Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Here are a few pictures taken over the past few days - I promise more later. It's an amazing time to be in the California wine country - it's like driving through an Autumn patch-work quilt.
Last weekend my dear friend Mulan Chan celebrated her birthday along with 40 or so other foodie friends in San Francisco. It was a food and wine feast that would make you salivate just seeing the pics, we had everything from black truffle linguine to butter cream frosted cupcakes. The San Francisco good-weather Gods were on our side - giving us a clear night with no fog or wind.
I've been staying up at the Handal Vineyard, enjoy the pics and check in for a complete Thanksgiving Day tasting report by Saturday.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Afterwards, we hit up my favorite pub in the city for a pint, fish and chips - delivered in a nifty wrap of newspaper. I miss this city. Off to prepare for a darling b-day celebration this evening - bubbles all day for all! Cheers - Ali
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thanksgiving Wines to Buy - these are a must - just ask for them at your favorite wine store....
*Handley Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley California $25
*Fort Ross Symposium Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast $25
*Pellegrini Olivet Lane Pinot Noir from the Russian River $25
*Storrs Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains $18
*Crios Torrontes and Rose of Malbec from Argentina $14
Stay tuned for more soon, this is the biggest food and wine weekend of the year...
Gobble Gobble! Ali
Monday, November 13, 2006
This is the deal according to Guy "I made Sauvignon Blanc for years in California, and it has long been a favorite wine to drink because of its crisp, refreshing character. I have always preferred my Sauvignon Blanc in the more vibrant style, without the heavy character of oak barrels, a style I started to admire coming out of New Zealand wineries in the 90’s.
Well, the seasons in New Zealand are opposite those here in the Northern Hemisphere, so when my California vineyards are sleepy and quiet, awaiting the arrival of Spring – it is Fall in New Zealand and the grapes are starting to ripen! In 1998 I arranged to work the harvest in the Northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, in a region called Marlborough. I went to study and experience the winemaking styles and techniques, although what I discovered is a microclimate that turns the Sauvignon Blanc grape into distinctive and delicious flavor reflections. The Cook’s Straight which separates New Zealand’s two islands, creates a constant funnel of marine breezes, continually cooling the coastal vineyards. The soils are rich in calcareous deposits, the benefit of the island geography. This translates into vigorous vines and long growing seasons – layers of aromas and flavors that push the envelope on true Sauvignon varietal character. Since that first harvest I have stopped making Sauvignon Blanc in California and return each and every vintage to craft a reflection of Marlborough. I have secured grapes from 2 of the older vineyards in New Zealand both planted in the 1970’s by true pioneers in the New Zealand wine industry. The first block is right on the coast in a sub appellation called Brancott – this piece keeps very crisp acidity and pronounced aromas of fresh herbs.
The second vineyard is about 10 miles inland from the first in another sub appellation called Rapaura. This vineyard is slightly warmer and dryer and gets flavors of grapefruit, passion fruit and other tropical notes like guava and lime depending on the vintage. That Rapaura vineyard also gets riper so the acidity is tamed a bit and the body of the wine is more mouthcoating. I craft the two blocks separately in individual stainless steel tanks at very low temperatures to highlight and never mask the character of each vineyard. Once the fermentation is finished I return back to California to begin farming the new vintage in the Russian River Valley. In the middle of our summer, their winter, I return to New Zealand to assemble a final blend of the two tanks – a layered combination that creates a harmony between the tropical notes and the fresh herbs,-- the bright, crisp acidity and the rich mouthcoating texture that leaves the flavors hanging on your palate. A unique, exciting expression that can be achieved no other way and from no other place.
I think by the end of the first bottle you’ll see its worth traveling half way around the globe to make! - Guy Davis.
Yep - no kidding, you all know that I love Sancerre and extremely well made 2005 SB - here's my one token from NZ, it was chosen #1 from (in) New Zealand from the Beverage Tasting Institute - YES THIS IS A BIG FRIGGIN' DEAL - I MEAN THE BIGGEST....drink it up with a side of goat cheese and pesto - ALI
Friday, November 10, 2006
So posted below is a great entry Alder posted on November 7th about one of the Vine Connections Ginjo Sake breweries that I actually had the pleasure of visiting last February while in Japan.
SOOO COOL - check it out - Ali
Daimon Brewery, Katano City, Japan: Current ReleasesFiled under: Boutique Wines , Sake , Wine Reviews
I'm a sucker for a good story when it comes to what I'm drinking. Of course, what I'm drinking has to be good, but it becomes so much better for the addition of a great story about where it came from and how it was made. Quite often, however, the story also comes from who made it. The people behind the wine we drink are literally the reason it tastes so good, but the stories of winemakers, vineyard workers, winemaking families, and vineyard owners can add a special dimension to the understanding and appreciation of what's in the glass.
Especially when the folks who make what we're drinking defy the odds.
Philip Harper is a man going where none of his kind have gone before. Specifically, he is the first and only Toji, or master brewer of Japanese sake, that also happens to be not Japanese. Harper is the sort of modest unassuming Brit that still hasn't gotten used to answering the question that everybody always asks. His answer to how the heck he ended up where he is today is "purely by accident."
What started as a personal passion for sake led to volunteering for the backbreaking work associated with the sake making process, eventually getting paid for it, and then, after a long road of apprenticeship, being certified as the first foreign-born Master Brewer in the country. The author of several books about sake, Harper recently published The Book of Sake: A Connoisseurs Guide
Harper works for a brewing company called Daimon Shuzo (the shuzo just means "brewery") near the city of Osaka in western Japan. Confusingly, the brewery is also known as Sakahan Shuzo. Don't ask me why.
Founded in 1826, Daimon has been run by a single family for 6 generations. The brewery sits at the foot of the Ikoma mountain range in a town called Katano city, an area that has been renown for centuries as a destination for viewing the cherry blossoms and other seasonal scenery.
Sake production in the area began in the Edo Period (between 1600 and 1850) and Diamon is one of only two remaining brewers that have survived since that time. Its longevity can certainly be attributed to making a great product and sensible management, but may also be a consequence of the brewery's modest aspirations. Diamon has never made much sake. It produces about 90,000 liters of sake per year (the equivalent of 10,000 cases of wine), which makes it rather small by Japanese standards.
Harper works alongside another Master Brewer named Yokomichi Toshiaki to produce the brewery's various different sakes for domestic and export markets. Most sake breweries have a large portfolio of different sakes that are made in various quantities, some large, some miniscule. I've never seen a sake brewery that didn't have at least several different products and several different sub-brands. Diamon offers its products under the Diamon, Tozai, Mukune, Sakahan and Rikyubai.
The Tozai line of products, both of which are reviewed below, is a special collaborative project between Harper, the brewery's US importer, and artist Daniel Kelly, who provided the artwork for the labels. The name Tozai appropriately means "East-West."
The existence of these products, not to mention the employment of a British guy with wild curly hair and a penchant for wearing hooded sweatshirts and tie-dyes, totally impresses me. It's quite inspiring to see even just a single example of such innovation and open-mindedness in an industry whose complex traditions and convoluted laws make the French AOC system look like kindergarten playground rules.
Below you'll find tasting notes for the four sakes that the brewery currently exports to the US. Full disclosure: I received these sakes as press samples.
Tozai "Well of Wisdom" Honzojo
Colorless in the glass, this sake has a yeasty nose of wet wood and malted milk. In the mouth it is silky, with subdued acid levels and somewhat straightforward flavors of chocolate milk and cedar. Score: 8. Cost: $22.
Mukune "Shadows of Katano" Junmai Ginjo Nigori
Cloudy white with a fine sediment and just the tiniest hint of bubbles, this sake has a very unique nose that has the lightest yeasty notes of Vegemite mixed with more dominant aromas of freshly baked bread, and sweet wet earth. In the mouth it is lightly sweet, with a nice satiny feel on the tongue, and can best be described as tasting like what you might imagine milkweed to taste like before you actually give it a try (the real deal is somewhat bitter). There is something magically organic and essential about the milky earthy flavor and its accompanying notes of floral tones. This is the first Junmai Ginjo Nigori (unfiltered) sake I have had, but it has me itching for more. Score: 9. Cost: $40.
Mukune "Root of Innocence" Junmai Ginjo
Crystal clear in the glass, this sake has a very light, nearly imperceptible nose of light rainwater and mineral aromas with a hint of floral complexity. In the mouth it has a somewhat unusual combination of woody flavors and a richer butterscotch aspect that is quite pleasing. The sake is very balanced with a fine texture and weight on the tongue. A solid Ginjo that most people would have to try very hard to dislike. Score: 9. Cost: $40.
Tozai "Voices in the Mist" Nigori
Dense and milky white in the glass, this unfiltered sake smells classically of warm bread. In the mouth it is lighter than its thick cloudiness would suggest, and has a surprising peachy and citrus aspect to it, hinting at oranges at times as it moves across the palate, with only a tiny bit of sweetness to it. This is a more classic nigori-style sake, uncomplicated and approachable. Score: 8.5. Cost: $22.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Check out the recent reviews from the Wine Enthusiast - oh yeah!!! Read more about Fort Ross here.
Cheers - Ali
Monday, November 06, 2006
What's on tap over the next few weeks???
I'm out in Cali, talking to investors, trying a few new wines, making sure Texas keeps buying the great wines of TexaCali Wine Co., partying with lovers of European butter, laughing with cheese-mongers, sleeping on my favorite couch, walking through vineyards, hiking a trail or two in the Marin headlands, hearing some super-cool music in San Francisco, drinking some great draft beer, eating the best organic Thanksgiving meal in the world, running the show from the Bay Area, maybe even taking a day off to go fishing, hanging out on my favorite porch in Dry Creek Valley (pictured on the right), driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at least 10 times and hugging all the folks that helped TexaCali Wine Co. make a nice, deep and successful mark of greatness in the Lone Star State!
Check out these links for a little peak into the Holiday Season, 2007 and beyond...
Oh and Stay tuned for updates along the way and don't forget to ask for TexaCali Wine Co. wineries when buying wine in Texas! www.texacaliwine.com Cheers - Ali
Saturday, November 04, 2006
So here was the line-up this week, each hour of each day the wines changed and became more interesting and exciting to taste. Talk about perfect fall weather wines and absolutely incredible compliments to Thanksgiving Dinner...
2004 Anderson Valley Chardonnay - an owner of a Plano retail shop asked me why I like this wine and why I think his customers would..."it's the anti-Rombauer", I replied without skipping a beat. Those who like finesse and elegance without the extra squirt of butter totally dig this Chardonnay - in fact, it reminds me of so many Grand Cru Burgundies...
2005 Handley Gewurtztraminer
93 points, Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wines of 2006
There's beautiful fruit clarity to this coastal gewürztraminer, an exotic flavor like ripe cherimoya (what the heck is this?) and fresh litchi. It feels luscious and gentle in the middle, then constricts around steely acidity, a tense balance that leaves the mouth refreshed.
YIKES - More later - running out for the afternoon - Cheers - Ali