Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thought on Procrastinating

So I am thinking about getting going, I promise. I have been kicking more and more ideas around form my blog and site. I think this can be a fun little voyage. The more I think about wine the more it intrigues me, as do the people intrigued by it as well. So give me a bit more time and I will roll out something cool. Like wine, I need some time fermenting in the barrel that is my mind.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sierra Foothills

As a boy I spent a lot of time on California's back, unlike today, where I spend it on California's knees. By back I mean the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My Grandma, and an aunt and uncle lived there, the Aunt and Uncle still do. Sonora and Oakhurst respectively. I have not been up there for nearly a decade. This weekend I traveled to my Aunts with my Dad. She now calls Columbia home, which is neighbor to Sonora. Columbia like all of it surrounding neighbors was a gold town. The kind of place with street names like cowhide and gun club roads, seriously. There is a State Park there, Columbia State Park to be precise. It's more of a preserved gold mining town than a park. You can pan for gold, watch a blacksmith work, or eat some ice cream. It's the 1850's with Passats and cellphones.
On Saturday we went to the local farmers market,a nice size for the small community. Same hippies we have here, but they also had a singing cowboy, we do not have those. Apparently socialism "is not all that bad". These are things you learn at a farmers market in the mountains. After we went to the local swap meet. It was basically a local yard sale. An excited Mexican man in his early fifties showed off his new 1930's SS Swastika arm band. He proudly showed this off to all who would listen, including an very elderly man in full camo gear. Apparently he paid $35.00 for it and hoped to re-sell it for as much as $650.00. Apparently Nazi's have a lot of money. These are things you learn at a swap meet in the mountains. After the delightful sale we ate at The Miners Cafe. The cafe has the following stats.

1. Average business: busy
2. Average cost of meal: $7.50
3. Average weight of patron: 235
4. Average number of weapons on each wall: 8
5. Average number of shirt sleeves: None

The food however was ample and good.

In the afternoon we headed to Murphy's, a small town to the North, with as it turns out, a nice wine community. There were more than a dozen tasting room on the quaint towns main strip. It is a beautiful town. I visited Ironstone wineries. A beautiful but large place. Too many people, but worth it for the grounds. They also have a museum on site, with a gold nugget housed in a vault you walk into valued at $3.5 million dollars. It is big. The wines were decent and I left with a 2005 reserve Cab. On the way our of town we stopped at one more small winery with the small tasting rooms I like. I was impressed by the whole region and it would be worth a second visit.
I always loved the mountains and it was in many ways a weekend for nostalgia. But I had a good time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is an interesting place. A mix of money, poverty, young trend setters, and old time Angelinos. This is largely reflective of the Los Angeles Basin with it’s some 13 million people. Extraordinary wealth, extraordinary poverty, extraordinary diversity. There is more money in LA than then the whole of many countries. Yet it is a city of immigrants. 70% of the population is latino, many driven here by difficult circumstances in their home lands, only to find it not much better here. Yet here there is hope. The American economy and system has always had room for those who had passion and a dream. So they come.

I like Santa Monica. People not from California have the idea that it is a land of beautiful beaches and palm trees, where celebrities are often spotted amongst the lowly commoners. The weather is always perfect, always summer. This is in fact all true, for the most part. The beaches are beautiful, there are tons of palm trees, the weather is almost perfect all year, and yes, celebrities do walk amongst us. Why, just two days ago I saw none other than Rick Schroder at the deli I was eating at. Doesn’t ring a bell? He is that child actor who was on NYPD Blue. He also looks like real life Richie Rich. I guess I also recently missed Angela Lansbury, excitement I wrote! Did I mention the weather is perfect here too? Just today though a guy passed me as I was strolling around during lunch. “Finally summer huh?” “Yeah”, I said with a bit of a laugh. But then I thought to myself, “What on earth is he talking about, it’s always like this here”! Seriously, google the average temperature of Santa Monica (like you did for Rich Schroder, common, you know you did). Heck, google the average temperature for just about any city on the south coast of California. When isn’t it summer?

Mostly I like the diversity here. The graffiti artists mixed with beautiful architecture, the massive buildings and the beautiful beaches. Bums, Lawyers, Celebrities, Doctors, Surfers, they are all present. If there is something you are craving to eat, it’s here. Want a Japanese only market and food court? No problem. Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern? No problem. That’s what Southern California is about, making everyone else’s stuff our stuff too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Going

So the ideas are always grand. "I will quit my job and make a living writing a book, about traveling, and drinking wine, and other tomfoolery. People will pay me to do this, and other people will pay to read about it". This is how these things work, I have read it in books. Someone decides they want to do something magnificent, they do it, it works, they write a book, I read said book, and I wish it was me. I am currently reading The Ridiculous Race. Two friends (Steve Hely, Vali Chandrasekaran) race around the world, in opposite directions. The first to complete the race, without planes mind you, wins an incredibly expensive bottle of scotch. As I think about their adventures it does not help that currently I am driving over an hour to work, down the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu. This is in fact one of the most beautiful places in the country, so it makes it easy to dream. I want to race around the world for scotch too.

OK, so aside from my multi million dollar book deal, I do have other dreams, more reasonable ones, but grand non-the-less. So I am one of those guys with a great career, especially in the long run. But I am also one of those guys who can't imagine 60 hour work weeks just to have no time to spend the money I earn. Money, no life, is not fun. No money, but a life, is fun for awhile. Enough money to provide for your needs and a few extra's and a real life, well that is always the goal.

So it was, that through many dinners with friends, we came to discuss the lack of a decent restaurant review site in our area. There is not a lack of quantity, just quality. There are plenty of Chili’s of the review world, not enough Spago’s (not that I have ever been). So we thought, why don’t we start our own? We like to eat out, so why not? So at this point I have kicked the idea around for well over a year. So to give the rest up, the drive, the job, and to spend my days eating food, drinking wine, and other tomfoolery, that is my current dream, my race around the world.

Scotch anyone?

Monday, March 2, 2009


This weekend was a nice break from the throbbing misery that was my cold last weekend. On Saturday I headed to Santa Barbara with three friends. We walked State Street for awhile. My rambunctious Beagle puppy Huck pulled free from his collar and I spent several breathless and semi-panicked minutes chasing him through crowds of shoppers (there appears to be no recession amongst the trendy young shoppers on State Street) before cornering him in a little boutique shop. For my involvement in the chase, I was rewarded with a breathless walk back to the car with Huck. For his involvement in the escape, he was rewarded with a cookie by the two young girls who worked at said store. Beagles do wonders with their charm.

For dinner we went to a locals favorite, one of ours too, Los Arroyos. A perfect little Mexican restaurant off State Street. Los Arroyos has been apart of Santa Barbara for 10 years now and it never disappoints. The downtown location is more informal; you order at a counter and they bring your food, very quickly I might add. If you are looking for great Mexican food, but more of a formal dinning experience, try their Montecito location on Coast Village. Same amazing food, but more of what you expect for a sit-down dinner.

After we ate, we decided to try something we have talked about for some time: fondue for dessert. The Melting Pot is a brilliant idea. There are two locations in our local area, Thousand Oaks and on Anacapa Street and few blocks east of State. The environment is more lounge than restaurant, but it suits the intended atmosphere perfectly. This would be an outstanding date destination. What better than sharing wine and warm melted chocolate with the one you love? I must say though, what immediately caught me as we drove by, was their wine storage system. A 10-12’ high by 15’ or so foot wide wall of glass filled with row after row of taunting bottles. The living room wall of my dreams!! The wine list was extensive and well arranged. The wines were listed from lighter to stronger, which I though was very helpful for your beginner to intermediate wine drinker. I ordered a Malbec, one of my new favorite varietals. The wine was a Bodega Norton, but I forgot to take notice of the vintage. One of the reasons I have recently been drinking Malbec is their gentle pleasant nature. Although the more I drink, the more I appreciate a spicy red, many Malbecs have a way of dancing with your tongue in a very pleasant way. However, the Bodega Norton was a bit bland on my palate and probably not the best choice for the wonderfully rich chocolates and treats.

Sunday started with a drive to Monterey Park in LA. For lunch we went to an LA favorite of ours, Home Restaurant on Hillhurst Ave in Los Feliz. The trendiness of Silver Lake area certainly reflects in the diners at Home, but with its large open air patio that includes a Koi pond and with a comfy interior it is quite clear that Home lives up to it’s name. It is very easy to enjoy a late Sunday morning or early afternoon. The breakfasts are simply amazing.

After returning home for a few hours and an attempted afternoon nap, it was time to head to Santa Barbara…again. This time, it was to attend a reading Sarah Vowell was doing as a part of UCSB’s Arts and Lectures series. The show did not start until 7:00PM, so three of my friends and I decided to pop in at Kalyra By the Sea located towards the beach at the end of State street. Kalyra is a local winery, with most of their wines being produced just a short drive up North in Santa Ynez. Kalyra is unique in that their Owner and Wine maker Mike Brown is Australian and has there fore brought a touch of Aussie style to the Central Coast. In fact, Mike Brown produces several of the wines sold at Kalyra in Australia, including my favorite, Barrossa Valley Shiraz. Although I do not care for every style Kalyra produces, I have yet to have a bad wine they have made. I highly recommend this local producer. You may even want to consider their wine club: Wine Thief’s. Their MC2 Bordeaux style blend is also a recommended favorite of mine.

Back to Sarah Vowell, the reading was very fun. I have never done anything like that before so it was a new experience. I am kind of an NPR geek, so listening to someone in person I have heard many times on This American Life was a treat for me.

So, it was a fun weekend.