February 2014 - Please The Palate
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Sometimes all you need is a weekend getaway to escape the weekly grind. My recent getaway to Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, California, the heart of wine country, was the perfect destination. After a long week, we left Los Angeles after dark, and after traffic, to drive up to Santa Barbara. Two hours later we drove down a dark country road and found the driveway into Alisal Guest Ranch.    We settled into our private guest cottage, one of 73 in total. With no telephones or televisions, it was a well-needed escape from reality. Only a few minutes from the touristy streets of Solvang, Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is a secluded hideaway that has been a full-service guest ranch since 1946.  From horseback riding and a petting zoo to two 18-hole championship golf courses, a huge spa and fitness center and tennis courts to a 100-acre spring-fed lake for kayaking, canoeing and fly fishing to, of course, wine tasting, there are activities for everyone!
Since February is Black History Month what better way to recognize it than with a dinner highlighting some great California wines made by African American Winemakers? Did you know that there are more than 7,000 wineries in the United States but only 20 of them are owned or made by African Americans? According to Roberta Rinaldi of Wine Noir, a meet-up group and broker for wines made by African Americans, history tells us that African Americans first appeared as vineyard workers for Thomas Jefferson, who liked French and Italian wines. But there is a limited amount of history known up until 1997 when Iris Rideau, who is of Creole heritage, started Rideau Vineyards in the Santa Ynez Valley, becoming the first African-American female winery owner in the United States.
"Chablis is chardonnay, but not every chardonnay is Chablis." - Rosemary George    So many times you hear people say "I don't like Chardonnay" or "ABC - Anything But Chardonnay." Usually this is because when they think of Chardonnay, they think of creamy, unctuous wine that tastes more like a wood chip or buttered popcorn. Now, I am not a fan of this style of wine either, but I always say not to make a generalized blanket statement saying you don't like an entire category. Why? Because not all Chardonnays are butter bombs. Take Chablis. Located in the northern part of Burgundy, France, Chablis is a cool climate that consists of rich limestone soil, producing wines with more acidity and a "flinty" (or "steely" or "mineral") note. Most Chablis is completely unoaked and vinified in stainless steel tanks. There are four classification levels: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru.