Wine: The Best Kept Secret

I love wine. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always my drink of choice, but California changed all that. My wife and I moved to Simi Valley, California in April of 2010. We were in need of a weekend away, so we went to Solvang, California, which is an old Dutch settlement about 3 hours north of LA, up in the beginnings of wine country. While there, we toured the various wine bars and restaurants. Everything was in walking distance, so we had a splendid time! I would go into every wine bar I could, order a wine flight (a sample of all their top wines from white to red), and get to know the people sitting around me.

It was alot of fun. At one bar, I met a gentleman who made his own red wine. He shared it with me, and I must admit, that was the first red wine that I actually liked. Up until that point, I could really only drink a Pinot Grigio, and I had to have crackers and cheese. This red wine opened up my pallete to a whole new world. Before I knew it, I was drinking red wines from all over the world.

My favorite place in Solvang is the Wandering Dog. If you have never been, you should go. Everyone there is super friendly, and their selection is second to none. They even have wines on tap. Try to imagine the wonderful land of wine on tap! Ian was the gentleman that I dealt the most with, but the owners were amazing, too! My wife and I normally go in and order a cheese plate and wine flight each. They have wines from all of the world. After some extensive tasting, we normally buy a bottle and share it there, and then take some bottles with us. On our last trip, we left with a German Riesling and a few California whites and reds. There was undoubtedly a Cabernet Sauvignon or two, along with a Red Zinfandel.

My favorite experience is touring vineyards. It is a good way to get a first-hand look at the agricultural aspect of growing grapes and making wine. My first vineyard tour was at Gainey Vineyard. You should look them up, because they are great! They took us into the fields and showed us the difference between the grapes. Alot of wines are named directly after their grape — Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio. I also learned that all wine comes from red grapes. I used to think that white wine came from green grapes, but this is false. The difference between the two is that red is fermented longer, and with the hulls of the grapes in the vats. White wine is pressed, the juice acquired, and then that is fermented by itself, and for a much shorter time than the reds. Afterward, we finished with a tasting down in the wine cellar next to all the barrels of wine. Then I bought a few bottles and had picnic onsite with my wife. It was amazing!

What’s cool, is this was just the start. I have also toured Paso Robles, Sonoma, and Napa. There are times I am here in bars or restaurants in Texas, and I will see a wine and get to say, “Hey, I have toured their vineyard.” Some probably think, “That’s awesome.” And some probably think I come across as a yuppie Californian. Oh well. What can I do? California changed me, and I am not going to hide it.