Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Only On Sunday

It was a great weekend all around in the realm of pre-summer imbibing. Saturday featured stops at the Syrah and Sausages fest at Solis winery along with a stop in at Kirigin, both in the south bay (we stayed over after a great night of B.B. King at Mountain Winery in Saratoga.

Sunday was a play day with friends in Dry Creek, and as usual on Sundays, this meant a stop in for a taste and a jug of Preston Guadagni Jug wine.

This remarkably inexpensive field blend (3 liters for $32, or $8/bottle if you play it out like that) is NEVER a disappointment. Largely a blend of Zinfandel and the Rhone varietals Mourvedre and Carignane, 2008 Guadagni is a bright, bold delightfully drinkable wine that takes its broad base from the abundance of rich edgy Zin sparked with a sharp perkiness derived from the Rhones. It's the perfect wine for summer barbecue or grilled steak (which we of course paired it with on Monday). It's crisp, full of flavor and balance, but light enough to be a great summer red. It's bold and crisp and fun.

Gaudagni is only available at the winery on Sundays (often poured into the bottle by Lou Preston and his wife, Susan). you buy it by the jug (they sell the jugs for two bucks) and get it refilled when you come back. The last time we were at Preston we were there with a big group of folks that all hung out on the lawn for a picnic with Preston's home baked bread, olives and various cheeses, meats, etc. On that afternoon we dispatched a couple of jugs between us in short order. However, if you want to hold onto the wine a little while, the Preston's suggest decanting to other bottles. Our friends Rich and Janet were even able to score some left over Preston wine bottles to take along with them for decanting at home (the Prestons are BIG on the reuse/recycle mindset). There's a two jug limit per person.

While you're there... be sure to try the wide range of wonderful organic wines on the Preston list. It's a winery with Rhone tendancies, an Italian soul, and a Green World philosophy that could be a peek into the true future of California wine making.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Menage a Trois

Last night we spent the evening with two lovely low cost bottles, one a 2005 Carneros Chardonnay from Laurier, a wine we picked up at P-town Market for a steal of a deal at $7.99. It's fruity, crisp and clean, but it's got the roundness, and balance of Chards from Carneros with a slight touch of oakiness and none of that strnge thin ickiness that a lot of low price Chardonnay seems to have in spades.

I'm convinced that some of the specialness of this incredibly inexpensive white is due to the 2005 vintage which I just keep discovering over and over again as a spectacular year.

The next wine is an every day favorite from Folie a Deux Winery in St.. Helena. It's their wonderful little blend of Zin, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon (an 07 this time) Menage a Trois. The bottle retails most places for $12.99 (seems to be the hot low end price point right now) but if you keep your eye open you can find it in abundance at an even lower price.

The folks at Folie a Deux have fermented each varietal separately and brought them together in the blend; the zin bringing the big spicey frutiness, the merlot smoothing it over and rounding it out, and the cab gives it backbone and a little spark. The wine is aged in French and American Oak.

This wine has truly become one of my favorite "every day" wines. It's got big bold fruit (not as big or bold as last night's selection, but close) and bone dry finish. It's terrific as a solo sipper in the afternoon, or with anything a little bit perky or spicy. I've had it with cube steak and potatoes, hamburgers, pork chops, tacos, planked salmon and pasta and I have yet to find it disappointing even once.

Last night we drank the Laurier with our entree of spicy crab cakes with a buttery bay shrimp sauce and followed it with the Menage and a bit of cheesecake. Total cost of everything (for two) was less than $30.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Inaugural Dose

Lately I've been thinking that my daily intact of beer, wine, and/or spirits has become too regular. I even read someplace that they were suggesting that drinking every day was an addiction.... and I got a little bit concerned.

Then it dawned on me... Wait a minute! I BREATHE every day. I eat FOOD every day, in fact on the rare occasion when I have not eaten food in a day my body has sometimes collapsed into a seizure... NOT something I am fond of repeating. I pretty much WORK every day, I sleep every night. I walk, talk, listen to music, read (I even check email), spend money,brush my teeth, and take a shower pretty much EVERY DAY. Does that mean that I am ADDICTED to each of those things? Am I addicted to breathing, nourishment, cleanliness, emotional and intellectual stimulation? Maybe so... but if so, guess what?

There's a term for someone who has given those things up... DEAD.

Besides all that... Drinking is even patriotic! It was Benjamin Franklin after all who declared that, "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." In other words, if we stop drinking... say it with me... The Terrorists Win (this is actually even true in a twisted sort of way).

So, instead of altering my intake of one of the most sublime substances that the God/Goddess ever put on the planet, I've decided instead to BLOG about it (something else I pretty much do every day).

Tonight I've decided to start a new feature here at FoodFetish... a little thing I'm going to call The Daily Dose.

It will be a daily (or at least almost daily) sampling of some lovely (or perhaps on occasion, not so lovely) glass of grape or grain that I happen to try out that day. Every once in a while I will ask others to guest post, and from time to time I may even steal an idea from a reader (so please comment!).

I have no idea where this will lead, and I have virtually no concept of what I will be trying... but here goes.

The wine I'm drinking tonight is a fine Red that ran me $12.99 ($14.16 w/ tax) at the nearby Petaluma Market here in P-town. It's Marietta Old Vine Red (Lot Number 42). If you click that link there, you'll get a nifty little flash driven website with a whole bunch of Robert Parker quotes about the wine, but don't let that deter you... This stuff rocks!

At a price point of just over $10, winemaker Chris Bilbro has crafted a big bodied, fruit forward Zin blend (the label says it's a field blend but they don't let on about what other grapes were on the vines) that is perfect for sitting on the back deck and sipping as the sun sinks slowly in the west (which is what I was doing before I started writing this and what I will be doing after I finish) or combining with BBQ, or pulled pork, or spicy mexican. My personal plans for the bottle include accompanying left over planked salmon and chipotle cole slaw in some fish tacos I'm about to make. I'm pretty sure it's gonna be a match made in heaven.

The wine is smooth, bold, mellow and velvety with just the right back bite on the end to stand up against real food and spice.

I almost passed it by tonight, but I'm awfully glad I didn't. Now I'm curious to try all of the rest of the wines on their list.

So there you have it... the Inaugural Dose... Marietta Old Vine Red Lot Number 49


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Bubble Day!

Yesterday was my birthday and in an ongoing change of lifestyle that has been rolling out ever since last year at this time, I actually TOOK THE DAY OFF!

What did I do instead of spending the majority of my waking hours staring at the screen of my Mac? Karen and I spent the day drinking champagne.

First it was Korbel Brut and a bubble bath.... yeah... a bubble bath... with bubbles EVERYWHERE!

Then it was Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir with this amazing "french toast" breakfast that Karen whipped up for the day. I swear to God I could have stopped right there.... but au contrare....

It was then off on a mystery ride through Napa for the tour and tasting at Schramsberg where my favorite was the J. Schram, a beautifully smooth blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, and where we bought a bottle of the Blanc de Blancs, the first American champagne to be used at a presidential event (Nixon in China in 1972... and interesting synchronistic factoid considering my most recent post at Quicksilver Amusements). It's a terrific sparkling wine made entirely from Chardonnay (and considerably closer to our price range than that lovely J. Schram on the left).

Next, it was time for something to eat and we stopped at Dean & Deluca in St. Helena, grabbed some bread, and salami and "miiscellaneous cheese" and found a spare bit of shade while we sipped Coppola's Sofia from little pink cans.

Lastly on the tour, but not in our hearts, was a trip to Domaine Chandon for tasting of three of their reserve sparkling wines and a couple of souvenir champagne flutes.

More food was indeed in order, so we stopped for dinner at my favorite mexican joint in all the world, a place that I lived around the corner from for a decade, Juanita Juanita, where "food is not properly seasoned unless it is painful to eat." My standard meal was accompanied by Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA here because... well... Champagne goes with a lot of things, but I'm not sure chipotles and habaneros is one of them.

Finally... the day ended at home with a supremely decadent chocolate cake and more Gloria Ferrer...

And then... well... then there was Teddy.

Hard to beat... huh?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sonoma County Sunday Part Deux

So... like I was saying... my daughter and I headed up through Dry Creek a couple of weeks ago in order to explore some of the Sonoma County wineries that I thought she should know about.

The favorite spot, for both of us, was the funky farm and wonderful Rhone-inspired organic offerings of Preston Vineyards.

It really is impossible for me to say enough about this winery/farm. Every time I go, I feel like I've come home. From the moment I turn off Dry Creek and onto Yoakim Bridge Road (which leads to both Preston and Bella) my mouth waters with anticipation and I feel my spirit begin to rise. As I make the turn down the driveway (which I almost always nearly miss)I feel like I am being transported into an alternative universe, and the fact of the matter is, that it is precisely what is happening.

What Lou Preston has created is a combination winery, working farm, and educational museum dedicated to the ideas and practices of sustainable farming. In addition to their wonderful wines (I AM a Rhone freak after all) - Sauvignon Blanc, Cinsault, Zinfandel, L. Preston, Syrah-Sirah, Petite Sirah, and Barbera - you will also find olives grown on the land and bread baked fresh by Lou right there at the winery. They even have a lending library of books on various aspects of sustainable farming and slow-food culture. The wine, olives, and bread serve as a doorway (or perhaps a looking glass)through which you are invited to step and begin to explore a way of being that is more than just food and wine, but is at its heart all about food and wine... and people.

One of the great wine highlights at Preston only happens on Sundays. Once a week the winery offers a sort of field blend of Zinfandel, Malvoise (Cinsault), and Carignane (which, fortunately for me, happen to me some of my very favorite varietals) in a big 3 liter jug (the equivalent of 4 bottles) for $30! Sunday is the only day you can taste it and the only day you can buy it, but this lovely wine - named for Lou's former neighbor Jim Guadagni - is one of those amazing finds that only come along once in a while. Unfortunately, due to all of the Winter Wineland festivities, Preston curtailed this extra special offering for the Sunday we were there. The following week, while I was busy tasting the lovely ZAP offerings in San Francisco, Jen piled a bunch of her friends into a van and headed out to the regions we had previously explored. their primary stop was of course Preston where they loaded up on this red gold.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sonoma County Sunday

Last sunday my daughter came up from The City and we went wine tasting at some of my favorite places in Sonoma County. Despite the fact that she was raised in Sonoma County for a goodly portion of her childhood, lately she's been playing the turncoat and taking friends on the traditional straight up the valley tour of Napa and beyond. On Christmas Eve I gave her a "good talking to" and suggested that she needed to check out a few of the places in her old homestead, if for no other reason than the fact that she grew up here.

So... Sunday around 11:00 am we headed off from Petaluma to try out a few places in Dry Creek with an almost obligatory stop at the quintessentially youthful Roshambo just outside Sonoma. My goal for the trip was to show her a few of the places that I've been to recently that represent what I thought of as "her kind" of winery. To that end, we started the day up on Independence Lane at the new Coppola Rosso & Bianco winery where I recently joined as a wine club member. We were celebrating my daughter's birthday ( a week late) and so my goal at this stop was for her to taste, and for me to buy for her, a bottle of their Sofia Blanc de Blanc, a lovely sparkling wine with a light body, a perky taste, a lovely golden color (in a clear bottle with pink wrapping); s perfect birthday wine! On this trip we also picked up a bottle of the winery's R&B Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp cirtusy number with lots of spiciness, another playful birthday kind of wine, and a bottle of the Diamond label Syrah-Shiraz, a terrific "every day" sort of red with good body, nice crispness, and a truly reasonable price. There are some other amazing wines at R & B, particularly in their Director's Cut (complete with Zoetrope labels) and their Reserve selections, but I'll save my raves for thos wines for another blog. Suffice to say, Rosso & Bianco was a perfect kickoff to our Sonoma celebration Sunday.

The only problem with the whole day was that due to poor planning on my part we ran straight into the massive Winter Wineland celebration and were thrust deep into large crowds of people who we had not anticipated. Jen and I were not inclined to do the WW package because we only had four wineries we were planning to go to and we weren't looking to partake in all the extra foodstuffs (my daughter being a vegetarian there wasn't a lot for her to try anyway) that the $50 ticket allowed.This only proved a problem at one location, Wilson Winery, our first stop on Dry Creek Road. At Copolla, where we first discovered our inconvenient truth, the folks were all very friendly and accommodating, happy to see a wine club member even on a busy day like that. At Wilson it was a different story. Walking into the place we were confronted with a relatively hostile wine server who glared at us when we said we weren't "Winelanding" but that we were members. I was informed that we would have to buy a ticket for the wineland event anyway or come back another time. On the one hand, this didn't seem ALL that unreasonable (it was a busy day and Wilson has a pretty small tasting room) but I was particularly interested in having Jen try some of their really wonderful Zins as they are the reason I joined the club in the first place and because she was going to be bringing a whole collection of friends up to the winery on the following weekend and I wanted her to be able to tell them something about it. No such luck! Unlike Copolla, the folks at Wilson were NOT happy to have this wine club member and so we turned around and moved on to friendlier territory. It's unfortunate though, because I think the folks at Wilson missed out on a big opportunity to interest and entice a whole collection of youthful wine lovers this coming weekend.

Our next stops in Dry Creek were the fabulous Preston Winery - a fairly recent discovery for me and a place that I knew my vegetarian daughter would love for their organic farming and their attention to all things food and good - and the beautiful Bella, where, as wine club members, we were again welcomed with open arms and glasses despite the fact that they were inundated by Winelandians.

I'll save the details of those two stops (and our final drop down to Roshambo) for next time.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Zin is in the air!!!

It's January once more and just as we get the fruits and favors of the holiday season, and the hangovers from New Year's Eve out of our system, it's time to hit the trenches for THE BIGGEST WINE BLAST ANYWHERE! ZAP!

Taking place next week all over San Francisco, but focusing primarily on the flagship GIANT TASTING event at Fort Mason Center, the 17th Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers fstival of all things Zin (and all things that go WITH Zin) is gearing up to take the town by storm.

I've been attending this amazing gathering every year since it began and I have to say that I have never once been disappointed. Some years there's a buzz in the air from the very beginning - you'll hear about some spectacular wine from (usually) a little known winery and the flood of people around the table lets you know you've found the spot. Other years its a bit more subtle, and you get to explore the familiar and the unfamiliar wines and wineries that you might not find anywhere else. In recent years, my favorite event of the series has been the Thursday night Zin and food pairing that happens at Fort Mason Center, the chaos is a little more manageable than the Saturday event and the intentional food/wine pairings between wine makers and Bay Area (with a few exceptions like last year's Texas BBQ) chefs is not to be missed.