This Garagiste Life -- Or, What's Up Now that the Wine's Barreled Down

New to the blog? Welcome! Our winemaking story begins here.

Can I tell you how much I loathe the end of Daylight Saving Time? This year, it seemed to hit especially hard the first few days -- the whole dark-at-4:30 thing, combined with the end-of-harvest doldrums, made for some mopey afternoons and evenings. However, I'm very happy to say that I think the cure is here -- and I'd love to know what you think about it. Read on to get a window into the blog's new life.


The garagiste storyline of the blog moved so quickly, from plan to action to completion, that Jody and I never really had much time to map out how to continue the blog once the wine was put to bed. We have been thinking about it ever since, though, and tonight it all came together in a completely organic fashion.

Here's what we'll do. 

Each week, Jody and I will trade off blind pairings. One of us will make or pick up something secret for dinner. The other will procure and brown-bag a bottle of wine. The food-bringer will blind-taste the wine and guess as to its varietal, origin and vintage. We'll both comment on the food-and-wine pairing -- and undoubtedly, discover some unexpected surprises along the way. As we do encourage our children (girl and boy, 10 and 6) to smell and decipher wine aromas if they like, we'll also include their comments sometimes -- they may not be quite as inspired as Randall Grahm's 6-year-old's wine insights, but, hey, the kids do surprise us sometimes!

This is exactly how it all happened, unplanned, this very evening.

The Food

Thursdays are busy days in the Towe household. I have meetings at work and usually don't get home until around 5, while Jody picks up the kids and gets home around 3:30 or so. Tonight, while he normally would have been preparing dinner (perhaps I haven't yet mentioned his incredible cooking skills), he was putting together a huge pot of mulligatawny for a school potluck tomorrow.

I got a text requesting I stop on the way home to pick up red lentils for the soup -- oh, and something for tonight's dinner. (On Jody's lunch break today, he happened to swing by San Diego Wine Company for some new finds.) Since I've been craving pizza for days, I walked into our local natural-foods market, filled a bag with red lentils, and went directly to the freezer case for a few Full of Life Flatbreads


We went to Full of Life in Los Alamos last time we were in the Central Coast (before our quick trip to pick up the grapes). It's only open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. What a fantastic example of a local restaurant. Full of Life manages to serve delicious food to locals and visitors, and support area farmers, cheesemongers and winemakers -- while spending the rest of the week manufacturing delicious, 36-hour-rise flatbreads sold in natural-food groceries across the country.

I picked up three frozen flatbreads at the market:

1. Flaxseed & Pistachio Pizza with Red Onions & Rosemary

2. Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Tomatoes

3. Cheese & Fresh Herb Pizza (Pairing disclosure: the children demolished this one before either of us had a taste.)

The Wine

We love to brown-bag wine. It's a tradition 'round these parts that started a few years ago at our first visit to our beloved Tantara Winery in Santa Maria, where they live for the brown bag (and do it right).

Whenever one of us picks up a bottle on the sly, we automatically brown-bag it. It's not a snobby thing at all -- we've found it to be a great way to educate and improve our palates and wine knowledge.

Jody already had planned tonight's brown-bag wine when I came home with the flatbread pizzas. We dished up the plates and he poured. It was then we realized this just might be a pretty cool blog concept. Out came my Moleskine notebook (which I use only for the very best ideas), and away we went.

The wine was straw gold and brilliantly clear. Green apple, honey and lime dominated the nose. (I typically guess brown-bag wines solely on the nose. In my experience, usually it's enough. Sometimes the taste just makes me second-guess my first impressions, which are more often correct than if I change them after tasting.) The palate was off-dry and beautifully balanced, like a tart apple-crisp; and minerally (yes, I know, currently a huge debate's raging about mineral tastes in wines).

Here's what I guessed:


Here's what it was:

Alsace! So close! I actually adore everything I've ever tasted from Alsace - it's the only region from which I've had Gewurtztraminer I've truly liked. Unfortunately, my brother, Chris, who sells wine in Los Angeles, tells me it's next to impossible to move anything Alsatian in the market. Most of the producers are family operations making small, handcrafted quantities, which is why I feel rather bad that this Grand Cru is selling at SD Wine Co for a mere $14.95 -- 40 percent off, so they say. Pinot Gris ... well, that residual-sugar style of PG they do there did smell a lot like Riesling. And 2005 -- I'm OK at pegging an older vintage when I sniff it.

The Pairing

I picked the Flaxseed & Pistachio Pizza with Red Onions and Rosemary just because, after 17 years of knowing and loving Jody (and yes, obviously I was just a wee child when we met), I still enjoy messing with him and knew:

1. He would scoff upon seeing the title and think it was hippie crap gross food; and

2. He would then taste it and love it.

Which is exactly what happened. Guess what else tasted it and loved it? The 2005 Alsace Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Spiegel Pinot Gris! You couldn't invent a better pairing if you tried. The crust of the Full of Life flatbreads is partially whole-wheat and, after a 36-hour rise, is full of complex, mildly earthy flavors, which along with the pistachios and insanely sweet red onions, perfectly meshed with the sweet honeysuckle flavors of the Pinot Gris.

Since the kids gobbled up the plain ol' Cheese-Herb Pizza, our second pairing was the Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Tomatoes. This pizza, unlike the other one, had a layer of mozzarella. On its own the pizza was delicious. With the wine, though, the combination of the obvious earthiness of the mushrooms, plus the cheese and tomatoes, really muddled the brightness of the wine. Bottom line: This pizza wants Pinot. (Noir, that is.)

The Children

Individual swirl and smell reactions (judged separately, out of earshot of one another):

Talia, age 10: "Crisp apple!"

Elijah, age 6: "Appley!"

Not bad!

Until next time ... as always, thanks for reading! Let us know what you think - your comments and suggestions always are welcome. Thank you for coming along on this crazy journey.