I hope all my readers are coming to Pinot Days tomorrow! I'll be there. It's my favorite of the big tasting events in SF. New location this year in the Westfield Mall - easy BART/MUNI. http://www.pinotdays.com/home.asp
Every once in a while, the stars align, and I'm able to accept one of the wine dinner invites that come into my inbox. When the promise is some great Portuguese wines paired by a Portuguese wine expert with Chris Cosentino's creative food at Cockscomb, I clear my calendar! All the Portuguese tastings that I have attended have always had some well aged surprise in the mix, and this was no exception. This dinner was hosted by the Port and Douro Wines Institute. There was also a large scale trade tasting that I could not attend due to schedule conflicts.
Just a quick post to thank my table neighbors last night at PRIMA in Walnut Creek who after ogling their tasting group spread, sent over a glass. Of what, you may ask?
1982 Chateau Margaux
First of all, the wine was shockingly fresh and bright. The color had not an inkling of brown, cementing its place as a historically significant wine that will gracefully mature through the ages. I might even say the wine came through as not fully mature, stunning for a 34 year old wine. Insanely well balanced, with hints of menthol, smoke and cocoa --but hints, not hit-you-over-the-head aromas. Quite simply, the most finessed Margaux I have ever had.
The rest of the story:
My family loves Prima, and feel it really is the best restaurant in Walnut Creek. I brought a nice 2008 Matthiasson Red Blend to go with our meal.
When the four guys sat next to us and pulled out 3 bottles of Margaux, 1982, 1983, and 1989 I quickly introduced myself! They also proceeded to pull out a 1989 Haut Brion after ordering a nice bottle of bubbly. After just a few pleasant back-and-forths, they sent over a glass of the '82.
Thanks again, oh generous strangers! I'll be happy to join one of these evenings, guys! Sorry I didn't have one of my cards! Just ping my email!
I've been enjoying Gary Regan's new book, The Negroni: Drinking to La Dolce Vita, with Recipes & Lore and the first recipe I tried was the Old Pal, which is Rye, White Vermouth, and Campari. I have several nice vermouths in my cabinet and I decided to base an Old Pal using one from my friends at Matthisasson and some special cocktail bitters from Cocktail Punks, the Alpino.
Corkdork Old Pal:
1 part Campari
1 part Matthiasson Yount Mill Vineyard Vermouth
1-1/2 parts Bulleit Rye
3 drops Cocktail Punks "Alpino" bitters
Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir well. Strain into a chilled glass. Serve cold and up.
I've been tweaking this recipe I found in the SF Chronicle way back in 1994 and have adapted it to get rid of the white sugar and make it a bit healthier. They're great on a rainy Sunday morning, like today. Drop me a comment if you try them!
Healthy Morning Glory Muffins
2 granny smith apples, peeled and grated
1 cup shredded carrots (always use organic!)
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates (from whole dates)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I use unsweetened organic)
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup corn oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 small or 18 large muffin cups with canola spray.
Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the fruit and stir very thoroughly, making sure there are no big clumps of fruit.
Beat the eggs until combined and add to it the rest of the wet ingredients, stir until well incorporated.
Add to the dry ingredients and stir until there are no visible dry spots.
Spoon into muffin cups. Bake 22-26 minutes until the muffins are brown and a tester comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 minutes in the cups before moving them to cooling rack.
Because I live only about an hour from the Napa Valley (and about 1-3/4 hours from Sonoma), I get asked for winery recommendations frequently. I am sometimes at a loss, because as someone who travels in the wine trade circles, I am not looking for the best tours, prettiest place for a picnic, etc. I'm usually on the hunt for the best juice and usually end up in the cold cellars tasting, not on a porch overlooking the valley sipping Cab.
But I occasionally get guests that have never really had the Wine Country experience before, and are interested in the sights and tours of sumptuous properties as well as tasting the wine. I had just these kind of guests a couple of weeks ago and it occurred to me that Far Niente just might be the perfect spot to begin a trip to Napa Valley. It has it all.
So I called in a favor to my friend that runs the hospitality program, and booked an awesome morning tour and tasting which is a great value at $65.00 per person. Believe me, it's well worth the money. There is quite a bit of walking up and down stairs usually, so if you have any mobility issues, best call ahead.
Driving in, you can't help but be blown away by the property. It's a stunning late 19th century building, beautifully restored. We arrived VIP style, with our names on the welcome board - a nice touch. We were then introduced to our very well trained host and tour guide who proceeded to give us a grand tour, answered every question my guests and I peppered her with.
The tour also includes a visit to their stunning car collection, another treat for anyone interested in cars. I have been drinking their wine and the wine from their sister ventures for decades, and I had no idea they had a car collection! You can check out their website on the collection, but you are guaranteed to get some surprises. No spoilers from me. I was shocked by how much our host new about cars too. Again, extremely professionally trained.
The wines of Far Niente are classic big Napa style and always meticulously crafted. I can't think of a better place to show new visitors to Napa what all the fuss is about. The sit down tasting usually comprises 5 wines, both new releases and at least one Library wine along with some perfect cheese pairings. I loved the 2013 Estate Chardonnay with its racy acidity and tight lemon, lychee, and tropical notes. I couldn't resist bringing home a magnum of it.
The 2012 Far Niente Estate Chardonnay is much rounder, has a more pronounced Oak toast, lime peel and butter style.
The 2012 Far Niente Estate Oakville Cabernet has bright acids and lovely blueberry scents.
The 2005 Far Niente Estate Oakville Cabernet still has a good stripe of acidity, but now is showing beautifully with mushroom/forest floor scents. Lots of vanilla on this as well.
A special treat for all, is the Dolce. They are pouring the 2008 right now (a cold wet year) and is a lovely thing. Grapefruit peel and stone fruits pop out. This has a good dose of Sauvignon Blanc to help bolster the acidity and help balance the sweetness. Highly recommended.
I get quite a few samples coming in, and I really do taste all of them. The premise of my blog, however, is to feature wines I want to remember, and for my readers to remember and I don't get very many memorable wines coming in.
I did get one recently that surprised me and I think it's worth putting in your shopping basket.
Unlike a lot of California interpretations of Malbec, one whiff of the 2013 HandCraft Malbec takes you straight to Argentina. It's ripe, but not too ripe with generous blue fruit scents of plum and blueberries, along with pretty reserved oak. This would be welcome grill-side anytime, with steaks or burgers. It has a pinch of zinfandel that adds a nice roasted spice overtone. Recommended.
This wine comes from the Delicato Family Vineyards, probably known to you mostly from brands like Gnarly Head and Twisted, primarily inexpensive everyday wines. The HandCraft wines are overseen by Cheryl Indelicato, and made by Alicia Ysais. Since 2012, HandCraft also has raised $220, 000 for breast cancer charities.
Started my evening the other night by stopping by Yield Wine Bar for a taste of something and found a treat, the Vitivínicola Lafken, Casablanca, Chilean Riesling 2013. This is worth seeking out. It's fresh, clean, crisp --like a new world wine, but has an old-world heart. There are hints of petrol along with the lime and apricot scents with bracing acidity.
I was by myself, so I didn't have the whole menu...but I did try all the wines, of course. Started with a salad of garden greens, shallot, herbs, radish, flowers, and a red wine vinagrette. Followed that with an excellent braised pork rotolo with local moro beans and roasted purple potatoes.
Favorite #1: 2012 "Chianta" Etna Bianco - This golden colored, slightly sherried white from Carricante, Cataratto, and Minnella grapes, may not be for everyone, but it spoke strongly to me. It's toasty and bready, like a beautiful flat champagne with a nice grip of acid.
Favorite #2: 2010 Cisterna Fuori Etna Rosso - I hoarded this during the meal as it kept my interest both as a great pairing to the pork, and a great sipping wine on its own. It's medium bodied, has a lightly aged Nebbiolo nose to it and was in perfect shape. I would expect this wine has a few more peak years in it as well. Made from Nerello Mascalese & Nerello Cappuccio grapes.
The 2014 "Outis" Etna Bianco was a lovely light white, with an unusually strong white peach scent. Very appealing for a summer drink.
The 2012 Cisterna Fuori Etna Rosso was very ripe and fruity, deep in cherry fruit. This was a crowd pleaser in the room.
The 2013 "San Niccolo" Etna Rosso had a cru-Beajoulais nose, bright but deep. Very nice now at this young age, but will be stunning in a few years. I'll be looking out for this one.
For the last few decades (!) my family has been spending New Year's Eve with our dearest friends and we do lots of fancy cooking and drink some sumptuous wines. This year, we made the call to make a fancy Mexican feast and the gauntlet was thrown for wine. I can recommend two wines for your next Mexican Food pairing as they were great compliments to our menu.
There are few big challenges with paring with Mexican food. Chiles (heat), Tomatillos (acid), Cilantro (herbal) all demand careful selection. First and foremost with any spicy food, keep the alcohol level down as low as you can. Alcohol makes all hot food taste hotter, so leave your 15% Zinfandel and your 14.5% Carneros Chardonnay in the cellar. Reach instead for wines that are in the 13% or lower range if you can.
The menu was Sopas de Albondigos (Mexican Meatball soup) and 3 kinds of tamales: Puero con Chile Rojo, Pollo con salsa verde, and Queso con Chile.
For the white paring, I chose the 2012 Gramona Gessami (Penedes, Spain), from my favorite Cava producer, Gramona. I knew this would be very round in the mouth, low alcohol (11.5%) and low acid from the blend of 54% Muscat de Alejandría de grano gordo, 20% Muscat de Frontignan de grano menudo and 26% Sauvignon Blanc. I highly recommend this for pairing with chicken and tomatillos, or enchilladas suisas and it's both pretty easy to find and inexpensive. I paid around $17.
To pair with red chile dishes, I chose the wonderful 2010 Pithon-Paille Chinon “Vieilles Vignes” (France) This is all biodynamic Cabernet Franc from 80 year old vines in the Loire from an excellent producer, and around 20 dollars. Clocks in at 13% alcohol and it has both dark fruit and balanced tannins after a few years in the bottle. The cocoa powder notes of this wine paired would also pair very well with any red chile-based Mexican food. Look for great Chinon, Bourgueil, or Samur-Champigny rather than Cab Franc from the New World to keep the alcohol and ripness levels in check.
I began this year's Pinot Days at 7 a.m. Checking out all the links on the PD site of the new-to-me wineries and planning my day. This is a pretty big tasting, consisting of maybe 100 wineries, each with between 2 and 8 wines, so I needed a plan.
You can see my past survival guide posting, but this was pretty similar: get there early, bring a sandwich to have something to absorb what little wine actually goes down the gullet, drink a lot of water, start with new discoveries and finish with some old favorites. Spit Everything. (OK, maybe swallow some of the good stuff...)
Here are my favorites of new things to watch for. Most things were the 2012 vintage which are either just released or soon to be released.
2012 Wayfarer Vineyard and 2012 Golden Mean. Both top off the show. Awesome new project from Jayson Pahlmeyer. Look for 4 releases in Spring 2015.
2012 Dierberg -wow
2012 Dierberg Pommard Clones - deliciously darker than the Dierberg blend. I liked both a lot.
2010 Santa Maria - this is an AVA blend but spot-on Santa Maria character. A bit less expensive than the vineyard-designate wines.
Fel Wines (part of the Cliff Lede group, and owner of a Savoy Vineyards)
2012 Anderson Valley
2012 Savoy - great example of the fine grapes coming out of Savoy
2012 Sonoma Coast - loved this. White pepper and blackberry life-saver
2012 Keefer -delicious.
2012 Occidental Ridge pre-release
2012 Hirsch pre-release. Tight, but will be super
Merriman (Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette, Oregon)
2012 Cummins Road -this is his non-reserve and I preferred this light, young-Burgundy scent, body, and taste. One to watch in the coming years.
Bucher (famed grower for Williams-Seleyam, etc)
2012 Estate Pinot Russian River - picked low-Brix and is pretty, without the sometimes stewed character of RR Valley Pinots
In addition to my Tuesday tasting notes, D-G had two more exceptional Pinots:
2012 Fox Run - nice little brioche on the nose
2012 Devil's Gulch - Spicy. This will get less angular in the cellar.
Ellero (Central Otago, NZ) currently no California Distribution
2011 Pisa Terrace Central Otago - nice young Burgundy style
2011 Laurbach Vineyards -cool-style Russian River. Nice.
2011 Bersini Vineyards - nice Carneros offering
2011 Atune - a touch of sweeter fruit on this, but still leaning on the red-berry fruit side.
2012 Atune nice. One to watch.
2011 Santa Catalina - yes! From the first grapes planted on Catalina Island.
2012 Solomon Hills - nice example from Solomon Hills!
2012 Santa Rita Hills Reserve - fine dark berry center
2011 Russian River Valley Pinot - I like the boost from more whole clusters
2011 Gap's Crown - Delicious Sonoma Coaster! One to keep watching.
The classic Negroni is my cocktail. In fact, it's my family cocktail. My father loved them, as does my brother, as do I. When I see some subtle variation of the Negroni on a menu, I usually have to try it. Maybe it's with Aperol, maybe using Carpano's Antica Formula, maybe an Amaro instead of vermouth...maybe a new gin. Or the curent restaurant rage...the Barrel Aged Negroni. Aging the mixture adds depth and some nice vanilla/smoke notes. Nice.
For the barkeep in a fancy-pants restaurant, filling up a small two-hundred dollar oak barrel with a couple of hundred dollars of booze is no issue. A few busy nights pays for the whole deal. But no home cocktailian is going to go to that level of expense and spirits are volatile and can't be mindlessly oxygenated.
Oola's Waitsburg Barrel-Finished Gin is the answer.
My father would have never put a special (read expensive) gin into a Negroni. Ah, there he is wrong. What turns the ordinary cocktail into something extraordinary is the raw ingredients. I usually treat super-premium gins with kid gloves and make my in-and-out Martini as a purist treat, but this recipe dawned on my the minute I got this gin in the mail. I ordered Oola from Washington and I can't think of a better way to enjoy it.
Barrel Aged Negroni sans Barrel
1 part Oola Waitsuburg Barrel-Finished Gin
1 part Campari
a bit less than 1 part Cinzano Red Vermouth
Shake all 3 together and pour into a pre-iced Martini Glass or over fresh ice for a summertime on-the-rocks experience shown above. Garnish with small twist of orange or very small twist of lemon. For the true fan, Campari swizzle sticks are a must!
A lucky bunch of us got warmed up for the big Pinot Days tasting on Saturday June 21, 2014 with a good sampling of Pinots last night at the San Francisco Wine Center. The big buzz was about the wines from Cirq, Michael Browne of Kosta Browne fame, has made a fine new project. Expect 2 Pinots, the Treehouse and Bootlegger. The 2011 Treehouse was poured at SFWC and it was pretty and densely packed with Russian River fruit.
Dutton Goldfield brought 4 excellent Pinots, each with a different sense of soil and weather, each from 2012. They ranged from the light-bodied, full flavored Angel Camp to the cellar pick, Freestone Hill. I particularly liked the Marin County Pinot from the Petaluma Gap area. Great balance.
Kathleen Inman was also there, pouring first the apperitivo of the evening, a 2013 Rosé of Pinot, which I really enjoyed. She brought a mini-vertical of her OGV Pinot - 2009, 2010, 2011, and her 2011 Thorn Ridge. The 2009 evolved slowly in the glass to reveal some great black friut. The '10 was quite light but nicely perfumed. '11 OGV was cool and smoky. Her '11 Thorn Ridge was awesome.
Thanks to Brian for hosting this excellent casual event.
Another great reason to keep your wine at the SFWC!
I was happy to have the opportunity to come to this year's Terry Theise Germany/Austria tasting at Fort Mason, as I missed it last year —much to my disappointment. I'm even more disappointed now that I got a glimpse of what last year's largely 2011 offering must have been like. There were a few 2011s scattered across the tables and each one had a ripe, earthy, hint-of-petrol aroma that I love in warm years.
All in all the 2012s were super-clean (spared of unwanted botrytis), possessed powerful acidity, and overall balance.
I have learned that tackling every wine —166 this time, is impossible without feeling the effects of so much acid and sugar on my teeth, so outside of a few Austrian producers I can't ignore (like Hirsch), I concentrated on the German producers on my 80 or so tastes.
If you love German and Austrian wines, you owe it to read Terry's yearly catalogs, written in his irreverent style, packed with insider insights to the present year's wines. You can find them on Wine Wise's site here. New to me were the Gysler (Rheinhessen) wines, and Darting (Pfalz), both of which I liked. Top wineries for me were von Winning (Pfalz), Donnhoff (Nahe), Selbach-Oster (Mosel), Hexamer (Nahe), and Christoffel (Mosel).
Here were my favorites:
2012 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett
2012 Schlossgut Diel Riesling Kabinett
2012 Gysler Weinheimer Riesling Kabinett
2011 Gysler Weinheimer Riesling Kabinett
2012 Darting Durkheimer Fronhof Riesling Kabinett troken
2012 Darting Durkenheimer Fronhof Scheurebe Kabinett (which had basil aromas!)
2012 von Winning Riesling
2012 Dr. Deinhard Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling troken (great)
2012 von Winning Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling troken
2012 von Winning Sauvingon Blanc "I" (incredible. I had no idea Pfalz SB could be this good)
2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett halbtroken
2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnuhr Riesling Spatlese feinherb "Uaralte Reben" (ancient vines)
2013 Selbach Saar Rielsing Kabinett (barrel sample)
2011 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2012 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Scholossberg Riesling Auslese (amazing)
2012 Hermann Donnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl Riesling Kabinett
2012 Hermann Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Eiswein (lovely and heady from a monopole)
2012 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling "Quarzit"
2012 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Spatelse
2012 Joh. Jos. Chriostoffel Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spatlese
2012 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese
2012 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Urziger Wurtzgarten Riesling Auslese "Kauen"
2012 Kruger-Rumpf Scheurebe Spatlese (very unusual)
I'm starting a new series of posts about what I'm buying in wine stores today --what catches my eye and why.
First up is a wine that caught my eye at the Wine Club in San Francisco. I was shopping for value White Burgundy when I spotted a case of this. French Viognier for about $25.00. I wasn't familiar with this bottle, or the "Les Vins de Vienne" brand, but closer inspection of the label revealed a no-brainer. This is basically Condrieu, from an unclassified location from three of the top names in the Northern Rhone, Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard, and François Villard. I love Condrieu, but you generally can't touch one for less than $50.00.
Les Vins de Vienne is a joint venture from these three excellent producers offering a large selection of Vin de Pays rhone wines, both reds and whites. This Viognier is from Seyssuel, just north of Condrieu. Looking forward to trying this. Please check out their amazing flash-based website.