Friday, December 28, 2007

Bad Bad Boys...

ever had that song you couldn't get out of your head?

This is mine...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Van Halen

They rocked the Anaheim Pond on Tuesday, December 18th. It was incredible. I screamed the whole time through.

Merry Christmas

My Christmas present to myself... to be opened at a later date.

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!!! Peace and love to you all. :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pepper bomb (ugh!)

Casa Silva 2005 Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley.
I bought this from one of our competitors for $12 since we were out of Carmenere at our store (and I like Carmenere). We recently began to carry this (same price), so I thought I would give it a try.

On the nose... Black pepper and green bell peppers. If you haven't tried it before... Carmenere tastes similar to Cabernet Sauvignon (except not as tannic) and Merlot. Carmenere was one of the six grapes used in making Bordeaux by the French until the 1860s when phylloxera became rampant and affected the Carmenere vines quite badly. After that, Carmenere was cast out of France (many thought it to be extinct) and was exiled to Chile (where it was thought to be Merlot for over a century, until 1994 when DNA evidence proved otherwise). But just like Donna Summer sang, "I Will Survive!"... the grape is back and better than ever.

When it's done's great.. you get focused cherry flavor, some smoke, and tons of mocha. When Carmenere is picked too early, you get the vegetal aspects... such as bell pepper. I tasted tons of black pepper, too, which just overwhelmed all the other fruit. Sad.

Oh well!

To make up for it, I tasted the 2005 Hiedler Gruner Veltliner "Thal" a lovely aromatic white from Austria with great body resembling gewurztraminer and riesling. Pineapple and peaches on the nose. Good stuff! :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Best Pizza Wine, Ever.

Tried the Finca Villacreces 2003, Ribera del Duero, Spain (Tempranillo blend: 86% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot. ) 14% alcohol... paired with... Pizza Hut pizza... (yeah, I know), but it was Thin Crust, and the toppings were: Pepperoni, Mushroom, and Jalapeno.

Could the Villacreces stand up to it?... Hell yeah!

Blueberries on the nose...

In fact, it was like little men with leather gloves were stuffing blueberries up my nose. LOTS and lots of blueberries. $29.99 was the damage. Small price to pay.

BEST PIZZA WINE, EVER!!!!!!! Hands down.... Is all I can say.

Powerful, yet SMOOTH.

Mouthfeel: This dark-purple concoction was all about the berry, and enchanting my mouth. It is delicious. What a discovery!
I love this wine, and plan on getting more of it.

Pedigree: Finca Villacreces is on great real estate. Right next door to Vega Sicilia. Not too shabby. If you are into Parker, the 2004 Villacreces got a 95. The year 2003 was not rated, but I think it's the bomb.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Food art

Really wonderful stuff (click the picture to see more pictures).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Napa? Sonoma?

Who would win in a fight? Napa or Sonoma? (Wellll... Napa would probably win... IMHO), but Sonoma would put up a good fight. Point is, it's really not necessary to choose one over the other. Napa/Sonoma are both gorgeous places, full of great people who love to make great wine and we are the lucky beneficiaries of their labors.
Here are pics with blogger compadres Neil and Scott during my last trip to Napoma/Sonapa.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Coming soon... Napa!!

This is an ancient intro to Falcon Crest (a spin-off of Dynasty). The home they used in the footage is actually Spring Mountain Vineyard in St. Helena (Napa Valley). When I first visited Napa as an adult (just a little over a year ago), I thought of that music.

Below is even more footage of Sping Mountain Vineyard, courtesy of Conan O'Brien. I will be visiting Napa and Sonoma again in a few days. Looking forward to it!!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Trade Tasting 10/1/07

What better way to start the month than with a trade tasting! Here's how today went... I was at my 401k job, and it was about 1:00pm when the lights went out, all across the building. We were in the dark for a couple of hours, and watched as SDG&E tried to fix the line... apparently they would have to shut down Pacific Coast Highway for them to fix it. So, I left work by 3:30pm today. Nice! It just so happened that the staff at HiTime was invited to a trade tasting hosted by Southern Wine & Spirits, American Wine Distributors and Pacific Wines, held at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine. Great timing! If it hadn't been for the power outage, I would not have had the time to go at all. The event started at 4pm and I was there by 4:30. As I entered the ballroom, I tried to supress my smile, because I was grinning from ear to ear.... a kid in a candy store. Im limiting my notes here since I'm tired and it's almost 1am! :)
I was spitting (most of the time). Here's what I tried ...

2006 Pierre Boniface Apremont (wonderful, light fruit. a beautiful wine!)
Champagne Jean Laurent Blanc de Noirs NV
Chandon Chardonnay Sparkling NV
Chandon Pinot Noir Sparkling NV
Moet & Chandon White Star NV
Veuve Clicquot Rose NV
Chandon Etoile Brut
Moet & Chandon Imperial Nectar NV (wonderful!)
2004 Cheval Des Andes (incredible, a big new world Bordeaux blend)
2004 Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta (swallowed that one)
*Gosset Brut Excellence NV (swallowed) (one of my favorites)
1998 Gosset Celebris
1999 Gosset Grande Millesime
Gosset Grande Reserve Brut NV
Gosset Grande Rose NV
Yellowtail Sparkling NV (Chuck from Bevmo, (one of our competitor stores) urged me to taste this, which only goes to show that friends don't let friends drink Yellowtail)
Freixenet Carta Nevada Brut NV
Segura Viudas Heredad Brut Reserva NV
2006 Vionta Albarino (first time trying Albarino... Great!)
2005 Bigi Orvieto
2005 Bigi Est! Est! Est! (never had Est! Est! Est! before, so I thought I'd give it a try... tasted like Windex)
2005 Simonnet Febvre Chablis
De Venoge Cordon Bleu NV
2006 Canaletto Pinot Grigio (light and fruity)
2003 Canaletto Montepulciano
2005 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico
2004 Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva (silky and smooth)
*2001 Villa Cafaggio San Martino (favorite!)
2003 Villalta Amarone
2006 Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc
2006 Emmolo Syrah Rose
2005 Torres Sangre de Toro (tried this out of curiousity)
2005 Paraiso Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands
2005 Paraiso Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands (awesome! I sell this at our store all the time and it remains wonderful and a great value)
2005 Paraiso Pinot Noir West Terrace
2005 Paraiso Riesling Santa Lucia Highlands
2003 Paraiso Syrah Santa Lucia Highlands
2003 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District
2004 Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
2004 Sebastiani Secolo
2004 Sebastiani Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon
2004 Whitehall Lane Napa Merlot
2004 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon (glass closure!)
2004 Whitehall Lane Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (glass closure)
2006 B.R. Cohn Chardonnay Carneros
2004 B.R. Cohn Merlot Sonoma Valley
2004 B.R. Cohn Estate Olive Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Valley (YUM!)
2005 B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon
2004 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon Napa
2004 Trimbach Pinot Blanc
2004 Trimbach Riesling
2004 Trimbach Gewurztraminer (LOVED IT)
2005 A by Acacia Chardonnay
2005 A by Acacia Pinot Noir
2005 A by Acacia Carneros Pinot Noir
2006 Jurtschitsch Gruve
2006 Jurtschitsch Gruner Veltliner Steinhaus
2006 Jurtschitsch Gruner Veltliner Dechant
2006 Jurtschitsch Riesling ZOB Urgestein
2006 Jurtschitsch Gruner Veltliner Scentk (ALL of the Jurtschitsch wines were wonderful)
2004 Nittnaus Gruner Veltliner Premium Eiswein
2005 Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro (delightful!)

There were still plenty that I didn't hit. Not bad for a Monday and definitely a good start to the month.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Van Halen update

Just got tickets this morning for Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) for Dec. 18th in Anaheim. Floor seats. Yesssss! They sold out here within minutes, but I think they added new shows. Looking forward to it!! No new songs, they'll just be playing their classics. Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang, will be playing in Michael Anthony's place. The first clip below is from their latest performance to kick-off their 2007 tour; and an early demo of what would become "Beautiful Girls."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Culinary Institute of America, Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, (St. Helena, CA)

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone ....It looks kind of dark and foreboding, but is really incredible inside!

I had the chance to visit here a few weeks ago during a trip to Napa. Located right next door to Beringer in St. Helena, the building houses the restaurant and the Culinary Instutue, where Brother Timothy (of Christian Brothers) made brandy and wine for many years.

Outside eating area.

Watching the Chefs work their magic.

Let's get to the food!
For starters, my friend Jeff and I had "Today's Temptations" (an amuse bouche).

Amuse Bouche: (pictured from top) A pepper sauteed with tomato salsa (surprisingly, the pepper was not hot at all). Next (where the fork is) a Spring roll, and on the left is salmon mousse with capers and crème fraîche on crostini.

Olives & Olive Oil on the table. Nice touch.

For my entree, I ordered the Spring Chicken with this Fresh tomato-part-salad-with-stuffing creation... Hard to explain and I should have taken pictures! Arrrgh. Wine: Groth Sauvignon Blanc.
The few pics I did take were of the amuse bouche and the French Onion soup, which the lady sitting next to me was having.. and, according to her, was absolutely wonderful.. it looked incredible with a big pile of Gruyere chese baked on top.

Thanks nice lady, for letting me take pictures of your soup!

The restaurant offers seating at the bar near the Chef's station (these are seasoned Chefs, not students). There is also more traditional restaurant seating, and also outdoor seating... which looked quite lovely. The waiter who took care of us was very attentive, and the food was excellent and fresh (the Spring Chicken was incredibly flavorful, I asked if they brined the chicken, but they said no). The price was very reasonable for Napa standards. I didn't have enough time to tour the entire facility... apparently during the day, they have cooking demonstrations. But I did check out their Kitchen store/Bookstore which had all the latest and greatest. I'm looking forward to visiting and eating there again.

Below is their website link. Nice wine list!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tokaji Aszu Essencia, Monimpex, 1976 (more than 6 puttonyos)


This bottle of Tokaji Aszu Essencia, Monimpex, 1976, was given to our class in Napa, from Bob Trinchero's cellar. Thanks Bob!

The sweet, dark-honey-colored wine Tokaji is opulent, decadent and sexy. It has been known for bottles of Tokaji to last for over 200 years. Russian tsars used to drink this since the 16th century. Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified. Louis the 14th of France declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines" and it became the favorite drink of Peter the Great, Voltaire, Goethe, and Schubert. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.

A steep decline in quality production of Tokaji took place after World Wars I & II. But in 1989, wine writer Hugh Johnson revitalized the Tokaji industry by becoming part owner of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (which included investors like Vega Sicilia). Truly, a fascinating history of a wine we rarely hear of!

I love this wine and all forms of this wine.

Appearance: Golden amber (with a bit of sediment).

Taste: Think of apricots bursting in the sky like fireworks and drizzling down on you like honey. It smelled that way, too (apricots, marmalade & honey).

Tokaji (pronounced, "Toe-KI" rhymes with pie), is made in the Tokajhegyalja ("Tokaji hills") region of northeastern Hungary. The wine is grown from the grapes, Furmint, Harslevelu, and Muscat Blanc. The harvest happens very late with "noble rot" setting in, and picking goes well into November.

Tokjai is usually measured in degrees of sweetness, that being, 3, 4, 5, and 6 puttonyos. 3 puttonyos equals 60 g/l of residual sugar, and it increases by 30 g, up to 6 puttonyos, which equals 150 g/l of residual sugar. What we (our wine class at the Society of Wine Educators) were drinking, was Tokaji Aszu Essencia contained 180 g/l of residual sugar. There also exists, "Tokaji Essencia" which is made of the free run juice of the dry, shriveled grapes. This is even more rare and can contain 450 g/l to 800 g/l of residual sugar.

I was going to take a picture of all of us having the Tokaji, but I felt like a big nerd doing so. But since we were all nerds, I should have gone ahead. Instead, I waited until the end of class and took a picture of the almost empty bottle. This was probably the only chance that I will ever get to try a wine like this. It was remarkable and beautiful.

References: 1). Jancis Robinson, "Oxford Companion To Wine";
2). "Tokaj - The Wine of Freedom", Laszló Alkonyi

* * *

When I usually have Tokaji at home for dessert (I can afford to buy the 4 puttonyos, which is about $26), I make an apricot compote and serve it with pound cake (which I buy from Trader Joe's.. it's very good for store-bought). Here is the recipe for the compote:

Apricot compote. For just over 1 1/2 cups of sauce:

1 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons Dark rum (or brandy).

2 cups boiling water.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Rinse the apricots and put them in an oven proof dish that has a cover.

Stir in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the rum (or brandy),

Pour the boiling water over them and put the covered casserole in the oven. Allow to bake for approx. 30 minutes.

When the apricots a soft, remove from the oven and strain off and save the juice.

Puree the apricots in a processor with the reserved water until you have the right liquidity, you may not use all the juice. Add the remaining liquor and stir.

The puree can be served either hot warm or cold.

Slice the pound cake into slices an inch thick. Serve warm compote on top. Pair this with the Tokaji and experience bliss.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Take Your Wine to Work" Day

Last week, I took a few wines to my M-F job at the 401k advisors company. My workmates were very excited to be trying wines and our CEO wanted us to start at 12pm (we waited til 5, though).

Here are the wines we tried, and in the order that we tasted them:

1). 2005, Panilonco, Reserve Carmenere, Colchagua Valley, Chile - I was curious when I saw this at Trader Joes, so I picked up a bottle since I like Carmenere. This wine was a bit disappointingbut for $3, you really can't complain... the wine was off-dry (almost sweet).

2). 2005, Concha y Toro - Casillero del Diablo, Carmenere, Chile- Another Carmenere. This however was very satisfying.. good body and very cabernet-like, with lots of plums and blackberries. For $6, this would make a good every-day kind of wine. My workmates enjoyed this as well.

3). 2004, Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Moulis en Medoc, Bordeaux, France - A left-banker from the Medoc.. this Cabernet based blend had a light body, with cigarbox on the nose, and red berries and spice on tasting. This was the 2nd least favorite of the wines according to my workmates, but it was my #1 favorite. Price: $30.

4). (NOT PICTURED)2005, Montes, "Alpha", Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile - Color: Dark. Aromas: Mushroom, licorice and some green pepper. Medium bodied, and well-balanced. Taste: Spicy, some wood, and black berries. Nice finish. Everyone across the board liked this wine. $16.

5). (NOT PICTURED) NV, Grove Street, Meritage, Napa Valley, California - Tastes like a wine you would pay $30 for. Appearance: Dark, opaque plum. Taste: Tart cherry and some oak. There was a little heat, but also a long finish. All in all, very tasty and would make a good everday wine. My peeps were fans of this as well, which is why someone took this bottle home with them.. they took the Montes, too. Price: $10.

6). 2005, Kirkland, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California. - From Costco! I was shopping around there one day and my curiousity got the best of me. Had to try this. Lots of black fruit, cherry and spice with good acidity, this was an enjoyable wine. A little alcoholic, but overall, enjoyable. Unattractive label. My female workmates said they would buy this wine, but use a decanter when they served it. $18

7). 2004, Penfolds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 407, South Australia - This dark, medium-to-full-bodied wine was ripe with red berries, cedar and eucalyptus. This was a favorite of my male workmates. $24.

8). 2004, Torbreck, Woodcutter's Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia - A bit fat, this plummy wine had loads of cherries, more plums and blackberries. Definitely lacking in structure. I was expecting a bit more, but, oh well. $18.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Study break!

Fake beer for kids? Yep! That's right.

There's also fake wine, champagne and cocktails for kids.

To read more,
click here

Monday, September 03, 2007

Time Waits for No One

Heard this song by The Rolling Stones the other day in the store, and it just stuck in my head... at least it's a great song. Found it on Youtube used in this clip of a walking tour of Westwood that is actually quite lovely.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Big Pimpin'

Had this at the store today... 1999 Chateau La Mondotte. A right-banker from the St. Emilion region of Bordeaux. Beautiful, opulent dark fruit, like blackberries lightly sauteed in butter, with a side of toast, please. Finish: long, like a slow day at work. 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc. A long time ago, when I first started drinking wine, it was Blackstone Merlot. This is way better by a thousand times. Is it worth $350 a bottle? It's beyond my price point...but it is phenomenal.

Monday, August 27, 2007

This is only a test

I will be taking a wine certification test in Napa next month... a test which I will fail at miserably.. (so much for positive thinking.. I'll get my name right, so there's one thing). Have not studied at all for this. Tonight, I pulled out this map and... looks kind of nightmarish. Isn't Tuscany supposed to be beautiful? Looks more like a Petri dish. Oh my.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Christopher Walken cooks

I was hoping Christopher Walken would be weirder in real life. Baked chicken with salt and pepper... thanks for the secret recipe. Those pears do look good though.

No tasting today... but bought the following for a rainy day: Arrocal 2004 Ribera Del Duero - Tempranillo(Spain), Kenneth Volk 06 Malvasia (California), Castello Romitorio 05 Morellino Di Scansano (Italy).. a Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Syrah and Petit Verdot. Our Italian buyer gave it a good write-up and it was only $17. I actually bought it because I liked the label...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Friday yall!

No wine today (still with good memories of Sonoma & Family Winemakers in SF.. which was phenomenal). I came into it, telling myself I would spit.. but everything was so good, how could I? My favorites from Family Winemakers were:
Hollywood & Vine(Cabernet Sauvignon),
Bravante(Howell Mt. Cabs and Merlot- I'm a little biased there),
Spence (Howell Mt. Cab), and
Anglim (Viognier and Pinot Noir).

Saw this and had to old school clip with some awesome dancing (those kids rocked) and sights from years ago when New York was beautiful and dirty.

I tried doing one of those moves the guys did on the floor after watching this:
and I soon realized that I could easily dislocate my shoulder blades or back.
But I can moonwalk (kind of).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Keefer Madness

Sonoma. I forget where, exactly.

Walking tour of Keefer Ranch, vineyard where Kosta Browne is grown.

Did a tour of Keefer Ranch today. Siduri, Loring,Flowers, Freeman, Talley among others, all source fruit from this parcel of land. We were started off with the Pommard Pinot noir used by Kosta Browne... Breakfast of champions. We then tried several other pinots from them and all were exquisite in their own rite. Our tour today also included: Bella, Hartford, Ferrari-Carano, Rochioli, Pappapietro-Perry and Belvedere. Had my fair share of wine today, but am trying to save myself for Family Winemakers tomorrow.

Michael Browne (center w. glasses) pouring his wines for the group.

Chad walking up to Arrowood where we tried some great cabs!

Thanks, Chad on catching that error (had called Michael Browne Michael Kosta)..oops! Too much wine that day! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wooing wine - 2003 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

A good friend once told me, "The purpose of wine is to woo." I think this wine is woo-worthy.

Volker Eisele has been growing grapes in the Chiles Valley appellation of Napa since the 70's and making wine since the 90's. The Volker Eisele Cab is made of: 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc & 8% Merlot. Color: dark ruby-purple. Body weight: medium. Aged almost 2 years in French barrels, you can subtly taste the oak. This is not a big, overpowering Napa cab which a lot of producers are doing right now. This is old school... an elegant bordeaux-styled wine with nice black fruit to it. It's sexy and lithe. It integrated well with my meal (spaghetti bolognese). This would be a lovely wine you could pop open to accompany a meal you were making for your honey. Wooing wine. That's the ticket. $35.

Endnote: According to our Napa buyer, there is no connection between the Volker Eisele cab and Araujo Estate Eisele Vineyard cab.

*tasted 2 weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Too many wines, not enough time

Am on a 2-week rest from "imbibing"... but promise I'll be back with avengeance this weekend during the Sonoma trip and at Family Winemakers in San Fran.

My wine fridge is almost at full capacity (75), so that means either:
A) a party soon
B). Stop buying wine and live off what I have for the next few years.

The answer is obviously A.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The best news this week was that David Lee Roth is coming back to Van Halen.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Yet another break from wine reviews...

This is, James Brown's Celebrity Hot Tub Party, with Eddie Murphy from SNL circa the 80's.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Family Winemakers - Coming! Aug 19th

If you happen to be in the SF area, do try to make it to Family Winemakers, being held at Fort Mason, in San Francisco, Sunday, 12-4pm on August 19th. It's an awesome event. Around 300 wineries will be pouring, and they're all pretty great. Tickets are $45 (in advance) and $55 at the door.

I will be a relief pourer for friends at Bravante Vineyards. So if you happen to be in the "B" area, come by to say Hey.
That's me last year, helping Duane pour his D-Cubed Zinfandel. I was pretty lit.

After looking through the list of participating wineries, I drew up my list in alpha order of wineries I want to try (some I've had before, but most will be for the first time). I plan to hit the P's, V's M's, & S's first. It's lengthy but I plan to be spitting (sometimes). I'm excited!!

Here's my hitlist:

Andrew Geoffrey
Bink Wines
Charles Creek
Cima Collina
Diamond Terrace
El Molino
Hollywood & Vine
Krupp Brothers
Meyer Family
Modus Operandi
Orin Swift
Pisoni Vineyards
Reverie on Diamond Mountain
Saddleback Cellars
Spelletitch Cellars
V. Sattui
Vineyard 7&8

Paul Hobbs at Family Winemakers

Barb and Jim Richards of Paloma Merlot

Maureen and Hal Taylor of Diamond Terrace (Winemaker: Joe Briggs (of August Briggs)

Ken Bernards of Ancien

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Boy Shakira Update. 8/01/07

I love Boy Shakira.

This is Boy Shakira's last performance on America's Got Talent, as Boy Britney.
Unfortunately, Boy Shakira's run on America's Got Talent came to a halt this Tuesday. There were 5 acts out of 10 that could advance, and instead of Boy Shakira, a wannabe revival of the Osmonds (the Duttons!! a large, musically-challenged family) took its place....I think the Duttons just had all their family members call in to vote.

Boy Shakira will stay in my heart. I hope one day he meets the real Shakira, and that they shake their midsections until the breakadawn.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Enter the Dragon

Am tasting the 2006 Domaine du Dragon rose from Provence (need to let it Breathe). Paired with a grilled chicken sandwich. This is the second time I've tasted this wine. The first was May of this year in Oakland at a French wine trade tasting during a rose seminar where we tasted about 12 different roses. I was impressed by it then and still am. The wine is barely pink. More peachy-pink. Taste: Think SPRITE, without the lemon and without the bubbles, and without the sugar, but all that would remain, and let little berries tiptoe in at the end.
Tink go the berries.
It's bright, refreshing. The wine is made of Cinsault, Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre, but Cinsault plays the starring role. Typically a blending grape, Cinsault has its time to shine.
Catch it for $12.


We now take this brief pause in wine reviews to introduce Boy Shakira.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Have been sick recently. Tom, our Italian/imports guy, pointed to the wine bar and told me to drink-up. According to Tom there's Vitamin C in wine.

I did not go through the Argentine line-up of wines, but I did taste (and spat) one wine... the Cade 2006 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, which (from what I could tell) was pretty. Long finish. The peeps from Plumpjack make this... $26. Will have to try that again when I am well. So far, my favorite Sauvignon Blanc is the 2005 Saracina from Mendocino, $19.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Sometimes when you buy wine at Costco you get a diamond in the rough. Other times, after careful examination, you discover that dark little nugget is, in fact, a turd.

Enter: Cameron Hughes Lot 35, 2005 Cabernet from Yountville.
This was not actually a "bad" wine, but it was totally forgettable. The hype behind this wine, was that it's a wine in the $10 range that's supposed to taste like a $30 wine. Two-Buck Chuck tastes better. If this wine were a man, he'd be seeing the doctor for Viagra/Cialis/Levitra.. maybe taking all 3 at once.

For $12, you too can be left totally unsatisfied.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Looked down at my wine receipt and saw this. Shoulda went to Vegas today.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

HOT Pastrami Love

This was a weird pairing for sure. Popped open the Lucien Albrecht Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose (Pink champagne, except you cannot call it "Champagne" unless it comes from the Champagne region in France, plus a bunch of other rules. The French like rules). This one is from Alsace, which is southeast of Champagne.

Cremant d' Alsace is lesser-known, so (compared to Champagne) you can get it for a great price. This, I bought for $14. Loved the color... the pinkiest pink you ever did see. 100% Pinot Noir. Taste: like eating fresh cranberries. Very pretty. I paired this with a pastrami sandwich (and fries) from Mr. Pete in San Clemente. I called my friend Chad ( for a wine recommendation for Pastrami... he suggested Pinot Noir, or a grenache, or cotes du rhone or chianti... All, excellent suggestions... but it was hot and I felt like something chilled, so I brought on the bubbly. "Interesting" combination ... The saltiness from the pastrami seemed to overpower the rose.

But the wine still rocked.

Whenever I see/eat/hear of Pastrami, I always think of that Seinfeld episode. Here's a snippet.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

2005 Domaine Nicolas Rossignol - Bourgogne rouge

I first tried the 2005 Domaine Rossignol burgundy (pinot noir) at a tasting at work last week, where we tried Sea Smoke, Kosta Browne, Paul Hobbs, Williams & Selyem and some other high-end ($$$ and hard-to-find) heavy hitters in California Pinot. The 2005 Domaine Rossignol pinot was sitting at the end of the counter. Our French buyer no doubt included this to the lineup to add in his two-cents worth about that particular tasting. Even though I had just tasted all these superstar Pinot Noirs (which were all great), I was equally impressed with this French wine.

For being a French burgundy, the Rossignol was very fruit-forward. It also had great balance (alcohol 13%) and mouthfeel, with ripe black fruit on the palate... boysenberries, plums and black cherry. The 2005 Bourgogne Rouge is an elegant, young wine. I thought it was $40 pinot after tasting, and when I found out it's price ($17) I snapped up a bottle.

Had the burgundy with a French brie called Chaource (named from the village where it is made). Chaource is a RUNNY, SALTY Brie cheese made of cow's milk. You just cut out the top of the circular rind and proceed to eat. I used unsalted crackers for dipping (water crackers). Great stuff.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Conan does Napa

Conan O'Brien goes to Spring Mountain Vineyard.

Monday, May 14, 2007


When I tasted the Conde De Valdemar, 2001 Reserva Rioja from Spain... I thought I was drinking Pinot Noir. It's spicy and smoky, it's leathery, it's a little dusty, (and after it opens up, some sour cherry) with light-to-medium mouthfeel. The wine is smooth and pretty but can pack a punch coming in at 13.5% alcohol, which is fairly substantial for a European wine.

This wine is made of the Tempranillo grape (85%), and 15% Mazuelo (a.k.a: Carignan). The Spaniards named the grape Tempranillo (i.e., "temprano" meaning "early") because the Tempranillo grapes used to ripen several weeks before the other varietals.

This wine sells for approx. $16, and to me seems well worth it. I've had pinot noir that cost twice as much but gave me half the experience. If you like hearty pinots and you like to explore, this is a good route for you.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blackylocks and the three Champagnes

Once upon a time,

there was a little girl named Blackylocks.

On a warm day, she took the top down of her car and went for a drive to the city. Pretty soon, she came upon a liquor store. "Oh my!" she said with glee, "Wine, Beer & Spirits. My favorite!"

No one was there, but the store was open. She walked right in.

On the shelves were three bottles of Champagne. This made Blackylocks very happy because she LOVED Champagne (she even loved cavas, proseccos and sparkling wines). But she was especially giddy today to see French bubbly.

The first Champagne had a vibrant green label with gold markings. The second bottle had a fancy shape to it, and the third bottle looked quite plain.
Blackylocks had tasted none of these Champagnes before, but she knew she was quite thirsty. She tasted the Champagne from the green bottle.

"This Philipponnat NonVintage Brut Reserve Royal is nice and citrusy, but kind of tastes like most of the other champagnes I’ve had... except this is a little smoother... but I don’t know if its worth $32!" she exclaimed.

She then tasted the second Champagne in the fancy-shaped bottle.

"This Vilmart et Cie, Grand Cellier Brut (Non Vintage) for $50 is smooth, delicate, has some chalky notes, a little vanilla, and is very beautiful.

"Vilmart et Cie is YUMMY!" she said.

Then Blackylocks tasted the Champagne from the plain-looking bottle.

"Ahhh, this Henri Giraud Francois Hemart , Ay Grand Cru (NV Brut, 12% alcohol) is JUST RIGHT!," she said, and happily drank it all up.




Blackylocks loved the yeasty, chalky characteristics of the Henri Giraud Francois Hemart and adored its minerality. It reminded Blackylocks of a French baguette. Composed of 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay. Approximately 435 cases made.

"This is my favorite Champagne, indeed!" Blackylocks said as she rubbed her tummy. "Better than Cristal or Krug. A great Champagne for $50. The stuff fairy tales are made of."

After she drank the Champagne, Blackylocks felt a little dizzy so she thought she would sit down and get her bearings. She sat for a moment, then stood up, left her money at the counter and went home.

Even though she had a slight headache, Blackylocks lived happily ever after.

The End.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chateau Pontet-Canet 2004

Now and then it's good to venture from your comfort zone. Tonight I did that when I tried the Chateau Pontet-Canet 2004... it's a Bordeaux from the Pauillac region in France. I received this opened bottle from one of our buyers. It was a nice, lovely wine. Very delicate with some cherry notes. Silky. Kind of hollow on the mid-palate, but all in all, a lovely wine. I am used to BIG, California, punch-you-in-the-face cabs... this was a nice deparature. ($65).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Capri-Sun for adults

This is the 2003 "Bandit" Cabernet Sauvignon from California made by Three Thieves. Yes, it is wine. This 250 mL little guy could easily fit inside my jacket pocket, or four of these little guys could fit in the bottom of my purse... like they did last Saturday when I went to the Angels game.

It looks like a juice box, and by golly, it tastes like a juice box (very fruity, but not sweet. 13% alcohol). I would have enjoyed this wine more if it had come with a sippy straw. I also wish it had been chilled a bit. It was an enjoyable drink and reminded me of Smucker's Goober Grape jelly-- the kind that came mixed in the jar with peanut butter. In other words, this is a fruity, fun wine. My friends at the Angels game tried it, and it got their nod of approval.

What I really liked about Bandit is its portablity. You can easily slip this into your purse or jacket and take this into the movies.. or just about anywhere. This wine would be PERFECT for taking to a play... when you don't want to spend the entire Intermission waiting in line at the concession stand.

The wine comes from Three Thieves winery which is better known for their "jug" wines. Winemakers Joel Gott, Charles Bieler, and Roger Scommegna also make, "The Show" cabernet.. a great value cab.

The Bandit comes in a "tetra pak", a kind of paper-like material that keeps the wine fresh. The artwork on the box is quite entertaining, with quips like, " The sooner you get over the package, the better it will be for all of us."...... and, "Wine Snob Tested. Mother Earth Approved"... and my favorite, "A box in the hand is worth two in the bush."

$8 for four 250mL packs (equalling 4 glasses). This is not an extreme value, but man, you can take this wine anywhere.

But bring your own sippy straw.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Poor Man's Silver Oak

Tried the Mantra 75/25 Cabernet Sauvignon at Tannins (wine bar/restaurant in San Juan Capistrano). I have tried it several times before and still think of it as the poor mans' Silver Oak (Alexander Valley). Luscious, sexy fruit, a supple wine with nice body and with enough character to keep you thinking. The fruit comes 75% from Alexander Valley (for the sexiness) and 25% from Dry Creek Valley to give it some complexity. Lots of black fruit (blackberries and such). A very pretty wine. Don't go into it, expecting a carbon copy of Silver Oak, it is not quite as syrupy, but then again you are paying $22 instead of $70.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hidden gem: Arrocal

Tasted ARROCAL (2005), from the Ribera Del Duero region in Spain. 100% Tempranillo. 14% alcohol. (Paired with: a calzone from Casanova's in Dana Point. The calzone was full of red peppers, Italian sausage, artichokes and tomato... great bread as well... oh man). Now, back to the wine....
On the nose, it was very earthy with some red fruit. On the palate, more red fruit, old BASEBALL MITT (in a good way), and still earthy. Very high on the mid-palate and a long finish. Loved the finish. Could still taste the wine for a minute after sipping.
This wine was like kissing your Sweetheart on the couch. Kissing that you wanted to last forever.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

SAXUM. (oh Yeah!)

Yesterday, my shipment of Saxum came in. Sooo happy! I was on their waiting list for about ... hmmm..... 8 months? Not to mention, I had to wait almost a year before they had room to put me on their mailing list. Now fast-forward to almost 2 years. Finally, I got my chance to buy this wine a few months ago, and yesterday the shipment arrived at work. I totally forgot about the shipment until it arrived. The box was big and extra heavy. Due to the packing, I had no idea of how many were in there. Turns out, when I finally took it home, there there were 9 bottles YESSSSSSSSSSSS! I received 3 bottles of the 2004 Bone Rock - James Berry Vineyard, and 6 bottles of the 2005 Broken Stones. Both are GSMs (grenache, syrah and mouvedre). Its known as a "cult wine" because its low production, and since the juice is seriously BADASS! Served it at a party 2 weeks ago and everyone loved it. The wine sells for @ 40 directly from the winery and $90 and higher in the stores. Typically when you have wine shipped to you, you need to lay the bottles down for a few weeks before you can open it, so for the time being, they are resting in my cellar. I havent tried these wines yet. Hopefully I can wait it out. ;)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

2003 Bodegas Castano "Solanera"

This kicky little wine sells for $10. It benefits from some time to breathe (4-5 hours). In it, I found lots of spice and smoke. It's more plush than a shag carpet, and more interesting than your high school English teacher (the one you had a crush on). This wine is made of 75% Monastrell (or Mourvedre... whichever term you prefer), and the rest a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. If it didn't come from Spain, and instead was labeled a Chateauneuf du Pape (which it could be mistaken for), it would easily go for $30. This is exactly the type of wine you buy a bottle of, and then go back to the store and pick up a case. Excellent value.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Frizz. Domaine Ste. Michelle "Frizzante"

Had the $7 Domaine St. Michelle Frizzante in Tiffany champagne flutes (they were a gift). Expensive glasses always make wine taste better. The "Frizz" was a light, fruity sparkler with a touch of grapefruit on the backend. Nice for the price.