20080421

SNAKSHOT: Greens is Golden

fort mason san francisco bay marina district
Kuentz-Bas Blanc Alsace 2005 Domaine Catherine La Goeuil Cuvée Léa Flesch Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne
acme bakery ferry building embarcadero
The tag for this post should be "Foodbloggers' Guide to the Globe" because anyblogger who's been to San Francisco's Greens would nominate it a top taste of the city.

Never mind that everyone's meal also comes with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. And without being overly scientific above it, Greens' wine list was the most welcoming experience of my two weeks in California. It presents a host of food-friendly wines from all over served by the glass and with reasonable prices on bottles, and half-bottles too -- which is what a solo diner like me went with, after a glass of Kuentz-Bas Blanc Alsace 2005, which being a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Riesling, was a beautiful way to support the blood orange salad starter.

Everything was delicious, perfect, heavenly. Including my server, Cher, who helped when I balked at finishing the last portions remaining of the Domaine Catherine La Goeuil Cuvée Léa Flesch Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne 2005. It was made for the Mesquite Grilled Brochettes -- skewers of mushrooms, peppers, garnet yams, fennel, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and marinated tofu with charmoula, served on cherry-pistachio couscous.

And that the golden crusty bread they serve is always from The Acme Bread Company, which is far and away the best bakery in the city.

The place is without fault. You can approach the menu blindfolded -- it's all that good.

Just don't ask for meat 'cause they don't have any.

20080420

Notes on Alain Lorieux Expression 2005, Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux 2004... and the best drink made in California comes from a Clover


It's me again, back from California, mopping up the remains of WBW 44 by finding those tasting notes I omitted from my last post.

Since that post I've been down to San Diego, up to LA, and back to San Francisco, eating amazing food all the way, and probably gaining some extra weight after these two full weeks of eating out (that's okay -- that's what airplane bugs are for).

FOOD SLOW AND FANTASTIC, WINE EXPENSIVE AND LESS FINE

When visiting California, the wine is, in every case except at the carbon-footprint-reducing Getty Center Restaurant in Los Angeles, international in scope. The Getty takes a stand by offering only local wine. So it was at the Getty that I launched into a half bottle of Qupé Syrah from the Central Coast. It made me think more of Australia than Rhône -- whose grape varieties this winery has claimed to dedicate itself to. It was no Château Montelena (an exceptional wine that deserves a separate post here), but the 2006 was not devoid of charm either. In the end, it was like too many Californians I drink: too expensive and not my style. Or, for short: $$$, NMS

(I must've started sounding like a broken record saying this because while in San Francisco someone handed me a glass of Sanford Pinot Noir Vin Gris from Santa Barbara (the first winery shown in the movie Sideways) and it was an extreme counterpoint to Qupés everywhere, yet it that did little to improve my notion of the charm in West Coast wine.)

Oh well. There are bigger and brighter things for someone like me to gravitate to when in California. Like the image above taken from the Bay Area's Blue Bottle Cafe, a place that epitomizes the movement I might call next-wave drip coffee. This movement extends from coffees made from French presses (Bodums) to Eva Solo brewers (individually filtered cups), to vacuum siphons, Chemex coffeemakers and the crazy Rube Goldberg thing pictured above that uses gravity, no heat and a little time to brew ice coffee. And finally there's the ultimate: the Clover. And California's got more retail Clovers than any state in the union.

THE CLOVERS ARE COMING

One coffee from a Clover coffee brewer had me thinking that my favourite espresso from a Synesso machine was all wet. Perhaps not better, but so different.

If a caffè macchiato is like a Tannat-walloping Madiran, a Clover drip coffee is an elegant Irouléguy -- delivering the same goods ultimately but in an aromatic and charming way with a huge front and mid palate and a gently bitter finish. Irouléguy wines are what I want to drink at dinner this summer; Clover coffees are how I want my summer mornings to start.

Unfortunately, the closest Clover I know of is at the Dalhousie Bridgehead in Ottawa. I'm sure they are lurking in the streets of our towns, ready to spring up soon. Or else I'll be springing up in Ottawa. Watch for them/me.

So wine analogies aren't a theme on this blog, wine is. Without further ado:

NOTES ON MY WBW 44 CHINONS



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Alain Lorieux Expression Chinon 2005

Eyes: Colour is deep purple.

Nose: Licorice and stewed fruit.

Mouth: Creamy and very aromatic; pithy but juicy too with a nice bitter note. Very tannic. Characteristic "green pepper" but it's more leafy, musky and minerally than the stereotype might suggest. A lean angular structure -- not too overwhelming on the palate, with med body but dryiing tannins leave a strong impression.

Stomach: With food, it's a spicy and alluring dinner wine. Tuna and fresh tomato and herb pasta with lots of olive oil is perfect with it. This echoes the vegetal elements of the wine. A lively acidity support this Chinon at the table.

Alain & Pascal Lorieux, Cravant-les-Coteaux, Chinon, France. 13.5%.



Bernard Baudry Les Grezeaux Chinon 2004

Eyes: Colour is bright fuschia, lighter around the rim and vibrant purple at the centre.

Nose: Dried herbs, alcohol and fruit compote -- a very sharp and astringent perfume.

Mouth: Much fruit, black cherry with its pits covered in cream and with a bright acidity. Mineral and tannic -- a typical combination that conveys the earthy spice of the Loire terroir. Smoothness on the finish, average length, light to medium body overall.

Stomach: A juicy cut of beef and mushrooms with thyme and orange and yellow peppers. A more alcoholic impression than most (even though it is a quite low 13) and as an outcome of that, seems to demand heartier fare.

Coteau de Sonnay, Cravant-les-Coteaux, Chinon, France. 13%.

20080402

Gary Vaynerchuk slays WBW 44. He slays it!

domaine de beausejour david et gerard chauveau chinon
The first wine I tasted in California was a Chinon.

You don't hear that too often. But maybe TV Wine Library will help make it sound a little less out of the ordinary.

I am now spending my third day in California and I still have yet to taste a Californian wine. This is odd. Forces are working against me holding out much longer. Like last night at San Francisco's Nopa. I ordered a Gigondas and I get word back that there are none left -- I should have the Zinfandel instead. It's comparable in price, my server indicated.

But there's no price I am willing to pay for American wine.

Around $20 for a half bottle of Chinon at Restaurant Clementine (Inner Richmond) on Wine Blogging Wednesday? You bet.

Luckily, the one-country wine list at Delfina, which is on 18th at Guerrero, is not all American, it's Italian and southern Italian at that, which is utterly marvelous.



CHINON? MAIS OUI!

The two Chinons I tasted in preparation for WBW 44 are better than any wine I've tasted this week. Could it be because of the terroir? Could it just be something in the grapes? In the winemaking culture there? Like Gary claims, I think Chinon and its use of the Cabernet Franc grape got a good thing going on. I try not to over-analyze it.

I especially will not over-analyze it today, in the middle of my vacation (I just happen to have found a San José-bound bus issuing tickets that come with free WiFi (don't you love tech alley?) I have lots of notes to publish for WBW 44 but they will have to wait till later.

Until then, take a look at the labels on three very lovely Chinon reds. And here's a hint. The one shown in the middle of this post is the cheapest one and the best one. Here's another hint: You don't need a tasting note to run out and buy what you see pictured above "CHINON? MAIS OUI" -- or Would you like a Chinon? ... Of course you would! -- so just go out and get some.

20080401

150th wine review (100 reds and 50 whites): Domaine de l'Écu Expression de Granite 2006

I drink red wine about twice as often as I drink white wine. It turns out that I review red and white wine at a rate exactly proportional to this.



When I was about to hit my 100th red wine review, I noticed that I was also about to my 50th white wine review too. Today post is a benchmark: 150th review, marking exactly 100 red writeups and 50 white wine writeups. (Sometimes one review will actually feature more than one bottle -- so I imagine that I have actually published tasting notes for about 200 bottles by this point.)

Worthy wine review #150 is my preferred white wine from last year, a very special Muscadet, now out with its 2006 vintage. Would it be as great as the 2005? When I saw the extra care in the wine shop display, I figured this was going to be good and I wasn't alone in welcoming it with outstretched arms (and artistic box cutter).

Domaine de l'Écu Expression de Granite Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2006

So this 2006 came in a tall slender Alsacian-type bottle rather than the standard one like last year's bottle, with its characteristic linear angles at the neck. I didn't like it as much. And the outside package hinted accurately at what was on the inside. You can judge a book by its cover?

Eyes: Pale straw colour, green tinted hue.

Nose: Mineral, creamy but spritely and vinous.

Mouth: Lacks zippy citrus accents of the 05 and generally comes off dilute in comparison, even if only comparing it to its $20 pricepoint. Has expected mineral notes, and a subtle yeasty toasted flavour. Very light bodied. Mildly refreshing. Tonic.

Stomach: Bread brings out the best in this Muscadet. Add flavourful garnishes at your peril.

The 2006 is echelons below the landmark 2005. It is not even value for the money as plenty of Muscadets are about as good at less than $15.

Guy Bossard, La Bretonnière, Le Landreau, France. 12%. Certified organic wine.