19 September, 2017

Happy 5778! Celebrate with Kosher Rosé from Baron Herzog

Baron Herzog Rosé of Cab Sauv $10 Kosher Wine
 Shana Tova! Or Happy New Year.   Wednesday 9/20/17 at sundown marks the start of the Jewish New Year celebration known as Rosh Hashana.   Jewish people throughout the world celebrate the new year with sweet foods, a visit to the synagogue and hearing the shofar.  The Shofar is a horn that is blown with a dramatic and somewhat plaintive call during High Holiday service.

As  gentiles and Jews alike,  we ring in the  new calendar year with one evening of drunken revels and the regret of a (sometimes painful) hangover the very next day.

The Jewish religion also celebrates Rosh Hashana. This opening of the New Year chased ten days later with Yom Kippur, an official day of atonement, gives celebrants a goodly slice of time to consider their year and how to make 5778 their best year ever.

Knowing how I run around on December 30th, I wanted to offer a short cut to a delicious Kosher wine and a wonderful salad to help you if you are doing the same on Rosh Hashana Eve, or if you are just curious about a great rosé.

I received this sample from Baron Herzog,  but it is available at the blessedly ubiquitous Total Wine for less than $10.  Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this wine is a watermelon pink, my favorite for celebrations.  This time of year, when in the SF Bay Area we never know if it's going to be rainy, foggy, or broasting hot, rosé is a great choice both to welcome guests and to pair with food.  This 2016 wine had notes of red fruit and tartness that I enjoyed as an aperitif as well as with charcuterie.  We agreed the the wine would have both held up to more substantial fare, as well as had the freshness to pair with salad.  I love a versatile, pretty wine for less than $10!

 Herzog Cellars currently located in Oxnard, CA, makes both Kosher and non Kosher wines.  They have an amazing story of tenacity and survival spanning many decades and countries.  Having escaped the Nazis, the Herzog family landed in New York in the late '40's and with dedication and investment, worked together to shape Royal Wines into production of European style wines eventually gravitating to California in the mid '80s.  I throw around the phrase "history in a bottle" like a punchline, but in this case, the interesting, sometimes poignant, story flavored the wine for me.  I hope you get a chance to try some.

I recently had a life changingly good salad when Nancy Silverton took over the kitchen in San Francisco's Cotogna.  If you have seen the Netflix series, "Chef's Table" featuring Nancy, you cannot help but crave an opportunity to try her food.  Her new cookbook "The Mozza CookBook" features recipes that enable the home cook to recreate these delectable dishes in the context of Nancy's experiences in SoCal and Italy.  Lots of yummy, deceptively simple dishes where what you invest in prep time and pursuit of the best ingredients pays of in easy entertaining.

 While the full recipe for the salad is only in the book, the ingredients for the salad dressing are online here.

Find and arrange the freshest, tender squashes you can and marinate them in the ingredients.  One tip from the book, add the oregano right before serving.

Since honey is the flavor enabler to coax out the sweetness of the squashes, it's a perfect dish for Rosh Hashana.
Part of the Rosh Hashana celebration involves eating apple slices dipped in honey to symbolize wishing your fellow celebrants sweetness in the upcoming year.  Honey is an ancient food and consuming it connects us with the past as it wishes us good things to come in the future.  We can all use a great salad, a fun Sub $10 rosé, and a wish for sweet blessings in the year to come.
Shana tova!

I received this wine as a sample

18 May, 2017

Southern Indian Food and Rias Baixas Albariño - Perfect Pairs at Dosa-SF

Dosa in San Francisco's Fillmore District is an airy, elegant restaurant that focuses on Indian cuisine.  The balance of Indian dishes with heat and sour and tang and sweet compels me to eat, but not so much to pair with wine.  Finding wines to handle that challenge is usually to drink beer---not that there's anything wrong with that.  Indian cuisine has a history going back seven thousand years and spanning a huge country, whose culture has not always been wine friendly.  And given the climate, my first rule of wine pairing "Grows with ...goes with" doesn't apply either.  I was most excited to attend the Rias Baixas lunch to see what would happen.

Turns out, an amazingly tasty ringer was waiting to be discovered: Albariño from Spain's Rias Baixas region.  Typically this wine is low in alcohol, redolent with minerality, and fruity.

Master Somm, Yoon Ha of Benu teamed with Dosa Wine Director Todd Smith to fine tune the pairings and showcase the possibilities.  Todd has a love of Indian cuisine and skill with wine.  He gave us a master class on Southern Indian food styles the best way possible, by serving it.  We could tell the pair enjoyed the exercise of bringing the wines into focus with the specific food of Southern India.

The first item brought out was called "bread and water" in which a crispy husk of dumpling was filled with tamarind-cilantro chili water.  For once I paid attention and devoured the flavorful concoction in one bite.  A flavor explosion ensued with the tangy sweet, brightly herbal, spicy water matched with the texture of the dumpling.

Dish after dish of texturally interesting, exotically spiced delights came out in waves.  Initially I was skeptical during Yoon Ha's presentation, but when I tried the wines, good, great and synergistic matches happened.
The Eponymous Dosa

Savory Shrimp

Classic Wada
Spicy Scallops

Some of these contain more than forty ingredients, so these wines got put through their paces.  Many are easy to find and will be on my summer rotation

First a little about the region.  Rais Baixas located in Galicia it has a maritime climate with lots of rainfall and lots of sun, each in balance at the right season for grapes.  The soils are great with lots of granite.  99% of the wines from the Denominacion de Origen (DO) are white.  And the thick skinned, scrappy, and we found delicious, Albariño, is key variety.  The Tastemakers brought some great Albariños:

Martin Codax 2015 ($15): Aromas of apricot, subtle yeasty notes, freshness and apple.  Full bodied but still bright and refreshing with a kick of honey in the midpalate and a long apricot finish.  2g/l of residual sugar made this wine sing with the spicier dishes.

Pazo de Señorans - 2015 ($21) Aromas of apple, papaya with lime, honeysuckle and yellow grapefruit.  Freshness was the topnote in aromas and flavors.  It managed to be rich and crisp at the same time.A pleasant floral herbal note in the finish and no leesiness.  Medium plus body with an apricot laden finish.

Mar de Frades, Ramon Bilbao - 2015 ($14) This wine had a brightness with vinous aromas along with jasmine, apricot and coconut.  Nice complexity marked by a touch of sourness that really helped cement the pairings. Round texture with a hint of salinity in finish, I found it to be a wine I kept going back to try more.

Bodegas Vionta, You and Me - 2015 ($18) Aromas of white flowers, honey and stonefruit.  Bright with acidity and rich in texture but lithe, this wine has a pleasant bitterness in the finish, which makes diners go back for another bite, says Todd.

Valmiñor - 2015 ($14) This wine was more of a medium yellow, which was darker than the paler colors of the previous wines.  Aromas were pear and bay leaves.  Flavors were apricot, yellow grapefruit, an touch of beer-iness and a flash of green.  A full bodies wine with an unctuous texture, it held apricot and a surprise: Maldon salt in the finish.

Pazo San Mauro - 2015 ($18)  Medium yellow color.  Vinous aromas.  Full texture but shot through with the most pronounced acidity of the batch

Pairing these wonderful wines with such exotic tastes was a great experience.  Look for Albariños from Rias Baixas next time you order in.  Or better yet, make time to visit Dosa and taste their expertly prepared food stylings.

Many thanks to Gregory White PR for hosting the lunch.

22 April, 2017

Riggers Loft: East Bay Tasting Room with Historic Bay View

Riggers Loft at Point Potrero in Richmond, CA, may have the most beautiful view of any tasting room anywhere—180-degree view of San Francisco Bay that takes in the Berkeley Hills, the Oakland Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and Angel Island.

Housed in the historic Kaiser Shipyard Number Three, next to the Red Oak Victory Ship and a whirley crane, Riggers Loft sits at the end of a long, scenic, and worthwhile drive out to the end of Canal Road near Pt. Richmond, past the also-wonderful East Brother Beer Company Tap Room, winding around cranes, tanks, warehouses, and a parking lot full of cars just unloaded off ships next to the tasting room.  Visitors to Riggers Loft can also take in Rosie the Riveter (technically Wendy the Welder) history, a sighting of an osprey nest on top of the whirley crane, and views of ships and tugboats.

Riggers Loft is a collective of three wineries—R & B Cellars, Carica Wines, and Irish Monkey Winery—and Far West Cider Company that produce at Riggers Loft.  Recently, Barrel & Ink Wine Company also joined the collective tasting room and will soon be producing wine at the Riggers Loft site, as well.  R & B Cellars owners and winemakers Kevin and Barbara started making wine in the space in late 2015, and the tasting room opened in March 2016.  In the coming weeks, Riggers Loft will open patio seating on the Bay.

And the wine!  With four wineries, the list is extensive and diverse, including several tasting flights, and in two visits, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the offerings.  The winemaking styles extend from big and bold to lean and restrained.  As a lover of Rhone-varietals, I enjoyed especially the large selection of Rhone-varietals and blends.  My favorites were the R & B Cellars NV “The Improviser” (a blend of Viognier, Vermentino, Rousanne, Marsanne, and Picpoul Blanc), the Barrel and Ink ‘13 “Master of Mountains” Chardonnay made by Steve Matthiasson, and the Barrel and Ink ‘14 “Jet Set Jungle” (a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre, Valdiguie, Dolcetto, and Viognier made by Pax Mahle).  I also enjoyed the R & B Cellars ‘13 “Sarabande” Chardonnay, the Carica ‘12 “Siren” (a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mouvedre), and the Irish Monkey ‘13 Barbera.

With offerings to please almost any palate, a historical setting, and unforgettably gorgeous views, a visit to Riggers Loft is essential for supporters of East Bay winemaking and oenophiles from all around the San Francisco Bay Area.