Lunching at the Wine & Cheese Cellar was a pleasant surprise during a recent trip to the Tehachapi Mountains organized by my friends, Imelda and Mary Jane.  The ambience, adorned with an elegant décor, including a whimsical mural above the bar’s wine cabinet, teleported us to those fine dining establishments with which we were familiar in the city.  However, a quick glance out the window corroborated our presence far away from urban adulteration.  The tasting notes for Pine Ridge Vineyards’ Chenin Blanc + Viognier in the wine list caught my attention: “This distinctive blend opens with a dazzling spectrum of fruit and floral aromas, from crisp white peach, honeyed pear and sweet mango, to touches of fresh jasmine blossom and white chai tea.”  After finishing the half pour, I couldn’t resist asking the restaurant manager a palpably absurd question about the white chai tea.  “No, not an infusion, but an essence.”  I also enjoyed my very first glass of non-alcoholic wine, which tasted nothing like grape juice.
 
At Triassic Legacy Vineyards, our wine tasting session included eight wines paired with white, milk, and dark chocolate drops.  If I had visited the winery’s website prior to our visit, I would have asked the gregarious tasting room coordinator, Sharon, and winery owner, Chuck, many more questions.  Only after returning home did I learn from the website that “Triassic” is not just a fanciful adjective for a business name, but a reminder of the geological period quite relevant to the area.  Chuck, a retired geologist, started this new venture only in 2008.  This summer, his team and he hope to produce wines from the 2010 harvest.
 
The few times when I have stopped by liquor stores to inquire about sweet tea vodka, the shopkeepers have given me puzzled looks before leading me to the cooler.  (No, they did not think I had a drinking problem.)  For some reason, the bottles of sweet tea vodka were always stored behind rows of other liquors, hidden.  As they are born of a long Southern tradition, perhaps I’ll savor them when I visit their distilleries.
 
Although purple is my very favorite color, I couldn’t imagine swallowing anything purple in liquid form.  Midori Sour being my favorite cocktail, I have wanted to taste Zentini – the green tea liqueur that makes the concoction such a pretty color.