The Chef’s Experience on Table 65

This one’s for my oenophiles.

Settled in the Rancho Bernardo hills of Southern California lies Avant inside the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

The Table 65 experience is a delightful option for those looking for an elevated dining experience, connected right to the action of a restaurant wine room and private kitchen.  I’ve just booked this table for an intimate, private wine dinner next month.  The Chef will design a custom menu in accordance to seasonal California fresh fare, and I am working with the restaurant to select options and pairings for my clients [translate: moonlighting in culinary, obviously].  Full experience and complete review with Avant Chef and Avant Sommelier is coming soon!  Stay tuned, friends.

Southbound to Austin, TX

The best part about being a wine-geek is [without a doubt] the ongoing set of new things you discover, taste, experience, and learn about on the journey to full-blown wine nerd.  I’ve lately become a huge fan of the history in Washington and the juicy, impressive wines the region is producing.  And, who’s with me on this – it’s just FUN to say Walla Walla.

On the topic of grape growing and in particular, Washington – I find the words of Karen MacNeil out of her 2nd edition Wine Bible especially on point, not to mention actually, very exciting:

 “Most of the world’s classic grapes can grow in lots of places, but each has a kind of spiritual home – a place (or sometimes places) where that grape can ascend beyond what is merely good and be transformed into stunning wine.  In the 1990s, Washington State, much to most wine drinkers’ surprise, emerged as one of the great spiritual homes of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.  The phenomenon was startling, for only a dozen or so years earlier most winemakers’ hopes were pinned on gewürztraminer, chardonnay, and other white grapes that filled the vineyards. As it turns out these grapes (still widely grown in Washington) make good wine there…. What you notice immediately about Washington Cabernets and Merlots is the concentration of the wines.  It almost seems as though, by some magical osmosis, they’ve been infused with the PRIMAL LUSH BERRYNESS of WILD NORTHWEST blackberries, boysenberries, raspberries and cherries.”


When I think Cabernet, especially top-tier cabernets, conventional wisdom immediately and almost always points me directly to Napa where 55% of the crop population is exactly that – Cabernet.  Then again, I admit my lack of formal knowledge and realize that as a new(er) region, Washington has so much to offer.

Being self-taught in any topic is going to present it challenges.  For me on this wine journey over the past several months, this has manifested into disorganized study which effect can be expressed in my failure of the modern-day colloquialism to “work smarter, not harder”.

With my readjusted timeline to pass level one before June of 2018, I’ve got no more time to waste and I need to study in a formal setting.

Enter Austin, Texas this November.  I’ll take my first wine Masterclass in an actual setting amongst my fellow Guild members.

In this masterclass, MS Chris Tanghe will lead a tour of the wine regions of his home state of Washington. In its relatively short history as a winemaking region, Washington has achieved success in a wide range of varieties and styles as the country’s second largest producer of vinifera wines.  The class will accompany tastings, of course, and hopefully lead me to an expanded network of wine students, or better yet as I seek my own, a new group of wine nerds.


The Major Reds, Major Whites

Allow me to introduce the stars of the show.  By collection of name only.  As I study each of these beauties, expect a fleshy blog post, devoting to each its own time in the spotlight.

Major White Grape Varieties:

  1. Albariño
  2. Assyrtiko
  3. Chardonnay
  4. Chenin Blanc
  5. Grüner Veltliner
  6. Gewurztraminer
  7. Marsanne
  8. Melon de Bourgogne
  9. Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains
  10. Pinot Grigio (Gris)
  11. Riesling
  12. Roussanne
  13. Sauvignon Blanc
  14. Sémillon
  15. Torrontés
  16. Viognier

Major Red Grape Varieties:

  1. Aglianico
  2. Barbera
  3. Cabernet Franc
  4. Cabernet Sauvignon
  5. Carmenère
  6. Corvina
  7. Gamay
  8. Grenache
  9. Malbec
  10. Merlot
  11. Mourvèdre
  12. Nebbiolo
  13. Pinot Noir
  14. Pinotage
  15. Sangiovese
  16. Syrah/Shiraz
  17. Tempranillo
  18. Zinfandel


A Grape Rainbow

To admire the creation is to admire the creator.  You romance me, Mother Nature!

Veraison:  One special week in middle August when the green grapes begin turning purple, the fruit begins to soften, acids begin to decrease, and sugar begins to increase.  Also a sign that harvest is right around the corner.  It’s an exciting time in the wine world right now, as winemakers journey into this year’s Harvest and begin to write the story of their 2017 vintages.

Harvest:  As we enter September, the long days and nights of harvest are in full swing, and mother nature is the lady executive of it all.  Winemakers will be tasting grapes to evaluate three important character defining qualities:  sugar, acids, tannins.  Measurements taken into account which tell the winemaker when to start picking and what they are picking for.  I am obsessed with the idea of staying up through the night to hand pick a single varietal off the vine from an uber boutique label where the vineyard team is family.  *Queue romantic impressionable midnight vineyard grape picking scene from A Walk in the Clouds entitled “Saving the Vineyard”.  You’re welcome.

Good luck with your seasons, vintners! I am eagerly learning, watching, writing, and waiting!

Photo Credit: Evoinos, Ezousa Winery featured in Decantur

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