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Grandpa's Wagon

Well, it was a rather warm weekend down on our ranch, with temperatures reaching a toasty 105F up on the ridge. This necessitated frequent dips in the pool and many glasses of chilled white wine while watching the whales breach and play in the ocean below.

Jaime de Angulo on his Ranch in Big Sur around 1915

The Spanish medical doctor turned poet and linguist, Jaime de Angulo, founded the ranch in 1917. After hand building the old house from local redwood and cement made from sand brought up from the beach 1600ft below, he began to market his ranch to visitors. The first lines in his advert went like this:

This would like to be a dude ranch, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s very hard to describe this place because it does not resemble anything else. If you are looking for crooning cowboys, don’t come here! Not a cowboy on the place, not a cow, not even a picturesque corral.

If you’re looking for comfort, don’t come here! You will have to sleep in a tent or under the stars. This place is still in the wilderness, far from civilization.

Despite his rather bleak description, the ranch was, and still is, a truly special place for people to gather to eat, drink, and enjoy the beauty of Big Sur. Following in his tracks, we invited up some friends Sunday night to enjoy a simple summer feast with fresh tomatoes and vegetables from the garden, grilled steak, and delicious wine, while watching the sun set over the ocean. We raised a glass to friends, and those who came before us and helped create the legacy we enjoy today.

About the same time that Jaime was building the ranch, Erwin Poller’s grandfather started making wine in Austria. To sell it, he’d throw a barrel on his cart and drive three days to Vienna. Erwin does not use a horse and cart anymore, but he farms his grandfather’s 10 hectares by hand with the same fastidious detail.

Pollerhof Vom Löss 2021 ($35) is made from three grape varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller and Traminer.The name, Löss, refers to a windblown silt that covers the ground in much of Austria. Just 50 cases of this wine make it to the US and it is a rugby scrum to get any. Fortunately, I have a little experience in the sport, and end up snagging a few cases when the whistle blows. It is a brilliant wine with bright, mouthwatering acidity and layer after layer of citrus, honeysuckle, ripe apples, bergamot, and a sizzling mineral finish. Just drink it and you’ll understand what the hype is about.

Our red today, from the Montsant wine region in Spain, is also a legacy project representing multiple generations of support.

Josep-Maria Vendrell Seré 2020 ($15). Named after the cool winds that blow through this region, this is a knockout blend ofyoung Grenache and Carignan grapes that is just marvelously drinkable. Another tiny operation, this wine is made by Josep with help from his father and an old family friend. It has rich dark fruits and hints of Christmas spices and a fresh character that makes you take a second sip while checking the price and thinking, ‘Holy cow, this is great!’. Josep really looks to exhibit the terruno (Spanish for terroir) and constantly plows between the vines to limit weeds and force the roots to go deep and seek out the essence of his locale. Fantastic with beef stews or a simple BBQ burger.

Here's a few more that went down well this weekend, and can help you ride out this heatwave, especially if you are spending it outside by the BBQ with friends:

  • Rosi Schuster Aus den Dörfern 2020 ($24) - a wonderfully complex Grüner Veltiner, and Welsch Riesling blend with bags of minerals and a creamy edge.

  • Remoortere Menetou Salon Blanc 2019 ($28) - a pure, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc perfect for scallops wrapped in pancetta, and any type of fresh seafood.

  • Ismael Arroyo Valsotillo Crianza 2016 ($32) - a lovely Tempranillo with a velvety texture, perfect for BBQ burgers.

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