On this Halloween Thursday, yours truly is thinking of drinking red.
No, we’re not vampires at Trev’s Bistro drinking blood (or are we?…) as dusk turns to dark. There is no better time to consider the excellent red wine being produced in Sicily. When you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is no better place to sample these Sicilian wines (or for that matter, any Italians), than amidst the excellent burrata with sea salt and olive oil, maccaronara with ragu Napoletana, and Shelly Lindgren’s magnificent almost entirely Italian wine list at the now decade-old A16 in San Francisco’s Marina district.
It’s the type of wine list that makes you forget about your date for 15 minutes as you’re immersed in the fascinating world of varietals and regions you’ve never heard of. I’m sorry, did you say something?
Yet all will be well because the excellent service staff provides exactly the nurturing insight to help you find that perfect decision. They could even make calculus seem simple. Don’t be surprised if after perusing the list for 15 minutes, you receive a 15 minute story about the wine you should choose.
That was the case when I was pointed towards the 2010 Etna Rosso from Alberto Graci. (more…)
When traveling, I often slip into the “When in Rome…” philosophy at restaurants and bars without thinking about it. In Dublin, pints of Guinness become automatic at 5pm (or much earlier). A Kir for my apértif in Paris. Malört at midnight in Chicago bars. O.k., I don’t mind the first two examples, but I can’t lend my full support to Malört. Sorry Chicago.
Similarly, I found myself starting every dinner with a dry Sherry and concluding dinner post-dessert with the maple syrup of wines, Pedro Ximenez Sherry. It’s easy to love and hate Pedro Ximenez at the same time. Vintages are rarely complex. They are also rarely undrinkable if you have a sweet tooth and enjoy fortified wines.
Dry Sherries, such as Fino and Manzanilla, are much trickier. Many of them are bone shackling dry and bitter as lemon juice. They certainly play the part of palate preparers for the upcoming meal where you need to get something to drown out the tartness. I’ve had too many dry Manzanillas that give far too much sharpness up front to be bearable and enjoy the usual nutty finish.
Yet, there’s something catchy about the drier Sherries that keep you wanting them when they’re restrained. (more…)
Wine of the Week: 2011 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Vogelzang Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, CA
The Santa Barbara area is known best for its pinot noir (thanks “Sideways”) and Dragonette Cellars is no exception. The formerly Lompoc based winery with one of the more handsome Los Olivos tasting rooms you’ll find frequently hits the headlines for its pinot noir.
Dragonette’s 2011 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir was indeed a stellar representation of the differences between Central Coast pinot noir compared to Oregon and the Sonoma Coast. Down south, you’ll find much more in the way of dramatic and sharp tannins, stone fruits, spice, and dried herbs, compared to the plush structure and berry mixed with earth palate elements of the Pacific Northwest.
Even better is the unique 2011 “Black Label” Pinot Noir from a quartet of Santa Rita Hills vineyards. The very cool growing season for this vintage yielded a much lighter, almost blush colored wine that not surprisingly had many more of the berry notes and tenderness of an Oregon version.
Except driving through the rolling golden hills of California, you know you’re not in the Willamette Valley. (more…)
Earlier this week we examined the lessons brought home from last weekend’s 2013 International Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton, B.C., Canada.
As with any conference, the talks and networking are of utmost importance. But, nobody leaves Cannes without watching a film or the Superhero Conference without collecting some new comic books.
This is a wine conference as much as it’s a conference for writing about wine. You can’t write about the wine without…sampling the vino of course.
Voilà, from among hundreds of tastes spanning across Canada to Uruguay and Argentina to California and Oregon to the far reaches of Greece, here are the ten winning wines from WBC 13. Some were sampled at formal meals and tastings. Others were brought out by the winemakers themselves at after-parties. Either way, you’ll notice the list has five whites and five reds. That’s not on purpose. It just happened to be a very balanced roster of wines. You’ll also notice no straight-forward chardonnay (I only sampled a few over the weekend and they never moved me) and shockingly, no ice wine (in Canada!).
It’s a great list from a very special wine- filled conference. Cheers! (more…)
Poor California chardonnay has been taking a beating in recent years, sometimes deservedly so, and sometimes unfairly. If you open a bottle of chardonnay from the Golden State, you tense up and fear for the butter bomb worst. Headaches are not far ahead, as is a complete palate destroyer. You expect more butter than in a top tier Parisian croissant, mingling with absurd amounts of oak in a completely unbalanced proportion. Forget about pairing with food. These chardonnays often can’t even pair with water.
Let us not forget however that not all California chardonnay is like this. A few sips of any of the formidable chardonnays from Liquid Farm, one of the Central Coast’s young chardonnay (and rosé) voices, and you’ll be a fervent believer in no time.
Just by the winery name you can tell that Liquid Farm means business. There’s no pastoral label evoking the rolling hills and happy cows of California. This is about the wine and good times celebrating the beauty of gorgeous grape liquid.
The current vintage of Liquid Farms’ “Golden Slope” Chardonnay is truly a golden benchmark of chardonnay production for the Golden State. You can guess which color medal it would win in the Wine Olympics. (more…)
So often when we consider Loire Valley wines, immediately full- bodied, oak- laden whites pop into mind. Sancerre. Sweet Vouvrays. Just the name of the region constitutes an important benchmark for white wines worldwide. But, what about the red wines, in particular the blends?
I once worked at a California winery that made a rare to find excellent 100 % Cabernet Franc. In reality, Cabernet Franc is a professional blending grape, whether with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon in Bordeaux blends, or used with Gamay in Loire or Burgundy combinations.
One of the stalwart wineries of France’s Loire, Domaine La Grande Tiphaine, mixes 20% Cabernet Franc with 45% Gamay and 35% Côt (known as Malbec elsewhere) in its scrumptious “Ad Libitum” blend.
The grapes hail from vines ranging from younger 15 year old vines to veteran 45 year old ones, all strong and virtuous from the local limestone and red clay soil. Then a five month aging period in a fiberglass tank allows for the necessary maturation, without veering too far off its invigorating, agile track. This is not an elegant wine, nor is it a wine that requests aging. Have it now. It’s vibrant and exciting, almost alive. You can feel the pulse. (more…)
Wine of the Week: 2011 Forlorn Hope Wines, Alvarelhao, “Suspiro del Moro,” Silvaspoons Vineyard, Alta Mesa, CA
There are a lot of double takes wine drinkers have when they consider this beautiful wine from an obscure grape by a tiny young 1,000 case strong California winery.
Where is Alta Mesa? Do a Google search and the first result will be a memorial park (which happens to be located across the street from where I attended high school back in the day, interesting coincidence).
The name of the winery. It’s not exactly a conventional name, would you agree with me?
The suspense of “Suspiro del Moro.” What could that mean? You almost expect the wine label to have Zorro’s mask on it.
And of course, how in the world do you pronounce “Alvarelhao?” What is Alvarelhao? Some letter must be out of place there. Isn’t it a type of salt cod?
Amidst the head-scratching, question posing, and butchered pronunciations, 41 year old Matthew Rorick is crafting some of the most eye-opening wines today in California. Slowly, the rigid days of Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon or hit the road are becoming part of the past thanks to risk-takers like Rorick. There is, yes, hope, for the less tried and true varietals to shine because of Forlorn Hope. (more…)