California Drinking

I have seen the West Coast, and I am moderately impressed.

Cali, baby!

Okay, okay, very impressed. After spending all day Tuesday in a special hell engineered by the godless monsters at US Air and American Airlines and all night on an air mattress at my father’s pad in Los Angeles, I finally stumbled out of a bus bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around 10:30 local time Wednesday morning.

That is a lie. I wanted to murder everything in the world. The fact that part of the state was apparently on fire did nothing to help my mood, nor did the knowledge that not only had my family met Michael Jordan the night before, they’d spent the night drinking and chatting with him and his entourage.

So the best thing to do was immediately go wine-tasting!

Nothing makes you forget a bad travel experience like booze. Especially when that booze is extremely classy, for-the-taste stuff that stays on your palate and makes you feel all warm inside. We started at the Foley Estates Tasting Room, where two extremely nice ladies explained How To Drink Wine Properly:

1) Swirl the wine in the glass and eyeball its viscosity. This is Very Important for reasons the two ladies were not immediately clear on; colloquially the little streaks the receding wine leaves are known as “legs.” Nice legs, as they always do, indicate a superior experience. In addition, this oxygenates the wine further, which anyone in the know will tell you brings out more of its flavor.

2) Smell the wine. Don’t wimp out on this and give a little sniff a few inches above the glass, neither; the wineglass has a wide mouth for a reason. Shove your whole schnozz in that that thing and BREATHE IN. Mentally note the aroma, because you must compare it with step 3.

3) Sip the wine! Swirl it around in your mouth and try not to spit it at the one guy in your group who keeps telling you you have to “chew” the wine to taste it properly. Note how closely the taste matches the scent–the more air that gets into the wine, the more exact the match.

4) DO NOT spit it out. Do you have any idea how much this wine tour is costing you? Swallow every drop.

I tried a wonderful Chardonnay–very clear, no hint of bitterness, with the slightest tint of fruit–and a smooth-as-silk Pinot Noir. We ended up mailing three bottles home at high but worth it cost (thank you so much TSA fluid regulations), and headed off to our second (and last, as lunch took too long) destination, the Melville Winery.

It was here I found a new fav-o-rite drink in the form of Viognier. It’s like a dessert wine robbed of all sugar; it teeters right on the edge of sweet and sour and is unbelievably crisp. I bought a souvenir bottle for the ladyfriend and had to resist the temptation to guzzle it with our light lunch in the vineyard.

And what a lunch that was! Provided by the touring company and made with all organic ingredients, it was amazingly good. I gorged on skewered, lightly breaded chicken breasts, dipping them endlessly in some kind of sweet mustard. I normally don’t even LIKE mustard! Complementing this was another bottle of chardonnay and some of the freshest strawberries I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously, I ate these things until my sides hurt and juice dripped down my chin, then flopped out on the grass and tried not to spill my expensive chardonnay. Listening to the cool Pacific breeze, the laughter of my cousins, and the faraway drone of cars on the highway, I thought to myself: if this is what California is like all the time, maybe leaving actual weather behind isn’t such a bad idea.

But in the end, I’m a born-and-bred Midwesterner, liable to overeat red meat and yell when I drink. I belong in my hometown.

Just let me bring some of these with me. Please? Just a handful?

-Jim is still angry that his family got to party with Michael Jordan and he didn’t

  • http://www.leftoverqueen.com JennDZ – The Leftover Queen

    Wow, that sounds like a great store! I love getting the chance to try some nice samples of delicious food! Sounds like a wonderful experience!

    Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

  • Caley

    Thanks for the add Jenn!

  • http://www.liketocook.com jennifer

    Don’t you just love Viognier? I was just having a discussion this evening with a Belgian friend about how undervalued it is.
    So wonderful to read that there is another fan out there!

  • Kathi

    Jim:
    What tour company did you use. I am headed up that way and sounds like they did a good job.

  • http://www.recipe4living.com Jim

    Kathi, I’m not sure, since my family set it up–but I’ll get back to you about it as soon as possible!

  • http://www.foodonthefood.com Tammy

    What a trip! Is yelling when you drink considered uncouth in California?

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