Friday, May 6, 2016

The Tasting Room Experience -Two Shepherds and Wind Gap Wines



Check out my cover story in the May/June issue of Sonoma Discoveries. I talk about the Seven Percent Solution tasting event that is coming up May 13th and 14th and also cover the Tasting Room Experience at Two Shepherds and Wind Gap Wines.

You can read it online here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Get Along Little Donkey...



Get along little donkey…

2009 Donkey Dingač Postup from Vinarija Dingač in Pelješac Peninsula, Croatia.

This little donkey is a juicy spicy kick of dark fruits with bright acidity and firm tannins. There are two protected wine growing regions in southern Dalmatia– Postup and Dingač. And it can get a little confusing with regard to the varietal names. While this wine is made of 100% Plavac Mali grapes the wine is called Postup, after the wine-growing region on the Pelješac Peninsula. Also confusing is that Dingač is the name of both the region and the winery, a former communist co-op from the time when the area was still known as Yugoslavia. The donkey on the label is not only cute, but symbolic of the rugged lands and steep slopes in which the vines grow, making hand harvesting a necessity.

But despite all the confusing names one thing is perfectly clear — the wine is delicious. It’s spicy and concentrated with a meatiness and hint of sage. Surprisingly it doesn’t drink like it’s 14.6 AVB! It’s bright indeed, but not hot. I love it and can’t wait to visit the winery when I tag along with the Blue Danube Wine team later this month.

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 Travel Guide to California - Wine Section



For the fifth year in a row I’ve written the wine section for the Travel Guide to California. It’s a great resource for all things California and useful for tourists and locals alike. Plus it’s always nice to be a contributor alongside many top names in travel writing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sake and Wa-Shoku: The Art of Japanese Cuisine at Napa Valley Wine Academy



Back in November I was invited to a Sake tasting and introduction to WA-SHOKU, the art of Japanese cuisine at the Napa Valley Wine Academy. The event was sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and in conjunction with Sake School of America and Morimoto Napa. The Sake pairing seminar was part of the core instruction curriculum for students and taking the WSET Level 3 Award in Sake certification intensive.

Instructor Toshio Uneo, Master Sake Sommelier and Executive Instructor at Sake School of America guided us thought the fine points of food preparation and the basic flavor profiles: salty, spicy, sweet, sour/bitter and umami--the savory element that adds depth to a dish.

As this was a pairing demonstration we did not go too deeply into the production of different Sakes as in the regular course of instruction. But the quick explanation on sake is that the more the rice is polished the higher the grade of the sake. Higher polished rice lends a lighter more fragrant less complex flavor profile, while lower polished sake gives a richer more umami flavor.


The art of WA-SHOKU is in tune to the bounty of nature and focuses on using distinct seasonal ingredients to reflect the four seasons.


Sushi Chef Ichiro Tsuji, from Morimoto Napa, was every entertaining and explained the importance of knives and technique in the preparation of sushi. Then we were presented with the most gorgeous bento box I’ve ever encountered.


Each section of the box was a different flavor adventure that Chef Ichiro created to pair with the sakes. It was like a treasure chest of little jewels. Below are some of my favorites from the box.


Daikon with ebkuro (fish stomach) was reminiscent of tripe but with a umami twist. Paired well with the Hakkaisan Honjozo.


This tomago custard had a unique flavor and very distinctive spicy sansho pepper on top. I found it also paired well with the Hakkaisan Honjozo.


The Fried Chicken with paper thin scallion and dried chili pepper was amazing and flavorful. The Colonel would surely love to know Ichiro’s secret recipe for this.

I thought the Kikumasamune Kimoto Junmai was the most full flavored and balanced of the sakes to my palate and it paired great with everything. The Hakkaisan Honjozo was more aromatic and its subtle mango and tropical fruit flavors were also well suited to all the dishes.

Sakes presented:
Born Gold Junmai Daiginjo
Brewery: Katoukichibee Shouten
Perfecture: Fukui
Rice Variety: Yamadanishiki
Polish Ratio: 45%

Hakkaisan Honjozo
Brewery: Hakkai Jyozo
Perfecture: Niigata
Rice Variety: Gohyakumangoku & Todorokiwase
Polish Ratio: 55%

Kikumasamune Kimoto Junmai
Brewery: Kikumasamune Shuzo
Perfecture: Hyogo
Rice Variety: Yamadanishiki
Polish Ratio: 73%

Tengumai Yamahai Jikommi
Brewery: Shata Shuzo
Perfecture: N/A
Rice Variety: Gohyakumangoku
Polish Ratio: 60%

If you’d like to learn more about the world of Sake, a course through the Napa Valley Wine Academy would be a great place to start. There you can pursue a WSET Level 3 Award in Sake for professional development or to simply deepen your experience for your own enjoyment.

Useful links:
Taste of Japan 
MAFF
Napa Valley Wine Academy 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Annual Book Gift Guide for Wine Lovers 2015



Annual Wine Book Gift Guides and round ups have become as ubiquitous as Thanksgiving wine posts, but still, I think anything that involves books and wine and is a worthy pursuit at any time of year, not just the holidays. Here are my 2015 wine book selections for gifting or keeping. Note: All books mentioned in this post were sent to me as review copies except Hungry for Wine which I downloaded on my Kindle and paid for myself. Links are to Amazon, but please consider ordering or purchasing from your local independent bookstore.














Wine Folly The Essential Guide to Wine -- Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack  Whether you are new to wine or a seasoned pro, you’re bound to enjoy this new book that presents complex information in clear and engaging visuals. It’s fun, accessible, and essential. Based on the award winning website of the same name, Wine Folly covers everything from wine tasting basics to the style and characteristics of individual wines with detailed maps of wine regions. Indispensable for winning those wine related arguments that occur at mealtime. Or is that just in my household?  Regardless this book will make a great addition to your wine library.














The Wine Bible 2nd Edition -- Karen MacNeil
Anything that calls itself the Bible has got its work cut out, but this comprehensive tome takes a swing at it and scores a homer. I’m glad to see the Okanagan in BC, Canada is represented here and one of my favorite Viognier’s by Liquidity Wines is featured. So what’s that saying... Great Minds Think Alike? Well, in this case I’d say it’s Great Palates Drink Alike.













Wine Trails * 52 Perfect Weekends in Wine Country - Lonely Planet
I’ve been harping on about the need for dedicated travel guides to wine regions for many years now and glad to see Lonely Planet finally got my memo. It’s light on providing any in-depth regional information, but perfect to use as a guide for pre-trip planning. One glaring omission in my opinion is the Canada section only offers Ontario. Where is my beloved Okanagan??? Also, no Croatia?!? What’s up with that? But it hits the right notes in many other spots regarding winery recommendations and dining options. Nicely designed and laid out. Great for arm-chair travel and dreaming.













Hungry for Wine : Seeing the World Through the Lens of a Wine Glass- Cathy Huyghe
Not your typical wine book, by not your typical wine writer. Cathy Huyghe gathers the stories about her wine journey and the people and places that made her “hungry” to dig deeper, observe and explore. A blend of travelogue, how-to-guide, tasting note journal, and manifesto; Huyghe’s compelling narrative will leave you hungering to examine the threads of your own wine discovery and weave them into your own story.













Thirsty DragonChina’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines --Suzanne Mustacich
Ever since I watched the film Red Obsession, I’ve been rather obsessed myself with what’s going on in the world of ultra premium wine and the inherent drama of Old World Wine vs New Money of China. The book details how the wine merchants of Bordeaux hitched their wagon to the fortunes of China and the clash of cultures that ensue. It reads like every non-fiction book should, as if it were fiction--gripping and informative that at times borders on the unbelievable.

****************************
Bonus Stocking Stuffer Gift Idea--
DripTeez. See my post on them here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

UNCORKED -- The Series Starts November 10th



Next week on November 10th, UNCORKED, a new series about Sommeliers premiers on on the Esquire Network.

UNCORKED follows six people in New York as they prepare for the Court of Masters Sommelier exam. The show employs all the standard reality TV techniques and manufactured drama we’ve come to know in the Bachelor and Housewife franchises. Fortunately, UNCORKED is far less tawdry as we follow the individual eddies of triumph and disaster that ebb and flow in each persons back story.

I previewed the first three episodes back in September and it’s very similar to the documentary SOMM. (The directors of SOMM, Jason Wise, and Christina Wise, and Peter Goldwyn also serve as Executive Producers for the series.)

The six candidates range from the likable and compentent Jane, to the overly casual Dana. I suspect Dana’s too-cool for school attitude is really just his attempt to cover his introversion and social anxiety. Yannick is the wild-card, the set up is that it’s his last chance/attempt to pass the exam with the added burden that he is in a wheel-chair. Rounding out the group are Josh, Morgan and Jack each with their own personality quirks that emerge under pressure.

The best performance is by Geoff Kruth, MS, and President of Guildsomm.com who does his level best to be friendly and supportive to the candidates and soften the oft times harsh criticism of his colleagues. Kruth has an easy manner, a bloakish affability that’s revealed as he offers endless facial expressions of empathy to the harried, stressed out sommeliers when they botch their practice sessions. He’s like a silent and loyal emotional support dog looking after them.

Some scenes gave me the feeling that a Master Sommelier candidate’s success is hinged to a secret ballot that allows the guild to approve those they deem worthy of their exclusive ranks, and deny entry to those that may have the skills but perhaps not the right personality in their view. Much of the feedback given by a handful of gatekeepers make it feel more like a Fraternity/Sorority Rush Week or hazing than a professional development path.

Nonetheless, If you loved SOMM the film, you will probably enjoy UNCORKED too. As with the majority of reality series, the most entertaining parts are provided by the real-time chatter of viewers on twitter. So grab a glass of wine (or a bottle) and tweet your comments as you watch next Tuesday.

Oh, one more thing. I think the show could use a snappy theme song--here’s my suggestion:

All My Friends Are Somm’s
(sung to the tune of California Dreamin’*)

All my friends are Somms and they drink all day.
I love to taste their wine and hear what they have to say.
I'd be safe and warm if I had a magnum of Cabernet
California dreamin' on such a vintners day.
Stopped into a wine bar I passed along the way.
Well I sat down at a table and saw some bottles on a tray.
You know the Somm gave me the wine list;
She hopes I'm gonna pay.
California dreamin' on such a vintage day.


*California Dreamin’ actual lyrics. Click link for video of actual song.
All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray.
I've been for a walk on a winter's day.
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.;
California dreamin' on such a winter's day.
Stopped in to a church I passed along the way.
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray.
You know the preacher liked the cold;
He knows I'm gonna stay.
California dreamin' on such a winter's day.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Slow Lazy Circles

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