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~ April 2004 Archives ~



Winners of the World Wine Market Wine Competition

I won't be heading to this event until Saturday but it looks like the results are already in. The best wines from the World Wine Market Tasting that's happening this weekend at Fort Mason are as follows (not a complete list): BEST OF SHOW -- Rosenblum Cellars 2002 Feather Foot Man Shiraz Jingalu, McLaren Vale, South Australia; BEST RED -- Rosenblum Cellars 2002 Feather Foot Man Shiraz Jingalu, McLaren Vale, South Australia; BEST WHITE -- Groote Post 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa; SAUVIGNON BLANC -- BEST OF CLASS -- Groote Post 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region South Africa; CHARDONNAY --... continue reading


Restaurant Review: The House, San Francisco

Continuing my interest in exploring boutique restaurants in San Francisco, I bring you The House, which is now the only incarnation in San Francisco since its sister restaurant of the same name closed its doors out in the inner Sunset. Even though it is kept company by the recently installed Sake Lab around the corner, this small Asian fusion restaurant is still incongruously matched with the surrounding "all-Italian-all-the-time" neighborhood of North Beach. It's even harder to find amidst all the red green and white signage these days by virtue of a huge scaffolding which obscures the light orange neon sign... continue reading


2001 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Patz & Hall is a classic example of the best small production winemaking that is going on in Napa Valley. A collective of 4 partners, James Hall, Anne Moses, Donald and Heather Patz, they source grapes from select vineyards around Sonoma and Napa to produce several outstanding wines. They have no winery, just four people who want to make wine with the energy, means, and expertise to do so. Patz & Hall have been making wines (Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs) since 1988. Following the Burgundian model, they set out to make great, smal production wines from cooler climate vineyards with... continue reading


2001 Domain Chandon Pinot Meunier, Carneros

I was chatting on IM the other day with a colleague at work, and in the midst of a conversation, he said, "Hey, have you ever heard of Pinot Meunier before?" I admitted that while familiar with several grape varieties that began with Pinot, that was one I had never heard of. "Well, they have one from Domaine Chandon at the restaurant where my girlfriend works and she says it makes grown men weep." Intruiging. I took a look at the Chandon website to get a little more information, and then left it at that. Wouldn't you know it, though,... continue reading


1999 Contucci "Pietra Rossa" Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Tuscany

Azienda Agricola Contucci sits atop the medieval hilltown of Montepulciano. Their modest shop is found by winding your way up the twisting golden cobblestone streets to the top of the city. Just before you reach the grand piazza, a small stone fronted shop will be on your left, and if you're lucky, a nice old woman in a black dress will be there to welcome you with a smile. You wouldn't know it by looking at this little store, but the Contucci's were practically the first family to be known for wine in the region -- by 1700 already having... continue reading


2001 Suhr Luchtel "Mosaique" Red Table Wine, Napa

Surh Luchtel. Say it quickly and it sounds like "stealth." Or sort of. Anyway it's close enough for me to make my point. Who's ever heard of this winery? They've been open for nearly 10 years but they are only on their second public offering. Presumably up until now their wines have only been available to insiders on their mailing list, or even more likely just to their friends and family. "Surh Luchtel wines are the result of collaboration between two long time friends Don Surh and Gary Luchtel. First as housemates in college in the Oakland hills in the... continue reading


2001 D'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" Shiraz/Viognier

I think this wine is stalking me. Not quite as badly as the Yellow Tail Shiraz (which is everywhere and everyone is talking about), but nearly everyone I know has been asking me for months if I've tasted this D'Arenberg effort. Well the answer is: Now I have, so enough about it already !! Of course, all these people are just trying to do me a favor, and after tasting this wine I recognize what a favor it is. This is an excellent Shiraz that sits squarely in a triangle made by linking three styles of Syrah: the old Australian... continue reading


It had to happen eventually: Wine as low carb drink

The whole Atkins and South beach diet craze makes me a little nutty, but given its popularity around the States these days, it was only a matter of time before the liquor industry joined in. I've already seen billboards for Vodka, touting the fact that it's a zero carb drink, and a whole Bud Light campaign about how all light beers are low in carbs so choose the one that doesn't taste like swill. Now, from the editorial staff of justfood.com we learn this: Diageo is to begin marketing three of its wine brands as "low carb" drinks. Diageo Chateau... continue reading


2001 Campion Pinot Noir, Edna Valley

It's always fun to experience infrequently perceived flavors and aromas. Wine is full of surprises and Campion has provided an opportunity to experience and use one of the myriad lovely adjectives that exist for describing the scents of wine: horsey. It is fitting that Campion provides us this opportunity. Or perhaps it's better to say that it is perfectly in keeping with Campion's brand that their wines evoke scents that lean towards the rustic. Campion is focused on a single varietal, Pinot Noir, and more specifically expressing the essence of their vineyard terrior through that varietal. As the quote on... continue reading


2000 Grapeleaf Cellars Syrah, Sonoma

Grapeleaf Cellars is a very small winery and custom crush facility in Berkeley, California. I'm not sure if it has the claim to fame of being the only winery in Berkeley, but it's the only one that I know of. The proprieter and winemaker Tom Leaf has been making wine there for several years. I've met Tom on a number of occasions and have had several opportunities to visit his modest but serviceable facilities in Berkeley. Tom sources his grapes from places all over the California wine country -- Sonoma, Paso Robles, Amador County, to name a few. He produces... continue reading


2001 Turkey Flat Shiraz, Barossa, Australia

I've already written about my favorite wine from a recent blind tasting of several international Syrah's, but it was not the top choice of the evening. That honor went to this Shiraz from Turkey Flat which was everyone's first or second choice for the evening. The Shiraz grapes for this wine come from some of the oldest Shiraz vines in Australia, planted in 1843, which in my experience contributes (along with skillfull and restrained winemaking) to the stunning aromatics. Like Zinfandel, the older vines seem to produce fruit that can generate a cornucopia of aromas that can exist without beat-you-over-the-head... continue reading


A week in Bordeaux with Michael Steinberger

I'm not going to turn this blog into a simple reposting of wine news from other sources. However as I find interesting tidbits that are above average or unusually relevant, I will include them here. Today I submit for your reading pleasure a week long article series from Slate, in which Michael Steinberger spends some time in Medoc and St. Emilion talking with Chateau Owners, Jancis Robinson, and others, including an amusing argument in a bar over the increasing conflict between old guard Chateaus and the garagistes, the nouveau winemakers who are getting a lot of attention from Robert Parker.... continue reading


1995 Providence Vineyards "Marangai," Matakana, New Zealand

I don't often cellar wines for long periods of time, but occasionally I'll leave a bottle to sit for 6 or 7 years either because I'm curious how it will change, or because I think it's a special wine that I want to save for a special occasion. This wine falls into the second category. After living and working in Japan for nearly 2 years, I returned to the States, leaving behing a "family" of Japanese co-workers with whom I helped build an office from the ground up. One of my parting gifts from one of the senior members of... continue reading


Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant: Lunch and a glass of wine

I just had lunch at the Ferry Building again (see my previous post on the subject) yesterday and thanks to a tip from a friend I found out that you can buy food at any of the restaurants or shops in the building and bring it on down to the Ferry Plaza Wine Bar. There you can sit at a nice table and watch the crowd go by with your lunch and a glass of wine from their tasting list. The list is reasonable, with 5 whites, 5 reds, and a couple each of rose, sparkling, and dessert wines. They... continue reading


1994 Dehlinger Gold Ridge Vineyard Syrah, Russian River Valley

Tonight I went to a wine tasting that a winemaker friend of mine puts on occasionally. Generally we pick a specific varietal, and sometimes a region, and then taste a bunch of wines (usually 8 to 12 of them) completely blind and compare notes at the end. Tonight's theme was International Syrah, and we had representation from Australia, New Zealand, France, Argentina (!), and Washington State. If I had to have predicted ahead of time, I would have said that my favorite wine was going to be an Australian, since I tend to be partial to their version of Shiraz.... continue reading


Food and Wine Pairing Tools

On occasion I go trolling through the Internet to see if I can find good food and wine pairing information. What I end up with generally falls into two categories: articles that deal with the principles of pairing food and wine, like this reasonably good one from Allrecipes.com, and the tools that actually help you do it. The ones that are of the most interest to me are the latter -- the ones that actually give me ideas of what wines to serve with a particularly challenging dish, or more often, ideas of what to cook in order to complement... continue reading


2000 Mi Sueño Cellars Chardonnay, Los Carneros

It is good to have dreams. For Rolando Herrera, since he first set foot in the wine cellars at Stags Leap at the beginning of his career in wine, the dream was always to create his own wine. Now nearly 20 years later, that dream is embodied both literally and figuratively in his wines at Mi Sueño ("my dream")Cellars. Lucky for us, Herrera chooses to share his dreams, even if they are in volumes of less than 500 cases. This is a classic Carneros Chardonnay in the modern California style (heavy on the new oak, and cool weather tropical fruit... continue reading


1999 Tyrrells "Vat 47" Pinot Chardonnay, Hunters Valley, Australia

A visit several years ago to Tyrrell's was my introduction to the wines of Australia's Hunter Valley, and the beginning of my love affair with Australian Chardonnays. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was weaned on the gold standard -- Tyrrell's Vat 47 was one of Australia's first Chardonnays, starting in the 1970's and continues to be one of the benchmarks for excellence for the varietal on that continent. My tasting experience at Tyrrell's was phenomenal, as I was able to sample over 19 versions of their Chardonnay from various vineyards and in doing so, understand the impact of the various components... continue reading


1999 St. Supery Merlot, Napa

On occasion I come across a bottle in the cellar and I have no memory of where it came from. Such was the case with this lonely St. Supery, which was jammed into a case of wines I brought back from Italy. I definitely didn't get it there. In any case, I was hunting for some merlots so I dragged it out and served it to some friends as we sat talking the other night. St. Supery is hard to miss as you drive up Highway 29 through Rutherford in the Napa Valley. They're situated right off the road with... continue reading


Bribing your way into a great restaurant

An old article in Gourmet Magazine has been working its way around the memepool of the Internet in the last few days, mostly because it's brilliant, funny, incredibly useful, and a revelation for those who assumed it was possible but never knew how. Gourmet sent Bruce Feiler on a quest to bribe his way into packed, sold-out, three-month-waiting-list restaurants from Jean-Georges to Alain Ducasse. The resulting article is a primer on how a little money, a bit of strategy, and 10 basic tips can get you into almost any restaurant. TIPS ON TIPPING #1 - Go. You'd be surprised what... continue reading


1998 Ferrari-Carano Tresor Reserve, Red Blend, Sonoma

I first had this wine at a random dinner party, where it was brought to me in a glass by a friend. I had sampled several other red wines that evening which were mostly unremarkable, but decent. I had just asked to be refilled and was deep in conversation when my glass appeared in my hand and in the course of talking, had a mouthful. I was stopped in mid-conversation and forced to exclaim, "wow, this is really good." Compared to the over-oaked Cabernets, Merlots, and Syrahs that I had been drinking that night, this wine was alive with dancing... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Valentina, San Francisco

It's always hard to bring myself to write about a small, favorite neighborhood restaurant, even though I have no delusions that this site is anywhere near well read enough to generate an onslaught of diners. However there's always a small hesitation associated with giving away something that feels like a well guarded secret, no matter who I'm giving it to. But for those who actually read this, I am committed to telling you about great places to eat, regardless of how close they are to my heart, and in this case, my home. Valentina is a relatively recent addition to... continue reading


2000 Hartford Court "Velvet Sisters Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

I love wines with a story, and I also love wineries that have a sense of humor. "The Velvet Sisters" is an obscure reference to three colorful characters from the Anderson Valley. If you're not familiar with the odd cultural and sociological eddy that spins around the towns of Philo and Booneville in the heart of the Anderson Valley, I suggest you read the hysterically funny novel/memoir called Booneville. But for our purposes it is enough to know that since 1800 the locals have spoken an obscure English dialect called Boontling and these Mendocino County towns are populated with some... continue reading


2001 Sagelands Vineyard "Four Corners" Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington

I have been searching for some lower priced wines that I can serve at a large birthday party and at a wedding, and I have already reviewed a possible choice here but I think I may end up serving this Sagelands because it is extremely accessible and I think most people will love it. A friend of mine suggested this wine to me and after taking the bottle home I came across the "best buy" designation in my latest Wine Spectator. This wine is a big commercial release, which I tend to try and avoid (both drinking and writing about),... continue reading


2000 Viader Red Blend, Napa Valley

These last couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to enjoy a number of wines in the upper end of Napa pricing ($80 and above). But many of them have been at tastings where the encounter is concentrated and brief. Last night I settled down to a nice dinner with a good bottle and got the chance to simply savor the wine. The Viader we chose to have at dinner is definitely one of my favorite wines from Howell Mountain. Delia Viader is one of the few people on Howell Mountain who grow a substantial amount of Cabernet Franc... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Piperade, San Francisco

I've now been to Piperade four times " thrice for dinner, once for lunch " and it is definitely one of my favorite recent additions to the restaurant scene in San Francisco. Located incongruously in "ad agency alley," the heart of manufactured image and soundbytes, Piperade consistently delivers some of the most authentically innovative and genuinely focused flavors that I have had the pleasure of eating in the last couple of years. Of course, I don't often get to eat Basque food, so it may be that the North of Spain is semi-secret culinary paradise that we're all missing out... continue reading


2001 Peter Michael Estate Red Meritage, Les Pavots, Knights Valley

Oh, the bounty of the 2001 Harvest. In case you were asleep or just hadn't noticed, 2001 was a fantastic harvest for most red grape varietals in Napa and Sonoma, in particular for Cabernet Sauvignon. Many 2001 wines are starting to hit the streets this week and are being snapped up due to a raft of excellent reviews by the usual suspects. It's no surprise that Peter Michael Winery would be delivering one of the better 2001 reds on the market (incidentally the lowest score that any of the Peter Michael wines received this year was a 91 from Parker),... continue reading


Restaurant Review: Clementine, San Francisco

The first time I ate at Clementine was almost 6 years ago. It was pouring rain from a Pacific squall that overtook the city quickly on that afternoon, and due to the weather, and our desire to eat an early dinner, my girlfriend at the time and I were the only ones in the restaurant. On that afternoon, Clementine was a soft haven " a cozy yellow room, hidden from the street by the climbing vines of its façade " and it was also a wonderful meal. The food was delicious, the service attentive and warm, and the chef wonderfully... 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

Winners of the World Wine Market Wine Competition Restaurant Review: The House, San Francisco 2001 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley 2001 Domain Chandon Pinot Meunier, Carneros 1999 Contucci "Pietra Rossa" Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Tuscany 2001 Suhr Luchtel "Mosaique" Red Table Wine, Napa 2001 D'Arenberg "Laughing Magpie" Shiraz/Viognier It had to happen eventually: Wine as low carb drink 2001 Campion Pinot Noir, Edna Valley 2000 Grapeleaf Cellars Syrah, Sonoma

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