Monday, April 27, 2009

Check her out! Samantha Sans Dosage gets interviewed by Tom Wark!

Okay, this morning I have to give a shout-out to Tom Wark's blog Fermentation, that just posted a great interview on my friend Samantha Dugan, who writes the blog Samantha Sans Dosage. This is a fantastic blog that I read regularly for its unique voice and style, the personal touch to a story about life in and around wine.

Samantha is a long time wine professional who has personally taught me a great deal about wine and passion for wine, wine regions, wine makers, wine culture, and wine and food pairing. She is funny, she is a great writer, and I think you should check out her blog!

Here's the link to the interview:

And here's the link to her blog:


Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Successful German Wine Dinner at Da Vinci

Last night I helped to host a very successful wine dinner, if I say so myself!

Not sure why I felt so surprised - generally speaking, though they take of bit of dancing to plan with a restaurant and a store, they always seem to turn out just fine.

Last evening, the event was at Da Vinci restaurant, a place local to me and close to The Wine Country. The restaurant is beautifully laid out and situated next to the Long Beach airport, and has large floor to ceiling windows through which natural light shines through, and you can watch small planes land and take off. The decor in the restaurant is Italian in flavor, but very modern, with high ceilings, a circular layout, and a visually appealing wine cellar high above the bar. The setting is really impressive, and paves the way for a good evening. Last evening, it happend to be perfect in that at the start time of 6:30 pm, there was still so much daylight that made a primarily white wine dinner feel like a natural ode to spring.

The 40 or so participants were each greeted with a glass of sparkling Kir, the wine I didn't supply. It was a nice touch, though, something sparkling and pretty to greet people as they arrived, something to take their mood from the traffic and their jobs to something fun and relaxing. With this, people enjoyed a small amuse-bouche which was a blend of cheese and something else - I don't remember since at this point I was too busy saying hi to everyone and introducing myself as the importer representative.

The first course was a grilled shrimp salad with fennel, to be paired with 2007 Rhein River Riesling, a basic Riesling made from grapes grown in the Rheinhessen region. Everyone seemed to love this wine and love its very reasonable price, and I too was impressed at how crisp and refreshing it was. It was really a look at how great the 2007 vintage in Germany was, because even this humble little wine could be so clean and inviting. The wine paired well with the salad, and gave me the opportunity to talk about how versatile fruity Rieslings can be, especially in the summer when salads and shellfish grace the dinner table more often.

The second course was lobster raviolis. We were served three plump house-made raviolis filled to the brim with sweet lobster meat, and instead of sitting in a rich creamy sauce, they were in a clear liquid that might have been simple warm water, garnished with herbs. Though I had never before seen such a presentation, I enjoyed it very much, and the raviolis were light, fresh, and delicious. Paired with this course was the 2005 Rebholz Muller-Thurgau, which is a delightful bone dry white wine with freshness (in spite of its age!) and excellent minerality. This is a great wine with white fish or even seafood pasta like we had, and its bone dryness cut through through the richness of the dish quite well. I thoroughly enjoyed the pairing, and enjoyed the opportunity to talk about how Germany produces excellent dry wines, as well as sweet.

The third and main course was a delectably prepared braised pork belly. I have had pork belly in restaurants such as Lucques and Cut, but last evening's pork belly was surprisingly excellent and impressive. It was served perched above mushroom risotto which was rich and creamy and actually just the thing we needed since we were drinking wine. This course was served with two wines, an idea from The Wine Country's owner, Randy Kemner - first, a red: 2005 Kunstler Pinot Noir and then a white later harvest Riesling: 2006 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese. This turned out to be a fun exercise in wine pairing with food, and everyone seemed to get a kick out of it - two very different wines - a dry red with a touch of age on it, compared to a rich, sweet white.

Diners were urged to try the red first, since it was drier, and people really liked it - the Pinot Noir showed gorgeous cherry fruit along with smokey bacon and a touch of earth. It went very well with the rich mushroom risotto and the pork. But there was a bit of a red berry sauce served with the pork, though thankfully not too much - when one took pork plus sauce together, the dish went much better with the Riesling Spatlese, and once one started with the Riesling, it was hard to drink anything else - this wine is rich and long in the mouth with just a certain something that tells you that Dr. F. Weins-Prum makes great wine out the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard!! This was a wine that people could not get enough of, almost the wine of the night you might say, though many people also loved the other wines.

That ended the wine portion of the meal; we were served a palate cleansing pannicotta afterwards, which was nice, and some folks got extra pours of the Spatlese to enjoy with the dessert. Others ordered coffee. But everyone was happy and totally enjoying the evening it seemed. People began filling out their order forms to purchase the wines. All was good.

Can't wait for the next wine dinner!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review of the movie Mondovino

It's been years since this movie has been out, and years since I have known about it, but I finally watched it. My friend Samantha is a fan of the movie, and so I already had heard good things. But I also read negative reviews of the movie, which suggested it was like a rough draft more than a good documentary, and that the camera work was shoddy. So, it was with treppidation that I went into viewing it.

The upshot is that I loved it! It was rough and tumble and quirky and decidedly un-smooth, but I think the director wanted it that way. He wanted it to be not all perfect and tight, like something that Steven Spielberg would make. This was not meant to be flawless. It was full of quirkiness, like him asking Hubert de Montille "What is this chair of mystery?" and Hubert answering, "This is not a chair of mystery, it's just a chair sitting out here, can you help me move it back into the living room where it belong? Thanks. Oh damn I forgot my keys, we have to go back down and get them." And him interviewing this guy who started Ornellaia and his housekeeper keeps walking into the shoot by accident, she claims, and director Jonathan Nossiter just keeping that part in instead of editing it out.

The film is great because he is just letting wine people talk, and letting their true personalities come out, be they vibrant, passionate so-called peasants that work the land in Sardinia or Languedoc, or be they vibrant, totalitarian, egotistical flying makers like Michel Rolland. The film lets you make your own decision, while clearly showing what the director thinks, not by narrating to you like you are a moron that can't tell what he thinks, but by showing you what the regular folk thinks, and then what the aristocracy thinks, what big business thinks, and how arrogant critics think (ie. James Suckling of the Wine Spectator). He's just getting what comes out of the mouth of babes - you be the judge.

I like how by the end of the movie, you really get how he ends up focusing on the winery dogs, because maybe he too is getting tired of hearing what everyone thinks of everything. This really resonates with me because after I visit like 30 estate, I start also focusing heavily on the winery dogs and stop listening as much to winemakers and estate owners. It gets to be more and more about the dogs.
But the absolute best part is the interaction between Hubert de Montille and his daughter Alix de Montille. Hubert has given his winery, his life's work, his estate and its 8 hectares to his son, Etienne de Montille. His daughter Alix works for a large company that makes wine in Burgundy. He goes to visit her and to taste wine. Alix asks him, "What would you like to taste?" He answers, "Something good. If there is anything here that is good." She gives him a pipette/thief's worth of wine. He comments, "Look, here they have so much money they buy a thief." Implying that at his small estate, they don't have such luxuries.
Alix says, "My wine style is similar to my dad's; our palates are similar. We like wines that have an edge to them, not wimpy wines. Just like we like people who have an edge. We don't like wimpy people. That makes it a bit difficult to like. For example, my father is acerbic. Hard to like." Hubert says, "Wines take time. 15 years in the bottle, the wines are excellent. But you can't rush them." Alix says, "Just like you dad, it takes time to like you." Hubert: "Yes, but after some time, you drink me."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

German Sparkling Wine

After a most delicious day, mid-week to boot, I tasted some of my own samples, and decided, Germany makes some mean sparklers.

I tasted three: Wegeler Brut Sekt (Non-vintage), Raumland Marie-Luise Brut Blanc de Noirs, amd Raumland Weissburgunder Prestige 2002. My favorite was the Raumland Marie-Luise Blanc de Noirs, named after winemaker and owner Volker Raumland's daughter, Marie-Luise.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Simply Refreshing - Raumland "Organic Grape Juice with Bubbles"

Non-alcoholic, but delicious - how many adult beverages can say that? Not that many, certainly not those awful de-alcoholized wines.....

Enter: Raumland's Organic Grape Juice with Bubbles. The name is compliments of Rudi Wiest, who designed the label after he rejected the normal Raumland label, which looks like the sekt house's regular sparkling wine label. It's a beverage that is:

* organic 100%

* made from white wine grapes - Riesling, Bacchus, Muller-Thurgau

* sparkling - injected with fine bubbles from a local German mineral water producer

* picked early - hand-harvested grapes were picked early for less sugar and more acidity, so the beverage is balanced and fresh and zippy, not cloying

* non-alcoholic - great for pregnant moms and others not drinking for whatever reason, but still want to celebrate and don't want Diet Coke!

I'm drinking some right now - what a delicious beverage!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Great Barolo last evening!

Great little dinner party last evening with a couple of friends that enjoy food and wine as much as we do. The wines showed well, in particular, for me, a 2004 Luigi Pira Barolo. Balanced, rich, a little spice - perfect! Tastes how I think a Barolo should taste, and reminds me that I do like this producer (I had a mental note that I liked this producer from a couple of Barolo tastings that I have attended). And I had heard that 2004 was a good vintage, so this wine supports that.