My friend, poet Dean Rader, recently published this fun wine-pairing piece in honor of the NBA Finals. A tip of the hat to this charming analysis of Basketball culture, and justification that it is truly a sport best suited for wine!
Smiles everyone smiles, welcome to Super Bowl 50! Great fun stopping by the Taste of Sonoma Lounge in Super Bowl City in SF this weekend. Even better seeing enthusiastic football fans from across the nation lovin’ the wines from Sonoma County!
Here are some photos to pique your curiousity: Later this week, catch me at Market One restaurant on Feb 5 & 6 as a featured pre-game sommelier!
Happy Halloween! Earlier this week I had a plan to launch a series of my annual Ghoulish Film and Wine pairings for Halloween. But alas, I ended up spending most of the past seven days tasting a series of admirable wines at the successful Pinot on the River event in Healdsburg, Three Sticks Wines featured at opening of The Adobe in Sonoma, and the memorable vintage Bertani Amarones presented at a luncheon at Perbacco in San Francisco. Besides the other big projects I was working on, the rest of my time was spent hanging on the edge of my seat while watching the magnificent #SFGiants make it through seven game series to win the #MLBWorldSeries2014.
For that reason, I decided to focus on one poignant Halloween movie and dedicate my wine pairing with the cinematic classic The Shining to Madison Bumgarner, our amazing pitcher who defied the odds and carried the team on his back to victory. Thanks to his historic performance in the World Series, #MadBum became baseball’s version of #RedRum with an orange tint that will haunt the #KCRoyals fans for many years to come. Congratulations to the #SF Giants for a marvelous season! #OrangeOctober #OrangeTogether…Enjoy!
The Shining (1980)
Based on the Steven King novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a family man, struggling writer and off-season caretaker of a remote hotel during wintertime. Influenced by the loneliness of this desolate setting and the lively ghosts of people murdered on the property, Jack goes off the deep end and begins chasing his family and other unsuspecting prey in the confines of the haunted hotel. Supernatural and sinister, The Shining is a cerebral horror flick from start to finish. #imdb
Pairing: Somerston 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Grown, Napa Valley In keeping with the theme of isolation, the Somerston Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful wine made with premium grapes grown at the Somerston Estate in the rugged Vaca Range east of St.Helena. At elevations of 1,000 to 2,400 feet above the valley floor, the vines are influenced on a daily basis by full sun and rocky volcanic soils.
In the glass, this full-bodied estate wine features brilliant aromas of ripe berries and spice. The flavors are concentrated with layers of dark berries, plum and cherry; firm tannins and structure; rich texture; and a magnificent finish with nuances of wild mountain herbs, smoke and cedar. Deep, dense and delicious, this is a fine alternative to “red rum.” And like the classic film: the wine is not only bold and powerful, but age worthy as well! www.somerstonwineco.com.
#NVFF2014 Bonus: Taste the top-notch wines from #SomerstonEstate and their second label #PriestRanchWines as part of #TheVintnersCircle at the #NapaValleyFilmFest, November 12-16. The Vintner Circle represents those wineries contributing some of the most elegant and distinctive elements that help make our Napa Valley Film Festival such a unique and special experience: Vintner Circle Dinners with Patrons and Filmmakers, large-format bottles for our Award-Winners and Tribute Honorees, VIP tasting opportunities, and more. www.napavalleyfilmfest.org.
Movies are back! With the change of the season, the anticipation of upcoming holidays and the countdown to Napa Valley Film Festival in November, it’s time to rekindle my seasonal film and wine pairings that will help make your relaxing time more special!
With that being said, on my flight back from Portugal last week, I had a chance to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Originally, I was a hesitant to delve in because I loved the original film starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo (1947). But I’m happy to say that it didn’t take long for me to be charmed by this newer version starring Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, and Sean Penn.
Based on a short story by James Thurber, the film follows the trials and tribulations of Walter Mitty, the man behind the photo images used in Life Magazine, who has a crush on Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig), a woman he barely knows. Amidst his romantic day-dream fantasies about Cheryl, Walter finds himself in a true race against time to find the missing negative #25 which leads him to Greenland, Iceland, and the Himalayan Mountains. Each scene is fun, quirky, and Walter becomes a stronger man along the way.
Wine Pairing: Zepaltas 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Unlike the original movie, an underlying theme in the new film is focused on skateboarding, a skill Walter mastered when he was younger. In real life, Wisconsin-native Ryan Zepaltas did a similar thing when was a teen. But after ranking at the top of the sport with Tony Hawk and other great skateboarders of his era, Ryan followed his passion for wine to Sonoma County in 1998, where he went on to work for LaCrema Winery and spent a harvest at Villa Maria in New Zealand. Since then, Ryan has become the assistant winemaker for Adam and Dianna Lee at #SiduriWinery, as well as starting his own brand #ZepaltasWines.
A great example of Ryan’s style is the Zepaltas 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($32), a sophisticated wine with lovely aromas of ripe red fruits, delicate rose petal, lavender, earth and spice. On the palate, the flavors explode with bright notes of raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, cherry cola, mineral, crushed allspice, and plenty of natural verve and enthusiasm all the way through the finish. And much like Walter, the wine gets stronger the more it’s exposed to new surroundings. In this case, fine stemware, more air via swirls, and the happy recipients enjoying this admirable gem from Russian River Valley while watching this clever and amusing film directed by Stiller.
The German 1-0 win over Argentina on Sunday marked the first ever championship for a European team when the FIFA World Cup has been played in the New World.
But that’s soccer.
In the world of wine, Germany and the neighboring country of Austria have been making magnificent white wines with the noble grape Riesling for centuries.
This year’s new releases are no exception as proven at the recent German and Austrian Fall 2014 Tasting presented by Terry Theise Estate Selections and WineWise/The Vienna Wine Company at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.
According to the producers I spoke with, the 2013 vintage is magnificent across the board.
“The first priority of the vintage was based on farming,” said Gunter Kunstler, winemaker/proprietor of Weingut Kunstler in the Rheingau region of Germany.
“It’s critical to be there at the right time when the fruit is ripe, the acid in balance and the skin is healthy. But when you master this process, it’s much easier to create balanced wines with layers of complexity.
Same was true for Caroline Diel, whose family owns Schlossgut Diel in Nahe. “In my opinion, 2013 was a relatively late year. But with god work in the vineyard and a little patience, the wines are fresh, beautiful and quite enjoyable when young.”
Wine scholar, author, philosopher and lovable bon vivant Terry Theise, who hosted the tasting, is fond of the vintage as well. “It’s a special vintage where the clusters had time on the vines to develop deep flavors of fresh fruit, acid, slate and other nuances that have resulted in classy wines that are both food friendly yet still have the ability to cellar for decades.
Here are some of my favorite picks from the event. Prices based on suggested retail.
Donnhoff 2013 Tronschiefer Riesling Trocken, Nahe, Germany ($30): Green apple, white plum, peach, grapefruit rind and mineral. Lively, fresh and stimulating to the senses.
Geil 2013 Geyersberg Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany ($33): Very young, very vibrant with pretty floral aromas, flavors of pear, dried apricot and fleshy texture. Great wine to serve as an aperitif or with spicy Asian cuisine.
Kunstler 2013 Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Rheingau, Germany ($33): Fragrant aromas of spring flowers, fresh citrus and mineral. Medium body with lively flavors of lychee, mango, grilled pineapple, and a long finish.
Schlossgut Diel 2013 Riesling Kabinett, Nahe, Germany ($31): Young and fresh wine with notes of ripe golden delicious apple, fresh citrus, green tea, sage, mint and racy acidity.
Fantastic wine that makes you feel younger with each sip!
Brundlmayer 2013 Riesling ‘Kamptaler Terrassen’, Kamptal, Austria ($27): Impressive example of Riesling from the Kamptal region on the Danube River in Austria. Ripe pear, lime, hazelnut, sea salt and a nice toasty note on the finish.
As much as I talk about wines, I must say that today’s World Cup game matching the United States vs. Belgium makes it impossible for me to resist my love for fine Belgium brew. Of course this includes the fine beers made by the Trappist monks at Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey in Chimay and other top producers in country like Duvel, Affligem and Leffe, as well as talented brewers who are making their stylized versions here in the United States like Ommegang Brewery in Cooperston, N.Y. and New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Today’s game to watch is United States vs. Ghana / ESPN 2:30 PST
United States: Before playing its first game in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the US soccer team is already going through a small identity crisis. For starters, German-born coach (Juergen Klinsmann) has already cut seasoned veteran Landon Donovan from the roster and candidly said that his team will not win the 2014 World Cup championship. For that reason, more pressure has been placed on star forward Clint Dempsey and the other younger players to score and goalie Tim Howard to hold his own against the strong and speedy team from Ghana. Of course, there’s also the fact that they are playing their first game in Natal, Brazil (a.k.a. “City of the Sun”) which has had heavy rainstorms over the last few days. Then, when you considering the fact that the next two opponents after Ghana are Germany and Portugal, there’s a reason why Group G is loosely referred to as the division from hell. So realistically, today’s game is a do-or-die situation for the US team to advance to the next round.
Although we can’t all be there to help the team, an easy good luck charm would be to bust open a bottle of the Carol Shelton 2012 “Wild Thing” Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino County ($19) made with fruit from old and mature vineyards, wild yeast, and aged in fine oak barrels.
Often referred to as California’s “sweetheart” grape, the first cuttings of zinfandel were brought to the West Coast during the Gold Rush boom in the 1850s. Before Prohibition, plantings were spread throughout the state, and thanks to the natural vigor of the thick-skinned red grape and its resilient character to avoid diseases, many of these original vineyards can still be seen dotting the landscape in Mendocino County and other prestigious winegrowing regions throughout California.
For these reasons, the new release of the 2012 Wild Thing packs a serious punch with lush, jammy flavors of black raspberry, bright cherry, plum, blood orange peel, clove, pepper and a hit of vanilla. In Carol’s words: “Remember—you are what you drink…” Like the US soccer team, it’s a very youthful wine with plenty to prove. Go team, go! www.CarolShelton.com.
Ghana: From the coast of West Africa, Ghana is a very serious soccer team who has beaten the US in the last two World Cup matches the teams have played. So it makes sense that the name of the country literally means “Warrior King.” For cuisine, Ghana is best known for seafood, soups and stews. One of the popular entrees is grilled Tilapia filet served with tomatoes, spicy sauce made with chilies and peppers, and Banku (a starch made with corn maize). With historic connections to German merchant marines and a portion of the country once known as the German Gold Coast, a fantastic pairing with the flaky texture of the fish and layers of spice would be a German or Alsace-style white blend. One of my favorites is the Brooks 2012 “Amycas” White Table Wine, Willamette Valley ($18), a combination of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Muscat and Gewurztraminer. This lovely domestic version of Edelzwicker (German for “noble blend”) features enchanting aromas of fresh citrus, honey and exotic fruits. On the palate, the wine is highlighted by notes of fresh lime, peach, mango and papaya, vibrant acidity, and a clean, crisp finish. Scary good. www.BrooksWine.com.