30 November, 2008

MacRostie '06 Chardonnay

Another 89 point wine. '06 MacRostie Chardonnay ($23.99) I had this a few weeks ago at a party I threw to take a look at the differences between wines rated 89 points and as similar as I could find 90 point versions to find out if I could spot the differences. Since I found a few examples, I thought it would be fun to hear what others had to say, so I invited such luminaries as Luscious Lush Thea, Dr. Xeno (Ward) and Tom from San Jose along with , of course, the other Brix Chick, Xandria. Six people---Seven bottles of wine (with a little absinthe chaser) Good times! And material for more than one post of course. So I'll start with my notes on the chardonnays. Normally I rate wines 1 - 10 based on how much I like them. But I fudged a little on this one and just attempted to hang the "89" on the right bottle. I found the MacRostie to have a richer hue and a "better" taste. It had a slightly citrusy taste and hints of more recognizeable (to me) flavors of apples and pears. It had some oak on it, which seemed to produce an almost spicy taste. So I rated it higher.

I was wrong. When we peeled back the wrappings on the bottle, the '06 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Chardonnay ($12.29) was the actual 90 point "winner". Although the color wasn't as nice and the initial nose was of gasoline, this wine took its time opening up and then eventually had a more floral quality to its aromas. It was more food friendly than the MacRostie chardonnay. My fellow wineaux totally had it pegged. In several cases, they like the MacRostie better, but indicated that they thought it was the 89 point wine. Since both the wines were agreeable examples of local chardonnays, I felt like we were all winners. Tasting them blind was a super fun exercise and let me stop and focus on #3 vs. #4 without the influence of labels, price or reputation. Interesting...

More on the other matchups later...

25 November, 2008

Under Appreciated 89 pt Wine Wins "Wine of the Week"

Okay, so it won in Baltimore. Nevertheless, we applaud the achivement of this '06 Rosenblum Heritage Clones Petite Sirah I had been lucky enough to have this wine at a fun Italian restaraunt in Cupertino, Fontana's. My table found it to be a great companion to the hearty Italian fare, but also smooth and complex enough to be enjoyed by our guest who was watching his girlish figure and opted for a salad. The wine had flavors of berries, chocolate and coffee. Still, with its 14.8% alcohol and balanced acidity, it was food friendly and stood up nicely to Fontana's delicious sauces. The black fruit flavor came forward and made it a wine we could enjoy while waiting, as well as a bottle that we found enjoyable throughout the meal. The mocha finish even made it compatible with the chocolate dessert we somehow managed to squeeze in. Aged in American and French oak, the vines go back 80-100 years, representing a long tradition of Petite Sirah in the area near San Francisco, Contra Costa county. Petite Sirah is a dark wine guaranteed to stain your teeth Wine lover's purple. After the long two days of meetings we endured, we were happy for the giggles. So even though Wine Spectator only gave it an 89, the Baltimore Sun singled it out for wine of the week, And more importantly, our server suggested it as a great option for us. Despite its ignominious ranking, its quality and, I think more likely, Rosenblum's leadership in good value petite sirah is carrying this little gem along. However, I noticed that the online wine list at Fontana's does not list this! So I called to make sure a) it was still available and b)I was not hallucinating. Funny! The menu does call out those offerings that received 91 points or more. If you do find yourself in Cupertino and need a place for dinner, try Fontana's http://www.fontanasitalian.com/index.htm. And while you're at it, give an 89 point wine a chance. You won't be sorry

23 November, 2008

Oregon Night at Solano Cellars

Or Wine 102: Oregon Night! Our second event at Solano Cellars. Willamette wines. Another thing I thought I wasn't fond of. Having had some sad, spare and even salty examples of Oregon wine, I really wanted to see what the good folks at Solano Cellars would put together for this. Plus, Saturday was a Recessionista Day and, well, this tasting was free. So, I started the afternoon with my favorite Indiscriminate Boozehound (don't look for a blog---it's a philosophy with her), Marina, at a Bottling party at Urbano Cellars. They were pouring their release of Emeryville Nouveau- a dark, pretty wine with a freshness and good fruit along with some perennial favorites of mine. I love their 100% Petit Verdot for its yummy bitter undertones and fruity-floral taste. http://www.urbanocellars.com/ We got so caught up in the fun there, we missed scooting in to the Wine Mine! My absolute fave QPR wine experience in the bay area! http://www.winemineco.com/. So, we headed off to try Thai at Anchalee. http://www.anchaleethai.com/ a lovely spot near Cafe Trieste on San Pablo. Along with the sumptuous Thai feast, we had a yum bottle of Bivio Pinot Grigio with with enough fruit and acid to stand up to the spices of dinner. http://www.bivioitalia.com/download/techSheets/Bivio-PinotGrigio-TechSheet.pdf. Our clever plan to dash over to Solano Cellars, was alas, shared by many, many others and so we wandered down to the cash only Pub on Solano where seating was no problem at all. I had a Shiraz tasty enough to stand up to the bar-mitzvah-party-reject glass it was served in. Xandria and I treaded wine while waiting to go back. Our patience was rewarded. We came back and scored a table, where Tom from the distributor took great care of us, by pouring and explaining all the Oregon offerings. He is the one who has set me off on a hunt for Serene Coeur Blanc, which was not being sampled. However, these tasty treats were:

2007 Ponzi Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley ($17) Super pale, medium +body, savory fruit aromas. Flavors of coconut and lemongrass.
2006 Domaine Serene Chardonnay, Clos du Soleil, Willamette Valley ($45) Apple custard tart aromas, with a whisper of banana Laffy Taffy. Flavors of sour apple and slight taste of bell pepper and something somewhere between herbal and green.
2007 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir, Willamette ($20) Delightful small producer discovery. Initial scent of kerosene revealed secondary aromas of complex fruit including Jolly Rancher cherry. Flavors were also sour cherry and cherry fruit roll-up. A cool climate pinot, it had good acidity. Yes. I bought this!
2007 Ponzi Pinot Noir Tavola ($26) This is what the Ponzis keep on their kitchen table. Lovely plummy nose. Good acidity to stand up to food. Flavors had a strong presence of fruit, red plum.

2006 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir, Yamhill Cuvee, Willamette Valley ($42) Aromas of violets. This was a perfumey wine, with cherry, red fruit and fennel. It had an interesting pleasant finish with initial vinegary notes turning into red fruit and then coffee.

After that we reconnoitered with Marina and friend, Larry. We had promised Larry to introduce him to the delights of 9:00 "Happy Hour" at Fonda. Delayed gratification so works when you mean holding off on dessert to save room for the stunners Fonda puts out. Extra points for us--we did DIY Pairings. I tried Marina's Pumpkin Pie with brown sugar ice cream accompanied by a Leacocks Bual Madeira 10yr. Yum! The alcohol and brown spice in the Madeira stood up to the rich, pumpkin custard and flaky made-with-love crust. Xandria had the Columbian chocolate sundae. Chile infused creamy chocolate goodness. She opted not to pair, but sampled from both the Bual and from my (incomparable) Sauterne. Now, I've mentioned this before. I have Botrytis. I love, love love the stuff. The 05 Ch. Romieu-Lacoste, Sauternes was no exception. Its silky sweet, sugared broiled grapefruit yumminess paired exceptionally well with my Vanilla panna cotta in a pool of brown sugared pineapple puree. Add a coconut shortbread biscuit and you've got yourself a little slice of heaven! Along with a cool place to sober up if you've "Studied" too hard at USC---The University of Solano Cellars! ;)
Good friends. Good times and all on a budget! Viva las Recessionistas!

Judgement of Albany - France vs. California Taste Off

U.S.C? University of Solano Cellars! This week Xandria and I had the good fortune to attend not one, but TWO educational, informative, tasty and --bonus--fun! events at Solano Cellars on Solano Avenue in Albany. We raced from Twitter Taste Live! Drink local and made it to Solano Cellars right at 7:45 on the dot, when the second seating of this fun event began. At first, I was disoriented by the preponderance of bad fashion choices, then I realized, you got a discount for wearing either a beret, cowboy hat or boots. Whew! It made the attire seem festive (and the probability that a Berkeleyite would go all "Coyote Ugly" seem much less probable). Since we are less familiar with the French offerings, we started there:

2005 Virginie de Valandraud ($93) Grand cru from prestigious small producer, this wine had a commanding aroma of leather, smoke, eucalyptus. It displayed stunning balance with tannins that seemed grippy and smooth at the same time and a smooth lingering finish that coats the tongue with a glaze of fruit. Vive la France! Nice!

2005 Chateau Belgrave ($50) The top note of aroma is vegetal. A quick puff of breath to uncover more fully the secondary aromas brought out a lush blast of blackberry with notes of green [Thanks, Sommelier John, Norwegian Jade for the cool trick!]. The delicious tannic-acid-fruit balance made it hard to pin down discrete flavors, but the whole was a luscious complexity.

2005 Chateau Puy Norman Vielles Vignes ($25) 100% Merlot. Wine had a nice ruby color. Aromas of cherry anise and smoked meat. Medium body. Tannins coated my whole mouth. An interesting delicious wine that showed quality at a very affordable price point.

2005 Petit Bocq ($34) 85% Merlot-43% Cab - 2% Cab Franc. This wine had a delightfully woodsy character to its aromas--slightly cedarish. Not as tannic.

2005 Chateau D'Armailhac ($59) Aromas of brown spice. Dry, fruity flavors with a lot of red fruit. Slightly grippy, it had a long, leathery finish.

2005 Chateau Ormes De Pez ($42) Wow! Aromas of strawberry brioche. Complex fruit deliciousness. I, who have had such trouble identifying "Blueberries" in wine, got a blast of luscious blueberry flavor. Nice tannin. Lovely acidity. I bought this! Yum!

2005 La Louviere ($52) Not sure if it was palate fatigue or just eager to move on the the California wines, but this did not display good QPR. My notes was , "Meh."

Then, on to California!

2005 Pedemont Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($53) Green, smoky aromas. Lovely blackberry flavors. The winemaker's passion for his product really shines through.

2005 Cenay Bluetooth Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($35) The first wine we tried from CA--Mama, I'm home!. It had a sharp, acidic brambly fruit. No oak at all. With a lingering tobacco finish. Earned a little smiley face on my tasting notes!

2005 Longmeadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon ($42) Round. Fruity. Anise flavor.

1999 Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon ($NK) Plummy flavors and aromas with notes of roasted tomatoes. Luxuriant finish with hints of licorice.

2004 Truchard Cabernet Sauvignon ($38) Butterscotchy mocha-vanilla-cherry aromas. Somewhat sweet and acidic. Peculiar dry halting finish.

There were three other wines there that had been sucked down by the cowboy booted mob ahead of us. Later we found out the Faux Frogs and Booted Broncos had gotten double pours! Damn our commitment to this blog!! How we suffer for our art!!!!
Still, this was a great way for me to get some learnin' on how the Cali Cabs stand up to Bordeaux. Many thanks to Jason for bringing such a fun and informative event to our neck of the woods!


19 November, 2008

Sake2Me - Clean, lean and green!

Sake is not a beverage I seek out. I blame too many overheated bottles of medicinal hooch slurped down in conjunction with value sushi in college.

Sake2me is not that beverage.

Recently, I had the chance to share several bottles of the sparkling sake with my cocktail friends, J. and Vinny B. While we all adore wine, we share the love ecumenically with all kinds of adult beverages..okay... Vodka. So I knew they would love to try something new. To sweeten the deal, I threw in some sushi, which seemed a natural fit, and Vinny, ever the one upper, also brought the most delicious homemade ceviche. Despite the early darkness and chill in the air, we settled down to a lively dinner and discussion. Our verdict? We really enjoyed the Sake2me. Based on junmai sake, which is Japanese for "pure rice" sake, it had clean, light flavors. Only 15% of sake made in Japan earns the junmai grade. Sake2me sources theirs from a place north of Tokyo. They bring it to the US, then infuse and bottle it here. Add pure water and a little sparkle, Sake2me uses the actual extracts and essences to get their flavors. I am a lover of all things yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus that tastes exotic, almost like lemon with hints of pine, so I had to resist the urge to keep that bottle back for myself. Instead I doled out the samples. Vinny insisted we go in order, light to dark. Here's a run down:

Asian Pear: The lightest of the bunch. I enjoyed the aromas and flavors of pear. Vinny would have liked a stronger taste of sake. J thought it tasted like a wine cooler.

Yuzu: This had tangy aromas and a delectable yuzu flavor that let more of the essential character of the sake shine through. It paired beautifully with the fresh, wild salmon ceviche.

Ginger Mango: This was the unanimous favorite. Aromas of grated ginger and mango puree wafted from this beverage. The melding of the deliciously chilled sake with the freshness of the infusions made it yummy by itself and delicious with the sushi.

Green Tea: I didn't expect to like this, but was pleased by the restrained sweetness and the toasty taste of sencha. There was also an almost chocolaty taste that was very nice.

At only 110 calories per bottle, it's a tasty portion.

As for green, the people at Sake2me use bottles that are 70% recycled and 100% recyclable. They ship the sake in bulk, which saves a lot of energy otherwise wasted schlepping extra packaging. They really think about making their product "green".

With the holidays here, Sake2Me is great if you're looking for something easy, delicious and unique to serve. Hey, back away from my Pomerol! It could also come in handy as a pleasant distraction to keep people out of your winecellar, Especially for those who say they don't like sake, this will make an unusual and festive treat. http://www.sake2me.com/

17 November, 2008

Sofia Mini--- Pretty in Pink and pretty portable potable

"Champagne in a can! Are you out of your mind?" Well, in any event it's actually sparkling wine. And speaking of events, Sofia Minis are great when you need to take your celebration on the road. Not literally, although I do have a friend whose mom thought they were an energy drink and went driving around SoCal, can in hand till Victor stopped her. Among the many blessing she can count are the facts that men don't take pink cans seriously and most traffic cops are men. Unabashedly fun and fruity, well accessorized with a dainty color coordinated straw, Sofia is nevertheless quite a serviceable little toasting device. Made from pinot blanc grapes from Monterey county, a low acid grape meant to be drunk young. along with sauvignon blanc and a little muscat, it's sort of sweet but still very perky. Toasty and demi sec, it goes great with popcorn. The slight aluminum cast pairs well with whatever is in that weird yellow "butter". Not really, but that much salt can make lemons go with Napa Cab. You can as easily sneak Sofia Minis into a movie theater as an outdoor soaking tub. Much more easily than the ginormous full sized bottles Schramsberg suggests for that purpose.

Last Christmas, I put together a date night baskets each with two movie passes, two cans of Sofia Minis, two cute little bags to facilitate popcorn sharing and four Lindor white truffles. It's all about popular! Cosmo what? I snuck several cans into opening night of "Sex and the City- the Movie" My college BFF's and I were the envy of three rows. I also threw several cans in my handbag when I took a friend for some spa treatments the day she found out her grandma died. "To everything there is a season" etc., etc. Which also, forms the foundation of my love of the alternative packaging.

Fancy wines in fancy restaurants. Quirky treasures with kindred spirits. Interesting flights in snark infested waters. Love them all. But sometimes it's nice to toss a dependable and independent gal pal into your bag. As for the debate about it tasting better from a glass. Duh! If you have access to decent stemware, why not drink the full sized anything else ---including Sofia? Light tippling at home alone or cheek by cheek with beer drinkers? It would nice to have a convenient single serving, wouldn't it? I will patiently wait for the potential of tetrapak or the promise of FOUR. YUUUUMMMM! But, I digress....

Like things that are hard to pronounce and/or frilly, love of Sofia may never come to you boys, but an adventure awaits if you try it!

HINT: The easiest way to locate this is to go to http://www.bevmo.com/ and select local pickup when you order Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blanc (4-PK 187 ML). That way someone else can scrounge around the store until they find where they have misplaced it. So then all you need to do is swing in , grab some cans, pop the tab...a moveable feast.

16 November, 2008

Turkish Delight - Review of Angora Red

After this, I will have caught up. So, in October, I was cruising the Mediterranean and visited Greece, Egypt and Turkey. Turkey is a place I would revisit in a heartbeat, especially since I did not get a chance to visit Cappadoccia. Due to my abbreviated itinerary, I didn't taste as much as I wanted, however, this was my favorite of the little that I did try.
Angora Red: An interesting blend of Cinsault, Gamay and Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was a pleasing dinner wine. Garnet in color, the nose was redolent with pepper, spice and red fruit. It had a medium body and was dry, yet fruity. I had ordered an unpronounceable traditional fish dish and this went well with the heavily, if not hotly, spiced fish dish.

Catching up - Snippets of September

Or highlights of what I remember....

The month of October was a slow month for blogging as I was out of the country with no vestige of my electronic leashes so, now I am trying to catch up.

Since my September memories were apparently shot with a Vaseline coated lens (I think I might need ginko biloba!) I will just dish up the Reader's Digest version, since November looks action packed with new adventures that are circling like Arctic wolves, who know I have neither high powered rifle nor helicopter!

First, I visited Viader in Napa and seriously recommend it if you are visiting. One of the prettiest spots in Napa. Lovely wines. A friend of a friend was reading tarot cards. He predicted we would love everything we tasted and we did!

Also I attended the "Release the Spaniard" dinner at Twisted Oak. All I can say is that I fell into deep, enduring and mystical love with this wine! Beautiful, lush, spicy, complex. All in all stunning for a wine so young. If you met this wine on Match.com, he would be younger, richer and more colorful than his picture. A miracle in wine making. Check out what Sonadora and Farley have to say on the site. It's all deliciously true, Buttercup!

Getting snarked at Waterbar. Waterbar in SF is pretty and food is good. It's pricey. Sadly not pricey in that way some restaurants have where you spend w-a-a-y too much and still feel like you got over. A b-day celebration with friend from college. We have a tradition of drinking a certain kind of wine, so I pay the corkage. Waiter far less than gracious. However Hope and Grace wine never fails! Our bottle was a 2003 Sleepy Hollow Santa Lucia Highlands. A transcendent example of California Pinot Noir. Juicy with berries, cherries, exotic peppercorns, sarsaparilla and all that is right with the world. Snark away Waterbar! Nothing on your wine list matches our traditional favorite. And no, just because the label looks faded and the bottle comes out of a handbag does it mean the two ladies eating at your fine establishment are calling it Miller time with a tasty malt beverage. PS: Coi carries this.

Wine Bloggers Conference

I was there! Jet lagged, post vacation whiplashed, late and dragging, I got myself to Sonoma just in time to have missed the Live Blogging! :( But in time to get with the groove, get eliminated from the blind swilling contest, which was a boon as I hit the Wine Growers of Dry Creek Valley Association soiree early and got to chat and sip with the super knowledgeable, friendly and cheese-giving folks who drive awareness for a super product! Yum! Some of my favorites, Quivira, Bella, etc, were being poured. http://www.wdcv.com/ You just can't miss with this area! Dinner was tasty and convivial!
The next morning, I got up bright eyed and bushy tailed after conserving my energy for the vineyard walk. I bet the odds by choosing Saralee Vineyard because of my deep love of all things Russian River Valley Pinot. In my life I have been on zillions of excursions and this ranks among one of the best organized and fun. TetraPak water http://www.tetrapakusa.com/, which we needed for the steep vertical ascent described as an "easy walk"; I should have known better by the name "Roller Coaster" [Yes, Russ---FRAUGHT with peril on account of my questionable, if fashionable footwear choice]. Transportation, lunch, personal attention from the winemakers and the vineyard owners were super. The locavore in me was delighted to eat tasty delights grown on the property while drinking delicious wines from vines I could see from my seat on the picnic bench! Lucky you! I can avidly recommend this like a book I loved and know I will read again. Zephyr Adventures:http://www.zephyradventures.com/types-wine.htm They do this all the time. All over the world!
Dinner at Sebastiani with Alice Feiring as speaker...interesting...Did you know the Tasmanian Devil may end up on the endangered species list? But I digress.
Bus ride was so fun with El Jefe pouring skulls! Skulls! Damn my jet lag, I missed the late into the night cellar sharing, which I hear was epic!
Classes= informative. Camaraderie=value packed. Cutting class to join BYOB UnSession=priceless.
I met too many awesome bloggers from all over the country. Many, many thanks to Joel Vincent whose tireless quest for perfection paid off in a beautifully organized conference!

Twitter Taste Live #5: Bloggers take over with blogger's choice...and we chose Hahn!

Twitter Taste Live http://twittertastelive.com/ is a series of super fun events to meet, greet and explore virtually or in person and get a wide perspective on what people drink/think. I was lucky enough to get invited to Lorzandra's (aka BrixChick_Xandria) group. Joining up with WineBratSF, Dr. Xeno and ScorpioLaw to form our own personal wine mob, we were in receipt of a cache of Hahn wines to #ttl. Holidays on the mind, it felt a little like Thanksgiving as we waited patiently, mouths watering, for our turn to tweet. You know that feeling when you're waiting for grace to finally be over so you can chow? Anticipation adds to savor. But since we were like sixth in the queue it got very Christmas Eve from the perspective of a six year old. When the present opening time seems to get farther away not closer as you open the windows of your advent calendar. Thank God for Matty! http://agoodtimewithwine.com/ With his video stream in the background providing much needed distraction, it started to feel like New Year's Eve! Except Matty is much more entertaining than Ryan Seacrest!
3 - 2 - 1....At last! Our turn. We starting swirling, sniffing, and (yay!) sipping. All the while typing and tweeting. As I whipped through our selections, twittering like a drunken magpie, I had the benefit of my mob mates's insights as well as tapping into the community as a whole. So this little pullet loved the opportunity to evaluate with more seasoned sippers like Thea (http://www.lusciouslushes/) , Dr. Xeno (http://www.winelog.net/blog/author/drxeno) and WineHiker (http://www.californiawinehikes.com/) . Good times.

Also, good wine! The Hahn website sets out its mission as a purveyor of "supple, accessible, and attractively priced wines from the family's Monterey County vineyards" http://www.hahnestates.com/hahn-history.html

And they did! Though sometimes the mob mentality brought out my snark-o-lepsy almost as sharply as the Truffle Tremor cheese brought out the forest floor flavors of the Hahn Pinot Noir. After the Tweetfest was over, when I, far from soberly but more reflectively, tasted the wines, favorites emerged. I immediately loved the Hahn SLH Syrah,; it was a dark lovely color and had a spicy and complex nose and flavors that were lush with fruits without being obnoxious about it. Tasting it with food brought out its expressive side. Also, hours later, the Central Coast Cabernet which initially lacked appeal, surged forward in the QPR range. My first instinct was that with its price and its flavors, it would make great sangria. After breathing adequately, the flavors and aromas opened up, and it proved a tasty sipping wine on its own, too. We also got some bonus entries, including a lovely Cabernet Franc and a preview of the upcoming FOUR. More later on this revolutionary new offering that brings great accessibility through packaging and belongs on every single sipper's counter!
Drink Hahn SLH Syrah whenever you get the chance.
Pick up a bottle of Central Coast to serve, but decant, decant, decant to get full value of this bargain.
Look for the FOUR! Coming soon....
Many thanks to WineDiverGirl for the special delivery! Go TROJANS!!!!!!!!!

14 November, 2008

Another "A is for.. " Albertina-Review of "02 Cabernet Sauvignon

Under promise. Over deliver. I plucked this bottle from the garage wine looking for novelty and something that wouldn't taste nasty. What a nice surprise! A kinder, gentler cab it frisked out of the bottle with a pronounced raspberry jam flavor and a smoothness of tannin that was tasty on its own and also played nicely with food. The label reads it was aged in small barrels of French, American and Hungarian oak for 20 months. The initial raspberry smoothed to a more black currant-y taste. After about 2 hours, the flavors opened up to chocolate covered cherry and spice with a hint of woodsy goodness. Even the next day (after assiduous Vacu-vinning but no fridge), the essential character was still round and fruity. It developed the most interesting taste of violets on the mid palate. I liked it. I guess so did the Chronicle wine people who gave it a bronze medal. I think it will be difficult to track down another bottle as the production was only 475 cases. More about the winemaker here: http://www.gomendo.com/showrecord.asp?id=697 . Sounds like a great place to visit!

13 November, 2008

"A is for..." Review of Aglianico at A16

My quest to obtain "centurion status" http://www.winecentury.com/membership.php has gotten me actively seeking out things I ....:

a) never heard of....

b)can't pronounce...

c) let take me away from my true love, California Pinot.

Recently, I visited restaurant A16 in San Francisco http://www.a16sf.com/. Named for the highway that cuts across Campania/Southern Italy, the upscale rustic cuisine never fails to please. Especially the meatballs, with long simmered sauces constructed of freshness, tomatoes and herbs, toothsome pastas, pizzas, and "whatever's fresh" menu offerings will delight. Yum! Also, an impressive wine list heavy on the Italian and unsual also stays true to the local focus of the food by including many small production California wines. Hey, I am nothing if not a "grows with, goes with" kind of girl and love the nod to mi tierra. Thus the wine selection has never failed me when ordering. Coincidentally, my insistence on the unfamiliar (to me) Aglianico ("ah-LYAH-nee-koe" Wikipedia assures me) is a varietal originating in Campania, so I'm sure I looked super smart by a happy coincidence to my winey-foodie friends. The wine was a deep, dark purple with a lovely aroma kissed by oak with enough tannic energy to stand up to the food but enough complexity and balance to be enjoyable while we waited. Produced by de Conciliis in the Campania region of Italy, it had a dark spicy quality. Everyone at the table had Cali-centric palates and we all loved it. I found it tasty on its own, good with the entree and I even had enough left to try it with dessert.

There is a picture of this on A16's website, so I'm hoping it's a regular thing, because though the pairing was pleasing, the dessert on its own rocked my world. Called "Chocolate budino tart with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil" the name does not adequately prepare you for the taste treat you are in store for. Dark chocolate alchemically combined with creamy goodness renders a poufy mouthful of creamy, chocolate-dense lightness. This contrasted with the slippery floral olive oil, whose savor was enhanced by the surprise crunch of sea salt. I will admit I just rattled it off because someone else wanted chocolate and I had a half a glass of the wine left and was curious how it would mesh. I will also admit, I can't wait to go back, just to have this again---and this time not share! All in all, A "A" for A16, an "A" for aglianico and an "A+" for the Chocolate budino tart with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.

12 November, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #51 - Baked Goods

Let's get baked. Interesting challenge. Not being a girl who seeks out the port or madeiras, I was thrilled when Xandria found the perfect place to sample by the glass, Tha Alameda WIne Company in nearby Alameda, CA. I think of madeira as being old school and not necessarily in a good way. However the folks at the Alameda Wine Company have a great selection. Karen steered us toward the Rare Wine Company's Historic Series Madeiras flight. Partnering with R.D.V. Freitas, who owns Vinhos Barbeitos, they highlighted the connection between timeless US cities known for lapping up the Madeira throughout the 1700's and 1800's and the varietal they would love. Of the five possible varietals; Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia and the elusive Terrantez, we were able to try three.
Charleston Special Reserve Sercial: The lightest in color and the driest of the three, this wine smelled exotic, like apple scented tobacco, rum raisin and something not quite vanilla. It was not sweet at all and had a sharp alcohol fueled kick. We had been given walnuts which rounded out the flavors and made a pleasing combination. By itself, well let's just say we made no plans to invite it to the St. Cecelia's Ball.
Boston Bual Special Reserve: Baked beans? Ha! Baked Bual! The Boston was much smoother and compared to my expections, had a restrained sweetness. It reminded me of a concotion I make by long term soaking of figs and vanilla beans in vodka. This wine showed excellent balance and a chocolatey finish.
New York Malmsy: I heart New York Malmsy! This had much more fruit in the nose and a choco-caramel aroma that was delightful. Sweetest and most viscous of the bunch, the Malmsy looked like Coca-Cola, but tasted complex and delicious. I could tell it wanted creme brulee!

We also ordered a Blandys Malmsy for comparison. It was simple and pretty and I think had I tried it alone, I would have liked it, but compared to the dazzle of the others, it ended up feeling more ordinary.

Completely not ordinary were the cheeses we ordered. Truffle Tremor made me shudder with delight! I selected a French triple creem cow's milk based Pierre Robert. Voluptously creamy with the butteriness of venial sin, this might get addictive. The chacuterie was tasty too and the portions stunned me as QPR off the chart! All in all a fun evening trying new things and finding a great new place! The Alameda Wine Bar offered a great experience combining easy parking, tasty snacks, great wine and expert guidance, I know I will be back and hope to see you there! http://www.alamedawineco.com/

08 November, 2008

Silver Pass Saturday! Exploring the Silverado Trail

Few group activities are as seriously fun as girls gone wine weekends in the Wine country. Thanks to the generosity of Luscious Lush, Thea, I was invited to go on last weekend's Silverado Trail Silver Pass weekend. Good booze! Good company! Good Wine! Here are the highlights:

We started at Judds Hill and soon moved on to Titus Vineyards. The delicious Zin, Cab Franc and Petite Sirah paired with property harvested walnuts and gorgonzola based canapes. Yum! Rain schmain. Good times. You have to try this!

The next place we tried was Midsummer Cellars, where they had beautifully decanted two lovely Cab Sauv's. Extra special, they had masterfully paired these wines with both a Greek beef stew and a grill ed pork-mole tostada of surpassing delight. Delicious!

From there, we caravanned it to Conn Creek, whose wines had a restrained, but decidely European flair. However, they made it to my highlight reel with their focus on education. They provided guided component tasting from Barrel samples that surveyed most of the AVA. It was so fun to compare Mount Veeder to Howell Mountain to Atlas Peak and see the different flavors and characters. So fun!

Sadly, I was not able to participate in Day 2 as I had a previous committment to support a fundraiser. However, since I was pouring all you can drink Jordan '03 Alexander Valley Cab, '04 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot and a seletion of Chardos that included '04 Jayson, The Cutrer and a lovely Talley, it capped off a wonderful wine (and rain!) soaked weekend

03 November, 2008

Levendi! Review of 2005 Sweetwater Ranch Cabernet

Yassou! Is a toast I learned on my recent trip to Greece. But aside from being dazzled by the scenery and entrepreneurial spirit, the Greek wine didn't really inspire me...except for one place where they specialized in jewelry AND wine and if not for the sobering effects of the dollar:Euro exchange rate, well, let's just say I'm glad I didn't sign up for any wine clubs or layaway jewelry. There's respecting the entrepreneur and there's plain old tipsy-crazy shopping.

However, recently, thanks to the awesome Wine Spies, I got the the chance to sample some made-by-Greeks http://www.levendiwinery.com/story.html) Napa Cab that is definitely something to write home about. The Levendi Estate 2005 Sweetwater Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, is an opaque dark ruby color. The aromas bounded out of the bottle the second I pulled the cork with that enticing Napa Cab scent of summer in the cellar---perfect for a rainy Monday. The first sip was intensely oaky, so I decanted for an hour before settling in for serious tasting. After an hour, the puckery tannins had dissipated somewhat, and I got lots of black cherry flavors with a hint of muted cassis and something extra, I couldn't identify (later looking at the notes on the bottle, it hit me: blueberry!), with a long black cherry finish. I do like a big, oaky wine. This wine definitely fell in the category of "food slutty". A good thing really. Some wines like to be around food, but can take it or leave it. Then there are the Food Slutty wines that just "gotta have it". This was such a wine. I found it was nice with pasta and bolognese, very nice with dark, bittersweet chocolate and particularly nice with a brie. The boldness of the tannins worked best with the creamy cheese. After about 2 hours of decanting, I got a lot more cherry vanilla aromas and softer tannins that allowed some of the other flavors--chocolate, leather---to come forward. After 5 hours of decanting, my patience was rewarded with the promised dark chocolate finish. Decanting made all the difference. When I picked up my sample, another meaning of the phrase "Levendi" was explained to me, which I can't translate easily into English, but in Spanish it would be "Que mango!" meaning an attractive guy full of life and spirit. So this wine would definitely be Levendi---yummy, social and full of fun. If you're looking to track it down. try the Wine Spies http://thewinespies.com/. Despite the cloak-and-dagger name, they really do make discovering wines easy and fun!

02 November, 2008

An Evening of Loire Valley Wines from the Kermit Lynch portfolio - Vive le diference

Finally, I found a chance to try some biodynamically- produced French wines from the Kermit Lynch portfolio. I attended a tasting at 18 Reasons in San Francisco (http://www.18reasons.com/) thanks to my friend P. who introduced me to this not-for-profit community organization associated with the Birite Market. The 18 Reasons space on Guerrero Street is used for tastings, dinners, and art shows with the purpose of bringing the community together through art and food, hence the wine-tasting. For a donation of $10 dollars we tried 5 wines and got to meet the French winemakers.

We started with two Chardonnays from Domaine de la Cadette (http://www.domainedelacadette.com/) which is located in the village of Vezelay, between the Cote D’Or and the Chablis regions. The affable winemaker, Jean Montanet, was there to answer our questions.

First on the list was the 2006 Bourgogne Blanc. This is a light lemony-colored wine with glints of gold. The nose displayed mineral notes of limestone and chalk. Lemon-lime on the palate with medium acidity and a medium citrusy finish… crisp and refreshing.
The 2006 Vezelay Blanc was a fruitier wine in a medium gold color, almost citrine-like. Hints of pear and stonefruit on the nose. This Chardonnay has the classic “oily” mouthfeel that I love. Both P. and I really liked this wine. It is a vibrant example of French Chardonnay.

Then it was on to the reds made by Catherine Breton of Domaine Breton. (http://www.domainebreton.com/). She brought 3 very different Cabernet Francs for us to enjoy. The Cab Franc is one of the major red varietals of the Loire Valley and each one of the following varietals originates from this grape.

The 2007 Dilettante Bourgeuil was an usually light red wine with the color of crushed red raspberries. The wine was cloudy as it is unfiltered. Honestly, this wine assaulted my nose with a strong sulphuric odor. I kept swirling and sniffing and got a little bit of fruit and spice underneath. Everything about this wine was too light except for the raw egg smell. As P. remarked “this wine doesn’t stand up” and I had to agree. For my “new world” palate it needed a few more “legs” (the alcohol content was 12%.)

The good news is that the next two wines were much better. The 2007 Trinch was a dry,fresh, earthy, garnet-colored gem. It was more complex than the Dilettante and had more layers to enjoy. We then shared an even darker 2004 Chinon Les Picasses. I loved the earthy, oaky, fennel notes which were embraced by the smooth tannins and balanced acidity. This was the only wine here that was aged in barriques. A very good wine from the perspective of my “new world palate”!

No, these are not chewy, tannic, heavy, sugary, oaky, fruit bombs. These are juicy yet subtle, fresh yet elegant wines that really challenged my notion of what makes a good wine. Try these wines and when you do enjoy them with cheese from the Loire Valley. At this tasting we tried the delectable Boucheron goat cheese. It tasted so good with each wine, and it made the Dilettante taste good.