Paso Robles Wine Tasting Trip

January 28th, 2009

Last week my brother and his wife were in town and we decided to take a trip up to Paso Robles to do some wine tasting.

We decided to take the scenic route there, going up PCH through Pacific Palisades and Malibu. We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch. We parked on Stearn’s Wharf and ate at the Harbor Restaurant. I had Ahi Tuna Melt which were OK, but not really what we expected – they were not open faced. M had Mussels in Green Curry Broth, which she enjoyed. We had Hinano Beer, which is from Fiji. The waitress told us it was a Medium to Dark beer, but it turned out to be very light. It wasn’t bad, but I would probably not order it again.

After lunch we walked down the pier and along the beach for a little bit – before heading out again. We again chose the scenic route and took 154 towards Los Olivos. We decided to stop at a Vineyard and randomly ended up at Rusack Vineyards. We tried a wine flight and we all liked the Sangiovese, so we each bought a bottle.

After the wine tasting we headed back up 101 to Paso Robles and easily found our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Paso Robles. The hotel was nice, nothing special, but clean and comfortable. We were in the “new” building across the parking lot from the lobby. We made reservations for dinner at Artisan and opened up one of the bottles that we had bought earlier.

About 20 minutes before dinner we headed to the lobby of the hotel to get them to call us a cab. They warned us that the cab company stopped running at 9:00pm so we could be out of luck on the way home. The cab that showed up was North County Taxi. The fare was only $5.00 to the restaurant.

We got to Artisan at 7:00 and it was fairly busy – there were only 2 open tables, so we were glad we had made reservations. We weren’t expecting it to be so busy on a Wednesday. The food was very good all round. I had a crab cake for appetizer and pumpkin ravioli. M had a Gouda fondue for appetizer and the ravioli as well. I had the trio of creme brulees and M had the Chocolate Pave and Peanut Butter Ice Cream. I would definitely go back there if I was ever in Paso Robles for dinner again. We asked our waitress for a taxi and the same cab driver showed up again.

The next morning we woke up, had some free breakfast at the hotel and hit the wineries. Our first stop was Vina Robles where we had Cuvée Collection Tasting Paired with Artisan Cheeses. The cheeses were great. The Winery was new and very impressive looking. We asked about sparkling wines in the area so she suggested we try Robert Hall which was across the street. We went there, but unfortunately they no longer made the sparkling wine so we moved on.

Our next stop was Falcon Nest Winery. This was a much smaller winery compared to the last two we visited. The owner, Francesco, was pouring the wines in the tasting rooms and telling stories. We had a great time listening to him tell us about his adventures in the hotel and restaurant industries all over the world. We also had some good wines. We were the only ones there the whole time. I guess they don’t get much business on a rainy Thursday in January. After the regular four tastings (one which he poured twice by mistake), he also started giving us various “blends” by simply pouring wine from two different bottles. We ended up buying a Syrah and a Zinfandel from there. They also had lunch there that might be good for next time we are in the area.

Francesco recommended we go see his neighbor, Tom, at Rio Seco. When we got there we asked for just tastings of his red wine, but he insisted we try one white wine he was proud of, the Vio Rio – a Viognier and Orange Muscat blend. We were glad we tried this one, it was very good and we ended up buying 2 bottles. We didn’t like the reds there very much. Tom was an ex-baseball scout, and used to work for the Blue Jays so we talked about baseball and Toronto. There were also two very cute and friendly dogs there who greeted everyone when they heard a car pull up.

Next we headed to Cass Winery, where we knew that lunch was available. For lunch we had crab cakes and split a demi loaf. There was also a wine pairing, but I think our taste buds were shot by that time and we couldn’t really tell if the wine was good. We wanted dessert, but the regular chef was in Las Vegas, so they didn’t have any.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel where my brother and I went to the hot tub and had a few beers while the girls napped. That evening we decided to go to a place called Level 4 for dinner. Once again, we went to the lobby to get a taxi and the same cabbie from the night before showed up. We decided to go downtown a little earlier and see if we could find a place to have a drink before dinner. After wandering around a little bit, we couldn’t really see anything interesting.

We got to Level 4 a little early, so we had a drink at the bar. I had some Firestone DB on tap and everyone else had Algonquins. (Algonquins are 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey, 3/4 ounce French vermouth and 3/4 ounce pineapple juice – everyone agreed that the drink were better after doubling the amount of pineapple juice.)

We were seated in the dining room which was empty except for one other table. For some reason the hostess decided to seat us right beside the other table. All four of us split an artisan cheese plate and champagne to start. The cheese was OK. For dinner I had garlic fries to start and then halibut on crispy rice. I really enjoyed everything. M had tempura shrimp, which was very good, a Caesar salad and a twice baked potato, which were OK.

As we were getting ready to pay the check the hostess came over and said someone was on the phone asking if we wanted to be picked up. It was our regular cab driver making sure we could get back to the hotel before her shift was over. That was very nice.

The next morning we checked out and drove through the rain and fog to Hearst Castle. We took Tour 2: The Casa Grande Tour. It went through many of the bedrooms, two libraries, the kitchen and the indoor pool. The castle was spectacular and the tour was pretty interesting. We were lucky that we had picked a tour that was mostly inside because it was raining most of the time.

After Hearst Castle drove a few miles up Highway One to go to the Elephant Seal viewing area. January was a great time to go because it is birthing season and there were lots of pups and their mothers on the beach. The pups were very noisy, trying to get attention from their mothers.

We headed back south and stopped in Cambria for lunch. We went to Robin’s Restaurant, which turned out to be a good choice. I had halibut tacos and M had salmon bisque and an avocado sandwich. We had carrot cake for desert. It was all good. After that we headed back to the 101 for the trip back to L.A.


Sad day in LA: Indie 103.1 is Off the Air

January 15th, 2009

It’s a very sad day for us in Los Angeles. Our favorite radio station, Indie 103.1, is going off the air. Right now they are still playing music (Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Clash, X, Sid Vicious, Black Flag) with the following message between each song:

Indie 103.1
This is an important message for the Indie 103.1 Radio Audience -

Indie 103.1 will cease broadcasting over this frequency effective immediately. Because of changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured, stations in this market are being forced to play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge. Due to these challenges, Indie 103.1 was recently faced with only one option — to play the corporate radio game.

We have decided not to play that game any longer. Rather than changing the sound, spirit, and soul of what has made Indie 103.1 great Indie 103.1 will bid farewell to the terrestrial airwaves and take an alternative course.

This could only be done on the Internet, a place where rules do not apply and where new music thrives; be it grunge, punk, or alternative – simply put, only the best music.

For those of you with a computer at home or at work, log on to and listen to the new Indie 103.1 – which is really the old Indie 103.1, not the version of Indie 103.1 we are removing from the broadcast airwaves.

We thank our listeners and advertisers for their support of the greatest radio station ever conceived, and look forward to continuing to deliver the famed Indie 103.1 music and spirit over the Internet to passionate music listeners around the world.

Indie was a truly great radio station that played the music we liked. They had DJ’s that played music that they wanted to. Some of the more famous people they had on the air were Steve Jones, Dave Navarro, the Crystal Method, Rob Zombie and Henry Rollins.

I was just thinking the other day that Indie was my favorite radio station of all time. I really liked CFNY in Toronto back in the 80′s, but Indie was even better than that. They rarely played a song that I didn’t like.

I will miss it.


Beck at Element, Hollywood

September 27th, 2006

We were lucky enough to see Beck play at Element, a small club in Hollywood on Tuesday night. On Monday morning we got an email telling us about the last minute show, and we were lucky enough to snag a couple of tickets.

Element is a small venue, it probably holds a few hundred people. This is great because on Beck’s current tour he is playing places that hold thousands of people. He recently played two shows in Los Angeles at the Wiltern theatre. We got there fairly early and picked out a great place to stand, on a raised platform about 30 feet from the stage. Both Michele and I were able to see the whole stage with no problems.

The show was really good, but for different reason than I thought it would be. Beck, unlike most solo artists, was not the whole show, it was the entire band that had a great performance. There were six people, including Beck, on stage for the whole concert. The other five musicians played really well and seemed really into the music. They constantly switched and changed the instruments they were playing. There were two drum kits on stage, a few keyboards, bongo drums, and they kept bringing various other instruments like guitars, basses, a recorder, a harmonica, even what looked like a big, empty bashed up tin can that someone hit with a drumstick. Beck himself had a guitar strapped on for most of the show.

Even though I’m not a huge Beck fan, and was not familiar with most of the songs (I only have one CD), I really enjoyed the show. It was cool to be able to see him in such a small club.


Johnny Rotten is No Spring Chicken

August 8th, 2006

Johnny Lydon (nee Rotten) is on Jonesy’s Jukebox (Steve Jones the Sex Pistol’s guitarist) this afternoon, and I just heard him say the funniest thing:

Is that the best of Bread CD? Let me see it. Can I borrow you glasses, Steve, I’m as blind as a bat.

Doesn’t really sound very punk does it?


Roland Shanks

February 3rd, 2006

Roland Shanks is a new band I heard this morning on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic. They played a new single by them that is going to be released on February 13th,Cutting Teeth. I really like their sound, reminded me of The Jam a little. They are a from London, and haven’t released an album yet. I’m looking forward to the day they do.

You can hear some of their songs, including Cutting Teeth at the Roland Shanks MySpace page.


She Wants Revenge on Jimmy Kimmel

January 25th, 2006

One of my current favorite bands, She Wants Revenge, performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night. I have seen this band a few times at a local club, so it was cool to see them on their first nation-wide performance. They played their song “Tear You Apart”, but understandably had to change the chorus from “I’d love to fuckin’ tear you apart” to “I’d really love to tear you apart”. Other than that I thought they sounded pretty good.

I expect big things from this band in the future. Their self titled CD doesn’t come out until January 31st, but they already seem to be getting a big buzz.

They are kicking off a national tour soon. To see tour dates and listen to some of their songs, check out their MySpace page. They also have a couple of videos on the She Wants Revenge website.

I also just noticed that the video for Tear You Apart will be out on on January 30th.


Didn’t See Nouvelle Vague

January 7th, 2006

Even though I bought tickets for the Nouvelle Vague show at Tangerine last night, we didn’t see the show. We got to Tangerine and there was a line to get into the lounge. We stood there for a little bit before we realized the line was not moving, so we went to the front of the line and said we had bought tickets. It turns out the people in line didn’t have tickets, and we could get our tickets via will call. I gave my ID to the girl and she started looking up my name, but couldn’t find it. Strange. Luckily, we had the receipt along so we showed her that. She looked at it for a little and pointed out that I had bought tickets for Thursday’s show which was the day before. Doh!

I really should learn to double check things before click the ‘purchase’ button.


Virtuous Tickets

January 3rd, 2006

I just bought tickets for the Nouvelle Vague show at Tangier on Friday, and I was glad to see they did not use Ticketmaster for the tickets, instead they used a service called Virtuous. I have been getting sick of paying Ticketmaster’s outrageous fees lately. I bought tickets for the upcoming Cake/Tegan & Sara show and the tickets were $35 each, but the total came to $93.45. That’s $23.45 in fees! Yuck!

In contrast, Virtuous only charged $3.00 per ticket as a fee, and in addition:

Every Virtuous ticket purchase helps support people in need, close to home. How? 10% of our profit from each ticket purchase helps support the local food bank serving the community hosting the event.

For example, each ticket purchased for a Los Angeles event will help the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank obtain and deliver much needed food for the 350,000 individuals they serve each week through their network of over 1,070 charities in Los Angeles County.

How great is that? I hope more venues start using Virtuous.


Spread Radio Live

December 7th, 2005

Dave Navarro, who I try to listen to every week on Camp Freddy Radio (Saturday’s 6-8 PM on 103.1) has been doing a sporadic radio show from his house. It called Spread Radio Live. I’ve never been able to catch it, but he’s doing another one today at 7:30 PM, so I’m going to try to check it out.


Bauhaus at the Wiltern

October 30th, 2005

We went to see Bauhaus at the Wiltern on Saturday night. We were pretty happy when we found out they were playing. When we had to miss Coachella earlier this year, this was on of the bands that we were really disappointed about not seeing.

Our seats weren’t the greatest, we were in the second last row of seats. But the Wiltern is small enough that even these seats weren’t terrible. We were expecting an opening band, but there wasn’t one. Luckily our timing was perfect, the lights went down as soon as we sat down.

The band sounded good, but there were a few times I heard some feedback that was a little annoying. Peter Murphy’s voice was great as usual. The stage was pretty bare except for the usual instruments and amps. The light light show was pretty snazzy. Unfortunately the lights meant that I wasn’t able to get any pictures at all. For one song, Daniel Ash took a break from his guitar and played the sax, which was pretty cool.

For there main set, they played for about an hour, playing a variety of Bauhaus songs. They took quite a few minutes to come out for their first encore, making the crowd work for it. The first encore they only played one song and left again. After a little bit they came back out and played a Love and Rockets songSlice of Life from Burning From The Inside. Daniel Ash was singing, so Peter Murphy was just playing the tambourine and singing a little back up. They then played T-Rex’s Telegram Sam, and Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.

After the second encore, they left the stage and the house lights come on in the theatre. We just looked at each other and said “What? They aren’t going to play Bela Lugosi’s Dead?” We were a little disappointed and started leaving the theatre. But then we heard the crowd starting to get a little louder and decided to go back in. The crowd was getting louder and many people were shouting “Bela”. They then turned the house lights back off and the band came back on and did play the song everyone was waiting for.

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