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~ January 2004 Archives ~



Restaurant: Firecracker

There's a certain class of restaurants that I am slowly gravitating towards as my favorite places to eat in San Francisco. They are not the classy Zagat top 10 like Gary Danko and Boulevard, nor are they the dirty hole in the wall favorites like Shalimar or La Taqueria. More often they are the small 4-12 table restaurants which have inventive, high quality food at medium to upper-medium prices. You're not going to have to wear a clean shirt, and you're not going to get a lovely work of art on your plate like you would at the places that... continue reading


1996 Mystal Merlot, St. Helena

Lest anyone think that I like everything I drink, or even worse, every wine I choose is a good one, I submit to you the following experience. I'm wandering around my local Good Life Grocery. They've got a wine buyer who sometimes gets interesting things in. I notice a unique bottle of Merlot with a nice label and an interesting form factor (more like a bottle of balsamic vinegar than wine). It also happens to be a '96 Merlot, which you don't nomally see lying around in grocery stores that often. So, of course, I bring the Mystal home, and... continue reading


Duckhorn Vineyards: Current Wine Releases

Duckhorn is one of those Napa valley staples that everyone seems to have heard about and associates with upper-echelon wines. They run in the same pack as Cakebread, Rombauer, Shafer, Kistler, and Silver Oak -- a gang of Northern California stars that everyone outside of California seems to have heard about. Most of these wines are bought on their name alone, indeed, it's my theory that many people buy them with relief, often seeing them mixed into a restaurant wine list of other unrecognizeable wines. My recent trip to Napa to taste at Silver Oak with some friends also broughy... continue reading


Silver Oak New Release

The first time I tasted Silver Oak, nearly 8 years ago was like a revelation for me. I think I ordered a 1994 Napa Cab at Mecca. I had just gotten interested in wine, and it was at the time, the best red wine I had ever had. It was also the first time I had ever paid, or thought of paying, over $100 for a bottle of wine. Since that first bottle, I've had a lot more Silver Oak, and a lot more red wines that have less of a marketing budget, less of a cult following, and a... continue reading


2002 Storrs Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains

Several years ago I fell in love with un-oaked Chardonnay, through the whites of Burgundy and some of the Chardonnays of Australia. As I drank this wine, I thought to myselft, "aaah, what a nice thing that someone is doing Chardonnay without oak in California." Storrs has made one of the best white wines from the Santa Cruz mountains that I have ever tasted. Imagine my surprise when I found out that a full 70% of the wine had been aged in New French Oak, and pushed through malolactic fermentation! Whoever made this wine knows how to finesse the elements... continue reading


California's Best Zinfandels: A Report From ZAP 2004

This past Saturday, along with 17,000 (or so it seemed) other industry insiders and wine hungry San Franciscans I attended the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Tasting Event at Fort Mason. I'm not going to bore you with the numbers, scathing reviews on the highly disorganized volunteers and registration process. Others can tell you what happened there. I did one thing and one thing only: taste wines -- about 85 of them. I'm just gonna tell you the best ones which will already be selling like hotcakes, so go get 'em. NOTE: About my scores. You might be thinking, "Hey,... continue reading


2001 Keller Estate Pinot Noir

I first discovered Keller wines at the Family Winemakers Industry Tasting this past November in San Francisco. I was impressed not only with the quality and value of their wines, but also the friendliness of their staff. They also have a good website, but we don't count that either way. Tasting Notes: The 2001 Pinot is very mellow as Pinots go. It's got a lovely soft fruit nose of black cherry and rasberries, with a touch of herbs, and has a full mouthfeel that has some light acidity which makes it tart and refreshing. The finish is relatively soft as... continue reading


2001 Rosenblum Viognier, Rodney's Vineyard

Viognier is, of course, the up-and-coming (read: cheaper and more accessible) and increasingly stylish alternative to California Chardonnay. The grape is very old and like much of our wine heritage, has been grown in France for thousands of years, but only recently has it been widely appreciated as a lone varietal. Many wineries are now making Viognier for the market in the US and abroad including Rosenblum. Tasting Notes: This wine is very mild and drinkable, which means that most people will like it, especially those who often have a hard time with the oak and butter of heavily malolactic... continue reading


Restaurant: Le Zinc

I'm always looking for good places to have brunch on Sundays in the city, and I've gotten tired of my usual haunts. As a result I've now been twice to Le Zinc, a cozy french bistro on 24th Street in Noe Valley. Somehow it manages to always avoid the crush of people on 24th, which is surprising, because I think the food is better than Savor or Miss Millies -- both restaurants that have waiting lists 12 deep on Sunday at noon. Max Braud, the chef at Le Zinc, says his first goal was to have "the cleanest restaurant in... continue reading


2000 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, Alsace

I'm still learning a lot about Alsatian wine, but I know enough to categorically say this: if you're gonna drink Reisling or Gewurtztraminer with dinner, don't drink it from California. I had the Trimbach with a Chinese dinner. Tasting Notes: Exquisitely light and crisp with none of the cloying sweetness of its California imitators. Not a lot of aroma in the glass, but as soon as it entered the mouth the bouquet exploded into white rose, lychee, and apricot mixed with cool honeysuckle and jasmine. A very clean finish made for an exceptionally refreshing wine. Food Pairing: Great with asian... continue reading


ZAP in San Francisco

It's Zinfandel season in San Francisco this weekend January 24th. The 13th annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) festival is going on at Fort Mason. The main event (melee?) is a trade and public tasting on Saturday. Wine businesses and media from 10 until 1, public from 1:30 until 5. If you're interested in going and you don't have the connections or the credentials to get a press pass, put on your football pads and athletic supporters and brave the crowds: at 11:00 AM on Saturday the 24th a limited number of tickets will go on sale for $55. Tips... continue reading


2001 X Winery Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Cool labels and fancy names for wineries do not always make for good wine. X Winery is staffed by a young, technology minded group of vintners, whose lack of experience and too much focus on the mechanics of the process may be demonstrated in this wine. On the other hand, I may just not like the stuff. Tasting Notes: Closed right out of the bottle, but easy to drink (13.9% alcohol), and opening up a little more over time, this wine had some surprisingly sharp tannins and a slightly stringent finish that made it hard to appreciate the pretty heavily... continue reading


Watch out for Hollandaise

While cruising the World Wine Web I came across the following paper abstract: Flavor Changes Produced by Wine and Food Interactions: Chardonnay Wine and Hollandaise Sauce I.T. NYGREN1, I.-B. GUSTAFSSON1, ... HAGLUND1, L. JOHANSSON2 and A.C. NOBLE3,4 The change in flavor produced by food and wine interactions was explored using descriptive analysis of Hollandaise sauce prepared with two levels of butter and three wines: a Chardonnay which was unoaked, acidified with 1.5 g/L citric acid or aged in oak for one year. To measure the effect of the sauce on wine flavor, the intensity of citrus, buttery, and toasted flavor... continue reading


Cost Plus Wine Recommendations

My dad asked me the other day for a list of reasonably inexpensive wines that would be better than the Two-Buck-Chuck that he had taken to drinking for its value. Dad is trying to cut back on beer a little but likes to unwind after work, and doesn't mind the added health benefits of drinking red wine. He has a Cost Plus near him, so I suggested he head over there for some good wine values. Here's the list I provided. Note that he's a red drinker so its skewed a little towards that end of the spectrum. I've tasted... continue reading


2001 Martinelli Pinot Noir - Bondi Home Ranch

I'm gradually finding more and more wines that are made by Helen Turley, and and in the process, it's clear that she has a very particular style that expresses itself no matter what varietal she's playing with. In a word: fruit. She seems to be interested in taking the flavors of whatever grape she's working and turning it up a notch. Her fruit goes to 11. Having had her cultish, hard-to-find Zinfandels, I was interested to see what she would do with this Pinot Noir from Martinelli. Tasting Notes: Right out of the bottle this was a very closed and... continue reading


1998 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay - Margaret River

I've had a fondness in my heart for Australian Chardonnays since the first time I visited Tyrrell's winery and had their Vat 47 Chardonnay, which is a lovely, un-oaked, crisp mouthful of sunshine. Indeed, that wine has been one of my gold standards for Chardonnays. Until last night. A friend and client of mine took me out to Sushi Ran in Sausalito, and we packed a couple of wines along, including the Leeuwin. Tasting Notes: This wine was simply stellar in every sense of the word. The nose was bursting with gorgeous aromas of pineapple, clean and clear as its... continue reading


2001 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

It seems to me that there are really two types of Pinot Noir being made in California now. The first is a more tart, peppery, herbal wine that has a balance of fruit (like berries and bing cherries) and acidity that can often include notes of clove, eucalyptus, smoke, pine, etc. These are wines that pay homage to the Burgundy forebearers of everything Pinot Noir. The second is a newer style of more extracted, forward fruit. These are wines that are rounder on the palate, juicier, and in addition to larger bouquets, generally have more undertones of rasberry, thimbleberry, and... continue reading


Mythical Blend

Picture this. You're living in Toyko, working 80 hours a week most weeks, there's nothing you understand on television, you can't get a decent burrito to save your life, and you're lonely as hell. What do you do? I'll tell you what I did. Not having a good source for black market muscle relaxants, I wallowed in wine. Finding wine in Tokyo is not quite as hard as one might believe. Finding decent cheap wine is another story -- THIS story to be precise. The closest wine store to where I was living was just below Taillevent Robuchon, an exquisite... continue reading


Restaurant Review: First Crush, San Francisco

It's often fun to walk into a restaurant and feel like you've just discovered a place that only the hip crowd knows about. First Crush, though it's sandwiched in the triangle between the Tenderloin, the nasty parts of Market Street and Union Square, definitely makes up in atmosphere what it lacks in location. It feels intimate and small, the low lights and lots of glass giving it the feel of a small club. You know you're eating on the cutting edge when your bottled water shows up in what looks like a glorified shampoo bottle. But on to more... continue reading


A perfect vintage: Piemonte 2000

It's come close to happing before, but to my knowledge this year is the first time that an entire vintage has been given a perfect score of 100 by any wine rating body or individual. As reported in the Wine Enthusiast Magazine last month, Piemonte -- that lovely little nook in northwest Italy had the perfect combination of cool winter and hot dry summer to make the 2000 vintage the best in recorded history. continue reading



Here we go. Welcome to the journal of my adventures in wine and cuisine. I've always wanted a place to go where I could go to chat about wine with other folks who loved it like I do, so I built one. I intend to share the wines that I sample, my opinions on them, where I buy them, where I drink them, and the good food that goes along with them, but who knows what this will become. Enough of that. Pour the wine! continue reading

But Wait, There's More!

This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

Calendar of Postings

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Most Recent Entries

Restaurant: Firecracker 1996 Mystal Merlot, St. Helena Duckhorn Vineyards: Current Wine Releases Silver Oak New Release 2002 Storrs Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains California's Best Zinfandels: A Report From ZAP 2004 2001 Keller Estate Pinot Noir 2001 Rosenblum Viognier, Rodney's Vineyard Restaurant: Le Zinc 2000 Trimbach Gewurtztraminer, Alsace

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud