04 December, 2009

Wine-Appreciation Tips | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Wine-Appreciation Tips | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

For those in need of "wine humour" click above link or just read on:

Most wine experts frown upon serving a peignoir with white meat. This is primarily because a peignoir is a type of lingerie.

In Europe, wines are named according to the region from which they come. Among the most popular are wines from the Bordeaux region of France and the Night Train region of Italy.

When dining with friends at a restaurant, order the second-least expensive wine on the list. If on a date, order the fourth-least expensive.

If you are uncertain whether to select a merlot or beaujolais for a spring breast-of-lamb garden dinner, avoid making a decision until we come down to beat the living crap out of you.

Many liquor stores offer a "Try Before You Buy" program, whether they know it or not.

When sipping wine at a Catholic eucharist, swallow quickly, before the wine undergoes the miracle of transubstantiation and you get the unpleasant taste of a mouthful of human blood.

Distinctly fruity overtones are the mark of a good sommelier.

The quality of a wine is inversely proportional to the viciousness of the animal depicted on the label.

Aw, man, once in high school, my friends and I got totally ripped on this wine Eric's older brother bought for us. I don't remember the name, but it was all pineapple-flavored. That was the night we got kicked out of Arby's.

The proper glass is crucial to wine enjoyment. Before pouring wine, thoroughly rinse out the remnants of your cherry Icee.

When throwing a tasting party, never serve more than one category of wine. [This tip courtesy of The Guide To Sucking Every Bit Of Joy And Spontaneity Out Of Living.]

17 November, 2009

"Women Who Wine" Tasting #2: Women Winemakers

When "Cheese Mouse" and wino extraordinaire Sandy Cr. came up with the brilliant idea of a woman's only wine-tasting group in the South Bay/Peninsula, we knew she was on to something big. She wanted to avoid the oftentimes serious atmosphere of a male-centric wine-tasting and let the girls be girls as they enjoy their wine. I was excited to be invited to join this group and we came up with the name "Women Who Wine". Our inaugural tasting took place at Los Altos Bar and Grill where eight female oenophiles gathered to compare Old World vs. New World Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.

That night we decided that tasting #2 would be in honor of women winemakers and everyone was to bring a bottle of wine made by a woman. Jill invited us to her lovely home in Palo Alto and made us dinner to enjoy with the wines. We had 5 "Women Who Wine" in attendance: Anh Thu, Emily, Jill, Sandy and me, Xandria. The wines we brought covered a lot of territory from California to France to Italy, spanning from 1998 to 2008. Here is a wrap-up of this tasting including tasting notes, wine-pairings and a bit of info on the winemakers:

APPETIZER COURSE: Blue Cheese Squares with carmelized onions -
We decided to pair the lighter wines with the appetizers, soup and salad. Jill's contribution to the tasting was a lovely 2007 WesMar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($40) Winemaker: Denise Mary Selyem (with her husband Kirk Wesley) - Yes, Selyem as in Williams Selyem and she is defintely carrying on the family tradition of crafting premium Pinot Noirs. Everyone agreed that this wine was well-done. The nose had notes of fruit and flowers and it filled our mouths with sweet cherries. The mouthfeel was silky and it had vibrant acidity making it a great food wine. Anh Thu compared it to a red Burgundy from Chambolle-Musigny which I think is quite a compliment.

SOUP COURSE: Pumpkin Mushroom Bisque
We paired this sweet and savory soup with the 2004 Domaine Weinbach Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg from the Alsace ($40) brought by Ahn Thu. Winemaker: Laurence Faller - Domaine Weinbach is located in Kayserberg, France and is bascially one of the largest Domaines in the Alsace and is run completely by the women of the Faller family. Laurence is known for her Rieslings, Gewurtraminers and Pinot Grigios and other whites.
This Riesling comes in a deep golden color and the strongly pleasant aroma of petrol came to the forefront of the nose. I would say this wine is dry with notes of sweetness, mineral notes and crisp acidity which were all very well balanced. There was also a little creaminess on the palate making it a nice match for the soup. It also paired well with the green salad with blue cheese, cranberries, oranges and nuts with honey mustard yogurt dressing.

The third wine we paired with the appetizer/soup/salad course was Emily's fine contribution. The 2008 Occhipinti SP68 Nero d'Avola Frappato blend from Sicily ($30). Winemaker: Ariana Occhipinti, a 25 year old winemaker from Sicily who has been making wine under her own label for the last 4 years. She is the niece of Giusto Occhipinti of the famous Sicilian label COS, so great winemaking runs in the family. Ariana uses natural winemaking practices such as using wild yeasts for fermentation. This wine comes in a light-garnet color that reminded me of a Pinot Noir. But the nose was so juicy and fruity it was like smelling a bowl of macerated strawberries, red raspberries and cherries. The taste was vibrant with a tart edge of cherry. This wine reminds me of summer. The interesting thing about this red wine is that fermentation takes place only in steel tanks which I think really allows the fruit to shine through.

MAIN COURSE: Braised short ribs and roasted red potatoes
Before I talk about the wines I just have to say that Jill makes the best short ribs! They were so tender and the sauce was so good. We paired the heavier reds with the main course. We started with the 2006 Josetta Saffirio Barbera d'Alba,($24) winemaker: Sara Saffirio. Again another winemaking family known for award-winning Barolos, in which the younger generation took over after the vineyards had been closed for about a decade.
Violet red with ruby undertones and a clear rim, bright, fruity nose of cherry cobbler with hints of cinnamon. More aromas appear the longer it stays in the glass including cherry leather and tobacco. Tannic and tangy yet starting to soften. Bright acidity with red fruit on the palate. The tannins of the wine paired perfectly with the proteins in the meat. I want to revisit this one in 3 years, 5 years and 10 years...But it is drinkeable now.

Next I want to tell you about the "Big Girl" of the evening, or rather the 1998 Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape made by Laurence Feraud. Sandy actually bought her Pegau at the winery and she tasted the wines with Laurence. It is not often I get to drink aged wines and this one has aged nicely. This dark ruby cuvee had the funk going on and a lot of "barnyard" aromas. In fact Sandy described it as "brett heaven." I picked up on a lot of musty black pepper which covered floral notes of lavender, and red fruit notes. There was a lot of black pepper on the palate. This bottle was drinking very nicely and the acidity was still intact. The finish was long, rich, ripe and smooth. This wine was another great pairing with the short ribs.

Here is il Gnomo, or the mascot of Josetta Saffirio wines. The winemaker's mother actually designs the labels and the family believes that gnomes are watching over the vineyards and winery.

Ah, sweet endings. Ahn Thu brought this orange chocolate almond cake from Prolifc Oven in Palo Alto. So moist and delicious. Unfortunately we did not have a dessert wine to pair but the sweet notes of the Riesling were a good pairing.

IN SUMMARY: All of these wines were well-made and very drinkable. And they all paired with the dinner that Jill prepared which we did not even plan on. It was a magical night in which food, wine and women came together . As for women winemakers I am not really sure if the wines are different because they are made by women but I would love to hear any feedback about that. I also get the feeling that we will have more tastings such as this because there are so many talented women making wine. So tell us, who are your favorite female vintners?

07 November, 2009

Most Wanted Chicken Recipe - Entry For Twisted Oaks Winery Culinary Cluck Contest

Deep in the heart of Calaveras County you will find a magical forest where rubber chickens grow on trees. Drinking copious amounts of the delicious wine also native to the Rubber Chicken National Forest will aid immeasurably in suspending your disbelief impulse. Drinking even more delightful wine from Twisted Oaks Winery will not in the least detract from the certainty that this recipe will turn out for you. Cooks need wine. It is an unassailable fact. Good photography, on the other hand seems to have an inverse relationship with blood alcohol level. Go figure! Anyway, while the
results of this recipe may appear unappetizing ( Luscious Lush Thea suggested I title it "Alien Chicken"...you'll see why), if you give it a try you will fill the air in your abode with savory aromas, delight your guests and facilitate a dead easy pairing.
Here's how:
Most Wanted Chicken - or Results of Ruben's Bender

What you will need:
A stick of butter, softened
1 whole roasting chicken about 4-5 lbs
Long, thin strips of lemon zest, about 1/4 of the skin of a large lemon
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and whole
1 can of Vernor's Ginger Ale
1 cup Twisted Oaks Ruben's Blend, White Rhone Blend divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup
Coarsely ground salt
1 tablespoon Grains of Paradise (these are hard to find but insanely delicious; you can try white or pink peppercorns, freshly ground )
1/2 lemon sliced crosswise into 2 pieces
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Start by moving the racks in your oven to the lowest position.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Then, take the can of Ginger Ale and pour most of it into a glass, leaving about 1/4 - 1/8 of a cup left in the can. Add the 3/4 of a cup of the Ruben's Blend wine, the clove of garlic and the lemon zest to the can. Set aside.
Take the chicken. Remove and discard the giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Place the chicken in a shallow roasting pan, either lined with foil for easier cleanup or unlined if you want to make gravy. Take the remaining 1/4 cup of the wine and pour into the inside cavity of the chicken. Swish around. Lay on its side to rest and relax while you arrange the rest of the ingredients.

You will need the coarsely ground salt, freshly ground pepper, softened butter, chopped parsley and lemon pieces. It gets messy from here, so it's best to have everything handy. Take the butter and rub chicken with it inside and out. Use the entire stick of butter. It's okay if the wine drips out onto the roasting pan. Then sprinkle salt, pepper and chopped parsley all over outside of chicken.
Next, take the 2 pieces of lemon and inset them into cavity of chicken. Lastly, take the half full, seasoned, ginger ale can and carefully insert it into chicken without spilling the contents. The chicken is able to stand on the can. If you can rope someone into helping you during this step, it's easier, but the butter definitely makes it easier to push the chicken onto the can without spilling the contents of the can.

Place the chicken on the lowest shelf of the pre-heated oven and roast for 60 - 90 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 180 degrees.

When that is done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. After the wait is over, carefully remove can from chicken using oven mitt. If you are planning on making gravy/sauce, you can reduce pan drippings over the stove directly in the roasting pan. You can also use the drippings as a butter sauce as is. The ginger/lemon/grains of paradise combination tastes great with the butter.

This should easily produce a moist flavorful chicken that pairs extremely well with the Rousanne, Marsanne, Rolle and Viognier in Ruben's Blend. The ginger ale, wine, and seasonings combine to steam the chicken and infuse it with flavors of the Rhone, while the butter crisps up the skin and self bastes. We served it with fluffy mashed pototatoes that we had flavored with (more) butter and white truffle oil.
Okay, so Thea was right: it does look like Alien Chicken. Here is a retouched photo --------->

1) No Rubber Chickens were harmed, roasted or otherwise bent, spindled or mutilated in the production of this piece.
2) I used the Beer Butt Chicken recipe from WasabiBratwurst for inspiration
3) 2007 Ruben's Blend came in one of my Twisted Few shipments, so I don't know how much it cost...but you get a discount and invites to super fun events if you join, which if you had any sense, you would!

30 October, 2009

Shaheen's Famous Goat Cheese and LaPorte Sauvignon Blanc

My friend Shaheen, the Urban Goat Girl rocks! Her recent hobby, which I wholeheartedly applaud and sincerely hope she commercializes is organic, raw milk goat cheese. Elusive in this country but oh so delicious is fresh unpasteurized chevre. If this is danger, sign me up! BrixChick Janesta and I enjoyed not only a fabulous Brie, but also several chevres seasoned with lemon rind and pepper, garlic chive and cumin. I won' t mention the artisan bread. Okay, I will! It was halbweis, homemade and perfect!


To go with that, what would we pair but Sancerre? I needed to visit Solano Cellars to pick up some wine, so got an awesome recommendation to go with the cheese.

'08 Le bouquet de LaPorte, Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley

At $18.99 it was a treat from the Loire Valley that was as close to the Sancerre I craved as conveniently possible. Delicious! The freshness and brightness of the wine meshed insanely well with the cheese. A very clear, pale yellow, the wine had a nice acidity and a lovely flavor and aroma. Lemon blossom, green leaves on the nose and lovely Sauvvy B charateristics on the palate. It was good on its own, but gr88888t! with the cheese. We thought of our friend @WineInkbyTia whom we knew was traipsing through the Loire, while we contented ourselves with the product of the Loire and of our delightful Urban Goat Girl friend, Shaheen!

Look at the paste she got on her brie! Yum!

14 October, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #62: "You say Mourvedre. I say Monastrell" A Grape by any other name.....

The BrixChicks deep love for all things Mourvedre is no secret. So for this Wine Blogging Wednesday challenge, of course we go for a grape with many names, but all with deep color and changeable nature. Since I adore Monastrell from Jumilla, I was happy to try a Monastrell from Alicante and compare it to a "local" Mourvedre; another favorite "River of Skulls". Xandria and I completed this exercise together so I also got to sample her French Mourvedre.

But first a little about Monastrell. I thought it had three names, Monastrell (Spanish), Mataro (Italian) and Mourvedre (French) , but who knew the actual list of names makes it sound like a trendy street drug: "Other names include Alcallata, Alcayata, Alicante, Arach Sap, Balzac, Balzar, Benadu, Beneda, Beni Carlo, Berardi, Bod, Bon Avis, Buona Vise, Casca, Catalan, Cayata, Caymilari Sarda, Charnet, Churret, Damas Noir, Drug, English Colossal, Espagnen, Espar, Esparte, Estrangle-chien, Flouron, Flouroux, Garrut, Gayata Tinta, Karis, Maneschaou, Marseillais, Mataro, Maurostel, Mechin, Monastre, Monastrell Menudo, Monastrell Verdadero, Mourvedre, Mourvegue, Mourves, Murvedr Espar, Negralejo, Negria, Neyron, Pinot Fleri, Plant De Ledenon, Plant De Saint Gilles, Reina, Ros, Rossola Nera, Spar, Tintilla, Tire Droit, Torrentes, Trinchiera, Valcarcelia, Verema, Veremeta, Vereneta" this from Information and Coordination Centre for Biological Diversity (IBV) of the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE), Deichmanns Aue 29, 53179 Bonn, Germany. http://www.genres.de/idb/vitis/.

I have been most familiar with those Monastrells from Jumilla who bring with them a dusty cocoa blackberry delight, which is similar to the Contra Costa examples I have had as well, so I was also curious to see what differences I would find.

The wine I tried was :

'06 m2 Monastrell, Vinos Sin Ley, Alicante, Spain

The producers goal is to bring fresh modern wines to the market at exceptional prices. At $10.99 for this offering, winemaker Salvador Poveda is doing a nice job. It is a very opaque, dark red wine. The initial nose was banyardy, almost tarry. While the blackberry was prominent, it was more like blackberry cigarettes, with a strong mixed berry component to the aroma. The flavors had a lot of fruit, blackberry and fruit leather flavors with white pepper flashing in the mid palate. As it opened up, it was smoothed out but initially there seemed to be stronger alcohol that the 14.5% listed. All in all, this wine had great QPR and was the most likely to me to be a good tapas wine. I was curious how cool Alicante was compared to Jumilla, but could only drill down that the m2 came from "Zone 8". It was bottled in Monovar in the center of the DO, so perhaps there is a cooling breeze that brings out so much more spice than fruit?

We busted out all the peppers to do an impromptu drill down on the peppery notes. Was it red peppercorns? Green? Black? White? Grains of Paradise? Sumac? Thyme? Lavender? Rosemary? Definitley white. With a little anise as well. Then we read the instructions again, and the suggestion to compare with a more familiar/local version of the other name jumped out and Xandria got me to open a

'06 River of Skulls, Twisted Oak, Calaveras County, $35

This was much more my style. It came out a lovely ruby color and though the bottle indicated 14.7% alcohol, it did not burn my nose as the Spanish (and French) offerings did. The nose had blackberry, cedar and a generous dollop of oak. When I said , "like a walk toward the beach in Bolinas," Xandria snarked, "that's a nice way to say: Lots of oak!". I loved it. And it was the third wine I poured and the first glass I finished. Mixed with a little Syrah, it had gorgeous fruit flavors (but no chocolate). The fruit came from the Dalton Vineyard in Calaveras County and guess what? They too call it "Monastrell"!

Paired with a delicious porkchop, polenta, fresh Chanterelle mushrooms it was a very fun Wine Blogging Wedensday! Thanks, Dale Cruse, for an interesting exercise!

"You say Monastrell I say Mourvedre" Wine Blogging Wednesday #62 - Part 2

Monastrell, Mourvedre, Mataro, oh my!

For this tasty little assignment the Brixchicks chose Monastrell,one of their favorite varietals, which we discovered has several aliases other than Mourvedre and Mataro*. It is true that we drink a lot of Monastrell from Spain (especially from Jumilla) and Mourvedre from California so I thought it was high time to taste Mourvedre from France. We gathered the wines a did a vertical tasting of: the the 2006 La Bastide Blanche from Bandol ($24.99), the 2006 M2 Monastrell from Alicante, Spain ($10.99) and the 2006 "River of Skulls" Mourvedre from Twisted Oak of Calaveras County, CA ($30.00.) I concentrated on the Mourvedre from France.

I searched high and low for a 100% Mourvedre which proved difficult as it is normally used for blending with other Rhone varietals (ie; Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault) to make Chateau Neuf de Pape from the South of France and other various Southern Rhone blends.

Through my thorough research I finally found the 2006 La Bastide Blanche from Bandol. Mourvedre is the most common red grape from the Bandol AOC, or wine region, which is situated near the Mediterranean Coast just east of Marseille in the region of Provence. The Mediteranean climate is perfect for the Mourvedre grape which takes a long time to ripen. Most winemakers in Bandol make blends of mostly Mourvedre. In fact, La Bastide Blanche uses at least 75% Mourvedre, according to the folks at K&L Wines, and is blended with Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan. So I was hoping this wine would give a good idea of how French Mourvedre expresses itself.

Mourvedre produces a dark, dense, intensely perfumatic wine. This Bandolian Mourvedre is the color of the darkest rubies. As soon as I poured it into the glass my nose was assaulted by the aromas of cassis and anise with underpinnings of tobacco,blackberry and cranberry. At first the tannins were overpowering but they smoothed out as I drank more. I got tangy cranberry and notes of black pepper on the palate. It is an elegant, balanced wine and not one element really stood out. Liza thought this would be the most "food-slutty" wine and it was a nice accompaniment to the fresh chanterelles she brought from Seattle.

For Liza's reviews of the Monastrell and Ca. Mourvedre go to: http://www.brixchicks.com/2009/10/wine-blogging-wednesday-62-you-say.html
In summary the Mourvedre from Bandol is like the elegant, well-dressed cousin of the complex, brooding, chain-smoking Spaniard M2 Monastrell while the River of Skulls Mourvedre is the fruity, California party-girl of this trio. One grape such different wines...

*For the other obscure names for Monastrell/Mourvedre please read Liza's post if you haven't already.

12 October, 2009

Drinking the Pink: Roses from Spain to Chile and back to California

It is officially autumn and I am continuing my summer tradition of Rose-drinking. In fact I am proposing that we drink Rose year-round because seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is quite lovely. Roses make me feel good because I love the various hues and tones of pink, orange and red. I love how they are smooth and light-bodied yet dry and crisp to accompany antipasti, cheese and charcuterie. Their affordability also makes me just giddy and delicious Roses can be found for under $20.

Now, I don't want anyone to be confused about what exactly a Rose wine is. Rose is not a grape and Rose wine is made of the juice of any variety of red grapes. The difference is in how these grapes are vinified. There are three main ways of making Rose:

1) Light skin contact - Red grapes are crushed and the skins of these grapes are only in contact with the juice for a very short period of time usually 1-3 days. This is what gives Rose its light color. After the skin contact this lightly-colored juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks (with some exceptions.)

2) The method known as "Saignee" which comes from the French word "saigner" which means "to bleed." The wine-makers bleed out the juice from the grapes in the vats after a short time of skin contact, leaving the crushed red fruit (or must) intensified and ready to be made into red wine. The extracted pink juice can then be fermented on its own to make Rose.

3) Blending of red and white varietals to change the color of the wine. Not that commonly done except in making Rose Champagne (in the French region of Champagne, that is.)

Roses can be made of any red grape varietal and the most common are Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Grenache. They are usually drunk upon release and I have been drinking mostly Roses from 2008.

Here is a round-up of my "summer of pink" and a few recommendations:

Event #1: Spanish Rosados
One of my favorite Rose-drinking events from this year was the "Wines of Navarra, Spain" that happened in September at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. Navarra is a region located in the Northeast of Spain and the city of Pamplona is located here. The major red grape varietals are Grenache, Tempranillo, Graciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. As for whites they grow Chardonnay, Viura and have just started producing Sauvignon Blanc. They also make a divine white dessert wine from the Moscatel grape. I concentrated on the Roses (or Rosados as they are called in Spanish) and most of them are made with 100% Grenache with a few interesting exceptions.

Bodegas Chivite, one of the oldest wine-producers in all of Spain, presented two interesting Rosados. The first one I tasted was the 2007 Gran Feudo Rosado sobre lias (aged on lees.) Yes, this Rosado spent 6 months on lees which are yeasts found in wine barrells after the fermentation process. It was fermented in oak ande stainless steel tanks which is unusual for a Rosado. The other unusual aspect is that it is a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Merlot whereas most Navarran Rosados are 100% Grenache. The nose of this one had pear and guava on the nose and a creaminess on the palate due to the aging on lees. I thought it pleasant and a bit unusual.

The 2008 Gran Feudo Rosado de Garnacha which is one of the driest rosados I have ever had. I mean puckery! Although it was light-bodied it had a very long linger. Definitely bone-dry.

In general I would have to say that these Rosados from Navarra were all so easy to drink, smooth and well-balanced. One sip leads to next and before you know it the bottle is empty...I will say right here and now that the wines of Navarra are a real bargain for wine-drinkers in the U.S. and hardly any of the wines were over $20. In fact, Mr. Wilfred Wong was at this tasting so you just might be seeing some wines from Navarra at Bevmo.

Mr. Tony Rivera, a distributor of wines of Navarra. He represents Bodega de Sarria who make a large variety of wines. I liked the easy-drinking 2008 Senorio de Sarria Rosado made of 100% Grenache.

Event #2: "The Blind Tasting"
I also attended a blind rose tasting in September. Out of the eight roses the winner was a Rose of Malbec from Chile, beating roses from Provence, Carneros, South Africa, Columbia Valley, Washington and the Basque Country of Spain. The 2008 Viu Manent Rose of Malbec, Valle de Colchagua, Chile is one of the prettiest wines I have ever seen with a core of bright pink and a clear rim. The nose is beautiful and full of candied grapefruit, kumquat, nectarine and a bit of tangerine. Dry yet smooth with a lingering finish of slightly-bitter citrus zest. All of this for $5.99.

#3: A favorite California Rose

As I write this on a chilly October evening I am blissing out on a 2008 Husch "Vin Gris" from Anderson Valley, CA. But that is gray wine not pink you say. Actually Vin Gris is a Rose made specifically of Pinot Noir (and sometimes Gamay) that is very pale due to very light contact of the grape skins with the juice of the red grapes. In fact this Husch Vin Gris had only 24 hours of skin contact resulting in a wine the color of light amber with orangey/grayish tinges. The nose is very fruity with strawberry, watermelon, and guava notes. This is lightly-flavored with strawberry and the mouthfeel is smooth with a crisp finish. Dry but not bone dry. Love it with my fresh Chevre.

ROSE NEWS ALERT: I just learned that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This means that drinking pink this month can be a very significant act. Fleming-Jenkins Winery in Los Gatos, CA are selling their "Roses for Research" with partial proceeds going to Breast Cancer research. Check out their website at www.flemingjenkins.com for more information on their Victories Rose. And yes, Fleming as in Peggy Fleming, Olympic champion and breast cancer survivor.

A votre sante and keep drinking those Roses!

09 October, 2009

Something Wicked this way comes - Review of new Inspired by Starbucks locale

Wicked good! So, sometimes people do not so much love the Starbucks. For blogger ethical disclosure I have to admit that I am currently in a serious relationship with Starbucks; I would marry them if I could. Their consistency is as reliable as death and taxes and if you roam at all, you will find that someone's beloved local coffee hangout is some one else's bitter, reach for the prilosec moment or someone else's vibrant arts cafe is someone else's scary urban experience. Not Starbucks! On Hampstead Heath, Nolita, or lovely Modesto, I know what I am getting with my double tall nonfat no whip mocha. And I love that!

On a recent jaunt to Seattle, I was in desperate need of coffee and wifi, so you do the math. But a BrixChick never likes to do the expected, so I thought I would try the latest "Inspired by Starbucks" location, 15th Ave Coffee and Tea Initially they had me at "artisan pastries". To my delight, free wifi is just part of the service! So nice, too. They individually grind and prepare using several methods. My server recommended a Clover drip method which made the aromatics leap out of the cup. They discuss several other brewing methods on their website . The location is stunning! Decorated with repurposed items and materials, the feel is like Anthropologie for coffee. Everything was gorgeous and comfortable. The pastry did not disappoint--as tender and buttery as the best NorCal has to offer with a hint of lush pastry cream and perfect Washington apples. The Puerto Rico coffee I was helped to select was perfect as well. Inky and rich without being bitter. Yum! My only regret was that I did not get to sample the wine! Ha! Well a handy scheduling error on my part put me on a flight that DEPARTED at 8:40 pm ( I really thought it said ARRIVED), with the afternoon free and no shortage of my need for free wifi, I jaunted back to 15th Ave for wine and a cheese plate. Beecham's Cheese very nice and local no less. As well as a lovely Goose Ridge G3 Red Table wine. Great together! I spoke to someone who said that this is a pilot venture. Starbucks places a lot of emphasis on making the location blend into the local neighborhood like 2% of cofermented Viognier can soak into Syrah! So this location is also an
expression of the neighborhood at 15th Ave. A second location which will be called Roy's will open soon. While 15th Ave also brings art and blues to its space, Roy's will also take its name from its address, but a different location driven entertainment venue is planned. Now, my only regret is that they do not have a similar venture planned for Northern California. Starbucks, if you're listening, please consider "Rockridge" or "Temescal"

16 September, 2009

WBW #61:Visit a winery or 66 lines about 33 Wineries

How was I supposed to talk about just one of the fabulous places where I have tasted delicious fruit of the vines and experienced such great hospitality? Then that Jim Carroll song came on the radio and I knew what to do!

66 lines about 33 Wineries:

Hahn Estates Winery
Gorgeous valley view, super nice people, delightful Pinot Noir and the most food friendly wine ever: Hahn SLH Pinot Gris.
St. Supery
Beautiful tasting room, fabulous people, sinfully delightful wines like Elu and Virtu as well as all the lovely St. Supery offerings
By appointment only, divine wine including an inky Merlot of perfumey delight backed with elegant flavors and enormously pleasing cabernets.
Descend from modern minimalist beauty into a warren of wine technology reminiscent of the movie, "the Matrix" and enjoy fabulous Napa wine.
Home of delicious cabernet sauvignon and a wonderful winemaker!
Perched atop Atlas Peak, wonderful hospitality, delicious wine and a view like you died and ended up in heaven
Wonderful Pinot Noir in a cozy tasting room where the staff will crack you up!
Wonderful wine, glamorous grounds, fun people and Petanque courts!
Always goes all out for events to combine glamour with their fabulous Zins and a summer bright rose
Stomping Girl
Pinot Noirs of surpassing delight right here in the East Bay
Periscope Cellars
Wines of urban delight and fun events like comedy and yoga
Nice wine and Adirondack chairs by a babbling brook.
Utilitarian tasting room, but the magic happens in the wine especially the awesome Grenache and the exceptional dry Rose.
Mounts Family Winery
These folks know how to party and always have super fun events and great wine; I bought Malbec futures!
Interesting wines and blends that verge onto weird but oh so tasty and fun people with a passion around all things biodynamic and BONUS: Tortilla, the goat
Hess Collections
Art, glamour and a truly lovely Chardonnay
Cline Cellars
Mourvedre! Lovely tasting room and offering of surpassing delight!
Twisted Oak
Pirates, chickens, and divine California expressions of Spanish varietals including one of my all time favorites: The Spaniard! Ole!
Beautiful space in downtown Murphys with excellent Zins
under construction
Melange de la Mer and airy bright tasting room
Descend into cool stone interior and taste through a raft of delicious wines
Broll Mountain
Gorgeous wines and our favorite tasting room experts: Roger and Ginger!
A little Las Vegas swagger in Napa with gorgeous wines to back it all up-Yum!
Hope and Grace
Tucked away in a Yountville mini mall, part decorator showcase part Pinot Noir of the angels
Beautiful, elegant, delicious Cabernets and handy, uber gourmet salts and oils.
Expansive gorgeous facility in Livermore turns out many luscious treats including a selection of fabulous Petite Sirahs
Gracious comfortable facility in Yountville with many great things to try including awesome "Table for Four"
Chateau Felice
Beautiful grounds by appointment only with lovely wines including a fabulous Syrah
Best view in Napa and great wines
Dancing frogs, delicious sparklers and the most informative tour of all things methode champenois
Hospitality, great blind tasting games and snacks on event days, plus of course delicious wine
Wide array of all that is delicious in an industrial setting
AP Vin
Scores like a National Merit Scholar and delicious Pinot Noir in an urban setting

01 September, 2009

California Wineries "off-the-beaten-path": Heart O' the Mountain Winery - Santa Cruz Mountains

"Swimming pools, movies stars and premium Pinot Noir"

This summer I had a rare opportunity to tour "Heart O' the Mountain" Winery in the Santa Cruz mountains. This winery is rarely open to the public so I feel lucky to have found this tour. It is a pretty special estate that has a fascinating history. In fact, this estate was once owned by filmaker Alfred Hitchcock from 1940-1974 and was known as a party place for the Hollywood elite at the time. But even before Alfred came along this estate had an illustrious history. It was established in 1881 by CA. pioneer Pierre Cornwall, a politician, goldminer and financier, who paid a whopping $500 for the 85 acres. He and his wife Sada started the "Santa Sada" winery there where they cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon.

The estate is now owned by Bob and Judy Brassfield and their son Brandon who is the winemaker. They acquired the estate in 1978 and then started the winery around the year 2000 and their first Pinot Noir was released in 2005.

This winery is defintely off-the-beaten-track as you travel the narrow, torturous, curvy road through the Santa Cruz Mountains. But the beauty of the estate and the delicious Pinot Noir made my nausea totally worth it!

When we arrived Brandon Brassfield was waiting for us with a bottle of High Valley Sauvignon Blanc made by his brother Dustin in Lake County. Brandon then proceeded to take us up to the former home of Alfred Hitchcock which is now the home of his parents Bob and Judy. The architecture is a hodge-podge of Spanish and Missionary stylings with gardens, portico roofs, marble statuary, and a secret wine cellar. And, yes, there is a swimming pool but there were no movie star sightings...

"Coming up to the former home of Alfred Hitchcock in the beautiful estate of Heart O' the Mountain"

"Barrel sampling with Brandon the winemaker. We are anticipating the release of the 2008 Pinots because the samples were so amazing already."

"This is the 2006 estate grown Pinot Noir."

Okay, this is where I get to talk about the wine. Pinot Noir is by far my favorite varietal and Santa Cruz Mountain appellation produces some wonderful Pinot Noir. The vineyards are located 1100 feet above sea level on Mount Roberta. There is fog and cool temperatures from the Pacific Ocean breezes yet there is warming from the inland valleys. This produces Pinot Noir with generous acidity and a velvety mouthfeel. The grapes are planted in small blocks tailored to the microclimates on the estate. They produce low yields and the winery produces a small amount every year.

We did a vertical flight of the 2005, 2006 and 2007 releases. They are all estate grown and aged in French and Hungarian oak barrells in a combination of new and neutral oak. These wines are balanced, elegant and have generous acidity.

Here are my brief tasting notes:
2005 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - light garnet, with a fruity red raspberry nose, oaky on the palate with a tangy sour cherry finish. This wine is a combination of the 667, 777 and Pommard clones. Aged 9 months in new French oak and 18 months is neutral oak. This was the oakiest of the three. Winner of the male vote at the 2006 Pinot Noir Shootout!

2006 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - This vintage is the earthiest of the three and has notes of mushroom and forest floor. Medium-bodied, well-integrated oak with a juicy cherry finish, not as tannic or tangy as the 2005 yet bolder. This has the same clone combination of the 2005.

2007 Heart O' The Mountain Pinot Noir - This Pinot is the darker, more concentrated, voluptuous style of CA. Pinot Noir with aromas of cherry liquer and cocoa. The palate tastes of dark red fruits and cinnamon spice. There is a lovely note of espresso on the finish.

The view from the outdoor tasting room.

Brandon Brassfield is a great tour guide. He is friendly, hilarious and loves to talk about the history of the estate.

"Pinot Noir Vinyards in the Redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains."

As I said the winery is not open to the public often. However, if you join the wine club of this highly-allocated wine they do have ocassional pick-up parties at the estate. It is a trek that is worth making, especially for the Pinot Noir lover.

Visit www.heartothemountain.com for more information and to join the wine club.

And please, come back soon to Brixchicks.com as we will be describing our lastest adventure at Rubissow Winery, another "off-the-beaten-path" winery in Mt. Veeder!

14 August, 2009

People with Passion - Reminder about Family Winemaker's Event

You are cordially invited!
Where: Fort Mason, San Francisco

When: Sunday August 23rd, (3pm – 6pm)

What: 19th Annual Family Winemakers of California Tasting
One of the most comprehensive tastings of California wine in the world with over 350 wineries pouring! Look for a ton more things to try if you have been following along or just a great event to put on your annual calendar if this is new to you.
Some of the more unusual reds include Aglianico, Lagrein, Negrette, Bastardo, Counoise, Tannat and Tinta Cao, while unusual whites to be poured include Albarino, Picpoul Blanc, Torrontes and Vermentino.
Of course there will be top producers of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir from appellations all throughout California. But there will also be many smaller producers that you might not otherwise get a chance to know and love. The Family Winemakers of California web site has a very handy varietal search tool to get a complete picture of how many different types of wine will be poured.
Here is a fabulous tool to plan your visit. A list by varietal or producer! Check it out:

A broad range of prices…the most expensive wine in the tasting will be a $200 bottle, while the least expensive wine will be $8. Winery case production also varies; the majority producing between 1,000 and 5,000 cases per year.

If you have been envious of all the great stuff we who attended the WBC (well, envious of the Energizer Bunnies who are done with their posting not slackers like Janesta and me that have more notes than time!) grab this chance to try many of them in one place.
Seriously great event with lots to tempt your palate and BONUS: Way less Drunk Ho action than some of the bigger events!
For tickets: click here

12 August, 2009

WBW#60 - I have Zinned or This little BrixPig went to market...

The Meat market! When Xandria walked in staggering under the weight of brisket, chicken, pork ribs and all the fixin's as well as a six pack of Lodi Zins we had received as samples, I knew we were in for a super fun Wine Blogging Wednesday. Thanks, Megan for the perfect summer combination: BBQ and Zinfandel. And then speaking of the Meat Market, our conversation took an anthropomorphic turn while we were discussing the , " I have Zinned..." theme. So I thought why just pair the wine with BBQ, when we could also riff on the whole "If this wine were a guy it would be..." Pinot Noir might be the one we lust for in our hearts, but Zinfandel, reliable, robust and just sweet enough. is a ringer for "boyfriend material". So in addition to being a tasty treat to pair with robustly sauced, smoky meats, here are my tasting notes paired with someone to put the "date" in Date Night!

'06 Harney Lane, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzie James Vineyard - Lodi, CA: We were tasting through 6 bottles of Lodi Zin and every previous offering was all American oak. Though this wine was shy to open, once it had about 15 minutes in the glass, open it did. The 20 months in French Oak gave it a decidedly Continental flair, compared with the others. Its mouthfeel was smooth with subtle tannins. The grapes come from old vines planted in 1904 with thick "trunks" and vigorous growth. Good genes, careful tending and the furnace blast daytime heat gave us juicy flavors and a finish shot with tobacco notes. Star quality? European? No stranger to the cigar box? Classic? Shy with star quality? Charlie Chaplin! At approximately $27.99, an easy to cast, amusing partner for your food pairing delight.

'07 m2 Wines, Old Vine Zinfandel, Soucie Vineyard, 1916 Block, Lodi Yum! This wine blasted out of the bottle with all that is classically yummy about Lodi Zins. Dark and jammy, it was delicious on its own, but had enough tannic strength to be very tasty with the BBQ. The tasting notes detailed the labor that went into the wine. The old vines require special vigilance to get the best flavors, including careful pruning and picking two or three times a vintage to select only the best grapes at the right time. Then they are processed carefully into small bins and inoculated with three strains of yeast. All this (with credit going to the Delta Breeze that cools the night air 30 - 40 degrees) produces a lovely, fruit forward wine. Dark and opaque, with aromas of blackberries, black cherries, cassis and cedar shavings. Lushly fruity flavors with hints of mocha. Classically tall, dark and handsome and very, very fruity? We tagged this: Rupert Everett. At $22, a great addition to any dinner party.

'07 Newsome-Harlow, Zinfandel, Big John's Vineyard, Calveras County, CA With "Sex and the City - The Movie" available on HBO, any mention of Big and John is naturally going to turn the mind (well, my mind) toward thoughts of the ultimate Big John, Mr. Big. But did this wine fit? Let's see...Dark, handsome and bold and very different from the others. Check. It was a little bit of a shock to move from the previous options that, though varied, expressed a typicity of Lodi. This was definitely different. Much less overt fruit, but still nice black cherry and black fruit. The tannins in this wine were much more assertive and the color was darker. Still check. Also, this wine was more than a little food slutty, meaning it was okay on its own, but much improved by pairing with the BBQ. Excellent! Mr. Big goes with food like chocolate goes with peanut butter! At $36, this is also the priciest of this set, so again. John James Preston, if you were a Zin...

In conclusion, BBQ + Zin = Good times! Thanks to Megan for a fun WBW and Happy Birthday to WBW, who turns 5 with this month's theme!