Recipe: Savory Chanterelle and Gruyere Bread Pudding

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a recipe featured in our Fall wine club shipment. We chose to feature this recipe because it encompasses everything we love about fall food, and it perfectly compliments several of the wines we are offering in our Fall club shipment. Made with chanterelle mushrooms and delicious cave-aged gruyere cheese, this vegetarian dish is sure to delight your guests. It’s fancy enough for a holiday like Thanksgiving but easy enough to make for any day of the week. We really love it’s umami flavors and creamy/crusty consistency.

You can find Chanterelle mushrooms at your local specialty store during the rainy months. Right now we are getting Oregon chanterelles as well as Pacific Golden chanterelles. I prefer the Oregon variety because they are cleaner, have great flavor, and a better texture (in my opinion). They are smaller and more orange in color than their California-grown counterparts. Chances are you will see only one variety, so get whatever you can. You want to pick out the chanterelles that look the best. Look for firm, dry chanterelles without any red rot or raggedy edges.

Don’t skimp on the Gruyere, either. Get a good-quality cave aged gruyere from France, if possible. This should not be hard to find, as I believe even Trader Joes carries one.

Savory Chanterelle & Gruyere Bread Pudding
Adapted from 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love by Jill Silverman Hough

Special Tools
One 2 qt. casserole dish or six 1½ cup individual ramekins

Ingredients
3 cups milk
1½ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
12 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, coarsely sliced OR 2 medium leeks (white & light green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fine sea salt
5 large eggs
12 oz. crusty artisan French or Italian, with crusts, torn or cubed into ¾” pieces
8 oz. gruyere cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)

Method
Butter the casserole dish or ramekins and set aside.

Combine the milk, chopped herbs, and pepper in a medium pot with a heavy bottom. Set over medium-high heat until the milk just begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Then add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. (If substituting leeks, cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent browning.) Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then temper the eggs by whisking in ⅓ of the warm milk mixture. Once combined, slowly whisk in the rest. Add the bread cubes, shredded cheese, and mushroom or leek mixture and stir until well combined. Set aside for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the bread absorb the liquid.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center.

Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish or ramekins. Bake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Wine 101: Beginner’s Guide to Wine

cali_wines

Most new wine drinkers are completely overwhelmed by the numerous and mysterious options when they walk into a wine store. It’s completely justified – that feeling of being totally lost. It’s not your fault, either. While most domestic wines are labeled with the type of grape the wine is made from, many European wines are not. Instead they have the region, the country, the house that made the wine, or just a funky picture on the label. Moreover, the labels generally don’t say a word about what it tastes like, what food to pair with it, or any other indication of what’s in the bottle. How on earth will you know which wine to pick for dinner?

In this post we will go over some of the common types of wines you will see in a wine shop, what they are like, what foods they pair with, a general price range, what stemware to choose, and where they are grown.

Cabernet Sauvignon
This grape is originally from Bordeaux but has gained a solid foothold virtually every wine market in the world. It’s one of the most widely-recognized varietals due to it’s widespread availability, ease of cultivation, and easy-to-pronounce name. It generally produces a very robust wine which can be appealing to a new wine-drinker’s palate due to it’s richness of flavor and enticing aromas. It can be very expensive, collectible and age-worthy. Still, if you know nothing about wine, chances are you’ve still had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Major Regions: Napa, Bordeaux, South America
Type of Wine: Red
Stemware: Large, tall-sided, tulip shaped Bordeaux glass
Flavors/Aromas: Currant, tobacco, blackberry, green pepper, spice, oak
Structure: Full-bodied, low acidity, medium to high tannin
Food Pairings: Beef, blue & aged cheeses, lamb, bittersweet chocolate
Price Range: $15-$80

Zinfandel
This fun, delicious, rustic wine is a staple in the New World, even though some believe it originated from Croatia. It counts for 10% of wine grapes planted in the US. While much of the Zinfandel vines grown are slated for “White Zinfandel” production, red Zinfandel is where it’s at. It can be made in many different styles and is a great wine to pair with food. It’s a wine that anybody can love, it was my gateway wine for sure. You can walk away with an exceptional bottle for around $25.

Major Regions: Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Italy
Aliases: Primitivo, Crljenak Kaštelanski
Type of Wine: Red, rosé
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped Viognier glass
Flavors/Aromas: Plum, black/white pepper, spice, vanilla, blackberry
Structure: Medium to full bodied, low to medium acidity, medium tannin
Food Pairings: BBQ, burgers, pork, beef, lamb, pizza, grilled sausages, turkey, ribs
Price Range: $10-$30

Pinot Noir
Since the debut of the movie Sideways, Pinot Noir has experienced a renaissance in America. It’s seen greater plantings, higher prices, increased sales, and wider availability. Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow and make good wine from. It prefers a cooler climate and longer growing season to warmer climates. Pinot Noir is famously grown in the Burgundy region of France (it’s one of three grapes legally allowed in Champagne), California, New Zealand, and is even gaining popularity in Oregon state. It can be difficult to warm up to, but it’s seductive textures and earthy aromas are bound to pull you in.

Major Regions: Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Burgundy, Willamette Valley
Types of Wine: Red, rosé, sparkling, sparkling rosé
Stemware: Large, wide, tulip-shaped Burgundy glass
Flavors/Aromas: Cherry, mushroom, forest floor, resin, mineral, earth, herbs
Structure: Light to medium bodied, medium acidity, fine tannin
Food Pairings: Roasted chicken, duck, lamb, mushrooms, salmon, roasted pork
Price Range: $25-$60

Chardonnay
This oft-maligned grape variety has been a staple in the New World while quietly making world-class, highly collectible wine in the Old World. Chardonnay is considered a ‘neutral’ grape, which means the flavor profile is easily manipulated through farming and winemaking practices. More importantly, it showcases the vine’s terroir very well when grown in mineral soils. The style of wine can vary wildly from stony, acidic and mineral to viscous, buttery and rich. I recommend finding examples from Chablis or the Russian River Valley with neutral oak treatments if you are just getting started.

Major Regions: Burgundy, Sonoma, Napa
Types of Wine: Sparkling, white
Stemware: Large, wide, tulip-shaped Burgundy glass
Flavors/Aromas: Green apple, butter, mineral, citrus, toast, melon, lemon
Structure: Light to full bodied, low to high acidity, no tannin
Food pairings: Butter & cream sauce, chicken, crab, fish, lobster, pork, vegetable dishes, corn, cheese, herbs
Price Range: $15-$60

Sauvignon Blanc
There isn’t a grape variety more polarizing than Sauvignon Blanc, yet it’s prolific on the shelves at your local grocery store and wine shop. It’s often grassy, pungent or tropical aromas can be off-putting to some, but delectable to others. It’s originally a wild grape from South West France, but has earned a reputation in Bordeaux & Sancerre while gaining widespread popularity throughout the New World. It’s usually very crisp and good with food or just by itself. It’s also one of the few wines that can pair with brussel sprouts, artichokes, broccoli and asparagus.

Major Regions: Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume, Bordeaux, Napa, New Zealand
Types of Wine: White
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Gooseberry, grass, melon, tropical fruit, grapefruit, green pepper, citrus
Structure: Light bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin
Food Pairings: Seafood, goat cheese, oysters, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, chicken, herbs, peppers, salad, tomatoes, vegetable dishes
Price Range: $10-$40

Pinot Gris
Also known as Pinot Grigio, this grape is the mutant cousin of Pinot Noir. It has white juice and rose-colored skin, which means it can make crisp white wines or copper-hued skin-fermented wines. This is one of the best-selling wines in the world due to it’s approachability, food-friendliness and wide availability. It grows well in cooler climates and makes excellent wines in Northern Italy, Alsace, Oregon and Germany. It’s best to drink Pinot Gris while it’s young as only Alsatian examples age well.

Major Regions: Alsace, Loire, Burgundy, Germany, Oregon, Northern Italy
Types of Wine: Dessert, white
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Spice, flowers, pear, apple, melon
Structure: Light to full bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin (unless skin-fermented)
Food Pairings: Salmon, shellfish, antipasto, goat/sheep cheeses, fried chicken, roasted pork, prosciutto
Price Range: $10-$30

Cava
This sparkling wine is the hallmark of Catalonia, an independent nation in the North East corner of Spain. It’s all over the place in Barcelona as well as in the refrigerated section of your supermarket in the US. Don’t let the price fool you – Cava is one of the most delicious and inoffensive sparklers out there. It’s usually made from a blend of traditional Spanish grapes in the Methode Traditionelle (the same method used in Champagne). In Barcelona, it’s served by virtually every restaurant for 5-10 Euro per bottle and is the perfect accompaniment to tapas. If you are looking for an inexpensive, crowd friendly wine for a party or celebration, pick up some Cava. For about $15 you can get a pretty good one.

Major Regions: Catalonia
Types of Wine: Sparkling, sparkling rosé
Stemware: Champagne flute
Flavors/Aromas: Lemon, green apple, nuts, brioche, mineral
Structure: Light bodied, medium acidity, no tannin
Food Pairings: Serrano ham, olives, fried fish, cheese, sushi, BBQ, tapas
Price Range: $7-$20

Rosé
Pink wine isn’t just for girls! Contrary to common belief, rosé isn’t usually sweet. Lots of it being made these days is mostly or completely dry, and sugar is only used to balance out the bracing acidity of some wines. By no means am I talking about White Zinfandel, Blush wine or anything made by Franzia or Carlo Rossi (avoid those like the plague). Some of the finest rosé wines come from the Provence region of France, but excellent variations can be found all of the world. Although rosé can be made from any red wine grape, they mostly taste very similar. It’s not meant to be thought-provoking, but it’s delicious and affordable. This summertime gulper is best enjoyed ice cold, on a warm night, with some light fare.

Major Regions: Provence, Sonoma, Oregon, Loire, Champagne
Types of Wine: Rosé
Stemware: Medium-sized, tulip-shaped white wine glass
Flavors/Aromas: Strawberry, watermelon & watermelon rind, herbs
Structure: Light to medium bodied, medium to high acidity, no tannin.
Food Pairings: Salmon, charcuterie, cheeses, grilled fish, crab, pizza, BBQ, eggs, pork, salad, grilled shrimp, picnics
Price Range: $10-$25

Is there a type of wine that you’re curious about that you’d like us to cover? Let us know in the comments.

Nine Delicious, Affordable Wines Perfect for Summer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis last weekend, Colleen and I hosted a tasting with some friends of ours in her home. The theme was Summertime Wines. We have had some unseasonably pleasant weather in the past few months and we decided it was a suitable topic of discussion; there are so many wonderful, affordable, easy to drink wines out there that just beg to be consumed on a warm summer afternoon. We put together a list of some really great wines we have been dying to try, Colleen cooked up an amazing tasting menu to go along with them, and we invited some friends over to experience it all with us.

I made sure to head over early so I could “help” Colleen with the food and set everything up… and by “help” I actually mean “bring over a kick-ass bottle of real Champagne for us to drink before anybody else gets there.” We enjoyed a bottle of Emmanuel Brochet NV Le Mont Benoit Extra Brut ($68), which we both loved. It was full of brioche, mineral and fruit with a super creamy mousse, zippy acidity and mega drinkability.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce all of the food was prepared, glasses were set out, paper plates were in place and the droves of thirsty friends arrived, we started popping corks & twisting screw caps. Don’t let a screw cap scare you off, tricking you into thinking the wine is of inferior quality. Many “drink now” wines are bottled under a screw cap because they are cheaper, non air-permeable and more sustainable to use than the traditional cork. If you don’t need to age a wine, there’s really no need for a cork.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur wine list for the evening:

2002 Chateau Tour Grise Brut – Saumur, France
Certified Organic & Biodynamic, 30 year old Chenin Blanc (100%) vines grown in limestone soils. Dry. Brioche, tangerine, white flowers, mineral nose; honey, yeast, meyer lemon, kumquat on the palate.

2011 Domaine Rimbert Blanc – Saint-Chinian, Languedoc, France
Organically farmed Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Carignan Blanc. Picked in the early morning to preserve acidity. Conservative use of SO2.

NV ‘Il Brut and the Beast’ – Valli Unite, Piedmont, Italy
Organically farmed Cortese & Favorita. Produced in a commune of 15 families in Piedmont. Honey, bright green herbs, mineral on the nose. Slightly sweet & effervescent.

2012 Ameztoi Rubentis Rosado – Gipuzkoa, Spain
Petillant-naturel from the Basque region of Spain, blend of Hondarrabi Zuri (white) & Hondarrabi Beltza (red) grapes. Grown near the Atlantic ocean.

2012 Lioco Indica Rosé – Mendocino, CA
Stainless steel-fermented rosé of Carignan. 60 year old vines, dry farmed & head trained in Mendocino. Aromas of nectarine pit, orange blossom & rock dust lead to the flavors of wild strawberry, watermelon rind & kaffir lime. Bone dry & high in acid.

2012 La Clarine Rosé – Sierra Foothills, CA
Organically farmed, native yeast fermentation, no added SO2 during winemaking, minimal SO2 at bottling. 62% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, Semillon & Viognier. Aromas of mineral, earth & blood orange.

2011 Matteo Correggia Anthos – Piedmont, Italy
100% Brachetto grown in sandy soils. Stainless steel fermented & aged. Medium bodied; aromas of red fruit & rose petals. Limited use of SO2.

2009 Domaine Dupasquier Gamay – Savoie, France
100% Gamay aged in used foudre. Aromas of earth, iron & mineral with tart cherry & bright acid on the palate.

2010 Hexamer “Quarzit” Riesling – Nahe, Germany
Bouquet of tropical fruit, stony minerals & citrus. Bracing acidity matched by ample sweetness make this a balanced but bold riesling. These grapes are grown in soils composed of Quartzite and clay which lend a ton of minerality to this wine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConsidering the fact that we had such a spectacular wine list, Colleen felt it was only appropriate to make a humungous spread of food to go along with the wines. After all, when you are pouring this many wines, it’s a good idea to make sure people aren’t hungry. Plus, all of our wine selections were loaded with acidity and when you have wine with acid, the natural next step is to enjoy it with food.

Our food pairing menu for the evening:

Bagna Cauda with Poached Vegetables
Emmental Gougeres
Fromage Fort on Toasts
Pepper Steak Crostini with Whipped Horseradish Creme Fraiche
Green Bean Salad with Cherry Tomatoes & Sauteed Shallots
Basil Peach Financier

One of the best things about wines that are suited for warm weather is that they are extremely food-friendly. I love rosé with salad, gougeres with anything oxidative, slightly sweet cakes with an off-dry wine. Colleen made the steak crostini served at room temperature to go along with the two red wines we were serving slightly chilled. The Financier were just a little sweet, mildly herbal and absolutely delicious with the off-dry Riesling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe crowd favorite wine of the evening was the Ameztoi Rubentis Rosado. This pink wine is a cult favorite in the Bay Area; it’s already sold out from the store we got it at. It’s super fresh, light, aromatic, fizzy, thirst-quenching, mouth watering and perfect in every way. Best of all, it was only $22. The runner up was the Matteo Correggia Anthos Brachetto. This wine was absolutely stunning with feminine, sexy aromas of rose petal & bright red fruit. Everyone was blown away by how prominent the rose aroma was from this light-bodied red wine. Not everyone wants or expects their red wine to smell like a flower, but it was a welcome surprise to all of us. At $19 per bottle, there’s no reason not to pick up one or three if you find this wine in a store.

All of these wines (Champagne excluded) were between $18 and $24 each, and there was not a single wine we didn’t love in the whole lineup. Most of these can be purchased at Ruby Wine in Potrero Hill, SF. Last time I checked, there was still some of that Brachetto left. I would highly recommend you make your way up the hill to grab a few before they’re gone for good, I know I will (and these ladies, below, probably will too)!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day Trip: Russian River Valley Winery Tour

Colleen and I are in agreement: The Russian River Valley is one of California’s finest AVAs. It’s the birthplace of some of the New World’s most refined Pinot Noir & Chardonnay because of it’s warm days and cool, foggy nights. This swing in temperature preserves the grape’s natural acidity and extends the growing season which in turn produces wines that have great complexity and excellent age-worthiness. The best thing about the Russian River Valley is that it’s just an hour an a half outside of San Francisco/Oakland. You can easily make this a self-guided day-trip with plenty of time to enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the most beautiful places in California.

The first stop on your day trip should be the fair city of Santa Rosa. She is smack-dab in the middle of the Russian River Valley AVA, home to several awesome wineries, and one of the first cities you will pass on your way to rural RRV backroads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are coming out on a Saturday (but not on a Sunday, because even wine people need a day off), be sure to pay a visit to the Natural Process Alliance. If you’ve ever seen a wine being poured from a reusable Kleen Kanteen, it was probably a NPA wine (you can have these refilled with delicious wine for a discount after a $15 refundable deposit on the Kanteen). The owner and winemaker, Kevin Kelly, also produces wine under his Salinia label. He has a very natural approach to winemaking and produces some pretty interesting stuff. He is very warm and welcoming, and no appointment is needed to visit on Friday & Saturday from 10:30AM to 4PM.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of our favorite NPA wines is the ’25 Reasons’ petillant-naturel of skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is lightly sparkling, highly aromatic and completely mind-blowing. Kevin recommends you stand it upright in the fridge the day before you want to drink it, letting the sediment settle to the bottom (the wine has lees in it from the pet-nat process). You then carefully pour the first two glasses ‘clear’. This clear wine is subtle and elegant with more obvious mineral notes. Then, you give the last bit of wine a quick shake and serve the rest cloudy. The resulting wine is tropical, fruity, earthy, full of body, and delicious. This would be an excellent wine to pair with pork chops, roasted chicken or vegetarian dishes. If you want to get your hands on some, act quickly. There are only six cases left at the winery. You may be lucky enough to find it in a place like Arlequin Wine Merchant or Bi-Rite Market in SF.

The next stop while in Santa Rosa could very well be Punchdown Cellars (by appointment only!), home to about 30 different wine producers which include Dirty & Rowdy, Ceritas and Lioco. This custom-crush facility provides very small producers the resources to produce fine wine with with the latest equipment and technology. During our visit, we met with Jim from Lioco. They are a producer of high end Sonoma County Pinot Noir & Chardonnay but they also make a lovely Pinot Blanc, Carignan and rosé.

photo (14)It’s not often, but sometimes you encounter a wine that makes you absolutely lose your sh*t. Colleen experienced this while tasting their Pinot Blanc from the Chalone AVA. It was rich, spicy, fruity, full of body, with complex aromas and balanced acidity. If there’s anything Colleen loves, it’s a complex white wine with body AND acid. At $28 a bottle, it’s definitely a steal. While we loved all of the wines, we felt the other stand-outs were the rosé of Carignan, $18 (which had tons of acid, picked at 19.5 Brix); the RRV Chardonnay, $35 (delicious, classic RRV Chard); and finally the Indica, $20 (a rustic red blend of mostly Carignan with a screw-cap closure, insane QPR).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow on to the backroads. From Santa Rosa, head down Guerneville Road towards the city of Sebastopol and pay a visit to Iron Horse Vineyards. This spectacular winery is located at the top of a hill in one of the Russian River Valley’s coolest and foggiest subregions, Green Valley. Like many RRV producers, Iron Horse makes Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, but they also produce sparkling wine from these grapes in the traditional method. Colleen is a wine club member here and we love to stop by to pick up her allocation and also taste through their current releases. Their newly released 2009 Summer’s Cuvée was just what the doctor ordered because it was over 100F that day and we were melting. This is a great place to enjoy a glass of bubbles while taking in the amazing view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While Iron Horse is not a small producer (they even make a wine for the White House!), we love their sparkling wines, friendly staff and gorgeous quince tree at the entrance, which we couldn’t resist taking a photo of. What is a quince, you say? Well, if you’ve ever had that red jelly called Membrillo that you see on cheese plates at fancy restaurants, you’ve tasted a quince. They are a hard apple/pear type fruit which is inedible in it’s raw form but when cooked for hours turns a lovely pink color and develops a floral flavor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe feel that three wineries is the right number to visit in a day. If you visit these three, you will not be disappointed. That said, check out our very own Tasting Room Guide for more wineries not only in the Russian River Valley, but other surrounding areas. If you are going to Iron Horse, Dutton-Goldfield is nearby and is definitely worth a visit. If you plan to head further West towards Guerneville, call and make an appointment at Porter-Bass. If you’re heading North to Dry Creek, take a detour along Westside Road and stop at Porter Creek Vineyards along the way. You’ll definitely find something you love.

Chez Panisse is back and better than ever

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very sad thing happened recently. Chez Panisse caught fire and had to shut down for several months while the restaurant was rebuilt. I was quite sad about this for a few reasons: First and most importantly, the restaurant’s cultural significance in the Bay Area fancy food scene. Secondly, I wanted to go for my birthday again this year. I had gone last year and it was amazing.

Several weeks ago, I caught wind that Chez Panisse was going to be reopening and they were taking reservations. Serendipitously, the first night they were to open for dinner was June 24th, my birthday. Meant to be? Absolutely. I called and called until I finally got through and made reservations for my birthday dinner.

I was excited to find out that Monday happens to be their local’s night. They tend to have a more rustic menu and it’s a little cheaper than their typical menu. Considering I just left my job, this was perfect for us. I looked up the menu on the website the day of our reservation and saw that they would be serving one of their signature dishes, the seafood bouillabaisse. Three courses were $65 per person and the wine pairings were an additional $30 per person.

We arrived right on time for our reservation and I got a few snaps of the new patio dining room from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe inside of the restaurant didn’t look too different from the last time I was there. Considering I had only been inside once, it seems plausible that it has changed a bit and I simply didn’t notice. It was still a lovely copper hue with classy fixtures and comfortable seating. We were seated promptly and got to catch a glimpse of Alice Waters buzzing around the restaurant, greeting friends & customers and basically looking all business.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The first course was a salad of haricots vert, roasted sweet peppers and frisée served with a crouton topped with fresh porcini mushrooms. The wine pairing was the highly sought-after Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé which has incredible roundness, richness and complexity for a rosé wine. The pairing was lovely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second course was the classic Chez Panisse seafood bouillabaisse. The broth made with fennel, tomato and saffron was very rich and complimented the local white fish, shrimp & clams beautifully. The wine pairing for this was a 2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol (80% Mourvédre & 20% Grenache). At first I was surprised that such a rich red wine was being paired with the fish stew, but upon inquiring about the pairing with the server he told me that it’s a classic. Sure! Sounds good to me, and it was actually very nice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The final course, dessert, was a lovely Santa Rosa Plum galette with wild fennel ice cream. It was definitely the highlight of the meal and it even came out with a cutesy birthday candle. I’ve had a lot of galettes in my life and this was definitely one of the best. It showcased the complex flavors of the Santa Rosa plum and the wild fennel was an incredibly harmonious compliment to the galette. The wine pairing for this course was a sweet muscat, but I didn’t catch the producer or vintage. What does it matter, anyway? I love sweet muscat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have to say I am glad I came back here for my birthday. It’s an institution and sets the benchmark for restaurants all over the Bay Area. I was so honored to be able to enjoy dinner on the opening night of the newly rebuilt Chez Panisse. If you have ever thought about going, I highly recommend it. The easiest way to get reservations is by calling a month to the day before the night you want to eat there at 9AM until you are able to get through. It’s worth the redialing, I promise!

Urban Wineries: Treasure Island Wines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lately I’ve been spending time at a great little winery on Treasure Island called Treasure Island Wines. Co founded in 2006 by brothers Jim Mirowski and Paul Mirowski, it’s a collective of winemakers who share a facility and resources, producing a total of 8,000-9,000 cases of wine per year. The space itself is 10,000 square feet and is a former food processing plant from World War 2. Currently there are five producers under one roof, including Bravium, Heartfelt, Eristavi, Treasure Island Wines, and HDC. Their mission is to bring quality, artisinal, small-batch wine-making to San Francisco, and they are doing a great job.

jim

Paul Mirowski (above, right), is an attorney in San Diego with expertise in many areas including entertainment, business litigation and wine law. Jim Mirowski, (on the left, above) is a tech escapee – a former Network Security expert. He is affectionately referred to as The Captain by his cohorts; he handles all of the infrastructure issues at the facility. He was first exposed to wine after watching his family in Michigan make country wines from fruit, then traveling to Europe and falling in love with old world wines. He came to California to study at UC Berkeley and eventually decided to take some wine-making classes at UC Davis to teach him the science behind winemaking. Nowadays he is producing his own commercial wines in a terroir-driven, old world style. Jim particularly enjoys making bold reds from Zinfandel & Cabernet Sauvignon and fresh, elegant, feminine white wines from Rhone varieties such as Roussanne and Viognier. His wines are very traditional; he and the assistant winemaker Danny chuckled when I asked them what they thought of the latest “orange wine” rage, and Danny affectionately referred to it as “Hipster Wine”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The tasting room at Treasure Island Wines is focused on educating consumers and providing a fun, un-pretentious environment for people to come enjoy wine at without having to drive to wine country. Most of their customers are Bay Area locals, including visitors who have grown weary of the spectacle of Napa Valley and Sonoma. Generally the people pouring the wines are the ones who are making the wine, which is a rare sight in most big wineries. They are only open on the weekends, with a rotating wine tasting list which changes daily. You can find out whose wines will be featured by calling the winery or subscribing to them on Facebook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Treasure Island Wines is a great place to stop at if you are interested in tasting some great small-production wines and meeting some really interesting people who love to share their knowledge, or if you just feel like getting out of the city without having to actually leave the city. Treasure Island also has a Flea Market every last Saturday & Sunday of the month, which provides the perfect opportunity to stop in and check out the winery.

Treasure Island Wines is having an event on June 15 called the Cork’n’Pork – a BBQ and wine pairing party featuring Bravium and Heartfelt wines. I will be helping out at the event, so come by and check it out. You can buy tickets here. Hope to see you there!

Treasure Island Wines
995 9th Street
Bldg. 201
San Francisco, CA 94130
415-394-9463
Open Saturdays & Sundays from 1pm-5pm

Affordable & Esoteric California Wines

This weekend was a busy one for the ladies of Winelandia. We had a packed agenda for Saturday – the Wind Gap Open House (in their new winery!) and the 7% Solution tasting in Healdsburg. Sunday we had reservations at Manresa in Los Gatos. Colleen brought a friend – Miss Naomi – the mastermind behind the Seattle food blog The Gastro Gnome. Two wine bloggers, one food blogger, perfect weather and a Fiat 500 convertible equals the best of times.

Colleen_Gnome(Naomi of The Gastro Gnome & Colleen of Winelandia)

The Wind Gap open house is one of the finest in all of Winelandia. They pour a plethora of wines and serve the finest foods you could imagine. We first tasted through Pax Mahle’s second label called Lucques – lovely and affordable wines that are thought-provoking and ready to drink now. They are priced from $18-$24, which is a steal for such lovely and interesting wines. We hope to add these wines to our line-up once our ABC applications are approved.

Lucques

We started on the Wind Gap Trousseau Gris ($24), Lucques Blanc ($22), Lucques Rosé ($18) and then wandered inside to taste the rest of Wind Gap’s wonderful creations. There were a variety of Chardonnays (Yuen, Brousseau & James Berry Vineyard), then moved on to the Grenache, Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir, Mourvedre & Sonoma Coast Syrah. My favorites were the Trousseau Gris, Lucques Blanc, Grenache & Mourvedre. Colleen loved the Brousseau Vineyard Chardonnay, which I also love. Maybe Wind Gap doesn’t make wines we don’t like? Totally possible.

Crowns_Cap_WG

One of my favorite things about this open house is the food that they serve to highlight the wines. We had blue point & kumamoto oysters, a QUARTER-WHEEL of Fiscalini Cheddar (maybe we were in heaven?), a variety of Charcuterie and grilled Sausages.

WG_CheeseAfter the Wind Gap open house, we headed off to Healdsburg for the 7% Solution tasting. This is a first-time event which showcases wineries that produce wines from obscure varietals. The name is called 7% because 93% of California’s vineyards are planted with money-maker grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. This event was a homage to the less-planted and appreciated red-headed stepchild grapes such as Trousseau Gris, Vermentino, Mourvedré, Pinot Gris and a bunch of others that are too hard to recall because they are just THAT crazy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were pleased to run into Scott Schultz, the winemaker for Jolie-Laide. He makes just a few wines and we got to try two of them at this tasting. There was a direct-to-press Pinot Gris which was bright, fresh and fun to drink. His other wine was a skin-fermented Trousseau Gris ($24). If you see this wine in a store or on a restaurant wine list, do NOT hesitate to buy it! It’s so great! I didn’t catch the vintage (I would guess it was a 2011?) because I was so distracted by the babes on his labels. Hubba Hubba!!!

All in all, it was a great day. It was really fun to try so many new wines by so many up-and-coming producers. I am especially excited about the fact that a lot of these esoteric wines are so inexpensive. I hope that we can showcase these wines on Winelandia once our store-front is set up. Keep an eye out for more of these great wines in future posts.

California wine in the Springtime

Image

In California, rosé wines are the harbinger of Springtime. They spent the winter settling and resting, preparing for being bottled. Come March, you start to see the previous year’s gently-hued, feminine wines hitting the shelves at your favorite restaurants, wine retailers and wine bars. These fresh, easy-to-drink wines are affordably priced, simple to understand and great with food.

This weekend I went up to Sonoma to pick up the new Arnot-Roberts rosé of 80% Touriga Nacional & 20% Tinta Cao. I fell in love with this wine last year. This is what I consider to be one of the best California rosé wines on the commercial market. It’s fresh, lively, complex, aromatic and full of energy. This wine is perfect for a sunny Spring day like today, even if it’s not technically Spring yet. At $22, you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer wine for the money.

Rose is a truly versatile food wine; you can pair it with almost anything. Grilled seafood, pizza, barbecue, charcuterie, pork and grilled vegetables all come to mind. It’s truly a wine for grilling & Summertime, best served chilled and while sitting in your back yard on a warm night.

While we were in the neighborhood, we paid a visit to Iron Horse Vineyards (open to the public, great sparkling wines & view), Wind Gap Wines (appointment only), Dutton-Goldfield (great Pinot Noir & Pinot Blanc), and Porter-Creek Vineyards (amazing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Carignan & Syrah). Lots of the wineries in the area have released their Spring wines and we took full advantage. I tasted over 20 wines and bought more than I needed to!

You would be hard-pressed to not believe it’s Spring today in the Bay Area. I went for a hike at San Bruno Mountain State Park and saw many of the lovely native wildflowers in bloom. Forget-Me-Nots, California Poppy, Lupine & Irises. The weather was outstanding; 65 degrees but it felt more like 70.

We have had a few lackluster wildflower seasons for the last few years around here, but maybe this year will be different. Looks great so far.