What Wine with Your Fish Stories?

Just what I needed, a little Napa sunshine! It was 62 degrees in mid January when I went to look at the wine list at The Fish Story, a restaurant in the new RiverFront development off Third Street in downtown Napa. In Tahoe: 20 degrees. In San Francisco: 45 degrees. This excursion was a no-brainer.

Fish fish fish fish fish! What wine to drink with fish? Fried, cooked and cold, roasted. Each preparation pairs well with different wines, and there is a reason for that. But first, a word about The Fish Story. It is charming to walk into a restaurant that displays customer’s fish stories with their photos. This is not for the faint of heart or those who talk about the one-the-got-away. (Are we talking about dates or fish?) I was awed by the big fish and manly men who can actually write an anecdote. Come’on ladies, let’s get your fish stories up there! Also, I like the fact that this restaurant sources all its seafood in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guidelines. “We are committed to the healthy future of the oceans and the seafood it provides us,” noted restauranteur Michael Dellar.

In light of that, we sought a Monterey Bay menu offering, and chose the Fried Calamari from Monterey Bay, served with red pepper strips, lemon slides and a roasted tomato aioli. The perfect pairing was a 2009 Gruner Veltliner from Familie Bauer, Juche, Austria. This crisp wine was positively mouth-watering, with an acidity that’s almost a bit biting and citric, and it certainly enhanced the fried food. Gruner Veltliner has been called the national grape of Austria, and although it often is bottled in tall almost cone-shaped bottles similar to those used for Rieslings or Gewürztraminers, it is very different. It’s naturally sweet and a nice pale blonde color, but with a bit of spice. 12% alcohol, $8/glass and $29/bottle.

Also with the fried calamari, French Chablis was terrific. We choose the 2008 Jean Marc Brochard Domaine Sainte Claire, a Rhone wine. Rhone wines typically do well with spice foods. This Chablis had an aroma and taste of white flower at the beginning, and as it warmed up, the minerality that goes so well with fried foods emerged. 12.5% alcohol, $10/glass, $39/bottle.

It was that fresh Dungeness Crab time of year, and topping a Louie salad, the perfect cold crab pieces just cried out for a California wine pairing. The inexpensive 2009 Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros, was both a budget-pleaser and perfectly acceptable. The flavors are classic Chardonnay, with a good structure and palate-feel. Citrus and pear tastes focus in the mid-palate, and it has a long crisp finish. In wine-food pairing, it’s often a sure bet to choose a wine from the same region as the food is sourced, and so a Carneros chardonnay is sensible. Chardonnay is one of the grapes that reflects its terroir of origin quite well. Crab from California, wine from California. This unfiltered wine sports 13.5% alcohol. $7.75 /glass, $32/bottle.

A pan roasted Alaska Black Cod calls for quite a different wine, and here again we turn to Rhone varietals. The 2007 Krupp Brothers “Black Bart” Marsanne from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa presented with the petroleum aroma and taste that is characteristic of Marsanne and lovely with a pan-roasted fish preparation The winemaker notes aromas of orange pith, key lime pie, white peach, stone fruits, nut, spice, and a spine of minerality. Delicious. 14% alcohol, $11/glass, $42/bottle.

When you are interested in good seafood, try the Fish Story Restaurant at Napa Riverfront, located at 790 Main Street in Napa. For hours and reservations, phone (707) 251-5600.

© 2011 Barbara Keck
For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in January 2011.
Book in Process: " Pioneering Winemakers of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

Winemakers Adopt nanocork, Innovative Eco-Friendly Cork Wine Closure

Winemakers are adopting nanocork™, an innovative cork wine closure from ACI Cork USA, for its consistent oxygen transfer, eco-friendliness and cost-effectiveness features.

From California to Pennsylvania, winemakers are choosing Nanocork™ as their wine closure of choice because it offers a cost-effective and eco-friendly means to retain fresh fruit flavours and a long finish in white, rosé, and non-reductive red wines without concern about TCA contamination. An alternative to synthetic closures and screwcap, ACI Cork USA offers the innovative nanocork to the US market where it is currently used by Winterhawk, Roland Rosario, Big White House and Tamanend Wineries. The big Portuguese wine company, Avelada, uses nanocork for its vinho verde.

Nanocork features the Bacchus barrier, a specially developed coating with an oxygen transfer barrier, which is adhered to the top and tail of an all-natural colmated cork. “Nano” quantities of oxygen are consistently delivered to wines via the barrier coating, and this feature provides better shelf life for aromatic, fresh and delicate wines than does screw cap and plastic corks.

“I decided to use nanocork on my ’08 vintage because it is truly a breakthrough product that gave me all the benefits I needed for my artisanal wines,” said Martha Rueca-Gustafsson, winemaker and owner of Roland Rosasio Cellars, Copperopolis, CA in the Calaveras AVA. “Now I am bottling all of my red wines with nanocork, and a Calaveras County viognier too. What really convinced me at first was ACI’s excellent service and nanocork’s appealing prices, but I’m happy I tried nanocork. There have been no instances of flawed wines or TCA (“cork taint”) and I have a real cork on my wines, not screw cap or plastic.”

Nanocork is ideal for wines that require low oxygen transfer, and wines with a low reduction potential. Nanocork’s O₂ permeability is the same as a high quality cork, about 0.0005 cc’s per day. Once bonded to the cork using a highly moisture-resistant polymer, the barrier material used on nanocork is completely inert. The film material is thermoformable so it molds perfectly to cork ends, thus completely covering the curved cork edge and obviating any irregularities.

Because nanocork closures use colmated corks, the environmental footprint for nanocork is excellent: this product is one way to use as much as possible of the bark of the Cork oak, a completely renewable and sustainable tree. Nanocork is a closure that is recyclable, has a low-carbon footprint compared to synthetic closures. Other advantages of nanocork are improvement in seal between cork and bottle, elimination of ‘off’ flavors attributed to cork, strengthening of the cork end, and reduction in cork dust. Nanocork is ready for immediate use in bottling after the shipping bag of nanocorks is opened; it is consistent from cork to cork, and nanocork requires no further treatment.

Nanocork was developed by UK innovation company Bacchus Wine Closures in partnership with Alvaro Coelho & Irmãos (ACI), the second largest cork producer in the world. ACI has been testing this technology since 2005 both in-house and with customers before commercializing the product in late 2009. The Nanocork technology will also work well on sparkling wine corks and corks for spirits.

For more information on Roland Rosario wines, contact Martha Rueca-Gustafsson at coffeebnqn@comcast.net or call (707) 428-6977. http://www.rolandrosariocellars.com/

Disclosure: As part of my portfolio of writing and marketing communications skills, I also do press release writing for a few wineries and a few suppliers to the wine industry for pay. This blogpost originated as a press release for this client.

Using Leftover Champagne

I can’t bear to throw it out. Leftover champagne can be good for a few days, and in more than one way, so here are a few ideas.

First, hold a Hair-of-the-Dog party and invite your friends on the afternoon of January 1 (or after the next big event where champagne is the dominant drink… Valentine’s Day? Wedding? Bachelor Party? ) to bring their leftover champagne. You can provide the aspirin. That’s what happened at my place on January 1 and it was great fun! A lot of leftover holiday food appeared too, so everyone was happy to ring out the old year and make room in the ‘fridge for the new.

Of course, you might just want to drink any leftover champagne from the event yourself. So make sure you preserve it well. There’s no way the cork will go back into the bottle, by the way.

And forget the silver-spoon-in-the-neck myth. If you want to read a funny dissertation on an experiment done by a truly inventive if somewhat whacky guy that debunks that myth, go to http://www.straightdope.com/ and search for “silver spoon”. Cecil Adams, writer of that dissertation, started his research by asking the Champagne News and Information Bureau in New York and Paterno Imports, a champagne importer in Chicago, about preserving open champagne.

Conclusion: a reusable stopper made of stainless steel is your best bet for preserving the bubbly for a few days. But leaving the bottle open and upright in the refrigerator works pretty well too.

Next, search the internet for drink recipes using champagne. Mimosa (champagne and orange juice, equal parts) is a given. But champagne has a nice acidity that can enhance cocktails in a refreshing citrus-juicy way. The best I found, on the site tastingtable.com, was created by a mixologist at Death and Company, a cocktail lounge in Manhattan’s Lower East Side:

Doc Daneeka Royale
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces Plymouth gin
1/2 ounce Grade B maple syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Champagne or other sparkling wine
One 1-by-2-inch piece of grapefruit peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin, maple syrup and lemon juice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with the Champagne. Twist the grapefruit peel over the drink and discard. Serve immediately.

Many food recipes use leftover champagne. One that will enhance the dessert table just requires mxing, chilling, and serving over fruit. It will also do wonders poured on leftover fruitcake.

Yield: 1 Servings
1/3 c Sugar
5 Egg yolks
2 tablespoons Whipping cream
3/4 c Champagne

Or for that après-ski experience, how about a fondue made with champagne? This recipe was created by Tessa, a food blogger from South Carolina who posts on the site copykatchat.com.

Three Cheese Fondue with Champagne

4 t. cornstarch
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 c. dry (brut) Champagne (NOTE: do not use Asti..)
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cups coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (about 7 oz)
1 1/3 cups coarsely grated Emmenthal cheese (about 5 oz)
1/2 cup diced rindless Brie (or Camembert) (3 oz)
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of white pepper

1 French bread baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes

Stir cornstarch and lemon juice in small bowl until cornstarch dissolves; set aside.Combine Champagne and shallot in fondue pot or heavy medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat 2 mininutes, remove pot from heat. Add all cheeses and stir to combine. Stir in cornstarch mixture. Return fondue pot (or saucepan) to medium heat and stir until cheeses are melted and smooth and it thickens and boils - about 12 min.
Season with nutmeg and white pepper.
Serve with bread crumbs.

Remember, Keep Tahoe Green. Do not pour leftover champagne down the sink!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© 2011 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in January 2011.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

What to Buy a Winemaker as a Gift

As I look at my receipt from The Wine Club shop in San Francisco, I could have regrets for tagging along with my friend who is a supplier to the wine industry while he bought gifts for his winemaker clients. But no. It was highly educational.

Think of the challenge: you need to buy a gift for a winemaker, and it should be wine. But the truth is that winemakers often develop a jaded palate from drinking their own wines (or wines from other wineries nearby – part of the research, you know). So this is an opportunity to think through ways that you can introduce a winemaker to something special and unique.

We headed to The Wine Club, located on Harrison Street in San Francisco. It’s long had a reputation for great selection and fair prices. I ran into one of my fellow wine reviewers there, so that’s some indication of its quality. Once inside this almost-warehouse, the champagne section was the first stop.

As most of you who have shopped for champagne recently – the real stuff, from the Champagne district of France – a healthy credit line is a good thing to bring along. But in fact, there are many good champagnes from France that will not require a second mortgage and that’s good since no one can get one of those these days!

A Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé landed in the shopping card. $65. This is a beautiful rosé, perfect in color and possibly one of the best values for Brut Rosé. The maison has a reputation for making a steady wine that will not disappoint. Wineaccess.com calls it “delicate, impeccably balanced” and notes that “for many Champagne lovers, especially in the US, this is the house for rosé.” For those of you who are impacted by the point system: Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: 90 points, Wine Spectator: 90 points

Hailing from around the corner, but a tad less expensive at $42, the Guy Charlemagne Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs shows characteristics of pears, caramel, with some apple and vanilla notes.

A sleeper of a value at $14 is the South African version, called Methode Cap Classique, a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Brut from Graham Beck. I love South African wines. More on that later.

The cha-ching was already up there, so a quick trip to the Bordeaux section. Into the cart went a Sociando-Mallet 2005, a blend of 55% cabernet, 40% merlot and 5% cab franc. “A great bottle… it’s heaven”, said David Goodwin, a manager at Wine Club. $55.

We shashayed through the sauternes. Splits are really the way to go on these, otherwise a full bottle is a lot of sweetness. The Chateau La Tour Blanche 2003, with gentle honey and quince aroma, is $35 the half bottle.

Next to the Burgundy section. A 2007 Latour-Girard Mersault-Charmes at $60 was lovingly placed into the cart. This lovely wine received a 91-93 score by “Burghound”, the nom de plume of Allen Meadows who has become the definitive reviewer of Burgundies in recent years. A finance executive for 21 years, he retired to focus on his passion for burgundies. Follow him at http://www.burghound.com/

To finish the shopping, we spent a half hour at the shop’s honor-code tasting bar. They supply glasses with a red line to indicate a fair tasting pour, and you pour from the 20 or so open bottles and note what you tasted. You pay 10% of the bottle price per pour. Great concept!

If you don’t have the time now to go into San Francisco, of course they have an internet presence: http://www.thewineclub.com/. Happy wine shopping, wherever you go! Happy New Year too!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
© 2011 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of
The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in January 2011.

Book in Process: " Mountain Wineries of the Sierra and Its Foothills".

Top Wines as an Asset Class handily Out-perform Gold, Oil and Equities

"Drinking fancy wine is so last decade. In today's speculative markets, produce from the world's great chateaux is leaving other "hard" assets in the dust. London's Liv-Ex fine wine exchange's index of top 50 wines rose 57% for 2010. That easily outperformed gold's 29.8% rise, converted to U.K. pounds to be on an equivalent basis with Liv-Ex's index, or oil's 15.1% increase, also converted to pounds. As for equities, the FTSE 100, for instance, was up just 9%.

Liv-Ex attributes the price surge to heavy demand from—you guessed it—China, as well as some other Asian countries. Given extreme supply constraints and a surge in the world's megarich, the fine wine 50 index is up 269% over five years.

If the market turns, investors mightn't find the asset as liquid as they would like. But, for now, the lesson seems to be that those wanting to make some greenbacks should target reds or whites."

Source: OVERHEARD on the Wall Street Journal Online, Thursday January 6