Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for March, 2009

Prima’s Annual Women and Wine dinner

Prima's Annual Women in Wine Event

Sorry for the continued event postings. What can I say? It’s spring and there are more wine events than flowers blooming. Plus, this one’s near and dear to my heart. So, deal.

Prima Vini’s Annual Women and Wine Dinner is tomorrow night, April 1, in Walnut Creek. I know, wine dinners are pricey these days (this one’s $110 before tax and gratuity, ouch) but the guests of honor read like a who’s who of California wine pioneers, and it’s rare that they’ll gather in the East Bay like this again: Heidi Barrett of La Sirena. Dr. Carole Meredith of Lagier-Meredith. Delia Viader of Viader. The list goes on.

I know, right? It’s not an April Fool’s joke. These women will really be there and yes, you can totally ask them if women actually do have superior palates . I know I have. I once tasted a wine in Lodi that tasted like butterscotch – literally – and called Dr. Meredith to have her ‘splain it. Turns out it was a mutt grape some grower found along a river out there. But she knew about it.

Get the scoop on the dinner, including that mouth-watering five-course menu by calling 925-935-7780 for tickets. Spots are still open.

Posted on Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
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Wine and tech mingle at Wine 2.0


If you have a computer and drink wine, you’re no doubt aware of the lightning speed at which technology has spread in the world of wine. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, we’ve got Open Wine Consortium, a global wine networking business. The ways to chug and click as one are boundless.

And we also have our own 2.0 expo. That’s because we live in San Francisco. Wine 2.0 is from 7 to 10 p.m. April 2 at Crushpad in Potrero Hill and let me tell you – last year’s event was a scene! Tons of people. New and innovative brands.  More wine tech start ups than you know what to do with.  Think I spent too long at the Mollydooker table.

They’re expecting at least 1,000 attendees this year, so if you want to taste dozens of newly released wines and mingle with this savvy set, get your tickets soon at In advance, they are $45 or two for $70. Tickets at the door will cost $60.

Posted on Monday, March 30th, 2009
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2005 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

Passsover is near. As such, I’m in kosher winetasting mode. And blessed be to Yahweh, I tasted a heckuva gem last night.

The 2005 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Golan Heights Winery and represents all that is elegant and drinkable about this grape. It helps, of course, that dashes of Merlot and Cabernet Franc massage its sharp corners, adding softness and finesse.

Golan Heights, one of the oldest wineries among Israel’s 150-plus properties, has three labels: Golan Heights, Yarden, and Gamla. The latter two are considered premium and produce ageable wines.

The grapes hail from the northeastern part of Israel, the eponymous Golan Heights, where high altitude, a cool climate (compared to the Judean Hills and Negev) and volcanic, basalt soils make it prime for grape growing.

But if you buy the Gamla Cab – 30 percent of the winery’s production is exported, so you should find it with ease – I’d drink it in the next year or two.

In the glass, it’s bright ruby. On the nose, its got beautiful floral aromas and dark berry fruits. And on the palate – my my – more dark fruit, chocolate, licorice and a long delicate finish that begs for a tomato-based stew.

This wine is well worth the $25 tag. L’chaim, Corkheads.

Posted on Thursday, March 26th, 2009
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A Hayword beer memorial for Bill Brand

My colleague Eric Kurhi posted this piece about a memorial this Thursday, March 26 at a Hayward bistro in Bill’s honor. It will be an annual event and proceeds will benefit the Contra Costa Food Bank.

I believe March 26 is Bill’s birthday.

Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
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Saturday Open house at “A Donkey and Goat”

A Donkey and Goat

After blogging about the upcoming East Bay Vintners annual Passport event, I noted that a certain Berkeley winery would not be representing the goods this year.

So I emailed Tracey Brandt of A Donkey and Goat and she confirmed my suspicions: the winery chose not to renew its EBVA membership this year. It’s an economic decision, Tracey told me.

Here it is in her words:

“We made a strategic decision for the year to mix up our marketing dollars. We did not pour at Rhone Rangers and will not pour at Family (Winemakers) but will get into more smaller events in more markets. The EBVA was both a cost and labor investment so we are stepping out for now.”

But it’s all good. They still call the East Bay home and are throwing their own snazzy open house this Saturday, March 28 from 1 to 5 p.m.

The Brandts will welcome spring with the debut of five new wines, noshes from  local purveyors, and groovy tunes courtesy of  the Michael LaMacchia Trio. Admission is $20 and includes a Riedel glass. Or (and I heart this), bring your own glass and pay 15 bones in cash at the door. Sweet.

Some new goodies to anticipate: In addition to their well known Syrahs and Chardonnays, the Brandts will be introducing their first ever Mourvedre (yes they did) and a teensy tiny production of Roussanne, which, if they’ve heard about how I chug Jeff Cohn’s Marsanne-Roussane blend, I’m sure they’re saving for me.

Want to hit this thing? Call 510-868-9174 or email tracey(at) for tickets or with questions.

Oh, and before I forget: Do you love Syrah? If you love pepper and game  and inky goodness and oh that beaming magenta ring around the whole pool of loveliness, I suggest you join A Donkey and a Goat’s Secret Agents of Syrah campaign.

They’re trying to save the world (or at least the wine drinking population) from drinking over priced, overly hyped, and average “f!@*ing wines wines,” as they say. In other words, overly tannic cocktail wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Did I say that?

Anyhoo, as an agent, you can help spread the word on Syrah via videos on Facebook.

The smoothest agent, or the agent with the coolest video submission, will receive a grand prize magnum of the winery’s limited production, hand bottled 2006 Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah.

A Donkey and Goat

Posted on Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
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Best beer city? Let’s get out and vote

Best Beer City

If you’re even a casual beer fan, you’re probably familiar with Charlie
Papazian. He wrote the first major book on homebrewing, “The Joy of Homebrewing.
Papzaian also founded what today is the Brewers Association, which
includess the American
Homebrewing Association.

The AHA will be holding their annual conference this year in Oakland, from June 18-20 at the Marriott Convention Center. They’re calling this year’s conference “Sippin On the Dock of the Bay.”

Charlie Papazian also began blogging last year as The Beer Examiner
a recent post, he’s asked people to vote for their favorite beer city.

Here’s how Charlie puts it: “

With beer enthusiasm on the rise, especially for small, local and craft brewed beer there’s a lot of pent up pride building.  I’ve heard many boast of their favorite beer city.  Here’s your chance to express your feelings and vote. One vote per person.”

There are thirty cities and/or metropolitan areas listed on the poll plus
“other” for write-ins. You’d expect cities like Portland to do well, and
they are. With nearly 3,000 votes in so far, Portland has 906 votes, or 34%.
But they’re in second place. The top honor so far is Asheville, North
Carolina! How on Earth could Asheville get 1103 votes, or 41% of the votes?

To be fair, Asheville is a great beer town, but they’ve mounted a grassroots
effort to stuff the ballot box by trying to get people to vote for them. I
admire their tenacity, but there’s only one thing wrong. Asheville, good as
it has become, is not the “best” beer city. You already know who that honor
should go to.

The “San Francisco/Oakland – Bay Area,” which is how we’re listed, has a
meager 46 votes, only 2% of the total right now. You know what to do. Get
out and vote. Tell your friends to vote. Tell your friends to tell their
friends to voteYou don’t have to register or sign up for anything. It will take less than a minute of your time.

You have until May 7, at Noon (Mountain Time) to register your vote. And the results will be announced just in time for American Craft Beer Week, which this year is May 11-17.

Posted on Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
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Spring Is Sprung, Beer Is Drunk

The latest from beer blogger Jay Brooks, who is guest blogging on What’s On Tap this week: Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring. And as you know, in the spring a young beer lover’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of beer festivals. That’s right, beer festival season is upon us, with much good weather and great beer to look forward to enjoying. Here are few festivals and other beer events taking place around the Bay in the coming weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 20th, 2009
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Passport: East Bay Wine Trail April 4

East Bay Vintners Alliance

Is it that time again? To leave our gas cards at home? To delight in some of the best wine that California has to offer without a fanny pack in sight?

Yes, my friends. Passport, the annual event of the East Bay Vintners Alliance, is upon us April 4. Fourteen wineries will open their doors along the East Bay Wine Trail from noon to 5 p.m. for hours of imbibing and hors d’oeuvres.

Keep an eye out  – er, nose – for newcomers Stage Left Cellars, sure to be a power player in the Rhone scene. And shed a tear for the departure of Lost Canyon, which closed its Oakland doors this past November. They sold to Fritz of Sonoma and are now producing their Pinot Noir and Syrah in Cloverdale.

At last year’s Passport, I was seduced by the utter beauty of Two Mile Wines’ Livermore Petit Sirah. So much so that, after her shock and awe, a gal pal of mine purchased the wine for me. She’d never seen me smile and talk about PS at the same time.

You best get the tickets in advance, because they’re a lot cheaper that way ($30 in advance vs. $45 at the door; DDs are 10 bones).  Visit the EBVA for details.

Posted on Thursday, March 19th, 2009
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A final toast to Bill Brand

Grapes and Grains

Rod Santos of the Grapes & Grains classes and newsletter is organizing a final toast to the late Bill Brand next Thursday, March 26. Some of you may know Santos from Wine Thieves in Lafayette, where he is part owner.

He splits his time, and his heart, educating the public on his two loves: beer and wine. He’s a fine guy and does a great job.

Bill was an active participant in Rod’s local beer tasting group. He says “Bill treated each beer they opened with the same intense fervor as the last, displaying an enthusiasm that is normally reserved for critics half his age.” Amen.

With the same fervor, Rod plans to raise a glass in Bill’s honor next week during a comprehensive tasting of some of what he calls the most exciting beers on today’s market, and many of which Bill reviewed.

If you want to join Rod and his crew, it’s $20 and will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the downstairs cellar at the Lafayette store, 3401 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Sign up here.

Posted on Wednesday, March 18th, 2009
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A few words on terroir


Back from furlough. You know, that thing where you stay home and pretend you’re on vacation even though you don’t have a dime to spend. In fact, you’re losing dimes. Around 6,000, to be exact.

I had lots of time on my hands so here’s something to ponder. More and more, I find myself scratching my head at New World tastings. I’m looking for the soil. I’m looking for it to speak to me, to tell me where it’s from and why it’s different from its inland neighbor or coastal cousin.

But, with the exception of Rutherford, some parts of Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties and regions in Australia where there are eucalyptus trees nearby, here’s the rub: If you have too much fruit, you may not have terroir. The fruit, however gorgeous, covers it up.

Someone presented this idea to me and it’s illuminating. I can stop burning my nostril hairs inhaling 16 percent Zinfandel and just relax. Instead, I’ll grab a barbeque spare rib, lean back, take a bite, and a Big Gulp.

Happy Monday after furlough.

Posted on Monday, March 16th, 2009
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