Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for April, 2006

The wine spa

On Thursday I visited a most majestic wine place. Let’s put it this way – what’s better than drinking wine? Yes, being lathered in it! I heard about Caudalie at the Kenwood Inn and Spa a few months ago, and knew I had to check it out when the time was ripe. Especially because it’s the only vinotherapie spa in the U.S.

It’s like the owners turned their tiny part of the old Sonoma Highway into Aix-en-Provence, with its charming cobblestone corners and ivy-covered walls. After my wine bath and cabernet massage, I indulged in lunch and then paid a facilities fee to stay the remainder of the day, sunbathing and taking advantage of the endless trays of Port at every turn. For more details on the spa and treatments, look for a longer Travel story by me in the coming months.

Posted on Sunday, April 30th, 2006
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Hugh Johnson comes to Livermore

Sorry I haven’t written for almost a week. I’ve been deeply involved in Hugh Johnson’s autobiography, "A Life Uncorked." The preeminent British author of "The World Atlas of Wine" and "Hugh Johnson’s Wine Pocket Book" is coming to the Bay Area this weekend and I really think you should meet him and hear why he thinks wine should only be compared to music, not other wines.

Here are the details:

Wine Country Luncheon & Book-Signing
Sunday, April 23rd,
11:30 am, Sunday, April 23rd
Wente Vineyards Event Center
5050  Arroyo Road, Livermore
Luncheon $45.00 per person
Call 925-456-2400 for reservations, or online at

Need more enticing? Here’s the menu:
        First Course
        Crab Louie Salad with Butter Lettuce,
        Sweet 100 Tomatoes, 8-Minute Egg, Avocados and Scallions
        Wente Vineyards 2003 Sauvignon Blanc, Livermore Valley

        Main Course
        House Smoked Double Cut Pork Chop
        with Red Skinned Potatoes, Asparagus and Spicy Red Onion Marmalade
        Wente Vineyards 2002 Crane Ridge Reserve Merlot, Livermore Valley

        Mocha Meringue with Milk Chocolate Mousse
        and Cabernet Glazed Strawberries
        Wente Vineyards 2003 Charles Wetmore Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon,
        Livermore Valley

Posted on Wednesday, April 19th, 2006
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Passover wines

Today is Passover, and I implore Jews and non Jews alike to dip into the sophisticated realm of kosher wines. Manischewitz is SO 1999. These days, pareve doesn’t make you pucker. Kosher wines are dry, elegant and come in just about every varietal, even sparklers! Here are some sure things:

Hagafen Napa Valley 2001 Brut Cuvee. It’s got a rose tint. ($30)

Baron Herzog Lodi Old Vine 2002 Zinfandel. Textbook zin. ($14)

Segal’s Galilee Heights 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. What else are you going to serve with that brisket? ($17)

Bartenura Provincia di Pavia 2004 Moscato. For the sweet tooth. ($14)


Posted on Thursday, April 13th, 2006
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San Francisco Bay Area Craft Distillers

In my beer column today (Wednesday, April 12, 2006), I promised a list of Bay Area craft distillers. Here it is, courtesy of Bill Owens and The American Distilling Institute:

Anchor Distilling, 1705 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA 94107, (415) 522-7094. Old Potrero rye whiskeys, Juniper Gin. tours available by appointment only.

Distillery 209, Pier 50, Shed B, Mail Box 9, San Francisco, CA 94158, (415) 369-0210. Distillery 209 Gin.

Domaine Charbay, 4001 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena, CA 94794,(707) 963-9327, Grappa Di Marko merlot grappa; Nostalgie, walnut liqueur, Pastis, Charbay Rum,Tahitian Bean Rum, Hop Flavored Whiskey.

Essential Spirits, 144-A SouthWhisman Ave., Mountain View, CA 94040, (650) 962-8368, Classik Bierschnaps, Grappa Brierstone, Grappa Stags Leap, Grappa Rutherford.

St. George Spirits, 2601 Monarch St., Alameda, CA 94501, (510) 769-1601, Hanger One Vodka, St. George Single Malt Whiskey, De Profundis 20-year-old Bartlett pear brandy, Apple Brandy, Maestro Chardonnay Brandy, Agua Perfecta pear, raspberry and cherry brandy, Agua Perfecta Framboise, Zinfandel Grappa and Williams Pear Liqueur.

Sarticious Spirits, 427A Swift St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (831) 471-9090, Sarticious Gin.

Sweetwater Distillers, Inc., 611 2nd St., Petaluma, CA 94952, (707)
778-6041, Vodka, Gin, Grappa, Rum.

Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2006
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Recipes for Fine Gin or Vodka

I wrote about craft distilling today in my “beer” column in the Oakland Tribune and other papers – making gin, vodka, whiskey and other distilled spirits in pot stills.

Problem is – what to do with it. It can be pleasant indeed to sip a bit of craft whiskey, especially rye and bourbon, in a glass neat, or, if you insist, with a bit of water and ice.
But gin and vodka straight? Only for the hardy. They’re made for cocktails.

Here are four gin recipes from Distillery No. 209, the craft gin distillery in San Francisco. Here’s one hint: Use a craft gin or vodka like 209 or Hanger One (from Alameda, CA) or Anchor, from San Francisco. They’re intense and aromatic and well worth the bucks.

– 209 Martini 3 oz. gin I capful Noilly Prat dry vermouth Shake over ice for 10 seconds. Garnish with lemon peel.

– 209 Mojito 2 oz. gin 4 mint sprigs (muddled over ice) 1 spoon sugar Fill glass with soda water. Garnish with lime wheel. ((Muddle means to crush the mint slightly on the ice with a spoon or other blunt instrument, to infuse the ice with the mint flavor.)

– 209 Special 2 oz. gin. 4 oz. lemon-lime soda 3/4 oz. lemon juice Pour over ice, stir. Garnish with lemon wheel.

– 209 Mimosa 1 oz. gin 1 oz. Champagne 1/2 oz. peach schnapps 2 oz. orange juice. Serve in Champagne flute. Garnish with orange wheel.

The web’s full of cocktail recipes. Here’s one link I found.

Posted on Wednesday, April 12th, 2006
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Rain or shine, still good vines

If you’re like me, you’ve been obsessing about how all this rain and snow and hail is effecting the area’s precious grapes, and what kind of vintage 2006 will end up being.

Napa’s Clos Du Val, for one, maker of luscious pinots and cabs, is happy to report no water damage to its vineyards in the Stags Leap District and Carneros. They’re all in bud break and everything looks healthy, according to Al Wagner, the vineyard manager.

Albeit, work is delayed — he’d much rather be planting Chardonnay clones, or rather, an ark with all those old barrels. But what’s a guy to do?

Posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2006
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A summer syrah?

The land of Oz has done it again. This time, they’ve made it possible for me to drink Shiraz, my favorite varietal, during the spring and summer. So, if the sun ever actually comes out, I’ll be quite pleased.

Blackchook Sparkling Shiraz undoes the bad rap sparkling syrahs have gotten for being too sweet or cloying. Blackchook’s is dry and elegant, almost black in color and has an unusual finish. My friend Michaela and I had it last night with a stuffed Zachary’s pizza and we were in heaven. The stuff’s hard to find (supposedly 100 cases were shipped to the U.S.) but it’s worth looking for. Even better, it’s only $16. And if you the sun never comes out, serve it at your holiday meal.

Posted on Monday, April 10th, 2006
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Sir Kermit of the Round Table

Dig this — Wine author and importer Kermit Lynch of Berkeley was recently named a Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French republic. Julia Child, Robert Mondavi and Robert Parker are the only other non-French, non-military types to receive the honor. Look for a profile on Lynch in our Food and Wine section in the coming months.

Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2006
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Israeli wines

In my last wine class, I learned that the first winemaker was most likely a woman, thousands of years ago, somewhere along the Caspian Sea. This thrilled me, and got me thinking about Middle Eastern wines — that conducive Mediterranean climate so much like ours and advances in winemaking techniques and agriculture have produced some fine wines, particularly in Israel.

If I could be anywhere this June, it would be in Tel Aviv, where the Israeli wine community is hosting its first international wine exhibition, showcasing its 150 wineries and expertise in growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvingnon Blanc, Merlot and Chardonnay.

If you need help navigating Israel’s wines, try Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines, 2005, by Daniel Rogov.

Posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2006
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A growing movement

As all things organic continue to flourish, I decided to look into organic winemaking and wines. I interviewed some big names in the movement, tasted some of their amazing wines, and visited an organic winery in our own Livermore valley. Check out today’s story and let me know what you think. Make sure to read the side bar about biodynamics — the future of organic winemaking.

Posted on Wednesday, April 5th, 2006
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