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Tuesday, 24 December 2013 13:47

Schroeder's Passes the Stein to New Ownership


Jan Andy and Stefan at Schroeders PicmonkeyStefan is flanked by new owners Jan and AndySAN FRANCISCO (December 24, 2013) - The new year will mark a new chapter for San Francisco's oldest German Restaurant. The 120-year old Schroeder's Café will close its doors on January 1 for a three-month renovation reflecting a change in ownership and a culinary refresh.

Originally opened in 1893, the Bavarian inspired beer hall has seen many reincarnations and relocations throughout the city, including a move following its destruction in the 1906 earthquake.

Current owners Jana and Stefan Filipcik will “pass the stein” to Jan Wiginton and Andy Chun, the owners of Press Club San Francisco, who first came to know Schroeder's when they arrived in San Francisco in the late 90s, and have been patrons of the space for the past 15 years.

"We chose Jan and Andy among all the potential buyers because we trust that they will preserve what we've created and maintain the traditions that mean so much to our customers," said Jana. "We didn't want the longstanding German culture and heritage of this restaurant that's been built over thelast 120 years to be lost for a different concept. But, above all, we've built a friendship with them and we want to see them and our beloved restaurant succeed."

"So many birthdays, family reunions and celebrations have occurred here on a multi-generational level,” said Chun. “We want to see that continue, and shepherd this historical property through the next few decades, when our own children can enjoy it as well.

"We were patrons of Schroeder's when we worked in the financial district and we know and love it. We wanted to save this San Francisco institution and help it survive for another 120 years while showcasing sophisticated German cuisine in an approachable way. It's how we like to eat and drink: a casual feeling and upscale setting."

The restaurant is scheduled for an April reopening. Wiginton and Chun say they are making all possible steps to ensure the history remains intact. Of course, an honorary stein will always be on hand for special visits from Stefan and Jana.

Editor's note: A link to the website of Schroeder's Café and hundreds of other San Francisco Dining options can be found in Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. Also in that Directory are links to the websites of hundreds of area Lodging options, as well as those of nearby wineries.

Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:25

Repeal and My Great Godfather


Sunny Jim Rolph PicmonkeyJames Rolphby Dan Clarke


Sacramento, CA December 6, 2013 - I had a beer yesterday afternoon. That in itself isn't unusual, but communing with a dead politician might be.

“Sunny Jim” Rolph died in 1934 during his third year as Governor of California. Prior to his election to statewide office he spent nearly 19 years as Mayor of San Francisco. It was during that time that he became my Dad's godfather. Rolph lived at 21st and Guerrero Streets in San Francisco, my paternal grandparents' house was at 23rd and Guerrero. How well they were acquainted, I don't know.

My grandfather had a good job, but wasn't in Rolph's league, as the hard working Mayor had already become a millionaire—mostly from the shipping business—before starting his political career. Maybe he was godfather to all babies born to voters in the Mission District, an Irish enclave in those days. For all his business success though, he billed himself as “Mayor of all the people” and was regarded by most San Franciscans as one of their own.

As Governor of California, Rolph publicly condoned a pre-trial lynching of two men accused of the kidnapping and murder of the son of a San Jose businessman. It sullied his reputation forever and I won't celebrate that, but I have heard and read enough about his earlier life to know that he had his good points, too. A successful businessman at the time of the city's earthquake and fire, he was reported to have been a tireless worker to help displaced fellow citizens and to contribute to the rebuilding of San Francisco. After his election as mayor in 1911 he led efforts to make the 1915 Pan Pacific Expostion—in effect, a world's fair—a reality. It is said that on the way to City Hall his limo tended to stop for citizens at street corners to offer a lift if they were going his way. Kind gestures to fellow San Franciscans or canny PR? Who knows, but I'm inclined to believe he was basically a good-hearted guy.

Gary Sleppy and Sunny Jim PicmonkeyGary Sleppy, proprietor of The Shack, salutes Gov. Rolph James Rolph was also a man who enjoyed a good time. Or so it would seem. His “Sunny Jim” persona came from a popular song adopted as his campaign anthem, “There are smiles that make you happy.”  By 1917 he had purchased a shipyard in Humboldt County and celebrated the "largest 4-masted wooden ship ever built on the West Coast" by throwing a party that lasted two days and two nights on a chartered 12-car train. The costs ran to $25,000--this at a time when the Mayor's salary was $6,000 per annum. Though first elected on a platform that promised to clean up the notorious Barbary Coast neighborhood, not too much changed in that regard during his long tenure as Mayor of San Francisco. In the words of writer Daniel Steven Crafts, Rolph's administration “was characterized by the not so unlikely combination of populism and debauchery.” In his latter years as Mayor, the married “Sunny Jim” was dogged by rumors of an affair with a movie star named Anita Page. Crafts writes that Rolph brought along San Francisco's most notorious madam as his escort to one of the city's Policemen's Balls. If that isn't laudable behavior, it certainly is colorful.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution (The Volstead Act), which forbade the production, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages went into effect in 1919. Its restriction on the liberty of American citizens was bad policy from the beginning, but even if you allowed for “good intentions,” its “unintended consequences” caused terrible damage for the nation. To his credit, I believe, Dad's godfather wasn't much of a fan of Prohibition and apparently tended to ignore it as much as possible in his personal life, as well as in his official capacities as Mayor and, later, Governor. These days I often have a beer at The Shack, located on the corner of 52nd and Folsom in Sacramento. Upon the repeal of Prohibition—eighty years ago yesterday—Governor James Rolph enjoyed a glass of Ruhstaller's Gilt Edge, his first legal post-Prohibition beer, at that same spot, then known as “Docs.”

On that anniversary I raised a glass in toast to you ,“Sunny Jim,” and to your godson.


San Pablo Bay Tidal Wetlands Picmonkey

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sept. 25, 2013 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) and Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) now have the next key piece to a North San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration project, after being awarded $538,000 by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The funding is part of a total $1.5 million request for the multi-phase Sears Point Restoration Project, which will enhance and restore tidal marsh habitat and seasonal wetlands and grasslands in the San Francisco Estuary.

“It’s incredibly exciting to break ground on a site that hasn’t been touched by tidal waters for more than 100 years,” said Renee Spenst, regional biologist for DU. “Within three years, we will see a dramatically different landscape from the vantage point of the Baylands Center next to San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge headquarters as bay front levees are lowered and breached in two locations.

“Sears Point is a nearly 1,000-acre project. The impressive coalition of partners, combined with the measurable habitat improvements, will be a model for future large-scale projects, so funding these ongoing efforts is critical. We’re thrilled NOAA is supporting us and we will continue to seek additional funding from other sources as well.”

This is the first year of an anticipated three years of funding from NOAA. In addition to DU and SLT, partners on this restoration project include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Board, California Coastal Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Integrated Regional Water Management Plan through the California Department of Water Resources and many others.

Following construction, the Sears Point tidal habitat restoration will benefit canvasbacks, scaup, mallards and northern pintails, and 22 fish species, including Chinook salmon. As the marsh continues to develop, it will support clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mice as well. The public will also benefit, as the project will add 2.2 miles to the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Scaup Canvasbacks Vallejo 021507 PicmonkeyScaup and canvasbacks coexist with travelers on busy Hwy 37 bridge just west of Vallejo.Sonoma Land Trust purchased the Sears Point property nearly a decade ago and has been planning for its restoration ever since.

“It’s taken the hard work of so many individuals to get to this point,” said Julian Meisler, baylands program manager for SLT. “We are exceedingly grateful to Ducks Unlimited, NOAA and all of our partners for helping to bring the financial and technical expertise that will make the restoration a success.”

Restoring fish habitat in the San Francisco Estuary is vital to recovering threatened and endangered species such as Sacramento River Chinook, Central Valley Chinook, steelhead and green sturgeon. It will also help recover their habitats, benefit other commercially important fisheries and maintain or improve the economies of surrounding communities.

“Roughly 90 percent of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands have been lost to development and other causes,” said Christopher Yates, assistant regional administrator for protected resources at NOAA. “This project will be a big step in returning land back to tidal marsh—important habitat for threatened and endangered fish like Chinook salmon and steelhead.”

The Sears Point project is part of a larger $50 million effort to restore Napa-Sonoma marshes extending from the Napa River to the Petaluma River along the northern edge of the San Francisco Estuary. The San Francisco Bay and Estuary were designated a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance in January 2013.

About Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.

Editor's note: The Wetlands being restored by Ducks Unlimited lie between the city of San Francisco and the wine country of Napa and Sonoma Counties. If you're planning on visiting the area, check out Taste California Travel's Resource Directory where you'll find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options (also, links to the winery and craft-beer purveyors, too!)


Concannons Heimoff Gus PicmonkeyJohn and Jim Concannon flank Steve Heimoff and Gus in this Jose Diaz photoby Dan Clarke


Makers of Petite Sirah, ever upping their wine quality, have decided to adopt a more aggressive attitude in promoting the variety.

The Eleventh Annual Petite Sirah Symposium was hosted in late July by Concannon Vineyard. The venue was especially appropriate as James Concannon planted Petite Sirah cuttings on his Livermore property back in 1904. Sixty years later his grandsons Joe and Jim were the first to bottle a varietally-labeled Petite Sirah. To suggest that the Concannon family has some history with this grape is to seriously understate the case.

Petite Sirah, a cross between the Syrah and Peloursin grape varieties, was developed in France in the 1870s by Francois Durif, who named the result after himself. It is still called by the name Durif in France and in Australia, but the same grape has been known in this country as Petite Sirah. There's a long history in California. As early as 1884 there were 540 acres of the variety planted in the Mission San Jose area of Alameda County, which is not too far from the Concannon vineyards. It was a hardy grape that growers liked. When discussing the varieties in their vineyards, oldtimers often spoke of their “Pets,” which seemed a term of affection, as much as an abbreviation for Petite Sirah.

The good fortune of California Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon may actually have set back the cause of Petite Sirah. At the now-famous 1976 “Judgement of Paris,” an all-French group of experts rated two California wines higher than all their French counterparts in a blind tasting (a Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and a Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon). Almost by chance, a Paris-based reporter for Time magazine attended. His article and subsequent book changed the way the world perceived California wine.

Concannon Arbor Lunch PicmonkeyPre-tasting unch under arbor. Jose Diaz photoIf California could compete with the world's presumed best, why not concentrate on these prestigious and more expensive grape varieties, went the theory of California's vineyard industry. New plantings started going in, often at the expense of varieties that were reliable but brought lower prices. In 1975 there were 14,000 planted acres of Petite Sirah in the state. By 1995 that number had shrunk to 2,400 acres, with much of the decline due to Petite Sirah vineyards being pulled out in favor of Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet, Merlot, etc.).

In recent years the variety has rebounded strongly. At present the state has 9,000 planted acres of Petite Sirah, with 1,060 growers and wineries in the mix. The variety attracts small production, artisan winemakers. Ninety percent of those who grow Petite Sirah make fewer than 500 cases of it per year. Some of this growth must be credited to Jo and Jose Diaz, who have tirelessly promoted the variety this last decade through the PS I Love You organization.

What else has fueled this resurgence? Wine Writer Steve Heimoff said, “to put it in simplest terms, the wines got better!” Dating his own conversion from a writer with low opinion of the variety to about 2009, he offered several reasons for this increase in quality. Sourcing grapes from better growing areas and keeping lower crop yields has helped, as has picking at lower sugars to achieve better balance. Citing figures of average brix (a measure of sugar in the grapes at time of harvest) from 25.6 in year 2006 to 23.2 in 2011, Heimoff said, “This is a 10.3% reduction in brix that resulted in more balanced, elegant wines that nonetheless were physiologically ripe at harvest. And this trend toward ripe wines at lower brix looks like it is continuing.” Also, bottle prices began to rise, “which gave growers and winemakers greater incentive to pay attention to farming and cellar practices,” Heimoff observed. “Did better prices lead to higher quality, or did higher quality lead to better prices?” he asked. “As usual, the answer is a bit of both.”

Monty Paulsen Pat Paulsen PS PicmonkeyU.C. Davis-trained winemaker Monty Paulsen is bringing back the Pat Paulsen brand started by his late father.   Jose Diaz photo.

Growers and winemakers from all over California were in attendance. One even came down from southern Oregon. One of the featured speakers was Aaron Jackson, whose Aaron Wines is devoted solely to Petite Sirah grown in the Paso Robles area. Though his production is small (just 500-700 cases each year), he always sells out of the wine which retails at $34. His front label has no words, just his logo. This encourages a shopper to pick up the bottle and turn it around to view the back label, thereby getting involved in the product. On the back label, will be found the name of the variety and the usual details. Also there will be Aaron Jackson's motto and personal winemaking philosophy, “Go big or go home.”

Mike Drask of Aratas Wines in the Napa Valley is in the rare, if not unique, position of being a winery in Cab country that makes only Petite Sirah. He chose to price the 2008 vintage of his Napa Valley Petite Sirah in the $40 to $50 range. “We could have sold it easier at $25,” he said, “but we wanted people to respect the variety.”

There are still some modestly priced varietal bottlings in the marketplace. Parducci sells their Mondocino County Petite Sirah at $14, though their “True Grit Reserve” is $29. Concannon's basic bottling of the grape is $10 and they sell nearly 40,000 cases of it annually. However, they also have limited production versions—reserve wines ranging from $36 to $60. Most of the other wines poured by the approximately 40 wineries at the tasting following the meeting retail from $25 and up.

Steve Heimoff predicted, “Writers will look back at this opening ten or fifteen years of the 21st Century and declare that this was when California Petite Sirah came of age. Petite's possibilities are endless.”

by Jim Laughren

Just as beer drinkers are wise to bolster their knowledge and appreciation of fine wine, so too are wine lovers well served by opening their palates (and possibly snooty attitudes–hey, if this isn’t you, cool, but if the shoe fits... ) to embrace the attributes of great beer. And with the hot and muggy season upon us, what better time to begin the exploration?

Before you get your grape-stained cargo shorts all in a twist, no one’s saying that summertime wines aren’t marvelous.cups on coasters Anchor Plaza PicmonkeySan Francisco Giants fans can grab a couple of cold ones inside the park at Anchor Plaza. A bright, lively albariño between dips in the pool is just right, and lobster with white Burgundy is clearly one of life’s great pleasures. But after scooping divots on the back nine or powering the two-stroke around that precious carpet of green, who in their right mind is going to upend a 750ml of pinot bianco to cool off?

That’s right... no one. Beer has many qualities in common with wine but on one count at least, it stands head and shoulders above the sacred juice. Refreshment. Pure and simple restoration of body and spirit after a sweaty, grueling encounter with just about anything.

So if you’re willing to concede at least a nugget of truth in what I’m saying, let’s wrap our parched lips around some top-notch, steamy day beer options.

The simplest approach to good warm weather guzzling is to look for anything with bitter, white, wit, weisse, weizen, wheat, Kölsch, lambic, summer or seasonal on the label. “Your list is like, totally incomplete,” the beer geeks will shout; that may be my friends, but we’re trying to bring a few folks over from the grape side, so cut me some slack here.

Bitter, as in English bitters or special bitters, is a traditional ale style with a good but not overwhelming dose of hops, nicely balanced with some malty goodness and showing a touch of fruit. They’re typically on the lower side in alcohol (a plus in the summer heat), light in body and gold to copper in color. Think of them like an IPA’s little brother who can’t quite hop like the monster but who still delivers tremendous drinkability and refreshment.

White, wit and weisse (or weiss), all meaning, duh... white, are made with wheat, as in weizen or wheat (and maybe a dollop of oatmeal) and often sport a complex, citrusy spiciness, rendering them stone-cold delicious and exceptionally refreshing. White beers may come from Belgium or Germany and are increasingly beloved by American craft brewers.

Straight wheat beers are likewise a mainstay of American brewers and are perfect for summer enjoyment, though for a step up in flavor and personality turn your sights to the original European versions. What’s more, in a good beer joint you can expect to get a show to go with your order for a classic weissbier or hefeweizen.

Properly served, a very tall glass is placed over the bottle and the duo is inverted in a single, smooth motion. As the beer fills the glass the bottle is slowly raised until it leaves a marshmallowy two or three inch head, at which point the bottle is removed and either swirled wine-style or rolled back and forth on its side. This little trick gathers up all the remaining yeast (these babies are bottled sur lies) mixing it with the remaining foam, which concoction is then used to top off the glass, often followed by garnishing with a slice of lemon. Once served, dive into this gorgeous brew in all its orange, banana, and clove ester-ness for a singular beer experience.

Moving from “show” beers back to our list, Kölsch describes a golden ale produced in Cologne, Germany, and, well... anywhere outside the EU, like the U.S., that makes this soft, hoppy, kinda fruity, kinda bitter, kind of not, easy and delicious, summer sipper. And then we have the lambics.

These Belgian throwbacks are open fermented with wild yeast (something any true vinophile can appreciate) after a convoluted mashing process that leaves even beer folks scratching their heads. The result is a sour, somewhat earthy, carbonated brew that in overly simplistic terms is called “gueuze” when unflavored and “fruit lambic” when made with cherries, raspberries, cassis or peaches. Though it can be a love or hate proposition, the fruit flavors are rich and pure, and the higher acidity makes these summer quaffers a perfect match for any number of foods.

Finally, we have the summer or seasonal variants. A common bit of nomenclature among North American craft brewers, these are typically dosed with spice or fruit or a particularly interesting strain of hops. They’re made to refresh and encourage you to enjoy more than one. And most are excellent, a cut above the everyday pale ale or light lager. You may find rye ale or blueberry lager or any number of possibilities.

Now that you have some worthy options, trade in the wine stem for a beer tulip now and again. There are terrific beers out there, and if there’s one thing wine drinkers love, it’s finding the next new taste. If you’re not sure which ale or lager, which witbier or lambic to try, put together a mixed six-pack. One of the beauties of beer is that it’s generally inexpensive. You can mix and match and hold your own tasting of half a dozen possibilities for the cost of a single bottle of good wine. Exploration and economics, a summer combo that’s hard to beat!laughren headshot Picmonkey


Jim Laughren is a Certified Wine Expert and has been distributing wine and educating consumers and businesses about the basic and finer aspects of wine selection and enjoyment for several decades. He just published A Beer Drinker’s Guide To Knowing And Enjoying Fine Wine which is written so as to educate without being patronizing in comparing beer to wine. A review of the book can be found in Taste California Travel's Book Section

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.


Saturday, 10 November 2012 17:12

Beer San Francisco & the Bay Area

Marin County


NovatoHopmonk Tavern




San Rafael

BJ's Brewhouse


Broken Drum Brewery


Mayflower Inn



Iron Springs Pub and Brewery


Ross Valley Brewing Company www.rossvalleybrewing.citysearch.com/

Milll Valley

Mill Valley Beerworks



Marin Brewing Company




City and County of San Francisco


21st Amendment Brewery


Ales Unlimited


Amsterdam Cafe


Anchor Brewing Company


Beach Chalet Brewery




Bin 38 Restaurant and Wine Bar


Bistro Gambrinus




Dark Horse Inn


E & O Trading Company


Elizabeth Street Brewery


Gordon Biersch


Kennedy's Irish Pub & Curry House


La Trappe Café


Leopold's Gasthaus


Mad Dog in the Fog


Magnolia Pub and Brewery


Mikkeller Bar


Monk's Kettle


Noc Noc


Pi Bar


Pig and Whistle


Pizza Orgasmica


Press Club


Public House


Rogue Ales Public House


Rosamunde Sausage Grill


San Francisco Brewing Company




Social Kitchen & Brewery


Southern Pacific Brewing


Speakeasy Ales and Lagers


The Dark Horse Inn


The Irish Bank


The Monk's Kettle


The Page


The Republic


Thirsty Bear Brewing Company


Toronado – San Francisco




East Bay

Contra Costa County



Creek Monkey Tap House



EJ Phair Brewing Company



Schooners Grille & Brewery



Ale Industries


BJ's Brewhouse


Black Diamond Brewing Company


EJ Phair Brewing



Ed's Mudville Grill


El Cerrito

Elevation 66 Brewing Company


Walnut Creek

Calicraft Brewing Company


Pyramid Alehouse



Bo's Barbecue & Catering



Pete's Brass Rail and Car Wash


Point Richmond

Up & Under Pub & Grille


San Ramon



Jack's Brewing


Alameda County



Albatross, The


Beta Lounge


Bison Brewing


Bobby G's Pizzeria


Free House


Golden Pacific Brewing www.goldenpacificbrewing.com



Lanesplitter Pizza


Pyramid Brewery www.pyramidbrew.com

Takara Sake USA


Triple Rock Brewery www.triplerock.com


Gordon Biersch Brewing www.gordonbiersch.com




Beer Revolution


Ben 'n Nick's


Cato's Alehouse


Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon


Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill


Lanesplitter Pizza


Linden Street Brewery


Luka's Taproom and Lounge


Pacific Coast Brewing, Oakland


Quinn's Lighthouse


The Trappist



Fireside Lounge


Lucky 13


San Leandro

Drakes Brewing Company


Porky's Pizza Palace


The Englander



Altamont Beer Works


First Street Alehouse


Livermore Saloon


Tap 25



Handles Gastropub




Main Street Brewery



Caps and Taps



Buffalo Bills Brewery


The Bistro



Jack's Brewing


Mission Pizza and Pub


SF Peninsula

San Mateo County


San Bruno

BJ's Brewhouse



Fiddler's Green



Steelhead Brewing


San Mateo

BJ's Brewhouse


Grape & Grain


Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company


San Carlos

Ale Arsenal




Redwood City

City Pub


Freewheel Brewery and Pub



Santa Clara County


Palo Alto

Firehouse Grill & Brewery


Gordon Biersch www.gordonbiersch.com

The Rose and Crown


East Palo Alto

Firehouse Brewery


Mountain View

Steins Beer Garden


Tied House



Rock Bottom Campbell


Los Gatos

Los Gatos Brewing Co.



Faultline Brewing Company


Firehouse Grill & Brewery


St. John's Bar & Grill



BJ's Brewhouse


Duke of Edinburgh


Paul & Eddie's Monta Vista Inn


San Jose

BJ's Brewhouse


Britannia Arms


Good Karma Vegan Cafe


Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, San Jose


Los Gatos Brewing Co


Rosie McCann's


Tied House www.tiedhouse.com

Morgan Hill

El Toro Brewing Co.


Land ho, Matey. After a rigorous journey on the waters of San Francisco Bay, America's Cup competitors and fans are invited to America's premier wine, spa, and coastal destination for a little R&R - Sonoma County style.Bodega Bay boats PicmonkeyCommercial fishing boats at Bodega Bay.

Known for its more than 350 wineries, miles of gorgeous Pacific Ocean coastline, and some of the most fertile earth in California, Sonoma County has been welcoming sailors and landlubbers alike since, well, since Sir Francis Drake landed in Northern California in 1579, beginning a long, rich maritime history.

Bunk down for the night

Reach back into history and experience a military-style R&R at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, in Sonoma Valley. The resort's rich wellness history stretches back hundreds of years, when Native Americans discovered the natural underground hot mineral waters. Developed as a resort in the late 1800s, the property underwent many ups and downs.

During World War II the hotel fell under the control of the Navy. It became an R&R site for sailors and marines until 1945. Various incarnations followed, including the use of the Inn by famous sports teams as a training headquarters.

Why should sailors and sailing fans choose Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn today? Simple - the Inn is the only full-service resort offering Michelin-star dining, an award-winning spa, and championship golf amenities to visitors with discerning tastes.

Details: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, CA 95476, 707-938-9000, 866-540-4499, www.fairmont.com/sonoma

If you aren't quite ready to leave the sea behind, visit Sonoma County's western border - more than 55 miles of dramatic coastline. Bodega Bay Escapes vacation home rentals offer ocean-front homes.

These homes have some of the best views in the Bodega Bay area, and the proximity to the beach is second to none. Get a front-row seat to the Northern California coast in a cozy beach cottage. Each of the privately owned homes is uniquely appointed and equipped for comfort and leisure. Many homes have private outdoor hot tubs and free wireless internet service. All homes are furnished with full kitchens, linens, and no added cleaning fees. Choose from casual beach cottages along the Sonoma Coast, or distinctive golf course homes at The Links at Bodega Harbour.

Details: Bodega Bay Escapes, 707-875-2600, 877-809-7819, www.bodegabayescapes.com

Yo ho ho and a bottle of . . . red

Dry Creek Vinyd Fume label PicmonkeyVisiting famed wineries in Sonoma County doesn't mean you have to give up nautical ties. Dry Creek Vineyard patriarch, Dave Stare, combines his two passions: winemaking and sailing. Started in 1972, the winery was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the Dry Creek Valley wine region and is renown for its efforts with that grape, bottled in the Fumé Blanc style, as well as when labeled Sauvignon Blanc.

Dry Creek Vineyard also offers a proprietary red blend appropriately named, The Mariner. The 2008 vintage was just released and has garnered numerous awards.

Stare's passion for sailing includes sharing it with others. In fact, Sonoma State University has a sailing team that was founded by Stare.

Details: Dry Creek Vineyard, 3770 Lambert Bridge Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448, 707-433-1000, www.drycreekvineyard.com

Sailors and winemakers share a strong sense of passion to take care of the environment. Helping the ocean, as well as the land, is Iron Horse Vineyards, which runs its Healthy Ocean Project with leading ocean conservation groups.

The winery produces its vintage Blanc de Blancs Ocean Reserve, created in partnership with National Geographic to help save the ocean. Iron Horse contributes $4 from each bottle sold to National Geographic's Ocean Initiative - establishing marine protected areas and reducing overfishing around the world. For more information, visit ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/i-am-the-ocean-wine.

Details: Iron Horse Vineyards, 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, CA 95472, 707-887-1507, www.ironhorsevineyards.com

While in Sonoma County, visit the home of America's favorite Chardonnay. Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates has been anchored in Sonoma County for nearly 30 years with the understanding that the cold Pacific Ocean allows the winemaking team to make superior quality wines.

Much like sailors on the sea, Kendall-Jackson's staff treasures what the ocean provides. That means the cool, maritime breezes and coastal fog that protect the grapes and coax the most intense and complex varietal flavors. Stop by Kendall-Jackson during your shore leave and experience a unique wine and food pairing adventure that will thrill even the most able-bodied sailor.

Details: Kendall-Jackson Wine Center, 5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, CA 95439, 707-571-8100, 866-287-9818, www.kj.com

Become a landlubber for the day: All aboard the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley. One of the Bay Area's favorite modes of transportation now roams the quaint streets and vineyards of gorgeous Sonoma Valley, offering open-air views that allow guests to experience wine country like they never have before. Built from historic blueprints, the Sonoma Wine Trolley is a motorized replica of a late 1890s San Francisco cable car, the type that still runs on San Francisco's California Street cable car line.

Visitors can now choose from two routes. The new route begins at the historic Sonoma Plaza, meanders into Glen Ellen and Kenwood area, including stops at Benziger Family Winery, Imagery Winery, Paradise Ridge in Kenwood, and Deerfield Ranch Winery. The Trolley's original route includes stops at four boutique wineries located in and around the town of Sonoma. Both tours include a gourmet lunch catered by the acclaimed the girl & the fig restaurant.

The Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley experience begins with a daily passenger pickup at 10:30 a.m. from Sonoma Plaza. Arrangements for pickup at several Sonoma hotel locations can be made prior to 10:30 a.m.

Details: Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley, 707-938-2600, www.sonomavalleywinetrolley.com

Ports of Call

Sonoma County's southern border is San Pablo Bay, which leads into the San Francisco Bay. The influence on the region from the bays, rivers, and oceans can't be overstated, whether it was the possible landing of Sir Francis Drake in Bodega Bay in 1579, the arrival of the Russians from Alaska to establish Fort Ross in 1812, or the rechristening of the Petaluma Slough to the Petaluma River in 1959, making it eligible for federal dredging, and larger ship traffic.

Here are some spots to sail to, or in, Sonoma County:Spud Point Crab Co PicmonikeyThey also make the best clam chowder.

On the Pacific Coast, Spud Point Marina, in Bodega Bay, is located on the scenic Sonoma County coast less than 50 nautical miles from the center span of the Golden Gate Bridge. The quaint town is a perfect home base for sampling all that Sonoma County has to offer, from the rugged coastline to the inland vineyards. Local fishing fleets head out for Dungeness crab and salmon, and fishing boats and pleasure boats use the protected bay as a base for exploring the waters off the Sonoma coast. Insider tip - Spud Point Crab Company, located across the street and run by a long-time fishing famiy, has some of the best chowder in Sonoma County.

Details: Spud Point Marina, 1818 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay, CA 94923, 707-875-3535, www.spudpointmarina.org

Hey, why should the ocean get all the glory? Lake Sonoma, in northern Sonoma County, is a great spot for a sail, or a leisurely day spent exploring. Nestled in the beautiful coastal foothills, Lake Sonoma is surrounded by world-famous vineyards and land that is rich in history. Created by the construction of Warm Springs Dam in 1983, the lake provides for flood control, irrigation, and recreation. When full, the lake has a surface area of more than 2,700 acres and 50 miles of shoreline, forming the perfect setting for a wealth of recreational activities. Visit to hike, swim, ride, boat, camp, fish, or hunt at this beautiful lake.

Details: Lake Sonoma Visitors Center & Fish Hatchery, 3333 Skaggs Springs Road, Geyserville, CA 95441, 707-431-4533, www.spn.usace.army.mil/lake_sonoma/index.html

The waters of the Petaluma Marina are part of the Petaluma River, a channel that runs 14 miles from the north end of Petaluma into San Pablo Bay. With 167 slips, the Petaluma Marina offers many facilities and services to boaters and kayakers on the river including private restrooms and showers, full utilities, security gates, and kayak storage. The river is enjoyed for its excellent boating, fishing, and water skiing.

Details: Harbormaster Office, 781 Baywood Dr., Petaluma, CA 94954, 707-778-4489, cityofpetaluma.net/parksnrec/marina.html.

So, how about it, Sailor, ready to give Sonoma County a try? Located 10 leagues (30 miles for landlubbers) north of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County is America's premier wine, spa and coastal destination, featuring more than 350 wineries, 100-plus organic farms, and 55-plus miles of stunning Pacific coast.

For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.sonomacounty.com or call 800-576-6662 (+001-707-522-5800 for those across the seas...)

Editor's note: If you're planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend the America's Cup in 2013 or coming at any other time, you can find a lot of good information at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory. In it you will find links to the websites of hundreds of Lodging and Dining options, as well as to the wineries in Sonoma and other nearby wine regions and to craft beer purveyors.


by Dan Clarke


I drove over to Livermore yesterday. The occasion was the 10th Petite Sirah Symposium. As you might expect, all assembled had an interest in wines made from the Petite Sirah grape. There were farmers who grew the grape, wine makers, wine marketers and members of the press.

Early versions of this annual gathering were held at Foppiano Winery up in Sonoma County. I had attended some of them and the Livermore meeting was a good time to catch up with recent developments.

Getting away from the computer on this last day of July took longer than I had hoped and by the time I arrived at the Martinelli Event Center I had missed the keynote speaker, Evan Goldstein. Evan is a qualified Master Sommelier, which means he knows a hell of a lot about wines—all wines. Scholarship and unerring palate notwithstanding, his greatest skill may be his ability to communicate. Like all great teachers, he chooses to engage his audience in a way that encourages them to share his enjoyment of the subject. His topic this day was “Why Evan Believes in Petite Sirah.”

Disappointed though I was at being late, three presentations still lay ahead, as well as a nice lunch under the arbor at nearby Concannon Vineyard and a tasting of over 40 examples of current Petite Sirah releases.

Third Generation Wine Grape Growing Family Successfully Takes on Winemaking Toodavid mounts with grapes PicmonkeyDavid Mounts brought jar of vineyard soil and a grape cluster.

David Mounts' family has farmed property in Sonoma County since it was purchased by his grandfather Jack at the end of World War II. Although grapes had been grown in the area for nearly a century before that time, prunes were the big crop back in the 1940's and the Mounts family grew prunes and raised sheep in the early years. David's Dad Richard began planting Zinfandel and Petite Sirah grapes in 1967. Their winery came into being in 2005 when they made a total of 500 cases of wine, 300 of which were Petite Sirah. Since then the production has grown, but the winery is still a small operation which allows an intimate relationship with both the growing of the grapes and with their vinification.

David, who is both grower and winemaker for the family endeavor, wove a tale of “what we've learned in the last 45 years farming rocky, hillside vineyards--some of them dangerously steep.” Variables in the process include pruning styles, the use of native yeasts to start the fermentation process rather than purchased “designer yeast,” and allowing for a little dehydration of the grapes just before harvest, which leads to a wine higher in alcohol and better suited to the style David said he's looking for.

A Cult Petite that Rocks

Nils Venge's topic was “Creating a 'Cult' Petite That Rocks.” Nils is about my age and I suspect that wasn't his turn of nils venge 2 PicmonkeyNils remembered Cancannon's Petite Sirah.phrase. Nonetheless, the audience understood what was meant and you probably couldn't get a more appropriate guy to address the subject of cult wines. The Napa Valley legend has been creating great wines for more than 40 years. However, just as Yankee's pitcher Don Larsen was forever known as the man who threw a perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Nils Venge has a reputation forever framed by his own perfect effort. The 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve he made for Groth was given a 100-point score by writer Robert Parker, the first time the oracle ever awarded such a score for any California wine.

Venge still makes outstanding Cabernet for his own winery, Saddleback Cellars, but he's not limited to just that niche. He makes whites and reds other than Cabs—among them Petite Sirahs. He recalled his first exposure to variety as being in the mid-1960s when, as a UC Davis student, he worked for a short time at Concannon, the first California winery to produce a varietally-labeled Petite Sirah. Sitting in front of a microphone across the room, Jim Concannon interjected that he remembered Nils from that period—though not necessarily because he'd demonstrated great skill as a fledgling winemaker. Jim recalled their playing tennis some 45-years ago. “You beat me,” said the now-75 year old Concannon, “And I was pretty good, too!”

Nils first made Petite Sirah with grapes from a warm weather vineyard near Calistoga at the northern end of the Napa Valley. Since then he has added another source of grapes. He also gets fruit from the Red Hills near Lake County's Cobb Mountain. The vineyard is at higher elevation and is cooler. Both vineyard produce good fruit, but are made into separate wines, each having its own characteristics.

jim concannon PicmonkeyJim remembered Nils' tennis game.In winemaking there are few absolutes. Factors contributing to the final product include what the French call terroir. The phrase means the land, but it's more than that. The soils, the weather and a hard to define “sense of place” all contribute to it. Add all the variations in viticultural practices (the growing of the grapes) and the enological practices (the making of the wine from crushed grapes onward), and you have a long and complex process. Presentations such as those made by David Mount and Nils Venge were given to an audience of wine professionals, but briefer and less technical delivery of similar information can be of help to the consumer. Restaurants offering “Winemaker Dinners” can be a great way to learn more about wine, especially when a principal of the winery or, better yet, the winemaker himself is in attendance. A sommelier or knowledgeable waiter can help you learn—and help you enjoy wine more, as can a wine merchant who really knows his/her stuff.

Food and Wine Pairings

Joyce Goldstein prepared her audience for the lunch to follow by addressing “Food and Wine Pairings for Petite Sirah.” Goldstein was once chef at the Café at Chez Panisse. Later she owned and operated the San Francisco restaurant Square One, which celebrated food from many Mediterranean cuisines. A prolific cookbook author, she's currently working on a history of California cuisine for the University of California Press.Joyce Goldstein at Livermoe PS Symposium PicmonkeyJoyce Goldstein suggested innovations.

In a state where Cabernet and Chardonnay are kings (or King & Queen?), a lesser known variety like Petite Sirah has to work harder to get the attention of restaurant wine buyers. Beyond the broad category of “American food” are identifiable cuisines—or at least American interpretations of them—that might be candidates for matching to the flavors of Petite Sirah.

Italian food, especially the northern Italy dishes now popular in California, would have affinity for this grape variety,” said Goldstein, “but Italian restaurants tend to favor offering Italian wines on their lists.” Some French dishes would also be well served by the accompaniment of Petite Sirah—Steak au Poivre, for instance, “would be a slam-dunk.”

While acknowledging that the variety could pair well with many familiar cuisines, Goldstein suggested taking the road less traveled might be more productive, especially in the sophisticated and hyper competitive restaurant atmosphere of the nearby San Francisco Bay Area. “Go to new restaurants in San Francisco,” she urged. “They'll be much more open to you.”

Referencing a Turkish dinner she once made, she recalled “the lamb was prepared with a little tomato sauce and some smoky eggplant and the Petite Sirah brought it all together.”

Acknowledging that there aren't too many potential wine customers owning Turkish restaurants, she said there are dishes from many other cuisines that would have potential. She suggested a Spanish beef stew in a preparation including “clove, cinnamon, wine and a little bitter chocolate.” North African cuisines would have many possibilities, including the tagines from Morocco. “Instead of making my normal fried chicken this Fourth of July, I put in a ton of Morrocan spices,” she recalled of an experiment that apparently was a hit. Kebabs and meatballs served with cumin would likely be good pairings. Greek moussaka would work, as would a Greek stew called stifado, “which includes cinnamon, cloves, red wine and currants--ingredients that contain your flavor profile.” A Persian recipe for duck with pomegranate and walnuts is another inspiration in this vein.

Further from the Mediterranean are other food cultures ripe for matching with the wine. Mexican moles, for instance, “include nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, anise—those flavors are in your wine,” Goldstein said, “so it's a natural.

Meats of all kinds are likely to show affinity for this Petite Sirah grape. The variety of grilled meats served in Brazilian churrasco-style restaurants would be appropriate. Texas beef brisket is in that direction, even beefy chile “if you play down the heat,” she said. “Korean short ribs, rubbed with sesame, garlic, pepper and ginger,” is offered. Even Germany's sauerbraten, prepared with ginger snaps and raisins, is also a candidate. At this point Joyce Goldstein's audience really is looking forward to the barbecue lunch soon to be served over at Concannon. Referring to pages of notes and recipes she's brought with her, the chef tantalizes listeners who enjoy cooking with names of several other dishes and a few ingredients each includes. Rattling off idea after idea, she challenged her audience to “look further afield. The trend is going to be melting pot cookery. Some people (who'll be cooking it) won't have a clue, but others will be good.” Urging marketers of Petite Sirah to find newer restaurants and actually work with the chefs to create a wine and food synergy, she advised, “Don't ignore the little guys. You'll find some magic pairings out there.”

Tasting the Current Releases

Rusty Eddy pours at Concannon PS PicmonkeyRusty Eddy pours Clayhouse.Following lunch was a tasting for members of the wine trade. In the Eric Cohen Shoeshine PS at Concannon PicmonkeyEric Cohen makes Shoe Shine.Concannon barrel room purveyors of more than 40 of the state's best Petite Sirah poured their offerings. A few rosé wines made from this grape variety were in evidence and tasted especially good on the warm afternoon. Most of the wines were substantial reds that are the more traditional product of this grape. Styles differed. Alcohol levels varied. Retail pricing of these wines covered a broad swath, varying from about $8 to $50. Comprehensive tasting notes weren't taken on this occasion. Better than reading my opinions—or anybody else's, for that matter—is to explore this variety for yourself. Any good retailer would have some examples and many restaurant wine lists would include at least a couple of options. To learn more about this variety a good resource is www.psiloveyou.org. Included in this site is a great recipe section,.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012 18:19

Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines

Mountain Vines, Mountain WinesWritten by Casey Young Photographs by Ken Dawes

Published by Mountain Vines Publishing, 2003


115 pages, soft cover. $24.95


The Santa Cruz Mountain appellation produces some of California’s best wine, yet it remains relatively anonymous. “Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines” may go a long way toward remedying that situation.

Casey Young’s text provides a clear picture of the region’s geography and its long history of wine grape cultivation, dating back to the efforts of Franciscan missionaries 200 years ago. This was the land of French-born pioneers of the California industy Charles LeFranc and Paul Masson in the latter part of the 19th Century. For much of the middle of the 20th Century it was iconoclast Martin Ray who upheld the banner of Santa Cruz Mountain-grown wines. By the 1960’s Dr. David Bruce was making wine under his own name and Ridge Vineyards was established with Paul Draper assuming winemaking chores at the end of that decade. Both Bruce and Draper remain very significant players today, but they’ve been joined by many others now making wine here.

Roughly fifty wineries are currently operating in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Young has profiled all of them. Most are small and some may be as much hobby as business for their operators. There are no Gallos or Beringer-Blasses in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but some of its wineries are larger than most wine fans might suspect (Ridge has an annual production of 70,000 cases and Bonny Doon does about a quarter of a million cases each year).

“Mountain Vines, Mountain Wines” provides essential information on each winery—location, varieties made, days of operation, etc. Also included is the web address of nearly every one of the 50. Artisan winemakers seldom lack for personality and the author has done an admirable job in bringing those personalities to the reader. It’s not easy to avoid repetition in doing so many one and two-page profiles, but Young accomplishes the task.

Ken Dawes gives a window on those personalities with his shots of the winery principals. His outdoor photography illustrates the natural beauty of the area. Grape clusters, gnarled old vines, morning mist over steep hillsides—the vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains may not be that many miles from the urban sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area, but they’re a world away.


--reviewed by Dan Clarke

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