With the incredible success of Castoro Cellars’ annual Beaverstock Festival each Labor Day weekend, it’s kind of amazing that the Udsen family has the time to keep crafting killer wine, right? Somehow, this prolific winemaking clan pulls together to get ’er done, and this brilliant sauvignon blanc is a testament to each member’s commitment to creating balanced estate wines that are both drinkable, approachable, and remarkable. So, why is this fragrant white a self-described “family favorite”? With fruit reminiscent of the Marlborough region of New Zealand, this offering is ripe with Asian pear, lemongrass, tangerine, and white peach bliss. Plus, the bottle’s dry-yet-fruity nature and added weight on the palate (thanks to a splash of gewurztraminer) make it perfect paired alongside celebratory winter cheeses, saucy scallops, and poached pear tarts. I swear. The Udsens have outdone themselves again! Needless to say, I think they would totally win Family Feud if given the chance.
• Castoro Cellars’ Estate Sauvignon Blanc—$15; 1315 North Bethel Road, Templeton.
The job title of “flavor writer” has its downsides (carpal tunnel, deadlines, dramatic weight fluctuations) but it also has its radical perks, too. Like this one: My husband (lucky dog) and I recently had the pleasure of dining at the Firestone Taproom in celebration of the Paso Robles Brewery’s 20th anniversary shenanigans. Read: Woot!!! During this incredible meal—which included rare and retro barrel aged brews “from the vault,” lamb tartar, shellfish swimming in saffron stew, and (yep) foie gras—I realized something big. Sandwiched between two 20-something mega fans who had traveled from San Diego to Paso Robles just for this particular dinner and a big-shot beer writer from Los Angeles who counts Firestone among the world’s best, it came to me: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. has made it. Like, really made it. All the way, baby. They’ll never be the scrappy, wide-eyed brewery they were back in 1996, but that’s OK. The brewery may have a new Venice Beach location and epic brand recognition, but the Firestone crew still has what matters: a wild hunger to craft elevated craft beers that inspire “805 pride” in thousands of people. Firestone’s 2016 limited release XX Anniversary Ale pays homage to that dream, marking a decade since brewmaster/wizard Matt Brynildson began blending his barrel-aged stashes into one autumnal offering to rule them all. The XX is a unified blend of differing beers, all matured for a year or more in retired bourbon barrels, among other varieties of wood. Thanks to local winemakers who helped with the blending process, this beer’s got depth, complexity, and more sex appeal than a fancy bottle of cab. Stop by the taproom and try this caramel-and-spice wonder on draft for yourself. Truth: This terrific beer won’t be around forever, but you can bet your 805 bumper sticker that the legacy will remain.
• Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s 20th Anniversary Ale—On draft and in 22-ounce bottle for a limited time only; 1400 Ramada Drive, Paso Robles.
Hayley Thomas Cain is ready for a special occasion so she can open up “the good stuff.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.