Food + Wine

Tobin James Wine Review for California Wine Club

I would love to start this wine review the way I did my last one for Fess Parker.  I would love to give you new, exciting recipes to pair with my latest wine shipment, I would love to flirt with your palate a little bit, I would really love to be eloquent in the process.  But here’s the thing.  I’m exhausted.  I have had a hard couple of weeks, the last week being spent out of town in Wrightsville Beach, NC with my family.  I traveled with both of my new wines, the 2008 Titan Hills Fiasco Red Blend and the 2010 Tobin James Radiance Chardonnay, knowing for sure that I would have the time to cook well and pair well on my vacation.  Why wouldn’t I?  It’s a vacation, right?  Ha. Here’s the thing about traveling with kids…you never, ever get that vacation.  They do.  Oh, the kids have lots of fun.  But your life doesn’t really change that much, now does it?  You’re just doing the same thing you do at home, only you’re not at home… which usually makes it harder and more stressful.  Unless you’re one of those people who can travel with nannies, cooks and cleaners, you’re on duty 24/7…just like when you’re home.  This is not breaking news, but somehow I forget it every time we leave home.  I know I’ll be writing more about our ‘vacation’ soon, but for now I have a deadline and we must talk wine.  We must, we must, we must.  Forgive the lack of flirtation and eloquency.  I do hope to find them again.

My second wine shipment came over a week ago from the California Wine Club and when I opened the box, I was quite nervous.  I didn’t recognize any of the wines inside!  I don’t mean to sound snobby here, but if I don’t recognize something on a wine label, a really colorful bottle especially, maybe one with a thin label…I get a bit nervous of what may be inside.

Neither of the wines are rated and are fairly difficult to find any information about online.  But after I did a little research with the attached literature, I found that these wines like to use word of mouth for their ‘calling card’.  Now that’s ballsy.  And kinda cool, no?  The ‘Fiasco’ (red blend) is made from the vineyard’s best wines and it changes each time they make it, depending on the wines they happened to have for that season’s crop.  This particular one, the 2008 blend, ended up being 55% syrah, 25% zinfandel and 20% barbera.  I was very intrigued.  Syrah makes me happy.

The ‘Radiance’ is 100% chardonnay and the grapes came from the Lockwood Vineyard in Monterey County.  I was excited when I learned that part.  I don’t drink a lot of chardonnay anymore due to the fact that most of the California-made chardonnays are so completely manipulated that they rarely resemble the grape.   But back when I enjoyed a good ‘buttery’ chardonnay, at the beginning of my wine schooling, I remember loving Lockwood.  I used to drink it by the glass (…or 2) while I waited for my husband to get off of work at his restaurant job in Wilmington, NC when we lived in Wrightsville Beach, long before we were married.  And that, my friends, brings me back to my ‘vacation’…

The first night we arrived to the beach, I knew we were going to be drinking the Fiasco.  Why?  Because I desperately wanted/needed a glass or two of red wine.  I was just in that kinda mood.  I knew we probably wouldn’t have the time to go out and do a lot of shopping after we got there, so we would be relying on the local fish markets and what they had to offer us for dinner.   So I was pretty much geared up for a mismatching food and wine experience.  And you know what?  That’s OK!  We often try way too hard to pair the perfect wine with the perfect food that we often get so caught up in it and forget to enjoy the experience.  Wine is supposed to be fun!  And I happen to think pairing wine with food is fun, but sometimes you just want a certain wine and a certain food and sometimes those two things just don’t go together.  But it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

We charcoal-grilled some local grouper and had it with some grilled, local corn on the cob and some roasted broccoli.  The broccoli, I traveled with, and the corn was available at the fish market.  The meal was stellar.  We opened our bottle of 2008 Titan Hills Fiasco an hour before our first glass, letting the first pour sit in the glasses for the hour.  At first sniff I got a great deal of smoke and coffee and lots of strawberry jam.  Once I swirled again, the coffee and smoke took a back seat to the fruit, and the jam was the most prevalent.  The first sip showed, again, the strawberry jam in abundance and a good bit of vanilla.  It took me halfway into the first glass to really get into it.  I don’t normally gravitate towards very jammy and oaky red wines, but because there was enough depth to this one, with the small hints of coffee and smoke, I was really able to enjoy it.  Both my husband and I liked it more and more after we sipped.  And as for the meal, it paired beautifully with the roasted broccoli because we like our roasted veggies quite brown and crispy.  So the almost smokiness from the broccoli really liked the fruitiness of the wine.  As for the rest of the meal, well…I don’t suppose I need to tell you.

We vacuumed the remainder of the bottle, being too tired for anything other than our pillows.  I knew we would come back to it again.

The second night of our vacation we planned to open the Radiance.  This, again, was a night where we relied on the fish market to decide our dinner.  I took the kids on a long walk to the market to see what we could find.  We decided on some local shrimp, salmon (not local, but beautiful all the same), and a bunch of asparagus they had available up front.  I knew I had more broccoli, so I figured our dinner would just be a bunch of yummy things thrown together in the middle of the table…’family style’, if you will.  And everything, again, was delicious.  The 2010 Radiance was poured into two glasses and swirled.  My husband and I both detected a lot of citrus and melon on the nose.  And it tasted of tropical fruit and finished very dry.  It was good!  It was just ‘oaky’ and ‘buttery’ enough to satisfy those who like such a thing and just light, crisp and fruity for those, like me, who prefer it that way.  And it went fairly well with both the shrimp and the salmon, which was simply roasted with salt and pepper, letting the true flavors of the sea shine through.  It also happened to pair well with the roasted asparagus, which isn’t an easy thing to do.  All in all, I was impressed with the wine.  Again, we vacuumed the remainder and moved on for the evening.

The next time we opened the Fiasco was two nights later.  I pulled it out of the fridge about 4-6 hours before we would be opening it to slowly allow it to come up to temp.  When we poured our glasses, I noticed how much it had changed.  I love this about wine!  This time you could really taste and smell damp earth, and it was far more vegetal than fruity…which was more up my alley!  It was more chewy, the coffee flavors came through again and it tasted of artichoke hearts, which is one of my favorite things to taste in a wine.  Both my husband and I loved it this second time, where we only liked it before.  This time we paired it with grilled porterhouse pork chops, more grilled corn on the cob and an amazing salad of grilled peaches, fresh arugula and fresh mozzarella (recipe to follow).  I sipped the remainder of a sparkling rose along with the Fiasco (having nothing to do with the California Wine Club, I just like my bubbles…) because I had a hunch that it would also go nicely with the meal and it did.  Two extremely different wines, one pink and bubbly and the other dark and smoky, both brought something wonderful to the dinner table.  The Fiasco loved the grilled pork chops and the peach/arugula salad.

for salad recipe, see bottom of page

On the second opening of the Radiance, my mother had driven in to join the family.  My mother loves buttery chardonnays so I was excited to see what she would think about this wine.  And she was very pleased.  We drank it with some roasted chicken thighs that I had marinated in soy sauce and orange juice, corn on the cob (again) and some roasted cremini mushrooms, red peppers and zucchini.  The wine paired well with the chicken (as chardonnays tend to do) and most everything else but the mushrooms.  They did not play well together…as I suspected.  Everyone agreed that this was a very nice, well balanced chardonnay.  Thank you once again, Lockwood, my old friend!

Both of these wines are a bit hard to find, if you’re looking for them at the grocery store or local wine shop, but becoming a member of the Premier Club at California Wine Club makes it a lot easier.  They are even kind enough to give any of my readers 4 bottles for the price of 2 when you sign up.  You don’t even have to keep up your membership, you can cancel after the first month if you want!  Just use the code: everyday12 at checkout for the discount.  And if you happen to come across either of these wines at a store, grab them!!  They would both make great Father’s Day wines.  Your man may say he doesn’t like white wines because he thinks he’s genetically predisposed to say so, but this chardonnay is really quite a manly wine, and I always think of the Syrah grape (the dominant one in the Fiasco blend) as a manly grape. But remember, if you like earth and smoke, open it to breathe a day before you want to drink it, otherwise you will have a lovely, jammy wine.  I asked my local wine store about ‘Tobin James’ wines and the woman lit up at the mention of the name.  She said they get them in rarely and when they do, they fly off the shelves quick.  So keep your eyes peeled!

If you’re up for something different that most of your friends wouldn’t recognize, I think either one of these wines would be a great addition to your dinner party…or just your party.  Don’t even worry about the food, and how each may go with the wine.  Just remember that if you’re happy and calm, and you’re serving good food and drinks to your close friends who are having fun, no one will be leaving your house saying,

‘wow, that chardonnay did NOT go well with those mushrooms!  We are NEVER going there again!!’

But… if you were in the mood for pairing, I would suggest pairing the 2008 Titan Hills Fiasco with anything off the grill, pork or beef especially, even mushrooms would go well.  Try my recipe for Balsamic Barbecued Ribs, my Deconstructed BBQ Pork Shoulder or the simple slow roasted Pickin’ Pork. And the 2010 Tobin James Radiance Chardonnay really screams for a simple, homey meal of roast chicken. Try this super easy Roast Chicken, or my Chicken Pot Pie would be great…any meal of chicken or veal with simple flavors would be wonderful.

Be sure to follow @cawineclub and @boringwineguy on Twitter and ‘like’ both The California Wine Club and The Boring Wine Guy on Facebook.

(The Fiasco retails at $21 and the Radiance for $18.)

*Grilled Peach Arugula Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
(no measurements here, just plan on a handful of fresh arugula leaves and one peach per person, and enough cheese to satisfy)
-Half your peaches, remove pit.  If you’re a bit early in the peach season, as I was, sprinkle the exposed flesh with a bit of light brown sugar and rub it in.  Otherwise, drizzle and coat with a bit of olive oil before placing on a hot grill.  Sear for a minute before checking.  It will tell you when it’s ready to flip when it can easily be removed with no sticking.  Twist it a bit and place back down on the hot grill if you desire the cross-hatched grill marks, but this design has nothing to do with flavor. Remove your peaches to rest while you toss your arugula leaves.
-In a small bowl, squeeze the juice from one half a large orange, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil into the bowl (no real need for whisking here), season lightly with kosher salt and fresh black pepper, lightly toss your arugula in the dressing and check for seasoning.   Plate.
-Rest your grilled peach halves onto your arugula bed, slice or tear off some fresh mozzarella and place onto the bed as well.  Drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil, and crack some more fresh black pepper over top (perhaps more kosher salt is needed too?…you decide.)
-Enjoy with either the 2008 Titan Hills Fiasco or my new find, the Pierre Chainier Rose Seduction.

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1 Comment

  • Reply wine house June 22, 2012 at 11:57 am

    California Wine Club must have lots of members. As they provide really great offers to the members. Though I am not the member of the club but still impressed with its services. I have a membership of another wine club that offer you to enjoy the wine with big celebrities and give voucher to deserved members.

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