Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Analysis of 2005 Wine Spectator Top 100

The Takeaway? The List Actually Pays Tribute to ’03 Rhônes

Wine Spectator’s annual hoopla names a pricey Napa Cab as its number one wine of 2005, but 2003 Rhônes, particularly Châteauneuf-du-Pape, hog the list. Eight 2003 Rhônes are included in the top 100 versus six California Cabs. In fact, by appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape heads the list with six wines, while Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is second with four.

The six ’03 Châteauneufs in the list are: Clos de Papes, Cuvée du Vatican Reserve Sixteen, Grand Veneur Les Origines, Vieux Télégraphe, Perrin & Fils Les Sinards, and Paul Autard.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dungeness Crab Season, Finally!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s good reason to celebrate today. Dungeness crab season is finally here. It officially started on November 15th, but the crab fishermen did not launch their boats because they couldn’t agree on a price with the commercial processors, large distributors that sell to restaurants and stores. After almost two weeks of hemming and hawing, both groups agreed on a price of $1.75/lb. So rush to your local fishmonger now and haul in some of these fresh delicacies. And don’t forget, the best wine to wash down the delicate, sweet flavorful meat of crab is a Riesling.

A few recommendations. The ultimate way to enjoy crab is to buy fresh live ones, then steam them and eat them at home. Beware of false labeling, though. I really don’t know why (I really think it’s even deceptive) fish vendors label cooked crabs as “fresh”. How can something that’s already cooked be fresh? I mean, do you expect fresh fish at the market to be cooked? A ridiculous practice that must be stopped.

A Dungeness crab cooked the right way at home is a hundred times better than store-bought cooked crabs or even crab ordered from a restaurant. The broth, where much of the flavor is, is intact when you cook the crab at home. When you pry open the shell, invert the crab first so that the underside of the crab is facing up. This way, the precious, delicious broth doesn’t spill out from the top shell. Slurp this juice from the shell, it’s like having soup first before the main entrée. And after you snap off the legs and claws, suck up the juice from the open ends before cracking them. Mmmm. Simply delicious!

Simply Way to Steam Crab at Home:

Rinse live crab under cold running water from faucet. Place crab in a deep pot. Pour no more than an inch of liquid in the pot. I recommend using dry white wine, or dry vermouth, or Chinese Shao Xing wine. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper, plus I like sprinkling a bit of dried thyme for extra flavor and aroma. Then throw in a dab or two of butter. Let simmer on the stovetop for about 15 minutes for one crab or 25 minutes if you have two to three crabs in the pot. When cooked, let stand for a couple of minutes then serve piping hot. Don’t forget to pour yourself a glass of Riesling!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Farallon's Annual PinotFest November 18th

Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco, CA, is holding its annual PinotFest on Friday November 18th from 12pm-3pm for trade and media and on Saturday, November 19th from 3pm-6pm for the general public.

About fifty wineries from California and Oregon are expected to taste their Pinot offerings, and Chef Franz of Farallon will be cooking up some small bites to accompany the wines.

Participating wineries include:
Adelsheim, Archery Summit, Argyle, Au Bon Climat, Beaux Freres, Byron, Bonaccorsi, Calera, Cambria, Chehalem, Costa d’Oro, Cuvaison, Domaine Drouhin, Domaine Serene, Edna Valley, El Molino, Erath, Etude, Fiddlehead, Flowers, Foxen, Gloria Ferrer, Greenwood Ridge, Handley, Hartford Family, Hendry, Hitching Post, Iron Horse, J Vineyards, Kuleto Estate, Littorai, Marimar Torres, Melville, Merry Edwards, Morgan, Patz & Hall, Paul Hobbs, Peay, Presidio, Radio Coteau, Rex Hill, Robert Mondavi, Robert Sinskey, Saintsbury, Sanford, Siduri, Talley, Testarossa, Thomas Fogarty, Wild Horse, Williams Selyem

Also, from Sunday thru Saturday in the week leading up to the tasting, Farallon will also feature, in the restaurant, flights of Pinot Noir from several of the participating wineries, and a special chef’s tasting menu paired with the pinot family of grapes.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

11-11 Is St. Martin’s Day

I forgot to note that yesterday was St. Martin’s Day. Traditionally on the 11th day of the 11th month at exactly 11 minutes past 11 o'clock a.m. St. Martin's day is celebrated.

Though it started in France, St. Martin is celebrated in many parts of Europe, including Germany, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe. St. Martin is a popular saint, and the day is observed in various ways, but for farmers it signifies the end of the agrarian year and the start of a new one. For vignerons this day is the end of the vintage year and the start of a new vintage; so contrary to common belief, the vintage year does not start in January nor does it end in December.

In Burgundy, St. Martin’s Day is the day for renewing grape contracts among the vignerons, but most importantly it is the start of the all-important task of pruning the vines. Richard Olney, in his book Romanee-Conti, describes the day’s significance in Burgundy:

Burgundian folklore credits Saint Martin with having taught the vigneron to prune his vines (by unleashing his ass in the vineyard to eat them). Saint Martin’s Day—11 November—is the age-old symbol of season’s end and the beginning of a new viticultural year: the vine’s leaves have fallen or are falling; the sap is descending and the vines will be dormant for four months; the wine is finished.

Alex Bernardo sales@vineyardgate.com

Thursday, November 10, 2005

France Confers Highest Honor to Kermit

It’s been long overdue, but the French government informed Kermit Lynch recently that he’s being conferred the title of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest accolade. It’s a much deserved award as no other American has been more influential in the world of wine, particularly French wine, during the past three decades.

Before Kermit, the British dictated what wine consumers should drink, and that means almost always Bordeaux, particularly the region’s aristocratic classed growths. Kermit’s untainted passion for wine and sense of adventure led him to France’s seldom trodden wine paths. He gushed about the peasant wines of Provence, the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, southwest France, Savoie, Alsace, Corsica, and the Loire Valley like they’re the equals of the famed wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

But that’s not all. Kermit’s obsession for quality and authenticity made him pay more importance on how wine is made and shipped, rather than on titles, class, and pedigrees, which were the main focus of the British wine trade. He demanded of his producers not to filter their wines so they so they won’t be stripped of their essential flavors. He pioneered in the shipping of wines across the Atlantic in reefer containers, regardless of whether they cost $5 or $100 a bottle, to maintain their freshness.

Above all, Kermit promoted to wine consumers, especially in his book and in his witty newsletters, a humanist, rather than a mere hedonistic, appreciation of wines. Its as if he gazed at a wine glass and discovered that wine and civilization are inextricably linked.

note: Americans who have received the award include comedian Jerry Lewis, film director Martin Scorsese, cooking show legend Julia Child, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Eileen Collins, actors Gregory Peck and Robert DeNiro, President Ronald Reagan, Gulf war general Normal Schwarzkopf, and wine critic Robert Parker.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Michelin-Starred NYC Restos

The debut red Guide Michelin for New York City is nothing less than a celestial celebration of New York City dining. 39 restos were awarded stars, a total eclipsed only by Paris (which has 72 Michelin-starred restos).

Awarded three stars are: Le Bernardin, Alan Ducasse, Jean Georges, and Per Se. It must be noted that Ducasse now has three Michelin-three-star restos.

Two stars: Daniel, Masa, Bouley, and Danube.

Some of the one stars: Spotted Pig, Saul, Babbo, Gramercy Tavern, Peter Luger, Café Boulud, Café Gray, Craft, Nobu, Etats-Unis, and WD-50.

Too bad for New York’s other deserving restaurants which didn’t get a star, or those which feel they ought to get more than just one or two. Oh well, there’s always next year. I understand the Michelin inspectors are already making their tours for the next guide.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Michelin Red Guide for New York Out Nov. 1

Michelin’s famous red guide to restaurants and hotels now includes New York City in its coverage with its new Michelin Guide New York City 2006, which is due for public release tomorrow, Nov. 1st.

Eagerly awaited is which New York restaurants got the coveted rosettes. Its certain, though, that “at least one” resto is going to be awarded three stars, according to Jean-Luc Naret, Michelin’s director of publications. The short list includes: La Bernardin, Daniel, Per Se, and Ducasse.

It will be interesting to view the response of both the public and the managements of restaurants and hotels to the French publication’s entry in New York City. I think both sides will learn and benefit much from this coverage. It’s certainly a good thing for New York as Michelin validates what many have already known for a while: New York is second to none in terms of both quality and variety of restaurants in the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mondovino DVD Is Out!

Mondovino is an amazing documentary film made by amateur fillmmaker, Joseph Nossiter. Hailed more in France, it showed to mixed reviews in the U.S., with just a very limited run in a handful of theaters in major metropolitan areas. So, thankfully, it’s finally released in DVD. I rented mine a few days ago from my neighborhood Hollywood Video.

Anyone interested in finding out what the big schism in the wine world is all about should watch this film. The major protagonists are all there—the globalists led by Michel Rolland, Mondavi, large Bordeaux and Burgundy négociants, and wine critics Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator versus the traditionalists represented by Hubert de Montille, Neal Rosenthal, and the small wine farmers in Jurançon, Sardinia, Chile, and Argentina.
Rolland and Parker do appear in a somewhat unflattering light, yet they’re honest about their interests, which is to help wine producers make better wines the way they know how. It was Aimé Guibert of Daumas Gaussac who was unmasked as a fraud (Nossiter probably didn’t even intend it, yet that’s how it comes out in the film). He fought the Mondavis, who hired Rolland as wine consultant, to keep them out of the Languedoc because they were globalists. Yet, after he won the fight, Guibert turned around and partnered with one of the largest French wine négociants and obvious globalist, William Pitters, which also hired Rolland as winemaking consultant for the new venture!
Old man Hubert de Montille is the heroic character in the film, not necessarily for what he represents (surprise, surprise, he’s against wine globalism), but for his lucid commentaries on wine’s place in our civilization. He pleads his case convincingly, comparing the newcomer wine globalists to the ridiculous European missionaries who came to ancient China to impose their brand of religion on a great civilization guided for centuries by the timeless virtues of Confucian thought.
In the end, this is a thoughtful and melancholic film about the wine world. Though globalism was Nossiter’s premise, the film slipped through his fingers like grape juice. The powerful personalities that dominate the wine world have, but illusory control. Like civilization itself, wine is a survivor, it evolves with the passage of time.
Running time: 135 mins
Rated PG-13
In French, English, Italian with English subtitles