Carl Kanowsky: Tasting and drinking at Wine on the Roof … or inside a store

From left, Amy Daniels, Executive Director, WiSH Education Foundation, Co-Host Marlee Lauffer, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation, Eve Bushman, Event Creator and Co-Host and Steve Lemley of Pulchella Winery toast the Wine on the Roof...Dine on the Roof event presented by The WiSH Education Foundation and held at the Westfield Valencia Town Center in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal

On May 16, the WiSH Foundation held its annual Wine On The Roof, but WiSH’s executive director, Amy Daniels, fretted about unseasonable inclement weather. So, rather than wallowing in the sultry evening air (because there was no sultry air to be had), Ms. Daniels shuttled the venue from the Newhall parking lot to the former location for Charming Charlie in the outdoor portion of the mall (all right, Town Center).

According to its website, the WiSH Foundation supports the students of the William S. Hart Union High School District by funding “programs and initiatives not paid for by tax dollars alone.” With funds from its events, it has supported programs in several areas, including computer labs, graphic arts, special education, music and many others.

While disappointed that we couldn’t experience dining al fresco, Terry and I soldiered on. That didn’t prove to be too demanding.

You see, Marlee Lauffer (former spokeswoman for Newhall Land, now spokeswoman for the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation) convinced dozens of her closest friends to donate a bottle or two of their favorite wine. Marlee can be persuasive. She wound up with more than 50 bottles of some pretty tasty stuff.

The evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres. The guests then bellied up to the bar and got samples of some of the donated wine. Standouts for me included Kistler Chardonnay, The Prisoner, Alban Reva, and Rusden’s Black Guts.

The Kistler, as always, was amazing. Kistler Chardonnay is, as Robert Parker so eloquently put it, “undeniably sexy, full-throttle stuff.” And the Kistler that night sang with notes of peach and slate.

The Prisoner, David Phinney’s iconic zinfandel creation, similarly delighted. An intuitive blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, petite sirah, and charbono, The Prisoner isn’t too jammy or overpowering. It hits the right notes of dark luscious fruit laced with tones of pepper and meat.

One of the pioneers of growing Rhone varietals in California, John Alban continues to create singular syrahs in Arroyo Grande. His Reva, one of his top wines, predominantly syrah with a hint of viognier, is a mood-altering wine. Both the smell and the taste are one of deep, dark chocolate. But then there are other dimensions in the taste. It seems like I’m drinking baskets of utterly ripe blackberries. Pepper and a long, lingering finish combine to provide a remarkable, memorable experience.

Capping it off was that distinctly Australian offering, Rusden’s Black Guts. Sound timid and inviting?

It’s anything but. It’s like you could liquify smoke, meat, and bacon with pepper and dark fruit. Not for the faint of heart.

Everyone was then seated, and the food plates were individually delivered by accommodating volunteers, one course at a time. Accompanying the plates were paired wines, mostly locally sourced.

Rather than describe each course and wine, let me talk about my favorites of each.

Unsurprisingly, l loved Salt Creek Grille’s grilled pear and scallop salad. Chef Ignacio Munoz got the scallop so that the delectable meatiness came through but with none of the rubbery consistency you sometimes see in scallops. The poppy seed dressing brought it all together.

My favorite local wine was a red blend from Byron Blatty Wines. The 2017 Undertake, composed of 60% zinfandel, 25% petite sirah, 10% merlot and 5% syrah, aged 18 months in the barrel. Standing on its own, it’s a tasty offering with pepper and heavy berry overtones. But it’s a kick since all of the grapes come from Los Angeles County, including Le Chene’s Juan Alonso’s own vineyard.

Congratulations, WiSH! Great event.

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.

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