Central Coast Wine Insider Blog

JUNE CENTRAL COAST WINE COUNTRY EVENTS


 

Summer Vineyard at Sunset

You know you want to spend the day in wine country!

Summer is upon us ~ Check out some of the fun in the sun!

Looking for Wine Country Events happening in June in one of
California’s Central Coast Wine Regions?
Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara County
Well, drink up!

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APRIL CENTRAL COAST WINE COUNTRY EVENTS CALENDAR

Breakaway Tours Calendar of Events Wine Tours

Spring is upon us! And there is so much good stuff to look forward to in Central Coast wine country. Discover new wines, enjoy a gourmet meal, or contribute to a heartwarming cause. Whatever you do, you’re gonna love it.  

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ROMANTIC VALENTINE’S DAY RECIPES

heart hands.jpg

These romantic Valentine’s Day inspired dinner recipes are sure to get the love flowing. From appetizers to main dishes and sweet treats, take your pick or cook them all to create a special four course meal for you and your sweetie.

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TRYING TO CONCEIVE? DRINK RED WINE!

According to a brand new study from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there’s a positive correlation between ovarian counts in women and moderate red wine consumption*. Trying to conceive? Pour yourself up a glass and turn down the lights, honey! Here are 5 well-loved varietals from across the Central Coast.

 

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Holiday Cocktail Recipes

 

There’s nothing better than cozying up next to the fire with a loved one on a cold winter’s day. And while there’s nothing wrong with cocoa, it’s nice to warm up with something a little harder on occasion. If you’re looking to up your holiday cocktail game with hot or cold cocktails or seasonal punches, follow along for some sip-worthy recipes that are sure to make this season merry and bright!

 

Fall Harvest Sangria from EatYourselfSkinny.com
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 Bartlett pear
2 Honeycrisp apples
1 Orange
¼ cup pomegranate
2 cinnamon sticks
2 ½ cups apple cider, fresh
1 cup club soda
1 (750ml) bottle favorite white wine
½ cup vodka

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Place chopped apples, pears, orange slices, pomegranate seeds and cinnamon sticks in a large pitcher. Pour in wine, apple cider, and vodka and mix well.
  2. Allow flavors to marinate in the fridge a few hours before serving then add club soda. The longer it sits the better!

 

 

Bourbon Pecan Pie Cocktail from BasilandBubbles.com
Makes 1 Cocktail

Ingredients:
1 ounce Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 ½ ounce Evangieline Pecan Praline liqueur
½ ounce vodka of your choice

Instructions:

  1. Pour all ingredients over ice and stir

 

 

Holiday Spiced Mulled Wine from JoyfulHealthyEats.com 

Makes 1 Cocktail

Ingredients:
1 orange
1 Pink Lady apple
¼ cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves, whole
2 star anise
1/3 cup brandy
1 bottle red wine

 

 

Instructions:

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium sauce pan or Dutch oven. Cover.
  2. Turn burners to medium heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Serve!

 

Cranberry Margaritas from GimmeSomeOven.com
Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups 100% cranberry juice
¾ cup fresh lime juice
¾ cup tequila
½ cup orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec
ice cubs

Instructions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together until blended. Serve

Champagne 101 for Valentines Day!

How to Open Champagne Bottles

Don’t know how to open Champagne bottles? Don’t fret! While opening a bottle of sparkling wine may not be intuitive, it is quite easy and we will give you a few tips on how to do it best. You want to open a Champagne bottle in a way that both respects the precious beverage inside the bottle but is also elegant and fun.champagne-cheersopening a bottle of sparkling wine may not be intuitive, it is quite easy and we will give you a few tips on how to do it best. You want to open a Champagne bottle in a way that both respects the precious beverage inside the bottle but is also elegant and fun. While we recognize that not all bubbles are champagne (we have love for prosecco, cava and sparkling whites as well!) for today, we will us the term champagne to stand in for all these marvelous libations!

Opening a bottle of Champagne has a feeling of excitement and celebration about it. It is classically associated with parties, celebrations and special occasions. However, Champagne and other sparkling wines have many more purposes than just celebration. Many sparkling wines are much more versatile at table than most people realize. Champagne is a brilliant match with a number of cuisines. It shines with spicy foods like Indian and Thai cuisine. It’s bright intensity is a great foil for sushi and it pairs beautifully with rich, creamy cheese.

Therefore, Champanges, or other fine sparkling wines,  are a great choice for a wine theme dinner party or wine tasting. But before you go and plan your next Champagne tasting, be sure you know how to open Champagne bottles comfortably first!

    • To Pop or Not to Pop, That is the Questionchampagne-popping
      Most people have seen Champagne bottles shaken up and popped violently, shooting the cork across the room followed by a fountain of foam shooting across the room. While this has helped build the reputation of sparkling wines as the perfect celebratory beverage, this is not the ideal way to open a champagne bottle. For one, shaking up the wine causes excessive bubbles and the wine you are left with is under-carbonated. Also, you loose a large part of the bottle in that foam that shoots out. When learning how to open Champagne you should realize that in fact the correct way to open a Champagne is by gently sliding out the cork so that only a small hiss of air comes out. Granted, this is not as exciting and celebratory. However, it maintains the appropriate carbonation in the wine and prevents losses of your precious liquid! Some people will pull out the cork just fast enough to make a bit of a pop noise but without causing excessive foaming and loss of wine. The choice is yours, but if serving wine in an elegant way which is respectful to the beautiful wine in the bottle is your goal, then go slow!
    • Use a Champagne Bucketchamp-bucket
      When serving Champagne or other sparkling wines, they often show best when well chilled. They tend to get flabby and coarsely carbonated when they warm up. Chilling will also help prevent excessive foaming when you learn how to open Champagne bottles. A Champagne bucket is simply a large (usually metal or glass) bucket into which you put ice water and your bottle of wine. It sits on the table, or some have their own stand, and keeps your wine well chilled while you drink and discuss the wine or enjoy your dinner. After you learn how to open Champagne, we strongly recommend using a Champagne bucket when serving sparkling wines.

 

  • Champagne Stopperchampagne-stopper
    After you open Champagne the carbonation starts to dissipate. If you are quickly pouring most of the bottle at a large party, wine tasting or dinner party, or if you plan to consume the bottle quickly, this is not a problem. However, if you have wine left in the bottle which will likely sit for a while, then a Champagne bottle stopper is a good wine accessory to have handy to prevent the wine from going flat. There are different versions which can be bought at wine shops but basically they are a crown that goes on the bottle and has some mechanism for securing it to the top of the bottle. You can’t use a standard wine cork or bottle closure because the carbonation will push it up and will leak. These special stoppers hold pressure so that your carbonation dissipates much slower so that you can keep your Champagne to enjoy over a prolonged period. Keep the bottle chilled in your Champagne bucket while stoppered!

 

  • Doing the Deed
    We finally get to it! Now the fun part. For practice to learn how to open Champagne, if you have never opened a Champagne bottle before, I recommend trying once or twice at home before hosting a wine tasting or dinner party. While real Champagne can be quite expensive for practice, you can find inexpensive American sparkling wines at most markets with which to practice.

    • Opening champagne

      Opening champagne

      One important first step when learning how to open Champagne is to recognize the importance of chilling. Before opening, make sure your bottle of sparkling wine is well chilled. Sparkling beverages bubble and foam much more at warmer temperatures. I suggest sitting your bottle in an ice water bath for at least 15 to 30 minutes before opening. Alternatively, you can set your bottle in your refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

    • Find a kitchen towel (preferably an attractive one if you are serving guests!) and bring that and your chilled bottle to your table.
    • The first step is to remove the foil capsule on the top of the Champagne bottle. Some bottles have a tab that you can pull to cut the foil around the top for easy removal. If not, you can simply pull the entire capsule off or cut it with a foil cutter like you would for a regular wine bottle. However, note that you should cut further down on the neck of the bottle as the very top of the capsule is over the cork and wire cage.
    • Once your foil is off, you will have exposed a wire cage that covers the cork and holds it down. This cage has a little handle, shaped like a wire loop, which is bent up against the side of the cage. Pull this down so that it is perpendicular to the bottle. Twist it with your fingers counterclockwise until it releases. When it is loose you can open and remove the cage completely from the top of the bottle. Set this aside. Alternatively, some people choose to simply loosen the wire cage but to leave it on while pulling out the cork.
    • From this point on, be aware that the cork is free and can occasionally be pushed out by the pressure in the bottle. This is particularly true if the bottle is not adequately chilled prior to open. So keep an eye on it or keep your hand on it at all times. A flying cork can actually cause harm so watch out!
    • Now the important part! Wrap the towel around the head of the cork and grasp it firmly with your left hand, holding the body of the bottle in your right hand.
    • With your right hand and the base of the bottle steadied against your hip or the side of your body, slowly begin to twist the bottle while holding the cork still and providing some counter-traction with your left hand. As you twist, slowly increase the distance between your hands so that the cork twists out slowly. This should all be done in a slow and controlled manner so that the cork does not pop out too fast.
    • As you get to the end of the cork, slow your pulling and twisting so that the last bit of cork comes out very slowly and in a controlled manner. It actually helps to slightly resist the cork’s movement out and try to push it back in. This will help slow its exit so that it comes out gently. In this way you can limit the escape of air to a faint hiss. Be sure at this point that the bottle is angled upward somewhat so that when the cork does come out you are not pouring wine all over the floor or yourself! As it comes free, return the bottle to a fully upright position and return gently to your Champagne bucket or serve immediately!

If you’ve never enjoyed Champagne before and don’t know how to open a Champagne bottle it may seem daunting, but just give it a try. Good sparkling wine is a thing of beauty. Besides being fun, romantic and celebratory, it just tastes good and compliments a wide range of cuisines. Enjoy!

 


After Wine…now What?

whiskey-dispenserSo you have enjoyed your Thanksgiving Dinner and polished off a bottle or two of delicious local wine. So….now what?

You may have family visiting from out of town, or maybe you have a weekend party to attend. Either way, one of our great seasonal cocktails goes a long way toward making things Merry and Bright!

Here are two Holiday Cocktails inspired by local spirits produced by some of the wonderful distillers found on our Distillery Tour. Cheers!

Rosy Cheeked

2 oz Re:find Gin

1oz Aperol

.75 loz emon juice

.75 oz simple syrup

1 oz pomegranate juice

1 oz cranberry juice

1 sprig rosemary

Combine all and shake with ice, strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh rosemary and lemon wheel.

Spiced Pear

2 oz Krobar Bourbon

.5 oz St. George Spiced Pear Liquer

.75 oz lemon juice

3 dashes SLO Bitter Co. Charred Cedar and Blackstrap Bitters

Ginger beer

Combine all except ginger beer and shake with ice. Strain into highball glass, add ice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with fresh pear slices and nutmeg.


The unsung Wine Warrior, Tempranillo

tempranillo grapesTempranillo is one of the world’s greatest wines, but one that sadly is too often overlooked by many wine enthusiasts.

Capable of great aging, the winemakers of Spain have been aging these wines ten or more years before releasing them to the public for consumption for centuries.  These are wines of wonderful complexity and finesse when they mature and can be an absolute joy when you find a good one. The most common fine red wine grape used in Spain, it is arguably at its best in Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions with references to its production found in literature from as far back as the 13th century. It is also widely used in the Duaro region of Portugal where it is known as Tinto Roriz and a major grape used in Port wine blends. None of this is lost on many of the winemakers of California who have been searching around the world for grapes that do well in the Mediterranean climate found here, and Tempranillo was a natural. This is a grape that has an affinity for mountainous terrains as well as areas that offer a great diurnal shift (the difference between the hottest and coolest part of the day- Hello Paso Robles!!) The grape first made its way to California in the early 1900s, but was planted in areas not ideal for vineyards and some particularly prone to Phylloxera, causing significant issues with its continued cultivation. Often used as part of inexpensive red wine blends it didn’t receive fine wine status here until the last ten years or so when it was finally planted to the regions that support it’s viticultural requirements.

Cultivation: A thick skinned black grape that forms fairly tight clusters, Tempranillo is particularly susceptible to pests and mildew. Luckily it is a grape that buds late and ripens early. providing less opportunity to be affected by inclement weather. One unfortunate feature of the grape is that it swells in humid weather, negatively impacting its color and flavor intensity. The good acidity levels demanded of a well made version of this wine requires that its tendency to lower acidity be mitigated by growing it in locations with significant daily temperature swings and blending it with another red wine to ensure its aging ability. This is a vine that particularly likes chalky or calcareous sandy soils or iron rich clays, preferably located on hillsides. Besides California, Portugal, and Spain, Tempranillo is often found in southern France, Chile and Argentina.

Flavor Profiles: Flavor profiles and winemaking style can vary significantly between its home in Spain and the versions being made in California. However, there are some significant similaritiestempranillo vines such as red cherries, strawberries, red berries and red plum, as well as a propensity towards an herbal quality, often dill. Both versions often contain the essence of tobacco, vanilla, leather, coffee and tea. The American version can often be quite full bodied wines with significant up front fruit and can resemble a Cabernet Sauvignon with less tannin and generally more acidity. The Spanish versions are generally aged in old American oak and tend towards great vanilla flavor and an earthiness that is less evident in American versions. Aged Rioja versions tend more towards elegant and earthy and can be quite delicate if older making them more reminiscent of a Burgundian Pinot.

Wine Pairing Considerations: Pair Tempranillo with similar foods that you would pair with Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. It works beautifully with lamb and beef, but because of its good acidity when made well and not overpowering body; can work with bolder fish such as salmon and ahi. A perfect bridge ingredient is dill, an herbal quality often found in the nose of the wine, as well as mushrooms with that great earthiness they share with the wine. Also consider using it with sausage, roast pork and most styles of chicken.

Major California Growing Regions: Clarksburg, Lodi, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Sierra Foothills, Sonoma County.


The Wine Season Turns with the arrival of Veraison

veraison2Veraison, an annual benchmark in the winegrape growing season, is officially underway.

Known as the onset of ripening, veraison marks the colorful transition from grape growth to grape ripening, resulting in several changes in fruit development.  They not only change color, but they begin to increase in weight and volume as well.

Most dramatically, red winegrapes slowly turn from green to red and purple while white winegrapes change from green to a golden yellow, becoming more translucent. This process occurs over a lengthy period of time and each grape variety ripens at a different rate. Veraison marks an important turning point as the nutrients and fuel for growth shirt from growing vines and roots to growing fruit.

With harvest typically occurring 60-75 days from 50% veraison, growers anticipate that the 2016 harvest could begin as early as September, so keep anvineyardnetting eye on the grapes.

During this time of year, other activities are taking place in the vineyard as well. Vine growth is robust and grape growers are actively caring for leaf canopies to prevent sunburn of the grapes and managing the vineyard floor to minimize weeds, vineyard pests, and hold on to the remaining moisture vineyardscarecrowthat exists in the soil profile. A variety of methods are used to protect the precious fruit from predators – mainly birds – such as netting, reflective mylar materials, and even good old-fashioned scarecrows!

While there are still several weeks ahead until harvest, and much still depends on the weather between now and fall,  it appears to be shaping up to be another excellent vintage for 2016 her on the Central Coast!


How the Vines make the Wine- the Annual Cycle!

How do things grow from Root to Fruit?

If you’ve ever visited a working vineyard and beheld the vines, you’ve undoubtedly heard the terms bandied about: Bud Break, Fruit Set, Veraison. But how does that seemingly barren chunk of wood you see in December become the fruit laden cornucopia of grape splendor we see in September?  To understand, we look at the yearly growth cycle of the wine vine. Come along!

Dormancy of Vines

From leaf fall to the beginning of growth in spring, grape vines are dormant and consist entirely of woody tissue. Relatively little activity occurs during this period. Root growth can still occur unless soil temperatures are too cold to support growth. Cold hardiness within rootstocks can vary depending on genetics, temperature, and temperature fluctuations. Many of the hybrid grape varieties are created to address the lack of hardiness in varieties of grapes in the species Vitis vinifera. As a result, hardiness varies considerably across varieties. In cold climates, hardy hybrid varieties are necessary for grape production

vines bud break

Bud Break

Bud break

As temperatures warm in the spring, stored starch is converted to sugar and sap begins to move in the vine. This can be seen on warm spring days when pruning wounds begin to “bleed”. As temperatures warm, buds begin to swell, then burst (break). The newly emerged shoots grow very rapidly, and will continue to do so for several weeks in the absence of stress. Soon clusters become visible, usually opposite the third and fourth leaves on a shoot.

 

Bloom and fruit set

After a few weeks, depending on weather conditions, clusters begin to swell, and soon flowers open. The flowering period can be as short as a day or two under warm, dry conditions, or as long as a month under very cool, wet weather conditions. Grapevines are still mostly reliant on stored carbohydrates from the previous season for their energy at this point. After pollination, the flowers abscise and the newly-formed berries go through a rapid period of development due to cell division. Flower cluster primordia for the following season begin to originate in buds at this time, and will continue to develop until veraison. Leaves well exposed to sunlight during this time will result in more fruitful buds in the following growing season. Once the berries are well formed, cell division largely ceases and further berry growth is mostly due to cell expansion. Many leaves on each shoot are fully expanded, and the vine no longer depends on stored carbohydrates for its energy source. For the next few weeks, shoots and berries grow very rapidly.

 

Veraison and fruit maturation

vines veraison

Photo of Veraison

Approximately five to seven weeks after fruit set, veraison begins. Berries expand further, begin to soften, and accumulate sugar. The color on red cultivars is readily apparent, while the visual indicators of maturity on white cultivars are more subtle. During the next four to six weeks, sugar, pigments, and other flavor compounds increase in the maturing fruit, while organic acids decrease and change forms. Unless there is an excess of water or fertility, shoot growth slows greatly or ceases. The bark of green shoots begins to turn brown from the base, becoming woody by the end of the period. This process is called lignification. On managed plantings, the veraison period ends with harvest

 

Post-harvest

After harvest, grapevine leaves continue to photosynthesize until frost if temperatures are warm enough. This is a very important period for the vines to accumulate carbohydrates for future growth. As temperatures fall, vines gradually become more cold hardy, and sugars are converted to starch to be stored for the winter, mostly in perennial structures such as roots and trunks. After leaf fall, vines continue to acclimate to cold weather, but no more carbohydrate accumulation occurs.

Want to learn more about how wine is made? Join us at Breakaway Tours and get a behind the scenes look at how it Root to Fruit, from Grape to Glass! Call or email todaymailto:info@breakaway-tours.com or 800-799-7657.