The vernal equinox is the first day of spring. That's when the day and night are roughly equal in length. Now nighttime is just going to keep getting shorter, until we're at summer's glorious peak!
Not that springtime in San Diego is anything to sneeze at, unless you're allergic to pollen, of course. In fact, it's one of the most gloriously beautiful times of the year here, with rare flowers popping out of the desert and cherry blossoms adorning Balboa Park.
It's also a great time of year to sit outside and sip some light springtime wines. We recommend light-bodied wines. Here are a few to try:
Prosecco is a light and sparkly wine, and at its best it's fruity without being oversweet. It's also quite wallet-friendly, running about $10 a bottle. Perfect for sipping with or without peach juice as you sit on the porch in the springtime sun. Try something from Nino Franco to start.
California has a serious rosé issue — it's serious about rosés. And so are we! Dry, balanced rosés make life worth living, and Napa Valley produces some of the best you'll find anywhere. Trefethen Family Vineyards produces a wonderful fruity rosé that's made with Pinot Noir grapes and has hints of cherries and strawberries. Perfect.
Red wine that carries just a touch of sweetness will be welcome on any sunny day, too. Modesto's Tisdale Vineyard carries a wine called Sweet Red of California that's a springtime favorite. It's great for summer, too! Pair it with your favorite barbecued food.
Enjoy the sparkling days and clear nights of springtime in San Diego. Here's to the equinox!
Brooke B., Spring Blossom
Statue of Dionysius, the Roman god of wine and the harvest. Also the most fun god. True story.
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry "Caesar!" Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Beware the ides of March.
What man is that?
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
March 15th supposed to be a day that bad things are bound to happen. The phrase "beware the ides of March" comes, like so many other things in the English language, from Shakespeare.
There's actual history behind the saying. As you may have guessed, March 15th is the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated, setting the stage for the Roman Republic to become the Roman Empire. But the middle of March wasn't always considered an unlucky day, and we agree that it shouldn't be. Back in the Roman days, it was also the feast of Anna Parenna, which was supposed to complete the cycle of the year.
This was a day of festivities, which included drinking as much wine as your belly could hold. It was thought that each cup of wine you drank meant you'd live yet another happy and healthy year. We can't say that's something you shouldn't do, but just keep in mind that wine back then was not as potent as it is now, since they mixed it with seawater (a thought which frankly horrifies us.)
Be that as it may, don't beware the ides of March… enjoy them, and have a glass of wine. Or two. Or three. One way or another, it'll make you happier!
To your health!
Brooke B., Haruspex
Just say no.
Saint Patrick was an Irish hero for, according to folklore, driving all the snakes out of Ireland. For the purposes of this piece, we're going to skim over the fact that this was probably an allegory for his actual work helping extinguish Druidism throughout the island, and instead focus on what he really should have been doing – fighting back against the tyranny of bad beer, and worse: green beer.
In his absence, though, we'll do our part by giving you our annual list of our favorite San Diego breweries that provide Irish-style beers. It's a tough job, but we're just the people to do it!
First is the venerable and justly famous Red Trolley Ale from Karl Strauss. It's been a winner for ages, because it's delicious, and also because it's named after our famous trolley system. We love this beer!
Next is a beer from a brewery we just discovered: Mother Earth Brewery in Vista. Their Irish Red Ale, like all the rest of their beers, is creamy and delightful. We may have to sample it a little bit more to make sure it's appropriate, though. Mmmmmmmmmm.
We also love Hillcrest Brewing Company's version, which has a risque name like all the rest of its beers. Their Irish Red Ale is called Crotch Rocket. Saucy! But also very, very tasty! Check it out and while you're at it, if you're anything like us, you can sip at their delicious beers while you're giggling over their spicy, salty names.
There are always many more beers out there, but we think that these three will keep you good and busy for St. Patrick's Day. Remember, stay away from bad beer and beer that's been dyed green. It's what Saint Patrick himself would have wanted.
Brooke B., Cocktail Colleen
Little-known fact: He's actually reaching for a beer in this painting.
Happy Presidents' Day!
This is the day we have set aside to reflect on the many accomplishments of the presidents of the United States of America. What too often gets left out of the story, though, is our favorite part of it – the relationships between the leaders of the free world… and the breweries and wineries they kept.
Most recently, President Barack Obama gave new life to the phrase “amber waves of grain” by not only being photographed sipping beers, but also releasing the recipe to White House Honey Ale in response to a Freedom of Information Act request (which was released in 2012 to rave reviews.)
But he was far from the only one! George Washington loved his beer, and probably brewed it on his own estate. Fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson was not only a brewing nut, so was his wife Martha, who produced about 15 gallons of low-alcohol beer every couple of weeks. And John Adams came from a family of brewers – in face, Sam Adams (sound familiar?) was his second cousin.
The Founding Fathers loved their beer. But they also loved their wine! After all, Benjamin Franklin (yes, we know he wasn't ever president, but he was there) was the one who praised wine to the skies in his often-misquoted letter:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
He also loved his "strong, harvest-time ale." He's said to have praised beer in his customarily pithy way, saying, “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is courage, in water there is bacteria.” We're actually not totally sure about this one, since the term “bacteria” didn't exist until the mid-19th century, but we're sure he would have signed off on it.
So tilt a brew or a bottle back today, because you're following in the footsteps of a fine American tradition.
To your health!
Brooke B., Historian Doyenne
It's almost springtime already!
You know how we know? It's not the blue skies or the buds popping out on the trees. No, the real sign that spring is almost here is the annual Farmer's Insurance Open Golf Tournament at the Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Even if you don't play, the PGA Tour tournament is sure to be a great time. Golf is only the tip of the iceberg during that week – the crowds will also be treated to delightful food and drink, the opportunity to celebrity-watch, and be surrounded by gleaming, vintage cars. It's also for a good cause, as the tournament works closely with local charities that provide help for schools and childrens' centers!
They're also looking for volunteers, which is a great way to take in all the sights while giving back to the community. That's what we'll be doing!
Plus, it's going to be a blazing hot month, so come cool off at Torrey Pines while rubbing elbows with San Diego's top golfers… and givers.
We'll see you there!
Brooke B., Beer Birdie
Normally, we try to keep things lighthearted around here, but today we want to talk about something that's near and dear to our hearts: drinking and driving. Or rather, NOT drinking and driving. We don't advocate it; in fact, we abhor it.
There's no getting around it — driving under the influence can be costly. It can cost lives, dignity, self-respect, and if you're only deterred by cold, hard cash, if you're caught, it will break you financially.
Here's how the costs add up for the average first-time offender over legal drinking age, courtesy of the Auto Club. The minimum DUI fine is $390. County penalties are $1,245. Average cost for your vehicle, towing and storage is $350; a mandatory alcohol education class is $575; your booking and fingerprinting fee is $170; and your license re-issue is $125. You're already at $2,855, and that's even before the auto insurance increase (around $10,154) and attorney and legal fees ($2500!)
We don't want you to risk your life, somebody else's life, or your pocketbook. That's why we exist. We want you to be able to go wine- and beer-tasting without you or anybody else having to worry about any of this! We'll pick you up and drop you off if you like, or take you train-hopping so you can enjoy yourself while looking out over beautiful coastal scenery!
Trust us – not only will you have fun and save yourself an enormous hassle at the very least, but by taking our shuttle or the train, you'll also be helping the environment.
We're cool with that. Call us at (858) 551-5115 today to book a Chauffeured Tour or a Winery or Beer Train Tour. We're just a phone call away!
Here's to enjoying your tipple and saving the world in the process.
Brooke B., Responsible Taster
Posted in Uncategorized |
We can't believe it, but 2013 is nearly over and another year is about to begin!
This was a great year. They all are, but 2013 was particularly fun. We met great people, we tasted wonderful food and local wines, and the beer – well, let's just say that the craft beer in San Diego gets better and more plentiful by the year. New Year's traditions around the world involve spiked punch and champagne, but we really think that the only real way to celebrate the arrival of 2014 is with a California wine or a San Diego brew. After all, what you do on New Year's will set the tone for the next twelve months!
Do you have guests in from out of town? Are you a group looking for a wine or beer pairing luncheon or dinner party. We have the perfect event for your celebration. Call us and we’ll give you a Happy New Year gift of $5 off this wonderful party. Go here for more details.
It’s a busy holiday week for us, here’s some of our popular tours with spots open this week:
TOP SELLER! Winery Train Tour (Mon. – Fri. Start times: 1:40pm and 12pm) Easy-to-get-to start location via walk/trolley/train-usually no need to drive. Available Mon. 12/30; Thurs 1/2 and Friday 1/3
“FUN TIME ON THE WINE TOUR! We had a great time on the winery train tour, the time went by quickly, the lunch was AMAZING and it was great that you could drink on the train so we bought a bottle and enjoyed it with the other guests on the tour.” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
Drink on the train! Optional brewery stop for our beer lovers at no additional cost!
These GREEN tours are about 5 hrs in duration. You'll enjoy ample tastes of fabulous, local wines – about 18 tastes! We start the tour with wine and food pairings (light lunch) at our partner restaurant (delicious fine dining Italian). We enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery as we travel by rail (wine tasting on the train is highly recommended!). We have delightful guided historic walks (about 2 miles total, about 15 minute walks at a time) into the villages for tastings at the boutique wineries (fully operational urban wineries, this is not our vineyard tour) for wine and cheese and wine and chocolate pairings. Optional stop at our brewery for our beer lovers! You can join us on this Coaster train tour easily from most locations by using public transportation (bus, trolley, train, coaster etc.). These popular tours are only $88 per person which includes all your food, wine/beer and fun guided tours. (Does not include Regional Plus Day Pass train ticket which is an additional $12 per person.) Click here to book now!
TOP SELLER! San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tour (Wed.- Sun. Start time: approx. 11am) Available Friday 1/3 and Sunday 1/5
"SUPER SPECIAL AND RELAXED DAY FILLED WITH TERRIFIC WINE AND FOOD! What a perfect way to celebrate! The wine was spectacular. The wineries were beautiful and very welcoming. What took this tour over the top is the food! Cheeses, chocolates, breadsticks and brick oven pizza with breathtaking views. Completely worth every moment and dollar. Don’t miss! Cheers!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
On these popular tours we pick you up from your residence/hotel (from most San Diego locations) and take you to the vineyards of San Diego Wine Country. These fabulous tours are about 6 hrs. and include ample tastings at three wineries (about 18 tastes!). Your guide will entertain you with local history and a wine appreciation presentation. At our first winery we'll savor delicious fruits and cheeses with superb fine wine tastings. During this adventure you’ll get to stroll the vineyards and see how our local wines are made. We'll conclude this amazing day with decadent, local wines paired with a gourmet wood-fired brick-oven pizza dinner overlooking spectacular wineries grounds. Beer options available for purchase. Wine Country tour is all inclusive with door-to-door transportation, cheese platter, dinner, tasting fees, guided tour, bottled water, wine tote gift bag at only $149 per person. Click here to book now!
Wine & Food Walking Tour (Daily. Start time: 2pm) Available Tues 12/31
"YOU EARN YOUR MONEY BACK IN THE FIRST STOP! We had a great time. Excellent food; excellent wine and excellent company. Will do this trip again soon!” One of over 180 Trip Advisor 5-Star Reviews.
This fabulous 3 to 3.5 hr guided walking tour has tantalizingly tasty tour stops in the beautiful village of La Jolla. You'll be delighted as you taste fine wines and savor delicious, gourmet food. Your expert local guide will educate you in the fine art of wine tasting and food pairing. You'll even be treated with scrumptious wine paired with chocolate! Enjoy a leisurely walk of about 1.5 miles near the ocean, while being entertained with the history and culture of quaint La Jolla by-the-sea. Join us as we partake in the very best of La Jolla’s restaurants and wine bars. These tours are priced all inclusive at only $72 per person which includes all your food and wine, and guided walking tours. Click here to book now!
Salud, cheers, prosit, and here's to a wonderful 2014!
Brooke B., Auld Acquaintance
Thanksgiving is either a day of relaxing and epic feasting, or a nightmare of cooking and making hasty last-minute decisions for a group of ravenous friends and family members. It all depends what side of the cutting board you're on.
While we can't help you with the cooking, we can suggest a few wines and beers to pair with your meal to make everything go a little easier for you. We consulted with Stephen Ansley, our resident wine specialist, and did some "independent research" during San Diego Beer Week to find the best brews to sip with your deep-fried turducken!
The traditional Thanksgiving meal is especially wonderful, because turkey can be paired with just about everything. If you want a pinot noir, try Cycles Gladiator or an Au Bon Climat from Santa Barbara. The tartness of the pinot cuts through the richness of gravy and brings out the flavor of turkey. The fruitiness of merlots also works well, especially with dark meats or hearty stuffings. Try one of Flora Springs' or a merlot from McManis Family Vineyards.
White wine lovers, take heart! There's plenty of room for you at the table. The butteriness and oaky notes of a good chardonnay is an ideal complement to the sweet and savory combinations you get with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. Try something from Columbia Crest Grant Estates or White Oak.
If you're in the mood for a brew but still want something to pair with the richness of the meal, try a hoppy (but not too hoppy!) brew or one that's complex enough to balance the stuffing and gravy. Our pick is either an Alpine Captain Stout for chocolaty malty goodness, or a Monkey Paw Patas Pale Ale, which has hops that shine through just enough to offset the richness of the food. We have also encountered some excellent saisons that we think would enrich your eating and drinking experience. Green Flash Brewery's Saison Diego has a clever name and a nice complex palate that won't overpower your meal. And last, but certainly not least, porters and their chocolate and coffee notes are a wonderfully rich way to end a meal. Our hands-down and bottoms-up favorite is, and has been, Alesmith Robust Porter. Try it with a tasty tender piece of turkey, dripping with gravy and juices, and you'll know we're right!
We hope these will make your Thanksgiving Day just a little tastier. We want the best for you, because, as always… we couldn't do this without you!
Brooke B., Thanks Giver
This is the time of year that the weather turns cool and the indoors start to look mighty cozy. By the way, did you know that turkey pairs with all wines, from delicate whites to rich reds to all types of roses? It's true! It's just one of the great things about Thanksgiving.
It's also a great time to try some new beers. Because there's so much caramelization in Thanksgiving meals, dark and chocolatey stouts are sublime, but the light hoppy brews are great as well. It's a veritable feast of beer and wine, and you can't go wrong with Thanksgiving! We're thankful for that, too.
Don't forget the champagne, either. Bubbly is great with everything, whether it's the meal, the post-meal game, or the post-game coma.
As you can see, we love to count our blessings while we're stuffing ourselves with cranberries and turkey. There are many things we're thankful for, but most of all, we're thankful for you.
Thanks for everything!
Brooke B., Stuffed Turkey
Halloween is almost here, and another special day is just around the corner: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. In Mexico (and in other countries around the world!) it's a time that families remember their loved ones who have gone with altars and music. But it's not a sad holiday, at all – it's festive and happy, although it's perhaps just a little spooky.
Anthropologists have traced the origin of the holiday to a festival for the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Lady of the Dead. It included marigolds and whatever things, including food and drink, the deceased person loved the best. If you see flower altars this October 31st and November 1st and 2nd, you'll see photographs, flowers, and sugar skulls and bread to help feed those loved ones in the afterlife.
Luckily, like us, the Aztecs also believed that you didn't have to die to get everything you love, and that included food and drink. In fact, they had 400 godlings all dedicated to wine – their mother, the goddess Mayahuel, was the goddess of the maguey and of pulque (a milky alcoholic drink made from the maguey plant) and fed those young gods, represented by rabbits, every night.
Like the ancient Aztecs, we appreciate the value of good wine. This November 1st, we'll tip a glass back to you – unless you want to come on one of our famous train tours or chauffered wine tours, and learn even more about the history of wine!
Feliz Día de los Muertos,
Brooke B., Mueca de la Catrina