I tend to be a fairly deductive, analytical person. I can connect the dots and understand how and why things work. I'm not, however, a particularly suspicious person, so often this is an ability that only really does me right after the fact.
Case in point: A few days before Christmas, my wife had no problem whatsoever surprising me with a reservation at Wine Vault & Bistro in Mission Hills (3731-A India St., winevaultbistro.com). It was a good get, as far as I was concerned—10 courses, paired with five different wines. I'm a fan of the place and its tasting dinners (check the website for upcoming events), because the food is excellent, the presentation is lovely, the wine pairings are well-considered and the prices are reasonable. Everything you sample is for sale, so if you run into a wine you enjoy with your meal—and I often do—you just take a bottle home.
But the dinner itself wasn't the only part of the evening that was surprising. I tend to go for complex, full-bodied reds, but the wine that found its way to my table at home was a bottle of 2008 Ranch White, from Halter Ranch Vineyard out of Paso Robles. It's rich and ripe with peach and honey when it hits your mouth, before smoothing out into a lengthy peppery finish. It was like a ray of sunshine in the dark, nasty weather we've been having, and it came home with us for just $12. As surprises go, that's a pretty good one.