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WINEormous with the Occasional Wine Council-photo Roger Paige On a recent Saturday night, a group of enthusiastic wine lovers, called the Occasional Wine Council (surprise—it meets occasionally), met to taste several wines from the Eagles Nest Winery in Ramona Valley. There are about 40 wineries in Ramona Valley, which is located in the rural, scenic foothills near San Diego. Owned by Dennis and Julie Grimes, Eagles Nest has been growing grapes since 2004 and making wine since 2007, producing about 1400 cases a year. Dennis and Julie make their own wine and manage their 10 acres of grapes. Our tasting was organized by Linda Kissam and hosted by Ginger Giordano in a lovely estate “amidst the vines” in the Temecula Valley Wine Country. The setting was perfect for an evening of reviewing wine paired with a variety of dishes prepared by the participants. We were told ahead of time which wine would be our pairing assignment so we had done some research on the most appropriate pairings. The most interesting part of this particular evening was how the taste of the wines changed with the wide variety of foods prepared. It was surprising that some of the food enhanced wines for which they were not specifically paired. It was a learning experience for all of us on how dramatically food can improve or detract from the taste of wine. We tasted a variety of wines that evening and then participants voted on their favorites. I would definitely recommend a visit to Eagles Nest tasting room where these wines can be tasted and purchased. Below is a description of the wines we tasted along with what the group felt were the best food matches with each wine. (Note: If the wine is described as “Ramona Valley,” the grapes come from Ramona Valley. “California” means the grapes come from northern California. “South Coast” means they are from the Santa Barbara/Los Angeles American Viticulture Area.)

WINEormous enjoys Shrimp Pineapple Skewers with Eagles Nest Wine

Shrimp & Pineapple Skewers

2010 California Sauvignon Blanc: the first wine we tasted and the overall favorite of the evening. It was light and crisp with hints of grapefruit, mandarin orange and pear. It also had a bit of a buttery overtone, not surprising since it had been aged for six months in American Oak. Ginger prepared a beautifully presented orzo pasta salad to accompany this wine. The salad’s ingredients included tomato, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, feta cheese and a nice piece of baked parmesan-coated chicken. Most of us loved this wine and felt the pasta salad complemented the wine since the pasta was not highly seasoned. Cost: $22.

2010 South Coast Viognier: a light Viognier with smooth buttery notes and a lingering floral finish. This wine was matched with Todd Montgomery’s shrimp/pineapple skewers marinated in an Asian sesame, ginger sauce and were dramatically presented on a bed of cilantro with sprigs of aromatic rosemary. Most of us agreed that this dish was an even better match with the Sauvignon Blanc than with the Viognier. Ginger cookies also enhanced this wine. Cost: $22

2009 Ramona Valley Tempranillo: an estate Tempranillo with a nice, mellow nose and tastes of cherry and raspberry. Robine Dohrn-Simpson had prepared a beautifully arranged charcuterie platter with paté, cornichons, white cheddar, herbed beef and sausage. Although these treats were wonderful, this particular, soft Tempranillo seemed to go best with the desserts, such as the ginger cookies and chocolate caramel turtles. Cost: $26

2007 Ramona Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: an extensively barrel-aged cab with a tart cranberry nose. Roger Paige had creatively prepared a platter of pastrami on sliced French bread topped with red pepper tapenade, accompanied by a cheese roll and the ginger cookies. The pastrami went well with the wine as did the white cheddar from the other platter. And, again, the ginger cookies were a great match. Cost: $29

2007 Private Reserve South Coast Syrah: a dark peppery wine with a deep berry nose and strong hints of mint. Janene Roberts had created an aromatic and delicious pizza with herbs, garlic, thyme and oregano that was a good match with the Syrah but also went well with the Tempranillo. Cost: $27

WINEormous enjoys Eagles Nest wines2009 South Coast Zinfandel: a robust big wine with pleasant undertones of honey, raspberry and lavender. I brought two different grilled sausage bites, one a hot kielbasa that held up well with the Zin, which typically goes will with spicy meats. We also discovered that the Syrah went well with both the milder and spicier sausage. Cost: $26

2008 Picpoul Blanc Dessert Wine: a delicious white dessert wine that could have been called a white port if it had been named before the 2006 TTB (Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax & Trade Bureau) law banning all fortified wines from being called port if they were made outside of the Porto region of Portugal. Our group really enjoyed this wine with a variety of desserts brought by Linda Kissam, including macaroons, chocolate caramel turtles, stilton cheese with apricot, small tiramisu candies, and walnuts. It also went well with the white cheddar. Cost: $32

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Dessert Wine: another delectable dessert wine with hints of chocolate and cherries. This wine also went well with the desserts and cheeses and was a nice way to finish the evening of tasting and pairing wines. Cost: $34

All these wines are available in the Eagles Nest tasting room, located at 18261 Chablis Rd. in Ramona. The tasting room is open most of the time; however, you should call first to let them know you are coming. Phone number is: 760-505-8229. For more information go to their website. Group photo: Roger Paige Other photos: Todd Montgomery

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