Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why no post?

I know, I need to write about the Dirk Niepoort Tasting: Douro wines from Portugal. Short comment, if you see these wines, buy them. I even took home a bottle of the rare pinot.

And the Martine's Tasting. Burgundy, Burgundy, some Rhone and more Niepoort.

And, 25 Grapes at Solano Cellars.

And online Grenache and, of course, Rhone Rangers.

But, I'm writing about that elsewhere.

And, I'm going, for better or worse, to Disneyland, still with no hope for good food or wine. On the other hand, I do have a soft spot for junk food. Any last minute pointers, let me know.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WBW Seeing Red. . .

So this is my first Wine Blogging Wednesday. Hosted by 1wine dude at http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/2010/03/03/seeing-red-for-the-first-time-wine-blogging-wednesday/ t
The challenge this time is to: pick a red wine that you would use to introduce a white wine drinker to red wines for the first time. ANY still red wine is eligible (including Rose wines, provided that they’re made primarily of red varieties

That said, time for a story about my mom and wine. I grew up in a house where my parents did not drink. My Dad might have a beer at a baseball or basketball game and my Mom a glass of wine occasionally when out for dinner. Even later, when my mother remarried, my stepfather's drinking was mainly secretive and alone. Now, my extended family was different, full of uncles who thought nothing of spiking their niece's cider and a grandmother who laughed for years after her granddaughter had too much ice wine in Germany.

Like many kids from non-drinking families, I learned to drink at college. Like many, I started with beer-cheap and readily available and moved on to vodka after a roommate spent a summer working as a bartender. Mid way through my sophomore year I started dating a man who would become my now-ex-husband. One of our early dates involved him coming over to cook salmon and asparagus for me. I was instructed to provide wine. Fake i.d. in hand my roommate set out to buy the wine that has been the bestseller at her bar tending job. The name has been lost to the ages, but it was a white zinfandel.

Luckily, Todd and I stumbled across a friendly wine store, for those who know Baltimore: http://www.wellswine.com/. The sales staff there were charmed, I think, by the idea of Hopkins students wanting wine and not beer. They started us on German and Austrian whites (often Terry Theise imports) before sending us to Bonny Doon for the creative blends and fun label (true story, as I have told Randall). That eventually led to a desire to try what we called "real Rhones" and my lifelong love affair with rhone grapes. Years later, we traveled through Burgundy and the Rhone to taste some of our favorites before ending up, of course, in Provence.

My mother, of course, disapproved of all of this, at least until I turned 21. Even at that point, her enthusiasm for wine was limited to an occasional glass of pinot grigio. Even as time passed, she was not enthusiastic about my wine interest. Until the one summer I decided to try something different with her, one that I had been lucky enough to taste at the winery earlier that year.

The wine? A
rosé from Domaine Tempier: http://domainetempier.com/ These days, this is a wine I buy infrequently due to cost, but once upon a time, it was more affordable. Her first comment was to assume that rosés were white zinfandels and to wonder why I was suggested something even she knew was much lamented. "Aren't pink wines bad?" she asked. I persevered and suggested she taste. She sipped, paused for a minute and asked, "What is this?" This led to an explanation of rosé , pictures from our trip to Bandol, and well, eventually, the bottle was gone. With floral notes and fruit, this was truly a beautiful wine. Before leaving, I purchased a few more bottles for her. I'm guessing that this would have been a '97 or '98.

Since that day, my Mom drinks less pinot grigio. After
rosé, I introduced her to Beaujolais. From there, pinot noir. On my last visit this summer I left her with a case of assorted nero d'avola.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Monte Bello

There have been a lot of lovely pieces recently about Ridge.
From Eric Asimov: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/dining/03pour.html

Jon Bonne: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/wine/detail?blogid=54&entry_id=58567 and http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/wine/detail?blogid=54&entry_id=58568

Tyler Colman http://www.drvino.com/2010/03/09/ridge-monte-bello-paul-draper-1991/

Jancis Robinson: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d7ec9a6c-2d4e-11df-9c5b-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

If you are interested in Robert Parker scores, Ridge lists recent ones on their own blog:

Although I did not attend the anniversary celebration, I was delighted to receive an invitation from Monte Bello tasting room manager Christopher Watkins to join a blogger's tasting. With only eight guests in attendance this was an opportunity to taste verticals of some of their better known wines.
Arriving early with Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes, we were greeted with a beautiful day on top of the mountain. Sunny and warm, there were views all the way to San Francisco. Christopher provided us with a glass of chardonnay for our stroll through the herb gardens, which featured both plants and prominently displayed beware of rattlesnakes signs. Luckily for my snake phobic self, it is still too early in the year for them to be out sunning themselves. At least, that is what I told myself.

After the other guests arrived we went back into the tasting room for our wines.
First up were two chardonnays:
2008 Jimsomare and the 08 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate. One of the more intriguing things for me about Ridge has been that their chardonnays have a higher alcohol than their cabernet blends. Creamy and bright, both of these wines came in at over 14% abv.

We then started on a much longer list of reds. As those who have heard me rant about this countless times know, I'm a big fan of blends. Most wines, with prominent exceptions, can be improved with the selective inclusion of complementary grapes. Of course, what I am still learning and imagine I could spend a lifetime exploring is what each grape brings to a blend. Why petite verdot rather than cab franc or 20% merlot one year and only 11% another? I would love to try my own hand someday. Looking at my notes below, you can see how each year the blends change to reflect the unique challenges and pluses of each harvest. Each blend is unique but reflects the consistent desire for structure, complexity and balance. As their website states:

Though born in the sixties to this new world of California winemaking, Ridge turned to the natural rather than the technological. The approach is straightforward: find the most intense and flavorful grapes, guide the natural process, draw all the fruit's richness into the wine. Ridge wines are fermented using wine yeasts naturally present in the vineyard.

Red wines are fermented in small-capacity fermentors to assure full extraction and intensity. The juice is drawn off, gently aerated, and pumped over a floating cap of grape skins. Once pressed, all wines complete a natural secondary (malolactic) fermentation. Chardonnay is whole-cluster pressed, barrel fermented, and held on its lees for an average of eleven months. In November, as malolactics move toward completion, we assemble each zinfandel from small lots kept separate according to varietal and vineyard parcel, choosing those that best accentuate the distinctive character of each site. The wines are then racked, unfiltered, to air-dried american oak.


08 East Bench: 100% zinfandel. East Bench is their newest designation. At 14.9% abv, it had big fruit on the nose but lots of structure, red fruit, spice, and mineral flavors. Unlike many zins, I think this could be an excellent food wine.

06 East Bench 100% zinfandel. Lots of dark fruit and some jam but with soil and acidity on the finish. Christopher explained that 06 had been a cool growing season, with many wines showing more acidity than in other vintages. Interesting also to note that this was the first vintage from these vines.

08 Geyeserville was a blend of 72% zin, 20% carignane, 6% Petite sirah and 2% mataro. I thought this was big and quite young. 14.8 % abv.

07 Geyserville was a very different blend with 58% zin, 22% carginane, 18% petite sirah, 2% mataro At 14.4% abv, it was almost port-like on the nose, very dark in color, with characteristic black fruits and acidity for balance.14.4% abv

08 Lytton Springs was 74% zin, 21% petite sirah, 5% carignane. This showed bright fruit and again acidity on the finish but could use some time to mature. 14.4% abv.

07 Lytton Springs was 71% zin, 22% petite sirah, 7% carignane. 07 was apparently a big year and this wine showed bigger fruit and less acidity with strong tannins on the finish. 14.4% abv

We then moved on to cabs:

07 Santa Cruz Mountain Estates 58% cab 42 % merlot 13.3% abv Was very young with strong tannins. Needs some time and air.

06 SC 56% cab 42% merlot 2% petite verdot This is the current release. I felt that it was much more rounded than the 07 but still needs time.

05 SC 58% cab 42% merlot I thought this was accessible now, but really needed food to come alive.

We finished with the famous Monte Bello itself. Again from their website:

Almost all the thirty-some small, separate lots of Monte Bello go to new, air-dried oak barrels (approximately 95% american, 5% french) for malolactic. In early February they are blind-tasted, and a first selection is made. Assemblage is usually complete by May. Decisions on when to pick, when to press, when to rack, what varietals and what parcels to include and—finally—when to bottle, are based on taste. To retain the nuances that increase complexity, we handle the grapes and wine as gently as possible. As with raising a child, there are no recipes, only attention and sensitivity.

08 Barrel Sample 72% cab, 28% merlot. This wine will be released in march 2011. The barrel sample has lots of tannins, not surprisingly, but early indications point to this a a lovely wine.

07 79% cab, 2% cab franc, 10% merlot, 9% petite verdot 13.1% abv. This was also showing a lot of tannins and is quite young. It has great potential. It will release in the fall of 2010.

06 68% cab, 20% merlot, 10% petite verdot, 2 % cab franc (CHECK)13.5% abv I felt that this one was very smooth and much more drinkable today than the 08 and 07. Balanced and elegant.

05 70% cab, 22% merlot, 6% petite verdot, 2% cab franc 13.2% abv. This was the most open and drinkable of all of the Monte Bellos we tasted. To me it had strong fruit and tannin, but would be ready to serve with dinner now.

04 76% cab, 13% merlot, 8% petite verdot, 3% cab franc This was a fascinating wine. Herbal and slightly closed this is one that I would love to revisit in a few years.Possibly my favorite of the day.

03 85% cab, 8% merlot, 7% petite verdot. Along with the 04, my favorite of the tasting.

1996 13.2% abv 80% cab, 11% merlot, 9% petite verdot Despite the fact that it had a lot more age on it than some of the others, i felt that this wine was fairly closed and was showing really strong tannins. I thought it has marvelous potential but still needed lots of time.

Christopher hopes to make these blogger tastings a quarterly occurrence. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly reccomend you not mix the next tasting.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Disney and Vegas

At the end of this month I will be heading to Disneyland with my almost 8 year old daughter, my childhood best friend and her almost 6 year old daughter. the girls have birthdays days apart and Disney is magical for them. So, we go. We are staying at http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneyland/en_US/hotels/landing?name=GrandCalifornianHotelLandingPage and will be there for 2.5 days. Any suggestions on food, rides, activities, etc would be most welcome. Do I want to search for hidden mickeys? Bring a flask? Obsessively photograph my child with characters?

A couple of weeks later Amy and I are heading to Vegas for http://www.acmcountry.com/awards/news.php A woman in her team in training group works for the Academy and suggested we make plans to come. We are staying at the MGM for convenience sake as that is where the awards take place. We'll be there three nights and will have. I have never been to Vegas. I also do not own either a cowboy hat or boots, though I've wanted boots for years. I'd love suggestions for here as well.

Please let me know below if you have any suggestions for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

March is for Alliums

Alliums are onions and garlic and shallots and leeks and the like. When Alliums were announced as the item for March in the Tigress Can Jam I was excited to investigate what we could do with some of the 600-750 species, making it one of the largest plant genera in the world. Strangely, the one item we did not end up using was your standard red or yellow onion. Instead we: pickled garlic and green garlic and pickled cipollini, green and pearl onions. Because it is just in season here and we had purchased Weck jars specifically for that purpose, we also picked some asparagus. In all, a busy day.

The recipe I will share is for pickled green garlic, if you would like one of the others please leave me a comment and I can send it out.

Pickled Green Garlic
(note that this recipe was originally for ramps but green garlic is much more available on the west coast and was in my Mariquita Mystery Box)

6 bunches Green garlic, cleaned, white parts only
1 cup water
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seed, black peppercorns, and fennel seeds
pinch red pepper

Prepare brine bringing vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil. Meanwhile, blanch green garlic for about 2 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water.
Pack green garlic into jars and cover with brine. Clean and finger tighten lids. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. We ended up with three 8 oz. jars.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Alto Adige Tasting

On March 2nd I was delighted to attend the Alto Adige Grand Tasting and Seminar in San Francisco. It may be a sign that I am at the right place, working at a University Press, but this was one of my favorite wine events so far this year. Not just for the wines, but for the pre tasting seminar, which allowed me to learn about the region. Alto Adige is not an area that I know very much about and I appreciated the opportunity to learn and taste.

The seminar featured winemakers and Wolfgang Weber as a moderator. Wolfgang is someone I'd be happy to work on a book with in the future (and I was pleased that our wine editor spoke with him). I must admit that my coworker and I did get a slight chuckle out of the fact that the panel included not just 3 men named Wolfgang, but a count as well. I wondered if that was an SF first.
The University press nerd in me enjoyed hearing facts such as:
While the region represents only .7% of Italy's wine production, over 90% of its wine merit a DOC designation.
15 cooperative wineries produce almost 70% of the region's wines.
Alto Adige is the oldest wine producing region of the German linguistic area.

After Wolfgang W's intro to the region we tasted 4 of the major grapes of the region with the winemakers: Pinot Bianco, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Nero and Lagrein. My favorites of this portion were
the Lun Gewurztraminer 2007 which had both richness and minerals, and a surprising 15.1%
Manincor Pinot Noir Mason 2007 which I found jammy on the nose but with great structure in the mouth. This is a biodynamic wine and it was fascinating to hear the winemaker talk about their effort to "create healthy vineyards."

After the seminar Blake and I headed in for the Grand Tasting. As always, I make no effort to taste everything, instead relying on reccomendations and feedback from other tasters. My highlights for the day were:
Manincor Chardonnay Sophie 2006 and Merlot Castel Campan 2005 were both wonderful. The chard was buttery, but still structured. Again, these are biodynamic wines.
Moscato Giallo Passito Sandbichler 2007 from H Lun which was truly lovely. At $75 it is a bottle I could not enjoy often, but is truly worth seeking out.
Cantina San Michele/Appiano Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Elena Walch
Gewurztraminer 2008 and Beyond the Clouds 2007 I enjoyed both of these very much. The Gewurzt had a great nose and a strong finish. The Beyond the Clouds, a chardonnay blend was memorable. They are both have amazing aromatics but also great balance.
Colterenzio Sauvignon Blanc: No notes, but I marked two stars

If I missed any highlights please let me know. This is an area I'd love to visit and look forward to learning more about.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Harold McGee in Conversation Tickets



Leave a reply here with your favorite UC Press book or Gastronomica article to win two tickets to:
Gastronomica Presents: A Conversation with Harold McGee
David Brower Center's Goldman Theater, Berkeley, CA
Tuesday, April 1, 7:00pm

A discussion and Q&A with Harold McGee, best-selling author of the classic On Food and Cooking, co-organizer of the groundbreaking 1992 Erice Workshop on molecular gastronomy, and The New York Times's Curious Cook.

I will pick a winner at random on Friday March 12 and notify you by email.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saturday Dinner with my daughter

Today my daughter asked for homemade pizza for dinner. I have learned that the best way of approaching this is to make a batch of dough, divide into halves and let us each make our own pizza. Her preference for plain cheese and sauce bores me and she would rather starve than eat my pizza with a small amount of sauce, cheese, rapini and pork prom sausage.
This morning at the Ferry Plaza market we found some fresh ground cornmeal so I decided to incorporate into our dough. The recipe, based on one in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, is one that works as written or allows for creativity. Today's variation was approximately
1 cup fresh ground cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cups water
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt

This is a flexible recipe. I combine all ingredients in my kitchen-aid. Stir to combine before taking out of the bowl and kneading briefly. Leave to rise for at least an hour but up to overnight. Dough can also be frozen at this point. When you are ready to cook, roll out on a floured cookie sheet. I like my crust thin, but others may disagree. Top with whatever toppings you prefer and bake in a 500 oven for 10 minutes. At that point, check the crust to see if it is as dark as you like. I like my crust "darkish" and crispy, while my daughter opts for a shorter baking time.
Toppings for her pizza are simple: good tomato sauce, preferably homemade and mozzarella, bought at Cowgirl Creamery at the market this morning.
My pizza featured sauteed rapini from Mariquita with some red pepper, black pepper salt and amazing Olive Oil from Hudson Ranch, sausage from Pork Prom, a small amount of sauce and some mozzarella.

To accompany our pizzas K has water. I had Robert Michel Le Bois des Blanches St-Joseph2005. I loved this wine and may have to find more.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wine Week Part Two

As we left our heroine she had attended three wine events and had three more that week. Can she make it? By the end of the week will her palate be able to tell the difference between a Russian River or Santa Barbara pinot or will she not know the difference between a pinot and a merlot? I feel a "bodice-rippper cover" image belongs here, but we shall see.

Last Wednesday was Tre Bicchiere, one of those events that I kept meaning to attend, but had never gotten to before. This year, armed with suggestions from Lisa Shara Hall and Jason from Solano Cellars, and accompanied by our wine editor, Blake Edgar, I finally made it. The tables at this tasting are numbered, making it easy to find wines, but if you are like me, it leads to running around talking about numbers and not wine names. Of course, I am the same person who felt a need to take my daughters picture with every character at Disneyland so I may just like quests.

Overall, I thought that the wines at this tasting were very good. Quite a few of the reds could use more time, but I had expected that. My favorites of the day were The Valteliina Sup. Mazer, Donnafugata Passito (a swwet wine), Guerrieri Rizzardi Amarone, Castello di Cgognola Barbera, Firriato Harmonium, Antinori Maaeria maine, Marisa Cuomo Fiorduva, Benati Il Drappo, Felsina Fontalloro and the Tasca D'Almerita Cab. Some expected, some surprises.

Next up on Thursday night was a TTL with Elderton wines sponsored by JJ Buckley at Local Kitchen in San Francisco. Joining me at the table were @winebratsf @@drxeno, and Brixchick_Liza, along with Paige and Chuck from JJ Buckley. We tasted 8 wines from Chardonnay to Cab to Shiraz and finally a sweet Semillon. My favorites were the 2005 Command Shiraz, a $90 wine that had gotten a 97 from Robert Parker and a 94 from the Wine Spectator. This was a bottle that I wished I could take home to taste again in a few years. Number two on my list was the Semillon, which managed to be sweet, but not too sticky. It had a lot more balance than I was expecting.

My final wine event of the week was the Pinot Noir Summit. The day started out with a blind tasting of 40 color coded pinots. Colors ranged from light pink to dark gray and everything in between. I admit to trying to ponder a connection between tastes and colors, but soon gave up. My favorites of the day were the bland colors:
Tan: Claiborne & Churchill 2007 Pinot Noir, Edna Valley, $25
Gray: Pacific Coast Vineyards 2007 Babcock Vineyards Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, $62.50
Gray Blue Hahn SLH Estate 2007 Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, $29
and Brick (okay a little color) Big Basin Vineyards 2007 Alfaro Family Vyd Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mtns $42
Color codes for the entire event can be found at: http://affairsofthevine.com/?page_id=2429

I admit that I did not stay for the announcements of top picks, but am looking forward to seeing the results soon. Another nice part of the event were the seminars. I attended Discovering New Stars and Food and Pinot Pairing. A highlight of the panels was the opportunity to chat with the bloggers sitting at my table. Rumor has it there are even some pictures here: http://johnonwine.com/2010/03/02/passion-for-pinot-noir-a-recap-of-the-pinot-noir-summit/ The new star highlight for me was Bradley Brown of Big Basin. I enjoyed his pinot, but look forward to tasting his syrah after we spent far too much time for a pinot tasting talking about it.

All in all, I week of some great wine and some not so great. Coming soon, my recap of the Alto Adige tasting.