Food, Wine & Friends Page 262
Earlier in the year, at Connie's suggestion, we conspired to
surprise Kareasa (who works in the Ridge Tasting Room at Monte Bello) with a
Months of planning and hours of kitchen work went into organizing this, only to
find out Kareasa was not working that Sunday (at the last minute!).
This time, the same band of merry-makers picked the 4th of July weekend to head
up to Ridge and stake out a picnic table.
It was a gorgeous Sunday morning and we trekked the 4+ miles
up the hill on Monte Bello Road.
We ventured in to their lovely, modern tasting room...nice to
see the place focuses on wine, not "souvenirs" and wine-related
merchandise like Ridge wine glasses, Ridge underwear, Ridge socks, Ridge
Instead, the place is a classy "wine tasting" facility.
And they show off their wines in a temperature-controlled room with proper
stemware and a small team of Ridge Vineyards staffers.
The new 2012 Chardonnay is exceptional! It was a total delight.
I think Davoe had just informed Kareasa that she loves the wines of Lodi, saying
"Oh, they're way better than those from Napa."
Then she added "Hey...just kidding!"
They showed a wonderful range of wines...East Bench Zinfandel is quite good and
well-priced. Their Merlot is good, but the two Cabernets, Santa Cruz Mtns
and Monte Bello, are stellar.
After tasting through the day's line-up, we bought some bottles and set about
enjoying the warm weather and a picnic lunch.
Our friends Gaby and Norbert will be delighted to see we found
some "pretzel breads" at the Farmer's Market that Sunday morning.
We began with a big tray of Prosciutto di Parma and Melon.
Glasses were raised and we toasted to good food, good friends and good health.
We also had some Avocados stuffed with fresh Dungeness Crab, a wonderful match
for the Ridge Chardonnay.
The Carignane 2012 is a wonderfully charming red wine...lots of red fruits, dry
and drinkable now!
The 2006 Lytton Springs was of good quality and showing nicely, but a bit
over-shadowed this day by the more recent vintage of Lytton Springs and
Geyserville. And that Carignane!!!
And then we decanted a bottle we'd had standing up for a while
(to facilitate the sediment having settled)...
We had some Poulet Diable, as well...this is chicken that's been basted
with a mustard and herb coating before being dipped in bread crumbs.
We then decanted another ancient bottle...
This wine was a monster in the mid-1970s...inky, black, darker than wines made
previously in California. It was actually a great partner with the 1971
vintage Cabernet Ridge made from Napa's Eisele Vineyard.
The alcohol was listed as a mere 13.4% and yet the wine was intense and
Well, now the wine has lost its color and it was mahogany hued and a nice, old
The pepper and spice were gone, but there was still some earthy tones here.
We had a few baskets of fresh berries from Burlingame's Fresh Market that Sunday
Connie, then, insisted we play a game called CARDS AGAINST
HUMANITY or something like that.
You have 7 of these cards with unlikely "answers" or responses...
...while someone draws a "black card" which has something like these:
Connie brought a whole box of cards and we played until someone got 5 black
cards for "winning"...that is, having their white card selected as the
best response to a black card.
After a game of C-A-H, we packed up the wagon, thanked the
Ridge crew for hosting and motored down Monte Bello Road.
Down the hill from Ridge is another place hoping to sell you a
bottle of wine.
We parked the car and ambled from the parking lot to their tasting room.
$10 for a taste of 5 wines in a tasting room that was hotter'n hell.
Two feeble air conditioners were accompanied by a bunch of fans to circulate the
"Let's taste the sparkling wine." It's a Brut Rose for nearly
"Sorry, you have to be a member of our wine club to be privileged to taste
"Okay...let's try your Monte Bello Estate Chardonnay."
"Uh, no can do. That's another Wine-Club-Only-Wine. You have to
be a member to taste that one. How about our Merlot Rose?"
So, let's get this straight...It's a "Wine Tasting Room," but you have
to know their wines in order to be able to just taste them?
I was already hot under the collar, thanks to the 90 degree weather and then
inside this infernal tasting room, my temperature was rising.
And the red wines for tasting are kept in a trough...no refrigeration or
ice...so they are nice and warm!
The Pinot Noir was perfectly standard.
There was a wine called Red Pavone...perfectly okay. "Vino di Vicino"
(my sense of Italian is it should be Vino del Vicino."
One wine was even labeled as a "Super Tuscan."
"But it's not from Tuscany, is it?" I asked.
"No, it's a blend of Napa and Santa Cruz Mountains fruit. But the
labeling laws are pretty strict, so we can't call it Chianti."
Chianti, of course, is a wine name from Italy. And there's a category of
wine made there and a bit beyond the Chianti boundaries which are dubbed
"Super Tuscans." Of course, these must be made in Tuscany.
Anyway, the best thing of Picchetti was the dollar bottle of water they sell out
of their refrigerator!
From there we hopped back in the car, cranked up the air conditioning and
marveled at the big difference in tasting rooms despite their close proximity.
A few days later, we convened at the residence of Ralph &
Kareasa for a dinner featuring some Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernets.
Brian took care of opening a bottle of some new
Kareasa had three vintages of Cabernet for us to pair with Ralph's grilled
We had a toast and then sat down to taste the Champagne.
Aptly named, as I don't care how many points The Wine Spectator gave this
wine...it's about the same quality as a halfway decent Prosecco.
And, frankly, a bottle of Sorelle Bronca Prosecco (which we sell for $15.99 in
2014) is superior to this.
I can tell you: I will FORGET this stuff.
It was sweet and seemingly dosaged for people who are not Champagne
I pity the poor folks who buy the wine for its 91 Point score.
They deserve what they get.
Dosnon & Lepage Rose.
Not terribly yeasty or toasty, but a much more pleasant Champagne after that
Still, not hall-of-fame caliber...
"Good," but not in the "Very Good" or better category.
Well, these Champagnes were duds, so we got moving on dinner.
I brought some melon slices and some Prosciutto di Parma.
Connie and Kareasa took care of putting the finishing touches on these.
Connie draped the Prosciutto over the slices of melon.
Don't worry, Norbert! This bottle of Reinhartshausen 2009 was not corked!
--With Norbert Auth, we visited the Schloss Reinhartshausen tasting room where
the young lady pouring the wines steadfastly argued that a bottle we thought was
'corked,' was not. She finally opened another bottle and, voila!,
the wine was not flawed by a tainted cork!)
The 2009 Erbach Schlossberg Riesling was mildly fruity and dry...a good match
for the Prosciutto and Melon.
The next plate was Mixed Greens with Smoked Trout and another
bottle of German Riesling.
Wittmann has been making some good Rieslings for a number of years and the
recent vintages have established this winery as a real leader in Rheinhessen
We've found their Trocken Rieslings to be in the realm of
"Excellent." They tend to retail for close to fifty bucks, but
the wines have been as good as similarly-priced (or more costly) White Bordeaux,
White Burgundy or Loire Valley wines.
This wine, with its mildly stony and smoky notes, worked handsomely with the
smoked trout, celery root, etc.
Ralph has just grilled some peaches, hence this Bob-like photo:
Chef Ralph then carved up the Tri Tip Roasts...
With the Tri Tip we had some Beans (Chefs Kareasa & Ralph)
and a Corn Salad (Chefs Constance & Mark)...
The 2011 was charming, showing good fruit and a nice bit of wood. It was
young, but 'fresh' and bright with mild tannins.
The 2010 was a tad more developed, but still a young wine. Really nice,
but starting to evolve, really.
The 2009 was the most complete wine of the three, having a bit more maturity and
showing the woodsiness of the 2011 to a certain degree and the elegance of the
2010. It was the most lengthy wine of the trio.
But these three were all really good and a nice display of elegant Cabernets
"in motion," so-to-speak.
Chef Kareasa baked a Plum Biscuit "Cobbler."
And with this...2010 Schloss Vollrads Auslese Riesling!
Oh my...delicious all the way around!
What a lovely Thursday evening!
As it was for most of us a "School night," we adjourned the
proceedings and made tracks for home.
Thanks to everyone for participating and to Kareasa and Ralph for hosting.
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