Category Archives: santa cruz

New Year’s Eve Food and Wine

New Year’s Eve is always interesting for the food and wine
choices.  Champagne is a staple,
but what else? 


This year Lori and I spent New Year’s Eve in Santa
Cruz.  Actually, we spent the whole
week in Santa Cruz, and it was great. 
We haven’t relaxed that much in a while.  We saw a bunch of movies, trying to get a head start on all
the ones up for awards.  (American
Hustle was my favorite of the ones we saw.)  We met up with some old friends one night, and got each other
caught up on our lives and our childrens’ lives. 


New Year’s Eve, though, was just the two of us.  We went to Michael’s on Main, one of
our favorites in the area.  We’ve
eaten there a number of times, including hosting a wedding rehearsal dinner
there a couple of years ago.  They
had a 4-course prix fixe menu for the night:


of appetizers, served with a complementary glass of sparkling wine

of green salad or lobster bisque

of steak, salmon wellington or spinach and artichoke raviolis

of cheesecake or chocolate mousse


The appetizers and sparkling wine were nothing to write home
about, or write in a blog about. 
Lori had the salad, which she enjoyed, while I had the bisque, which I
thought was one of the best I had had. 
Not too thick, and plenty of lobster meat.  For her main course, Lori had the salmon wellington, which
was excellent.  I had the raviolis,
also excellent.  And we had one of
each of the desserts, sharing them both. 


We brought a bottle for the evening:  Windy Oaks Estate, 2005 Pinot Noir
Estate Cuvée, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Over the last 10 years, Windy Oaks has
consistently produced great Pinot Noir from their small winery at the southern
end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appelation, and this bottle was right
there.  It worked great with the
delicate fish and vegetarian dishes we ate. 


Another year in the books, a new year before us like an open
stretch of ocean.  We’re hoping for
us, and for you, that the only big waves are seen from a distance, and it’s
smooth sailing (and eating and drinking) in 2014. 





Thanksgiving Wine and Ullage

Thanksgiving is always interesting from a wine perspective,
because you can do so much, and because you want to do so much, but …


Hi kids! 
Welcome to Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.  Yes, for those of us of a certain age, this is a reference
to Eddie Murphy’s Saturday Night Live skits, where things didn’t always go as
smooth as Mr. Robinson would like. 


Well, for our Thanksgiving day skit, our word of the day is


I thought I had the Thanksgiving wine situation under
control.  Thanksgiving was going to
be great, with both boys and their families coming (all three grandchildren) as
well as my parents and Lori’s mother. 
No problem.  Let’s start
with a little bubbly, then move into the still whites.  That should get the afternoon rolling
fairly well.  Then as we get closer
to the meal, I was going to open up 3 different 2006 Dutton Goldfield single
vineyard Pinot Noirs, and we would do a blind tasting.  Then we’d have the Pinot with the meal;
usually a pretty good bet, Pinot Noir and turkey.  (This year there was both turkey and turducken, but that’s
another story.  Ask Lori for that


Anyway, I had a great plan, which I told to the wine
providers (my father and Winemaker B so that they could plan any wine they
wanted to bring to fit into that framework.  And Winemaker B did bring a bottle of his 2012 Armida
Gewurztraminer, which fit in pretty well with the still whites.  And he also brought an old bottle of
Gamay Beaujoulais, which he didn’t really have much hope was any good, so it
wouldn’t disrupt any other plans. 
But my father – argh, my father – he’s past the point of anyone being
able to control him, except my mother. 
And she doesn’t interfere in wine matters. 


Well, my father got it into his head that since we are
rarely in Southern California to drink wine with him, he was going to bring up
some of his old wine to share.  So
two 25 year old Cabernet Sauvignons came up north, for the express purpose of
being opened on Thanksgiving with all the family.  It is pretty hard to say “no” to those old bottles, and even
harder to say “no” to my father when he’s on a roll. 


Ah, you thought I had forgotten about ullage.  Well, ullage is the distance between the
level of the wine in the bottle and the bottom of the cork.  For old wine, a look at the bottle to visually estimate the
ullage is a good way to guess how well the wine has been kept.  The closer the wine level to the cork,
the less evaporation has happened. 
If wine has evaporated through the cork, then air, and with it nasty
oxygen, has come through in the other direction, and has accelerated the aging
of the wine. 


Unfortunately, evaporation is not the only sign that an old
wine is bad.  You can have a bottle
with minimal evaporation and it can still have gone bad.  With these bottles there wasn’t
excessive evaporation, so we thought there was a pretty decent chance of some
good wine. 


With old bottles, decanting is a must, so there went my
three decanters (previously earmarked for the Pinot Noir) for the three old bottles.  With the decanters being used for the Cabs and the Gamay,
and wanting/needing to wait at least an hour to see if there was anything good
there, the blind tasting went by the wayside.  In the end, only the William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon was any
good, and at that it was past its peak. 


We did end up grabbing a couple of random bottles of Pinot
Noir from our cellar to have with the meal, which partially rescued the wine
situation.  Actually, the bubbly
and the whites were really tasty. 
Here’s a list of the bottles that were opened over the course of about 6
hours of snacks, appetizers and main meal: 


Mitchell Katz Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine, Livermore Valley

Armida 2012 Gewurztraminer, Russian River Valley

Armida 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley

Optima 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

William Hill 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Louis Martini 1987 Gamay Beaujalais, Napa Valley

Desmond Estate Vineyards 2009 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Soquel Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains

Next year I think I’ll drive down before Thanksgiving and
raid his cellar myself.  



Santa Cruz, Monterey Wine Events in June

Not that there aren’t wine events all year, but the events in the Summer seem to be a lot more fun.  Maybe it’s that we take an extra day, and make a three day weekend of it sometimes. 

In any case, June is almost on us, and here are the first two events, in the Santa Cruz and Monterey regions: 

Roots That Rock – Santa Cruz Mountains Winery Association, June 1-2 and June 8-9. Event goes from 12 – 5pm each day.  The first weekend features wineries on the east side of the mountains, while the second weekend features wineries on the west side of the mountains. 

Monterey Wine Festival – Friday June 7th 4 – 8pm, and Saturday June 8th 11am – 4pm.  Saturday also features a chowder competition. 

Lori and I are definitely going to the Monterey Wine Festival; might wind up in Santa Cruz at some point.  Hope to see you at one of these, or another wine event this Summer. 

Ristorante Barolo, Italian Dining in Aptos

I don’t always write a review about the restaurants I go to.  I go to hundreds and hundreds of restaurants, I try find something I like in each restaurant I go to so I can leave there somewhat happy.  I however had my worst restaurant experience EVER recently, and I just have to write about it.  Having gone through culinary school I know what is involved in the front and the back of the house.  They are both hard jobs and they have to come together to make one great experience.  Sometimes, if the food isn’t up to par, I don’t have a problem going back another night to give it another chance.  But if the service is lousy for no particular reason, I usually don’t have the patience for that and tend to not want to go back again.

The restaurant I am referring to is Ristorante Barolo, 8041 Soquel Drive Aptos, 831-688-8654, is located in the historical Bayview Hotel in the Santa Cruz area.  This hotel and building dates back to 1878!  That is old for California!  Anyways, my son Jacob, his girlfriend Brittany and I had 1 1/2 hours to have a nice leisurely breakfast before Brittany had to head off for school.  We were aiming at the Cafe Sparrow, across the street from Barolo but they didn’t open until 11:30 and it was 11:15.  We decided to try Barolo instead of waiting the 15 minutes for the Sparrow to open.  When we walked in we weren’t greeted.  After a couple minutes we walked around looking for someone to seat us.  We found a server and she sat us down in the nice patio room.  After a few minutes we realized that she wasn’t going to bring us menus so I got up and got them.  We were there just as breakfast was turning over to lunch but we were still allowed to order breakfast.  Breakfast is from 8:00-11:30 and lunch is from 11:30-2:30.

Our server finally came over and took our drink order.  We ordered decaf coffee and one orange juice for Jacob and Brittany to split.  We received two glasses of juice and my coffee.  We were curious, but didn’t say anything.  She took our order of eggs benedict, French toast, and an omelet with salsa and avocado.  Nothing too taxing.  We waited and waited and waited for our food.  To give a little bit of background, there was one other couple being served at the same time, there was a family who was done eating and us.  One server, and hopefully a chef.  Brittany was getting antsy as her time was getting closer for her to leave and we hadn’t even received our food yet.  In the time that we waitied I could have gone into the the unfamiliar kitchen and cooked everything and been faster than the current chef was!  Jacob’s French toast finally came out and Brittany ended up munching that down, even though she had ordered the omelet, because she needed to go.  Just as Brittany was leaving we received the rest of our order.  The food was good but nothing to come back again for.  I liked the atmosphere in the front porch room and the bar area seems nice and rustic.  Jacob and I finished our meal, asked for the check and were out of there after TWO hours!  On top of everything else we were charged for two orange juices!  This experience was over a month ago and I still have a very bad taste in my mouth.

I hope that for their sake they have better service for their dinners, but I’m in no hurry to go and try it out.  If you dare to go, please let me know how the experience was.