Since moving to Orange County, I have tried to find new ways to integrate myself into the local community and make new friends. And what’s a better place to make new friends than a Ladies of Orange County book club? The organizer of our book club seems to be a well-connected lady who seems to know all the owners or managers of the nice local eateries.
So, for the last few book club meetings, we have been meeting at a restaurant near the John Wayne Airport called “Caffe Panini”. Just from the name, you would think it’s an Italian restaurant, but in fact it is not. It’s a Middle Eastern restaurant complete with a Hookah lounge on the patio. Don’t ask me why it’s called Caffe Panini, and what’s more strange is that its “sister” restaurant with the same owner called “Ten” is a sushi restaurant for lunch and dinner and by 10 pm, it’s becomes a night club with dancing and DJs.
The food at Panini’s is your typical Middle Eastern fare, with a lot of appetizers like stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh salads, and falafels. My favorite is the garlic cilantro potatoes. For just $5 you can get a generous serving of cubed potatoes served with garlic, cilantro and lemon juice.
For their wine selection, while they don’t have a large or varied selection, they do have special features for different nights of the week. One time, a couple of other ladies and I arrived early and we decided to order some wine before the book club discussion commenced. We looked at the wine list and they had the usual wines, pinot grigio, syrah, pinot noir etc. but last one on the menu was a wine called Conundrum, we decided to try it because the name sounded interesting and none of us have ever heard of that wine before. After a few sips, we all agreed that it was one of the best wines we’ve tried all year. We learned from our waitress that it was a California wine and that was all the information she could give us.
When you drink the Conundrum, you can taste a blend of melon and citrus flavors. The taste is not too tart like some Pinot Grigios and Rieslings can be but it’s not so sweet that it’s going into the desert wine category either. It was a full-bodied wine that tastes good with or without pairing it with food. It has a crisp and fresh feeling to it and it’s truly an pleasant discovery in a restaurant that is known for its Hookah Lounge and Middle Eastern food.
After returning home, I did some research on the Conundrum wine and found out that it is a proprietary wine owned by the Wagner family of Caymus Vineyards in Monterrey County. Charlie Wagner and Jon Bolta share responsibilities of the proprietary wine. The wine itself is fairly new; it was only introduced to the market in 1989. As far as the exact contents and percentage mixtures of white wine blends, that’s is still a ‘secret’, according to the proprietors.
It is always so exciting to discover a new wine in which can tell everyone about, which is what I have been doing upon discovering it. It’s also a great gift to bring to a party, something new and different to what one would normally bring.