Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The apartment has been deserted, except for this man; Spain awaits

Greetings from Hartfield Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia. I am waiting out a solid 3 hour layover before departing on the delta boeing 767-400ER for Madrid.. Happily the flight from sfo was a speedy four hour venture, only slightly marred by a very unhappy baby exercising his (her?) pipes, which were ample. There was also a toddler who would occasionally burst into wild, crazy simian yells. At one point another youngin chimed in, creating a call and response of 'A-YA-YA-YA!!' and 'OOH-OOH-OOH-OOH!'s. What a vocal interplay. It was awesome. Next post will be 'en directo' from the iberian peninsula.

Saludos, Jose.
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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A pepsi-coke challenge weekend, wine style.

I enjoy comparative tasting. Whether tasting a few olive oils, wines, beers or chocolates, there is always something new to discover. Here are some recent discoveries:


To answer the question (and oft repeated statement) above, I would say, at least based on this particular bottle, 'Not really.' The '04 Pucho showed lots of dark fruit and more advancement than I was expecting. It was spicy and full of wet earth, albeit a dense chunky wet earth as opposed to a more nuanced, decaying wet earth. It was ok with the chicken, but came across as rather monolithic. Now the Chinon was a different story. It was initially strict, with that classic savory-herbal cherry-berry cab franc profile. As it opened up, though, I began to better appreciate the silky texture of Loire cab franc gliding across the palate. The savory and earthy flavors giving way to floral notes and bright acidity. Excellent with the roasted chicken, which I prepared very simply with salt, pepper, half a lemon, a few garlic cloves, and several sprigs of rosemary, popped into a 500 deg oven for 40 minutes.


Vermentino is certainly very much at home on the island of Sardegna, especially when it comes from Gallura on the northeastern portion of the island. The 2006 Mancini Vermentino di Gallura showed broad melon, apple and citrus flavors. It tastes bigger than its 12.5% alc would suggest.

Former folk singer/hippie Steve Edmunds pays tribute to his northern California musical heritage with his 2007 Heart of Gold, a blend of Grenache blanc co-fermented with Vermentino. Nearly 50-50. At first it tasted lean, citric and closed. After a day in the fridge, and serving at a more ideal temperature (cool room temp vs cold fridge temp) the wine was much more expressive. Another winner from Edmunds St. John. Way to go Alice for giving Mr. Edmunds some props in a recent SF Chronicle article.


This was a brown bag tasting we did for customers at the store. Overall a pretty good selection; as predicted the wines were not always easy to peg as CA or Oregon the way that some people are stylizing PN these days. I don't have my notes in front of me, but I remember a few favorites ('06 Chasseur PN Russian River, '05 Foghorn PN Monterey, '06 Westrey PN Oracle Vineyard Dundee Hills), one disappointment ('05 Eyrie PN Dundee Hills) and a few utterly disagreeable wines ('05 Domaine Serene Evenstadt, '06 Et Fille Kalita Vineyard PN Yamhill-Carlton, Aubin Cellars 'Verve' Stoller Vineyard PN Dundee Hills).

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Group gets fancy; A flight of Gruve and '96 Echezeaux horizontal

Jerry outdid himself, or at least any other previous tasting group event I have attended. There was a selection of cheeses, duck that Jerry himself hunted (smoked and then a delicious duck leg confit with polenta and mushrooms), a flight of mostly 2006 gruner veltliner (by nearly all accounts a terrific vintage in Austria), and the piece de resistance, a line-up of 1996 Echezeaux. I'd say it's safe to assume that the majority of our group, myself included, has had precious little tasting experience of grand cru burgundy, let alone aged grand cru burgundy from a great, if controversial, vintage. So it was both a treat and a great tasting lesson. For anyone out there who is not already in a tasting group, but wants to learn about wine, get yourself in one. There is no better or more enjoyable way to learn about wine than to pool together financial and knowledge resources with a group of friends and colleagues.

Flight the first was humbling. The wines were all very generous and full of fruit, with a good dose of minerality in one of the wines, probably two in fact. The others seemed so fruity and simple, that I was thinking that the flight was a riesling around the world type flight. My favorite wine was a trocken riesling from the Rheingau, and the others were surely rieslings from elsewhere. Well, I was wrong. All old world wines, all gruner veltliner. Here are the wines, ranked in reverse order of group preference:

2006 Jager Gruner Veltliner Federspiel, Wachau
This was full of apples and a talcum type of minerality. I have 'good california riesling' in my notes; maybe I was thinking Montelena or Stony Hill or something.

2006 Stadt Krems Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal

Yellow stone fruits. My least favorite wine; it came across as one-dimensional.

2006 Nigl Gruner Veltliner Senftinberger Piri

Here was a wine with more minerality, higher toned acidity, an much precision. "Focused and laser-like" were some other descriptors mentioned (before the wine was revealed). These are words that are often used to describe Martin Nigl's wines.

2005 Salomon Undhoff Gruner Veltliner
There was a very creamy, leesy aspect to this wine, coupled with very high acidity and what I perceived at the time to be a slate type of minerality. What impressed me about this wine was how different it showed from the others. Surely it must have had at least 3-4 more years of bottle age. Interestingly, I have noticed once before that Salomon's gruner veltliners are good short to mid-term agers. They do seem to age fairly quickly though - maybe both instances have been cases of poor storage in the wine shop?

If the white wine flight was humbling, than the red flight was both humbling and baffling. Chalk it up to our collective inexperience with Echezeaux, or Vosne-Romanee from 1996. Only one person guessed that we were tasting Burgundy, here. Such was the intriguing combination of ripe, juicy, supple fruit, high acidity and more than partial integration of tannins. I found two of the wines to be soft and succulent, one wine to be a bid more advanced and less delicious than the others, and another to be simple, superficial and short. Once again, the wines from last to first:

1996 Domaine Robert Arnoux Echezeaux

I thought that this was supposed to be a solid producer. This wine had some mixed red/dark fruits on the nose, with a bit of horseradish and cooked black cherry. There was not the liveliness on the palate experienced in my two favorites of the night. Either the wine is in a dumb phase or it was poorly stored.

1996 Mongeard-Mugneret Echezeaux

Third with the group, but a clear second for me. Cherry liqueur, red fruits and a bit of orange peel on the nose led to a palate full of cherry, brighter than what the nose would suggest. Still very primary in its development.

1996 Domaine de Perdrix Echezeaux

Second with the group, an easy 4th placer for me. This wine was just too slick. Dark and concentrated nose, with some oak spice. But not much else. Soft, juicy and simple blackberry fruits on the palate. Tannins are fully resolved. Short finish. Here is a great example of how a grand cru burgundy, even from a good vintage, ain't a guarantee of quality. Far from it.

1996 Mongeard-Mugneret Grands Echezeaux

This was the clear favorite, and for good reason. While it's still very primary, the fruit is of such an intense, elegant, and long lasting quality. Delicious wine that absolutely provides the tough to describe grand cru burgundy tasting experience. True to reputation, this was by far superior to MM's very solid Echezeaux.

Wine tasting is a funny thing. While experience and context are very important, the wine, as Terry Theise (importer of our two top finishing gruner veltliners) likes to say, 'will have the last word.' Profound, I know.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fw: Test run for posting blogs on blackberry from spain

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----

Date: Fri, 23 May 2008 00:15:53
Subject: Test run for posting blogs on blackberry from spain

Well, it's not a real test until I attempt to blog from espana beginning in a week. I am even attempting to attach a photo. No relevance to Spain, though. This is my uncle jack at home/work in the Austin St cafe, Marfa, Texas.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brett and Fruit: GT Dave Kombucha, Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus

As a kid I used to eat lemons. When life gave me lemons, I might have made lemonade, but with, at most, half the sugar a typical recipe would suggest. I also loved fizzy drinks, except for soda, which of course was too sweet. As a substitute for soda, I used to mix Perrier with fruit juices. Orange juice and perrier, which I dubbed an 'oobie,' started my whole range of drinks, which would become popular with family, less so with friends. When I started getting into wine, I would satisfy my need for fizz and acidity by drinking champagne, cava, cremant d'Alsace, sekt, basically any well made sparkling wine. Recently I have expanded my horizons: during the day I satisfy my craving for tart and fizzy by drinking kombucha, and at night I have started to enjoy the occasional lambic, or Belgian fruit beer.

Kombucha is basically a type of sweetened tea that is slowly, naturally fermented over the course of 30 days. Aiding the fermentation are acetobacter bacteria (used in vinegar production) and several different yeasts, including brettanomyces. These days it is often flavored with fruit. Some CO2 is trapped in the bottle which makes the drink a bit fizzy. My only experience has been with the GT Dave brand, whose flavors I find to be uniformly delicious; try the grape, mango, and strawberry varieties - awesome with a sandwich or simply on their own for a late afternoon boost.

Lambics are spontaneously fermented Belgian beers. They have a strong acetic acid tang, as well as some barnyard like flavors due to the high count of brettanomyces in the brew. Often times the fruit beers you see in stores are sweetened for the mass market, and may not even be based on lambic beers. Cantillon, on the other hand, does things traditionally and naturally. Their rose de gambrinus is based on their geuze (a blend of 1 and 2-3 year old lambics) flavored with fresh raspberries, giving it an intense pink color. At first I loved the beer, with its refreshing framboise flavors and pleasant bitter snap to the finish. However, the more I drank I could not get over the increasingly persistent bitterness, which honestly came across as very bile-like. That right there might have been a deal breaker for many of you, and of course bitter, sour beers are not for everyone. But they're definitely worth a try, especially when made by a brewery as revered and respected by beer afficionados as Cantillon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

herb alpert - rise 1979

So I'm riding home from work, scanning the dial, slowly tiring of the ubiquitous rancheros on the radio. I come across what must be the local easy listening/smooth jazz station and this jam is playing. Instant relaxation! I know, I know, it's corny, but I too am corny. And this song was just what I needed after a Tuesday at the liquor store. Rock on, Mr. Alpert and your Tijuana Brass, rock on.

From the US - and highly recommended!

A few of you have asked me to suggest a few wines that are not too difficult to find and are good values. Well, I've added the qualifier that they be American, just to prove that this country does make some wine that I will happily drink, despite the european slant of my taste in wine. Here's a handful of wines to seek out. While these are all good for the price, I find it really tough to find good, honest, tasty American values that give you as much bang for the buck as the best of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany even Argentina (and very occasionally, Chile). Hence these are all in the $15-low $20s price range. Enjoy - I don't think I will do this again for a long time.

2007 Elk Cove Pinot Gris
2006 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir
2005 Au Bon Climat Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
2006 Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
2007 Preston Estate Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc
2006 Edmonds St John Bone Jolly El Dorado County Gamay

Feel free to contribute anything you think I'm leaving out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Robert Mondavi passed away today.

Robert Mondavi died today. He was 94 years old.

At 22 years old, I visited my first winery: Robert Mondavi. The tour guide was knowledgeable about his company, and delivered a very finely crafted shtick which ended in the winery's tasting bar/sales room.

Mondavi worked hard to personally market his wines nationally and abroad. Hardly a day passes without a Japanese customer requesting Opus One where I work.

Estate grown and bottled wine, boutique labels, and what is known in the industry as 'premium' or 'ultra-premium' wines continue to be where all of the sales growth is in the wine business. Basically, Robert Mondavi foresaw all of this when he split with his brother to form his own winery over 40 years ago.

All of the above is just a small part of Mondavi's legacy and lasting imprint on the American wine industry as well as the modern history of wine. Here is the AP obituary


If you ask me, reggae should be enjoyed year 'round, not just in the summer. But since it's another scorcher here, I thought I'd post some live reggae from one of the genre's finest: Anthony B. At around 3.50 he goes into his version of the Tamlins song - and one of my favorites, versioned by Everton Blender and many others - 'Baltimore.' So for many reasons here it looks like I found myself an ideal clip for OWOS. Yes, I! Enjoy the music.

A few short write-ups

Yesterday I had a glass of the '07 Francois Chidaine Touraine and it is crisp, punchy, bright, very clean Touraine. No Touraine greenness (not that this would have necessarily been a bad thing).

Bought a bottle of 2006 Palmina Dolcetto. It is very rare that I buy a current release bottle of California wine so allow me to explain myself. Palmina is a project (I know, I know, in the wine world it's always a 'project,') of the folks behind Brewer-Clifton. They make wine made from Italian varietals in Santa Barbara - Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Traminer, Malvasia, and others. Their 2005 Mattia (Refosco, cab franc, Merlot) is a wonderfully balanced, lively wine that I enjoyed with my family at Maverick, a popular restaurant/wine bar in the Mission, last year. Expecting something similar from their Dolcetto, I instead got a super heavy, CA ripe (bordering on sweet) version of the Piedmontese specialty. Dolcetto means 'little sweet one' but it is something of a misnomer as the wines are usually very dry. Not so with this wine. It was sweet and undrinkable.

To end on a positive note, I had the opportunity to drink (in moderate moderation, of course) a healthy amount of sherry, cava and champagne this week, so I'm a happy camper. You see, it's not all tough criticism and snarky attitude here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's Hahhhhhht!

92 degrees and sunny today - no, not only in Redwood City or the east bay. But in foggy San Francisco. I love it. This may be too hot for some of the softies in this city, but for me and many others who braved hot and humid southern, mid-Atlantic, or New York summers, it's just another summer day. Aren't seasons wonderful?

On tap for the rest of the day: Rias Baixas tasting, beer drinking somewhere outside, and a day of maxin' and relaxin'. Please don't hate....

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Daily intake: A food and wine blogger's 24 hour consumption

Here's a rare inside look at what someone (i.e., me) who sells wine and writes fairly often about food and wine eats and drinks in a day. Having met many people who work with wine and/or food on a daily basis, I can tell you that many of us are not ideal poster children for eating healthy, nourishing food. Retail and restaurant work, the latter in particular, is not always conducive to healthy living; this might be the understatement of the year on this site.

Anyway, I will start from dinner on Tuesday May 13 and follow my eating/drinking through tonight's dinner. Why start from dinner? It is by far my favorite meal, the one that I have the most time to enjoy, and what some may say takes place at far too late an hour, usually between 10 and 11pm. Allow me to give you an idea of how far my late dining ways have regressed. As a child we usually ate dinner around 7:30-8pm, sometimes as late as 9pm. The average sit-down to dinner time became progressively later. When I visit Spain in a few weeks- where the late dining time is well documented - I will more than likely be eating at the same time or even earlier than I do here.

Tuesday May 13
Dinner - Mizuna salad with tuscan olive oil and lemon dressing, three homemade personal focaccia rolls, toasted with tuscan olive oil and grated parmeggiano. One glass of La Gitana Manzanilla. A half-bottle of 1989 Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtrofchen Riesling Spatlese. A few tall glasses of water.

Wednesday May 14
Breakfast - a few pieces of 84% cacao chocolate and two handfuls of almonds. About 20 oz. of water.
Lunch - an al pastor super taco from Chavez market (super means topped with crema, guac, salsa and grated cheese). As an aside, a co-worker notes,"That doesn't look too healthy."
Roughly 16 oz. water (drunk throughout the afternoon).
Late afternoon pick me up - 8 oz. of GT Dave Mango Kombucha.
Beer-thirty - One and a half cans of budweiser while watching softball
Pre-dinner snack - several bites of mochi and a cup of green tea.
More Manzanilla - 1/2 a 500ml bottle of La Gitana Manzanilla (drunk mainly before, but also during dinner)
Dinner - Mizuna salad with 2 fried eggs in Styrian pumkin seed oil vinaigrette, 1/2 a baguette of homemade poppy/sesame/fennel seed bread dipped in tuscan olive oil. A few glasses of water.

Overall, it was a mixed performance. But I've seen far, far, worse.

Happy (and hopefully, healthy) eating and drinking, everyone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

1985 Renee Collard Cuvee Reserve Millesime - Meunier at its best?

One of my co-workers, who buys champagne and sherry for the store, likes to say that in champagne, top-notch Pinot Meunier can make better Pinot than Pinot Noir itself. From my limited experience with his wines, and by repuation, Renee Collard proves this to be true. His oak aged, non-malo champagnes are deeply flavored and vinous, earthy and complex. They are typically composed mainly of Meunier with a bit of Chardonnay.

I enjoyed the 1985 Collard a few weeks ago after crashing my bike on Valencia St., while making an ill advised move from the torn up bike lane to higher pavement one lane over. My intent was to head out to Terroir and share the bottle, but oh well, a flat tire and crooked headset discouraged me from venturing any further. When I arrived home, I decided to crack open the Collard anyway; I was set on drinking that champagne and a minor bike crash was not going to stop me. No siree bobby. The champagne showed intense golden hues and aromas (you know how some aged chardonnay and champagne have that golden aspect to appearance, aroma, and flavor). There was a wonderful truffle note that emerged after time and was especially apparent the next day - I drank a glass with an omelette and salad. On the palate the champagne was very vinous, as is the rep for Renee Collard. Cidery, spicy, and chock-full of juicy black cherries. It was good but not mind blowing on day 1. On day 2 more flavors revealed themselves, especially a strong walnut husk aspect to the finish. So it looks like I might have enjoyed this bottle more in another five years. I'll have to accomodate my British taste in Champagne and buy another one to put it away for a while.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Comparative Italian whites with a long maceration on the skins tasting


Last night a few wine industry friends (Josh, buyer at Bi-Rite Market, and Chris, logistics guy for Kermit Lynch in Beaune, France) my girlfriend and I enjoyed a bottle of 2002 Radikon Oslavje and 2006 Paolo Bea Santa Chiara Bianco at Terroir. The first wine is Stanko Radikon's blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, done in a very traditional style, i.e. a slightly warm (or at least not a very cool) fermentation followed by a long period of skin contact and ageing in slavonian oak barrels, a total of 3 years ageing before bottling. And the second is Umbrian Paolo Bea's newest vintage of a field blend consisting of Malvasia, Chardonnay, Grechetto, and many other grapes which I forget. It is also elaborated with a long period of skin contact with the juice. In between the conversation, which was predictably full of wine talk, both wine stuff and wine business stuff (vendors we like/dislike, the stevedore's strike on the French ports, etc) it was interesting to compare these two wines, especially as we worked our way through each bottle over time.

My initial reactions were favorable towards the Bea, less so towards the Oslavje. I loved the fact that Bea is moving towards a more substantive, traditional style of white wine. His wine combined peachy, fleshy, floral qualities with a touch of orange blossom honey and real grip on the back end - this is a white wine with tannins. As for the Radikon 'Oslavje,' I found it to be a bit more rancio than I expected. His '02 Ribolla is such a brilliant wine, a perfect interplay of fresh and oxidative flavors, exuberant acidity and spice, fruit and minerality. The Oslavje just didn't sing as much for me - at first. Then as it opened up, the acidity really shined. The wine brightened, and the finish was full of a delicious hazlenut character. To me there is something vaguely vin santo-like about the oslavje: aromas of older bound books in someone's study, or perhaps a worn in-leather couch, slightly rancio flavors combined with pungent acidity. I eventually grew to prefer it over the Bea, which tasted fine but seemed simple by contrast. Of course, there is a four year difference here as well. But I don't see the Bea wine aging as gracefully for as long as the Radikon. It was a fun comparative tasting though, for sure.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Italian wines at the House of David D.

A few nights ago, several co-workers and I, alongside Cecilia and Heather, tasted a cool range of Italian whites and three piemontese reds from 1990s.

Though there was a definite TCA issue with the reds (2 of 3 bottles were suspected to be corked) it was not so bad as to not get a sense of what the wines were about.

Here were the reds:

1999 Bruno Rocca 'Rabajolo' Langhe Rosso

Big, woody, smoked hickory and dark berry fruit aromas lead to a heavy palate that lightened somewhat after a bit of breathing. Still a bit more robust, and not as layered, as I was expecting. Nebbiolo, barbera, cab.

1997 Rivetti Bricco de Neveis Barbaresco

While this seemed to be mildly corked, it did not seem as obvious as the barolo below. But Guido would say that the reverse is true. Either way, this is a much more evolved wine than the '96 Colonello barolo. Spicy, savory, and in need of a piece of roasted lamb.

1996 Bussia Soprana Barolo 'Vigna Colonello'

An immediate whiff of wet, musky cardboard corkiness was apparent. However, on the palate there was bright red fruit, some vibrancy, delicacy, and an iron minerality, with just a hint of cork taint manifesting itself on the mid-palate and in a clipped finish. This was still young but beginning to ever so slowly inch towards maturity. I'd love to someday try a bottle that is not corked.

And the whites:

2006 Marco Porello Arneis

Not the best bottle of this wine - it usually crackles and pops with more clearly defined appley fruit and brighter acidity. On many other occasions I have enjoyed this wine, however.

2006 Lis Neris Fiore di Campo IGT

Aged in neutral oak barrels, this shows classic tocai palate weight and nutty savor. There is some fruit that is tough to describe, and good persistence. We all noticed the fact that it is a bit hot on the finish. Apparently this is a 3 bicchieri wine. Not to discredit the wine or Gambero Rosso, but come on now people...I've noticed that tocai has the tendency to achieve fairly high (in this case 14%) levels of alcohol.

2004 Garlider Veltliner Alto Adige (Sudtiroler)

Nearly my favorite wine of the night, this Italian rendition of the Austrian grape is full of juicy pear fruit. The fruit is of a dripping, ripe character, but still held in check with acdity and some typical gruner veltliner white pepper flavors. There are woodsy floral notes as well, which, coupled with the broad, rich, intense flavors, bring to mind a white burgundy just beginning to show a bit of development. Terrific wine.

2001 Benanti 'Pietramarina' Bianco Superiora Etna D.O.C.

100% carricante from the volcanic soil around Mt. Etna. I have had some very good white wines from Sicily, one of them also from Mt. Etna, but to quote my man Clay Davis, "Sheeeeeeeeit!" This was incredible. The acidity, minerality and overall 'wow' factor are at least one step up from the veltliner. This wine had intense gardenia and coriander notes on the nose, with some stone fruit as well. On the palate, more stone fruit, specifically a perfectly ripe nectarine, with great minerality as I mentioned earlier, and intense lime flavors on the finish. Acidity grabs hold of the sides of your tongue and clings there. This gem is delicious now and built to last. For how much longer I can't exactly say, though I wouldn't be surprised if it was even better in 5 years, and still terrific in 10. Maybe I'm grossly underestimating the lifespan of this wine, though.

Thanks to Guido, David D and Mike D for making this such a fun evening.

Billy Ocean!!!

The 80's station at work played this jam earlier in the week. Fun song! So I had to seek it out on youtube and share the fruits of my search with you. Danny Devito, Michael Douglass and Kathleen Turner make quite the backing trio for Billy O. As for Mr. Ocean I think Tperez78's youtube comments do the singer justice:

"his's one of my favorites black singer!him and lionel richie.,for me the two best singer of 80's.,all billy ocean songs are awesome., all of them are beautifull.oh yes they are!"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Culinary misadventures pt. 14: Fake pimientos de padron and haphazard panzanella

Some experiments in the kitchen do not yield favorable results, as my experience tonight attests. Here are two preparations I attempted tonight. Both were failures. The first is a recipe that I recommend you do not try at home, and the second is probably worth trying as long as you have some proper guidance.

In an effort to whet my appetite for Galicia, Spain, I fried up some jalapeno peppers in olive oil, patted them dry, added coarse sea salt and pretended that they were the famous pimientos de padron. Thing is, while those peppers are mild 95% of the time, jalapenos are moderately hot 100% of the time. I ate four peppers and could shortly feel my stomach lining taking sharp pains for the team. After a glass of water and some kombucha I felt much better.

I won't go into details about my misguided (perhaps I should say, 'unguided') attempt at panzanella (tuscan bread salad). It was terrible, though I am perhaps a bit wiser for the failed experiment. A hint: you will probably need more vinaigrette than you think to adequately soak your stale bread.

Cooking can be a humbling experience.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Cellar acquisitions for the month of may

I took a break from cellaring inexpensive wines last month; instead I opted to buy a few bottles of one of the more compelling white wines I have ever drunk: 2002 Radikon Ribolla. Oh, I also bought a bottle of Old Fettercairn Stillman's Dram 26 year old scotch - a great deal but still not cheap.

This month it's back to purchasing six bottles each of a few inexpensive wines that will improve over 4-5 years. The first is the 2006 Acustic Montsant recently written up here. Why? Because it's delicious and balanced and I know that it will improve for at least a few years. Next wine is one I tasted today, the 2005 Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone. In a vintage of many rich, heavy rhone wines, this one has spice, savory herbs, and meaty savor - all while maintaining pretty cherry fruit and a lithe transparency on the palate. It's a no brainer for drinking now or cellaring for a while. Especially when you work in a shop that imports it directly.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A quick meal at Orson

Prior to my 11:20pm red eye flight this past Thursday, I was lucky enough to meet with my parents, brother and girlfriend for some shared small plates at Orson. You may recall my enthusiasm for this sister restaurant of Citizen Cake from the LdH wine dinner post a few weeks ago.

Every bit the trendy SOMA (that would be the neighborhood 'south of market') hot spot, Orson is sleek and well designed. Entering the restaurant, a menu set several inches back in a glass enclosed diarama gives diners a glimpse of the creative flavor combinations to come. Contemporary and minimalist, the large dining space could be perceived as cool and spacious or cold and cavernous, depending on one's viewpoint. A large bar stands in the center of the dining room, with most of the tables in the front and a lounge area lying in the back. Upstairs there is a private room, another bar and lounge area, and a catwalk overlooking the restaurant.

I started off with a glass of 2006 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet 'Clos des Briords,' and enjoyed it so much that I would order another glass. Since this was such a quick meal, there was not time for more extensive exploration of the wine list. Though I did try a sip of the 2006 Deux Montille (Hubert de Montille negociant label) Pouilly-Fuisse. Ripe, fruity, round and a bit oaky, it was ok but not great; it reminded me of a Pernand-Vergelesses without the brightness or the minerality. There are some good selections by the bottle on the franco-centric list, including 2002 Olga Raffault Chinon 'Les Picasses,' ($36) Domaine Berthet Bondet Cremant de Jura ($40) and 1981 LdH Vina Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva ($151, but worth the splurge). One observation which I was to harried to notice Thursday night but wonder to myself now: Where are the rieslings?? Not a single German, or Austrian, or even Californian riesling are on the list. This, in my view, is a nearly unpardonable oversight.

As for food, the first dish to arrive was charred hamachi tartare with avocado, which was fresh, delicate and sumptuously textured, with a very slightly bitter, thin caramelized char on top. It was a terrific match with the crisp, pure, intensely flavored Muscadet. Next there was a soft boiled tempura egg in a light nori and scallion enhanced miso broth. I'm a sucker for tempura, but the interplay between the crisp fry, soft egg white, rich, flavorful, runny yolk and delicate earthy broth made this my dish of the night. A beet, grapefruit, pinenut and ricotta salata salad was fine - fresh but nothing special. Halibut with turnips and celery, served in a tepid, timid watery green curry broth was of questionable freshness and just an awful dish. We ended on a better note: dark chocolate, espelette pepper, olive oil and sea salt pizza. It probably should have been listed as a dessert, since the savory ingredients were still playing a supporting role to the chocolatey pizza. But it was an unusually tasty play on such a popular staple, arriving in just the right moment for me to grab a slice on the go, with wheeled luggage in one hand and the pizza in the other.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Live and Direct from Broward County, Florida.

It's been a long time - and I should have never left you. Without a dope blog to, um, read to?

Sorry, I couldn't resist. So I promise that any of you weekend web hounds, retail warriors and assorted others who read will have more to look forward to next week. Mainly some tasting notes, as well as tales of a few special wines drunk, uneven pavement on Valencia St and dining at Orson.

In the meantime, I'd like to briefly share with you my re-confirmed impressions of Broward County, Florida (that would be the county for much of the area north of Miami, including Ft Lauderdale, I think, Boca Raton, Hollywood, the Aventura Mall, etc.). I am here for a good friend's wedding. By way of reminder to some, it is also one of the Florida counties known for the infamous 'hanging chads' of the 2000 presidential election.

The air feels warm and heavy, reminding you of the fact that a thunderstorm can surface at any given moment. Leaving the airport, I note the landscpape, a vaguely repeating sprawl of highway ramps, shopping centers, hotels, office parks and well manicured planned communties, lush with varied vegetation interspersed between the stucco condominiums. Cars are numerous, pedestrians few, and the occasional bicycle pedals by. Upon entering any building, the A/C is cranked up to 11. It is a cold, bullying blast of air, the polar opposite of the lazy, warm, lingering air on the outside.

That's all I've got on Broward County, Florida for now - probably not to be continued. I like weddings, and the occasional lazy pool time is cool, but to my taste this is amongst the least desirable real estate in the country. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Alright, I'm gonna go get my 'A' on the Southweset return flight.

Have a good weekend.