Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for April, 2010

Tuscan wines of Leonardo Frescobaldi

Had the great pleasure of meeting the Marchese Leonardo Frescobaldi during a tasting of his Tuscan wines last night at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants in Pleasant Hill. Frescobaldi will be at Prima Vini tonight, April 16, at 5:30. Tickets for non club members is $20. I strongly recommend you check it out.

The Frescobaldis are Italy’s oldest winemaking family. They’ve been making gorgeous, powerful yet balanced wines for 700 years. They make their wines as naturally as possible, fermenting in barrel with little chemical intervention.

While their wines and reputation are firmly planted in tradition, they are also quite revolutionary in their thinking, creating the first Italian-American hybrid wines with Robert Mondavi in the 90s and planting merlot grapes in the Montalcino for the first time in the 70s.

My favorite from the tasting is as follows:

2006 Frescobaldi Mormoretto Super Tuscan: This wine is alive. It is an elegant blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc that hails from a single vineyard cru of Castello di Nippozano with percentages that remain fixed year after year. As Frescobaldi said, “I’m not in pharmaceuticals.”  

As for the wine, the tannins are fine and silky. The aromas and flavors are a complex mix of dark fruit, cocoa, smoke, and spice. I love this wine and think it will age beautifully in the years to come.

Prima is also offering a Tuscan dinner with the Marchese following the tasting at 7. The price is $58, which is half what Prima usually charges for winemaker’s dinners. Jump on by reserving your spot with Prima at 925-935-7780.

Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
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Baboons like sweet South African wine grapes

Absolutely had to share this article our wildlife writer Gary Bogue forwarded me. Turns out the wildfires that devastated parts of South Africa – the main foraging areas for the country’s wild baboons – earlier this year are causing hundreds of the primates to forage closer to the prized vineyards outside Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The electric fences that deter most vineyard pests, like squirrels and even deer, don’t seem to bother baboons.

As the story states, they prefer pricey pinot noir and chardonnay grapes for their perceived sweetness. They eat the most ripe and expensive ones and leave the others on the vines or ground. When they get tipsy, they find a shady area to sleep it off.

While it’s a cute story, in the Constantia wine growing region alone, baboon foraging has cost $34,800 in annual crops.

So what’s a vineyard manager to do? They’re hiring people to make noise and scare the baboons away – not a job I think I’d want. Also, the Baboon Research Unit at the local university is pioneering a high-tech collar that will be place around the neck of a baboon troop member. A sensor on it will become activated and send a text message to the winery when a baboon is approaching.

Posted on Thursday, April 15th, 2010
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Taste 500 wines at Wine Enthusiast’s Toast of the Town

April 22 will be one of the biggest and glitziest nights in wine. This year, for its annual Toast of the Town event, Wine Enthusiast magazine will be taking over San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House from 7 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $89 and it’s worth it.

What I love about this event is that it not only brings together domestic and international producers but it showcases the eclectic culinary artists that truly make the Bay Area stand apart from other cities. San Francisco’s Farallon restaurant will be slinging alongside Oakland’ s House of Chicken and Waffles. Biondi-Santi of Tuscany will be pouring alongside Beaulieu Vineyards of Napa.

Five hundred wines will be available for tasting, so take Bart to the Civic Center station, conveniently located a few blocks from the venue.

Posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
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Paso Robles Grand Tasting in Menlo Park April 22

I discovered wine, or rather it found me, on the Central Coast. I was in my mid 20s and living a rather simple but happy life in San Luis Obispo. I had my best friend and partner in wine, my newspaper writing job, and dozens of burgeoning appellations around me.

For whatever reason, we felt a kinship to the wines of Paso Robles. They were big and fruity and even though they’re not necessarily the style of wines that grace my table these days, they still represent that fun, adventurous and innovative part of my winetasting journey. Paso Robles is a very important region in terms of American Rhone blends. And even after 180 bonded wineries, the people in the vineyards and those behind the tasting room bars still have an ease and unpretentiousness that seals my love for this region.

If you haven’t made it down to Paso in a while you’re in luck. The vintners are coming to us on April 22. The Consumer Grand Tasting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Quadrus Conference Center in Menlo Park. There will be appetizers and more than 150 wines to taste. For tickets, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Some of my longstanding favorites from the region: J. Lohr, Justin, Wild Horse.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit about Paso Robles is that 58 percent of the grapes grown there are sold to wineries outside of the area. They are found in dozens of Napa Valley wines, which raises interesting questions about value and ageability, all of which will surely come up when Sunset Magazine wine editor Sara Schneider gives a talk on Paso wines from 1 to 2 p.m. that same day in the same location.

Posted on Monday, April 12th, 2010
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Passover pick: Weinstock Cellar Select Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Food-friendly Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is almost an oxymoron these days. The wines are typically big and ballsy with whopping alcohol levels and a ripeness better suited for a bag of dried fruit.

So imagine my surprise when I opened this Weinstock Select 2006 Napa cab last night to wash down a simple spice-flecked grilled chicken. It was the third night of Passover, and I was rocking a kosher meal, so I needed a kosher wine.

The fruit was definitely there. The wine exhibited the bold, tobacco and blackberry aromas and flavors indicative of Napa cabs, but this wine had soft tannins and “only” 13.8 percent alcohol. It was elegant with good acidity and refreshed my palate after every bite of charred chicken.

Not only is it in line with kosher law, but the wine is mevushal, meaning that it was flash pasteurized and fit for the most orthodox Jewish wine lover. Looks like Snooth shows the Weinstock wine retailing for $24.99.

If you like balanced cabernet sauvignon and find it challenging to find one from California, I suggest you give this one a swirl.

Posted on Thursday, April 1st, 2010
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