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~ February 2004 Archives ~



2003 Beaujolais Cuvee JB Domaine Du Vissoux

I feel like this wine put me squarely back in the 1980's -- a young boy sitting at a table being fed breakfast cereal by his suspicious siblings. Hey, Mikey likes it! An avowed Beaujolais hater, I have never understood the fuss made about Beaujolais Nouveau. Every time I get the opportunity, I try it, and every time I am left wanting something with more.... backbone. I basically feel the same way about most Chianti. There are a few Chiantis that rise above their lackluster brothers and sisters, and now it seems I have found a Beaujolais that does the... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Au Pied de Cochon, Paris

Do you ever have that dream -- you know -- the one where you are sitting in a restaurant decorated with chandeliers and murals of pigs, and seemingly in slow motion, tuxedo-ed waiters bring plate after plate of scintillatingly fresh, delicious seafood -- oysters, clams, lobster, mussels. No? Neither do I. But why bother with surreal dreams when you can dine like a king amidst all the pigs (and oysters) at Au Pied de Cochon in the center of Paris? This multi-story restaurant is open 24 hours a day, and before you balk at a restaurant that keeps the same... continue reading


2000 Ferrari-Carano "Eldorado Noir" Black Muscat, Sonoma

I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of dessert wines. I find the majority of them far too sweet and cloying " small syrup bombs that are the last thing I need after, let alone during, a nicely prepared dessert. However, after the recent discovery of dessert wines made from Jurancon, I'm holding a out a little hope that I may occasionally find one which does what its supposed to " make me enjoy dessert even more. It was with that small hope that I ordered Ferrari-Carano's "Eldorado Noir" Black Muscat the other night after dinner. I had never... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Laurent, Paris

Quintessential. Archetypal. Epitome. These are all words that come to mind when trying to describe the dining experience at Laurent, a classic French Chateau situated in the gardens of the Champs-Elysees. Laurent represents the essence of what overrated San Francisco restaurants like Fleur-de-Lys are trying (too hard) to achieve. My first impression when I walked into the restaurant was that I was very, very, under-dressed. This is the type of place that is so romantic you would feel the most comfortable dining in an 18th century vintage evening gown or top hat and tails. Never fear, however, if you happen... continue reading


2001 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet, Napa Valley

I'm usually suspicious of wineries that have massive, Tuscan inspired architectural tasting rooms perched on the brink of prime real estate in the valley. Silverado Vineyards is certainly one of those, occupying one of the most picturesque spots along the east side of the valley off of the Silverado trail. I've driven by many times and thought, "wow, if they're spending all that money and attention on their grounds, how much are they really paying attention to the wine?" Well, I'm not going to say that they're creating cult quality wines, but I have to admit that they make a... continue reading


1999 Haut Beausejour St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France

Further evidence that name and terrior are not everything, and you have to be careful when buying Bordeaux, lest you pay too much for a decent, but not stellar wine. Stopping by a local wine bar in Atlanta after jumping on a plane to address some client problems (I WILL NOT mix business with blog) I sampled a few of their upper end selections in the "hearty to full bodied" category, including this St. Estephe. Tasting Notes: Just the color your expect a nice Bordeaux to be, the soft ruby red of this wine is mirrored in its nose --... continue reading


2002 The Prisoner, Red Table Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, Napa

I have a thing for funky wine labels, and I enjoy various winemakers attempts to break out of the boring "year" "winery" "varietal" naming scheme and liven things up a bit with more unique names for their wines. That's why I was interested when I received The Prisoner in my monthly wine club shipment. It's got a lovely oil painting on the front that's evocative of some of Goya's work. The wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Charbono, and Petite Sirah Tasting Notes: The wine pours a deep purple-red with a wonderfully fragrant nose of raisins and... continue reading


2001 Pahlmeyer "Jayson" Chardonnay

If Chardonnays lifted weights, this one would be able to bench press way over its body weight. It's a massive, full frontal assault of oak and butter that, while not my style, is an extremely competent wine and one that will satisfy a certain set of extremely demanding California Chardonnay drinkers who enjoy powerful wines that will even age for a time. Warning: this wine is not for everyone -- if you're looking for a refreshing, food-friendly Chardonnay that will please wine afficionados and novices alike, this aint it. Tasting Notes: The wine shines as a viscous golden yellow in... continue reading


Restaurant Review: The Best Pastry Shops (Patisseries) in Paris*

The last time I went to Paris (over 10 years ago), I had a particularly non memorable time, mostly because I was a starving student who knew very little about good wine and food, and couldn't afford it even if I did know something. This past weekend I returned with more knowledge, not to mention the desire and the means to experience everything good about France. Ruth and I had basically three goals: eat, drink, walk. After having a wonderful time in Italy using a similar guide, we opted to use Patricial Wells' book, The Food Lovers guide to Paris... continue reading


2002 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire, France

There's nothing like Sancerre (known anywhere else it grows as Sauvignon Blanc) to go with oysters and other shellfish. I happen to be a big fan of Loire sav blanc-based wines. One interesting thing I learned recently is that there are bottles of red wine sold as Sancerre, of course, made in the same region, but containing Pinot Noir grapes instead of Sauvignon Blanc. Not knowing a huge amount about the various sub-regions or chateaus of this region, up until recently I have often bought Sancerres and Pouilly-Fume wines blindly, just counting on generally good winemaking practices and the solid... continue reading


1999 Chateau Les Ormes-Sorbet, Medoc, France

I just got back from a long weekend in Paris, with much to write about here (some restaurant, hotel, and patisserie recommendations). But of course, there was wine. I'll start with a lovely wine that like many of its kind is an extremely good value. It is a Bourgeois Cru from Medoc, a region that offers some excellent wines without the incredible prestige (and pricetag) of the Margeaux or Paulliac of the Haut-Medoc. The wine is mostly Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a little Cabernet Sauvignon blended in for balance. Tasting Notes: Lovely bouquet of damp wood, and cherries, with... continue reading


Restaurant Review: SF Ferry Plaza, San Francisco's New Gourmet Center

I was reluctantly persuaded to head down to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal today for lunch with some colleagues, and I've come back a transformed man. What they have done in the process of remodeling the terminal is incredible, and not only is the building gorgeous, they have populated it with some of San Francisco's most elite gourmet outlets and some excellent restaurants. If you need to shop on the way home for dinner, The Golden Gate Meat Company offers their meats (up until this point only avilable wholesale) to the public across from the Hog Island Oyster Company, who... continue reading


2000 Iron Horse Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Green Valley

Iron Horse embodies everything I like about Sonoma county. Leaving aside the Sonoma vs. Napa debate for future flogging, suffice it to say that a visit to Iron Horse outside of Sebastopol will refresh your faith in the ideas of good people, good land, good wine. They have no large tasting room -- on a summer's day you stand beneath a tarp while they pull winebottles out of a cooler and pour on a makeshift counter. If you're gonna spit or discard some of your wine, you just do it on the dirt. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Watercress, San Francisco

It's pretty easy for me to find something wrong about a restaurant -- I can be an overly critical guy, and sometimes my standards approach snobbery (I'm working on that). In considering what to write about the dinner I had last week at Watercress, it strikes me that really the only thing I can find wrong with it was that the corkage fee was a little high ($18 per bottle compared with $10 - $15 at other boutique restaurants in the area.). Perhaps this is a preventative measure on their part -- if the corkage was $10 a bottle I... continue reading


2001 Scott Harvey Syrah

If I had to pick one wine that has consistently blown away everyone I have served it to in the last year, the Scott Harvey would be the wine. I trotted it out last night along with a couple of other wines and it elicited the usual amazement among friends -- a clamoring for the cork, for the bottle, for a piece of paper to write down the name, anything to not forget this wine. This is a nuvo-syrah, one that tastes like a cross between Zinfandel and Syrah, perhaps nodding towards its origins in the Amador County foothills of... continue reading


2003 Mionetto Novello Marca Trevigiana, Italy

I bought this wine on a whim, after reading a review of it in one of my favorite wine newsletters put out by a little shop in Santa Monica, CA called Wine Expo. These guys send out an e-mail newsletter filled with finds from Italy and other international locales reviewed with gusto and humor. This little wine they described as the Italian answer to Beaujolais Nouveau, and that is a perfect characterization of it. The Mionetto is incredibly accessible as a wine, and drinkable as an aperitif or as an accompaniment to food. Tasting Notes: Well, it really tastes like... continue reading


2001 Martella "Hammer" Syrah

If I was going to name a wine "Hammer" I would damn well make sure that it had the oomph to knock back even the most discerning of critics, and Michael Martella has admirably done the job. This wine turned the heads of a number of people at a small gathering I had the other night, bringing person after person back to the table to enquire what it was we were drinking. Tasting Notes: Beautifully bright ruby red, its a pleasure to pour let alone drink. The wine has a classic smoky barnyard smell that characterizes all the best Syrah's... continue reading


2001 Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel

Further proof that Mr. Robert Parker is not all he's cracked up to be. I've mentioned elsewhere that his palate and mine agree about half the time, maybe a little more, but there are times when we are two wine-tasting trains passing in the night. I picked up a bottle of Edmeades Zinfandel the other day in my local grocery store -- it had the right price, a Robert Parker Rating of 90, and I had just finished my tour at Zap and was interested in comparing my direct experience with hundreds of winemakers and "the greatest palate on earth:.... continue reading


1997 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant

I was first introduced to Le Cigare Volant by the 1995 vintage, and while I enjoyed the wine, it became a favorite of mine more for its charming name, and the story behind it. For those unfamiliar with the story, Randall Grahm, a young upstart winemaker with some family money and a lot of spirit, bought a property he called Bonny Doon and set out to make Rhone style wines in California -- much to the derision of the French establishment. His name for his inaugural wine is a playful middle finger extended across the Atlantic in thanks for the... continue reading


2001 Ramey Claret, Napa Valley

I first encountered Ramey wines at the Family Winemakers Tasting event at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I wandered over to their table, knowing nothing about their wines, and tasted perhaps one of the finest Cabernets I have ever tasted in my life, their 2001 Jericho Canyon. If I was smart, and trusted my palate more, I would have bought every last bottle I could from them right then and there. But alas, I did not, and two weeks later Robert Parker gave it a 97, and it doubled in price and disappeared from the market. He and I only... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Limon, San Francisco

I enjoy being able to see into the kitchen when I'm dining out, because sometimes I learn things, and also because what's going on in there is an indication of how good the Chef is. It takes guts to expose the behind the scenes stuff to diners, and it takes a prepared, coordinated, and skilled team to keep kitchen activities from resembling chaos. You can see the small kitchen from just about every seat in the house at Limon, which gets my vote for the best new restaurant in San Francisco in the last year or so, and also gets... continue reading


Ruby Wine: A friendly wine shop

On the way to get some won-ton soup tonight, Ruth and I were strolling in Portrero Hill and decided to poke our heads into Ruby Wine, a cute-as-a-button wine shop that's been open for about a year on 18th street. We chatted for a while with owner, Joel Blaskacek, who lives in the neighborhood and staffs the shop most of the time. He believes in helping people connect with wine, and as a result has no "shelf-talker" tasting notes anywhere in his shop. There are no Robert Parker scores, no gold medal notes, in fact, there are no tags... continue reading


BYOW Night at Tablespoon

Last minute alert from ZagatWire: Tonight, February 3: Tablespoon hosts "B.Y.O.W." Night (Bring Your Own Wine), a monthly wine and dine social where guests are invited to bring their own bottle of wine at no corkage fee to share and enjoy with pizzas, salads and other small bites amid a casual atmosphere of communal-style dining. Tablespoon is the reincarnation of Spoon, a local Polk Street favorite for years. They've just remodeled and slightly retooled their menu (review coming soon). This sounds like fun, and it happens to be just a couple of doors down from William Cross Wine Merchants, so... continue reading


Meet the wine director for Louis Jadot

I'm not a huge fan of Beaujolais which is what Louis Jadot is most well known for, but they also make some lovely white burgundies. In any case, it's not all the time that a famous French producer comes to chat with wine drinkers in the US. From the www.localwineevents.com website: Managed by three generations of the Jadot family and then by Mr. André Gagey for more than 30 years, Maison Louis Jadot is now directed by his son Mr. Pierre Henry Gagey, assisted by Mr. Jacques Lardière, who has been Louis Jadot's wine maker for more than 20 years.... continue reading


2000 Stuhlmuller Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet

If you ever needed proof that all those news reports about 2000 being a lousy year for red grapes in California were untrue, this is a wine to prove it. Of course, the harvest in 2000 was meagre and by all accounts lackluster, but even below average harvests in the hands of a good winemaker can turn grapes to gold. Stuhlmuller and their winemaker Kerry Damskey have created a wonderful wine. Incidentally, they make an awesome Chardonnay. Tasting Notes: Big and bold in the glass, this wine screams chocolate covered cherries dangled over a cedar fire. It is wonderfully round... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Phenomenal Meal for Two, for Under $10, San Francisco

Way out along Balboa, under the fog belt, lies San Francisco's greatest value meal. An unassuming little restaurant called the Shanghai Dumpling Shop churns out wonderful northern Chinese specialties at prices that boggle the mind. I hope I will not regret ever posting something about this restaurant here, but good things like this really need to be shared among folks who love to eat, whatever the risk of potential overcrowding. There are two important things that you need to know about Shanghai Dumpling Shop. 1. In a word: cheap. Ruth and I frequently eat our fill here for $10... continue reading

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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.

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Most Recent Entries

2003 Beaujolais Cuvee JB Domaine Du Vissoux Restaurant Review: Au Pied de Cochon, Paris 2000 Ferrari-Carano "Eldorado Noir" Black Muscat, Sonoma Restaurant Review: Laurent, Paris 2001 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet, Napa Valley 1999 Haut Beausejour St. Estephe, Bordeaux, France 2002 The Prisoner, Red Table Wine, Orin Swift Cellars, Napa 2001 Pahlmeyer "Jayson" Chardonnay Restaurant Review: The Best Pastry Shops (Patisseries) in Paris* 2002 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, Loire, France

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

Archives by Month


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