Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sunlit Vineyard Tours, Barrel Room Edibles and Stevie Nicks Make for an Eclectic Saturday Excursion in Walla Walla Wine Country

Pardon the pun, but there's nothing quite like the smell of vineyard in the morning. Walla Walla Wine Country offers expansive, rolling hills and row upon row of vines tended with the utmost care and attention.
The night before, we had been treated to an evening of seminars, speed dating..I mean rapid wine tasting, dinner and a walking tour of some 22-odd downtown tasting rooms. These merchants were a wonderful bunch and treated us to some stellar pours.
The next morning we hopped on buses, happy and exhausted, and headed to a magical mystery tour of wineries unknown...
First stop was Woodward Canyon Estates Vineyard, where we sampled a smooth, slightly-oaked Chard and a velvety Estate Barbera while wandering through the vines.
Next on the agenda...Beresan Winery, where a plethora of flavor profiles awaited.
Beresan collaborates with vine master Tom Glase and his Balboa label. Glase turns out some impressive bottlings, like 'Mith,' a medium-bodied blend of Cab and Syrah:

Our group was treated to a delicious lunch in the Whitman Cellars barrel room, our aromatic North-African spiced chicken sandwiches and tarragon-laced salads paired with some exquisite Sangiovese and formidable Cab Franc. delicious cookies and brownies arrived at our table...the Stevie Nicks in me was coaxed out by our charming bus driver, Rhonda:

Next, I'll take you inside the frenetic world of speed tasting...a lot like speed dating, but with wine...and lots of it.

Oh, and check it out, folks! Seems Vino Chick didn't go unnoticed during her stay in Walla Walla:

Special thanks to Robert Whitley at

Monday, June 28, 2010

Walla Walla, Bang Bang! Bloggers Unite for Love of Words and Wine

The power of the written word is limitless. Apparently so is my capacity for delicious vino, which I discovered via the North American Wine Bloggers' Conference, held in gorgeous Walla Walla, Washington from June 25-27.
300 wine bloggers and industry professionals converged on this gem of southeastern Washington Wine Country for three days of tastings, wine dinners, seminars and vineyard tours.
Among the unique activities I joined in were two live blogging events that operated on the concept of 'speed dating' but with white and red wines. I'll elaborate on this in a later post, but let me tell you it was fast and furious and left us all Twitter-pated...especially the boxed wine we tasted...I'll explain that later too...
One of the most fulfilling aspects of my trip was meeting so many of my fellow wine lovers and bloggers. I received tremendous feedback about my site, and was surprised and honored to learn that some of these oenophiles had already heard about Vino Chick! The power of social media should NOT be underestimated.
On Wednesday, I'll take you to a few of the beautiful vineyards I visited, and introduce you to one vintner who shared with me his personal philosophy on winemaking.
For more of my wine adventures, follow me on Twitter @VinoChick75.

Special thanks to Robert Whitley at: for making this trip possible!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Truffle Vinaigrette and a Serious Case of Pinot Envy Make for An Enjoyable Restaurant Week Feast at Escena Grill in Palm Springs

My meal at Escena Grill almost didn't happen-that's because I couldn't find the place...seriously. There was no signage in sight for this midcentury-inspired restaurant inside the Escena Golf Club, so naturally I was a bit concerned as I nervously navigated the twists and turns of the property, eventually arriving at the establishment I'd been dying to try. I soon realized it was a very good thing that I hadn't given up. 
In honor of Palm Springs Restaurant Week, Escena offered a four-course prix fixe menu, with a wine pairing option available. First up was a chilled tomato gazpacho with scallops, which the restaurant paired with a Ruffino Pinot Grigio. The soup was peppery and delicious, and the acidity of ripe tomatoes matched well with that same characteristic I always enjoy in this wine. 
A salad of grilled romaine hearts was hugged by a smooth and airy bleu cheese vinaigrette with candied almonds-just wonderful with a crisp and floral Riesling from Chateau St. Michelle, one of Washington State's finest producers of the stuff. (Incidentally, I will be able to enjoy even more of it since this same winery is sponsoring a dinner at the conference I'm attending this weekend). I was starting to get the idea that these Escena folks really have a knack for the pairing thing.
Next, a beautifully roasted piece of halibut arrived with sauteed spinach in a passion fruit and shrimp beurre blanc. The match made in heaven was a rich and creamy Sonona Cutrer Chardonnay, a wine I found absolutely alluring with its hints of spice and banana.
My lust for truffles has been pretty well documented lately, and quite frankly I have become somewhat of an embarassment to the people dining with me, even at the mere mention of them. I was giddily enthralled with a mini crab cake that came to me perched atop a roasted corn and truffle vinaigrette, a beautifully pink shrimp acting as garnish. The dish was matched with a Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc full of melon, pineapple and pear. I count New Zealand Sauv Blancs among my favorite whites, and the minerality of the wine was a great fit for the sweet crabmeat and earthy truffle flavor. At this point, I just really like using the word truffle.
Pull apart, melt-in-your-mouth braised short ribs with herbed polenta and haricot vert was paired with an unusually earthy Pinot Noir from Gainey Vineyard. Boasting flavors of deep, dark cherry and cola, this one also has aromas of pine, the kind I encounter on my frequent drives up to Idyllwild. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, I found myself with a serious case of Pinot Envy. It was a bold pairing and it worked like a charm, much like the rest of the evening's matchups. I will return to Escena Grill, and soon. The upshot is, I'll be able to find it with my eyes closed this time.

Special thanks to Elise Routh and the staff at Escena Grill:

On Monday, I'll take you to beautiful Walla Walla, Washington, site of the 2010 North American Wine Bloggers' Conference (no, I'm not making this up and yes, I know you're jealous-I would be too!) There, I will meet 300 of my closest blogger friends, get an in-depth look at industry trends and indulge in three days worth of delicious wine and food. See you back here Monday!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Happy Wine Trails to You, Desert Sun Readers

For as long as I can remember, I have been a curious soul. As a child, I was constantly asking questions of my parents, devouring books as if they were meals, and searching incessantly for information on topics that interested me. As an adult, not much has changed. I still have that same thirst for knowledge-and now wine.
For those of you already familiar with the Vino Chick blog, my passion for all things related to the vine is no secret. For those of you who have yet to discover it, I hope you'll join me in these adventures as featured on I'll be exploring some of the Valley's most unique and worthwhile places to find a terrific and affordable glass of wine, along with the perfect dish to pair with it.
I'll take you to that new restaurant you've been dying to try, and inside the hip new wine and cheese bar you've been hearing about. You'll also experience my experimentation, which will inevitably be followed by a few errors, as I mix and match wine and food at home and on the road when I travel. With me as your guide, we will visit some interesting places and meet some wonderful people, always with an eye on learning something new about wine in the process.
So let's have some fun together. I welcome and appreciate your comments, questions and participation and look forward to some memorable pours.
On Friday, I'll share the details of a terrific meal I enjoyed at Escena Grill during Palm Springs Restaurant Week, and talk about my upcoming sojourn to Washington State Wine Country. For now, cheers!

Also visit me at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

In-Your-Face Flavors, Subtle Summer Parings Abound at Copley's

As a rule of thumb, with the advent of summer comes lighter fare and drink. As a lover of red wine, I find myself yearning for something more in the middle, even when the mercury rises here in the desert. On a recent excursion to Copley's on Palm Canyon, I discovered a bit of both.
Lately, the restaurant has been touting its bright, dog-day inspired menu and there are certainly some standouts. For starters, I chose to pair a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with an appetizer of tuna tartare, avocado and roe. The 2009 vintage from Babich Wines was full of nectarine and passion fruit flavors. The menu's tasting notes also mention flavors of gooseberry...if I knew what a gooseberry was or what it tasted like, I could tell you if this description is accurate...alas, we may never know...that being said, the flinty quality of this wine melded quite well with the flavors of the sea.
My dining partner, food writer Unorthodox Foodie, ordered a cilantro-scented Scottish salmon in a curry sauce, which I paired with a 2007 Zaza Grenache Rose. This gorgeous wine hails from the Campo de Borja region of Spain, which has a knack for producing quality Garnachas (the Spanish name for this grape). The wine was scented with raspberry and strawberry, which stood up to the heat of the Thai-inspired sauce.
This may ruffle some feathers, but I would have married my entree if it were legal in California. I thoroughly enjoyed the fork-tender braised short ribs in a merlot reduction, topped with a beautifully-grilled shrimp. In fact, I took such a liking to the reduction that I decided to pair it with a 2007 Camelot Merlot. The flavors matched amazingly well, with the wine a jammy blend of dark fruit, vanilla and spice in a glass.
Sure, it wasn't a traditional summer meal by definition, but its parts certainly equalled one sum of delicious dining.

Special thanks to Juliana Manion Copley and her terrific staff:

For more on this meal, visit

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Menu Items Are Bedeviling, Tasty Treats at Fleming's

Deviled eggs..I can't stop thinking about them...and I don't even eat deviled eggs, much less the truffled variety...but my hard and fast rule was overturned during a recent visit to Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, and I'm still trying to sort it all out after the unbelievable array of food and wine that was set before me.
Pairing princess that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed introducing the deliciously sweet lump crab Louie wraps to a delightfully crisp and acidic 2008 Maso Canali Pinot Grigio. Not to be outdone, the roasted mushroom ravioli was just begging to have a seat next to Kim Crawford's citrusy '08 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Crawford was quite accomodating, and even made room for those eggs I mentioned. It was love at first bite, as creamy indulgence gazed adoringly at bright minerality.
Tender, center cut filet and New York strip steak were thrilled to meet the restaurant's own Forty-Six Diamonds, an '04 propriety blend of Napa red that is at once big and hearty, yet with fruit subtle enough to gently accentuate the iron-rich flavors exuding from the meat. About midway through the meal, I found myself wiping away happy tears as I watched all of these flavors getting along so well, as if they'd known one another for years.
Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, a volcano of chocolate arrived and smiled at our Tawny Port. I just hope I'm invited to the wedding...and that they serve those deviled eggs... 

Special thanks to John Verhoef and his staff at Fleming's in Rancho Mirage:

To read more about this meal go to:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Restaurant Week Party Offers Preview of Coming Attractions

It is no secret that Palm Springs-area restaurants have really upped the ante over the last few years in terms of creativity. That was no more evident than at the recent Restaurant Week Preview party, where I found unique food and wine combos at every tasting table.
Upon arrival, I was handed a deliciously refreshing glass of heady, blood-red sangria. This addicting concoction was courtesy of  Kobrand Spirits, who combined their Passion Fruit Alize (a Passion fruit/cognac blend) with some juicy table Zin and a handful of fresh fruit. 
I do enjoy white wine, but tend to favor pairings that involve juicy, fruit-centric reds. So I was pleasantly surprised with the delectable bourbon honey-glazed salmon and shitake succotash from Old La Quinta's Hog’s Breath Inn, matched with a 2007 Cosentino Chardonnay. Crisp with citrus and green apple flavors, the wine was well-matched with the richness of the fish and the slight earthiness of the vegetables.
One thing I try to stay away from unless I'm at the pool is wine in a cup, but short ribs are a different story as I quickly discovered, courtesy of Mr. Parker's in Palm Springs. Their glazed short rib with wild mushroom and garlic cream, complete with a parmesan twist puff pastry was delectable. It tasted even better was Cosentino's 2007 Cigar Zin, an "Old Boys Club" style wine that evoked 'tobacco, spice and smoke' for Unorthodox Foodie. She was dead on, as the smoky meat got along amazingly well with this formidable vintage.
If our preview treats were any indication, desert food and wine lovers will have plenty of surprises to discover in the very near future.

Sangria recipe:
One bottle of Passion Fruit Alize
Two bottles of your favorite Zinfandel
Bunch of red grapes
Four oranges sliced, peel on

Special thanks to: