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It’s Saturday about noon,  I just got home from picking up some South African Sauvignon Blanc from an importer here in the bay area.  Took the family with me on this errand and added a stop at a park in a community a little south of where we live.  The park was relaxing as the kids were not fighting and really enjoyed being outside.  The weather is just perfect, around 70 degrees, with a slight breeze.  Even though I was raised in San Diego, I don’t have a particular fondness for it being too warm.  High 60s to low 70s seems ideal to me now.

I have some yard work ahead today, as the lawn needs to be mowed and some plants need to be trimmed.  I never thought of myself as much of gardener, but the front and back yards are quite respectable even with the dandelions.  Spending a couple to a few hours in the yard every other week (or weekly during late spring and summer) has turned out to be good therapy.  Back when I was working my corporate job, gardening provided a nice release.  It provided real time satisfaction.  You mow the lawn or trim a tree or even weed a little and you can take a few steps back and see the fruit of your labor.  Much different than projects at work that can last months and seemingly have little impact.  Beyond a bit of gardening today, I will turn my attention to tonight’s meal.  I was originally planning on making calzones, but with the weather being so perfect I won’t be able to resist firing up the weber grill.

I just love this time of year as you can spend so much time in the back yard just hanging out.  I will typically bbq once if not twice a week during the late spring and summer months.  As bbq seasons ramps up, so does my focus on finding wines that go well with the spicy and smoky fair that finds it way on to our plates.  Right now, I am in love with the 2007 Kaena Hale.  This a wine that has been shipped to a number our wine club members already.  Kaena wines are crafted by Mikael Sigouin, who is the winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards in Los Olivos – Santa Barbara County.  The 2007 Hale is 65% Grenache and 35% Syrah.  Very approachable, delicious,  and food friendly.  At $18 this is a great house wine for the summer and will complement most anything coming off the grill.  With only 300 cases produced, this wine will be gone before summer is over.  While I love the Hale, I am still on hunt for some other great bbq wines.  Stay tuned to see what I track down next.

Well, I should get to lunch and the garden.  I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend.  Uncorked Ventures would like to give a nod to our fallen soldiers and their families.  We appreciate the sacrifice you have made on our behalf.

Take care.

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So you may have gathered from previous posts that I not only have a passion for wine but for food and especially bbq as well.  Given I am from California, my definition of bbq includes both grilling (cooking over direct heat like charcoal) as well as smoking (cooking meat for an extended period of time at lower temperatures while being exposed to a good amount of smoke from wood).

This past Friday afternoon I decided to take some time away from Uncorked Ventures and spend some time with friends bbq’ing and just plain hanging out.  Given that I had spent the a portion of the week immersed in loads of paperwork for the business, I was ready for some down time.  So around noon on Friday, I headed over to my friends house to begin the festivities.

As I pulled up to my friends house I was met with smoke wafting over his patio wall into the street and the wonderful smell of beef brisket.  As it turns out, my friend had gotten up in the early hours of the day to start smokin’ a 10 lb beef brisket.  If you are going to smoke a large piece of meat, you need to give it time.  You don’t want to rush things as that is a recipe for disaster.  So I made my way to the patio with my hands full as I was carting in some libations as well as some playing cards and a couple cribbage boards.  I knew there would be some downtime in the afternoon and thought we should relax by playing some cards and lounging on the patio furniture while chasing down some beverages.

After I put my things down and was introduced to my friends brother-in-law who completed our bbq trio, we got to work.  First we needed to mop on some of the basting sauce for the brisket.  Coals were lit for the two classic Webber grills we would also be using.  Then it was off to apply the dry rub to the four racks of babyback ribs we would also be bbq’ing that afternoon.  Prior to the ribs being placed on the grill a little lunch was in order as we didn’t want low blood sugar to reek havoc on us as the afternoon dragged on.  What to have for lunch?  What else, but some juicy tender cheeseburgers and cold beers.   After we consumed our lunch it was time to get to work on the ribs.

Our plan for the ribs had us smokin’ two racks of ribs in each of the Webber grills.   Hot coals (not too big a pile) were placed on one side of the grill while a tin with water was placed on the other side of the grill.  The theory is that by having a water bath our ribs would not try out.  We ended up deciding to try a couple different methods with the ribs.  While both pairs of ribs were placed directly over the water baths, one set had been wrapped in foil while the other we left completely exposed.  After smokin’ both sets of ribs for a good 2 1/2 hours, the unwrapped ribs were transferred to an oven and baked for another hour or so at around 225.  The wrapped ribs were unwrapped for their final hour and left on the grill over the water bath.  Both sets of ribs were finished with the homemade bbq sauce and placed directly over hot coals for a few minutes to get a bit of char and additional flavor.

ribsTo date I have not been a big fan of using the oven in combination with the grill.  I have had great success with just wrapping my ribs in foil and keeping them on the grill the whole time.  After Friday’s smoke out, I now have a much more open minds as the unwrapped and oven finished ribs won my vote.  Don’t get me wrong, the wrapped ribs which stayed on the grill the entire time were delicious and gobbled up quickly among our families who were more than happy to show up for the bbq dinner feast.  I just found the unwrapped oven finished ribs to be a bit more smokey and even more tender.  Needless to say, I will try a few different things the next time I smoke some babybacks at home.

Onto the beef brisket.  In total it smoked around 11 hours and had good smoke flavor.  It could have been a bit more tender which may be the result of smokin’ it at too high a heat.  This is where I do think having the right smoker makes all the difference .  With something that needs to smoke that long, you need a smoker that can smoke at a low temperature and isn’t subject to heat spikes when you add additional coals or whatever the heat source is.   One additional theory on our brisket is that is also could have not smoked long enough.  Not sure about this given that it was cooked to the right temperature.  Clearly, we need to atempt brisket again and see if we can get closer to the level our ribs have achieved.

Come dinner time our various families joined together for an evening of fantastic bbq, good wine, and great conversation.  Friday reminded of how good life can really be and why I am happy to be doing what I am doing.

Take care.

When considering what bottle to open, I generally have one of two things on my mind.  First up, I usually consider what food the wine is going to be paired with.  Second, up I consider who I will be sharing the bottle with.  Frankly speaking, not everyone enjoys wine or appreciates wine in the same fashion as I do.  That being said, this weekend reminded me of one thing  (irregardless of friends’ wine knowledge).

Good friend + good wine = a great time.

Friday afternoon we had friends, who live in Seattle, stop by our house in the SF bay area .  They were on their drive down from Seattle to Southern California.  I had not seen these friends in a number of years and had not met their two boys.  Although we only visited with them for about an hour as they needed to get back on the road, we shared a glass of a good syrah along with some snacks and an enjoyable conversation.

Saturday evening we found ourselves at our neighbors along with several other families.  BBQ tri-tip and chicken, along with vegetables and a number of appetizers, as well as dessert (freshly baked cookies and apple pie) were all part of the spread.  Another neighbor brought along 4 bottles of wine including two decent zinfandels.  Unfortunately, I had to somewhat rush through me meal as I was heading to the Barcelona vs. Chivas game as Candlestick park with a friend who was also at the bbq.  It would have been nice to stay a bit longer and just enjoy the wonder of friends, warm weather, and a few more glasses of zinfandel.

Sunday evening we headed to my cousin’s house for some more bbq and chill out time in their backyard.  They ended up supplying the appetizers and meat for the grill, while we brought the wine and dessert.  I must say my wife’s chocolate chip cookies were quite delicious and chewy.  I guess melting the butter does make a difference.  I selected a well known zinfandel for the night as I think they do very well with bbq.

While the quality level varied among the bottles of wine shared this weekend, the camaraderie and general good times did not suffer in one bit.   Besides this being a good weekend, it was also a good reminder that wine is social and for most people it is the sum of the complete experience of who you are with, what you are pairing it with, and your overall state of being. 

I am looking forward to my trip to Napa this coming week .  Uncorked Ventureshas multiple winery visits scheduled and undoubtedly some partnerships will be solidified.  The best part of this Napa Valley visit is that I will have my business partner and brother-in-law, Mark, at my side.  We have been working feverishly for sometime to get our business started but don’t have a lot of face time with each other given that he lives 500 or so miles away.  So this coming week represents a nice opportunity for us both to get a lot of work done but also for us to hang out and enjoy each others company and the excitement we share in getting our business rolling.

I hope you have a good week as we plan to.

Take care.

Pier at Cayucos

Pier at Cayucos

Day three of the family vacation and everyone is still alive.  We have all vacationed together before, but the previous times have all included international travel and a lot more sightseeing.  This vacation is a lot more “chill”, which translates to us spending a heck of a lot more time together than on our previous vacations.  With less to see, we are just hanging out at the house or beach with an occasional adventure taken to another local seaside town.  All the cousins are enjoying the extended time together and the parents and grandparents are holding up just fine.

IMG_7124Yesterday, we celebrated my mom’s birthday.  Nothing too extravagant, but we did manage to have a good dinner.  In total, we ended up bbq’ing 6 racks of ribs.  I prepared 3 racks my usual way, which includes about one and half hours to two hours of smoking, with bbq sauce only being applied during the last 20 minutes or so.  My brother opted to bake his ribs for a couple hours and then finish them on the grill.  Both styles had something going for them. Of course, I preferred my ribs as they had significantly more smoke flavor.  In my book, smoke flavor = delicious.  We also served cornbread and a green salad.  It was not a white table cloth type of dinner,  but it was one of the best meals I have had in a long time given with whom I was breaking bread.

While my family isn’t big on wine, I still managed to open up a 2006 Juvenile Zinfandel from Turley Wine Cellars.   I really enjoyed the zinfandel with the ribs and their slight char.  The wine also worked well with the birthday cake, chocolate on chocolate. 

Tomorrow, I will head back up to Paso Robles and/or Templeton for some more tasting.  I have scheduled one appointment in the afternoon and will probably drop in on one or two other wineries.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I enjoy tasting wines at wineries and getting to know the staff.  These tasting aren’t too clinical, but they do give me a good sense of the quality of what is being offered.  I look forward to what I will uncover tomorrow.  More to come …

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying your weekend as I am.  I have squeezed in a bit of work this weekend as my business partner in Uncorked Ventures and I are beginning to discuss our next trip to Napa in few weeks.  Our plan is to have three or four meetings set up with wineries we would like to partner with regarding our wine clubs and export services.  If you have any particular wineries you would like to see us partner with, just drop us a note.

Take care.

So tonight concludes our visit with our good friends who are visiting us from Albuquerque.  They continue on their their three week trip tomorrow morning.  It has been enjoyable for me and my family to spend this time together with our good friends.  While we didn’t do anything particular spectacular while they were here, we ended up having a great time.  Just hanging out in our backyard and enjoying the warm weather and what came off my bbq was special enough.

During their visit I managed to open up several good bottles of wine including tonight’s selection of 2 bottles of 1999 Whitehall Lane Cab.  While the bottles probably could have aged a bit longer in the cellar, they were very enjoyable this evening.  I love how the tannins have melted away and left a smooth well integrated cab.  Patience rewards me once again.   Nothing like good friends and great wine.

I am glad we are only mid-way through summer as evenings in the backyard are very relaxing and renewing.  I hope your summer is going well.

Take care.

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