.Birichino’s New Varietals are Next-Level

Winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke unveil an array of top-notch blends

Some lovely new bottles from the restless hands of Birichino winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke have recently found their way into our “cellar,” (the garage if you must know, which maintains the perfect wine temp of 54 degrees). A lively—spice, stone and saline—Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc 2021 that might pass for something made near the Loire in a blind tasting, and a most welcoming Bechthold Old Vines Cinsault 2021, the versatile (unsung) red grape that adds soft heft to many a field blend. The Birichinistas often surprise us by bottling single varietal grapes that less clever winemakers must fold into blends. Light in alcohol, this lovely creature offers plenty of pomegranate and peppery tones, and just plain goes with everything on the planet, especially young Mahon and blue cheese. The Chenin Blanc, so dry yet so delicious, is currently our house white wine, having rotated out (but not for long) a terrific Storrs Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect before dinner for sipping along with green olives and that addictive bar mix from Shopper’s. And while you’re picking up some holiday bottles for your gift list, make sure you hit the Birichino tasting room on a Thursday—grilled cheese day at Birichino. Grilled cheese has been known to fuel shopping expeditions. Couldn’t be more perfect, as my mother would say. 

Birichino Tasting Room, 204 Church St., Santa Cruz. birichino.com

Venus for Brunch

I love Venus gin. I love the Venus patio for strategic meetings with fellow gin-lovers. I also love that miraculous cornbread with bourbon bacon jam. And now I have a new Venusian something to love: brunch! The new Venus Brunch menu made its debut a few days after Thanksgiving, and will happen on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 2pm. Personally, they had me at “huevos rancheros.” Be still my heart. Eggs with blue corn, cotija, black beans and ranchero salsa—bound to be majorly divine. I’ll be trying it out next week. Elsewhere on the menu, you’ll be able to pair that Bloody Mary with a Lobster Croque Monsieur made on Companion bread with melted Gruyere cheese. Mmmm. Smoked pork belly hash. Fried chicken and waffles. And a bagel board that’s calling my name with smoked salmon, dill crème fraiche, capers and pickled onions. Yes, they have pancakes. As well as biscuits and cashew gravy with wild mushrooms. More big news at Venus: the regular hours at this popular salon/saloon have expanded to include Mondays from 4 to 9pm. I’ll drink to that!

Venus Spirits Cocktails & Kitchen, 200 High Road (off Delaware), Santa Cruz. venusspirits.com.

Room for Bonny Doon

Nicole Walsh, founder of Ser wines, has been making wine with Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard for over 20 years. Most recently, she assisted with the innovations occurring at Grahm’s estate vineyard in San Juan Bautista—and now Walsh has started pouring Bonny Doon Vineyard wines at her sleek tasting room in Aptos Village. “Over the years, working with Bonny Doon vastly expanded my knowledge of wine in every way, from grape growing to winemaking techniques and experiments,” she says. Walsh reveals that her experience with Bonny Doon Vineyard inspired her to create her own Ser label. “I continue to be the winemaker for Bonny Doon, and can’t wait to be able to pour these wines together at the same space in Aptos.” Walsh says we can expect a Grand Opening of the Ser-Doon alliance in December. 

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Ser, 10 Parade St., B, Aptos Village, Aptos. Open Thursday and Friday, 3-7pm; Saturday, 1-7pm; and Sunday 1-6pm.

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