Friday, August 17, 2012

'Cause Riverbench bees are the best

Some people like massage. Others like a good bubble bath. Some people sit by the fire with a glass of wine and a good book (actually, that works for me, too). But in my opinion, relaxing is all about having thirty thousand little honey bees buzzing around me at once.

Before you try committing me to the looney bin, think on this. I just so happen to have the nicest bees in the world. I first brought them to Riverbench two years ago after being trained as an amateur beekeeper. My mentor, David, had kindly offered to put my new bees into my hive for me since I was out of town on a business trip when they came in. This, however, involved a 45 minute drive from his place to Riverbench, where my new set of 10,000 buzzing babies was put inside the car and strapped down. We went early in the morning while they were still sleeping and cold. David’s advice for if we hit a bump and the hive came loose in the car? GET OUT.

Luckily, this perilous drive ended well and my bees were happily installed in their new home in the vineyard, where they’ve been thriving ever since. And since that first day in my bee suit, I’ve never worn it again because I have the friendliest bees in the world. I don’t use a smoker, even to open the hive, because they don’t swarm or sting. I’ve taken guests out there to see them and even touch them on the comb, like in this picture, which is one of the most earth-shattering experiences. Their little vibrating bodies are warm and friendly, and give you the most amazing rush touching them.

Next spring I’m looking to convince Jim, our ever-patient vineyard manager, to let me add a few more hives around the place. You can never have enough friendly bees.

For your pure enjoyment, I'm going to post the picture below, which was taken the first time I had to wear full gear with my bees. Sometimes I put it on just for kicks, so the people in the tasting room wonder what's up. I know, I look like I'm in space, but I'll endure the relentless teasing I'm bound to get.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wine Dinner with Trattoria Uliveto

I recently realized that this week marks my five year anniversary with Riverbench. It feels like just yesterday that I donned the pink hard hat to start the construction of the tasting room. Ah, memories.

Anyway, the point of this blog is that over the past five years, we've only done a handful of wine dinners each year for various reasons. All that is about to change now that we have Clarissa, our new winemaker, who is great at hosting them. I've also got more staff now, so it gives me time for things like this. Expect great things.

Monday night was our dinner at Trattoria Uliveto in Orcutt, and it was truly one of the best food and wine pairing experiences I've had recently. I love Uliveto because it's a warm, welcoming place with awesome Italian food. But for this dinner, Chef Alfonso Curti pulled out all the stops.

The first course was a tuna tartare paired with our 2009 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs. It was unique because he mixed the fish with avocado (love!) so the creaminess really balanced out the effervescence of the bubbles.

Next, Alfonso indulged me with one of my favorite pairings In. The. World. Bacon and 2011 Rosé of Pinot Noir. If you haven't tried it, you should. This bacon wrapped scallop dish was a perfect summer starter, and one of the favorites of the evening.

As if we weren't already happy enough, the third dish, which was a sweet corn ravioli with a porcini cream sauce, pretty much made the night. You know those moments when you match a wine and a dish perfectly? I mean so perfectly that your mouth sort of sighs in relief? That's what happened with a sip of our 2009 Estate Chardonnay. I'm still thinking about it.

The fourth course had everyone asking questions, because it was sea bass paired with our 2009 Mesa Pinot Noir, which is a bit unconventional. I don't believe in the whole "white wine with fish" thing, so asked everyone to give it a try and be open minded. And it was perfect together because there was just enough pepper; a wimpy white wine would have been disappointing. By the way, do you know how hard it is to cook fish perfectly for 70 people? Kudos, Chef.

Stuffed, but pressing on, we moved to a moist and succulent quail at my request. I had a quail risotto there that I fell in love with a while back, and since the birdie goes so well with our Pinot Noir, Chef put this together as a fifth course. Delicious would be an understatment, but I'm running out of descriptive food words in this post. Something about the gaminess of the bird with our earthier single clone 667 2009 One Palm Pinot just works really well.

There was dessert. Chocolate cake, a berry tartlet, and...drumroll, please!...a cannoli. Chef doesn't make his cannoli super sweet, so it was magical with our off-dry 2011 Riesling. Magical, I tell you! Everyone in the place went home happy, and I'm looking forward to another awesome five years full of exactly this type of evening.

A huge thank you to staff member Jules Reuter, pictured here with his lovely fiancée, Penni, for the awesome photos.