I’ve always been of the belief that what makes food and wine so wonderful is the company in which you share it. Yeah, I like to have a glass of wine occasionally by myself before bed or with dinner or whatever–but, when good friends can get together and share good food and wine, there is something magical about it.
Such was the case last night. I’m fortunate enough to have called Keith Cox a friend over 4 decades. Hard for me to believe that since I’m only 40 years old. But Keith and I met in 1978 in junior high school and we continue a close, albeit geographically distant, relationship to this day. He lives about 120 miles north of here in Santa Maria. He makes me proud on a number of levels–he is an entrepreneur and a successful one and he has raised two very fine young daughters who, now in their teenage years, have become fine young women. He is recently married to Tina who is just the nicest, loveliest, kindest friend we could know. Sue adores her and so do I–and she doesn’t just fit right in–it’s like she’s always been there.
So it was that the four of us gathered last night in Buellton to enjoy each other’s company, do some wine tasting and have dinner together. The former was the first order of business and I was determined to visit Alma Rosa winery. I met Richard Sanford last week and posted about it here–and was blown away by how good the wines were. I followed the directions on the website and it led me directly to…..Sanford winery. That was like driving right into enemy territory, I guess. Richard and his wife Thekla, as I wrote previously, have split off from Sanford winery to form Alma Rosa. The split was apparently not amicable and there’s some bad blood there.
In any event, we arrived at Sanford just at closing time–me apologizing profusely that we weren’t at Alma Rosa. We tasted anyway, and went in with few preconceived notions. Sanford wine still has a good name and according to most, still makes good wine. However, none of us were impressed. We tasted through the Pinot Grigiot, the Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and three Pinot Noirs. None of them really lit my fire and for the price (well over $30.00 per bottle for some varietals), I wasn’t interested. Nice facility–quite beautiful set to the west of Buellton in the Santa Rita Hills.
So, as it was now 4:30, we headed into Solvang and went straight to Presidio’s tasting room. I wrote a piece for Wines and Vines about this winery and Doug Braun, the owner and winemaker. The wines are delicious–unfined and unfiltered and nothing we tasted was bad. The rose of syrah stands out first off because as spring and summer come on, I really like finding summer evening wines that are cool and crisp and a little more simple. Still, this rose has a nice herb backbone and some complex floral notes that really add up.
The Pinot Noir was out of this world with that light ruby color that I associate with the best Pinots. It was great. The Sangiovese, the Syrah–all of it was exceptional. We purchased quite a few things there.
On our way to dinner, I saw that Stolpman had a tasting room in Solvang and I knew they had opened it fairly recently. I stopped the car and in we went. The ladies were not as interested in tasting as…well…answering nature’s call so out they went to find quarters for same. Keith and I tasted through rose, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Syrah and again, all were stellar. I picked up a Syrah and some Nebbiolo and the price was not bad at all. What a great time it was. Great wine, wonderful conversation—Keith is one of the funniest guys I know—and then, all were a bit peckish.
Yes, we were foolish and thought we’d go to the Hitching Post for dinner without reservations. The Hitching Post is a great little restaurant that serves great steaks and some unique fair like ostrich and buffalo–and it’s a fun place to eat. But it was made famous in the film Sideways and the result was….a two hour wait. No thanks. There’s good food and then there are two hour waits—and no food is worth that.
So, we headed to AJ Spurs. Now, most foodies will turn their noses at Spurs, but turn off your snob meters for a while. The food is exceptionally good and there is a TON of it. I had a thing called Cowboy Blue which was a huge deep fried chicken breast with asparagus and a hollandaise sauce on top. It was simply delicious. All meals come with a pot of vegetable beef soup for the table, a salad and a dessert (either a cordial or a root beer float–we opted for the float). It was really a fantastic meal with the ladies both ordering meaty, slow cooked short ribs and Keith opting for the cajun ribeye. Outstanding. My snobbishness with food is disappearing. I still like going to good restaurants, I really do. But, I appreciate good food served by a friendly staff in a no-nonsense way. It was a lot of fun.
In all, perhaps the best weekend we’ve had in a long time. Peanut continues to get better and we are thankful for that as well. To be honest, I can’t wait to go up and do it again…
Here’s the four of us last December. For whatever reason, we didn’t take a photo last night.