the last week or so…

Admittedly, I’ve been picking up a lot of wine that’s already been reviewed by other folks over that time period.

Take this one, por ejemplo…

Castello di Volpaia 2008 Chianti Classico

Kara and I were browsing the aisles of BevMo, when I came across the Castello di Volpaia 2008 Chianti Classico.  In reading the notes that were posted, this Chianti had a flavor profile that I was looking for.

Plus… It always helps when you find out that Robert Parker Jr.’s Wine Advocate scored this one a 90.

And I ain’t gonna lie…

The label just looks legit.


This is a beautiful looking bottle of wine.


See? Classy, right?


On the real…

Chianti Classico was never meant to stand alone…

That's better...

I had these buns left over from barbecuing the weekend before last, so I decided to use ’em up.  The weather was still good this past Saturday, so I preheated the grill to “Sear your face off!” and got to prepping…

But first…

The wine!

The Castello di Volpaia is 90% Sangiovese.  From what I’ve read, the other 10% is Merlot and Syrah (but I could be wrong).

Color: This bad boy is a deep, dark, burgundy.

Nose: Definitely Earthy.  Soil and mushrooms dominate the nose.  The primary aromas are backed up by bright, red cherries.

Taste: Big cherries and raspberries up front.  This wine has some Earthy round tannins.  What really does it for me is the long, lingering finish of cranberries that gives way to a mouth-watering acidity.  To say this is a food wine is a little bit of an understatement.  This Chianti Classico DEMANDS food.

Score: This wine is just sick! At 16 bucks, it is guaranteed to punch you in the mouth with awesome.  90+

Back to the food…

Cheddar Turkey Burger with Horseradish Aioli and Herb Roasted Potatoes


To say this wine demands food is a bit of an understatement, as well…

This wine deserves company…

Kara, it's time for dinner.

Stay Rad,


Two out of three…

September 19, 2011

After a long day of work last week, I was not in the best mood.

I still had to hit up the gym as part of my training for the Dodge San Jose Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.

After literally running in place for an hour, all I wanted to do was take a nap…

But I knew I still had dinner to make.

So imagine my surprise when I came home to find Kara had made me this…

Simple pasta with marinara and a green salad with roasted beets. Simply awesome!

And poured me this…

Clos la Chance 2007 Estate Zinfandel

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that warm my heart.

I love my wife!

I just wish she didn’t make me watch this…

Real Housewives of Some Place Where it's Okay to Answer the Door in PJ's

Oh well…

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Stay Rad,


This is how we Chablis…

September 7, 2011

On a hot ass day, not too long ago, Kara and I decided to do a little hangin’ out on the front patio.

When the weather heats up, you’ve got to chill your wine down, so it was the perfect time to bust open this sucker…

Jacques Bourguignon 2009 Chablis

We picked up the Jacques Bourguignon 2009 Chablis from Trader Joe’s for 8 bucks.  I’ve been meaning to try some REAL Chablis for a while.  I say real, because in California the name “Chablis” is used for generic white wine… Usually from a jug.  In France, Chablis is a region located in the Northern-most area of Burgundy.  French Chablis are always 100% Chardonnay.  Don’t get it twisted.  Chablis are not gonna be big and buttery like the Chards from Cali.  These bad boys are known for their acidity.

Before popping the bottle, Kara whipped up a dope cheese plate…

Told you... Dope!

Now, on to the wine…

Color: This JB Chablis is a pale straw yellow.

Nose: There’s some oakiness to the nose, but it’s mainly packed with mushrooms and minerals.

Taste: There’s a big grassiness up front, followed by melon fruit, firm acid, and some sweet oaky tannins.

Score: This wine was nice.  That’s it.  Just nice.  For 8 bucks, it’s nothing I would ever run out to buy again… But… It was nice.  I give it an 85.


Though the wine was uninspiring, sometimes you don’t need to be blown away to enjoy your wine experience.

It was a beautiful day, with my beautiful wife.

We had some nice treats with some nice cold wine.

As the Chablis continued to flow, so did our conversations.

And that’s pretty cool.

Stay Rad,


The Last Stanza

August 9, 2011

Kara is on fire!

The other night I was feeling lazy, so she decided to pick up some wine and whip up some dinner for me.

What a bad ass!

Stanza 2008 Chardonnay

She came back from BevMo with the Stanza 2008 Chardonnay.  Right now, this Lodi wine is on sale at BevMo for $10.71… so it will probably sell for $10.99 when the sale is over.  Wilfred Wong gave the ’09 vintage of this a 91 (Surprise!  Surprise!).  Here’s my take…

Scope the juice, homie.

Color: Golden to light straw.

Nose: Pineapple with a touch of creamy oak.  The nose is dominated by the fruit.  Nice.

Taste: Medium in body, this wine is a nice blend of pineapple and honeysuckle.  A good balance of acidity and richness up front, with a clean finish of stone minerality.

Score: Stanza is one of those labels that BevMo is always trying to push on its consumers.  You know, the stuff that is always on sale.  The stuff that is always open for tasting on Saturdays.  The stuff that Wilfred Wong always scores 90 and above.  Normally, I try to avoid these wines, but I’m glad that Kara picked it up.  This is a very nice wine.  At the price, this guy is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.  Score it an 86+, and do not avoid it.

Thank you, Kara.

Oh yeah… And there was also dinner…

Veggie meat and dill yogurt cabbage wraps and a soy bean and rice salad. Rad!

Thanks again, Kara.

Stay Rad,


My new diet: When I seafood, I drink wine.

August 7, 2011

Yesterday, Kara and I had a hankerin’ for some fish.

I thought it would be really neat to prepare it two ways, so I decided to make a Tilapia Ceviche and some Barbecued Shrimp.

Before heading out to get some groceries, I opened up Kevin Zraly’s wine book to get an idea for what types of wine go well with seafood.  After flipping through his chapter on the white wines of France, I left for the store with the intention of getting either a Loire Valley white (like Sancerre or Muscadet) or a white Burgundy (Chablis perhaps).

While at Trader Joe’s, I spotted this gem…

Chateau Des Cleons 2010 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine

The Muscadet region is on the Eastern end of the Loire Valley of France where the Loire River meets the Atlantic Ocean.  These wines are made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne grapes.  They should always be dry and light in style.  See how it says “Sur Lie” on the label?  That means that it was fermented on its skins (not really… see the comments below), so it should have a bit more body than a Muscadet that does not read as such.  The book says that Muscadet is good with shellfish and fishfish, so I was more than happy to pick this bad boy up for only $6.99.

I’ll get back to the wine in a bit.

But first…

The food!

Here’s how I make my Tilapia Ceviche…

Cube up about a pound of fresh Tilapia and throw it in a non-reactive bowl.

The key to Ceviche is to layer the flavors.

Here’s a fun game…

Take a sip of wine for each new layer.

Dice up half a large red onion and throw it on top of the fish.

Mince up one clove of garlic and throw it on the onion.

I added a small green bell pepper from my garden. Diced, of course.

Next I put in one quarter of a jumbo yellow bell pepper that Kara picked up from the farmers' market.

Here, I piled in a third of a large cucumber which was cut into little pizza wedges. So whimsical!

Add one small diced avocado. California love!

Open up a small can of diced chillies and dump it on top.

Chop up some cilantro. Add it in with some salt n' peppa. Stop to bust a move while humming the music to "Push it!".

The secret ingredient is carne asada seasoning. Shhhhhhhhh!!!!! Don't tell anybody.

Zest one lime over the top. Squeeze in the juice of three limes. The acid from the lime juice will "cook" the fish.

Stir, but do not mush it. Cover with plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge for a few hours.

While the Ceviche is marinating, we move on to the Shrimp…

These are large peeled shrimp from the seafood counter at Safeway. I marinated the pound of shrimp in a shallow glass dish with olive oil, salt n' peppa, fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and the juice of one lime for about 20 minutes.

While the shrimp is marinating in the fridge, preheat the grill with the burners on high.  After ten minutes, set to medium indirect heat.


Arrange the shrimp on pre-soaked bamboo skewers, making sure that all the shrimp are facing the same direction.

Grill the shrimp for 3 minutes a side on indirect heat with the lid closed.  Be sure to baste the shrimp in the marinade.

The only thing left is to serve,

But let’s get back to the wine…

Hip hop hurray... Muscadet!

Chateau Des Cleons 2010 Muscadet Sevre Et Maine:

Color: A nice straw yellow.  I was pleasantly surprised by a tiny bit of frizzante action.

Nose: Lemon/lime spritzer with a touch of grass and minerality.  Nice.

Taste: I see now why this wine is recommended for lighter fare.  It is dominated by its acidity, which pairs well with food.  There is a nice floral component, mouth cleansing lime, and a dancing minerality.  There is a nice touch of spice.  The skins give it a medium to light body.  Very cool.

Score: All I’m thinking about this wine is how clean it was.  It was fresh.  It was vibrant.  Every sip made me thirst for another.  This wine is a solid 88.  Way to go, Chateau Des Cleons!

Back to the food…

Duo of Seafood: Grilled Shrimp and Tilapia Ceviche a la Jeffrey w/ a light Spinach and Shallot Salad

The spinach and shallot salad was prepared by Kara.  A very clean, palate cleansing bite.

The ceviche was very fresh, with a perfect balance between the acidity of the lime and the fattiness of the tilapia.

But the shrimp…

The shrimp…

The SHRIMP was Tha BOMB!

Juicy.  Rich.  The flesh just pops when you bite into it.


And with the wine?

Hella Dope!

The clean flavors of the wine just rounded out the fatty richness of the seafood.

But wait!

There’s more!

Morgan Hill Cellars Blackberry Wine with a long-lost friend.

Kara and I have been sitting on this Blackberry Wine from Morgan Hill Cellars for about a year.

I’ve been dying for some vanilla ice cream for the last few weeks.


Vanilla Ice Cream with Blackberry Wine... I got my just deserts.


Stay Rad,


PS – If you ever make ceviche, do yourself a favor…  After you serve the ceviche, save the leftover juice from the bowl you marinated the fish in.  Peruvians refer to it as Leche de Tigre, and it is known to be a cure for hangovers.  I just drink it ’cause it’s awesome!

Farewell indeed!

Love/Hate or The proof is in the off-putting.

August 5, 2011

Wednesday was a free day for Kara and me… It was our last free day of the summer, so we decided to hit up a few local wineries.

You’ve got to know that we had an amazing day.


The amazing 2007 Lila's Cuvee Rhone Blend paired with an amazing view at Clos La Chance.

I could tell you about how much fun we had at Clos La Chance

2008 Biagini Vineyard Pinot Noir side-by-side with the 2008 Erwin Vineyard Pinot Noir at Clos La Chance. Both wines were hella RAD!

I could tell you about our awesome pre-dinner visit to Bubbles Wine Bar


Hella to the yeah, son!

The only thing better is bubbles and oysters. Dope!

I could even let you know about the Rad Mexican feast we had at Sinaloa Cafe

Come for the margaritas. Stay for more margaritas.

So please forgive me if I don’t.

I’ve been dying to write about some wine that I hated…

I mean HATED.


Please alow me to present Fortino Winery

Fortino... unfortunately = (

Fortino is a neat looking venue on the corner of Watsonville Road and Hecker Pass in Gilroy.  We hit it up after Clos La Chance because it was one of the few wineries in the area that was open on a Wednesday afternoon.

Now, you should know that I’ve been to Fortino twice before.  Once was about two years back before I was as passionate about wine as I am today.  It was also well before I would take notes on wine.  The other time was after a long day of tasting during the Santa Clara Valley Passport Weekend, so my palate was shot.  You even read about me having their Almond Champagne at the Garlic Festival.  But this time… This time, I was gonna take it seriously (Not so fortunate for Fortino).

Here’s the breakdown…


2009 Chardonnay ($16.95):  Nose of honey, pineapple, apple, and flowers.  Not bad.  The palate was a thick and sweet version of lemon/lime soda.  Not good.  Score it a 75 and trust me… You don’t want it.

2010 Black Muscat Blush ($16.95):  Tropical fruit (mango and guava) on the nose.  The taste was of ridiculously sweet flowers.  This wine is obnoxious.  I’m mad that they served it at the beginning of the tasting, because it’s basically a crappy version of a desert wine.  78.  Pass.

On to the Reds:

2008 Carignan ($18.95):  Here’s where I start to get angry.  Carignan, when done right, is one of my favorite varietals.  Fortino makes a big deal about their estate carignan coming from 80 year-old vines.  The only way you could mess this up is if you don’t know how to make wine, or don’t care how it turns out.  My guess is that Fortino falls into the latter category.  There was this nose of green bell pepper that gave me some hope, but it came with this over-the-top sweet red fruit that destroyed it.  The taste was sweet red cherries with just a little bit of tires and nice acidity.  The problem with this wine was there was no balance.  It was all sweetness.  If I want a sweet red wine, I’ll hit up 7 Eleven.  This is a 79.  In a better mood, maybe I’d give it an 80-.

Non-Vintage Maribella ($16.95):  The bar menu reads, “This off-dry blend named after Marie Fortino offers hints of cherry and raspberry.  Blended from Cabernet, Sangiovese & Carignan”.  Here’s what it should say, “We threw a bunch of leftover grapes from a bunch of different vintages together and came up with this nasty sweet red wine.  We named it after our grandma to guilt you into buying it.”  This wine smelled like sugarfied sweetness with tires and fruit.  It tasted like cherry syrup.  This wine, more so than the others, sucks ass.  58.

2008 Zinfandel ($22.00):  The bar menu reads, “Aged in vintage oak barrels for 20 months, these Santa Clara Valley grapes go great with chocolate”.  It should say, “We went to our local nursery, picked up a few wine barrel flower pots, superglued them together, and were all like, ‘We should put some Zin in here!’  So we did.  It doesn’t taste good, unless you have it with a brick of chocolate.”  The nose is big and chocolatey, with a bit of plum.  It showed some promise, but then I tasted it.  Imagine taking a jar of canned cranberry sauce and spreading it over a dirty ass chair that had been left outside for years.  Now wait for the hottest day of the year, and take a bite of that dirty cranberry covered chair.  Doesn’t sound good, does it?  The wine wasn’t good either.  60.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($28.00):  Cured ham, blackberry and oak on the nose.  Blackberry, black olive, and oak on the palate.  I’m giving it an 81.  The good news is that it’s not horrible.  The bad news is that for $28, I could buy half a case of something better.  What a shame.

Sparkling Wine:

Non-Vintage Almond Champagne ($16.95):  You’ve heard me say it before.  The almond tastes very fake, but the wine is still nice and refreshing.  It’s made from 100% French Colombard.  In making conversation with our server (who was very nice), I asked her where the French Colombard was from.  Her response, “Well… I’m not sure.  There’s this other company that makes it for us.  We just put the label on it.”  That makes sense.  No wonder I’m giving it an 84.  This is worth trying.

Fruit Wine:

Apricot ($16.95):  How can you dis fruit wine?  It’s delicious.  It smells like a bag of dried apricots.  It tastes like apricots.  I would try it with some vanilla ice cream (I gots ta get me some of that).  But, at the end of the day, it’s fruit wine.  I have a physics teacher friend that makes stuff like this for fun.  Take some fruit.  Crush it.  Throw it in a vat.  Add some yeast.  Let it sit for a few weeks.  Bottle it.  83.

Here’s the thing that gets me mad.  There are tons of vineyards in this area.  Tons!  Please check the map.  The fruit, from one vineyard to the next is essentially the same.  And the fruit is good.  There are plenty of wineries in the Santa Clara Valley that are making great wine with their grapes.  The problem is that there are almost as many wineries in this area that just don’t care enough to make good wine.  They use cheap methods (like using “vintage” barrels), and have no problem pushing a crappy product on their customers.  That’s just what Fortino is doing… and it’s off-putting.

If you look at their website (which looks worse than this blog) or their Yelp Page, it becomes apparent that they are much more into pushing events and weddings than making good wine.  In fact, the only other people in the tasting room that day, were two different couples that were planning to have their weddings at Fortino.  I overheard one couple say, “We don’t normally like Cabernet, but this stuff is great.”  On the other end of the bar, the other couple was all, “This Maribella is great!”  Kara and I just shook our heads.  I could not imagine having to serve that kind of garbage at my wedding.

Now look…

Fortino has a loyal following.  Many more than I have.  If you’re a big fan of them, all the power to you.  You’ve got your own palate, and you should trust it.  I’m sure they put on great events.  I’m sure the weddings there are beautiful.  And hey… The Almond Champagne and Apricot Wine ain’t bad.


I’ve got a message for Fortino…

I love wine.

You make bad wine.

I hate it.

You can do better.

Step it up.

Get Rad,


A fistful of wine. A mouthful of garlic.

August 1, 2011

This past Friday, Kara and I took a quick drive down to Gilroy to see what was going on at the Garlic Festival…

Apparently, a lot.  Check it out…

THE Gilroy Garlic on Fire!

A garlic calamari cooking demo w/ Angelo Sosa.

Up close and personal at Gourmet Alley.

Listening to okay music at an amazing amphitheater.

If you don’t know, Gilroy gets HOT in the summer.  Luckily, the Garlic Festival hosts a wine tent complete with water misters…

The wine tent. Don't mind if I do.

While chillin’ under the tent, I made sure to taste some of what the Santa Clara Valley has to offer.  Here’s the breakdown…

Sarah’s Vineyard 2008 Roussanne: Though with a bit more oak that I would have expected, the crisp acidity made this white the perfect starter to a hot day of wine tasting.

Creekview Vineyards 2008 VCR Merlot: A juicy cherry with wood.  Not bad, but not great.

Martin Ranch Winery 2006 JD Hurley Cabernet Sauvignon: Good red fruit with backbone.  A bit of black olive on the finish.  Very nice.

Satori Cellars 2007 Ha-Ha Petite Sirah: Inky red fruit and chocolate.  Okay.

Fortino Almond Champagne: This is the signature wine of the Santa Clara Valley.  There are quite a few wineries that make something like this.  Though artificial tasting, the almond flavor really rounds out this nice sparkling wine.

During the festival, I did take some time to enjoy the food… I mean… You’ve got to!

The garlic sausage sandwich was off the hook!  When they say garlic, they mean garlic.  Imagine a sausage just loaded with garlic inside of the meat.  Now let’s saute that sausage in a pan with garlic.  Put it on some garlic bread.  Now top it with 4 cloves of chopped and sautéed garlic.  Tasty, but man… My mouth was coated in garlicky goodness for the rest of the day.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

When we got home, I opened up the wine fridge and pulled out this sucker…

Hess Collection 2005 19 Block Cuvee

Here’s the deal…

In 2008, Kara and I took a day trip up to Napa.  We used to make it a habit to stop by the Napa-Sonoma Wine Country Visitors Center just off of highway 29 coming into the Napa Valley.  It’s the perfect spot to stretch your legs just before you make your way to the wineries.  They have a small area for wine tasting, and will give you coupons and recommendations for some of the wineries in the area.

“Have you been to the Hess Collection?” the server asked us.


“Well you MUST go!”

So we did.

Hess is just a bit off of the beaten path, at the top of Mount Veeder.  Once you get there, you’ll be glad you took the trip.

Not only does Hess specialize in making tasty Bordeaux-style wines, but the tasting room is also home to an amazing art gallery.  I will never forget the room that looks like it’s full of giant pieces of dog poop.  I would have taken a picture, but they wont let you… It’s an art gallery thing.

The tasting itself was very nice.  We were just about ready to leave, when our server said to us, “You cannot leave here without trying the 19 Block Cuvee.”

So we did.

And it was good.

So we bought a bottle.

I’m not sure how much we paid for it in 2008, but the current release lists for $36 on the Hess website… So we’ll assume that’s what we paid.  At the time, that was the most we had ever paid for a wine.

So we held onto it… until this last Friday.  That’s over 3 years, if you’re counting.

So let’s talk about it…

One of my fears was that the older cork would crumble if I used a regular screw pull, so I used the Ah So to open this bottle.

The cork in the Ah So.

Next I decanted the wine for a quick 20 minutes…

Decanting on the kitchen cart.

I noticed quite a bit of sediment left in the bottle…

See! If you trusted me, I wouldn't have to show you this.

And now…

The Hess Collection 2005 19 Block Cuvee!

Artsy, but not fartsy.

The 19 Block Cuvee is named after the 19 selected blocks of grapes at the Hess Mount Veeder estate which make up this wine.  It’s made from 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 9% Malbec, 5% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Vedot.

Color: Deep purple.  Inky.  Almost black.

Nose: Black cherry.  Anise.  Mint.  Wood.  Plum.

Taste: I’m really glad that we opened this wine up on a whim, because it tasted like this wine has reached its peak.  This wine is all about mouthfeel and subtlety.  It’s got these smoothed out tannins that I would not have gotten if I’d have opened it 3 years ago.  It is silky, with hints of lacquered wood.  The fruit has nearly dropped out completely from this wine, but there is a bit of dried cherry skin and chocolate on the finish.

Score: This was an interesting experience.  This wine was very refined.  I felt important while drinking it.  The one thing I felt the 19 Block missed was some sort of creaminess to round it out.  I’m giving it a 90+, but I’m sure it would have been amazing with some vanilla ice cream.

One does have to wonder…

Would my tasting notes be different if I hadn’t eaten a grip of garlic earlier that day?

The world may never know.

Stay Rad,


Going home… Wherever that is.

July 27, 2011

My father is a retired math teacher.

Every year, during the first week of school, he would show his students a video.  The only film to be viewed in his class all year.  Why?  “It’s the only movie that matters.” he would tell me.

The movie?

Donald in Mathmagic Land!

Check it out... Square Roots!

It’s a wonderful 27 minute animation, following Donald Duck’s learning of the magic of geometry from a voice in the woods.  Since my dad only showed it in his class once a year, the video stayed in our video cabinet for the other 364 days of the year.  As short as the film was, and with as much time as I had in my day, I would watch this film often as a child.

My favorite part of this one is when Donald Duck first realizes that he is lost.  First, he notices that all the birds have right triangles for beaks.  Then he sees that the trees look kind of strange.  He walks right up to one of them, and says in his ducky voice, “Well, whatdayaknow?  Square Roots!”

I thought that line was hilarious.  You can only imagine how stoked I was when I got to actually learn about square roots in school.  “Square roots!” I would shout in my math class while working on problems.

“You’re weird!” random pretty girls would say back to me.


I’m getting off topic.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ROOTS lately…

The Roots

"Roots! Bloody roots!" - Sepultura

"Don't forget your roots!" - H2O

A friend of ours just visited us from Japan.  She moved out there with her boyfriend a year ago.

She mentioned to us that in the time she’s been back in the USA, she’s started to feel homesick.  That’s a funny kind of thing.  A girl born and raised in Sunnyvale missing her home… Her home of one year.  Japan!

It’s funny.

It’s funny how our sense of home can change.

It’s funny how I can relate.

You know that I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Ben Lomond, California, to be specific.  To those who I figure don’t know, or don’t care to know, about Ben Lomond… I just tell them I’m from Santa Cruz.  Not entirely true, but close enough.

Though I never lived in the city of Santa Cruz, I guess I could consider it my “home town”.  From the time I was old enough to ride the bus on my own, Santa Cruz was my play ground.  Once I learned how to drive, it was on.

Walking Pacific Avenue just to see what I could see.

Hitting up the Boardwalk to seek a thrill.

Working at the Boardwalk… and Juice World… and Streetlight Records… to get some scratch.

Going to punk rock shows.

Playing punk rock shows.

Cruising in the 1985 Honda Accord hatchback with my buddies from West Cliff to East Cliff and back.

Bonfires on the beach.

Bar hopping.

Santa Cruz is where I grew up.

Ben Lomond, however, is my home…


Ben Lomond was my home.

In 2002, while I was getting my credential at San Jose State, my folks sold the house in Ben Lomond and moved to Reno, Nevada.  Good for them.  The house is really nice.  Good for me.  When I go to Reno, I don’t have to pay for a hotel room.


In a way…

Bad for me.

Bad for me because now that my parents don’t live in Ben Lomond any more, I don’t have a reason to go back to my home town.

As far as Santa Cruz goes, there are plenty of reasons to go there… I just don’t.  At least… not as often as I should.

It’s funny.

It’s funny that over the last 10 years San Jose has become my new home.

It’s where I went to college.  It’s where I made my career.  It’s where I fell in love.

It’s funny that for the last two years, I’ve lived in Morgan Hill.  It’s where I bought a home.  It’s where I got married.  It’s where I spend all my time.

It’s where I write this blog.

But let’s get back to my roots.

This morning, Kara and I went for a run…

in Santa Cruz.

Here are some pictures that Kara took with her phone (I should get one of those)…

West Cliff

Natural Bridges

It was such a beautiful, relaxing run.

We started at Lighthouse Beach State Park, right next to the Surfer Boy Statue.  The run took us along the West Cliff trail to Natural Bridges and back.

It was beautiful.

I saw the Monterey Bay.

I saw the birds, and mussels, and ice plants.

I saw the people.

The locals.  I was one once.

The tourists.  I am one now.



And I smelled it.  The ocean.  The briny briny sea.

It made me think of scallops.

It made me want some food.


Let’s do this!

After the run, Kara and I drove over to 99 Bottles on Walnut Ave. (between Pacific and Cedar) in downtown SC.

We sat on the patio…

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

Here’s what I had…

Big Daddy IPA

The 99 Burger

Pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce, and the secret mustard-mayo sauce.

The beer was great.  Nice and hoppy up front, with a crisp finish.  The perfect beer to go with a burger.

The burger?  Meh… It was all right.  The condiments were really nice, but the actual burger… It wasn’t that great.  The meat was a little over-cooked.  It came off as being really crumbly.  I think whoever formed the burger from the ground beef squished it a little too much.  It’s the type of burger that you need a good beer with… to make you forget it.


Lunch was nice, and I really enjoyed going back to my roots… back to Santa Cruz…


I was itching to leave.

I was ready to go home.


Morgan Hill, California.

Stay Rad,


Bringing the Wine. Calling the Bluff.

July 25, 2011

At the end of a recent post, I found this comment…

“Dave Thevegetarian Says:
July 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply   edit

If I would have known my meal would be featured on Stay Rad, I would have picked more handsome looking menu.  I demand you come back soon for another night of vegetarian goodness.  Don’t blow this by not bringing more wine.


Dave Thevegetarian

PS – Seriously.  Bring more wine.  I’m running low.”

Later that day, Dave texted a picture of grilled halloumi to me, via my wife (I don’t own a cell phone), with the message, “Come on over… and bring the wine.”

Never having been one to back down from a challenge, I yanked two random (yet related) bottles of wine from the rack, grabbed Kara by the hand, jumped in the car, and shouted, “It’s on!”

Kara began to shake her head.  “Again?!?!”

Once we arrived at the House of Thevegetarian, I reached into my fanny pack to see which wines I had picked…

A Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah and a Syrah. Who'd a thunk it?

Since there was no halloumi left, we jumped right into the wine.

First up…

Montgras 2009 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - Syrah

Here’s the thing about the Montgras 2009 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – Syrah

I first started following this Chilean blend a few months back when I saw that Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate gave this wine a 90.  When I saw that it was $9.99 at BevMo, I picked up a bottle and really liked it.  The next week, BevMo started their 5 Cent Sale.  I was stoked to see that it was on the list of 5 cent wines, until I saw that they jacked up the price of it to 17 dollars!  Since I liked the wine, I still decided to pick it up with a savings of $1.50 per bottle (when you buy two).  What’s crazy is that now that the 5 Cent Sale is over, BevMo lists the regular price of the wine at 17 dollars, but sells it for $11.38 with your BevMo Club Card.  Meanwhile, Wine Library lists the regular price as $12.98, but sells it for $9.99.  If I lived in New Jersey, or if I had a free shipping coupon, I’d hit up the Wine Library for this one.

Aside from the weird pricing thing with the Montgras, there is also a question about the blend.  I could have sworn that when we checked the back of the label, it said it was 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah.  Jay Miller refers to it as a 50/50 blend, as do all of the websites that quote Jay Miller’s rating.  The Montgras website says it’s 60% Cab and 40% Syrah, so I should go with that, but remind me to have Dave check his recycling bin.  As Tom Cruise once said to Jack Nicholson, “I want the truth!”

Now remember… I’ve had this wine before, but have never scored it.

Here’s the breakdown…

Color: Reddish purple.

Nose: Chalk (I love chalk!).  Plum.  Raspberry.  Tobacco.  I really loved the bouquet.

Taste: There is an instant BIG plum attack, followed by tobacco and green bell pepper.  The one drawback was the tannins.  They were HARSH!  I love mine big and round.  Not harsh.  I made a note that it would probably be best served after some decanting or cellaring for a year or two.

Score: I was surprised by the Montgras.  Maybe it’s bottle variation.  Maybe I’ve become a harsher critic.  I just remember liking this wine a whole lot more a few months back.  The first time around, I would have said this wine lived up to the hype… But this time, I was kind of disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong.  The wine has a beautiful nose, and the balance of fruit and vegetal flavors is interesting.  The problem is those harsh tannins.  I just can’t get over it.  At 86 points I cannot justify paying 12 bucks for it.

Up next…

Kendall-Jackson 2006 Syrah. Crappy tasting room. Crappy cork. Coincidence?


You know how I feel about the Kendall-Jackson tasting room by the Healdsburg Plaza.

You don’t!

Oh man…


In short, it sucks.

If you want the full story, click here.

When I pulled out the 2006 Kendall-Jackson Syrah, Dave was all, “I thought you hated Kendall-Jackson.”

“Their tasting room is for the birds, but… I already had this Syrah.  We may as well try it.”

Here’s what I thought…

Color: Reddish purple.  Much like the Montgras.

Nose: Chalk (mmmmmmmm).  Plum.  Tomato.  Nice!

Taste: A very nice combination of dark fruit, chocolate, and bell pepper.  The tannins are very soft and round.  Good finish.

Score: Believe me, I really wanted to hate this wine.  I really did.  There was just one problem.  The wine was good.  You cannot deny how delicious this thing is.  I’m giving the wine an 87.  The Kendall-Jackson website says current vintage of the wine is $16, but I’m pretty sure I got it for around $12 at Safeway.  If you are in a pinch, and looking for a nice Syrah, you may want to give the Kendall-Jackson a shot.

The Thevegetarians had opened up some nice wines as well.  I really liked their wines, but I promised not to score them.

I can respect their wishes, but…

They did give us a tomato from their garden before we left…

Tomato del Vegetarian

Look… I said I wouldn’t score the wine, but I didn’t make any promises about tomatoes.

Lucky for me, I just found a ripe tomato in my back yard this morning…

A Rad Tomato

So I decided to do a little head-to-head tomato challenge today…

Who will win? Who gets cut?

Tomato del Vegetarian:

Looks: A light brick-red color.  This tomato was the bigger of the two.  It was about the size of a racquet ball.  There was a low flesh/seed ratio with lots of juice-filled seed-pocket space.

Bite: The membrane was a little bit chewy, but not unforgivably so.

Flavor: Sweet, but with a green sensibility.

Score: This tomato was very nice. Considering his inability to build a succesful fantasy baseball team, I was surprised that Dave was able to produce such a good tomato.  This tomato would taste great sliced up on a turkey sandwich.  I give it two wedges and a stem.

Not bad.

A Rad Tomato:

Looks: A much darker red.  Let’s call it ruby.  My tomato was about the size of a large ping-pong ball.  With a much higher flesh/seed ratio, this tomato had much smaller seed pockets and a meatier flesh.

Bite: There was a nice snap to the membrane, and the flesh was the perfect blend of meaty and juicy.

Flavor: Sweet and dark tomato flavor.  Much sweeter than the first one.  It had almost a salsa-esque flavor to it.

Score: With these two tomatoes, it’s all about preference.  I think the sweetness and texture allows this tomato to stand on its own.  I’d love to have this one quartered with a plate of charcuterie.  I give it three solid wedges.

The winner!

It looks like when it comes to tomatoes, the Rad ones always come out on top…

The cream always rises...

And just so you know I didn’t pre-plan my victory, I took this picture in the off-chance that Dave’s tomato would have won…

In Dave's dreams...

Stay Rad,


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