Usually I attend wine events and write about them. Pretty simple. But several weeks ago a friend asked me to volunteer with her, “for fun”, at The Wine Affair: Sip, Stroll & Savor the Sounds. My husband was working that day anyway, so I thought, why not? Last year I attended the event and wrote about it (A reprint of that was up this past month to remind people to buy their tickets – the event was a sell-out.)
When I was assigned to help Cathy Craig serve Silkwood wines inside Ro, Ma Jewelers I thought I scored – Yes! Inside! The heat had been unbearable and this past Sunday was to be the threshold of 100+ degree days with just enough humidity to put me over the edge…
So I show up for duty. I check in with the Soroptimist International of Greater Santa Clarita Valley and get my schedule. Five hours with Cathy pouring wine. I’d never done it before, and right away Cathy told me to scoot out and enjoy the event, but she was all alone with all that wine…so I stayed put.
My friend, the one that signed me up, had one hour of hostessing to do and then she went off and bought tickets to do the event without me!
This said friend shall remain nameless…but we do have the same number of “e”s in our name… And I still dig her!
So, fast forward, I’m trying to learn how to use those pesky do-dads that serve a two ounce pour. I can’t do it. I don’t have the right wrist action or something. I finally learn that I have to invert the bottle completely to get it to work right and concern myself, for the rest of the day, with the idea that I may not be able to pour without one as I will mistakenly invert my bottles at home…
I pour, Cathy opens, she explains her wine, I mark off tickets. We have a system going. She lets me talk to wine 101ers that were seeking Eve/Waldo per my Twitter (Where is Eve/Waldo now?) without complaint. When I try and talk to more than 3 friends at a time and tip over a bottle of opened wine at the table – Cathy resists the urge to put a cork in me.
It was great fun. I would do it again. If Cathy will have me…
Here is the important stuff:
I got to drink endless amounts of Silkwood’s Red Duet (50% Cab & 50% Syrah), Syrah and Petite Syrah. (My favorite: Petite Syrah. ) And since we shared a table with Leona Valley Winery I also got a few pours of their wine. (My favorite: 2004 Fault Line Shiraz.)
I did get to visit a couple of friends before the event started: Victor Herstein from Vic Rocks was setting up his band, Guy Lelarge was preping his classy wine bar for 400 guests, locals Steve Lemley and Nate Hasper where ready to introduce their Pulchella wines and Greg Amsler was prepping Salt Creek Grille’s patio in style. I wish I could have gotten to see more of the workers, as I was one of them this day, but was happy to serve a great organization. One that let me drink while I work!
Since we had such rave reviews about the last Wine Dinner, we are doing another one in October. This time there will be a Halloween twist complete with Vampire Wines and costumes!
Readers of my posts know that I am a big fan of Paso Robles. We started coming here a long time ago, back when there were maybe thirteen or so tasting rooms. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of changes and tasted a lot of great wine, especially Zinfandel.
Still, with all the Zinfandel we have had from Paso, there is one name that sums up to me what Paso Zin is all about – Dusi.
This is in no way meant to downplay the other great vineyards in Paso Robles. There are many incredible ones. But there are certain vineyards that, to me, really represent the region they are in – in Santa Barbara County, I think of Bien Nacido; Monterey County – Pisoni; Sonoma – Monte Rosso. And, for Paso, I think of Dusi.
There are actually two Dusi Vineyards, planted decades ago. Historically, Dusi grapes have been sold to other wineries, and invariably the wines produced from these grapes tend to be among my favorites. For example, we are huge Turley fans, and highlights of our trips to Paso are our visits to the Turley winery to pick up our allocations. We enjoy all the wines Turley produces, but we always end up saying our favorite was the Dusi. And this is our usual reaction whenever a winery produces a Dusi bottling.
Earlier this year, we attended a Paso Robles tasting that was being held in Santa Monica. One of the highlights of this tasting was meeting Janell Dusi, granddaughter of Dante Dusi and learning that she was now producing a small amount of wine from the family vineyard. We tasted many great wines that evening, but the highlight was meeting Janell, tasting her Zinfandel, and talking to her about the vineyard.
I asked Janell for some more information for this article, and she kindly responded:
“The original homestead vineyard was planted in 1923 with zinfandel by Sylvester Dusi on the east side of Highway 101….. This is now Benito Dusi’s ranch
In 1945, Sylvester bought and planted the 100 acres on the west side of Highway 101 which is now Dante Dusi Vineyard where I live.
Sylvester left the vineyards to his two sons; Dante and Benito. His oldest son Guido lived in Paso Robles.
So, yes there are two vineyards, Dante’s and Benito’s. Only the Dante Dusi Vineyard was planted with help from the boys, but Sylvester, their father, is who started the vineyards!”
A day or two after the Santa Monica tasting I ordered some of Janell’s Zins.
Recently, we opened a bottle of the 2006 J. Dusi Zinfandel.
Have you ever attended a tasting or visited a tasting room and had a wine that you absolutely loved, bought some and when drinking it later wondered what all the fuss was about? Maybe it was the ambiance of the event, or maybe your palate was fatigued to the point that everything tasted good.
Fearing that this might be the case, I opened the bottle with some trepidation. Nothing to worry about here. The wine absolutely sang: Paso Robles! Once again, Dusi comes through!
Thank you for selecting Vines Restaurant and Bar at the Hyatt Regency Valencia as the “Best Of” in Santa Clarita. Vines Restaurant and Bar was selected for the following categories:
Chef Rolf Rothen voted as Best Chef
You can have Chef Rolf prepare your very own intimate and exclusive Chef’s Table Dinner. To Reserve your own Chef’s Table Dinner, please contact Ms. Peggy Hill at 661.678.4100.
Come join us for Sunday Brunch and let us serve you the “Best Chef” creations in Santa Clarita Valley.
Raymond CanalHyatt Regency Valencia
Hyatt Regency Valencia | 24500 Town Center Dr | Valencia | CA | 91355
Where can you go in this valley for a wine experience unlike no other? One with a handsome Sotheby auction catalog of eclectic original oil paintings, one-of-a-kind bronze sculptures, exclusive event tickets and privately cellared wines? A 5-course meal prepared by a master Chef? A debut of a new wine? Exclusive winery selections? Private grounds that only the birds will share your view of? A classy jazz quartet to serenade you? Ballerinas? Palm trees? Only one venue will be offering an event of this caliber…
Now, I can’t tell you all of the surprises lined up! There shall be many more treats in store for the intimate guests of this year’s 2nd Annual TPC/WEST RANCH art & wine Gala
Join Honorary Chairs Roy P. and Sheri Disney as they come to Santa Clarita one night to support the Arts in the Santa Clarita Valley on Saturday October 3 at 6pm for a Champagne Reception, a gourmet wine paired dinner and culminating in the Art and Wine Auction.
“Mitch Cosentino, introducing his new partnership with pro golfer Fred Couples, has created a premier wine experience debut just for guests of the gala this year,” began Guy Lelarge, owner of Valencia Wine Company and co-chair of the event. “At press time it looks pretty good that ‘Pure Cos’, a new label for Mitch, will be available at this event.”
“Of course there will still be the Champagne reception,” continued Lelarge. “But Mitch will be this year’s major wine sponsor and has donated an incredible amount for a single supplier. We really appreciate his generosity to the event.”
Besides Lelarge other co-chairs include Don and Cheri Fleming, Ken McMahan, Larry Mazzeo, Greg McWilliams and Dave Bossert.
“Besides myself, other artists that will be attending the event again this year will be George Scribner, Noah, Laura Owens, James Coleman, Timothy J. Clark and Harrison Ellenshaw,” stated Bossert. “George’s debut painting of the TPC clubhouse last year was a big hit so he will repeat it again this year in a new rendition. And, as we did last year, the painting will be in the auction while prints will be given to each table sponsor.”
“And every day something new is added to an already very exciting catalog for our guests. There’s one item, actually 20 of them, that will not only ‘decorate’ the dining room but will also be available at auction.”
“Along with that teaser we have a few exclusive tickets to sporting events and film premieres – many with some exciting vip treatment attached. The private cellar donations, of library and large format bottles, make this a unique event for wine aficionados.”
“The Helen Laprairie Band, as well as the Drew Jorgensen Quartet, will round off the evening nicely,” Michele Reckon-Golden, Event Producer and Director, added.
This year’s beneficiaries include the Santa Clarita Ballet, Canyon Theatre Guild, the Joe Ranft CalArts Alumni Scholarship Fund and the Community Arts Partnership (CAP). For more information or tickets please contact http://www.valenciawine.com/ or 661-254-9300.
Exclusive faire created by Chef Daniel Otto to exhibit
“Part of the Arts is Culinary Arts”
Assorted tray passed canapés, and cornets
Seafood Station with Jumbo Prawns, Oysters, with assorted condiments, mignonettes, citrus, and remoulade with Ice carving
Filo Cups with balsamic, caramelized onions, and feta cheese
Beef Tenderloin mini with mushroom duxelle in puff pastry
Tomato and Basil Bisque with Tomato caviar and Asiago crisp
Carparcio of Roasted Beet with truffled brioche round, poached pee-wee egg, splashed with pomegranate vinaigrette, baby Mache, and Carr valley goat cheese
Housemade Champagne sorbet with floral ice bowls and orange simple syrup glace
Porcini crusted Diver Scallop atop Lobster and Fine Herb Risotto
Prime Filet medallion drizzled with a cabernet reduction
Portobello and vegetable en croute atop sweet corn chutney
Moray cheese goat and sheep milk cheese with vegetable ash
Spanish Marcia drunken goat soaked in cabernet wine
Cahill Porter Irish cheddar soaked and laced with Guinness
Served with apple gelee, candied nuts, and berries
Will I ever catch up?
A long Labor Day weekend preceded the 4th episode in my epic journey of Cultural Appreciation of Wine. Friday brought a trip to Manteca for the morning. I hustled to put Friday morning’s excursion behind me, so I could hop on my motorcycle for my much anticipated trip to Fort Bragg. This is an annual trip for a soccer tournament, and my pilgrimage to one of my favorite spots in the world, with some of my favorite people in the world. Playing soccer in an over 40 year old division takes it out of you, so by Monday, I was pretty tired and more than a little beat up. Back on the motorcycle for an exhilarating, if not exhausting ride back home, only to find I needed to be in Southern California for my real life job, early on Tuesday morning. Up at 4.30 am and dashing off to Oakland airport to catch the 7 am to Long Beach. Work, work, work and catch the 3 pm back to Oakland and finally, back home, brutally exhausted by about 4.30pm.
Why do I preface this week’s episode with this tale of over committing and over stretching of one’s body, mind and spirit?
To drive home the point of how much I like going to school and especially going to my Cultural Appreciation of Wine class.
No, that was not a thinly veiled attempt to get on the good side of Paul Wagner, the instructor for this class.
After brief consideration of bailing on class for the night, I grabbed my research and utensils for “The Greek Symposium”.
Class started with lecture and discussion on Tampopo. See last week’s blog for my notes on that topic. Much of the lecture following that topic centered on Dionysis, the Greek God of Free Expression and Indulgence. This included things such as music and theatre and of course, wine. The ancient Greeks celebrated and honored Dionysis with feasts on significant events, one of the most important being the grape harvest. Interestingly, the primary Dionysian celebrations were for women only. These celebrations were hedonistic and savage parties held in the wilderness, far from the prying eyes of men and children. It is believed that this served as an escape and retreat from a society normally oppressive to women. One could say it was a “Burning Man” festival for women only.
Ahh, to be a fly on the wall of such a party.
We learned from Paul, that Ancient Greeks made three types of wine.
White wine was natural, diuretic, warm and digestive.
A yellowish was was said to “bring smoke to the head”. This wine may have been made from sweeter, riper grapes and roughly equal to a desert wine.
Black wine, made from red grapes was considered more nutritious and constipating. I personally don’t think those two things should go hand in hand, but I’m sure the ancient Greeks were smarter than we give them credit for.
The Ancient Greeks normally added things to their wine. It was considered “barbaric” to drink your wine “straight”. Sometimes unfermented grapes were added. Often spices, bread dough, or honey was added. Even cheese was added. Almost always, wine was at least diluted with water.
With lecture and discussion over, we moved on to our “Symposium”. a symposium is, in essence, an ancient Greek dinner party. The Symposium was the center of the Greeks appreciation of wine. It was a focal point of the event.
The host would invite important figures of their time, in addition to more “pedestrian” guests. The Symposium would start out with servants greeting the guests and washing the guest’s hands and feet. The guest(s) of honor were seated to the right of the host. The host would begin the Symposium with an offering of wine to the gods. The wine was held in a “krater”. Paul had a 2,500+ year old example from his own private collection. I was personally glad to hold it, and glad to pass it to the next student without breaking it.
I’m sure that would have earned me an “F” for the class.
I was one of 4 honored guests. The host had a student as a slave at her disposal. And Paul served as an additional honored guest.
A Symposium is not complete, of course, without a lavish meal. and lavish, it was, with marinated meats and shrimp, flavored with numerous spices, fruits, olives, baklava, spinach salad, phylo, dolmas and more. The meal was graciously prepared by several students and it was, indeed, fit for a Symposium.
There were many contests, various forms of entertainment, music, games, dancers, poets and even drinking contests, where feats of skill would be attempted after many an offering to Dyonisis was pledged by drinking wine.
One of the more interesting “games’ was kottabos. In this game, a person drinking would attempt to knock a target off balance by flinging the last few drops of wine from their kylix (ancient drinking vessel). The “winner” could have their choice of naming a lover that they wanted for the night. Losers might be forced to drink a large amount of wine, degrading their ability to compete further. This was such a popular game that many unearthed vases we posses today show scenes of people playing this game. Maybe an ancient precursor to spin the bottle?
Wine was an important part of the Symposium, because it broke down barriers and inhibitions. Wine allowed open discourse between the power of the time, the older male citizen property owners and others outside their caste, such as power hungry younger males looking for social status. Relationships were made and destroyed. The Symposium was much like the “Power Lunches” of today.
In our Symposium, the honored guests, which included me, performed for the rest of the guests. This could be in the form of a quote, poem, story or tale, toast or any significant issue we chose to bring up. Each honored guest had the guest’s attention three times. Each time, an offering of wine mixed with water was made and drank from a modern day kylix.
The student “Honored Guests” gave quotes from the Burning Man Festival, read ancient Greek poetry about wine, told about making a prison wine called “Prune-O”, recanted funny stories from their youth, told of the meaning of wine and food to them and one honored guest even told an Irish poem he learned as a child. Paul told stories of being knighted by a loopy Italian Duchess and a touching story of a toast by a man to his father, who had died just hours before.
One story stood out. A student told the story of what food, in this case, warm fresh bread, meant to him.
He had been on patrol several years ago, in his Humvee, on the dangerous streets of Bhagdad, near the Green Zone. He was in the second Humvee in a patrol of three vehicles. Suddenly, an improvised explosive device or IED, made of several Russian artillery shells set off with a cell phone, went off under the Humvee in front of his.
The honored guest told us that as he ate the still warm bread, he felt immediate comfort, eating something that reminded him of better, happier times. His shaking subsided. His fears moved to the side. His focus and concentration returned.
The attack left him permanently disabled, having breathed in radioactive dust from the explosion and he received a medical discharge. Because the experience was so profound to him, he made his way to Napa Valley to study at Napa Valley College, for a career in food.
This story, in our Symposium, showed us the power of food. Food can not only nourish and bring great pleasure, but it can also provide comfort and satisfaction, even in it’s most basic form. Even in the form of a simple, warm loaf of fresh bread.
Anthony Blackburn is a student at Napa Valley College in the Viticulture and Winery Technology Department. He is also the Student Sales and Marketing Intern responsible for selling the wines made by the students in the student winery.
Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar Showcases Eight Bodacious Wines
Inspired by the Beauties of Playboy
(SANTA MONICA, CA)—Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar has partnered with “The Imbiber” Dan Dunn, the country’s preeminent rock-star booze writer and Playboy.com’s nightlife columnist, to present the wine bar’s sexiest tasting tour yet: The Imbiber’s Ultimate Playmate Fantasy Wine Tour, a flight of eight wines inspired by eight of history’s most iconic Playmates, from the celebrated Marilyn Monroe to tragic beauty Anna Nicole Smith. The Tasting Tour debuts on October 6 with a launch party featuring Dunn and several special guests, and the wines will remain available by the taste at Pourtal through the end of October.
“This wine tour is a celebration of beauty and timelessness, a chance to raise our glasses to the women who have captured our hearts… and our senses,” says Dunn, who selected each of the Playmates and their respective wines.
The Ultimate Playmate Fantasy Tour features tasting notes penned by Dunn in his usual Imbiber-esque style: the Rocca Family Vineyards “Bad Boy Red” is as “scandalously delicious” as Pamela Anderson, and the Paraduxx 2006 is “delicate and full-bodied” like pin-up girl Bettie Page. Pourtal will showcase the complete lineup on their Enomatic machines, offering one-ounce pours of the wines from $2.30 to $8.80 per taste. The tour and tasting notes will also be featured on Dunn’s site, TheImbiber.net.
Marilyn Monroe: Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Bettie Page: Paraduxx 2006
Jayne Mansfield: Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba 2007
Lisa Semler (née Welch): Semler Cabernet 2001
Pamela Anderson: Rocca Family Vineyards “Bad Boy Red” 2006
Jenny McCarthy: Four Vines “The Maverick” 2006
Anna Nicole Smith: Tenuta di Ghizzano Il Ghizzano 2007
Kelly Monaco: Big Basin Mandala Syrah 2006
Pourtal kicks off the tour with The Imbiber’s Ultimate Playmate Fantasy Wine Tour Launch Party on Tuesday, October 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wine enthusiasts are invited to sip, sample and mingle with Dunn along with a few of his Playboy friends. Featured Playmate Lisa Semler (Miss September 1980), whom Dunn paired with a selection from her family’s winery in Malibu, will make a special appearance to autograph special-edition bottles of the 2001 Semler Cabernet, which will be available for purchase. Playboy model Andrea Lowell, host of the Playboy Radio Morning Show on Sirius/XM, will also be on hand to pour a special tasting of Waterbrook Melange 2005 that Dunn has paired specifically for her.
Pourtal, Los Angeles’ premiere wine tasting bar, is a playground for the wine enthusiast and the wine curious. Combining the traditional wine bar concept with a state-of-the-art self-service tasting room, Pourtal offers an innovative wine experience that allows guests to explore at their own pace. The thoughtful wine list features 40 wines by the taste via a high-tech Enomatic dispensing system and another 20 wines available by the glass. Wine lovers can delve into Pourtal’s unique Tasting Tours, self-guided flights that explore the world of wine from the ground up, complete with comprehensive tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Pourtal is located at 104 Santa Monica Blvd. in Santa Monica and is open Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to midnight. For more information, visit www.pourtal.com.
About Dan Dunn, The Imbiber
Dan Dunn, the country’s preeminent rock-star booze writer, is a knowledgeable (if slightly wobbly) fellow. A former staff writer for the Emmy-nominated TV show “Talk Soup” and freelance joke contributor for SNL’s “Weekend Update,” his critically acclaimed semi-fictional memoir, Nobody Likes a Quitter (and other reasons to avoid rehab), was published in November 2007 by Perseus Books. His next book, Living Loaded: A Life-Affirming Journey to the Depths of Humanity…with cocktails, will be published next year by Random House.
A protégé of the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Dan’s trenchant writing on sprits has appeared in numerous high-profile publications including GQ, USA Today, Maxim, Los Angeles Times, LA Style, Entertainment Weekly, Hosiery & Underwear Magazine (seriously!) and Playboy.com. He also runs his own website, TheImbiber.net, a comprehensive compilation of Dan’s booze news and reviews. Dan lives in Marina Del Rey, CA, with his many doubts and insecurities.
Chicken breast (one per member+)
Mushrooms (8 oz)
Butter (1 cube)
Garlic (4 toes crushed)
Parmesan Cheese (10 cup)
Red Wine (1/2 to most of the bottle)
Corn starch (2 tablespoons)
Melt butter with garlic, de-bone chicken and hammer (tenderize), slice, and coat with cheese. Cook chicken breasts until brown. Remove from heat, add mushrooms, sauté three minutes, adding corn starch, water (as needed) and red wine. Serve with rice or fettuccini.
All recipes serve small to large fire stations/households. Countless calories, fat and carbohydrates. Good for energy needed to fight fires and/or reclining in front of the TV after playing cards for who does the dishes.
Ed’s Wines: “The theory is to cook with the same wine that you’re drinking but I never do. Don’t spend more than $15 on a wine you plan on just cooking with.” I don’t usually argue with the cook but my husband is known from time to time to toss his own coveted wine, from his glass, into a dish just to keep the guests entertained. Red Wine – use White Zinfandel as Marsala Wine can be too sweet for Chicken. White Wine – Fume Blanc which is a little lighter than a chardonnay for Clam and Shrimp meals.