Vine & Dine

Clowning Around With Armitage Chardonnay

wine glassFour of us headed to Brandon Armitage’s new tasting room in Aptos Village recently to try his well-made wines.

The décor had been bare bones the first time I went in, but now there are comfortable chairs and a coffee table, making for a nice cozy atmosphere. It’s a lovely place to hang out while trying Armitage’s superb wines, and manager/events coordinator Jeanne Earley will take care of you if Armitage is not there. And, if you imbibe too much, you can head to Starbucks next door for a strong coffee pick-me-up.

Labels can be a big selling point for wine, and Armitage Wines has come up with a good one for this particular 2012 Chardonnay: the outline of a clown’s face adorns winemaker Armitage’s Clowns Folly, but he’s also gone a step farther–the seal for the cork is red and white striped, with a clown’s face on the very top and the word “Bozo” written on the side. There is absolutely no missing this eye-catching packaging. It seems that the vineyard owner in Big Sur thinks there’s a certain amount of foolishness or lack of good sense in the process of making wine–thus, “clown’s folly”–and he has a point. A winemaker’s life is chaotic and crazed, especially around harvest time.
The crisp bright Clowns Folly Chardonnay is from the first and only vineyard in Big Sur. Armitage says the soil had never been farmed, and that it was “planted, tended and harvested by hand.” The vineyard rises along the Pacific Ocean at 980 to 1,100 feet above sea level, experiences fog in the morning, intense heat in the afternoon and then evening ocean cooling. The root stock/clone is a California coastal variety, tolerant of mist, sea breezes and clowning around.

105c Post Office Drive, Aptos, 708-2874. Tasting room hours are 2-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Cantine Winepub Opens in Aptos Village

It seems that Aptos Village is the happening place these days. Cantine, a new and innovative wine pub, started up on Aug. 8 and I dropped in that day for their “soft” opening. Well-designed and comfortable–and complete with outside deck–this is where you can order tapas (small dishes to share) such as kale salad with chai-cured duck confit ($18), lamb and feta meatballs ($12), roasted beets and fennel in a citrus balsamic dressing with crumbled goat cheese ($8), or something sweet such as espresso chocolate bark with orange zest ($7). Around three dozen different wines are served, plus there’s a good selection of beers, both bottled and on-tap. Give it a whirl.

Cantine, 8050 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 612-6191. Turn into Post Office Drive like you’re going to Starbucks, and Cantine is on the right.

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