30 May, 2011

RIP Budge Brown (1933-2011), Founder of Cleavage Creek Winery

It was a sad day when Robert "Budge" Brown went missing in his airplane in the Sierra Foothills on May 18th. That is why I am so glad I got to visit Cleavage Creek and meet him last November of 2010. Budge started this winery in 2008 and 10% of the gross profits go to institutions doing research in Breast Cancer. His wife Arlene died of the disease in 2005.

Cleavage Creek is located in the Pope Valley appellation of Napa Valley. They specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. As you can see Fall is beautiful there.

On the property is a huge garden called "Arlene's Garden" devoted to his wife of 48 years.

All of the wine labels feature pictures of breast cancer survivors.

Budge was certainly an inspirational human being. Read more about him here:

To make a donation in his name go here:

I hope one day I can do something so admirable. Thank you, Budge.

15 May, 2011

Greek Wine - It's more than Retsina

Greek wine seems to be suffering from a bad reputation here in the States and I blame Retsina. Retsina is a white wine blended with pine resin and is easily available in Greek restaurants. However, I just learned that many makers of Retsina use synthetic pine resin giving it the negative reputation (and taste) it has. But the good news is that there are so many good Greek wines to be had and I am writing to tell you about some of them. Mezes restaurant in San Francisco, CA. recently hosted a tasting featuring unique grape varietals of Greece. That night we tasted wines from two wineries: Gentilini and Uranos.

Here are some tasting notes about some very good whites from the island of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. No Retsina here!

"The Robola Zone"

Robola is a white grape indigenous to the Ionian Island of Kefalonia, and after olive oil, it is the most popular agricultural product. Robola has an AOC designation (along with Muscat and Mavrodaphne) and there is an actual "Robola Zone" on the slopes of Mt. Ainos located 600 metres above sea level with its own chalky, gravelly soils. Because the climate is so hot in summer the vines are very stressed to find water and nutrients from the soil which produces a wine that is very aromatic.

Gentilini Robola 2009 This wine itself is a light citrine with notes of green melon and white flowers laced with a surprising scent of licorice. The palate is mineral, with a nice zing and a long, smooth linger of sour citrus. The fruit is so pure that it would please many palates. It paired well with pita and tzatziki (yogurt) spread.

Gentilini Aspro 2009This white is a blend of 60% Tsaousi, 20% Muscat and 20% Sauvignon Blanc
Light hay color with some sulphuric note that quickly evaporated revealing notes of almond, apricot and white flowers. I detected lemony citrus notes on a zingy yet smooth palate which lingered of more citrus. A lovely wine to pair with seafood.

Gentilini also produces red wines and I got to try one of their blends.

Gentilini Red 200960% Agioritiko, 40% Syrah with a bit of Mavrodaphne
This opaque garnet-colored wine is a bit of sweet and savory heaven. Aromas of green and black olive tapenade mingled with notes of cinnamon and cassis fruit. Generous fruit on the palate thanks to the Syrah, this wine is made for food especially Greek cinnamon-scented red sauces used in mousaka and pastitsio.

You can find these wines at Mezes in San Francisco. K&L Wine Merchant can also order them for you. I highly urge you to try them.

Come back next week for my review of the 2007 Uranos Xinomavro, a powerful red from Naousa.

For more info on Greek wine go to www.allaboutgreekwine.com and www.atheneeimporters.com

Learn the history of Gentilini winery here: www.gentilini.gr