“A Taste of Ojai” with Chef Robin Goldstein and Topa Mountain Wines #WinePW

To visit the Ojai Valley in Ventura County, California, whether you take the 33 from the Pacific north or south from the Los Padres National Forest or the 150 from Santa Paula west through Ojai or east from Carpinteria, you will slowly wind your way 15 miles or so among the chaparral and the orchards, with much of the hillsides still showing how it burned in the 2017 Thomas Fire.

Unroll your windows and let the scent of citrus blossoms fill the air. Smell the sage in the chaparral or the dampness of the sycamores along the creeks or Ventura River.

At the end of the day, watch the sun paint the Topa Topa Mountains with splashes of color in a display famously known as “The Pink Moment.”

The Topa Mountain Rose of Grenache shows Ojai’s famous “Pink Moment”

While my Aussie version of Siri pronounces it Oh-JI, it’s actually pronounced “Oh- Hi!” and that’s what it feels like in this small town of about 8,000– everywhere you go, you’ll be saying “oh, hi!” The word Ojai, however, comes from the Chumash: ‘Awha’y means moon, and the area is spectacular by moonlight.
By bright moonlight or abundant sunlight, Ojai Valley inspires and invites artistic expression — whether the medium is paint, pastels, words, or music with the Ojai Music Festival continuing to go strong since 1947. Artist Beatrice Woods, the Mama of Dada, famously shocked herself while living here until she died in her 90s in the 90s, attributing her long life to beauty (in men especially!) and chocolate.

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For Sweethearts and Friends: Fondue, Croissant Casserole, 3 Alsace Wines #Winophiles

fondue fun with Alsace wines

What’s an easy, romantic and fun meal for Valentine’s, Galentine’s, or an evening with friends? Fondue!

Fondue is fun and easy, especially if you buy the cheese in a kit ready to melt! No need for a fancy fondue pot; you can melt the cheese on the stove. Cook up some vegetables and sausage, cut up some bread and you’re good to go! To make chocolate fondue, chocolate chips are easy to do also, either in a double boiler or microwave, and then dip strawberries and bananas in it– yum! Continue reading

Chicken and Savoie for Sweethearts, with Fondue for Friends #WinePW

You never know who you will meet and what you’ll talk about during the 7-15 minute ride up on the mountain in the icy wind while in the confined space of a ski lift. Generally there are greetings and pleasantries about the weather and the ski conditions, where you’re from and where you usually ski. Topics are usually lightweight, often playful, always friendly. Over New Year’s we skied two days at Snow Summit at Big Bear in Southern California, then two days at our “home” mountain of Mammoth, then three days at Lake Tahoe.
It was on a lift at Squaw Valley about 10,000 feet in elevation that I recognized that the woman I was squeezed next to had a French accent. She and her husband grew up skiing at Chaminix in the French Alps, she told us, then she revealed that she grew up in Jura and her husband in Savoie.
Delighted, I asked her about the wines of the region and the cuisine they paired with them.  Cheese, they said, and potatoes, especially cheese fondue, but what they loved with the wines most was chicken bresse, made with mushrooms and cream which she says she cooks in a dutch oven for 2-3 hours.

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To Try in 2020: Paso Robles Whites– Unexpected Grapes In an Unexpected Region #WinePW

Unusual White Wines from Paso Robles , CA

Question: What do these six wines have in common?
  • Castoro 2017 Falanghina CCOF estate
    ITALY: white grape; sample
  • Kenneth Volk 2012 Verdelho
    PORTUGAL: white grape; purchased
  • Barton 2017 “HOLIDAY” Clairette Blanche  
    FRANCE: Rhone white grape; sample 
  • Epoch 2018
    FRANCE: Rhone white grape blend: grenache blanc leads–
    biodynamic; Sue purchased at winery  
  • Tablas Creek 2017
    FRANCE: Rhone white grape blend; Rousanne leads; sample
  • Eberle 2018 Muscat canelli
    GREEK/ITALY: Greek white grape but most well known as Italian
Answer: These wines are all from Paso Robles CA and all might be considered wines made from “god-forsaken grapes” — grapes that are not common or unexpected in their home country AND not likely to be found outside their home country where they might not be all that appreciated either. And that’s the theme for this month’s Wine Pairing weekend prompt hosted by Culinary Cam– “godforsaken grapes” — a title that I hate that goes with a book I haven’t read but that I understand is quite entertaining and well written.
As people think first of red wines when think about wine from Central California’s Paso Robles if at all, we thought it would be fun to feature these uncommon and unexpected yet delightful white grapes from this less well known and under-appreciated region that is best known for its zinfandel, syrah, and cabernet blends — wines that are rich and red and often high in alcohol because so much of the AVA gets really hot in the summer.
Tablas Creek, Halter Ranch, Turley, and Justin are some of the better known labels with the first two of them focused on Rhone, Turley with zinfandel, and Justin with Cabernet and other Bordeaux red grapes.

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2019 Well Done, 2020 To Do: #ItalianFWT #WinePW #Winophiles

2020 is barely a week old, but as I’m calendaring the year’s prompts for #ItalianFWT, #WinePW, #Winophiles, winemaker lunches and trade tastings in LA as well as other activities like the Wine Media Conference in Oregon and wine travel to Europe and South America, I’m reflecting on what we accomplished here on Wine Predator in 2019– and trying to decide what to submit for the Born Digital Awards (see what articles I submitted to the Millesima contest here).

I’m not really sure how we found the time, but Sue and I participated in EVERY SINGLE monthly prompt for Italian Food Wine Travel aka #ItalianFWT, Wine Pairing Weekend aka #WinePW, and the French Winophiles #Winophiles.

We joined wine bloggers and influencers from around the world but mostly from the US as we tasted and wrote about wines together following prompts that the group developed and organized sometimes with samples, and sometimes not.

Here on Wine Predator, that means 36 posts altogether at 15-20k words each! That’s the word count of a good sized book!

For almost every single article, I researched the region, the wine, the winery, and Sue and I both researched the cuisine to come up with menus and pairing ideas. Continue reading

Pinotage, Pumpkin, Mole Tamales? A South Africa and SoCal Xmas Mashup

Both Southern California and South Africa are defined in large part by their exquisite and expansive coastlines — and by having warm weather for the holidays! Throughout the world, Northern European holiday traditions get mixed up with local — and sometimes warm weather cuisines too. Continue reading

2 Biodynamic Loire Pét-Nats: Free Mousse and Bulle Nature #WinePW

Bulle Nature Pét-Nat from the Loire served just outside the troglodyte cave dwelling where we stayed

Can you say oysters in French?

How about cheese?

Or beets?

On our first morning in the Loire, in the small village of Montreiull- Bellay, we walked to the castle across the river that we could see from our accommodations Continue reading