L.A. County Fair Chapter 4: Gold Medal Wine Tasting and Beer, too.

by janet on September 20th, 2006

This is Chapter 4 of my trip to the L.A. County Fair. If you missed it, you should read Chapter 1: Fry loaf hunting, inedible cupcakes, and Nathan Lyons first and then Chapter 2: KO-ed by Kuteness, and Chapter 3: Drowning in a Deep-Fryer.

Ralph’s Vineyard Kitchen was having wine-tasting, and you could get a flight of five wines for $10! We sat down with a pencil and a list of 357 wines to choose from. What fun! Except choosing five from 357 wines was a terrible experience for me, a person who is paralyzed with indecision even at McDonald’s. After some agonizing, I finally settled on Ballatore – Gran Spumante (a sparkling wine), Abundance Vineyards – Sonoma Coast 2002 (pinot noir), Narsai – Napa Valley 2001 (cabernet sauvignon), Pepperwood Grove – California 2004 (zinfandel), and Bent Creek Wines – Amador County, 2004 (port).


A veritable orgy of alcohol.

I did not take Wines 101 at Cornell, so I do not know the fancy lingo of wine tasting. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that I find that sort of shit can get pretty pretentious. So I will try to give you my impressions of these wines in real-person descriptions.

Ballatore – Gran Spumante (sparkling white wine): This just tasted sweet, like champagne with syrup in it. I think this is the kind of sparkling wine that real wine drinkers are contemptuous of because it is sooo sweet, but that people actually would like to drink once in a while.

Abundance Vineyards – Sonoma Coast 2002 (pinot noir): If I use the word “woody,” is that too pretentious? This tasted woody, almost salty, and had a pretty shallow flavor compared to the other wines I tasted.

Narsai – Napa Valley 2001 (cabernet sauvignon): I picked this one simply because it was one of the oldest, and I hear that’s supposed to be good. It was good, with a nice deep flavor that kept changing so I couldn’t really classify it. It was pretty alcoholy, though, so not my favorite.

Pepperwood Grove – California 2004 (zinfandel): I have heard people using the term “raisiny” to describe wines before, and I never knew what they meant. But now I do. This wine tasted just like raisins, in a good way.

Bent Creek Wines – Amador County, 2004 (port): Apparently it’s OK to like sweet wines as long as they are ports. Accordingly, I loved this wine. It was rich, almost creamy (whoops, we are heading into pretentious territory again), but at the same time I wrote down the word “Punchy” with an exclamation mark after it.

In addition to my five wines, I also tasted a couple of Teriyaki’s:

Newton – “The Puzzle,” Napa Valley, 2001 (red blend): This wine did not strike me as a puzzle at all – it seemed very straightforward wine-ey and I could drink this every night with every meal.

Quady Winery – California Black Muscat, Elysium 2005: We all agreed that this wine tasted just like lychees (delicious!) and would be a great replacement for dessert.

While all the wine shenanigans were going on, Teriyaki’s brother Tapioca had a tray of SIX beers, TWO ounce-sized (as opposed to our paltry one-ounce glasses) for only FIVE BUX! I was extremely jealous and I decided to get my own beer sampler after I finished my wine.

The beer tasting was sponsored by the California Fermentation Society and they had a list of 16 (as opposed to 357) beers. I chose the three that had ribbons next to their name and three others. The dude behind the counter gave me my $5 change in singles, but it was my last bit of cash and I knew I had to save $5 for James’ goldfish. So, I’m sorry guy-behind-the-counter, for not tipping you!


A much better deal.

BJ’s Belgian Blonde (award winner): This beer had a flavor to it that Japanese people call “kobashii,” which is a term that describes it perfectly but doesn’t have a good translation. It’s like that nice browned flavor of toast, or the delicious burny flavor of charred food. That’s what this beer was.

Boston Beer Company – Samuel Adams Boston Ale (award winner): I think this is what they mean when they say it’s “hoppy.” It was a little bit bitter in the back of my throat, though.

Alaskan Brewing Company – Amber (award winner): This was a very beery-beer, also very bitter. In fact, it made the goldfish crackers that I was eating (intended to cleanse the palate between each wine) taste bitter, too. Maybe I am not hardcore enough of a beer drinker?

Deschutes Brewery – Anniversary Pilsner: I chose this beer because if it’s an anniversary brew, it’s probably pretty special? Teriyaki liked this one. It tasted slightly sweet and very fermenty.

Brew Bakers – Surf City Red: I like reds, so I was excited for this one. It totally delivered – it tasted kind of fruity in a really good way. This was Tapioca’s favorite, and mine, too.

Full Sail Brewing Company – Session Premium Lager: I zeroed in on the word “premium” when I chose this. This beer was reminiscent of Kirin (which is also a lager, so it makes sense!) and had a real bite to it.

I felt recharged and pretty toasted after the wine and beer tasting, so after a trip to the pee room (where I witnessed some chick crying – there were a lot of crying chicks at this fair, for some reason) we headed out again, for…more food!

…continued in the concluding Chapter 5, where we stuff ourselves to the brink of oblivion.

2 Responses to “L.A. County Fair Chapter 4: Gold Medal Wine Tasting and Beer, too.”

  1. simon says:

    i’m surprised you didn’t rant about the dumb cashier chick behind the wine counter. She charged me 12 bucks for the wine flight, even after i told her it was ten. and the reason i had to tell her was cuz she didn’t even know what i was talking about. idiot. and then she just took 2 bucks from the register to even me out. i bet that register didn’t total up that night.

    sucks for her.

    let’s go buy “the puzzle”

  2. janet says:

    It is $44.95. Maybe another day, when I am rich. Until then…Costco Almond Champagne!

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