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Peay Vineyards: A North Country Love Fest

I'm just back from the annual Peay Vineyards Sommelier Love Fest. For the wine trade only, it's an event that I am fortunate enough to insinuate myself into. I bring you pictures for two reasons.

Sicily's COS winery: New Wine in Very Old Containers



I recently became reacquainted with some of my favorite wines in the world, the wines of COS, a small producer from the southeast corner of Sicily in the DOCG region of Cerasuolo di Vittoria. A year and a half ago, I was fortunate enough to visit this property and spend some time with its owner, Giusto Occhipinti (below).



Some of his wines, such as the bottle pictured here, are unusual in that they're fermented and aged not in steel tanks or in wooden barrels but in terra-cotta amphorae.

Domaine Tempier Rose: Sunday in the East Bay with Jonathan

Last weekend, Christie and I ventured to the East Bay for a dinner party at the house of Jonathan Waters, the wine director of Chez Panisse. As with any trip to a foreign land, we prepared by getting all the necessary shots and vaccines and loading up our vehicle with water, dried and canned goods, ammunition and flares. We hardly ever go to the East Bay, so you've got to prepare for the worst.

Luckily, none of the above would be necessary. Jonathan put out an unbelievable spread. The pièce de résistance was a huge, vegetarian paella that he expertly cooked over a roaring backyard fire.


Chateau Montelena: Next, A For-Sale Sign on Mount Rushmore




Not really, but it's quite amazing that two huge, historical and prominent brands have recently been sold to European firms. First, Budweiser, the King of Beers, goes to InBev of Belgium. Now Chateau Montelena goes to the Bordeaux house Cos d'Estournel.

Both were good buys, given the state of the dollar. Still, it's weird that there's not more outrage that our national beer and wine icons are being wheeled and dealed like a used Chevy. Where are the anti-Gall cries of today? What are the new Freedom Fries?

Summertime Wines

So, I spent the Fourth in Seattle with my sister, brother-in-law and little Clementine (who's almost two now). We did it right, by barbecuing these friggin' enormous steaks.



I mean, they were huge and, as if I needed it, I was given the fattest one, which you see here dwarfing an ear of corn (and, no, that's not a baby corn--it's normal sized). Needless to say, I could only eat about a third of it.


Chateau Musar at Local: Lebanon and On and On



Last week, Serge Hochar (above right), proprietor of one of the world's most unusual wineries, was in town to do a vertical tasting. His winery is Chateau Musar, improbably located in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. About 7,000 years ago, this area was perhaps the world's first fine wine region, as its products were exported around the Mediterranean, even to Greece, which already bustling with wine. Hochar has managed to steer the winery out of trouble, miraculously guiding it through Lebanon's 15-year civil war of the 1970s and '80s while losing only one vintage (1976).

Sebo in Hayes Valley: A Japanese Triple Play



Few dining opportunities make me happier than the Japanese triple: a glass of sake, a Japanese beer and some fish. This photo was taken at Sebo in Hayes Valley. The beer, Orion, one of my favorites in the world, is brewed on Okinawa, in the south of Japan. The sake was Wakatake Onigoroshi (I believe . . . it was ordered for me), a Junmai Dai Ginjo. I had two. And the fish . . . it was the first of many bites.

Corkscrews: Ode to the Snubnose



Isn't he beautiful? This is my favorite wine opener in the world. My trusted and true friend when it comes to opening a wine bottle (and, boy, have we had some good juice together!).


Dessert Wines: Sweet, Fizzy and Red

Last night, for a birthday dinner for a friend, I was asked to bring some Champagne to go with the dessert course. Now, for any wine pairing with a dessert, you must know the simple rule that the wine should always be sweeter than the food. If you get it wrong, it makes both the wine and the dessert taste bad. The most common example of this understandable error is at weddings, when dry Champagne is served with wedding cake. No wedding that I have ever attended when this faulty pairing has occurred has ever resulted in a successful marriage. It is why, at my wedding, we avoided cake altogether.

Pisoni Vineyards: A Man and His Jeep

I recently had the good fortune of taking my first trip to the famed Pisoni Vineyards of the Santa Lucia Highlands, above the Salinas Valley. Gary Pisoni was the visionary vineyard planter who put the region on the wine map. He's also a legendary wild man, part Dionysus, part Loki, Pan, you name it. Let's just the man knows how to have a good time.


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