J. Lohr Wines Better Than Ever

Riverstone Chardonnay VineyardJerry Lohr, a farm kid from South Dakota, planted his first wine grapes in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County just over 40 years ago. Lohr has been making good wines ever since, but recently they have reached a new level and deserve to be mentioned with the best of California wines. This is especially evident in the new J. Lohr Cuvée Series, a trio of wines that are in a sense an homage to the great wines of Bordeaux, but with a strong California accent.

The wines are made from grapes on Lohr estate vineyards in Paso Robles and are meant to represent three faces of the Bordeaux tradition. The Cuvée Pau is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with a touch of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, echoing the typical blend of the Pauillac region of Bordeaux. The Cuvée Pom is Merlot-based with a generous helping of Petit Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, a bow to the Pomerol region of Bordeaux. Cuvée St. E is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Petit Verdot, similar to the Grand Cru wines of St. Emilion.

But you know what? Forget all that. That’s all wine geek stuff. What you want to do is get all three of the wines, a corkscrew, some wine glasses and call up a few of your favorite people and taste these magnificent wines.

Then go on to explore what Lohr calls his ‘family’ of wines—-Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and others—made from all estate vineyards in Paso Robles and Monterey. J. Lohr is one of the very few wineries in the world to maintain complete estate control over such a wide range of wines.

So keep a firm grip on that corkscrew and enjoy.

—Larry Walker

Old Crow, Still Winging It

oldcrowstoryAnn and I usually start thinking of Manhattan (the cocktail not the island) when the days grow short and there is a chill in the air, even here in coastal California. When it comes to Manhattan I’m a rye kind of guy. I think rye makes a more complex cocktail.
One recent foggy San Francisco night Ann slipped her favorite Rosemary Clooney disc into the stereo (‘Girl Singer’) and said, “I think it’s time we had a Manhattan.”
No argument there.
However, the only good liquor store nearby was already closed for the night, but there was a con store just around the corner. You know, the kind of store that sells a lot of cheap 12-packs of beer and pints of gin, along with an outstanding selection of chips and ice cream.
I popped around, had a look at the whiskey selection—there was no rye, of course—and noticed a bottle of Old Crow. I don’t think I had been near a bottle of Old Crow since my junior year in high school, but the price was right—$12 and change for a 750ml—so I decided to give it a try.
Let me tell you, it made a damn fine Manhattan, bold and assertive with just a touch of swagger. Even Ann agreed. Course, we made it with Antica vermouth so the vermouth was three times the price of the bourbon.

Ann’s Manhattan Recipe
1 part sweet vermouth
2 parts rye (in this case bourbon)
generous sprinkling of Regan’s Orange bitters. (Accept no substitutes.)
Shake well and serve up in a martini glass with your own DIY brandied cheery.

–Larry Walker

Quince, a Little Respect, Please

 Quince has been cultivated for at least 4000 years, so it deserves more respect than it has been getting the past several centuries.  Quince, a member of the rose family, was a very big deal around the ancient Mediterranean.  The Greeks and Romans called it the Golden Apple. It isacred to Aphrodite and brides were advised to nibble on the fruit on their wedding night.

The original marmalade was made from quince, not oranges, and was a gift to the world from Portugal. The word for quince in Portugal is marmelo, hence marmalade.


In the western world it is now generally regarded as an ornamental tree and the fruit fit mostly to throw at squirrels.  Well, get over that.  Quince makes very tasty jam and jelly. The jam is very good with pate and cheese.  The Spanish make a quince paste that is a delight with cheese and nuts at the end of a meal, called membrillo, which is complex and rich on the palate.  On the other hand, the recipe is about as simple as it gets:


 3 pounds quince, unpeeled


3 1/2 cups sugar.


 quinceCut the quince into sixths and remove cores. Put into a heavy pot, cover with water and cook until tender, about 1 hour. Drain, reserving the water.


Puree the quince and put through a fine sieve. Return to the pot, stir in the sugar and 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Cook over a medium low heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and turns a deep amber color.


Pour into a shallow 9 X 9-inch glass pan and spread evenly. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Allow to set until firm. Cut into thin pieces to serve. This will keep just about forever in the refrigerator.


(Recipe from A Season in Spain by Ann and Larry Walker.)