Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for the 'Corkheads' Category

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Thanks for reading the Bottoms Up Blog over the years, but we’ve closed up shop. The posts from over the years will remain here, archived for your reading pleasure, and as a historical record. But for current news about beer, wine, food and more, head on over to our new online presence at Eat·Drink·Play.


Posted on Saturday, February 1st, 2014
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Fleming’s new list of 100 wines by the glass

I recently got a sneak peak at Fleming’s Prime Steak House and Wine Bar’s new list of 100 wines by the glass. The list, which is currently available, is a combination of the usual suspects (Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc) disappointments (Beringer White Zinfandel? Come on, the world is full of beautiful rose) and pleasant surprises (three rieslings).

And that’s just the whites.

I tried a variety of red wine, and was happy to see the wine directors showcasing reliable producers but trying out different wines in their portfolios. For instance, they feature Orin Swift, but it’s the zinfandel, not The Prisoner, which some of us have grown weary of. Duckhorn’s there, but it’s cabernet sauvignon, not merlot, that is being featured. Hoorah.

With a selection of new small plates including delicate ahi tuna skewers and mouth-watering lobster tempura – those will be available starting Sept. 21 – I sipped samples of Penley Coonawarra Gryphon, an Australian merlot with a beautiful smoky aroma of charred blueberries.

Just before dinner, I had a taste of Masi Veneto Campofiorin, an earthy blend from Italy with an acidity so great it was practically begging for marinara.

And lastly, with my petite filet mignon, I sipped Raymond’s Napa Valley Sommelier Selection Cabernet Sauvignon, a rich, full-bodied wine with a good deal of tannins to stand up to red meat.

Posted on Monday, September 19th, 2011
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End of summer Bay Area wine events

Instead of another trip to Napa or Sonoma, wind down the summer with one of these off-the-radar wine events. They have a lot to offer, including oysters and zinfandel.

17th Annual Bodega Seafood, Art, & Wine Festival: Aug. 27-28. This is northern California’s largest seafood feast, which, by default, could make it the area’s largest sparkling wine feast too.

Like the way I think? Then check it out. Thirty wineries. A dozen microbreweries. And 15 restaurants. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 in advance. Location is Watts Ranch, 16855 Bodega Hwy, Bodega. For more information, visit the festival’s Web site.

30th Livermore Harvest Wine Celebration: Sept. 4-5. Thirty two wineries will open their doors or assemble to indulge you in their region’s juice. This is one of the only wine festivals I’m aware of that offers bus transportation (Sunday only) on three different routes. See wineries for Monday activities. Noon to 5 p.m. daily. Ticket prices vary. Several locations around the Livermore Valley. For more information, visit the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
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Five reasons to attend the Lodi Spring Wine Show

The event takes place 6 to 9 p.m. March 25 and 26 at the Ole Mettler Grape Pavilion at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds. For tickets and more information, visit the festival’s web site.

1. There will be butter samples. And I don’t mean the kind in chardonnay. One of the food purveyors at the show will be the California Cheese and Butter Association.

2. New this year is an olive oil tasting. Lodi is brimming with producers, from Cecchetti to Coldani.

3. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door – half the price of most large scale tastings.

4. You get to taste wine from 40 wineries including the green Bokisch Vineyards and the Greek-inspired Stama Winery.

5. Did I mention the butter?

Posted on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011
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Prima wine auction to benefit Japan relief effort

The owners of Walnut Creek’s Prima Ristorante and wine shop have more than 35 cumulative years of residence in Japan, and the earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country has no doubt shocked them and made them want to help their Eastern second home.

To that end, co-owners Peter Chastain and John Rittmaster are holding a silent wine auction online and in store beginning at 10 a.m. March 23 and ending at 6 p.m. on April 2. Auction lots will come from their personal cellars – the first will be four bottles of 1990 Chateau Lynch-Bages from Rittmaster’s cellar – as well as those of long-time customers and wine distributor colleagues.

Their goal is to raise $50,000 for the Red Cross relief efforts in Japan. For more information, visit Prima or call 925-945-1800.

Posted on Thursday, March 17th, 2011
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The best Bay Area wine events

Not sure what it is about spring and wine – call it bud break fever – but two of the year’s best wine events are just around the corner and I wanted to make sure you knew about them. Here goes:

East Bay Vintners Alliance Passport 2011. Now in its fourth year, this annual event on April 2 from noon to 5 is the best way to get a feel and taste for the 23 wineries in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and environs.

A $40 ticket gets you a glass, wine samples, appetizers, and admission into all six locations. Each location hosts a cluster of wineries. A $10 designated driver ticket gets you everything except the wine pours and a coffee mug instead of a wine glass.

For information on transportation and shuttle options, visit the East Bay Vintners.

Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting. Of all the overwhelming Fort Mason tastings, this and Family Winemakers are the ones not to much. More then 100 vintners will gather for the 11th annual event from 2 to 5 p.m. March 27 and you’ll be able to taste more than 500 of their wines.

There are 22 grape varieties that hail from France’s Rhone Valley, from stars like syrah and mourvedre to lesser known and up and coming varietals such as grenache blanc and picpoul. Tickets are $45. For more information, visit the Rhone Rangers.

Posted on Thursday, March 17th, 2011
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Swirling with the San Jose Sharks Jan. 24

Sampling with the San Jose Sharks

Hockey players have surprisingly good taste in wine. I mean no disrespect. Just figured they prefered cheap beer.

But anyway, the San Jose Sharks have a great event planned for Jan. 24, and all proceeds benefit the Sharks Foundation and their 201-2011 Grant Recipients. Last year, they raised $256,000 for 11 nonprofits in the Santa Clara County. Pretty impressive.

The Jan. 24 event could exceed that. They’ve got 14 wineries on tap, and they’re the upper crust if wine was pie. I’m talking Duckhorn, Far Niente, Schramsberg, Silver Oak, Miner, and Flora Springs. And you get to mingle with Sharks players and coaches while you swirl and sip.

Tickets are $225 a smack. Register online at the Sharks website. The event takes place at the Club Auto Sport, 521 Charcot Road, San Jose.

Posted on Friday, January 21st, 2011
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Contra Costa wines take home 36 medals at SF Chronicle Wine Competition

Le Melange Blanc 2009

The results of the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition are in, and wines made from grapes grown in Contra Costa County did pretty darn well. Yes, we have terroir.

Brentwood’s Hannah Nicole Vineyards took home 13 medals, including a gold for their 2009 Le Melange Blanc. They won silver medals for four wines, including the 2007 Meritage Red, and eight bronze medals.

It’s the third year in a row that Hannah Nicole wines have placed in the competition, which received more than 5,000 entries from around the country this year.

Five more wineries that are either located in Contra Costa County or make wines with grapes grown there took home a total of 23 medals. Walnut Creek’s Shadowbrook Winery won a gold for its 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and Bloomfield Vineyards took home an impressive Best of Class for its 2008 Pinot Noir.

The public tasting is Feb. 19 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. For more information, visit the competition’s site.

Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
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Fundraiser at Residual Sugar in Walnut Creek Dec. 13

Yes, that’s tonight. Residual Sugar General Manager Aundrea Wainscott’s house burned down last month due to a faulty wall heating unit. She and her boyfriend, Daniel Sharp, and Wainscott’s daughter, Zoe, lost all of their belongings and a place to call home.

The food and wine community has gathered around them, and the magnitude of this event is proof of how much this community cares about Wainscott and Sharp. They have more than 20 years of experience in the Bay Area’s hospitality industry. So if you’ve had great experiences at Va De Vi, SPQR, Residual Sugar, or Chez Panisse, they probably had something to do with it.

Va De Vi, Havana, Sasa, and the Walnut Creek Yacht Club, among others, are donating food. Wineries and distributors including Southern Wine & Spirits are providing wine.

The event is from 6 to 11 p.m. $20 gets you all the food and wine you can want, and a feeling that you’re doing at least one solid thing this holiday season to help a good, hard-working person who is dealing with a tragedy. There will also be an auction. All proceeds benefit Sharp, Wainscott, and her daughter.

Residual Sugar is located at 1684 Locust Street in Walnut Creek. For more information, visit their web site,

Posted on Monday, December 13th, 2010
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Lot 18: New wine sale site from Snooth founder

People in the wine industry are always lamenting the way wine is sold, and how they can better reach consumers who might otherwise never visit their wineries or taste their wines.

According to this Mashable post, Phillip James, the founder of, is answering the call with a new website called Lot 18.

It’s still a bit under the radar, but Lot 18 is basically online private sales. The website will have a team of wine specialists who work with small producers to get their affordable products into the hands of appreciative, thirsty wine geeks.

It’s a great concept, and I’d be interested to see if it improves the way wine is sold, from a commodity to a hand-crafted, living thing. There are a limited number of invitations to preview the site. Check the Mashable link to see if any remain.

Posted on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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