If Sauvignon Blanc has become your thirst quenching, go-to daytime patio quaffing wine — maybe even the foundation for Saturday afternoon’s sangria — we don’t blame you. There is plenty of fresh, young, affordable SB out there perfectly suited for summertime sipping. But, in keeping with the Bordeaux tradition, there is increasingly a focus on making serious, high-quality Sauvignon Blanc in California. By lowering yields and carefully managing the vigor of the canopy, growers can intensify the flavor, aromas and varietal character of the grape — giving the winemaker more to work with. This slew of just-released Sauvignon Blancs are certainly fine paired with a sunny day, but offer considerable depth and complexity — a very valid alternative to Chardonnay.
On Monday in Livermore, a celebration was held in the honor of a noble lady. Hailing from Burgundy, she is now the most popular of her kind in the United States.* Her name is Chardonnay. In 1936, she first appeared on the label of a wine (before that she was categorized merely as “miscellaneous”) and now, just 75 years later, wine professionals joke that they will have and serve “ABC”: Anything But Chardonnay.
The wood-fired pizza trend is sending Wine Country up in smoke. This summer, there are no less than four (four!) new restaurants in Northern California centered around the great and glorious wood-fired oven pizza pie. What on Earth did we eat last year? Here are the hot (literally—those ovens are really hot) new restaurants themselves along with our wine-pairing recommendations.
There may be Francophiles speaking French while holding French poodles named Frenchie. There may even be French oak tables and men sporting French cuffs lounging in French wicker, but there is no French food at French Blue. Nor is there any French wine. At legendary Wine Country architect Howard Backen’s new restaurant, French Blue (which, in the design world, is actually a shade of blue — the very shade of the front doors that hung on the original Vanderbilt building) in the heart of Napa Valley, the focus is local, local, local. Two hundred miles around the town of St. Helena to be exact. Or, as Beverage Director Adam La Cagnina puts it, “from Monterey to Mendocino.”
It was a long coffee-less winter for the residents of Oakville. The Oakville Grocery, a beloved resting place for commuters, cyclists and tourists alike (and the only place to get a sandwich between St. Helena and Yountville) has been closed for months, undergoing extensive reconstructive surgery. This weekend, just in time for Memorial Day, the sign out front once again said “Open.”
Fifteen hundred feet above Napa Valley on a rocky, rolling patch of land planted here and there with rows of tidy vines is the West Coast’s largest Olympic equestrian training ground. Or at least it used to be. The 3,800, mostly wild, acres on Mt. George, which the team called home for 20 years, was purchased by Japanese gaming mogul Kenzo Tsujimoto in 1990 at which time he sent the Olympians packing and started taking soil samples. (The polo field for example, turned out to be an ideal place for a certain clone of Sauvignon Blanc.)
After dining at Scopa, the Italian-inspired restaurant in Healdsburg, it is not uncommon to come stumbling out onto the Plaza feeling light-headed. Partly because the small space is always packed and because you have likely enjoyed at least one bottle of red wine, but also, and more importantly, because the ingredients are so impossibly, explosively fresh, the pasta so light and tender, the meatballs so perfectly browned and spicy and the burratta so heart-breakingly creamy that you actually feel like you have reached nirvana.
Joy Sterling does not take her responsibility lightly. As the proprietor of Iron Horse Vineyards, she understands and fully embraces the burden on sparkling wine to make special occasions more special, birthdays happier and wedding toasts toastier. Indeed, few opportunities to celebrate are lost on her. Earlier this year, the people of China were the lucky recipients of nearly nine hundred cases of wine she made specifically for The Year of the Dragon. Now, she is bringing the party a little closer to home.
Tim Stookey, the bar manager at Presidio Social Club, has seen a lot of gimmicks in his 13 years of bartending. One of them is barrel-aging cocktails, the process of allowing different spirits to mingle in an oak barrel for a short amount of time. He thought that barrel-aging would go the way of other fads (foam-topped martini, anyone?), but after comparing a fresh Negroni to an aged one at a seminar taught by the movement’s main advocate, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Stookey changed his mind. “It tasted different,” he says. “I began to see the possibilities.”
They can shake it, they can stir it, but for one of Michael Mina’s newest cocktails all the bartender has to do is crack it. (And no, it doesn’t involve an egg, but it is egg shaped.)
Bar Director Carlo Splendorini, in thinking of new ways to present classic cocktails, is looking to modernist culinary techniques. His Aviation, which involves water balloons and liquid nitrogen may or may not have been inspired by a similar drink crafted by the Aviary team in Chicago, but thankfully, he has found an alternative to using a syringe. Because really, drinking cocktails should never, ever, at any stage, involve the use of a syringe. Ever.
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