Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Wine Snob Review: Why We Think Santa Ynez Pinots Rule

This past weekend, Mr. W and I headed up to the Portland area to celebrate his BFF's 40th and, of course, try some fine Oregonian wine. Mr. W pretty much has a touch of pinot noir coursing through his veins, so he was very excited to get up to the Willamette Valley where they're bottling so much of it these days.

I was surprised by how pricey tastings are up in those parts. Here in the Santa Ynez Valley, we can still get a flight of 4-6 tastes for $10. But up in the beaver state, we paid $15-25 everywhere we went.

And, um, we didn't love the pinot.

We started out at Domaine Serene. Actually, we started out with a helicopter flight piloted by Mr. W's best buddy. It was my first time in a helicopter and although I kind of wished we'd done the wine tasting BEFORE I buckled myself into the front seat, it all turned out fine. The sweeping vineyard vistas were pretty darn spectacular. But back to Domaine Serene... It cost us $20 to taste 4 wines and none of them made our palates break into Broadway showtunes.

It was about this time that Mr. W's BF's wife began to tease us about being wine snobs (however I'd like to go on record here and say that I drink $6 wine from Trader Joe's all the time).

Stop #2 was Sokol Blosser, which was a stunningly beautiful (and very crowded) location with a full cedar-panelled interior and a huge patio overlooking the valley. But the wine? Meh. We tried their fancy $25 flight and their lower end $15 flight and although we liked a couple of the pinots pretty well, nothing blew us away. Their 2011 Goosepen was our favorite, but definitely not worth $80 a bottle. (And of course we wondered if the secret ingredient in it was goose poop...)

The final stop was Torii Mor, which was like a cute little pagoda with an Asian garden in the back. We liked the wine best here. I think it was their Nysa pinot that was our favorite. And they had a port that was just begging for some chocolate and a warm fire.

The crazy thing about our Oregon experience was that a lot of the wines we tried had 90+point ratings. So we should have loved them. But apparently, we've been pinot spoiled by some of the local producers in our area. And the truth is, the style of pinot they make around here is just more in line with what we favor—more fruit forward and light, but complex. More the Michael Strahan of wines than the Michael Douglas... 

So without further adieu, here are our latest favorite pinot stops in the Santa Ynez Valley:

Sanford—Hands down, the best pinot we've had in town. And a beautiful vineyard to visit. Their La Rinconada pinot nearly made one of Mr. W's visiting friends dance a jig when he tasted it. It's so delicious. And their Santa Rita Hills pinot is a close second.

Dragonette Cellars—We just tried Dragonette for the first time and were really wowed by their selection of pinot noir. Their tasting room is tucked away on a side street in Los Olivos, but don't let the modesty fool you. This place is worth a visit!

Samsara—One of our tried and true favorites. I would say their style is a hair off of our most favorite of favorites, but still delish. And they make some mean syrahs, too. Plus, the first time we discovered their wine ghetto location in Lompoc, the owner took us in the back for a barrel tasting which was just awesome.

Hitching Post—Sadly, there isn't a tasting room or winery to visit for this one, but there is a delicious restaurant in Buellton (the Hitching Post II) where you can get a glass of Highliner (Mr. W's go-to) or Cork Dancer (my fave). You might remember the locale from the movie Sideways, and if you go on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night and sit in the bar area, you can get their world famous burger. It's the perfect pairing with the pinot!

We've been meaning to get over to Brewer-Clifton in Lompoc because their pinot is supposed to be superb, but we haven't had a chance yet. And Alta Maria in Los Olivos is also rumored to be really good.

The thing is, any one vintage at any winery can shine through and end up being one of the best we've ever tasted. So although these are our current favorites, that could change by the end of this year.

That said, I still think they'll continue beating the ones we had in Oregon... Sorry Willamette Valley!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Big, Fat, Greek Master Bedroom Redo, Part 1

I'm not sure whether I've ever mentioned it here, but Mr. W is Greek. Maybe I blogged that somewhere over the course of 7 years....but if I didn't, there you have it. I married a big, fat Greek. Okay fine he's actually really svelte. Except for his upper body where he's all muscle. And his rock hard Adonis legs.This is actually making me think of a really funny story that happened when I went home to LA before Christmas...

A younger relative who shall remain nameless asked me if the main reason I married Mr. W was because (and I quote) "he was good at sex."

After I died laughing at her choice of words, I immediately texted Mr. W.

His response: I HOPE YOU SAID YES.

But I digress.

Let's get back to the master bedroom, shall we? (See, all the subject matter here is sort of related if you look at the bigger picture, right?)

After visiting Athens and Santorini and marrying a Greek, it seemed only right that our future master bedroom reflect a little of the classic Grecian aesthetic. I loved all the whites and blues of Santorini, and the idea that our new bedroom could feel like a trip to the isles sounded just right to me. I just realized you may be thinking there is an "After" picture at the end of this post. There is not. Our master bedroom renovation is merely at the pit-in-the-backyard stage right now.

But back to aesthetics. Like any good renovator, I've been pinning like crazy to keep track of my ideas for our future bedroom. Here's an idea of the mood and color scheme:






Blue, blue, and more blue. Part of the scheme was pulled from a painting that our friend Sweet Pete did for Mr. W a million years ago. We plan to have it enlarged and installed over our bed. But mainly I love that the colors feel like a little dip in the Mediterranean. So refreshing.

My first purchase for the master revamp was a set of these pillows from Joss & Main that totally nail the palette (pardon the low-res picture):

We're not the only ones who are into this color scheme either. Today was a very exciting day at the Maris house because our sweet little fuzzy-faced Samantha laid her first aqua-colored egg.

We were so proud. I wanted to play her "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" off the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. I just love that chicken. And I love that she's so in sync with the decor vision we have around here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Let the Next Phase Begin: The Master Bath Add-On

They say a man's home is his castle; his toilet his throne.

Okay maybe they don't say that second part.

But sometimes a man just needs a little more space for his bathroom activities. Or maybe his wife insists that it would be so much easier to host out-of-town guests if there were just one more bathroom in the house...and a walk-in closet...

When Mr. W and I started re-imagining our house, the idea of a master suite quickly caught on as a way to maintain some privacy during the numerous (and much appreciated) visits we receive from family and friends. Not that we don't love sharing a rotating bathing schedule...

But Mr. W was fantasizing about a nice big shower stall. And I wanted to stop storing my clothes and shoes in the guest room closet. So we bit the bullet and hired an architect. And he turned our rough plans into master suite magic—not only giving us luxurious bathroom and closet space, but also adding a door that would allow us to practically roll out of bed and go visit the chickens. It's all about the chicken visitation convenience.

Here's what our house looks like right now:

And here's how it will look once we finish this next leg of renovations:

I had a little helper while I was taking pictures of the blueprints, by the way...

I don't know when the "finish" will actually happen, but the "start" took place this weekend when Mr. W and I tore down the fence around our side yard to make room for the big foundation dig that's happening this week. In my mind, this project is going to be fun. We'll see what it's like having tractors drive through the yard and eventually watching an exterior wall and part of the roof come down. I may be sleeping in my Christmas present at that point...

Here's what the yard looked like before we built the chicken coop and cut down the dead apricot tree:

And here's what it looked like after we spent some time wielding the screw gun and hammer this weekend:

Even though we've done a lot of renovating up to this point, the fact that this project is an add-on makes it feel extra exciting and a little scary, too. I wonder if it'll be like the the old Kool Aid commercials of my youth when Mr. W and the contractor come through the bedroom wall.

However it all goes down, I think it'll be worth it when this becomes the view from our very private commode...

What's with the cardboard? Mr. W hoarded all the boxes from our kitchen cabinet delivery to use as weed blocker in the garden. Don't worry—there will be mulch over the top of all of it when it eventually gets put in its appropriate spot.

Hopefully these girls won't spend every construction day squawking that the sky is falling...