15 November, 2011

Terra d'Oro PORT - Amador County, CA

Well, with the holidays comes dessert and with dessert comes the need for dessert wine. You know.......after that wonderful, deliciously dehydrated turkey dinner or that awesomely-spirally spiral-cut ham with marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole paired with some "lively"conversation with your "coveted" in-laws, you gotta unbelt your britches.

...and while your father-in-law is a few yards deep into some $6.99 a bottle corner-store whiskey, perhaps you might want to step outside for a nice cigar and a depressurization session with a nice glass of port.

Now seriously, it might not be quite THAT bad, but..........Port is an excellent sticky and works great with cigars, with chocolate and even with the in-laws.

In California, we DO have at least a couple of the typical grape varietals that are used for port in Portugal, those being Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo). While there are some wineries that make port with the typical grape varietals, the majority of California port is made from Zinfandel, the most "native" of California grapes.

Amador County is a location for a wonderful AVA, Shenandoah Valley, that is coming into its own and has some ideal growing conditions for both the Portuguese and native varietals used for port. The folks at Terra d'Oro have done a great job with this port and it's a great place to start your journey exploring fortified wines.

With powerful aromas of dark chocolate and black currants and rich, round flavors of figs, chocolate and raspberries, this Zinfandel delivers a delightful dessert finish at a great price.

Check out the winery or 1000Corks.com to purchase this 1/2 bottle (375ml) perfectly sized demi-bottle.

NV Terra d'Oro Zinfandel Port
Retail: $12 (375ml)
Grade: B-

This sample bottle was provided to me free of charge from the PR agency Balzac Communications.

15 August, 2011

Pinot Blanc, Pinot Blanc...where areN't thou, Pinot Blanc?

Pinot Blanc. (Please follow link...a great read on the subtleties of this great varietal!)

Makes me think of beauty. Most Pinot Blanc in the world is found in the Alsace or to the East and a great deal of it makes it's way into Cremant d'Alsace. (Cremant is the term for French sparkling wine from regions other than Champagne).

..and that makes sense. A great deal of Champagne is "Blanc de Noir" using Pinot Noir grapes...and being a genetic mutation (beware-- geek read, but pretty cool stuff on the GretL gene) of Pinot Noir,  Pinot Blanc serves similarly where it's allowed to be planted, unlike Champagne.

While most Pinot Blanc fruit in the US is grown in California, it's still a relatively unknown varietal and the number of acres to which it is planted is quite small.

Enter: Dry Creek Valley. It's one of my go to places for wines, and while it's not common there, Pinot Blanc is grown by my friends at Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate. Winemaker Mike Brunson does an excellent job and many of their wines are quite excellent and recommended, however, the single standout is the "La Bise" Pinot Blanc.

It's fermented cool in 100% stainless but don't think of that steeley, cold, green, icy taste and texture. It's restrained, calm, poised but fun and pleasing. Also to note, it's only 12.4% ABV (for the 2010 vintage.) Lower ABV wines are making their way back now, finally. Your palate is thanking you, and Mike Brunson, for this!

For a warm summer afternoon, a haute dinner with halibut, John Dory as well as chicken, or a pleasant, clean glass while you're waiting for that choco-lava cake you're going to split with someone, try a bit of Pinot Blanc and if you're in the Dry Creek Valley, head to Michel-Schlumberger for a Friday evening with music or harvest winemaker lunches. You can find the info on their WWW site (link above).

(P.S.) The SF Gate posted a piece this weekend on Michel Schlumberger. Please take a read there, too!

2010 Michel-Schlumberger "La Bise" Pinot Blanc
Retail: $24
Grade: A

04 August, 2011

Event - Euphoria Greenville !!!

I get a few emails from PR agencies about events that they'd like covered, mentioned, reviewed -- whatever. I typically don't make mention of the vast majority of them and certainly not in a single post, but when I saw what Euphoria had goin' on, I thought it would be a great mention.


It's Music Chow Vino Pallooza all wrapped up into an awesome few days of awesome. Looks like about 10 amazing chefs including several James Beard award nominees and winners will be cookin' it up. There's an interesting (at least to me) wine seminar that's being led by three MSs (master sommalier), all the music one could handle. Just look at the complete list of amazing artistic talent that will be there! ....and not only that, the event is a solid benefit supporting Local Boys do Good, the 501 (c)(3) organization created to benefit local non-profit causes.

There are ticket options you can buy here -- from   a la carte events to full blown VIP all-inclusive weekend passes. Personally, I'd have a really tough time picking from all the amazing dinners, seminars, gigs.

If you're going to be in Greenville from September 22-25th 2011 or can get yourself there, by all means, check this out!...and man, are YOU lucky. I'd sure like to be on the right coast for this one!

29 July, 2011

Summer's Here - Time For Our 87th Annual "Rosè Roundup"

Well, now that everyone who's whining about the recent fog and cool temps here in the SF Bay area finally has their way and we're in the start of a nice heat wave, it's a perfect time to roll out our 87th annual review of pink wines otherwise known as "The $20 Dollar Wine Blog Rosè Roundup"

So, to start, let's talk about what rosè' is and what it isn't.


Pink, good, purposeful or saignee, rich, lean, racy, sexy, delicious with food.


White Zinfandel, "blush wine" sweet, thick.

What's we're talking about here are wines that are made for people who like wine not those who don't like wine and want something that disguises the taste.

Since we know what we're talking about here, let's get on with the roundup.

First, is the 2010 Unti Rosè . It's the best domestic rosè being produced right now...at least as far as I know. I've tried a lot of rosè  and this is by FAR the best domestic rosè you can get. Luscious, flavorful, expressive and you just know that Mick and Sebastian really care about making this wonderful wine. It's purposeful rosè using Grenache and Mouvedre from the Unti vineyards in Dry Creek Valley in a very Provencal style.

Retail: $23
Grade: A+

Next is the 2010 Grey Stack Cellars Rosè . It's a saignee blend of Syrah and Grenache with 10% Viognier added for good measure. Clean, good with food and some interesting red fruit (strawberry & watermelon) notes.

Retail: $24
Grade: B

The 2010 Russian River Vineyards Rosè  is a Pinot Noir based saignee from the Sonoma Coast AVA. it's completely different than the above rosès in that it's Pinot based and both the nose and the palate are lead to much more citrus, more racy and more summer fruit hints. I'd love this with a fruit and sheep's ricotta salad with picked strawberries.

Retail: $19
Grade: B+

2010 Domaine Le Galantin Rosè is a super value from Bandol, La Provence, France. Bandol is the place! It's where it's at in Rosè! The King of Rosè. Period. Very similar to the Unti or vice versa. Lots of great lushness (although not as much as the Unti), super fruit, freshness, acid. Very versatile pairing opprtunities including salmon, halibut or other white fish, pork, BBQ (yes!), roasted chicked, salads and on and on!
Widely available in better supermarkets and wine shops.

Retail: $17
Grade: A-

2010 Senorio de Sarria Vinedo Rosado from Navarra, Spain is a saignee that's very similar in style, but not it taste to the Grey Stack Two Pinks. Bigger in overall style with less shoulders than the Provence style rosè, it lends great sumer fruit overtones as well. Watermelon, cherries, currants. Very interesting. Fruit from vines planted in 1953. I'd go for pork or paella with this one. Very good QPR!!!

Retail: $10
Grade: B+

The gold standard for ALL of rose is the 2010 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosè. It's the King of Kings and you can't get better than this. It's everything you could ask for in rosè. Fresh and lush, acidic and smooth, soft and wide, racy and lingering. Perfection in a bottle. Goes with almost anything but steak. Awesome! -- of course you have to PAY for awesome!

Retail: seen as low as $34, but normally around $45
Grade: A (yes it's WAY over the price point, but it's a well worth it splurge)

So, whether you enjoy the light salmon color of the Provencal style, or the richer color of the saignees, please find something wonderful to pair with a great bottle of pink and enjoy the warmth of the sun, the warmth of friends and the cool flavors of a great rosè!

What are some of your favorite pinks? Drop a link for us to check out!


Growing Tomatoes at the Beach

I live at the beach. It's great. I've got about a 5 minute walk and my feet are in the sand. Another 5 and I'm on the docks and able to purchase fresh local salmon, crab, halibut and more.

Mavericks - Robert Scoble (@scobelizer)
Even better, the weather is extremely moderate (read: cool). High temps in the height of growing season are in the mid-60s (~18C). My wine cellar is at ambient temperature and that costs me nada. We are the world capital of things like brussels sprouts, english peas, summer squash/zucchini and Mavericks surfing.

Tomatoes? - Not so much.

I mean, there are things that we CAN grow there, like basil. It's nice, if you like small green weedlets for your pesto. You can water it and fertilize it and love it and sing like Pavarotti to it, but it's just not happy.

Also, there's the San Francisco Fog varietal tomato. It's been hybridized like other commercial non self-pollenating plants. Call it GMO-lite. It pretty much tastes the way you'd expect a hybridized sun loving fruit that's grown in the fog to taste.  So WhyTF are we thinking of growing tomatoes at the beach? Maybe I should spend some serious coin and get some greenhouse activity going...get it warmed up with heaters and moistened up and keep the tomato worms at bay.

OK...so I just returned from the 4th annual WineBloggersConference held in Charlottsville, VA this year.

Overriding theme: It was HOT and STICKY !!!(although, I think this map graphic was from a few days before the conference) and when I mean STICKY, think of 115F (46C) heat index. Some folks were lucky enough to choose to head out to the "Outdoor Sauna Wine Tasting" on Friday nite. We stayed close with some friends and went to a great local place for dinner (review/post forthcoming.)

Now, these were record heat indexes, not by much, but, when we think of Virginia in ANY summer, it leads our minds to chiggers and locusts and heat indexes and, well, outdoor sauna wine tastings.

I saw a recent post saying that 47 Virginia wineries presented their wines at the conference. Many thanks to them for coming out. I truly do appreciate your efforts to put your best foot forward and show your wares to the WBC community. While I found a couple of wines that were very nice and a few that were outright drek and just plain out parts cleaner, the vast majority were positively and extremely unremarkable. That's unfortunate. The community is certainly looking to play not just on what seems to be their strength in Cabernet Franc and Viognier, but in other varietals including some that are just plain tough to grow in the best of environs. Unfortunately, I just don't think Viognier is a varietal that belongs solo. Needs it's partner Syrah up north and the menage-a-trois including Marsanne and Rousanne down south.

Now, back to that dinner. I was chattin' with my pal, the MD at a medium size (10000 case) winery about the crazy difficult growing conditions and he mentioned a discussion he had with one of the locals in which he discovered that they had sprayed (sulfur) 12 times already this season. 12 times by the end of July. Veraison recently started or is just starting for the majority of folks. Ugh. Another pal and I were chatting about the conditions and he said one of the locals responded to his question "what are the difficulties with the growing conditions?" with the comment "Yes. All!"

It's true. Growing grapes here is challenging to say the least. Wet, hot, still.....even in the most moderate of seasons. Vinifera, for the most part, just doesn't like it wet. Powdery mildew, Downy mildew (maybe not when so hot) and other leaf-spotting fungi. Bleck.
One can employ some progressive strategies for growing like Smart-Dyson trellising, and that might help a bit if it's warm and dry, but if the air is still and wet, then there's no where for the wet to go. BAM, instant mildew and fungus, save for our (well, their) friend "Thiolux featuring Sulfur Dioxide!"

Now back to that tasting of 47 VA wineries and their wines. LOTS of them had some really good sulfur stank. Most others were just sloppy... lazy....boring with a HINT of sulfur. Some tried to hide things. Others just didn't.

So, while it's certainly true that VA can make good wine, at what cost? Literally? Probably alot. Figuratively? Dunno....but lots of other stuff I don't like.

I'm thinking that VA sounds like a good place for my tomato farm.

27 July, 2011

The 7 Habits of Slightly DEFECTIVE Wine Bloggers (2nd Annual Edition!)

After our wildly (well.....whatever) well received and touted and perhaps even award winning (or not)  roundup of WBC10 with a post on "The 7 Habits of Slightly Effective Wine Bloggers", we're following it up this year with the 2nd annual "New and improved 7 Habits of Slightly DEFECTIVE Wine Bloggers"

1) Get a Life

Dude...the MC guy for the awards and dinner?C'Mon, who hired this guy? I thought the cheese was for dessert. Get this guy off the stage!!!

Oh.....and he had a staff of like 97 girls around him doing PR and other stuff...whateverthefuck "stuff" is. BTW, one of them REALLY liked the 2nd "RYE-SLING." Really?

Yep, really :(

2) You TOTALLY Gotta Do Interracial Speed Dating

Both the white ones and the RED ones!

3) Don't Drink Stuff from Strangers

There might be worms in it.

FOCK. I wish I would have known this BEFORE #wbc10.

4) Be Yourself

If you're a social media geek, don't try and be a wine geek....Oh..and "Bro-Founder" is as lame as "That's almost as lame as a sunggie. LOL JK. NOTHING is as lame as a sunggie."


5) Pace Yourself

Look, we've got parties, tastings, speed datings, outdoor sauna tastings, mulled wine outdoor sauna tastings. There's ALOT to do. If you don't be mellow, you'll end up in a hotel room with Adrienne Curry.......and your registration fee DOESN'T include a happy ending. It DOES however include a personal injury waiver.

6) This Whole Planking Thing is Lame

Stop it. You're taking this WAY too far.

I SAID, Stop It!

Now, C'MON!

7) Get Control of Yourself

Listen here, pal. The whole screaming at the top of your lungs, trying to be the life of the rubber T-Bone salt lick party is tiring and trite. I mean, it's been done before with rubber chicken and with rubber beef strip. If we get some real food, I suspect this behavior will stop and I won't have to ask Hymie to put you in a locked room and throw away the room.

Bonus Tip

Even though it's hot & humid and there's just disgusting weather, remarkably mediocre food and mostly (but not all) extremely average beverages, relish the time you spend with your fellow bloggers, dear friends and new family members whether you've known them for years or just met them at the conference, and whether you see then regularly, or just once a year when we join together and celebrate our common love of sharing our love for wine with each other and with the world.


23 July, 2011

$1,000,000 of Molly Dooker Velvet Glove (the main ingredient in Sangria) goes ker-PLONK

So, not sure if you saw this story on MSNBC or not, but apparently, many cases of the MollyDooker Velvet Plonk were dropped many, many feet and met with an untimely death on the loading docks in the port of Adelaide while being loaded on a ship headed for the USA.

Darn. Really! That's a lot of great Sangria that's not going to get made. (I really need to get my "How to Make Molly Dooker Sangria" video up on YouTube.)

..and PROBABLY the best thing that happened to the world of wine is quite some time. I'm all for style variations in wine, but the Velvet Plonk is something unto its own. In all seriousness, if you've not had the chance to taste the "glove" check out this search and read some of the reviews. Some people love it. Some hate it.

In the world of wine, it represents the most egregious effort in wine making I've ever seen. IT'S GOT NO SOUL and if that's what the winemaker REALLY wanted to make, they're not making it for any wine lover. They're making it for points and for profit. I'm all for making profit making wine, but I'm not one to buy even "great tasting" mouse piss even if Parker gave it a 99. Trust yourself, not the points.

So, for those of you who haven't had the "pleasure" of tasting the "delicious" Shiraz, you can see a few bits about it from our Speed Dating episode at WBC10 in W2 last year.

Now, last year at WBC10 I got to swill the plonk or plonk the swill and then during WBC11, some Aussie does us all a favor and craters it into the dock from 20 feet. Good on ya, mate! At 16.8% ABV, I suspect some Bogan will have wiped it up, wrung out the paper towels and thrown it in the tank of his ute.

Or, the Ferrari factory ordered up the leftover to use as engine oil in the new 599 GTB.

Good on ya....ya Bogan!

WBC 2011 - Speed Dating! - Red

..and away we go.

1) 2004 Tabarrini Sagarintino

Good structure from Umbria. Like it. Really good balance, but just a bit tight. Wish it could be opened up a bit.

Retail: $55
Grade: B
(a bit pricey, but nice bottle for a veal chop!)

2) 2007 Trianon Cab Franc
Cab Franc, Merlot & PV blended in. Fruit on nose and front. Good blue fruit characteristics. Really not a good example of what >I< like in a Cab Franc. Would prefer more structure, more laid down tannins. Alc 13.7% Perhaps lay it down for a few years and see what happens.

Retail: $32
Grade: C+

3) 2008 King Estate Pinot Noir
70% new oak, nice example of 2008. I think they did a really nice job with this. Good red fruit on front. Great front to back balance. Need Pork Chop!

Retail: $55
Grade: B- (nice bottle, but overpriced compared to peers, I believe)

4) 2007 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mtn. Cabernet Sauvignon
It's a very good of Napa Howell fruit. Lots of black fruit and good tannin. Good wood, but not overpowering. Would like this in a few years for certain. Need a nice Steak au Poivre.
300-500 Cases

Retail: $75
Grade: B (tough, but earns a B regardless of the price)

5) CalNaturale 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles (TetraPak)

Box wine - organic fruit. Very typical example of lower end Cab. Low carbon footprint package.
In Whole Foods markets. If you like lawnmower red, then this might be for you. Low tannin, rich fruit, easy drinking.

Retail: $13 (1L)
Grade: C

6) Clif Family Climber Pouch NV Cabernet Sauvignon

Bag wine.  1.5L (2 bottles) Fresh for a month (supposedly) Similar to previous. Simple juice. Drink now and drink often. Can do much better for a few dollars more.

Retail: $17
Grade: C-

7) 2008 Centine Toscana

Good example. 13.5% Alcohol. Acid, tannins balanced. Plush but not round red fruit on front. Good balance for what it is. Good stuff. Could drink this with marinara, lasagna, milanese.

Retail: $12
Grade: B+

8) 2008 WillaKenzie Pierre Leon Pinot Noir.
Really OREGON with %13.2 abv. All oak 50% new, balance neutral. All French. Great nose. Interesting ginger notes that are pleasing. Would be great with Salmon -- tons of red fruit (typical 2008 vintage)

Retail: $41
Grade: B-

9) 2009 Mountfair "Enagement" Blend (VA wine)
Merlot, C. Franc, C. Sauv, P.V. -- Not really my thing. Needs more balance. Big tannin and fruit. Extracted. Would kill any food with some expections (BIG steak)

Retail: $24
Grade: C-

10) 2009 CasaNoVa Red Wine
Merlot, Cab, Cab Franc. Hot, spicy, lots of tannin, 100% new Virginia Oak likely the source of the tannin. Hmmm. Na.

Retail: $ 50
Grade: No.

11) 2006 Barboursville Octagon Bordeaux Blend
4 Noble varietals (no Malbec :-(((  )

First VA red wine that I really like. Good front to back balance. Good structure, good fruit that's blue, red. Character, mineral.

Retail: $40
Grade: B- (I hate to go low here, but I think it's overpriced. Can do much better for $45 or can do this quality for $30 -- we need to price to sell, folks.)

12) 2007 Chateau Mukhrani Saparavi (Republic of Georgia -- not the state, you goonz!)

Saperavi is a really interesting grape. Lots of oak on this. Fun. Interesting to try something new and wild. Really untamed and natural. What the hell???

Retail: $19
Grade: C

OK...we're done here. Woop.  Another year, another speed dating...once again with @mamanadesfilles - Gretchen Neuman

22 July, 2011

WBC 2011 - Speed Dating! - White & Pink

OK...my favorite part #wbc11 is here...LIVE WINE BLOGGING -otherwise known as SPEED DATING.

I think we get 12 wineries pouring..so let's see what we get here...

1) First up - Rodney Strong Vineyards - Healdsburg, CA
Founded 1959 -
2008 Reserve Chard - RRV
Nice Chard for RRV, but not my style of Chard. Good acid and not very buttery or oaky.

Retail - $35
Grade- B-

2) Next, Decibel 2009 Hawke's Bay Sauv Blanc.
1000 Cases Made - 1st Vintage
100% Stainless w/ lees stiring. Very ripe fruit, but great acid. Not really like a NZ Sauvie..much less green. Great with Oysters & Salmon or Halibut

Retail $16
Grade: A-

3) 2008 Afton Mountain Blanc de Noirs (MC) Bubbles
VA (Virginia, not VA) winery

Pinot & Chard. Decent. Good acid. Balance not super. Rich.

Retail: $30
Grade: C+
Not bad, but can do much better bubbles for $30.

4) Next up, Viviana White Blend from TX
100% Stainless on lees.

Muscato Canell

Prob the best TX wine I've had. Restrained on most of the palate. A bit sweet and rich on the front, but good.

Retail: $23
Grade: B+

5) 2009 Morrisette Rose

100% Chambersin Dry Rose

OK...better than alot of saignee rose that I've had...has some "interesting" notes on the tail.

Price: $14
Grade: C

6) 2010 Boxwood Rose
Cab & Merlot Saignee

Pretty decently balanced front to back, lots of good fruit. Not really my style of rose' - (Bordeaux), but OK. I'd buy some if it were around.

Price: $14
Grade: B-

7) 2009 Barboursville Viognier

Lower alcohol (13% ish), fruit, but not powerful. Lots of citrus and not much oil/petrol on the nose or front. Nice.

Retail: $22
Grade: B-

8) Tabarrini Adarmando Trebbiano

100% Trebbiano on 100% Stainless.
Interesting Italian take here. Lots of spice and smoke on front. Interesting nose...petrol, oak. Interesting. Imported by their USA (FL) company.

Retail: $ 17 (on their website.
Grade: C+

9) Michael Shaps Viognier 2008

Interesting nose -- good front to back. A good example of VA Viognier.

Retail: $32
Grade: C+

10)  2010 Jefferson Vineyards Pinot Gris

Wow..best VA wine so far. Lots of acid. Pretty good P. Gris example. A bit of Viognier and Riesling blended in. Good to pair with seafood.

Retail: $19
Grade: B

11) Sivas Sonoma 2010 Sauv Blanc

Decent Sonoma Sauvie with lots of green apple  & green bell pepper. HOT times call for Sauvie Blanc like this. The cure for a ..well, perhaps not a cure, but the right medicine for a BBQ on a hot steamy day

Retail $14
Grade: B-

12 & Final ) Maycas de Limari 2008
100% Chardonay
800 Cases

A bit of oak, but not oaky. Decent Char. decent price pint. A bit more acid than I think Chard needs. Good green fruit, but perhaps a bit too much.

Retail: $20

16 June, 2011

These are PINOT Days (yes, I love Natalie Merchant!) -Discount Code for 10% off Tickets

It's time for one of my FAVEs. Pinot Days are here. This week at Fort Mason a zillion (well ok, only 200 or so) of the best Pinot producers share their wares. The 7th Annual edition of Pinot Days offers the opportunity to focus on what I think is the most noble of grapes varietals.

All of the events for the week are listed here. I'm lucky enough to be attending the "Best of Oregon" event on Friday evening. The majority of my favorite domestic wineries are going to be here and I'm uber excited. Raptor Ridge owners Scott and Annie Schull will be there pouring and while I was just at the winery in Newberg, OR two weeks ago (see photo from their tasting room below) I'm looking forward to seeing them and my other favorites from Sokol Blosser, Domaine Serene and my great friend Craig Camp from Cornerstone Cellars who's new releases are rumored to be fantastic!

So, come on out and taste some of the great stuff on Friday with me or drop by the grand tasting on Saturday at Fort Mason. If you visit the tickets page and enter the code 2DLRWBSF11 you'll receive 10% off all tickets for all events. Also note that you can combine events for special entry times as well.

It's PINOT...what are you waiting for?????

07 April, 2011

Toast of the Town - San Francisco

Just got back from Toast of the Town and I wanted to drop a note with some highlights.

First, thanks to the folks at Wine Enthusiast for inviting us. We had a nice evening. Toast of the Town is a wine tasting combined with many great local restaurants serving up small bites that are their vision of great food in a small plate or bite. This year, it was held under the dome at SF City Hall.

While there were many wineries pouring, I wanted to focus on the food for a change! No pairing, no wine, just FOOD!

My favorite taste of the evening was a wonderful Duck Confit & Housemade Tasso Gumbo from the folks at CreoLA. Chef Edwin Caba did a super job. It was a wonderful small bite..salty, savory, great seafood and pork taste layers and supporting the whole thing was a great roux. AWESOME!

2nd favorite was the short rib roulade from the gents at the Wente Restaurant. The rib was slow cooked, had great sweet and tangy flavor and was rolled in an interesting wrap similar, but thinner than a tortilla. Good job Chef Eric Berg!

Next was a great mezze plate from Cafe Gibraltar on the Coastside. A nice croquette that was crisp (very tough to do at an event without a fryer handy), some lentils...simple, good. Great flavors as always from Chef Jose Luis Ugalde.

Honorable mention for the lovely people at House of Chicken and Waffles who presented an excellent mini corn muffin with collard greens, mac and cheese and a couple pieces of fried chicken. While the chicken didn't translate too well being luke warm and a touch soggy, everything else was awesome. I'm headed there as soon as possible to check out the real-deal..at least as real as it can get this side of the ATL.

The Lovely Languedoc!

I just returned (literally) from a great tasting in San Francisco of The 2011 Ambassador's Tour of the AOC Languedoc, Sud de France (South of France). The tasting was hosted by the Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins du Languedoc (CIVL) which represents the 29 AOC Appellations of Languedoc.

I just had to put something up quickly as I was so impressed by the quality of the wines overall and more than that, the value that most of the wines brought. The varietals are very similar to those of the Rhone and include Grenache, Mouvedre, Syrah, Carignane as well as others. On the white side, Grenache Blanc, Rousanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, Rolle (Vermentino) and Macabeu (Macabeao/Viura) as well as several others.

AOC Languedoc-Rousillon is the largest wine producing region in France, planted to 95,000 acres, producing nearly 400 million gallons and the 29 appellations produce about 10% of France's total wine production.

Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes and I made a couple of rounds and I'm happy to present some of my top choices for you to try.

First the Whites:

Picpoul is one of my fave white varietals and the 2009 Domaine Felines Jourdon from the Picpoul de Pinet appellation is a great bottle. It's a super value and with the vineyards literally overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, there's no doubt that the calcium, oyster and minerality will drive this. It's not like a Sauv Blanc where the steel and grass drive the mineral, but rather fruit, lushness and a round, long finish with great Braeburn Apple and Asian Pear notes. Great with some fatty fish or scallops, chicken,

Retail: $11
Grade: A-

Another of my go-to whites is Chenin Blanc. While not as popular as other varietals, or as it used to be in the late 70s/80s, I dig French Chenin. It rocks!

The Château Reives Blanques Dédicace Blanc, 2008 is a fine example of Chenin. It's from the AOC Limous and brings more great minerals but with more acid than the Picpoul. Try this with chicken salad, grilled pork loin with apple chutney or even fish & chips! Good stuff!

Retail: $20
Grade: A-

On the red side, Château La Dournie, Classic Red 2009 from the Saint Chinian appellation brings together 60% Syrah with 25% Grenache and 15% Carignane. For a bistro style wine, it's got a significant amount of restrained fruit and is terroir driven with great mushroom and earthy notes. Would be awesome with cassoulet!

Retail: $15
Grade: A-

Finally,  Château de Lancyre, Coste d'Aleyrac Rouge, 2008 is another Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault blend. It's another wonderful food centric young selection. From the Pic Saint Loup appellation, this GrandCru de Languedoc exemplifies what I want when having dinner al fresco with friends on a pleasant spring evening and grilled light meats and vegetables. With plenty of fresh, rich red cranberry and plum fruit on the front and lots of acid and mineral on the mid-palate, the back finishes wide and slowly with a sexy, sily mouthfeel. It's one of the best values I found today.

Retail: $19
Grade: A

What a great Ambassadours Tour for Languedoc in 2011. Super quality at super value and mostly keeping to their roots, but perhaps, with a bit of room for an American palate.

Get out and enjoy some Languedoc ....ask your local wine monger for his or her favorites and perhaps one of these will be at the top of the value list.


29 March, 2011

27 March, 2011

Falconry in the Santa Lucia Highlands

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
A few months back, the good folks at Hahn Family Winery invited several bloggers, myself included, to their Soleded, CA winery to watch a demonstration of their use of Falconry. While Falconry is popularized as the Sport of Kings, particularly in the Middle East, the Hahn Winery is certainly not participating for sport. Rather, they use Falcons in pest control, that is, keeping starlings, and similar species away from the vineyards.

Starlings are notorious for destroying winegrape crops. Their appetite for grapes is well known and left unchecked, a flock could decimate a harvest in not more than 2 days. For years, most vineyards have employed most well known, plastic netting over the vines as well as scare tactics such as small explosives and plastic predator models placed strategically around the vineyard.

Problem is, Starlings are smart and in very little time, they've figured out that the predators are plastic and while the explosives are effective, their disturbing noise is not very desirable. Additionally, plastic netting is a significant investment in time and money and unfortunately, is 100% plastic.

Enter: Falcon
(c) 2010 - Chow Studios

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
A simple fix seems to be, rather than plastic predators, REAL predators. Jim Tigan of Tactical Avian Predators is the go-to guy for the Hahn Family Wineries for the past several years.

(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
(c) 2010 - Chow Studios
Jim uses common bird-flushing with his dog Annie, but rather than shooting or capturing the birds that Annie flushes out of the vineyards, he's just looking to scare the living daylights out of the Starlings.

Imagine you're a starling just munching on a few Pinot Gris grapes and along comes a dog that scares the hell out of you, so you take flight to get away, but just when you think you've made it, a nice Saker Falcon named Nikita flies by and you think you're going to be dinner, so you go Audi 5000 outta there!

...and you tell all your pals that there's a nasty chick named Nikita in the neighborhood now, so let's move to a different one.

Sustainable. Humane. Effective.

Good job, Jim, Nikita and the Hahn folks for their continued support to doing things better because it matters!