Two More Wines from Monterey

Getting our latest delivery from A Taste of Monterey has made me nostalgic for another trip to that part of the world.  Carmel-by-the-Sea is God’s world as the old expression went.  I guess wine and great moments just go hand in hand for us.  As always there was a pamphlet describing the wines we were receiving, as well as write-up about Gouda cheese and a recipe for a Cheese Fondue dish.  There was also a featured article on Hot Wine or mulled wines, talking about the Gluhwein popular in Germany, Austria and Alsace, the glogg from Scandinavia, the vin chaud from France, the versions found in Southeast Europe, the style made in Portugal and the drink known as Caribou that is found in Quebec, Canada that is flavored with Maple syrup.

The second wine of the shipment was Mission Trails Vineyards Friars’ Reserve Chardonnay 2017 from the Arroyo Seco AVA.  Here is a wine that has been babied and treated special from day one and made from two different Dijon Clones.  The wine was aged in French Oak of which forty percent was new.  The Arroyo Seco is where mountainside soils and cool breezes from the Monterey Bay have made this area special for the growing of Chardonnay.  This particular wine is said to feature citrus and jasmine, offering a creamy mid-palate and a lingering finish.  There was a production of one-hundred-fifty cases mad of this wine and the aging potential is for five to six years.

The third and last bottle from A Taste of Monterey is from a winery that we have received wine from several times without a disappointment.  Wrath Estate Winery is located in Soledad and produce three series of wines, all with small production in Monterey; there is the EX series, the Winemaker Series and the Single Vineyard Series.  The newest wine we received is the Wrath Wines Destruction Level Monterey 2015 from their Winemaker Series.  Here is a wine that is a blend of fifty percent Syrah from the San Saba Vineyard and fifty percent Grenache from the Alto Loma Vineyard.  The wine was aged in French Oak, but only twenty-two percent new to maintain as much of the fruit dominance as possible.  The wine is described as very inky and intense, with dark fruits and earth and a long, lively finish.  There were ninety-seven cases produced of this wine with an aging potential of eight to ten years.  According to the winery wine site, this wine is already sold out, so I may as well just hold it for the right meal to come around.

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My First Zin from Monterey

There is always some genuine excitement when the delivery person has me sign for my package from A Taste of Monterey.  It was our first wine club and the only one for ages and always a delight.  We just kind of haphazardly discovered them when we were wandering around the Cannery Row district of Monterey, California.  To be quite candid we were there to dine at the legendary The Sardine Factory and the appetizer that we shared will be forever etched in our memory, as well as a tour that we received of this great place.  Since we were there, we were just like all of the other tourist and wandered around.  We walked into an art gallery, with no intention of buying and left knowing that our living room will forever be that much classier for purchasing a Hirschfeld registered piece of Nick and Nora Charles and Asta (some of you may know as William Powell, Myrna Loy and Asta).  We also found a tasting room for a winery that we also bought wine from, and then we found A Taste of Monterey and their wine shop et al.

All I know is that we have been getting deliveries every quarter for at least twenty years, and when we signed up, we were ecstatic that they could ship to us, because we were considered a felony state and a social pariah, until the great case of Granholm vs. Heald and Granholm lost and Michiganders could get wine delivered to their doorstep.  When we joined, they were offering two different wine clubs, one that had two bottles delivered monthly or three bottles delivered quarterly.  The difference being that the quarterly shipment was of their better wine offerings and the monthly was more popular priced.  We figured that it was best to get their best wines that probably would never get to Michigan anyways, because of the archaic three-tiered system that has been in place with the wine distributors since Prohibition ended, and we have been happy ever since.

The first bottle that I grabbed out of the shipping carton was Mesa Del Sol Monterey County Zinfandel 2013.  I mean this was the first Zinfandel wine that we had received in the twenty some years of delivery, mostly it has been Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Rhone type wines.  Mesa Del Sol has been a favorite destination for travelers and some of the buildings on the estate go back to the 1800’s.  Costa Del Sol is in the Arroyo Seco Highlands and the hot dry air was considered a haven for tuberculosis patients and even Teddy Roosevelt had stayed there.  I went to the website for the winery and resort and I found another Zinfandel from Arroyo Seco, but not this Monterey County wine, yet both carry the same vintage.  This wine is made for the resort by Chualar Canyon Winery in Salinas, California.  I could find no production notes on this wine, but the notes accompanying the wines states it is a well-balanced wine with leather and blackberries on the nose, with overtones of currant, pepper and lavender with a long, smooth finish, and anyone that knows me, knows that is not how I describe wines.  The wine had a production of two-hundred cases, and the wine is suggested to be drunk now or it has the aging potential of ten to fifteen years.  It will be an interesting wine to try.

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Hyde Park in Northville

Ms. Yoga was totally happy that we were trying a steakhouse that she had been to in Florida and had a chance to introduce us to it, in our own backyard.  Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse is actually in Northville Township to be exact, but I am sure that it will be listed as Northville.  It was so surprising that it had opened, and I had not heard or read about the new location, but then I am not much of a shopper.  The renovation of the restaurant from a pasta chain to a steakhouse chain, was, I can bet a complete remodel.  It had that swanky elegance that would belie that the building ever contained anything but Hyde Park.

We ended up meeting the manager of the location, plus the training manager who was still on-site, since they had only opened five days earlier.  The training manager also took us on a tour of the facility, including some private rooms that were not apparent, if one wasn’t looking for them.  As I said earlier, we had ordered food from all three of the menus (bar, dinner and dinner specials).   There was a Lump Crab Wedge Salad with Iceberg lettuce, bacon, Lump Crab and a Creamy House Vinaigrette.  There were a couple orders of the Lobster Bisque with Sherry, and some Lobster that was either poached or drenched in hot butter, just before being place in the soup.  There was also a couple of orders of the Filet Mignons with Bearnaise Sauce with Garlic Whipped Potatoes and Sautéed Spinach.  Once again, we left with out dessert, but we did have some “doggie bags.”

Finally, for our main wine for the evening we had Quilt Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 from Napa Valley.  I had never heard of the wine, but it turns out that it is another “brand” from Joseph Wagner who produces Caymus, plus several other wines.  I guess the name evoked a patchwork quilt, because the blended wine was all from vineyards only in Napa Valley.  The vineyards were located in Oakville, St Helena, Atlas Peak, Coombsville, Calistoga and Howell Mountain.  It was really a nicely made wine, and I would wager that it was made with one eye on being included on the carte at steakhouses across the country, it was a steak wine.  Ms. Yoga, being her charming and “low key” young lady that she is, went on raving to the training manager about how she just loved the Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve 2016 with a California AVA.  That poor manager went searching high and low, until he found where this particular wine was being stored and brought a bottle over for us.  I didn’t get a chance to see if the winery was listed on the back label, but it was a charming wine.  I know that we will be going back there after the holidays.

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Some Wines to Get Dinner Going

While Ms. Yoga was in town, we were going to go try a new restaurant in Downtown Detroit.  Ms. Yoga and my Bride were going to watch football at the stadium.  Now you have to understand that at some unknown and identified part of the brain, people, especially those that were born in Detroit have this compulsion to root for the home teams, good years or bad.  It is just expected somehow, just like when you are driving on a six-lane surface road in the City of Detroit, and you are at a red light, you just know that the odds are that some joker in the extreme left lane is going to make a right-hand turn in front of two other lanes of traffic.  To explain this compulsion is impossible, but we share season tickets on the Fifty-yard Line on the Visitor’s side about Row J, I mean these are probably some of the finest tickets out there and the lineage of these seats go back to when the Detroit Lions actually won games and two stadiums prior, when the Tigers and the Lions actually used the same stadium, which is probably not allowed except in High Schools and Universities.  Originally, I was going to drive them down, and then meet them later after the game at this new restaurant and they were going to use one of the questionable but grandiose trams or trolley-cars that both have very limited scopes of travel, but cause for excitement in the Fiefdom of Detroit.


The women drove together downtown and were going to drive back to meet me at another new restaurant, basically in my backdoor and I had no idea it was there, until we were driving about three miles from Casa Raconteur and there in a strip center where a mundane “Italian” restaurant chain used to be, had been converted to a steakhouse.  The restaurant that had been there, I had never eaten at, because it is what I call when I am being snobby about food “an Italian restaurant for Americans,” meaning that it was for the masses, so there would be no nuance or culinary craftmanship; and I love Italian cuisine.  To give you an idea how new the restaurant was, they had only been open five days and the training manager who assists in opening new locations was still there working with the management and the staff.    Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse is a steakhouse chain from the Cleveland area and it was totally upscale from the menus and to the wine list.  You know that I would have to study all of the pertinent paperwork, and I still feel sorry for our poor waitress who never anticipated a night with Ms. Yoga, the Bride and a Raconteur.  We were sitting in the bar section of the restaurant, because the ladies were still dressed in stadium attire, but it was fine, as we usually always sit the bar or tavern area of a restaurant anyways.  Hyde Park had three menus that we were ordering from, and that is why I have compassion for our waitress, because there was a bar menu, a restaurant menu and a special menu; and all three were used that evening and that is with out looking at the dessert menu, because we were stuffed by then.

As best as I can tell they currently have fourteen restaurants in three states, but the two in Michigan were not in place for the current issue of the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards list, but the other twelve have all attained the Award of Excellence, and I am sure that the two new restaurants will join their brethren next year.   They have an excellent wine list, and I would say that it favors California and Italy the most, and to be truthful, if I were setting up a wine carte for a steakhouse, I would probably do the same thing.  The restaurant also takes full advantage of the Coravin System, so for a mere eighty dollars one can have a glass of Opus One with dinner.  We were not that extravagant that evening, but we started off quite well, because the wines were evaporating right in front of us.  We had Cave de Lugny La Cote Blanche Chardonnay Macon-Villages 2016.  Macon-Villages is an appellation for dry white wines made from Chardonnay and is a step up from the basic Macon.  This is a mechanically harvested and Stainless-Steel aged wine and it was just easy drinking, especially for the sports fans.  There was also Chateau Minuty “M de Minuty” Cote de Provence 2017.  Cote de Provence is actually the largest appellation of the Provence, though it sounds like it should be a smaller appellation.  Chateau Minuty is one of the Cru Classés of Provence in 1955, but the classification never received the esteem as some of the other classifications.  The wine is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah and when Chateau Minuty updated the grounds and facilities, each individual vineyard block has its own designated tank, so I would surmise that none of the wines are aged that long.   This was also an easy drinking and enjoyable wine and I will discuss more wines of the evening and the menu the next time we meet.

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Ms. Yoga is So Popular

While we were taking care of Ms. Yoga at the Casa Raconteur, her family was making preparations for a party while she was in town.  We are used to having to share her with the world, as she tends to be that grandiose.  We figured out that we were going to have a quiet night, while she was being feted by her family, but that was not the case.  We were invited as well, I mean it is not like we are strangers to her family, especially my Bride who has known her parents, her siblings and the rest of her family for ages, and as for me, they just realize that I tag along with my Bride.

The party was held at the “compound” as one of her niece’s refers to her house, she made it sound like the complex that Don Vito Corleone lived in, in New York, or the one Michael Corleone resided in at Reno, not that elaborate, but very fancy.  It was the type of dinner party that I can relate to, as it is how we do it, with all of the food spread out on the island in the kitchen and you go and make your plate according to your own desires.  One of the main choices was a spiral cut ham on the bone, which at the end of the party and they were offering “doggie bags” we opted to take the bone home, but the bone had already been called, as I guess other people like to make soups as well.  I was just happy to make some fresh sandwiches.  My Bride and Ms. Yoga were both in their element, as they could both just nosh on appetizers.

We took some wine to the soiree and I know that you are so surprised, but there were some interesting wines there as well.  Since the wines that we took to the party were wines that I have talked about in the past, and I will discuss a couple of bottles that were waiting there for us.  The first wine, is one that I have encountered now and then from the Michael Mondavi Family group and it was their Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County 2016.  I guess that either I have been asleep or this is the first time I had seen the Napa County AVA as opposed to Napa Valley AVA.  I guess with all of the sub-regions in Napa Valley, it is only to be expected that the valley would be swallowed up by a little larger land group.  The fruit is listed from five different areas; Oakville, Oak Knoll, Yountville, Chiles Valley and Capell Valley.  The wine is listed as being ninety-four percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the other six percent are described as “a kiss of Syrah and a dash of Merlot,” and I like that listing.  The juice had extended maceration in Stainless Steel and then spent fourteen-month aging in French Oak, of which forty-five percent was new.   I will tell you that it was a fine example of a Cabernet Sauvignon, it was not stellar, but then again it was not wimpy and it is affordable, so I would say that it is good bang for your buck.  The other wine among the many that were there really caught my attention and since I was one of the people that ended up opening the wine bottles, I looked forward to this one.  It was a bottle of Vinum Cellars “The Scrapper” Cabernet Franc 2015 and featured a pugilist on the label.  Vinum Cellars is located in Oakville and it was founded by two friends who financed the original endeavor with their credit cards.  They pride themselves on making varietal wines from single vineyards and this wine was a Cabernet Franc from El Dorado County which is part of the Sierra Foothills.  The wine was aged for twenty-six months in used French Oak barrels and was a nice heady 14-15% Proof.  This was an enjoyable wine that I found to be rather silky, with a fine nose and some black cherry and some vanilla in the mix.  If I had any complaints about this wine, is that I think it was probably opened up, maybe ten years too early.  A grand time was enjoyed by all.

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Duckhorn Vineyards Duckhorn

Ms. Yoga made her appearance and it brought moments of youth in a couple of ways.  The logistics of her trips here are anything but prosaic and I think even her slate of appointments are constantly changing.  For me, it was one of the shortest times, but she did get a lot more time with my Bride and that is good, since they go back long before I got into the picture.  She flew in and we met for a quick lunch and then they both had to go back to work, so I was the only one to have a glass of wine, and I know that was terrible of me, but I was off that day.

One of the highlights is that I have a photo of maybe a true rarity among wine lovers.  We were all at Duckhorn Vineyards together years ago and through a customer of mine, we landed a private tour of the estate during harvest time.  Duckhorn was so new, that the tasting room facilities were not totally functional and we actually did our tasting sitting on cases of wine in the back of a semi-trailer, and one of the Duckhorn sons was actually opening up the cases, then opening up bottles and pouring wine, not tastings, I might add.  It was one of our best memories in Napa.  I mean we left with plenty of Merlot, and yes, I am always touting Merlot, even during the dark years of Sideways.  We left with Three Palm Vineyards and Howell Mountain Merlot bottles like they were going out of style.  It was Ms. Yoga, or I should say her son, that got the real rarity.  I mean Ms. Yoga was traveling with her family and an au pair; and her son was a perfect gentleman in a venue that was not truly children-oriented and he was given a genuine Duckhorn Vineyards Duckhorn, not that we went hunting afterwards.

That gift was given so long ago that her son has now attained the age of majority and has been known to partake in a bottle of wine with his date.  So, can we sing “It’s a small world after all” and I will let that song and refrain permeate in your brain for a day or two, as I know it will in mine.  Why do I mention that song?  After we parted after lunch Ms. Yoga went on some business calls and even met some clients for some refreshments, and when she showed up at our house, she brought a bottle of wine to share with us, as if we don’t have any wine here.  Just stick with me, and maybe it will make sense, beyond my thoughts.  We were drinking a bottle of Frank Family Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015.  The estate was originally Larkmead Winery in 1884, and later it became Kornell Champagne Cellars.  The tasting room is an old stone edifice that is listed as a point of historical interest in the State of California.  In 1992 it was bought by Rich Frank, the former president of Walt Disney Studios.  This is an estate grown wine with fruit from their two vineyards and the while the wine is eighty-six percent Cabernet, it is rounded out with some Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.  The wine has been aged for twenty months in French Oak of which a third was new and yes it was delicious.  While the wine had a great nose, an awesome taste and a nice long finish, I think it even gained more points, just because of the company that we were tasting it with.  It is not too often that I can write a wine article that has a juvenile theme running through it.

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Cabernet Franc Day and Old Woodward Cellar

I realize that my title is rather unique, but these two themes kind of meshed together at the same time and I would be remiss to mention one and not the other.  I must mention that Cabernet Franc Day is a relatively new wine day to celebrate, and not because it is a new wine.  It is just the opposite and it has been determined that Cabernet Franc is one of the parents to Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is Cabernet Sauvignon that gets most of the glory and attention, but not everywhere in the world.  Lori and Michael of Dracaena Wines in Paso Robles, California were one of the initial flagbearers to get this name day off and running.  The closest that I have gotten to them so far, is through correspondence and purchasing some of their stellar wine and having it shipped to My Favorite Daughter’s house in Las Vegas, as not everyone wants to deal with Michigan, even though Granholm vs. Heald supposedly made Michigan a non-felony state for wine shipments, Granholm still seems to lurk in the shadows where she should stay.  Cabernet Franc is a wine that I was crazy about, even before I knew that I should be, because some of the greatest wines that I ever enjoyed were made from this grape.  I know it sounds silly, but those that started in the Dark Ages enjoying wine, especially French wine bought and drank wine by the region and the grapes took a back seat to the area like St. Emilion and Saumur-Champigny.

Old Woodward Cellar is in Birmingham, one of the charming suburban cities in the Detroit area that are impossible to get to their downtown areas, because they are not directly off a freeway interchange.  I first discovered the wine shop, because they discovered me on Instagram, I say they discovered me, because I will not ask anyone to follow me on that site, and I know that sounds crazy, but I am not one to chase numbers.  The name Old Woodward refers to this one quirky stretch of a road in Birmingham that is part of the old initial Woodward Avenue that ran straight up from Downtown Detroit, but in Birmingham a new and enhanced road was built fifty or sixty years ago, and hence the short section known as Old Woodward.  I have to explain that I don’t go to Birmingham that often, because it is rather awkward to get to, but I had a solemn rite that I had to attend and I thought I would look up the wine shop and avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.  I have to admit that even with the GPS on my phone, I thought I had made an error, but I ended up in a large parking lot, that I didn’t even know existed in parking deprived Birmingham and lo and behold as I was going to try and get back on old main drag, there was the store on the corner, and I am sure that it may be easier the next time if I am coming from my side of the world.  I took the liberty of using one of their Instagram photos of the building, as I have never claimed to be much of a photographer, so that is one of the few photos that is not mine.  Old Woodward Cellar is kept at a cool setting year-round, so when I walk in, I met the owners who were both in quilted nylon zipper jackets to stay warm, as the shop is maintained at a cool cellar setting, which must make it one of the spots to visit in the summer, and in fact they were voted the Suburban Wine Store in Hour Magazine.  The shop was laid out in a very easy to understand fashion, and they were not attempting to compete with the big supermarket wine departments that carry the popular “name” brands of wine, the wines were selected to be the best representation of an area or a varietal.  There was also a back room that had the wines that even make staid wine bloggers drool over.  I think it is a shop that will require more time to schmooze and shop and even do some tasting at.

Now the trick is to tie these two seemingly polar subjects together and that is because I saw a very interesting wine that my Bride would get very excited about.  The wine that I saw was Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon Les Charmes 2014 from the Loire Valley.  Chinon is basically in the center of the valley and while all three types of wines are produced there, they are known for their Cabernet Franc.  In fact, they have been growing that grape for years and locally it is called Breton, after the Abbot that nurtured the grape, and one of the famous sons of Chinon, Rabelais also wrote about the wines when he had a moment of free time.  There are nineteen communes in Chinon and Les Charmes is located near the village of Anché and the vines are all about thirty-five-years-old.  The juice begins with five days of skin maceration followed by fifteen days of fermentation.  Then the juice is aged for seven months in assorted oak barrels and then they are blended into large oak tanks for an additional twelve months.  The winery is then suggesting at least another two years in the cellar before opening.  Alas with all of the volunteer work, my Bride is off and about, so we will have to officially have a Cabernet Franc another time, but thank you Lori and Michael for your dedication, and a thank you to Old Woodward Cellars for carrying something fun and interesting from Chinon.

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