I'm sure we can all remember our first Valentine's Day with the sweetheart of our youth, quickly exchanging heart-shaped boxes of chocolate with shaky, awkward hands. As we all got older, the tradition of Valentine's Day evolved. With adult partners, we've all gone through the ordeal of pinning down reservations at crowded restaurants and shopping for the very best wine to bring along on our romantic evenings.
What if you could do both--nibble on bites of delicious chocolate like we did on our first Valentine's Days and appreciate that glass of beautifully crafted wine that came with adulthood? This Valentine's Day, Seal Beach Winery wants to bring you the extravagance of a date night out with the comfort of sweet, creamy chocolate. On Tuesday, February 14th (in case you need to be reminded!), we will be offering two glasses of wine off of our expansive wine menu accompanied by our new artisan Chocolate Cheese Plate for $15. Between the amazing price and the cozy intimacy of our tasting room, we know you'll be happy you took your date to Seal Beach Winery!
If you've been a member here at the winery for a little while, you certainly remember a time when we had little Hershey's chocolates strewn about the tasting room. These tiny, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of sweetness were delicious when mingled with our wines, and we've definitely heard your calls to bring them back. But how about we do one better for you, and give you a gourmet dessert plate that will tickle your palate in the same way, and enhance the flavors of the wine that you already enjoy?
We're excited to introduce our new dessert plate here in our tasting room. Of course, the main feature of our decadent sweets sampler is--you guessed it!--chocolate. In addition to an assortment of artisinal milk and dark chocolates from Spain, Ghana, and Peru, you'll also be treated to salty, handmade Valencia almonds. The mix of salty and sweet is not only enjoyable on its own, but will play with the flavors of whichever wine you're drinking and truly transform your experience. And you still have the main feature of the plate, Chocolate Cheese Fudge. This is, in fact, a beautiful, creamy marriage of chocolate and cheese, which are, of course, staples with wine.
Truly a unique and exciting addition to our already delicious cheese selections, come in and grab a custom made dessert plate with our wines in mind whenever your sweet tooth is tingling. We'll see you soon!
Glühwein, rich, red wine steeped for hours with fresh herbs and spices, is such an amazing German tradition. This warm holiday beverage is held in the mitten-clad hands of everyone trudging around the all-too popular Christmas markets--as the downfall of snow chills them to the bone, the delicious, hot wine warms them to their very core. In the United States, this tradition is carried out in the form of mulled wine. And while we don't drink wine in public places in quite the same way the Germans do, and we don't experience that same bone-chilling frost here in Southern California, we can all appreciate a warm wine beverage packed with comforting flavors.
The menu here at Seal Beach Winery is expansive and full of possibilities for mulled wine. With each wine having its own unique flavors and nuances, it only follows suit that these flavors should be built upon with specially catered herbs and spices.
Pinot Noir- Currently we carry two Pinot Noirs at the winery, and while they do have unique flavor profiles, they can be regarded similarly when heating them up and making them spicy. Both of these wonderfully fruity and earthy wines pair well with sweet, brown baking spices like brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. Incorporating brown sugar as well as standard, white sugar into a mulled wine recipe with Pinot Noir will tone down the earthy components of the wine, leaving a blast of fruit and heartwarming spice behind. My recipe would look something like this:
Grenache- Our Grenaches are smoky and spicy, and mulling wine with them certainly imparts these flavors into the end result. For this wine, consider making a punch with some Ginger Ale to give it a crisp effervesence that complements the smoky flavors
Syrah- Right now, Seal Beach Winery is featuring three Syrahs. While all of these can be used for mulled wine, I suggest the 2012 Syrah that was just released for mulling, as its flavors of vanilla and cedar will really shine alongside the right spices. For this wine, I would stick with the essential cinnamon and clove combo, but add in some star anise and fennel to really highlight the licorice flavors and some lemon to bring brightness to the drink.
Cabernet Franc- As we learned at the Popcorn Pairing Party, Seal Beach Winery's Cab Franc meets its perfect pair in Star Anise and Vanilla Sugar. These ingredients must be the star of the show in a Cab Franc based mulled wine.
Sangiovese- This wine is actually fairly tannic with intense flavors of dried cranberries--perfect for the holidays and spiced wine alike. Accentuate the cranberry flavors with a traditional pairing, oranges!
Zinfandel- Our Zinfandel is definitely a favorite among our members, and for good reason. This luscious wine is filled with so many flavors, it could complement just about anything. However, for this particular recipe, we're going to match it with everyone's favorite comfort drink--hot chocolate!
Chardonnay- Surprise! You can make mulled wine with whites as well. Our 2013 Old Vine Chardonnay is the perfect balance of oakiness and crispness for mulling wine. With this, accentuate the light flavors with citrus and ginger, rather than heavy sugars and cinnamon.
So there you have it, a wide array of combinations to try heating up this holiday season. Remember, for each wine, let the herbs simmer slowly over time to avoid burning the sugars and overcooking the wine. Try heating on a stove on low for a few hours, or even dump the ingredients into a crock pot and let the spices sizzle and flavors develop. And, as always, try to stay warm this winter season!
Seal Beach Winery is undoubtedly more than your average tasting room. It's a place of endless and lively conversation among our loyal members and newcomers alike, often packed to the brim with people enjoying wine from the wide array of choices on our menu or nibbling on artisan cheese plates. Every Friday you'll find our guests lounging around our live musicians, cheering them on while enjoying time with their friends and family (and of course, luxuriously sipping on wine as well!). On Saturdays and Sundays we celebrate our members with the occasional party, like our Harvest and Holiday parties, offering buffets of amazing, local food, hosting vendors from around the area, and giving out tastings of our latest new wines. And of course, we have Wine Wednesday, where every glass you could possibly want is $6.
Every day of the week brings something new for us at Seal Beach Winery. That is, except for Thursday. We thought we'd remedy that by starting a new special available only on Thursdays! That way, each day of the week gets all the love it deserves.
In case you didn't already know about our convenient and inventive growler program, you can read up on it here.
Starting this week, for every growler you fill up on Thursdays, you'll get a free glass of any wine of your choosing to enjoy in the tasting room. Our growler program was always amazing, allowing you to enjoy quality wines straight from a keg while skipping the charges that bottling transfers onto the consumer, with the added bonus of helping out the environment. Now, that value is only compounded by a delicious glass
of even more wine to enjoy among good company.
Moreover, filling your growler on Thursdays still earns you a stamp on your Growler Loyalty Card. Eventually, and probably without even noticing, you'll acquire all ten stamps and get yourself a free growler fill on us. The only thing you need to do to start reaping these rewards is pick up a glass growler and start filling with your favorite wines out of our eight current keg options.
Now every day is equal at Seal Beach Winery! It will be hard to not come in for every special and event we have to offer, but we won't judge you if you do.
As walking into any major retail store will tell you, it is common practice to dive right into the holiday season as soon as Halloween passes. While skeletons and ghosts are swiftly removed in favor of Christmas trees, holiday lights, and advent calendars, so many people forget how wonderful Thanksgiving can be (and honestly, I can't see how so many aren't tangibly excited for mountains of mashed potatoes and gloriously roasted turkey). However, for the winos here at Seal Beach Winery, Thanksgiving holds more in store than just delicious food--the perfect wine pairings for all those traditional Thanksgiving favorites.
The Meat and Potatoes
The most staple traditions of Thanksgiving are, of course, turkey and mashed potatoes, all smothered in savory gravy. As such, many people seeking to pair wine with their Thanksgiving feasts look towards finding a perfect match for these hearty mainstays. Reds that are lower in tannins and high in bright, fruit flavors do create an excellent contrast to these intense and savory dishes. And as the wine club members at Seal Beach Winery know, we offer a variety of wines that fit this critera almost exactly, such as either of the Pinot Noirs or Grenaches, the Barbera, or the Zinfandel. Each of these wines have a bold fruit flavor and a smooth finish to round out the heartiness of the centerpieces of any traditiional Thanksgiving feast.
The "Healthy" Stuff
Next to every off-brown component of the Thanksgiving dinner (think turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy..), there is something bright and green. Whether that be something along the lines of fresh, seasoned green beans or wilted spinach is up to each household chef. However, what is certain is that these greens offer a fresh relief from the heartiness of the rest of the meal. When conceptualizing what the ideal pairing for these light vegetables should be, the wine should be thought about in the same way. Crisp, cold wines, like our Old Vine Chardonnay or either of our Rosés, will amplify the lightness of these vegetables and round out the meal.
For me, the very best part of Thanksgiving is the copious amount of sweet potatoes I can eat without judgment. While I smother mine with marshmallows and candied pecans, many people opt for something lighter, like roasted butternut squash, glazed carrots, or even homemade cornbread (or any combination of those, really). Dishes like these will pair well with a variety of wines depending on what your intention is--a dry, tannic wine like our 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon or 2012 Syrah will tone down the sugar content and leave the dish feeling more rich, whereas a sweeter, cold wine like our Chardonnays of Rosés, will amplify the sweetness.
An Admirable Compromise
While each element of a Thanksgiving dinner has wines that pair perfectly alongside it, many of us don't feel like interchanging sips from several glasses in front of us while we feast. As a host, it's always good to offer up a selection of wines, such as a few from each section above. However, as a mere drinker, it's helpful to know what wines pair nicely with just about anything you could encounter at the dinner table. If you prefer to stick to one wine for the entire dinner--or only want one glass--a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay is the way to go. These are some of the most amenable wines to pair with Thanksgiving food.
Another fantastic wine for pairing with all of these delicious Thanksgiving options is our brand new Sangiovese, which will be debuting right before the holiday. Its intense notes of black fruit will complement moist turkey breast and darker thighs alike. Moreover, with its acidity balanced by a smooth, cherry finish, this Sangiovese will work alongside any sweet sides or tender vegetables while still being bold enough to stand up to hearty potatoes and gravy. Look out for the release of this wine, and consider taking a 1.5 liter growler bag along to any family party.
Everyone knows that Halloween is the best holiday, right? If you've been to the tasting room within the last month or so, you've surely noticed that rapid accumulation of Halloween decorations and paraphernalia. There's a skeleton that lords over our wine display, witches and mummies that adorn our bottles, and a telephone at the corner of the bar that rings shrilly and belts out ghostly taunts. With all these delightfully haunting decorations about, we can only assume that the winery is visited by the supernatural when the doors are locked and our club members are tucked away at home. And if they do, they must surely be sipping on some of our wines.
If I had to guess the palates of the undead, I would say that ghosts and spirits are the easiest to determine. The ethereal remnants of winos would certainly go for our Roussanne. While our Roussanne is a white wine, it lacks the typical crisp that finishes off most other whites. The murky edges that remain on your palate after a sip are evocative of ghostly forms that trail off and wisp by. Moreover, the full-bodied characteristics of this particular wine appeal to ghosts, who undoubtedly would trade their intangible forms for something more supple and round.
Skeletons would for sure take a different approach to their wine drinking, looking for something "bone-dry." I envision them nursing a glass of Syrah while clattering their bones in rhythmic percussion against the bar. The high tannins in this wine certainly couldn't make their mouth any more dry.
The vampires that visit the tasting room would surely feast upon a tall glass of Zinfandel, a wine filled with not only popping fruit flavors but also hints of cedar, which surely makes them feel at home, nuzzled tightly into their coffins. The richness of this wine, while indubitably not a perfect match, would act like a substitute for human blood.
A coven of witches would definitely lounge in the back room of the winery, sharing a growler of Rose of Grenache. Not only is this particular wine served in a tall, potion-like bottle, but its notes of summertime strawberry and watermelon would also serve as a vibrant contrast to the typical witches' brews. I would imagine that newt's eyes and nightshade wouldn't make for a very delectable wine.
And finally, zombies would ramble into the tasting room in an awkward horde, lunging for growler bags of Barbera to sink their teeth into and chug down. I assume that the culinary world doesn't call brains "sweetbreads" for no reason at all. Since our Barbera is filled with the most residual sugar of all of our wines, I would imagine that zombies would have a fondness for its taste.
So then, in the spirit of Halloween, stop by the winery and have a glass of wine among the company of our undead friends. You can even bring some home with you, and imagine them enjoying the wines in your house, hiding behind closed closet doors or crawling under your bed.
It's certainly difficult to find food that isn't improved by a well-paired wine. Restaurants, bistros, and bars everywhere are created around this simple concept. Even our tasting room at Seal Beach Winery is stocked full of wines that, while vivacious and inviting in their own right, simply make food better--our dry roses cut through sweet and spicy flavors alike, our full-bodied reds make meat juicier and spicier, and our whites play up the more delicate aspects of our fish and seafoods. It's a shame that we don't often get to showcase just how well our wines pair with flavors and spices of all varieties. This October 1st, however, marks the date of an amazing opporunity to pair our wines and, to be sure, have an immense amount of fun.
I'm speaking, of course, about the Popcorn Pairing Palooza held right in our tasting room, when we'll be crafting gourmet popcorns with fresh herbs and spices (and heaps of melted butter!) that are designed to showcase the versatility and beauty of our wine menu. We're keeping the exact flavors our secret for right now, but there will for sure be a little something for every palate and every glass of wine.
When you walk in the door, you'll be greeted by the scent of freshly popped, buttered popcorn. You'll be directed towards several station where you'll be able to taste six of our different wines and a matching popcorn sample, which will help you become informed when you decide which glass of wine and bag of popcorn you'd like to settle in with.
During the event, we'll also be raffling off a growler filled with our Derbyshire Pinot Noir. Your entry will be included with your ticket, and winning this raffle will give you access to our growler program if you're not already filling up your growlers.
Classier than your average carrnival, tickets to the party are a steal at $5 a piece. However, these will be limited, so make sure to stop by the winery to pick one up. We're sure you were coming by for a tasting anyway.
One morning I was traversing the route between breakfast at Bob's Well Bread Bakery in Los Alamos and the Winery's Crush-pad in Orcutt, when my gaze fell upon a vineyard climbing up the top of the coastal mountains. Driving down the 135 between bites of ham and cheese croissant washed down with black coffee, I pulled off the road. Where I landed was near a sign that was white with red font: Los Alamos Vineyard. Beginning at the road side the Chardonnay was on the flat ground in a bilateral cordon trellis. Rows of vines extended completely along the flat and inclined slowly up the hillside to very near the acme. The vines wound their way up as far as I could see. This was a very large Vineyard. I was intrigued and decided to explore. It was there that I first met Tavo Acosta, the Vineyard manager. This was an extremely productive vineyard that supplied lots measured in hundreds of tons to multiple famous winery labels. I told him I was looking for something unique and small; not exactly what I was looking at on the main floor of the property. I figured I was asking for something he probably was not normally sought. And, I caught his attention. He said that his place can supply quality fruit in large amounts; and that is how it was planted. However, he knew some sweet spots that were much more with huge potential and a proven track record. Several small lots had already been developed for high end Chardonnay projects by winemakers expressing finesse and Terroir. The top, he says, check out the blocks at the very top.
My first Harvest in Los Alamos was in block 18. I liked this block because it had a history of producing high-quality Chardonnay. There was right next to a very fine winemaker and chef that made Chardonnay that I appreciated. I choose a spot on a steep slope producting fantastic wine in 2015. However, in 2016 I wanted to push the envelope and see if I could find something unique. Hence, I sought something a little different.
After discussing my thoughts with Tavo, he said that he thought he had something for me. It was different in the sense that it was too small to be a part of any of his other main projects. It was only 1.74 acres. It was interesting in that it was isolated: a micro-Terroir. It was Clone 4 on the Freedom Rootstock like Block 18 but the soil, topography and row direction were different. Most importantly, it was completely isolated and would be my own slice of the vineyard; my own block of Chardonnay.
Tavo drove us up to the vineyard top in his 4 x 4 as there was no way we were going to make it without it. It was a bit dicey but we finally reached the top. As we approached the Vineyard there were two things about the top: the view and an unusual tree. From where we stopped, you could look out and could see the entire valley. The 135 now looked like a little tiny stream and cars were specks. It was am amazing expanse of the entire vallley. Second, there was this tree. It sat at the entrance of the vineyard guarding this Block. Tavo said see how it looks like a stag resting on the ground with a wide base and two separate trunks in the front that extend towards the sky. I completely agreed that look like a stag. It looked like a stag guarding my little 1.74 acre curvilinear plot of fascinating Chardonnay.
We got out of the truck he walked down the rows between the trellises. The first thing that crossed my mind is the feel of the ground. Instead of hard, solid ground my feet were sinking; it was sand. There were also several old trees randomly mixed into the vineyard. This was very interesting. The trellis was bilateral cordon with a cracked cane technique: some of the canes were directed below the canopy towards the ground. Healthy, vibrant vines with golden grapes of Chardonnay. They were beautiful. Not one bit of mildew or raisoning. I did not see any problems at all: Strong and healthy, the vine rows ran in an East West direction. They were facing the sun and there was no evidence of any sunburn. Care and time had manicured these immaculate vines. These grapes were unique. I walked around the multi-levels and felt more and more impressed. I felt connected. This is where my Chardonnay was going to grow. Then and there are I told him that this would be the land I would work. This is where I wanted to be long term. It already had a very pruned and low yield which is exactly what I wanted.
Later I was told that area before it became a vineyard was covered in rocks and dirt with nothing growing except for 1.74 acre flat where they grew a crop of flowers. It was the only use of the land in the beginning before the Vineyard was cleared and planted with grapes. This is the reason why I call this Block Flower & Stag.
The first vintage will be 2016. Stay tuned for some amazing Chardonnay.
A polar opposite to last year, Mother Nature is cooperating in 2016. The mornings are much more usual being cool and covering most of Sta. Rita Hills in morning fog. The mid-days are mild with temperatures in the mid 70s for the most part and the late afternoons cooled by ocean breezes. There have been several peaks into the high 80s to low 90s but none of the 100 plus temperature spikes that were quite common in 2015. There is no rain in site, which should play no role whatsoever in the harvesting decisions.
Long, mild days have produced well-balanced ripened grapes. The acidity is normally respirated or lost when the temperature get too high; this is done to help cool the grapes. But this year that has not been a problem and the acidity is well balanced with the continuous and steady increase in sugar. Sugar is important for measuring the ripeness but also directly equates to the amount of alcohol that will be in the final wine product.
First to come off this year was the Pinot Grigio from Runway Vineyard on August 1st. This is always earliest as it is in the Santa Maria AVA (American Viticultural Area) and tends to ripen early. Next we took Pinot Noir from the roadside portion of Rio Vista Vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills. Acidity was the name of the game for this harvest as these Pinot Noir Clone 667 grapes are destined to become the 2016 Rosé of Pinot. The focus of this wine is minerality, floral notes and light red fruit qualities to provide balance to food and a fine tasting Rosé.
Several weeks later in mid September, the Rio Vista Vineyard from the Hillside Pinot Noir Clone 667 and the lower bluff, Clone 777 were picked to make Pinot Noir red wine. Any day now we will finish with Rio Vista by harvesting the Clone 115 that is tucked away in a small, shady little plot up the road from the main vineyard. Around this time, the Rancho La Viña vineyard Pinot Noir should be nearing ripeness. This vineyard is up on a Hillside and overlooks the entire valley and Santa Rosa Road that splits the sides in half. Pinot Noir in 2016 will be very age-worthy with amazing balance, beautiful perfume noses, minerality and fruit concentration.
Next will be our whites: Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay is in Los Alamos Vineyard in Block 20 or Flower & Stag Block. It is in a 1.74 acre separated parcel that is isolated from the rest of the large vineyard. It has its own microclimate and sandy soil; stay tuned for a complete and detailed write up of this vineyard. Many fantastic and famous Chardonnays come from this site. The Sauvignon Blanc is back by popular demand. Many club members have been asking me to make Sauvignon Blanc again but it took me awhile to finally find a vineyard I liked: Two Wolves. This is abutting the Happy Canyon AVA and is the hottest of the microclimates for our wines. Sloping, steep hillside Clone 1 Sauvignon Blanc is just beautiful here and I cannot wait to make wine from this site. Look for Chardonnays with apple and pear flavors aged in oak for creaminess. The Sauvignon Blancs will be lean, with tons of minerality dominated by lots of passion fruit and guava.
After the whites are done will come Harrison-Clarke Vineyard. The upper bluff, soil-starved, stress Estrella Clone Syrah and the flat. lower expanse Alban Clone Syrah will be harvested. Both of these appear to have the perfect balance of acidity, sugar and flavor. It should be an amazing year for these Rhône varietals. I am expected intense blackberry, pepper and cola.
As the season progresses we will Harvest: Cabernet, Malbec and Merlot from Happy Canyon Vineyard, McGinley Vineyard and Tommy Town Vineyard all from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA. At about the same time the Cabernet and Merlot from Estelle Vineyard should be ready which is located in the newest AVA: Los Olivos District. Late to the party will be the Cabernet Franc (Sanger Vineyard), Petite Sirah (Sanger Vineyard), Sangiovese (Estelle Vineyard) and Tempranillo (Tierra Alta Vineyard). To finish the season will be the Petit Verdot (McGinley Vineyard) and the grand finale the Grenache from Flower & Vine Vineyard (aka Alisos Vineyard).
I will be updating more on the Harvest as it progresses.
Fall ushers in change here in Orange County, indicating that the oppressive rays of the summer sun will shift into, well, slightly less oppressive rays of summer sun. During this season, we trade out iced coffee with pumpkin lattes, tank tops for sweaters, and our ever-running ACs for open windows and whirring fans. While the fall season signifies transitions for everyone, it does so doubly for us at Seal Beach Winery. This fall, we'll be welcoming the addition of several new wines--both by the bottle and as part of our growler program--as well as a long list of new events for our loyal members and new visitors alike to enjoy.
If fall is the season of change here at Seal Beach Winery, then it's certainly kicked off by our Cabernet Franc Release Party. Our new Cab Franc is a beautiful, dark wine with notes of fresh blackberry fruit and a lean, balanced finish featuring a small amount of spice. We've aged it in neutral French oak to truly allow the subtle and silky aspects of this gorgeous wine to shine.
As enticing as that description is on its own, a release party wouldn't be a celebration without food specifically crafted to best exemplify the flavors and aromas of our newest wine. On the menu is a copious amount of cheese from Cheese Addiction, and housemade hors d'oeuvres uniquely formulated to pair with the Cab Franc. These fancy finger foods and rich array of cheeses will not only complement the freshly tapped wine, but will also accompany the ambience of music provided by jazz pianist Reggy Woods.
Moreover, on the day of our release party, we'll be offering an exlusive promotion on growler fills of the Cab Franc (after all, it's the star of the show). On the 17th, if you fill up one growler, you'll be able to fill a second for half off the regular price.
Tickets for this awesome event will only be $5, but they'll run out quickly! If you'd like to take part, you can reserve your spot online or come by the tasting room and get your ticket. Either way, you'll be able to be a part of our first event to kick off this incredible fall season here at Seal Beach Winery.