Breweries and Wineries

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Simi, Smell Me, Taste Me Sunday

These photos were taken Sunday at Enegren Brewing Company in Moorpark, CA and Lab Brewing Company in Agoura Hills, CA. A few days ago I was at El Segundo Brewing Company and was introduced to Joe Nascenzi, one of the owners of Enegren Brewing Co., a microbrewery in Moorpark, CA. After talking with him for a while, and hearing what kind of beers they were brewing over there, I knew that I had to head out there with Tanya. While I am a definite hophead, Tanya is more into saisons, porters and stouts. When Joe told me about their oatmeal stout and chili pepper saison, I promised to pay them a visit.

While one microbrewery is frequently like the others, with the only difference being the taste and variations of the beers they brew, Enegren Brewing is definitely different than any other I have visited. Brew Captain Chris Enegren studied mechanical engineering at Loyola Marymount University and when he graduated from brewing in his kitchen he put this knowledge to work in designing a proprietary brewing system unlike any I have ever seen. Complete with a computerized command center, their brewing system is entirely automated. It is a very cool system to check out, and they produce a quality product. When we got there Sunday they were in the process of building a new refrigeration unit as they had moved their larger one to a unit next door. In other words, they are expanding, with the hopes of beginning to bottle beers in the near future. Continue reading

Sort This Out

Every weekend I am home, I try to take a motorcycle ride to somewhere cool. When my son joins me, we frequently end up at a winery or brewery. Many of these locations not only have a nice variety of beverages, but have very good food to go along with it. A couple weeks ago, we headed up to Solvang and discovered Sort This Out Cellars.

To be honest, I do not recall the last time I had visited Solvang. I kind of remembered the windmill and European style architecture, but it had been long enough that I remembered nothing of the geography or what the ride there would entail. As it turned out, it was a very scenic ride with a little coastline, some mountains and valleys along the way. Could not really ask for more.

Before I left, a friend had told me to look out for a particular winery [whose name I forgot almost immediately]. Another told me to check out the casino. I did not remember casinos or wineries the last time I was there, but as I said, it had been a very long time since my last visit. As we approached the Santa Ynez Valley, I began noticing the vineyards and made a mental note to return with wine tasting as the goal.

We arrived in downtown Solvang, parked the bikes, and became one with the tourists. I began looking around for somewhere to eat but it seemed like most of the places that served any type of food specialized in chocolate or pastries. I wanted real food. I found a buffet but was not impressed, so we moved along. Many places were closing up early that Sunday. I can only presume it was due to the football playoffs.

As we walked down Copenhagen Drive, I noticed Sort This Out Cellars and a sign offering wine tasting. Figuring they might sell food as well, we went inside. We were greeted by the nice lady in charge who asked if we were interested in tasting some wine. Since they did not sell food, I figured nothing would be lost by having a couple sips. I explained that my girlfriend rarely drinks, so I was always trying to find a good wine that she would enjoy. I told her that my girlfriend seemed to enjoy the more robust reds, such as Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignon. Most Pinot Noirs she had tried were not really appreciated. I asked for a recommendation.

A Great Zinfandel and a Syrah

A Great Zinfandel and a Syrah

I was surprised when she suggested their Zin City “old vine” Zinfandel. Most Zinfandels I have tried were really mild, so I did not expect much. I will admit I was impressed. This stuff was pretty good. I thought it may even be robust enough for my girl. I tried a couple more wines, and walked out with their 2007 Zin City Zinfandel and their 2005 Ante Up Syrah as well as a suggestion for a gourmet sandwich shop around the corner.

I have never been formally trained on wine appreciation; I just know what I like. A wine tasting is not really a fair judge of a wine, in my opinion, but I figured if I enjoyed it at the winery it is a safe bet I will enjoy it at home. Two nights ago I decided to crack open the Zinfandel. Am I glad I did?

The flavors from this wine were simply amazing. There was this aftertaste that I could not place, so I went to the Google and looked up the wine. To quote their site, “Sexy ripe, fruit flavors of blackberry and cherry cola wrap their long legs around the glass. Then things heat up as the wine then evolves to finish with notes of jalepeño and white pepper. As the finish lingers, an essence of cherry, tobacco and leather leave you with a fondness that you won’t soon forget.” The tobacco was the aftertaste I could not place.

After the first few sips, I figured this bottle was not going to make it through the night. After the second glass, I decided this stuff was too good to waste getting drunk on. I would much rather enjoy the warmth it filled me with. I finished it off the next night.

Never before has a wine inspired me to write about it, but this Zin City Zinfandel definitely did that. It also ensured that I will be returning to Solvang, if for no other reason than to get more wine. I may have to take my car though, as I do not think my saddlebags are really a safe way to transport the mass quantities I will purchase next time.

I know I can not wait to crack open the Syrah. I wonder if it will get its own review.


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