Archive for August, 2012

Short Sips and Quick Trips

August 25, 2012

With harvest approaching, there’s still time before it gets crazy busy for a quick trip to wine country to check out new offerings and old favorites.

I’ve put together some  suggestions below for specific events in the next few weeks.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

A three-day slate of tastings and special events featuring Sonoma County’s best wines is on tap for the Labor Day weekend.

The main event of the 33rd annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend will be held Saturday (Sept. 1) from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at MacMurray Ranch, the winery named after founder Fred MacMurray, the late actor.

More than 170 wineries will be pouring tastes for guests who will also be served by 60 local chefs. Tickets are $150 online.

Many of the wineries are hosting individual winemaker dinners and other events from Friday (Aug. 31) to Sunday (Sept. 2). Here’s a list of the full lineup of events.

Lastly, the long weekend concludes with a charity auction.

if you want to buy a treasured or rare bottle of wine, check out the 20th annual Sonoma County Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean pm Sunday (Sept. 2) from 1-7 p.m.

Winetasting, dinner and entertainment are included in the $500 ticket. Proceeds benefit local non-profits.

 Lake County Wineries Invade Treasure Island

On Saturday (Sept. 8), more than 100 wines will be poured at a tasting on Treasure Island sponsored by a group of more than 30 Lake County wineries.

The “Wines with Altitude” event will be held at The Winery SF from Noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $60, but half-price admission is available online in advance.

Check out the Rhone-style wines made by one of my favorite Lake County producers, Gregory Graham, at this event.

 Family Winemakers of California

I’ll be attending the 21st annual Family Winemakers of California tasting on Sunday, Sept. 9 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Tickets are $65 in advance and $75 at the door.

Hundreds of large, medium, small and micro wineries from across the state will pour tastes of old and new wines from dozens of different type grapes.

The event began with a few dozen wineries pouring samples back in 1991. I find it to be one of the best big tastings of the year and a great chance to try a wide variety of wines in one afternoon.

Be sure to pace yourself. Drink water between tastings and don’t arrive on an empty stomach. There will be food available to help bring your taste buds back to life.

Please use a designated drive or public transit if you overindulge.

Atlas Peak Harvest Celebration

A group of mountain wineries from the Atlas Peak appellation in Napa County will be celebrating harvest with a special tasting in Yountville on Saturday (Sept. 8) from 1-4 p.m. at the V Wine Cellar.

There are at least 10 producing wineries in this area, which is located northeast of downtown Napa, east of Yountville and above the foothills of the Stags Leap District.. Several winegrowing-0nly operations in Atlas Peak also supply grapes to some of Napa’s most prestigious winemakers. About 1,500 acres are currently in cultivation.

Advance tickets are on sale for $25. Click here to order.

Short Sips

I’m learning to appreciate Viognier, the French grape that some call the poor man’s Chardonnay.

I recently enjoyed a terrific bottle of 2010 Loredona Viognier from Lodi, a region best known for big red Zinfandel wines.

I bought the wine off the list at Gecko Gecko Thai in Berkeley, a tasty spot for a quick dinner that’s just down the street from one of my favorite music venues, Freight and Salvage.

The grapes are from Loredona’s Clay Station Vineyard lies northeast of Lodi in the foothills of the Sierras. Warm days and cool nights which are typical in this region help ripen the grapes to maturity.

The wine tasted of peaches with a pleasant honeysuckle nose. This lighter-bodied white wine went well with a crispy rice salad spiked with ground pork.

The Loredona Viognier can be found at Whole Foods and Beverages and More stores on sale for less than $10 a bottle.

It’s a great summertime sipper at a great price!

Judges Pick: Pican’s Pork Tacos at ZAP Grill-O-Rama

August 14, 2012

Food and wine are natural partners. One usually tastes better with the other.

I found that universal truth at work during the ZAP Grill-O-Rama food and wine event last weekend.

A panel of wine and food writers, myself included, selected grilled pork tacos from Pican as the best food presented during the event. The people’s choice — by a popular vote of attendees — was the beef short ribs prepared by Tyler Stone, a celebrated personal chef from Sacramento.

Zin, Wine for All Seasonings

Zinfandel holds up well with all the grilled foods served  at Grill-O-Rama with wines poured by 32 wineries representing ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers group.

I enjoyed a glass of Mauritson Dry Creek Valley 2010 Zinfandel — a blend of several different vineyards, including vines grown in the celebrated Rockpile appellation of Sonoma County, with a “beef lollipop” made from short ribs of beef prepared by Chef Stone.

The beef was prepared “sous vide,” which is a slow-cooking method in which the meat is sealed in plastic and then submerged for hours (or days) in a hot water bath. Briefly finished on the grill,  each serving contained a single chunk of tender meat presented on a thick skewer with a mild chimichurri sauce.

I tried a glass of a 2009 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel from Brazin Cellars ($17) with Pican’s shredded pork, served on a soft tortilla with spicy tomatillo sauce and a sprinkling of crumbly queso fresca cheese. I really liked the addition of pickled onions, which gave the plate a definite acid bite.

Sonoma Smokehouse served an enjoyable grilled pork slider on an open-faced bun with hot and mild tomato-based sauce. It paired nicely with a 2009 Zinfandel  ($20) from Contra Costa County made by Three Wine Company in Clarksburg. The wine carries characteristic blackberry high notes plus some extra stuffing provided by 12 percent Petite Sirah. There’s just enough tannin to balance the fruit nicely.

Oakland’s Bocanova restaurant presented grilled chicken skewers with a delicate mole sauce. I tasted it with a wine I’d never drunk before from Napa, the Green and Red 2007
Tiptop Vineyard ($28).

I’d go out of my way for another bottle of this Green and Red offering that features pure Zinfandel flavors. Don’t be fooled if it’s a bit shy on the nose. It goes down so easy, a second glass is inevitable.

If you went to the tasting, please let me know what wine was your favorite. If you didn’t attend, who made the last bottle of Zinfandel you enjoyed?

It Means Orchard Tender in German

August 2, 2012

Roughly translated, Bumgarner is German for an orchard worker or gardener. It’s also the name of a  Giants pitcher and a not-so-Giant winery in the Sierra foothills.

The family owned Bumgarner Winery in Camino has an interesting lineup of red and white wines, with several on tap in the tasting room plus a delightful hard apple cider.

I found this quaint little winery by accident, thanks to my wife’s urging to stop at a thrift store off Highway 50 while driving home from a visit to Lake Tahoe.

As luck would have it, the winery sits directly behind the Snowline Hospice Thrift Store, where I got a great deal on a pair of $3 blue jeans.before strolling next door to taste some wine.

Tapping into High-Altitude Juice

Wines offered on tap are sold in a re-usable 750-ml  bottle with a resealable top. Bring the bottle back, and they knock $5 off the price of a re-fill.

My favorites included the 2010 Chardonnay and the 2008 Eldorado Tempranilllo. I also liked the apple cider, made from Pink Lady fruit in a delightfully dry style that I found refreshing.

The Chardonnay carries the vein of apples forward on a much lighter and delicate note. This was clean Chardonnay fruit without any heavy oak attributes.

The Tempranillo is made from a Spanish varietal that presents a solid, earthy backbone with leathery overtones against blackberry fruit and  bouquet.

There are some good tannins at work in the Tempranillo alongside significant acids which make this wine a particularly great match for hearty foods involving tomato-based sauces or grilled meats and sausages.

Get Your Grill-O-Rama On in Alameda

If you’re a Zinfandel fan and enjoy grilled foods, head for Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 11. I’ll be there to help judge the entries and write about the results.

ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) is sponsoring  the Grill-O-Rama, an amazing cook-off competition pairing Bay Area grilling artists (like John Ledbetter from BocaNova in Jack London Square, chef Tyler Stone, Dawn Wofford from Sonoma Smokehouse, and Sophina Uong from Pican in Oakland) with wines from 32 different California Zinfandel producers.

Bay Area wineries like Rock Wall, R&B Cellars and Dashe Cellars will be pouring their wines alongside a host of other top producers from Lodi, Napa, Sonoma, the Central Coast and Sierra Foothills.

Advance tickets are available online for $50 and $60 at the door.