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Tuesday, 19 March 2013 17:32

March 15, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Dry Creek V 2010 chardonnay rrv btl xlg Picmonkey

 

2010 Foggy Oaks Chardonnay

 

Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard

Appellation: Russian River Valley (Sonoma County)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested Retail $20

 

“Several of our staff liked this one. Sourced from the cool (and often foggy) Russian River Valley in the western part of Sonoma County, this Chardonnay delivers a lot of character for $20. There's plenty of fullness/richness from mostly malolactic fermentation (85%) and oak aging, but it doesn't stint on the freshness of the fruit. Appealing citrus and pear aromas, followed by flavors citrus, pineapple and a bit more pear. This Foggy Oaks wine is in the full California Chardonnay style, but still exhibited aspects of cool-climate acidity and restraint.”

Food Affinity: We found that the Foggy Oaks Chardonnay held up well when we poured it to accompany a spicy Peruvian roast chicken dish.

Saturday, 02 February 2013 15:27

February 1, 2013 Wine Pick of the Week

Echelon Chardonnay Picmonkey

 

2010 Collection Series Chardonnay

 

 Producer: Echelon Vineyards

Appellation: Napa Valley

Alcohol: 13.5%

Suggested retail: $14.99

 

“This Chardonnay is from Echelon's upper tier Collection Series. Winemaker Kurt Lorenzi has produced a bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay at a very reasonable price, and he's done so in a style we find appealing. The combination of stainless steel fermentation and sur lie aging in 33% new French oak gives a complexity while preserving a fresh fruit quality. We like the pear and green apple character and what might be a bit of white peach, too. This Chardonnay has a hint of sweetness in the finish, but there's enough acidity and complexity to keep this aspect in check.”

Food Affinity: Will be a good food-pairer with many dishes. We're thinking fish. Perhaps simply prepared halibut napped with just a little butter or light cream sauce. Grilled halibut or salmon served with a fresh salsa of some stone fruits would be another direction to explore.

LOS GATOS, Calif., Dec. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- "Yields normal to a bit above; quality very high" was the verdict at Testarossa Winery, following this year's wine grape harvest. Testarossa specializes in small lot, vineyard-specific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of California's best-known winegrowers. After twelve vintages at the winery, winemaker Bill Brosseau is well qualified to discuss the "state of the crush" in the fifteen vineyards and five separate appellations (Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta. Rita Hills, Russian River, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Chalone) that the winery partners with.Bill Brosseau Winemaker at Testarossa PicmonkeyBill Brosseau

Bill comments, "Following the challenges of the 2011 growing season, many of us in the industry were overly prepared for weather events that might catch us off-guard, as they did last year. The forecast for a wet winter and wet spring never materialized. Spring frosts, late summer heat waves, or fall rains were pretty much non-existent. The 'weather pinball machine' was off this year and we had spectacular conditions throughout the coastal appellations. The weather stayed relatively consistent through September and October. We were able to pick, process, ferment, and barrel-down with a smooth cadence, which tends to lend itself to very high quality wines."

A case in point would be the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, whose vineyards supply about 80% of the grapes for Testarossa's vintages. The Los Gatos winery was one of the early "adopters" of the SLH; their first vintage from the AVA was in 1997. Testarossa has long-term partnerships with twelve vineyards in the appellation and produces single-vineyard releases from the Fogstone, Rosella's, Garys', Lone Oak, Doctor's, Dos Rubios, and Pisoni estates.

Bill Brosseau continues, "We started the harvest in the Highlands in southern end at Pisoni, where the farming and attention to detail is second to none. By the time we got to the heart of the SLH appellation and the cooler, northern end, we had honed in picking parameters. Overall, we found ourselves picking on the later side of other labels working with the same vineyards. With the extended hang-time, we did see the potential acidity balance to near perfect levels. As an added bonus, we saw an increase in silky tannins, resulting in a fuller mouthfeel for our Pinot Noir.  For our Chardonnays, we pressed to lower yields per ton to minimize phenolic extraction of tannins, thus allowing the natural acidity to be more apparent in the palate structure.

Dos Rubios Vnyd PicmonkeyDos Rubios Vineyard in picturesque Santa Lucia Highlands"We were also very pleased with the third vintage fruit coming off our new Dos Rubios Vineyard project in the Highlands. Here we have complete "dirt to bottle" quality control as we personally oversee every aspect of this estate's winegrowing operations. Overall, 2012 may prove to be the greatest vintage ever from the Santa Lucia Highlands. And the young wines from our other ranches and appellations are looking equally promising."

About Testarossa…

Testarossa (Italian for "red head") was the nickname given Rob Jensen as a young university student in Italy. Rob and Diana Jensen left their high-tech careers and started their brand in their garage in 1993 with just twenty-five cases of wine. Today, the winery works closely with top winegrowers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, Arroyo Grande Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Russian River Valley, and Chalone appellations. The label has grown to national prominence among collectors and reviewers by cultivating long-term partnerships with passionate winegrowers and vineyards such as Garys', Pisoni, Rosella's, Bien Nacido, and Rincon.

The Jensens' winery occupies of site of the old Novitiate Winery in downtown Los Gatos. The tasting room is open daily, as is “107,” their patio wine bar.

 

Editor's note: Visiting the Los Gatos area or planning a trip south to the Santa Lucia Highlands? You'll find links to the website of hundreds of Lodging and Dining opportunities in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

by Dan Clarke

 

Cracked crab is one of nature's sweetest bounties. Oh sure, there are crab salads, crab cakes, deviled crab and even crab souffles, but for me there's nothing like the simplicity of cracked Dungeness crab, a loaf of sourdough bread and a bottle of beer or glass of wine.

dungeness-crab-at-fishermans-wharf SMALL -in-san-franciscoDungeness crab at Fisherman's WharfI've always thought of it as a particularly San Francisco treat and it has been commercially harvested in the area since 1848. The Dungeness crab (Cancer Magister) lives in colder waters off the Pacific Coast of North America—and nowhere else in the world. While it's found as far south as the Santa Barbara area of California, commercial crabbing really begins around San Francisco with the greater harvest being found farther northward, extending all the way to Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

In California the season begins in earnest just after Thanksgiving and fresh crab has always been a wintertime treat in my family. Because surprisingly few restaurants offer fresh crab in season, I've generally enjoyed mine at home.

Fresh may be a relative term as regards crab. For my taste, a frozen crab is enough different as not to be worth the effort. It promises a whole lot more than it delivers. However, while I'm happy to take home a cooked fresh crab from the market, I realize maximum flavor is obtained when buying the crab live. It's more difficult to find live crab (Asian markets are a good bet) and often it is more expensive. Further, you have to deal with dispatching the creature—boiling him alive, in fact. For the squeamish this could take the edge off the meal.

Dungeness crabs range from about 1½ pounds to slightly over three pounds, with about 20 to 25 percent of that weight edible crab meat. Heavier, denser crabs usually yield a little better meat-to-shell ratio. A large crab will usually feed two persons.

While supermarkets will often have good quality crab at attractive prices (especially early in the season), finding a specialty market where you can talk with your fish seller is a good idea. Cleaning and cracking your crab isn't all that difficult, but it is a little messy. Ask the fishmonger to show you how he does it. If it's your first time, it's well worth any extra charge for this service.

Fresh cracked crab may be a sublime experience, but in an elbows-on-the-table sort of way. Delicious, yes. Elegant, no. Wear a bib or washable clothes. Primary eating implements are your fingers and maybe a narrow fork or pick to get at tender morsels stuck inside shell pieces (I've found a claw from one of the smaller legs works well for this task).

You can use cocktail sauce, but why mask the crab's delightful—and subtle—flavor? Bowls of mayonnaise and drawn butter and some lemon juice are sufficient embellishment. Have a large loaf of sourdough French bread at the table. Slice it if you must, but breaking off pieces by hand seems more appropriate.

Now in the matter of beverages:Beer works fine. If you want to stick with a San Francisco theme, have Anchor Steam—a tradition as rich as any in a city rife with them. Otherwise, look for something light, lagerish.

I've always been a little schizophrenic when it comes to selecting wine to accompany crab in these circumstances. On the one hand, the sweetness of the crab suggests a Riesling. On the other, the crab's richness might be better complemented by a Chardonnay. Why not open a bottle of each?

This is not a meal to experience on a timetable. Share it around a relaxed table with one or more good friends. They'll know that their host is warm, witty. And they'll not mention that you have gotten a piece of crab in your hair or have butter dripping down your chin.

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