Friday, November 12, 2010

Baileyana Winery

Baileyana is without a doubt one of my most favorite wineries in San Luis Obispo. Actually, it probably is my top favorite. There is not a single wine I do not like and would not drink. I was in their wine club for about 2-3 years when I was in college at San Luis Obispo, and made frequent visits to the lovely winery, and fell in love with the cute pale yellow school house surrounded by vineyards. On weekends friends and I would go play bocce ball outside amongst the rolling vineyard hills, sip wine and catch up, and I would try to introduce the wonderful world of wine to my friends with the free tastings I got from being a member. There were also those priceless evenings when my roommate and I would go to the Baileyana pick up parties and taste their newest/wines for that month and sample some delcious food they recommended paired with it. Those were the days. I miss wine country so much! Nevertheless, Baileyana is growing and reaching out to other areas besides San Luis Obispo (thank goodness). I still visit frequently and drink their wine whereever I can find it! I recently attended a wine even in San Diego that featured their wine. Not only did I get to drink the precious wine but I also learned a lot about the winery, wine, wine making process, and business. Here are some quick/random facts about Baileyana Winery, know known as Niven Family Wine Estate.

Baileyana winery happens to be the first SLO wine I ever remember drinking and liking. Thanks to my freshman roommate who's sister bought us some white wine as a gift once, it soon turned into my favorite. Some facts about Baileyana:
- Founded by the Niven family, who also founded the Edna Valley
- located in San Luis Obispo, with a cool growing climate and uniquely enough, has an east- west growing pattern
- Much of the famous "7 sisters" volcanoes in the central coast add the volcanic/ limestone character to the grapes, making it a perfect area to produce chardonnay and pinot noir (my favorites!)
- The wine maker of Baileyana is from Europe (France I believe), and came to California to make good wines. He uses an old world style, incorporating less earthing taste, and also worked at Latetia Winery (in SLO area as well).
- Today Baileyana has changed names/ rebranded themselves to "Niven Family Wine Estates" because they now have 5 different brands:
       1. Baileyana~ Estate Wines from Firepeak Vineyard
       2. Zocker~ cool climate, California grunar veltliner
       3. Tangent~ pure falvor & varietal flavors intersect. Also all White Wines
       4. Trenza~ Spanish inspired New World blends
      5. Cadre~Tribute to South Central Coast Pinot Noir

"Old World Inspired.
Surpassing New World standards.
Sustainably Grown."

My favorites from Baileyana? Well, obviously their Chardonnays are outstanding. I have not found any wine similar to their buttery, creamy, stone fruit taste. Other than the Chardonnays, their Eccelstone is amazing. It's a sweet white blend that, in my opinion, is perfect to drink on a nice summer day and can be paired with almost everything (assuming you enjoy sweeter wine). Of course, I'm sure there are many who would disagree with that statement. I love it though, and I know my friends like it now that they know about the secret. If you ever get the chance, buy a bottle. You wont regret it.
Blending is every winemaker’s chance to experiment, and this wine is no exception to that rule. Ecclestone represents a careful mix of most of the tangent varietals (Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, AlbariƱo, Viognier, and Riesling). Each is chosen its individual characteristics, and for how it melded with the others as we built the final blend. Try it with spicy Thai and Mexican foods."

Christian Roguenant, Winemaker
As I've said, all the Niven Estate Wines are exceptional, especially all their whites. Their Viognier is a true find as well, thought seasonal and rare. They made a nice Riesling, not very sweet, but perfect for pairing with some sort of white fish, or relaxing on a hot sunny day. Go to the Baileyana and Niven Estate Winery, visit the local San Luis Obispo school house, and enjoy a few hours of tasting some of the best white wines on the central coast. They also have unique varieties of sparkling wines, which are only available during limited times. See the Tangent website for more details about their grand white selection. They bring words together better than I ever could. True to their words, their website is an accurate portrayal of their incredible wine making skills, description and all, no marketing hoax there. Go to Baileyana! Visit SLO county! Play Bocce Ball! Buy a bottle! Taste my favorite white wine!  I guarantee you will be impressed, and I wouldn't be surprised if you left as a wine club member!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Mission~ Outstanding Breaky & Mimosas?

This quaint eatery is where masses form early on weekend mornings, and I’m sure week days as well. Nestled between some surf and bathing suit shops in Mission Beach, about a mile down from Garnet in Pacific Beach, this place always has a crowd. I’m really not sure how it gets so busy or how everyone seems to know about this awesome. The food is incredible. Seriously. Nothing I have had, or seen, has looked anything beyond tasty. They are more notorious for their breakfast menu…probably catering to those hungover folk or family tourist who have nothing better to do on a Sunday than wait an hour to be seated. It’s well worth the wait though!

I’ve only been here twice, although, I wish I could go more! A majority of breakfast goers order a classic egg dish or one of their famous pancake dishes, or “clouds” as my friends call them. Their pancakes are huge. Picture a giant round plate with three layers of big fluffy pancakes. Yummmm. They offer all sorts of combinations as well- banana/blackberry, strawberry/granola, blueberry/cornmeal, strawberry/banana….etc. For a nice visual click here.

Their egg platters comes with perfectly crispy cooked potatoes, not too greasy or soft. You can also include food like chicken apple sausage, bacon, chorizo, brown rice, vegetables, tofu,….My favorite thing about The Mission is how they serve gluten free bread, and even have soy/healthy veggie options, like their “Zen Breakfast” Scrambled egg whites, braised tofu, brown rice, lightly grilled zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and squash. I’ve never found a place that offers gluten free bread, especially in a full restaurant. It’s impressing, and what’s more, is its GOOD. I crave their rosemary gluten free bread. YUM!

I’ve never had their lunch. I should try it sometime. In addition they offer a great little coffeebar with some to go muffins and other food items. They also have a crazy drink menu offering anything from coffee to blended drinks, mimosas, bloody marys, and even a green slushie thing. I would definitely recommend The Mission to any PB goer, SD local, tourist, or person in town. I’d advise to go on a weekday if possible, or expect a long wait on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s probably some of the best breakfast food I’ve had and definitely beats that typical breakfast burrito! And if you choose to pair you’re meal with some kind of beverage, I’d recommend a mimosa to go with your breaky and maybe help you recover from the night before!

The Mission, Located at: 3795 Mission Blvd

(858) 488-9060

Want more Opinions? Click here for Yelp!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Buck Chuck~ The True Charles Shaw History

"I love Charles Shaw. I'd never drink it, but it sure got a hell of a lot of people who would never buy a bottle of wine to go out and give it a try."

How many times have you heard people say they do not like the taste of wine and prefer another type of alcoholic beverage? Home many times have you witnesses people try wine, and learn to love it? How many times have you been wine tasting and suddenly realize there is more to wine that fits the eye? How many times in your life have you gone to Trader Joes and purchased a satisfying bottle of Charles Shaw? For me, too many times…..I love wine, that’s basically all I drink, & I’ve done a good job getting all my friends to enjoy it as well. In fact in college we would get cheap cases of wine to host our dinner parties with. It was excellent, & perfect for the college budget. So have you ever wondered why the wine is so cheap? And how this $2 bottle of wine is affordable, yet also decently tasty and good? More importantly, it’s more drinkable than other lower price brands under $1o. So, I’ve decided to investigate…
Apparently there are m
any urban legends and rumors about how the brand came to be. Friends have told me, and I’ve read, about how Charles Shaw wanted to devalue his winery because he was getting a divorce and all wine assets would be distributed to her. Wrong. Or according to, people believe its because airlines could no longer use corkscrews so airlines dumped all their stock. Really? Come on people. So the real story: One day in the 1980’s an ininess and venture to the East Coast. This was when Bronco began bottling it in it’s Napa facility. This is the same Bronco wine that includes forest Glen, Estrella, Montpellier, Grand Cru, Silver Ridge, Rutherford Vinters,…..and Franzia labeled his $2 wine Charles Shaw. Franzia began marketing the brand with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.
A good explanation about the positioning of Bronco- “Admittedly, this is a business model that is going to be difficult
vestment banker came to Napa CA in hopes of producing his Beaujolais wine under his own name. His name was Charles Shaw. His dream did not work out and soon his brand name was bought by Fred Franzia, owner of Bronco Wine Co (the 4th largest wine company) around 2001. In the years prior Charles Shaw Winery was producing Gamay Beaujolais grapes and operated for years in Napa Valley. Apparently, Chuck Shaw chose to leave the wine bust, if not impossible, for most others to duplicate. Bronco is in a unique position to sell an average quality wine for such a low price yet make a profit. The company is huge by industry standards and is vertically integrated. Bronco has access to vast inventories of inexpensive wine and there is currently an oversupply of cheap wine. Another factor is that it is legal for a California producer to sell directly to a retailer, bypassing the wholesaler. Bronco sells Charles Shaw directly to Trader Joe's…. Franzia has been involved in a long running legal tussle with the Napa Valley Vintners Association over the use of geographic brand names like "Napa Ridge," on bottles that don't contain Napa wine. Because Bronco's new plant "cellars and bottles" wines from throughout California in Napa, the labels reflect that. If any Napa vintners feel violated because Charles Shaw once lived in the Napa Valley, they shouldn't be. An average wine at this price point stands to bring in new wine drinkers.”
So basically, Fran
zia is able to still label the cheap wine with the prestigious “Napa” region. However, because the grapes are significantly cheaper from the central coast area, it can be sold to consumers for budget bargains, incomparable to most other Napa labels. Impressive? I think so….” The price reflects less on the quality and more on California's overabundance of grapes. With the dot-com boom in full effect in the 90s, vineyards were reaping the benefits and planting vine after vine. [The dot-com bust left the area] with little demand and a huge supply [of] good-quality [grapes]."
Whats more impressive than just the product of a cheap, decent
wine, is according to sources, Charles Shaw brand had no advertising or marketing when it first hit the markets. Within a year it was selling over a million bottles a month, and that’s only because of the perfect packaging, that hit the right target at a good time. Charles Shaw defies the basic marketing Lawson product, promotion, price, and place…..They developed a brilliant product that essentially is always in demand (who does like wine & drinking?), and was able to label it as the best on the market (Napa region), at the best price ($2), and sold it where normal everyday people could get access to it (grocery store). Pure brilliance. It doesn’t even compete with boxed wine because the packaging it more profound and elegant. It’s more dry, less watery, and taste like real expensive wine. Well it is real, just the grapes are cheaper, and it is claimed, (not sure if I believe it) that no residual sugar is added…which essentially means less of a hangover compared to other boxed/ cheap wines.

By 2003 Trader Joes was able to stab a piece of the cash cow- “Charles Shaw wines, sold exclusively through the Pasadena, California-based Trader Joe's chain, have been flying off the shelves at a bargain $1.99 per bottle. Trader Joe's is having a hard time keeping them in stock. The wine is an amazing value, so people are wheeling it out the door by the case.”
Harvey Posert, a long-time industry publicist who currently consults for Bronco, stated "two-buck Chuck" is likely to attract new wine consumers.

"People are going to buy this wine and serve it to people who have not been exposed to wine favorably and they will say, 'for $1.99 I can go and try wine.' If the average American can buy a bottle of wine for $1.99 and serve it to people and the quality is there, he's going to become a wine drinker. Wine doesn't have to cost a lot and it has this image.”
Today it is selling over 5 million cases per year, all through one chain of stores—Trader Joes.

Yes wine is expensive, and a very acquired taste. In college people made fun of me when I rolled up to a party holding a bottle of wine, or went downtown and ordered it at bars. Yes, I was that girl…However, once my friends and roommates actually tried the wine they began to enjoy it. It started with cheap boxed wine to get a good buzz, then slowly their palette changed and after much wine tasting in our college town, and a few dinners with some Charles Shaw, they too were hooked on wine….well maybe not as much as I am . Thank god for Charles Shaw….for opening the wine industry to all those newbies, competing with those higher price brands that taste like shit, & for changing the wine industry—for the better. And thank you Mr. Franzia for having the guts to try something new, the tenacity to pursue an idea, and the marketing skills to make this brand work.

Best quote & explanation about this brand---
"There's not a doubt in my mind that the two biggest things that have happened to the wine industry in the last 10 years are the movie Sideways and Two Buck Chuck," says Gary Vaynerchuk, who reviews wines on his popular video blog, "Has Two Buck Chuck hurt some $8 to $15 brands? Yes. But it's helped the industry overall by bringing in new people. What Franzia is doing, more than creating outrageous quality, is exposing a lot of mediocre people. There are so many fools in the wine industry who are overpriced. Look at Franciscan, Simi, Kendall Jackson. Those guys are jokers."

"A lot of people object to Fred because of jealousy, a lot of people object to him because of his business practice - which is, simply, if the law says I can do this, I'm going to do this to the fullest extent," says Michael Mondavi, founder of Folio Fine Wine Partners and a close friend of Franzia's who went to high school and Santa Clara University with him. And, Mondavi believes, they mostly hate him because his company scares the crap out of them: "When Fred built a bottling plant in Napa, everyone's great fear of the San Joaquin Valley invading Napa Valley mushroomed."

(I highly recommend this article about Franzia! Charles Shaw awards: At the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition, Shaw's 2002 Shiraz received the double gold medal, besting the roughly 2,300 other wines in the competition.[4] Shaw's 2005 California chardonnay was judged Best Chardonnay from California at the Commercial Wine Competition of the 2007 California Exposition and State Fair. The chardonnay received 98 points, a double gold, with accolades of Best of California and Best of Class.[5]

Costa Brava—Pacific Beach, Ca

"Bringing the culture & cuisine of Spain to Pacific Beach"

The Best Sangria!

This unique restaurant is nestled and hidden on Garnet, bringing Spain cuisine to the San Diego PB beach culture. Although I have never been to Spain, and am not up to date on their exact cuisine, I can tell you the food I did have was enjoyable. I’d never heard of this restaurant and when a guy suggested we got there for a date, I was a bit surprised. You don’t find many guys suggesting ethnic cuisine on a first real date…nor do you find many people wanting Spanish cuisines. Normally, Mexican food is what San Diego is all about. But I went with it.

We sat at the bar and chatted over some fine Spanish wine and Tapas. I was very surprised though because this restaurant has a very Spanish feel, even the menus were in Spanish! I could not even read the wine menu because all the wine are actually from Spain. I was impressed! It’s hard to find European wine in San Diego! However, although I am WSET certified, I do not know the regions of Spain well enough to identify the wines. (Guess I’ll have to study that this weekend.)However, the waiter was kind enough to explain which are made from what grapes. The ultimate choice came down to Gamay or Tempranillo…I went with tempranillo.

Our tapas were perfect for sharing and delicious, not your typical style of food! The Tapa menu was very long with hot and cold plates, all labeled in Spanish with a brief English translation under it. I’m not a huge meat eater so I was a little disappointed to see nearly every dish had some form of pork, steak, chicken, octopus, lamb, etc. Thought, the Chicken in garlic and wine sauce was suberb. I would defintley recommend it! My friend ordered a Spanish omelets which turned out to be amazing. We also had some bread & their most popular dish-jamon. It was fun trying new dishes and experimenting with a different culture. Makes me want to go travel to Spain now.

THE BEST THING ABOUT COSTA BRAVE--My data began bragging about how good the sangria was once other people around us were ordering it. He insisted we get a pitcher (obviously I had no objections). Let me tell you, this stuff was AMAZING. Hands down, the best Sangria I’ve ever had…I’ve made many batches of sangria myself, had it at bars and restaurants, but this was phenomenal. Made of wine, triple sec, sprite, apples & other fruits….I’m going to try to get the recipe right!

The ambience of the restaurant infused with so much Spanish culture is really what I enjoyed the most. The bar was decorated with unique liqueurs, decorations, tiles, Spanish things….Soccer was playing in the corner…& the waiters all spoke Spanish and looked the part. For those few hours I felt like I was out of America (& drinking the best Sangria ever). I would recommend this restaurant to people who enjoy Spanish food, want to try something new, seek culture, or just want some good Sangria, and maybe a Tapa or two. They are rumored to have live music on certain nights, which would be an added reason to go experience Costa Brava. AND, they even have a wine store near by where they sell their Spanish wine! After, I learn more about Spanish wines I know where I can find them :) (& some Tapas).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Avila Beerfest

Since I was turned 21 my junior year of college I had heard much gossip about the wonders of the Avila beerfest. I had never had much interest in it because I am not a big beer fan, and the thought of paying $75 to drink beer for a few hours didn’t sound too appealing. I was wrong. Over memorial weekend I had the privilege of returning to SLO town and photographing the Avila Beerfest. Yes, I was the official beerfest photographer. While the main reason I did it was to be reunited to my friends with a free ticket, and have something to do for the holiday weekend, it actually turned out to be heaps of fun. More fun than I had ever imagined…and I was sober!

Avila beerfest is not a beer drinking experience, like say, a wine fest would be. It’s not about trying all the beers, finding your favorite, and enjoying each taste. It’s different. I would say its more of an excuse to come back to your college roots and go nuts with everyone else that comes into town. It’s fantastic. I’d say virtually every alum I knew from college was there….ofcourse, it was so packed and crowded though, I failed in actually seeing all of them there. It’s no wonder these tickets sold out in 3 hours!

There was a grand variety of beer from breweries all over- firestone, Stone, IPA’s, you name it…I’m not beer connoisseur, but I’d say there was a very good mix of beer and virtually every varietal. My favorite part about Beerfest, besides seeing all my friends who graduated, was the music. Every band was exceptional. Special shout out to The Chiller Whales! Just imagine a perfectly hot sunny summer day, sipping on beers, and listening to reggae beets with your favorite people from college. Sounds amazing? It was. I wandered around, making friends with other volunteers pouring, taking photos of people dancing, falling over, tasting, and getting wild. Sooooooooooooooo fun! I forgot how much I loved photographing events! So next year, although I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, I hope I can once again return to the epic Avila beerfest; either as a photographer or maybe as a participant. The $75 ticket is not cheap; however the value in seeing old classmates, reuniting with friends, and having a seriously wonderful day in the sun, is priceless. You don’t go to beerfest to get drunk (well you do but-) you go to socialize, live, and experience a day with no worries, troubles, work, or drama….just sit back, enjoy the beer, enjoy the beats, and enjoy the memories.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fortified Wines-- Port & Sherry

Port & Sherry, both wine that you do not hear of often. What are they? Well a form of after dinner drink, not quite "dessert" wine, but some may consider it. SO fortified wines. What does that mean? Well according to the Spanish, where they began & the tradition port & sherry are, here are the facts...

Fortified= adding alcohol to stop fermentation, or adding after fermentation
(fermentation= The formula for the fermentations process is: sugar, added to yeast yields alcohol and carbon dioxide. The yeast, added to the grapes converts the natural sugars contained in the grapes (glucose and fructose) into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then released from the wine mixture into the air and the alcohol remains.)

So the difference?
Port= fortification during fermentation. Port can be very strong, fruity, and semi sweet...
Sherry= fortification after fermentation. Sherry is often bone dry [and gross]

More facts, that could bore you-
Types of Sherry: Fino, amontillado, oloroso, & sweetened sherries
There are 2 different ways to make Sherries: Fino vs. Oloroso. It is made my the Palomino grape, and if it is slightly sweet, the PX or Pedro Ximenez grape is used.

Types of Port: Ruby, LVB, vintage, tawny.....these all relate to aging, so ruby would be aged the least & is cheap, while LBV may be aged 3-6 years, and Vintage can be anything more, like 10-20+ years...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Burgundy & Chardonnay

Allow me to educate you on a little place called Burgundy. Burgundy is an area in Western Europe that is known for their Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. These just happen to be two of my favorite wine varietals.

In France, and other parts of Europe, they use a AOC method to label the quality of wines. Thus, a "grand cru" would be the Also, they dont just name any bottle "chardonnay" or whatever varietal the grapes are. Instead, they label their wines by village or vineyard. For example, in the map to the right you can see all the villages....Macon, buit st georges, chablis, chatillon...just to name a few... These all produce different wines. It is a bit odd, and confusing, but also it transcends a sense of orginiality into the wines and branding.

Chardonnay in Burgundy-- Most famous for Chablis, Cote de Beaune, Maconnais.
Something I learned that I thought was fascinating about Burgundy is that they use the "negociant system". After the French Revolution the land was all divided amongst commoners, thus creating fragmentation amongst the vineyards and causing over 100 different owners per vineyard. It was chaos. Thus, this system was implemented so others could buy grapes of eachother to help blend wines and make a better quality.

Main chardonnay regions of the world are also in California, South America: Argentina & Chile, NZ: Marlborough & Grisborne, Australia: Margeret River & Adelaide Hills, Hungary: produces cheap/bulk wine