OC Review: The Twisted Vine, Fullerton

The Twisted Vine in Fullerton (Photos by Leonard Ortiz, OC Register)

He insists he doesn’t like merlot.

“I’ve never found one that I love,” says The Wine Collector. We’re dining at The Twisted Vine, a wine bar and retail wine boutique that opened a few years ago in downtown Fullerton. Each of us is drinking a flight of three wines. I’m exploring a trio of big California reds. He’s taking a tour of Europe.

I remind him of the movie Sideways, in which the main character bashes merlot relentlessly while worshipping pinot noir, only to end up secretly coveting a bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of Bordeaux’s finest merlot-based wines.

“Have a sip of this. Tell me what you think,” I say, handing him my wine.

He takes a sip, and the look on his face tells me everything. He loves it, and he can’t hide it. It’s a surprisingly affordable Ehlers Estate merlot from Napa Valley. It’s not famous or even widely celebrated like Cheval Blanc, and while it’s not exactly comparable, it is undeniably big and masculine, with tight, almost chewy tannins and a bold, complex palate of chocolate, earth, smoke and licorice. This is not your stereotypical California merlot…

Caprese skewers at The Twisted Vine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)Caprese skewers at The Twisted Vine (Photo by Brad A. Johnson)

After multiple visits, I’ve managed to sample just about everything on the menu, which is a collection of small plates and snacks, plus a few pastas. One of my biggest delights comes from the portobello mushrooms. I didn’t have high expectations for these because portobellos are seemingly always boring and bland. The menu says they are made with a garlic butter sauce, which isn’t quite the right description. A heap of thickly sliced mushrooms arrives in a bath of garlicky cream, almost like cream of mushroom soup, and they come with little toasts for sopping up the extra sauce…

The only large plates, a trio of pastas, seem out of place. They’re the only things that aren’t very good. They remind me of the overly Americanized pastas you might find at, say, TGI Fridays, or maybe on an airplane…

This is obviously merely a synopsis. To read my full review and see the star rating, and to view an extensive slide show by photographer Leonard Ortiz, check out this week’s OC Register. Note: Subscriptions are required for unlimited access the OC Register online. We don’t give it away for free at the newsstand, and we don’t give away for free online, either. Anyone can receive one week of complimentary access, but after that you’ll need to be a subscriber. Alternatively, you can always buy a single day pass — cheaper than a cup of coffee — for 24-hour access. 

I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. (My Instagram feed appears on Facebook.)

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