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World Premiere of “SOMM” & More

Tuesday, 23. October 2012 5:25

One of the featured sommelier candidates from "SOMM.'' (Still courtesy of the filmmakers)

An Insider’s Look at the Rigorous Master Sommelier Exam

Anyone who’s a fan of wine will be drawn to the new documentary, “SOMM,” which will hold its world premiere Nov. 7 at the 2nd annual Napa Valley Film Festival at the Napa Valley Opera House.

The Master Sommelier exam is one of the most grueling around. Fewer than 200 people around the world have passed it. The film by Jason Wise follows four people as they prepare for the examination.

Bay Area folks will recognize some familiar faces in the film, including Chef Michael Mina, Sommelier Rajat Parr, Winemaker Bo Barrett, wine legend Fred Dame and Master Sommelier Reggie Narito.

Another candidate opening a bottle of Beaujolais. (Still courtesy of the filmmakers)

The filmmaker will be on hand at the fest, as well as the featured sommeliers. They also will be guests at the gala at Robert Mondavi Winery on Nov. 8.

Single-day passes are $50 to $60; a festival pass for five days of access, Nov. 7-11, is $250. A $500 Pass Plus gets you five days of screenings, plus access to the gala and wrap parties.

For a taste of what the film is all about, take a peek at the trailer: SOMM

Forget the Popcorn, Enjoy Italian Food Instead at Redd Wood

To tie in with the Napa Valley Film Festival, Redd Wood in Yountville will be featuring its rendition of the famous timpano from the classic film, “Big Night.”

The timpano di macceroni, a huge domed pie of baked pasta, meatballs, sausages and tomato sauce, will be available during the entire run of the festival, Nov. 6-11.

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Organic Sangria In A Bottle

Friday, 12. October 2012 5:25

A complete sangria in one bottle. How convenient is that?

I admit I was skeptical when a bottle of Eppa Superfruit Sangria landed on my porch.

Visions of bad wine coolers lumbered about unpleasantly in my head.

But Eppa Sangria is far from that. In fact, it’s pretty wonderful tasting.

It’s a complete sangria in a bottle that’s also certified organic.

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Category:Fruit, General, Going Green and Sustainable, New Products, Wine | Comments (7) | Author:

A Visit to the California Vineyard Nearest to the Pacific Ocean

Friday, 14. September 2012 5:07

Mediterranean summer flatbreads to enjoy with wines at Fort Ross Vineyward's new tasting room.

Last month after three years in the making, Fort Ross Vineyard opened the doors to its brand-new tasting room in Jenner — less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean.

That also makes it the only tasting room in the newly established Fort Ross-Seaview AVA on the Sonoma Coast that was approved late last year.

It’s an appropriate location for it, given that Fort Ross, a historic Russian settlement, was where the first grapes were planted in Northern California in 1817.

Husband-and-wife, Lester and Linda Schwartz, who met as students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, started their Fort Ross Vineyard 12 years ago. The winery produces Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and the signature varietal from the Schwartz’s native land of South Africa, Pinotage. Indeed, it’s one of the few producers of Pinotage in the United States.

All in all, they produce 5,000 cases in total annually. Their winemaker is the acclaimed Jeff Pisoni. The first vintage by Pisoni, the 2009 Fort Ross Vineyard Chardonnay was chosen as one of the top 100 wines of 2011 by Wine Enthusiast.

The exterior of the tasting room.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Schwartzs in the new tasting room, set amid redwood forests and boasting views of the ocean.

Owners Lester and Linda Schwartz, originally from South Africa.

Their personal story is as intriguing as their wines. The couple fled South Africa 40 years ago because of the political unrest during the apartheid era. They settled in the Bay Area. Linda was a pianist and classical music composer. Lester became the first South African licensed to practice law in California.

He happened to be driving up this hilly area one day when he spotted the property and just fell in love with it.

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A Food Gal Giveaway: Two Seats at A Special Tomato and Wine Pairing Dinner in Los Gatos

Thursday, 6. September 2012 5:25

Indulge your summer tomato cravings.

Two of my favorite places in Los Gatos are joining for one night to celebrate “Fruits of the Vine,” a salute to summer heirloom tomatoes and stellar wines.

Sept. 15, the owners of Enoteca La Storia wine bar will be supplying copious amounts of their 25 varieties of home-grown, organic tomatoes to Restaurant James Randall for a vine-to-table five-course feast.

Chef Ross Hanson’s menu will include dishes such as Dungeness crab croquettes with tomato relish; tomato braised beef with creamy polenta and Pecorino; and roasted tomato and peach shortcake.

The  6 p.m. dinner is $95 per person, which includes wine pairings. Tax and gratuity are not included.

Advance ticket purchase is required.

Contest: One lucky Food Gal reader will get a chance to attend the dinner with a guest — for free (though a tip for the servers would be appreciated, I’m sure). Entries, limited to those who can make it to Los Gatos on the evening of Sept. 15, will be accepted through midnight PST Sept. 8. Winner will be announced Sept. 10.

How to win?

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Category:Chefs, Enticing Events, Fruit, General, Restaurants, Wine | Comments (18) | Author:

Wine 101 at the International Culinary Center in Campbell

Friday, 17. August 2012 5:25

My class "assignments'' at the International Culinary Center wine class.

To get in the mood for this post, open a bottle of wine, pour yourself a glass, take a well deserved sip, then see if you can answer the following:

A) What are the three grape varietals typically used in the making of Champagne?

B) What common drug store item can help rid your wine glasses and decanters of red-wine stains?

C) Cool climate growing regions produce white wines with a tinge of what specific color?

D) What unusual aroma is often associated with Australian and New Zealand Pinot Noirs?

Over the course of a week, I learned the answers (find them at the bottom of this post) to these questions and so much more as a student in the “Wine Foundation” class at the International Culinary Center in Campbell.

The class, which I was invited to take gratis as a guest of the school, stretched over seven nights for four hours at a time. I figured by the end of it, I’d either be an expert or totally tipsy.

Fortunately, it was bordering more on the former. Although, I’d taken one or two wine classes before, they were more truncated. Getting the opportunity to take such an intensive and comprehensive class really gave me a grasp on wines like never before. Indeed, over seven days, we learned not only how wine is made, but wine-tasting techniques, what goes into wine service at a restaurant, the basics of food and wine pairing (complete with food prepared by culinary students), and an overview of what varietals are found around the world.

Our classroom.

It says a lot that the ICC is the first school to ever be approved by the renowned Court of Master Sommeliers. How rigorous is the process for becoming one? Consider that only 3 percent who take the final exam to become a master actually pass — and that’s usually after failing on multiple previous attempts.

Our instructor was a certified Master Sommelier, one of only 197 in the world: Jesse Becker, who began his sommelier career at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, most recently put together the wine program at AQ restaurant in San Francisco, and runs his own wine importing business, PWMWINE.com.

Jesse Becker, one of only 197 Master Sommeliers in the world, pulling bottles from the cellar for us to try

There were 10 of us in this particular class, only one of whom was a man. Most had high-tech backgrounds of some sort, too. A few were toying with career changes, but more were there just to educate themselves about a topic that’s long fascinated their palate and mind.

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