Tuesday, August 28, 2012

1982 Mumm Champagne; An experience 30 years in the making

At my 21st birthday, I received a bottle of G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne, 1982 vintage from the Reims region. Having (some) presence of mind, I knew to save this bottle on its side in my parent's fridge, but that was my extent of wine knowledge at the time. The bottle lived there for 5 years until DH and I were at my parent's house one random day day in '08 when he discovered this rare gem. He immediately researched the bottle and insisted we drink it right away for fear it might be passing its prime.
I hesitated. I had already saved it this long, I wanted to wait and have the Champagne for a special occasion. That said though, no one wanted to see it go bad in bottle. Have you ever been faced with this conundrum with a wine? 
To my knowledge, it is a uniquely wine related problem wherein you age, or cellar something but don't always know if you'll get it right.
Anyhow, I digress.
We opted not to drink it upon discovery but DH transported it to his wine fridge for more proper storage. The bottle made the move up north with us and remained safe and sound thru our engagement and wedding, just waiting for the right 'special occasion', DH ever anxious to open it and taste the results. 
On a whim we packed it for the Mendocino weekend. 30 years seemed like long enough. 

DH&I brought the chilled bottle out to the gazebo at the Boonville Hotel and awaited our fate. I did the honors, naturally. The wire cage was brittle and tough. The cork was a bit desicated and unyielding. I coaxed it out and poured the first sip.
The results?!...
Pure gold! Wow! The tiniest bubbles, a goldenrod hue and the slightest bit of fruit on the nose, this Champagne was unlike anything DH or I had ever tasted. For being a 30 year old wine, it still had a remarkable balance of acid and fruit while showing its maturity in its rich color, small bubbles and honeyed taste.
As it turned out this bottle could have probably stood to be aged even a wee bit longer. That said, sitting with my new husband in a gorgeous garden away from any worries or cares, watching the sun go down as I braced a new decade happily, I can imagine no better way I/we could have enjoyed that bottle more.
                      *            *            *
A bottle of wine is best experienced between two people. Certainly it is a wonderful thing to share wine with a group but to truly experience a bottle, two is the magic number. In this way you are able change with the bottle, get to know it at its opening and as it opens up to the world outside. 
...too much? Share a truly great bottle of wine with one other person you love and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mendocino Weekend

For whatever reason, in the 1.5+ years we've lived here, we've always travelled south when we've gone out of town. An armchair psychologist could chalk this up to our Southern California roots and a constant call back to where we know. My vote is on the fact we both fell hard and fast for Santa Cruz and its surrounding environs. Either way, it's left the land(s) north of us all but undiscovered.
My past birthdays were no different. For the last couple years we have spent my birthday camping with friends in the Santa Ynez Valley, mere miles from where we wed last month. Because of said wedding however, the annual birthday camping weekend experienced a bye this year.
So when DH mentioned he needed to walk the vineyards up in Sonoma and Mendocino, I jumped at the chance to trek north and discover Mendocino for my birthday weekend.
Despite only driving through it once years ago, Mendocino has always held a bit of nostalgia and allure to me. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that my closest relatives grew up on a street by the same name...but there I go again with the armchair psychologist bit!
We headed north early Friday morning, straight to Lanzelle Creek Vineyard, then to Lucky Well and onto my old favorite, Silver Eagle Vineyard. The grapes have already begun to experience verasion; or color change of the skins, but they still have close to another month (from 8/10) before they are ready to be picked and crushed for harvest.
After a quick lunch at our old standby, Jimtown and and even quicker wine tasting at the exquisitely designed (and branded), Medlock Ames, we were off to Mendocino...County that is. We spent our first night in Boonvilleone of those darling, one-road towns wherein "if you're talking to the driver, you'll miss it completely", as a local summed it up perfectly.
We stayed at the Boonville Hotel, a 'modern roadhouse' and arguably one of the most adorable places I've seen or stayed in. There's nothing fancy or highfalutin about it but the tiny 10-room inn, downstairs restaurant/check in area, outdoor dining patio and sprawling backyard (edible) gardens are enough to make your heart swell.
Unfortunately we weren't able to eat dinner in the restaurant as they were closed for a private party but we did enjoy the early evening in the gardens with a very special bottle...a 1982 vintage Reims,Champagne by G.H. Mumm. That bottle warrants its own post!
As if the hotel weren't wonderful enough, included in your stay is the best breakfast you could ask for...but better. Homemade scones, preserves and granola, thick Greek yogurt, local honey,fresh local apple juice, strong french press coffee - the spread was nothing short of humbling. 
Staying at the Boonville Hotel is like staying at your overly-talented-in-every-facet friend's house, but without ever feeling inferior. I cannot speak more highly about our experience there, maybe if I'd tried their legendary dinner but all the same.
After breakfast we packed up and headed to the town of Mendocino, but not before stopping at a few wineries along the way. Wine tasting in Mendocino County is how I imagine it used to be to wine taste in Sonoma 20 years ago (and Napa 30 years ago). Mary Elke, Toulouse and Roderer Sparkling rounded out our palette.
We took a quick dip in the Navarro River to cool off - Anderson Valley is HOT in August! But just as soon as you merge onto the 1 from the 128, the Mendocino fog makes itself known.
We stayed at Glendeven Inn, a delightful B&B with acres of edible gardens, hiking trails, roaming llamas (yes, llamas) and dozens of chickens to deliver farm fresh eggs every morning.
Upon arriving we toured the gorgeous gardens, walked with the llamas and fed the chickens. 
Glendeven hosts a nightly wine happy hour so we enjoyed a local white and veggie snack before heading out for the evening.
We opted to eat dinner in the town of Medocino at the highly recommended Cafe Beaujolais. On our way to the restaurant DH noticed the sign for 'Sweetwater Hot Tubs' and knew we had to inquire. Sure enough, private redwood hot tubs available to rent by the half hour. The one thing Glendeven was missing was a hot tub but nothing worth commenting on, so the discovery of Sweetwater was a real treat.
A quick half hour soak set us right and off we went to a fabulous dinner at Beaujolais. We shared the two daily soups (tomato soup with fresh crab & corn bisque), the two fish specials (sturgeon & king salmon) and a bottle of '09 Brouilly Beaujolais. It was one of those perfect, simple meals where conversation was king.
Breakfast in bed the next day along with a bottle of Gonet rose Champagne was the icing on the birthday cake and a perfect way to ring in a new decade!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Monday Pot Luck; Mission Style

Mondays are rough.
Whether its school or work, its no fun getting back into the swing of the week. 
And to be sure, the more fun the proceeding weekend is, the worse the following Monday tends to be.
So when I received a text last Monday from Christy O. inviting me to a dinner party potluck at her place, I was aglow with delight. Having just driven to Napa and back, DH was less enthusiastic about getting back in the car for dinner. He quickly caved when I offered to drive and mentioned a few of the night's offerings, not least of which being Melissa's panzanella salad.
We arrive and not only is there a spread of delectable plates and Stevie Wonder blaring on the stereo but sure enough, Christy, Ade and Melissa are all dressed in black & white polka dot ensembles. They assured us it was a complete coincidence. This may seem like a minor detail and an entirely unnecessary detail for a food blog, but for ButterDate, this detail encapsulates this dinner party's ethos: This is a fun bunch. Stylish and food-minded? These are my people.
What I love in particular about the Bay Area potluck's I've been to is that there are as many dishes from local eateries as there are home crafted dishes. People bring what they can, even if that means buying it from the corner store.
Chunky, homemade guacamole along with charcuterie from Cheese Plus started the night's festivities. Beretta wood fired pizza paired well with Andrew's home grown garden vegetable salad. The main focus though was Mel's heirloom panzanella and Christy's BBQ chicken. Yum!
I was craving the Salvadorean street food, elote loco (crazy corn) so made that and an old dinner party standard, gorganzola stuffed figs.
For dessert, a homemade blackberry/nectarine crumble with cinnamon & pistachio ice cream from neighborhood favorite, Xanath on Valencia was the perfect summertime finish.
I could get used to more Mondays like this!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Temescal Farmer's Market & Summer Corn Chowder

One of the pastimes I missed most over the last 6/7 months was leisurely lolling at the Temescal Farmer's Market
Every Sunday, the otherwise hellish DMV magically transforms into a lively, bountiful farmer's market full of beautiful seasonal produce, gorgeous bi-racial couples and their equally gorgeous offspring and one verrry long coffee line.
Long coffee lines are nothing new in the Bay Area (or LA, or NYC or wherever else there's coffee worth waiting for) but the Blue Bottle coffee cart never fails to disappoint. Why we are all willing to wait in Disneyland-in-July-like lines (for Disneyland-in-July-like prices no less)is another topic entirely.
Without fail though,DH loyally waits in the coffee line while I give the produce booths a quick once over and come up with a game plan. Where are the best tomatoes? Who has the best price on stone fruit?

Twenty minutes later, we meet up to sip on our long awaited coffees, snack on pretzel croissants (my favorite) or a Pizza Politana breakfast pizza (DH's favorite) and crack into the Sunday crossword.
It is, quite simply, the perfect start to a lazy Sunday.
I missed it so much we opted to cut our Mini-Moon a day short to get back and go to it.
We gathered all the fixin's for corn chowder, salad Nicoise and a ton of stone fruit...is it just me or has this season's stone fruit been particularly outstanding?!
Corn chowder may be our most loved summer soup and Deborah Madison's corn chowder recipe is king for two reasons: #1. It can be made vegan without sacrificing any flavor and #2. The cobs, basil stems and potato skins are used to make the quick stock (LOVE using all parts!).
DH prepared simple sardine & aioli on rye toasts and paired the chowder with a 2007 Pinot from the Ellenbach vineyard. Next time around, I might roast half the corn to add a little smoky flavor but its pretty perfect as is.