Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for March, 2006

Roederer Winemakers dinner

Steak and champagne. There, I said it. Anyone who thinks the two are not a pair probably have their head buried under an old vine somewhere.

Our first winemakers dinner — last night at Bridges in Danville — sold out, and it’s no wonder. People were there to find out how to enjoy bruts with seared pork and crusted beef tenderloin. The whole champagne and strawberries thing is so ’87.

Executive Chef Kevin Gin showed us how. Boy, did he. As our MCs, BevMo cellarmaster Wilfred Wong and Roederer Estate winemaker Arnaud Weyrich, exchanged California-France cheap shots (all in fun, good taste, of course) we nibbled on four mouthwatering courses and learned a lot about the production of bruts.

The Roederer sparklings are known for their smooth, clean, taste — what the French call ‘finesse’ — and it became clear early on that light sweet touches like cranberry-ginger chutney and caramelized onions help bring out the full-bodied flavors of the bruts, particularly the roses. The Estate L’Ermitage Brut ’99 made Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 last year.

Our next winemakers dinner is June 6 at Wente Vineyards in Livermore. The restaurant was recently voted one of the best in the East Bay. Don’t miss it!

Posted on Friday, March 17th, 2006
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Hanging in there at Oola-la

Never drink when you’re upset, right? Well, I’m one to believe that if the genetic gods are on your side (and they are with me, thank ’em to high heaven), a juicy glass of antioxidants can ease the tight-roped muscles in your back and soothe away a day’s anxiety.

So, that’s what I did last night.

Syrah, potato-wrapped scallops and goat cheese mac at Oola, a fabulously moody American bistro in San Francisco’s SOMA. Bon Appetit called it one of the nation’s top 50 hot spots. They’re right.

I appreciate those of you who’ve e-mailed, called or stopped me on the street to see how we’re holding up here with the looming resale of our newspaper. The Times is lucky, truly, to have readers like you, people who take such ownership of the paper. So, wanna buy us?

Just kidding. We’re going to be fine. I realized this swirling my syrah last night, listening to the laughter of friends and getting lost in the legs of that glass, wondering which way the wind was blowing in southern Australia when those grapes were growing.

That’s why it’s okay to drink when you’re down.

Posted on Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
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Trader Joe’s goes to NY

Let’s take a moment of silence to celebrate with our East Coast food and wine kin. After more than 30 years of bragging about our favorite affordable, Polynesian-themed gourmet grocery store, New York City is getting a Trader Joe’s.

No more rubbing it in their faces. They can now get Two Buck Chuck, wild blueberry juice and Valrhona chocolates like the best of us. The store will open on March 17 down the street from a Whole Foods and not far from the City’s own household grocery names, Zabar’s, Sahadi’s, Agata & Valentina. To them, we say good luck.

Posted on Monday, March 13th, 2006
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Winemakers Dinner

Corkheads alert: Our first winemaker’s dinner is on March 16 and it’s almost sold out. So if you want to go, best reserve your spot!

Here are the deets: It’s a five-course meal (including hors d’oeuvres and dessert), prepared by Chef Kevin Gin at Danville’s Bridges restaurant. Each course is accompanied by a Roederer Estate wine. If you’re not familiar, they were at the Dozen Roses event and make fabulous sparkling wines.

That’s the focus of this dinner — proving that sparkles don’t mean celebration — and that you can drink them on a Tuesday night with a crab sandwich. That said, I’ve seen the menu and it looks fabulous. Sea scallops, rock shrimp, caviar, chocolate mousse.

Tickets are $75. The wine reception starts at 6:30 p.m.; dinner’s at 7 p.m. For more information, call Rachel Armstrong at 925-952-2639. 

Posted on Thursday, March 9th, 2006
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“Wines of Contra Costa” event

Like I mentioned yesterday, grapes from Contra Costa County are finding their way into major wines. If you want to get a feel for them, hit this event: The Wines of Contra Costa, 3 to 6 p.m. May 13 at the Antioch Historical Society. I’ll be there.

The wines featured are made from grapes grown only in this county, including some of my faves: Cline Cellars, Rosenblum Winery,  Delta Diablo Vineyards, Vianno Winery, Kendall-Jackson Winery and Fenstra Winery.

It’s 30 bucks and proceeds support scholarships at Los Medanos College. The society is located at 1500 W. 4th St. For tickets, call 925-439-2181, ext. 3215.


Posted on Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
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Sonoma Wine Trip

For my 30th birthday, a white stretch limo carrying four of my dearest friends rolled up to my house. Inside, flowing presents, basil-infused brie and Vevue Clicquot. Turns out we were going to Sonoma for the day.

Bragging rights aside (I do have the best friends on the planet), I’m writing to tell you the wineries we hit because I know how daunting it can be when you have one day in Sonoma and hundreds of wineries to hit. The route Jenny picked was perfect, and I want to pass it on to you:

On Hwy. 121, we started at Cline Cellars, makers of award-winning zinfandels. The Oakley Five Reds made me proud to come from Contra Costa County. And the popcorn machine out-front confirmed my belief in wine as a snack beverage.

Just up the road, we arrived at champagne maker Gloria Ferrer, which had quite the hipster vibe, with Coldplay pumping through the sound system and tables of young men. Our favorite was the 1991 Carneros Late-Disgorged. It had notes of honey.

From there, we melted back into our leather seats and made our way to B.R. Cohn, where I was almost more blown away by their olive oils than their Cabernets. A hot spring runs beneath the vineyards, which was also pretty cool.

We ended our day at Arrowwood, where the Victorian setting and magnificent Syrahs were the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2006
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