Category Archives: Wine

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 9

These non-alcoholic grape juices drink like fine wines -- without the buzz. Featured in the glass is the new Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer Grape Juice.
These non-alcoholic grape juices drink like fine wines — without the buzz. Featured in the glass is the new Castello di Amorosa Gewurtztraminer Grape Juice.

Castello di Amorosa Non-Alcoholic Grape Juices

Maybe it’s because so many of us took to imbibing more during our cloistered time at home in the pandemic, but now in the aftermath, there’s been a definite uptick in the thirst for non-alcoholic alternatives.

Which makes Castello di Amorosa’s debut of three new non-alcoholic grape juices all the more timely and on trend now.

The winery may be better known for its wines, as well as its dramatic winery that’s modeled after a 13th century Tuscan castle. But these grape juices will surely add even more luster. That’s how good they are, as I found when I was sent samples recently to try.

Aside from their screw caps, these are nothing like the grape juices found on the shelves of your local supermarket. They come in three varieties: Muscat Canelli Grape Juice, Sparkling Grape Juice Red Blend, and Gewurztraminer Grape Juice. They are packaged in 750ml bottles and are made from the same fine varietals, meaning they each taste markedly different from one another and are not just saccharine-sweet, but boast the sophistication and complexity of actual premium wines. To be sure, these grape juices are definitely as sweet as soda or even dessert wines, so they’re made for sipping, not gulping.

The grape juices are made much like the wines, with the grapes hand-harvested, then pressed, with the resulting juice chilled to 32 degrees. The only difference is that no yeast is added to convert the grape sugars to alcohol.

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Three Things to Enliven Shelter in Place, Part 3

Nancy Oakes, chef-owner of Boulevard, will be teaching a virtual cooking class for kids. (Photo courtesy of Boulevard)
Nancy Oakes, chef-owner of Boulevard, will be teaching a virtual cooking class for kids. (Photo courtesy of Boulevard)

Kids’ Cooking Class with Boulevard’s Nancy Oakes and Dana Younkin

Your youngsters can take their cooking skills to the next level in a Zoom class taught by none other than Executive Chef Nancy Oakes and Chef de Cuisine Dana Younkin of San Francisco’s celebrated Boulevard restaurant.

The virtual live-streamed class, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. March 21, is the brainchild of Sprouts Cooking Club in Oakland.

Oakes and Younkin will demonstrate how to make ricotta crespelle manicotti and strawberry shortcake. Ingredient and equipment lists are provided five days before the class.

The $45 class is designed for kids, 6 to 15 years old. The fees help fund Sprouts’ Chef-In-Training Program, a vocational platform that provides restaurant training to underserved women and youths of color.

If your kids can’t make that particular class, don’t fret. Sprouts has put together a whole line-up of celebrated female chefs to teach upcoming virtual classes, including March 20 with Mina Newman of Sen Sakana in New York City; March 27 with Emma Bengtsson of Aquavit in New York; and March 28 with Nite Yun of Nyum Bai in Oakland. The March 3 class with Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco is sold out, but there is a wait list. Find the complete schedule here.

Zola’s Fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula

Pick up some tasty takeout from Palo Alto’s Zola on Feb. 25, and 50 percent of sales from a special to-go dinner package will donated to the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 8

A lovely wine with a touching story.
A lovely wine with a touching story.

2019 Longevity Pinot Grigio

If there’s any bottle that resonates especially on Valentine’s Day, it’s any from Longevity Wines.

Winemaker Phil Long of the Livermore urban winery started making wine in his garage with his wife Debra. When she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in 2019, he personally designed the romantic heart logo on their bottles and imprinted it on the corks. He also had it tattooed on his arm, so that her spirit would always be with him.

It’s hard not to fall for a love story like that nor for wines made with such dedication.

The 2019 Pinot Grigio ($26) with its pale salmon blush hue is ideal for the holiday. The previous 2018 vintage won “Best White Wine Pairing” at the 2019 Livermore Valley Taste Terroir event and a bronze at the 2019 Orange Country Fair wine competition.

I admit that I rarely drink pinot grigio, as I find most of them just so bland and uninteresting. However, when I received a sample bottle of this one, I was pleasantly surprised. It boasts a medium body, zippy acidity, and the bright taste of raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, and lemon. It would be dreamy with prosciutto and melon, sauteed salmon, fish tacos, poke bowls or a simple roast chicken.

Best yet, from now through Feb. 16, all bottles on the Longevity web site are 25 percent off.

Cheers: Long also happens to be president of the nonprofit Association of African American Vintners. Under his leadership, its membership has grown by 500 percent. He also helped create an online store to showcase one of the largest collections of Black-owned wine brands in one convenient spot.

Maker Canned Sparkling Rosé by Bodkin Wines

Premium canned wine manufacturer, Maker, has teamed up again with Chris Christensen of Healdsburg’s Bodkin Wines for one of its newest releases.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 7

A Brunello worth seeking out.
A Brunello worth seeking out.

Frescobaldi CastelGicondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015

Transport yourself to Tuscany with a sip of Frescobaldi CastelGicondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015, a big, bold, inky wine that lingers on the palate, giving you plenty of time to daydream any troubles away.

Made by a winery with more than 700 years in the business, this Italian beauty ($69) is made with Sangiovese grapes that have attained Italy’s highest classification.

With substantial tannins, this is a wine that will age gracefully. But if you’re like me, you’ll be impatient to uncork a bottle, as I admittedly was when I received a sample to try.

Blackberry, raspberry and evergreen are heady on the nose. On the palate, it’s rich with deep cherry, leather, earth, tobacco, and cinnamon.

Try it alongside roast leg of lamb, a steak smothered in fresh rosemary, bolognese pasta or beefy Italian meatballs.

Cheers: If you mindlessly reach for a Cabernet Sauvignon to pair typically with red meat, next time try Brunello instead. Find this wine at and Total Wine & More.


Whether it’s because we’re all sheltering at home now or maybe social-distance picnicking in parks, canned wine sure seems to be having a moment.

One of the newest is WineSociety, founded by Angela Allison, who fell in love with the Napa Valley as she and her husband split their time between his tech work in San Francisco and their home in Cincinnati.

A trio of WineSociety's canned wines, which even comes with a plastic cap in case you can't finish the entire can.
A trio of WineSociety’s canned wines, which even comes with a plastic cap in case you can’t finish the entire can.

Made with California grapes, the wines come in 500ml cans, the equivalent of 2/3 of a bottle, making for two generous-sized glasses for two people.

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Three Things To Enliven Shelter In Place, Part 1

“Food People Are The Best People”

There’s no denying that those in the food industry are struggling mightily during the pandemic. The new book, “Food People Are The Best People” (Acorn Press) spotlights how 129 renowned California food and beverage professionals are coping and what inspires them during this unprecedented time.

The book is by Oakland-based photographer and storyteller Kristen Loken, who also did the book, “This Is Oakland A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places” (Acorn), which published in 2014.

This new book features such local luminaries as Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, Charlie Palmer of the Charlie Palmer Collective, David Kinch of Manresa, Jen Biesty of Shakewell, Michelle Polzine of 20th Century Cafe, and Susan Feniger of Border Grill. Along with a beautiful portrait shot, there is a short Q&A with each of the featured professionals.

Purchase the book here: A regular copy is $35, a signed copy is $50, and a copy of the book along with a chance to get your own porch portrait taken by Loken is $295.

Fifteen percent of all profits will be donated to No Kid Hungry.

Season 2 of “Tanya’s Table”

Following the success of her debut podcast series, Oakland chef Tanya Holland launches season 2 of “Tanya’s Table” on Jan. 19.

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