CVIndependent

Fri06232017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Wine

16 Feb 2015
by  - 
“If pinot noir is the next best thing to sex, you must be having really good sex.” —PinotFile.com Dave never buys pinot noir at home. “No balls,” he says. We know this wine variety can be amazing. We’ve seen the movie Sideways. We’ve tasted good pinot noirs in Washington and Oregon. But we’ve encountered insipid pinot noir far too many times. Cuz insipid pinot noir is cheap. “I can’t afford to like pinot noir,” says our wine-aficionado friend. Now here we are, drinking elegant pinot noir and adoring it, eyes rolling back in our head, drool escaping from corners of mouths. We whip out our credit cards for more, more. We’re drinking on the west end of Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. Locals call this the Deep End. It’s too close to the Pacific, really, to grow grapes. Yet the Deep Enders do. At Handley Cellars, tasting-room employee Ali Nemo pours…
16 Jan 2015
by  - 
A bright pink sky glows over trees and rooftops west of Berkeley. In our glasses glows the 2011 Boneshaker zinfandel—a relic of Lodi’s now-closed Cycles Gladiator Wines. I’m visiting a friend, and she’s enjoying the Boneshaker. She almost always likes zinfandel. I note the grape’s plebian heritage. The grape of the people. My friend doesn’t drink much these days, she says—a glass or two of wine a month. And she’s selective. An earlier bottle of wine, an average pinot noir from the nearby Berkeley Bowl independent supermarket, didn’t make the cut and sits open and forlorn on the counter. The Boneshaker is robust, ripe, spicy with a teensy bit of smoke. I’m loving it, knowing I won’t be getting more unless parent company Hahn Family Wines resurrects the brand. I will miss the Boneshaker zin. Our conversation turns back to quantities of wine consumed per month. My friend’s dryish habits…
19 Dec 2014
by  - 
It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one's present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason. —Latin proverb The Arrival of a Friend I was wrapped in a blanket under a tree. Giant snow clumps fell from dark clouds at Calaveras Big Trees State Park. A half-dozen wine loving amici and I were camping in Arnold, Calif. In March. The weather can be temperate in spring. That night, not so much. We’d spent the day visiting wineries in and out of Murphys, 12 miles away. We went to Milliaire, Indian Rock, Zucca, Stevenot, Newsome-Harlow and Twisted Oak. That night, we huddled around the fire, teeth chattering, passing around a bottle or two of newly acquired red. Hubbie Dave barbecued friend Launie’s tri-tip over flaming logs. She’d brought the juicy meat in a plastic bag, marinated…
14 Nov 2014
by  - 
The dog wanders through the Illuminare tasting room in Camino, Calif. Like his owner who’s pouring our wine, the pooch is chill. I try to attract the dog’s attention, to give him a scratch. He ignores me. Uber-chill. Do people still say uber? Do they use the umlaut to spell it? Über? When I drink, I overthink. I sample the 2011 Mourvedre and fall in love. “Rich fungal earth!” I write in my notes. “Earth! Earth!” And on the venue: “The dog doesn’t love me.” The mourvedre is $25, and my designated driver/love-of-life Dave buys a bottle. It’s 2:21 p.m., and I’m on a mission. I could taste at six wineries in one day—if I started early enough. Paced myself. Illuminare is No. 4. I need food. I have to pee. But the mourvedre, that dark smooth stranger with intense brambles—it’s worth trying many wines to get to this one.…
15 Oct 2014
by  - 
I’ve mentioned wine clubs to folks who don’t spend much time in tasting rooms. “I think there’s one of those around here,” one woman said. A wine club, right? A place where like-minded people get together to sniff and sip? Not exactly what I’d meant. At wineries, club membership is more like frequent-buyer programs. It gives wineries a consistent source of income. It gives me a consistent source of wine. Signing up means agreeing to buy something like a case of wine a year, or maybe three or four bottles every three or four months. The wine shipments are discounted—and that’s the big draw. Some wineries release special bottles, limited-production stuff, only to their members. As a member, a simple aficionado like me gets to feel like a member of the winery’s extended family—drinking with the homies, at a place where everybody knows your name. I’ve been a member of…
12 Sep 2014
by  - 
My wine glass is half-full, its stem pushed flat into light sand. I aim my camera at the glass. Click. The top part of the glass distorts giant waves crashing into the shore. Click. A haystack rock occupies space between wine and brim. Click. Sky meets sea in a blur of blue. Plus wine glass. Dave appreciates the crashing waves while I capture the moment for perpetuity. He’s plenty ready, though, to drink some Tulip Hill 2010 Lake County Aglianico. We’ve brought a half-bottle, left over from last night’s dinner. Dave’s glass is half-full, too. That’s the way with wine: You don’t fill glasses to the brim. Plenty of space gives the wine room to breathe. And all that air is good—until it’s not. Too much exposure to atmosphere, and your wine gets flat, insipid, tasteless. It’s Labor Day weekend, and though we live apart, my husband and I have…
11 Aug 2014
by  - 
Desert dwellers crave wine. Rose Baker and her husband, Buster, suspected as much when they envisioned a wine bar in Yucca Valley. The venue is no slick wine-country rip-off. Rose and Buster’s Wine Tasting Room sports an eclectic vibe the couple calls “cowboy feng shui”—with Buddhas, cactus, dream catchers, Ganesha banners, mandalas, the headdresses of Southwestern tribes, craft beers, guitars and, of course, Northern California wines. Wines like Peterson Winery’s Mendo Blendo from Redwood Valley, Hop Kiln pinot noir from Healdsburg, and Rose and Buster's own private-label wines, from cab to chardonnay, bottled at Vista Verde Winery north of Paso Robles. The couple carries Tulip Hill’s sauvignon blanc, a summertime hit obtained from the winery’s Rancho Mirage tasting room. They’ve exhausted their supply, though, and can’t get more, so they eagerly await the next batch. “I’m bummed out about that,” Buster says. “I hope they’re making more. I have enough…
09 Jul 2014
by  - 
We are in a grape. Dave and I are in the grape—yes, you heard me right. It's a contemporary wonder of Italian architecture called The Acino, named after an Italian word for grape. We’re looking through its translucent ethylene skin at a steady rain drizzling over acres and acres of Piedmont-region wine grapes. Nebbiolo, barbera, dolcetto—the important reds. And arneis, a white grape with a loyal following in Northern Italy’s most-prestigious wine region. The interior of this structure is 500 square meters, large enough for a hearty wine tasting event. And that’s pretty much the purpose of Ceretto Winery’s little building, an addendum to their ancient estate. I’m reminded of a Napa wine mogul who built a European medieval-style castle just for fun. I write in my notebook: “Napa builds a castle with a view of grapes. Piedmont builds a grape with a view of castles.” Because we’re in Italy,…