Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for May, 2007

The KQED Pub Crawl Auction

The San Francisco bay to breakers pub crawl I devised – with the help of a number of readers of my weekly column has gone live on the KQED, Channel 9, San Francisco web site. You can find it here. It’s only been up three hours and so far there have been six bids. Find someone with bucks or bid on it yourself. All the craft brewers in the tour have donated their beer and food. Not going to name them, ’cause that would give away the tour.

Mr. Toad’s Tours - 2

A Craft Beer Pub Crawl in San Francisco

Climb aboard Mr. Toad’s Tours with Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times beer columnist William Brand for a close-up pub crawl to some of San Francisco’s most interesting craft breweries and pubs.

The crawl begins in late afternoon with a glass of a rare, barrel-aged California craft beer and Point Reyes oysters at a spot beside San Francisco Bay, continues to one of America’s finest beer bars, where you’ll get a chance to sample some of the best beers from America and abroad.

Then we visit two of San Francisco’s most acclaimed brewpubs and ends at a brew-restaurant on the Pacific in time for the sunset.

Tour includes all beer and snacks.

Limit six people.

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2007
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Sonoma State offers first MBA in wine biz

Kudos to Sonoma State University. Today, officials there announced that it will be the first university in the nation to offer an MBA in wine business. I’m trying to get the program director on the phone but his line is obviously flooded.

Anyhoo, not surprisingly, the Wine Business Program is 100 percent industry funded, thanks to the contributions of more than 250 wine companies. It includes a BA in Business Administration with a concentration in Wine Business Strategies, and an MBA with a concentration in Wine Business.

How cool would this be? I wonder what kind of a job you get with an MBA in Wine Business? I would assume somewhere above marketing and PR but not quite in the cellar or vineyard, either. According to the Web site, the MBA is for students seeking leadership positions within global wine business management. Hmmm…

Apparently, all the classes will be taught by the faculty of the School of Business and Economic, including Wine Marketing, Wine Finance and Accounting, Human Resources Management, Wine Business Strategies and Wine Production, Operations & Distribution.

Seems a bit weird to me, but I’m sure they plan to bring in local speakers and lecturers from the industry. Otherwise, these Economics profs are going to spend the summer cramming for fall classes. That’s quite a learning curve…

For fall enrollment, students should apply no later than July 13.

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2007
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Pellegrino bottle best way to store wine

A little something I experimented with late last week: I opened up a groovy, green, bottle-cap bottle of Hofer 2005 Gruner Veltliner, the super acidic, slightly overpriced, peppery white from Austria. Unsure how to store the rest of the divine liquid, I dumped out an old bottle of Pellegrino, long gone flat, poured the Gruner Veltliner in, and tightly closed the cap.

I’ve been enjoying it every night since, and it’s holding up marvelously in my refrigerator. It’s Tuesday night people. You’d never get that with a cork!

I bought the Hofer at Monterey Street Wine Co in San Luis Obispo by the way, but I’ve heard you can find it at Vino! and Paul Marcus Wines in Oakland, and at the Wine Merchant in the Ferry Building in SF.

Posted on Tuesday, May 29th, 2007
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A Taste of New Zealand May 30 at MOMA

There’s been such a wonderful wave of wine events lately. International, get-to-know-my-grapes type soirees. Portugal. Italy. Greece. Now it’s New Zealand’s turn.

They’ve set the definitive benchmark style for Sauvignon Blanc, with its bright zest, not to mention growing attention on their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They’re also leading the way in sustainable and environmentally sound winemaking. So get to know ‘em.

On Wednesday night, join the Taproot Foundation and the New Zealand Winegrowers for the 7th Annual Taste of New Zealand at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It’s from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and costs $55 to sample over 150 wines from 50 New Zealand winegrowers while enjoying hors d’oeuvres in the setting of one of the city’s architectural treasures.

To buy your tickets, go to http://www.acteva.com/booking.cfm?bevaid=131092

2007 Participating Winemakers:
Artisan Wines Ltd
Babich Wines
Brancott Vineyards
Central Otago Pinot Noir Ltd.
Daniel Schuster Wines
Drylands
Fernleaf
Forrest Estate
Goldwater Wines
Huia Vineyards
Jackson Estate
Kim Crawford Wines
Lawson’s Dry Hills
Lindauer
Matua Valley Wines
Maven Wines Limited
Monkey Bay
Mt. Difficulty Wines
Mud House
Nobilo
Olssens Garden Vineyard
Omaka Springs Estate
Oyster Bay Wines
Paritua Vineyards Ltd./Stone Paddock Wines
Saint Clair Estate
Seifried Estate
Selaks Wines
Seresin Estate
Spy Valley Wines
Stoneleigh
Te Awa Winery
Te Kairanga Wines
The Crossings
The Jibe
Vavasour Wines
Villa Maria Estate
Vinoptima Estate
Wairau River
Whitehaven Wines
Wild Earth Wines
Wither Hills
Woollaston Estates

Posted on Friday, May 25th, 2007
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Slow Food Golden Glass event June 9

So, I’m getting really into Italian wines. There’s nothing more exciting to me than drinking some indigenous wine from Veneto that goes oh-so perfectly with pasta or pizza. It’s just the way it’s supposed to be. All I know is the California Cabernets my friends and I have long served with these dishes hasn’t been right. They totally over power the food, in addition to my head.

If you missed Prima’s regional Italian wine primer last week, definitely check out San Francisco Slow Food’s annual Golden Glass event June 9 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Fort Mason’s Herbst Pavilion. The cost is $50 and it’s very worth it. The Golden Glass is a lively and very important program featuring top Italian regional wines complemented by delicious delights from Bay Area restaurateurs and food producers.

The 2007 Golden Glass will celebrate the efforts of more than 60 wine producers who strive to protect, nurture, and revive the indigenous and classic Italian varieties. Attendees can also enjoy savory delights and sweet treats from a magnificent group of local restaurants, food artisans and producers. There’s also a silent auction which will benefit the new Slow Food San Francisco School Garden Project and the Chefs in the School project. And a Gala Wine Dinner on Sunday. Check it all out.

This year, the Golden Glass kicks of the launch of the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign in San Francisco in collaboration with CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers). All attendees will receive a list of all the Farmers Market and CSA programs active in the Bay and will be encouraged to become “co-producers”. You can get tickets online, in the mail or in person, as long as they last.

Here’s a partial list of this year’s winery participants. I’m so excited to check out wines from Umbria and Lombardia!

VALLE D’AOSTA
Cave du Vin Blanc
La Crotta di Vigneron
PIEMONTE
Cortese Giuseppe
Filippo Gallino
Gianfranco Alessandria
Renzo Castella
Cascina Val del Prete
Cornarea
Cascina Bruciata
Tranchero Osvaldo
Castello di Neive
Prunotto
Damilano
Josetta Saffirio
Bricco Maiolica
LOMBARDIA
Barone Pizzini
VENETO
La Montecchia
Ruggeri
Zardetto
Zenato
FRIULI
Collavini
La Tunella
Livon
Tenuta Luisa
La Boatina
EMILIA-ROMAGNA
Corte d’Aibo
TOSCANA
Fornacina
Castello del Terriccio
Querceto
Le Fonti
Fattoria Poggiopiano
Il Molino di Grace
Sassotondo
Casanuova delle Cerbaie
Cesani
TRENTINO ALTO ADIGE
Cantina San Michele Appiano
Tenuta San Leonardo
UMBRIA
Caprai
Tabarrini
San Rocco
MARCHE
Marotti Campi
LAZIO
Pallavicini
ABRUZZO
Centorame
Cantine Tollo
Valle Reale
CAMPANIA
D’Antiche Terre
De Conciliis
Cantine Gran Furor Divina Costiera
SICILIA
Valle dell’Acate
Alessandro di Camporeale
Benanti
SARDEGNA
Feudi della Medusa
Pala
Antichi Poderi Jerzu
Argiolas
Pedres
PUGLIA
Accademia dei Racemi

Posted on Thursday, May 24th, 2007
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Letters: Russian River Damnation Ale

Russian River DamnationBill, Subject: Russian River Damnation Ale: Have you tried this one yet? It’s one of the Russian River Belgian line of beers and it’s sensational.
Stu
Yes. Love it. Here’s a column I wrote about it last year. Long live Russian River Brewing. b

By William Brand
Remember the old saying: If March comes in blustery, like a lion – it will go out like a lamb. I can’t predict the weather, but one thing’s certain in this column, the beer of the week today, March 1 looks like a lamb, but roars like a lion.
It’s Damnation**** from Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa. On the surface, this is a mellow, Belgian-style strong, golden ale, 7 percent alcohol by volume. But there are enticing subtleties beneath the surface. It’s won many prizes and beer geeks in Europe compare it to Duvel, the famous Belgian ale.
Russian River’s owned by Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo. Vinnie’s the brewer ; he’s the son of a Temeculah winemaker, and he’s known as one of America’s best craft brewers: famous for his extreme beers, aged in wine barrels, brewed using wild yeast.
Damnation’s on the edge of the extreme beer precipice.
It’s made with a Belgian yeast strain; American pilsner barley malt and dextrose sugar, which contributes more alcohol and an a teasing lightness. Hops are Styrian Goldings for bittering, which Vinnie says, lend an orange-citrus note that blends well with the yeast fruitiness. Also U.S. Sterling hops, adding herbal notes.
After a warm fermentation, Damnation’s bottled in 750 ml bottles, sealed with a cork. And, like Champagne, a differerent yeast’s added to each bottle so fermentation continues slowly.
Vinnie uses a wine yeast, actually a wild yeast strain found by a Sonoma County winemaker in a Zinfandel vineyard. It adds a layer of complexity, herbal notes, more of a tropical fruit flavor, instead of just banana and pear present in a standard ale, he says. There are details on each bottling at www.russianriverbrewing.com.
OK here’s the down side. You can buy bottles for $5.99 at Russian River, 725 4th St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2339. Damnation’s also sold at Whole Foods and Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley; at Beer & More Beer and Monument Wine & Spirits, Concord, Jackson Wine & Spirits, Lafayette. In San Francisco: Plumpjack and Beverages & More, Geary Boulevard store and Blackwell’s Wine & Spirits. Can’t find these stores, call or e-mail us for our Retail Beer List.
Vinnie, meanwhile’s headed to Belgium this week with a couple of bottles of Damnation under his arm, accompanied by four other increasingly famous brewers of Belgian-style beer, Tomme Arthur, Pizza Port, Solano Beach; Adam Avery, Avery Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO., Rob Todd, Allagash, Portland, ME. Expedition’s led by Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head, Milton, DE.

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
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Letters: Russian River Damnation Ale

Russian River DamnationBill, Subject: Russian River Damnation Ale: Have you tried this one yet? It’s one of the Russian River Belgian line of beers and it’s sensational.
Stu
Yes. Love it. Here’s a column I wrote about it last year. Long live Russian River Brewing. b

By William Brand
Remember the old saying: If March comes in blustery, like a lion – it will go out like a lamb. I can’t predict the weather, but one thing’s certain in this column, the beer of the week today, March 1 looks like a lamb, but roars like a lion.
It’s Damnation**** from Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa. On the surface, this is a mellow, Belgian-style strong, golden ale, 7 percent alcohol by volume. But there are enticing subtleties beneath the surface. It’s won many prizes and beer geeks in Europe compare it to Duvel, the famous Belgian ale.
Russian River’s owned by Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo. Vinnie’s the brewer ; he’s the son of a Temeculah winemaker, and he’s known as one of America’s best craft brewers: famous for his extreme beers, aged in wine barrels, brewed using wild yeast.
Damnation’s on the edge of the extreme beer precipice.
It’s made with a Belgian yeast strain; American pilsner barley malt and dextrose sugar, which contributes more alcohol and an a teasing lightness. Hops are Styrian Goldings for bittering, which Vinnie says, lend an orange-citrus note that blends well with the yeast fruitiness. Also U.S. Sterling hops, adding herbal notes.
After a warm fermentation, Damnation’s bottled in 750 ml bottles, sealed with a cork. And, like Champagne, a differerent yeast’s added to each bottle so fermentation continues slowly.
Vinnie uses a wine yeast, actually a wild yeast strain found by a Sonoma County winemaker in a Zinfandel vineyard. It adds a layer of complexity, herbal notes, more of a tropical fruit flavor, instead of just banana and pear present in a standard ale, he says. There are details on each bottling at www.russianriverbrewing.com.
OK here’s the down side. You can buy bottles for $5.99 at Russian River, 725 4th St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-2339. Damnation’s also sold at Whole Foods and Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley; at Beer & More Beer and Monument Wine & Spirits, Concord, Jackson Wine & Spirits, Lafayette. In San Francisco: Plumpjack and Beverages & More, Geary Boulevard store and Blackwell’s Wine & Spirits. Can’t find these stores, call or e-mail us for our Retail Beer List.
Vinnie, meanwhile’s headed to Belgium this week with a couple of bottles of Damnation under his arm, accompanied by four other increasingly famous brewers of Belgian-style beer, Tomme Arthur, Pizza Port, Solano Beach; Adam Avery, Avery Brewing, Ft. Collins, CO., Rob Todd, Allagash, Portland, ME. Expedition’s led by Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head, Milton, DE.

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
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Stone Brewing Night at the Toronado

David Keene’s hosting Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 23,2007 at the Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco. No charge, just buy the beers you want.They’ll start pouring at 6 p.m. Here’s the linuep – tasting notes from the brewer and the Toronado.

((NOTE: To see this site wih graphics and links please go to www.beernewsletter.com/blog

1. Stone Pale Ale- Deep amber in color, Stone Pale Ale is
robust and full flavored. A delicate hop aroma is
complemented by a rich maltiness.

2. Stone IPA- Look up “hops” in the dictionary and you’ll
see a picture of Stone IPA! “Dry-hopped” for an extra two
weeks, this unique process gives our IPA its bountiful hop
aroma and rich hop flavor. A full 70+ IBUs (International
Bitterness Units) creates this beer’s crisp and refreshing
bitter character.

3. Stone Arrogant Bastard- Stone Brewing Co’s Arrogant
Bastard Ale is definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a
whole mouthfull of beer that will not let you forget what
you are drinking through the very last drop. Tons of malts
stepped on by tons of hops, this beer is in a class of its
own.

4. Ruination IPA- So called because of the immediate
ruinous effect on your palate. 100+ IBUs. Bracingly bitter.
Thick, pungent hop aroma. We would say that no hops
were injured in the brewing of this beer, but that would be
a massive lie. In fact, the words “Stone Ruination IPA” are
what older hop vines use to cause little hop vines to
quiver with fright and lose sleep at night . We at Stone
honor the brutal massacre of countless hops with this
“Liquid poem to the glory of the hop!” Paganism at its
best!

5. Stone Russian Imperial Stout- The Stone Imperial Stout
label describes the brew as being “intensely aromatic
(notes of anise, black currants, coffee, roastiness and
alcohol) and heavy on the palate…expect this mysterious
brew to pour like used motor oil and taste even heavier!

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
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J. Lohr’s abundance

Next time you’re in Paso Robles, make sure to stop by J. Lohr. Their Cabernet Sauvignon has long been one of my favorites, sort of like Wild Horse is my staple Merlot.

I spent a good hour at J. Lohr earlier this month, and it’s easy to see how you could spend a full day there. Affordable, sophisticated wines, free tasting, picnic areas and gorgeous vineyard views, it’s out there yet accessible, on Airport Road only 3 miles north of Hwy 46 E.

I purchased 4 bottles (a rarity for me) and had to share the goods. What I like about J. Lohr is their ability to be innovative and expansive without sacrificing quality. Seems like they’ve started a few new labels since I left the area three years ago. These wines are bright, with little or no oak and a “drink me now” vibe, mostly taken from recent trips by the winemaking team to Australia and the United Kingdom. They let the fruit shine, whether it’s Pinot Noir or White Reisling. Check it out:

2005 Crosspoint Pinot Noir: It’s produced from cool climate Monterey County grapes and has a light garnet color with juicy red fruits and some earth. The soft texture of the swill would be swell with grilled salmon or roast duck, especially at $14.

2005 Cypress Vineyards White Zinfandel (I know!): There’s only one other White Zin I like, and it comes from a Greek winemaker in Lodi. Otherwise, this is the kind. Fermentation and aging occur in stainless steel to preserve every ounce of fruit intensity. The wine is sealed with the modern new Stelvin closure to ensure that the bright fruit flavors and aromas of each varietal are preserved untainted. Rosy-pink in color with enticing bright fruit aromas — and flavors — of kiwi. It’s got refreshing, palate-cleansing acidity. So the folks who don’t want red with their grilled salmon can drink this instead. Only 9.8% alcohol. Unbelievable at $6.

2006 J. Lohr Estates Wildflower Valdiguié: Grown on Chualar loam soil in the Arroyo Seco appellation of Monterey County, this grape was originally thought to be the Gamay Noir grape of France’s Beaujolais winegrowing region, but U.C. Davis has since identified this grape to be Valdiguié from an area in the southwest of France. Still smells and tastes like a Beaujolais — intense aromas and flavors of boysenberry, plum and blackberry with lingering acidity. The web site suggests serving it chilled or try it with fish and chips with aioli mayonnaise for a treat. Only $8.50!

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
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Excellent Article on Rare German Beer

NOTE: FOR LINKS, PHOTOS, GO TO MY OTHER SITE: http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog.

There’s a very fine article about German beer in the Sunday New York Times Travel Section by freelancer Evan Rail. If you aren’t a Times subscriber you can access the link free all this week, I believe. It’s worth a read.

Rail checked out three German beer styles that some (not I) feel are vanishing or just now being revived. He starts with Berliner Weisse, the sparkling wheat beer from Berlin with the sour, lactic edge, usually served with fruit syrup.

Kolsch glass in Koln, GermanNext stop Koln or, as we in the English-speaking world call it, Cologne, for a taste of Kolsch, the malty, delicious ale that has been brewed in Cologne for centuries. Personally, Kolsch ranks among the finest beers I’ve ever tasted. Lots of malt with a drying finish, layers of faint malt sweetness lingering.

Then Rail moves on to Leipzig for a taste of a beer that I’ve never tasted: Gose. He describes it as a deep orange color, spiced with salt and coriander. The style lapsed when Leipzig was inside the Iron Curtain, but has been revived. I checked a little further and found this article from the Campaign for Real Ale’s What’s Brewing by Michael Jackson, the English beer guru.

Michael points out that like Kolsch, it’s an ale with its fruity, warming notes, not a traditional German lager. He also traces Gose’s origins to a village not far from Leipzig a thousand years earlier and compares it to the Lambic beers of Belgium. Anyway, sounds like a beer to try.

Finally, Rail, the New York Times journalist, travels on to Bamberg to taste the wonders of rauchbier, a beer made from malt smoked over a wood fire. The style varies from lightly smoked to dark beers with a barbecue intensity.

In my humble opinion – to use a Net cliche – Alaskan Smoked Porter**** equals an German rauchbier I’ve ever tasted. You can find out more about rauchbier here and here.

About the photo: http://commons.wikimedia.org

Posted on Monday, May 21st, 2007
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