Thursday, September 29, 2011


interior of Hearthstone Lounge, Grand Californian Hotel

Several staycation trips to the Magic Kingdom during the summer allowed me to rack up a bit of nice wine time on the Disney property.  There was a time - not too long ago - when that statement would not have been easy to make.  Disneyland was famous - some say notorious - for not serving alcohol in the theme park.  That's back when I referred to the monorail as "Daddy's favorite ride" because it took daddy to a hotel where he could get a refreshing adult beverage.

Oh, there was the private club - somewhere in a "secret" location in the park - which I’m told served drinks, but I never had an invitation to go there.  Things have changed.  Thirsty adults can now find liquid refreshment to their liking at several locations not actually inside Disneyland, but very convenient to the park.

First, there is California Adventure - the companion theme park to Disneyland - which has a vineyard and an enocentric restaurant within its borders.  You can check out my escapades there in another blog post, if you like.

Disney's Grand Californian Hotel is easily accessed from Disneyland and the shopping expanse of Downtown Disney.  The lobby of the Grand Californian is a great place to escape for a bit of cooling off if the weather is hot.  In the summertime they keep the air conditioning cold enough in there to require some of their employees to wear winter weather gear to keep warm.

Just off the lobby is the Hearthstone Lounge, a comfortable bar with some cozy couch-and-chair seating available.  We made a couple of stops there on recent trips.

Kenwood Jack London ZinfandelTheir wine list isn't incredibly exciting, but it is California-focused, fitting for a hotel that pays homage to the architecture and decor of the Arts and Crafts movement typified at Yosemite National Park’s Ahwahnee Lodge.

I stayed with the NoCal vibe and ordered a 2009 KenwoodJack London Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley.  Produced with grapes sourced from the Jack London Ranch in Glen Ellen, California, the wine is 94% Zinfandel, 4% Syrah and 2% Petite Sirah.  It carries a 14.5% alcohol number and is fermented in stainless steel, with 19 months aging in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels.  It cost $11 by the glass.

The wine is colored a medium-deep ruby red.  Aromas of bright cherry, smoke, toasty vanilla and cigar box are quite aromatic, while the palate has smokey notes draped over red fruit with a cinnamon spice peeking through.  Gentle tannins and lip-smacking acidity make for a fun-to-drink wine.  Even in the warm weather, it reminds me of Christmas.

Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee ChardonnayOn another visit I tried the Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee Chardonnay.  This Edna Valley beauty is a favorite of mine.  Winemaker Christian Roguenant works with grapes from the Firepeak Vineyard, at the foot of extinct volcano Mt. Islay.  The soil has lava remnants meeting clay and ancient seabed.  Aged in French oak for nine months, the wine is 13.7% abv and sells for $14.50 by the glass.

On the nose, tropical fruit and oak spice leap out while the palate shows golden apples and Christmas spices.  Am I really looking forward to the holidays this much?  Great wood notes on the palate and a fabulous acidity are really a treat.  Pair it with smoked ham.

Valdiguie at Napa RoseNapa Rose is the fancy eatin' room at the Grand Californian.  Call ahead for a reservation - days ahead.  If you fly by the seat of your pants like we do, it's good to know you can order right off the menu in the lounge area, and there's nearly always seating available there for walk-ins.

The ValdiguiĆ© grape is similar to the Gamay grape of Beaujolais - so similar, in fact, that it was thought to be one and the same until genetic analysis proved otherwise.  J Lohr's 2010 Wildflower is made using Monterey County ValdiguiĆ© grapes from their Greenfield Vineyard.  The wine is vinified completely in stainless steel and 19% of the juice is whole-cluster fermented.  It's $8.50 by the glass, and is a great value.

Medium dark in color, the nose shows a much darker fruit aroma than I expect.  Boysenberry and, surprisingly, a note of tar come forward.  A dark tartness shows on the palate as well.  It has a nice level of acidity, and paired well with the Spanish cheeses - Garritxa and P'tit Basque - but not so well with the yellow and blue cheeses on the platter.

Also at Napa Rose, the 2007 Lasseter Family Meritage from Alexander Valley was an $18 glass.  Very dark and inky in color, the nose shows a lot of alcohol and takes quite a bit of breathing to settle down.  Cassis and blackberry lead the way for the dark fruit aromas with some vanilla notes for spice.  This wine has some very firm tannins; it's really brawny.  The palate shows more dark fruit and has a meaty edge with tar.  It pairs really well with the filet mignon.

Zen of Zin at Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki BarA new addition to my Disneyland wine map is Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, in the Disneyland Hotel's Frontier Tower.  It's only been open since June 2011.  If the name sounds like another feature inside Disneyland, I suppose that's by design.

This place is more like a ride than a drinking establishment.  They serve several signature drinks - Krakatoa Punch, HippopotoMai Tai and Schweitzer Falls - which is served "over the rocks" - and with each one ordered, the bartenders give a yell.  "Krakatoa!" is shouted, and a visual effect of an erupting volcano lights up two walls.  "Oh no, a shipwreck!" is followed by a cool blast of air and a darkening of the lights.  The light rain that started falling a couple of times during my visit may have been the result of someone going over Schweitzer Falls.  The bar tricks are fun and the patrons certainly seemed to be enjoying the show. 

Zen of Zin is a Ravenswood Zinfandel, a brand I've found enjoyment with in the past.  This old vine Zin cost nine tree barks in the land of tiki.  Bright cherry on the nose with cedar and spice aromas play into a feisty bright fruit palate with a hint of clove.

I know I should have gone with a boat drink in a tiki bar, but I had a wine.  That's just me.  My wife had a pina colada.  Well, it is a tiki bar.  Enchanted, at that.  This place stands a good chance of becoming “Daddy’s favorite ride.”

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