What's great in wine, beer, fine dining,
places to stay, & places to visit
in California State

Taste News Service

Taste News Service

Dan Clarke

 

Dan Clarke has been writing about wine, food and travel since 1984 when he founded the Foothill Wine Press, a bi-monthly tabloid. After a year, that publication evolved into the California Wine Press, a monthly consumer magazine which he published and edited for seven years.

 

In 1993 Dan created California Wine and Food, a four-color slick which was distributed to trade buyers around the world. Its editorial ran in English and in the first language of many of the readers (Spanish, French, German and Chinese). The venture was a critical success, but not a financial one. After publishing for a year-and-a-half, he folded the magazine, resurrecting the title several years later as an internet-only publication.

 

A third-generation Californian, Dan has enjoyed travel to many other wine producing regions in the United States and in Europe. He has enjoyed seeing the ancient winemaking methods in the Georgian region of Kakheti as well as the newest green and sustainable efforts closer to home. As editorof Taste California Travel he'll contribute a column here or there (maybe he'll even learn to call them blogs), but prefers to view his role as that of a “convener of talent.”

 

(Editor's note: These observations from a very special tasting of Inglenook wines first appeared in our electronic pages in 2002. They remain relevant today as Francis Ford Coppola, a man with an appreciation for history, has continued to acquire Napa Valley vineyards that supplied grapes to this icon of California wine. In 2011 he bought back the Inglenook trademark so that he could use it for the highest quality line in his winery operation. Readers can learn about the resurrection of the fabled Inglenook brand at Historic Inglenook Estate to Release First Wine with Classic Label)

 

By Dan Clarke

Inglenook 1941 Cab MEDThe legendary 1941 

For all the mystique about older wines, not many of us really have much first-hand experience with them. Not even wine writers.

In the modern world most wines are purchased shortly after they are released. The red wines of Bodeaux and their American counterparts (comprised mostly of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) go on sale about three years after their grapes were crushed. Those of us who write about wine spend an awful lot of time tasting, analyzing and pontificating about these new vintages. Often we predict which ones will age well, though we may not have extensive experience with their previous editions. It is expected of us.

So while we spend most of our time tasting new wine, we love to sample older vintages. Doing so validates (or refutes) our predictions. The exercise usually involves wines five or ten years old, at times somewhat older.

Last Friday I was privileged to experience vinous history. The Niebaum-Coppola Estate occupies the property that once was home to Inglenook. Francis Ford Coppola didn’t have to inherit the mantle of greatness of the legendary Napa Valley property (interim corporate entities squandered that opportunity in the 1960s and 70s), but he chose to do so. He believes that the glory that was Inglenook’s is the heritage he continues in his Rubicon wines. Since 1974 he has been purchasing segments of the original historic Niebaum Estate, home of Inglenook wines, and after extensive restoration, winemaking returned to the original chateau with his 2002 crush for Rubicon.

John Daniel Jr. was the name associated with the glamour years of Inglenook—the decades of the 30s, 40s and 50s. He was known as a man who never stinted in the pursuit of quality. He made what must have been a difficult decision to sell the winery in 1964. Things were never the same. After a very few years the emphasis went to lower prices points and larger production. Today the name Inglenook still appears, but only on cheap jug wines.

About 70 of us participated in the Inglenook tasting and the Rubicon dinner that followed. Our host was there, of course, as were his wife Eleanor and son Roman. Others from Niebaum-Coppola tasted with us. There was a clear link to the past in the presence of Robin Lail and her husband Jon. Robin is the daughter of John Daniel and continues the legacy in her own way with the John Daniel Cuvée from Lail Vineyards. Some television people were there and I recognized fellow wine writers Dan Berger, George Starke and Alan Goldfarb, among others. We were part of a fortunate group.

The tasting included seven Cabernet Sauvignons spanning four decades. We began with the youngest wine, the last one made on John Daniel’s watch, a 1963. We concluded with the first Inglenook wine to celebrate the repeal of the Volstead Act, the 1933 vintage. Master Sommelier Larry Stone supervised the uncorking and decanting of the wines. Because of the size of our group, not all of us had samples from the same bottles, of course. Variation from bottle to bottle could mean different tasting experiences. My observations seemed to be more-or-less similar to several of my colleagues. Quantification of the experience wasn’t the point, though. You don’t count beans when you’re experiencing history.

I would have loved it if every friend who really appreciates wine could have shared the table with us at last Friday’s tasting. Since that wasn’t possible I’ll provide the harvest notes we were given for each vintage (as taken from the writings of Charles Sullivan, Stephen Brook, Michael Broadbent and James Laube), as well as my own thoughts:

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, C-3,

Napa Valley 1963, 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “A very wet rainy season was followed by lots of frost and a cool summer. September was cool and foggy. The early October rain hit with 50 percent of the crop unharvested. There was a race to get grapes in, and pickers were scarce. Last vintage under John Daniel family ownership. The Napa Valley Wine Library was formed. A record year for California wine production.”

 

This wine is nearly 40 years old. Thinking of it as John Daniel’s last wine brings a little sadness, which is amplified by realizing that the grapes were crushed the month before Jack Kennedy was assassinated. I wonder if I have ever tasted this wine and the 1958 and 1959 vintages that will come next. It’s certainly possible, but that would have been a long time ago. When the fraternity party invitation read B.Y.O.B., I tended to drink Almaden Mountain Burgundy, not a bad wine and, at $1.25 affordable for a college boy. But it was not Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, J-6,

Napa Valley, 1959, 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “A dry year with a scorching summer. St. Helena hit 111 degrees on July 10th. The vintage started on August 28th and was rapid and fairly orderly. Hot weather cut crop, but yields were satisfactory. A huge September 17th rain frightened growers, but excellent weather followed. Very hot in Napa, but some memorable cabernets. Napa wine production was 5,752,000 gallons with an average grower price of $67.38. Vineyardists earned $201 income per bearing acre.”

 

I’m relieved to find that this wine is still vibrant. If not youthful, it certainly isn’t over the top. It was a great nose, with minty, menthol/eucalyptus aromas. This is a wine that makes you sit up and take notice.

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Cask, F-10,

Napa Valley, 1958, 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “Vintage was early and orderly. Warm weather lasted into November. An extremely good vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon. The number of wineries declined from 38 to 30 since 1951. Prices went back up, with national wine consumption rising steadily.”

 

Less minty than the ’59, but fine Cabernet aroma. This wine is wonderfully balanced and has a long finish. An elegant wine. (Might I have had it before? Maybe in the early ‘60s on a special date at Restaurant Antoinina or while looking for sophistication on trips to San Francisco as a college student).

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1943, 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “Winemakers of the era considered 1943 only ‘good.’ Vineyardists left monumental numbers of buds on their vines, making 1943 the largest vintage here since 1888. In 1943 the wine list of New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel contained twenty-eight table wines from Napa producers. A decision was made by founding fathers (Martini, Tchelistcheff, Daniel, Abruzzini, Stelling, Stralla, Forni, the Mondavis and Brother John) to meet regularly and discuss matters important to Napa wine, be they technical, financial, cultural or gastronomic. Martini was the first president and Daniel the first vice president. They were most concerned about government price controls on grape prices. Later, in 1983, the group became a formal trade organization, the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association.”

 

The 1943 is a little dimmer than the ’58, but still remarkably good. It smells and taste like an old Bordeaux. (This vintage is a year older than I am--and maybe in better shape?).

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1941, 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “The 1941 vintage was almost featureless, except that Napa producers made several great wines . . . the Inglenook Cabernets . . . were fifty-year wines. Some great wine, notably Inglenook Cask. Heavy spring rain, ten cold days, bloom delayed. Very warm summer. Dry autumn, late October harvest. Napa wine production was 5,288,000 gallons with an average price per ton of $24.50.”

 

The wine still has good color and composition, but not a lot of nose. It’s still an elegant wine, though, with a very long finish. (For years I’ve heard about the California vintage of 1941, but hadn’t the opportunity to taste it until now. What a treat! It would have been wonderful to track this wine all through its history, maybe tasting a bottle every year or two. I wonder if anyone has been able to do that? No matter. I have experienced this 61-year-old wonder this evening).

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1934, 375 ml and 750 ml

 

Harvest Notes “The vintage . . . was of good quality . . . Good quality. Independent vineyardists organized to form the first cooperative winery. Grape prices collapsed from 1933 euphoric heights.”

 

These last two wines are in very short supply tonight. Vintages poured prior to this provided a small glass for each taster. Each glass of the 1934 and the next wine must be shared by two tasters. Color is very dark, dense. The first whiff and the nose seems unusual. The aroma reminds me of knockwurst, a word I’ve never used in describing wine. The first sip reveals a taste much better than the odor might have hinted. Later sniffs reveal some floral odors—maybe a little bit like violets. It gets nicer as it goes along. Not a long finish, but what ’34 does? (At harvest time my father was running cross country during his senior year at San Mateo High School).

 

 

Inglenook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, 1933, 375 ml

 

Harvest Notes “The Napa Valley crop was very short and 5,000,000 gallons of wine were produced. The weather for harvesting grapes was ideal—reported in mid October. First harvest after prohibition.”

 

All of the 1933 tastes and some of the 1934 have been poured from ½ bottles. Accepted wisdom is that the larger the bottle, the slower and more gracefully the wine will age, but these bottles were what was available. Would the wines have tasted different/better if they had come from larger bottles? The point is moot, of course, but I can’t imagine wines this old tasting any better or more youthful. This wine is still remarkably young in appearance. There seems to be a little subtle spice in the background—not a characteristic normally attributed to this variety, but I find it pleasant. It finishes nicely and very long. (My mother was in junior high school in Medford, Oregon at harvest time. No doubt her father was pleased about the end of Prohibition, though it didn’t cramp his style too much according to most family recollections).

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in the Napa Valley and the rest of the North Coast can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 13:42

Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly

by William Davis, M.D.

 

2011 by Rodale Books, NY, NY

ISBN 978-1-60961-154-5

292 pages $ 25.99

 

 

WheatBellyThe condemnations of many foods are common these days. So, for that matter, are the touted virtues of other foods.

Wheat is probably the pervasive element in a modern American diet. That it is at least unnecessary, and maybe pernicious is the theory of Dr. Davis. As celiac disease becomes more of an issue, the ingestion of wheat becomes known as inappropriate for some in our society. Beyond those who have have an actual allergy to wheat there are many others who might want to minimize wheat intake when managing diabetes and pre-diabetes conditions. But should everybody lay off the wheat? According to the author, the answer is yes.

Modern wheat—what we've been eating for a hundred years of so, bears little resemblance to the grain that formed the diet of so many of our ancestors, say Davis. And eating wheat products leads to our putting on too much weight, giving us too big a belly and creating too much dangerous around-the-middle fat.

Give up wheat altogether? Well, that may be the best perscription according to the doctor, but at least cutting back would be his recommendation. He makes a reasonable case for doing that and includes quite a few alternatives and recipes that actually sound palatable.

An interesting read, if not a life-changer.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

 

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 13:41

Thirsty Work

Thirsty Work

by Matt Skinner

 

Running Press Book Publishers

Philadelphia, PA 2005

ISBN: 0762425334

175 pages soft cover $24.95

 

 ThirstyWorkMatt Skinner packs a lot of solid wine information into this breezy effort. Though it may target the novice, Thirsty Work is enjoyable reading for the knowledgeable wine buff, too. Though young, the writer seems to know his stuff and has obvious passion for the subject.

The author is Australian. Occasionally there are comments Americans might find unfamiliar. But you don't have to have eaten Vegemite as a child to understand that it may be to an Aussie kid what peanut butter is to his American counterpart. Nor must you know much about someone named Kylie who's referenced in a section describing the texture and body of wine to appreciate the point. Wine is pretty much universal and Matt Skinner's lively writing, however accented, is easy to understand.

Chris Terry's many photographs illustrate and amplify the text. There's not a question of their artistic merit, but most affecting are those informal portraits of the “real people” whose efforts are essential to taking fruit in the vineyard all the way to the customer's glass.

For fledgling American consumers who may have had too much exposure to too few varieties, Thirsty Work provides a picture window to the world beyond Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Just enough—but not too much—information is delivered to the reader about other grapes, their characteristics and where they come from.

Reading Thirsty Work isn't really work at all. It's fun and the book is one of those you're kind of sad to finish. It's a great gift for someone beginning his understanding and enjoyment of wine.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

 

 

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 13:33

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

by Kathleen Flinn

 

2008 Penguin Books

ISBN 978-0-14-311413-0

290 page $15.00

sharper 

What person who enjoys cooking hasn't thought of attending a cooking school? An accomplished writer, Flinn was an American living in London when a job came to an end sooner than she had planned. Encouraged by her American boyfriend to take stock and consider following her dreams, she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in 2004. The Sharper Your Knife is her memoir of that experience.

Readers will get a peek into the life of a student at the world's most famous cooking school. Attentive readers will learn—at least from afar—some technique without the anxieties of actually facing chef instructors who may not have much patience for dilletantes and enjoy some recipes to apply them. Glimpses of an American expatriate's life in Paris and even some romance (the boyfriend, Mike) is thrown in. Fun. Easy to read, but not lightweight.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

 

 

 

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 13:30

The Cork Jester's Guide to Wine

The Cork Jester's Guide to Wine

by Jennifer Rosen

 

Clerisy Press

ISBN 1-57860-277-7

222 pages $14.95

 cork

Much of what is written about wine is tedious. This is not the case with Jennifer Rosen's work.

In her Cork Jester persona, the Denver Rocky Mountain News columnist has done the wine industry a service. Her Guide to Wine is an excellent primer for someone beginning to indulge a wine hobby. It's also worthwhile reading for the wine fan growing tired of books that are more arcane than amusing.

Learning more about wine probably enhances the subsequent pleasure of indulging in it. When that enhanced understanding comes in a form that's more fun than it is pedantic, that's a bonus.

Organized in sections addressing related topics, the book presents short pieces that read like—and many probably were—newspaper columns. Within the Labels section Rosen devotes four pages to “Animal Farm Wine is going to the dogs . . . and monkeys . . . and kangaroos.” Her take on wine marketers who assume that pictures of furry things will help move product, though not especially edifying, is still breezy reading,. Also amusing--but more useful--is “Cracking the Code Be a label sleuth,” in which she identifies the information on a label that really might be helpful to the potential purchaser.

In a chapter titled “The Restaurant Experience,” she provides background that could prove valuable. How does a restaurant price its wines and why are they so much more expensive than when buying retail? What questions can you ask a sommelier/server that will help him to help you? These hints don't come in an atmosphere of complete supplication, as Rosen skewers the all too frequent state of unpolished service. She doesn't necessarily want to know a waiter's name, doesn't care what his favorite menu items are and isn't keen to hear his “Good Choice” benediction.

Rosen is knowledgeable about wine and, at the very least, a clever writer. There were times when I thought she was reaching a tad too hard to turn a phrase in these 200-some pages. More frequent, however, were the times I thought something like, “now that's funny . . . and accurate.”

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

 

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 13:25

Feast, A History of Grand Eating

Feast, A History of Grand Eating

by Sir Roy Strong

 

Harcourt Books

ISBN # 0-15-100758-6

349 pages, hardbound. $35.

 

 

feastWhen most of the world was just eating to survive, some really were eating in grand style.

In Feast, A History of Grand Eating, Roy Strong traces the eating habits of mankind's powerful privileged. The journey runs from the time of Ancient Greece to the early Twentieth Century. The author's treatment is scholarly and thorough.

Strong avoids hewing too strictly to a chronological exposition, but weaves several themes into the timeline. Today the instant celebrity of every television chef means an automatic book contract, but the first cookbook dates to the late Fourth or early Fifth Century.. The Roman Empire inherited an appreciation of cuisine from the Greeks and Etruscans and Apicus included 170 recipes of this legacy in what is presumed to be the first cookbook, De re coquinaria. Much later, collections of the culinary efforts of Careme and Escoffier influenced the evolution of cuisine in the western world.

Social stratification was reflected in—and influenced by—the ritualization of early-day banqueting. Those throwing the parties frequently spoke of the egalitarian nature of their feasts, but seating arrangements and amount and quality of food provided often belied their pronouncements.

Grand eating influenced furniture design as seating arrangements evolved to allow for greater comfort of the diners and greater aggrandizement of the hosts and their most favored guests. Architecture was changed as builders created space for permanent rooms devoted just to the activity of eating. An early consideration was the placement of all dining rooms facing west to catch the ambient light for late afternoon dining. As gas—and later, electrical—illumination of homes became available, dinner hour moved later into the evening.

For readers without a love for food it might be too detailed and a bit slow moving. However, those with professional or avocational interest in cuisine will likely find it fascinating.

 

Editor'a note: Roy Strong, a former director of both the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, lives in Herefordshire. He received a knighthood in 1982.

 

--reviewed by Dan Clarke

Friday, 20 April 2012 12:44

Test Wine Review

Conos Sur

Limari, Chile

20 Barrels Limited Edition

2008 Syrah $32 13.6% alc.

 

"Very aromatic. Herbal. Touch of spice amid the blackberry and black currant fruit. Long finish with some mocha of chocolate notes."

 

Friday, 20 April 2012 12:44

Test Food Review

RESTAURANT NAME: Peerless in Ashland, Oregon.

 

Locally owned upscale dining.

Price Range for 2 people: $65 - $100

 

A wonderful find in Ashland Oregon where fine dining comes to meet romantic encounters.  During the warm months there is elegant dining outside.

 

More text

More text

More text

Friday, 20 April 2012 12:01

Julia Child A Life

Julia Child A Life

by Laura Shapiro

 

2007 Penguin Lives

ISBN 978-=14-311644-8

185 pages $14

Julia Child a Life 2nd vesion Picmonkey 

Many remember Julia Child from her PBS television shows. Others may know her as an older woman given great deference when appearing as a guest on more recent television programs. Still, the woman has been dead since August of 2004, so many food buffs and home cooks may not have heard about her at all, but for the recent Julia and Julie movie.

For readers in all these categories, Laura Shapiro's fond, but not fawning, biography, Julia Child A Life, is a treat. It traces the food maven's early life of privilege (reared in a prosperous family in Pasadena, California, Julia McWilliams attended the Katherine Branson School in Marin County, then went east to Smith College), her wartime travels and marriage to Paul Child and subsequent evolution to the French Chef persona recognized by American foodies.

Times were very different in the mid-1930's, even for educated young women. She found employment—at first in New York City and later in Southern California—but her pay was modest and the work apparently unsatisfying. With a world war pending, she applied for military services only to be turned down as her six feet two inch stature was deemed too tall by all branches. She was accepted by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to today's CIA. Apparently her duties were essentially clerical, but the assignments in exotic locales were a good deal more interesting than life as a department store advertising copywriter. In 1944 she was posted to Ceylon where she met a specialist in the office's visual presentation unit. Paul Child was sophisticated, experienced and soon smitten with Julia. Shapiro gives an intimate and sensitive recounting of the unfolding of their budding romance and subsequent married life.

After living for a time in post-war Washington, Paul and Julia Child moved to France in 1948 when he was transferred to Paris. Her interest in cooking blossomed and she learned—at first just by living in France and later with a somewhat contentious culinary education begun at the Cordon Bleu school. On her return to the United States, she realized how different was the life of the typical American homemaker in the 1950s. Her early attempts to write for these housewives were awkward and not immediately accepted by editors and publishers. She pushed on in an unusual combination of dedication to perfection and somewhat casual good nature. Eventually her perseverance led to a show on WGBH, Boston's public television station. Perhaps because her early shows were unpolished, her appearances were an immediate hit with viewers. She was real and her attitude seemed to say to them, “Come on. If I can do this, so can you.”

Did she ever drop a chicken on the television studio floor, retrieve it and continue prepping it for her audience? Apparently not, though some will swear they saw the show on which it happened. It's like that with larger-than-life personalities. I was fortunate to meet Julia after she had given a cooking demonstration at a winery. Even late in the afternoon of a long day it was obvious this older woman had a great zest for life. I wished I had known her years earlier. Laura Shapiro's biography fills in some of the blanks for such a fan.

 

--Reviewed by Dan Clarke Name Your Link

Page 136 of 136