Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Way to go Monterey County!

        We knew it all along...the wines of Monterey County are winners.  The Wine Enthusiast magazine just named the Monterey County one of the ten best wine travel destinations in the world.  We're right up there with Rioja, Spain; Duoro Valley, Portugal; Puglia, Italy; the Danube, Austria and five other locations. Sounds like some great field trips to us.
        But first, let's stay local and try some of the wines mentioned in the magazine article.  We're going to start by tasting, as the Wine Enthusiast calls them, the "elegant, earthy Cabernets of Bernardus..." most of which, we discovered, are Cabernet blends.
        The first Cabernet we tasted was their affordable ($25) 2004 Parrot Ranch, a very drinkable rich plummy 100% Cabernet.           Then we went on to the 2009 Marinus, a delightful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.  Their label says "Taste a Dream" and we agree.  It was full, rich, smooth, and $40-- we bought it.
        And on the way to the Cabernet blends, we stopped off at some personal favorites: the 2011 Griva Sauvignon Blanc (one of MK's favorites) and the 2011 Monterey County Sauvignon Blanc (one of LC's favorites).  Then came some wonderful Pinot Noirs, including the superb 2009 Pinot Noir from the Pisoni Vineyard (in the Santa Lucia Highlands)--a real standout.  Priced at $70, it is a beautiful, rich, deep, fruity wine that we will definitely purchase for a special occasion. (Robert Parker gave it 93 points.)
        Plus, we bought, ate, shared, paired and loved the chocolate.  We tried the bars created by Ben Spungin, the pastry chef of Marinus, the up-scale restaurant at Bernardus Lodge.
        First there was the Parrot Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon bar with its dark chocolate, anise and vanilla.  Next came the Pinot Noir dark chocolate bar, with red tea and dried cherries followed by the Marinus spiced dark chocolate and cacao bar which was perfect with the Marinus Cabernet blends.  Another chocolate treat was Chocolate Dirt--a blend of cacao powder, almond meal, hazelnut, fleur de sel, and brown butter that would be great over almost anything. 
        Can you tell we're recommending the Bernardus wine (and chocolate) tasting experience?  We think that the Wine Enthusiast magazine hit the mark when including Bernardus in their list of wineries to enjoy on the Monterey Peninsula.
        Open everyday from 11-5, and located at 5 West Carmel Valley Road, the Bernardus Wine Tasting Room has two tastings: the Bernardus Tasting ($7.50) and the Mr. Pon's (the Bernardus owner) Reserve Tasting ($l5.00).  It also has very friendly and knowledgeable servers and some unique products. We think it would be a great stop pre-Valentine's for a great wine-chocolate pairing gift for someone you love or at any other time of year when a good tasting experience beckons. 

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