22 April, 2010

An Oddyssey of Greek Wines - Part I

"Mezes" is a Greek restaurant in San Francisco owned by Nikos Maheves a CIA- certified Sommelier from Greece. Who better to take us on the journey of learning about Greek wines and food? I recently attended a fun get-together at the restaurant for a food and wine pairing session.

Here is a short primer on Greek wines:
*There are reportedly 300 varietals indigenous to Greece. The main growing regions are shown on the map above.
*Greece is known mainly for their white wines
*With some exceptions Greek wines are not made to age. According to Nikos,very few reds are aged for more than 8 months in French oak. The wines are meant to be drunk sooner rather than later and they are defintely made for food.

Here are four of the most common varietals that you will find at a Greek restaurant:

The first wine for the evening was the 2007 Petra Rodytis by Kir Yiannis. Rodytis (ro-DEE-tees) is a white varietal and this one was from Naoussa in Thessalia which is a province in Northern Greece. Petra is the word for "rock" and indeed there is a strong mineral quality on the nose and palate. There are also grassy and citrus notes. It is light gold and highly acidic, dry, light-bodied and slightly tannic. In other words "food-slutty.) Perfect match with seafood and this was served with lightly-fried calamari with garlic aioli.

The second white of the evening is the 2008 Mantinia Moschofilero from Tselepos which is on the island of Peleponesse. Moschofilero (mo-sko-FEE-lay-ro) literally means "scent of flowers" and the nose is very floral with notes of rose, honeysuckle and honey. the mouthfeel was silky with light acidity and light tannins. We drank this with zucchini cakes but it goes equally well with seafood.

Our first red of the evening was the 2008 Notios Peleponnisis Dry Red Wine. It is made with a common varietal called Agiorgitiko (Ah-George-GEE-tee-ko) which means "St. George." This is a medium ruby-colored wine. The nose is filled with red plum, cherry, blackberry and cinnamon. The mouthfeel is like velvet and there is a lovely olive note on the mid-palate. This was served with grilled sausage and beans in tomato sauce. I also like this one with dolmas and spanakopita.

The last wine of the evening is known as the "treasure" of Northern Greece, Macedonia to be precise, and it is called Xinomavro (Ksee-NO-mah-vro.) Easier to drink than to say! Xino means "sour" and mavro means "black." We had the 2008 Paranga Dry Red Wine by Kir Yianni. The nose is redolent of roasted tomato, red cherry, and black olive. Xinomavro is usually aged in oak for around 8 months so there are some tannins on the mouth feel. It is medium-bodied, nicely acidic. And no, it does not really taste sour! It is the match for highly-spiced meats like lamb, beef and pork.

I will soon be attending a seminar on Greek wines put on by "All About Greek Wine" where I hope to learn more about the Greek wine industry, many of the wineries, and the different varietals. Until then, enjoy and visit Mezes at 2373 Chestnut St., in San Francisco, where they do have a large list of Greek wines.

07 April, 2010

Pinot Summit! Results are in!

With the 8th Annual Summit behind us, I am already looking forward to next year!  Organized beautifully by the Amazing Barbara Drady, this event was not only super fun, but is dedicated to my favorite: Pinot Noir.  This year, we got to taste through 40 Pinots that showcased the mutability of this grape variety as well as the artistry of expression of the wine makers. 
In addition to the fun classes, the highlight of the day is walking into a big room with broad expanses of Pinot Noirs wrapped to completely hide the bottles and labeled only with color names so that we could try them all and vote for our top 3.  These 40 wines were culled from several previous tasting groups so that these finalists represented all that is good in the world.  Yum!  Of course, I had to spit and even then ended up with pinot-colored wine goggles by the end of it.  But I got to experience a wide gamut of Pinot personalities.  If you are curious about the entire result lists it can be found here:
As for my favorites:

Number 1 was Eric Ross Saralee Vineyard 2007.  It was an amazing clear, salmon pink color.  I expected it to taste flinty and restrained.  Wrong!  Whiffs of strawberries, rhurbarb and apricot.  Flavors of fresh strawberries, cedar and toast.  The mouthfeel was almost creamy.  Delish!  We got to meet the winemaker and see some of his excellent photography, too

The Pinot I gave the second highest score to was Heart o The Mountain 2007 Santa Cruz Mtns.  100% Pommard clone, the garnet hued wine had in additon to a nice pinot palette, black tea, banana and jasmine in its aromas.  Flavors shone with cherry, cedar and something slightly smoky in the midpalate.  Lovely almost chocolatey finish. 

For the third highest, I picked, 2007 Nicholson Ranch Sonoma Coast pinot. I loved the coppery undertones in the medium garnet hues of the wine.  Aromas of cedar and cherry.  Bright cranberry splash in the flavors. 

It was fun to also talk to people about their top three colors.  I spoke to a lot of people who rated the Tan high, but I had rated it very median.  Hmmm.  During the reception that preceded the Awards, I ran to the table where Tan was being poured.  Was I ever glad I did!  My inital notes read "sweet, raspberry soda, no finish"  Tasting the 2007 Claibirne and Churchill Edna Valley by itself, I found the wine to be ripe with cherries and red fruit and a nice touch of spice.  I revised my opinion just in time to hear the results where this was the Pinot Noir showed up in almost all of the four top 3 lists. 

All in all a great day!

05 April, 2010

A Taste of Chile in San Francisco, CA. April 6th, 2010

Hey Bay Area folks!! Come support vicitims of the Chilean earthquake by attending this charity event. There is quite a selection of Chilean Wines, foods and entertainment.

"Raise a Glass and Funds for Chile - Tuesday, April, 6th

Bay Area Chileans, Presidio Cafe, Chilean Consulate SF and Chilean Importers will host “A Taste of Chile: A Benefit for Earthquake Relief” at the Presidio Cafe, from 6:30 to 10 pm. Guests will sample various wines from a multitude of Chilean appellations paired with empanadas from Café Valparaiso of Berkeley .

All proceeds benefit COANIQUEM, a private non-profit Burn Center foundation that operates three rehab centers in Chile. The February 27th earthquake comprised their facilities and they need immediate funds to continue treating their young patients.

COANIQUEM’s U.S. Director will attend to accept donations. We ask that guests contribute a minimum of $25.00 donation, and those who give $100 or more will be included in a raffle drawing.

We are excited to have Alex Geiger, the Consul General of the SF Chilean Consulate as an honorary special guest and our co-sponsor "Wines of Chile-USA".

Participating Wineries and Wine Entities include:

Apaltagua, Calcu, Domus Aurea, Penalolen
Parqua, Maquis & Tercos - (Global Vineyard Imports)

Terranoble -( Winebow Chilean Imports)

La Playa Family of Wines - (Cabernet Corp. Imports)

Kingston Family Vineyards, Casablanca Valley

Aresti, Curico Valley - (Broadbent Selection Imports)

Cono Sur - (Vineyard Brand Imports)

Los Vascos - (Pasternak Wine Imports)

Veramonte, Primus & Ritual - (Huneeus Vintners LLC)

Alto Sol, Cucao, Chono, Vina Quintay, Rayun,
Palin & Vina Litoral - (North Berkeley Imports)

Casa Marin & Vina Chocalan - (Domaine Select Wine Estates)

Concha y Toro & Palo Alto - (Banfi Vintners)

Arboleda - (Frederick Wildman)

Montes & Santa Ema - (TGIC Imports)

Concha y Toro (Banfi Vintners)

Vina Ventisquero (Austral Wines)

Vina Santa Carolina (Rapel Valley)


Food Sponsors:

Empanadas (Vegertarian & Beef) by Cafe Valparaiso Berkeley

Shrimp Anticucho w/ Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto & Alfajores by Sabores del Sur

Breads & Savory Tarts provided by La Boulange Bakery & Cafe

Cheese provided by Say Cheese of Cole Valley


Entertainment Sponsor:

Araucaria Dance Organization will perform "Cuecas" (Chile's National Dance)

Raffle Prizes:

Presidio Golf Course Gift Certificate- A Round-Of-Golf for 4
Don Melchor Reserve Cabernet 750ml bottle
Los Vascos "Le Dix" Cabernet 750ml bottle
Casa Marin Pinot Noir "Litoral Vineyard" 750ml bottle
Veramonte "Primus" Red Table Blend 1.5L magnum bottle
Local Bay Area Chilean Artist, Javier Urzua's Landscape Oil Painting of Central Valley
Absinthe Brasserie & Bar Gift Certificate
Nopa Gift Certificate
Ozumo Gift Certificate
XYZ Restaurant @ "W" Hotel Gift Certificate
Citizen Cake/ Orson Gift Certificate
Sauce Gift Certificate
Jardiniere Gift Certificate
Fifth Floor Gift Certificate"

If you want to know more about the effects of the Chilean earthquake on the wine industry go here: http://www.winesur.com/news/serious-effects-of-chilean-earthquake-on-wineries-and-vineyards

01 April, 2010

A Feast for the Senses in Calistoga

Tucked behind a sunny storefront in quaint and charming Calistoga, an amazing oenophile experience awaits.  Thanks to Marcy Gordon who invited me, I got to participate in a wine blogger session of this fun and educational opportunity.  Brought to us by the wonderful folks at W.H, Smith Wines, this set up allows you to experience the different components of wine aromas separated out into opaque black glasses.  Reying only on smell, we sniffed our way through the set up trying to match the scents with the component.  I thought I would get all of them wrong, but was happy to have gotten 11 right!  Turns out my love of fruit and the various and mercurial waftings of Pinot Noir served me well!  T'anne Butcher, who lead us through the excercise said that she can make it easier or harder depending on the make up of the groups.  We also got to examine the effect of stemware on flavor.  I found it fascinating how the exact same wine tasted different --in some cases radically different---based on the form factor of the glass.  Because the shape of the glass affects how you process the aromas and aromas inpact flavor, well, you do the math.  Fun to experiment!  But the most fun experiment was sampling the W.H. Smith Wines.  After all that analysis, it was great to wrap my taste buds around some yummy Pinot Noir, Zin and Cab Sauv. 

Marcy squealed with delight when she correclty identified one component she had previously misidentified.  I immediately wanted to train like Rocky Balboa and go back again to increase my score...errr..increase my knowledge.  Tasting blind created a challenge!  A display of Oak components and identifying flavors in chocolate was also included as were delectable snacks.  Definitely a great way to learn more about wine, enjoy Cailstoga and spend quality time with friends!
If you are interested, find out more here.  Classes are held daily by appointment from 10 am to 11:30 and cost $35.