31 October, 2017

Last minute Halloween Wine Pairings - #rieslingrules

Happy Halloween!  Finally in the mood to do my wine pairing, a special bottle jumped out at me.

Dr. Loosen, Wehlener Sonnenuhr, Riesling Auslese 2006, Mosel, Germany

Pale caramel and clear, aromas wafted up as soon as I lifted the cork.  In the glass, aromas of peach brulee with a soft underpinning of petrol.  a small twist of lemon, and a touch of cellared apple.  Satiny and medium bodied, the wine has flavors of honey, apples, peach, lemon and love.  While the sweetness is up there, the acid in the wine keeps the taste light and refreshing.

From a food paring perspective, Rieslings are a gift.  This wine in particular has a satiny, medium plus bodied texture.  Its elevated sweetness would pair well with spicy cuisines.  In this case, I paired it with tart-sweet, acidic Smarties.  I might be late for my Halloween newsflash, but I am starting early with the wine and candy! Note the crafty last minute touch of Witch's Broom Smarties Bouquet, which I hand crafted with bakers twine and a straw.


 Mosel Valley where some of my favorite Rieslings originate, has gorgeous scenery, a lambent river flowing through vine laden cliffs,that seem impossibly steep.  The slate based soil looks more like alien AstroTurf than something that would foster such delicious flavors.  Blue slate and red slate produce different flavor profiles, with blue slate contributing stone fruit, citrus and more delicate flavors.  Red slate is colored by volcanic deposits.    Expect drama, lychee fruit, honey and magic.  High sugar balanced against high acid creates an interplay as tight as a trip wire in a Tom Cruise summer blockbuster.  Even if you don't like sweet wine, try it and be dazzled. I stashed away a bottle I sourced from DeeVine Wine Imports.  The color after 11 years has deepened to pale caramel, while the flavors have intensified to honey and stone fruit.  Auslese wines are hand picked (not surprising in vineyards
Steep Mosel Hillside Vineyards

this steep.  The soil, climate and wine culture from the Roman appropriation through swaths of history both the peaceful and challenging, have carved out a space that has cradled these grapes and allowed wines of extraordinary character to blossom and grow.  Wines of Germany maintains a great site to learn more
Ready for their closeup: Mosel Riesling Grapes
Phot Credit: Dr,. Loosen: Wehlener Sonnenuhr Vineyard


Have a wonderful Halloween!  And if you have the time to try Riesling from the Mosel, find a way to do it
Possibilities! 

19 October, 2017

Day of the Dead Mexican Chocolate Cocktail, Mocktail or Craft Project

Day of the Dead Cocktail/mocktail recipe
Day of the Dead will start on October 31, 2017 and end on November 2nd.  It's a Mexican custom, but it really serves a need for me to remember those who have passed on.  Bonus: it's one more way to push food on people.

I create an altar and decorate it with a marigold garland, papel picado, and photos of loves ones who have passed.  Little dishes of favorite foods and beverages add to the display.  Thinking and remembering keeps memories alive.  And it's great to have an excuse to create themed treats and invite people of all cultures to share.

This year, I added a craft project where I made marshmallow pops decorated like sugar skulls . A Kraft Jet-Puffed Jumbo marshmallow, some Wilton Candy Melts in white, Wilton Candy markers, pop rocks and lollipop sticks made cute marshmallow pops.

Why?  To dip in Mexican Hot Chocolate of course.  It's actually pretty easy (especially if you give yourself permission to be more creative than perfect with your crafting).  With the recipe below you can customize silky, spicy hot chocolate that will fill your mouth with a dark as midnight, sweet as sin taste sensation perfect for a Halloween or Day of the Dead celebration

Here's the recipe:
Mexican Hot Chocolate: makes 2 servings
Place 2 cups whole milk in a medium saucepan on low heat.  Whisk in  2 Tablespoons white sugar (you could use honey, agave or brown sugar depending on your taste).  I under sweeten a little because the white chocolate, candy coated oversized marshmallows add a lot of sweetness.  5 tablespoons dark unsweetened Cocoa.  My favorite is Hershey's Special Dark because of the depth of flavor and color it gives.  Keep whisking in 1/4 tsp Chili Powder, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp grated Nutmeg and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract.    Finish with a generous pinch of salt. These are just guidelines.  If you like it hotter, add more chili powder or cloves or allspice or whatever you think tastes best.  Keeps whisking till the milk comes to just a simmer---you don't want to scald it.
Make it a cocktail with Captn Morgan Spiced Rum

Once it's hot and well mixed, it's ready to drink. Pour it into a mug.  Place the Marshmallow Pop in like you would a swizzle stick.  Advise your guests to dunk the  marshmallow pop into the hot chocolate.  If your Marshmallow Pop has been decorated with Pop Rocks candy, audible fizzling and popping will ensue, which makes it more fun..

And speaking of more fun, if you want to add an adult aspect to this, stir in about an ounce and a half of Captain Morgan' s 100 Spiced Rum to each mug.  It takes a family drink to the next level.  Yar!
Marshmallow Day Of the Dead Pops

The Marshmallow Pops were fun to create.  First,  I dipped the marshmallows in white chocolate melts that I had melted in the microwave.  For variation, I rolled the back of some of the marshmallows in Pop Rocks candy for color and flair.

I let them dry overnight.

Then I looked for Sugar Skull inspiration and drew the skulls on the marshmallow puff with edible markers.  They are not perfect but neither am I.  They are, however,  delicious.  When you dunk them in the hot, spicy chocolate, they melt, lose their white chocolate and become heaven on a stick. Ooey gooey over the top sweet and soft.  It's a great counterpoint to the hot spicy chocolate,   I didn't add whipped cream, but that and a dusting of the spices would be tasty too.
Marshmallow pops coordinate with my Day of the Dead decor
  I hope you try this easy fun project and enjoy Day of the Dead.

17 October, 2017

Healthy up your Brunch with #CAStrawberries - recipe and wine pairing #IFBC2017

Easy Strawberry tart recipe
Strawberries are beautiful and delicious, but did you know they are healthy too?  My eyes were opened at the recent #IFBC2017 in Sacramento, where the California Strawberry folks schooled me.

For example, did you know eight gorgeous strawberries will provide 110% of your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C, 5% of your daily value for potassium, plus 3 grams of fiber and antioxidants galore?  And if you're trying to bump up your folate intake with leafy greens and beans, strawberries can also contribute to your efforts there. Deliciously.  Lots of health benefits come from eating just 8
Eight Strawberries a day are a delish way to eat better
strawberries a day.

Look for berries that are red all the way up the berry. Plan to use them right away or if you know you can't,  place the entire clam shell package in the fridge.

That knowledge and a gorgeous package of perfectly ripe California strawberries inspired me to create a tasty and easy brunch treat that pairs well with one of my favorite sparkling wines:  Napa Sparkling Wine (more on that later, but feel free to click the link if you cannot wait---I never can).

It's easy to make.  Basically get frozen puff pastry, your favorite strawberry Greek yogurt; I used Chobani. some heavy whipping cream, an egg, sparkling sugar and of course beautiful strawberries.

Strawberry Yogurt Breakfast Tart
1 package frozen puff pastry
Egg for egg wash
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 5 oz container Strawberry Greek yogurt
Sparkling sugar (optional)
1 tbsp fruit preserves (optional)

First, spread out the puff pastry into a rectangle that will fit on a 1/4 baking sheet.  Score a border of an inch or so across all four sides of the puff pastry to create an inner rectangle.

Score carefully and try not to cut through the puff pastry, but if you do. it's easy to cover that up with the yogurt cream.  Take a fork and pierce the entire area of the inner rectangle that the border surrounds  Leave the border itself  unpierced.  This will let the border puff while the docked area will lay flatter and form a base for the tart filling.

Beat the egg in a small dish and when the yolk and white are completely mixed, brush on the border with a pastry brush,  This will make the border shiny when baked,  I also sprinkle sparkling sugar on the border to make it extra fancy, but you can skip that step if you don't have the sparkling sugar.

Bake according to puff pastry directions or if there are none for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  After the tart shell has cooled,  whip about 1/4 cup of the the cream into soft peaks.  You can add sugar and/or vanilla or not; I usually do.  Open the yogurt container and stir to loosen it up and makes it smooth and consistent. Lighten the yogurt with the whipped cream by folding the whipped cream gently right into the yogurt container.  If you want to avoid cream, you can skip this step and just use strawberry yogurt. Go ahead and carefully slice the strawberries into 1/8 inch slices.  You can be super careful if you want the tart to look perfect or less so if you, like me, prefer the rustic "Yes! I did make this myself" look  Once the tart shell is cool, spread an even layer of the yogurt cream onto the tart.  Then layer the strawberries in a tight pattern on top.  You can microwave a few teaspoons of preserves with water for 20 seconds to create a glaze you can brush onto the strawberry slices or serve immediately as is.
Either way, serve immediately. Served warm, the crispy. puff pasty cuddles the lightened yogurt and sliced strawberries  It cools quickly and takes on an almost custardy texture. So have your sparkling wine chilled and ready to pop open.

Speaking of sparkling wine.  I would recommend a sparkling wine with a touch of sweetness and generous fruitiness.  NV Cuvée M, Mumm Napa, California ($24) This wine itself has a lovely color--pale gold warmed by peach.  With a touch of creaminess in the mouth feel, it's a great match for the yogurt cream. I get flavors of strawberry, stone fruit and a hint of toast. These act as bridge ingredients for both the strawberries and the puff pastry.  The residual sweetness (RS) is listed as 3% coming from a dosage of a proprietary blend of late harvest wines.  The sweetness is a good match too.  

After the fires, things are settling down, but the beauty of Napa wine will not be diminished.  NV Cuvée M can be ordered here and is widely distributed via Wine.com and BevMo.  Of course nothing beats seeing for yourself in person, so feel free to plan a visit with your brunch and bubbles loving gal pals here

This is the second of my three required posts for the International Food Blogger Conference
.

07 October, 2017

The Second Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival or "We olive olive oil"

B. R Cohn 2nd Annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Olive Oil festival - It's on!
Editor's Note: Our hearts go out to the many affected in the recent Wine Country fires.  One of the best ways to show your support is to visit and support tourism in Sonoma and Napa.  We have every hope that this great festival will go on and we will see you there.

When I think of California agricultural products the first thing that pops into my mind is wine grapes, because yeah, I'm a wine blogger. But let us not forget California olives, which according to the California Olive Oil Council, have been experiencing a renaissance in the 21st century. One of the best ways to learn about California Olives, and olives from Sonoma in particular, is to attend the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival, which will take place November 4th and 5th, 2017 at the B. R. Cohn winery in Glen Ellen. I attended last year and was impressed with the number of producers and the large variety of olives grown in CA. Plus, there is food, wine, music and a blessing of the olive harvest. Her is where to find more information about the festival:

B.R. Cohn Winery—one of America’s premier producers of premium wine and extra virgin olive oil—announces the 2nd annual Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival (All Things Olive) will be held at the property on November 4th and 5th, 2017.

 A hallmark of the olive oil harvest in Sonoma Valley, the weekend event will commence with a hand harvest and blessing of olives from B.R. Cohn’s 160-year-old heritage trees. The olive harvest typically begins after the grape harvest concludes, leaving one more cause for celebration before the holiday season starts.

A winegrowing estate in Sonoma Valley founded in 1984, B.R. Cohn is also a leader in ultra-premium olive oil production in California. Since its launch in 1990, the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company has produced extra virgin, organic, unfiltered and flavored olive oils, sought after by professional and home chefs alike. B.R. Cohn’s Olive Hill property includes nine acres of Picholine olive trees, the largest collection of its type in California. The B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company also produces a range of distinctive wine vinegars.
Most recently, B.R. Cohn’s olive oils and vinegars were recognized with gold, double gold and best of show awards at the 2017 Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

“We are blessed with a climate that is ideal for not only winegrowing, but for producing high-quality olives as well. It’s an honor to host this collaboration between local olive growers, producers, purveyors and artisans and showcase the best of what our region offers,” commented Debra Eagle, B.R. Cohn’s Estate Director.

Numerous olive oil vendors include B.R. Cohn, Coldani, Figone’s Olive Oil, Frantoio Grove, Gloria Ferrer, Grumpy Goats, Lucchetti Family, Olive Don, Olive Press, River Road, Petroni, McEvoy, Stone Edge and Wild Groves. In addition, confirmed food vendors will be available at the festival, including: The Fig Rig, The Baker Bread Co., Trader Jims, Oysters from Michael Watchorn (founder of Hog Island Oysters), Drums and Crumbs, Sweet Scoops Ice Cream and Cousins Maine Lobster.

The weekend will showcase educators and cook book authors, including Maria Teresa’s Kitchen, chef and cookbook author, Sally James, Sonoma Syrup, Olive Don and Carol Firenze, all of whom will explain the marvels of this ancient fruit. Live music from The Butterdishes, People of Earth and singer songwriter and guitarist, Clay Bell, will also be available during the Sonoma Extra Virgin Festival.

Event tickets will include a one-day admission to the festival and a glass of wine from B.R. Cohn’s premium range of wines. Tickets may be purchased here for $20 and the festival will run from 11:00am-4:00pm on November 4th and 5th. For more information, visit: http://www.brcohn.com/sonoma-extra-virgin-festival






04 October, 2017

Martha´s Vineyard Food and WIne Festival - Oct 19th - 22nd, 2017

Photo Credit-http://mvfoodandwine.com/
If your bucket list, like mine, is full of Champagne, lobsters and Alsatian wine, this festival is for you.

It will take place on Martha´s Vineyard and will give you the opportunity to meet the people who are involved with fishing, culinary and fun on the island,

Chef demos will include celebrity chefs and wine pairings
Best of all, a portion of the proceeds support two local organizations who are actively supporting learning, the Island Grown Schools, and farming, the Agricultural Society´s Farmers Program.

This event is celebrating its 10th successful year.   Next year, I really have to go. If you are able to go, I highly recommend getting your ticket now.  Lots of the small amazing dinners and pop ups are selling out.  The Grand Tasting sounds like an amazing way to get a flavor of island living with a convivial company and dramatic scenery.
http://mvfoodandwine.com/events/2017/3/29/10th-annual-marthas-vineyard-food-wine-festival-grand-tasting-tickets
You can taste and sip on the Great Lawn of the Harbor View Hotel.  Three hundred winemakers, spirits, breweries, gourmet foods, and restaurants will sample their wares against the background of an amazing Vineyard shoreline. 


There will be great wines from all over the world.  Two of my favorites are representing.  Gosset Champagne.  You can see some notes on this fizzy elixir at Wine Harlots . Let's face it, literally everything is better with Champagne.  The Gosset tasting experience lets you float on a cloud of real Champagne as well as have knowledge deftly imparted 
photo credit Gosset Champagne
Another producer that is simply divine is Trimbach.  They have been making wine since 1626 in the region of Alsace.  Perfect conditions, skill and history conspire to make this region known for consistently excellent wines.  Wine Folly explains it all if this region is new to you.


Photo Credit Trimbach
Lukes Lobster, Boston

The 12th generation winemaker, Jean Trimbach will lead lucky diners through a tasting to arguably the best dry Rieslings in the world. Data point: this wine is on all the 3 Star Michelin wine lists. Tickets for this amazing event are here

Another super fun event is LobsterPalooza.  I can resist neither a lobster roll nor a palooza.  But alas, bad planning left me unable to swizzle my schedule to attend.

The full list of events is here: Click at your own risk as these will make you swoon,  Sake and Oysters? Salumi?

I would love to jealously follow the Instagram feeds of all who do attend at @@mvfoodandwine  and #mvfoodandwine 

29 September, 2017

It's National Coffee Day 9 /29/2017

Wicked Joe believes Coffee should be black s hell, strong as death and sweet as Love
A day without coffee quite literally feels to me like a day without sunshine.  I mean, before that first cup kicks in, I don't really even see color.  Then that magic brew gets everything started. 

This Friday, September 29th, is National Coffee Day.  Several participating retailers throughout the US have put together offers; more on that later.

I was given samples of a new delicious coffee from Wicked Joe Coffee.  Located in Topsham, Maine, Wicked Joe is a family owned company committed to producing exceptional coffees using sustainable business practices from crop-to-cup.  100 percent of Wicked Joe Coffee is certified organic and is roasted in their state of the art and energy efficient facility.  To complement their sustainable business practices, all of Wicked Joe's coffee beans are purchased directly from farmers and cooperatives across the globe.
Lessons in cold brew

Having found myself haunting the new Sprouts Markets that have bloomed around me, Wicked Joe Coffee is something I noticed over a tasty pistachio Sprouts muffin.  Over the summer, all 247 Sprouts stores started carrying this Maine product.   It inspired me to shake up my ordinary coffee routine.  I learned how to cold brew coffee and had delicious concentrated coffee elixir in my fridge just in time for yet another heat wave,

First, you add cold water to the coffee blend in about an 8:1 water to coffee ratio.  You let is steep in the fridge overnight.  Strain to remove the grounds and place in nice serving jar.

I tried two Wicked Joe varieties,  The first was the Sumatra which is a single origin varietal.  Wicked Joe imports Sumatran coffee from Sumatra and does not blend with other coffees.  The taste was smooth with a smoky notes.

Layer coffee, coffee&cream, and cream
The other sample was The Wicked French.  It is also fair trade but blended form several sources and put together to be dark as midnight with nice smokey flavors.  Not only was the cold brew delicious, but it inspired us to do some other coffee experiments.

Because the coffee tasted special, I wanted to see if we could make it into a cocktail for National Coffee day.  Of course with my Game of thrones obsession, I ended up concocting The Lady Melisandre.  Because the night is dark as this coffee and when dealing with things that are full of terrors, the natural inclination is to add over proof Bourbon and fire.
It was powerful, pretty and full of Bourbon.  It had a great kick.  It needs more work but I loved how the ice cube came out.

Coffee, over proof flaming liquor and a fancy ice cube made from layering coffee, coffee and cream, and cream into a large frozen cube. What could go wrong?
We tore up my kitchen but had the best time doing it.

Coffee brings people together.  It's nice to find an affordable, delicious product that is organic and focuses on making the world a better place.  With distribution in 2200 stores across the US or online, it's a cool product to try.

Back to the National Coffee Day offers.  Refinery 29 put together a nice list , if you want to see what's free near you.  I hope you have as much fun as we did conjuring up "The Lady Melisandre"

The night is dark and full of terrors, but in the morning, coffee will see you through!
Enjoy National Coffee Day! Thanks to Wicked Joe for the samples, and to BrixChick Janesta and Wine Harlot, Nannette Eaton for the production assistance.


25 September, 2017

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Live Blogging - For #IFBC17

Charge your devices Find a WiFi Backup
Sacramento is once again the host of the 2017 International Food Blogger Conference.  This little blogger is so excited to get to see, taste, explore and lucubrate all the bounty the conference organizers have gathered.

The agenda item I am most excited about is the Live Food Blogging.  With nine years of past attendance at the Wine Bloggers Conference, I have learned to love that portion of the event.  It wasn't always the case.

How I learned to stop worrying and love Live Blogging...
Keuka Springs Gewurtz has a fun evangelist

Here are some quick Live Blogging Survival Tips:
1, First, make sure you have your devices with you and they are charged.  A handy thing to have is a device with cell service or Mifi in case the conference center infrastructure gets hit with too many tweets flying out at once.

2, Second make sure you have a stack of business cards handy.  Since the time with the producers is so limited, it's great to have an easy way to make a connection.

3. IFBC put the names of confirmed presenters on the website at this handy link. Take a sec and follow them now, and as a bonus you can get a sense of what they are doing currently.  It also makes it easier to tweet/Instagram/Facebook later.

4. Fifty minutes. Ten presenters.  Five minutes per visit means it will go by superfast.  Some presenters are naturally good at this format.  They come with signs
Life goes by fast.  Live blogging is supersonic!
imprinted with their soc media info and offer hashtags they would love for you to amplify.  Others need some coaxing .  They are experts in their field, but today, they are running the gauntlet of all our splendid blogger diversity.  Others know exactly what they want to present and have fun doing it.

5. Get a table rhythm going.  Hopefully one that doesn't savage the presenters.  No one likes a "MeanGirl". I mean unless that's your thing...no judgment... #judgment,  For the record I sometimes buy Bandit Wine after seeing the Bandit rep expertly handle some drunk, obnoxious wine bloggers. She knew her stuff!

Post like the smartest person you know







6, It can be hard to know what to post.  Some of the presenters may be focused in areas not of interest to your audience.  Whether you are a promoter or a critic, a nice picture and a snappy update are usually easy to find. After all, these passionate producers invested in connecting with us and our audiences. Find something new or fun or interesting. take a snap and post.

7, With live wine blogging, tasting lineups might range from dessert wine to a Pinotage to a cult Cabernet; this has given me vinous whiplash.   No hours at home to sip, swish and repeat. Just a few minutes to listen, experience, learn and comment.  It challenged me to quickly sample and comment even more quickly.  Be prepared to move fast.

I am very curious to see if live blogging wine and food together is easier or harder.  Mostly I am looking forward to seeing all the tweets/grams/posts. And also to seeing all the attendees.  See you in SMF!
If you're doing it right, it gets messy

19 September, 2017

Happy 5778! Celebrate with Kosher Rosé from Baron Herzog

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

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

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

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

Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, Baron Herzog Wines, California - 2016 ($11) Made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, this wine is a watermelon pink, my favorite for celebrations.  With aromas of red fruit and and subtle strawberry notes in both aromas and flavors.  The wine has a freshness with an enlivening tartness that I enjoyed both as an aperitif as well as with charcuterie. This time of year, when in the SF Bay Area we never know if it's going to be rainy, foggy, or broasting hot, rosé is a great choice both to welcome guests and to pair with food.   We agreed the the wine would have both held up to more substantial fare, as well as had the freshness to pair with salad.  I love a versatile, pretty wine for less than $10!

 Herzog Cellars currently located in Oxnard, CA, makes only  Kosher wines.  They have an amazing story of tenacity and survival spanning  six centuries and many countries.  Having escaped the Nazis, the Herzog family landed in New York in the late '40's.  Initially Baron Philip produced  both Kosher as well as non-Kosher wines.  With dedication and investment, the Herzog family worked together to shape Royal Wines into production of European style wines, .  Eventually they gravitated to California in the mid '80's, where they currently produce delicious wines that are also Kosher.  I throw around the phrase "history in a bottle" like a punchline, but in this case, the interesting, sometimes poignant, story flavored the wine for me.  I hope you get a chance to try some.


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

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

Find and arrange the freshest, tender squashes you can and marinate them in the ingredients.  One tip from the book, add fresh oregano right before serving. Since honey is the flavor enabler to coax out the sweetness of the squashes, it's a perfect dish for Rosh Hashana.

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

I received this wine as a sample

18 May, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Savory Shrimp

Classic Wada
Spicy Scallops



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks to Gregory White PR for hosting the lunch.



22 April, 2017

Riggers Loft: East Bay Tasting Room with Historic Bay View

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

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

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

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

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