Stemware: Spend Your Money on Good Wine, Not Crystal

The wine industry is ridiculous. There are thousands of articles out there about how wine should be less intimidating and more open to enthusiastic beginners. Then the same people who write this tell you why you should be drinking Pinot out of a Burgundy glass, never a Bordeaux glass. Don’t put your Champagne in a flute, it should be in a white wine glass! Well, you know what? It’s all so silly and annoying, that it makes you want to just drink straight from the bottle. All these “traditions” need to be re-evaluated and then let’s get rid of the dumb ones.  Life is complicated enough, let’s make it so you can enjoy what’s in your glass, not just the glass.


Life is complicated enough, let’s make it so you can enjoy what’s in your glass, not just the glass.


I won’t delve too deeply into the sensory science of why certain bowl shapes are better for different varieties or styles.  Riedel from Austria believes you should have a different glass for each wine you drink.  Well, they clearly have a profit motive to sell you more wine glasses!  Don’t trust them.  Pick a glass or two that you like, and relax.  After all, this whole wine thing is supposed to be about enjoyment, right?


The only rule I have: don’t wash your wine glasses at the end of the night.


Broken down into your budget level, here are a few suggestions.  Oh, and the only rule I have, is don’t wash your wine glasses at the end of the night.  I promise you, you’ll break far fewer if you wash them the next morning.  Just pour a little water in the bowl and sleep tight.  Trust me on this.


Here are a few suggestions:


Still paying off my college loans…

Ok, honestly, your best bet is to go to the thrift store.  You will find tons of wine glasses, “Hey here’s one from the Catalina Wine Mixer!” but rarely two alike.  Who cares?  This way you won’t feel bad when you break them, and your friend won’t keep taking your glass by mistake.  Another great option, if you're close to a wine country, is collecting glasses from tasting rooms.

If you’re a little more Type A, or just like matching sets of things, take a look at these:

Ikea’s Hederlig, or the Ivrig if you like to BBQ or camp.  No stems means less wine spilled.  If you’re going for durability, check out these stainless ones.

A nice set of all-around glasses are the Crate and Barrel Nattie series.  I like the red wine ones most.

If you like to have parties, consider getting some small bistro-style glasses like the Marta from CB2.  They will work for big groups, wash up easily and are cheap.  You don’t get quite the aromatics out of them, but they’re nice and thin which feels nice, though they are more fragile.

How am I ever going to pay for my kids’ college…

So, you now realize the plumber gets paid better than you.  I often wish I had just become a plumber, then I could have had a really cool Mercedes Sprinter van, and…  Anyway, back to stemware.  The above glasses will do you just fine, but maybe you drink more Cava these days?  Or, you know you like having a smaller glass for white wine.  Cool, check below for some options.

I like drinking Champagne or any bubbly from coupes.  No, the bubbles don’t last as long as they do in flutes.  But, sometimes a little style is nice.  Plus, when you get into making cocktails, you already have the perfect glass for that Sidecar.

These from CB2 are a nice white wine glass, but work great for reds as well.  If you love Pinot noir, like me, I recommend a nice big glass for those delicate wines.  By no means necessary, but a nice treat. These Burgundy glasses from Schott Zwiesel are strong and reasonably priced.

I fully contribute to my Roth IRA every year…

Maybe you have some old wines that need to decanted off the dregs?  Remember your poor grades in chemistry class with this Erlenmeyer flask.  Bistro style carafe.  Or, if you want something a bit classier, this one might be for you.  Decanters are great for your youngest wines too!  The aeration really helps open them up.

Hope that wasn’t information overload.  Basically, drink out of a glass you like- be it vintage from the charity shop, or a brand new Zalto, if that’s your thing.  

Introducing Grenache

Weatherborne's first slogan was "One man, one wine." Well, that phrase is a bit redundant, as we now have a lovely Grenache to add to our lineup! I've always been intrigued by Grenache's "pinot-ness" as it can be bold, or delicate, dark or light in color. Grenache (noir) is originally known as Garnacha in its native eastern Spain, likely originating in the province of Aragon. It was spread throughout the Mediterranean and is a popular wine in Spain and France, most notably, but common in Corsica and Sardinia too. The regions of Campo de Borja, Carinena and Roussillon use Grenache extensively. In Chateauneuf de Pape, it plays a leading role. 

Grenache has perhaps been maligned as a workhorse wine or "blender," but it can be exceptional in its own right, arguably making the best rose wines in the world, in the Tavel region. Viticulturally it develops a huge trunk and sturdy canopy; it can handle drought well, and survives windy conditions. The wine can be a bit light in color, and they can oxidize easily, thus why it's so often blended with darker colored grapes such as Syrah and Mourvedre. There are currently 5,300 acres grown in California, most of it in the Central Valley, used as a base for jug wines at ridiculously high yields. California's cheaper wines would be much better if more Grenache was planted, replacing the Cabernet and Pinot grown in too hot of a climate. In coastal regions, while a lighter texture may develop, the aromatics benefit from the longer hang-time and slower ripening.

For 2015, we sourced our Grenache from the John Sebastiano vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills (also the main vineyard used in the 2014 Pinot) from blocks just outside of the AVA, hence the Santa Barbara County designation. While this wine is still a baby, and the tannins need some more time to resolve, hopefully it gives a preview of how delicious it will be with some waiting.

Fennel, red currants and rhubarb on the nose. Lithe and delicate in the mouth, there are substantial tannins ready to reward short-term cellaring. 85 cases produced.

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The American Riviera

CITY GUIDE: Santa Barbara


Ahhh, Santa Barbara, my birthplace, my frequent home; it is truly the American Riviera. A great climate and gorgeous vistas make it pretty, and the relaxed pace of a small city make it enjoyable.  The Santa Ynez Mountains rise to 4000' behind town, framing this city of 100,000, and providing great hiking and mountain biking.  The Channel Islands, home to awesome cold-water diving, lie offshore with the Santa Barbara Channel in between.  The ocean is fertile here with lots of upwelling, and the fish, dolphins and whales that follow.  If you like it wet, the surfing is good at Rincon Point and Leadbetter Beach, closer to town.

They used to say, "Santa Barbara is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to eat there."  Well, things have changed.  There are great drinking establishments on State Street, the main drag, and in the Funk Zone.  The Funk Zone used to be the hub of the local fish industry, and then became slightly grimy light industrial. It still retains its authentic feel, but there are tasting rooms galore, and good beer and food options.  My second job in the wine industry was as a cellar hand at Santa Barbara Winery, working for the legendary Bruce McGuire.  It's still a fun place to visit.  Be sure to check out one of the awesome views on the Eastside of town, or stretch the legs for a good hike into the Los Padres National Forest.  Your choice, but regardless, you'll finish with a smile.


State Street- SB's main shopping street.
Stearns Wharf- Touristy spot, but nice to smell the sea.  Good views of the coastline.
Funk Zone- The heart of new SB.
Courthouse Tower view- Go to the top for a 360 view.  Check out the murals too.
Courthouse Sunken Gardens- Shady place to read a book.
De la Guerra Plaza- Quiet spot in downtown.
Mission Rose Garden- Great spot to picnic.
Eucalyptus Hill viewpoint
Coronada Circle view
Franceschi Park view

La Arcada Courtyard - Spanish-style courtyard with a creepy bronze statue of an old man with a balloon.
Butterfly Beach- Nice beach.
East Beach- Nice, quiet place to start a seaside walk along Cabrillo Blvd.
Cold Springs Trailhead- Nice hike to the top of Montecito Peak.
Romero Canyon Trailhead- Park here for a loop hike to the Romero Saddle.
Lotusland- Appointment-only old estate gardens.
Presidio- Oldest part of SB.
Hendry's Beach- Good place to take the dog for a walk.
El Capitan Canyon- Stay in a canvas tent or wooden cabin at our favorite glamping spot.
Santa Barbara Bowl- Great outdoor concert venue, not too big, but great sound.
Zodo's- Bowling alley and craft beer bar.
Channel Islands Surfboards- Beautiful sticks, some designed by legend Al Merrick.
Rincon Point- World famous surfing spot.


Los Agaves Restaurant- Great burritos, seafood and salsas.
Los Arroyos Montecito- The best chile relleno burrito around, and delicious margaritas.
La Super-Rica Taqueria- The first authentic taqueria in SB.  Very popular, but the tamales with epazote cream are delicious.
C'est Cheese- Great spot for lunch- soups, sandwiches and salads.
Lucky Penny- Good pizzas, al fresco.
Sama Sama Kitchen- Tasty Indonesian-ish small plates and cocktails. 
SB Farmer's Market- Every Saturday 0830-1300.
Tri-County Produce Co- Good spot for fresh veggies and fruit.  Some wine too.
Whole Foods Market- Great place to pick up stuff for a gourmet picnic.
Mesa Verde Restaurant- Great vegan/vegetarian option.


Handlebar Coffee Roasters- Best coffee in town.
The Mill- Slake your thirst at Third Window Brewing or Potek Winery.
Topa Topa taproom- Opening soon- Ventura's best brewery is opening a Santa Barbara location.
Lama Dog Taproom + Bottle Shop
Santa Barbara Winery- 
Hey, I used to work here!  Old school wine tasting spot.
Grassini Family Vineyards- Quaint tasting room with nice wines from Happy Canyon in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant
Margerum Wine Company- 
A nice, bright spot for wine tasting.
Three Pickles- The Pickle Room is a great spot for an unfussy cocktail.
Honor Bar- Nice martinis and good artichoke dip.  Great service.
Joe's Cafe- The strongest drinks in town.  Hell, strongest drinks I've had at a bar.  Great spot to pre-party.  Old school vibe.
The Good Lion- Nice cocktail spot before dinner at Sama Sama or a show at the Granada Theater.
Harry's Plaza Cafe- Old school place with stiff martinis.

Leaving Los Angeles

CITY GUIDE: Eastside L.A.

So, after four years in the belly of the beast, we have left Echo Park and Eastside LA.  It was so much better than I expected, and just as horrible as I feared.  I won’t miss planning my day around traffic patterns or parking hassles, but there are some awesome things that I will miss- the variety of cultures and foods, hidden watering holes and grand urban vistas.  If you’ve only ever seen Los Angeles from the freeway, know that it isn’t all flat and each neighborhood has its own character and history.  LA is an amazing, vibrant place and the only post-modern metropolis in the world.  So, while things are still fresh in my memory, I've written down a few of our favorite things.  When you visit, be sure to check out these places, but remember, as Blue Bland said, “There ain’t no love in the heart of the city.”


Victor Heights- We lived on Marview Ave, home to the best views of downtown LA in the city.
Radio Hill- Cool place to walk and see sunset over downtown and Chinatown.
Bridge Over the 110- Many, many car commercials show this view of the urban core.


Dodger Stadium- Still pretty after all these years.  Park on Marview and walk over.
Echo Park Lake- Nice place for a walk and check out the lily pads. Chinatown scene shot here.
Angeleno Heights- Old Victorian homes overlooking downtown.
Stair Walks- All over Silver Lake and Echo Park are hidden stairs to old hilltop neighborhoods.
Chinatown- Cool courtyards and alleyways, quite sleepy off the main streets.
Baxter St.- The steepest street I’ve ever been on.  Driving it is surreal.
Old Red Car Line- Hike this abandoned tram-line.
Silver Lake Meadow- Fly a kite, picnic, whatever you want.  Neutra house across the street.
LA River Bike Path- See herons and eagles as you zip through Elysian Valley.
Grand Park- Chill out below LA’s iconic City Hall building.
The Broad Museum- New architectural highlight in downtown.
Columbia Eastern- Prettiest building in all of Los Angeles.  Art-deco icon.
Bradbury Building- Blade Runner was shot in the interior, go in.


Little Joy- My favorite bar in Echo Park.
Sunset Beer Co.- Pick up beer here before hitting BYOB Guisado’s for tacos.
Ace Hotel Rooftop Bar- Go for lunch and it’s surprisingly chill.
Arts District Brewing- Newish craft brewer with games for the family.


Guisado’s- Delicious tacos, get some habanero salsa on the side.  BYOB
Pok Pok LA- Sister restaurant to Portland’s Pok Pok.  Khao soi every time.
Grand Central Market- Food stalls and other delights.
Zinc Café- Nice patio and after-hour cocktail bar.
Dune- Best falafel in LA.
Al & Bea’s- Boyle Hts. legend, serving awesome bean burritos- red or green, your choice.
La Azteca- Classic East LA spot with gooey chile relleno burritos.
Lassen’s- Organic grocer.  Great to pick up some salads before a picnic at Echo Park Lake.
Whole Foods- Right downtown and stocked with good drinks and prepared foods.

Don’t Be Simple, Stupid (or IPOB GFY)

Lately there has been a trend to distill a wine’s essence down to one number- percentage alcohol.  See the drivel on the IPOB (In Pursuit of Balance) website at your own risk.  Numbers and statistics rarely tell the whole picture, but do offer insight.  With wine, I would argue that the level of alcohol tells you more about stylistic decisions and vintage weather, than it does about quality.   If you’re looking for simplistic views on complex issues, this isn’t the right place for you; just keep watching the presidential campaign debates.

So, how’d we get here, to this confusing landscape?  Basically, facts and science have been devalued, and the internet is now just shouting one’s opinion loudly and repeatedly.  Many wine “writers” have zero scientific education.  The only time they have seen a chemistry lab is on Breaking Bad.  I won’t go further into discussing our crumbling educational system or the general populace’s lack of critical thinking.  But, let’s start our conversation with the basics.

I’ve read all sorts of articles claiming that drinking lower-alcohol wines, say 12.5%, allows people to drink without getting drunk, compared to a standard California wine at 14%.  Poor math skills are to blame here.  A 14% wine has only 12% more alcohol per glass than a 12.5% wine.  In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t getting you a DUI-  that third glass in an hour is! You’ll also read articles that say wines at 14%+ taste “hot” that you get some alcohol burn on the finish.  Yes, this can be true, but not always.  Alcohol is just one component of the whole matrix of wine flavor.  Bigger, more tannic, more extracted wines don’t show “heat” as easily as thinner, lighter styles do, as there is so much more going on, it’s hard to pick out just the alcohol.  I do find, though, that proper serving temperature has a huge role to play in this argument.  Serving any red wine at 80°, you’re going to feel the alcohol, at 55° not so much.  Lesson here, cool down your wines before drinking.  California room temp is almost always too hot.  Thirty minutes in your fridge before opening will do.

What is ripeness?  How do you tell if a grape is ripe?  There are two ways: physiological ripeness and phenolic ripeness.  Physiological ripeness is characterized by hardening seeds and dark-colored grapes, for red wine varieties.  The vine is merely trying to entice some bird or bear or goat to eat those nice-looking grapes and spread its seed.  That’s it!  This is a grapevine’s mandate- procreate. Sounds familiar, right?  Phenolic ripeness is a bit murkier subject.  Every winemaker views this differently.  Some are picking on flavor or aroma (phenolics.)  Usually this makes over-ripe wines that the winemaker needs to then acidify to get back to being palatable.  Some pick by numbers alone, looking for the proper balance of sugar, acid, pH, tannin and anthocyanins (color.)  This is a more reasonable approach, but has its pitfalls.  What do you do in a hot year, like 2014 and 2015, when the numbers tell you the grapes are ready, but it’s early August?  Many Pinot Noir producers say they are emulating Burgundy.  Well, if you pick at 21° Brix like they often do in Burgundy, you’re picking in early August, not late October as in the Cote de Beaunes.  Will your grapes have enough complexity and flavor at this point, even though the numbers look good?


To me, trying to force a predetermined style onto a completely different set of variables is folly- this ain’t Burgundy.  I’m ok with that.  We can make delicious Pinot Noir here in California, and in dozens of cool places around the world.  I appreciate that the IPOB folks are trying to swing the pendulum back from the full-on, extracted, over-oaked style of Pinot popularized by Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.  Making jammy, syrupy wine has never been my goal.  I like a leaner, more savory version of Pinot and like how these wines develop, not getting tired like big, flabby wines do after a handful of years.  I think if you need to de-alcoholize your wine, you’ve got a problem with your decision making.  Just because you can over-ripen your grapes for concentrated flavors, then pull some alcohol out to make the wine less “hot” doesn’t mean you should.  However, when the IPOB crew has a selection committee (read popularity contest) and a holy number (14.0% alcohol max) that is supposed to be an absolute determinant of quality, this seems more like dogma to me than a friendly trade organization;  a well-oiled publicity machine, yes, but not the enthroned arbiters of good taste that they present themselves as.