Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tasty oatmeal recipe

I have always enjoyed a well prepared bowl of oatmeal, especially in the peak of oatmeal eating season (December-March) and recently have concocted a delicious new way of preparing this nutritious breakfast. This will serve 2, or one very hungry person.

Begin by chopping a small handful of almonds, removing the pits from a dozen dried dates, and retrieving your honey of choice. Add 1 c. of your favorite brand of rolled, steel cut, or other type of processed oats (I use what ever they've got in the bulk bin at Rainbow) to a medium saucepan. Add 1 3/4 c water and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, actively stirring so that the oatmeal does not stick. This should take 4-5 minutes. Pour into two separate bowls. In each, add half of your chopped almonds and dates, as well as a drizzle of honey to taste. Pour your choice of whole, 2%, skim or soy milk on top, and stir to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Finish with a sprinkling of fleur de sel. If you're not into the fancy salts, any other type of edible salt you have on hand should do.

I do love my oatmeal in the morning. As Wilfred used to say, eating oatmeal is 'the right thing to do, and the tasty way to do it.'

Monday, December 29, 2008

These fine folks want you to come out to Joe's Birthday Espectacular at Terroir: Saturday January 10th

Here's the promised birthday bash announcement. Anyone who reads this, who plans on being in or around San Francisco the evening of January 10th and would like to check it out, feel free to do so. We'll get going around 8pm and likely hang out at Guillhaume, Luc and Dagan's bar/shop until they close it up.

Should be one for the ages.

Here is the Terroir website for the uninitiated.

See you there!


Before I get into this list business, I'd like to present something of a preview announcement. I will be celebrating my upcoming 30th birthday at Terroir, and would like to invite any Bay Area readers, or those who find themselves in the Bay Area, to attend. Need to consider a date. Though since my actual birth date is fast approaching, it will probably be within 10 or so days. At least one of the wines on the list below will probably be in attendance as well. It should be fun.

Without further ado, here is a significantly shorter annotated list than last year's of my favorite mature wines of 2008. No ranking order this year. Compared to 2007, I do appear to be drinking less luxuriously, or at least fewer wines of repute and prestige. Maybe it's the times - it does seem as though I am finally learning how to better live within my means. I also seem to be a little better focused on building a cellar, buying younger, less pricey wines from more value oriented regions, as opposed to shelling out more for the occasional splurge of mature bottles from Burgundy, Bordeaux or Germany. There are some similarities to last year's list, though. Lopez de Heredia makes another appearance (as I suspect it will continue to for as long as I do these lists). California, or rather, OLD SCHOOL California, is well represented. Finally, with one exception, each of these wines was enjoyed, contemplated (over an extended period of time, at least two hours, but often times longer) and eventually posted on this website. If you click on any of these wines, it will link to the original post.

1979 Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5l)

1981 Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva

1984 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet (1.5l)

1985 Philipe Rossignol Haute Cotes de Nuit Villages

1985 Champagne Renee Collard Reserve Millesime

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Carry on, My Wayward Son

I don't know why, but this Kansas song was in my head all afternoon yesterday. It is from the rockin' 1976 vintage, year of my brother's birth as well as that of another tried and true arena rocking band.

Anyone care to guess which band?

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Art of unselling KRUG.

I am proud to make a consistent effort dissuading people from buying Krug this year. Why am I doing this? Because like many other champagne fans, I have noticed that the past few times I have tasted it, it in no way resembles the rich, golden, mouth filling elixir I remember from as recently as a few years ago. And at over $130, the wine ought to be mind blowing and memorable, right?

So here's how it works. There are so many superior champagnes we sell for even a third of the cost of Krug. I spot someone with Krug in hand or basket, ask them if they need any help finding anything, and then whether the answer is yes or no, gently suggest if they mind receiving an alternate champagne recommendation, one that I believe to be a superior wine and better value than Krug. Then I find another champagne. Recently it's been Tarlant Cuvee Louis, but most anything we sell is more interesting, tastier bubbly than Krug these days.

Two bottles of Krug un-sold month to date, and counting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'The Poacher' Series

A few nights ago at Terroir, it was a typically wine trade oriented crowd: a distributor rep, an importer rep, a shop employee (me), a former importer rep. So the conversation was appropriately wine trade oriented. We geeked out, debated the quality of a certain national importer/ personality's champagne book, and then exchanged stories of one Captain Tumor Man.

There was the recent San Francisco trade tasting where, towards the end of the event, a late arriving merchant requested that a new bottle be opened, acted like a jerk, and in a moment surely to be treasured by long suffering salespeople the world over, was summarily told by our hero Captain Tumor Man to go fuck himself.

Then there was the time that Captain Tumor Man attended a competitor's trade tasting, declared most of the wines to be garbage, found the one producer he liked, and promised that he'd poach that producer in short order. Well, that is exactly what happened. You are so nice, Captain Tumor Man.

So I'm enjoying my day off today, sleeping in, eating baked goods, drinking chai and what not, and thinking that I applaud this brand of confidence bordering on cockiness occasionally shown by east coast wine importers. In fact, I'd like to commemorate their efforts by producing a few 'battle tracks.' You know, some seriously gangsta' wine lyrics (rapped by the importers themselves),or at least choice vocal samples, strategic scratching, hard drums. I will call it 'The Poacher' series. After all, if one can insult another's rapping ability, question his masculinity, or claim to have engaged in sexual intercourse with his girl, why not adjust the insults to the wine world: your palate sucks, you pal around with losers, I'll steal your producer. That's what I'm talking about.
'The Poacher,' vol. 1, coming your way some time in the '09.

UPDATE: While it's always fun to hear dramatic tales of the exciting and competitive wine trade, one needs to remember that often times they are not true. Such is the case in the suggested poaching incident above (see the thread of comments below). I would like to apologize to our hero for any misrepresentation of his hard work gaining the trust of many excellent winemakers and succesfully marketing their wines in the States.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Welcome to The Holidays

You may have noticed that the weekly posting rate has declined of late, as has the average posting length and overall quality here. Sorry. It's the busy season, which means that I am eating too much junk food, not enough vegetables and drinking a bit more than usual. At work, we are fortunate to be very busy, people are in a hurry, orders are mispicked, everyone's patience is running a bit thin. All of which feeds the unhealthy eating habits above; it's a vicious cycle. So excuse me if things are slipping a little here. After Christmas things should be back to normal.

To relax from the overall craziness that is retail during the holidays, I went to Terroir last night. Rolled in dolo (I think that's mid 90's QB slang for solo). I very much enjoyed an '07 Pinon Vouvray, the 'silex noir' bottling. So juicy and balanced. Terrific stuff. Then moved on to a '98 Wittman riesling spatlese from the Rheinhessen. Definitely into tertiary land now, some citrus and that brown sugared note I get in Rheinhessen and Pfalz rieslings. After that, a '94 Hauth Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese I brought in from work, which showed bigger, broader flavors with a deeper swath of acidity. Developed, but still developing. Finally a bottle of '95 Reinhold Hart Piesporter Goldtrofchen Riesling Spatlese, generously brought in by another guest. It was more primary than I expected. Golden colored and flavored. Appley, deep and just very vibrant and delicious. Apparently low sulphur too. Good bring, Michael.

OK, off to the bike to the Caltrain to the Camino to the shop, and then back again this evening. Have a good day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Return of The Doobies, this time with the crew from...WHAT'S HAPPENING!

I apologize to those of you to whom the thought of listening to any Michael McDonald is somewhat repulsive - but this one was too good to pass up. Doobies, Re-run, Rog, Dee, Shirley. Are you kidding me? If you follow the clip after the Doobies' performance, you will see that the plot thickens.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Tale of two LVMH champagnes

Recently tasted some champagnes, mainly grower ones, though there were a few products sold by big bad Luis Vuitton Moet Henessy. I thought it might be fun to write brief notes on two of these, as each portrays a telling snap shot of a company's reputation (LVMH in the first instance, Veuve Clicquot in the second) at a particular point in time.

Ruinart is marketed, from my understanding as a step up in quality from your basic NV champagne. At least the $59.99 price tag on the Ruinart Blanc des Blancs I tasted would suggest this. What an awful wine. There is no shortage of much less expensive sparkling wines, both bottle and tank fermented, that I would rather drink than this. Don't believe anyone who says that even lesser champagne is, after all, still champagne, and therefore worth the price. This was very reductive, with the tell-tale sulphurous nose lacking any aroma of fruits or anything other than sulphur. Sweet on the palate. And thin. Coarse. Billed as 12g/l dosage but it has to be more. No purity, nor grace, nor any flavors that I would ever want to re-visit. Shite.

On to another LVMH brand - the incredibly successful Veuve Clicquot. Now I am simultaneously as impressed and confounded by the orange driven power of the aggressively marketed and branded Veuve Cliquot as any other wine professional. Nonetheless, it is worth pointing out that Veuve Clicquot wines, the vintages and La Grande Dame in particular, used to be quite good! At least that is what I have heard - I have not been a drinker long enough to have experienced this first hand. So I truly was looking forward to tasting the 1988 Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage (recently disgorged) champagne. It lived up to the promise of Clicquot's former reputation, and the reliability of the 1988 vintage in champagne (thought by some to be superior to the other great vintage of the '80s, 1985). Very complex on the nose, a bit sherried as one would expect, but in a good way. Deep, broad flavors on the palate, with recently browned apples and nuts. Amazingly silken texture, a gentle, lazy bead and simply terrific length and acidity. First class all the way, and for less than the price of a bottle of the recently mediocre Krug Grand Cuvee bottling, this one is absolutely worth it.

Funny how things change. And how a little (ok, a little more than a little) ambition to grow your business can detract from what made your business great in the first place.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The State of the economy/'05 California Cab Buying Guide

I recently celebrated a terrific November, highlighted by the loss of over 500,000 US jobs and the begging of our ever insightful, cutting edge US auto companies for more money to waste on developing and marketing shitty products, by tasting some top dollar, top ranking California cabernet! Mmm, delicious. Why figure out what you like on your own, when Tanzer, Parker, The Wine Spectator and Old World Old School can do all the work for you?

2005 Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $89.95
At first tasting this was actually not too bad, but then coming back to it the wine showed a bit band-aidy. 81 OWOS

2005 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa - $89.99
96 WA and 94 IWC! Sweet! I meant that literally, this stuff is sweet. 74 OWOS

2005 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa - $109
95 WS and #9 in the 2006 Top 100!! My third favorite wine in this formidable line-up, it was perfectly well made and exemplary in its anonymous cabby character. 84 OWOS

2005 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon Napa - $129
96 WA, 93 IWC, 91 OWOS. That dark cab fruit did not prevent fragrant, inner mouth floral notes to emerge on the mid palate. The only elegant wine in this line-up, which is why I sort of agree with my esteemed colleagues here.

2005 Opus One Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $159.99
Only 92 IWC and 90 WS. Save your $50 and get the 95pt WS Mondavi Napa reserve!

2005 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $179
93-96 WA, 93 IWC, 92 WS, 74-77 OWOS. C'mon now Joe, that all you got?

2005 Ridge Montebello Santa Cruz Mountains - $139.99
95 IWC. 93 OWOS. Love that higher acidity, blue/dark fruit, 13.5% alcohol. And that American oak! Ridge, as usual, keeps it real.

2005 Groth Reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $145
94 WS. 70 OWOS. Soft, juicy, sweet, oaky. What grape is this again?

2005 Caymus Special Select Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $149
94 WS, 92-94 WA, 60-62 OWOS. Takes the cake for the most juggy tasting of this lineup.

2005 Dominus Napa Red - $119
96 WA, 94 IWC, 78 OWOS. Unfortunately, this was the last wine I tasted and my taste buds had already suffered considerably. Not so much so for me to realize that this juice ain't that good, though.

Hope that this is helpful to everyone out there. Support our auto companies, support our local wine industry. They really are trying awfully hard.

Friday, December 5, 2008

REAL HIP-HOP RADIO: Commercial Free 98.7 Kiss FM

Big shout out to anyone who grew up listening to 98.7 Kiss FM with the likes of DJ Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, and Latin Rascals. I'm not one of those people, so I'm just catching up on some required listening.

Set it off I suggest, ya'll.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Laurel Glen Vertical

Today I was fortunate to have the opportunity to taste a large vertical of cabernets from Laurel Glen. Sixteen different vintages from 1982-2003. Proprietor and winemaker Patrick Campbell is undoubtedly one of the early pioneers of mountain viticulture in California, and at Laurel Glen he has consistently crafted some of the finest, most long lived bottlings of California cabernet sauvignon.

According to the Laurel Glen website:

"Vineyards are sustainably farmed and winemaking is traditional and non-interventionist. All Laurel Glen wines reflect their vineyard origins, and are consciously made to favor depth and complexity over fruit-forward expression."

Before moving on to the tasting notes, I thought I'd pick a few of my favorites, and reach a couple of conclusions about the wines, for those of you who, like me, would prefer not to read successive TN's without much else.

Favorites (in this order): 1984 (mag); 1988; 1987; 1995

1.) The wines up until the 1995 vintage were all 12.5% alcohol. Lots of fruit intensity, in some case tannins, and still - just 12.5% abv
2.) The '99 and '00 were 13.5% alcohol. While they are well made, they are not necessarily more intense or concentrated than the wines above. More extracted, yes.
3.) The '01, '02 and '03 were all 14.5% alcohol. Yes, bigger wines and a bit high in alcohol for some people. But with the exception of the '02, these are wines that have the proper balance of acidity, fruit and tannin to age gracefully for 15+ years.

And why not throw in a question while I'm at it:
How has Patrick Campbell's harvesting decisions and winemaking style changed over the past three decades? I've got my own guesses, but it would be great to hear it from the man himself. Stay tuned.

And for the complete blog reader, some tasting notes.

1982 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Lots of meat on the nose, with some barnyard funk as well. Mature cherry fruit and grilled bread on the palate, which was showed reasonably classy if fully mature. An auspicious beginning…

1983 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet (1.5l)
Corked. Tough to give notes based on a compromised bottle, but still it did seem considerably more dilute and lacking in character when compared with the ’82.

1984 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet (1.5l)

A complete wine and my favorite of the line-up. The full package, replete with concentrated dark fruit, meaty savor, and iron minerality.

1986 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Interesting red fruit confit nose, with a touch of ripe tomato well. Possibly the highest acidity of the bunch, but also a bit tannic on the finish. Not as expressive or expansive on the palate as I would have liked.

1987 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Big, bold black fruited nose, with the barest hint of green vegetal notes. A big wine on the palate, lots of savor and even some chewy tannins after 20 years. Good wine.

1988 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
This led off with a distinctive, more exotic nose. Spice rack aromas set the ’88 apart from the more typical, straight ahead dark fruited nose of the other wines. Very tasty, savory dark cherry fruit with good acidity. Gutsy and stylish, one of the better wines here to be sure.

1989 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Whoa – brettanomyces. Not sure if it’s a bottle by bottle issue here or if Patrick Campbell had some real brett issues in ’89. Still drinkable, but lacking the fruit and nuances of the best of the others.

1991 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
This one seemed a bit corky on the nose, later confirmed by a few other co-workers. Not a consensus corked bottle, but a few people seemed fairly certain that this was corked. Nonetheless, the palate was rich and complete, with a sweet mouth filling dark fruit.

1992 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Intense dark fruit and black pepper aromas preceded a very rich palate - more juicy dark fruit, balanced acidity and savory flavors. Also some assertive tannins, showing a bit tough on the finish. Very tasty though.

1994 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Big dark fruit and more noticeable oak on the nose. This is by far the biggest wine up until this point, and perhaps a year representing something of a stylistic change?

1995 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
A more perfumed and better balanced version of the '94 above. Loads of blackberry and cola on the nose, with, once again, that hint of greenness sneaking in there. Beautiful balance of dark fruit and savory flavors on this one.

1999 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
A real softie, this one. Soft, juicy texture. Low acidity. Tasty enough for some palates but really lacking in complexity when compared with most of the lineup.

2000 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Dark currants on the nose, with a grippy, brambly blackberry quality to the palate. Still a bit tannic on the finish.

2001 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Built for the long haul. I tasted this wine twice - once in the beginning and a second time after I had gone through much of the lineup. Earlier on this showed terrific sweet dark fruits balanced with a real savory quality. After tasting a bunch of more mature mountain cab, though, the savor took a back seat to young, primary fruit and serious tannin structure. Maybe it was the tannin buildup on my palate? Either way, I enjoyed this wine each time and it has a long life ahead of it.

2002 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
Similar to the '99. Less aromatically complex, rounder and sweeter on the palate, with lower acid. Comparatively simple when judged against these other beauties.

2003 Laurel Glen Estate Cabernet
A return to the more familiar, higher tannin and acidity, gutsy style. Deep currant, blackberry and cola aromas. Good acidity balanced with dark fruit and a touch of graphite. Classic mountain cab.

It was a real pleasure (and quite the education) to taste through such an extensive vertical from one of California's longest running and highest quality wineries. Thanks to Arya Campbell for her time and expertise, as well as to her father Patrick Campbell, for, well, for making the wines and offering to taste out such a broad collection of vintages.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Seeing MILK at the Castro

Sunday afternoon my family and I went to see Gus van Sant's biopic on Harvey Milk the only way it should be seen if you are a San Francisco resident: at The Castro theater. It's a 1500 person theater and, from what I hear, each of the three screenings (1, 4 and 7pm) were sold out. It was yet another terrific example of how San Francisco supports the movies like few other cities, as well as a fitting tribute to Harvey Milk's work and legacy, though with the recent PROP 8 result there is still lots of work to be done here in the supposedly liberal bastion of California.

Tasteful, understated, well acted, and deeply moving. That's how I'd describe the film. There were very few dry eyes in that crowd. I did not grow up in San Francisco during the tumultuous 1970s, nor am I gay, but seeing the movie in a roomful of folks, many of whom could lay claim to one of those two facts, made an immediate and lasting emotional impact on me. That, I suppose, is the power of a good story, the power of cinema, and the power of the larger than life persona of Harvey Milk.

Go see MILK.

Oh, and for all the California residents out there...NO ON H8! Let's all do everything we can to make it a short lived piece of ultra right propaganda/propositioning.

Back to the regular program next time....

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving recap

We pulled it off. 14 people, a first time heritage turkey cooking experience, Spanish vs French wines. Somehow it all worked. We started with 2004 Francois Pinon Vouvray Brut (1.5l), progressed to some whites, worked our way through cru beaujolais and Rioja, and finished with a 1990 Gordon & McPhail Glen Grant bottling. Some things I learned:

- Truffled may not be the only way to do Thanksgiving mashed potatoes, but it's surely the only way I plan on doing it in the future. Here's a recipe for 15 (with some leftover): peel, cut and boil 8 lb of russets for 20 minutes, drain, mash with a pint of half-and-half, a stick of butter, 2 tbsp white truffle oil, salt, pepper. Transfer into a baking dish, grate some parmeggiano on top, throw under the broiler to make a crust, take out of oven and douse with more truffle oil. A crowd pleaser, and incredibly easy.

- Thanksgiving is a white wine affair. The right cru beaujolais may do the trick, but not as well as the right whites.

- Spanish wines can work great. True, I'm a fan and write them up fairly often here, but the right Spanish wines work every bit as well as anything else for Thanksgiving. In fact, the '07 Carballal Sete Cepas Rias Baixas, with its terrific phenolic ripeness, moderate alcohol and bright acidity, was the best wine with dinner. Rich enough for the meatier than usual heritage bird, very receptive to the earthy savor of mushroom stuffing, and somehow equipped to even handle the sweet-tangy cranberry sauce. As far as reds, I wish I had had another bottle of 1999 Campillo Rioja Reserva. Why drink CA pinot (or moderately priced Burgundy, for that matter) when you could have this? It's a perfect compromise between softer, plumper new world fruit, and more old world acidity, terroir and savor. Perfectly balanced, traditionally styled Rioja with a bit of bottle age.

- Just about everyone loves the Beach Boys. As is usually the case, Dad was happy to be the itunes DJ, striking a chord with our Swiss guests when he played California Girls ("Udo, that's what was playing when we first met in Paris in 1968!") A few of us then reminisced about the video for the version of this tune which my generation perhaps knows a bit better: