Category Archives: Wine

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 12

A California Zinfandel made for those backyard barbecues.
A California Zinfandel made for those backyard barbecues.

2018 Barra Zinfandel

Inky garnet hued, the 2018 Barra of Mendocino Zinfandel looks jewel-like in your glass.

And while it’s 14.5 percent alcohol by volume, it’s not an overly fruity, bombastically boozy Zinfandel that’s going to knock you out for the count after one glass. That makes it a welcome sip even in the throes of summer.

Pressed from estate-grown, organically farmed 100 percent Zinfandel, the wine, of which I received a sample, garnered an 89-point score by Wine Enthusiast. It’s full of blueberries on the nose, and dried cherries, dried plums, tobacco, tar, and a hint of smoke on the palate.

The late Charrie Barra planted his first vineyards in Mendocino in 1955. He is considered the godfather of Mendocino grape-growing for his leadership in pioneering more efficient and sustainable methods, and for promoting organic practices. The legacy of his 350-acre estate continues under the management of his widow Martha Barra.

The $24 wine is available at the winery.

Cheers: Enjoy this wine alongside pulled pork, grilled pork loin or ribs, especially if any kind of cherry or berry-laced barbecue sauce is involved.

2019 Siduri Chardonnay

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a soft spot for Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. Now, one of my favorite Pinot producers has just released its first Chardonnay.

Siduri, critically acclaimed for its elegant, cool-climate, single-vineyard Pinots, has only crafted a handful of white wines in its 27-year history. As a result, there’s no doubt that its 2019 Willamette Valley Chardonnay will automatically pique interest far and wide.

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A Caviar Pop-Up, Dining Deals & More

A luxury pop-up -- Regiis Ova Caviar and Champagne Lounge. (Photo courtesy of Regiis Ova)
A luxury pop-up — Regiis Ova Caviar and Champagne Lounge. (Photo courtesy of Regiis Ova)

Thomas Keller’s Caviar and Champagne Pop-Up

Even if you can’t score a coveted table at The French Laundry, you can still enjoy some luxe tastes in Yountville from Thomas Keller.

The acclaimed chef joined with caviar expert Shaoching Bishop to start their own caviar brand, Regiis Ova (“royal egg” in Latin), in 2017. Now, the two have collaborated on the Regiis Ova Caviar & Champagne Lounge pop-up, 6480 Washington St. in Yountville. Open Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the pop-up is expected to continue at least through the fall.

Take a plush seat indoors or outdoors to enjoy a tasting of caviar, starting at $45 for 15 grams with classic garnishes, two deviled eggs topped with caviar for $35 or French onion dip topped with caviar and served with kettle fried potato chips ($65)

If that’s a little rich for your pocketbook, opt for smoked sturgeon rillettes with pickled garden vegetables ($20) or a whimsical Bouchon Bakery “Oh Oh” (a gourmet take on a Ho Ho) for $10.

Alongside, sip prestige French or California bubbly by the glass or bottle, or a variety of red, white and rose wines.

Whether for a sip and snack or a complete meal, kick back with the sounds from a jazz pianist or DJ.

Dine Downtown San Jose Restaurant Promotion Runs Through July 18

In a normal year, “Dine Downtown San Jose” would indeed last a week. But as we all know, this past year has been anything but conventional. As such, the annual promotion will run for 10 days this year, from now through July 18.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 11

A Japanese craft gin that celebrates the bounty of spring.
A Japanese craft gin that celebrates the bounty of spring.

Roku Gin

The lovely aroma of soft citrus, grassy leaves, and green tea wafts gently from a bottle of Suntory’s Roku Gin.

It’s no surprise that this Japanese gin, of which I received a sample, evokes the lightness and freshness of spring. After all, “roku” means “six” in Japanese, and this gin is crafted with six Japanese botanicals that were harvested at peak season in spring. They include: sakura (cherry blossom) flowers and leaves, Sencha tea, Gyokura tea, Sansho pepper, and yuzu peel.

The result is a smooth sip with juniper and coriander much more dialed down in favor of delicate yet complex floral and lemon-mandarin orange characteristics that give way at the very end to a subtle peppery pop.

Enjoy it in a G&T or muddled with strawberries or raspberries.

A 750ml bottle is $28.99 at Total Wine & More, $26.99 at BevMo! and $31.99 at Target.

Cheers: Roku Gin comes in a weighty glass bottle etched with cherry blossoms, making it perfect for gift-giving.

Yebiga Bela Rakija

If you’ve never had or heard of Rakija, you’re in good company.

My curiosity about this Balkan fruit brandy was piqued when I received a sample of Yebiga Bela Rakija recently. It’s importer, surprisingly enough, is Bill Gould, bassist for the San Francisco rock band, Faith No More.

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Dining Outside In the Napa Valley at Press

Swordfish gets smoked so it's silky and reminiscent in taste of pastrami -- at Press.
Swordfish gets smoked so it’s silky and reminiscent in taste of pastrami — at Press.

Last week, I drove to the Napa Valley, which may not seem remarkable in and of itself until you realize it was my first trip there in 16 months.

Visiting Wine Country has always felt as soothing as a vacation — even when I was there for work. Now, after being cooped up for days on end during a pandemic, it seems even more exhilarating.

It was also my first time in as long dining at a fine-dining restaurant — albeit outdoors. I couldn’t have picked a better place than Press, where I had been invited in as a guest to check out the new offerings by an impressive new team now in place at this venerable dining destination owned by the influential Rudd family.

Executive Chef Philip Tessier oversaw a kitchen remodel and transitioned the restaurant away from a steakhouse to more nuanced modern American fare with lighter, brighter, seasonal flair. If his name is familiar, it’s likely from his time in the kitchens at The French Laundry in Yountville and Per Se in New York, as well as for his headline-making turn as the first American chef to reach the podium at the Bocuse d’Or international competition, garnering a silver medal.

Dine in or out at Press.
Dine in or out at Press.

Tessier has recruited two fellow Thomas Keller restaurant alums: Chef de Cuisine Darryl Bell, former executive sous chef at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, who also has his own line of barbecue sauces and rubs at Stateline Road BBQ; and Master Sommelier Vincent Morrow, whose impressive experience stretches from The French Laundry to Gary Danko, Benu, and One65, all in San Francisco. The front of the house is manned by General Manager Cole Mathers, formerly of Gary Danko restaurant.

If you need any affirmation that people are flocking to Wine Country again, consider the fact that during the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Press served more than 350 diners.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 10

Not simply gin, but a gin liqueur.
Not simply gin, but a gin liqueur.

Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur

Think of this as gin 2.0

Pomp & Whimsy is actually a gin liqueur. It’s gin that’s been distilled, then twice-infused with a botanical liqueur, then re-distilled with 16 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, grapefruit, orange, lychee, cucumber and jasmine pearls.

It was created by sociologist Dr. Nicola Nice in 2017, and was inspired by Victorian times. Nice was perplexed that there was no spirit that appealed to women in the same way that men naturally gravitated toward flights of whiskey, scotch or bourbon when they got together to unwind. When she learned that gin was sold in barrels during Victorian times and often blended with sugar or other flavorings by retailers to create gin cordials, she ran with that idea.

Pomp & Whimsy ($34) comes in a stout, bourbon-like bottle. Its taste, as I found when I received a sample bottle, is profoundly of lychees, bitter orange, grapefruit, lime, and honeysuckle flowers. Juniper, which often lends a medicinal quality that turns off some folks, is present, but just barely. There’s a sweet, almost syrupy or viscous quality, too.

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