Sunday, November 2, 2008

The best $5 you ever spent in Laguna Beach

The day: Saturday
The place: Gourmet Cheese Shop & Wine Cellar, at Laguna Culinary Arts
The reason: Eight (8!) wine tastings from around the world

While I don't expect anyone to believe (I didn't believe A. when she invited me), it is the real deal. Easy to drive past off Laguna Canyon, you would be missing something rare in these parts; An opportunity to spend a leisurely afternoon surrounded by cheese and wine for less than you could possibly imagine.

If you know where Pageant of the Masters, Art-A-Fair or Sawdust Festival are located, then you're almost there. It is literally tucked away amid a plaza of local decorating boutiques. I spotted the cocktail party atmosphere spilling out the doorway and knew this was the right place.

The staff hustles to ensure everyone is content. We grab a table along the window of this small space so there's enough elbow room to order off the menu. I completely forgot about breakfast that day, and knew sustenance would prevent me from embarrassing myself in front of my co-worker. This was my wedding gift, "because a Target gift certificate just wasn't right for you". Better words could not have been spoken. (Note: I still would've used the Target g/c, but wouldn't have had nearly as much enjoyment).

A simple menu featuring fresh quality ingredients offered sandwiches and salads. I made my own sammy with proscuitto, dijon, and sun dried tomato on baguette. We also requested a three cheese sampler. Years spent sharing the same boring deli combo sandwich for much of my high school years prevented me from appreciating this staple in my adult dining. However, I had an epiphany while taking my first bite. This can be an enjoyable experience, and not just a convenience meal.

Our cheeses included a Spanish sheep milk variety named Roncal. I must come back for this. A honey drizzle, nuts, dried fruit and a massive basket of just baked sliced bread would keep us company for the next two and-a-half hours. The wines featured were all very "economic stimulus" themed and no more than $15 a bottle.

  1. Domaine de la Solitude Rose 2007 ($15) - Rose normally gets a bad rap, but not here. From the Southern Rhone Valley in France. It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.
  2. Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2007 ($14.75) - From Alto Adige, Italy. Had a nice bite to it.
  3. Indaba Chardonnay 2007 ($8.50) - South Africa
  4. Urban Uco Torrontes 2007 ($8) - Sweetness created in Cafayate-Salta, Argentina
  5. Cabrini Tempranillo 2005 ($10) - My favorite of the bunch. Brought to you from Mendoza, Argentina
  6. Leese-Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($15) - 100% Californian
  7. Almira Los Dos Barrica 2006 ($10) - A blend of old vine Grenache & Syrah from Campo de Borja, Spain.
  8. Step Rd. Blackwing Shiraz 2006 ($13.50) - Full-bodied red from South Australia.

I'm already plotting the next time I can make the drive down.

Gourmet Cheese Shop & Wine Cellar

845 Laguna Canyon Road

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