Party Time? Paella and Pinot from Clos des Amis in Ventura County

The past twelve months have really been something. My last in person wine event was with WALT Wine (read about it here) before World of Pinot Noir, the first weekend in March. In 2021, WOPN went virtual– with events the entire month of March instead of just one weekend. And then I was supposed to do a Spring Break Bud Break WSET 3 Bootcamp with Napa Valley Wine Academy followed by a press trip to Bordeaux and Germany.
Even with cancellations, lockdowns, and precautions, over a half million people have died in the US from COVID 19 in the past twelve months.
Fortunately we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned to wash our hands, more often and better. Most of us wear masks. Most of us space ourselves out. Most of us stick with our bubble, and we cautiously add people. Now a year later, it’s bud break once again. More and more of us have vaccines, and we are cautiously stretching our bubbles to see how far they can go.
VinItaly cancelled AGAIN but they are holding a VinItaly Academy online with in-person testing regionally.  I’m hoping to take the course again, and while I’d prefer doing it in Italy, I’m grateful I can take the test in San Francisco.
Wineries can hold tastings and hold events. Locally, Cantara Cellars is scheduling and holding weekend concerts again. Because while ZOOM tastings have benefits, the lifeblood of most wineries is sales from the tasting room, converting customers to wine club members in the tasting room, and selling wine during events at the tasting room.

Clos des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman prepares paella over an open fire along the creek beside his house.

While research shows that people have been consuming plenty of alcohol during COVID, it’s been different. People drink differently when they drink alone. Some people drank the good stuff, some people drank not much at all. Now that people can begin again to go out to eat, to tasting rooms, and to gatherings, they will be buying and sharing wine again. Thank goodness. Last March, before the lockdown, Clos des Amis winemakers Bruce Freeman and Gretel Compton planned their annual Pinot Party which coincides with their birthdays. Of course it, along with everything else, was cancelled. With vaccines in their arms and in the arms of their “clos,” they cautiously and carefully planned their 2021 Paella Party. Not as many people as usual, and with most of the guests vaccinated neighbors and family, we gathered outside at their house along the creek for the paella Bruce prepared outside over a fire celebrating spring’s renewal, birthdays, and Bruce’s recovery from cancer.
And I finally experienced the magic that is Pinot and Paella. And I’m sold.
But first, I had the opportunity to taste some older Chablis. Because after a year of not being able to share wine, Bruce’s nephew had discovered that quite a few bottles tasted oxidized or worse– including the two that he brought to share. (On the upside, I’ve invited ourselves over to open a bunch and see which are good still and which are not! Stay tuned for that extravaganza which I’ll be writing about in mid-May! In the meantime, here’s a previous article about Chablis and here’s another Chablis article. Yum! Chablis! And I think I convinced Sue to make another seafood lasagna!)

Pinot Noir and Paella: I get it now

2017 Clos des Amis “Rattlesnake Vineyard” South Mountain Estate Ventura County Pinot Noir ABV 14.0% SRP $26 (!!!! such a deal!!!) Color: Ruby with a garnet rim, medium density, unfined and unfiltered, Nose: Raspberry rhubarb, a hint of cherry blossom, wild strawberry, cocoa powder, Palate: Wild strawberry at the front of the palate, rhubarb and raspberry preserves on the finish. Plenty of bright acidity, fresh. Richness without being heavy. The fruit shines; it is not heavily laden with oak as Bruce uses neutral oak barrels. Pairing: Great with the paella, loves the chicken in it, and especially the sausage, loves the saffron in the dish. Great with the ridgeback prawns, when incorporated in a bite of rice even better. The shrimp is sweet and the rice is earthy.
We can barely believe you can buy a Pinot Noir at this price point that is this good.
Read more about Clos des Amis in this mostly monthly series: and more:

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