A Sparkling Valentine to My Local Loves … with a side of lobster!


I want to send out a little love.

A little Ventura County local love.

A Valentine to Ventura County.

The native California Peonies are just starting to bloom! And there’s a whole hillside of them near my home where I walk most MWF mornings from 8-9am. I suspect having that hillside burned down by Thomas might have something to do with it…

Nestled between the transverse range and the Pacific Ocean with the Channel Islands peeking out like castles in a large moat, we have temperate weather and only the occasional ferocious fire and eerie  earthquake.

Here we are graced with fruits of the sea and the land. I can go to the Fisherman’s Market and buy a whole halibut most any day of the year — unless the seas are too high!

And I can buy lobster and prawns there too when they are in season.

Most of the uni from the Santa Barbara Channel goes to Japan but some of it stays here and I can buy it along with farm raised oysters and clams by walking to the Jolly Oyster at the Ventura State Beach.

And during the past year I have fallen in love with our local wines as well.

While I’ve long been a fan and a member of Adam Tolmach’s winery, The Ojai Vineyard, located 10 or so miles from my home near the beach, most of his grapes come from Santa Barbara County, save some that go into his Roll Ranch Syrah (read more here) and Viognier (read more here).

This past year has really been about spending time in the vineyards and the winery of Clos des Amis as I learn more from my own physical experience what it means to tend the vines and make the wines.

I also just love being in the sunshine in the vineyards and I love hanging out with Bruce, Gretel, and the circle fo friends that come out to help prune, pick, bottle, deleaf… you name it! It’s more fun with friends and family and many hands make light work. Plus my dog Cisco LOVES being out there!


While the 2018 and the 2019 harvests may have been disastrous for Ventura County (and Santa Barbara County vineyards too!), the first sparkling wine to be made here using grapes from here is definitely a success story.

Chambang in stock at the Cave in Ventura

When I interviewed wine maker Bruce Freeman in December about 2019 (read here), he was excited about the brut Chambang as it was just released in time for the winter holidays (read about it here). I learned that a rose was in the works, and that the grapes could still come from the Mitchell Vineyard in Saticoy because there was one lone pinot noir vine that was missed when the vineyard was switched from pinot noir to Chardonnay, and that the occasional cluster of pinot noir shows up here and there too. Because this is such a small lot, that is enough pinot noir to add a bit of color to the finished product — and substantially change the flavor profile too!

But when would that sparkling rose get bottled and released? Bruce’s goal was Mother’s Day… but I encouraged him to get it out this week for Valentine’s Day.

And with some help from his circle of friends and family, it happened, and I delivered six bottles to the Cave in Ventura on Tuesday and someone else delivered some to The Ojai Beverage Company in Ojai. The new bottling is a little sweeter than the previous one and you can tell which one it is because the new Bruts are in clear bottles. You can also order Chambang online at their website (the rose isn’t up yet), and while you’re there, join the Inner Circle– their brand new wine club!

In addition to this celebratory note, today at Bruce’s doctor’s appointment, he learned that the experimental cancer treatment he’s undergoing has reduced his Stage 4 metastic melanoma cancers over 50% and he’s only a few months into his treatment.

Now that is something to toast about and something for these two lovebirds, Bruce and Gretel, to celebrate this Valentine’s Day.

A Valentine’s Delight
Santa Barbara Channel seafood with
Clos des Amis Ventura County Wines

with NV rose Chambang SRP $55
oysters (from Baja)
lobster bisque

with 2013 riesling: (no longer available; hoping to convince Bruce to make one in 2020!)
Ceasar salad with anchovies
Linguini with uni and prawns

with 2017 late harvest riesling SRP $25 (375 liter bottle) 
chocolate lips with raspberry cream
raspberry mousse cake
Italian almond madelines

NOTE: All wines were samples for my review. All of these pairings were spot on! Once I got the bisque made, I was too busy eating it to get pictures!    But really, I made it homemade with just a touch of cayenne and the sparkling loved the kick!


2017 – Late Harvest Riesling – 12.5% alcohol

Color:  Very golden, rich buttercup,  cloudy in a short glass, but not in a regular white wine glass

Nose:  Petrol and bee pollen, douglas fir pine needles

Palate:  Petrol, pine pine nut, lemonade finish, bee pollen, sage and chamise, Matillija poppy, Orange flower water. There is such a sense of place when you are drinking this wine. Just like you are in a place with sage and bee pollen when you are taking a sip.

Pairing:  Sue loved this wine with a simple Italian almond madeline cookies, not too sweet and perfect savory and loving the almond flavoring. This rose shaped raspberry mousse cake likewise was not too sweet. And the chocolate lips? Well we shared the one three ways so that little nibble was just fine!

Note: I had a lot more about love I wanted to say.. but I came down with a cold this week and the words just weren’t flowing as well as my nose was! And the tickle in my throat was not the muse…

More Valentine’s pairings and ideas to be published tomorrow — this time three from Alsace!





2 thoughts on “A Sparkling Valentine to My Local Loves … with a side of lobster!

  1. Thank you for showcasing my brother Bruce’s wines under his label Clos des Amies. He has been making wonderful wines for years. His latest creation of a variety of Sparkling and Champaign-like wines is remarkable.

    Liked by 1 person

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