Category Archives: Wine

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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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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