Monday, April 18, 2005

There IS Such A Thing As Too Much Wine and Cheese

Isaac and I left San Francisco and headed north to wine country so we could do nothing other than consume some more.

Two words: wine and cheese. That's all we ate for practically a whole day. Wine and cheese tasting everywhere. Wine and cheese picnic. Evening wine and cheese reception at the hotel. Wine and cheese for dinner. We are now sick of wine and cheese.

Our stomachs are, I think, permanently jacked up from all that wine and cheese, but we still had loads of fun. My favorite winery to visit was (and has always been) the V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena. This place is busy, obviously a popular tourist attraction which would normally turn me off, but it still manages to maintain a family-owned feel. Their tasting staff is always really knowledgeable and friendly--no wine snobs here. We really bonded with our tasting guy this time. He asked us where we were from and when we answered LA, he asked us mistrustingly, "WHERE in LA???" Cowering, we're like "Um, Downtown LA?" "OK, that's REAL LA!" he answered. *Phew* Off the hook. He then continued to tell us (and everyone around us) that he was born in downtown LA and that he's had customers that were from like Palmdale and Rancho Cucamonga and such who say they're from LA and "God Dammit, that's not LA!" A little intense but we liked him. Best of all, you get to taste 8 different wines--3 whites, 1 rose, 2 reds and 2 desert wines--for free! You can't buy their wines in stores; you can buy them only at the winery or via the internet so what you get is a wine that's still affordable but higher quality since they produce in smaller batches.

V. Sattui's Busy Tasting Room

Mmmmm, cheese...

We picked up a bottle of their Gamay Rouge, which is, um, a rose. NO, I am NOT one of those White Zinfandel drinkers. I don't like those. You have to trust me on this one; this Gamay Rouge ("gamay" for the grape and "Rouge" for the color) is really fucking good. A perfect picnic wine, light with hints of berries yet having enough body to support heartier dishes like stews. Strolling into their adjacent deli and cheese shop, we sampled some cheeses and a really good duck liver and truffle pate, bought some cold cuts, cheese and a baguette and headed outside to have a little picnic lunch.

Our Picnic Lunch

April in Carneros was going on this weekend which would have been great if we had more time. You have to buy a $25 wine glass but supposedly it gets you into the events at a bunch of participating wineries in the Carneros area. We only had an hour and a half before closing time so we passed since we didn't think we'd get the best use out of a $25 glass. You do the math.

We hit a few more wineries on this trip such as the B.R. Cohn winery in Glen Ellen where we tasted some really good cabernets and pinots. It's also owned by the manager of the Doobie Brothers and produces some of the best olive oil we've ever tasted. We also visited Landmark Winery in Kenwood which, well, was just a great experience not only because of the wine tasting but because of this conversation I had with another customer, some little old lady...

Old Lady: What are you on right now? (She meant the wine, the syrah I had just tasted)
Me: What am I on right now? Heh heh, I wish I was on something right now!

She walked away.

Bee-YOO-tiful wine country views

B.R. Cohn Vineyards

Landmark Vineyards

Then of course, more wine and cheese wherever we went. Our hotel had a wine and cheese reception in the evening, gratis, so of course we had to get our money's worth.

More Wine & Cheese

After sucking down some cheap Zinfandel and a couple plates of cheese cubes and crackers, we walked 4 blocks (much needed) to dinner at Della Santina's, a romantic little Northern Italian trattoria just off Sonoma's historic plaza. We sat on the patio which looked straight out of Tuscany, terra cotta everywhere. To start, caesar salad that was, in my opinion, spiced with just the right amount of anchovies. For dinner, penne al funghi, penne with wild 'shrooms, for me--this was good but not great. The reduction sauce was pretty tasty but you could tell that some of the 'shrooms they used were dried, which is fine, but weren't soaked long enough. Isaac ordered the fish of the day, a grilled salmon that tasted alot better than it looked. Upon first glance, the thing looked dry but was actually really tender. It came with some really tasty garlicky spinach and potatoes on the side. And what's an Italian dinner guessed it! Wine and cheese! The house white, which was inexpensive but just fine for us, and a shitload of parmesan for our salads and my pasta.

Insalata Alla Cesare

Pesce Del Giorno...Today's Catch is Salmon!

Penne al Funghi

And as if all that wine and cheese wasn't enough, we had even more "whine and cheese" via some girl who sat at the table across from us and who wouldn't shut up. You know those girls who talk like they're 12 (but in actuality they're in their 20's or 30's), and who probably has really cute handwriting, drives a really cute car and likes to buy Hello Kitty stuff? Sorry, I'm not really that mean, but she bugged really bad.

The next day, on our drive home, we had to do a 180. Sulfites and dairy can do a number on your digestive system if not consumed in moderation. So, no wine, no cheese, please. Ooh, look! A pho restaurant!

In we went.

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