Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vouvray in the City

What a week, Monday was the final day of judging the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition , a three day Wine.Woot! - Woot Off! and then a huge week for wine in the Bay Area, especially for Napa wine lovers attending  Premier Napa Valley  and Burgundy enthusiasts in town for La Paulée de San Francisco.  All the while, it's been a long and tough few nights for me due to an allergy driven cold and little sleep (an outrageously horny Mockingbird is wrecking havoc on the neighborhood).  

So on Thursday night knowing I had a tasting event in San Francisco with Brack Mountain Wine Company I sucked it up and medicated enough to breath (finally!).  The night was fun -  meeting new fans, talking about the vineyards and tasting 2010 Cyprus Chardonnay, 2010 Cyprus Pinot Noir and 2009 Bench Cabernet Sauvignon alongside Winemaker Dan Fitzgerald.  Perks of the job!  However, Thursday night's dinner was the highlight of the week for me.  

We hopped in a cab with our SI's (significant others) and headed to Heaven's Dog a few blocks away from our tasting for some killer Chinese food. Their legendary cocktails had drawn me here before, but tonight was all about getting our dinner and wine on.  

The first round of food included Shanghai Dumplings - melt in your mouth little steamed pockets of yum.  Braised Pork Belly in a rice bun - pure decadence and a spicy eggplant dish which took us into a little bite of paradise.   We  originally thought about eating at the Slanted Door which is one of our favorite restaurants and wine lists in San Francisco, but wanted to try a new spot (thank you Eric!).  So far all of our expectations were met and we were just getting settled in for the main course. 

I often talk about how great white wines go with meat - Duck, Pork, Beef...yep, white wine.  So Dan zeroed in on the 2009 François Pinon "Silex Noir" Vouvray, Chenin Blanc

SIDE BAR: My first experience with Vouvray was at the Salt Lick in Austin, Texas. I took one of Loire Valley's most treasured winemaker's Jo Pithon out for a real treat one night during a week-long visit to Texas.  Jo's made a name for himself within Loire for his vineyard and cellar skills and of course producing world class Chenin Blanc from Savennières and Anjou.  This particular night, I grabbed a 1993 Vouvray from my cellar which went perfectly with the Texas style BBQ brisket and pork ribs. A true "ah-ha" moment for me as the bottle of Argentine Malbec was an EPIC FAIL we also tasted with dinner.

Ok so back to the wine of the week for me...the Chenin Blanc was absolutely perfect with our main course. Concentrated flavors of citrus, honeysuckle, Asian spice with a kiss of sweetness. The table fell quiet all but the licking of our BBQ Pork soaked fingers. It also complimented the Tea Marinated Crispy Duck and Stir Fired Mongolian Lamb dishes incredibly well.  We passed on sweets after our last bites and savored a few last drops of the Chenin Blanc. A slight pause and look around the table with the obvious desire to order another bottle and get after it again made us all laugh.  

Shaking our heads and thinking too bad is was a school night and off we went. We ate like kings and queens and the check at the end was not bad at all for the amount of food ordered -approx. $50 a person.  A great night of wine, food and friendship and a new favorite Loire wine for all.  Heaven's Dog was spot-on, the menu small but focused and shows off a diverse wine list and of course their famous "Pre-prohibition era cocktails".  I suggest you make time for a visit soon...Ali

PS Here's a great interview with Francois Pinon and his US importer Louis/Dressner.
I love his answer to "What's work like in the Cellar?"...In the cellar my approach is to intervene as little as possible or as "nicely" as possible. Before any work can start in the cellar, it's imperative that we harvest our grapes at optimal maturity. This is easier said than done: a few days could change everything.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

National Drink Wine Day, well alrighty then!

Drink what you like.  It's that simple.  I can remember a few ah-ha moments back in the mid-90's that had me checking back labels for certain importers and front labels for certain regions all the sudden while shopping for new wines -  I liked.  It happens.  Suddenly my palate changed from big bold Bordeaux style wines into more elegant and feminine wines from Burgundy and California's Sonoma County.  Though I still enjoy the occasional glass of very well made Cabernet Sauvignon, I branched out years ago due to an open mind and crazy curiosity to learn more about wine and wine regions. 

Sometime in 2002 or 2003 I was giving a bottle of 1997 Williams Seylem Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir by my dear friends Jason and Liane LaBarba from Dallas.  This bottle blew my mind and pretty much kick-started my passion for Sonoma County Pinot Noir.  Fast forward 12 years later and I was representing one of the greatest family producers in Burgundy  A thrilling ride through the wine supply chain indeed - full of ah-ha moments. 

So my point is...drink what you like and drink what you don't know so much about - it just might change your life. It happened to me.  

Cheers to National Drink Wine Day - Ali

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Taste the #1 Wine in the Top 100 Tasting in LA this Saturday

The 2012 Wine of the Year - 
2009 Bench Cabernet Sauvignon $19.99

The Red Carpet Family is very proud to present Bench Cab as our 2012 Wine of the Year. 
The Top 100 is about the best wines for the money; we present to you a 100% Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon for just under $20. The Bench has a brilliant deep garnet hue and is a perfect representation of this noble varietal. Aromatically, it is a cavalcade of blueberry, red forest fruit, sensual suede, loam and even a slight hint of eucalyptus. It is so robust, yet elegant with tannins that bring together a mesh of currants, tobacco, and fresh herbs. Age worthy for sure, but ready to be enjoyed right now, so why wait. -H.K, Red Carpet Wines.


#3 of the Top 100: 2010 Cyprus Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $34.99Dan Fitzgerald is the winemaker and a very talented one at that. He has three wines on our list and could easily have had more. He makes wines of great structure that show terroir and are extraordinarily drinkable; no over the top manipulation or nonsense with his wines! I see big things happening with his winery and am proud to be able to showcase his wines to our customers. Michael

#11 of the Top 100: 2010 Bench Pinot Noir $18.99 An amazing Value to say the least. This is a wine of great character and yet is very approachable. The fruit is sourced from some of the best vineyards in the Sonoma Coast but won't break the bank. The fruit comes from Sangiacomo Amaral Ranch and carries notes of blackberries, strawberries, and Pomegranate. Delicious with coq au vin, beef bourguignon, poultry, pasta and filet mignon. Michael

Cheers to a great tasting in LA, I'll be in Big D judging the - Ali

Thursday, February 09, 2012

This Week in Pictures

...Almond Orchards, Rock N Rollers, a Full Moon, Sunrise in the Russian River Valley, an Alexander Valley Sunset, Surfer Winemakers and oh some damn good wine. I love my job.  - Ali

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Behind Bars

I'm trying to beat the clock today and so far I'm not winning.  I'm referring you all to read The Gray Report  (I've been a follower of Blake Gray's writings for years now) and his words are accurate.  Briefly,  I recall the day this story broke about the fires, many of my former clients wines were destroyed and the days and weeks following the fire were devastating - their history and their future gone.  A heartbreaking time for many.  - Ali

Villian Who Burned Other's Wines Gets 27 Years.

California is releasing 34,000 non-violent prisoners because of a federal court order on overcrowding, which means anybody who commits crimes against property, not people, has a pretty good chance of walking free these days.

Fortunately, the worst wine villain of this millennium was tried in federal court, not state court. Mark Christian Anderson might not serve all of the 27-year sentence he got Tuesday, but it's a pretty good bet that he's had his last glass of wine for at least a decade. Read the full article here

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Game Day Wine

A day of snacking and sipping...chile, cornbread, potato chips, spinach dip are all on the menu.  I'll be washing this healthy Superbowl Menu down with 2010 Cyprus Chardonnay, great acidity to cut through the fat and flavorful richness to mellow me out after a glass or two.  

I've got no skin in the game this year, but will be cheering on my hometown girl Kelly Clarkson who's singing our National Anthem, she's nervous about it.  So there's time to grab a few bottles of Cyprus if you live around San Francisco at K&L Wine Merchants, small production this year, so it's not widely available.  Cheers - Ali

2010 Cyprus Chardonnay

From one of the oldest vineyards in the Russian River AVA - vines are planted on the old AXR1 rootstock. It's not often I taste a California chardonnay that I enjoy this much! The wine has great acidity, lemon cream pie flavors with a pinch of minerality and finishes long and supple. 

100% barrel fermented on new and neutral French Oak. Fermentation was long and cool resulting in wines that did not go dry until January (Harvest date: Oct. 20th). Lees were stirred in barrel every two weeks until bottling to develop its rich mouth feel and layers of complexity.  100% French Oak, 40% new and aged on fermentation lees for 9 months. Produced by Brack Mountain Wine Company

Case production: 230   $20-24 a bottle

Friday, February 03, 2012

A Big Day Tomorrow Too!

Yes - load up on fun wines before the Big Game on Sunday...join the Micro-Winery Collective Open House tomorrow in Santa Rosa!  A cool opportunity to try new wines from some new kids on the block.  I'm sorry to be missing this one, but if you are near Santa Rosa, this tasting is well worth spending some bucks to support the smallest of small producers around.  The Ultra Crepe Truck is on tap as well...delicious.  Happy Weekend Everyone!  - Ali

Please visit for more details. 

The lineup: