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.