Wine & food recommendations for Burning Man! And a tasting too!

Twisted Oak's Potty Mouth RedAs a certifiable wine blogger (having attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008 and 2009!) and as an experienced Burner (12x since 1992!), I take seriously my responsibility of advising you, my dear reader, about how to prepare, what to do, where to camp, and now, what to eat, and what to drink while at Burning Man deep in Nevada in the Black Rock desert. I’ve been thinking long and hard about what I want to bring to eat and drink out there, and what I should suggest to you.BDV logo colorSM

While there is no shortage of cocktail parties on the playa, there’s been a serious dearth of good wine–and wine tasting too. With an emphasis at Burning Man on art, and artistic and sensual experiences, it’s time to bring the art of wine to Black Rock City!

I invite you to come to the Art Predator camp at 515 DNA in Kidsville at 5:15 for Wine Wednesday.

Bring a glass, bring a bottle or two of the good stuff, maybe some appetizers, and let’s share some wine and stories together!MSF3-DPNB8.jpg

You know I will have some wine worth sharing! My nickname isn’t Wine Predator for nothing!

Here’s the first tip: you’re not going to eat as much as you think you will. Believe me, you’re going to be too busy running around and it’s going to be too hot to want to eat much. And you’re not going to want to do too much cooking, no matter how much you typically enjoy it.

Think BIG breakfast. There’s no wind, no dust storms, it’s not hot, and there’s not much going on.

Think snacks. Think quick. Think easy. Think satisfying. Think filling. Think digestible.

Think about what you can prepare at home in advance and freeze. Think about what you can consume completely, down to the last scrap.

Remember to bring an empty onion bag to keep your compost/vegie scraps and egg shells. Hang it and they’ll dry out and be less yucky to haul home.

Here are some of our menu ideas:

Chicken Stirfry: BBQ a chicken at home, completely bone it, then freeze it. On playa, throw it into a stir fry with precooked and frozen rice, and some vegies like quick cooking sugar peas and zuccini and/or use it on crackers.

Shrimp stirfry: Marinate shelled shrimp in some wasabi salad dressing, freeze; stir fry them with some vegies.

Portabello Salad: Stirfry portabellas in olive oil and some port, toss on some prewashed arugula, feta, and pine nuts, and maybe some crumbled bacon, some good balsamic.

Caprese Salad: presliced buffalo mozzarella, sliced tomato, pine nuts, basil snips on prewashed arugula, good olive oil and balsamic.

Spinach Salad: spinach lasts longer out there; I like mine with bacon, shrimp, and avocado with a chicken salad dressing or a soy-rice vinegar spritz.

Bolognese and Penne: Frozen sauce from our favorite Italian restaurant with already cooked and frozen penne pasta.

Pesto and Tortellinis: Cook at home, mix with homemade pesto, sundried tomatoes, olives, freeze.

BACON: Fry at home (no grease to deal with), crumble, freeze. We’ll also cook some out there and use the bacon grease to cook other food items.

EGGS: Hardboil a dozen eggs in advance. Leave shells on.

DRINKS: Make protein shakes and smoothies; freeze them. Freeze small batches of coffee.

I think you get the picture: prepare food in advance at home and freeze it. Eat the food that’s defrosted first first.

What wine should you bring out to Black Rock City? What are some Playa-licious wines that would go well with the meals above?


For my palate, I say forget about those ordinary and heavy handed reds like a cab or a Bordeaux blend. Save that for when you’re home and you’ve got a big steak on the grill, and it’s not so hot. Although you might be tempted to make an exception for Grateful Palate’s Evil for the name and classy label alone, on playa you’d be better off with their Bitch grenache.

So instead of that basic cab, reach for a lighter well balanced GSM with some fruit, some body, some acid ready to drink NOW– for example, a grenache/syrah/mourvedre like Twisted Oak’s “WTF” aka Potty Mouth red from Calaveras County, one of my favorites, which is actually an MSG according to El Jefe since it’s more mourvedre then syrah and grenache. You can find it from $20-25 or order it from them on-line (or become one of the Twisted Few!) Everyone around is going to want to take a picture of the bottle!

I love the RJS Theologicum from Australia. If you can find it, I think it would be awesome paired with playa dust: it’s an incredibly satisfying blend of grenache, the saint, with mourvedre, the sinner. My last bottle, a 2001, unfortunately was dropped recently by a friend on its way to the cellar! I bought mine at the Grateful Palate warehouse sale for $12, and I think you can still order some. Chris Ringland’s Strong Arms Shiraz is a good wine for a good value as well–about $10.

Bonny Doon’s Le Cigare Volante is another great Rhone style blend. The wine is terrific alone, with a meal or appetizers, and you don’t have to fumble for an opener because its screwtop (complete with alien) makes it perfect for playa travel. Plus you can feel good aboBonny Doon labelut it: it’s biodynamic and if you’re traveling from the Bay Area, it’s got a smaller footprint because it’s locally grown and made. The bottle here is a kick as well.

Trader Joe’s offers an interesting choice in a French Rhone: it’s in a 1 liter plastic bottle with a screwtop. And it’s actually drinkable for around $6. When it’s gone, use the bottle to carry water around–it’ll fit into most bike cages! If you come across a thirsty soul, you can gift it.

What’s great about the first three wines is they won’t deflate as soon as they’re open and exposed to the conditions of the playa. The last one won’t hang as long but certainly be fine for a quick evening amongst a few friends.

Other reds? Well, how can I not mention zinfandels from Sonoma County? Their brambly goodness would surely be welcome on the playa. Here’s a post with reviews of some of my favorites.

And if you’re a pinot person, I’m rooting for Michel-Schlumberger’s from Dry Creek Valley ($32 from the winery). It impressed me so much when I was up there for the Wine Bloggers Conference that I bought a few bottles!


Since you’re likely to be enjoying a big mid-morning brunch, why not go all out and have some bubbly with that? But why go traditional?  See if you can find a sparkling shiraz to go with that bacon. Grateful Palate imports a few: Paringa is just fine and it’s under $10, but if your budget allows, go for one by Trevor Jones or for the earthy Majella (my favorite in this category).


For a white wine, you can’t go wrong with anything from Bonny Doon as far as I’m concerned.  I love their Albarino or their Cigare Volant, a roussanne/grenache blanc blend; both would be great with the food we’re bringing. We also like Twisted Oak’s Rueben’s Blend which would be a nice afternoon wine with or without dinner.

I’m definitely bringing a few bottles of Michel-Sclumberger’s Pinot Blanc ($21). It’s super refreshing, lively, and friendly–kinda like life on the playa! M-S has some great sustainable practices so it’s guilt free. While I’d love to be sipping this Pinot Blanc on the playa with some oysters, until I have better refrigeration, that’s not going to happen any time soon! If you bring the oysters, I’ll open the bottle for you! We will probably have this with our shrimp stirfry…and we will definitely be sharing some tastes of it for Wine Wednesday if you come by our camp at 5:15 DNA at 5:15!


The honeyed tones of the Bonny Doon Vinferno. Need I say more? (I mean, hello, this is Burning Man we’re talking about!) Myself, I’m bringing a bottle of this for after the Burn.

If you’re inclined toward port, I can testify that Twisted Oak’s Pig Stai is top-notch. For something possibly easier to find and on the budget, but still quite tasty especially on ice, Trevor Jones port runs about $10. I’ve got a bottle of this already packed!

What wines are you taking? What are some of your favorite meals for the playa?

Wine Blogging Weds #60: Ridge is Zin-Full! And a dozen more zins too!

wbw-newFor this month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #60, host Sonadora prompts us to Zin with BBQ and reminds us that Lenn of Lenndevours started this off five years ago this month. Happy 5th Birthday, WBW!

At my house, we love both zin and BBQ, and enjoy both often, so the only question around here was which zinfandel and what shall we BBQ?

Both questions were answered simply. For grilling,  I found a beautiful, thick porterhouse steak on sale at Vons which we enjoyed with fire roasted CSA corn and new potatoes cooked with lots of garlic and rosemary. We also had a lively tomato/basil/garlic bruschetta with toasted sourdough.

When I think zin, I think Ridge.IMG_0889 Ridge Tasting Room and picnic tables

Afterall, that’s where I cut my wine teeth when I worked the tasting room up on Monetbello Ridge back in my early 20s. I did consider opening something else–in the cellar up at my mom’s house I have a few zins to choose from including a Glaymond from Australia which I bought on Dan Phillips recommendation at a Grateful Palate warehouse sale that I’ve been looking forward to trying on the right occasion.

But I didn’t get a chance to peruse the wine cellar and so happily I went for the classic 2006 Ridge Lytton Spring Dry Creek Valley because I had a bottle here. I’m also thrilled that it’s organic even though they don’t brag about it.

I believe you should always have a bottle of Ridge zinfandel at home. No home should be without one!

Now before I get to talking about that bottle of Ridge wine and the grilling, I want to say something about zinfandel. And about Ridge:

Though born in the early sixties to the post-Prohibition world of modern California winemaking, Ridge relies on nature and tradition rather than technology. Our approach is straightforward: find intense, flavorful grapes; intrude upon the process only when necessary; draw the fruit’s distinctive character and richness into the wine.

Most people by now know the story of how some California wines showed strongly against the French thanks to the recent movie Bottleshock (and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should! It’s a really good which you can enjoy whether you’re into wine or not. If you are into wine, you might just want to buy a copy–it’s only $15. It’s cast really well with strong acting and the vineyard shots are gorgeous, too).

And that’s an impressive story–how Ridge’s Montebello Cab Sauv raised eyebrows and changed the wine world that day.

But the story about Ridge that moves me most is how a bunch of wine enthusiasts banded together to make wine and buy a winery. They figured since they were scientists and into experimenting, they’d buy a bunch of this grape juice that no one was interested in– a grape juice called “zinfandel.” And instead of blending it all together, why not make a bunch of small lots and see what they tasted like and how they might be different?

At least this is the version of the story I heard from the owners of Ridge when they enticed me to leave Peet’s coffee in Menlo Park and come work for them in their tasting room on Saturdays. And this is the version I remember because I love the romance of it, the story of passion and curiousity, of turning something that had little value and showing the world what it’s worth. It’s a great story and would make a wonderful movie (are you listening, Marc Lhormer of Zin Haze, producer of Bottleshock?)

It seems to me that if Ridge hadn’t gone out on a limb there and made wonderful, wild, wacky zin and exposed this fabulous grape to the wine drinkers of the west and the world, that much of the old growth zin would have been yanked out and replanted when all anybody want to drink was cab cab and more cab (and maybe merlot and chardonnay).

I loved trying and tasting all the various vineyards of Ridge zinfandel back then,  and I still do. In fact, last year after the Wine Bloggers Conference, I came home with quite a selection of Dry Creek Valley zins and proceeded to host a tasting. We tried the wines with crackers then with a dinner of spaghetti and red meat sauce from Ferraros. Here’s a rundown of our tasting notes from that night:

Bella Vineyard and Wine Caves: 2006 100% DCV zin, 15% alcohol $35.
Smoke right away (tar?), dark cherry, blackberry, smooth and silky yet “jazzy.” Hangs around.

Copain 2003 Arrowhead Mountain Zin 14.8
Smoother, a little smoke like smoked salmon, barn, leather, hay, thick.

Dutcher Crossing 2006 Maple Vineyard DCV 91% Zin, 9% Petit Sirah; old vines 14.8%
I was reminded right away of the light rose raspberry currant spice of carnation vanilla natural perfumed scent of an old beautiful elegant refined woman smiling, and I couldn’t shake her. Maybe it was the time of year, here on the heels of Halloween, but I couldn’t help but like her and want to know her better. (Jock’s favorite–he worked as a sommelier at the Ranch House in Ojai 30 years ago…)

Mauritson 2005 Growers Reserve DCV Zin 15.5
Very fruity, muddy, hard to taste after the Dutcher

Mauritson 2006 DCV Zin Rockpile Ridge 15.5
Clear sense of cherry, bramble

Fritz 2006 14.6% DCV Zin
Butterscotch, black fruit, hay, leather. Lots going on.

Pedroncelli 2006 14.6%
This wine went really really well with dinner! Very satisfying and pleasurable! Easy going yet meaty and smooth.

Talty 2005 Zin Estate 15.0%
I remember really liking this one: peppery, complex, intriguing, a conversation starter of a wine

And given a choice for which wine I wanted “tattooed” –I chose zin! Some of the Sonoma County zins I tasted and enjoyed this year at the Wine Bloggers Conference include:

Teresina 2007 McLeod Family Vineyard (14.9) Surprised me with strong notes of rich chocolate, and chocolate covered dried fruits, and with how much I enjoyed it!

Joseph Swann Mancini Ranch 2005 Russian River Valley (13.9) Pleasure in a bottle–I felt like I could drink this day and night and never get tired of it. This is a zin drinkers classic zin and it was a very popular zin at the WBC tasting Friday night.

 Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 Sunday tasting at Dry Creek VineyardDry Creek Vineyard Beeson Ranch 2006 (15%) Love those old vine zins–there’s a richness, a depth there, and a complexity in the spice I adore.

Rued 2005 Dry Creek (15.8) Don’t let the monster alcohol scare you on this one–there’s more going on than just heat, but you’re not going to get it if the wine isn’t “cellar” temperature (not room temperature!) At the WBC tasting, the day and the wine was just too hot for this one to shine. As I was able to take an almost full open bottle home, I cooled it off enough to enjoy it.

So back to Ridge–and Wine Blogging Wednesday #60: BBQ & zin.

Now to be honest, while we’re big on BBQ, I’m not hip to the sauce, which I think is part of Sonadora’s original concept for this prompt. We’ve found we like to drink zin with tri-tip, without sauce in my case but often intensely marinated.

What we like best with a porterhouse steak–which is what we grilled for this prompt– is a cab or a cab-syrah blend. For filet mignon, I’m going syrah where the Big Monkey really likes the cab-syrahs. So in addition to the Ridge Lytton Springs 2006, we tried a cab-syrah-sirah blend, Tytanium Ty Caton which I brought home from WBC and had stored in the fridge.

At first, the Tytanium didn’t show well at all: it had been opened at the WBC, then a few days later gassed, then kept cold. Other wines I tasted the day it was gassed were more interesting,  which didn’t mean that it wasn’t great, just that the others overwhelmed it. I was surprised at how long it took to warm up–in fact, we were just about done with dinner before it offered much in the way of character.

On the other hand, the Ridge Lytton Springs (14.7%) was lively and delightful right from the start, with a bright garnet or even ruby sapphire color, and some rich caramel notes; we fought over the glass. It’s a classic zin with some bramble, some earth, some tobacco, some spice–like the cinnamon and cardamom of a carnation, and some cecil bruner rose. I also got cranberrry going on. I’d tasted a split of this a few weeks ago at the winery; it was smoother, richer, and creamier than this bottle of the same blend of 80% zin, 16% petit sirah, and 4% carignane, so that tells me the direction this will likely go over time in the cellar. Right now, it’s a bit puckery; the wine maker John Olney suggests that it be cellared for up to 10 years. All Ridge wines–while great immediately–can stand to use some time in the cellar. This one stood up well to the garlicky rosemary potatoes, and certainly complemented my filet mignon portion of the porterhouse steak. you can generally find this wine between $22 and $35, and it shows up on wine lists for a reasonable price as well.

Over the evening, the Tytanium opened up and became more complex, engaging, and a downright pleasure that I felt selfish to be enjoying by myself.  Super inky in the glass, I’m sure it would have been lovely with the meal also. Would it be a go to wine for me at $75 a bottle? Some time in the cellar would replicate the aging I gave it by opening it and drinking it over time, so it would be good to put down for awhile and see what happens.

Truthfully, I’d be more likely to invest the $75 in a Ridge Montebello cab. But then, as you can tell, I’m a Ridge kinda gal.

Some closing details from the Ridge website:

Lytton Springs

Lytton Springs map


First RIDGE Lytton Springs: 1972
Location: The bench and hills separating Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County.
Elevation: 80′ – 160′
Soils: Varied, with a predominance of gravelly clay; gravelly clay loam on hillsides.
Age of vines: Lytton East: 111-year-old zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache, carignane (42 acres).
Lytton West: 48-year-old zinfandel, grenache, carignane (33 acres), 5 to 12-year-old zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache, mataro (27 acres).
Training: Head trained (no trellis), spur pruned.
Yields: 1.5 – 3.0 tons/acre
Climate: Fog in a.m., warm sunny afternoons, breezes in late p.m.
Exposure: Southeasterly
Owner: Ridge Vineyards


Ridge made its first Lytton Springs from the 80- year- old vines here in 1972, and purchased both the eastern and western portions of the vineyard in the early 1990s. (In the 1870s, under “Captain” William Litton’s ownership, the two were part of one property; spelling evolved into “Lytton” by 1903.) The vineyard is planted to zinfandel and its principal complementary varietals: petite sirah, carignane, a small amount of mataro (mourvèdre), and grenache.

Are you a Zinner? Wine Blogging Wednesday Celebrates 5th Anniversary with ZIN!

wbw-newSonadora announces Wine Blogging Wednesday #60: I Have Zinned

Host Sonadora points out that this month Wine Blogging Wednesday celebrates its Fifth Birthday! Amazing in that most wine blogs haven’t even been around that long. It’s truly a testimony to the vision of Lenn of Lenndevours –as well as to the legion of wine bloggers who keep it going every month.

The deadline to submit is this Wednesday, August 12th.  If you want to participate, leave a comment on her blog or email her at with a link to your blog post. And let me know too, with a comment here so I will be sure to go see your post.

As a big zin fan who cut her teeth on Ridge zins and who found more zins to love at last month’s Wine Bloggers conference, I’m not sure which zin I’ll write about–guess I better decide on something before the deadline! (Want to know more about Ridge? I’ve written several times about the winery on the blog or check out their blog, 4488, on my blogroll).

BTW, for local readers of this blog, as usual Wine Blogging Wednesday lands on the same night as Green Drinks Ventura County which celebrates its first anniversary Weds from 530-730pm at PURE Life & Home 576 E. Main Street Ventura. The goal of Green Drinks?  Good times shared among people working in, or interested in, environmental and sustainability issues.

Although this Green Drinks gathering is close enough to home that I could ride my bike, I think that’s the day we’re going back to the Ventura County Fair where my son won first place blue ribbons for all four of his artworks we entered!