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Tastes, Tapas and a Whole Lot of Fun – By Johanna Lack

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I haven’t been on Facebook for a while, there are always some pages that need to be checked out to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Middle Ridge Winery is one of these must-read pages because owners Chris and Melody Johnston always have something fun going on.  So when they posted their Tapas With Chris & Wine Club Release Party, this writer knew she was definitely not going to miss that event – and the Husband didn’t want to be left behind either.  So we made it a date night, scored a sitter and headed on over to Old Town.

Middle Ridge is one of the boutique wineries that have a tasting room at The Collective.  Whenever we step into this modern building we know we’re going to have a great time and this night was no exception.  We headed upstairs to the Collective’s private gathering room where the Tapas Party was already in full swing. Melody greeted us warmly and gave us our tickets for wine tasting.  There were seven amazing wine selections to pick from and we hardly knew where to begin.  So we started with the Wine Club Shipments because they were at the top of the menu and worked our way down.   Their 2010 Pinot Grigio was my first taste and it was amazing.  Pear aromas and a lemon finish make this wine really refreshing, yet not too sweet.  We followed this with sips from Middle Ridge’s 2008 Devil’s Slide, Merlot, then a bit of their 2008 Dark Canyon, Cabernet Sauvignon and last a taste of 2008 Syrah.  Each of these wines feature berries, plums and other fruit tastes that make them great summer wine choices And, almost needless to say, each wine was absolutely delectable.  And if you’re wondering about the interesting names, they’re from famous Idyllwild landmarks – Idyllwild being Middle Ridge’s main headquarters.

Also on the tasting menu were what Chris likes to call “Deck Wines” because they’re perfect for sipping whilerelaxing on your deck and enjoying a summer evening.  His 2009 Mistik, Sauvignon Blanc features aromas of white grapefruit and lemongrass with a touch of jasmine, and the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles has tastes of lemon, lime and grapefruit with a hint of kiwi.

If you’re wondering how I noted all these tastes and smells, I admit I had some assistance – and not just because descriptions were helpfully written out for us on the tasting menu.  Chris and Meloy had also set out their famous aroma table.  This is a large selection of pure aromas that are found in wine, based on standards developed at UC-Davis.  So if you open a bottle labeled “blackberry” and sniff it, the smell will help you detect blackberry next time you taste wine with that scent.  So the Husband and I had a lot of fun sniffing the wine in our glasses and comparing what we detected with the scents on the aroma table.                           

During all this we definitely weren’t going hungry either. Crispin Courtenay, known as Middle Ridge’s “Chief Canuck” was busy grilling tapas (Spanish for “little tastes”) out on The Collective’s balcony.  Servers walked around with plates of kim chi, Vietnamese veggies and seaweed with sesame – a nice little trio designed to whet our appetites. Each bite of these pickled treats had a little kick which definitely woke up our taste buds, and made us eager to try more.
Next passed around was a delicious BBQ Patty Pan Squash with a spicy sauce, followed by a palate cleansing Summer Sorbet made from key lime, kiwi, lavender flowers and Middle Ridge Mistik wine. (Which was a huge hit, by the way.  So we’re posting the recipe here so that everyone can try it at home.)  As we enjoyed the Sorbet, we turned around to see servers with plates of Barbecue Shrimp and Beef Kibbeh with Mint Sauce. Of course we tried both and we weren’t disappointed.  Both tapas were grilled to perfection and the Husband and I didn’t turn down seconds either.

Chris was busy socializing but we managed to snag him for a chat.  My main question for him was why did you choose make the wine club pick up a party?

“Perhaps one of the most important things to me is to get people together to share and have a good time in a relaxed atmosphere, while making new friends,” Chris told me.  “Of course, good wine helps it along but it is amazing to me that even when the food is gone people seem to linger to keep the conversation alive.”

That was certainly the case here, since there were plenty of people still enjoying themselves even though the party was slated to end at 8:00 pm.   Husband however had a babysitter on the clock, so we reluctantly said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and made our way back home.  Once again, we had an evening to remember with Middle Ridge at The Collective. You know we’ll be back.

Middle Ridge wines can be found at http://www.middleridge.com  and at The Collective, 28544 Front Street, Temecula, Ca 92590

 

 

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