When I first moved to San Francisco, the Mission was grunge, Frank Jordan had just become mayor and finding a place where you could get a decent glass of wine meant flying to New York. Frustrated, I ended up opening my own place in 1994, Hayes and Vine — not the first wine bar in The City, but perhaps the one that set the trend for those that have come since. Read More
Hailing from the western foothills of the French Alps, the wines from Savoie have warmed up skiers for decades.
Many of these folks, who come from all over the world, would enjoy them on the slopes, but return to drinking other wines upon returning home.
However, that is changing. Now, Savoie is becoming internationally famous for its wine as well as its cuisine. Read More
I’m feeling lazy this week. Instead of serving up my latest and greatest wine picks, I’ve asked friends in the industry to recommend their favorite wines for this time of year.
As those of us who live in the Bay Area know, our autumn is unique. It might be warm for a while, but the days are getting shorter, the leaves are changing color, and it is just a matter of weeks before it cools down and starts raining. The wine choices below accommodate our bizarre weather patterns. Read More
Who would have thought 15 years ago, during the height of its popularity, that merlot would have been relegated to the same ranks as white zinfandel as “not cool to drink”? The fact is that then, and even still now, there were a lot of overpriced and boring, if not downright dreadful, merlots on the market, and not just from California. New Zealand, Chile, Italy and South Africa were equal offenders — if not in quantity, then certainly in quality. Read More
No longer just the land of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, or tempranillo and garnacha (aka grenache), Spanish wine flavors have diversified immensely. Terrific wines are being made all over the country from a variety of grapes. More than any other area, the northwest has become a playground for those who want to try what were until recently considered esoteric varietals. Read More
The last quarter of the year starts in just a few weeks, and if you are in the sparkling wine business that means you have dollar signs for eyes. I’m more than happy to drink bubbles any time of year (or day), but Q4 and Valentine’s Day, are when most sane people stock up on fizz.
Champagne will be saved for later in the year, as it does not fit our $15-and-under mold. Cava, prosecco, sekt and California sparkling wines also will be postponed until the air gets crisper. But for Indian summer, I can think of three sparkling wines that are perfect sippers. The medals go to: Read More
Folks, this is it: The last rosé column for a good while. I’m not saying don’t drink the stuff until next spring. On the contrary, imbibe with abandon, as the warm weather should be here any day now. Like wearing white, there are those who believe rosé-drinking season ends with Labor Day, but I protest on both counts. Instead of limiting the selection to three, let’s take a pink voyage around the world — part of it anyway — starting with the best deals. Read More
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, “plonk” means “cheap or inferior wine.” I have a friend who, as a point of pride, lets me know whenever he is drinking such a beverage. To this I say, “If it makes you happy, more power to you, but I’ll be sure to bring my own bottle next time I come for dinner.” (Perhaps this is why I have not been invited over lately.) Read More
Whenever I venture north (of Marin County that is, not Market Street) I think to myself, “Wow, I should come up here more often.” I’ve been to wine regions in several countries, and as beautiful as Tuscany, Wachau and Douro may be, Northern California is every bit as picturesque. Every August, I attend a friend’s wine dinner in Sonoma. This year, instead of spending the rest of the weekend poolside, I voyaged over to the Russian River to check out some wineries. Read More
While making mushroom risotto the other night, I ran out of cooking wine. What to do when the guests are a half-hour away? I asked my better half to dip into the white wine box, grab a bottle and pour a glass for me without telling me what it was, as I always taste my samples blind (whether or not they end up in risotto). I took a sip of this slightly golden-colored liquid, sat down to write some notes and asked my co-pilot to grab another bottle; this was way too good for each and every sip not to be enjoyed as a beverage. Read More
Lest you think that barbecue is only for carnivores, think again. This is the Bay Area: We know better. Picking up from where we left off last week, I like grilled shrimp with dry, mineral-driven white wines such as grüner veltliner or some of the wines from central or northern Italy. Since I wrote about grüner and Soave recently, my alternative go-to is Casale Marchesi Frascati Superiore 2011 ($14) from Lazio near Rome. Ever so slightly frizzante, it will bring zing to freshly grilled prawns. Read More
When I started to conceptualize what has become a two-part column on pairing wine with barbecue, in all its forms, I decided to play a little game of word association.
It went like this: hamburgers, sangiovese; turkey burgers, gamay; ribs, syrah; steak, zinfandel; chicken, viognier and riesling; sausage, it depends. Read More
Grüner veltliner is no longer the wine of geeks; Austria’s pride and joy has made it into the mainstream.
Believed to have originated in Austria, grüner veltliner also is grown in Hungary, Italy and, believe it or not, the West Coast of the United States, though that is a recent development. Read More
Cava is no longer Spain’s answer to Champagne, but it is its own animal — if that can be said of a wine.
The first point of departure is the grapes. The main ones that are used to make cava are macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada, all of which are of Spanish origin. Most Cavas are made in the Catalonian appellation of Penedès.
However, unlike other Spanish DOs (denominación de origen), it is not geographically limited to one area, and other parts of Catalonia, along with Utiel-Requena, have some worthy renditions. Read More
Remember the Soave Bolla commercials from the 1970s and ’80s? They seemed like outtakes from bad Italian movies. But worse, while Bolla reached millions of people and became the most imported wine in the U.S., the name Soave was tarnished — not least because the wine was barely palatable.
Happily, Soave has been able to reclaim its image, possibly because Bolla stopped its advertising campaign in the late ’80s and more producers started taking the wine seriously. Read More