Tag Archives: California

Mission Wines Tasting: The (Second) Best Pinot Noir I’ve Ever Had

30 Jan

Yet another tasting at Mission Wines, this time with my co-workers: Erica, who resembles a surly Irishman the more she drinks; Denny, the soft-spoken yet outrageous DJ who somehow lost his way coming back from the restroom to his turntables at some dark club and found himself working in a cubicle on the ground floor of LegalZoom.com; and Katherine, a newbie whose only distinguishing feature to me at the present time is her being Korean. And female. (Kidding, Katherine! You’re not female.)

Manning (Peyton? Eli? Archie or Cooper?) or, if you will, womanning the bar was Debbie, a delightful woman who crossed over years back from Colorado to pursue a love of wine. Heck, I would drive hundreds of miles for wine. In fact, that’s the primary reason I head up to Berkeley so often (sorry Jonathan!). She served us the five wines on the menu, as well as two more “bonus” pours.

The wines were:

J. Hofstatter “De Vite” Pinot Grigio | Alto Adige, Italy | 2005 | $11.99
We took turns writing tasting notes. My notes for this wine were “uber-light.” Kat’s notes were a star surrounded by a circle, along with the word “unfabulous”, which I’m not even sure is a word (thanks, spell check!). This pinot grigio was too light, too insubstantial. It was citrusy, which isn’t a bad thing, but to my palate at least it also seemed to have that plasticine taste I abhor in whites. As Mark Oldman notes in his Guide to Outsmarting Wine, much pinot grigio is “often like experiencing an IKEA rug, Ben Stein’s voice, or a dose of Paxil: neutral, monotone, and devoid of highs.” And watery. The region of Alto Adige is apparently home to some more “interesting versions” of pinot grigio, but this particular bottle was not one of them.

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Farmer’s Market and Cost Plus Market

9 Jan

So after a hiatus consisting of a few days of unremarkable wine (a bottle of [yellow tail] shiraz seduced me with its fanciful clothing, slender, sleek neck, and cheap price–much to my regret) and long, dreary days at LegalZoom.com, I managed to catch up with my college friend Will Gordon. He was in town, visiting from Berkeley, and we dropped by my perennial favorite–the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax.

Dinner was at the dependable Monsieur Marcel, which has a wonderful ambiance in the evening. A beautiful, dark brunette smiled to me from the wine bar (at least, I thought it was me!), so things were already taking a turn for the better as we were seated.

I had a glass of rosé from Chateau de L’Escarelle–in Provence–made from cinsault and grenache. It was wonderful–absolutely breathtakingly fresh, full of ripe strawberry, not in the least bit cloying. It was light but had substantial heft for a rosé. And at $6.49 a glass (one of the less expensive wines on the menu) it was nice to my wallet. This wine reminded me of another wonderful rosé, the Rosé of Syrah from Ampelos Cellars of the Santa Rita Hills in California:

ampelos-bottles.jpg

Will had a glass of the 2004 tempranillo from Bodegas Ercavio. It was fruitier than other tempranillos I’ve had–less vanilla from oak. (Maybe this is because Bodegas Ercavio is not in Rioja, which has a reputation for oakiness.) It was a light, pleasing red, and well-priced at $6.99.

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Sparkling Pinot Noir: Mission Wines Tasting

30 Dec

At Mission Wines, my friends and I are the sole representatives of the 25 and under demographic.

It’s a bit sobering to chip in five or ten bucks each for a $20 or $30 bottle of wine–nothing to shake a stick at–and watch as silver-haired gentlemen wearing well-worn L.L. Bean vests and Eddie Bauer sweaters carry out cases (CASES!) of $50 wine to their idling sports cars.

That’s why I love going to wine tastings. For $10 I can try five different wines. Nothing’s worse than spending good money on a vaunted bottle of wine and finding that it’s terrible. (I guess the same goes for first dates, eh?)

The five wines at the tasting today were:

  • Juve y Camps Brut Rosé | Sparkling Pinot Noir (Sant Sadurini D’Anoia, Spain)
  • Breggo Ferrington Vineyard | Sauvignon Blanc (Anderson Valley, California)
  • Luzon | Monastrel/Syrah (Jumilla, Spain)
  • Chateau Puygueraud Cotes de Francs | Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Malbec (Bordeaux, France)
  • Graves | Syrah (Paso Robles, California)

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A Wine Store for the People

25 Dec

I love Berkeley.

Actually, let me qualify that statement a bit: I have a love-hate relationship with Berkeley. But, as they say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” So, being at home now for nearly a year and five months, working at LegalZoom.com, I love Berkeley now more than I hate it.

One of the great things about Berkeley is the abundance of absolutely wonderful food and drink. There is a culture of organic produce, slow cooking, artisanal craftsmanship, and good living.

There are a lot of wine shops in Berkeley or in the surrounding areas. Kermit Lynch is the one everybody knows about–he imports all those small French producers and sells them retail at his store on San Pablo. Then there are Vino! locations everywhere–one on College in Oakland, another on Solano, one off of Fourth Street in Berkeley, another in San Francisco. The Andronico’s market on North Shattuck (accessible on the 7 or 9 buses, for you college kids!) is also surprisingly good.

I want to focus on “A Wine Store for the People”–Vintage Berkeley, which is appropriately on Vine Street near the original Peet’s Coffee:

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(My apologies for blatantly ripping off this picture from the Vintage Berkeley webpage!)

The store itself is housed in a former water pumping station, which makes entering the place a whimsical experience (if only there were special pipes that carried wine instead of water… try taking a bath in that, eh?).

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Three-Buck Gewurztraminer

24 Dec

I’ve gotten my first ribbing from a college friend who for privacy’s sake we’ll call Matt D. (no, that’s too obvious… let’s say M. Dally). Verbatim off my Facebook wall:

Could you possibly cover best wines for $1.99?”

The answer M. D. (that’s better!) wants is Charles Shaw, the wine we know and love (or hate) as “Two-Buck Chuck.”

There are legions of people who love Charles Shaw–there are even apparently wine critics who like Charles Shaw. I personally don’t like Charles Shaw (though their 2005 Nouveau Gamay Beaujolais Valdiguie was actually not bad–I must add the disclaimer, though, that the Shaw version of beaujolais is NOT actually made from gamay and is instead made from the valdiguie grape, and that it is not nearly as delicious or refined as actual beaujolais from France) because it just tastes watery and cheap, off-balance, and “out of whack” if you will. Of course, I don’t have a degree in viticulture from UC Davis, so this judgment is a matter of opinion.

Trader Joe’s does have a *decent* gewurztraminer from J.W. Morris, a subsidiary of JFJ Bronco Winery (which is owned by Fred Franzia, the man behind the college staple of Franzia, the wine in a box, and the Trader Joe’s incarnation of Charles Shaw). It’s very sweet–maybe a bit too sweet–but surprisingly doesn’t suffer from that plasticine taste so many cheap white wines have. You could probably spend more money and get a worse wine.  Besides, you could throw it in the fridge for an hour and the cold will mask the imperfections!

Also, M. D., this wine retails at Trader Joe’s for $2.99!!! It’s not $1.99, but hell, it falls in the lower range of the venerable $2-$5 price category.