2011 Big House Birdman at the Beach with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy 2012

If it’s the first week of August, it’s time for the Ventura County Fair.

And that means Fair food and Fair entertainment including fireworks every night and music too! Last night we were on the Ferris Wheel when the fireworks went off; another highlight was a deep fried hot dog with a spiral of potato chips which my son and I were going to share but he polished off by himself!

This year, like most,

don’t tell anyone but

my family, friends and I ride our bikes down to the beach to enjoy the fair’s concert from the “cheap seats” –our bike seats or a bench on the beach!

That’s what I did on Saturday to see Joan Jett and that’s what a bunch of us did tonight for Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Out there by the beach the sound isn’t too loud–a bonus as we’re not blowing out our eardrums and we can visit with each other. There’s also plenty of room to dance with views of the seashore!

Another bonus is we can bring our own food and drink. This year a group of us gathered for an informal light dinner along the bike path featuring local fresh olive bread, cheeses, humous, vegies, an arugula portabella feta salad, a couscous salad, and, the star of the show, raw oysters from the Jolly Oyster. Continue reading

Boxed Wine Part 2: Carlo Rossi Founders Oak, Pepperwood & more!

UPDATE 4/15/13: Lots of people recently landed here wondering whether Carlo Rossi Founders Oak and Carlo Rossi Founders Blend were the same wines so I emailed Kelly Conrad, my contact at EJ Gallo, to find out. She wrote me back to say:

We recently changed the package from Founders Oak to Founders Blend—there was NO change to the wine. Research showed “oak” tended to be a polarizing word, even though most people enjoy the benefits of oak. Hope this helps and please reach out if you have any additional questions.

In part two of this two part post about boxed wines which I highly recommend for camping trips like Burning Man (or just to have around because they last so long and have a much smaller carbon footprint!) I review Carlo Rossi Founder’s Oak merlot and cab, chardonnays from Vella, Turning Leaf and Pepperwood Grove’s Big Green Box, as well as Pepperwood’s pinot grigio, cab, and old vine zin.

If my grandpa was around today, he’d be keeping Carlo Rossi boxed wine in his cellar.

How do I know this? Because there are still gallon jugs of Carlo Rossi in the cellar–and my grandfather died in 1997!

I think my grandmother would like the golden delicious apple sweetness of the Carlo Rossi chardonnay and my grandfather would enjoy either the soft round fruity (cherry and plum) merlot or the more oaky and vegetal (bell pepper) qualities of the cabernet. The color of both are similar but there’s no confusing the two if you give them a sniff!

These are simple wines that will please most people and when you’re camping, sometimes you want to just keep it simple. The chardonnay would be good with appetizers (I liked it best with sea salt pita chips) and the reds work great with BBQ–tritip, ribs, you name it. These are all 5 liter boxes which is almost 7 bottles of wine!

Learn more about Carlo Rossi (the man and the wine!)

I also sampled two more boxed chardonnay–Vella and Turning Leaf. Out of all these boxed wines, I expected the most out of Turning Leaf and yes, it seems like the same wine that’s in the bottle is in the bag! So if you like Turning Leaf in the bottle, for camping, parties, Burning Man or just to have a wine around that will keep for a month or more, try Turning Leaf in a bag. It’s got that same oaky California chardonnay taste and mouthfeel.

The Vella chardonnay is a favorite of my sister-in-law–it has nice fruit but it’s golden delicious sweet not as sweet as the Carlo Rossi and it has a little more body and heft to it and some tropical fruit but it’s still lighter than the Turning Leaf.

Finally, in the chardonnay department, I liked the Pepperwood Grove Big Green Box. I mean I really liked it. Like Turning Leaf, this is the same wine that you find in the bottle in your grocery store but in a box which means you save green (money) big time AND you go green big time (have a smaller carbon footprint.) I tried it with a lot of different meals and it worked with chicken, fish, appetizers, and more. It’s very easy to enjoy!

Out of all the Pepperwood Grove boxed wines, my husband really liked the Pinot Grigio. When I’d open a bottle of something else to sample and offer to pour him a glass, he’d tell me he was just fine with that pinot grigio. This is high praise for a man who usually has a beer or two in the evenings! So if you’re looking for a wine that your typical beer drinker in your camp might enjoy, try the Big Green Box Pinot Grigio.

I sampled two reds from Pepperwood Grove also: Old Vine Zin and Cabernet. Read more about how much we loved the Old Vine Zin here. The cabernet is good–balanced and with lots of cherry fruit but honestly, I love zin and I think the zin is an excellent value. The Pepperwood Grove wines retail at about $20 a 3 liter box containing four bottles of wine.

Thanks for the samples, ya’ll! I’ll have all but the Pepperwood Grove out on the playa for you to taste! To find out where, stop by Playa Info –we might be there–or they’ll have info about where we are tasting!

Octavin Sauv Blanc Goes to See the Beach Boys at Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park

Last night we decided to take a picnic to to see the Beach Boys at the Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park Grandstand.

(Actually, the Beach Boys were playing at the Fair inside the Fairgrounds–we planned to watch from the beach outside the Fairgrounds as you can see from the accompanying photo!)

We packed up a dinner of Trader Joe’s beet and chicken salad (supplemented with more greens, tomatoes from our garden and pine nuts), TJs chicken wine country salad, pita bread, humous, home made pasta salad with roasted vegetables, carrot sticks and sharp cheddar cheese.

Snooth.com  has claimed August as “Pinot Grigio” month with this site snooth.com/GTI (and a new wine to spotlight each month in the works), I thought we’d start celebrating with a sample of a 2010 Italian Pinot Grigio, Attems, that I thought would be a good match with the chicken. I pulled the plastic cork as we were packing up, tasting it to make sure it was good and to take a few tasting notes on it for a blog post. Mmn, good! Melon…honeysuckle…tropical fruit…rich…nice!

But when I went to pack it in my pannier with the rest of the picnic and our plastic GoVino glasses, I wondered if I was making the right choice. Was the glass bottle going to break or spill? I probably shouldn’t have opened it first. I thought about how there were going to be four adults–was there going to be enough?

I opened the refrigerator and there was a Silver Birch New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc Octavin sample sitting there in the fridge where my husband put it when it arrived the other day.

Hmmn, I thought to myself–I wonder if this Octavin wine is good enough to bring to share with friends, one who has a discerning palate? It’s certainly portable. It wouldn’t get knocked over and spilled. There would be plenty–the box holds the equivalent of four bottles. But was it heavy? Actually, no–and the size is quite compact.

I opened it by pushing in the cardboard, pulling out the nozzle, giving it a twist and out came the wine in a squirt. It certainly had familiar New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc characteristics: very pale in color, lots of bright citrus (grapefruit, lemon, lime) in the nose, fresh and crisp on the palate (can you say citrus and green apple?), almost sharp, with a clean finish and 13% alcohol. There isn’t a whole lot of complexity here but that’s okay! This is a picnic at a concert! You can find it just about anywhere in its distinctive turquoise 8 sided box for around $20. (I know–it’s amazing how inexpensive good wine can be when it’s not in an expensive bottle!)

So that’s how a box of Octavin NZ Sauvignon Blanc got into my pannier while the pinot grigio went in the fridge for another day! Off we rode on our bikes along the beach path to see the Beach Boys at the Ventura County Fair’s Seaside Park Grandstand where it pleased my friends (if not my husband–he’s a bigger pinot grigio fan than a sauv blanc fan!)

Since all four of us last night who tasted it are long time Burners, the Octavin Sauv Blanc will definitely go on my list of recommended wines for Burning Man! More reviews of wines for Burning Man to follow!  You can see that the Octavin is right at home on the bumper of a rental truck!

As much fun as our picnic was last night, tonight we’ve got a chicken roasting on the barbeque and we’re staying home for dinner–we’ve got a date with that bottle of Attems pinot grigio! (Review soon!) Then we’re riding our bikes over to the Fairgrounds with some other Burner friends and their kids to watch REO Speedwagon at 7:30pm.

Yep, that’s us–we just roll with the changes! For the full line-up and the skinny on fair entertainment, read on…

The Ventura County Fair every year offers “free” Grandstand Entertainment with your $12 paid admission to the Fair! But even better, if you’ve had your fill of the fair and you don’t want to pay $12 just for the “free” entertainment, you can ride your bike along the beach bike trail and find a spot where you can hear the concert and even watch it on the jumbotron which is wh … Read More

via art predator