Tasty Wines by the Bottle and also on Tap at Moody's - a Well-Known Truckee Destination

Moody’s Bistro is practically an institution in Truckee, always jammed with diners and music lovers.  It has a busy bar as well as dining room, and you’ll find many interesting wines by the glass, served from a bottle or on tap, as well as full bottles. 

JJ Morgan, the owner and wine director, chooses his wines both for affordability and uniqueness.  “I want to offer my customers a nice selection of wines that can’t be found in the supermarket, and I like to find wines from many appellations,”  he said. 

One of the white wines-on-tap  is the Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc 2001, a blend of four Rhone varietals:  Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Fruit from eight vineyards in Paso Robles is selected for this blend, and it has a rich mouthfeel and crisp acidity.  The aroma is both floral and fruity, with taste of peach, lemon and a creamy texture.  13.3 percent alcohol.  The wines-on-tap list changes, and prices range from $8-13 per glass.

2011 Napa Slingshot
Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2011 Slingshot Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, is  a wine crafted by winemaker James Stewart, well known for his high-end Cabernets.  I got a kick out of the label, which cited the wine as “irreverently made in Napa Valley”. Its ripe aroma of berries,  currants and dried herb with oak is classic, and the mouthfeel shows a tannic and medium-body.  Flavor of berries, dark cherries, currants and herbs follow on, with a bit of astringency in the long finish. 14.5 percent alcohol.  $12 the glass.

2012 Luli Pinot Noir,
Santa Lucia Highlands
My personal favorite in this tasting was the 2012 Luli Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands.  I might be looking on the internet to acquire a few bottles; it is that good.  Luli Wines are made by the famous Pisoni family, who partners in this brand with Master Sommelier Sara Floyd.  It is a fruit-driven wine, with typical Santa Lucia Highlands flavor of juicy dark cherries, cola, sweet spices and mint.  The aroma is vibrant, and the finish is long with firm tannins.  14.7 percent alcohol    $14 the glass.

Turley 2012 Napa
White Zinfandel
The Turley 2012 White Zinfandel, Napa is a bright dry rose. Aroma of orange blossom and raspberry lead to a refreshing light wine.   11.4 percent alcohol     $12 the glass.

Decoy 2012 Merlot,
Sonoma County
We ended the tasting with Decoy’s 2011 Merlot, Sonoma County.  Winemaking notes cite “aromas of strawberry compote, plum and cherry wood, supported by hints of clove and cinnamon from the well-integrated oak. The red fruit continues on the palate with layers of fresh strawberry and raspberry. Bright acid lengthens the finish, which concludes with soft, mature tannins.” Decoy is a secondary label of Duckhorn.    13.5 percent alcohol   $15 the glass. 


Moody’s Bistro is located at 10007 Bridge St Truckee, CA 96161.   www. Moodysbistro.com. (530) 587-8688


This review appeared in Wine Time, a column written for The Tahoe Weekly, on October 31, 2013. You can find this and other Wine Time columns in the online edition of The Tahoe Weekly.

Spectacular Service and Wines to Match at Martis Camp's Cliff Room in Truckee CA

I rarely start off a wine review with “those lucky people at…”, but the spectacular wines and service-to-match at The Cliff Room at Martis Camp merit that statement.  Joshua Plack is the talented Wine Director who constantly revamps the wine list at this private residential club to match the fresh and inventive creations of Executive Chef Shaun King.  This truly is wining and dining at its best at Lake Tahoe, but in case Martis Camp is not on your agenda, don’t worry.  I found all of the wines reviewed below on the internet.

Commanderie de la Bergemone,
Rose 2012 from Provence
The 2012 Rose, Commanderie de la Bergemone, Provence, France, is a pale salmon-pink sparkler with flavor of melon and pineapple, and a floral and strawberry aroma. It is rich and fresh, and was a wonderful pairing with Sashimi.  Bargemone is among the foremost estates of the Coteaux d'Aix, a small fine wine district inside the larger Appellation of Provence.  Provence is famous for dry rose. 12.3 percent alcohol.  Internet pricing was around $15 the bottle.

Domaine Huet 2011
Chenin Blanc, Vouvray
2011 Chenin Blanc, Domaine Huet, Le Haut Lieu  Sec. Vouvray, France, is a crisp and clean wine with a nice acidity that paired well with the scallop dish.  Aroma of citrus and exotic fruit, with a touch of grapefruit to add to the favor of nectarine and peach makes this a lively dry wine.  13.5 percent alcohol.  Internet pricing was around $25 the bottle.

La Follette 2011
Pinot Noir, North Coast

The 2011 La Follette Pinot Noir, North Coast, California, was a taste treat of red fruit, chocolate and black cherries in the glass, with an earthiness that helps you remember why coastal Pinot Noir is so good.  The acid and tannins are well balanced, and there are notes of rosemary, sage and rose petal to add to the complexity of this wine. 13.7 percent alcohol.  Internet pricing around $25 the bottle. The Cliff Room pairing was a grilled Matsutake Soup.

Louis Martini 2010
Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon from Louis Martini, Napa, was a great pairing with braised short ribs.  The dark berry and ripe cherry flavors in this smooth and drinkable wine led one wine critic to term it “an inexpensive beauty”.   I liked its medium body, soft tannins, and cherry and blackberry aroma too.  14.5 percent alcohol.  Internet price around $12 the bottle.

Left: 2008 Royal Tokaji
Red label Aszu 5 Putonyos
Finally, a wonderful dessert wine, the 2008 Royal Tokaji "Red Label- Aszú 5 Puttonyos" from Hungary.  I loved this Tokaji, a honeyed and fruity treat with fruit flavors of citrus, apricot, and pineapple.  A nice minerality leads to a long finish.  11.5 percent alcohol.  Internet price around $35 for 500 ml bottle.


Lucky Me! Enjoying being a guest 
 at The Cliff Room
The Cliff Room in the Lodge at Martis Camp is a key feature of this elegant private residential community located in Truckee. www.MartisCamp.com.
This review appeared in Wine Time, a column written for The Tahoe Weekly, on October 16, 2013. You can find this and other Wine Time columns in the online edition of The Tahoe Weekly.

Wine Pairings at Farm to Tahoe Dinner at Northstar

Be sure to include vineyard visits during your Harvest weekend ventures. You’ll find many dishes from chefs around Lake Tahoe where local produce and natural and organic meats are featured.  They go so well with wines!

Recently,  Chef Steve Anderson of Northstar featured ingredients from Mountain Bounty Farms during a wine pairing dinner at the mid-mountain Lodge at Big Springs, Northstar.  Two California wineries, Stanger Vineyards and Pasoport Wine Company, were showcased.

Violeta Port
Pasoport’s 2007 Violeta Port, a traditional Portuguese style port, was a surprisingly good pairing with a beet-carpaccio-feta-green salad.  This wine, a traditional dessert wine, is made from Paso Robles grapes.   It’s a dark colored black-purple, with great aromatics that come from blending several Portuguese grape varietals sourced from their Glenrose Vineyard with brandy.  Cassis, elderberry and dark chocolate flavor with aroma of spice, herbs and dark fruit characterize this wine.  19 percent alcohol.  $32 the bottle. www.pasoportwine.com

Vinho Blanco
A second Pasoport wine, the 2011 Vinho Blanco is 100% Albarino from the Paragon Vineyard in Edna Valley.   It is bright, crisp and citrus in flavor, with a nice minerality that paired well with the stuffed chicken dish.  It has an aroma of tropical fruit with vanilla and green apple.  13.5 percent alcohol.  $24 the bottle.

Stanger's winemaker,
JP French

Winemaker JP French from Stanger Vineyards, Paso Robles, introduced his wines paired with the next four courses. 
Stanger Tempranillo
The Stanger Tempranillo 2009 Library Reserve is a classic Tempranillo with a crisp tannic structure, taste and aroma of black current and dark cherry and a hint of licorice.  This red wine, a popular varietal in Spain and Portugal, was paired with duck leg confit.  14.5 per cent alcohol.  $39  the bottle.  www.stangervineyards.com

The Stanger Bench Cuvee 2008 from the West Side vineyard is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Syrah and 12% Tempranillo.  If you like tannins, try this wine!   There is a chocolate and blackberry aroma with a taste that is complex and a lasting finish.  It was paired with the Korean-style short rib dish. 15.1 percent alcohol.  It is available at www.amazon.com for $39 the bottle.


Paired with a lamb loin, Stanger’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Library Reserve was a great choice.  It is a silky wine with aroma of raspberry and currant, and the fruit taste is highlighted with clove and tobacco notes.  Well oaked and complex, the wine is a bit tannic. 15.1 percent alcohol.  Available at Amazon for $49 the bottle.

The 2007 Stanger Syrah Library Reserve complemented the peach cobbler dessert course.  Dark violet in color,  the aroma is of ultra-ripe fruit. Flavors of blackberry, plum, licorice, and spice lead to a dry smooth finish. 15.5 percent alcohol.  $44 the bottle at www.stangervineyards.com.

Dinner in the Lodge at Big Springs, Northstar
 This review appeared in Wine Time, a column written for The Tahoe Weekly, on October 2, 2013.   You can find this and other Wine Time columns in the online edition of The Tahoe Weekly.

Sake and the City: Richard Dare Writes from New York

Pouring 96 varieties of Sake
I must confess, your faithful correspondent was at first blush less than certain that sake -- in spite of being colloquially referred to as "rice wine" in the west -- would really fit within the taste profile loved by American oenophiles.  Yet I decided to be Zen about the situation and attend an invitation only event featuring Timothy Sullivan founder of Urban Sake (urbansake.com) who explained and then paired sake with mouth-watering wagyu beef prepared by executive chef Hiroki Abe of EN Japanese Brasserie (enjb.com).
Sake, as you may already know, is a beverage fermented from rice, a grain that to my way of thinking categorizes it rather closer to the beer family than to wine.  On the other hand, sake is not carbonated and tastes far more like wine than beer, and not even remotely like gin, vodka or other spirits.  So “when in Tokyo” do as the locals do, I always say.

Another award-winner

Beautiful Sake bottles on display
The primary distinctions between types of sake are based not so much on the varieties of rice used but rather on how severely each individual grain of rice has been milled or polished.  This is the case because the core of a rice grain has a greater concentration of starches than its exterior husk.  So more thorough polishing produces a drink with more intense and complex flavors.  Serious sake begins when at least 30% of the rice grain has been removed and 40-50% removal is not uncommon.
Unlike western wines, most sake is meant to be consumed young and fresh, so don't bother to open the bottle to allow it to breathe or the flavor will grow too soft.  And finally, expensive good sake is usually served chilled.  Cheaper sake, however, traditionally arrives hot, possiblya tradition from times past meant to mask the quality of the product being served.

At the table in New York City in late October was a dazzlingly diverse array of some 94 different types of sake including the very elegant Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo ($60 per 24 oz. bottle, a variable 15-16% alcohol) with its pronounced floral bouquet and Gold Medal prize from the 2008 International Sake Challenge; as well as the velvety smooth and semi-fruity Fukuju Junmai Ginjo ($34 per 24 oz. bottle, 15.5% alcohol) famously served at the 2012 Nobel Prize awards dinner in Stockholm and increasingly in demand worldwide.  Paired with fine Japanese wagyu beef they both presented perfectly, the Chokaisan feeling more appropriate as a dinner drink and the Fukuju as an apéritif. 

The unique fruitiness, fragrances of flowers, hints of mushrooms, earth tones and the like -- in short, the sorts of things one might look for in wines from Europe or America -- are present in sake as well.  In sake’s case, however, the nuances result largely from the specific yeast used (specified by number on most bottles for serious connoisseurs), the flavor of the local water, and so on.  Thus, many of the joys of sake stem from an understanding of the drink’s terroir just as they do with western wines.


Richard Dare is an author, cultural commentator and executive who enjoys fine wines and good food.


The Italian Job

The Italian Job
Richard Dare, guest columnist

The plan was flawless.  The heist was perfect.  The escape was clean.  The only threat was the one they never saw coming.  This autumn, they’re not in it for the pay.  They’re in it for the payback.  Nicosia Wines (nicosiawines.com) presents at the magical Culinary Loft (culinaryloft.com) in the heart of Manhattan:  Fondo Filara Frappato, Fondo Filara Etna Rosso, Fondo Filara Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico, and Sosta Tre Santi Nero d’Avola in The Italian Job.
Deep in the heart of Sicily, generous and untamed, labor Nicosia’s fine winemakers hidden in the shadow of a ten-thousand foot high volcano, Mount Etna, that dominates the horizon just behind their 115-year old winery in Trecastagni, Italy, nourishing the soil with thousand year old ash.  But this taster thinks more than the volcanic soil, more even than the perfect goût de terroir, is the skillful blend of Denominazione di Origine Controllata grapes Nicosia’s five generations of family winemakers employ to infuse Nicosia’s full-bodied, irrepressibly aromatic offerings with what can only be described as emotional intensity worthy of a Sicilian.

Graziano Nicosia, fifth generation winemaker

A delightful apéritif, Nicosia’s Fondo Filara Frappato (12.5% alcohol vol.) appears a vivid red in the glass, and at $15-20 per bottle (retail price) pleasantly fragrant bouquet of fresh red fruits, raspberries and blueberries to the nose with a fresh, lively profile not unlike a cheeky Beaujolais.  Frappato pairs well with cheeses and salamis or pizza, it is also a valid alternative to white wine, particularly when served with flavorful fish course dishes.  But unlike its sister wines, the Frappato is best served slightly chilled at about 57°F. 

Nicosia’s Fondo Filara Etna Rosso (13-14% alcohol vol.) is a skinnier wine for my taste, but still ruby red at $30-33 per bottle (retail price) and produces an intense bouquet with elegant hints of wild red fruit, spices and licorice.  It’s dry, robust and lingering with a long and pleasant balsamic finish that seems a wonderful accompaniment to such first-course dishes as risotto, roasted and grilled meats, or semi-aged flavorful cheeses.

Their Fondo Filara Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico (13-14% alcohol vol.) is the color of cherries, also $30-33 per bottle (retail price) and boasts a rich aromatic profile featuring hints of red fruit.  It’s warm with a smooth taste would pair well with roasts, grilled meats, small game, and sharp and aged cheeses—although to be fair I enjoyed it with a bit of Amedei chocolate from Tuscany (70% cacao blend) which created a sort of multiplier effect bringing the wine’s tannins to a luxurious effect (amedei.com). 
And finally, Nicosia’s very satisfying full bodied Sosta Tre Santi Nero d’Avola (12.5-13.5% alcohol vol.) grown on 25-year old vines and $40 per bottle (retail price) appears dark ruby red in the glass, with a typically fruity aroma with touches of morello cherry.  The fruity aroma can be tasted in the mouth, warm and lingering, and would prove an ideal accompaniment to many of the tastiest Italian recipes including baked pasta with meat sauce or meat couscous, roasted game and aged cheeses.

The fine Nicosia presentation

After pulling off an amazing job in the great Sicilian winemaking tradition, the only thing left for Nicosia to accomplish now is to find a worthy and capable distributor to deliver this little bit of Sicilian heaven to the tables and taste buds of families in the United States.

Don’t worry though, they’re hot on the trail of a distributor even as we speak.  But until that deal is sealed, you’ll just have to take my word for how delicious and satisfying their wines really are!

The Culimary Loft, site of the Nicosia Wines event


Richard Dare is an author, cultural commentator and executive who enjoys fine wines and good food.