30 April, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday: 7.2009 Barlata, Oakland

Hungry? In Oakland's Temescal district? Then you are lucky! BakeSale Betty's, Dona Tomas, Pizzaiola are all walking distance from each other. All amazing taste treats. But if you, like we BrixChicks, are in search of a great foodie experience that includes wine, you will LOVE the newest offering: Barlata Tapas bar, where you can try delicious Spanish wine by the glass or bottle, as well as snack on, okay, devour, yummalicious tapas. The decor is simple, but comfortable with saturated primary colors and lots of light from outside Telegraph avenue. Servers here are knowledgeable about what they serve and if not are happy to ask. Chef Daniel Olivella brings his successful ( he also owns B44 in SF) and lively pan-Spanish cuisine to the East Bay. We are so glad that he did. Everything we tried was delicious. Patatas bravas came in a pyramid of crisp on the outside, mealy on the inside squares enlivened by a spicy pimenton and dabbed with rich aioli. Spanish tortilla was savory delight. And fideos with seafood were a tiny skillet full of perfectly prepared noodles rich and dark with the taste of infused seasonings and olive oil and studded with pieces of monkfish and tiny, purple calamari legs. Both so delicious they were gone before I could capture a picture. Small plates to meet a variety of tastes are available. Whole soft white anchovies, olives, oxtail, etc...And the wine? Off the hook. Many offerings by the glass and reasonable prices by the bottle. I could not resist my old friend Juan Gil and the delightful Monastrell with its inky, blackberry deliciousness. But we also discovered a new monastrell, this one a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon 02 Viña Ulises crianza, Alicante aromas of cedar and leather, with a dark red color and dry but pleasantly fruity cedary flavors, I found it a great discovery. On our last visit we managed to save room for dessert and shared a plate of sweet small bites. The pumpkin seed brittle went great with the wine. Items from all across Spain are here and wines to pair with them. We had several lively visits here and plan to return soon.

So if we apply Xandria's criteria:
Affordability - The problem is that everything is delicious, so a tendency to overorder can jack up to the final total. However, everything is so good, that you won't mind.
Wine list - All Spanish, many regions are represented here and the QPR that comes from having someone find, source and serve items that you can look for later on your own is stellar. I look forward to trying something new there soon.
Wait staff- Very attentive and knowledgeable. Excellent customer service is a hall mark here.
Food- Amazing! Catalan native Olivella brings many classic Spanish items from "Rioja to Jumilla" to the East Bay.
In summary, come for the food, stay for the wine. You will so not be sorry you did!
4901 Telegraph Ave. (at 49th Street), Oakland
(510) 450-0678
No reservations.

27 April, 2009

Urban Wineries Bloom - SFWA's Spring Fling @Crushpad

Fun things to do! Some advanced planning for a change! The following showed up in my inbox and I acted immediately. Bought a ticket. Invited six friends! Crushpad is a fun and exciting venue. "You are cordially invited to the San Francisco Wine Association's exciting “Spring Fling” wine tasting party! The SFWA is the new consortium of 18 boutique, family-owned, urban wineries that are producing small lots of fine wine in San Francisco. These small, high-end vintners are developing hand-crafted wines that are getting rave reviews from the critics.
This will be a fun and festive event celebrating great wine, the spring season, and good friendships, new and old. The SFWA Spring Fling will be held at Crushpad, the Bay Area's premier wine facility. You'll enjoy meeting San Francisco winemakers and sampling hard-to-find premium vintages. Purchase wine on-siteOn that night only, savvy wine enthusiasts can buy their favorite SFWA wines at a discount and also save the cost of shipping by taking their purchases home with them that evening (subject to stock on-hand)!
Event cost is just $20, and space is limited. Please
get your ticket today!It will be a fantastic event!
Warm regards,
Your friends at the San Francisco Wine Association
SFWA “Spring Fling”Thursday, May 7th5:30 - 8:00 pm@ Crushpad2573 3rd StreetSan Francisco, CA
See you there!

23 April, 2009

Earth Friendly Wines: Parducci Sustainable White and Sustainable Red

Yes, as Liza said in her post below, the Brixchicks love being green (but not sober.) In honor of Earth Day I just wanted to celebrate by tasting these two sustainably-produced wines from Parducci in Mendocino Country. Indeed, Mendocino County is the "greenest" AVA in California and this winery is a particularly good example. They are billing themselves as "America's Greenest Winery" and it seems like they really are walking the talk. They claim to be the first carbon neutral winery in the US. That basically means they do not add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through the production of their wines, and they use alternative energy sources such as solar and biodiesel fuel. Not only are they carbon neutral but their vineyards are sustainably-certified, they are certified fish-friendly farming, and they are even "Demeter" biodynamic certified. And then there is the whole earth-friendly packaging in which all their paper-products are 100% post-consumer and tree-free, and the inks are soy-based and the cardboard for the wines cases are chlorine-free. That is pretty "earth-friendly."

But what I really want to know is how the wines taste. The "Sustainable White" White Wine Mendocino County 2007 is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Canelli, Tokai and Viognier. Very light gold in color with a light bouquet of tropical fruit, with some notes of grass and citrus. The mouthfeel is a little creamy with a smooth finish. Dry and crisp with a hint of sweetness. I highly recommend you try it, and not only because it is Earth-friendly, but because it is well-balanced and tastes fine.

The "Sustainable Red" Red Wine Mendocino County 2005 is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Primitivo, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Viogner. That is quite a blend...Anyways, the nose is full of red and blue berries but with all those varietals it just does not have a distinct identity on the palate. It is drinkable enough but kinda young and a little on the thin side. Oh well, better luck next time. It is just that the concept is so new and so great that the winemakers should just keep trying...

In the meantime I give this winery kudos for caring enough about the environment (physical and social) and for making a really nice White wine in honor of our earth. Visit www.parducci.com for more information.

Every Day is Earth Day - Review of Cafe Casa's "Green" Wine tasting

Global warming apparently is in full swing just in time for Earth Day, 85 degrees in April? Are you kidding me? Over heated. Surly,. Whatever. I dealt with the heat by attending an event hosted by fellow BrixChick Xandria at a delightful spot, Cafe Casa in Berkeley. Cafe Casa is a cozy place in Berkeley with the requisite crunchy details, but with two striking differences: 1) Chris and 2) Jim. The owners bring their great sense of hospitality and palates to bear on the menu offerings---both food and wine. They put together a super line up for us that started with a crisp refreshing Lady Bug Chardonnay and went all the way through to a lovely Eight Arm Syrah.
While we were enjoying our fabulous noshes: grilled asparagus and prosciutto, stuffed grape leaf, hummus, we got a surprise visit from Iain Boltin, the winemaker for Eight Arms. He goes wa-a-ay beyond wearing his passion on his sleeve, Iain has Eight Arms tattooed on---literally! Check out his cool logo tattoo. And if you get the chance , try his very tasty Syrah. Made in very limited production, Iain follows sustainable practices and donates $1 from each bottle to charities that focus on reducing global warming. Go green. Drink Red. And you will want to drink this wine. With tons of anise and other spice in the nose and well integrated fruit along with more loamy flavors, it was a much different varietal expression than the vibrant, gamy all in fruit forward Syrahs from TTL, but still very good. Restrained and thinner in mouthfeel with rounder tannins, I enjoyed it very much. My absolute favorite was the '05 Benziger Family Merlot, Sonoma County. The greenest of the wines, Benziger's Biodynamic Certification and commitment to driving certified sustainable practices through their grower community is impressive. The wine itself was even more impressive. With bold fruit , white pepper and a silky mouthfeel it was my favorite of the bunch. At our recent Fusebox blending session at Crushpad, I found out that a little Merlot blended in amped up any wine's voluptuosity factor. So though I seldom find myself reaching for a Merlot, I always seem to enjoy it when it lands in my glass. Miles, forgive me. I will be snuffling this Merlot out---especially when I want to do my part to end global warming. Many thanks to Chris and Jim for the great (PS: the Chopin sonatas? Off the hook!) experience. We will be back!
If you want to visit:
3136 Sacramento St(between Woolsey St & 66th St)
Berkeley, CA 94702(510) 654-5410

22 April, 2009

BrixChicks: Green and Sober to Celebrate Earth Day

Okay, so one out of two isn't bad. Xandria and I wanted to celebrate Earth Day by writing about some interesting East Bay things that allowed us to be green by trying local wines and not driving too far to get them. Oh. And we carpooled. First stop, Vintage Berkeley a pretty space with fun things to try and buy. There we met the Dave Parker from Parkmon wines. We tried their Syrah and Sangiovese. We look forward to seeing them later to try their Contra Costa Mourvedre and hopefully snag some of their sold out Viognier. Lamorinda is practically up the block from us, so very green. I had missed the delicious Pinot Noir being poured at previous tasting from Fort Ross, which was the buzz at last years Pinot Days. More from Miss Xandria later. And speaking of Pinot, our next stop was the Wine Mine for a bunch of Pinots, some greener than others. Of course my favorites were David Bruce and AP Vin. David Bruce you all likely know, but AP Vin are Pinot rockstars from San Francisco, who make lovely Pinots that score off the charts if you are into that thing. Or just taste great if you're not. They source fruit from vineyards famous for high quality and produce carefully crafted small batch vintages that you will love. We tried the delightful Rosella's, which hails from one of our favorite Pinot growing spots, the Santa Lucia Highlands. Yum!

The next day, I took my act on the road for the Earth Day in Green Valley celebration.
Iron Horse with their fabulous outdoors digs in Sonoma's Green Valley was the Hot Spot, literally as the temp climbed into the 90's and I hit the AC hard. I tried 400 year old salt from Timbuktu, paired Chardonnay with chocolate and liked it! and was introduced to Wedding Cuvee Sparkler. Beautiful color..kiss of peach...beautiful flavors..creamy mouth feel. This wine tastes like love. Then on to Hartford, where the pairings were so spot on it was amazing. Chardonnay with
melon soup, pinot noir with delicious Bellwether Farms Carmody, Zinfandel with a meatballs in a syrupy sauce. I signed up for the recipes. Tasty. So tasty, I completely forgot about the green theme.
Last stop was Balletto/Dutton Goldfield. Wow! Talk about tasty wine. Pinot Blanc. Perfect for a hot day. Three stellar Pinot Noirs including a delicious Sanchietti Pinot. We had so much fun tasting while Dutton Goldfield's ass't winemaker Brandon [aka @winemakerb] was pouring. We were having a ton of fun. Can you tell? BONUS: They carded Thea and I! Ha! Beautiful us! Beautiful wines! Gorgeous day! Lots to learn about green. Many thanks to Joy Sterling from Iron Horse and all who drove the celebrations. And Happy Earth Day to you!

21 April, 2009

Laurent Sauvage, Robert Skalli Family Wines and Exceptional QPR from the Languedoc

Recently on a perfect Spring evening in San Francisco, we got the chance to visit a super spot, Cav Wine Bar and get to meet the winemaker for Robert Skalli Wines, Laurent Sauvage. BrixChick Janesta and I met with fellow winebloggers, there where we were greeted with a sparkler, Cremant de Jura, a lovely toasty, appley palate cleanser. And then when Laurent arrived, the fireworks started with the Fortant and Robert Skalli branded wines. Sometimes French wine can all seem very expensive (damn that Euro!) and inaccessible. This was so not that wine. I have pages of notes documenting my surprise and delight. To start, we found out a lot about the Skalli philosophy. Going back to Robert Skalli's father Francis, who originally began producing wine in Algeria based on French varietals, then moved in the early '60's to the South of France. In the 70's Robert Skalli visited Robert Mondavi and came away inspired to drive varietal wines in the South of France in place of the traditional appellation based offerings. Today, the holdings also include the St. Supery label in Rutherford as well as Maison Bouachon in Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape. Interesting, but what was even more fascinating was the actual tasting portion. The first wine up was an `'07, Fortant Chandonnay which was unoaked and had aromas of Fuji apples and tropical and figgy flavors. And still a refreshing minerality. At only $6.99 ($6.99?!?!) it had phenomenal QPR.

Next came the '06, Robert Skalli Chardonnay ($15.99). This had similar aromas and flavors--pears, figs, stonefruit, but also had a more sophisticated structure, but still had that pleasant freshness and vibrant fruit. I had been eyeing the '07 Fortant Merlot Rose, which had a lovely salmon pink color, a sweetish aromas and an lovely acidity. It was perfect for the warm evening. Next up, '07 Robert Skalli, Pinot Noir
Grown close to the Corsican mountains, where shade and cool enable an interesting expression of Pinot Noir. Almost like a reformed bad boy, it has flavors of cherry, spices, and something slightly gamy. The flavors and mouthfeel possessed an interesting quality of freshness. '06 Fortant Merlot was delicious. No oak aging let the fruit shine through. This was a great example of the wine making philosophy where he is able to source fruit from several regions to bring together an optimal expression of the grape by selecting fruit from one region to bring freshness, another for the silky texture and another for the fruit expression. Laurent works with over 80 growers to bring this alchemy together. Again, $6.99! My note was that this would make a super "ringer" wine when blind tasting.
'06 Fortant CabernetAgain, $6.99 and DELIGHTFUL!!! A little bell pepper in the nose, Fresh black currant flavors with an undercurrent of baking spice. Long, soft, subtle tannins like newborn baby starfish. '06 Robert Skalli Cabernet Sauvignon At 15.99 this tasted and smelled delicious. It had some tobacco scents and mocha notes. The flavors were lovely fruit--blueberry and a little pepper. Would be a great cheese wine.

And my favorite: '06 Robert Skalli, Syrah-Grenache, Languedoc. Tia brought up the concept of "garrigue" which is a french term meaning infused with the elements of terroir, in this case, the classic south of France elements of rosemary, lavender, honey, thyme, earth, and of course the restrained use of oak, which allows that nice triumvirate of freshness, fruit and (mineral)/earth. At $18.99, still a great bargain.
Many of the Skalli wines feature the image of the modern sculpture that echoes the shape of a grape vine, and also represents modern art, including the modern art of winemaking. But in this case, art that is affordable, accessible and delicious. Dazzle your friends with the French labels. Come back for the delicious taste!

20 April, 2009

Hospice Du Rhone Twitter Taste Live at ESTATE in Sonoma

Springtime in Sonoma at the beautiful ESTATE property. Add the great cuisine this restaurant puts out. Throw in some great expressions of Rhone varietals. Then complete the melange with the ability to sit with the winemakers and it is one spectacular evening. And that was before the amazing Twitter Taste Live extravaganza. Xandria and I braved the traffic and believed the GPS when he dragged us through San Rafael, but we still got there early enough to tour the lovely space Estate has and meet Sondra Bernstein who owns and runs Estate among other things, including the girl and the fig. The restaurant sits in a beautiful and historic Sonoma Victorian, but the layout and decor make the location warm and inviting as well as timelessly modern and super comfortable. The food was amazing. Starting with warm bread and burratta then moving into a delightful crisp salad, we were chatting and eating and drinking a lot of great wine. Xandria and I were lucky enough to find two seats together in the outdoor seating area. At our table was Charlie, the wine maker from Cline pouring his tasty wine.. Also at our table were the talented and very entertaining Verge folks, Emily, Jay and Mike, who had brought along some of their limited production Syrah which we enjoyed very much. A beautiful dark color, I tasted blueberry, blackberry, cassis and forest floor. Yum! Shane Finley, who produces Shane wine, also a magnificent Syrah, this one from Mendocino County. It was at once smoked meat, fruit and deliciousness. I fit right in having brought a Tanner Syrah from my favorite, Twisted Oaks. We had tasty Syrah for days! I tried some other things, all good, but they were not as memorable as those vivid Syrahs! Along with the fresh pasta and English peas carbonara, and polenta with wild mushrooms infused with white truffle oil the perfect match were those gamy, spicy, fruity, peppery offerings. We also got to meet Randall Graham from Boony Doon, and Molly Lippett from Paradigm. The Twitter Taste Live portion of the evening was so fun! We had our dessert (Cheese) on the back patio. And all the fabulous wines we tweeted about:

Tablas Creek Cotes de Tablas Blanc 2007

Tablas Creek Mourvedre 2006

Kinton Syrah 2005

Verge Syrah 2006

Yangarra Estate Shiraz 2006

I also wangled an Unti Grenache, which I loved.

It was a party not to be missed! I got to meet/see many of my Twitter pals live, @Mychael, @DMhoro, @sharayray, @sonadora, Many thanks to the hard work put in by Estate, The Jug Shop, Vinquire and of course, Hospice Du Rhone. A great (if a littel blurry) time was had by all!

15 April, 2009

My Brain is in a Knot... a review of a Riesling and an Icewine

Preparing my taxes was excruciating. I started them in March but I needed a month to revisit TurboTax multiple times to add more information or check my additions. Well last night was my last chance to do a "do-over", catch a mistake or delete and start over - so I sealed the envelope and blessed my work with a glass or... bottle of Estancia 2008 Riesling - a good choice with its balance of sugar and acidity to clear a completely knotted neck and brain. The Riesling's aroma of apples and peaches with a hint of honey paired well with my recovery dinner of Truffle cheese and crackers. It may not sound like a balanced dinner but in my state of mind it was a true comfort. The Estancia Riesling comes from the Monterey appellation where the cool climate and long growing season let this old world grape develop its sweetness.

Continuing to seek out a sweet spin on the refund that will not be coming to my house,
I poured a glass of Jackson-Triggs 2007 Icewine to pair with my fruit tart from Whole Foods.
My thanks to ICON Estates for sending this little bottle of bold fruit flavours. It was my first taste of this unique wine. So I needed to find out what defined it? As with all wines its the land, the climate and the fermentation. Icewines are made under strictly controlled conditions. In Canada, where the Jackson-Triggs wine is produced, grapes must be picked by hand after temperatures reach a hard frost of at least 17 degrees. The rock-hard grapes are crushed while still frozen. Fermentation is done in stainless steel producing wines with both sweetness and a balancing acidity. I enjoyed the taste of mango, apples and pineapple balanced with fine acidity and a silky finish. I will try this wine as a dessert wine served by itself.

Wishing you many sweet returns.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #56 Kosher Wines - Review of 2007 Sion Creek White

When I was little, I quite enjoyed Manischewitz. My brother and I were bad, bad kids and when my Catholic godmother's Jewish husband brought delicious deli, tasty macaroons and of course Concord Grape, we stole it all. The grownups were swilling Bourbon and Tom Collins's anyway and it was not missed. So when people cap on the Concord grape, I think with some fondness of the Kool-Aid taste. But I also drank a lot of White Zin in the 80's, so am still making expiation to my palate. With this WBW, I again used my proven method and slunk into the Wine Mine to take advantage of David Sharp's very excellent palate for a solid recommendation. Dependable as always, his pick was great! This '07 Sion Creek White, Galilee is an intensely aromatic wine that release a puff of perfume at the first tug on the cork. A lovely pale yellow color, it was a mercurial wine, which changed in the glass substantially as the evening progressed. Right out of the bottle, I smelled flowers, peaches, apricots and honey. The flavors were smooth and the acid profile delightfully smooth. I had the worst pairing elements available and the wine stood up to my perverse combinations. A little cave aged gruyere? Okay. European artichoke with melted butter? Tasty. What I should have had was more of my mom's very excellent Matzoh Ball Soup. Yum!

The wine's medium mouthfeel surprised me. It looked like it would have a thinner texture in the mouth, but it was pleasantly substantial. An hour later the spices and sweetness in the aromas really came out. I smelled glazed donut, with a sweet, almost cinnamony scent and the same rolling mouth feel. More spice in the flavor as well. Even later, a flavor of dried pears and dried pineapple and slight sourness emerged Very interesting.

This wine was labelled "Kosher For Passover Lamehadrin" In the notes it said NOT Meshuval. Reading about the different levels of Kosher certification and the processes to make the wine acceptable to observant Jews in addition to the normal challenges of wine making was interesting. Mevushal wines have been heated to 87 degrees celcius for 22 seconds. The vineyards must maintain strict controls over who handles the vines, even including using GPS to manage the vineyards vine by vine. The growers must observe the "Shmita" or traditional laying fallow of the land every seven years and cancelling debts. All materials that touch the wine must be documented to follow regulations of kashrut. If all this is done, Mevushal wine is certified Kosher and can be touched, poured, handled by gentiles and still remain Kosher. Whew! Now I know all that it makes the Concord Grape seem more plausible. As difficult an art that winemaking is in the best climates, imagine all those restrictions and the political climate of the Golan Heights! Hats off to the plucky Kosher winemaker's who bring a great product to the market in compliance and respect to truly ancient ways.

In the Red at Tax Time - Review of two California 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Red Letter day! And not just because my friends at Icon Estates, gifted me with two super fun Cabernet's. I am getting a refund! But the drama? What I really need at tax time is a drink. Maybe two. Or 10. Whatever. What I would do without TurboTax is beyond me. I haven't busted out a calculator since the early 90's. Which incidentally is the score racked up by the scrappy folks at Paso Creek for their '06 Paso Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles. The way they describe it I didn't know whether to date it or drink it, " brawny and ripe, full-bodied, juicy, and intense" Add brooding and out of work and I would be all in. But I digress. It's wine. So I drank it. I liked the intensity of the color. Dark and inky. The aroma was inviting. With cherry, berry, spice and vanilla, the scent belied a tasty classic Cab. With grippy tannins and taste of cocoa on my tongue from the wine, I reached for a handful of dark chocolate from the dessert table and was pleasantly surprised. The chocolate went very well bringing up the brambly taste and smoothing out the assertive tannins. I love a grippy Cab! Next up was one of my favorite things in the world: a Napa Cab.

'06 Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. After the good experience with the Paso Creek, I geared up for another taste treat. I was not disappointed. Out of the bottle, the wine was fragrant with dark berry, subtle spice and a lovely vanilla-cherry. In the mouth is had a smooth food friendly character that I described with an intensely technical scrawl. One word. Delicious. Slight tinge of cedar and lovely flavors of cherry, berry and pepper. It went well with the herbaceous and perfectly roasted chicken and vegetable platter it drew as a food match. This wine was smooth enough to pair well with a lot of food I would imagine. At $28, it seemed like an excellent value for a Cab from Napa from a name you would recognize. The winemaker's notes call out the blend : 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Syrah. A skilled hand balanced all those elements together into a cohesive whole that left me in the black. Black berry deliciousness and a wine I am sure to tap again. After all, I'm getting a refund. Whee!

14 April, 2009

The Duke and his Steed- A review of Ruffino Ducale Riserva Chianti and Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Need some help dealing with the hell of taxes? How about some lovely wines to help ease the pain and angst of it all? As luck would have it ICON Estates sent the Brixchicks some wines to try and just in time. They sent us six samples and I chose the Pinot Noir and the Chianti to help assuage my "taxing" anxieties.

Ruffino Ducale 2005 Riserva Chianti
This noble Chianti from the hills of Tuscany is aged for 24 months in oak barrrels(hence the Riserva label.) The oak is very well-integrated and there are just hints on the nose. The nose shows profound dark fruits, especially black cherry and blackberry. I also got some earthy, flint-like notes. Mouthfeel has gripping tannins along with high acidity and it is a perfect food wine. We enjoyed it with cheeses and roasted chicken. Although drinkable now I think this duke will age beautifully.

Wild Horse 2007 Central Coast Pinot NoirThe young and savage horse brings heady aromas of kerosene and asphalt which cover fruity notes of cranberry and strawberry. It is a lovely light garnet. This steed has really gotten around the appellations of the Central Coast and the fruit comes from Paso Robles, Bien Nacido and and various vineyards in San Luis Obispo. This is a well-balanced wine that I would love to eat with some pork with a cranberry-infused sauce.

Together these two have traversed much territory from the appellations of the Central Coast to the fertile hills of Siena and Florence. Thank goodness I can be an armchair traveller/drinker since I cannot afford any kind of trip due to my excessive tax bill...

Thanks ICON estates, and many happy (tax) returns to you all, Love, Xandria

2008 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay

In my family Easter means wine. Well, any holiday really. This past Sunday we were all focused on low carb, low cal, high taste goodness and opted for a non-traditional but light and tasty Asian Chicken salad. Crisp, flavorful and delightful, but what to pair? Lucky for me, while the Easter Bunny had loaded me up with Peeps galore, Icon Estates had sent me a lovely bottle of '08 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay to try. While the table was being set, I sat down to test in earnest this wine. At first glance the color was lovely, a clear golden straw. In fragrance it had a whisper of toasty yeast, a crackle of citrus and hints of dried pineapple and peach. One sip and I tasted yellow grapefruit with an under note of savory tropical fruit and a hint of green honeydew. Smooth and rich, it had a subtle but tasty acidity that made it go well with the Matzo ball Soup (hey, we're ecumenical!) and also served as a great accompaniment to the fresh herbs, crunchy veg and spicy peanuts. Dad and sister-in-law gave two thumbs up...well two empty glasses bottoms up is more like it as Los Tres Winos almost fought over the last golden drops. An easy drinking wine with an easy open screw cap, I found it very tasty. At around $18 it is a great wine to bring to any dinner, lunch or book club as it will appeal to many palates. It should be easy to find, but as always if you need help in your area, ping Vinquire

13 April, 2009

Dreaming of St. Supery - Story about our recent visit

The weekend before Easter, I was lucky enough to be invited to a Blogger's Conference hosted by the amazing team at St. Supery. Lesley Russell, Emma Swain, Tina Cao, Michaela Rodeno, Josh Anstey and Ron Barber produced an wonderful introduction to St. Supery on a picture perfect Spring Saturday in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Napa Valley (yes, Janesta's GPS, the Napa Valley, but thanks for the detour through Sonoma). Once we arrived, all three BrixChicks thought we had been turned into Disney princesses as we toured the vineyard, tasted the wine and devoured the sublime lunch. All the while accompanied and welcomed by the entire St. Supery team. It was a stunningly lovely event and words do not convey the great job they did hosting. Along with Lisa De Bruin, Shana Ray, Ward Kadel, and Russ Beebe, and of course, Thea Dwelle. We knew it was a magical day, because Thea made it through the whole event with out smashing, spilling or otherwise creating havoc with wine. Or maybe it was because that wine tastes just that good. After an informative walk in the vineyard, where Josh instilled in all of us a respect for St. Supery's viticulture, answered our questions and filled us with unrequited longing for the heirloom peaches grown on property, we ventured up to the Divine Light Tasting Room and we were treated to a selection of delicious wine. Expect more detailed notes on the wines from my fellow BrixChicks, but allow me to wax ecstatic about my favorite: '05 St. Supery Cabernet Blend, Rutherford. While each glass seemed to taste more delicious than the previous and the Cab blend was the last glass, I was still fascinated by the fragrance, flavor and mouthfeel of this wine. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Merlot, a trio of fallen angels tempting you with a siren's song would be easier to resist. Delicious aromas of cassis, cherry, with a touch of mocha wafted from the glass. It tasted of more black currants, cherries and a whisper of tobacco. The succulent silky mouthfeel was described by Russ as having "HVF" or High Voluptuosity Factor. Voluptuous for sure.

From the tasting room, we walked to a lovely spot under a tree with the table beautifully set. A progression of courses that were matched perfectly to the St. Supery wines promenaded by and were devoured. The Goat Cheese souffle with tiny delightful tomatoes for color and a pop of acid was at once rich and light. The gourmet gray salt on the tables provided a delicious crunch. Next came perfectly crisp Cornish Game hen with Israeli couscous and English peas. A cheese plate rounded out the lunch, all paired elegantly each with its perfect wine. And just when we thought we were happily full, they brought out house made truffles; chocolate, dark as sin, simple, coconut or hazelnut. St. Supery honey was the secret ingredient to the sensuous delights. Now truly full, I still looked to the future and stocked up on the wines I tasted. Later I found that in addition to the generous gift of more wine, they had also provided more recipes. Expect a DIY St. Supery dinner for a special occasion TBD. Speaking of DIY, I highly recommend St. Supery wines for your home wine pairing experiments. The whites are crisp and food friendly. The reds are supple, complex and delicious. They stand up easily on their own as great sipping wines and also pair well with food. The Elu and Virtu sport labels with beautiful vignettes of the namesake saint, Supery. A great discovery for this Little Foodie! So on your next visit to Napa, make plans to visit and see for yourself:
All in all a fabulous experience. Many thanks to the team at St. Supery for hosting, but also for the many hours of skilled dedication it takes to put out such a quality offering.
Time for a tummy rub? Great idea, GG!

10 April, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday - 6.2009 Dishdash, Sunnyvale CA

Lured by the collective draw of Luscious Lush Thea, Winehiker Russ and new friend, Calipiddy, I planned my day around staying in the South Bay and was not the CHP's bane on Northbound 880 as I normally am. Am I glad I did!

DishDash, located in Sunnyvale on that adorable Murphys Avenue is a suburban oasis. The decor is lovely with dark, rich finishes and swoopy drapery. The menu rocked the Mediterranean delights with tiny, tasty falafel balls and all the fixings. Baba ganoush, hummus, and other freshly housemade snacks, supported our convivial mini Tweetup. Proprietor, Emad came over and introduced us personally to his philosophy and concept. He used the same decorator who did Necktar Wine Bar in SF and has recently added a wine focus to distinguish his location from others in the neighborhood. A nice job he did too, with many options by the glass and many more by the bottle. To train his staff, he created a mini matrix so that even if the servers are unfamiliar with the wine, they have a reference to comment and suggest suitable food pairs. And bonus, he expressed to us his desire to keep prices low so people can drink more. You have to love that.

So if you find yourself in Sunnyvale and want to grab a tasty snack or meal and want to experience something special, try Dishdash. A caravansary for the people!

So if we apply Xandria's criteria:
Affordability - With many plates you can share and nice selections by the glass, the affordability factor here is good

Wine list - Great selection with a focus on value

Wait staff- Very attentive and while not seasoned or wine focused, management definitely gives them the tools to be effective.

Food- Fresh and delicious with authentic Mediterranean spices. I am still dreaming of the baba ganoush.

In summary, a great Silicon Valley destination when you want some great food and good wine:
190 s. murphy street
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 774-1889

05 April, 2009

Mendocino Wines in San Francisco - "Taste of Mendocino" April 7th, 2009, The Presidio, San Francisco

Did you know that Mendocino County is calling itself the Greenest Wine Region? They are about to prove it to members of the wine trade and media with their first annual Taste of Mendocino event sponsored by the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission. Over 60 wineries will be showcasing their wines along with artisan goodies from the region. Most of these wineries are using sustainable practices, organic production, Demeter-certified Biodynamic® techniques and fish-friendly farming. I cannot wait to explore these different wineries and meet the winemakers. And eat a lot cheese...Hope to see a lot of wine bloggers there!

Trade and media credentials are required. To RSVP contact Danielle Coe or Ben Martin of Paige Poulos Communications at (800) 497-3376 or Mendocino@paigepoulos.com

Please visit Mendowine.com

03 April, 2009

The Land is the Brand - an afternoon at Kendall Jackson

I had a transcendental experience with my friend Alexis who was visiting from LA. Alexis took me to visit a long time friend of hers who is now one of my favs as well! Cory Jones has spent about 13 years at Kendall Jackson and currently manages the selling relationship with their channel.
Corey showed us the best of the KJ properties that we could fit into a short 5 hours. Our fault for the late start. We tasted too many martinis the night before! However late we were, the Matanzas Creek wine and lavender estate in Bennett Valley was breathtakingly beautiful and beckoned us to spend some serious time tasting wine. I am already planning a return trip to see the lavender in full bloom! First I must say a little bit about the land... Bennett Valley is an exquisite viticulture, surrounded by Sonoma Mountain and Taylor peak. Our host, Cory reviewed the basics of how wines become the memorable experience we were about to taste. He said the Kendall Jackson folks believe the land is the brand and in Bennett Valley the land has long been a bountiful agricultural site that enjoys cool winds that encourage a longer growing season. The fermentation of these mature berries is key - so they use barrels that are made from Oak from France to toast the wines to the desired smoothness. The last leg to the plan for delivering a great bottle of wine is the fermentation and KJ has an edge on softening malicacid. Enough about how the wine is made we were dying for our first taste of Matanzas' jewels.

We started with an '07 Savignon Blanc that was full of citrus fruit aroma and taste. I'm a Savignon girl so this was very pleasing to me. Alexis wanted to know when the Pinot was being poured (hint: her favorite from a previous trip to Matanzas). The '06 Chardonnay was ever so creamy with an earthy finish. Next Corey suggested we try a Rose' of Merlot that suprised me with its crispness and adaptability. It was great to get re-acquainted with a Rose' - I have memories of Rose' wine in college with almost no details. However, I will think of this Rose' of Merlot when I am perplexed about what to take to my next dinner party. The '07 Pinot Noir is Alexis fav and I was fully impressed with the taste of raspberry and spiciness of this silky wine. We all raved about the '05 Merlot, the premier vineyard designate merlot. I loved the floral notes followed by a nice peppery finish. I'm looking forward to drinking my own bottle of this soon.
Enough for now. Next stop - Kendall Jackson Tasting room

Twickets! - You have to Play!!!!

Wine 2.0 was super fun! More on that later. But I got a chance to connect with one of my favorite people, Barbara Drady, who brings the term "Passion for Pinot" to a different stratosphere. She is running a game called "Twickets"

More here:
Play The New Twitter Game Twickets & Win A Free Ticket to the Pinot Noir Summit.
Tweet the Magic Word and Win a FREE ticket to the Pinot Noir Summit
Wine Evangelist is launching a new game on Twitter. It’s easy and fun. This new game is called TWICKETS — and it could be your ticket to a FREE ticket to the Pinot Noir Summit on April 5th in San Rafael, California.
All you have to do is play Twickets - the right tweet & you might WIN.
Here are the rules:
Peeps send tweets to @wineevangelist discussing whatever is on their minds. Be casual. Be conversational. Just tweet it!
IF the tweet contains one of the MAGIC WORDS on the Wine Evangelist’s list, you WIN a FREE TICKET to the Passionate About Pinot Noir Event, which will be held in sunny San Rafael, CA

Two hints: 1)The "Magic Word" is not always wine related...2)HURRY! Pinot Summit is April 5th so tweet like a drunken parakeet and show your passion for pinot!

02 April, 2009

Barefoot Wines at Bookclub - A review of Barefoot Wines Bubbly Cuvee, Pinot Grigio and Zinfandel

Barefoot Wine. BDSM. British History. Spring is in the air and our Wine Club...ooops! I mean Book club, was in force and feeling frisky as we discussed perennial favorite Jane Austen's PERSUASION in comparison to the shiveringly raw and emotional NINE AND 1/2 WEEKS, a true story by Elizabeth McNeill. Since Barefoot Wines had been kind enough to send the BrixChicks a sample box of three wines, I thought what a great way to try three bottles of wine without getting too snockered. I was happy I did.

While BrixChick Janesta, hostess for the afternoon finished up food prep, we puppy piled in her kitchen and sipped the Barefoot Pinot Grigio. I smelled delicious Bartlett pears and was liking the clear pale straw color. Drinking it I found a little bit of a sour finish and wished I had saved it to pair with the salad. However, while Red-wine-Loving Cris agreed with me, White-Wine-Focused Ann found it tasty and refreshing. Interesting perspective. We kicked off our snacks and discussion sesh with a Bubbly Brut Cuvee toast. I had sourced some fresh picked Watsonville strawberries to dunk in each flute. The green apple and toasty aromas wafted over and above the fragrant berry. It was also delicious with the bacon wrapped prawn.

To accompany a spirited discussion about love, choices, power, society, writing, character and personal experience, we cracked open the Barefoot Zinfandel. With a vanilla-chocolate aroma that had spice enough to stand up to Janesta's fabulous Tuscan Casserole, we fueled our discussion with a serviceable Zin. A softer Zin than Francine liked, it went well with the food and was not too aggressive for the palates that prefer white wine.

Slightly tipsy, we leapt from sexual mores of Regency England to straight- up BDSM and managed, as always, to have great time. Many thanks to Barefoot for the samples as well as Alexis, Ann, Cris, Francine and hostess with the mostess, BrixChick Janesta. Next month: ENDERS GAME. I'll need to go forward in time to find some futures to pair! ;)