16 December, 2013

My Favorite 2013 Post: Wine Wizards of Istria...

As we prepare our "Best of..." lists from our 2013 discoveries, here is a repost of my favorite post from 2013:

 Those canny Romans knew how to find delicious wine spots.  Istria is no exception to the rule.  But I  thought it might be nice to show you on a map exactly where it is.  You can see it circled in Teran purple.  Croatia has a ton of coastline and has felt influences from its neighbors as the flags have changed.  I felt a distinctly Italian sensibility on my Istrian excursion, along with a boldly Istrian pride and an indelible mark of terroir.  There is a special uniqueness to the flavors, a gentility to the people and a beauty in the countryside, sea and green, that is hard to match.  The Istrian Tourist board does a great job of providing tools to help you plan your vacation, but at the end of the day, I think they want you to be able to make your adventure your own.  

There was a book I didn't buy, Wine Wizards of Istria, not knowing it would be impossible to find in the US.  I might have carried it home had I known.  I remember it had detailed stories and super glam shots of the winemakers.  I thought, yes.  these guys are wizards.  After all what is the best souvenir?

Wine!  First up is Meneghetti.  Romana and Miroslav Pliso renovated the stone guest house or stancija in 2001.  It's a beautifully and comfortably done space that says "Welcome!" at every turn.  And not just because the staff is there, saying welcome and plying you with wine. It fell into decay at the fall of the Hapsburg empire, but now is fresh and elegant, the warmth of the traditional clay tiled roof with modern charm.  Fresh and elegant would describe the wine as well.  We had a delish 2003 Meneghetti Cuvee a bright , fresh sparkler made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Blanc blended in.  It had a gossamer hint of color, more warmth than pink.  My other favorite was the 2009 Meneghetti Red a rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  It had a spicy character with red currants and mole sauce.   We had a delicious wine soaked lunch in the beautiful space.  This luxury villa can be rented and would be a great space for an Istrian adventure with 8 of your closest friends.

Another of the winemakers chronicled in the book is Ivica Matosevic.  His mom was a chemist and his dad studied water, so naturally, his DNA predisposed him to become a winemaker.  He began making wine as a hobby, but was super good at it and got hooked on the history, the science and most of all (yay for us!) the flavor.  His goal is to express the  unique Istrian terroir, so you can taste it in the wine he makes.  The investments in modern wine making equipment really pay off.
2010 Alba (Malvasia) We tried an oaked barrel sample.

The oak treatment was deft, resulting in an international style: creamy with good balance.  It had both freshness an complexity . Touch of acacia blossom under citrus and vanilla aromas.2008 Alba Antiqua Using 100% Malvasia grapes from the Buje area, the wine is made only when fruit is in the ideal condition.  It is made in an ancient style using overnight skin contact then goes into acacia barrels for a year.  The result is a wine with spicy apricot like aromas, flavors and finish.  It had a clean, precise  taste that the winemaker called, "the purest expression of place" Grimalda White A blend of Chardonnay, Malvasia and Sauvignon Blanc from the Brdo Vineyard in Central Istria.  A bright pretty wine with nice minerality and lemon in aromas. Finished with nice hints of unripe white peach. Grimalda Red: Blend of Teran and Merlot.  Rich cedary aromas.  Lovely brambly flavors with black fruit finish.  And the color?  Well you can see for yourself.  Definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.  Info on making an appointment here:

Bruno Trapan seemed more bad boy than Wizard.  He puts his signs in Japanese Kanji characters because it amuses him. And has a clock facing the floor, ostensibly so if you are overserved at least you can wake up and know what time it is.  Who hasn't needed one of those?  Our visit was super fun and the wine was amazing.  Bruno named two wines after his daughters the first, Rubi , which is an easy drinking rose of  Teran.  Also a dessert wine of intoxicating roselike flavors and aromas made from muškat ruža  after his daughter,  Rose called Dark Rose.  He believes the vineyard should take care of is itself and is working to be able to let the soil express itself.  His Malvasias were amazing.  The 2012  Malvasia came form a vineyard with a lot of limestone which gave it nice minerality.  You didn;t miss the fruity aromatic because of the complexity.  He used 50% malo and my note says it spent a year on the lees to boost the creamy finish.  the 2011 Malvasia was aged and fermented in neutral acacia barrels.  Golden color with hints of spice in the aromas.  According to them, acacia opens up the flavors and in this case it was true with apricot and smoke flavors and a lush round mouthfeel and lingering finish.  14% alcohol but balanced.  He opened a sample of a sparkling Teran---an idea whose time has come, which we loved.  Bright, fresh and bracingly brut.  2012 Nigra Virgo Revolution (Cab-Merlot-Syrah-Teran) A big bold Bordeaux blend  with tons of black fruit and a twinkle in its eye, not unlike Bruno.  He explains that the Teran speaks for itself bringing rich, spicy special flavors---and it does.  The 2012 Teran was a brawny red.  It spoke for itself in a tasty way.

While he wins multiple awards for his lovely Malvasias, he is betting on red and in particular Teran for what it does in the vineyard and what it brings to his wines in terms of expressing terroir.  More info on Trapan here:

More enchantress than wizard, Antonella Kozlovic showed us the wonderful wines of Kozlovic.  We were amazed at her tales of how she and her husband Gianfranco have modernized the winery. Kozlovic Winery has been around since 1904.  But you woudn't know it to see the Guggenheim modern and equally artful space it has now.  Antonella completely reorganized it so that in years of bumper crops, they can handle the output or in lesser years, have the space to move efficiently.  And the space is gorgeous.  They make twelve different wines.  I was completely enchanted with the 2009 Santa Lucia White 100% Malvasia, this wine was a golden straw color with aromas of nutmeg, vanill and sunshine and a lovely apricot in the finish, Nice acidity and balance for a wine that clocked in at 14.7 % alc. It spent some time on the skins to give it structure.  30% was fermented in stainless steel.  2009 Santa Lucia Noir: A saucy blend of  Teran, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  I got spices and flowers in the aromas along with roses and cinnamon.  Red hots candy flavors in flavor along with lush, dark flavors. Delicious.  Antonella was such a gracious and informative host, I had to ignore my intense shoe envy.  When you visit maybe you will see the dancing ghosts in the logo.  Kozlovic ancestors holding watch.  Reservations recommended

From Uber Modern, to inspired by the ancients.  Kabola winery was the opposite extreme.  Steeped in the heritage of the area, Kabola uses amphora to make their Amphora Malvasia.  Basically, they take the grapes, put them into a large earthenware, well, jug (see photo).  Then they bury it, letting it all macerate with its natural yeast for seven months, bring it back up to finish in Slavonian oak barrels before bottling it, where it waits in bottle 6-12 months.  This imparts an amber color to the finished wine with fig, congnac and orange peel in the aromas.  An amazingly fresh flavor and subtle finish.  This method was used by the Greeks thousands of years ago, so it id super interesting and worth a visit.  The space is gorgeous and I felt like any minute Russell Maximus Gladiatorski was going to come running around a corner.  Their Moscat Momjanski is also noteworthy. Fresh and elegant and sweet with aromas and flavors of elderflower . More info here:

Winemaker Dmitri Brecevic is of French descent.  He graduated oeonlogy school in France, then travelled the world making wine in France and also working in Australia and New Zealand, too.  Then he settled near where his father was from in the town of Buzet.  Where he now makes wine in a converted World War II water bunker.  Thank you , Mussolini!  He named his venture Piquentum, which was the old Roman name for Buzet. He uses the three indigenous grapes, Malvasia, Teran and Refosc to create wine expressive of Croatia and its red and white soils.  And they are tasty. Good news!  You can do your own winechair travelling as Blue Danube makes it easy to order these wines.

Piquentum was the final stop on my Istrian Wine Oddessey, thanks to a recomendation from our driver extraordinare Mladen Funky Zagreb , who I cannot recommend enough.  The dog days of summer (okay Northern California's 90+ degree "sweltering") has still not warmed me up from that terrifying journey.  Yes, those are icicles on his hood, but we were safe and warm and are still dreaming of Istria

Many thanks to the amazing Istrian Tourist board who arranged our visits and provided such a warm and wonderful Istrian experience

10 December, 2013

Bodovino - Best New Wine Bar in Boise

Bodovino just opened in downtown Boise, giving locals a spectacular new place to discover wine and the rest of us, a reason to visit.  Boise's downtown has many lovely Romanesque stone buildings.  Bodovino is tucked into a brick faced storefront that curls inside into an interesting cave like set up for the carefully selected and presented by the ounce wine dispensing system.  Where the magic happens is the great ambiance, the wonderful selections and the dedication of the staff to providing thoughtfully casual service.

The philosophy is that Bodovino should present choices so that a person can create a self guided discovery of wine.  Trevor, the on site Somm, uses his experience to pick wonderful wines that range  from small local Idaho producers through the "Trophy wall", which he uses to showcase world class wines like Tignanello and Opus One.  This sets visitors up for whatever experience they feel like on a given day.

On my visits, I had a Lemberger from Kiona (Washington State) , a Syrah from Koenig (from local Snake
River Valley, ID) a Vieux Telegraph (CDP), Velvet Glove, Opus One, Rose form Argentina, Ken Forester Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, JJ Prum Riesling, White Bordeaux---I was basically like a kid in a candy store going from bottle to bottle at whim and getting to discover new delights as well as check in with old favorites.  The experience blossomed exponentially as I sampled selections made by the friends I was with and we were able to try things each other liked.

We spent a ton of time by the Trophy case where they present some of the world's finest wines available by the 2 oz, 4 oz or 6 oz pour. The prices ranged from $1.25 to $75.

The staff struck a great balance of being eager to answer questions or help, with respectful letting customers move through their space at each customer's own pace.  It's more fun than a static wine bar, where you park and are served in that you can walk around, and the space encourages you to share your discoveries with fellow patrons.  So you meet and talk a lot more than in a standard wine bar.

Trevor selects different wines so you can open up the spectrum of your wine experience.  It's a low risk way to find new favorites.   You can try wines of the world, and buy more of what you like.  He has Seasonal reds and Whites that change and include fun local offerings like Vale Riesling.  He also works with local producers like Split Rail, to help customers find delightful local wines.  I looked like a genius at dinner plucking the Split Rail Syrah off the wine list and delighting my dinner companions with a local producer they had never heard of.  Of course Trevor had sampled me with a Rose of Petit Verdot that knocked my socks off.  So it was a low risk way for me to look super smart.

As well, it was a great way to try some expensive wines to see if they were "all that" (they were!)

Trevor also chooses some nice local beer selections and has a great wine on tap program.

Bodovino invested in a wine preservation system that uses argon gas to preserve each bottle perfectly and independently.  The design is sleek and easy to use as it was beautiful.  They have a private events room that hold 35 people comfortably and looks like it would be wonderful for customer events and small meetings.

All in all , a great experience.  The only thing I could wish for is that they would open a branch closer to me!But now we all have a reason to visit Boise!  Many thanks to Mandy who recognized passionate wineaux and let us crash the soft openings.  I hope to revisit someday!

404 South 8th Street
Boise, ID

09 December, 2013

Going Deeper into the San Francisco Restaurant Scene with Simmr

Do you think it would be fun to learn more about the restaurants you enjoy in San Francisco? You might have your favorite places and frequent them and wonder what happens behind the scenes and who the chefs are. Maybe you would like to learn how to cook some of your favorite dishes such as rice balls at Onigilly, or tapas from Antologia Vinoteca or make some cocktails from your favorite bars, or even how to make your own Indian-spiced Chai. Well, your wishes have just come true thanks to Simmr a new interactive food business in San Francisco.

In this day and age of marketing and social media "customer engagement" is a huge term. Indeed that is what inspired Wendy Lin and Neeharika Bharitya to create a fun food experience business to really engage customers and assist restaurants in making their customers into repeat customers. They co-founded Simmr and their idea is to pair food/restaurant lovers by putting on events at the restaurants. I got a great taste at a recent event at Antologia Vinoteca where I learned to make shrimp ceviche and tasted wines to pair with it.

When we arrived at Antologia Vinoteca we were greeted with a glass of housemade Sangria and snacks and there was time to socialize and meet fellow participants.  The restaurant gets turned into a cooking school with a demonstration kitchen and we were introduced to the chef Brandon Peralta. He took us through all the steps to making a tasty dish which of course we got to eat. We also learned some tips such as how to properly cut with a large knife, how to devein shrimp and how best to scoop out the fruit of an avocado.

Restaurant turned cooking school at Antologia Vinoteca

Ingredients for shrimp ceviche

We also met Carlos the wine director. He led us through a tasting of 3 wines that he suggested to pair with the ceviche. 
Vinho verde from Portugal, Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and a Garnacha Blanca from Spain which we paired with our delicious final product.  


Social media is a big part of these events and they request that you post your photos to twitter and Facebook. They even have contests for the best photo.

I had a great time and I came away with a great recipe for ceviche and what kinds of wines to pair with it. I enjoyed meeting the chef and wine director and had fun with my fellow participants. And I would go back to Antologia Vinoteca as I found their wine list filled with interesting selections from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. I highly recommend that you try one of their events.

Check them out at www.simmr.co

Thank you so much to Wendy and Neeharika for inviting me. I sincerely hope your business is a great success!

25 November, 2013

Put the "sun" in your Sunday supper with Assyrtiko

Cold weather is here and I love to start the week with a slow-cooked Sunday crock-pot dish. And of course, I pair it with a great bottle of wine. To warm up my chilly Sunday I adapted a recipe for Chicken thighs Avgolemno. Avgolemono is a traditional Greek sauce of egg (avgo) and lemon (lemono). What inspired me to make it was a lovely bottle of Assyrtiko chilling in my fridge just waiting to be drunk. 

Assyrtiko is a grape hailing from the island of Santorini which is made into a dry white wine. The bottle I used was the 2011 Atlantis from Argyros Estate. It is a blend of three white grape varieties: 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Aidani and 5% Athiri which are all indigenous to Santorini. I describe the wine as light, lemony and lively with hints of minerality on the nose and palate. Crisp with good acidity. It is a magical pairing with the flavor profile of the succulent chicken stew which has fresh dill, lemon juice, feta cheese and artichoke hearts.

I found this recipe on the Eating Well website and tweaked it a bit. I used a 6 qt. slow cooker which was just the right size. Sprinkling it with Feta cheese at the end adds a tangy note.

1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/4-inch pieces, or 3 cups baby carrots
1 pound (3-4 medium) yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1 1/4-inch-wide wedges
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup Assyrtiko or any other dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, rinsed and quartered if large
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Feta cheese

Spread carrots and potatoes over the bottom and up the sides of a 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Arrange chicken on top of the vegetables. Bring broth, wine, garlic and salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour over the chicken and vegetables. Cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high or 4 to 4 1/2 hours on low.
Add artichokes to the slow cooker, cover and cook on high for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolks and lemon juice in a medium bowl.
Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover and keep warm. Ladle about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Whisk the egg mixture into the remaining cooking liquid in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, whisking 2 or 3 times, until slightly thickened and sauce reaches 160°F on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in dill and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables sprinkle the feta and serve.
Per serving: 355 calories; 11 g fat ( 3 g sat , 4 g mono ); 199 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrates; 34 g protein; 4 g fiber; 629 mg sodium; 531 mg potassium.

I can find this wine in the Bay Area at Du Vin Fine Wines of Alameda and at K&L Wine Merchants. I'm sure your local wine merchant can order this wine just for you. Happy Eating and Happy Drinking!

30 September, 2013

Quarters - The Wine Show: South African Pinotage

Last month's Quarters the Wine Show, focused on Pinotage, a wine as often misunderstood as it is delicious.  I nearly developed a phobia for the variety after getting a particularly bad clunker in the WBC Speed Tasting round. Mud.  Trucker brakes.  Ick.  I never sought it out after that.  Then turns out, it caught up with me after I won a raffle to attend the Wines of South Africa's wonderful event in London.  I gleefully swilled Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Bordeaux blends, but gingerly avoided the Pinotage table.  Lucky for me, I met up with a dynamic gentleman who not only advocated strongly for Pinotage but guided me around the crowded room to try example after example of delicious Pinotages.  Cherry. Chocolate. Coffee.  A white Pinotage (it tasted like a Condrieu) even a delightful sparkling Pinotage.  Tasting all those wonderful wines changed my mind and made me begin to seek out Pinotages.  Not an easy task in Northern California.

For last month's episode, I opened a wonderful sample I had received from Silkbush Vineyards in the South African Western Cape's Breede River Valley region.  The growers experimented for several years finding the best conditions under the dramatic vistas of the towering Silkbush Mountain to plant the vines.  Wines made from their fruit began to collect awards.  Now the fruit is produced and sold in the US under the label, Lion's Drift.  , I found this to be a delicious example, with aromas of lush vanilla and red fruit.  These were echoed in the flavors, with red fruit and baking spice that wove into elements of blackberry and a touch of cocoa.  Nice acidity and color too.  It made me want to locate Oaxacan food, rich with spice but not heat, to pair.  At under $20, a bottle, this reminded me of a Beaujolais more than anything else.  Ripe, fresh, and an easy pairing, easy on the budget wine. In looking for a source to buy more, Alana Gentry also turned me on to a great resource for South African wine: Cape Ardor Wines passionate importers who cull their lists to present great examples of South African wine to make your shopping easy.

An speaking of resources, I later found out my London wine guide was the notable Peter May, whose excellent book: PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine
provides a 360 degree look at the past , present and future of Pinotage along Peter's interesting journey to discover the variety in South Africa and beyond. A lively read that illuminates.  If you are interested in the history of Pinotage as well as a great armchair travel adventure, this book is a great venue.

South Africa is an exotic location for wine, where vines grow on windswept plains and baking heat, but where winemakers with a sense of history and their eyes on the future are producing wonderful wines.

Next week, our upcoming episode will focus on blends.  I can't wait to discover more!

20 September, 2013

Last Days of Summer: ’09 Tercero Larner Vineyard Grenache, #GrenacheDay

                A friend and I celebrated #GrenacheDay with one of my favorite Grenaches tasted in the last year—’09 Tercero Larner Vineyard Grenache (14.5% ABV, $30/winery).  In a recent message, winemaker Larry Schaffer wrote, “The ‘09 Larner Vineyard Grenache is 100% Grenache, clone 362, from this special vineyard that sits in the Ballard Canyon area of the Santa Ynez Valley, the area that will become its own AVA shortly. The vineyard is different than the others in the area in that it is 100% sand - and it sits lower than the others in the area and stays much cooler due to this, allowing for later ripening without sugar spikes and retaining great acidity.  The’ 09 is 75% whole cluster [fermentation] and was aged in 3-5 year old French oak barrels for 30 months prior to bottling in April 2012. I only made 100 cases of this wine and really dig it!”
                I really dig it too. At this time of year, it tastes like the end of summer and the beginning of fall in a bottle—bright and dark all at once.  A medium-bodied wine with soft, integrated tannins, this Grenache is dominated by classic black pepper flavors with ripe strawberry, black cherry, and plum with cranberry on the finish.  My friend and I also noticed wonderful green herbal notes and dustiness—maybe cumin—balancing the red fruit and pepper.  When Schaffer pours his wines at tastings, he decants them in beakers, and so we decanted the Larner Grenache for about an hour and a half before drinking it with a truffled pecorino, chicken stew, and simple green salad with French vinaigrette.
                Tercero’s entire lineup is terrific—including a Rhone-style Grenache blend (“Cuvee Christie”), the Watch Hill Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, and “The Outlier” Gewurztraminer.  A few weeks ago, I also enjoyed the ’12 Camp 4 Vineyard Grenache Blanc—deliciously salty, bone dry, and refreshing with orange peel flavors.  To top off his great wines, Schaffer’s easiness and personal attention to education about his wines, Rhone varietals, and Santa Barbara County vineyards are inviting and engaging.  This summer, Brix Chicks Xandria and Michele visited Santa Ynez Valley and raved about the Tercero tasting room in Los Olivos.  I’m looking forward to drinking much more Tercero wine in the future and visiting soon.

26 August, 2013

Quarters - The Wine Show: South African Chenin Blanc

Quarters the Wine Show is an idea cooked up by Tanisha Townsend (@girlmeetsglass) Lauren Mowery (@chasingthevine) and me while at WBC13.  We were inspired to create a fun, shareable way to make us study more different kinds of wines from places we would love to visit someday. 
Of course, first on our collective bucket list was South Africa.  Since we knew the hard travelling Lauren would be out of the country, Tanisha and I started with a wine we were curious about: Chenin Blanc.  

Thanks to the wonderful Ina Smith who manages the South Africa Chenin Blanc Association (follow her on facebook here) my research was easy.  Surprising for "New World" wine, Chenin Blanc arrived on the Cape in 1655.  Its journey from cutting to vine continued over the years.  This variety  known by the French, as Chenin Blanc - had approximately thirty other names in South Africa. In 1963, the then Head of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, Professor C.J Orffer, matched Steen and Chenin Blanc leaves and finally pronounced Steen, Chenin Blanc.  A rose, by any other name, etc--- or in this case and important green grape, which ends up being delicious. And age does matter, as the South Africa producers find older vines, 40 years or older, produce the best fruit. 

The climate matters too and most of the premium Chenin Blanc is grown in Stellenbosch.  Its location at the foot of the mountains and with access to cooling breezes is importantnt as the variety tolerates heat, but needs a cooling element to be successful.  Stellenbosch has a great website with handy tips for visiting.  You can find out more here and dream of visiting in person.

We also tried some samples.  I had one that I found for my BrixChicks South Africa cuisine throwdowm, where we paired wines with Amawele South African Kitchen's Bunny Chow a spicy stew with heat to spare and exotic flavors of curry leaf, turmeric and coriander seed served in a cooling fresh white bread bowl.  My Little J from Joostenberg actually came from old unirrigated Chenin Blanc vines in the Paarl region.  5% Viognier boosted the peachiness.  Three months on the lees also helped with stonefruit aromas.  The wine retained nice acid and just  a touch of residual sugar(3.3 g/l) to tame the heat. Success once again from my "grows with/goes with" philosophy.  The producer recommends curry and it worked well.  More about Joostenberg here
During the Quarters episode, I try a Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc.  This winery was started in 1689 and is still producing delicious wines today.

According to the CBA, the most popular styles of South African Chenin Blanc are:
[1] fresh and fruity, often with citrus aromas and flavours and bright acidity and always unwooded;
[2] rich and ripe unwooded with lees contact, rich aromas and flavours, often of ripe stone fruit
[3] rich and ripe oaked wines that are usually rich in ripe, almost honeyed fruit, although some put the emphasis on minerals
 [4] sweet wines 
So Tanisha and I tried 3 of the four and are still looking for more.

I attached the link to Quarters - The Wine Show Episode One

Tonight : August 26th we will have Episode Two: PINOTAGE
We will tweet out the link at 5:00 Pacific. Hope to see you there!

22 August, 2013

Cheese. Rhones. And The Devil in Miss Jones... - Napa Rhone Tasting With the North Coast Rhone Rangers

Well, I got your attention, didn't I? When Craig Camp talks, I listen. So when I got his email about a fabulous event coming up next week, I had to share.  Sadly, I am working that evening, however, as always, feel free to tweet me to brag when you go @Brixchick_Liza


Tuesday, August 27, 2013 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM (PDT)

Wineries that make very small productions and 100 case lots, from veteran icons to new and emerging, will be pouring at the Napa Valley Museum. In addition to the wonderful wine, visit the current exhibit  in the Museum’s main gallery where visitors will be surrounded by Date with the Devil, a juried exhibition of new work by 19 regional artists based on the legend of Faust. 

Wineries include: Anaba, Maclaren, Cornerstone, Two Shepherds, Meyer Family Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Kale, Kieran Robinson, Wesley Ashely, Carica, Euclid, Truchard Vineyards, Petrichor, Donelan Family Wines and Campovida.
Taste multiple wines from 15 producers for less than the price of most Napa tasting rooms, $20 in advance. ($25 at the door.) And the Oxbow Market is bringing along some delicious cheese!

Napa Valley Museum
55 Presidents Circle YountvilleCA 94599

When you taste the wine, you will want to sell your soul.  But don't.  Just don't.  But do.....

17 August, 2013

2012 Hawks View Pinot Gris - Roots in disaster. Delivering Delight!

I thought it would be a good idea to update my house by enclosing my little used porch and replacing my old fireplace. Soon, the space will be complete and fun, but the intervening days (weeks, months!) , while I live with various Dexter-like incarnations of plastic sheeting and promises, it's been , well...tough.

Lucky for me, while porch sipping glimmers in my distant future, I received a sample of wine to console me.  2012 Hawks View Cellars Pinot Gris, Oregon, USA ($26).

In the glass, I saw a lovely color of clear yellow with a gold cast, with aromas of stone fruit, cara cara and love.  The flavors had similar notes sprinkled with shortbread crumbs.  Meaning it had some autolytic notes and a touch of nuttiness.  The texture was delicious.  I consumed it over three days and it remained sprightly,
matching with Asian food, sandwiches and #thebitchelorette.

 Reading the notes I saw that the wine is aged on the lees to express the winemaker's intention of balancing a nice acidity with a rich mouthfeel.  Perfect!

Pinot Gris is related to our fave Pinot Noir,  Pinot Gris is a white grape but can have a darker or pinker shade than its other cousin, Pinot Blanc.  All of these have a pinconey shape to their clusters.  Thus the name as "pinot" means pinecone in French.  It is known in Italy as Pinot Grigio, still means grey, where the style of winemaking and climate make it come out differently.

Whenever I see Pinot Gris on an American label I get happy, because my connotation of the variety is tasty, balanced and super food friendly.  I have been disappointed, but definitely not with Hawks View. This wine was delicious!

Hawks View Cellars uses estate grown  fruit in Oregon's  Chehalem Mountains  It's a lovely place today that was  formed by geographic turmoil.  We're talking floods, volcanoes, Californians.   But every prehistoric disaster that befell the area, now contributes to the delicious flavors uncovered by the dedicated folks who honor the land by producing succulent wines with a taste of place.

 Xandria is dying to go there since we have found quite a few producers of exceptional wine in this area.  I agree!  And when we go it's nice to know that Alaska Airlines will let us take a case back free and has some tasting fee discounts as well.  This runs 9/10 - 11/20 But click here for more info if you are planning  your travel 

So from disaster comes delight.

I hope my home improvement project goes as well.

Something I can guarantee will go well is visiting Hawks View Cellars:
More info here:

15 August, 2013

#WBW80 2012 Clos Saron “Tickled Pink”

On this warm August night when I had just enough energy to pick and nibble various snacks for dinner, the 2012 Clos Saron “Tickled Pink” rosé was a welcome delight.  This wine was a standout when I attended the Rhone Rangers tasting in San Francisco last March, and I’ve been waiting to open this bottle since.  With a soft wax cap and a hand-numbered label (the cap made a fun little popping noise when I pulled the cork through), the bottle bore the likeness of exactly what it contained—a wine lovingly made by hand by Gideon Beinstock in the remote, cool Oregon House Valley in the Sierra Foothills.  Made with organic fruit from Lodi (50% Syrah, 50% Tempranillo), this unfiltered wine saw minimal interventions in the winemaking process.  Beinstock eschews sulfites and mechanical treatments in favor of old-fashioned winemaking methods such as foot-stomping to crush the grapes, open-top fermentation, and secondary fermentation on the lees—producing some yeasty aromas in this rosé.
                The wine is one of the prettiest, softest roses I’ve tasted—and certainly one of the most French-tasting California rosés.  With yeasty, floral, herbaceous, and berry notes on the nose, this wine is very dry with bright acid in the front and mid palate.  At the same time, the wine is also fresh, soft, and light bodied with strawberry fruit—and only 11.2% alcohol.   The finish is light and smooth.  As the wine warmed and opened in the glass, it became richer with a more noticeable orange flavor and faint honey notes.  The wine was terrific with the rosemary-asiago cheese I pulled from the fridge and it stood up to the fresh cherry tomatoes I ate plain.  This is a spectacular summer-food wine.
                Clos Saron wines are worth seeking out because of Beinstock’s commitment to cool climate, terroir-driven wines made with very few manipulations.  His estate-grown Syrah blends and Pinot Noirs are lovely, but tonight I’m savoring the balanced, soft, complex rosé and wondering when I can take a drive up to Oregon House Valley.

14 August, 2013

#wbw80 Dry Rose Luminous Hills Aura Yamhill-Carlton OR

Is there anything that recalls summer better, whether it's presently blazing or freezing, than a lovely rose?

For this Wine Blogging Wednesday I got my hands on a gorgeous example from the Carlton region of Oregon, famous for its wonderful Pinot Noirs.
Rose peeks out cheekily
2011 Luminous Hills Estate Grown Rosé of Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton AURA ($21) Byron Dooley coaxes magic out of his luminous hills and bottles the elixir.  Having visited I saw for myself the rolling hills with their summer greenery concealing old marine sediment typical of Yamhill-Carlton as well as, in this site, Jory volcanic soil.  High elevation in this lovely vineyard is just what Pinot Noir loves.  Byron brings together these elements with careful clonal selection to create an elegant, lively and complex rose that dances in the glass.  He recommends aging it.  I just don't have that kind of self restraint.

The color is a medium salmon pink. Aromas of medium intensity with strawberry and white floral notes.  Flavors of grapefuit and more white flowers with a hint of herbal.  Bone dry with medium acidity and a generous finish of grapefruit.  It shifted and changed in the glass standing up to the Thai spiced pork and even chocolate.  There was not even one drop left in the glasses or bottle when we were finished.

The wine was carefully and intentionally made with 70% coming from direct press and 30% saignee more info here:  Sorry to disappoint you  (I am disappointed in myself for not stocking up) as the wine is sold out. Note to self: Get on list to preorder more.

There is no more charming place to visit than Carlton.  Amazing wines. Great food and hospitality and lots to discover.  Byron hails from California having earned his degree and his winemaker stripes in Napa.  With his wife Dana, he rode the dot com bubble to Oregon where Dana established an amazing line of wine friendly chocolates.  Luminous Hills is named for the way the thick sprinkle of stars light up the night sky over the high hills of their vineyard.  They also have a delicious line of Pinots and some wonderful Rhone varieties,  Seven of Hearts. And will welcome you warmly at the Carlton tasting room;
217 West Main St. Carlton, OR 97111
Thursday - Monday
Noon - 5pm
(6pm by request)
 @HoustonWino and I almost wore through Byron;s patience when we snuck out of our event to taste and buy more wine and we are welcome back!

Curious to read about what else people tried, but this special rose of Pinot was delicious!

 Happy Wine Blogging Wednesday!

#WBW80 - Dry Rose from Provence - My Summer Wine

Strawberries, cherries and an angel's kiss in springMy summer wine is made of all these thingsTake off your silver spurs and help me pass the timeAnd I will give to you summer wine.                                     -Lee Hazelwood (as sung by Nancy Sinatra and Lana Del Rey)
For pure summer refreshment my favorite wine is definitely a dry, crisp Rose.  I drink Rose year round from all over the globe but there is nothing like an ethereal Rose from Provence and my pick is the 2012 Whispering Angel by Cave d'Esclans. This up-and-coming winery is located in the Southeast part of France in the Cotes de Provence appellation.  Whispering Angel is the entry level line from Cave d'Esclans and it has a growing presence in the US market.  Indeed all Roses from Provence have a growing presence in the USA according to www.Provencewineusa.com.   Exports of Provencal Rose increased by 41%  from 2011 to 2012 and I have played a part in that increase.  In fact, I buy Whispering Angel at my neighborhood Costco for under $20.  But what is so great about this dry style rose? 

Cotes de Provence is the lavender-colored appellation

Whispering Angel is made from a blend of Grenache, Rolle (aka Vermintino), Syrah and Tibouren. 

Imagine, if you will, dipping your toes in a cool river on a hot day while nibbling on sweet and sour fruits.  This is much like drinking  a well-chilled bottle of Whispering Angel due to its crisp character, minerality and fruit aromatics.  
When you look in the glass you see a  light almost transparent coppery salmon and when you sniff you detect winter melon, river rocks, licorice, pink lady apple, and subtle strawberry notes.

As you swish it around in your mouth you notice the balance of dryness, fruit and acidity.  And then a dose of anise hits your mid-palate followed by a long linger of barely ripe nectarine.  

For something that appears so delicate you notice that this wine has backbone and enough heft to pair with Thai food, especially the red curry chicken infused with anise.  Rose is defintely a wine to pair with a variety of foods.  

For more on this versatile wine please visit Cave d'esclans and for more on Roses from 
Provence try www.provencewineusa.com  Oh, and don't forget to google "Summer Wine" by both Nancy and Lana.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

14 July, 2013

Cividale (Friuli-Venezia-Giulia): Devils, Heaven and Ramandalo

cividale baptism iwinetc 2013Christianity came here in the 7th century, we came on a rainy day.   We scurried over the Devil's bridge and listened to an interesting tale from our guide extraordinaire Francesca, who got us out of the rain and into the Cividale Museum.  Their relics are amazing and include a reliquary of St Anthony of Padua,, the Patron Saint of girls looking for a husband (@Luscious_Lushes Thea and I took note) The showpiece of the museum is a baptistery of elegantly carved white marble, so perfectly preserved it looks like a celestial Jacuzzi.
Cividale kept trying to baptize us with pouring rain, but we persevered. Our reward was a lively walk and a visit to the Cathedral.  Gothic doors, Renaissance elements and modern furnishings combined to highlight for us
the passing of time in architecture.  The most important item here is an altar piece with figure dating back to 1202
Side by side, earlier Christian art is almost Egyptian in its simplicity compared with elaborate renaissance imagery. Cividale has many small but important churches some back to the 8th century when they told vivid stories with frescoes.
The Tourist Board here keeps it fresh.  They can also provide comprehensive info for visitors helpful to planning and maximizing your visit.  You can find a lot at www. Cividale. Net or for individual help contact informacitta@cividale.net.  Maps, ideas and cheerful help await you in this lovely historic town.
consortia iwinetc 2013Next up was the Consortia Colli Orientali del Friuli.  Here at the Consortia's space, members have examples of their wines and a lot of educational material to help you really get educated on the area.  We saw a short video to introduce us to the land and history of this region of sandstone and marlstone where wine has been made for 2000 years.  Through a video survey of the region we got a sense of how ancient fortresses and castles have been woven into today’s delicious wine region.  Hora Bibendi was a sundial that let you know when Happy hour starts.Our happy hour started when they served us examples.
Sauvignon blanc – lush aromatic white
Picolit dessert -pineappley sweetness tempered by pretty acidity
Pignolo – interesting indigenous red
paolo and alle iwinetc 2013The best way to explore the region: in a glass!
All in a lovely way to get a broad survey of the region and the wines that are made here.  If you are visiting Colli Orientale del Friuli, they can help with your questions via email if you would like to find out more about what they do and their producers contact: info@colliorientale.com
Next, we were greeted by Paolo and his wife at I Comelli in Udine, very near the Austrian-Slovenian border.  I Comelli is famous for Ramandolo a unique wine that takes its name from the place and has a long history— its first official appearance is when it was offered to Pope Gregory the first, so that would be 590 - 604. Verduzzo friulano giallo is the grape from which Ramandolo is made.  It has a white berry packed with tannins.  The tannins have a cleansing effect which makes Ramandolo  a sweet wine  with a lovely but not cloying finish.  The color is dark gold. Its peachy aromas have caramelly hints. Silky mouth feel and yummy noble rot, with a lingering finish of dried pears and that tasty, tasty botrytised sweetness.Only 60 hectares and the only sweet wine to be marked DOCG.   The DNA of grape shows it came from the Balkans not from any Mediterranean source.  In nearby, Aquileia excavators found fermented Ramandolo in 5000 yr necropolis …Nine Euros at the winery? What?  More Somms out there should put this on your list for dessert wines!
Slovenia. Yugoslavia. Austria. Venice. The region has flown many flags in the last 200 years.  Many people immigrated away but the Comellis stayed and focused on cultivating the soil as they have for many years working and preserving the area for its natural beauty and touristic potential.
Picolit is also made here in small quantities As well as Friulano.
Reds? Refosco!
Cab Franc, Merlot, and some other international varieties are produced
The cellar is modern and has been rebuilt when they outgrew the older one. So they combine modern and traditional to take the best of each to make great wine.
ramandalo mousse iwinetc 2013And what goes with good wine? Good food.  We adjourned to their restaurant which is attached to an Agri-turismo hotel.  A charming spot with a wood – fire.  We were served fresh delicious Friuliani dishes.  Starting with lovely prosciutto and ending with Torta Della Nonna, each matched with the delicious  I Comelli wines.  Pictures. Schmictures.  If you can, find a way to visit yourself. Two words: Randolo mousse. Yes. This is heaven.
But for a few intrepid bloggers, an additional level of heaven awaited as we ascended to L’ Uva e le Stelle.  A property owned by a different family  also named Comelli.    We wanted to stay forever.
Alas, for us heaven had to wait. But as we left, our host Paolino told us how easy it would be to return, since there is a train from Venice to Udine and from Udine to Cividale...The Wine Routes of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (it sounds better in Italian Vini e Sapori)  have a great adventure planning site to make it easy to explore.  Click here  for more info.  Sign up for the newsletter so you can dream of heaven too