17 October, 2016

"But First Champagne" Talking with Author David White

BUT FIRST, CHAMPAGNE. is a new book out October 18th by author and blogger, David White.  David, in real life, works in DC and is as close to a "Scandal" character as I know.   He founded the blog Terroirist, which he currently writes and edits.  He is also a contributor to Grape Collective and keeps busy winning awards and wine writing for dozens of publications, including The World of Fine Wine, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.  Now, David inspires us with words on a favorite subject: Champagne

"From dinner with friends to a child's laughter or a lover's embrace, every day has moments worthy of a toast."...

..is a quote from a recent interview with NPR's The Salt.   Which as we all know is so appropriate for food and wine pairing as salt is ameliorated in a wine pairing with effervescence

I had the chance to catch up with David, to assuage my curiosity about Champagne:

BCL: I recently tasted Chateau Palmer that does higher chardonnay than pinot noir in their blends.  Would love to hear an expert opinion on the characteristics both those varieties bring to blends?

DW: In blends, Pinot Noir is credited with providing backbone and structure and offering aromas and flavors of red berries. Chardonnay is credited with providing finesses by imparting acidity, floral aromatics, and flavors of green apples, citrus fruits, and hazelnuts. And don't forget about Pinot Meunier, which accounts for 32 percent of Champagne's plantings. It's credited with rounding out wines by offering moderate acidity, unctuous aromatics, and bright fruit flavors.

BCL : I love all kinds of sparkling wine, but always come back to champagne for special occasions.  What do you think about others sparklers like Cap Classique, Sekt, etc.?

DW: Other bubblies can be "just as good," to be sure, but they're different. Just as an apple grown in Virginia tastes different from an apple grown in Massachusetts, sparkling wines from, say, Sonoma will always taste different from Champagne.
For me, Prosecco and Cava, even at their finest, always lack the depth -- and complexity -- of great Champagne. Franciacorta can be exceptional, but such examples are few and far between. There's plenty of great sparkling wine from the United States, Canada, and elsewhere in Europe – and I tasted some great Cap Classique when I visited South Africa a few years ago – but Champagne just has a perfect terroir for sparkling wine.

BCL:  BrixChick Heidi is getting married in January.  What does every bride need to know about champagne?

DW:  You can never have too much! In all seriousness, though, I've long been baffled by the fact that Champagne and its alternatives are typically an afterthought at most weddings – it's the very first beverage you're celebrating your union with. Don't you want something delicious?!

BCL:  I love the title and have that art in my home.  What does " ..but first, Champagne"  mean to David?

DW:  Champagne carries an emotional charge. So every time a cork is popped -- no matter the occasion – it feels special. So for me, "but first, Champagne" is a great catchphrase for those first few minutes at home after a long day at the office. Sure, maybe you're putting on your pajamas and eating takeout – but having a glass of Champagne while doing so can sure brighten the day.

BCL:  I met David in London in 2011 at the Cape Wine event.  Now that the book is finished, what is next for the Terroirist? 

DW:  Terroirist.com continues to publish every single day, thanks almost entirely to the efforts of my team – Shelby Vittek handling the daily wine news, Isaac Baker handling the reviews, Eric Annino with book and movie reviews, and others. I love that we continue to provide such great content to the wine community. 

We appreciate the efforts of this team to bring us sparkling news and, of course,  it's the season for everything we can literally and figuratively drink in about Champagne.  The book will make a great gift!

Here is the link to the interview on NPR's The Salt for more Champagne news:
 A Growing Champagne Trend Is Uncorking More Ways To Celebrate featuring David White's forthcoming book 
 Or if you are more visual, here's a clip of him doing Wines.com TV here: Terroirist David White on the Next Big Things - w/ Bill Elsey.

11 October, 2016

Combining Tradition, Terroir and Technology- My Visit to Palmaz Vineyards

Palmaz Vineyards: Beautiful vista and deliscious wines
Nestled within three different elevations of Mt. George in Napa, California, lies the historic nineteenth century Henry Hagen estate. Now owned by the Palmaz Family, (Julio, Amalia, Christian Gaston and Florencia) it has been restored and designed into a twenty-first century state-of-the-art vineyard and winery, while continuing to hold on to the tradition of producing great vintages. Palmaz Vineyards produce their selection of wines using the following techniques of organic, biodynamic and erosion-control philosophies. The Palmaz's son, Christian Gaston's book " Tradition, Terroir and Technology" chronicles the history and workings of the family vineyard and winery.

Palmaz offers the following wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Gaston Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Brasas - Mountain fruit with a little Malbec blended in 
  • Amalia Chardonnay
  • Louisa Riesling
  • Florencia Muscat

The Palmaz family decided to bring the vineyard and winery into modern times by creating the winery Cave.  This stunning site truly follows Bauhaus' principle of "form follows function". Its maze of tunnels and dome were carved into Mt. George, eighteen stories deep. This engineering marvel provides gravity-flow winemaking in addition to the natural temperature controlled cave setting. At the winery's core the fermentation dome sits center stage . The Dome holds 24 tanks that are all controlled by Palmaz's sophisticated monitoring system. Technology and the art of wine making pair perfectly together, like Palmaz's 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon savored with earthy, spiced-up Argentinian beef empanadas.

During my visit, which was graciously hosted by the Palmaz family members, we were treated to an exceptionally beautiful view on the winery's stone terrace overlooking the gorgeous Napa Valley. Enjoyed was a lovely Louise Riesling, with its high acidity, exotic aromas and food pairing versatility. An additional offering of the oak fermented, opulent yet refreshing, well balanced Amalia Chardonnay was also enjoyed. Our food pairings with the Louise Riesling and Amalia Chardonnay included: smoked salmon with wasabi caviar stars, Vineyard Twigs (delicate puff pastry filled and rolled with green olive, roasted garlic and Parmesan), Green Eggs and Ham pizza (smoked duck breast, scallion, gruyere, topped with the most perfect soft cooked runny egg) and pancetta, fig and arugula pizza, with a touch of truffle oil.


I had a wonderful visit with Florencia Palmaz who created all of the evening's tasty food pairings. So many creative recipes that inspired her book, "At the Table and Around the Fire". ($130 and available here.  This gorgeous book captures the lifestyle and philosophy of the Palmaz family:  Delicious and soulful, like the Palmaz wines.

As the evening continued on, we moved into the caves and headed to the Fermentation Dome. There we enjoyed the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas of fresh blackberry and fine-grained tannins that gave way to a precise finish. A 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon was equally enjoyed. Earthy and peppery with aromas of pomegranate and notes of cedar. Food pairings so perfectly prepared were: sweet corn bisque, pea and poblano bisque, chicken empanadas, Humita (roasted vegetable) empanadas and beef empanadas. A delicate Cabernet beet bouchon sweet bite was enjoyed as well and work quite nicely with the Cabernet Sauvignon. Time for dessert, in addition to the Cabernet beet bouchon, a rosemary shortbread with myer lemon cookie was an excellent finish with the Florencia Muscat.


"Two generations of The Palmaz family have sought to bring innovation and invention to the ancient art of making wine. Their background in the sciences, passion for living life to the fullest and years of backbreaking work have resulted in a unique winery situated inside an 18-story cave that combines cutting-edge technology with a respect for winemaking tradition."


If Napa beckons to you as you plan your holiday calendar, I suggest you make plans to visit.  Palmaz pairs their lovely (and allocated)  wines with a small bite as they introduce you to the special world of Napa Valley winemaking.  It's $80 and done by appointment only
More info here:

Many thanks to Palmaz Vineyards who hosted me at the wonderful event as well as Laura Baddish and the Baddish group for the invite

07 September, 2016

Deliciousness in the Delta - Favorite Things from #IFBC16

Gowan's Cider = fun
This summer's International Food Blogger's Conference was as tasty as it was fun.  Joining about 300 fellow writers in the Sacramento area was a great way to discover wonderful things I had been passing by in my day-to-day life, since I travel to SMF at least once a week.  The keynote by John Ash was inspiring as he shared insights from his friendships with Julia Child, MFK Fisher, Wendell Berry and his own experience. Julia's advice to "Chew with your mouth open" might not be acceptable in all social settings, but her example of connecting with food, with people and with her passion were great tips.

Here are my top 10 Favorite Things in no particular order (because it would be too hard to stack rank this rich and wonderful experience)

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
Care and artistry goes into the products at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates.  Headed up by the wonderful Ginger Elizabeth Hahn, those silky chocolates make great gifts or just a luxe indulgence for yourself.  The Parisian Macarons were insanely delicious with vivid flavors and a tender perfect texture.  The Ladure√© cart at CDG has nothing on the SMF.  When made into a salted caramel ice cream sandwich, the flavors were amazing. Care is also taken that producing these heavenly treats is managed sustainably and responsibly.  So you are doing good supporting this delightful purveyor of yumminess

Hyatt Regency Sacramento
The view from my room was postcard perfect of the State Capitol, but the view I will remember is plate after plate of amazing food at our dinner.  The Hyatt transformed J Street into a flower filled garden party.  Celebrating the theme of Farm-to-fork, the catering staff took fresh ingredients and summoned the magic necessary to transform them into perfect dishes for 300 and drop them on a table simultaneously. Perfect Black Prince tomatoes, juicy chicken and polenta and the crescendo of white peach shortcakes for dessert.  Elegant, yummy and an example of perfect hospitality

California Produce
California figs are the most photogenic, but California Peaches, California Almonds and a host of fresh, delicious everything made eating a joy at every meal.  I got to meet producers of California Endive and learn how they are grown.  I came away with a surprisingly easy salad recipe made from canned peaches, mozzarella and basil.  The California Almond folks provided a cool single portion tin I keep with me to do quick, healthy snack/meals on the go.  Figs inspire me to grill and put in salad or make into ice cream for a fresh, creamy dessert.  Meeting all the producers and hearing their stories was amazing.

 Marin French Cheese has been in business since 1865 producing award winning cheese like their famous Breakfast Cheese.  It was delightful to try at the opening reception.  Laura Chenel with the marinated Cabecou was something I hadn't tried, but now keep in the fridge.  Laura Chenel cuts their fresh goat cheese into disks, then dries them for about a week.  Then they are packed in tubs with infused olive oil. The disks soak up the great flavor of the oil.  Seasoning the oil enhances the delicious cheese even more.  Bonus for us busy hostesses:  the disks come out of the container ready to delight your guests. No last minute slicing.

About a Bite Bakery
Bars, bites and sandwich cookies.  Each more temptingly delicious than the one before.  I am a little ashamed how may of these I packed away, but to my credit, they are all amazingly tasty.  The bakery's philosophy that variety is the spice of life is aided and abetted by their smart portioning.  These tiny treats make amazing gifts,

The Old Sugar Mill
Eleven wine producers have tasting rooms in this lovely brick building in Clarksburg.  I wrote about the wine more extensively yesterday, however I have to claim it as a favorite. Especially because I really want to go do a comparative tasting of wine slushies, which, given my predilection for fros√©, is way overdue.  Only fifteen minutes from Downtown Sacramento, yet in the heart of a fun American Viticultural Area, it's a great place to visit and get a survey of what the AVA has to offer.  Bring a picnic lunch, a friend and even your canine companion

Gowan's Heirloom Ciders
Gowans have been growing wonderful apples in Anderson Valley for 140 years.  In 2015, they started making hard cider with a farmer's dedication and ciderist's expertise.  Our founding fathers drank this frizzante beverage for breakfast. Lovely apples make this refreshing drink with a sense of place delicious.  Sierra Beauty, Gravenstein and 1876 Blend are three varieties that I tried.  I liberated about a dozen Gravenstein apples and enjoyed their perfumed aromas all conference long.  Now I seek out Gowan's  Cider every chance I get

 Jimboys Tacos
Jimboys have been serving tacos in the Sacramento area since 1954.  Why I never had one till 2016 at #ifbc, I cannot explain.  Their tag line is "Get out of your Shell" urging you to try their exotic flavors, which are tasty.  However, the powerful allure of the Classic ground beef taco, is one that entranced me.  Rich and flavorful the taco had a homemade taste that reminded me of tacos we made when I was a child.  And paired with a Due Vigne Nebbiolo, it was very tasty.
Mother - Sacramento
"Serving Southern style American food that happens to be meatless" is how the restaurant describes themselves.  When I tasted the plum farro salad I was blown away by the freshness and balance of the flavors.  I did not miss the meat and am always on the prowl for new places to go.

Vanilla Garlic and BCL
Okay, so I misled you.  With the plethora of wonderful food and beverage, interesting historical and social perspectives at the sessions, and luxurious surroundings, I have to say I did have a favorite favorite thing and that is getting to hang out with other bloggers. This conference was so friendly and I learned so much.  Learning is always more fun when you are accompanied by other kindred spirits and IFBC was packed with those

Many thanks to the organizers, Foodista and Zephyr, as well as all the attendees and presenters.  You made my IFBC16 experience memorable and productive.  See you next year when I will again enjoy the reduced conference rate for writing about the conference! #Whatadeal