Sipping a Cambria Moonstone Cellars Tempranillo

TalesoftheCork wine reviews

moonstone1Visitors planning a trip to Cambria, California, often stroll along the wooden boardwalk, go whale and elephant seal watching, visit Hearst Castle and dine at one of Moonstone’s beach-side restaurants.

But in downtown Cambria, a small boutique winery and wine shop should be on your list, besides window shopping. Pencil in Moonstone Cellars.

While we don’t get over to Cambria very often, a leisurely walk in the picturesque town and nearby ocean boardwalk, visitors will find boutique and antique shops, mom and pop cafes and restaurants and the local wine shop and winery: Moonstone Cellars.

Located in West Village on the corner of Main and Sheffield streets, Todd Clift and his dad, Muril, opened the family-owned winery and began producing wines since 1998. Todd proudly creates his wines made from Central Coast grapes.  Moonstone Cellars offers a wide variety of varietals. From a lighter style Grenache to a full bodied Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to a dry Riesling, there is bound to be something for everyone.

While I did not travel this week, I sat down to post with a glass of Moonstone Cellars 2009 Paso Robles Tempranillo beside me. The Spanish varietal and Central Coast grown was splendid. With notes of cherry, ripe plum, cracked pepper, spice and a rivulet of vanilla flowing through it, the medium bodied wine and tannins lingered.

moonstonetempranilloWhile I sipping the wine, purposely on #TempranilloDay, I soon wanted an afternoon snack to pair it with. The point of this is I did not plan this particular pairing or ‘event’ but rather just quickly looked what we had in the fridge. We had some Asiago, Manchego and a blue Camembert, olives, salami, grapes and pistachios in the pantry. I quickly put them on a black serving dish beside me and I continued writing.

While most of these appetizers went well with the Tempranillo, I hold and share a common wine lovers phase often: “Drink what you like.” For me these cheeses pair well with the terroir and flavors of the wine.

My point is simple: Take the time to explore the wineries in the places you visit and taste the wines they are pouring in the tasting rooms. And while you may not like all you try, purchase a bottle or three of the variety you like to take home. Then later at home, if you’ve kept the notes you were given or wrote down your own, open the bottle and imagine what food will go well with it. And if you need help, follow a blogger, Instagramer or Twitter feed of someone you trust and ask or email them. You might even follow this feed or keep TalesoftheCork a favorite on your device.

The Moonstone Cellars Tempranillo will also go very well with beef stew or a backyard BBQ. The wine will go very well with tacos, burritos, pizza, polenta dishes. Heck, I could have even served it with our lasagna the other night. Take the time to try wine with the foods you like. Some will go better than others.

It’s your table. You create the food. Own the right to serve what you like.

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Moonstone Cellars is moving from its location on Main Street. Go around their former location to a building just behind them on 812 Cornwall Street in Cambria (as pictured).

Moonstone Cellars can be found at 812 Cornwall Street in Cambria’s West Village. The staff welcomes walk-ins daily between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Walk right up to their U-shaped bar and ask Todd for a tasting, which cost $8 for 6 wine pours of varying varietals. Moonstone Cellars wines are also available online or call them at 805.927.9466 or 877.517.9463. Or just send them a note via their contact page. Moonstone Cellars also belongs to the Pacific Coast Wine Trail whose organization stretches from Morro Bay up to San Simeon.

Be sure to read the previous TalesoftheCork blog post: “Rigatoni à la Bordelaise with Bordeaux.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Rigatoni à la Bordelaise with Bordeaux

TalesoftheCork wine reviews

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After reading about the Chateau Haut-Sorillon Bordeaux Superieur online, I decided to try the 2014 version with a classic French dish.

While I often shop at Trader Joe’s for staples, I rarely purchase wine from them. However, after repeatedly hearing from a number of followers and seeing a few of their choices on blogs online, a bottle of Chateau Haut Sorillon Bordeaux Superieur 2014 ended up on our table last night.

A Trader Joe’s find at $8.95, the Chateau Haut Sorillon Bordeaux Supérieur 2014 medium bodied dry Bordeaux is not a special occasion or weekend wine per se, but it seemed to fit what I was looking for as Geena and I were preparing a French inspired dinner: Rigatoni à la Bordelaise with mushrooms.

While the wine is not as rich and lush as a classic Bordeaux, my intent was to pair our Rigatoni with a wine that might match up with an “everyday dish” that folks could make without a lot of pretense. And, for the most part, this value wine fits the bill.

Now, I’m not saying I’d skip on the opportunity for a higher value Merlot, but for the simple, earthy one pan meal, we enjoyed the Chateau Haut Sorillon Bordeaux Supérieur 2014.

However, here’s a TalesoftheCork tip: Definitely open your bottle hours in advance as the wine will be tight and needs to open up. We gave it three hours but as the evening went on, the Merlot blend got smoother and allowed the dark fruit flavors to advance. Patience helps. Open early. I might even try the night before next time.

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Rigatoni à la Bordelaise and mushrooms.

The light style 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet blend is from a family estate 5 km from St. Emilion, France, will show its fresh dark fruit, pepper and spices and a dry finish, highlighting a good but thin blackberry and smoky finish. It is a value buy but went well with our Tuesday Rigatoni à la Bordelaise and mushrooms.

While we looked up a few recipes, Geena and I created our own version of the dish based on the  Manger site recipe by Mimi Thorisson.

Heat 2 table spoons of olive oil add cook one finely chopped leek and 3 cloves of minced garlic in a hot pan. Cook 3 minutes or until golden.

In a separate pan fry the pancetta and/or thickly sliced bacon to crisp them until brown.  Then add a tablespoon of flour to the leeks, garlic and the bacon bits to help thicken.

Add tomato passata (ready cut plain diced tomatoes) to the leeks, garlic and bacon mixture. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Later we added 1/3 cup chicken broth and 3/4 cup red wine (the Chateau Haut-Sorillon Bordeaux) along with butter, pepper, salt and a pinch of Chipotle chili pepper to create a saucy soup-like mixture. But it is important to reduce the mixture over medium to low heat up and simmer for 30 minutes so it is lush but not runny.

Many will fry or cook the mushrooms (we used dried porcini and shiitake mushrooms) in a separate hot pan with butter and garlic to sear and cook those earthy items until golden and add to the other mixture.

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The earthy flavors of the Rigatoni à la Bordelaise with mushrooms pairs well with the Chateau Haut Sorillon.

As the mixture is reducing, boil your water and cook the rigatoni. While you are waiting, you might start your meal with a garden salad. Dry the rigatoni and dish the mixture over the pasta, stirring the sauce in. Sprinkle with Parmesan, fresh parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

With a long decant the Chateau Haut Sorillon Bordeaux Superior 2014 wine will pair well with chicken and meat dishes as well as cheese and charcuterie plates. This is a good party wine with finger foods as well. A Trader Joe’s value wine from $7-9.

Be sure to read the previous TalesoftheCork blog post: Simple Caprese lunch with Emmolo SauvBlanc. And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Grocery list for Rigatoni à la Bordelaise with mushrooms:

1 pound of rigatoni pasta
7 slices of thick bacon or pancetta (diced)
8 ounces of porcini mushrooms,
8 ounces of shiitake mushrooms
2 leeks (finely chopped)
4 garlic cloves (finely minced, 2 for the sauce, 2 for the mushrooms)
1 15-ounce can of ready cut plain diced tomatoes
3/4 cup red wine (I used the Chateau Haut Sorillon Bordeaux Superior 2014)
14 ounce can of chicken broth
1 tbsp plain flour
Olive oil (for frying)
1 tbsp butter (for mushrooms)
1 tbsp butter (for pasta)
Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
1 pinch chilli powder
Grated parmesan cheese (for topping)
Parsley to garnish

 

Hot outside? Love me some Passaggio Rosé

When I first met winemaker Cynthia Cosco a couple of years ago in San Francisco, I immediately felt she was someone I wanted to follow. Her affiliation with DogPatch Wine Works in San Francisco, an urban wine group, helped cement my affiliation.

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While I live in the Central Valley, I can still get out to visit Sonoma County wineries a few times a year. Passaggio winemaker and owner Cynthia Cosco met me at her Sonoma Square tasting room a few months ago.

While I sometimes feel a loss for not accomplishing my dreams yet, I am inspired by those who have risked much for a dream in pursuit of their passion. Yesterday, as I sat in my pool, sipping the last of my 2014 Passaggio Wine Tempranillo Rose, my thoughts turned to Cynthia.

Cynthia’s story and Passaggio Wines are now a well-known commodity to Sonoma winophiles (Video). After a 15-year career in law enforcement, she sought to reconnect to her Italian family tradition of winemakers and pursued the passion in 2004 at BevMo of all places.

By 2007 she was making her own wine while working for CrushPad in Napa and later in Sonoma while becoming their lead winemaker in 2011. She introduced her brand in 2012 and now has a tasting room in the Sonoma Square.

Cynthia’s participation in community events, promotion of other winemakers via twitter chats and her encouraging demeanor is infectious. And while I continue to reinvent myself, a transition from full-time journalism teacher to social media and reputation management specialist to a passion for food and wine, I am inspired by people like Cynthia who dream and day-by-day step out, risk and pursue a a vision.

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While I finished my 2014 Passaggio Tempranillo Rose, their tasting room as both the 2015 version as well as one created from Merlot. Both are excellent pool and food wines.

So while I sip Passaggio 2014 Tempranillo, the wild strawberry, watermelon, raspberry and dry savory notes linger. It’s crisp flavors are great alone or with a poolside food bite. But that is old news. The 2015 version is for sale with slightly different flavors as vineyard, weather and winemaker all adjust character, combined with past experiences and focus.

Heck, I understand the 2015 Passaggio Merlot Rose is delicious. While I missed the #WineStudio Sonoma Rosé Revolution Twitter chat on June 7 while I was in Italy, I know I missed good conversation. I need to stop into her tasting room and try a bottle and reconnect with Cynthia.

And if you get to Sonoma Square before I do, please tell her and tasting room manager Frank, I said hi.

Passaggio Wines is open every day of the week. They can be found in the Sonoma Square. Their tasting room is at 25 East Napa St, Suite C, Sonoma, CA 95476. Phone: (707) 934-8941 and email: info@passaggiowines.com. They are open Monday-Thursday, noon- 6 p.m., Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

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If you missed my last post, check out the August 16, 2015, post, Beat the heat with cool Gazpacho, Medlock Ames Rosé. After 10 months of darkness, TalesoftheCork is ready to resume regular postings. Please check back and repost.

And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Grilled salmon, peaches and Cardwell Hill Pinot

With just a little forethought, tonight’s dinner is easily accomplished. Geena and I are getting back to meal planning on Sundays and with a grocery, meat and fish list, great meals are really only 30 minutes of prep time.

Grilled salmon and peaches is quick. Just brush both with olive oil. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.
Grilled salmon and peaches is a 30-minute prep meal. Begin by brushing both with olive oil and let them come to room temperature. Add Grand Marnier and some Allspice to the peaches for added flavor.

Plan to stop and pick up salmon on the way home from work. You will also need two peaches, quinoa, mint, a couple of carrots, celery, cucumber, asparagus and plain yogurt.

Dinner tonight: Grilled spiced salmon with homemade raita dressing, quinoa, roasted asparagus with Romano cheese and grilled peaches.

The trick to great salmon is brushing it with olive oil, adding cracked pepper and a touch of salt. Lightly drip olive oil over the peaches, add Allspice and drizzle (the secret ingredient) Grand Marnier before grilling.

The salmon takes about 8 minutes while the peaches about 6 minutes. It is a good idea to sear both but then grill them off the heat and bake them, allowing the wood and briquets to fill the BBQ with its great smokey flavors.

Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Salmon most often will call for a Pinot Noir. Tonight we choose a Cardwell Hill Cellars Pinot from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

A great, healthy addition to this meal is quinoa. We added chopped celery and carrots to the quinoa at the very end to add a crunch and to ensure they stay crispy. The sauce or dressing on the grilled salmon is a homemade raita dressing. The cucumber dressing is a favorite in India and is built on a plain yogurt base. Add garlic, shredded cucumber, mint, cracked pepper and a teaspoon of salt.

It is a good idea to refrigerate this mixture for an hour before adding to the grilled salmon. The raita is a great topping as its crisp acidity adds interest to the rich flavor of the salmon. This works well with the spice and smokey char of the grilled fish.

This one dish meal is perfect with a Pinot Noir. We chose Cardwell Hill Cellars 2008 Reserve Estate Willamette Valley in Oregon. Contrary to what others have said online, this Pinot is a winner. I imagine it just needed more time in the bottle to “grow up.” This is a three-clone French-style Pinot Noir: Silky smooth, dark bing cherry earthiness and spice with vanilla and caramel notes. So pretty, light and clean. This can easily be enjoyed by itself or with grilled fish, roast chicken and pork chops. Loved it!

If you missed my last post, check out the August 4, 2015 post, Grilled shrimp appetizers and Cooper Rose.

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. Please take the time to find me on Facebook as well at Facebook/TalesoftheCork. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.

Tuscan tasting: Castello di Amorosa Melanson Vineyard Cabernet

TalesoftheCork Wine Reviews

2010 Castello di Amorosa Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

I had the pleasure of tasting a first production wine just bottled during my visit. The 2010 six-barrel production of Castello di Amorosa Pritchard Hill Melanson Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is an aromatic dream. It’s classic barnyard, earthiness and plum overtones are a true connection to the terroir of the next expected Napa AVA.

 

This is shaping up to be a classic Left Bank Bordeaux. Already the lush velvety juice lingered long and the aroma seemed to fill the room after I swished the dark wine in the goblet. While the Melanson cab obviously still needs time to mature, this is going to be a collector’s AND drinker’s dream bottle of red in years to come. There is a six bottle minimum purchase at $125/bottle with a maximum of two cases.

http://www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/Web-2012/Pinning-Down-Pritchard-Hill/

Be sure to return check out my Twitter @TalesoftheCork and on my Instagram (talesofthecork) daily postings. I also would covet those who would suggest a wine, restaurant, chef or hotel to visit. Feel free to contact me through social media or via email at talesofthecork@gmail.com.