Dining Reviews

Wurst Case Scenario


Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

Sean Venus has good news: his long-awaited El Ladrón Blanco Blue Agave Spirit left the distillery last week, and by now it has found its way to local retailers, bars and restaurants. El Ladrón (The Thief) is Venus Spirits’ version of tequila, made from Mexican organic agave right here in Santa Cruz. Double distilled and aged in stainless steel barrels, El Ladrón Blanco will yield a true, rich agave flavor. “In addition to the blanco,” Venus adds, “aged reposado and añejo styles will be released in 2015.” But if tequila fans can’t wait until then, the other good news is that Venus Spirits will be pouring Venus Gin Blend No. 01 and El Ladrón Blanco at this weekend’s Gourmet Grazing on the Green, noon – 4 p.m. on Sept. 27, at Aptos Village Park.

Plant Garlic

Renee Shepherd is not only the queen of organic gardening strategies, she is also savvy about how to maximize all the effort it takes to successfully harvest your own fruits, veggies and herbs. This month, her newsletter urges serious home chefs and gardeners to consider growing their own garlic. Her website provides step-by-step instructions for planting and harvesting the bulbous plant. In short, you plant an individual clove, wait until nature does its thing, and harvest an entire head of garlic. You’ll have plenty of aromatic garlic for your own recipes and to ward off pesky vampires wherever they lurk. Over the years I have learned a lot about seeds, plants and growing from Renee’s Garden—get in the habit of visiting the website: reneesgarden.com. Inspiration awaits!

Sausagefest 2014

One of the pleasures of my recent trip to Bavaria was feasting on the local sausages (there’s just no way that’s going to come out right)—wienerwurst, knockwurst, bratwurst, weisswurst—it was a world of wurst. Nothing (unless you’re a vegan) beats a hot grilled sausage on a roll, slathered with mustard and sauerkraut and ideally washed down with a cold brew. Now imagine some wildly original polka music in the background. Yes! That’s Sausagefest 2014, coming at ya right here in Santa Cruz at the Westside Farmer’s Market. Handmade links, autumnal ales and oodles of other seasonal goodies. 1 – 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28. Make it a plan!

No Rest During Harvest

The hard work of winemaking is loaded with romance. Winemakers and pickers at Muns Vineyard harvested under the full moon on Sept. 10. Ryan Beauregard trucked seven tons of dry-farmed, organic, old vine merlot from Zayante Vineyards to the winery at Bonny Doon. I’ll bet that was one gnarly mountain ride! Winemaker Pamela Storrs admits that “so far the vintage of 2014 looks to be early due to a mild spring and warm summer.” And the crop is looking abundant, says one half of the Storrs Winery duo. “Because we farm organically, we have kept a very close eye on powdery mildew, which experienced ideal growing conditions in June and July. Our favorite part of the last few weeks before harvest has been watching a resident red-tailed hawk take on the gopher population that thrives in our sandier soils,” she says. Like every winery in the region, Storrs is now in the full throes of harvesting. Or, as Richard Alfaro puts it: “no rest during harvest.”

Wine of the Week

The inviting 2013 Chardonnay Beauregard Ranch from Beauregard Vineyard: loaded with terroir and not oaky, this highly inflected wine moves effortlessly through shades of peach and kumquat into a slow, delicious finish with a float of jalapeño. It goes everywhere a white wine should, and is particularly fond of poultry, pork and oil-intensive seafoods.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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