As it turns out, we didn't get a chance to make the planned drive over Elkhorn Summit and down the hills and canyons to the coast last week; things kept popping up that were just annoying or worrying enough to cause us to keep delaying it until we finally decided to postpone the trip until March. The upside is that I got some long-needed (and promised) landscaping chores done around the house, and I dodged the always-scary kennel bill from the good folks at Country-Aire who look after our canine companions for us when we travel. They do a great job, and we always rest easy knowing that Lulu and Pom are safe and sound, but it's a little disconcerting that I also know that I'm spending more on them than on my wife and me.
But, back to work. It has occurred to me that I've neglected to bring to your attention several of our far-Norcal wines that we've recently had the pleasure of tasting (drinking, actually) that deserve some love, and I want to correct that over the next few days. As it happens, the two wineries that produce the three wines tasted so far are within a stone's throw of each other (if you can throw a stone a considerable distance); Mount Tehama Winery is at Manton, in Tehama County, and Lassen Peak Winery is just a handful of miles due north, at Shingletown, in Shasta County. Both these wineries are producing rustic, youthful wines from classic varietals, the most successful of which, at this point in time, seem to be the Rhone-ish and Spanish types/styles, which makes more than a little sense given the micro-climates they're working with. I haven't yet had time to taste the full range of offerings from either, but I've been happy enough with the ones I have to be convinced that I should (and will) get to the rest.
The Mount Tehama 2012 Petite Sirah is the first wine I encountered from this little foothills-but-almost-mountainous area, and I liked it even though it has some minor issues that almost disappear with a little air, and will likely age out with a bit more bottle time. The wine is deeply colored and aromatic, with a restrained cedar note overlaying the black fruit and tar, and the nose opens immediately as the cork is pulled. The fruit is very forward, ripe-plummy and blackberryish, and a little bit hot at first (I said rustic, remember?), but it begins to smooth out and soften soon after opening. It finishes with a Rhone-y, tarry, earthy berryish quality that stays on for a while, and is about as close to an ideal backyard barbeque wine as you're likely to find in its price range (about $13 locally). It grows on you, and I picked up a second bottle two days later despite the fact that I tried to pick it apart when I first opened bottle1. Reminds me of '60s and '70s Lodi-area zins: farmers' wines, and I like it. According to Alain Teutschmann, Mount Tehama's owner, he has pretty good distribution in our part of the state, but those of you living anywhere south of Chico or in other parts of the country will probably be best advised to contact the winery and have it shipped directly to you. Their website can be found at mtwinery.com.
Next, we revisit the issue that plagues my (almost) every evening out: the lack of attention paid by so many otherwise good restaurateurs to the quality of their wine and bar operations. As most of you know, it drives me insane to see a poorly conceived and presented wine list in the hands of a wait staffer in a restaurant that I know to have an excellent kitchen, or to order a Black Bush on the rocks from a bartender in a fine house and receive a blank stare in response. Why does this happen? It makes no sense at all to me. It's just not that hard (or expensive) to train your crew in the basics of wines and spirits, to taste them through the spectrum of the common varietals and turn on the lights in their heads. You'll be surprised at the number of them who really care and want to learn, some because they're interested in making more money(increased sales equal increased tips), and some because they just want to be good at their jobs. And the beauty of it is that your purveyors will do the work for you (and usually foot at least part of the costs as long as you're buying from them). Come on, use your heads...
Lastly, for tonight at least, I can report that there has been no discernible UFO activity in or around Mt. Shasta during the last couple of weeks. Since discovering that we are living in full view of what is supposed to be a "portal" that sees quite regular traffic between our world and the other one, wherever it may be, my wife and I have been pretty conscientious about keeping an eye on the mountain, just in case, but we've seen nothing yet. However, we'll keep you informed.
I'm out for now.