Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Week of Wine part one

Many weeks my days are fairly predictable, get up, get my daughter ready for school lunch and all, work, pick up my daughter, dinner, reading, and hopefully, sleep. this last week was a bit busier than that. Thus, the lack of both posts and sleep!

Friday the 19th was Dark and Delicious, the annual celebration of petite sirah. The event featured 41 preeminent Petite Sirah wine companies and 26 fabulous Napa and Bay Area restaurants and/or food caterers at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda. Like the Zap Good Eats event, the food was a highlight. I tend to prefer my wine with food in general so the opportunity to taste so many pairings was a pleasure. Interestingly, my favorite wine of the night was a blend of petite sirah and syrah, the 2007 Robert Biale Vineyards Like Father Like Son Napa Valley $46.

Monday was a day of two wine events. First up was the Demeter Certified Biodynamic Taste of Place event upstairs at the ferry building in San Francisco. The event

The Taste of Place event featured three speakers on Biodynamics in practice:

Biodynamics 101: Gena Nonini, Land Steward, Marian Farms

Drink Living Wine: Mark Beaman, Winemaker, Mendocino Wine Co

Eat Living Food: Chris Velez, Land Steward, Stella Luna Farms

As one who knows very little about biodynamics but associated it mainly with buried cow bones and moon cycles, it was very interesting to hear the farmers and wine makers talk about how they work the often complicated rules into their daily work. I came away thinking that although some of the concepts remain a bit mystical to me, any practice that emphasizes the health and quality of soil is worth looking into. As the Demeter site states: In relation to its practical application in farming, this philosophy suggest that humans, animals, plans, minerals and the cosmic periphery form a whole system, or organism. The farm organism forms a unity in regard to the workings of both human and natural systems. The root of the Biodynamic system is the relationship of the farmer and his or her practices to the local ecosystem, which in Biodynamics reaches the extent of including the influence of the cosmos and subtle life forces on local habitats. (

In addition to the speakers food and wine served was served by certified producers including some I was already familiar with such as Bonny Doon, Benziger, Grgich Hills, Qupe, Quivira and Radio-Couteau. As well there were many that were new to me including Cooper Mountain, Cowhorn, Frey, Paul Dolan, and Truett-Hurst. I enjoyed the opportunity to taste a range of these wines at one time, and, as always, the opportunity to talk with some of the producers.

I finished the day at a tasting with Joe Dressner at Terroir. Joe imports lovely wines and I have been a fan for a while. The room was crowded with Joe's fans including some I had seen earlier that day at the Demeter event. I sat at the bar and was delighted to chat and share tastes with the friendly group around me. I met Joe last summer and since then enjoyed following him on twitter @joedressner. I enjoyed his event description from his blog quite a bit:

"It's not really a tasting though. In fact, I'm no longer doing tastings, I'm only doing drinkings.
I'm also going back to banning I-Phones at wine events. Drink the wine and forget about your newest apps. Any I-Phone pulled out at Terroir will be confiscated.
There will be no tasting notes.
There will be no price sheets.
If you're nice, we'll tell you what you're drinking and answer any of your questions about the wines. If you don't like the wines, so what? What makes you think you're so important?"

Luckily, my i-phone was not confiscated. And despite the warnings, wines were identified and Joe was charming. Wine highlights for me were the Occhipinti Nero and Frappato.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekend Cooking

I had planned a lazy weekend at home with my daughter before we head back to school and work on Monday. In this case, along with the building of a rather elaborate fort that became a car from random wine boxes, I decided to do some cooking for the week ahead.

First up, given that I had eggs from both @Soulfoodfarms and @Omnivore books and many vegetables from my Mariquita Mystery Box was frittata. After pondering the contents of the refrigerator and querying on twitter I decided to opt for bacon, green garlic and Brussels sprouts. As always when I cook, exact amounts tend to depend upon what I have on hand. What follows is approximate. Note that this makes a very sprout heavy frittata, if you would like it eggier, decrease the amount of vegetables.

8 strips bacon
1 bunch green garlic, cleaned and chopped
4 cups Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered or halved depending upon size
salt and pepper to taste
7 eggs
1/2 cup milk (I used 2% as that is what I had in the house.)

In a cast iron skillet, cook bacon until cooked through. I chose to dump out some of the bacon grease, but that is your call. Add sliced green garlic and continue cooking until it softens. Add Brussels sprouts and continue cooking 10 or so minutes. I like my sprouts to remain crisp. In a small bowl mix eggs and milk, flavoring with salt and pepper. After the sprouts are cooked to your liking, add eggs to pan and stir to mix. Allow to cook until eggs set. If you like, and I do, put frittata in the oven under a broiler until the top browns slightly.

Flip pan to remove and serve warm or room temperature. If you are like me, your child will not be interested so you will have leftovers for the week ahead.

This morning my daughter requested waffles. Very often we make waffles on the weekend, eat a few right away and then freeze leftovers for quick weekday breakfasts. I again asked on twitter and received several suggestions. My daughter chose "Crisp Belgian Waffles" sent by @lisasharahall, which, of course, I tinkered with.

The basic recipe called for:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup Rice Krispies (I had no Rice Krispies so substituted a blend of oats, cornmeal and whole wheat flour, as always, trying to up the fiber for my picky eater.)

3/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon table salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1. Preheat traditional waffle iron to medium. Meanwhile, stir flour, Rice Krispies, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk egg yolks, milk, vanilla, and oil together in medium bowl.

2. With electric mixer or balloon whisk, beat egg whites in bowl to soft peaks. Pour milk mixture over dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Whisk in beaten whites until just combined. Do not overmix; a few streaks of whites should be visible.

3. Pour 2/3cup batter (see note above) into center of preheated waffle iron and use back of dinner spoon to spread batter toward outer edges (batter should reach about 1/2 inch from edges of iron before closing lid). Close lid and cook until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Next on tap is a batch of Cranberry-Yogurt-Oatmeal muffins based on a recipe from Joy the Baker.
If they pass the tough 7 and 8 year old critics currently playing in my living room, I will post the recipe as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February is for Carrots

And just in time as I was running very low on pickles. With a required posting date between the 14th and the 19th, combined with my friend Lisa's travel schedule, pickling was only possible on a weeknight. So last night we pickled, ate marvelous pasta from @popupgeneral, sipped wine from Copain from my friends @solanocellars and watched a bit of Olympic ice skating. What I hope that tells you is how easy and relaxed pickling can be. Unlike jam which requires stirring and close attention to reach a setting point, pickles are a quick and simple process. Essentially, prep vegetables, prepare vinegar mixture, boil vinegar, fill cans with vegetables and boiling vinegar and process.

Having experimented with rainbow carrots in the fall, we decided to try them again. What follows is a the recipe we used to end up with 11 jars of carrots. This recipe makes far too much of the vinegar mixture but as we ran out on our last pickling adventure we were happier with extra.

Spicy Pickled Carrots

10 bunches carrots, peeled, cut to the height of your jars, and quartered if large

Into each jar add 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp black pepper and a slice or two of habanero (optional)

For your cider mixture
combine 3 quarts water, 2 quarts cider vinegar, 1/4 cup salt, and 2tbs honey. Heat to a boil.
When the mixture boils ladle into jars with spices and carrots, clean rims, finger tighten lids and water bath process for 15 minutes.
I like to let these sit a few weeks before opening.

Taste of Place

Hugh Johnson, in his memoir A Life Uncorked wrote about how wines are not just scores but are of the time and place when one drinks them. To quote " however good wine is, sentiment makes it better." When I think back on the wines I remember, it is not the scores that they received but the experience
-My first bottle of
Châteauneuf-du-Pape in college when the idea of spending $50 on a bottle was unthinkable, except for a very special birthday
-Tasting Chateau Y'quem by the glass at a business dinner with a woman scheduled for a c-section the next morning
-The first glass of wine after my daughter was born: rose at Chez Panisse Cafe with my mother as my daughter napped in her car seat
-House rose in Bandol at a small restaurant offering one item a day after visiting Domaine Tempier
-Pinot with the man who broke my heart (twice)
-Zinfandel on a roof in San Francisco with another man who would break my heart

I could go on and on. I'm thinking about this today as I sit here to write about my visits on Monday to two very different wineries this past Monday with my friend Lo.

We started off the day at Audelssa. I had tasted their wines for the first time a few months back on a tasting day with @winebratsf. I had enjoyed what we tasted, but was excited to learn that along with the Bourdeaux blends we tasted that day, they make Rhone blends as well. After tweeting about this, I was contacted by Gloria Schaefer who invited me up to the vineyard to taste the Rhones, so long as the weather was good. As we drove up the winding private road, I understood why. At the top of a steep hill with views of even San Francisco on a clear day, it is not a place to visit n the rain. But to taste the wines, while looking at the grapes in the company of the very charming Gloria and Dan Schaefer, is an memory to cherish
The wines that we tasted were their rhone blends:
2007 Zephyr is a blend of syrah, grenache and mourvedre in the style of the classic gsm of the Southern Rhone. Concentrated and lush, it has tastes of plum and ref fruit. It is very accessible now and will continue to develop over the next few years. The Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre blocks that produce the fruit that goes into this wine are situated at the very top of the vineyard at 1800 feet above sea level, above the fog line. Volcanic soils and the inherently rugged terrain of this site consistently contribute to unusually small berry sizes, especially for these three varieties, which in turn lead to concentrated, fruit-driven expressions of this classic blend.

2007 Tempest is a Cote Rotie style blend with 98% syrah and 2% viognier. Medium bodied and elegant it featured dark fruit, earth and dried herbs. It continued to improve with time in the glass.

We then headed over to Tierra Roja. I had met Linda Neal at Wine Entre femme a few weeks back and she had invited me up to visit.
Tierra Roja Vineyard is in the Oakville Appellation of the Napa Valley, California. The vineyard was named for the rich, red soil that gives the red wines from this region their intense flavor. Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle’s Maya and Joseph Phelp’s Bacchus are just a few of the neighboring vineyards you may know.

Linda is a grower and tasting with her involved sitting in her yard in the sunshine talking about farming, organics, biodynamics, books, and the plans for a new vineyard in the Sierra foothills.
All the while, of course, sipping the Tierra Roja 2006 Cabernet which was powerful and elegant, balanced and complex. Although not widely available, it is a wine to seek out. Linda does not welcome drop in visitors so be sure to call or email first. When I called to double check directions she was up the hill pruning.

The picture, btw, is of a table and chairs set up by neighbors about halfway up the hill to Audelssa. Not the most glamorous furniture, but an incredible view.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A-Z Update (Or What has Amy been drinking)

Still working on the A-Z challenge. If you are curious, you can check here:
I'd love your suggestions for letters! Lisa Shara Hall sent me a great list, but more ideas are more than welcome.

As faithful readers know, this week started out with a visit to Terroir and Bi-Rite for some "interesting wines." It ended last night with another visit to Terroir, but before we get to that, a few more wines of the week.

Wednesday was Burgundy day at the Terroirs & Signatures De Bourgogne 2010 tasting in San Francisco. This was my first time at this event and I was pleased to discover a wide selection of wines as well as the most organized tasting booklet I have encountered. Maps! Exhibitors listings with booth numbers! Exhibitors portraits accompanying wines lists. Very well done.

I do not drink a lot of Burgundy these days. Not because I do not enjoy it, but because of price point. That made it especially nice to be able to compare across a variety of producers.
As always, a few highlights:

Domaine Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru, les Cazetiers 2007 Deep red with strong fruit but minerals to back it up. I would love to see how this is in a few years. The 2008 Latricieres-Chambertin was quite elegant.

Maison Joseph Drouhin Beaune 1er Cru, les Clos des Mouches 2007 I was tasting mostly reds as I find it impossible to taste everything at a tasting. This wine, however, was at the Exhibitor's Choice Table and was truly lovely. I also tasted at the Drouhin table and liked the Vaudon Chablis 2008 and the Gevrey Chambertin 2007 very much. This table was not unexpectedly one of my favorites of the day.

Domaine des Malandes 2007 Chablis Grand Cru, les Clos was another white that I enjoyed. Dry, crisp and plenty of mineral.

Domaine Roux Pere & Fils Vougeot 1er Cru, les Petits Vougeots 2006 was showing beautifully and will continue to improve as it matures.

As always, apologies to all of those that I did not have time to taste.

Last night I returned to Terroir with my friend Lo. We sat at the counter and enjoyed 04 Volette and the López de Heredia 1999 Rioja ,which was medium bodies and complex with plenty of fruit and spices. You can read more about their wines at The highlight for me was a Domaine Valette ‘Le Clos de Monsieur NolyPouilly-Fuissé 1999 Burgundy, France which was golden in color, wth hints of caramel, yet balanced with acidity. It was truly stunning. Clearly a wine to seek out.

Today a day of rest. Tomorrow off to wine country for some more tastings. Reports are sure to come.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Terroir SF

So, I emailed Alice Feiring the other day to ask for suggestions of some interesting wine. (As some of you know, I'm a big fan of asking experts for suggestions. Alice suggested some great champagnes for me, so I asked again.) Making it easy for her, wasn't I? I did specify red!

Alice put together a shopping list for me from Terroir, a place that I had strangely not been to before. There is really no excuse for that as it is full of wines that I generally enjoy. It is an interesting space with a small tasting bar and a small seating area in a loft. Bottles are displayed on the walls and I should have spent some time looking, but Cory (@saignee) was doing a great job of both filling my glass and making suggestions that I left that for my next visit. I will be back soon.

So based on Alice's list and suggestions, I came home with 5 wines from Terroir and two more from Bi-rite because, well, there was a parking space in front and I really like their meatball sandwich. Despite not shopping at Kermit Lynch this time, I seem to have ended up with wines either from them or from Louis/Dressner.

This is the haul: Ruche 2007
2008 Domaine de La Tournelle L'Uva Arbosiana
2006 Occhipinti Nero D'Avola
Ko Vin de Table Rose
2007 Jean Foillard Morgon Cote du Py
2008 Domaine de Belliviere Rouge-Gorge Coteaux du Loir
2008 Terres Doress Beaujolais from Jean-Paul Brun

My first wine to try was the Ruche, because I had never had one before. I'm really enjoying this wine. It is very fruity with lost of berries on the nose, but in the mouth has spice and acid for balance. Alice suggested that the finish is a bit short, and although that may be true, it does not take away from my pleasure of a new grape. I may have to seek out some more. Suggestions welcome! Thoughts on which to open next?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wine Entre Femme

Does gender matter in wine? It has long been a topic of discussion. Randall Grahm recently did a post on it at : Be sure to read the comments section for some interesting thoughts, particularly from Meg Houston Maker. The upcoming Pinot Noir Shootout ( features the opportunity for visitors to "explore and assess the reactions and preferences of women versus men, in regards to Pinot Noir. Descriptors and scores of the female and male panelists will be denoted, as well as the reactions of the Pinot Noir Summit attendees, in an attempt to discover whether women and men prefer different wine styles."

But, this post is not to debate that issue. This post is to say a bit more about the Wine Entre Femme tasting I was delighted to attend last week. When the invitation popped up in my inbox I had never heard of the organization but the opportunity to taste wines from "45 women vintners and wineries from Napa, France, Switzerland, Japan, Turkey and South Africa" was irresistible. As always, my tasting notes are spotty so I will mention a few highlights. What is interesting as I look back is the frequent mention of California Cabernets, wines I drink rarely at home. Some of these were special.

Cave des Tilleuts 2007 Amigne de Vetroz Reserve I have not had a lot of Swiss wine, but found this quite interesting.

Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cab 2006 I don't drink a lot of California Cabs as I find that most that I truly enjoy are far out of my price range. This one is out of my price range as well, but worth seeking out.

Corison I have been tweeting with Cathy Corsion but had not tasted her wines. When I had dinner with Lisa Shara Hall last week she mentioned Cathy as someone to seek out. I was therefore delighted the next day to find Cathy at this tasting. I enjoyed all of the wines she was pouring, particularly the 2004 Kronos Vineyard Cab. It was both powerful and elegant and another cab worth looking for. As I have said before, one of the highlights of tastings for me are the opportunity to talk directly with the winemakers and owners.

Crocker & Starr Another lovely Napa Cab, this one a 2006 Stone Place from St Helena

Haskell This is another stop where I was charmed by the winemaker. I enjoyed both the Pillars and the Aeon and came home with an almost empty bottle of the IV, hand labeled by the winemaker, These wines show the potential of South Africa.

Lorenza Rose How could I resist a rose? This charming bottle is made in Ca but has a French feel to it. At $20 it is one I may drink a lot of over the summer. I'm looking forward to featuring it when we do our rose tasting later in the spring.

Provins Valais was tasting a 2008 Petite Arvine maitre de Chais and a 2006 Diolinoir Domaine de l"Eveche. Another Swiss producer these wines were lovely and unusual. I'd like to taste them again with time.

Tierra Rouge Another lovely Ca, this one a 2006. Tierra Rouge is interesting in that they produce only one wine each year. In 2006 they made 250 cases. Linda Neal was lovely and I am hoping to visit the winery soon.

For sweet wines, the Chateau Guirard Sauternes and Chateau Sigalas were both lovely.

My apologies to all of those attending that I did not mention here. As always at tastings, I do not try everything, although I wish I could. I find my palate gets far too overwhelmed. I've also realized that at some tables I end up talking and enjoying and not taking accurate notes, both Titus and Wolf Family suffered that fate as well as a few others.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cobb, Bottega, Wine Entre Femme and Kunde TTL

Or why I may need a few days without a drink.
Sunday I was delighted to attend the Cobb Pinot tasting at Jardinere in SF. As I have mentioned before, I am a big fan of their wines. Sunday was also special because not only did I get to meet Cindy, the winemakers lovely wife, but their absolutely adorable daughter was there as well.
They were tasting three wines:
  1. 2007 Jack Hill – This is the first commercial release of this wine from a 2 acre vineyard near Occidental. This wine surprised me. It was much more in the Russian River style and fruitier than most of those I have tried frm Cobb.
  2. 2007 Emmaline – is located closer to Sebastopol, but is still influenced by the ocean air. This wine was crying out for food. It was structured and balanced.
  3. 2007 Coastlands - Coastlands was first planted in 1989 and as I Thea and Lorraine grew sick of hearing, it is my favorite of the Cobb wines. I tasted white pepper, cherries, some soil. Just a truly lovely wine.
You can take a look at Thea's thoughts here:

Next up was dinner Monday night with future UC Press author Lisa Shara Hall at Bottega in Yountville. Lisa is writing a book for us on Oregon wines and we talked about not just wine but education and relationships and much more. I look forward to working with her. He shared a bottle of Nebbiolo, which was listed as the wrong year on the wine list. I enjoyed my burrata with winter squash and short ribs quite a bit.

On Tuesday I was lucky to attend the Wine Entre Femme tasting in SF. Wine Entre Femme is an informal and non-competitive gathering of women in wine who have a strong desire to make connections, share ideas and information and support other women in wine. Wines at the tasting were from the US, Australia, France and even Japan. I tasted some lovely wines, but more importantly had a chance to talk with the women involved. My tasting notes are at the office, I'll add in some more detail tomorrow.

Finally, tonight I participated in the Twitter Tasting Live with Kunde Estates. We tasted their 2008 Wildwood Vineyards Chardonnay and the 2007 Cabernet. The chardonnay was tropical with some nice spices. I'm looking forward to tasting it a bit more as it warms. The cab was young, but is already softening with air. I'll taste it later in the evening and maybe tomorrow as well.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Every time I see the name ZAP it makes me think of Dr Seuss and that I should be writing stories involving words like nap and snap and rap. Perhaps a rap about zap that made me need a nap? Clearly I read my daughter too many Dr Seuss books once upon a time.

Anyway, after having a great and relaxed time at Good Eats Thursday night, I arrived at ZAP at 10 on Saturday morning prepared to actually take some notes. I made no effort to taste everything and also skipped some of the wines I had enjoyed Thursday, returning though to some favorites who had different wines open. Looking at my somewhat purple notes, I seem to have tasted at only 13 tables, a small fraction of those available. My apologies to everyone I missed, I hope to see you next time.

As the tasting book is in alphabetical order, I'll mention a few highlights:

Bella: I tasted 3 of their wines and like the 2007 Big River Ranch from the Alexander Valley quite a bit.

Biale: I enjoyed everything here but have starred the Black Chicken as a particular favorite.

Brown Estate was new to me and I chose Chaos Theory as my favorite there.

Dashe My favorite was the Todd Brothers also from the Alexander Valley.

Hartford I tasted through the table here and particularly enjoyed the 2006 Russian River Valley.

At Outpost I tasted the 2008 Howell Mountain. They also suggested I consider attending the 6/19 Taste of Howell Mountain.

Ravenswood was again a highlight for me. Not only did I enjoy the wines, particularly the Teldeschi and the Dickerson, but I had a chance to talk with Joel Peterson about his wines and many others. One of the best parts of tastings for me is the opportunity for conversation and Joel spent a long time with me.

Ridge was as expected also great. My favorites were the Pagani and the Buchignani.

At Seghesio I starred the Cortina.

Carol Shelton was offering different tastes than Thursday night so I stopped by to talk with some of the nicest people in the room. The 2006 Wild Thing from Mendocino was my top choice, with some nice spice.

At Sidejob at I starred the 2008 C5 Stefani Vineyard from Sonoma County.

At Turley I liked the 2008 Hayne Vineyard from Napa Valley.