Last weekend when I was visiting MM in Orange County, we took a little drive to Laguna Beach. We had a delicious lunch at Sundried Tomato Cafe before venturing to Laguna Culinary Arts for a low-key wine tasting. It’s a little hidden, right off Laguna Canyon Road in what looks like a warehouse parking lot. On Saturdays they host wine tastings from 1-4pm, and for only $5.00 you get to taste eight great wines from around the world (mostly Italian, French and Californian). They also serve a special lunch menu on Saturdays, featuring a cheese and charcuterie plate, salads, sandwiches and mac-n-cheese. We skipped the lunch since we had already ate, but the wine tasting was delicious!
- Les Domaniers Rosé 2011 (Blend of Grenache & Cinsault, from Provence, France) – $21.00/bottle
- The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (from Marlborough, New Zealand) – $12.00/bottle
- Marco Felluga Friulano 2012 (from Collio, Italy) – $18.00/bottle
- Louis Latour Ardèche Chardonnay 2010 (from Southern Rhone Valley, France) – $8.25/bottle
- Cuvee des Colosses 2008 (blend of Syrah, Carignan & Grenache, from Hérault, France) – $14.00/bottle
- Barnard Griffin Merlot 2009 (from Columbia Valley, Washington) – $17.25/bottle
- Luigi Bosca Malbec 2009 (from Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina) – $19.00/bottle
- Thompkin Cellars 3ie Degré 2008 (Blend of Syrah, Grenache & Mourvedre, from Santa Barbara, CA) – $33.75/bottle
The New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (#2) was my favorite of the whites. I immediately smelled lychee and passion fruit on the nose, and the taste was slightly effervescent with a smooth, delicate middle and crisp finish – and a steal at only $12.00 per bottle. I found the Rose (#1) to be very light in color, with a citrusy nose and an aroma of strawberries. It was a well-rounded wine with a crisp finish, but a little overpriced at $21.00 per bottle. I really did not like the Italian white (#3), and found it to be a little too sweet. The Rhone Chardonnay (#4) was rich and toasty – not my preference for a Chardonnay but overall a well-balanced wine.
With the surprising exception of the Malbec (#7), all the reds were great. The Malbec was a little too high in alcohol, and didn’t have the intense spice element that I was hoping for. In fact, it was more like a Pinot Noir. But if you’re looking for a Malbec on the lighter side, then this is the ticket. The first of the reds, the Cuvee de Colosses (#5) was a blend of Syrah (45%), Carignan (40%) and Grenache (15%). The result is a spicy and complex wine with a chocolatey, smooth finish. It would be great with hearty meat or spicy foods. Similarly, the Washington Merlot (#6) was a complex wine with a good balance of spice, fruit and acidity. And last but not least, the Santa Barbara blend (#8) was a wonderful ending to a well-rounded tasting. The full-bodied blend of Syrah (60%), Grenache (20%) and Mourvedre (20%) had a chocolatey nose with a smokey mouthfeel. This is definitely one that you want to sit for a couple of years, as it will open up very nicely.
All in all, it was a great tasting with a good variety of wines at great prices. It’s a great place to stop if you’re on the road or just passing through Laguna Beach, but I can also see how it would be a destination for locals. The adjoining wine shop also had a great selection of fairly-priced wines – I picked up a bottle of my favorite South African Chenin Blanc for only $9.00! I will certainly be back here in the winter, and hopefully we will have room for some of their mac-n-cheese next time!