Wine Country Preparation – Santa Barbara Region

OK, I’m excited.  This weekend we’re heading up to the Santa Barbara wine country region.  My wife and I love wine, love wine country, and love being away from Los Angeles on weekends like this.  I’d say we head up there 3-4 times a year, minimum.  It’s more or less become a tradition on Mothers Day ever since our almost 7 year old son was born.  Picture a tiny baby, sitting in a Baby Bjorn (baby carier), while Mommy and Daddy talk with people at the tasting bar and compare tasting notes.  Believe it or not, he loves going up to wine country (I’ll talk about this on another post).

So wine country.. I love going!  Being surrounded by people who make their living from the grapes they grown, being surounded by those who cook with and incorporate this wine into everything about their everyday is just so much fun for me.  We often do day trips, but this weekend is a full blown weekend away with friends to celebrate two birthdays.  That gives us, almost 3 full days immersed in the world of wine.

While we don’t want to, or plan to, map out a detailed itinerary, we have decided to scope out the basics so we can maximize tasting and minimize driving.  Day one is simple – drive up, hit a little breakfast joint near the beach in Carpinteria in route, then boogie all the way up to Laetitia Winery.  We’re members here and need to pick up our September wine club shipment.  Since we’re there, why not taste a bit too!  I must say, while we’re members of their sparkling club (the wife loves her some bubbles), they make some awesome reds! 

After that, our friends should have made their way up to the hotel in Buellton so we’ll find a meeting place and jump into one car.  Our opening day will be to hit a few wineries in the area and potentially hit either Hitching Post II or Jocko’s up in Nipomo for dinner.

While we don’t yet know where to hit, some of those on our radar for the rest of the weekend include:  Tantara, Demetria, Sans Liege, Cottonwood, Foxen, Tres Hermanas, Buttonwood, Coquilocot, Pali, and the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Both Tantara and Sans Liege are by appointment only, and I think we’ve got one of them booked already for a little 1-1 time with the winemaker.  I’ll report back !

So fellow wino’s, especially you out here on the left coast.  Where do you go?   What do you taste?  Where to eat?   Advice please!!!   I’m not a newbie to the area but love finding that new (or old) hidden gem and getting referrals from other like minded people.

Dont just voyeur on by this little posting – stop, tell, talk, share….

 Cheers, Doug !

What to drink with a burrito?

So what goes best with frozen burritos?  I mean, they are homemade, by the wife, and now they are frozen.   You see, she knows I love them and when we do “taco night” she makes a ton of extra burritos, freeze them for me, then enjoys the fact that I have something to eat, that’s homemade by her, for when she’s out and about.  I must say, beer sounds best for this evening.  Something complex, deep, dark, that can stand up to the ton of flavor that my wife puts in them.

So, back to this beverage challenge.  The decision is done, I’m opting for 1554.   It’s an easy to drink, dark, semi rich beer.  They call it an “Enlightened Black Ale”.  I like a dark beer, and while this one is dark, its also easy on the palate and goes down smooooooooth.  I initially ran across this one at my local liquor store.  From there, a few days later I was with a friend at one of the new local Tavern’s that are popping up all over the place and the bartender recommended it to me, again.  I thought it was fate, tried it, and whamo, liked it.

You like?  You selecting something different?  Do tell.. but do it quick, I’m drinking beer here!

Education – Self or Official Certification Programs ?

Ok so now that I have jumped onto the internet blog bandwagon here’s a quick update on some key things.  We know I have passion, practice, and interest.  I’m self taught and have visited too many tasting rooms to list.  But I want more..  Recently I went to a friends birthday gathering, the theme was a wine tasting party conducted by a Sommelier.   While I may not have been the professor sitting in the room, I did know the a majority of the information that she was sharing.  We did a tasting of 9 different wines, in 4 different segments: Chardonnay, Rhone Reds, Bordeaux Reds, and dessert wines.  Each segment offered a tremendous range, showing the guests the diversity of wine. 

I loved it and will go into the differences and walk you through the tasting in another post someday.  The point here was that my passion was on fire.  I spoke with the “instructor” who strongly suggested that I pursue my interest in formal training.  This is where the true confusion began – where does one  go and how to begin?

In doing my standard google searches, I ran across what would later come to be known by me as the “big boys” of wine education – Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), Society of Wine Educators (SWE), and Court of Masters (COM).  I think I’ve ruled out the Court of Masters programs as they are highly geared to on-premise personnel training (restaurant/hotel/bar workers). While the program looks informative, I don’t think its for me.

This leaves me bouncing between WSET and SWE programs and I can admit that I’m frustrated, confused and excited, and back to frustrated.  Here in Los Angeles there is a well known local wine retailer that offers the WSET Intermediate program that I am interested in to get started.  I think this is the one I’ll take.  On the other hand, the SWE offers training materials and a test for their CSW (Certified Specialist of Wine) which has tremendous appeal for me as well.  Oooh ok, well maybe this one.  I think I’ve ruled out any of the local college/university programs, but maybe not as some of them seem to offer a nice, base level education, maybe to be used as a lead in for the CSW exam.   See, told you, I’m confused.

What to do?  Both of these two programs offer what I want, nice well rounded, recognized, wine education.  One is more of a home study that you do in conjunction with other outside courses, and one is a sit down seminar series.  I do know or think I know that I want a weekly seminar type program, I want tasting involved (partially to learn, and partially to drink), and I want a recognized exam at the end (ideally one that I can pass).  Each of the above looks very cool and I’m interested. 

Anyone know which way to go?  Advise?  Thoughts?  What have you taken??

The First Post – Why?

OK ok, why even start a blog.  Excellent question and one that I really don’t have a good answer for.  Over the last year, I’ve been the behind the scenes guy for my wife’s blog, RomyRaves, which is a beauty and lifestyle blog.  I enjoy the tech side, usually, but have no interest in the topic in all honesty.  I do get products to try for her now and then but I really just do it to help her.  Over this time, I’ve helped her build a huge twitter following (12k+) and an active blog following.

I’ve been very into wine, spirits, cooking, and entertaining for well over a decade now, purely on the amateur side though.  For years now, I’ve been asked questions or for referrals from friends for wines to match with foods, restaurants to check out, recipes I like, or what scotch to bring to a friends house as a gift.  While I am no expert, I am a highly experienced amateur.  I know scotch, food, wine, beer, all very well.  I love hitting the local tavern or pub and trying something new and different.  Now and then, I actually find something I love.  Others, well not so much.

I’m not a writer by any means.  I plan on using the blog to share ideas, new products I run across, tips, tricks, recipes, new restaurants (or old ones I just found again), and almost anything else I can think of in this space of food, wine, and booze..  I know I’ll be reviewing wines and spirits, testing out restaurants, and sharing recipes now and then.  If you have something on your mind, tell me.  Want me to check out your stuff, tell me.  Think I’ve lost my mind for liking that $6 bottle of Syrah for a casual Tuesday, tell me.

I always have an opinion and so far in my 40+ years haven’t exactly been shy in expressing it.  Tell me what you think.  If you agree, excellent.  If not, well, I guess I’m open to hearing that too.

For now, Cheers, Salute, or see ya.