Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for January, 2010

1winedude’s interview with Robin Goldstein of “The Wine Trials”

There’s an excellent conversation going on at 1Winedude.com about how wine bloggers and others in the industry are changing the face of wine criticism in magazines and trade pubs.  Namely, shedding light on how numerical wine ratings of mostly expensive wines are not an accurate representation of what real people drink, like, or afford.

It started with Joe Roberts’ interview with Robin Goldstein, author of “The Wine Trials 2010: The World’s Bestselling Guide to Inexpensive Wines.” I spoke with Goldstein last year, when I ran a review of the book’s inaugural 2009 edition. I’d post a link here but we don’t keep stories on our Web site that long. Sad, I know.

Anyway, I am particularly interested in how the hoax Goldstein performed on the Wine Spectator and its annual restaurant Award of Excellence program in 2007 has played out a few years later – and how it will continue to effect change.

Basically, he created a fictitious Italian restaurant and made up a wine list – including wines that the Spectator rated quite low – and they awarded him for it anyway!

For a lot of us, particularly in the newspaper industry, it only confirmed what we already knew. That the lack of separation between advertising and editorial in a lot of these magazines is very iffy, and so is why, consistently, wines made in a certain style – and for certain palates – continue to rate the highest.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
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Winter Brews Festival This Saturday

While SF Beer Week will get most of the attention in the coming weeks, there is one more beer festival before February. That’s the new Winter Brews Festival that will be held this Saturday, January 30th, at the Linden Street Brewery in Oakland from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The festival is being hosted by The Brewing Network.

bn-winterfest10

Tickets are $25, which will include a commemorative glass and five tastings, with more available for purchase at a rate of 3 for $5. For more information on the event, please visit www.brewingnetwork.com/ontap

So far, participating breweries include:

21st Amendment
Speakeasy
Iron Springs
Lagunitas
Moylan’s
Marin
Russian River
Firestone Walker
Linden St
Magnolia
Triple Rock
Drake’s
Odonata
Valley Brewing CO.
The Bruery
Gordon Biersch
Ale Industries
Firehouse Grill
Stone
Deschutes
Rogue
EJ Phair
Schooner’s
Elysian
Alaskan
Black Diamond
Pacific Coast
Two Rivers Cider
Uncommon Brewers
Moonlight
Drake’s
Black Diamond
Jack’s
Green Flash
Bear Republic
New Belgium
Fifty-Fifty
Shmaltz

Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
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Evolution Of A Beer Label

Below is, as far as I know, the most recent label for Budweiser, updated in 2000. We all know that labels change over time, sometimes dramatically, but usually more subtly with just small tweaks from time to time. But even small changes over a long period of time become dramatic in the long view. So this is a fascinating peak into those changes.

budlabel

Etiquette Systems, a label manufacturer, has an online gallery showing what they call the Evolution of America’s Most Famous Beer Label. It shows a dozen different versions of the Budweiser label, from the first 1876 version up to the 2000 latest one, with all of the changes in between.

Posted on Monday, January 25th, 2010
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Wine events for a good cause

I’ve got a stock pile of cool events coming up in the Bay Area for those who like to sip for a good cause. Here are some highlights.

Angove Nine Vines Dinners at Orson: Select dates from Jan. 26-March 24

Angove Family Winemakers is one of the oldest family-owned wine producers in Australia. Each year, they do a series of winemakers dinners to benefit San Francisco’s Project Open Hand. This year, 30 percent of ticket sales from the four-course dinners will go this charity.

Dinners are $75 per person and are Jan. 26 (Orson); Feb. 24 (Betelnut); March. 24 (Scala’s Bistro). For tickets, go to www.ninevinesevents.com.

Benefit: Project Open Hand

Dutcher Crossing’s Blending for a Cause: 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 8, 2010

Each year, winery owner Debra Mathy of Dutcher Crossing Winery in St. Helena creates a small-lot tribute wine in honor of her late father, who died of melanoma in 2007.

Join Mathy and winemaker Kerry Damskey as they blend this year’s wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Mountain Terrace Vineyard on Mt. Veeder in Sonoma Valley. Only 150 cases will be produced. Price of wine is unknown at this time. 8325 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. To RSVP, call Kate at 707-433-4173.

Benefit: Melanoma cancer research

Second Annual WORDUP Wine Tasting: 2 to 5 p.m.  Feb. 21, 2010

WORD UP is possibly the coolest acronym in the wine world. It stands for Winemakers of the Richmond District, Upper Panhandle, and Presidio. Join more than 20 San Francisco winemakers, including AP Vin, Carica, and Renard, as they pour their wines made from some of the best vineyards in California. Fort Mason Conference Center, Fort Mason, San Francisco. $50. For tickets, go to www.friendssfpl.com.

Benefit: Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s Neighborhood Library Campaign.

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010
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Eat at Amanda’s in Berkeley and help Haiti

On Tuesday, January 26, Amandas Feel Good Fresh Food Restaurant in Berkeley will donate 15 percent of all that day’s sales to the Partners in Health program in Haiti.

Partners In Health (PIH) is solid and scores highly with nonprofit groups that check the efficiency of charity organizations. PIH works to bring modern medical care to poor communities in nine countries around the world.

PIH has been on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years and needs support to help those affected by the recent earthquake.

Amandas is located at 2122 Shattuck Avenue (near Center Street) across from the BART station in Downtown Berkeley. Hours are 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday through Friday and 11:00AM to 9:00PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you hear of other restaurants or wineries that are helping with the Haiti effort, please post them here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
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Give A Pint, Get A Meal

Here’s a good way to get yourself a good meal, have a few tasty brews and feel good about it in the process by donating some much-needed blood. Blood Centers of the Pacific has teamed up with Moylan’s Brewery in Novato for a special event on January 30.

moylans

Here’s the full details:

Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant and Blood Centers of the Pacific are teaming up with hopes of increasing blood supplies in the bay area. Come to Moylan’s, give up a pint and get a free lunch courtesy of the brewpub. Blood Centers of the Pacific provides the critical link between blood donors who generously give the gift of life and the local patients who need this lifesaving gift.This is a most critical moment for blood suppliers and only the community can help. Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant is dedicated to giving back to the county of Marin and has combined forces with the Blood Centers of Pacific in hopes of increasing stores of our most valued medical asset, blood donations.

Meals may be selected from the regular menu and must be redeemed between the hours of 1-6:00 p.m. on Saturday January 30th. Donors can sign up in advance for the blood drive at bloodheroes.com, use sponsor code: Moylans. Hours are 1-6:00 p.m. Please bring ID and donor card if available. Free cholesterol testing at every donation! For more information regarding the blood drive call 415.3086982. For more information about Blood Centers of the Pacific call 415.749.6696 or visit bloodcenters.org.

Posted on Friday, January 15th, 2010
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10 Things I learned from Judging the SF Chronicle Wine Competition

I’ve judged wines professionally. I’ve sat on blind tasting panels and swirled, sipped, and spat my way to wine evaluation zen. But no competition tests your palate or has quite the consumer influence like the Chronicle Wine Competition does. The annual event is the largest competition of American wines in the world.

The competition, backed by the likes of Target, has humble roots at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair in Cloverdale, California. It began in 1982 when a small but dedicated group of wine industry insiders sat around a table in the upstairs room of the fairgrounds office, tasting and judging local wines out of brown paper bags.

Today, and specifically, this January, the competition received record-breaking entries: More than 4,900. So, when executive director Bob Fraser of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Department shot me an email a few months ago asking me to be one of the judges, I got my editor’s blessing and jumped at the chance.

Jessica Yadegaran

In total, I judged 353 wines in three days alongside an exceptional panel. They included: Berkeley wine writer and educator Derek Schneider; Ellen Landis, owner and sommelier of Landis Shores Ocean Front Inn in Half Moon Bay; Jill Ditmire, Indiana-based Omnimedia Wine Specialist; and Carl Brandhorst, vice president of the Vinifera Wine Growers Association in Fairfax, Virginia. I learned a lot from them and enjoyed their company.

My Panel at Chronicle Wine Competition

I was at once humbled, puzzled, and enlightened by the experience, and expect it will come up in my blog, column and stories to come. If you’re interested, here’s exactly what we judged: 16 semi-dry sparklers, 10 sweet sparklers, 76 white blends, 8 reds made from native grapes, 11 reds  from hybrid grapes, 48 brut sparklers, 69 chardonnays in the $25-$29.99 range, 19 whites made from hybrid grapes, 45 dry roses, 42 tempranillo, and nine fruit wines.

And here’s a snapshot of the week:

1. There is a lot of negotiating in wine judging. Fellow panelist Derek Schneider explains it well in his post here about the judging process. In a nut shell:

Panelists sit in draped off rooms. We spend 10-15 minutes judging each flight of 12 wines or less. After we’ve tabulated our personal judgments – no award, bronze, silver, or gold – we go around the table and a volunteer writes our awards on a chalk board. In instances when a simple majority vote didn’t determine the final award, we would hash it out. And naturally, with something as subjective as wine, there was a lot of discrepancy. More than a few times, my Bronze would be another judge’s Gold. And vice versa. In these situations, the judge passionate about the wine would make a case for it to the group, and the judge who was weighing the team down with a weak award would often come up to a silver or gold. Sometimes, the opposite would happen, and a panelist’s evaluation of a bad wine would convince the rest of us to come down.

2. The lack of diversity in wine judging is troubling. Out of 58 judges from around the nation, I was one of 14 women and one of three people in their early to mid 30s. We were the youngest, I believe. There were two Asians judges. Everyone else was a white male over 50. This can’t be reflective of the North American wine drinking population.

3. I absolutely have to drink more fruit wines, particularly those from South Dakota’s Prairie Berry Winery. Everyone on my panel loved their sassy rhubarb wine.

4. Way more than 2 to 5 percent of wines are flawed. I’d put the number at 7 to 10 percent.

5. California Chardonnay can be compelling, exotic, and beautiful. My panel gave a double gold (meaning that all five of us gave it a gold medal) to a smoky, balanced, unctous Chardonnay.

6. Graber Olives out of Ontario are addictive. The buttery, meaty unbrined version served as the best palate cleanser I’ve ever had.

7. I am forever convinced. California makes some of the best sparkling wines in the world. Some are dead ringers for Champagne. Some are better, in my opinion.

8. Ag folks love telling jokes about goats. Goats and Minnesota.

9. There is a lot of hot malbec and one-dimensional muscat made in the United States.

10. Blind tasting many wines in one sitting is an exceptional way to fine tune your palate. And you don’t have to be a judge to do it. Anyone can. Make it easy. Just round up 20 bottles among your friends, some paper bags, and random, mismatched stemware. If you like wine, blind tasting will quickly illuminate what you love about it.

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
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More wine trends to watch in 2010

Here’s a continuation of my trend forecasting for 2010. I published the first three in my Corkheads column on Jan. 13 (which is already posted on the Contra Costa Times Web site).

- Tempranillo. I just judged 46 of these in a big domestic wine competition. The Spanish grape is a bit of a shape shifter. It has the ability to take on so many different styles and flavors depending on where it’s grown.

Here, especially in the Sierra Foothills, it is incredibly ripe and powerful, with an inky hue, ripe tannins, and big aromas and flavors of dried dark fruits, cigar, and olives. And, whether you get it from Lodi or Rioja, it is a lot cheaper than cabernet sauvignon, petit sirah, and even many zinfandels.

Based on Americans’ palate and our expanding tendency toward good values, I think tempranillo will follow malbec and the next big “big” wine.

- Wine and technology. First, there was Wine 2.0, a social networking innovator that seeks to bring together world class wine with emerging communication technology.

Then, the influx of wine blogs. Did you know there are about 700 out there now? They are changing the way consumers learn about and purchase their wine. Now, there are enough iPhone wine apps to never have to search on Google for the meaning of a viticultural term or a winery’s address or what varietals they make.

Naturally, as millennials continue to embrace wine, it will be interesting to see what advances in technology and social media are ahead for wine producers and consumers.

Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010
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