I always enjoy visiting the in-laws in the San Diego area. In addition to the lovely weather, the beautiful flowers and cacti that seem to line every road, and the quality family time, there are plenty of wine and food pleasures.
My pop-in-law, through his work, is the recipient of many a lavish wine gift. He enjoys wine and keeps a large wooden fridge in the garage (car-port, for those of you who do not speak French). He is mostly a Cali-cab type of guy, but he's open minded and enjoys asking guests to select a bottle for dinner. Here are a few interesting wines from the recent trip:
1998 Hafner Cabernet Sauvignon, (available only at the winery, price unknown but probably about $30). Hafner Cabernet and Chardonnay are house wines at pop-in-law's. This mature Cabernet was dark and opaque with a nice perfume of cassis and a hint of mint. Fruity and rich, but not at all overwhelming. Quite good with our steaks. This is the third or fourth vintage I've tasted with pop-in-law and I'm a fan.
NV Perrier Jouet Champagne, about $30. A flute was handed to me one evening and I took the opportunity to taste the wine "blind." I guessed it might be an American bubbly because it was a little sweet, and it was without the chalky yeasty thing that says "I am Champagne, hear me roar." Imagine my surprise when the bottle appeared to top off our flutes and it was Perrier Jouet, thus far my favorite big house Champagne. Ah, the humbling glory of tasting blind...It was good, but didn't hold a candle, in my opinion, to the grower stuff I've been digging lately.
2002 Domaine William Fevre 2002 Chablis Grand Cru Bougros, price unknown but probably about $45. I am just starting out on Chablis and I already have a little thing for Fevre, so when pop-in-law handed me his wine list, I eagerly selected it to accompany a dinner of shrimp salad and market vegetables. Sadly, it was distinctly underwhelming. Lots of oak, a very restrained nose and palate. Some clean lime after 45 minutes, but the personality on this wine is a no-show. Where are the minerals? The nervy acidity? Where, I beg of you, WHERE?
2000 Baumard Cremant de Loire Cuvee Millisime, $7 per glass at Cafe Chloe (below). Baumard, one of my favorite Loire Valley producers, is famous for dry Savennieres and sweet wines from Coteaux de Layon and Quarts de Chaume AOCs. This was my first taste of one of Baumard's sparkling wine. It had a light floral nose and an elegant and fresh tasting palate of citrus and green apple. A bit mineral, and very tasty. I haven't seen this wine at my local haunts, and I have no idea what the price would be per bottle, but I'm guessing around $15, and it would be a good value at that price.
2002 Baumard Savennieres Clos du Papillon, about $25, no longer available. This is Baumard's most highly rated Savennieres. Probably opened too early. The wine had an interesting but jumbled and tight nose of flowers, barrel toast, citrus, and what seemed like white chocolate. Medium body, nice hints of vanilla, ginger, and minerals, with good acidity, but palate too is tight and young, a little backward. I have a bottle of this wine somewhere and I am excited to taste it...in about 10 years.We ate at two restaurants that we really liked. One we go to every time we're in the San Diego area, a Mexican place called El Callejon in Encinitas. This place has at least 100 tequilas lining the walls. Lots of fun to look at, and even better in their excellent margaritas. The food is also quite yummy. Favorite dishes include Cebollitas Cambray - grilled scallions with lemon and Maggi sauce (yes, Maggi sauce, that brown stuff that you might add to gravy, or something). The tacos are unusual in that they are stuffed with meat - enough to make 4 or 5 typical tacos. I am partial to the Cochinita Pibil, chunks of pork cooked with achiote and orange. There is indoor and outdoor seating, a good vibe, and unlimited chips made on premises by deep frying tortillas, with good tomatillo salsa.
Cafe Chloe is a lovely place in downtown San Diego. Part wine bar, part brasserie, part chic bar hangout, this place is definitely on our go-to list from now on. The food was truly excellent. A mix of traditional and innovative, with fresh ingredients, uncluttered so as to present the simple deliciousness of each dish. Some one put together a great list featuring wines of all styles, mostly French, most available by the glass or the half glass - a wonderful way to create your own tasting with each course. And since a half glass turned out to be a generous pour, an excellent value too.
Our favorite dishes were the superb "savory custard of the day," shrimp and red pepper on that evening. This was ethereal stuff, each spoonful immediately creamy and light, delicately whispering of savory shrimp and red pepper. Served with an excellent salad of frisee and other baby greens, and topped with crisped scallion skins. This was the finest dish I have had at any restaurant in a very long time. We also loved the trout almondine, a special that day. A traditional dish that was beautifully presented with herbed fine breadcrumbs atop a generous plump trout fillet. No cream in this dish, it instead relied on fresh fish, almonds, and herbs.
We told the very professional waitress that we were not in a hurry, and she brought out our two appetizers and two mains as four courses, which allowed us to enjoy pairing various half glasses with our meal. We sampled a nice Gruner Veltliner with the custard, a rosé from Provence with a classic salad of frisee with a poached egg and lardons. A glass of 05 Bourgogne with a roast pork loin was quite nice. And the house coffee was just excellent too - great with home made ice creams and sorbets (cremem fraiche and spearmint ice creams, honeydew melon and plum sorbets that night). An excellent restaurant, highly recommended. If you're brave, you can request table 42, the lone table in the tiny tiny back garden area. Romantic - yes. Near the kitchen door, also yes. For us, next time...