Wednesday, July 05, 2006

a weekend of tastings: wine, olive oil, salt

(Note: Blogger's photo function is not functioning, so pictures are forthcoming).

Our weekend of tastings began at the Temecula Olive Oil Company. The oil was good, but the advertising was cheesy: “May olive your dreams come true.” Our tasting included early and late harvest oils. With the late harvest, they make three varieties by pressing other foodstuffs with the olives: blood oranges, garlic, jalapenos. Because these items are pressed with the olives and reduced to their essential oils, just like the olives, the flavors are much truer, more integral than flavors that are infused into oil. The jalapeno oil was the most striking, with a strong kick at the back of the throat, but I decided the citrus oil would be the most versatile (well, Sarah’s Mr. Tart decided that for me, as I was too charmed by all of them to make a choice). I also bought a bottle of vanilla and fig balsamic vinegar. I think the combination will be excellent drizzled on salads and soft cheeses. And the oil will certainly make a tasty cake.

The Oil Company also sold a variety of local honeys, soaps, and salts. Sarah and I tasted a lot of salt. She took home a pretty pink river salt, after some discussion about whether it would fit in their salt drawer. It’s a good kitchen that has a drawer devoted entirely to salt (in comparison to another friend of mine who has a drawer devoted entirely to jello).

And then there was the wine tasting. I’m not much of a drinker, so I felt like a regular lush. Temecula Valley reportedly has a climate similar to the south of France, thus the abundance of vineyards. A quick reporting of the vineyards we visited and the wines we sipped.

Tara’s wedding was at Falkner Winery. With the reception and a return the next day to use up some tasting tokens provided by the groom, we tasted nearly everything in Falkner’s cellars. Their Riesling was my clear favorite—not too sweet, with a distinct pear flavor. Tara’s wedding had a stunning backdrop of new and mature grapes.

Before the wedding, Sarah and I snuck a peak at the inner workings of the winery.

The day after the wedding, we made a quick tour of some of the area’s wineries before heading off to the beach. Our day of wine tasting took us to Oak Mountain Winery, Leonesse Cellars, and Filsinger Winery (The day before, we stopped by Maurice Car’rie for lunch, which included a bottle of their pineapple champagne and a quick stop into the tasting room for a bit of sherry). Oak Mountain is a new winery, with a vineyard full of young grapes. Our favorites were the Viognier and the champagne (the port was also tasty, especially with a bit of dark chocolate). I had to stop myself from slurping up all the champagne—hmmm, is slurp the right word for champagne?

Anyway, our next stop was Leonesse Cellars across the street. The tasting room was well-appointed with dark woods and walls of wine, but we opted not to do a tasting because they were out of two wines, but still charging the usual fee (and they were going to give us a lame souvenir wine glass, which we certainly didn’t want). The place was also crowded, with a wine tasting tour bus outside, and a gift shop, leading us to conclude that the wine was likely overrated.

Our next stop, Filsinger Winery, was the opposite of Leonesse in terms of decor. The tasting room clearly hadn’t been redecorated since the seventies, with orange and brown patterned vinyl tile, a weighty wood mirror, and a hodgepodge of counter surfaces. We were a bit skeptical, but the low price ($3 for 5 tastings) and the wall of awards encouraged us to stay. We were able to choose our tastings from anything on the winery’s list, so among the three of us, we tasted everything. I adored the orange and black muscats, and ended up taking home a bottle of the Black Muscat and a White Cab (some good summer wines, I thought).

I am a complete wine novice, so it was fun to learn a bit more about many varieties and to try wine without the commitment of an entire bottle. Of course, next time I go to the wine store, I'll still probably decide my purchases based on how much I like the label design.


Anonymous sally said...

We went to the olive oil place, too. I bought a bottle of the basil olive oil, which was quite delish. I think it'll be fun in pesto and all sorts of other stuff, too :)

12:48 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I agree with Melissa's opinion of the wines, wineries, and oils--thanks for summarizing! I'll try to add more when my conference here in Milwaukee is over.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

To be completely honest, what Melissa refers to in our kitchen is actually a salt AND pepper drawer, including seasoning salt and blends, pepper grinders, and bulk peppercorns. Mmmm, salt.

6:49 PM  

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