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Straight from the Vine -- Archives : November, 2009

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    De Tierra Vyds

    Monterey County. Two estate wines from certified organic grapes. Very good quality, bargain priced. Strongly recommended.

    Talking about how ‘green’ a wine is can be very complicated. Not using pesticides says little about the winery’s attention to energy and water conservation. Is an ‘organic’ wine from Italy still green after all that weight of liquid and glass has been shipped to San Francisco? Does your ‘bio-dynamic’ winery pay their workers a living wage? And do any of these matters contribute to good taste? How far can I trust claims of ‘greenishness?’

           It’s a thorny issue. We will revisit it frequently on this blog. But we will begin with a winery recommendation that needs very few qualifier adjectives. These two wines taste great, and they are both pretty reasonably priced. The grapes are grown within 100 miles of the Stanford campus. The vine...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 30 2009 11:24AM | 0 comments

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    CA State Fair Wine Judges

    In 2008 a Two-Buck Chuck wine went Double Gold at CA State Fair. Does that mean judges there are bozos? Turns out CA State Fair wine judges are more reliable than you might assume.                  

           The CA State Fair hosts the oldest wine competition in North America. Obviously it is, in part, a promotional effort to boost an important segment of the state’s agricultural economy. Perhaps half the state’s wineries, around 700, participate most years. In fact over a million dollars (in aggregate) is spent on entry fees, not to mention the cost of the wines and shipping, at just four of the wine competitions held in the state each year. Unfortunately, it is an extremely rare occurrence for a single wine to win a Gold Medal in multiple competitions. Why would that be? Does the fault lie with the wines being entered, or with the quality of the judging po...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 27 2009 1:22PM | 0 comments

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    NZ Sauv Blanc

    Top match for Pacific (Miyagi) oysters, esp. plump local Sweetwaters. Visit Tomales Bay; get some gear; go shuck yourself.

    Many winter weekends in Northern California are cool, clear, and sunny. Those are perfect days to forego the $2.50 each price for oysters on the halfshell in trendy San Francisco boites, and to hie oneself with a comely companion to the beautiful, long bay which lies between Point Reyes Natl. Park and northwestern Marin County. Maybe rent a Harley for the trip. Tomales is the seat of much oyster aquaculture. You can buy cocktail-sized oysters from these maritime farmers for a quarter of what you’d pay in San Francisco. A shucking knife becomes a fairly minor investment once you amortize it over several dozen units.

           Marlborough, at the north end...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 24 2009 2:25PM | 0 comments

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    2002 F. Magnien Chambolle-Musigny (Charmes)

    Truly great red Burgundy is delightful, in no small part because it is so hard to find. About $95 in a retail store.

             I always find buying red Burgundies to be something of a dice roll. There is no argument that the wines can be brilliant on occasion, but they are also very expensive, and a big price point is no guarantee of quality.
             Frederic Magnien is rapidly becoming a favorite producer of mine. This wine comes from one of the two best premier cru vineyards in the commune (out of 24 total). It has a chalky substrate over a rocky base, so yields are typically very small ~ a little over one ton per acre, which is about one-third of what is allowed under appellation of origin regulations. This tiny production serves to accentuate the commune’s famously ...

    Find the remainder of this post in the Top Wine Reviews section

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 22 2009 1:56PM | 0 comments

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    Stolichniy restaurant

    in Sacramento, CA. My dinner w/ Darrell Corti. Fine cuisine from Ukraine. Authentic, inexpensive. We bring the wines.

    When you go to dinner with Darrell Corti you know there are going to be some very good, very obscure wines. So I asked Darrell to suggest an unusual place. Something one would not easily find in San Francisco or San Jose. We brought the Riedel crystal. Little did we realize it would also have behooved us to bring a few bottles of Chardonnay and Zinfandel.

           Stolichniy is a Russian – Ukraine restaurant at 5601 Watt Av in North Highlands. That’s close to McClelland Air Force Base, just off Hwy 80, north of Sacramento. I went (unannounced) on a Tuesday night with a party of seven, including Elaine Corn (former food editor for the Sacramento Bee) and Darrell Corti, proprietor of the best gourmet grocery emporium in Northern Calif...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 20 2009 4:12PM | 0 comments

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    St Hallet 1998 (OB) Shiraz

    Barossa. Class taste. Superb. Round core of black stonefruits + leather, roast coffee bouquet. Elk on the Barbie!   

    Bottle-aged Syrah can be quite special. Old vines from the Barossa Valley make good candidates (Shiraz), and the right food pairing always seals the deal.

    1998 St. Hallett (Old Block) Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia. This wine probably costs a little over $100 in a retail store, but it would be very hard to find. It is from a warm, and highly regarded vintage in Australia. St. Hallett produces three Shiraz wines each year. The one called Faith, and the one called Blackwell, are pleasant enough when young, and should probably be drunk for maximum pleasure then. Old Block is the one built for aging. It comes from 60- to 100-year-old vines. It has an excellent track record, and definitely deserves a spot in the Aussie Top Five...

    Find the rema...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 9 2009 2:00PM | 0 comments

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    Wstrn Cape, So Africa

    Wonderful scenery. Wildlife. Exotic flora. Great wines. Politics. Long flight from San Francisco ~ better stay a month.

          South Africa has been making noteworthy wines almost as long as English has been spoken in North America. And that’s 100 years longer than good wine has been made anywhere other than Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. Afrikaaner winemakers today are no more Dutch colonialists in Africa than the Kennedy clan are Irish colonialists in America. How many generations does it take before one becomes a native? Some Afrikaaner families go back 15 generations. That’s like having arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower.
     
           The Cape is South Africa’s garden district. It is a fascinating place to be a wine tourist because this long-standing industry feels brand new. International sanctions during the apartheid years cut off SA wine exports at the knees. Another slice ...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 8 2009 7:39PM | 0 comments

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    Koi Palace in Daly City, CA

    Tremendous Cantonese cuisine. Live aquaria. Brave the wild frontier in wine-food pairing! You make up new rules.

           Choosing beer to drink with the food in a great Chinese restaurant is like getting a date with Heidi Klum and choosing to take her to the movies. Why, when you are with one of the most beautiful people on earth, would you want to spend the night in a dark room where it’s rude to talk? Have a couple glasses of wine instead.

           Koi Palace may be the best Chinese restaurant in America. It is unquestionably among the top five. They have two locations: the original is in a Daly City shopping center right next to an Outback Steakhouse; the second is in the Thunder Valley Casino northeast of Sacramento. Don’t read too much into these brief place descriptions. Both areas draw very large crowds of Chinese customers, and Koi Palace is nothing if not ethnically g...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 4 2009 12:33AM | 1 comments

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    Cooking wine suggestions?

    It doesn’t have to be expensive, but faulty wine used in cooking can ruin any dish.

           Butlers in English mansions used to put salt in the cooking wine so the kitchen staff wouldn’t drink it. Assuming you’ve overcome the staff intoxication problem in a different way, here are some tips on using wine to enhance the flavor of dishes one prepares at home.

    Reader’s Question: I may not drink any more, but I still cook with wine.  I realize the quality of the wine affects the flavor of your coq au vin, or whatever. So I'm looking for recommendations on relatively inexpensive wines for cooking.  My basic cooking style is Italian and/or French Provencal, which are the same thing except in Italian you pronounce all the vowels. However, like the way the languages sort of slide into each other as you sneak from Liguria into Provence, so does the cooking. The further north you go ...

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    Posted by Mr. Bruce Cass on Nov 2 2009 10:32AM | 0 comments