Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for April, 2007

Calorie Count for Sorghum Beer


Just heard from Anhueser-Busch. Redbridge, A-B’s new beer made with sorghum contains 171 calories. So my guess yesterday was fairly accurate.

Not a diet drink. But a decent one and OK for celiacs – people who have an allergy to gluten, wheat, rye, barley, other cereal grains.

On the subject, there’s another sorghum beer on the market, which I really like. It’s Dragon’s Ale, from Bards Tale Beer Co., based in Missouri. The beer’s brewed under contract by Gordon Biersch. It’s worth a hunt to find it.
Bard’s Tale Beer

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2007
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Another fun buddy wine book

There’s another “I’m the pro, you’re the newbie, let’s entertain and educate people at your expense” wine book out.

But unlike Lettie Teague’s “Educating Peter” where the narrator is Food & Wine columnist Teague, in “A Moveable Feast,” (Wiley, $18.95) Rick Kushman, a TV critic, not a wine one, is the voice of the book. His best friend, Hank Beal, is the wine buyer for Nuggest Market, and the pro here.

I haven’t read the whole book, but their journey is a fun one, as Kushman’s various get-to-know wine experiences are sincere and infused with comedy (re: his spits always wind up as dribbles). I met Kushman at the Symposium for Wine Writers in Napa back in February, and he’s a fine, self-deprecating, funny guy, not to mention a great writer. He loves wine, wine settings and the memories of sharing wine with others, which is the most important thing.

Also a bonus you won’t find in other “Sideways-type” memoirs: there’s an index of 141 tasting rooms in the back of the book, complete with directions and extras or freebies (few in Napa, obviously).

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2007
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New Stops (For Me) on the Silverado Trail

A few Saturdays ago, I found myself on the Silverado Trail in Napa following a fabulous tiki-themed party at Judd’s Hill. Winemaker Judd Finkelstein’s band The Maikai Gents played, the BBQ was award-winning, and the wine. Well, you know how I feel about the Magic. Happy place……..

So anyway, it was post bridal shower (for my best friend Jenny) and we had some time to kill in the limo so we headed to two nearby properties that I’d never visited. The first, Signorello, makes gorgeous wines at reasonable prices. My roomie Gav always has a red bottle in our wine rack, and now I can see why. The winery makes amazing Pinot Noir. I recommend the 2005 Las Amigas Vineyard: it’s all vanilla, pepper, dark plums and smoky French oak. I like to call it a light bodied Syrah. It costs $36 and well worth it. I usually pay a bit more for Pinots anyway.

The second winery we hit, Van Der Heyden, was, unfortunately, not so fab. It’s a rarity on the Trail these days to find a place that makes repeatedly poor quality or even undrinkable wines. The dark urine color of their Estate Chardonnay was pretty uncharacteristic of the varietal (it looked like an orange Moscato). The Merlot was single noted and jammy. The 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon was all powdered cocoa — I expect at least 70 percent cacao-ish flavors from $50-and-over Napa Cabs. Even the White Table Wine, so hard to muck up, was sour.

I rarely go off on a winery. I always try to find the silver lining in a tasting experience, but I can’t figure out what was going on. The service was terrible and while I love winery dogs, their tasting room was far too small and low-ceilinged to tolerate his hair and odor. The only bearable wine was the 2002 Late Harvest Cab, with its 15.5 percent alcohol and 6 percent residual sugar. It’s ironic, only because I dessert wines are my least favorite. To add even more irony, the cheap truffles said to enhance the wine cost $2-something a person. We got outta there pretty fast.

Posted on Thursday, April 26th, 2007
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Green Flash Launch Tonight in Hayward

Have you heard about Green Flash, the San Diego County (Vista, CA) craft brewer with a couple of dynamite IPAs?

Get thee to The Bistro, 1001 B St. in downtown Hayward tonight. The distributor’s having a Northern California launch. No admission, buy your own beer.

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
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Two Viogniers You Should Buy Now

My wine group met over the weekend in Point Richmond. This month’s theme: Viognier, any vintage. We always have apps and chat before tasting the wines blind, writing our impressions and then writing the wines. Finally, we discuss.

I thought it noteworthy to mention that everyone’s top 2 wines were under $12 and purchased from Wine Thieves in Lafayette. The wine I brought was voted No. 1, the McManis Viognier 2006, which I paid $8.99 for. Its aromas are peachy with apricots and the flavor screams melon and pear. Gorgeous. Everyone was hooked. Buy this now and drink it sooner.

Number two was Jenny’s, the Bridlewood Viognier 2006. A great expression of this white grape. The wine was all honeysuckle and orange blossom with some toasty Honey Nut Cheerios rockin’ the glass. With a touch of Chardonnay and Roussanne, it’s a steal at $11.99.

The bottom three bottles were from Jewel, Clautiere and a French producer that escapes me right now, but the price tag was $39.99.

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
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Two great Proseccos

I went to a free tasting at Prima Vini in Walnut Creek on Friday after work, and tasted some fabulous Proseccos. Get your hands on these while wine director John Rittmaster has them in stock. From Italia has them too:

The 2005 Zucchetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Puro-Fol ($17.25) is great for people who like very low sugar in their sparkling wines. Because of the pure flavor, they call this the “Naked King.” There’s a lot of citrus, tangerine and grapefruit and even some mint in the aroma. The taste is creamy but crisp with a lot of mineral. The winemaker recommends it with fish.

The 2005 Zucchetto Cartizze Valdobbiadene Superiore ($24.50) is my preference. It comes from the most prestigious cru in the area. The aroma is all white peach and the flavor is glazed almonds. The finish is gorgeous. The Prosecco grapes are all estate grown. The recommend this one with desserts or sweet focaccia, but I’d have this with Thai or Vietnamese food. YUM!

Posted on Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
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A Night for Extreme Beer at the Toronado


Want to find out what Vinnie Cilurzo at Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, CA. has been doing for the last year?

Best place to find out, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area is to drop in at The Toronado

Russian River Damnation, 547 Haight St., in San Francisco Wednesday night from 6 p.m. on.

Russian River DamnationProprietor David Keene and his henchmen and henchwomen will be pouring a large selection of Vinnie's latest adventures in extreme edge craft brewing. Here's the list from David:

Russian River "tion" Night at Toronado

Draft Line-Up

Redemption- Blonde Ale

Perdition- Biere de Sonoma

Damnation- Strong Golden Ale

Salvation- Dark Strong Ale

Temptation- Blonde Ale Aged in Used Chardonnay Barrels
for 15 Months with Brettanomyces and Micro-Organisms

Supplication- Brown Ale Aged in Used Pinot Noir Barrels
for 15 Months with Sour Cherries, Brettanomyces, &

Depuration- Barrel Aged Ale with Grapes

Compunction- Barrel Aged with Plumcots

Deification- Pale Ale Finished with Brettanomyces

Sanctification- 100% Brettanomyces Fermented Ale

Erudition- 2 Year Old Saison with Brettanomyces, Vintage

Beatification – Batch 002, 100% spontaneously fermented
Sonamic (Sonoma + Lambic = Sonambic)

Collaboration - Blend of Avery Salvation and Russian River

Aged bottles (very limited)
Damnation Batch 001- Strong Golden Ale

Beatification Batch 001- Sour Barrel Aged Ale Aged in
Used New Belgium Brewing La Folie Barrels for 23 Months

Temptation Batch 001- Ale Aged in Used Chardonnay
Barrels for 12 Months with Brettanomyces and Micro-

Supplication Batch 001- Brown Ale Aged in Used Pinot
Noir Barrels for 12 Months with Sour Cherries,
Brettanomyces, & Micro-Organisms

Location: Toronado, 547 Haight, San Francisco, California
Time(s): 6:00 PM
Admission: no charge
Contact Email:

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2007
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Leave a comment List of Favorites


This list comes from They asked viewers to choose their favorite breweries and beers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The results are heavily San Francisco-centric, of course. Down the list, Lucky 13, also has a location in Alameda. Highly recommended by me. You can find more on each of these places at Anchor Steam label Yelp.

· Anchor Steam Brewing (5 stars, based on 65 reviews)
o “Anchor Steam is in my great neighborhood, but if that’s not enough, their tours are extraordinary with, as everyone said, free beer.” – L.B.
o “If you’re not a fan of Anchor Steam, go on the tour and you will be. First off, the tour starts with free beer. Yeah that’s right, drink up and no worries mate, you can take it with you on the tour.” Jeremy S. (CEO of Yelp)
· Trumer Pils (5 stars, based on 9 reviews)
o “The staff, facility and beer are top notch. One of the best Pilsners around and clearly rivals the Czech masters.” – Phil M.
· Speakeasy (4.5 stars, based on 23 reviews)
o “As much as I love the current lineup of bottled beers: Big Daddy IPA, Prohibition Ale, Double Daddy Imperial IPA and the Untouchable Pale Ale (and the elusive Godfather Barleywine), it’s the keg-only and the dearly departed brews that made this brewery tops in my book.” – Avery G.
· Triple Rock Brewery – Berkeley (4 stars, based on 75 reviews)Triple Rocking Brewery
o “In case you didn’t know, Triple Rock Brewery has the BEST HOMEMADE BEER in the Bay Area. It makes Pyramid as dumb as a wet rock. “ – Abendigo R.

San Francisco
· City Beer Store (4.5 stars, based on 49 reviews):
o “They have hundreds of beers from all over the world, some in the fridge ready to drink, some on the shelves, but all are about corner store prices.” – Chad N.
· Alembic (4 stars, based on 126 reviews):
o “…The beer selection was unmatched. I highly recommend the Drunk Monk Ale.” – Leslie F.
· Toronado (4 stars, based on 237 reviews):
o “Oh my god, talk about a beer selection. Whether I’m looking for something from the North Coast Brewery or prefer to explore non-local beers, Toronado is the place to be for beer-drinkers.” – Abendigo R.
· Lucky 13 (4 stars, based on 181 reviews):
o “This place could be my Mecca. Where a year is a week, and I make the pilgrimage every week. Especially when import draught beer is $2.50 a pint during Happy Hour.” – Rommy G.
·MAGNOLIA Brewing and Restaurant Magnolia’s (3.5 stars, based on 179 reviews):
o “I’ve visted all of the breweries in SF except for Anchor, and I think Magnolia may even give Speakeasy a run for my top spot, beer-wise. The variety definitely gives it a boost.“ – Jeff Troy McClure S. F.
· Gestalt Haus (4 stars, based on 91 reviews):
o High reviews are mostly based on Gestalt Haus’ offering of liter mugs
o “You know when folks joke and say they only workout when they do curls with 12ounce beers? Well… I found the place where you can actually walkout looking like Popeye on spinach. Talk about lots of beer… a liter!” – AKA G.

East Bay
· The Albatross (4.5 stars, based on 129 reviews):
o “It’s a good place to gather a large group, with plenty of seating and multiple rooms, and the selection of beers on tap is great, but the catalog of bottles is impressive.” – Matthew S.

· The Oasis Beer Garden – Menlo Park (4 stars, based on 55 reviews):
o “My favorite burger and beer joint on the Peninsula.” – Dennis M.

· The Dutch Goose – Menlo Park (4 stars, based on 46 reviews):
o “A great place for a couple of beers with a group of friends on a summer day.” – Katharine A.
AnchorAnchor Steam Label

Posted on Saturday, April 21st, 2007
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Loire Valley winemaker’s dinner at A Cote

I had dinner at A Cote in Rockridge last night. Delicious tuna tartare, pomegranate lamb in phyllo, artichoke soup. I actually skipped wine for one of their fabulous cocktails — mine was a lively Prosecco with grapefruit juice.

But A Cote, a bastion for delightful French tapas, is also a great place to learn about French wines, especially the juicy, au moment Loire Valley wines of Bourgueil and Chinon. I’m going to a dinner centered around Vouvray next month, and last year, I attended a Thanksgiving meal centered around their Cab Francs. Turkey and Cab Franc? You bet.

See what these wines are capable of yourself at A Cote’s upcoming winemaker’s dinner. They’re bringing in Pierre Breton of Domaine Breton. His wines, unfiltered and produced with minimal sulfur, express the terroir of the region. The reds have vivid fruit, crisp acidity and fresh flavors, all of which make them perfect for a summer table. He also has a sense of humor a la Bonny Doon, from Nuits d’Ivresse (Drunken Nights) to Le Trinch, named for the sound of two glasses clinking (in French). The 4-course meal on April 25 starts at 6 p.m. It costs $80. Here’s what you get:

First Course
Salmon with Sorrel Sauce, Asparagus, Leeks and Smoked Trout
Quenelles paired with Domaine Bréton, “Nuits d’Ivresse”, Bourgueil, Loire Valley 2003

Second Course
Boudin Blanc with Fennel Puree and Prunes paired with Domaine Bréton, “Les Picasses,” Chinon, Loire Valley 2003

Third Course
Confit of Duck Leg with Flageolet Beans paired with Domaine Bréton, “Les Perrieres,” Bourgueil, Loire Valley 2002 and Domaine Bréton, “Les Perrieres,” Bourgueil, Loire Valley 2003

Fourth Course
Fromage de Loire
paired with Domaine Bréton, “Les Picasses,” Chinon, Loire Valley 2002

Seating is limited for this special dinner, so call or e-mail today to reserve your place: or 510.655.6469.

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007
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I cooked with cheap Chardonnay last night

Here here to Julia Moskin’s piece in today’s Food & Wine section. Good timing. I actually cooked with a Chardonnay called Divas Uncorked Sisters Who Sip (I swear) last night. It’s a private label with the Mendocino Wine Company, and had been sitting in my fridge for over a week, half-full (screw capped, of course). It was a $13 bottle, decent in its finish, not overly buttery, with a fair amount of vanilla to round out the citrusy lemon and lime flavors.

I was tempted to open a Sauvignon Republic Cellars bottle to pour into my pasta dish, but used splashes of the Divas Uncorked instead, with my garlic, butter, lemon, non fat half and half and
salt ‘n’ peppa reduction. I agree with Moskin completely. If anything, my artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes loved the uber citrusy, simple wine. It worked with the ingredients and enhanced them, rather than overwhelming my dish, or worst yet, getting lost in the dish. (Worst, of course, if I’d used a higher quality, more expensive wine). Try it, you’ll see!

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007
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