09 September, 2010

Rave Wine and Food Pairing of the Month - Octopus and Vermentino!

Who does not love a good deal especially in the world of fine dining?  The Brixchicks certainly do (especially when one of them is unemployed!)  So when BrixChick Liza found a $45 prix fixe menu featuring Sardinian cuisine at San Francisco's Jardiniere we jumped on it.  Three courses including wine for $45 on a Monday night at a well-known SF resto.  SCORE! 
Being a lover of seafood there was one course that really stood out to me which was the Octopus Salad paired with a Vermentino from Sardinia.  Here are the details:
The Wine - 2008 Canayli Vermentino di  Gallura Superiore DOCG Sardinia
Vermentino is the most widely-grown white grape on the Italian island of Sardinia.  This wine is a medium straw color.  There are aromas of orange blossom, herbs, coconut and green pepper.  The thing about this dry white wine is that it is acidic yet it has a smooth texture on the palate.  It totally gratified my discerning palate that is not usually so gratified by dry white wines!
The Food - Salad of Octopus with potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs on a pool of aioli
If you have never eaten octopus because you are afraid it may be chewy and tough, perish the thought!  Octopus is tender and mild and delicious.  In this particular salad the glistening chunks of octopus swim in a pool of garlic aioli with acidic tomatoes and supple pieces of potatoes all sprinkled with oregano and thyme. 
 Together the wine and octopus become a symphony of smooth and acidic flavors complementing one another.  It was heavenly.
And yes, the rest of the prix fixe was fantastic which included roasted pork, pork belly terrine and fennel salad which was expertly paired with a Sicilian Nero D'Avola.  Dessert was Semolina Cake with bruleed figs accompanied by a Late harvest Moscato from Napa.  If you are are in search of a new yet inexpensive dining adventure on a Monday night go to www.jardiniere.com to make a reservation. 

08 September, 2010

Fleming's Tasting Menu - a pictorial!

Everything was just perfect...

Liza and I got a great introduction to the menu at Fleming's in Palo Alto, CA. If you think the food looks good, I wish you could have tasted it. Paired with a lovely Sanford Chardonnay and Frog's Leap Merlot, we had a memorable meal, courtesy of the great team at Fleming's.

Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli - 5/5 stars I call it "Umami Heaven."

Crab Louis Salad

Prime New York Strip Steak with peppercorns and porcini dust - one of the best steak dishes I have had in Northern CA.

Tilamook Sole

Roasted Carrots with golden raisins and almonds

Lava Cake! Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!

Creme Brulee

Executive Chef Chris Bennett at Fleming's Palo Alto and managing partner Wayne Hanseth are standing by, ready to make your next occaison special

While some of these seasonal offerings are gone, it's definitlely worth it to become a "friend of Flemings:
Sign up here:
To keep up with the new treats for "Friends of Flemings" every month.

They have state of the art video teleconferencing and BrixChick Liza has used them to bring several states together for fun and informative and super green (No air travel!) meetings.  Flemings works with you to provide the right time zone offerings from cocktails in Miami to steak and Artemis in Palo Alto for memorable meetings that are a breeze to plan!

Wine Thursdays at Flemings

Earlier this Spring, Xandria and I had the good luck to get invited to a preview of Fleming's menu.   I didn't even know that the "P.F." in P.F. Changs was Paul Fleming, but it was great to hear the story, taste the wine pairings and enjoy all that Fleming's has to offer.  Since then, I have been back several times and always enjoyed it.  Having just come off a steak-stravaganza where we ate at Morton's and Ruths Chris, I ended up deciding that of the Big Three Steak houses, Fleming's had the tastiest meat. I also just discovered a cool thing they offer: "Opening Night Wines". Every Thursday in September, from 5:30 - 7:00, they will offer 20 of their 100 wine list along with light hors d'oeuvres for a great QPR of $25.  Yum! Prepayment is required, space is limited and you can book by phone and find out more here

The hardest thing is going to be figuring out how to get to as many Opening Nights as possible!

Here's a preview of the wine selections:

• MIONETTO, Extra Dry Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Italy NV
• GLORIA FERRER, Blanc de Noirs Sonoma County NV

White Wines of Interest
• CONUNDRUM, California, 2008

Sauvignon Blanc
• MULDERBOSCH, Stellenbosch South Africa, 2009
• KIM CRAWFORD, Marlborough New Zealand, 2007

• RUFFINO, Toscana Libaio Italy, 2008
• ARROWOOD, Sonoma County Reserve, 2006

Pinot Noir
• A to Z WINEWORKS, Oregon, 2008
• SCHUG, Sonoma Coast, 2007

Red Wines of Interest
• FAMILIA ZUCCARDI, Malbec Mendoza Q Argentina, 2007

Syrah/Shiraz/Petite Sirah/Zinfandel
• PETER LEHMANN, Clancy's Barossa Australia, 2005/2007*
• CHAPOUTIER, Crozes-Hermitage La Petite Ruche France, 2008
• RED DIAMOND, Washington, 2007
• FLORA SPRINGS, Napa Valley, 2007
Cabernet / Cabernet Blend
• 14 HANDS, Washington, 2006/2007*
• SENSUAL, Mendoza Argentina, 2009
• PARÉS BALTÀ, Cabernet-Garnacha Penedés Mas Petit Spain, 2007
• CHATEAU MONTELENA, Napa Valley, 2006
• CHAPPELLET, Napa Valley Mountain Cuveé, 2007/2008

*The available vintage varies by location

07 September, 2010

"Where Coyotes Outnumber Tourists..." - Review of VinRoc Wine Caves

Winding my way from the flats of the East Bay all the way up to VinRoc Wine Caves location, elevation 1600 ft, I definitely felt outnumbered by wildlife. The springlike weather, in-progress main house and gorgeous, pastoral space made me expect Heathcliff rather than hosts Kiky Lee and Micheal Parmenter.  But once the rest of the group, Amy Cleary, Thea Dwelle and Marcy Gordon arrived and the tour began, it was the wine that took center stage.  We started with a lovely Enjoie Dry Rose ($14).   Made from a blend of grenache and barbera, it had a dark (for rose) watermelon color, interesting aromas (Marcy said "hint of portlike scent")  with a touch of coconut and cherries.  Bone dry, with complex flavors, the wine went well with turkey, salad and fruit.  And at 12.5% alcohol, a porch friendly sipper.  Next, we tried the Enjoie RTW ($40), a Bordeaux blend billed as the "little Brother" of the flagship VinRoc Cabernet.  A blend of mostly Merlot, purchased, and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on property, this "friends and family" wine, went down easily and left me eager to sample the flagship.  First, a tour of the caves and an introduction to the VinRoc philosophy.  Since all the fruit comes from the property and they have all the processing equipment right there too, they can completely control the process in an intriguing small batch production.  Michael "micro"manages the fruit, picking one ton at a time... cluster by cluster if needed... and processes the fruit in smaller bins, where they are seeded and stemmed right away.  The grapes are handled carefully, letting gravity crush them, and each bin is processed to allow VinRoc to blend the best batches together into the VinRoc.  We tried the '06 VinRoc Wine Caves Cabernet Sauvignon ($100).    And speaking of wildlife, this totally brought out the Wine Cougar in me.  The aromas were cedar, chocolate and black fruit.  Careful management of the fruit controls the extraction to produce complex aromas and flavors without overt fruitiness.  A lovely warm finish and I was hooked.  Yes, I agreed that it is young, but I found it completely drinkable now. Rowr!
Vin Roc produces between 200-300 cases a year.  They are sold in several fine dining places in SF and LA including Michael Mina and Gary Danko.  Or you can order directly from the winery if you live in CA, AZ or NY.  But if you are visiting it is definitely worth a trip here to experience this unique part of Napa.    Email cheers@vinrocnapa.com for more info.  The VinRoc offerings flow from the landscape and  provide great expression of Atlas Peak as well as the unique perspective of the owners. 

03 September, 2010

Friday Night: Cesar's Sangria

 Holy Labor Day, Batman! With all the craZiness lately it's been hard  to find time to raise a glass. but knowing Xandria and I, we manage. Tonight a cozy spot I need to be reminded of, Cesar's. Arguably the  East Bay's best Sangria and Happy Hour till 6:30. While I was  finishing up the day job, Xandria was snagging a table and ordering. And more importantly unlocking the sangria's secret: Moscato d'Asti
for florally effervescence, Ruby Port for a tasty kick. All this with a snappy balance of tart and sweet. Fast service that will cheerfully get you to your movie on time or let you linger. Try it  if you're around!
4039 Piedmont Avenue

17 August, 2010

San Francisco Natual Wine Week - Let's drink some Natural F***ing Wine!

San Francisco Natual Wine Week will soon be upon us starting August 23, 2010. So it is time we examine what exactly "natural" wines are. Are these the wines of choice of insufferable San Francisco hipsters? Are they wines for those irreverent individuals who want to make a statement against "corporate wines" made for the masses? Well, blogger Lyle Fass(www.rockssandfruit.blogspot.com) has made this video to answer all of your questions. Listen in as the robotic hipster drones opine about sulpher and sulfites and natural yeasts. It's funny. And informative.

Here is the link for SF Natural Wine Week www.sfnaturalwineweek.wordpress.com
Participants include some of the best wineshops and restaurants in San Francisco. I personally will be attending the August 26th event at Terroir to meet Sicilian winemaker Ariana Occhipinti and taste her brilliant Nero D'Avolas and Frappatos.

And then there's that really fun music and wine pairing event at Heart Wine Bar on Friday, August 27th. Mad beats and natural wines, natural food and puppets. See all you f***ing hipsters there...

22 July, 2010

The Ancient Wines of Campania from Fattoria Alois

I recently attended an Italian wine-tasting and had the pleasure of meeting Massimo Alois, winemaker and marketing/pr manager of Fattoria Alois in the Italian region of Campania. He is the son of Michele Alois and their winery, Fattoria Alois, is located in the Caitini mountains in the province of Caserta. Before they became winemakers the Alois family was known for their successful textile business. Massimo’s English is excellent so that evening I learned a lot about the regional wines of Campania and about the "ancient" varietals recently discovered in Campania. Andiamo!

Massimo with his nephew, the next generation of Alois winemakers.

A very short oeno-history of Campania
Campania is a region in southwestern Italy, and the major city is Napoli (Naples). As you can see from the maps below there are many wine-producing areas in Campania but I am focusing on Caserta which is where Alois is located in the Caitini Mountains. This is volcano country and this winery is approximately midway between the active Mt. Vesuvius and the inactive Monte Nuovo. As for wine, the major red varietal is Aglianico, and the major whites are Greco di Tufo, Fiano Avellino and Falanghina.

Wine-producing areas of Campania

The Land of Wine
Campania has a history of being conquered by neighboring foreigners, starting with the ancient Greeks who were overwhelmed by the variety of grapes causing them to call Southern Italy “Oenetria” or land of wine. However, the Greeks brought their own vine cuttings with them and indeed, the Aglianico varietal is thought to have originated from a Greek grape and the Greek word for "Greek" is “hellenico.” On a more recent note the Bourbon Kings of France “situated” themselves in the region in the 1800s. The favored wine was white wine made of the Pallagrello Bianco varietal which was totally wiped in the phylloxera plague of the late 1800's.

The "Pre-phylloxera" varietals of Campania
Twenty years ago there was a government project devoted to finding ancient varietals that survived phylloxera attacks but that were no longer being cultivated. Well, the findings resulted in many re-discoveries and Alois is bringing these varietals back to life. These “rediscovered” varietals include Pallagrello Bianco, Pallagrello Nero and Casavecchia. The origins are believed to be from ancient Greece. More on these in my tasting notes below.

Tasting Notes and More
That evening we tasted two whites and four reds. Before I give my tasting notes here is some general info about the wines:

-These wines have all earned “IGT” status which in the Italian "wine laws" stands for “Indicazione Geografica Tipico”. This basically means that the wine comes from a specified geographical location but that grape varietals from other locations may be used.

-Alcohol levels: All wines come in between 12% to 13.5%

-Very few of their wines are fermented or aged in oak.

-As I mentioned before, the winery is situated between two volcanoes, one of which is still active. Yes, this means the grapes grow in volcanic soils and there are traces (sometimes strong) of ashy minerality in the nose and palate of these wines.

I Vini
2009 Michele Alois “Caulino” – Made of Falanghina – light gold in the glass, light mineral notes and light citrus notes on the nose, this is a dry, acidic white wine that has a silky mouthfeel, savory notes and a long linger. This white is fermented in stainless steel and no oak is used for fermentation or ageing.

2009 Michele Alois “Caiati” – 100% Pallagrello Bianco one of the “pre-phylloxera” varietals. Less mineral more fruit, medium gold with peach and green apple notes on the nose. This varietal was the favored wine of the Bourbons and I swear it reminded me of a light and pure Chardonnay.

2007 Michele Alois “Settimo” blend of Pallagrello Nero and Cassavecchia – toasty, cinnamon spicy, dark red fruits on nose and palate. Mineral finish. Nicely balanced.

2007 Michele Alois “Campole” blend of Aglianico and and a bit of Pallagrello Nero – nose of cherry liquer and berry cobbler. Palate is very minerally. A bitter edge that smooths out on the back of my palate. The more I drink the more I want…complex and balanced. (my favorite) This wine is screaming for "Cioccolata!"

2008 Michele Alois “Murella” 100% Pallagrello Nero – this actually has some aging in French oak barrels lending oak and spice notes on the nose and palate. Blackberry cobbler on the nose with a dry, mineral finish.

2007 Michele Alois “Trebulanum” – 100% Casavecchia – This is the bold big boy of the bunch. Opaque ruby, with brambly red fruit notes on nose and palate, the Casavecchia or Old House” takes its name from the place that it was discovered which was next to an “old house” on the vineyard property. Dry, oaky with a smooth yet brambly finish that lingers on the palate…

ON the Lookout for Alois
These are wines to look for, especially if you are a lover of Italian varietals like I am. The QPR is excellent as most of these wines retailed for around $19.99. Campania may not (yet) be one of the famous wine-making regions of Italy but Alois is getting international recognition and their 2005 Trebulanum received high marks from wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. I may not be a” Parkerite” but his high scores do earn wineries recognition and I believe that Alois deserves the recognition.

Molto Grazie to Prima Ristorante and Wine Shop in Walnut Creek for having the tasting and for providing the appetizers!

16 July, 2010

Tequila! Thoughts from a wine-lover...

In my world of spirits Tequila is just for fun. Unlike wine, I drink it to get a buzz on and don't think much about how it tastes. I love to start the party with a couple of shots of tequila blanco, or maybe a classic Margarita. But as I just learned from the good folks at Herradura, Tequila can be a more serious spirit and is made just like any other spirit, and has varied aromas and flavors.

The more i learned about it the more comparisons I made between Tequila and wine. By now I'm sure we all know Tequila comes from the Agave plant of Mexico. There are tequila producers in Northern Mexico and Southern Mexico and the agave cultivated by Herradura is located in Jalisco a state in Central Mexico. Each region has its own climate and soil types which affect certain characteristics of the agave. Hmmmm, sounds just like the concept of "terroir", or the importance of where the grapes actually come from...

Herradura's tequilas blancas (known as "silver")are
distilled, filtered and aerated. The aeration process is what makes them so smooth. No ageing except for the "Herradura Blanca" which is aged for 45 days in oak before bottling, lending it a light straw color. Wow, this tequila is fruity and has some floral and woodsy notes. Really smooth. These are all 80 proof but they make some that are 92 proof. Yikes! I would do shots of these or use them in a Margarita, but I was very happy sipping my shot-glass of Herradura Blanco. I feel these ones give a very pure expression of the agave. Which is quite pleasant.


These are the darker tequilas as they are aged anywhere from two to 48 months. They are distilled and filtered but not aerated. The oak barrels used for aging are made of new American oak, and they taste like it with very woody, spicy and nutty notes on the nose and palate. These are what I call "sipping" tequilas and make fine digestives.

The oldest of the lot: The "Anejo" or "aged" is barrelled for two years before bottling. It is a medium amber color. And, yes, there are notes of wood but there are some spicier notes such as coconut and vanilla. The agave had a roasted or cooked quality. Very smooth. 80 proof.

Luis Guy Ricaud, a Market Brand Manager for Herradura, explained that Herradura is making some more premium tequilas to keep up with the competitive tequila market. You can find Herradura at Bevmo.

Brix Chicks picks: El Jimador Blanco and the Herradura Blanco. I personally don't liked the aged tequilas as much but I think everyone at the tasting was loving the Anejo!

And don't forget: July 24th is National Tequila Day! A great excuse to have a shot or two of your favorite tequila.

12 July, 2010

Confessions of California Wine Snark - Pre #WBC10

Okay, I confess.  I never understood the hoopla about Oregon wines.  Usually, I would try them as one offs in the company of (sometimes dozens) of California examples, and so none of the Oregon offerings really shone for me.  They seemed tight or flat or just plain wrong.  My low point was without reading glasses selecting a Siduri Oregon Pinot for a blind tasting where my accidental tourist finished dead last out of a field of eleven with the equivalent score of an SAT candidate who got his name wrong.  So although Luscious Lush Thea had to threaten me to get me to attend the PreWBC outing planned by the amazing Lynnette Shaw of Solena Estates.---talk about not knowing how lucky you are--- I am six kinds of glad Thea did!  From the moment I got off the plane, Portland was a revelation of discoveries, camaraderie, hospitality, adventures, cheese and ---best of all---WINE!  I found that spending a day of tasting the wines in their natural habitat and alongside similar bottles, the complexity, quality and delectability of all things Oregonian came flashing through and I was converted.  I cannot wait to go back!  The experience was so rich with discovery and delight, I can only encourage you to get to Oregon as soon as you can! 
Meeting up with a group of intrepid local and imported Bloggers,  we got our first two surprises: Voodoo Donuts and a real English Double Decker bus.  Fortified with sugar, we took off for the Willamette Valley where we visited Solena Estates first.  There we met both Laurent and Danielle Montalieu (owners and winemaker) and learned the great story of how they started Solena (each of the vines in the pictured vineyard were wedding gifts) and even better got the experience of tasting through samples of divine Pinot.  In the cool depths of the Solena caves, we were invited to barrel taste Pinot Noir samples from all over Oregon side by side in two barrel treatments.  Hyland! Yamhill-Carlton! Guadalupe! Med Toast! I scooted from barrel pair to barrel pair energized by the thief in my hand.  The experience was like watching Fourth of July fireworks in that I kept being surprised and delighted by each subsequent sample more and more in different ways.  And the grand finale?  The finished products masterfully paired.  Can you say, "heaven"? Yes! Fresh corn soup with diced fingerling potatoes, pancetta and a refreshing 2008 ElvenGlade Chardonnay.  I will be
looking for this food friendly wine in restaurants from now on.   And my favorite pinot had to be the 2007 Solena Guadalupe Pinot Noir.  From there we were off to Soter Vineyards where my favorite was the 2006 Beacon Hill Pinot Noir which has interesting notes of menthol in initial aroma, followed by flavors of spice, chocolate, coffee and a lovely dark cherry finish. Tony Soter and James Cahill were there to regale us with stories as infused with history and humor as I was infused by their tasty offerings and sweeping vistas.  I particularly liked their take on the clonal varieties. I heard many great stories of clonal selection with such definite specificity in my Oregon travels, but at Soter, they used fruit from a vineyard that had 80% of its planting were an unnamed heirloom clone   Complex flavors that evolved in the glass. Yum!  From there, on to Anne Amie on a hillside so steep some plantings dip below the AVA line.  Great stories from winemaker Thomas Houseman and intriguing wines including Muller Thurgau  ( a grape developed in Germany as a cross between Riesling and an unnamed local grape) and cool white blends.  Thomas also busted out an aged Riesling from 1992 and invited us to imagine where we were in 1992---probably more interesting for him as he started as a Modern dancer in New York and came to Oregon via a love of brewing and an apprenticeship in Mendocino.  But to live in the present ---a wonderful wine with petrol, honey, white flowers, sinuous texture....  And of course, fabulous Pinot Noir. After a full day of delicious, I found myself with a serious Oregon wine addiction.  To cap the day off, the amazing Mary Cressler, sommelier, educator and Blogger invited the lot of us to her place for smoked BBQ pork butt.  Gathered in her backyard with delightful food, great wine and best of all the fabulous company of other bloggers, I blissed out and sighed in delightful anticipation of not only the WBC to come and new discoveries in yet another state, but also to planning a return to Oregon, whose bounty of European inspired wines, abundant hospitality and natural beauty galore inspired me to leave behind all snark.  So many thanks to Lynette Shaw, Mary Cressler, Solena Estates, Soter, Anne Amie all my fellow bloggers!  Oreogon IS for Pinot Lovers!

06 July, 2010

An Summer Evening of Alsatian Delights: Zind-Humbrecht Gewurtzraminers and Pinot Gris

For my "summer of wine" I am learning about and drinking wines of Europe. I have some formal wine education but I think the best thing to further my education is to taste as many wines as I can. So I jumped at the chance to blind-taste some of the finest whites from the Alsace region of France: Zind-Humbrecht Gewurtzraminers and Tokay Pinot Gris. This highly-esteemed Domaine makes over 30 wines including Riesling and Muscats. These whites can age gracefully, especially when made by Zind-Humbrecht.

The Big, Bold Whites of the Alsace
In general Gewurtzraminer is an aromatic, full-bodied, low acid, pink-skinned varietal that really blossoms in the climate and terroir of the Alsace. They can be dry or off-dry (sweet.) Typical aromatics include lychee, stonefruit, rose, honeysuckle and citrus fruits. The Pinot Gris is similarly full-bodied, unlike Pinot Gris from Italy and the States. They are higher in acid than the Gewurtzraminers and there are similar aromatics such as citrus, peach, ginger, vanilla, smoke and almonds. No new oak is used for any fermentation or ageing of these varietals because the winemakers are going for a pure expression of the fruit. Both of these varietals can be complex, bold and lush and they both make sumptuous "vendange tardive" or late-harvest wines.

The Tasting
A group of 20 of us blindtasted 8 Gewurtzraminers and Pinot Gris and we finished the evening with 2 "vendange tardive" or late harvest wines (which I did not review). Another Alsatian Gewurtzraminer from the famous Domaine Weinbach was thrown in as a ringer to compare and contrast. Each person rates the wine and then the ratings are tallied for a group total. We also tried to identify which were Gewurtraminers and which were the Pinot Gris. Here are the results of the tasting and some tasting notes:

Notice the deep golden color of these aged whites from 1994-1999.

A) 1994 Domaine Weinbach "Cuvee Laurence", Altenbourg Gewurtz(16.4%)
deep gold in color, spicey notes of keffir lime, ginger, fennel and orange marmalade on the nose; off-dry with an oily, viscous mouthfeel and aftertaste of lime. This wine was the oldest and it aged so well so it is no surprise that it came in at #2.
Group rating-2 My rating - 2

B)1999 Zind-Humbrecht "Vieilles Vignes", Wintzenheim" Gewurtz(12.5%)
medium gold, nose was skunky at first but those notes evaporated to reveal notes of apricot and honey. dry with notes of sweetness, bright acidity, lush mouthfeel
Group 5 My #4

C) 1999 Zind-Humbrecht "Goldert", Gueberschwihr Gewurtz(13.5%):
at first this struck me with light notes of petrol but underneath were notes of honey,lime and tart fruits. This one was also tangy and acidic with a bit of oiliness
Group - #4, My #5

D) 1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Saint Urbain-Rangen de Thann- Grand Cru" Pinot Gris(14%
This was dark gold with a light orange tinge. Dry, acidic and spicy on the palate. Seems to have lost its former vibrancy...
Group #7, my #8

E)1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Rotenberg-Wintzenheim" Pinot Gris(14%)
light gold, with mineral notes of limestone, aftertaste of lime. acidic.
Group #8, my #7

The winner of the evening:
F) 1999 Zind-Humbrecht "Clos Windsbuhl", Turckheim (13%)
Another golden-hued Gewurzt with lychee, marmalade, and honeysuckle. It was off-dry but retained a good level of acidity. Balanced with some creaminess on the palate. Luscious and a little fresher than the others.
Group #1, my #1

G) 1997 Zind-Humbrecht "Vieilles Vignes", Wintzenheim Pinot Gris(14%)
dark gold, with notes of vanilla and peach and apricot. off dry.
Group #3, my #6

H) 1996 Zind-Humbrecht "Rotenberg-Vendange Tardive", Wintzenheim Pinot Gris (13%):
Yes, there was botrytis in this one. And it was darker gold so I knew it was an older vintage. Notes of honey, orange marmalade and apricot on the nose. I loved the aftertaste of apricot.
Group #6 my #3

The winner of the evening.

In the past I have never been that impressed by Gewurtzraminers because they can be too sweet. But now that I have tasted the finest examples of them I am in love with their pure fruit expression, fruit and floral aromatics, and slick, full-bodied textures. It was also interesting to get a sense of how these wines can change over time and that they become even more complex and spicy as they retain their acidity. These wines call for hard cheeses and foie gras!

21 June, 2010

Pinot Days discount code!

Dear Readers of Brixchicks:

If you would like to attend the Pinot Days Grand Tasting on Sunday, June 27th here is a nice little 15% discount off of the $60.00 ticket price. Go to the website www.pinotdays.com">, go to the purchase page and enter this code at the bottom: BRIXSF10

Thanks for the discount goes to Margaret of OlsonOgden Wines, artisinal producers of delicious Pinots and Syrahs. I will be reporting about their Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley and Mendocino Pinot Noirs this Friday, June 25th from the Fort Mason Center. Stay tuned for more...

"Pinot Days" are here again! June 22nd-June27th, San Francisco!

Yes, it is finally the time of the year for Pinot Days, the largest gathering of Pinotphiles in Northern California. Over 500 Pinot Noirs will be sampled at the various events including Pinot and food pairing events, seminars, wine dinners and of course, the Grand Tasting on Sunday the 27th. Think you can taste them all in one afternoon? I know I can't so that is why so many different events are offered.

This year I am really interested in the Pinot and food pairing events at a couple of San Francisco wine bars including District and Ottimisto Enoteca. Sounds like a good way to taste some new Pinots without being so overwhelmed. Tuesday the 22nd, you will find me mingling and drinking at District: "Seven pinot producers will pour the amazing fruits of their labor and the new vintage is spectacular. District will prepare and pass pinot-focused appetizers. Featured wineries include: Thomas George, TR Elliot, Sand Hill, August West, R. Merlo, Bink and Suacci Carciere. Add gifted, passionate, colorful winemakers and the fruits of their labor, and what do you have? A rare chance to enjoy phenomenal pinot and food in an ideal environment for doing both. Eat, drink, and meet the winemakers." To buy a ticket go here:

On Wednesday, June 23rd Ottimisto Enoteca will be having 6 different producers including Clos Saron, Coterie, Sequana, Handley Cellars, R. Merlo and Archery Summitt. Call them at 415-674-8400 to make a reservation.

The "Focus Tastings" sound intriguing as well. You can attend seminars on Pinots from the "Southern" AVAs such as Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, or the "Northern" AVAs of Carneros, Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. My pick: "In Trivial Pursuit of Pinot Noir" billed as an educational yet fun event. Yikes, gotta brush up on my Pinot knowledge for this!

For the full list of events go here: www.Pinotdays.com

There is something for every Pinot lover and I love that.

21 May, 2010

Vinify WInery Collective THis Sunday!

Looking for something fun and weather proof this Sunday?  Here is your answer!
Vinify Wine Services/Collective is a state of the art custom crush facility located in Santa Rosa that houses some of the best boutique winemakers in Sonoma County. Our member wineries produce wines from highly acclaimed vineyards all over the North Coast representing over 12 varietals. Join us on Sunday, May 23rd and preview 40+ wines presented in Riedel stemware (yours to keep).

Winemakers and owners will be showcasing their wines and are available to answer all of your questions and educate you in order to make informed purchasing decisions. Some of our wineries are hot, up and comers (that's PR hot not malt liquor hot) while others are established, reputable brands producing highly allocated, quality wines, many of which are sold exclusively direct from each winery.

You can get tickets here

A generous spread of cheeses and other tasty wine treats will be provided.

Some of the participating wineries include:

Baker Lane

Bevan Cellars

Bjornstad Cellars

Lattanzio Winery

Pfendler Vineyards

Sojourn Cellars

Westerhold Family Vineyards

Calluna Vineyard

Jemrose Vineyard

Barbed Oak Vineyards

Claypool Cellars

Desmond Wines

Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery

Olsen Ogden Wines

Gracianna Winery

Cinque Insieme Wines

Suacci Carciere Wines

Audelssa Winery

Blagden Wine

Drive in the rain to drink OlsenOgden? Hells ya!  See you there!

18 May, 2010

There's an App for that - Preview of food pairing experience at Newsome-Harlow

With a chill in the air and a song in our hearts, several intrepid bloggers ventured to Springtime Murphys, a rapidly evolving food and wine destination town in Calaveras County.  If you have never been there, a treat is waiting for you! My favorite wine club, Twisted Oak (see if you can spot me in the pirate/wench group shot!) is there.  But since I have been visiting them for the super fun Goings On,  I have discovered additional atttractions that keep me coming back.  Scott and Mel from Newsome-Harlow, generously previewed their food and wine pairing offering, "There's an App for That..." so that visitors to the tasting room can experience new dimensions to the wine by tasting it with expertly paired appetizer portions. 
We started out with some lovely whites, a Sauvignon Blanc and an amazing bone dry Muscat.  Both had lovely aromas and flavors.

With the reds, the pairing began in earnest.  First up was the
2007 Calaveras County “Train Wreck” Red Wine: a red blend (46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah) with a gorgeous dark color, lively fruity and spice aromas and nice balance.  It was paired with a cocoa/coffee/Siagon Cinnamon rubbed Tritip.  The robustness of the wine was delicious with the grilled meat.  Spices in the rub picked up flavors in the wine.  Yum!
2007 Calaveras County Zinfandel: Lovely dark rich Zin which paired perfectly with the Mozzarella Stuffed Meatball.  Notes of fennel in the wine were matched with notes of fennel in the sauce
2007 Dalton Syrah: Paired with a Savory Cheesecake of Polenta and Gorgonzola, I was so overcome I just noted, "amazing pair"
2007 Petite Sirah: Using fruit from both the Dalton and El Portal vineyards, Newsome Harlowe produces an inky, perfumey wine with lush tannins paired with an extravagantly delicious Chocolate Lavender Tart. 

All in all an informative survey of the wines and what to pair them with.  I asked Melanie what tips she had for us at home on successful pairings.  She said to start with the wine and an open mind.  Taste the wine for flavor elements, for example "blueberry".  Then imagine the food back in.  Think what you would put with the components you identify if it was the actual ingredient.  Select ingredients that complement the scale of the wine.  Don't put a big, bold wine with ingredients or elements that are out of scale.  Imagine.  Experiment.  Improve.  Good advice from a gifted chef!

After being treated to that fabulous lesson, I can only hope they add it to the permanent offering!

To find out more and to plan your visit, check here:
Or if you are looking for something to do this weekend consider
Calaveras Passport Weekend.  For more on this and other great wine happenings in NorCal and beyond check out Norcal Wine:

17 May, 2010

The Magic of Jordan Winery

                                          For me, the magic of Jordan was that their story started with a love story.  Nestled in the pastoral hills of the Alexander Valley, the Jordan winery is a lovely property whose chateau was inspired by the great castles of Normandy, but adapted to sit naturally into the California landscape.  Three quarters of the estate's land is still untouched with original oak trees, with the gorgeous fruit to produce the focused offerings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay growing on the rest.  The winery comes from Tom Jordan's love of all things French, especially wine. Tom's family values included a deep love of quality and passion for producing wine that will delight a table full of guests as well as be a responsible and sucessful commercial concern.  He started Jordan in 1972.  In 2005, his son John Jordan, took over.   I attended a blogger's lunch as a guest of the Jordan Winery and got the chance to experience firsthand the amazing hospitality the team delivers.  In our case we were greeted by John Jordan himself.  In speaking with him about his diverse background, he made it clear that what he loves to do is match passion with tasks, so that he fosters harmony within the Jordan community in order to bring the best of the best forward.  I can tell you, it shows.  If you are planning a visit, take the extra steps to reserve a spot on one of the tours.  You will love it!   We were lucky enough to get a special VIP lunch, which included vertical pairings.  Yum!  Chef Todd Knoll dazzled us with a Mero Seabass and Tasmanian Salmon, which were accompanied by fresh picked peas and ramps.  Paired with the 2005, 2007 and 2008 Chardonnays, it was a delicious match. Ramps are an onion relative and their tender, savory flavor seasoned the perfect fish and were interesting with all three of the whites.  Chardos tend not to be my favorite, but these were bright, layered, intriguiging,and ---of course--- super food friendly.  Course Two was Grilled Sonoma Lamb with Carrots, Fava, Morels and Black Garlic Jus. This dish was simply out of this world.  Perfectly cooked, spiced and seasoned lamb along with all things fresh from the Chef's Garden, including Fava blossoms, which I had never seen before and were delightful.  Bonus: gorgeous, elegant lovely Cabernets, for which I have not the least bit of ambivalence.  Excelllent! 

My notes on the Cabs were:
1999 - Lovely complex nose, red currants, berries, prune, cherries, a touch of licorice with gentle tannins and meltingly lovely flavors. 
2005 - Lots more aromas of blue fruit, more pronounced Bordeaux-like characteristics.
2007 - Yummy wine that brought out the Wine Cougar in me as the 07 was my favorite of the 3.  Scrappier tannins and interesting flavors.  Simply wonderful all.

After that it was a tour of the gardens, house (including secret passage ways), earthquake proof barrel room and a dessert course of surpassing delight including botrytised wine!  YUM!  At every touch point, the passion of all of the Jordan team members for their mission as well as the deliciousness of their vision was clear. 

So, the visit started with the love story of the Jordans, Mr. Jordan Sr.'s with France and wine making as a business,  and  also, John's love for what he does and for bringing passion for the artistry of wine and the art of hospitality.  For me, it ended with a total crush on Jordan wine and the Jordan experience.  Whether you are ordering Jordan in your favorite restaurant, looking for a reliable hostess gift at Safeway or making plans to visit the estate yourself, the focused quality, passion and (best of all) deliciousness will shine through.  Many thanks to Lisa Mattson for all her hard work to organize a lovely event!  Thanks!

13 May, 2010

The Santa Lucia Highlands Spring Fling! And the "Hahn Blogger's Block Reunion!"

The 4th annual Santa Lucia Highlands Fling is taking place this Saturday, May 15th, at Hahn Family Estates. The most famous producers from the Santa Lucia Highlands will be on hand to pour their Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs from this much vaunted appellation in Monterey County. We will be tasting wines from Hahn (including their SLH and Lucienne brands), August West, Belle Glos, Boekenoogen, Cru, Hahn, Hope & Grace, La Rochelle, Lucienne, Manzoni, Martin Alfaro, McIntyre, Mer Soleil, Morgan, Novy, Paraiso, Pelerin, Pessagno, Pey-Lucia, Pisoni, Puma Road, Roar, Sequana, Siduri, Talbott, Testarossa, Tondre, Tudor, and Wrath… Go to www.santaluciahighlands.com to purchase a ticket.

Thanks to Hahn Estates the Brix Chicks and other bloggers have come to know this apellation well. In fact Hahn has devoted an entire block of Pinot vines to some of us lucky bloggers. Last June our group converged upon the winery and planted the root stalks that we hope will eventually grow into healthy, productive Pinot Noir fruit! The pictures below show the vineyard and Dr. Xeno's growing vine in Winter of 2010. This Saturday we are going to check on our "babies" and we will certainly be sharing our updates with you via Twitter and Facebook.

The "Bloggers Block" from afar, at Hahn Estates Vineyards.

The Blogger's Block. We planted Pinot Noir Clone 828 which originates from Burgundy.

"Dr. Xeno's" baby. One of the vines that really took off!

02 May, 2010

Get your "groove" on at Austria Uncorked

Gruner Veltliner. A dry white wine from Austria. Many love it with seafood or Asian cuisine. Many Austrians love it with schnitzel. Come and try it for yourself. You will find that it will slake your thirst for a chilled, crisp white wine on the beautiful, warm day we will be having in San Francisco tomorrow.