09 May, 2018

May 16th Is Albariño Day At Snooth

I hope you will join us for our next virtual tasting with Rías Baixas in celebration of the Albariño grape. We will taste eleven Albariño wines from eleven different producers! (Yes, that's a total of 11 wines.) 

Date: Wednesday, 5/16/18
Time: 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT

Hope you will tune in for wine, food and fun!

Meanwhile here's a reminder of an impressive pair: Albariño and the food of Southern India:

Eponymous "dosa" 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.

11 April, 2018

April Showers? No Problem. Cheer up at Wente's Winemaker Studio

Wente Vineyards is a family-owned winery in Livermore, CA known for their Chardonnay. They are also one of the oldest continuously-run wineries in the state of CA. and this year they are celebrating their 130th vintage. Wente is kind of like a Disneyland for wine-loving adults with a world-class restaurant, golf course and summer concert series. And in May they opened a new educational center called the Winemakers Studio where they are offering classes and interactive experiences to educate the consumer palate. The Brix Chicks got a sneak preview and here is what we found:

A Feast for the Senses
When you walk into the studio you notice flasks and perfume bottles where you can spritz various aromas to help you learn to identify some common ones such as melon, raspberry, butter, and chocolate. There are swatches of fabrics to exemplify different textures you will find in the palate of the wine (ie; silk for Pinot Noir, velvet for Cabernet Sauvignon) all perfect for us kinesthetic learners!  Wine videos are being played throughout the studio and you can also use the iPads which have apps especially created to help you learn about wine.

The Tap Room
Here is where you taste and buy their artisan wine line on tap which includes the Artisan white blend 2013, the Artisan Red 2012, Pinot Noir Clones 2012, and the outstanding Azul-Verde 2012 which is a blend of Cab Franc and Malbec. After you taste you can buy a growler and pick a wine to take home. You can reuse the growler every time you return. They also have a cheese-pairing course for each wine which I highly recommend. They show you how the flavors of the wine and the cheeses really work together.

Wine Aroma Seminar
This class really tests your olfactory abilities. You are presented with 10 glasses filled with water and an oil carrying a concentrated aroma such as grass, melon, toast, cherry, etc. You swirl and sniff and try to figure out what exactly you are smelling. As a wine-tasting veteran this was much harder than I thought it would be and I was stumped by a few of these concentrated aromas. Wente also makes a kit in which you can buy the aromas and have your own class. This was a good learning-experience for me.

Wine-blending Experience
Here you can be a winemaker for an hour and make your own blend of Bourdeaux varieties from the Wente Estate. There were barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon from 4 different vineyards, one Malbec, one Merlot, one Cab Franc and one Petit Verdot. The wine-ambassador guides you through the process as you taste each wine and experiment by blending wines from your favorite lots and finding the right aromas and flavors for your palate. You then bottle it, cork it, seal it with foil and label it.

The Xandria 2012 Cuvee. Well, it is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon from the Silva Vineyard and the Smith Vineyard blended with Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot. I would love to age my wine but don't think I can wait that long to drink it!

Overall I found this to be a highly educational yet hedonistic experience. The wines were delicious and the wine-educators were knowledgeable and fun. Thank you to Wente Vineyards for creating a unique wine country experience perfect for the wine veteran and for the wine newbie.

Located at the Estate Winery at Wente Vineyards, The Winemakers Studio is a fine wine studio that features unique educational experiences. Open Wednesday through Sunday 11-5PM. For more availability and same-day reservations call (925) 456-2385.Wente Vineyards, 5565 Tesla Road, Livermore. Experiences range from wine tasting to blending seminars, sensory evaluation and  food and wine pairings. $10-$125. For more information, visit www.wentewinemakers.com.

07 March, 2018

Dreaming of a sunny porch - Reflections on Booker 2010 Pink

Booker Rose
Sunny one day.  Rainy and cold the next.  I find myself dreaming of summer and something yummy to drink while idling away a warm afternoon.  But who has time to wait?

2010 Booker Vineyards Pink, Paso Robles, California, USA ($28)  Lovely pink color.  Dry and super food friendly.  This is a little ray of sunshine to cloak the winter gray.  50% Grenache and 50% Syrah meld into a synergy that is 120% delicious.  Xandria brought this back from her foray into Paso Robles and it makes me want to journey out there as well.  Owner Eric Jensen makes this wine to enjoy simply.  It sounds like the have a lot more out there to enjoy.  This is on the list of things they pour daily. So while it is raining here, they will be pouring there; on March 9th  at the tasting room, they will pour the 2010 releases.  More information you need to visit is listed here

Paso Robles is on my list to visit.  Hope to see you there!

07 February, 2018

Look no farther than Lodi for a fun February getaway

Looking for the perfect place to unwind your post holiday Blues?  Look no farther than Lodi How do you get there? Read on.  To me, Lodi was a land of heat and Zin I had always meant to visit, but had never quite gotten around to going.  Shame on me!  Turns out, Lodi is a magical place of delicious farm fresh food, delightfully diverse wine, and dedicated people who bring the best of place forward for the rest of us to enjoy.
Old Codger

One of the reasons I put off visiting was the "Shangri La" nature of how to get there.  My friends in Sacramento said it was "20 minutes. 45 minutes. 2 hours" away.  My friends from San Francisco said it was "1 hour, 2 hours. 5 hours" away. Turns out, it is an easy hour and 45 minutes from the East bay and a fun drive.  I left the gritty flat lands of Oakland, zipped through Contra Costa suburbs and quickly found myself on an implausibly bucolic highway, with covered bridges and dappled shade between stretches of authentic farmland.  With more levees and water than mile markers, the road wended me toward the Lodi Wine Commission's Lodi Wine and Visitor Center.  There we met our Wine Sherpa,  Randy Caparoso, who graciously shepherded us through a great experience in Lodi.

Parking Lot or Vineyard?  Good taste says vineyard
Randy's knowledge is as deep as his patience, and his love of Lodi is infectious.  One of the first places he took us was to see old zinfandel vines tucked into light industry.  Many thanks to all of us who drank copious amounts of white zin in the 80's, 90's, and Oakland Art and Soul Festivals, because we created market conditions that saved many old vines.  It didn't hurt that the sandy soil of the area is inhospitable to phylloxera and so, many grand, old codgers are still bearing fruit and bringing wine to our tables.

Parking lot to fork #fresh
Speaking of tables, with the produce of the Central Valley fresh at hand, the food is amazing.   Traipsing around vineyards builds up your appetite.  Pietro's Trattoria is a must stop destination for the nexus of local wine and farm-to-fork cuisine.  In fact, they take it one step further and if you are lucky, you will get parking lot-to-fork tomatoes from the rich Lodi soil straight to your salad.  Their kitchen garden makes freshness easy. Pietro's pasta is tender and made from scratch, as are their sauces, which are hauntingly authentic.  The eponymous Pietro and his wife, Amelia Murdaca opened this family-style restaurant in 1957.  Today his son Jim and his wife Annette continue the tradition.  Their son, Peter is already active in the restaurant and will make sure their authentic family recipes continue. A comfortable patio at Pietro's is a  natural spot to hear stories and try wine as you dine al fresco.

Here are some favorites from our lunch:
Sidebar Kerner '14
100% Bacchus
Made by David Ramey with national distribution around 100 cases.
This German variety is a pale clear gold.  Floral aromas and touch of smoke in nose. Amazing fresh mouth feel bracing acidity Lime pith in mid palate and finish

Holman Cellars is a producer in Napa. These Bacchus (bah-KOOS) grapes came from an enchanted glen in Lodi: Mokelumne.  We tried Holman's  2015 Uncharted Bacchus. This 100% Bacchus grape based wine was a medium gold and star bright.  Lovely acidity that jumped out of the glass and a nice color from oxidation

2014 Nimmo Made by Markus Niggli.  This Kerner Gewurtztraminer Riesling Bacchus blend spends time in oak. It gets blended before it is co fermented.  An interesting process that develops into a fascinating wine with sage on the nose and a touch of Chinese 5 spice on the palate along with an overall freshness and minerality. Nimmo is an acronym Markus used to find his way home while on an internship in Scandinavia.

2013 Borra Vineyards Heritage is a field blend of 70% Barbera, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah and 10% Alicante Bouschet.  This is a true expression of terroir.  Field picked  and co-fermented, these grapes produce a wine with warm welcoming primary aromas with deep black spiced fruit underneath.  Driven by the barbera acidity, it is earthy and delicious.  Yields are low at less than a 1/2 ton an acre, but the results are luscious. #worthit

 The name "Heritage" Steve Borra told us, was inspired by his memories of his dad.  He described a scene of his dad who always had a dry salami hanging by a barrel in the basement.  He would funnel wine from the barrel to bottle and drink deeply of his field blend.  The love makes it taste better, I think.

Along the way we would encounter many great stories and a levee full of delicious wine.  For Bloggers attending the 2016 Conference in Lodi, you are in for a treat.

Many thanks to the Lodi Wine Commission, Charles Communications and all the producers who hosted me on this wonderful wine adventure

10 January, 2018

Clif Family Wine and Snacks for the Dietarty Win!

Healthy, tasty, Good for You: Clif
January is the perfect mnth to expiate your  dietarty sins.  Here's a fun way to do it>  Now, you've probably had Clif Bars on your hiking, biking or outdoor adventures.  You're good like that.  I recently discovered a  Clif Family offering that  lets even slothful  couchpotato indoor cats like me enjoy the genius of Gary and Kit and the amazing Clif Family team.

LusciousLushes Thea and I sampled the Bruschetta Trio and their wine pairings and came away thoroughly addicted.

Exec Chef John McConnell
Addiction is how the idea started when on a cycling trip, Gary and Kit (Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, founders of the Clif Bar Company) ate bruschetta at Rifugio Samsara in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.  When they returned home, a craving for those flavors sparked the idea to bring that deliciousness back to California.  Enlisting the aid of Executive Chef John McConnell and a food truck tricked out in that epicenter of cuisine on wheels, PDX, they are now rocking it all over the Napa Valley.  Since you can also try their delicious wines at their location in St. Helena, Velo Vino, I suggest that as your best bet.

For the winning hand, choose three pairs or the Bruschetta trio and the matching paired wine selections:

First, Clif Family Chardonnay, Oak Knoll, Napa 2012 was paired with a Porchetta Bruschetta.  Porchetta, for the uninitiated, is a juicy (read: glistening with fat) stuffed and roasted pork dish.  Here, the roast meat is pulled and then enhanced with chopped herbs, fresh from their garden, and a shimmering aioli.  The Chardonnay has just the right amount (50%  French) of oak for smoothness and a backbone of acid. Combine a perfectly balanced Chardonnay with porchetta and you have a delightful introduction.  Citrusy notes in the wine made a perfect match for the herby richness of the pork dish, which was my favorite.

Next,  Clif Family Kit's Killer Cab,  2011, Napa was paired with a Pomodoro Brucshetta.  Kit's Killer Cab is made from two parcels of  Howell Mountain fruit grown on their estate.  The first, Cold Springs Vineyard, produces fruit that is  masculine but gentlemanly.  Also used is Croquet Vineyard, which is described as feminine and elegant. Combined, it shows juicy, but structured, red and black fruit and was easy to drink.  This elegant wine is also completely at home at a casual lunch.  The Pomodoro Bruschetta had melted tomatoes mixed with tangy goat cheese and garlicky elements.  The sweetness of the tomatoes went perfectly with the structure of the wine.

Batting cleanup was the Clif Family Gary's Improv Zin, 2011, Napa Also made with estate fruit in this case zinfandel, the wine was bold with spices, dark fruit and a lovely finish.  Paired with Funghi Bruschetta it was the best pair.  The bold spice of the wine meshed perfectly with the savory mushroom and fontina cheese of the dish.

Yum!  Such a fun experience More info on how you can make plans to visit here

When Executive Chef John McConnell came by, I quizzed him and learned a lot about the philosophy and ingredients.  First since cycling was the inspiration and many cyclists come by, he strives to make things delicious, but also nutritious. Two accompaniments to our bruschetti, were salads.  One, Fagioli e Grano ws an Italian inspired side dish made with farro, Fregola Sarda, broccoli rabe, ricotta and heritage beans.  Fregola Sarda is a pasta shaped like a grain that was as toothsome as it was delicious.  Both Lina Sisco Bird's Eye and Eye of the Goat beans were incorporated into the dish.  All together it formed a harmonious taste and delivered enriching satisfaction.  The Tre Colori salad, whose three colors come from arugula, romaine hearts and radicchio was similarly satisfying.  What lifted the salad's  flavor was a combination of lemon scented bread crumbs and pecorino.  Chef John gave us a tip for home cooks.
The leftover ends of your baguettes can be roughly cut, then left to dry for a few days.  After that, grate in a food processor .  Quickly saute those crumbs in a pan with garlic and a little olive oil.  Perfect to jazz up your salads. More great tips here:

Many thanks to the Clif Family team who hosted us for lunch.  Everyone there took such good care of us,  answered all our questions and delighted us with dessert: Tiramisu, Chocolate Budino and a perfect espresso. Expect a wonderful experience when you visit as the staff all rock collectively and individually!  You cannot ask for a better place to while away some hours of glorious Napa sunshine with comfortable, nourishing al fresco wining and dining.  

Make plans to visit:
Where: 709 Main Street, St. Helena, CA
Drop ins welcome, but for elevated pairing, make a reservation here:

I was hosted by the Clif Family for this lunch