Monthly Archives: July 2009

Riedel – The Right Wine Glass for the Right Occasion

Having just got back from the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa California where I sipped, drank and spit over 300 different wines from over 200 wineries between Napa county, Sonoma county and Portugal.  I am convinced that it makes a big difference as to what kind of glass the wine is poured into.  We were fortunate enough to have had the sponsor of Riedel glass at the conference, so all the wine that we tried were poured into the Riedel “O” glass (no stem).  This was a perfect glass for all the tasting we were doing.  It doesn’t have the stem, which keeps your hands from warming up the wine, but when you are dealing with hundreds of people going through hundreds bottles of wine, this worked out the best for this situation.  They are so easy to fit into the dishwasher and are hard to knock over and break.

Claus Joseph Riedel who was born in Austria and passed away this past March at 79, will always be remembered as the man who revolutionized the wine glass.  He transformed what was an earmark social status and aesthetic discernment to a serious tool for the dedicated wine connoisseur.  Riedel, a ninth generation glassmaker, began rethinking and reinventing the shapes of the stemware back in the fifties.  By the time Riedel died his company was making 40 precisely engineered glasses for all kinds of wines and spirits in its flagship hand-blown Sommeliers range.

Kathleen Talbert, who heads her own New York public relations firm and represents several top-tier vintners says, “My first choice is always Riedel”.  “The quality of the stemware and the designated glasses for different varietals truly enhance the appreciation of any wine.  Using proper stemware is as important to the wine experience as serving the wine at the proper temperature”.  Talbert always inquires at the restaurant as to the brand of wineglass it has.  If she is not satisfied then she asks if she can bring her own glassware.  

Once you have the right glass it is important not to over pour the wine, something restaurants tend to do in a rush to make you finish the bottle.  You need to swirl wine in your glass with sufficient room to aerate it beyond the limited exposure it receives while in transit from bottle to glass.  The capacity, height, and balance of Riedel’s shapes are ideal for just that.  

In your home you could be easily satisfied with having 5 different styles of Riedel glasses.  For the perfect drinking set you will want two glasses for reds, Bordeaux and Burgundy, two for whites, Montrachet and Chablis, and one for dessert (port and late harvest).  If you drink mostly red wine for example you could get away with two glasses for the red and only one glass for the white.

The Riedels’ mid-priced Vinum line, which are machine-made instead of hand-blown are four times less expensive.  You should be able to get a glass for about $25.00 as opposed to $100.00.  The contrast in quality seems negligible in terms of the price.  They also go into the dishwasher just great which is especially nice if you are hosting a multiple-wine dinner.  

In the end it all comes down to an informed personal taste.

You’ve heard of Speed Dating but what about Speed Blogging?

There are 275 wine bloggers in one room here are the Flamingo Hotel.  We just finished lunch and are eagerly awaiting the “speed blogging” to commence.  How this works is that for 6 minutes we have a winemaker come to our table.  We taste the wines, learn about the wines and the winery and winemaker’s philosophy, then have a question and answer period.  I will try my hardest to write a little bit about each winery.  After 6 minutes are up they ring a bell and then the next winemaker comes to our table.  It got kind of crazy but somehow we had 13 different wineries most from Sonoma County come to our table to showcase their wines.

Speed blogging:

1.    Schramsberg, 2006 Blanc de Blancs.  Not huge champagne fans, but this is good.  Schramsberg was the first US made sparkling wine.  Light, refreshing, has bubbles; not much more to say.
2.    2007 Bella Zin with 8% petite sirah, 3% syrah.  Lily Hill Estate, in Dry Creek Valley, a good place for Zins.  $38 each for this.  Raspberries.  OK fruit, but not my style.  My brother-in-law has always liked Bella, but not for Larry and I.  
3.    Twisted Oak Winery, which is in Calaveras County, Sierra Foothills.  $35 per bottle.  Wine is called River of Skulls:  88% Mourvedre, 12% Syrah.  Nice blend, soft, drinkable now, except that it won’t be released for another 3 weeks.  Proprietor is El Jefe, or Jeff.  Go visit.  
4.    Northwest Wine Academy, 2007 Barbera.  No winery came by on this rotation, so Josh H opened this up.  
5.    Fish Eye, 2008 Pinot Grigio, Central Valley, $6.99 each.  Brand launched in 2005.  Good nose, tropical and grapefruit; OK taste.  Lightweight summer wine.  
6.    Line 39, 2007 Lake County Petite Sirah.  39 degrees used to be the name.  
7.    Pinot Evil, pinot in a box, eco-friendly, French.  NV.  3-liter box.  Cheap, but not so bad.  
8.    Cupcake Vineyards.  2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Nick.  Soledad.  55% Monterey County, 45% Livermore; 85% Cab, plus Merlot, Petite Verdot.  $13.99.  Good value.  (They hired a local cupcake company and had chocolate and strawberry cupcakes for us with their wine inside the buttercream frosting).  YUMMY!
9.    Snows Lake Vineyard.  Think about mountains, clean air, 72% Cab Sauv. 28% Cab Franc.  2005.  Snows Lake “Two”.  Best wine so far, hands down.  Could lay down for a few years.  
10.      Cline Cellars, 2007 Ancient Vine Mourvedre.  Contra Costa County.  $16.  Plums, cherry.  Charlie, winemaker, poured for us.  Even better than the Snow!
11.      Tandem, Chardonnay, 2007.  Greg Lafollete.  Ex-Flowers.  Wife is the power, treats him like a horse, “puts blinders on”.  Partnership.  Manchester Ridge not tasting, clone Dijon 809.  Basket press.  
12.      Foggy Bridge 2007 Chard, organic, SF Bay appellation (Livermore).  Good acid, nice fruit, not a lot of oak, but sour finish that lingers.  100-acre vineyard in Livermore.  $18/ea.  
13.      Bacchus 2008 $35.  Napa.  Steve winemaker, Jill.  Sauvi, Semillon, Birbola fiola blend.  Good stuff, goes with Bouillabaisse.  Best white.  T-shirt:  what would Bacchus do WWBD?

Russian River + Turning 50 = Fantastic Day

Last week I took my friend Chris who had just celebrated her 50th birthday up to the Russian River in Sonoma County.  A few days prior we were at her house to celebrate with her family and friends, but I wanted to take her out for a “special day”, something she would remember for a long time.

We left the Dublin area around 11:30 and arrived in Sebastopol for lunch around 1:00.  We were given the suggestion of K & L Bistro on South Main street, downtown.  A very cute place, not too large, but quant with dark woods and art placed around.  It felt very Parisian.  I ordered their “Stimulus Lunch” (the special of the day), which included a cold cucumber gazpacho soup and salmon served with vegetables and red baby potatoes.  Chris ordered their Spring Risotto, which is described as having in it – Meyer lemon, asparagus, tomato confit and goat cheese.  Both of us enjoyed our lunches very much.  Neither of us had wine with lunch as we knew that wine was in our near future.

Next we went to Dutton Goldfield, where Brandon a.k.a. WinemakerB, is the assistant winemaker.  They share their tasting room with Balletto Vineyards.  So you can taste two for the price of one!  We tasted and compared chardonnays, had some D.G. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah.  Brandon took Chris and I for a quick tour of the winery.  They were cleaning out a lot of the barrels, letting them dry, then sterilizing them and plugging them shut.  After those steps they get racked again and wait for the harvest.  Balletto was getting ready to bottle yet another wine that is ready.  

After Dutton Goldfield we went to Gary Farrell Winery.  They are on Westside Road in Healdsburg, but not very close to town.  Gary Farrell is known for its Pinot Noir.  Their tasting price is $10 for the premier and $15 for the limited release.  We tried their ’07 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Ranch*, ’06 Chardonnay, Russian River Selection, ’06 Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, ’07 Chardonnay*, Westside Farms, ’06 Pinot Noir, Ramal Vineyard, ’06 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard* and the ’06 Pinot Noir, Rochioli Vineyards*.  The ones mentioned that have an “ * ” were my favorites.

The views from the tasting room were incredible!  They are up about 1,000 feet or so, nearly the top of tree line.  All you see are trees, blue sky and the hawks swaying in the wind.  

Our next stop was at Porter Creek Vineyards.  They are also on Westside Road but much closer to the town of Healdsburg.  They are a certified organic winery. 

Their tasting room is in what used to be a single car garage and is now a historic structure.  It’s decorated with local artwork.  The winery is up the road a bit, not visible.  But what is visible is some of the many acres of vineyards they have.  Jonathan was there pouring for us and we tried their ’07 Viognier, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Pinot Noir, Estate Point, ’06 Pinot Noir, Fiona Hill Vineyard, ’07 Carignane “Old Vines”, Mendocino County, ’06 Syrah, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Zinfandel “Old Vine”*.  I really enjoyed my tasting experience there.  We closed them down for the day but didn’t feel any pressure to leave.

We then drove to downtown Healdsburg, (one of my favorite wine towns).  We parked, grabbed our Giants folding chairs, walked to the town square and placed our chairs in a great spot awaiting the upcoming “Jazz on the Square” they have every Tuesday night during summer.  We took a walk all around the square, which was having its Farmers Market.  Chris bought a couple nectarines and I bought last of the season cherries.  We peaked in some of the art boutiques and unique shops around the square.  Luckily most of them were closed.  We had to stop into my favorite candy/gelato shop, Powells Sweet Shoppe.  There we treated ourselves to a kid’s size scoop of chocolate peanut butter gelato.  We also bought some candies for later.  We then made our way to the Oakville Grocery market, which is known for its deli with meats and cheeses, they also have different bread choices, condiments plus much more.  While we were there they had two huge chioppino pans, about 3 feet in  

diameter.  The chef was making two differenty types of chioppino.  One pan had chicken, sausage,vegetables and rice (foreground).  The other pan had seafood with different cut up fish and huge prawns on top with vegetables and rice.  Had I known about this in advance I would have waiting the extra 20 minutes, but we ordered sandwiches instead.  Chris had their curried chicken sandwich with mango chutney mayonnaise, and leaf lettuce on a Dutch crunch roll.  I had (to keep with the French theme) an apple wood smoked ham & brie sandwich with whole grain mustard, leaf lettuce and red onion on a Dutch crunch roll.  We got a bag of chips and drinks.  Just as we got to our chairs we had enough time to take out our sandwiches from the paper wrapping and then the music started.  The band was great and the people watching perfect.  There were people of all ages from babies/toddlers to the very experienced folks.  They had an area set aside for those who wanted to dance, and there were plenty!  We stayed for 1-½ hours and headed back to the car to drive our 1 ½ hour drive home.  

Yes, this was a long day (10 hours), but it couldn’t have been more perfect!   Three wineries, one tour, two meals, good friends having a great time and plenty of beautiful scenery along the way!

Had a BLAST on the Fouth of July in the Sierra Foothills

Larry and I left to go up to the Sierra Foothills to visit my Mom and Bob on Friday.  Our destination was Pollock Pines, which is off hwy 50, ten miles east of Placerville.  On our way up there we stopped at Terre Rouge winery in Amador County.  One of the things I really like about this winery is that they allowed us to bring in our dog, Elmer Fudd.  He was on a leash and they have their own dog that roams around.  We sampled a few wines and liked their Syrah blend the best.  We had been there last February, enjoyed their wines and got on their mailing list.  In April we found out that they were having a photo contest to see who could come up with the best picture for their wine label called Tete a Tete, which means “head to head”.  Shortly after Larry and I had our brunch at The Epic Roasthouse in SF this spring, Larry sent in a picture that we had taken of Narsai David, local wine and food producer and connoisseur and the chef, Jan Birnbaum.  We captured a great picture of the chef and Narsai at the end of the meal discussing how things went.  This picture is what Larry submitted it to this contest.  Well, to our surprise he won!  So on our way up to my Mom’s we stopped and picked up our case of wine.  Yes we won a whole case of their “Tete a Tete” Rhone Blend!

To hear more about this story I’m going to lead you to Larry’s article.  We got to Mom and Bob’s and enjoyed a quiet afternoon sitting in the sun; it was still 90 degrees up there at 5:00 p.m.!  Mom made dinner; baked chicken breast breaded with toasted onions, coleslaw (a family recipe) and a zucchini and cheese casserole.  That night we watched the Bank Job.  Mom fell asleep; I tried to keep up with all the characters.  All in all I think it was a B- movie.

On Saturday after a nice walk we got ready to go meet our friend Al at the 4th of July parade that Pollock Pines has every year.  It was cute.  Nothing to write home about, just plain cute.  There were the horses, little leaguers, and the fire trucks.                                 

There were some very cool old cars and of course the statue of liberty.  It got a little strange when a dune buggy or two went by and a truck pulling a bulldozer.  Well there were some interesting things but everyone was throwing candy to the kids.  I even got some too!  Afterwards we went to some friends of mom’s – Lydia and Andy’s house.  It’s a 2-bedroom cabin with a very large backyard that includes a deck with a Jacuzzi and a very inviting swimming pool.  We kicked back some beers and visited while just hanging in the pool.  It was very refreshing.  We went back home and took a little nap.  We had a nice bbq dinner, which consisted of skirt steak, salad, baked baby red potatoes and frozen fresh lemonade.  Larry opened the bottle of Tete a Tete we had just picked up.  Very nice, full-bodied, very rich in fruits, not much tannin – ready to drink.  For dessert we had Dryers 1/2 fat ice cream flavor called Red, White and No More Blues.  Very good, vanilla ice cream blended with strawberries and blueberries.  Of course we had a little chocolate syrup and some had whipped cream as well.  Afterwards we sat and watched another movie.  This one was not very uplifting, Dought.  Very well acted, not too long, but difficult subject matter.

Sunday morning I slept in until 10:00!  I woke up to Larry watching Wimbledon men’s final match.  It was crazy; Federer and Roddick were tied in the 5th set and were on the tiebreaker for the match.  They were so evenly matched that it didn’t get finished until nearly 11:00.  I was rooting for Roddick, but I like Federer too.  We packed up and left to head home with a few stops along the way.  Mom and Bob tagged along in their own car.  We headed back to Amador County but went to a different part that we had never been to.  Our first stop was C.G. di Aire.  I had never even heard of this winery.  Arriving we found a sign that said, “watch out for rattlesnakes” and “no dogs in tasting room”.  Since we had Elmer with us, and it was warm out we had to hook him up to one of the picnic benches.  No big deal.  Their outdoor area is beautiful and very peaceful.  There is a nice waterfall that leads to a Koi Pond with lily pads.            

Quite a number of picnic tables in the shade and lots of room for children to run around.  The building itself wasn’t too exciting.  The folks behind the bar were nice; they answered all of our questions.  There was no tasting fee.  The winery is not at the tasting room but is about 16 miles n.e. In El Dorado County.  At the winery they have facilities for events.  They had a Rose’ and Sauvignon Blanc that we really enjoyed.  They also had a Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and other red varietals for us to try.  I enjoyed their Syrah the best, but everyone has their own tastes.  They do not allow limousines.  They have a nice schedule of tasting events throughout the year.  Each month they have a “Tasting with the Winemaker”, for example this Saturday the 18th they are having a vertical wine tasting of Petite Sirahs.  If you like Zinfandels mark August 15 on your calendar they will do a vertical tasting with their Zins.  The winemaker/proprietor is Chaim Gur-Arieh, Ph.D.  In 1998 he and his wife bought the 209 acres they have there and developed 40 acres of it.  He designed his winery to have gravity-feed into the tanks and has new technology to helping him to make his wines.  Afterwards we drove about 3 minutes down the road into Plymouth.  There we had lunch at Incahoots.  They offer pizza, bbq, and sandwiches.  A perfect menu with a lot of different items.  Mom had the pulled pork sandwich; Bob, Larry and I got their BBQ sampler plate, which includes tri-tip, sausage (we got spicy), chicken, and pork and beef ribs.  Their baked beans are the best ever.  It’s a Santa Rosa style where they are cooked on the grill and pick up the mesquite flavoring.  The last winery we went to was Nua Dair, which is Gaelic for New Oak.  The winemaker/owner, Mark McMaster, was in the wine making/barrel room to greet us. 

Mark is a UC Davis graduate and makes wine in his spare time, as he runs his own CPA firm.  I’m sure we could have brought Elmer inside but we had already tied him up outside.  There was no tasting fee and we tried his Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Zinfandel, Barbera, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.  All of his wines are 100% of that varietal.  I liked his Barbera and Syrah the best.  The area outside offers a couple picnic benches, nothing much else.  We enjoyed our time with Mark.  We said our goodbyes to Mom and Bob and we each headed off towards our perspective homes.  On our way we stopped at Chocoholics Divine Desserts chocolate factory in Clements, which probably has maybe 1,000 population.  Very nice store, we bought some chocolate raspberry sauce (no fat!) and had a chocolate milkshake (fat!) and walked through the self-guided tour of the factory.  They offer tours for larger groups too.  It would have been perfect if the factory was active, but being a Sunday it wasn’t.  Chocoholics is famous for their “Body Frosting”.  They even have a couple games to play with the chocolate frosting such as; Truth or Dare” and “Strip Chocolate”. 

We got home before 6:00 and had a nice light dinner.  The cats were happy to see us and they didn’t leave us any surprises!  Good kitties. ☺   The weekend was great; it had a bit of everything and that is just what I needed!  I hope all of you had a Happy 4th of July celebrating “The Land That We Love”.