Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day Two: October 6th: Direct From Hadsten House: Davy Crockett's Winery, Roaming 'Round Solvang and A Hadsten Dinner!!!

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Chuck Byers and Greg Rist" is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area.

King Of The Wild Frontier
It seemed very apropos that the first winery we visited was Fess Parker's on Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos. Had it not been for Fess and his General Manager at that time Bill Phelps (that name sounds so familiar!!!---), chances are that I would not have visited and revisited this area at any time and, certainly, this series would not have happened. It was because of this first visit and the feature "The Wine Frontier" that any subsequent visit ever happened! I ended up falling in love with the area and with Fess's family! The rest, as they say, was history!
Tim Snider (General Manager/VP Marketing and Sales)
The very first person that met us on our first visit and the first to meet us on this visit was Tim. As then, Tim came across as a friendly, sharply tuned individual whose focus was the winery without losing any form of hospitality when dealing with people. He seemed as I had left him about a year ago on my last visit. He looked in great shape and I was jealous of his still luxurious head of hair. After a general introduction and tour aimed at familiarizing Greg with the winery, Tim allowed us to film withing the winery confines. He was off to a meeting but asked us to contact him when we were about to leave.
Jack Sparrow
I was quite surprised to see my good friend Jack walk in as we spoke to Tim. Jack also goes back to that first visit and was prominently featured in the production. Jack now as was then was one of the finest gentlemen I had (and will ever) encountered. He brought with him a sense of peace which translated very aptly through the tone of his very soft and gentle voice.
Jack and I gave a big hug to each other and while Tim was showing Greg around, Jack and I talked old times. It was good to see my friend and wish him continued wellness. It seemed very apropos indeed that the first person to do a tasting for the first show would be the first person to do a tasting on the new Californian segment of "Adventures In Wine Country"!
The Winery
As Greg and I toured the winery, I was happy to see that the winery was still doing well. Even with the disastrous recession that hit the world, the Fess Parker's Winery & Vineyard seemed okay----a testament to those who work in it and for it. I was also quite happy to see an Ontario connection in the form of Henry of Pelham "Family of Wines" which is one of the foremost and historic wineries in Ontario----the Speck's family history going back to the American Revolutionary War.
The building that was so well depicted in the movie "Sideways" and where so many people have had good times was still there and within its walls were a host of wines that would make any gourmet or connoisseur's palate yearn. Pictures of Fess Parker in his "Coonskin Hat" were there as were the references to Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone via the DVD's for sale.
What most people did not know was that Fess had many other movies to his credit----as well as television series. He played in Disney's "Old Yeller" as well as one of my favourite movies was with Jeff Chandler in "The Jayhawkers". His roles were many but his best role of course was that of the head of an ultra fine family.
As I looked around, I saw wines that were excellent in each of their own right. Jack Sparrow brought out three that quite superb:
Frontier Red
Mainly Syrah blended with Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre, the wine had a nose of black fruit and berries with a palate of black berries, vanilla and a touch of chocolate with a lingering spice finish.
Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County
On the nose this excellent Pinot has great berry (strawberry, blueberry, cranberry flavours) with a light pepper spice with a palate that tingles the side of the mouth when sipped and also expressing a nice mouth feel with a lingering spice/berry finish.
The Big Easy, Syrah
One of my favourites on two counts, first, I was here attending the dinner when Ashly Parker-Snider introduced this great wine in 2007 and second, it is an amazing display of what can be done with fine grapes. On the nose is it is full of black fruit, pepper, vanilla and chocolate with an introduction of smoke. On the palate it is mouth bursting with black fruit and chocolate flavours with an ever present but not overwhelming touch of vanilla. the finish is very long and persistent.
Greg and I thought that we would be spending two and a half hours maximum at the winery but after our visits to the top plateau at Rodney's Vineyard, We realized that we had been there close to five hours having arrived at 9:30 AM and finishing at around 2:30 PM. Incidentally, the top of the plateau is probably one of the most scenic anywhere with vineyards that seem to stretch out to the distant hills as well as a Willow surrounded pond/reservoir that serves to irrigate the vineyards but also serves as a home to what seems to be schools of Small Mouth Bass. Nice picnic spot indeed!
Mary Harris, Executive Director: Santa Ynez Valley Visitor's Association
Throughout Greg and my tour filming the fabulous wines around the globe, we encountered many excellent guides and advisers to help us along the way. For example there was Christine White from Nova Scotia or Sally Sharpe from British Colombia and then there was the "Bulldog"
Cicci Broccoli of Veneto, Italy. Their enthusiasm was infectious and their guidance sublime. Mary Harris falls into this elite group. He dedication to the area and her job made her invaluable to us. I woke up yesterday morning not knowing for a fact, what I was going to do since I felt my itinerary starting to weaken somewhat. Bill Phelps introduced me to Mary and within a short period of time, my itinerary was not only full but almost overflowing.
Mary is a gem that needs to be nurtured and respected. Her advice was accurate, to the point and very much appreciated. We need more people such as she everywhere.
Wandering Dog Wine Bar
Mary introduced us to Charles Williams and his very lovely wife. They own a unique and rather nicely designed wine bar that consists of wines from wineries that have a very small production and would otherwise be relegated to a home or probably sold to another vineyard/winery. In this case, the wines are relegated to a place where they can show their true nature and keep their identity as well as entertaining the taste buds of those who visit the bar. We made plans to return when they had a few people visiting and tasting.
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards
"For over 35 years, I've grown the grapes that produced some of the finest wines in California. I strive to find a balance between the soil, the vine and Mother Nature."
This statement epitomizes the work and pleasure that Louis Lucas puts into his vineyards, wine and wine business. He is one of the first to produce grapes in the area----"When I first came here there were no vineyards-----now there are over a hundred!"
Louis knows his work and business yet his personality is natural and he shines when he speaks to people such as the group of Italian business people---all young ladies, who came to taste wine at his premises. Louis's manner seems to transcend all languages and personalities. Maybe that is why he is so successful.
Louis also reminded those who think that the job is easy by mentioning that even in California, Mother Nature still plays hardball sometimes. "Last night we had frost. It went down to 29 Fahrenheit. I was up all night." This comes after 100 plus temps the week before.
I am sure that somehow, he will survive this on much as he survived the last 35!
A Yummy Dinner At Hadsten House!
Greg was busy filming Chef Aaron cook the Fillet of Beef and Halibut Steak Wrapped In Prosciutto when I walked into the kitchen. The Hadsten House kitchen was amazingly clean and well equipped. The Chef seemed to know what he was doing as did Greg. I was a bit extraneous so I went back to my room only to receive a call saying, "Dinner is Ready!"
Back I went to find to find a marvellous setting ready to be eaten. First, however, we had to film.
Filming went through the usual bloopers but when all was said and done,we dug in and enjoyed.
Greg had a "Big Easy" from Fess Parker and I had a Viognier from Consilience Vineyards with my Halibut. Both wines were ideal with the meals.
Standing Guard
While at the restaurant, we met four United States Coast Guard officers enjoying a meal at the Hadsten House. We had a great discussion with them and came out of it feeling secure that, if all Coast Guard personnel were like these four, America was in phenomenal hands in keeping it secure. My congratulations to these fine officers and the great contribution that the United States Coast Guard performs in the security of North America.
Mike Lopez
I have made it a habit to know the people who I share space with----even in a restaurant. Mike Lopez was the entertainer at the Hadsten House yesterday. A brief discussion ensued and some enlightening information came forward. Mike took me on a journey into his ancestral past when his great grandfather rode cattle herds along the beaches to Gaviota. Mike told me about the fact that his family heritage is buried at the mission built inn 1804 and the oldest functioning church of its kind in America. Mike is more than just an entertainer. He is a story and as he said
"Everyone has a story to tell! All we have to do is listen.
Greg asked Mike to sing a couple of his songs for the show and Mike complied. It became an end to a very fine evening.
Final Note
The day ended well not because of any massive effort from me but because of people such as: Mary, Bill, Charles, Louis, Tim, Jack, Terry. I prayed for some help and boy did He give it to me!
That's why they call this area "God's Country"!!!