20th Anniversary Cambria Trip with JohnDickey(JD) by Denise Lowe

Monday, August 31st, 2009. Got up bright and early, finished packing, ran a few last minute errands, and got on the 101 at 9 a.m. Traffic was a little slow until we got past the 170, and then everything opened right up and we hit a good cruising speed up the coast. It was already in the 80’s, and heading up thru the west SF Valley was warmer. The temp started to drop as we got thru Camarillo and Oxnard, and it was lovely by the time we hit Ventura. The air was still very smoky from the La Canada/La Crescenta fires, but by the time we got to Santa Barbara, the air was clear and cool, there was a lovely marine layer hanging off the coast, and we could see the Channel Islands and the fleet of oil rigs riding shotgun on the coast.

Stopped in Solvang, as always, for breakfast/lunch at Paula’s Pancake house. JD had a Danish pancake with Danish sausage, sprinkled with confectioners sugar and dipped in maple syrup. I had a Danish omelet – eggs, Danish sausage and Havarti cheese, with fresh fruit and a biscuit on the side. And LOTS of coffee. Stopped at Olsen’s Bakery next door for a bucket of Danish cookies. A Danish trend – unavoidable in Danish Solvang!

Drove to the east side of town to check in on Taste of the Valleys wine bar. Ash and I were already Facebook friends, but had not actually met. Once the store opened, a little after noon, we were treated to some truly lovely wines.

2008 Storm Sauvignon Blanc. Ernst Storm has made a crystal clear SB, with a floral and slightly grassy nose. Crisp and refreshing, with an interesting creaminess – maybe malolactic? Ash wasn’t sure. Storm is the winemaker at Curtis, but this is his own wine. Beautiful, creamy, odd, cocktail-ish. I liked it, but wasn’t sure what I would pair with it.

2004 Au Bon Climat ‘Hildegard’. 73% Pinot Gris, 23% Pinot Blanc, 4% Aligote. Had a kind of strange mid-palate taste. I wasn’t that happy with it, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I love Jim Clendenen’s wines, so this seemed a little off to me. JD also thought it wasn’t quite right, but we couldn’t actually say what was wrong. So we moved on.

Another ABC wine from what Jim Clendenen is calling the Santa Barbara Historic Vineyards. This was a 2006 Pinot Noir. Pale red, beautiful nose, soft, well-balanced tannins. Lovely.

2006 Arcadian Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands. WOW. The winemaker, Joseph Davis, was previously with Morgan up in Carmel/Santa Lucia Highlands. This was deep pinkish red, perfectly clear, smelled and tasted like cherries, in the best possible way. Outstanding. Bought 2 bottles. Our favorite so far. Today. Retails for $56 – we bought 2 bottles, and Ash generously discounted the price for us.

Ash opened a bottle of Doug Margerum’s Cimarone – Le Clos Secret. It’s from Three Creek Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, etc. – just a lovely Bordeaux-style blend. Lots of anise in the nose and back palate; beautiful dark fruit. Ash had a small amount left in a bottle that had been open for 2 days – it rocked. The anise was more evident, the wine a bit smoother. Lovely. Retails for $60.

Finished with a 2006 Buscador Cabernet Sauvignon. A big, jammy, fruity wine from Matt Kowalczyk. $40.

Had a really nice time with Ash and his wife, Lissa. We would have liked to have stayed and tasted more, but we felt we needed to get on the road. Cambria awaited.Got back on the 101 and headed up thru Santa Maria, Arroyo Grande, Oceano, Pismo, etc. We had been talking about stopping in San Luis Obispo to check out the new tasting room for Sextant Wines, so we got off the 101 at Higuera and wound our way thru SLO until we found the tasting room. A charming room in a kind of industrial strip mall. Full of fun sailing and wine oriented gifts and objets d’art. The young man behind the counter was fun and knowledgeable about the wines, and is planning on a major in wine and viticulture at Cal Poly.

So many wines:

10knots 2007 ‘Beachcomber’, Paso Robles. Floral nose, a bit sweet for my taste. $21

10knots 2007 Chardonnay, Edna Valley. Strangely tropical and exotic; not necessarily in a good way. $21

10knots 2008 Syrah Rose, Paso Robles. 97% Syrah Rose, 1% Viognier, 1% Mourvedre, 1% Grenache. Beautiful fruity nose filled with strawberry, cherry; lots of red fruit. Very DRY. I really liked this, and I’m not a big rose fan. $13 – we bought a bottle.

Windemere 2005 Pinot Noir, Paso Robles. Slightly acid start, nice soft finish. $22

10knots 2006 ‘Moonraker’ Paso Robles. 48% Mourvedre, 32% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Smoky nose, lots of fruit and spice. $26 We liked this, but didn’t buy it. Not sure why.

Sextant 2007 ‘Wheelhouse’ Zinfandel, Paso Robles. 81% Zinfandel (Primitivo clone), 16% Syrah, 2% Petite Sirah, 1% Mourvedre. Well-balanced. My notes say ‘nice’ and ‘ok’. Not sure why I was so terse. $20

Then we got into the Reserve wines:

Sextant 2008 Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands. 100% Chardonnay. High alcohol nose, VERY oaky. Not my cup of tea. So to speak. $27

Sextant 2007 ‘Holystone’ Zinfandel, Paso Robles. 75% Zinfandel, 19%Syrah,, 6% Petite Sirah. Lots of cherries, black currants, violets on the nose. Red fruit – raspberries mainly – in the mouth. Very drinkable. $27

Sextant 2005 ‘Kamal’, Paso Robles. The ‘Kamal’ was a device that preceded the sextant for nautical measurements. 23% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 13% Syrah, 9% Mourvedre, 8% Petite Sirah. Lots of tobacco on the finish after a deliciously earthy nose. $39

Sextant 2007 ‘Nightwatch’, Paso Robles. 45% Petite Sirah, 32% Zinfandel, 19% Syrah, 4% Grenache. These folks love to blend! Coffee on the nose – a breakfast wine! Deep ruby red in color, black and red fruits – cherries, violets, plums. Lovely. $49. We bought a bottle.

Sextant NV ‘Genoa’, Paso Robles. An ’07 release, although no specific vintage. 40% 2006 Zinfandel, 35% 2005 Syrah, 13% 2005 Petite Sirah, 12% 2006 Petite Sirah. Did I mention these folks love to blend? Smoky, tasty. I really liked this, but the $79 price tag stopped me from buying it.

We finished up and went on our way. Up the 1 thru Morro Bay, which was fogged in – could only see the tip of the rock. Past Avila and Cayucos, and then into Cambria. Turned onto Moonstone Beach Drive and headed to the White Water Inn, our favorite place when we’re not renting a house. It’s always like coming home. Unpacked. Turned on the TV to try to get some news about the fires, but nothing was on. Quite by luck found ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ on TMC. Great Cold War movie based on the book by John Le Carre – who knows his spies – with Richard Burton, Oskar Werner and several other great actors. We were just riveted in front of the tube. Finally, the tragic, but unavoidable, ending.

Headed over, by foot, to the Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. Had a gift certificate for dinner and a bottle of the Arcadian Pinot Noir with us, so we knew we’d be happy. Got there just in time for sunset. Gorgeous. Nice, but talkative waitress Victoria, was, of course another great surprise, from our Burbank neighborhood. We shared the Calamari Fritta appetizer. I had the rack of lamb, JD had the Mahi-Mahi with Cajun seasoning. We finished off the evening with decaf cappuccinos and walked back to the Inn. In bed by 9. JD fell asleep pretty quickly. I read for a while, but turned out the light earlier than I thought I would. It had been a long day.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009. Our 20th wedding anniversary. Amazing. When I was young and single and dating, every time I would go out with a guy, I would try to imagine us in 10 years. I could never see it – even with my first husband, who is still a friend. But when I met John, and when we started dating after our ‘yenta,’ Shirley, pushed us toward each other, I could see it. I could see us in 10 years, and 20 years. And I can still see us in the future. We still have so much fun together – we make each other laugh, we share the same interests. And we drive each other crazy, too, but that’s part of the package. I can’t imagine life without him. OK, occasionally, I think it might be nice to have a separate house, but that’s just on the days when I get crazy about his pack-rat-ness.

We got up early-ish Tuesday. The White Water Inn provides a nice continental breakfast for their guests – toasted bagel, blueberry and spiced muffins, bananas and apples and juice and a full pot of coffee. We took our time, finished breakfast, showered and went for a walk along the boardwalk. Watched the seals and the birds. Back to the room to pick up a couple of things and into town.

Stopped at the Cambria Wine Shop – of course – it’s another favorite of ours. Dennis was sitting outside, making phone calls and reading the paper. We made reservations for Madeline’s at 7 p.m., and Dennis started pouring wines.
2008 Chateau Cazat-Beauchene. White Bordeaux. Almost equal parts Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Gris. Floral aromas, hints of white fruit. Something vegetal in the nose, with a slightly buttery finish. Lovely. $24 We bought 2 bottles.

2007 Bodegas Albarino ‘Querida’. Clear, straw color. Big flowery nose. Thick, sweet and yet refreshing. A picnic/BBQ wine. From Jack Ranch Vineyards. $30

2007 Riverstar Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles/San Miguel. Crystal clear, very tropical. Serve at room temp, not chilled. Interesting. Needed food other than the cheeses Dennis was providing. Not sure what I would pair with this. $28. I think I prefer Riverstar red blends, especially their ‘Affinity’.

2007 Domaine Cherrier & Fils Sancerre. We’ve bought other vintages of this before. I really love this wine. Straw color, gorgeous nose – not grassy like California Sauvignon Blancs. Just a lovely drinking wine. $35 2 bottles.

2007 Brandborg Gewurztraminer, Umpqua Valley, Oregon. Sweet but dry. Aromas of roses, grapefruit and stone fruit. This wine has 2.5% residual sugar balanced with a refreshing acidity. The label suggests pairing with creamy blue cheese, but all I could think about was spicy Thai cuisine. $24 2 bottles.

NV Candor Merlot by Austin Hope of Treana in Paso Robles. This is a wine that Austin markets to restaurants, and Dennis was able to purchase it thru Madeline’s. It is a BIG Merlot. It’s non-vintage, but a blend of three different vintages. Dark red, almost opaque. High alcohol. Big, big red fruit – cherries, raspberries. And yet well-balanced. What smelled hot in the nose wasn’t there in the mouth. Dee-licious. $32 2 bottles.

2004 Summerwood ‘Sentio’, Paso Robles. Let me just say that I am not a fan of Summerwood, partly because I think their wines just aren’t that interesting, but they’re expensive, and our experience at the winery was disappointing and odd. Having said that, I really like this wine. 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 5% Malbec. A lovely Bordeaux-style blend. At $58 I did not buy it.

Dennis finished off with a Banyuls 20-year-old Solera style Grenache. OH. MY. GOD. It’s referred to as a ‘doux paille’ meaning ‘sweet, but not’. Amber in color, the nose was redolent with pain grille (or toast – grilled bread) and caramel. A really lovely and unusual dessert wine. I would pour this over French Vanilla ice cream. It’s imported by International Vineyards LLC in San Jose, who also imports the white Bordeaux we got above. $65. We didn’t buy, not because of the price, but because I know we won’t drink it.

Then, as a special gift to myself, I bought one bottle of a Chateau Lascombes Margaux 2005. It’s Second Growth winery that had fallen into disrepair and was purchased by someone who has brought it back to life. Parker rated this wine in the high 90’s, and Dennis offered us his wine club price on it – I think that was $85 – so we’ll put it in the cellar for 5 years and drink it for our 25th anniversary.

So we headed back to the Inn, just to hang around and rest – and for me to write – and we’ll go back to Madeline’s with our 2004 Opus One for our anniversary dinner. More on that later.
Dinner at Madeline’s. Oh my, this is one of my all time favorite restaurants. Chef David prepares such interesting and delicious offerings! We arrived a bit before 7 p.m. We had meant to drop off the Opus One earlier for decanting, but we just didn’t. So our server, Cody, decanted the wine for us, and we had a lovely Saint Hilaire 2005 Blanquette de Limoux sparkler to start while we had our Caesar salads – with real anchovies. I like those hairy little fish! And the wine was just wonderful – nose full of bread and yeast and citrus. Yum. (and only $23 a bottle!)
For entrees, John had the local Petrale Sole with panko flour and pesto sauce. Very crisp and delicious – nothing fishy there! I had the Wild Boar Picatta with angel hair pasta. As David said, he pummeled that boar into submission. In a really good way!

We finished with the Chocolate Truffle cake – alternating layers of dark and milk chocolate on a bed of whipped cream and chocolate sauce. The Opus One was really perfect with the dessert – and everything that came before, too!

A perfect day, a perfect anniversary dinner. And so, back to the Inn and sleep. More on the morrow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009. Breakfast arrived at 8:30 and we dove in. Nice strong coffee, hot breads and fresh fruit and juice. Showered and packed because we had to go home.

When we dropped off the key, the lady behind the desk offered us an additional night – FREE – because they had so few bookings. We almost took it, but I had already been in touch with colleagues from work and there’s this huge project going on and they were expecting me back, and….sob! We thanked her for the offer and went for a walk along the boardwalk on Moonstone Beach.

It was already getting hot – very unusual for Cambria, but like everywhere else, they’re having odd weather. There was NO onshore breeze; the sea was almost still. A few seals splashed around; some tourists climbed thru the rocks looking for tide pools. I kept an eye on the water – I had a feeling and was rewarded. A small pod of dolphins came into view – playing or feeding or just hanging out a few hundred yards from shore. What a gift! We stayed as long as we could and bade farewell to our favorite stretch of shoreline.

Went into town for a quick bite at Linn’s. John had a glass of Hug Viognier, always delightful, and I had a glass of of grape I had never heard of – Fiano, an Italian grape from Avellino in southern Italy. Seghesio is growing it up in the Russian River appellation. It was served cool, not chilled, and was full of peach and honey in the noise. The mouth was stone fruits and some minerality, with a slightly creamy finish. $8 for the glass. Linn’s had the bottle at $32. I’m going to do a little more research. It reminded us of a Roussane or Marsanne. Very interesting. And both wines accompanied our chicken pot pie (me) and crab sandwich (JD) perfectly. (Additional note – Seghesio’s web site has it for $20.)

We got on the road and sadly drove straight home, leaving fresh air and blue skies for the fire and smoke-darkened air of home. But safely home, and back to work. A good trip, if too short.

One thought on “20th Anniversary Cambria Trip with JohnDickey(JD) by Denise Lowe

  1. A memorable anniversary, I would say!

    I am intrigued by your pairing of
    2007 Brandborg Gewurztraminer, Umpqua Valley, Oregon with spicy Thai dishes. I am a great fan of Thai cuisine; I'll have to give this pairing a try.

    Thanks, and congratulations on your 20th anniversary!

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