Sunday, June 01, 2008

Marimar Estate 2005 Dona Margarita Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The Marimar Estate 2005 Dona Margarita Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir just got rave reviews from Wine Enthusiast, 96 point, and seeing it in my local wine store for "only" $35.99 I had to bring it with me home. Said and done, excited about this "gem" we tasted it that very evening.

It has a dark, clear, intense, garnet color in the glass.
On the nose it shows black cherry, dark raspberry, currant, sweet floral, and earth. It is luring with both darker and more floral/red fruit elements. Curious at this point how it will play out on the palate.
In the mouth is expresses dark fruit, red cherry, wild berries, and oak. Again both red and dark fruit intermingling with oak and also earthy components. The acidity is vivid, and the tannins young and firm.
Overall it is supple in nuanced fruit and has good complexity with some elegant elements reminding slightly of a Burgundy with a more silky and lean texture once you get past the young tannins.

Find this wine at the winery's website for $45, or for a better deal go to where you can find it from $37.95.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rusack 2005 Santa Barbara County Syrah

The Rusack Winery 2003 Santa Barbara County Syrah is made with grapes from the estate vineyard and two neighboring vineyards in Ballard Canyon. The grapes were cold soaked and then fermented in small open-top bins, with punch downs, by hand, twice a day. Aged in 47% new French oak for 16 months. At blending 7% Petite Sirah and 5% Grenache was added for complexity. Bottled unfiltered.

In the glass the wine has a dark, dense, ruby color with hints of purple.
The nose reveals dark cherry, blackberry, ripe black currant, and sweet oak with vanilla.
The palate is equally lush with big fruit, red cherry, blackberry, spice, earth, and a note of pencil lead at the medium length finish. It also has elements of a slightly more elegant style with the red cherry, slight dusty quality, sleek acidity, and moderate tannins.

This wine is big and fruit-forward upfront, but as you dig into it and discover the elegant sides to it, it leaves an impression of a balanced and enjoyable wine. Don't get me wrong though. It is still quite a dark, dense Syrah.
At $25 from the winery I would say it is a good value. Finding it at from $20 it is even more worth seeking out and enjoying.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Waltzing Bear 2003 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

Waltzing Bear Winery is an artisan winery where owner and winemaker Brad Lowman focuses on producing small lots of ultra premium wines.
The Waltzing Bear 2003 Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir is made from the first fruit of a new block planted and grown by James Ontiveros in the southern end of Santa Maria Valley, near Bien Nacido Vineyard. Only 74 cases made.

The wine has a dark garnet color in the glass.
The nose showing deep cherry, earth, mushrooms, and oak. The earth/mushroom components being dominant.
On the palate is earthy and rich with dark cherry, dusty raspberry, and red fruit. The wine is nuanced with good acidity, and a long, smooth, finish with soft, lean, tannins.

This is definitely a slightly different, very interesting Pinot Noir. I can't quite put words to it so you just have to experience it yourself. The winery is right now selling it to a reduced price of $33.75. Give it a shot! I do not think you will be disappointed...

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Melville 2006 Estate Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay

Melville Vineyards and Winery puts out a good quality Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir year after year. The Melville 2006 Estate Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay is no exception.

It has a light golden straw color with a hint of green in the glass.
The nose displays light citrus, pear, and tropical fruit. The aromas are elegant and subtle in character. (I suspect my wine is a smidge to cold as well...)
The palate is round and soft with creamy citrus, light green apple, tropical fruit, and a light note of caramel at the mid palate. Slightly round mouth feel from 10% malolactic fermentation, but remains soft, crisp and fresh. The acidity is sufficient, but I would have wished for just a tad more to accentuate the crisp and fresh side of the wine.
Despite a relatively high alcohol level of 15.3% there is no trace of heat on the palate, which definitely is a big plus.

Over all a nicely balanced, very good quality wine that is sure to please many palates. Especially if you like me prefer the not overly oaked, buttery Chardonnays. This one offers a more round and soft palate that is refreshing, lively, and not to heavy. I know I'll be pouring, and enjoying, it this summer...

Buy it directly from the winery for $30 or find it at from $22.99. A great deal for this wine!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Ramey Wine Cellars wine tasting

Saturday we went to our local wine store, Capitol Cellars in Roseville, for a Ramey Wine Cellars tasting. Five wines were poured, and to my excitement they tasted one of my favorite Napa Valley wines, the Ramey Jericho Canyon Vineyard. But let's stat at the beginning...

First to be poured was the 2006 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($39). A round chardonnay with tropical fruit, creamy lemon, cooked apple and oak notes, with good acidity. A good start indeed with nice acidity backing up the fruit and oak.

Next was the 2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($39). This wine had some more complexity to it and was fitting my palate better with tropical fruit, citrus, white floral, and again the slightly buttery oak. Good acidity balance the fruit and makes it complex, and refreshing/crisp, at the same time.

The third wine was one of their vineyard designated Chardonnays, the 2006 Hyde Vineyard ($61). This chardonnay was the most multifaceted of the three. It shows tropical fruit, white floral, pineapple, and light peach. This wine is supported by great acidity and minerals that really lifts the wine and makes it stand up to the more concentrated fruit and round oak. Full-bodied and complex with a long finish. It is perfect for me to enjoy right now, but can definitely rest quite a few years in the bottle for the palate that prefers a more mature Chard.

On to the two Cabernet Sauvignons that was poured.
The first one was the 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($51) displaying concentrated fruit and berries with black cherry, sweet dark currant, plum, and chocolate. Tart, green tannins dominates after the fruit lingers off. Needs a year or two in the bottle for the tannins to melow out and become more balanced.

On to a favorite that I have enjoyed previous vintages, the 2005 Jericho Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon ($111). This was the first taste for me of this vintage. It has a dark garnet/purple color in the glass. The nose exuding blackberry, earth, strawberry jam, violet, and oak notes. The palate is intense and jammy with black cherry, blackberry, dusty black currant, earth notes, and oak. Full bodied with good acidity and young, green, massive tannins. Definitely a bottle to lay down for a couple of years before revisiting. This is going to be a beauty!

What a great flight of wines to taste on a sunny terrace! A perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Bohan-Dillon 2006 Hirsch Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Visiting Selland's Market earlier this week, to bring home some of their fabulous carnitas for dinner, I could not resist taking a look at their wines and of course "accidentally" one of them ended up coming home with me...
Tonight it was time to try the "errant bottle", a Bohan-Dillon 2006 Hirsch Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Made by Hirsch Vineyards from 97% estate fruit for the cost of $29.99 (at Selland's), compared to the Hirsch Vineyards 2006 Sonoma Coast for $55 (made from the same fruit), I hoped for it to be a high quality wine for a bargain price.

It has a clear ruby red color in the glass.
The nose displays cherry, raspberry, red currant, tobacco leaves, tea, and vanilla notes.
The palate showcasing light plum, cherry, sweet tobacco, and heat from the alcohol (14.6%), backed up by good acidity and sturdy tannins. The heat being a little unflattering, but as you sip the wine and get to know it, it becomes less noticeable.

Overall I definitely enjoyed this wine. As I said, it is certainly a flaw that the alcohol shines through but considering the relative complexity and balance of the red ripe fruit/berries, acidity and tannins, I have a tendency to forgive. At $25 this is definitely a wine to enjoy, alcohol traces or not. This wine will give you a good idea of what the Hirsch Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is about, for under half the price. Don't miss out!
Surprisingly enough the best deal I could find online is actually from the winery itself for $25.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Foxen 2003 Bien Nacido Vineyard - Block Eight Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

Foxen makes some of our favorite Central Coast Pinot Noirs. We opened a bottle of their 2003 Bien Nacido Vineyard - Block Eight Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir a few night ago, and got to enjoy it close to, or at, its peak.

The grapes are 100% destemmed prior to enjoying five days of cold soak. They then go through whole berry fermentation before being aged in 65% new French oak for 16 months. Finally it is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The result is a Pinot with a clear, dark, ruby red/purple color in the glass.
On the nose; dark raspberry, cherry, vanilla, and earthy components.
On the plate the wine shows of raspberry, cherry, and plum with a hint of spice and vanilla. It is a harmonic, balanced, and concentrated, medium to full bodied Pinot, that receives a lift from the fresh acidity and slight edge to the tannins. Drinks beautifully right now. Unfortunately this was the last bottle I pulled out of our stash...

Looks like it is still available at for $42. Check it out if you want to have a sip of this star this spring.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bonaccorsi 2003 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

Not the first time I have had and reviewed a Bonaccorsi Pinot Noir, and although I always think they are stellar, for some reason I am particularly enjoying the 2003 Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir tonight.
I decided to try all new recipes for dinner and served it with BBQ red wine flank steak, bulgur/roasted beet/mushroom/red onion pilaf, and a red wine vinegar braised carrot and leek dish. It turned out awesome! (both the food and the pairing)

The 2003 Santa Maria Valley has a dark, dense, slightly cloudy, garnet color in the glass. To me indicating big, lush, savage, fruit. But I should have known better. Bonaccorsi usually leans toward the more elegant side, although the dark fruit is there. It stays true in this case as well.
The nose, sure enough, displays black cherry, raspberry, blueberry, vanilla cola, and notes of dried grass. All powerful but with the recognizable finesse.
On the palate dark raspberry, black cherry, a touch of blackberry and subtle spice. The berries are accompanied by good acidity that keeps the wine lively, and well integrated but still noticeable, on the firmer side, tannins.

This wine definitely makes a statement with its dark and powerful, but more on the elegant side fruit, balanced nicely with proportionate acidity and tannins. All laced with oak.

Find it at...(?) I am frankly not quite sure where to find it. No sources online that I usually use seem to offer it. I paid $35 for it about 3 years ago. If you can get your hands on it now, 3 years later, for under $55-60, I would jump on it and give it a try. This Pinot is definitely worth it.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Paul Hobbs 2002 Hyde Vineyard Carneros Napa Valley Pinot Noir

Paul Hobbs 2002 Hyde Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir has a dark dense garnet color in the glass.
The nose shows vibrant dark raspberry, cherry, and vanilla.
The first thing that hits you on the palate is ripe, deep, blackberry, supported by cherry, spice, and a nice vanilla/oak component. The acidity is still going strong and the tannins are smooth and well integrated. The balanced medium to long finish has beautiful, elegant, dark fruit and berries, with a trace of pencil lead at the very end.

I bought this wine in a local wine store, Capitol Cellars, about 3 years ago for $60. After some research at the Internet I come to the conclusion that this wine is hard to get a hold of. I could not find a single store/website that carries it.
It really drinks beautifully at this point and if you can get your hands on a bottle do not hesitate to get it.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sofia Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

I have seen this pink little can in the store for a long time and it was finally time to put it in my basket. At $3.99 the Sofia Blanc de Blanc definitely won't empty your wallet.
This sparkling wine is made from Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat. The producer is Francis Ford Coppola (the famous movie director with a winery in Napa Valley) and it is named after his almost equally famous daughter, Sofia Coppola.
It was a little but weird, but on the other hand fun, to pour this bubbly from a can into a crystal champagne glass.

It has a pale straw color in the glass and has a lively stream of bubbles shooting towards the surface.
On the nose it displays sweet pear and gooseberry.
The palate shows pear, sweet white floral, and citrus. It is crisp and fresh.

The first thing that came to my mind both smelling and tasting this wine is Italian Prosecco. It is sweet and vivid in flavor, missing the yeasty and earthy components of a champagne.
This sparkling wine is a fun, refreshing, festive option for that casual spring/summer party and will not brake the bank at $16 for a 750 ml bottle.
Give it a try next time you see it and let me know what you think...

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Stone Corral Vineyard 2005 Edna Valley Pinot Noir by Talley Vineyards

Strolling through Winecask Wine Store in Santa Barbara we saw a bottle of the Stone Corral Vineyard 2005 Edna Valley Pinot Noir produced by Talley Vineyards. We have enjoyed several vintages of their Rincon Vineyard and Rosemary Vineyard Pinot Noir, and having heard about the newer Stone Corral Vineyard, but never tasted it, we just had to give it a try. At $55 a bottle we saved it for enjoyment with a Saturday night dinner.

This wine has a clear, dark garnet color in the glass.
The nose shows floral notes, raspberry, and subtle round oak.
The palate displaying raspberry, restrained cherry, spice and notes of green tea. The fruit persistant and showing throughout the whole palate. Relatively high acidity and tight tannins with a “green” finish.

We really liked this complex, still refined pinot with plentiful fruit that made a statement without being to large or lush. Although very enjoyable right now I would definitely put this away for a year or two as for the tannins to loose the green edge and become more integrated.
Only 2328 bottles were produced of this vintage and you can find it at form $44.99.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nagy2 2005 Garey Ranch Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir

I picked up a bottle of Nagy2 2005 Garey Ranch Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir at El Rancho Market in Solvang when I was in Santa Ynez Valley a couple of weeks ago. I was on the hunt for something new to try and this bottle came highly recommended by the “wine guy” that helped me in the store. El Rancho has as lot of wine from local wineries that can be hard to find in other grocery stores/wine shops. This bottle was no exception. The only other place I could find it online was at, located in Solvang, for $32.

The color in the glass; a dark, dense garnet color.
On the nose smoky oak, dark raspberry, blackberry and vanilla.
The palate showing dark cherry, dark raspberry, blackberry and a hint of pencil lead at the very finish.
This is initially a very mouth full and fruit forward wine on the palate that unfortunately goes a little thin on the mid palate and finish. Moderate acidity and young light tannins. Thin finish or not, we still enjoyed this wine and think it is a great effort from Jonathan and Clarissa Nagy.
John Nagy is the winemaker for Byron Winery and Clarissa Nagy is the wine maker for Bonaccorsi Wine (a favorite of mine). I believe this is the first vintage they have made together under their own label Nagy2, but don't quote me. Only 60 cases produced of this Pinot. Hurry up and get one yourself before they are all gone. I think greatness is to be expected from this winery in the years to come…

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Walter Hansel 2005 South Slope Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Last night we opened and old favorite of a new vintage, the Walter Hansel 2005 South Slope Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
The apperance in the glass; a light, clear, garnet red color.
The nose showing raspberry, red cherry, slight hint of strawberry, herbal tea, and touch of basil at the end.
The palate tasting of fresh raspberry, cherry, earth, and pencil shavings at the very finish. This pinot has great acidity and young but relatively soft tannins.

A beautiful elegant style Pinot Noir with bright red fruit and good structure. We really enjoyed it , as we have earlier vintages of this wine, and at $ 33.99 I dare to say that it is good value for the buck at this level of quality.
Find it at from $33.99.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

1994 Cristal, 1995 Chateau Gazin and 2001 Pahlmeyer

We spent last weekend at Lake Tahoe with good friends who brought a magnum of the 1995 Chateau Gazin, Pomerol, Bordeaux Blend (among others). It was opened a couple of hours prior to dinner and at first we thought the wine was a little bit off and did not particularly enjoy it. We wondered if it could have gone past it's peak. However after enjoying some champagne, 1994 Cristal Champagne, Louis Roederer, (that unfortunately according to my palate was past it's peak) we revisited and discovered a major improvement.

But first, let's back up to the 1994 Cristal Louis Roederer. It had a relatively dark straw color with a beautiful stream of small bubbles rushing up the glass. The nose showed dominent aromas of green apple, with citrus and slight caramel notes, accompanied by the traditional yeast and earth components. Our friends insisted on chocolate/mocha notes but I could not pick it up. I wish we would have opened this bottle a couple of years ago at what point I think it would have been more vivid and "refreshing". Never the less a great champagne that you don't have the opportunity to enjoy to often...
Find it at from $369.90.

After breathing for a little bit over 4 hours the 1995 Chateau Gazin Pomerol was starting to come into it's right. Deep ruby red in the glass with a slight brick color. The nose surprisingly vivid with fruit and berries, backed by spice and oak. The palate showing more restrained and subtle fruit with currant, cherry and raspberry, along with earth, smoke and a meaty quality. A medium to full bodied wine with refined, elegant, medium length finish. Certainly a wine that is best enjoyed with a meal. In this case a whole roasted beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, roasted beets, pureed parsnips, and a cauliflower-broccoli- spinach gratin.
Find it at from $82.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

After the Pomerol we moved on to a 2001 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red, Napa Valley. This wine is made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petite Verdot, and 1% Malbec. Aged in 100% new French Oak and the bottled unfined and unfiltered.
This wine showed massive, lush fruit on the nose with dark cherry, black raspberry, blackberry and heavy vanilla. The palate did not disappoint. Dark cherry, black currant, blackberry with earthy smoke, made us all happy. Full bodied with well integrated tannins and good acidity. This powerful wine was a great end to the evening and perfect with my Maldon and vanilla salt topped fudge brownies with vanilla bean ice cream.
Find this beauty at from $102. Definitely worth it's price.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Recchiuti Confections

I spent they day in San Francisco yesterday, and having lunch in the Ferry Building, I walked through the Market Place and salivated, as usual, upon the sight of fresh bread, cheeses, oils, caviar, wine bar, chocolates, cultivated mushrooms, and all the other incredible food, beverages, and merchandise that is offered there.
We had an incredible lunch at Boulettes Larder, where I also picked up honey and vanilla sea salt (amazing sprinkled on a chocolate souffle or on vanilla ice cream). After that I stopped by Recchiuti Confections to pick up a few truffles.
I have tried Michael Recchiuti's chocolates before and today I thought I would write a short review on it. I was a good girl (it took all of my will power) and did not touch them until later when I got home and had finished my dinner.

I started of with the Fleur de Sel, a pleasantly chewy burnt caramel with fleur de sel (French sea salt) coated with dark chocolate. This is a combination I always enjoy immensely and can never resist, and Recchiuti was not an exception.

Lemon Verbena was up next. A dark chocolate ganache with a bright and clear taste of Lemon Verbena, and it's lemon and herb aromas. Coated in dark chocolate with a white beautiful leaf pattern adorning the top surface. Rich and refreshing at the same time.

Ecuador Varietal, 65%, made from plain chocolate with vanilla/caramel and earth notes. Beautiful.

Burnt Caramel, a dark chocolate ganache with burnt caramel. Nicely balanced flavors as you foremost see this as a truffle, and secondarily discover the pleasant caramel.

Force Noir. This was my favorite truffle made with extra bitter chocolate ganache and vanilla bean. The extra bitter chocolate gives a pure, clean, intense chocolate experience and the vanilla bean give that sweetness you need to balance the bitterness. Beautiful and intense.

All truffles had perfectly smooth and dense textured ganache, with intense flavors of high quality chocolate. This is a chocolatier I can highly recommend. Do not miss out if you are in the Ferry Building Market Place, San Francisco. If you can't get here simply online order and enjoy at home. Their Easter boxes are beautiful and I might just treat some friends this year...

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Melville 2006 Estate Verna's Vineyard Pinot Noir

Melville 2006 Estate Verna's Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from 100% Melville fruit from their Los Alamos Estate. Aged in 20% new French oak.

The wine has a ruby red color in the glass with slight cloudiness.
The nose shows ripe lush raspberry, strawberry, sweet red cherry, sweet floral, and a hint of baked rhubarb.
The palate displays raspberry, cherry, and red fruit with spice. Soft and round on the palate with young tannins matching the fruit, good acidity and a long savory finish.
The wine is medium bodied, fruity, and was really nice with salmon, or great just to sip on it's own.

Find this wine at from $19.99, a great price for this very enjoyable wine.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Lorca 2001 Gary's Vineyard Monterey County Pinot Noir

Lorca Wines is located in Rutherford, Napa Valley, and produces Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc with grapes from Monterey County, Pinot Noir form French-clone vines of Gary Pisoni and Gary Francione of Santa Lucia Highlands, and an old vine Petite Syrah from Napa Valley.

The Lorca 2001 Gary's Vineyard Monterey County Pinot Noir has a dark ruby red color in the glass with a hint of purple.
The nose is pretty intense and complex with dark cherry, raspberry, dried herbs, earth with a hint of smoke, vanilla, and a trace of liquorice.
The palate is less intense with more dusty earth accenting the black cherry and dark raspberry, all with a touch of spice. The tannins are somewhat smooth but still has a "wood" quality to them. We are not talking splinters in the mouth but still a notable amount. Moderate acidity.

I found this wine at my local Total Wine & More for $23.99 and it is sold for a surprisingly higher price online. They best deal I could find was at from $45.99.

This was an enjoyable wine for the price I paid. However if I have to pay closer to $50, as seems to be the case in most stores, I have several better options in mind.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Coast Restaurant and Bar at The Canary Hotel, Santa Barbara

This review is way overdue but here it finally is. Two weeks ago when I visited Santa Barbara during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, my cousin, Anki, and I went to a newly opened restaurant, Coast Restaurant and Bar at The Canary Hotel. Formerly Andalucia Hotel, the property was purchased last year by the owner of Shutter Hotel On The Beach in Santa Monica, where they also have a Coast.
I have stayed several times in the past at the Andalucia hotel, and we've always enjoyed our stay, although the restaurant was never a hit. Now being the Canary Hotel the whole property including the restaurant has been remodeled and redecorated. Peeking in through the windows during the renovation I certainly liked what I saw for the restaurant.

As we entered the restaurant a great ambiance greeted us (along with the pleasant hostess) with dimmed lights, leather and wood furniture, rich fabrics, wood shutters, and a spacious bar in wood and leather, crowded with people visiting the film festival. A happening night I would say. We were both excited about the sophisticated but still casual and relaxed atmosphere, and the reasonably priced menu. A future favorite we were sure of as we discussed the menu.

We started of by sharing the Dungeness Crab Cakes ($12). Very tasty, packed with fresh crab meat, lightly seasoned and not to much of anything else to take away from the crab. Since it's been over two weeks ago I can't remember what the little salsa/salad on the side was but I do know that I thought it made a great addition.
For entree I ordered the Rigatoni with Beef

Ragout and Parmesan ($15), and my cousin the Arugula Salad with Rock Shrimp and Crispy Pancetta ($12). My pasta was tasty but the meat should have been better cleaned of fat. Flavor would some say but I would prefer it without finding pieces of almost all fat/no meat in my pasta. Otherwise good flavors. The salad was a disaster. Sure looked pretty and tasty on the plate but as Anki bit into the shrimp she got a weird look on her face and had to force herself

to swallow. Cold, tasteless, and of jelly-like texture, as if they had been frozen and not given enough time to thaw. Would definitely expect fresh shrimp at a place like this. Our waiter sensed the problem and came over, and when hearing about the food, offered to bring in something else. The halibut was highly recommended and so she ordered the Broiled Halibut with Asparagus ($22). I was just a couple of bites into my dish and they whisked that away to keep warm as well. A while later a new plate of pasta arrived for me (bonus points) and the new entree for Anki. The plate consisted of a long narrow piece of halibut and steamed asparagus spears. Looked plain and boring but not to say it couldn't be delicious. Two bites into the fish she looked at me and declared "I can't eat this. It is horribly over cooked and dry". I reached over for a bite to confirm, and sure enough, she was not exaggerating. It was one of the worst pieces of fish I'd had in a long time. By this time our table was swarmed by waiters and managers approaching us every other minute asking how everything was. When finding out about her second bad dish, they apologized, assuring us that this is not usual how it's prepared, was there anything else from the menu she would like. At this time she had eaten half of my pasta, was no longer hungry, and we decided to move on to the dessert.
A Warm Chocolate Lava Cake ($6) with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce arrived on the table and it was as good as it looked. Warm, molten, chocolaty, what else could you possibly want at the end of a meal?

We ordered wine by the glass with the meal and I really appreciated their selection of mostly wines from local wineries, offered by the glass at a reasonable price. A big plus for them in this section.

The staff made a real effort throughout the whole meal to correct the mishap with the two bad entrees, which certainly made us feel a little better about the experience. The restaurant is beautiful and we expected so much more from the food, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I walked out of there disappointed at the end of the night. Our starter and dessert were really good but they have to be able to serve up better main courses. It is a new restaurant and hopefully they will be able to pull their act together as the get a little warmer in their clothes. Could also be that we just had horribly bad luck with the food. I will return at some point to give it a second try and hope to find the same tentative, hard working to please staff, this time serving up a great meal.
This place certainly have everything else going for it...

Coast Restaurant and Bar at Canary Hotel
31 West Carillo St
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 879-9100

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Ramey 2005 Larkmead Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Ramey Jericho Canyon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon has been a favorite of mine for years, and for Valentine's dinner it was time to try the Larkmead Vineyard.
The Ramey 2005 Larkmead Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon consists of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petite Verdot, and 1% Malbec.
It has a beautiful dark red/purple garnet color in the glass.
The nose shows dark fruit and berries, spice, oak, and toasted brioche.
On the palate cherry, plum, black currant, and oak, with earthy mushrooms and elegant fruit on the finish. The tannins are well integrated, but still has that tart edge that you would expect for its youth.

We really enjoyed this fruity, earthy cab with good spice and oak, showing of its elegant side on the finish. Jericho Canyon Vineyard is still a noch up for me but this one was truly great as well. For a few less dollars I would say they both match their quality with price point.

I paired this wine with a Stilton topped filet mignon, served with a red wine reduction, luxurious mushroom laced "grown up" mac and cheese, and asparagus. For dessert a dark chocolate souffle with vanilla bean ice cream, sprinkled with vanilla salt. The food and wine paired beautifully.

Find it at from $64.99. Normally retails for around $80-90. Retailing in my local store for $74 I know I will stock up on a couple of bottles...

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Seagrass Restaurant, Santa Barbara

Saturday night me and my cousin went to dinner at Seagrass Restaurant, a newly opened restaurant located in the old spot for Sage and Onion (that I miss so much!). Seagrass' chef and owner team is the same as that of Bouchon, a highly regarded restaurant in Santa Barbara. As the name suggest this newest venture has extensive seafood options on the menu, but also beef, chicken, etc.

A small remodeling has been done to the space, with new colors, wall coverings, light fixtures and removal of the bar. It certianly got a face lift even if I did not quite agree with everything in the decor.

We had reservations and were promptly seated upon arrival. Fresh warm bread was served shortly after menus were presented, as I decided on a bottle of Roar 2005 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir with dinner. I have had this pinot before and is was as lush in red fruit and berries with, raspberry, cherry, and earthy notes, as I remembered it to be. Great supporting acidity and tannins, and developed a great smoothness in the glass as it got a chance to breath for a while.

We started our meal with sharing the Seared Gigant Sea Scallop. It comes with a choice of three preperations. We chose the coconut black rice with green curry and spiced apricot chutney. The scallop was perfectly cooked and the curry gave the dish a slight bite countered by the sweet chutney, fragrant from ginger. Very nice dish!

For entree I had the Buffalo Tenderloin with Demiglace, Creamed Corn and Potatoes au gratin. The chef recommended the tenderloin medium rare and it was perfectly prepared and tender. The creamed corn and potaoes au gratin made wonderful side dishes, the corn sweet and flavorful, the potatoes creamy and rich. A very satisfying dish.

My cousin had the Crispy Skin-on Pacific Wild Salmon on Sauteed Kale (or was it spinach?), with Saffron-Salsify Israeli Couscous, Gingered Carrots Julienne, and Beurre Noisette. I tried the dish which was light and delicate compared to mine, but also packed with flavor. Delicious.

The dessert choice was easy as soon as we saw the Warm Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with Cardemom, served with coconut ice cream. The hint of cardemom was very subtle and added a little twist to the chocolate cake. Altough I am not usually a huge fan of coconut, the flavor in the ice cream was so delicate that it only played a supporting role and married perfect with the chocolate and faint cardemom. A great ending to a delicous meal.

Service throughout the night was very attentive but never to much. I assume they have brought over staff from Bouchon or hired experienced staff as the whole evening ran very smoothly. That is unfortunately not always the case for a newly opened restaurant.
The clientel was definitely more mature and we felt slightly out of place to start with. But we soon forgot about that as we indulged in the food. I don't know if this was just a coincidence for the night, or if it is the normal case for this spot. Could perhaps use a little bit more "young and hip" influence to attract an extended clientel.
"Well done" would be my comment for this new spot in the Santa Barbara dining scene.

Seagrass Restaurant
30 E. Ortega St
Santa Barbara
(805) 963-1012

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