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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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Category:Enticing Events, General, Great Finds, Wine | Comments (7) | Author:

Gravensteins Are Here & More

Tuesday, 14. August 2012 5:25

Get them while you can -- beautiful Gravenstein apples. (Photo courtesy of the FruitGuys

Gravenstein Apple Time

With peaches, plums and strawberries galore at farmers markets, it’s hard to think about apples already.

But don’t dawdle, as it’s prime time for Gravensteins.

The heirloom apple is beloved for its juiciness, as well as its wonderfully balanced sweet-tart flavor. It’s perfect for turning into apple sauce or pies. But it has a very short growing season, and doesn’t keep long unlike other apple varieties that can last quite awhile in cold storage.

Gravensteins once were the main apple crop in Sebastopol. But as vineyards moved in, orchards soon dwindled.

Slow Food has worked hard to make sure Gravensteins don’t ever disappear.

For the past couple of years, the FruitGuys, a produce delivery service, has partnered with Gravenstein farmers to offer these storied apples — but only through Aug. 24. A box of Gravensteins start at $24, while a box of organic ones start at $40, depending upon your zip code, as they are shipped overnight. Each box is accompanied by a few Gravenstein apple recipes, too, to get you started.

Moreover, the FruitGuys are donating 17 percent of all profits from the apple boxes back to the participating Gravenstein farmers to  help ensure these apples never cease to exist.

Grape to Glass in the Russian River Valley

If you’ve been looking for an excuse to take a drive to Sonoma County’s picturesque Russian River Valley, there’s no better one than the 17th Annual Grape to Glass Pre-Harvest Party, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. at Richard’s Grove & Saralee’s Vineyard in Windsor.

The party kicks off with a tasting reception, showcasing more than 50 wineries, as well as gourmet noshes by local restaurants and caterers.

But save room for the barbecue dinner that follows, which will be prepared by Smokehouse Bistro. Dessert will be apple pie a la mode made with Gravensteins.

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Category:Bakeries, Enticing Events, Fruit, General, Wine | Comments (10) | Author:

Press Club is One Hot Ticket in Town

Friday, 27. July 2012 5:25

Shaved asparagus salad with a raw cow's milk cheese at Press Club.

Forgive me if I tell you that my first thought upon walking down the illuminated steps to the lounge-y Press Club wine bar was:

“If I were hip, young and single, man, oh man, would this be the place to hang out.”

Ahem, well, I may be none of those things. But Press Club in downtown San Francisco sure made me feel that I possessed each and every one of those attributes, if only for a night.

You’ll feel that way, too, in this dimly lit, expansive space that’s cozily divided into separate areas to linger in low-slung couches, at tall communal bar tables with chrome and leather stools or at a smattering of seats at the bars.

Take your pick, but don’t dally, as all those seats will surely be snapped up as the night wears on, as folks gather for after-work drinks, a girls-night-out soiree or just to take a load off after an afternoon of shopping on Union Square.

A communal bar table -- empty, but not for long.

As the night wears on, it will get packed at this popular gathering place.

While Press Club has always served food, it used to be more a place you’d stop in for a glass of wine and a quick nibble before heading elsewhere for dinner.

But that changed this spring when Chef Chris Borges of San Francisco’s Taste Catering came on board.

Under his direction, Press Club has transformed into a place where you would be remiss not to stay for the full shebang.

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Category:Chefs, General, Restaurants, Spirits/Cocktails/Beer, Wine | Comments (11) | Author:

Auberge du Soleil Sweets, Foie Gras News, Yigit Pura’s New Bakery & More

Tuesday, 10. July 2012 5:25

Auberge du Soleil's new Gianduia confections. (Photo courtesy of the resort)

Two New Sweets From Auberge du Soleil

Rutherford’s luxe Auberge du Soleil resort offers a pampering experience that just got a little sweeter.

Its chefs have come up with two new confections sure to satisfy any posh sweet tooth.

First, “Gianduia,” dainty hazelnut-chocolate squares made with both dark and milk chocolates, as well as organic nuts. A box is $24.50.

Sticky caramels with the surprise of pistachios. (Photo courtesy of Auberge du Soleil)

Next, California pistachios star in hand-wrapped pieces of rich caramel made with organic butter and cream. Fifteen pieces of “Carmel a la Pistache” come in a decorative box for $19.50.

The treats are available for purchase at the resort or through its online store.

Presidio Social Club Exempt From California Foie Gras Ban

Yes, the new state law that took effect July 1 may have bumped foie gras off menus everywhere else in California, but not at Presidio Social Club in San Francisco.

You see, it’s on federal land, thus, making it exempt from the California ban.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Chocolate, Enticing Events, Food TV, General, New Products, Restaurants, Wine | Comments (3) | Author:

A Toast to the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th Anniversary, Andrea Nguyen Macy’s San Jose Cooking Demo & More

Tuesday, 8. May 2012 5:25

Golden Gate Bridge Anniversary Cuvee medallion. (Image courtesy of Iron Horse)

Tiny Bubbles to Toast the Golden Gate Bridge

This year, San Francisco’s landmark Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 27.

Iron Horse wants to help you toast that monumental achievement with a special bottle of bubbly.

The new, limited-edition Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary Cuvee is comprised of a base of 2007 Blanc de Noir. Its pretty rosy color pays tribute to the bridge’s unmistakable hue.

A 750ml bottle is $50. Additionally, 75 etched commemorative jeroboams also were created for $475 each.

Iron Horse will donate $5 from each bottled sold to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Join Cookbook Author Andrea Nguyen at Macy’s for a Tofu-Licious Time

(Photo courtesty of Andrea Nguyen)You may think you know tofu. But you don’t know it like Andrea Nguyen does.

My good friend and Bay Area cookbook author, Nguyen has just released her newest book, Asian Tofu (Ten Speed Press).

It’s a comprehensive look at the varieties of tofu on the market, as well as recipes for their many delicious uses. There are even directions for making your own tofu from scratch, if you want to give it a whirl.

Nguyen will be doing a cooking demo at the kitchen at Macy’s Valley Fair in San Jose, 1 p.m. May 12. You’ll learn how to make spicy yuba ribbons and get the chance to taste various artisan tofus.

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Category:Enticing Events, General, Health/Nutrition, Restaurants, Wine | Comments (4) | Author: