Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wine Events in the San Francisco and East Bay areas!

These are just a few of the events going on in the San Francisco Bay Area/California for May, 2009. Enjoy!


*To start you off on the right note, check this article: "Wine Adds Five Years to Life, More Than Beer, Dutch Study Finds"

****EVENTS COMING UP for those who love wine and related activities:

Dasche/ JC CellarsImage by Yabbb via Flickr

*JC Cellars Wine Wednesday, Wed. May 6th, 5pm-7pm--This month featuring the release of the new 2007 Smoke & Mirrors Syrah and the 2007 Fess Parker's Vineyard Syrah.

Where: 55 4th Street in Oakland near Jack London Square (you can actually BART to it -- the downtown Oakland stop on the Fremont line).

Free, but they request RSVP to RIGHT AWAY!

And if you're a JC fan (and we know who we are, don't we!), they're selling off the last of some of their lots, such as the 2005 Arrowhead Mountain Zinfandel - $35 (3 cases left), 2004 Ventana Vineyard Syrah - $30 (10 cases), and 2005 Frediani Vineyard Petite Syrah - $45 (12 cases left) -- all 92-point wines.

FYI, Jeff Cohn is chief winemaker for famed Zinfandel champion Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda, CA. He set up shop as a side business, as another of the so-called Urban Wineries, where the winemaking, from grapes brought in from the region, is done in industrial areas of cities where large spaces are relatively cheap -- such as aircraft hangers (Rosenblum and Hanger One in Alameda) and even a submarine repair facility (Periscope in Berkeley). Jeff started with Syrahs, rather than competing in Zins, but of course his Syrahs taste like big, fat, dense Rosenblum Zins! Now he makes a wide range of tasty wines -- 18 of them at last count -- my own tasting group will be trying 14 of them this weekend!

*ZINFEST at Lodi Lake - May 15-17, see or 209-365-0621
Starts with the Vintner's Grille at Lodi Lake on Fri. (6 to 9pm, $75, ouch!), featuring the "Top 12 Zins of Lodi." Zinfest Wine Festival is on Sat., noon to 6, $35-$35, featuring wines "from the Lodi appellation," and winds up with ther Zinfest Winery Open Houses in the Lodi area Sunday; no price mentioned for that. You can also win a free pair of tickets, see the Web site above for details. Wineries in the Lodi area you might have heard of include Barefoot Cellars, Cosentino, Gnarly Head, Jessie's Grove, Klinker Brick, Macchia (ummmm! Macchia!), Michael-David, St. Amant, Trinitas Cellars, Talus, and, uh, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi.

*Rosenblum's "Annual Wine Celebration CIRCO DI VINO" is May 16 at their store in Rutherford. "Escape into the world of jugglers, acrobats and much more, as you dance with our winemakers—juggling hundreds of bottles for your enjoyment. Feast upon hors d'oeuvres, exquisite cheeses and taste an array of wines from many acclaimed vineyards at extraordinary once a year savings." It will have to be extraordinary savings, because it costs $50 a person to attend ($90 for couples); although some real bargains, especially on wines in short supply, have showed up before! See for full details.

Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Express, May 17, 2-5pm at Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton (in the Santa Cruz Mountains). $55 in advance / $65 at the door ($20 for children under 12, children under 3 are free) -- dogs on leash welcome for tasting and on train!

"Only opportunity to taste all 70 Santa Cruz Mountains Appellation Wines in one location!" Ride the train, play bocce ball, bid at live auction of rare wines, getaways to resorts, overseas trips, private winemaker dinners, and more. Hors d'oeuvres from eleven local restaurants.

*Spring Event at Ryhan Estate Vineyards in Livermore Sat May 23: (5385 East Avenue 94550) -- this is a new wine company founded by an Indian (subcontinent) family that I discovered at last year's Livermore wine weekend. Good stuff, really!

*FOR MORE LOCAL WINE EVENTS -- GO TO Local Wine Events--Oakland-East Bay for a long list of upcoming wine-related events in the East Bay.
OR GO TO for the same for the Livermore Valley.
Or just go to the main site, where you can also sign up for biweekly email alerts for these or other regions you choose--they have wine-events newsletters for every state in the U.S.! That's how I know what's going on in the the world of wine tastings around here! (PS: If you are hosting a wine event, you can post it here too.)

Hope to see you all at an upcoming event!

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Monticello Vineyards Tasting at Stacey's in Dublin CA

Taster's Guild is a wine-and-food pairing club, with chapters around the country -- the San Francisco East Bay Area chapter, "Diablo," run by Gail and John Engstrom of Dublin, hosted the April pairing at a new location, Stacey's at Waterford, a midlevel restaurant (entrees $20-$30) known locally for being owned by the wife of Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. This was our first time at Stacey's, and it won't be our last, judging from the wonderful food they served.

The winery host was Corley Family Monticello Vineyards, Napa Valley, who brought eight of their best examples of the vintner's art, which young Executive Chef Cody Cost matched up with his cuisine. The results were moan-inducing good.

The 2006 Estate Grown Chardonnay ($28) and 06 Corley Reserve Chard ($40) were served with butter-poached lobster with shellfish reduction, and pan-seared sea scallops with green-pear puree. Delicious. Actually, it was the warm garlic breadsticks that really showed the Corley Reserve Chard to its best advantage - surprising, huh?

Then we had wild-mushroom risotto along with a pancetto-wrapped trumpet mushroom topped with pinot-noir beef broth, paired with an 06 Estate Grown Pinot Noir ($58) and an 06 Estate Grown Cab Franc ($38). The risotto was delicious; I don't like mushroom, sorry, so I skipped that. The pinot followed the classic archtype: light yet very flavorful. The cab franc was very good too; I find cab francs highly variable, so it was a relief that this one tasted so good. It was, in fact, very like a good cab sauvignon.

Next up was the hit of the night: Crispy lechon-style pork belly with dark-cherry glaze, and Vermont duck confit with blackberry compote with sweet reduction (I don't know what a sweet reduction is, do you?). I swear there were people all around me moaning with stunned pleasure at this pair of foods. They were so rich and intensely flavorful -- especially the pork belly -- that we knew we were killing ourselves even faster than usual -- and we didn't care! The wine pairing could not have been more perfect, either: an 06 Estate Grown Syrah ($38) and an 05 Corley Proprietary Red ($85 -- 56% Cab Franc, 28% Merlot, 10% Syran, and 10% Cab S.). Sweet Mother of God! These dense, dark-fruit, intense wines went toe-to-toe with the densely flavorful fats and they fought each other to a delicious standstill. It will be a long time before I taste the likes of that again!

Finally they served a petite filet mignon, sliced medium-rare over tiny cubes of butter-braised purple potatoes, on top of crisp broccolini, with a cab-bacon reduction and rich porcini demi-glace over the whole thing. This was also over-the-top delicious -- sorry, I'm a potatoes guy, so I really focused especially on those odd-looking purple potato cubes, which had enough butter in them to satisfy even me. I finally couldn't take it any more -- I had to have them box up the steak to take home to my daughter -- I had just eaten too much astonishing, rich food at one sitting and had to take a breather. Wow!

The wine accompanying this last entree was an 06 Jefferson Cuvee Cab Sauvignon, which is currently sold out in this vintage, and an 05 Corley Reserve Cab, $65. Both were terrific.

We ended with blood-orange creme brulee (shot with white-chocolate crisp) and a broken-dark-chocolate tote with espresso cocoa glaze, accompanied, fortunately (for we were fully wine up by now) by coffee.

Well, I hardly know which deserve the greater raves, the chef or the winemaker. This was another astonishing performance by the Taster's Guild people. Each wine was terrific -- even the Chards were notable, and I'm not much of a whites guy. Not a loser in the bunch. And Stacey's knocked our socks off. We couldn't believe, when he came out for our accolades, that a chef that young-seeming (25?) could be that creative and inventive, and capable of reaching such heights of flavor.

Lord! What a meal!

So, recommendations: Corley/Monticello is one of those smallish wineries you're lucky to be able to find, so try them online or through your wine merchant. Stacey's restaurant is sensational!

And the *real* lesson is this: If you want a monthly visit from the food and wine gods, find a Taster's Guild near you. Not only did we have a fantastic meal, but we drank wines that would normally be well beyond my regular wine budget, and in some cases wines that are hard to find or even sold out. The whole evening cost me $65, which is a lot -- but only a fraction of what we got for the money!

(We did discover, however, in attempting to get to Stacey's, that Google Maps has not a clue where 4500 Tassajara Road is in Dublin: From my desktop, Google Maps showed me a spot about six blocks north of where Stacey's actually is; after I drove up and down Tassajara for a while, I looked on the cell-phone version of Google Maps, and that one told me it was about a block south of where it turned out to be. That's the worst performance I've ever seen from Google Maps, and I can't guess the basis for the flaw -- Tassajara is a major street and runs straight from here to there. Oh well.)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tasting: Survey of JC Cellars Reds!

My turn to host our Pompous Twits winetasting group, on May 2nd.

Last year and the year before I offered a roundup of Rosenblum wines. Though many of our members go to Rosenblum's quarterly open-house tastings, it's easy to overlook the many wines the Big R makes besides the big Zins that have made it famous (and my favorite winery). Those tastings were, as you can imagine, big hits with our group.

This year I decided to offer a variant: wines from the spinoff winery of Rosenblum's chief winemaker, Jeff Cohen. So we'll be tackling a selection of JC Cellars reds this year.

Jeff started out with Syrahs, staying away from his famed Zins, presumably so as not to be seen as competing with his original employer. JC Cellars now makes a few Zins (Iron Hill VIneyard, Arrowhead Mountain, and The Imposter, a Zin-based blend), but its core offerings are still Syrahs -- plus a growing collection of Rhone-style whites.

But we're skipping the whites in this tasting: We're a red-drinking crowd, and anyway JC Cellars has too many reds for us to handle in one tasting without adding whites too. So it's JC Cellars Syrahs--plus a couple.

The first Plus is the newly released 08 Rockpile Vineyard Rose of Syrah -- at only $14, their most affordable bottle, and very, very nice when I tasted a splash at their 4th Street facility in Oakland near Jack London Square recently. That will be our starter.

The main course:

2. 2005 Frediani Vineyard Petite Syrah - $45
3. 2005 Caldwell Vineyards Syrah - $31.50
4. 2005 A La Cave Syrah - $28
5. 2005 Arrowhead Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel - $35
6. 2006 Fess Parker's Vineyard Syrah - $30
7. 2006 California Cuvée Syrah - $25
8. 2006 Broken Compass - 97% Syrah, 3% Petitie Syrah – 460 cases - $40
9. 2007 The Imposter $32 a Zin-Syrah blend
10. 2005 Snow's Lake Zin (Rosenblum) - $35

(The Snow's Lake ringer I'm bringing because last year I realized Snow's Lake is so good that it's neck and neck with Rosenblum's Rockpile Road Zin, which in my opinion is the best Zinfandel God makes. And they did tie, in the opinion of the Twits. But Tom said he thought the Snow's Lake had another year of aging in it, so I promised to bring a bottle along this year to test his hypothesis.)

Mary and John Warner have also pledged to bring a bottle of JC Cellars from their own cellar, so that will make 11 wines for the 18 of us -- so we should be able to BART home without great trouble, I hope.

We'll let you know which JC we liked best - unless it's a 10-way tie!