Category Archives: Wine

Duck, Duck…Dried Plums or Prunes

Duck legs get a lot of love with red wine and dried plums.

Duck legs get a lot of love with red wine and dried plums.

 

There is something that has annoyed me to no end for quite awhile. And I know I’m not the only one who frets about this rather unforgivable injustice.

It’s when someone refers to me as “ma’am.”

I bristle.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was “Miss”?

What happened to those days?

I know it’s only semantics. Still, it’s a bruiser. No, I may not like it, but I have glumly accepted it.

That’s what irks me about prunes. Oh sure, they get to be called “dried plums” now. What’s up with that?

Like the rest of us “ma’ams,” I’m sure they felt labeled “old and decrepit” beyond their years with that moniker. But somehow, they’re fortunate to get a new name, one that’s peppier and more youthful. We should all be so lucky, right?

I couldn’t help but think of that amusingly when I spied a recipe for “Red Wine-Braised Duck Legs with Dried Plums.” It’s a classic French country recipe, though, back in the day it was known as duck with prunes.

Wine Country Table

The recipe is from the new “Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest” (Rizzoli), of which I received a review copy. It’s written by veteran award-winning cookbook author Janet Fletcher, who makes her home in the Napa Valley, in collaboration with the Wine Institute.

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A Rewarding Time at Jordan Estate

Black truffle lamb jus poured over Sonoma lamb at a typical lunch for qualifying Jordan winery rewards members.

Black truffle lamb jus poured over Sonoma lamb at a typical lunch for qualifying Jordan winery rewards members.

 

The other day, I found myself waking up to the sun coming up over the Jordan Estates vineyard in Healdsburg, along with the pitter-patter sound of workers inspecting the barrel room next-door to my four-poster suite.

It was enough to make me want to roll over in bed and call out playfully, “How’s that 2019 vintage coming along, Jeeves? Do the barrels need turning?”

Yes, some rewards programs offer the opportunity to upgrade an airline seat, get store gift certificates or even cash back. Jordan does something quite different. It allows you to accrue points that can be used toward posh private wine tastings, decadent dinners prepared by its own chef or even overnight stays like this in one of its three private suites on the property.

It’s enough to practically make you feel as if you’re the queen — or king — of your own winery. If for a few hours, anyway.

Jordan has vanquished the typical wine club, which usually requires members to purchase a case of wine every month. Instead, what you purchase — and when — is entirely up to you. Plus, the points never expire. You earn three points per dollar spent. And when you join the program, you automatically get 3,000 points.

There are three membership levels: Silver (when you spend $500 in your lifetime), Gold (when you spend $2,500) and Platinum (when you spend more than $5,000). Once you reach one of those levels, you gain access to a selection of experiences that will cost you a certain number of points plus a monetary amount (since California law prohibits freebies with purchase of alcohol).

Bottles in the winery's shop.

Bottles in the winery’s shop.

The Jordan Estates chateau.

The Jordan Estates chateau.

Although I am nowhere near any of those precious-metal levels, I had a chance to experience what Gold and Platinum members can, when I was invited as a guest of the winery to stay overnight at the estate room plus enjoy a seat at a four-course “Formal Lavish Luncheon.”

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Niku Steakhouse — Where Japanese Wagyu Reigns Supreme

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

A 4-ounce serving of Japanese A5 Wagyu tri-tip at Niku Steakhouse.

 

Some chefs wear their hearts on their sleeve.

Steve Brown takes that to an extreme — wearing his passion prominently and permanently inked on his forearm.

The executive chef of the splashy new Niku Steakhouse in San Francisco has “A5” (the highest grading for Japanese Wagyu beef) tattooed on his right arm, so there’s no doubt as to what his favorite ingredient is.

You can see for yourself if you snag one of the 18 seats — truly the best seats in the house — at the counter that surrounds the massive grilling station. That was my vantage point recently when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, opened by the Omakase Group, about one month ago.

Executive Chef Steve Brown's tattoo says it all.

Executive Chef Steve Brown’s tattoo says it all.

Sitting here is a primal, visceral experience, as you’re just inches from the flames of the hand-cranked main grill that can get up to 900 degrees to cook American prime steaks, and the small custom-built Japanese grill heated with binchotan white charcoal on which the Wagyu is seared.

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Napa’s Compline — Your One Stop for Everything

Discovering some new interesting affordable wines is half the fun at Napa's Compline.

Discovering some new interesting affordable wines is half the fun at Napa’s Compline.

 

For most folks, a trip to the Napa Valley means stops at a tasting room, a restaurant, and perhaps a wine education center.

Downtown Napa’s Compline makes that effortless by combining all three into one.

Master Sommelier Matt Stamp, formerly of the French Laundry in Yountville, and Ryan Stetins, former wine director at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, opened this intriguing concept in 2017 in the First Street Napa development of shops, restaurants and the Archer Hotel.

Fun sculptures just outside the doors of Compline.

Fun sculptures just outside the doors of Compline.

A tribute to the late-great Anthony Bourdain by Napa's Chalk Riot just steps away from the restaurant.

A tribute to the late-great Anthony Bourdain by Napa’s Chalk Riot just steps from the restaurant.

The name is from the Latin for “completion,” a term used by monks who would come together at the end of the day to break bread.

As Stamp explained on a recent Saturday evening when I was invited in to dine as a guest, “Wine bars where you get some cheese and charcuterie just always felt like something was missing. I wanted to offer a more full experience.”

Chalkboards tell the story at the bar.

Chalkboards tell the story at the bar.

He certainly has by offering a bit of everything: a wine shop offering interesting varieties from producers from around the globe, with most bottles priced between $10 to $40; wine education classes led by Stamp; a fun “blind wine” night on Sundays in which patrons can test their own acumen; and a restaurant led by Chef Yancy Windsperger, who cooked previously at Morimoto, Spago, and Jose Andres’ Bazaar, which even features a late-night $10 taco special (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.).

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Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

Whipped ricotta with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil finish this lamb ragu with rigatoni.

 

Winter’s chill begs for a robust dish.

One that demands an equally powerful wine alongside, too.

So stir up a big pot of “Slow-Braised Lamb Ragu with Rigatoni and Whipped Ricotta” and pop open a bottle of Italian Barolo — and you can’t go wrong.

The recipe — and pairing — is from the new “Wine Food: New Adventures in Drinking and Cooking” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a review copy.

It was written by Dana Frank, a Portland sommelier who co-owns the wine bar Bar Norman and urban winery Bow & Arrow; and cookbook writer Andrea Slonecker.

Wine Food Cookbook

Packed with more than 75 recipes, this book makes pairing easy and understandable, by not only suggesting the best wine for each dish, but giving recommended producers, too.

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