Just returned from a fab meeting with Gray Hartley of Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Winery, I have lots of stories. The two have been partners in the business since 1979, when they first made wine together. Since business partnerships like the one Gray Hartley has with Frank Ostini are rare, I think the story of how they met is worth retelling.
Hartley bought a house in Casmalia, CA just around the corner from the site of the first Hitching Post restaurant. He spent his days working on the house, renovating it smelling the wonderful flavorful food that wafted out of the Hitching Post restaurant. He finally went into the restaurant for a dinner one night where he witnessed couple putting on their sweaters and watching the waitress while they were just half way through their steak dinners. So, he mentioned to the hostess that he thought the couple might run off without paying the bill. The hostess when in back to tell the owner, Frank Ostini, and the couple got up and left. Hartley followed them out the front door where their car was perched right in front of the restaurant pointed in the direction for home. He quickly wrote down their license plate number to give to Ostini. Ostini has been known to say he may have been out a $50 dinner but he made a lifelong friend.
If you haven’t tried this one yet, you really should. When you do, you’re gonna wonder how you drank Riesling before. I love the varietal but usually need spicy food to go with its sweetness. You know how opposites attract when it comes to wine, people, and just about everything. This one may have a little sweetness but it doesn’t have that sugar aftertaste. Its very round rich tangy flavor is what you feel instead. A slightly frizaante mouthfeel hits you at first although it doesn’t appear to be sparkling. But, take in the smell before you taste. What a wonderful fragrance. Butterscotch, vanilla, and a garden of flowers comes to mind.
Temecula was everything everyone said, and totally worth the trip but I doubted if I should ever come back. In the midst of what looked and felt like a desert, sprawling pristine estates loom, some of which even contain a restaurant and inn style rooms to rent. My uncle would say you gotta have clean socks and underwear to come to these places. Nighttime events like concerts, pick up parties, cook off competitions fill these places like a downtown club. Whether they instituted these events because there is no there there or a central downtown area was never developed because of their popularity is unclear. But it’s clear that local wine explorers within a 2 hour radius are migrating despite the gnarly frustrating experience of driving in Southern Cal.
Fortunately, I know a few of these locals who took me to a few of their favorite spots. So, I was impressed enough with the wines to buy some. Prices are not so impressive. You’d think the farther you go off the beaten path, the better your chances are of finding a deal or diamond in the rough. But prices are probably designed to pay for the aforementioned sprawling estates. I’d prefer tasting deliciously affordable wines on a picnic bench or someone’s front porch.
Locals tell me tales of the beautiful charming lady renting me a guest house; she is quite famous among equestrians. She’s known for roping cattle and roman riding, which is riding atop 3, 4, 5, or 6 horses at once controlling all of them equally. No wonder she’s so confident! Yet, she’s demure. What’s her secret?! I found out from others that she is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
She was prepping the horses for a rodeo last week and asked me if I’d like to stay longer than the one month I’d paid for already. She gave me a great rate to stay as long as I’d like. Truth is, I’d prefer to soak up more of this warmth and friendliness than journey onward. Just being here has boosted my spirit. People here truly know the secret of life. And you gotta admit, you can’t learn enough from a Cowgirl.
Here’s where you can find out more about her: PLENTY OF HORSEPOWER BENEATH HER FEET
His name ain’t Scott but he sure knows how to do a few things right. First, he does a simple yet powerful food pairings with his wines. He will introduce you to oils and cheeses you may never have encountered before and cannot pronounce. Second, he approaches winemaking like a rock star; doing things a little differently, he will make you think differently about wine.
When he gets Sangiovese grapes, he doesn’t just make a great Sangiovese. He makes two that represent different styles. Instead of boring you with the deets of exactly how they’re different, he’ll bottom line it for ya, saying one is a Pinot Noir style Sangiovese and the other is a Zinfandel lover’s Sangiovese. Either way, he can make you fall in love with Sangiovese… or at least in lust. I love them both.
He tells it to you strait and has fun with it so his wines reflect that character. They all have wonderfully keen typicity. If a wine is going in its own direction, he doesn’t coax into conformity. He won’t even call a high alcohol jug a hot wine. He believes it is more disingenuous to change a brazen wine than to just let her be the liquid panty remover she is.
OK so DirectTV is the devil and probably run by a bunch of Dodgers fans. Apparently, I can only watch a Giants game here if they are playing the Dodgers. In San Francisco, if you paid for a channel, you could watch that channel 100% of the time, simple as that. But, here, they block out that channel if the Giants are playing a team that is not from the state of California. How is that fair? How is it even legal?
I tell you what, though, Niners fans are all over this state. I’m sure the Raiders following is fierce and we are all afraid of the skull and cross bones emblem. But their fans are not as widespread. Niners fans are too cool to fall for the Nor Cal So Cal clash.
Today’s discovery: Herman the German at Central Coast Wines tasting room right next door to the new country music pub. He carefully selects reasonably priced wines with unique quality, most of which come from Paso or other parts in the Central Coast. Surprisingly enough, my favorite is from Malibu. Who knew, wine from Malibu would taste this great. But I hear they hired a master sommelier and are making great efforts for their wine to have the structure and flavor they desire. They’ve also managed to keep their prices down for such expensive real estate.