Tuesday, January 10, 2006

5 Days full of Amazing Wine and Food

I hardly know where to start…haven’t been online since Friday and have tasted at least 100 wines since then - I’ll break things down by day along with a few pics I suppose. A big shout out to Eric, Jeff, Doralice and Mulan for a great time together!

Friday – Laura Catena was our special guest for lunch and gave in-depth Luca presentation for the Vine Connections team in Marin. As always Laura is a complete delight to learn from and talk to about Mendoza wine growing and producing. Seriously – most of the Luca red wines come from “old vine” vineyards that are at least 60 years old. Laura and Vine Connections are truly pioneers for believing in many producers in Mendoza when nobody was taking small producers with old vines seriously.

Like I tell EVERYONE, if you aren’t sure about a foreign wine – twist the bottle around and look for the importer, you are guaranteed a killer bottle if you see the Vine Connections logo on the back label.

Saturday was filled with wine from all over the world while staying up in Anderson Valley. Most eclectic goes to the sparkling Carignane from France and the most delicious pairing with braised short ribs (that had been cooking for 18 hours) was the Handley Reserve Pinot Noir, just enough dark fruit to balance the mouth-watering ribs – compliments to Chef Eric (again!). If anyone wants my notes on the other 10 bottles we downed that night send me an email…

(Founder's Tree at Handley Cellars)

Sunday night was a special dinner put on by Milla Handley and her stellar team. As a special treat we began the night with a 1997 Handley Brut Rose, the nose was baked chocolate cake, great acidity and slight sourdough on the finish. The color was baby girl light pink…LOVED this rose! We went on to the Handley 2003 Sauv Blanc that also had great acidity with nice finish. This SB tends to be more citrus fruit driven than grapefruit. I like! 2003 Anderson Valley Chardonnay was tasted next, we all agreed, super creamy and tropical nose, soft supple butter finish with a hint of lemon verbena. The 2003 Pinot Noir was elegant as usually, bright fruit and berry pink in color. On the flip side the Handley 2002 Zinfandel was loaded with dark berries and rich structure. I tasted this Zin a few months ago and could tell a significant difference from then – it’s evolved into a very complex and rich Zin– yum! 2001 Syrah from Mendocino County is filled with fruit from Potter Valley and McDowell ranch, nice light fruit and very berry driven. A great complement to the red-meat course. In contrast we tasted a 2002 Crozes Hermitage that was all about black pepper and dark black fruit. It was such a great way to taste through all the current Handley releases with food… To end the evening, I believe I had a few glasses of 1995 Royal Tokaji (6 Puttunyos) which tasted of silky caramel and kick started the best night of sleep this girl has had in years!

Monday began with a 10AM appoint in Ukiah at Germain-Robin who produces Alambic Brandy. Yes, I was sipping brandy to start my week off with a bang- serious bang. Check out the pictures, we spent a few hours with Hubert Germain-Robin and Joe Corley who is the assistant distiller. Didn’t take notes, but just take my word for it – HUNT this producer down no matter what state you live it. They know what they are doing and wow – what a pleasure to have learned so much about their distillery and process.

Sunset on Monday inspired a stop into the Half Moon Bay brewing company for a few pints of Mavericks Amber Ale (my favorite!). A glorious way to end a incredible weekend with dear friends, gourmet foods and artisan wines. Stay tuned for more notes and updates to post soon – I’m typing this from the Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley after meeting with a new TexaCali Wine Co. producer (I’ll announce very soon!).

Cheers to whatever tomorrow brings...Ali

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