Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My First Food Entry, Complete With Graphic Images!

Being bored and hungry usually means that the fridge will yield up a meal or at the very least, a way to make a meal. Tonight was no different, after spending some time organizing my 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference notes and tweeting with some people, I felt the familiar gnaw of hunger in my stomach.

Standing in front of the cold, white thing in my kitchen, I realized that with a little work, something resembling a meal would be on the table in about half an hour. I spotted some Smoked Andouille sausages, an onion, shredded cheese, garlic, salt & pepper, cayenne pepper, pasta and some pasta sauce. Without realizing it, Trader Joe's would be providing every ingredient for this dish tonight.

What to do? I remember reading a while back about some weird spaghetti/chili dish out in Cincinatti, that idea spawned what you see in the picture above. Seriously. That's how odd my thought processes can be sometimes. In any case it was time to begin the prep. Set the water to boil, get a pan hot (more on that later), get the sauce warming in a small pot. Chopping onions reminds me that I need to take some cooking classes and learn the proper way. Anyone want to pay for them for me? Didn't think so.

Yes, I'm making a mess. Yes, I'll have to clean it up but I tend to clean as I go, hopefully that comes across as efficient and not just dumb. Notice the rough cuts on the sausage? That knife sucks for cutting sausage. It cut everything else just fine though. Oh and I did pour a glass of wine to taste. It was the Big Red Hiney I got as a gift from the wonderful Cheryl at Skylite Cellars (@SkyliteCellars). Opened it list night while doing an informal test of the Wine Soiree (@WineSoiree). The test was a smashing success by the way. Another blog entry will give you more information.

Anyways the time came to put the sausages in the hot pan, which I decided to spray with some oil first. Big mistake. Note to self: do not set your stovetop to medium-high to brown sausages. Immediately my place filled with whitish, burning, choking oil smoke. There goes the smoke alarm, raising a god damn racket. Shit! Pull pan off stove, cringe, inhale smoke, turn stove down to "4". Choke a bit, realize the world is not in fact ending and move on with life.

That was stupid of me. The pan was still really hot when I threw the sliced sausages back on, the result is what you see. No biggie, just a note for the next time I try something like that. One of many notes I had to make during the events of this evening. It was time to add in the onions, which I did but failed to note on camera. By this time the sauce was simmering away nicely so I added in the garlic and cayenne. Visions of an Arrabiata style sauce floated through my head. Seriously, I know jack shit about cooking as you can tell.

Steam rising from the big pot indicated the water was ready for it's date with Spaghetti. You might call it a hot date? Come on, that was a bit witty! Putting the nearly-incinerated sausages and slightly browned onions (at least I did that right!) in with the pasta sauce got me excited. One you got past the smell of burnt oil and charred andouille, the aromas were tantalizing! Or maybe I was just getting drunk.

Doesn't look like much, does it? I know, it looks pretty gross, but I'm not a chef and have no concept of creating pretty food. At this point during my culinary adventure the pasta was about done and the sauce was boiling up nicely. My intent was to get all those flavors in little pot to mingle together, like the Catalina Wine Mixer! (Stepbrothers reference). I quickly drained the pasta water out, threw the spaghetti back into the pot and dumped the sauce in with it. Why? Last week I read that since pasta cooks from the outside in, when you add something back into it after it's cooked, it'll absorb the flavors. Cool stuff!

That picture makes my dish look something like deranged spaghetti and meatballs. Oops! The smell was still pretty good despite the sausages surviving nuclear winter courtesy of my inability to find "medium high" on my stove.

Plated for your pleasure. The shredded cheese blend was Sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Asadero and Queso Blanco. I chose it versus Parmesan because I wanted something a bit creamier to offset the spice of the Andouille. That part of the dish worked out. Texturally, I liked it because you got the lightly al dente pasta, creamy cheese and slightly (ok very) crispy sausage.

Next time, don't burn the damn sausages, use a touch more tomato sauce, less garlic and a different form of pasta. That's what I learned tonight.

Beau Carufel

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top Ten Pre 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference List! Seriously!

What's a Wine Bloggers Conference without a bit of pre-Conference activities? Well, it's still a Conference and great one at that. That was anti-climatic.

Here is a quick Top Ten list of the things I experienced before the Conference even started.

1. Wine and Beer with Tia (@wineinkbytia). We went down to Olive to taste some wines, then we got thirsty and had beers. Both beers were delicious and really hit the spot. Plus, the brews primed us for a weekend of wine, wine, and wine! The Lagunitas Censored Copper Ale was pretty tasty but our favorite was the Yakima Brewing Company's 1982 was absolutely amazing. It had a great amber color, toasty but crisp with a very refreshing finish. I hope I can find some in San Diego.

Now that I've fulfilled a promise to Tia, the list continues.

2. Olive in Walla Walla. I went back there to have a meal and it was delicious! Some of the group I was with had some pizzas and they were superb. Crisp, perfectly baked crust and a proper cheese to sauce ratio.

3. Grapevine Bus Lines. Simple, reasonably priced, air conditioned, efficient transportation between Pasco and Walla Walla. Can't complain.

4. Cornerstone Cellars (@CornerStoneNapa) for throwing a rockin' pre-Conference party. They were pouring some delicious wines and had a big group of people in their rented house. Kudos to them for showing such nice hospitality to a bunch of wine bloggers.

5. Meeting people in the lobby of the Marcus Whitman, all of them for the first time, and it evolving into a big fun wine party. Attendees I didn't even know where showing up, opening bottles and pouring for all. What a welcome!

6. The Marcus Whitman Hotel, great place to hold such an event, they had my room ready to go, clean and they even cleared out the mini-bar for us so we could store our wine in it. Well that's what Thea told me at least.

 7. Purple teeth at 7pm. Come on, how cool is that! Almost as cool as drinking Malbec and having spaghetti and meatballs on a HOT day. (Only a few people might get this one)

8. Going to bed at 1:30, nursing a wonderful buzz, and that excited, giddy feeling that I was embarking on something that could and would change my life and encourage my passion like nothing before it.

9. Realizing that I had not forgotten anything vital at home. I think that speaks for itself....

10. Being in Walla Walla, at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference. epic.

Beau Carufel

Not Another Top Ten List From the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference!

This past weekend I attended the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. I experienced a wine-soaked journey through blogging, social media, wineries and people. My Top Ten list is focused on my observations while visiting wineries, talking to bloggers, PR people, Social Media experts and pretty much anyone who'd listen to me.

1. It was a thrill to meet some fine people who I'd been emailing, tweeting and IM'ing over the past few months. The new friends I made are all great people, and I can't say enough about how friendly everyone was.

2. Washington Syrah is amazing. Just see the Skylite Cellars 2005 Syrah and Alma Terra Minick Vineyards 2007 to see why I fell in love.

3. The debate between "guerrilla blogging" and wine writing is lively, informative, contentious, but above all good for the entire wine community.

4. Walla Walla has a very cool Main Street with some fun places to taste wine. The town did an amazing job hosting the 2010 Conference.

5. It would have been helpful to have some bread during the speed tasting events. My palate got a bit burned out from both of them.

6. Guys like Joe Roberts (@1WineDude), Steve Heimoff (@SteveHeimoff) , Hardy Wallace (DirtySouthWine), and Tom Wark (@tomcwark) have a voice, a damn good one. More so, they're approachable and friendly people. What a great community!

7. Shooting a guerilla tasting video with Dan and Chas of Wine Is Serious Business (@wineissrsbiz) was hilarious, easily made this list. They are just throwing content out there and their personalities make it worth watching, to say nothing of the wines they try.

8. House parties full of wine bloggers make me happy. Dance music + 30 open bottles on the table are the perfect recipe for a great night.

9. Your roommate (@thevinofile) may or may not remember you walking in at 2:30am, and may or may not (but probably won't) remember what you may have drunkenly mumbled to him about what you were up to.

10. I belong in the wine community and in the wine business.

Beau Carufel

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Part of the way to Walla Walla..Sitting in Pasco.

This is my first attempt at live blogging while I'm tasting wine, but you're more than welcome to call it a somewhat half-hearted attempt. As I write this, I'm sitting in the airport restaurant of Pasco, Washington. It's called Florentyna's and I like their view of the tarmac.

I decided to be safe with the food side of my meal and get a bacon cheeseburger. Hopefully I've also been a bit daring since I ordered a glass of 2007 Boomtown Syrah to go with said burger. Let's be honest here, I've been up since 5:15am and haven't had anything beyond three glasses of OJ. It was all I could do to not have a Bloody Mary while sitting at San Francisco International and watching Italy lose their World Cup match.


But as always we're drawn back to wine and that's the emphasis of my blog. The 2007 Boomtown smells big, but rather than being intense, it's lush. The ripeness reminds me of blueberry and blackberry preserves right out of the jar. Then doused in vanilla. And there's a bubbling pot of milk chocolate next to it. Some heat flits into your nostrils (grrr that word again!) but you have to dig deep to find it.

On the palate there's more of that ripeness, a lush, silky character washing across your palate. I'm also finding touches of pepper but hardly any tannin. Wait! There are those tannins, soft and silky! I nearly mistook them for the influence of oak. Don't worry, oak makes it's presence known too, manifesting as a toasty, vanilla flavor that seems to pop up everywhere in your mouth. I wonder how long this has been open? I'd ask, but I don't want to be rude.

Not much of a finish, everything just seems to shut down and that's it, you have to take another sip to get more flavors. Kind of disappointing actually, I was hoping for more especially given how nicely the various flavors mesh together. I'll say this, the wine is pretty well integrated, even if it doesn't linger for too long.

I did a quick google search and found the Boomtown retails for between $11 and $15. The Boomtown brand is a second label of Dusted Valley Vineyards, perhaps you could call it their more "value-oriented" wine. Still, for the price it's pretty tasty stuff. I'd give it a solid B and suggest you give it a shot if you see it on the shelf somewhere.

Beau Carufel

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Setting My Wine Bloggers Conference Agenda..No Easy Task!

Thursday morning I fly up to Pasco, Washington. Thursday afternoon I take a shuttle (bus) to Walla Walla, Washington. From that point until Sunday afternoon, my life will revolve around two things: wine and social media. Attending the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference is going to be the highlight of my year and as I've already said, something that is incredibly valuable to my dreams and aspirations.

Right now I'm staring at the Participant Packet that Allan Wright sent out to the attendees. The packet contains the schedule of activities, amongst other things. That's as far as I've gotten because trying to pick out which workshops and sessions to attend has turned out to be harder than I anticipated.

So far on Friday the 25th, I want to attend the "Wing Blogging 101" breakout session. The "Advanced Wine Blogging" sounds a bit beyond the scope of what I do here (for now at least). I'm definitely interested in the "Wine Blogging and the Wine Industry" session too though, so I may attend that. Of the three breakout sessions offered, it might be the most familiar because of my time in the industry. Tempting..Very tempting!

Beyond that, Friday is full of scheduled activities that I'm definitely planning on attending. The live blogging event, featuring white wines from all over Washington is going to be intense and stimulating. I'll be spitting for that one, but plan on having a glass or two at the pre-dinner reception and dinner. Both of those are hosted by St. Michelle Wine Estates, of which I'm a big fan.

Saturday the 26th is going to kick ass in a huge way. First we get to visit some local vineyards and wineries, then have lunch with those fine people, and in the afternoon there are four sessions I could attend. I'm leaning towards "Growing Your Audience From Other Bloggers to Consumers" and "What is the Future of Wine Writing" featuring two of my favorite bloggers, Steve Heimoff and Tom Wark. I envision the discussion getting quite lively.

Following the breakout sessions, another live blogging event featuring red wines then a pre-dinner reception and dinner both hosted by the Washington Wine Commission. While I do not know a lot about their activities, I'll be reading up on them tomorrow and Thursday to find out their mission and goals.

Oh and there's a really really exciting event on Saturday night. The Wines From Spain people are hosting a Rias Baixas fiesta featuring Albarino (a grape, not a band!). I LOVE LOVE LOVE Albarino, this is going to be awesome! Maybe they'll know how I can get a job working for a winery in Spain. Hmmmm....

Sunday promises to be very intersting, despite the almost certain hangovers most of us will be nursing. I'm excited to attend the "More Effective Writing in Your Blog" session followed by the "Top Gun Blogging" panel. It's going to be very educational for me, so long as I have a Rockstar before the first activity.

After surviving those two sessions, we'll be treated to a food and wine pairing seminar and lunch. At around half past noon, the Conference will officially come to a close and I suspect most people will be going on the Post Conference Excursion. Unfortunately I will not be going on that, rather, I'll probably be sleeping until the afternoon shuttle bus leaves for Pasco.

Sunday night will find me in Pasco with not much to do, so I'll take a little tour around town and enjoy the sights. I'll probably enjoy a light meal and a glass of wine. Yea that's surprising isn't it? Monday is going to be a very, very quiet day since my flight doesn't leave until the evening. I suspect I'll be at the airport trying to standby for an earlier flight to San Francisco then on to San Diego. That'll be a good time to catch up on my blogging and recap the events of the weekend.

That's my plan as of now, Tuesday evening. I'll write another bookend blog when I get back, seeing if I actually stuck to what I intend to do. After all this planning though, I'm mainly excited to meet people, bloggers, wine lovers, winemakers, PR Tweeps, and anyone else who will be there. That is what this event is about, people who love wine and love writing about wine. They're sharing something through their writing, you can't help but respect that. See you in Walla Walla!!

Beau Carufel

Friday, June 18, 2010

Prinz Riesling..Party like it's 2008!

Silly titles aside, it's high time I did another white wine on this slice of the blogosphere. This tasty gem is a 2008 Prinz Rheingau Trocken. What's that mean? Rheingau is the part of Germany that this wine comes from and the Trocken is a German word for "dry", indicating that this is a dry Riesling versus some of the sweeter examples.

There are in fact specific requirements for Rieslings to be labeled Trocken, a quick summary can be found here. As someone who has an admitted preference for dry white wines, I was more than happy to pick up the Prinz from San Diego Wine Company a few months back. All I needed was a reason to open it, but when that failed to come about, I figured that if I wanted a quick and easy blog entry, this would be the solution.

See the things I do for you, my awesome readers! That being said, I actually have a reason to open this wine and celebrate something: I bought my first pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses today! By far the most amount of money I've ever spent on a fashion accessory but do they ever look goooooood! Ladies, watch out.

After coming out of my wine refrigerator (set at 55 degrees) I opened and poured the wine immediately. Did I mention I was thirsty? No? Well, I was thirsty and it was a gorgeous warm day, why not open a cool, dry white wine?

Right away I was struck by some lovely aromatics, like perfume and fresh sliced apricots. Slices of lemon caressed a stone fruit and floral backbone making it difficult to keep writing notes on just the bouquet. Somewhere in there was that distinct kerosene/petrol note but it was rather elusive..Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

On the palate, the flavors screamed past like Mika Hakkinen used to do in Formula 1. A more distinct petrol note, lemon peel, barely unripe peach and apricots following perfumed flowers, all held together by superb acidity and balance. Hints of residual sugar on the finish, another nice touch.

Prinz made a straightforward, accessible, well balanced Riesling. For $12 you can't beat the QPR (quality-to-price ratio) and I can think of a few dishes that would bring out the best in this wine. For me, an easy A- and a BUY recommendation. If you have been hesitant to try Rieslings because you think they're all sweet, gross wines, do yourself a favor and grab this example by Prinz and see what the fuss is about.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rushing Around Like Mad

Apologies for the delay in updating! Things have been pretty hectic here in San Diego. Unfortunately I let a few things pile up and this week was devoted to taking care of them. Next week I leave for the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference up in Walla Walla. To say that I'm excited is an understatement, this is the culmination of the first stage of what I hope will be a writing career, one that involves plenty more wine and you enjoying my blog. Earlier this week those of us attending received the itinerary and it looks amazing. The speakers, presenters and winery lineup is going to be absolutely awesome.

If you are wondering what I've been drinking lately, I am almost ashamed to admit it hasn't been a lot of wine, or much of anything. That being said, I've had some delicious beers from Ballast Point, especially their Calico Amber Ale and Sculpin IPA. San Diego is the craft beer capital of the United States (sorry, Oregon) and the team at Ballast Point is a perfect example of why that is. Find out more about Ballast Point here.

So there you have it, a (hopefully) concise summary of why I haven't put up any wine reviews since that delicious Folie a Deux Zinfandel about two weeks ago. This brings up a question I've always wondered about, should I review every wine I taste? Or at the very least, the majority?

I'll be blogging a lot from the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I'll post pictures of all sorts of fun stuff. One thing I'm really excited about is the chance to interact with some people I've only previously "met" through Twitter and Facebook. Dan and Chas of Wine is Serious Business (check them out on facebook, well worth it) will be at the Conference and hopefully we'll get a chance to hang out and chat over some glasses of wine.

Anyways, thanks for reading, there'll be a few entries before I leave then a bunch during the Conference. It's going to be epic!

Beau Carufel

Friday, June 4, 2010

A folly? No, Folie! As in Folie a Deux Zin from Amador!

As the week wraps up, we who love wine get excited about the chance to drink the good stuff on the weekends. Counting myself as part of the "we" might not be accurate, since I am so incredibly lucky to work weekends. The consequences of not having a normal job.

All bitching and moaning aside, since summer is approaching that can only mean that for most of the United States, barbeque season is too. I say most because for those of us that live in places like San Diego, it's always barbeque season. Now that I've rubbed some of your faces in the fact that you cannot grill year round, let's get back on topic. Grilled foods have their own unique set of flavors and as such they beg for bolder wines. 

Here's where I start to deviate from the accepted norm. Bold wine does not have to be high in alcohol or so disturbingly fruity and jammy that you feel like you're eating preserves. What it can be is wine with a distinctive set of flavors of greater intensity than the background, or supporting flavors. Put more bluntly, the high alcohol, fruit bomb, overly extracted Zinfandel's and Syrah's (and Shiraz's too!) make me cringe. I think they flat out suck. I know that wines with those characteristics can get high scores and big press, good for them I say.

My little rant is over now, so let's talk about a refreshingly un-bombastic Zinfandel I had the other day. 

2007 Folie a Deux Amador County Zinfandel

Most people I've asked immediately conjure up the "Menage a Trois" that Folie a Deux makes. Having had it before, it's definitely not my style, but does please the masses as evidenced by it's continued sales success.

Therefore, when I was told to try this bottle, I admit to having reservations. Images of a giant, oak laden fruit bomb flashed in front of me. Would this be my kind of Zin? Did it have the pepper, spice and earthy qualities I love?

It did actually, what a delicious bottle! For $10, you get spices, blackberries, plums, bramble and mocha on the nose. The plummy, blackberry jam notes verged on being overly fruity but that terrific spice and crushed black pepper framed the wine's bouquet. It was like a restraining hand on the shoulder (of the bottle!!) saying "easy there guys, let's not get too crazy". 

Bearing in mind some of the prevailing styles of California Zinfandel from Amador County, I still think this was a medium bodied example. I tasted ripe, fleshy fruit contrasting with dark chocolate and spices. The tannins were silky smooth but had enough strength to provide the backbone this wine needed. There was heat on the finish, but only just so. That in itself was impressive, sometimes California Zins are ridiculously hot, ruining the taste. This Zinfandel clocks in at 14.5% according to the label, still a far cry from the 12-13% Zinfandel of years past but not too bad.

A fine effort from Folie a Deux, considering it was $10. Easily a B+ and a BUY recommendation from me. I have one more bottle and will be pairing it with a rib-eye and a barbeque'd potato recipe I want to try out. Hopefully I'll remember to bring the camera and take pictures of that whole endeavor.

Beau Carufel

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where in San Benito? I Don't Know, Good Thing Teague Vineyards Does!

Ok I do know where San Benito is, it's in California. I also know San Benito lies north of San Diego. Notice how I am narrowing things down? After a bit of time on Google, I've found San Benito County, directly east of Monterey County. We just learned something! (If you already knew where San Benito County was, you are ahead of the curve)

(img courtesy

After paying $10 for this heretofore unknown (to me) wine, why wouldn't I write about it? Teague Vineyards does their thing quietly and they do it well. I grabbed this wine from the usual suspects, let it sit for about a month then opened it and am now writing a blurb to (hopefully) delight and entertain you.

On the back of the label, 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot apparently mean "Cabernet Sauvignon" on the front of the label. In other words, a Bordeaux style blend but from San Benito, California. Somewhat impatient to taste Teague's offering, I couldn't wait more than an hour after opening to taste. In the glass, the color is dark ruby, absolutely gorgeous!

Spicy vanilla, like some kind of vanilla-nutmeg cookie, oak, ripe cherry and cassis all introduce themselves to your nose. I think the depth and complexity were not at all indicative of a $10 wine, maybe something more like $20-$25. One thing I'd like to note was that I really felt as if I could sense elements from the different grapes in this wine. That isn't to say it was disjointed in any way, rather, I felt that each element was adding something good to the bouquet. Usually I've found such a phenomenon in more expensive bottles of wine rather than something so relatively inexpensive

I tasted herbs, mocha, leather, hints of earth and blackberries. In the background was a lingering cassis/black cherry note, as if to remind me of the wonderful bouquet. Vanilla oak and some fine grained tannins indicated some time in American Oak barrels. You know when you get a wine that finishes with a gentle tapering off of the flavors, like one of those long, slow, sweet goodbyes? While that may sound like some ridiculous romantic-comedy ending, I'm being serious when I say how the finish was elegant and again echoed of a wine that cost much more.

After reading my glowing praise for the Teague Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, consider this: only 300 cases were made. The wine is a steal, worth an A and a very strong BUY recommendation from yours truly. If you see it at your favorite local shop, grab a couple of bottles and pair them with something fun like some roast beef sandwiches (seriously!) or a home made burger with all kinds of fun stuff packed into the patties.

Beau Carufel