Road Trip: More Photos From The Road

Baby grape cluster.

Blackjack Winery.
This was our first stop at a winery (in Solvang we only went to tasting rooms). We stopped here on our way to Avila Beach via Solvang & Los Olivos. Black jack had some great wines. A few were what I call 'knock-your-sox-off' wines. I particularly liked their 777 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay Wilkening Vineyard Reserve & their Bordeaux blend, Allusion, which made the "take a bottle home list".

La swirling at Alexander & Wayne in Los Olivos.

We tasted at a handful of other tasting rooms in Los Olivos, on two separate days & both days missed out on the Tri-tip at 'R' Country Store (which I hear is excellent). I guess we gotta head back real soon.


More grapevines. These were at Peachy Canyon in Paso Robles, where they make some damn fine Zinfandels. We had the pleasure of meeting Doug Beckett, the owner of Peachy Canyons, in New Orleans at the NOWFE. He is a great guy & we enjoyed talking to him & we REALLY enjoyed the wines he was pouring. He offered to give us some barrel samples when we made it out. Regrettably, our time in Paso Robles was too limited.

Barrels in the winery made of hay...Claiborn & Churchill. They specialize in Alsatian whites, which were all fantastic, but their Pinot Noir made "the list"...but didn't make it home. We drank it on our anniversary.



Restaurant Review: The Complex: El Pollo Grille and Mexican Cantina

For the past two weeks we have hit up the Complex on Madison (in The Edge District) for breakfast after our trip to the Farmers' Market. We were drawn in by my appetite for a mexican breakfast (I have California to thank for my chili verde addiction). I really love this place. The menu is comprable to any other greasy spoon breakfast. Ham, steak, egg, bacon, omlettes. Then there is the mexican breakfast. Chile verde, huevos rancheros, huevos mexicanos. They have a copy of their menu on the website here. Everything comes with your choice of bean/hashbrowns and tortillas (corn or flour)/toast. The prices are super cheap too. We get away with breakfast for two for $15. Best part, the chile verde is to die for. Something about eating a plate of beans, eggs and tortillas smothered (and I do mean smothered) with spicy green chile sauce makes me smile. I only wish they had breakfast burritos.

If you sit inside you might get lucky enough to watch a spanish music television channel which is pure entertainment. Your cook is your server and he is super nice and never lets you run out of water or coffee. It is empty on Saturday mornings which makes it a great low-key place to recover from Friday night. If the coffe doesn't wake you up, the salsa will. Its hot.

We give The Complex: El Pollo Grille and Mexican Cantina a 4/5.


Spanish Wine Blind Tasting

We went to the Spanish & Portugese blind tasting hosted by Great Wines this past weekend & had a great time tasting some great Spanish wines. Guessing was more difficult this week, than last week. I got the one & only rosé right & that is it. La got one of the reds correct plus the rosé. It was a Tempranillo.

We have been using tasting Saturdays as our wine buying days these last few weeks. Whether it is a Great Wines tasting or a Buster's tasting, or both, there are some great deals to be had. Buster's gives you 15% off of your entire order on tasting Saturdays & Great Wines has the wines they feature at the tasting on sale & they are always a good deal.

This week bought two bottles from the tasting, 2002 Castell de Remei Gotim Bru Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot & 2004 Osborne Solaz Shiraz/Tempranillo. These were also the winners in the voting too. The top two whites were Hermanos Lurton Bianco & Torres Viña Sol.

We had the Gotim Bru the other night with a Provençal-style grilled chicken, with grilled eggplant, fresh speckled lima beans & mashed potatoes. On its own the wine was straight forward & simple with some dark fruit & earth in the nose as well as the palate with a touch of mint in the finish, the tannins were soft & were balanced by a nice acidity. It didn't shine until we had a glass with dinner, where it accented the rosemary, thyme & basil flavored, grilled chicken.

The Osborne will probably get opened tonight with our pizza...but then again the Zaccagnini Montepulciano "Stick Wine" will be good with the pie as well. Life is full of difficult decisions.


Sunday Picnic & A Gift From A Neighbor

Sunday the temps were in the 80's, the sky was mostly sunny & nothing could stop us from enjoying the day. La packed a picnic, while the Vinho Verde was chilling in the fridge.

Our picnic spread was comprised of various deli meats, white cheddar, laughing cow cheese, a bowl of cantalope, watermelon & Bing cherries, an avacado with a dropper full of 20 year old Balsamic Vinegar, some cherry tomatoes & some bellpeppers. The main attraction was the bread. The bread was a gift from Paul aka 'Papa Squirrel' from the food blog Sqirrel Squad Squeeks.

Funny thing though...Paul & I have been in touch through the interweb & I knew he lived in Memphis too. As it turns out, he lives in our neighborhood too, but what makes it even stranger...he lives one street away, essential on the same block as us!
For all I know he could be poaching my Wi-Fi signal!!

Back to the bread. Paul read in my profile that I am a graphic artist & asked me to make him some acorn icons for his blog. Of course I said sure, but being neighbors & all, I can't take any cash. The only payment I would accept would be wine for the quick Photochop job. We met up at a tasting this weekend & along with a bottle of 2002 Il Circo: Uva di Troia "La Violetta" he gave me a bag of bread from a mexican bakery, that included, a pastry with sprinkles all over it (How did he know I loved sprinkles?), some pineapple bread & the lovely two loaves of jalapeño cheese bread pictured above.

The bread rocked the party that rocks the party. We will definitely be seeking out the bakery he got the goods from.

With our picnic fare we enjoyed a Gazela Vinho Verde. Vinho Verde may be my favorite Summertime wine...only if I had to choose. It comes from Portugal & translates to 'green wine'. It is called green wine because it is made to be consumed young, soon after it is made. It is meant to be consumed so young, that most of the time the producers don't date the bottles. It is not green either. It is a simple white wine, light, with low alcohol & a touch of spritz which is added when bottled by a dose of carbon dioxide. It has a snappy acidity & light floral quality with a faint peachy-ness to it & at 9% alcohol, polishing off a bottle during an early picnic does not render you useless for the rest of the day. There is not a more refreshing Summertime wine, that I have tried at least, but if you think there is, send me a bottle!

It was great way to wrap up the weekend & recharge our batteries for the coming week. Now it is time to start counting down to the weekend again.


Movie Wine

We went to see Pirates of the Carribean the other day in attempt to escape the relentless, triple digit, heat. We needed refreshments & while sneaking in a bottle of wine, a corkscrew & glassware would not be impossible, it would just be too much trouble & not worth the trouble. So we opted for the 4-pack of "Little Joeys".

The four mini-bottles are equivalent to a whole 750ml bottle of wine, so four was just enough. They were screw cap of course (do they even make corks that small?), so no need for a cork screw (do they even make corkscrews that small?). All we needed was a little carafe (Ok...that joke is old may now throw rotten fruit at the screen).

The poison of choice was 2004 Alice White Shiraz. It was a simple, very fruity concoction. Not a lot going on but lots fruit. No pepper, meat or smoke, that you expect from a good Aussie Shiraz. It was not unpleasant, just what I have come to expect from giant producers like Alice White.

It was easy to sneak into the theatre & that was it's best virtue. It also made you feet like a wine-o drinking out of the bottle.....giant, a forty-foot wine-o.


Great Wines Australian Blind Tasting Results

Great Wines is hot & heavy in the middle of their summer blind tasting series. We missed the first installments but caught up with the Italian blind tasting a couple of weeks ago & thoroughly enjoyed last weeks Austrailian tasting. The tastings have been a blast so far & have been our first exposure to the blind tasting format. If you are unsure of what a blind tasting is, let me break it down for you.

All of the wines are tightly wrapped in bags & labeled with numbers. You get a tasting sheet with a list of the wines so you know what is being poured, but not necessarily, because you can't see the bottle. We like to try & guess the wine. We are sometimes successful & when we are, we get strange looks when we let out our boisterous "BOO-YAH!!" When you are finished, you vote for your two favorite whites & your two favorite reds & then walk next door to see the wines revealed. I don't know if all blind tastings are done this way but this is how Great Wines does it.

Last week's Australian winners - On the red side of the table, was a runaway, the McWilliam's Merlot, followed by Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz. For whites, again in a runaway, Cranford Viognier was first, followed by, McWilliam's Riesling.

We ended up picking up a bottle of the McWilliam's Merlot & having it with star anise scented beef short ribs for dinner. It was excellent with the tender, buttery, anise flavored beef that we picked up from the beef guy at the Farmers Market.

My votes were for the Lucky Country Grenache-Shiraz-Mouvedre & the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz on the red side. We tried the Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz in New Orleans at the NOWFE. I loved it then & still loved it last week. Imagine bacon-wrapped-blackberries in a bottle. It is one of my favorites. On the white side I voted for Jacob's Creek Brut Sparkling & the Fonthill Verdehlo.

Out of the reds La liked McWilliam's Merlot & Paringa Sparkling Shiraz. For the whites she voted for the Jacob's Creek Brut Sparkling, also & the Fonthill Verdehlo. We share the similar tastes in whites.

The blind tastings continue Saturday, 1-3 p.m. at SALSA restaurant, 6150 Poplar Avenue in Regalia. This week is the Iberian Peninsula-Spain & Portugal. Drop by format, vote the best. No charge to attend.

Check out for an up to date list of Memphis Wine Events.


Road Trip: California or Bust

After 3 nights in the Utah desert, it was time to pack up & head west. It was kind of sad. We knew we would miss our primo camping spot, but then again Cali was just five hours away & we needed to get out of the 105 degree heat.

We camped our first night at El Capitan State Beach just north of Santa Barbara. We set up camp soon after scoring the last camping spot available & then headed in to Buellton & Solvang. We went to Andersen's Pea Soup Restaurant got dinner & a glass of wine. We both had a bowl of pea soup & it was so good I forgot what we actually had for dinner after the soup. The billboards up & down the highway don't lie. The pea soup was great & the atmosphere was strange. I think it was the restaurant that time forgot. We love little eccentricies like that.

So after dinner we drove down the road to Solvang, the mock Danish village.

What we didn't know was the town closes at five o'clock...SHARP. (look at the time on the clock in the photo....D'OH!)

We managed to find a market open that sold wine so we got a few bottles & headed back to the campsite.

We took a bottle of 2004 Santa Barbara Winery Pinot Noir down to the beach to watch the sunset while dolphins played off shore right in front of us. Our first night rocked. If it had been a fairy tale it wouldn't have been any better.

The wine was good...not knock your sox off good, but...well, let's just say the wine only got better.

La enjoying our first sunset over the Pacific.


Road Trip: More Zion Photos

Stay tuned for the California leg of the trip. We have LOTS to talk about & a ton of photos to share.



Road Trip: Our Mobile Kitchen

Before I finish posting Zion photos, I wanted to show our mobile camping kitchen. We used our hitch rack as counter for the stove & the bike gear box was utilized as a nice prep area.

Mobile kitchen in action.

First camping dinner. Tuna, veggies & mashed potatoes, enjoyed on the bank of the Virgin River. Tasty.

Open the old school Coleman Steel Cooler.....

......& grab a refreshment.

This is how most of our dinners were prepared. They kept getting better & better too. Like when we bought a tuna steak on the pier in Port San Luis in California. More on that later.
Coming up.....More Zion...



Road Trip: Part One

Our first official stop was in Flagstaff, AZ. We originally stopped so we could eat (a real meal at a restaurant instead of road food) & then move on...but instead we decided to stay. As luck would have it, the Flagstaff Music Fest was happening Downtown. We got at a sidewalk table at a cafe across from the stage & ate lunch & listened to live bluegrass. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the festival atmosphere, shopping & of course, eating some more.
It was a well deserved stop after 1.5 days on the road.

The next morning we decided to hit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a no go, due to wildfires. In the photo, the grey band that looks like fog is smoke over the Colorado River.

No big deal....Zion National Park was only an hour away at that point & the GC was just a bonus stop.

Zion was stunning as usual. We love Zion because it is a different kind of beautiful than say....the Rockies with it's 14k foot snow capped peaks & Moab with its canyons & red rock formations. Zion's beauty is striking. Behind every curve of the trail or road there are 3000+ foot cliffs, right on top of you, staring down at you.

We camped on BLM land at a nice secluded primitive campsite. We were alone in the Utah wilderness with the Virgin River literally 20 yards from our tent. This is were we would escape the midday heat. We would put our chairs in the river under a tree & just relax until it was cool enough to explore some more.

Behind our tent. The Virgin River.

Stay tuned for more Zion & the rest of the trip.



Back In The Groove

Back to reality. Those are harsh words after 16 days traveling around the western half of the country. We thought about staying on the road & stopping where ever we were, when we ran out of money starting over, where ever that may be. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

It was a great trip. We ate a ton of great food, tasted even more wine, met some great people & explored a lot of uncharted territory for us. So, in the next few days expect to see lots of post on the trip, as we relive it all through the blog.

Also expect to see the wrap up of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience & some little changes to the site.

Until then...CHEERS!


Our Cliche' July Fourth Dinner

Smoked ribs, baby. I did not get to smoke them like I usually do, for 6+ hours, due to time restraints. So, I took a shortcut & they still turned out fantastic.

I used the pressure cooker. I cooked them at high pressure for about 10 minutes & then finished them on the smoker for 35 minutes. They turned out A LOT better than I expected.

We did buck the July Fourth cliche' a little. Instead of Beer & BBQ, we had Wine & BBQ . Menage a Trois Red table wine (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel & Merlot) was the pairing & it was excellent with the ribs.

Stay tuned for many posts covering our 18 day road trip out to California & back, with lots of pictures.
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