Category Archives: Wine

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 16

A Pinot Noir worth rolling the dice for.
A Pinot Noir worth rolling the dice for.

2019 Barra Pinot Noir Mendocino

Silky on the palate, and redolent of cassis, black cherries, lavender and a hint of graphite, the 2019 Barra Pinot Noir ($24) from Mendocino is food-friendly yet delightful enough to sip all on its own to unwind after a long day.

Aged 14 months in 20 percent new French oak, it has a subtle vanilla note and an elegant, smooth finish, as evidenced in the sample bottle I received.

The late Charlie Barra founded his namesake winery, planting 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, who just celebrated her 80th birthday last year.

Pick up a bottle from the winery’s online store or

Cheers: Celebrating the Year of the Tiger with Peking duck with hoisin sauce? This wine will ensure it’s a harmonious one.

2020 Biltmore Estate Albarino

A visit to Asheville, NC isn’t complete without touring the historic Biltmore Estate, a sprawling 250-room French renaissance chateau built by the Vanderbilt family in 1889. Its 8,000-acre grounds and gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, considered the father of landscape architecture who designed New York City’s Central Park.

This storied estate is also home to a winery, built on the site of what was once a dairy. It’s where visitors can now enjoy tastings, as well as behind-the-scenes tours.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 15

Deep, dark ruby and slightly fizzy in the glass, this Lambrusco is made for celebrations.
Deep, dark ruby and slightly fizzy in the glass, this Lambrusco is made for celebrations.

Lot 841 Cameron Hughes Reggio Emilia Lambrusco

A red wine that you drink chilled? Yes, indeed, that’s the case with Lot 841 Cameron Hughes Reggio Emilia Lambrusco ($15).

Lambrusco is an ancient Northern Italian grape dating back to the time of the Etruscans. It can be cloying, but thankfully this sample bottle leans drier yet with still ripe jammy fruitiness. Deep, dark ruby in the glass with a touch of viscosity on the palate, the wine is mildly fizzy, too.

It sports notes of candied raspberries, cranberries, black tea, and almost grape lollipop. It is an easy-drinking red wine with mild tannins that would be ideal for folks who normally shy away from reds. It’s almost like a more rugged, heftier Beaujolais Nouveau.

Find it on the Cameron Hughes site.

Cheers: Serving Cornish game hens, pheasant or porchetta for the holidays? This would pair well and please many palates.

Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

For fun, delicious and affordable alternative to Champagne for New Year’s Eve, look to South Africa’s zippy Steenberg Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($16).

A lively tasting way to usher in a new year.
A lively tasting way to usher in a new year.

With the fragrance of melon and citrus, this is like summer in a bottle.

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More Scrumptious Gifts

Stash Tea's holiday "Christmas in Paris'' is elegant and evocative.
Stash Tea’s holiday “Christmas in Paris” is elegant and evocative.

Stash Tea’s 2021 Limited-Edition Holiday Flavors

When the weather turns blustery, a hot cup of tea really hits the spot, especially when it’s a brew with a special holiday flavor.

Oregon’s Stash Tea has got you covered, whether you want to treat yourself or gift friends or family. Choose from half a dozen flavors made especially for this festive season: Christmas in Paris, Licorice Spice, Holiday Chai, Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, and White Christmas.

Choose from black, white, and herbal tea blends, either in convenient tea bags or loose leaf. I had a chance to try samples recently.

“Christmas in Paris”is an herbal blend with big hits of cocoa, lavender and peppermint, that makes you imagine sitting at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees enjoying this elegant tea. The “Holiday Chai” black tea will warm you up thoroughly with its cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and Jamaican rum flavor. And the “Christmas Eve” herbal tea with orange, cinnamon and clove is just the ticket for sipping in pajamas as you slide the last presents under the tree in anticipation of the next morning.

Six flavors of holiday Stash Teas to celebrate the season.
Six flavors of holiday Stash Teas to celebrate the season.

A box of 18 tea bags is $3.95. A Holiday Sampler Trio of three boxes of different teas is $12.95, while a Six-Flavor Seasonal Teas Gift Box is $24.95. The loose leaf starts at $8.75 (depending on the variety) for 100 grams.

Oryx Desert Salts From South Africa

You can now find a taste of the remote Kalahari Desert in South Africa at Whole Foods stores near you.

Oryx Desert Salts are harvested from underground streams running through ancient rock formations 280 million years old, then sun-dried. The salt is organic and unprocessed, with naturally occurring minerals including magnesium, zinc and potassium.

Oryx Desert Salts, regular (right) and smoked (left).
Oryx Desert Salts, regular (right) and smoked (left).

I had a chance to try samples of the regular salt and the smoked version. The crystals are more compact and crunchy than, say, lighter, fluffier, moist Maldon Sea Salt. They’re also larger in size than Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

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What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 14

The 2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon has power and finesse.
The 2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon has power and finesse.

2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon

What do you get when you source grapes from the storied Napa Valley vineyards of Beckstoffer Dr. Crane, Beckstoffer Las Piedras, Oakville Ranch, Vine Hill Ranch and Weitz Vineyard, and blend them into one singular wine?

The flagship 2019 Memento Mori Cabernet Sauvignon ($250).

You know you have something special — and spendy — on your hands when the bottle arrives, as my sample did, in its own custom-designed, cushioned box like fine art.

Winemaker Sam Kaplan has created an inky garnet wine that is velvety smooth. Big Cabs sometimes exhibit aggressive tannins early on, needing to be set aside to age to give them time to settle down. Not Memento Mori. This is a powerful wine that surprises with impeccable balance already. There are aromas of dark berries and dark wooded forests. The palate gets caressed with cassis, purple plum, mocha, cranberry and pomegranate, plus a touch of anise and toast.

Outfitted with its own custom box like fine jewelry.
Outfitted with its own custom box like fine jewelry.

Consider this the Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson of Cabs — imposing, with weight and solid structure, yet also surprising with a soft, gentle side.

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Four Reads To Savor

“Lineage” by Steven Kent Mirassou

There is pure poetry not only in the way wine tastes, but also in the way it is made.

That’s no more evident than in the new book, “Lineage: Life and Love and Six Generations in California Wine” (Val de Grace Books), of which I received a review copy, by Steven Kent Mirassou.

If the name sounds familiar, it should. He hails from six generations of winemakers in the Bay Area, responsible for crafting wines under the Mirassou Winery, La Rochelle Winery, Steven Kent Winery labels.

Salinas-born Mirassou didn’t follow in the family’s wine-making immediately. Instead, after graduating from George Washington University with a BA in American Literature and New York University with a MA in Literature, his intention was to teach literature and to write novels. But after getting married and wanting to start a family, he wanted to come back to San Jose so his children could be near their grand-parents.

It was then that his passion for wine-making was ignited. He partnered with his father to produce Iván Tamás wines, before selling the brand to Wente Vineyards. Father and son followed that up with Steven Kent Winery in 1996.

Now, Mirassou is CEO of well-regarded Lineage Collection — Lineage Wine Co., The Steven Kent Winery, L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc, and Mia Nipote Wines — in the Livermore Valley.

His literature background is evident from the first pages, which recount his family’s rise in the wine industry. The prose is evocative, sensual, and yes, downright poetic.

Consider how he describes the effect of a new experience — or wine — that rocks you to your core:

“The process of considering anything deeply, be it great wine, fine food, book, movie, or your lover’s naked hip is necessarily one of opening up, of being willing to jettison commonplace shapes in favor of those that put the lie to the contemptibly familiar. To taste some new bottle of wine, to slurp air through it in your mouth, and feel it, to remark on the flavors and the way the wine makes your mouth feel, dryingly astringent or wetted by acid, and to let those sensations rebirth past experiences is to insist upon living an un-ordinary moment.”

Uncork a bottle of wine and fill your senses completely with “Lineage.”

“Every Cake Has A Story” by Christina Tosi

Milk Bar Founder Founder Christina Tosi has many cookbooks to her credit. Now, she has her first children’s book, “Every Cake Has a Story” (Dial Books For Young Readers), of which I received a review copy.

The charming book, whimsically illustrated by Emily Balsley, tells the story of what happens when Sammi of Samesville decides to break from baking the same vanilla cake with chocolate frosting over and over again. A whole new kaleidoscope world of friends and delightful cake flavors enriches her life like never before.

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