The Occasional Wine Council’s early December wine tasting setting was seasonally decorated for a gala holiday time with festive colorful table decorations in Linda Kissam’s gracious and welcoming home. The participants at this Occasional Wine Council meeting (which convenes “occasionally” in or near the Temecula Valley Wine Country) included wine tasting colleagues, Linda, Ginger, Tom, Todd, Marc, Carmen, Robin and Sue, who were all in jolly holiday spirits and eagerly anticipated a wonderful evening of wine tasting and gourmet nibbling. They were not disappointed. As previous Wine Council tasting articles have described, our goal is to review some interesting wines and create some delectable food pairings. Adding to the festivities, each participant brought wine-themed ornaments for a gift exchange.
The wine chosen by Linda Kissam for the evening was from Laguna Canyon Winery, founded by brothers, Marlowe and Darren Huber in 2003. This boutique winery produces an impressive variety of fruit-forward table wines with grapes primarily from small vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Lodi. These wines have been recognized with many awards, including impressive ones from the prestigious Orange County Fair competitions.
The Laguna Canyon wines were delicious and appropriately festive for our holiday celebration, but they will be a treat any time of year when you want to taste some outstanding wines from Southern California.
While each Council member created a dish with a specific wine in mind, as usual many dishes went well with several of the wines served. Our group agreed that we may never have had such a varied and savory feast of special dishes for our wine/food pairing. Our dishes included: Marc’s rich and flavorful shepherd’s pie, which he had simmered all day in a crock pot with carrots, mushrooms and onions; Ginger’s barbecued deviled eggs and luscious California fig bruschetta with cheese spread and bacon; Carmen’s moist and delicious banana and chocolate chip bread; Tom’s three different cheeses—Le Delice des Bourgogne, St. Andre Triple Crème, and chive-covered Brie, served with a quince preserve; Robin’s tasty Philly cheese steak pizza; Linda’s lemon zest Stilton; Todd’s winter greens, pomegranate and pear salad with chili-dusted shrimp; and Sue’s chicken, cranberry and walnut salad sliders.
Our wines were as follows:
Los Carneros Pino Gris: This nice floral wine was fruit forward, crispy and light. Its fruity flavors went well with the shrimp salad, the lemon zest Stilton, and also, surprisingly, the deviled eggs. This wine retails for $20 a bottle.
2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay: The group really enjoyed this mellow chardonnay, which was one of the favorites of the evening. With its lovely fruity nose and flavors of apple, guava and tangerine, it greatly enhanced the French cheeses, and the deviled eggs and chicken salad sliders. This excellent wine is a good buy at $26 a bottle.
2009 Lodi Petite Sirah: The deep red color of this bold wine was good preparation for its rich berry, spicy flavors and long smooth finish. It matched well with the Philly cheese steak pizza and French cheese. Also the fig bruschetta intensified and enhanced the wine’s flavors. This wine retails at $30 a bottle.
2009 Rockpile Petit Verdot: The intense bouquet of dark berries and deep color combined to make this a bold, tasty wine with heavy tannins and leathery overtones. Food definitely improved this wine, particularly the rich shepherd’s pie, the cheeses, the figs, and also the sweet chocolate banana bread. This wine was deservedly awarded a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, but at $44, the price may be a bit steep.
2009 Rockpile Malbec: Another Gold Medal Winner, this excellent, powerful Malbec has a deep berry color and strong flavors of boysenberry and other berries. The group really enjoyed this wine, its intense bouquet, and its deep aftertaste. This Malbec was by far the favorite of the evening’s tasting. At $42 a bottle, it is well worth the price.
2009 Napa Valley Cabernet: Another favorite of the evening, this old style, robust Cab had obviously been aged in French Oak, which produced a smoky, earthy bouquet with vanilla and berry flavors on the palette. Its $48 price seemed acceptable considering its complex, rich taste. It matched very well with the fig bruschetta, the pizza, and the shepherd’s pie.
This evening was a highlight of a wonderful year of wine tasting for the Occasional Wine Council and also the Men’s and Women’s Wine Councils which meet regularly to report on a wide range of interesting wines. All the participants in these wine councils are looking forward to reporting on many more interesting wines in 2013.
Laguna Canyon Winery is a must-visit-and-taste destination for wine lovers who are visiting Southern California. The main tasting room and winery is at 2133 Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach. There is also a downtown Laguna Beach tasting room at 380 Glenneyre St. Wines are available for purchase in the tasting rooms and also at various retail outlets throughout 15 states.