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Have liver, will travel

Monday, September 05, 2005


If ever in Cambria on the central coast, you may want to spend a few sips in Fermentations, a tasting room/accoutrements shop for all things grape. Proceed with caution: they do sell those "Sister Mary Martini" cocktail napkins and various vine-adorned towels and the like. And the service is... inconsistent is the charitable word, and I will be charitable because our first visit was really enjoyable.

We happened upon Fermentations through canine serendipity. One early morning, while playing with our dog on the beach in Cayucos, we met a woman and her Aussie Shepherd, who was much better about going into the water than our wave-fearing Weimaraner. While her dog tried to coax and corral ours into the surf, she told us that she worked at Fermentations up in Cambria, and we really should try this amazing $20 Cabernet Sauvignon they carried. We suddenly knew how to spend our afternoon, once woofy was cleaned of sand and sea and resting on his blanket in the room at the Cayucos Beach Inn, a very dog-welcoming little place we'd found online (well, the Alcotourist found it and surprised me--it was our anniversary). Several hours later, we were sampling chutneys on pretzel sticks and sipping a sublime 2002 Maloy O'Neill Cabernet Sauvignon. At $20/bottle or $18/bottle by the case, it was truly a find. Production was limited and they were on their last case, we were told. We purchased a mixed case with a couple of bottles of a crisp, dry Rusack Sauvignon Blanc for those white drinkers we know (I believe it was a 2001 and $15/bottle) and an olallieberry wine by Chaucer--a little tip of the hat to another regional fruit. (A moment's digression--we used to do this a lot, buy a little dessert wine for fun if it was a regional specialty, but I have to admit we've ended up with a motley bunch of fruity muscats, berry wines, and raspberry liquers that we never really want to drink. Because they have taken up so much precious space in our wine refrigerator, we've stopped buying them and are trying to diminish our current supply through gifts at dinners and so on. Like olallieberries? Invite us over.)

This first experience at Fermentations was so much fun (I think we even bought a port chocolate sauce or a chardonnay mustard), our satisfaction with the Maloy O'Neill so complete, that we took my parents there when they flew out for the holidays. Sadly, the holiday atmosphere was less than jolly (was it the Sideways effect already? The movie hadn't been out that long). It took a lot of coaxing to get a tasting started by the woman behind the counter. She was so stern and lacking in enthusiasm for the wines, that my dad even wandered off to look at the aprons, knicknacks and overpriced corkscrews. The limited-production Maloy O'Neill we had purchased? Still there, four months later (although, in fairness, it truly is limited production. Why do they feel the need to lie? It's not an "act now, supplies limited" infomercial. This may be a subject for a future post...). We were down to our last bottle of those we had previously purchased, and did in fact buy another, happy to have the chance. My dad made his bewildered Kermit the Frog face at the woman's scowl and I bought him a cream sherry for his trouble. Then we got the hell out.

Still, if you are in Cambria for other reasons, I do encourage you to go to Fermentations. Try the Maloy O'Neill (they are onto their 2003, a 120 case limited release, according to their website). It is worth buying and the winery is appointment only. (If you plan ahead, maybe you want to reserve a visit to the winery itself!) If you have the service we experienced the first time, or meet up with the woman whose dog played with ours, you are sure to have a good time. Just keep your eyes on the wine, and ignore those frosted glasses with the grapes painted on them. Try the chutney.


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