Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Since it is my blog, I suppose it's time for a little self-promotion. Hocus Pocus Pinot Noir is now released! It's from Willamette Valley, Oregon is 12.18% alcohol and I think it's super delicious and refreshing for summer sipping. (That sounds uber-cheesy, but I'm sticking to my guns here). Just lots of bright cherry fruit, it's lean and elegant.

Check it out at Rosso Wine Shop, CheeseStore of Silverlake, Colorado Wine Company and the upcoming Venokado on Fountain in Hollywood (opening predicted for end of May, delayed due to my wedding - that's how important I am). It retails for around $23.

Support my wedding fund. Buy HoPo Pinot.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Like I said, he's a perfectly nice guy... long as you don't drink Rombauer.

A ten year for 2 tenners.

Richter, Veldenzer Elisenberg, Riesling, Kabinett, 1997. Stunningly Delicious and Refreshing!!! I love that you can buy this at K&L for $19.99. I'm going back to buy more because when's the last time you drank a KILLER bottle of 10-year-old wine for two tenners???

Saturday, April 26, 2008

JulesHarrison at aoc.

JulesHarrison, Santa Maria, Soloman Hills, Pinot Noir, 2005.

I love this wine, and not just because its Caroline's wine! Caroline Styne co-owns aoc and Lucques with Suzanne Goin, of course, and is an amazing wine person. She makes JulesHarrison with Katherine Strange, a wine distributor. Joe Davis from Arcadian consults on the wine making. It's very elegant with dark brooding cherry fruit, dried roses and other perfumey floral elements. If I could afford to drink it every night I would! It's $90 on the list and $24 a glass in the cruvinet. I think its always good to splurge every now and then, and you won't be disappointed in this one. Not sure where it can be found retail, but you can find it at Spago too!

Pictured again is Rick, your friendly neighborhood bartender!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jeepers Creepers.

Even though Jeff at Rosso Wine Shop looks creepy in this picture, he's really quite normal (he will not murder you in your sleep). He recommended this terrific little Spanish wine from Jumilla. Altos de la Hoya, 2006.

Frequently those Jumilla wines are made in a new world style, so oaky and intense. But this wine has that chalky texture and dark dried fruit flavor profile that I love. You know I'm an acid freak and it's got that too!

It's all Monastrell (Mouvedre to you Francophiles) at the rock bottom price of $12.99.

Please drive to Glendale and check out his shop. He also has great eco-friendly wine bags for $2!! It's the only bag he offers. It has little compartments so the wine doesn't slide all around. I love myself a green minded retailer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Surya, samosas and cheap corkage.

We had Indian Food at Surya on 3rd Street (at Crescent Heights) and it's one of my favorite places to go for a low key dinner. We went with 2 friends and everyone brought a bottle. Corkage is $15 - a deal!

We had a Huber-Bleger, Gewurztraminer, Alsace, 2006. My friend, Rebecca, bought it for $21.95 at Flask in Studio City.It was recommended by Ryan, the owner of the store, and was really great with the samosas.

Then we moved on to Rioja, which didn't really make sense, but still I love Artadi, Vinas de Gain, 2005. It has such great texture, moderate acidity and lots of dried red fruits. Just one of my favorites. You can get it at K&L for $27.99.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The tangy butterfly.

Domaine du Baumard, Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, 2004. 100% Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. I love the packaging on this wine (the butterfly in particular) but the stuff inside the bottle is delicious too and perfect poolside or just in your backyard.

Peter blind tasted me on it and I thought it was Riesling, it's not obviously, but the wine has no oak influence and (for those of you who care) did not undergo malolactic fermentation. That makes it tangy and tart like biting into a green apple and very refreshing.

It's $25.99 at Wine Pavilion in the OC and Bristol Farms in Palm Springs. Or you can pay a lot more at Wally's ($32.99) if you don't feel like making the drive to either of those places. Haysus! I personally would be disappointed to pay that much for this wine. It's good at $25, not so good over $30.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Little White Burgundy.

I had this nice little White Burgundy at the Little Next Door on 3rd Street. I had never heard of the producer, but I thought I'd give it a go. Demessey, Bourgogne Blanc, 2005 was $9 a glass, crisp, clean and pleasant with good citrus acidity, but still round - not too tart.

I just had to take a photo of our waiter who is so tres French. They are now open from 9am to 930pm, sitting outside is perfect - they have heat lamps everywhere to keep you warm, in case you forget to wear your Uggs.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Indy Bachelorette.

Peter is at his Bachelor Party in Chicago and I'm here cooking green lentil croquettes for myself, and I'm not even insecure about it. Any good soon-to-be wifey would be testing out recipes for her new hubby while he's out philandering with his friends, right? I embrace my new role.

I am pairing the croquettes with 2004, Domaine de la Terre Rouge, Tete-a-Tete, from the Sierra Foothills. It's a self proclaimed "Rhone blend" wine, I assume that's Grenache domainated with Syrah and Mourvedre, but maybe someone out there (Jeff?) knows the exact blend.

This is one of the most delicious wines I have ever tasted at $14.99. I am blown away. Not only that, I opened the bottle last night for a Bachelorette party (party of one that is), and am having another glass tonight for the second half of my self proclaimed bachelorette party. It held up beautifully over night. And don't feel sorry for me. I'll do just fine here alone, because the wine is fantabulous! Juicy with lots of sweet blueberry fruit, it also has really good acidity and minerality and I think you should buy a case of it just to have on hand. Seriously.

This was a recommendation from Jeff at Rosso Wine Shop in Montrose / Glendale. He's right down the street from my acupuncturist, so my new thing is going to be to get stuck and then go by a bottle of wine. Jeff has an amazing selection and is well worth the drive. He does tastings every Friday, so at least pop in for one of those and try some new wines!

Below, the lentils stew in preparation for their new role as croquettes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mas mas mas Rosso...

Valdicava, Rosso di Montalcino, 2005. Pretty spectacular.

Peter and I visited the estate in Montalcino last May and it was a lackluster experience. The wines tasted barnyardy and the wine maker seemed annoyed by me when I spit the wines out. He actually said, "If you were in Burgundy tasting Musigny they would kick you out of the cellar." To which I wanted to say, "Well, I WISH your wines tasted like Musigny, but they are full of BRETT!"

And then a weird thing happened. We came back to the states opened a half bottle that Vincenzo, the winemaker, had given us. The wine was delicious, sort of more than delicious, it was fantastic! And this wine is no exception. It is full of fresh cherries, terrific acidity and has a very silky chalky mouthfeel. Oddly, there's no sign of brettanomyces - that barnyard / fecal odor that's so offensive to me. Wonder what happened to it??

Regardless, I am a fan. you can pick this up for $33.99 at Wally's in LA and Wine Pavilion in the OC.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poolside riesling.

So speaking of classic regions and classic wines, this is great little 2005 Riesling from Bert Simon in the Mosel region of Germany. Serrig Herrenberg is the village and the vineyard name, respectively. I love Germany Riesling because of the smidge of sweetness and low alcohol. The problem is determining sweetness, even with the classification system, can be difficult. Kabinett tells you that it's likely dry or off-dry. If you don't like any sweetness in your wine, look for "Trocken" on the label.

Regardless, the acidity on this wine was bracing and really well balanced with the slight residual sugar. We are now trying to get some of this to serve at the wedding. It's $25.99 at Bristol Farms. (Our first foray into the Whole Foods competitor for wine!)

Peter and I popped this wine open at 11am in Palm Springs and we poured little bits into our glasses throughout the day. It took us 7 hours to finish the bottle, but it was perfect sipping by the pool!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Must you pay for quality?

I felt compelled to write about this topic after reading (and commenting) on Tom Wark's blog. I like his posts because he writes about contemporary issues in the wine world. Today it's a book entitled, The Wine Trials. The premise of the book is that after a series of blind tastings with experts and non-experts alike, wines under $15 were preferred to those between $50 and $150. Hmmm...

I started this blog because my friends were calling me from Whole Foods, Silverlake Wine and the Wine House with the last minute question, "what should I buy for [insert an occassion]?" And generally that involved the caveat, it must be REALLY good, and of course had a price limitation - under $15. My response was generally, "can't you go up to $20?" I've found a few wines, a very few that are reliable and really top notch under $15. Those bottles were invariably recommended to me by a retailer who had to taste hundreds of bottles of bad wine to find the few good ones in that price range. (Like the guys at CheeseStore of Silverlake, Rosso Wine Shop, Colorado Wine Company who do the dirty work for us!)

The premise of this book is that in a tasting trials for non-experts and experts alike, the majority preferred wines under $15 to those over $15. All the wines were tasted blind.

My big problem with this is that if you don't know what to expect from a wine, how can you possibly judge it? Parker doesn't taste blind and neither do the guys at Wine Spectator because regional typicity and production methods are intricately linked to a wine. Therefore a $150 bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy simply shouldn't be taken out of context and placed next to a $15 bottle of Central Coast Pinot to say which is better. The standards are different. While the Central Coast wine may be immediately pleasing, the Grand Cru Burgundy will take on many lifeforms in the glass throughout an evening. One sip and then a spit is not the way wine should be judged.

Anyway, I'm a little worked up about this topic this morning - so much so that I have abandoned my studies for an hour. All this and I haven't even read the book, but I'm not going to. I can't support sensationalism and the abandonment of tradition.

Please comment and let me know what you're thinking about this??

Monday, April 14, 2008

Another Co Wine Co Value.

Sarabande, Cotes-du-Roussillon Village, 2006 is delicious! Grenache based, just super clean, fruity while still light and elegant. It has a nice stick to your palate texture. I mean, I can't imagine what else you could ask for for $13.99. I'd pay $20 for this wine.

John at Colorado Wine Co. recommended this to me. And when I was hesitant because of the low price - as in "Really? How can a $13 wine be any good?", he nicely said, "it's easy to find good expensive wines, the challenge and the fun is finding the good cheap ones." (loosely quoted!)

Anyhoo, he was right, AGAIN. Call John and give this one a try for dinner (or lunch?) tonight.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tickle me Pichler.

FX Pichler, Riesling Federspiel, von den Terrassen, Wachau, 2006. All the words on the label are just annoying, but once you memorize a few things nothing can hold you back from enjoying those precise little Austrians.

First the "ch" in Pichler is prounced like a "k". Pichler is the producer. Rielsing (obviously) the variety. Wachau is the region. Federspiel is the quality classification used only in the Wachau. Other regions in Austria follow a similar system to Germany (Kabinett, Spatlese, etc.) Emily from Winemonger does a great job explaining this. It's worth trying to memorize a few of these classification systems so that you can determine
sweetness and quality levels for Austrian and German wines.

This wine is totally dry and refreshing with it's clean, crisp and fresh acidity. There's always something about Austrian Riesling that tastes almost oily or waxy to me despite the high acid. It's kind of round and simultaneously austere. Great as a pre-din din cocktail!

Give this a go for sure this summer.
It can be found at the Wine House. ($29.99)
And it's screwcapped - easy to open and perfect for a picnic or poolside with your schmoopies.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Land of Salt and Honey.

I have a friend who calls me sweet and sour (for obvious reasons) and right now as I consume my Preserved Lemons made by culinary genius Robert Lambert and then take a sip of 2004 Pelerin Syrah from Monterey County I am reminded of myself. I LOVE the salty sour preserved lemons which provide so much pleasure for $12.99. (Incidentally, I also have the preserved Rangpur Limes, which are odd to my waspy taste buds but really fantastic.)

Being the foody that I am, I have paired the jarred lemons with the above mentioned wine. It's actually really nice to drink a domestic syrah, as I make some of that stuff myself and it's nice to see what other peeps in a wee higher price range ($24.99) are doing with it.

Owner Chris Pollan (pictured) and wine buyer, Julian (who, like Cher, doesn't need a last name), recommended this wonderful little wine to me at the CheeseStore of Silverlake. Peter loves the label. It has the effect of making me feel religious (it's about time). It's not shy on the alcohol, but it's still quite elegant with tons of dark stewed fruits. However, it's not over-the-top syrupy like so many domestic reds, so you can finish the bottle NO PROBLEM. This is their entry level and if you want to spend a couple more bucks you can get one of their single vineyard designates.

Mostly, if you haven't been to the CheeseStore - you have to go right now. As in NOW. It's wedged between Cafe Stella and Intellegista Coffee in Sunset Junction. They have so many amazing things to fondle and delight in besides cheese (and I'm not talking about Julian). I get all my salt and honey there too!

Mas Rosso di.....

Many posts back I wrote about Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by Avignonesi. Last night we tried a different producer from the lesser appellation of Rosso di Montepulciano. Azienda Casale, 2004. What I LOVE about Sangiovese is the dusty red fruit dried herb quality. The texture is really fabulous. Good tannin structure and high acid are a good combination, and this wine has all those qualities (plus a little classic Italian volatile acidity on the nose - for those of you who care about that sort of thing)

As a side note, just in case all this Montalcino / Montepulciano crap is confusing.... Jancis Robinson, MW writes in the Oxford Companion to wine, "Rosso di signifies a red from the Italian zone whose name it precedes, often a declassified version of a long-lived, more serious wine such as Brunello di Montalcino or [in this case] Vino Nobile di Montepulciano."

Less serious and therefore in general less pricey... well, sort of. I think this was $24.99 at the Wine House.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Move over Chekov, here's my kinda Three Sisters

Domaine Weinbach is made by three women, Colette, Catherine and Laurence Faller. This is their Schlossberg (Grand Cru) Rielsing, 2005, Cuvee St. Catherine, Clos de Capucins. This wine is terrific! The label is so very beautiful but so very confusing. The link to their website should help clarify it for you... though I still don't fully get it...

Peter bought this at the Wine House, a half bottle is $24.99. It doesn't have the linear precision of German or Austrian Riesling, much more broad and rich. Still, it's bone dry with lots of soft citrus and lemon fruits.

I am attempting to eat meat, but when I just can't stomach the idea of blood and guts for my gastronomic needs, I cook up whole grains, root vegetables and greens. I just had to show this dish that Peter prepared from Suzanne Goin's cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Kabocha squash with farra and cavolo nero. Muy delish with the Weinbach!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Delicious Little Doms.

Little Doms is the sister restaurant of Dominick's (on Beverly just west of San Vicente.) Located at 2128 Hillhurst Blvd. in Los Feliz, Peter and I went there last night to visit my long time friend, Susan Brink, who's put together an amazingly eclectic, but approachable wine list.

Monday night is Flight Night.

The theme was "Off-beat Italian Whites" and believe it or not I had ANOTHER terrific Gewurtraminer from Suditrol. I think that makes 3 this month (Froma and the Osteria Mozza)! The first wine in the flight is the one Susan recommended to me, Orsolani, Erbaluce di Caluso, La Rustia, 2006. (Erbaluce is the grape.) Suzy says, "This is a noble wine from Piedmont. It has a tiny bit of effervesence, which makes it super clean and fresh." Peter says, "It's everything you could want in an Italian white wine!"

I don't really like to write about food because I am NOT a foody, but our meal was really wonderful - authentic unfussy Italian. We had the wood oven baked provolone, grilled artichoke, pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes with the perfect amount of garlic. I so often don't eat pesto because of all the raw garlic - yuck! Really really great fun. And the vibe is so mellow and cozy. (Plus the glassware is top-notch. You know how important that is to me!) You must visit Susan on Mondays!!!!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Calling all Oakaphiles.

When Dave at Mission Wines in South Pasadena told me this wine was HUGE - I though - GREAT! I like modernista style Spanish wines. But wow! The 2005 Pago Florentino ($20.99) IS HUGE. It's from Vino de la Tierra de Castilla, an area that is comprised of 1.4 million acres. That's 6% of the world's vineyard area!!!! CRAAAZZYYY!

This wine is not for the faint of heart. It's intensely extracted and super-oaky. Their website says the wine has spent a combination of 8 months in French and American oak (it does not say anything about barrels in particular), I'm thinking maybe they used oak chips as opposed to barrels and perhaps that's why it smells like vanilla cake batter. Something about the over-the-top creamy, vanilla, butterscotch, caramel quality combined with smoky flavors (perhaps from the heavy toasting?) makes it a dead ringer for Aussie Shiraz. It would be great for dessert! Or for all you oak lovers who love a sweet round mouthfeel.

P.S. The gold Urn in the background holds my cookbooks up, but it also holds the ashes of my childhood dog, Sniffles. A moment of silence please. May he RIP.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Take 2 Aspirin and please don't call me in the morning.

Why the headache this morning you ask? Well, it was a long impromptu evening at the Osteria Mozza. We walked in without a res and were seated within 5 minutes. That's cause for celebration. We sat at the mozzarella bar and started with 3 cheese dishes. Chef Matt finds a way to make the most simple preparations intensely flavorful, and the service was, of course, impeccable.

We started with Kien Hof, Suditrol-Eisacktaler, Gewurztraminer, 2006. (See the Pinot Grigio from Froma below). It's one of those really refreshing and juicy, low acid and very aromatically muted Italian wines. It could have been Pinot Blanc - it could have been Trebbiano - regardless, it was good - and I have no idea how much it costs - but ask Aaron or Eric - the nicest guys ever - and they will point you in the right direction.

Then Peter and Cara got hold of the wine list and that's where it all went down hill. We had 1998, Il Palazzone, Brunello di Montalcino. I LOVE this wine. It was so good I forgot that I didn't need to drink more. A chalky stick to your palate texture (I call these peanut butter wines) with loads of traditional Sangiovese acid and dusty cherry fruit. ME LIKEY! Well worth the $120 bucks, which is a steal for a great 10 year old wine. Hope I'm worth that much in 10 years. Unlikely.

One more thing, we saw a movie star there. She's an old friend, and by that I mean I've known her since I moved to LA, not that she's old, though I guess by now she is. Anyway, Jennifer Fitzgerald, aka "Fitzy", could be seen snuggling with her schmoopies, Dan, across the mozzarella bar. You can see Jen on Tracey Ullman's State of the Union.

No need to bring a weapon.

My friend Santos (aka Toast), formerly of Silverlake Wine and aoc, has taken the step that every sommelier, waiter and line cooks dreams of taking - opening his own place. Bacaro LA is based on lite bites and $4 to $9 glasses of esoteric wine. Last night we popped in for a drink and had a great time standing at the little wood bar, eating blood orange, lemon peel and rosemary marinated olives tossed in with marcona almonds. It was delicious with my Fischer beer and a wine recommendation from Santos. Luigi Guisti, La Crima di Morro d'Alba, 2006. La Crima di Morro d'Alba is located in the Marche region (thanks to Jeff Zimmitti from Rosso Wine Shop for correcting me on this!!) It's a light, but dirty naughty little Italiano.

This week is the soft opening as they finish up on the final touches. There's no music yet and the lights are bright (currently there are no dark corners to make out in.) It's so new some of the paint is probably still wet (therefore I would advise against leaning against the walls.) But it's always good karma and a good time to support the dreams of your local LA peeps.

Bacaro is located near USC, right off the 10 at Hoover. You are thinking it's a sketch neighborhood, I know, but get this - no one even shot at us as we entered the restaurant - and really, what more can you ask for these days?