Sunday Driving: Santo Tomas Winery

Sunday is the day we reserve for exploring. Sometimes, it's on foot or on bikes. Other times, it's a long drive, seeing what we can see. This past Sunday, we actually pulled out a map and decided on a place we'd been wanting to go check out: Santo Tomas.

Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

When we first moved to Ensenada, we thought all the wineries were in the valley northeast of the marina. In doing a little research, I found out that the Ensenada wine region is actually made up of three wine regions: Valle de Guadalupe, the most well-known and closest to town, as well as Santo Tomas and San Vicente, both south of Ensenada on the Transpeninsular Highway, or Hwy 1. While I'd love to go to the Valle de Guadalup EVERY Sunday, I wanted to explore. I also wanted to see the winery that started it all in the Californias. 

A Little History

In 1697, Jesuit priests were given consent by the Spanish crown to enter into the barren, unattractive peninsula at their own risk and expense. The Spanish needed a post on the peninsula to protect trade, but had until then been unsuccessful. The Jesuits did what they could not and were left alone. And, being quite enterprising and not afraid of work, they eventually were able to support their existence in the foreign land. Unfortunately, after nearly 70 years of faithfully working the unforgiving land, they were rounded up and expelled from the country. It seems that they had a some opportunists and royalty against them.

The Franciscans and Dominicans took over the enterprises after the Jesuits left, but with the new Constitution and Reformation Laws, all lands once held by the Catholic Church were expropriated by the Mexican government. Santo Tomas was handed over to Don Loreto Amador.

In 1888, a former gold miner and his friend purchased the winery from Loreto Amador and officially established Bodegas de Santo Tomas. In the 1920's, the Bodegas was purchased by former President of the Republic of Mexico, Don Abelardo L. Rodriguez, under whose hand the winery went through major expansion, including moving the bottling to its current location, Miramar 666 in the heart of Ensenada.

Fast Forward to Our Afternoon at Santo Tomas in 2013

We drove past the winery the first time. I told Mr. Jones, "Hey, that sign said Santo Tomas!" He looked around while continuing to drive and said something to the effect of that couldn't be it, too small, let's keep driving. About a half an hour later and a few miles of off-roading where the highway was under construction, we reached San Vicente, which is south of Santo Tomas. We turned back, drive through the dirt road detours and finally ended up back at Santo Tomas. I tell you this for two reasons:

  1. No matter how much it annoys my husband, I will continue my horrible habit of being a backseat driver because things like THIS happen, and
  2. If you blink, you'll drive right through the town. 

The campesino at the gate scribbled our names in his log clipped to his board and then manually lifted the gate to let us in. Along the drive up to the tasting room were signs that invited us to mingle our senses... taste the air... breathe the sun. Essentially, live life fully. After easily finding a spot in the unmarked lot (there were only two other cars there), we walked past a wine cave, a fountain that wasn't fountaining, and some picnic tables where a group of people were enjoying a bottle. As we entered, we saw two couples at a table near the windows enjoying some wine and cheese and, across the room, a young lady at the counter wearing a panda beanie with tassels and pom poms. It was an elegantly decorated room that clearly didn't take itself too seriously.

Perfect for The Joneses.

Sipping and Noshing

Tasting Room at Bodegas Santo Tomas #ensenada #mexico #wine

We picked out a meat assortment and some cheeses from the deli case next to the main counter and asked for a wine recommendation. The young lady with the panda beanie said that for our meats and cheeses, she thought the Tempranillo would be best. While we were making our purchase, another employee appeared out of thin air, and just as quickly, disappeared with our food. We went to our table with our glasses and bottle, and within a few minutes, the disappearing employee reappeared with our cheese, meats, and crackers beautifully placed on boards.

We sipped and noshed and laughed and talked, all the while, watching a stream of small groups and couples come and go. It's definitely not as busy as the location on Miramar, it does seem to enjoy its share of foot traffic.

We finished our afternoon snack just in time to walk about the vineyards and take some pictures before the sun set. Waving goodbye to the campesino as we drove out the gate, we promised each other to come back and try another bottle on another Sunday very soon.

 

Burgers and Beaujolais

My litmus test when buying a new top or heels is "can I wear this with jeans?" I have a similar test for my red wines. "Will this taste good with a burger?" Yes, dear readers, I am quite the snooty sommelier!

Last night, I hosted a WineTwits live tasting event: Burgers with a Side of Beaujolais.

Hosts throughout the country were sent three George Duboeuf wines to sample with friends at our own cookouts. We were also sent three different burger recipes to taste with each wine. We were given the option of making all three burgers or just our own. For the sake of keeping things simple, we stuck to our favorite burger blend. When time permits, I'll be going back to try the rest of the recipes. (All recipes below).

During our eating and tasting, my guests and I shared our thoughts on the wines on Twitter with our followers. We followed the other tasters' comments from across the country on Twitter, too. You can see more comments than the ones here by doing a search on Twitter using the hashtag, #GDandBurgers.

The first wine was a Beaujolais-Villages (suggested burger: Angus Burger). I enjoyed the light, berry/cherry flavor of the BV. It had just a hint of spiciness keeping it from being too sweet.

The next wine was the Julienas Chateau de Capitans (suggested burger: Turkey Sliders w/Sun Dried Tomato Basil). This wine was darker, a deep reddish purple with a thicker consistency. Sniffing this wine, you could almost smell the oak barrels. While sipping, I had a random thought: "I bet this would taste good with chocolate!" We set our burgers aside for a moment and broke out a few pieces of chocolate. Yep! It definitely was a good mix.

Our final wine was the Brouilly (suggested burger: Portabella Mushroom). This wine was a deep, dark, almost black purple. I had to inhale pretty deeply before I smelled the black licorice. The taste was dry, smooth, mellow. Just as with the aroma, the taste eluded me at first, until I caught it at the back of my throat. This one definitely tasted great with my burger, but I probably wouldn't drink it alone.

My guests enjoyed the burger mix I put together, so I thought I'd share it here. I don't have exact measurements. I'm a season-to-taste kind of cook, so my "recipe" is just parts. You decide how much of each tastes good to you.

Mix the following ingredients together:

  • Ground Beef
  • McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Bread Crumbs
  • 1 egg

Don't be shy on the seasoning and sauce. I know I told you I don't measure, but I'm going to say 1/3 cup of each of those to 2 lbs. of beef.

Here are the Burger recipes for the party (with exact measurements) created by Chef Bob Waggoner of PBS' Ucook with ChefBob.

All recipes serve 2.

ANGUS BURGER

Ingredients:

  • 2 regular sesame buns
  • Angus ground beef - 16 oz
  • Red heirloom tomato - 4 slices
  • Vidalia onion - 4 slices
  • Smoked bacon
  • Fresh rosemary - 1 tablespoon
  • Peeled shallots - 3 diced thinly
  • Butter lettuce - 1/2 a small head
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground white pepper to taste
  • Aged white cheddar cheese - 2 oz - diced

Directions:

In a small saute pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Add shallots and cook for 3 more minutes on low. Add the chopped rosemary and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from pan and let sit at room temperature.

Form 4 thin patties of beef approximately 4 oz each. Then place bacon, shallot and rosemary mix on top of 2 of the patties. Add diced cheddar, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cover with other parry. Pinch the sides together to form one big burger. Salt and pepper the top of the patty.

Grill. When burgers are almost done, grill buns.

On the bottom bun, place the burger, Vidalia onion rings, tomato rounds, and lettuce.

TURKEY BURGER SLIDERS w/ SUN DRIED TOMATO & BASIL

Ingredients:

  • Ground Turkey meat (15% fat) - 1/2 lb.
  • Sun Dried tomato - 2 oz
  • Shallots - 3 each - thinly sliced
  • Medium sized garlic cloves - 3 each - thinly sliced
  • Fresh basil - 8 large leaves - roughly chopped
  • Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
  • Water - 1 1/2 cups
  • Baby Arugula - 1/2 cup
  • Red Onion - 4 slices
  • 1 Ripe Avocado
  • Mini Pita Pockets - 4 - split in half
  • Salt
  • Fresh Ground White Pepper to taste
Directions:
In a 10 inch saute pan, heat the 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sundried tomato. Add 1 tsp of salt, 3 cranks of fresh ground white pepper, and 1 1/2 cups of water and let simmer until all water is evaporated. Add copped basil, remove from pan and set aside. Leave at room temperature.
Form 4 small patties using 1/2 lb. of turkey meat. Salt and pepper both sides. Gently grill for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per side, depending on temperature of your grill. Grill the red onion slices at the same time. Just befoe the burgers are done, lightly grill the pita pocket that you have split in half. When the burge is cooked, place a small amount of arugula in the bottom of the pita. Top with a turkey patty and arrange your slider with the grilled red onions and the sun dried tomato basil mixture.

GRILLED PORTABELLA BURGER

Ingredients:

  • 2 large portabella mushrooms - stems removed, gills scraped
  • Fresh thyme - 2 tsp
  • Green onions - 4 each
  • Yellow tomato - 4 slices
  • Large eggplant - 4 round slices
  • 2 Kaiser rolls
  • Beaujolais wine - 4 tbsp
  • Olive oil - 4 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground white pepper to taste
Directions:
Gently drizzle the olive oil over the sliced tomatoes, eggplant, and green onions. Salt and pepper all. Gently grill and set aside - 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Salt and pepper portabella mushroom. With a small paring knife, make checkerboard cuts gong halfway into the mushroom. Drizzle 2 tbsp each of Beaujolais onto each mushroom and let it seep in for 2 min. Add a tiny bit of olive oil on the mushrooms and grill for 2 1/2 minutes on each side.
Once pulled from grill, sprinkle with fresh thyme. Gently grill Kaiser Roll. Stack portabella mushroom, tomato, green onions, and eggplant on the Kaiser Roll.

Cheers!

No One Can Hear You Scream OR Thank God for Twitter and Facebook

I lost my voice. If you know me, you know that's like my personal hell. I talk all the time. From the minute I wake up, I'm processing stuff. And if anyone is near me, I'll process all over them. I'll talk about the strange dreams I had about broken windows and people trying to get into my house. I'll talk about all the things I need to do that day. I go down to the water for some quiet time, talking all the way. I'll sit quietly for a moment... aaahhhh... then I'm back to walking and talking, and processing all over again.

But not today. Today, it's all quiet, all day.  I sit here, mute, unable to use my voice, with just a cowbell to ring for help. It's so frustrating that all I want to do is scream... BUT. I. CAN'T!

Do you know what that feels like?

It feels a whole lot like this:

[caption id="attachment_906" align="aligncenter" width="237" caption="Edvard Munch "The Scream""][/caption]

Thank God, I have Twitter. And Facebook. And, on ocassion, the spinning circles of Google Plus. On days like today, when I can't chew people's ears off, I'm on-line in a somewhat more, how you say, obsessive/compulsive manner. I suppose my timing couldn't be more perfect. See, tonight, I'm doing something I don't do very often. I'm going to be part of, not one, but TWO chats!

The Children's Place Million Fan Party

As The Children’s Place closes in on their 1 Millionth Facebook fan, they want to celebrate the milestone with their fans by throwing a party with some of Hollywood’s hottest moms (including Denise Richards!) and a handful of fashion writers from mom and kid friendly online destinations.

And also some crazy bloggers.

If you aren’t a fan of The Children’s Place on Facebook yet, become one now, and party with us tonight. The more the merrier! From 9pm-10pm EST, we’re inviting fans to join us for a Facebook Fiesta live chat hosted on The Children’s Place Facebook page where our celebrity mom and fashion editor co-hosts will chat with all our fans in an open forum about all things fashion, family and fun in the summer months.

You can join the chat on the Million Fan Party tab!

Burgers with a Side of Beaujolais

This one is going to be lots of fun!

3 Burgers, 3 Ways, 3 Wines... one perfect summer night!

My friends at WineTwits are hosting a live event tonight. Several of us were sent wines to taste at home with friends along with three burger recipes to pair them with. Follow along with us on Twitter using the party hashtag, #GDandBurgers. And if you have any special burger toppings or suggestions, share with the partiers!

While I'm insanely frustrated with not being able to speak, I'm so glad I can still chat with all my friends on-line.

See you tonight!