Sunday, March 20, 2011

Myriad of Discoveries at Pasadena Tasting

Four hours, 200 wineries. Needless to say, there was enough juice at a recent Family Winemakers of California tasting to keep Vino Chick's head spinning like Linda Blair in an Exorcist-inspired frenzy.
The neat thing about this tasting, held at the Pasadena Convention Center, was that it allowed me to try wines from up-and-coming producers I had never encountered. Joined by fellow wine lovers Chris Kern ( and Cindy Juneau, we explored the offerings of Urban Legend Cellars, an East Bay Winery turning out hearty reds and elegant whites like their crisp, apple orchard-inspired Riesling.
Speaking of whites, one of those that really jumped out of the glass was the Thomas Fogarty Gewurztraminer..simply put, this honeyed, gorgeously spicy liquid will be my future bathtub wine of choice...whew!!
In my humble estimation, Chilean producer Alex Guarachi poured the most noteworthy Cab of the day, an '08 from his line of Guarachi Family Wines. Iconic Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs is responsible for this otherworldly bottling, full of ripe blueberries, pine and plush leather reading chair:

One Rhone blend from Paso Robles ended up on my 'head-turning' list. Flying Nymph is, quite simply, a fun wine. Creator Ted Plemons, owner of Cass Vineyards & Winery, is no less playful in his enthusiasm for "The Box."

All in all, a highly productive day...discovering new oenological treats for the palate is hard work, believe me...
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Johannes Restaurant: Getting Reintroduced to a Neighborhood Favorite

A recent feast I enjoyed at Johannes Restaurant in Palm Springs certainly wasn't my first experience at the popular downtown eatery, but it was definitely the most memorable to date.
Chef Johannes Bacher is known for his European flair in combining unique flavors that tantalize the palate, and this meal was no exception. I started my epicurean adventure with a heady wild mushroom soup touched with intoxicating white truffle oil, well matched with a minerally and delicately spicy Austrian Riesling. 
My dining partner enjoyed a fragrant escargot appetizer plated in an aromatic garlic and green herb butter, for which our server recommended a velvety smooth and tropical fruit-inspired Gruner Veltliner from Fred Loimer.
Next was an unbelievably tender, grass-fed New Zealand lamb rack served in a Dijon mustard sauce, which we paired with an '06 Burgess Napa Syrah, full of dark fruit and stunningly delicious in its richness. What a twosome!
I enjoyed a savory roasted duck breast with sauteed spinach and roasted Bosc pear in an orange Tarragon glaze, matching it with a juicy Oregon Pinot called Les Cousins by Beaux Freres. The slightly spicy fruit in the wine matched well with the tangy sauce, subduing the fibers in the duck meat like an experienced lion tamer.
Instead of ordering dessert wine, we opted to stick with one of the evening's favorites...the Burgess Syrah, which we sipped while indulging in a perfect trio of creme brulee, apple strudel and a winter bread pudding. Suffice it to say, there goes the neighborhood...if only every town could be so lucky.
Follow me on Twitter @vinochick75. For more information about Johannes Restaurant, call 760-778-0017 or go to:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Opa! Greek Fest a Delicious Overload for the Senses

It is my humble opinion that if you've never consumed cheese that has been dipped in brandy and lit on fire, you haven't lived.
I indulged in this decadent treat (called Saganaki) and more recently at the Greek Festival in Palm Desert. I am of Greek descent (Mom is half) and growing up, dishes like Souvlaki, Pastitsio, and Spanakopita and desserts like Baklava and Galotobourico always added excitement to the roster of delicious meals my Mom would whip up.
On this particular excursion, I discovered something entirely new and delightful: a dry white wine called Patraiki.
At once lemon-scented and a tad flinty, this wine is a true palate pleaser. I was enchanted by its crisp and clean flavors, and its smooth texture was the perfect match for the creamy and sharp tasting Saganaki.
Add a piping hot gyro to the mix and you have yourself the makings of a feast that would make Dionysus proud. Oh, and the Patraiki pairs well with Galotobourico too ;)
Follow me on Twitter @vinochick75.