31 March, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday - 5.2009 Rare, West Oakland

It's not easy being green, but quirky little wine bar, Rare, in West Oakland does a great job of identifying different ways to make sustainable fun. Focusing mostly on wines from far flung places, they absolutely make sure that all the selections are clearly marked with the sustainability agency that certified them. iFoam, LIVE, NASAA, and all the rest. The menu does a great job of clearly identifying the many ways agencies many thousands of miles away are helping us to drive sustainability practices. When the owners of Rare decided to change their focus towards sustainability, they ripped out last year's old steel and chrome decor and replaced it with the simpler, yet more glamorous "green" decor you see today. A great improvement, it really drives the sustainability message home. Brothers Con and Cador Dumas are also initiating their own private labelled wine. I had never tasted an Indian Chardonnay previously, and found it had a slight tang of curry, but other than that, definitely quaffable. Hosting their production in India makes it easier for the brothers to maintain quality, exacting green practices, and still hit the mark in profitability. One thing that hasn't changed, are the off the hook, tasty snacks! Our favorites from several visits include Giant Panda Kebabs. Not an actual bear, but rather a member of the raccoon family, the flat bones of pandas lend themselves toward a natural kebab shape. It's a slightly gamy meat, but ever so tasty with a light glaze of ginger and teriyaki that went great with the suggested Chinese Cabernet pairing. We also tried the Black Rhino Bacon and Brussels sprouts. Cador Dumas was recently back from safari in Africa and we were lucky enough to partake of one of his famous nose to tail specials. I had never had bacon made from black rhino before and found it a little tougher than I would have expected, but still a good match for the suggested Iranian Shiraz. I would have to say my favorite was the Bengal Tiger Tacos. More complex than an ordinary fish taco, the concept was still basically the same---but yummier! We found the tacos an excellent pairing for the house wine, Rare Chardo, since a little cumin and cinnamon in the guacamole brought up the hints of masala spice in the wine.

So if we apply Xandria's criteria:
Affordability - With most plates coming in over $98, it was not the most affordable. But whenever you are doing something good for the environment, I say it's best to pay a little more. The extra $10 per table for Carbon Offsets are another nice touch
Wine list - Great selection that changes often and is listed out online. I particularly loved the way so many regions were represented. Each category offered selections from California, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Oregon, China, India, Iran, you name it. And interesting varietals as well. I really loved how each certifying organization is clearly marked so you absolutely get a sense of the owners's commitment to the Green Movement.
Wait staff- Very knowledgeable, and a good balance of attentive vs. intrusive. We had a lot to go over and our server was very respectful
Food- oh-so-yummy! You will definitely be offered things here that you will not see on any other menu.

In summary, do something nice for yourself and for Mother Earth, visit Rare Wine Bar. Go, it's Green!

30 March, 2009

Gritsch Wine Dinner at Aziza-SF

Aziza is a fun, funky restaurant focused on fresh, Moroccan-inspired flavors with interesting warren-like rooms that twist around like a souk to form interconnecting dining rooms. I would like to go back with a smaller party of drunkity friends, but maybe not the best choice for a winemaker dinner, as it would have been nicer to be able to hear (and see!) Franz Josef from Gritsch. That being said, the Winemonger put forward amazing wine and wonderful food that brought out the best in it. Plus the most amazing stemware: Zalto. Lead free crystal as light as air that picked up the candlelight and enhanced the wine experience. Luscious Lush, Thea and I ended up finding parking (not the easiest thing to do in the Richmond District on a Saturday Night!) and being early enough to hit the impressive cocktail list. I had a delightful Elderberry Flower infused Prosecco, which was an exotically floral concoction and the perfect palate cleanser to sip before the meal. We tried several of the Gruner Veltliners and a Riesling or two along the 7 courses plus dessert laden grand finale

Here's the breakdown:

'07 1000 pt-Eimerberg Riesling Federspiel

'07 Axpoint Gruner Veltliner Federspiel. This was an interesting compare-contrast as the Gruner was an easy drinking treat on its own, while the Riesling was bashful to communicate. However, with food, the Riesling proved itself delightful, particularly with the dill-cucumber flatbread spread and the chili spiked squid. The young Gruner had a delightful green peach, savory tropical fruit infused deliciousness.

Next came

'07 Singerriedel Gruner Veltliner Federspiel

'07 Gruner Veltliner Smaragd

I thought they said the difference between these two wines was 2 weeks hang time for the grapes. This gave one of them a bracing acidity that made it a great food wine. Although the extra 2 weeks provided more complexity and a smoother drinking experience in the other wine.

'05 Singerridel Gruner Veltliner Smaragd

This was my favorite wine of the evening. The extra few years of age made this a tasty offering with a more sophisticated incarnation. It was mesmerizing with all the different spicy, cinnamony, bold exotic flavors Aziza threw at us. Yum! Check out the menu to see the dishes they offer. The spices, fresh vegetables and presentations are sure to delight.

We also tried '07 1000-Eimerberg Riesling Smaragd

My favorite part of the evening was the profusion of desserts that appeared. Everything was tasty, but the standout for me was the hibiscus granita/rose custard with a citrus tuile perched atop like a lacy Easter bonnet. Wow! No sickly sweet wines here, they paired the Fourth -of -July-fireworks - finale- in -DC lineup of sweets with '07 Vision Riesling Select. I had no idea that the slightly sweet wine would be able to stand up to the desserts, but it held its own. Delicious

Read more about Franz Josef here:

http://www.mauritiushof.at/ There was a totally sound of music vibe, but you could tell that the passion behind the wine goes back as far as the winery's 800 year history. Many thanks to the Winemonger who put together a fun event.

26 March, 2009

Barrel Tasting Along the Wine Road

Young, old, new or veteran there is something for everyone to love along the Wine Road Barrel Tasting. Never having been before, it was a fun experience to shadow Luscious Lush Thea and assorted friends and crew at the memorable event. I fell in love with the Malbec at Mounts Family and ended up buying half a case. Then, wandering around Healdsburg, with its unseemly wealth of greats to try was very impressed with Camellia's Cab Franc barrel sample as well as the consistent delights of our friend John at Holdredge. Strawberry Fields plus an unnamed Pinot that was freakishly delicious I just can't wait to go back. I also wandered into the new collective where the paint was barely dry but the wine was super good. I tried a Bluenose Zin with a peach cobbler yumminess (sounds weird, but the exotic fruit and spice was pretty, pretty, pretty). From there we all met up at the patient, forbearing and delicious Palette in downtown Healdsburg. Hidden away, the space was lovely, the service amazing and the food was super tasty. Our Twitter Taste Live was so much more fun with multicoastal folks like Robbin_G, Houston Wino, Wine Wonkette and Mmwine in the house---literally! Of course I forgot to snap a shot of the Central Coast Pinot, which was my favorite, however at the TTL after party, I got to try the Humanitas Gap Crown Pinot. Delish! And it is my favorite activity, drinking for charity as so much of the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity! Plus it is no duty to drink this elegant delightful Pinot! After snarfing up our fill, we repaired to the lovely Santa Rosa Flamingo to rest, relax and reload in order to hit it again on Day Two. SO much fun. Just like a family roadtrip, we hit the IHOP for a stomach lining strapping farmhouse breakfast, where Thea, Robbin and I timed it perfectly then set out for delightful Windsor Oaks, where I loved everything and bought a surprisingly tasty Unoaked Chardonnay. Then on to Copain for fabulous scenery and tasty Rhone varietals. We hit Joseph Swan where I was dazzled by the Tannat. A Pyrenees variety known for its puckery tannins, which can sometimes get either overblended or astringent, Swan ,instead , coaxes out a softly, grippy deliciousness. Bonus, one of the Swan folks is a geologist and having the actual soil samples on hand to observe brought a new dimension to discussions of terroir. On to Sunce for the insanely good Cheese bread (mayo, minced white onions and good shredded cheese are the secrets) and wine and the always fun contest where you earn your discounts; my skill won me 30% off some uber tasty wine. Saving the best for last, we met the fabulous Oenophilus and CellarDiva at Acorn, where the food and wine were off the hook. And they were kind enough to invite us all after hours to my favorite stop, Chateau Felice. The Ermitagebarrel sample was deliciously barnyardy and the rest were just plain delicious!You have to make an appointment to go, but if the only place you hit in all of Sonoma County is here, come for the family friendliness, gorgeous grounds and delicious wine. You won't be sorry! Plus, hello? Celebrities! I met Sketcher one of the stars of "Winery Dogs". He is surprisingly down to earth. [Hint: You can make an appointment at the intercom box at the foot of the gate if space is available]

What are you waiting for? Sonoma awaits!

25 March, 2009

It's wine! It's Technology! It's Wine 2.0!

If you love wine and technology, this event at the Must See Crushpad facility is so for you! Talk about blending sesh, Wine 2.0™ is the self described "innovator in social networking and events in the wine industry. With a focus on the next generation wine consumer, Wine 2.0 breaks down the barriers to learning about, experiencing, and enjoying wine. Wine 2.0 events feature a rich diversity of world class wines and the newest generation of emerging technology companies, services and communication tools that are changing the world of wine."

Xandria and I will be wandering around trying to get our 2.0 on. See you there!

WWTJD? Pairing Bargain Wine and Snacks from Trader Joe's

In these recessionista times, the modern hostess can have no better friend than TJ. But what to cull from the plethora of choices? We are starting a new feature WWTJD? (What Would Trader Joe Do)Wednesday. Together we will work on the scary mysteries of life like "What does that $3.99 wine taste like?" and what snacks go with it? Anyone can throw down a $12 sliver of cave aged Gruyere. BrixChicks will endeavor to present our experiences ---good or bad---to help you find an interesting mix.

For my first challenge, I wanted to see what I could do in the Appetizers For Four Sub $10 - category. Xandria had mentioned good things about The Pancake Cellars Big Day White, so I thought for $3.99, how could I go wrong? I tried a couple of things and these were my favorite. For under $10 I created "Asian Patatas Bravas" By defrosting the frozen Roasted Potatoes in the microwave, then quickly sauteeing them in Extra Virgin Olive oil , I managed to come up with the right crispy crust texture on the potato chunks, but they still tasted a little too much like Ore-Ida Potatoes O'Brien. Tasty, but not very tapas. By slowly adding some Satay Peanut Sauce to the cooked potatoes till I got the right level of taste without being overwhelming, I was pleased with the result. The spice in the satay sauce was interesting and different with the Pancake Cellars. I linked to a blog post that RJ posted that really does a nice job and I totally agreed with.

A little over $10, but very tasty were the Thai Curry Chicken Stix. Since they didn't provide a dipping sauce, I whipped one up using Soy sauce, rice vinegar grapeseed oil, garlic powder, and a squeeze of Meyer lemon. Since the Chicken stix had a lot of ginger, the sauce ended up being a good note to match with the snacks. The lemon brought down a little of the sweetness in the wine and as RJ said, this is a very forgiving wine. I even had it with guac and chips and it was serviceable.

24 March, 2009

Finding Ada - AdaLovelaceDay09

So for my Ada Lovelace post, I thought I would write about my friend and fellow BrixChick Janesta. Like Ada L., Janesta is a ground breaker in that she started her career in technology when it was uncommon to see women in tech roles and lucky for me and my ilk that she did! Not only did the great---and at that time courageous---work set the stage for those of us who came along later to experience more possibilities, but like walking in the snow, I am sure it wasn't always easy and fun to set out early. Here are three things I learned from her that have helped me immeasurably:
1. It's lonely in the Sandbox alone: We were put on a team in the middle of one of the most rancorous "mergers" in IT history. While I was working it to put the hate in Hatfield, Janesta serenely remained the Real McCoy. Exasperated with me, she stuck the olive branch into a chilled glass of Ketel One, handed it to me and I discovered two things: Damn! I love a vodka martini and two, a friend; we have been friends ever since---much to my benefit. I have repaid that karmic favor many times and it always works in my best interest---even when I had to endure the second most rancorous "merger" in IT history without her.
2. Preparing mentally takes space and time: Life moves fast. My tendency to wing it, fling it, sing it or ding it often makes sense, but I find I get the best results from taking space to prepare not just the work, but the instrument---yes, myself. Though we often have to focus on non-human tasks, priorities, etc., Janesta never forgets that there is a person on both ends of the equation. I observed her preparations to carve out a calm in the eye of the storm, before she tackled anything particularly onerous and saw how that was a critical success factor in achieving her goals.
3. The Art of Saying, "No." Brilliantly simple, sometimes the trick to meeting expectations is simply to set them appropriately. A well timed, "I simply can not..." is light years better than excuses/explanations/justifications/rationalizations and the lies that pass for statistics. For all parties. Though more often, I saw that her worklife reflected the maxim, "too much is never enough," I also saw the well timed, firm and confident no was the best tool to ward off the crazies and allowed her to focus on what was important but not necessarily urgent.

Not exactly rocket science, but within the underpinnings of a successful career and a wonderful person to know. Thanks, Janesta! Happy Ada Lovelace day!

18 March, 2009

WBW #55 - Part 2 - Smokin' Syrahs - Crozes Hermitage vs. Cachapoal

The North vs. South fun continues!

It has taken me a couple of years to acquire my taste for Syrah. The smokey, meaty, peppery notes and bitter finish just made my palate pucker, but as my palate develops I cannot get enough of the stuff. I just tried my first Crozes Hermitage and I knew I had to write about it for this intriguing assignment.

For my northern Hemisphere selection I tasted the Crozes Hermitage Fine Fleur de Crozes Cave de Tain 2005 ($18.99) 100% Syrah.12.5% alcohol
Crozes Hermitage AOC is in the Northern Rhone and Cave de Tain is the largest producer of wine in the appellation. Although this is Southern France I am going to call this my “cooler-climate” Syrah, especially compared to my other choice.

I was surprised by the medium garnet color (I thought it would be darker.) The nose was earthy, and contained notes of white pepper and clove. It was smoky on the nose and palate, well-balanced, tangy red fruit finish, a little chewy with food-friendly acidity. According to the winemaker this wine was aged in oak for 12 months.

I chose a Chilean Syrah for my Southern Hemisphere pick. Chile is not particularly known for it's Syrahs but the Azul Profundo 2005 will help to put it on the map. The grapes are from the Cachapoal Valley, located in central Chile about 100km south of the capital of Santiago. The climate is hot and dry in the summer/fall months.

This is definitely a warm-climate Syrah, and it is just plain voluptuous. The color was a dark, almost opaque garnet. The nose was profound with barnyardy aromas that dissipated to reveal sandalwood, stewed black berries, bits of licorice and chocolate, notes of black pepper. On the palate there were slightly chewy tannins, ripe blackberry flavor, and an almost bitter peppery aftertaste that smoothed out as it went down. Unfortunately, no technical information on this wine was found but I am certain there was aging of at least a year in older oak barrels...There was just a trace of oak on the palate. 100% Syrah, 14.3% alcohol by volume.

As I was savoring my Syrahs I developed a craving for Lamb Biryani. Well, I will be damned if this was not the perfect pairing. Common knowledge holds that sweet, acidic white wines pair much better with spicy ethnic cuisines. Well, not in my book. The clove, almonds, cilantro, raisins and the gaminess of the lamb called for the smoky and spicy notes of the Syrahs. I was in umami heaven.

To sum it all up: everything was as expected. The Southern Hemisphere Syrah was bold, inky, spicy, fruity, higher alcohol. The Northern Hemisphere Syrah was earthy, smoky, spicy, and not as intense. Both had slightly chewy tannins and complex layers of aromas and flavors. Both are under $20 and both are a good pairing for lamb dishes. No surprises here, but the next time I eat Indian I will order a Syrah instead of a Kingfisher.

WBW #55 North vs. South: West Cape Howe Takes on Windsor Oaks - Review of Unoaked Chardonnays

So, this past weekend, I spent barrel tasting in Sonoma, but Janesta and I made time to do our first ever All White Wine Blogging Wednesday and pitted the North represented by '07 Windsor Oaks Unoaked Chardonnay (which I purchased on site at Windsor Oaks) against the '07 West Cape Howe Unwooded Chardonnay . How did it go? Well, first, Janesta and I delighted in the easy open (screw top! whoo hoo!) of the Australian offering. First blood drawn goes easily to the Aussies. Once the tops were popped, we took a long look at color. Subjective. The Northern offering was a clear, bright citrine, while the South had a hint more butter in its straw yellow cast. Draw. Yellow is yellow after all and the fragrance in the air bespoke wine that needed drinking! Onto to Aromas. The West Cape Howe was decidedly fruity. We debated on the savoury tropical fruits that best matched the delicious perfumes we fully inhaled. The Russian River Valley was sort of slacking here. Old apples? Green apples? Cellar floor? Whatev. The lure of the Aussie perfume was hard to resist. See? Check. Sniff? Check. Sip? Ha! The good part! Swirling the offerings in the glasses, we thought this would be a slam dunk for the South. Beautiful aromas. Lovely color. What more could we ask for? Then the taste test: Russian River Valley In The House!!! Flavors of stone fruit and apples and a delightful acidity I knew would excel at the "Pairing with Food" test yet to come. While the Australian offering had lovely fragrance and was a fine sipping wine, the Windsor Oaks flipped the afterburner switch with its food friendly flavors. With salad of romaine lettuce, sugar plum tomatoes, and Maytag Blue cheese dressed with grapeseed-fig balsamic mix, RRV took the prize. With Brussels Sprouts cooked in lardons, both wines did well, but RRV, again, had the needed acidic backbone to pair well. Even the easy-to -pair Polenta-and-parmeggiano went much better with the cooler climate Unoaked Chardo. Don't get us wrong. The West Cape Howe had strong QPR coming in at $17.99 compared to the delicious Windsor Oaks at $29 winery direct. However in the ultimate test, which bottle was emptied first, the Windsor Oaks handily won. We were wringing out the bottle of the Windsor Oaks with two glasses to go on the West Cape Howe. Still, we ended the evening with two empty bottles and a better appreciation for Aussie Chardonnay, our tummies packed with the delicious Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay from Windsor Oaks. North prevails!

In summary, the '07 West Cape Howe had nice fragrance of fruit. The flavors were like dried papayas without the sweetness. Very dry, it had a round, rich mouthfeel and fruity nose. It also had low acidity , which contributed to its being a better sipping wine on its own rather than a food pairing wine. The '07 Windsor Oaks had less overt fruit and better acidic structure which let it make magic with the food pairing. In short, just what you might expect pairing hot climate Australian where blasting heat gave us languid deliciousness and the Northern climes of Sonoma gave us a bright focused wine with pleasant acidity.

WINNER: North!
However we felt like we were all winners for getting to try such great offerings. More about the Windsor Oaks here: 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay... You will be hard pressed to find as lovely a spot. And the West Cape Howe here Unwooded Chardonnay. An easy drinking delight.
Janesta and I had a great time comparing these two wines against each other. Thanks for another fun Wine Blogging Wednesday!
Nick Stacy, the representative for West Cape Howe will be at the Jug Shop pouring on 3/21 and Janesta and I plan to be there! See you there! Click here for more details

11 March, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday - 4.2009 Cin-Cin, Los Gatos, CA

Leave it to Los Gatos. Cin-Cin, named for a convivial Italian toast, not only fits right into the locale, but celebrates it in a way that is effortlessly green. The product of a great partnership between former Birk's exec chef and a former Google-ite turned master sommelier, the interesting, lush location made for a fabulous Wine Bar Wednesday. So technically this was a work thing, but I enjoyed it so much, I just had to tell all. And bonus! Even though this is Los Gatos, Cin-Cin is very recessionista friendly with its super fun Happy Hour where from 3:30 to 6:30 selected wines and tapas are half off. It's a good strategy as given how tasty it all is, you just want to eat/drink twice as much. Since it was a work thing, I didn't pay as much attention to the beverages of my companions, but I did have plenty of focus on my own. As soon as I saw the flights, I was seat back, tray table stowed, all in for a Spanish Flight.

'06 Telmo Rodriguez, Dehesa Gago, Tempranillo
'03 Finca Villacreces, Ribera del Duero
'06 Monastrell, Vinedos De El Seque

All three were inky, restrained fruit, soft round tannin, food friendly delights. I found the wine glass tags super helpful--one of the many well thought out, hospitable touches.

And the food! Chicken liver pate drizzled with sherry! Wild mushroom turnovers infused with Manchego, truffle oil and flaky pastry sin! Tiny croquetas of goat cheese! Dates wrapped in bacon! And all half off! Delectable!

I also tried a 3 oz pour of the the '03 Bordeaux, Chateau Coufran, Haut-Medoc, France which was a barnyardy delight (Xandria--this has you written all over it!)

We concluded the evening with one polenta cake four spoons and one last drag off the Happy Hour wine menu. Mine was '06 Jurancon, Charles Hours, France as close to botrytis as I could get. Silky sweet and a lovely end to the working day.
So if we apply our Wine Bar Wednesday Criteria:

Affordability -Happy Hour makes it very affordable. Also, the ability to try flights, special flights and 3, 4 or 6 oz pours makes it easy to try things.
Wine list - Extremely well thought out and eclectic. Pairing food and snacks was easy and effortless, There was both depth and focus , which made me want to return.
Wait staff- Our waitress was a rock star. She was a wealth of info about the food and knew a lot about the wine as well. When she didn't know, she went back and asked and brought accurate info out to us. She was attentive even though the place was full and also had a great personality. This space is beautiful, the food delicious and the wine, compelling, but I had the sense that even if that wasn't the case, our server would have elevated the experience.
Food: It's been a week and I am still dreaming of the Wild Mushroom turnovers. I want to go back!
All in all, if you are nearby, make sure you visit. And if you live farther afield, Cin-Cin is worth the trip. Los Gatos is classified as a village for a reason- cute, quaint and now a reason to return.
368 Village Ln., Los Gatos, CA, 95030
(408) 354-8006

10 March, 2009

Montecillo Wines Part 2 - Montecillo Verdemar 2008 Albarino

I was fortunate enough to attend the second round of events celebrating the wines of Montecillo in San Francisco (please see Liza's review of the first round below). It was a warm, rather small fiesta in which the conversation and camaraderie were flowing. Although the 1981 Gran Reserva Tempranillo was not available that night I did get to enjoy a pre-release of the 2008 Verdemar Albarino. The Albarino varietal comes from the Rias Baixas in the Northwest province of Galicia. The 2008 Montecillo Verdemar Albarino is 100% Albarino (12% alcohol) and 100% delicious. It is a light straw color and the nose is very fruity with aromas of mostly tropical fruit and a bit of lychee. There is an undertone of lime but there is very little minerality which is unusual for an Albarino. The mouthfeel is rich, sweet and almost creamy. I tasted tropical fruits (papaya and pineapple) on this medium-bodied elixir and after munching on the Manchego a note of peach popped on my palate. I was mesmerized by this wine. It was a diamond in a sea of rubies and it was the most popular wine that evening. Like Liza said we have to wait until May for the release but it is defintely worth the wait. Look for it at SavMart and Safeway, or from Underdog Importers.

Also, I would like to thank winemaker Maria Martinez- Sierra for her warmth and hospitality, Janet Kafka, igourmet.com for the delicious meats and cheeses, and Lori of Underdog Importers for putting on a wonderful party!

Blame it on Rioja! - Review of Montecillo Wines

I really do have an Uncle Manolo, and he really is from Spain. When I visit my non-drinking aunt, he does his best to knock the California bias out of me with Spanish delights. So I was a little prepared for the vinified goodness in store for me at the recent Bodegas Montecillo events I was fortunate enough to attend. Held at a private residence, we enjoyed delicious wine in a relaxed, luxurious venue, but best of all, also got the extra special delight of meeting and speaking with the winemaker herself, Maria Martinez Sierra. When Maria speaks, her passion shines through. Spanish flair, loamy earth and a determined spirit glow in her words and her deeds. The result? A beautiful, refined product and for me a crash course in the the Montecillo brand's expression of Rioja. First, Maria clarified that in addition to the rules the Spanish D.O.Ca has to diffentiate between Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, she further imposes her own standards of excellence on the wine, resulting in not every vintage making the cut in her estimation and therefore, Montecillo will skip years if the product is not up to Maria's standards. Sampling all three was a great way to get an understanding for what Montecillo does. First,
'04 Montecillo Crianza, Rioja, Spain: Garnet with a slightly darker cast, this had delicious aromas of cherry, vanilla and sarsaparilla. The flavor delivered a choco-cherry blast mid palate. It has slightly bracing acidity, which went exceedingly well with food.
'03 Montecillo Reserva, Rioja, Spain: 100% Tempranillo as all these offerings are, this was my favorite. It had a silky mouth feel that I liked very much. As well, the tobacco notes and the balanced fruit taste made it clear, this is a sophisticated wine. Used as I am to the fruit forward nature of my beloved California, I responded to this more restrained but still fruit showcasing wine
'05 Montecillo Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain: Drinking these all together, the gran reserva was more elegant but with the same restrained fruit, balanced acidity and food friendliness. I loved the different experiences with a consistent cherry nose and flavor.

Tasting all these together provided a perspective on the Montecillo offering as well as kind of hooked me on the delights of Rioja. Then, came the big guns. As Maria delighted us with personal stories of developing the on site cooperage to further enhance her program and how to make a Spanish Asador (lamb cutlets roasted over vine clippings), she also "found" a bottle of

'81 Montecillo Gran Reserva, Rioja Spain: Wow! Aromas of cedar and hay. A color like the skins of red plums with coppery undertones. Flavors of tobacco, cherry, cedar...Silky mouthfeel with soft, tannins that seemed to undulate on my tongue. This wine had Bordeaux inspired elegance. The real stunner was the affordability. I thought this would be over $100 and hard to find. Well, BrixChick Liza, we're not in Napa anymore. $45 online!

I am totally planning on springing this on my wineaux friends for an Open That Bottle night, This is a discovery that needs to be shared.

Speaking of food friendliness, the Spanish charcuterie and cheeses served with these wines served only to heighten the experience of tasting these wines. I tried most without the food and found them delightful, but with food, especially the expertly chosen Spanish treats, Knock outs.
And speaking of food, I was invited to the winemaker dinner. It sounded like tapas and more wine, but ended up being an uber gourmet feast with expert pairings that began with fried cod in lobster sauce, included a tempranillo marinated pork dish and concluded with a Pedro Ximenez late harvest. Rocked my world! Many thanks to the whole team at Janet Kafka for bringing such an amazing event to the SF Bay Area. The epitome of gracious hospitality, I can think of no better match than a great product to help me enhance my own efforts at hospitality, presented by a team that lives and breathes it!
PS: On May 1st, 2009, Montecillo will roll out an Albarino. Mark your calendars. I wonder if Amazon will let me preorder?

09 March, 2009

Restaurant Review: Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant

Credit for this find goes to BrixChico, Vince, who scours the offerings on KQED religiously. Red Sea, located on the corner of Telegraph and Claremont is a simple, unprepossessing location, but watch out: the food is off the hook. Whether you are a vegetarian or like meat with your meat, there is something on the menu to delight. For 16 years, the folks at Red Sea have been putting out authentic and tasty Ethiopian food. Our visit was no exception. Another nice feature for us wineaux, is the $5 corkage. Since BrixChicks/Chicos (emphasis on the CHICO) can be Wine Snarks, this was a nice feature as it freed us to bring some finds of our own, rather than settle for beer or cocktails. We congregated at this spot on cold, rainy evening, but our server/hostess had a smile that lit up the space and was cordial, helpful and fun. In fact, we all got a chuckle as we ordered, when I misspoke the combo I was ordering and she was concerned we would not have enough food. Clearly, she didn't know who she was dealing with! By the end of the order, I think her concerns had shifted to the kitchen---as in would they have enough food! Schedules being what they are, it had been a long time since Xandria and I had hung out, so I picked something I thought she liked and she also dusted off something she thought I would like. BrixChicks rule! So, I brought an '08 Ironstone Riesling I had acquired on a recent trip to Murphys. With a petrolly nose and floral spicy notes, it was the perfect counterpoint to the crispy, fried Vegetable Sambusas. The heat of the jalapenos which infused this appetizer were zippy with the refreshing off dry Riesling. The four of us positively hoovered the Riesling and apps, in time to clear the table when our main entry arrived. Xandria had brought a delicious Boarding Pass Shiraz This dark, fruit forward wine had enough presence to stand up to the exotic spices in the food. So excited at the wine was I that I neglected to snap a photo of the delectable color wheel presented to us. They had aggregated the the Vegetarian House Combo with the regular House Combo, which featured chicken, lamb, beef, and shrimp alitcha. Alitcha means sauteed in garlic, gingerroot and turmeric sauce, which produces a bright yellow, aromatic delight. But my personal favorite was Bamiya, okra and potatoes cooked in mildly spiced red pepper sauce with onions, garlic and ginger. We sopped all this up with the Injera. Injera is the Ethiopian bread, which looks like acrylic fleece, but has a soft, sour taste and makes it easy to grab all the delicious sauces up. The restaurant website encourages "the giving of gursha. Gursha means 'mouthful' and refers to a small morsel of food, which one places carefully in another's mouth. This is an exciting and somewhat erotic part of the culture. Used as a gesture of affection, Gursha can be exchanged between husband and wife as well as among close friends and relatives". Maybe next time. All in all a fabulous find. I will so go back!

Red Sea Eritrean & Ethiopian Restaurant
5200 Claremont Street Oakland, CA 94618
Phone (510) 655-3757

Hours: Mon - Sun 11:30 am - 10 pm

02 March, 2009

Introducing BrixChick Janesta: Review of Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc

Hello! I am the newest official member of the BrixChicks. Having enjoyed many adventures with Liza and Xandria, I was thrilled to be tapped to start blogging. My first love is white wine. Well, to be truthful, I really love an icy vodka martini, but I also have a strong preference to white wines. I am looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about wines beyond my current favorites. But to start, Liza and I work on a fund raising committee for a school in West Oakland, St. Martin de Porres. We are fabulously lucky to embody the "work hard-play hard" motto, and our meetings are made even more fun by always having great wines and delicious food to make our Monday evening tasks lighter. If you are not already busy on March 17th, think hard about attending our fundraiser, "St. Patrick's on Broadway" and if you can't there are many, many wines---white or red---rare and special that you can bid on. Go to town. It's for the kids! But I got sidetracked didn't I? Anyway, I first tried the '07 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc at my fund raising meeting. The color was pale yellow. When I smelled it, I noticed the delicious scents of tropical fruits, young coconut and pineapple as well as something that smelled like peaches, It was also sort of spicy. When I tasted it, it had a silky consistency. The flavor was out of this world! Layers of complexity that managed to be savory, tropical and delicious. A little sweet it went great with the cheese and light snack our hostess had provided and inspired me to work a little harder on the event. I looked at the price $26.99, a generous treat from our hostess. Thanks Francine! This is BrixChick Janesta, signing out for now.....