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Local and loving it; I had the chance to taste a really nice wine to kick off my count—a bottle of 2010 Rosenthal Viognier (#1) from Malibu Newton Canyon. I had championed local wines at my shop all last year, skirting Santa Barbara in favor of Malibu wines—my backyard—to bring awareness to some of the better producers in my immediate area. It was a tough sell but in time it should get easier… and thus it is an apt place to start my new count.

In the mood for some somber sounds, I scoured my CD’s until my fingers and eyes came upon my Dirty Three discography. Violin and percussion filled the ambient space in my apartment as I uncorked the bottle of Viognier.

With “She Has No Strings Apollo” playing in the background I was in the perfect space to enjoy a single glass of Malibu wine. The fresh white wine was terrifically fragrant; a bouquet of flowers and peach skins leaped at me. I barely put my nose to the glass and was in awe of the sweet perfume. The soft golden hued wine was medium bodied with a fair amount of oak (moderate), which rounded out the essence of stone fruits on the palate with some vanilla accents. The acidity wasn’t as prominent either but still there. The white wine was richer than I had expected, coming across fuller because of the 14.1% alcohol (which was balanced). It was pleasant and a perfect sipper as I enjoyed the warmth of a Los Angeles winter.

I feel ambitious as I get started, beginning with a fantastic local white wine. No clunker, something easy and enjoyable while satisfying my nerd quotient for the evening. Dirty Three and Viognier were an unlikely pairing, on paper or acoustically—but that night, the two were in stride and combined gracefully.

With Halloween behind me and a miserable Ducks road trip safely in the rearview mirror I cannot help but start looking forward to greater food-centric holidays and the prospect of watching my favorite hockey team string together a few wins. I am certain that good food and wines to match are going to propel me through my countdown as the year winds down, and as far as the Ducks—no promises. With all the looking ahead though, it would be hard for me to forget the festive party I attended (at my apartment) a few Fridays back, and the three wines I uncorked for the spook soiree.

My roommate has always been a fervent calendar observer (he maintains that it is only at Halloween and Christmas but, I must attest, his adherence and excitement are constant), planning ahead, decorating accordingly and throwing a dedicated bash. When I came home, late from work, to his party, this was no exception; everyone clad in costume from Occupy Wall Streeters to Where’s Waldo’ers. Myself, I was a stranger in my own home but I was armed with the treasures of a wine salesman, plentiful samples for just such an occasion. In my possession were the wines of a Malibu Winery—Cielo Farms—from the Saddle Rock AVA, wines that I was familiar with only by name. I was excited at the promise of something great. A believer in local.

As the night began, a co-worker joined me and I promptly uncorked the 2009 Malibu Rouge (#151) and poured generous measures of concentrated vino into our beakers. Relying only on Halloween lights, it was difficult to discern the hue of the wine, so, we made use of our other faculties to assess its quality. The young wine had a bouquet of luscious dark fruits and little else. The Malibu Rouge was soft (smooth tannins) and full-bodied with extraordinary amount of fresh fruit that spilled over the tongue—very rich. It was a hedonist’s delight.

Getting into the spirit of things I opened another heavy bottle from Cielo Farms, with fruit sourced from Napa Valley under the moniker Moulin-Rouge (#150). Without knowing what fruit constituted the blend it would be hard to tell what exactly I was drinking, or the order of the bottles, but I was happy with the results. The Moulin Rouge had a bit more going on on the nose and in the mouth. Ripe fruit, coffee and some smoke exposing itself, with refined tannins, a little heat (from alcohol) but everything seemed to be in proportion.

I took a required break, the alcohol on both Malibu wines tipped over 15%, and its effects were beginning to show—we were drinking, not just tasting. Enjoying the party and some of the spread—compliments of my roommate’s girlfriend—I ate a fair amount of the savory items that were laid out on the table. An hour elapsed and I had aired out. The group was on the verge of a séance and I thought it a good time for a bubble break. A quick reprieve before things got creepy. The NV A. Margaine Champagne (#149) was the pinnacle of the night. The Premier Cru Champagne yielded decidedly nutty and toasty notes. The sparkling wine had a terrific mousse as I poured at an angle into my makeshift flute. I shared this wine with everyone who wanted some; there were a few takers but most people passed—a real shame. I take every moment I can to enlighten others on the prospect of bubbles outside the sphere of influence cast by Veuve Clicqout. The A. Margaine was delicate and racy with bright acidity and soft almond and golden apple flavors that sounded long after the last sips of the Grower Champagne.

The séance-insistent crowd subsided and the talk turned mundane. After a serious amount of wine I was ready to take things easy and enjoy the remainder of the shindig before retiring. I knew full-well the quality of the Champagne I had selected and was happy to create a few converts along the way, but the more surprising were the samples from Cielo Farms. The genuinely local wines were a hit, with an uncanny fruit-forwardness that made them dangerously easy drinking. I am still looking ahead to brighter days as a Ducks fan but I have to say that Halloween is growing on me.

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