23 February, 2009

May the "Fuerza" be with you- Fuerza Tempranillo 2006, Mendoza Argentina

I just found a delicious Tempranillo from Mendoza. Argentina that is, not Spain. Old world style Tempranillo from the New world but with a twist. This Fuerza 2006 Tempranillo is like the Luke Skywalker of Argentinian Tempranillos; young and bright and ripe, yet beginning to smooth out around the edges as it ages. Let this darkly-hued Tempranillo lead you out of the dark side and into the realm of deliciousness. Cassis, blackberry, and anise on the nose with gripping tannins that smooth out as they roll down your throat. Fruit-forward with high acidity, this wine stands up to Chorizo or any spicy grilled meats. They never had it so good on Planet Tatooine! And for $3.99 what more could you want? But you better find yourself a Corellian Corvette (and a Wookiee co-pilot) to get you to Trader Joe's before it is all gone...Signed, A Star Wars Geek:-)

18 February, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday #54 - Passion for Piedmonte

Rain. Working past midnight. Mini migraine. And now my wine homework is based on Old World wine when all I wanted was a familiar, easy drinking friend? Ick. Warned that Italian wines can be a little on the food slutty side, I was armed with a delightful pasta con polpete, house made fettuccine slathered in a piquant sauce and studded with tasty meatballs. So the evening wouldn't be a total loss. Having swung by the Wine Mine, where they assured me this would be tasty, I brightened. The selection they picked for me in answer to the question, "Okay, so what is your favorite wine from Piedmonte? I mean, that's in stock right now." The bottle they picked for me was a 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo delle Langhe. I popped the cork and immediately a lovely wine smell emanated from the bottle. In the glass, the wine was bright garnet. I Vinturi'd, swirled and was greeted by red fruit and baking spice. Sipping, I got red berry flavors and anise. The pleasant tannins were grippy as baby starfish. Tasty on its own, it went beautifully with the pasta dish. Then I thought, assertive fruit, soft tannins? Cheese! I happen to have a gorgeous Vermont white cheddar. A few slices of that salty delight paired with the wine, softening and lifting the finish. Wow! I love this wine! At $17.99 I thought it was extremely reasonable for something so tasty that started its path into my arms in the unforgiving Euro. One of the purported origins of the word Nebbiolo is thought to mean "fog" as in coming from the fog, so named for the Langhe region's weather. Fog-o-menal, I say. Delicious wine I will seek out in the future. All in all, a good Wine Blogging Wednesday like going to a party I thought I was too tired to enjoy where the guest of honor's charisma makes me glad I made the effort.

If this makes you curious to learn more about the Italian region of Piedmonte, please check on the Wine Blogging Wednesday host's blog here. Thanks David Mc Duff for introducing me to a new friend!

12 February, 2009

Wine Blogger supports local winery--Two Mile Wines, Berkeley, CA

I know, what a surprise. While I support the wineries of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, which are practically in my backyard, I am really happy to find a winery right here in Berkeley, CA. Two Mile Wines is a local collective of wine aficionados who craft their wines in a small warehouse in Berkeley with fruit sourced from Sonoma, Napa, Livermore and the Central Coast.

Berkeley, CA has a reputation of being a “foodie” city, thanks in part to Alice Waters, organic farmer's markets, Berkeley Bowl and the divine restaurants of the Krikorian Empire (Sea Salt, Lalimes, T-Rex) and now we have our own winery to match. According to Justin Bramwell, one of the collective members, and today's spokesperson, Two Mile Wines want to produce food-friendly wines that are fruit forward and well-balanced. The wines also incorporate some local history. In fact, 'Two Mile' refers to the two mile dry zone that existed on the UCBerkeley Campus during the Prohibition era.

I got to try three wines that day even though they produce six.

2006 Dry Creek Syrah $38
The fruit for the Syrah comes from Unti vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley region of Sonoma County. Pungent nose of blue fruit, dark red fruit with a bracing note of coffee with a meaty overtone. Gripping tannins which smooth out into a cherry leather finish. Very full-bodied with a strong linger. This was selling right out of the warehouse.

Jacob's Landing 2006 Bordeaux Blend $28
(66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 1%?, from Dickman Ranch in Southern Napa)
The name of this wine comes from Capt. James Jacobs, who 1854 built a small wharf known as Jacob's Landing at what is now known as the Berkeley Marina. Capt. Jacobs was one of the first was first local shippers carrying cargoes across the SF Bay and Jacobs Landing is where it all began. But what about the wine? The nose on this one is pure perfume with floral, herbaceous, eucalyptus notes. The palate is rich with notes of eucalyptus, cherry and spice. This wine might just transport you to a better place...

2006 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah $34
Fruit from the hot Wente Vineyards, close to the 13th hole at the golf course! This has a strong nose of tar with that barnyardy aroma covering red and black fruits with a bit of cocoa. Inky and opaque, very full-bodied and tannic with a spicy steak sauce finish. This was fermented in new American oak and neutral French and the oak is very well-integrated.

The wines I tasted were very full-bodied, fruit forward and strongly tannic, yet elegant with a good balance of the elements. Unfortunately the 2007 Viognier and the 2006 Sangiovese were not available to taste but you can purchase them by becoming a member of their wine club (quantities limited.)

So go explore these bold, locally-crafted wines, learn a little local history, and get a tour of the facility. And if you happen to be in the hood around harvest time stop by and help with the crush. Two Mile Wines wants to be your community winery. Plus, they are real friendly and love to tell you the stories of the wine.

Visit them at : 2816 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94702 510)868-8713. They are usually open for tastings Saturday afternoons. And, they will give you a discount if you buy a bottle or a case.

11 February, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday, 3.2009: 10 Things I hate about the Franklin Square Wine Bar, Oakland

I hate the way you snark at me,
and the way you're not a Square.
I hate that it's not safe to park my car.
I hate the hostess's glare.
I hate your big dumb wine list
and the way you skip my glass
I hate you so much it makes me sick,
it really chaps my ass.
I hate the way you never seat me,
I hate it when you pair.
I hate it when you make me stand ,
even worse when you make me leave.
I hate the cheese denied me, and your crazy sour flights
But mostly I hate the way you don't care,
not even close
not even a little bit
not even a hair

Okay, so that was paraphrased from one of my favorite movies, "10 Things I hate about you," which inspired me to limit myself to ten things I hate about this place:

First, it's not just me, most of the reviews I saw mention the service as being at best lackluster. My own experience was that they left me to the elements even though there were several seats open at the bar. Finally, on my last approach the hostess came to the door and offered me the seats I had coveted, greasy nose against the window for the previous 20 minutes. "Thanks, but no." My skin blue with cold, I had a thought that given $10 and access to Trader Joe's, I could do better on my own at home. More on that later.

Second, it's not a "patio". It's a strip of sidewalk in an uber urban area where the thumping of bass will infuse your meal

Third, portions/quality to price seems out of whack with the QPR I have come to expect in the East Bay. For $ I want more atmosphere and interesting things.

Fourth, I have failed to be impressed by the wines I have tried here. On more than one occasion. Maybe I'm ordering the wrong things. Or maybe I'm just in the wrong venue. I am not capping on Oakland. Just Franklin Square. Even the flights with some good things have come tied with clunkers. Coincidence?

Fifth: Opportunity cost: If you're looking for a nice wine pairing experience go to Citron. Yes, It's twice the price, but you get actual food and at no time feel herded, ignored, left to the elements, or in danger. If you have any attachment to your GPS, don't park here!

Sixth: If you're looking for a Wine Bar with swagger, checkout Alameda Wine Co. Karen offers a great experience and when you have to wait, you know it's going to be worth it.

Seventh: The only time I ever enjoyed this place I was at a Petit Sirah seminar and let's face it after 10 pours of up to 17% wine, the West Oakland BART station would look cozy.

Eighth: This is personal and not their fault. Every time I try to schedule a visit here, something happens...riots? miscommunication? Reschedule? Yes. If it's going to happen, it will happen when I plan to go here

Ninth: Maybe some of you like snark. If yes, proceed to Cafe Oliveto. At least the food is rocking and the wine list focused on Italian delights.

Tenth: It ends where it begins. If the service sucks (and this service is pure HOOVER!) the rest of the program has to struggle to overcome. It can be done, but in this case, there is nothing worth struggling for.

Affordability -Doesn't matter. You couldn't pay me to go back

Wine list - Interesting. I do like the pours vs. half pours and I love a flight. but on the rare occasions I found a seat, I ordered things I didn't like. I think the only thing I discovered here it that I don't like the place.

Wait staff- Cue "Final Jeopardy" theme music...these girls put the "w-a-i-t" in waitress! And a hint, don't bet too much on them knowing anything about what they're pouring.

Food: It's been so long since I actually got anything to eat here, that it seems irrelevant.

FSWB: Run! Don't walk...to some other venue.

Franklin Square Wine Bar
2212 BroadwayOakland, CA 94612
(510) 251-0100

09 February, 2009

Happy Waitaingi Day! New Zealand Wine Tasting

Any excuse to party, our friends at South Food + Wine Bar in concert with the fabulous Jug Shop rolled out 50 different selections of New Zealand new releases. Armed with my own rules for how NOT to be a drunk ho and my drinking buddies, Thea, Lil and Anne Z, I worked my way through as many selections as time and temperance allowed. Delicious! Here are some highlights:

'07 Te Awa Chardonnay "Left Field" Delightful unoaked chardonnay. Fresh and silky and food friendly. Good book club wine!

'07 Waipara Springs Pinot Noir "Premo Reserve" Interesting nose, which under promised ---with a musty, funky cinnamony scent--- then, over delivered with tart, fruity flavors underpinned with subtle spice. Delicious!
Waipara Springs deliciousness---------------------->

'07 Dashwood Pinot Noir: Pretty nose, lovely color. Tart, fruit fresh flavors and at $14.99 an exceptional buy.

'06 WildEarth Pinot Noir: Forest floor pinot! Yum!

'06 Craggy Range Red Blend "Te Kahu": Gamy overtones to the nose that blew off to delicious licoricy, red fruit, aromas. Taste was elegant, yet solid with earthy deliciousness.

'07 Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir: Lovely nose with riffs on Santa Lucia Highland characteristics of plums, red fruit and a more specific spice which Thea identified as fresh nutmeg. Balanced acidity. Nice color.

This listlet only scratches the surface of all the delights we sampled. Rieslings and Sauvvy blancs and Ice Wine! Oh My! So many different flavors and types it really made me want to try more and more New Zealand offerings. I closed my tasting with a beautifully paired '06 Selaks Ice Wine and exceptional Roaring '40's blue cheese. Delectable!

Many thanks to both South Food + Wine bar and to our favorite San Francisco wine retailer, The Jug Shop (Paige and Chuck are the bestest!), for the best Waitangi Day ever!

08 February, 2009

89 points: Vinos Sin-Ley M4 Monastrell 2006

While other vintages of this producer came away with numbers that would appeal to any "Score Whore" out there, the 2006 was assigned 89. Since I love both the 89 Project and the varietal, monastrell, how could I resist? I snatched the bottle up.

The winemaker's notes say:The 2006 M4 is from Bullas. Dark ruby-colored, this strong effort has a classy nose of smoke, pencil lead, mineral, and blueberry. Ripe and mouth-filling, the wine is well-balanced and long in the finish. "Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate89 Points.

Hmmm. Yes, I definitely agree. Very pretty color. Less fruit than I would have expected and a lot more mineral notes. While this is a tasty, easy drinking wine, it had a little too large a scoop of the bitterness that can drive people away from mourvedre. Examples I prefer are the delightful Juan Gill Monastrell or Cline we had at Wine Bar Wednesdays past. Compared to those, this felt like a dark, bitter, catalonian anarchist---still exotic, not quite as fun and sparkly as his flirty, party animal cousins from Jumilla and Contra Costa. After opened several days, the aroma converted to cocoa powder dusted blueberries and the flavors became more chocolaty with a solid core of dark berry. At $11.99, this is a nice every day wine. It is worth picking up especially if you like less fruit forward wines and want to try something different.

07 February, 2009

Great under $10 Find: Cabriz Colheita Selecionada 2007

Hopefully you will be able to find this great value wine where you are. Our newest BrixChick, Janesta, has a predilection for white wine. So, when she dropped by, I pulled this out of my fridge, furtively scratched off the $6.99 price tag and hoped for the best. Delightful! The nose had a lovely scent of dried pineapple and fresh coconut. A pale citrine color, the mouthfeel was almost silky. The wine itself was possessed of a well balanced acidity. The flavors when first opened were yummy with hints of green apple and stone fruit. As it opened up, it took on custardy hints of tarte tatin, underscored by a subtle twist of lemon, which I enjoyed very much. I paired it with whole wheat bread and a nice salty Garroxta.

Winemaker Carlos Lucas blends Malvasia Fina (20%), Cerceal(20%), Bical,(20%) Encruzado (40%) from the producer Dao Sul. The importer's website describes the vinification as: "Total destemming of the grapes pressed by pneumatic vacuum press followed by staging in stainless steel vats only. 3 months later the wine was filtered and bottled ready for immediate pleasure". And the wine totally delivered! I will be on the prowl for more Portuguese delights!

Need help finding this yummy wine? Click here.

04 February, 2009

How to know if you are a drunk ho:

I have heard wine tastings described as "intimidating", "hoity toity", "snobby". Ha! We go out of our way to make wine, delicious wine , feel accessible to all. In fact, as long as you have not spritzed liberally with that bathroom Polo, or Aquanetted yourself into a HAZMAT violation, I welcome your curiosity, input and company on the journey to learn more about all things wine. That is unless you are a drunk ho. If you or a loved one are exhibiting symptoms, seek professional help. Here are some signs:

Falling off your Barbie heels?
Well, why were you wearing 4 inch metallic stilettos in the first place? Whatever. Dressing like you robbed a Forever 21 is seldom appropriate for Sunday afternoons. Sister, you put that mess together sober! And now you're wobbling on your aching tootsies or worse yet---you can't feel your feet. If it talks like a drunk ho and walks like a drunk ho---well, you get the picture.

Menage a trois?
Funny. The guy who picked you up this morning has a twin? No, triplets! And suddenly the one in the middle is looking kinda foxy. Blurry. But oh so foxy. What was his name? Please resist the urge to merge right in the middle of the venue. Get a room. You're going to need it. Later. Public restroom floors can be notoriously unsanitary. And no. Those Muni Wind shelters will not do in a pinch. For either purpose---unless you are drunk ho.
Eating disorder
Believe me. Not only do the Italians know fashion, their colorful phrase for "Yo! You're a drunk ho!" translates roughly to " Poor thing. She has not yet eaten enough," If you are attending a wine tasting, today is not the day for low carb, no carb, meal skipping nonsense. Mangia Bambina! The best of us on an empty stomach can quickly turn into drunk hos. Might I suggest some bacon?
Over swallowing:
Today is the day to let fly the phrase: Spit. Don't swallow. You heard me. Today your personal maxim has its place. Do not chug. Do not consume 20 full pours no matter how much you like the buzz---I mean wine. And stop looking for the keg; those red party cups are Personal Spit Cups. Figure it out. Otherwise, you risk turning into a drunk ho.
Thinking you are Batman
Over interaction with random strangers. "I love you, Chicago!" "I was just trying to be philanthropic with the sunset" And other things that so do not make sense when one is not wearing booze goggles. Challenging security. Feeling like you have superpowers. Yes. All these can be signs that you are a drunk ho. If you find yourself wobbling on your barbie heels on a rough plank three inches from an embarrassing plunge into the San Francisco Bay. And at that time you find yourself sassing a security guard because he/she is acting deranged, later, you will find that you, in fact, are the drunk ho. NOTE: This is not limited to female persons. Men, be aware, if you have over imbibed, you too can become, yes, drunk hos.
But in all seriousness, I have seen an alarming uptick at several events with out of control, should-be-wearing-a-toga drinking. Besides ranging from unpleasant to dangerous to downright illegal, it takes away the opportunity to learn about a very interesting topic. It also potentially jeopardizes the ability of the organizers to continue with enjoyable events. And hey, Drunk Hos, why are you travelling to events with "friends" so careless that they will let you get a ride home from the Park Police?
I'm not talking about responsible drunkityness. Or crossing the line from wine scholarship into giddy indulgence. Rosy cheeks. Laughing too hard. Getting flirty. Fine. Getting hauled off by the EMT's? You are a drunk ho.
Oh, and unless you are a Russian prince/princess with the means to fling fine champagne flecked crystal into the fireplace of your cozy dacha, it is never appropriate to throw stemware onto the floor. It is not cute. But then you've lost your compass for cute, because, by that time, we all know. you are drunk, ho.