Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pinot Noir In Them Thar Corralitos Hills

The tiny winegrowing area of Corralitos in the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Monterey Bay is a viticultural treasure. The climate here is quite mild, resulting into one of the longest growing seasons in California. In the steep Windy Oaks vineyard, situated at about 1,000 feet elevation, budbreak starts as early as March and harvest happens in late October, often into November!

Since 1999 Jim Schultze and his family have been farming their vineyards and quietly making distinctive and some of the best quality Pinot Noirs in California. He was inspired by a trip to Burgundy, bringing back Pinot Noir cuttings from a famous 800 year-old vineyard. After returning to to the States, he cleared the land in Corralitos in 1995 and turned his vision into a reality.

At Windy Oaks the slow development in the vines result in a more balanced fruit, with good acidity intact and maturity of flavors. This quality is clearly exemplified in the 2009 Windy Oaks Pinot Noir "100% Whole Cluster". Schultze partially ferments his wines whole-cluster, which is to say stems are included with the berries in the fermentation. In almost all wines today, stems are not included in the winemaking as they could mar the flavors. But in the old days, especially in Burgundy, many winemakers included stems to get the benefit from the texture and structure they provide, as well as phenolics that add flavor and help naturally preserve the wine.

Adding stems is not a casual decision a winemaker makes. Stems can introduce off-putting flavors when the quality of the fruit is not advisable for whole-cluster. But in the case of Windy Oaks' vineyards the full flavor development during the long growing season typically results in ripe stems that could add more texture, structure, and flavor to the wine. The 2009 Windy Oaks Pinot Noir "100% Whole Cluster" demonstrate this quality very well. This is a beautifully balanced Pinot Noir, with complex layers of fruits, spices, mineral, floral, and smokey notes. Alcohol is 13.9%, and so while the wine is full and concentrated, it is not heavy but graceful on the palate. This limited release "100% Whole Cluster" Pinot Noir is one of their great successes. Only 191 cases were made.

In the original 3-acre vineyard Jim planted in 1996, one block is planted to Wadenswil clone 2A, a particular type of Pinot Noir that is slow to ripen and ripens late. It is the perfect match for the long growing season in the Windy Oaks estate, producing structured wines with good acidity and tannins and rich, dark fruit flavors.

Wadenswil 2A clone in mid-July
Jim blends the fruit from the Wadenswil block for most of his Pinot Noirs but he also produces a very limited quantity from this single block that he calls "Henry's Block." The 2010 "Henry's Block" is superb. Bright, well-delineated flavors, with more black fruits than red. A mere 152 cases were produced.

Most of the great wines of the world, including Burgundy, are fermented using native yeasts or wild yeasts. Not only is this a natural approach in winemaking but it also results in a natural wine that offers attractive complexity and surprising flavors.

This is certainly the case with the limited release "Wild Yeast" Pinot Noir. I'm not surprised that this is Jim's personal favorite in his range of outstanding Pinot Noirs. He says that "wild/resident/native yeast fermentations, being multi-organism events, produce wines of unusual complexity." This Pinot Noir expresses unique aromas and flavors in the Windy Oaks vineyards in Corralitos. Just 123 cases of this 2010 Windy Oaks "Wild Yeast" Pinot Noir were produced.

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Estate "Wild Yeast--Limited Release", Windy Oaks 2010 $55.00 (Click to buy!) 

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Estate "Henry's Block--Limited Release", Windy Oaks 2009 $49.00 (Click to buy!)

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Estate "100% Whole Cluster", Windy Oaks 2009 $55.00 (Click to buy!)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Burgundy's Best White Wine Values

Cote de Beaune whites, particularly from Meursault, Chassagne, and Puligny, are frighteningly expensive these days, as entry level village wines often start at $50. Thankfully, the Mâconnais region, south of the Cote de Beaune, allows us to have our white Burgundy fix at a price that's easier to swallow.

The Mâcon terroir is ideal for Chardonnay, where the hilly terrain consists of limestone bedrock overlaid with clay. This is why white Burgundy icons Domaine Leflavie and Dominique Lafon have established outposts in the Mâconnais, impressed with the potential and, perhaps, terrified that brilliant white Burgundies here go for just around $20.

My favorite Mâconnais producers include Jean Rijckaert, who's been making some of the best Mâcon whites since 1990 with his former partner at Verget, Jean-Marie Guffens. In 1998 Rijckaert and his wife, Regine, established their own Mâconnais estate and micro-negoce, producing both Mâcon and Jura whites. Their Mâcon wines are some of the most distinctive in the region, imbued with a Jura character. How this happens, I'm not sure, but perhaps making both Jura and Mâcon wines in their cellar result into some kind of cross-pollination in the wines!

Olivier Merlin is one of the greatest producers in the Mâconnais and for me in all of Burgundy. He makes Mâcon wines with unbelievable depth and longevity. He was Lafon's inspiration for moving into the region.

Vire-Clisse "Epinet", Jean Rijckaert 2009 $24.00 (click to buy!)

Mâcon-Villages, Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon 2011 $20.00 (click to buy!)

Pouilly-Fuisse, Olivier Merlin 2008 $28.00 (click to buy!)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Faking A Wine Dinner

Too cheap and lazy to sign up for a recent wine dinner retrospective of Ceritas wines, I joined some friends at a house to mimic the dinner. I thought, if we could get close enough to interpreting each course, then everything should fall into place because we have the wines.

The crostini topped with a fava and walnut pesto was a brilliant starter with
a pair of Chardonnays.

Ceritas makes a style of California Chardonnay that's lithe and dry with a racy, fruity intensity.  The closest parallel I could think of in Burgundy is a Maconnais. The Porter-Bass is perhaps lighter and sharper than the Charles Heintz but their styles are close. Ceritas Chardonnays, as California Chardonnays go, have a fresh appeal. They are tense and lean, with an understated character. Folks I know who have been drawn mainly to European wines have been seduced by Ceritas. Apart from the quality, which is solid, the attraction I'm sure is the buzz factor of an elusive label.

Since the wine dinner announcement bragged how Ceritas can stand next to a Corton-Charlemagne, we thought, why not open a Corton-Charlemagne then. The 1996 Bertrand Ambroise Corton-Charlemagne is precisely what you'd expect from this great white Burgundy. It is rich but vibrant, powerful yet elegant, golden and deeply colored but still youthful. Compared to the Ceritas Chardonnays, the Corton-Charlemagne is broader and multi-faceted.

Next up was a wild salmon with pea tendrils and pureed cauliflower. This dish was very good, too. I just love the idea of pureed cauliflower, it is light and creamy textured with a hint of bitter sweetness that proved to be deadly good with the salmon.

If the Ceritas wine dinner served a version of the house fettuccine that's close to what we have this night then they had lucky diners. The fresh porcini tossed in with the noodles then garnished with mint and pecorino was awesome. Both Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs paired great with this dish.

The final course,  a combo of duck breast stuffed with mushroom and herbs and chicken leg stuffed with sausage, was delicious with the Pinot Noirs, although, frankly, I was getting pretty full by this time. I wonder how the Ceritas wine dinner folks fared? If they were as satiated as me by this juncture, then they would have gotten their money's worth.

The Ceritas Pinot Noir is reminiscent of the old Williams Selyem style before the winery got sold in the late 1990s. Those Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs could last a decade or two in a good cellar, remaining fresh and interesting to drink with age. One might extrapolate that the Ceritas might have the same potential. I do like its balance, it has good ripeness but light, and so the flavors are well-defined, and the structure helps the flavors linger. I kept going back to my glass, sipping and sipping, the freshness is good and the flavors seem to lengthen. So on second thought, maybe it's best to consume this Pinot Noir young.

The wine dinner also bragged about Ceritas standing next to some Clos Vougeots, hence we opened a Clos Vougeout. In contrast, the 2003 Faiveley Clos de Vougeot was an embodiment of Pinot Noir power. It is a brooding, saturated, tannic red Burgundy suffused with wild, gamy, bloody scents of a Clos de Vougeot. I found it approachable for its surfeit of fruit and delicious as well, but an effort. This beastly Faiveley was another decade or two before it settles down and behave tamely on the table. Meanwhile, thankfully, we had the Ceritas to refresh ourselves.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Savigny of Camus-Bruchon

Today's heart-wrenching news was the violent thunderstorms that hit Beaune and surrounding areas earlier today. First-hand accounts estimated damage of 50%-75% of vineyard crops in Savigny, Beaune, and Pommard.  Flooding and hail combined to ravage much of the vineyards in Cote de Beaune.

Burgundy has been plagued by bad weather during the past few years, as 2012 harvest was one of the lowest on record and 2011 significantly below average. It's certain now that 2013 will be another very small crop, particularly in the hardest hit villages of Savigny, Beaune, Pommard, and Volnay. These calamities make market conditions worse as they come at a time when worldwide demand for Burgundy is peaking resulting in a supply squeeze and soaring prices.

Unfortunately, one of thew sources of affordable top quality Burgundies is Savigny. For those seeking values in Burgundy these days, Savigny has been the brightest spot as the quality has risen to heights that I have not tasted in the past. One producer that best exemplifies this trend is Domaine Camus-Bruchon. No details have surfaced yet about the storm damage to the estate but it's sure to be significant.

2010 Burgundies from Camus-Bruchon are already some of the hardest to find in the market because of the domaine's modest production and the high demand for their wines. Its US importer has long sold out of most of the domaine's 2010s but we still have some bottles in stock.

I don't think any Burgundy producer can surpass Lucien Camus' full range of fine quality 2010 Red Burgundies in terms of value. Anyone who drinks Camus-Bruchon Burgundies would know this. It's not really a surprise, Lucien and his son, Guillaume, achieve this remarkable efficiency every vintage.

I've been an ardent fan of Camus-Bruchon for many years. Their wines are classic Burgundies that every Burgundy fan can afford. Savigny-les-Beaune produces lovely red Burgundies with flattering elegance and charm. Camus-Bruchon's wines are deceptively medium weight and lightly colored, yet they offer intensely concentrated flavors with grip and complexity. Their wines are classic in style, and the 2010 wines of Camus-Bruchon are nothing short of stellar. The expressive quality is paramount and you will taste the differences between the different Savigny vineyards that they produce.

Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Camus-Bruchon 2010 $22.00 (click to buy!)

Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge "Les Pimentiers, Vieilles Vignes", Domaine Camus-Bruchon 2010 $33.00 (click to buy!)

Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge "Aux Grands Liards Vieilles Vignes", Domaine Camus-Bruchon 2010 $36.00 (click to buy!)

Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge Premier Cru Les Gravains, Domaine Camus-Bruchon 2010 $37.00 (click to buy!)

Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge Premier Cru Les Narbantons, Domaine Camus-Bruchon 2010 $41.00 (click to buy!)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dream Team Northern Rhone Producer

Inspired by a forgotten ancient Roman vineyard at the northern tip of the Northern Rhone, three friends formed a wine project in 1996 to restore its vinous glory. The project took off and more wines were added to the range, with the partners contracting to buy fruit (sometimes wine) from small growers whom they know well. The wines reflect the philosophy they share of making wines that are balanced and expressive of their origins.

The three partners are Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard, and Francois Villard. If you're a Northern Rhone fan, then these winemakers need no introduction as their wines are some of the best and most sought-after in the Northern Rhone. The wine company they formed is Les Vins de Vienne, in reference to the ancient vineyard in Vienne that inspired their project.

I tasted with Francois Villard and Yves Cuilleron a few months ago during their visit to San Francisco. I was already familiar with their wines and had been aching to get hold of some for quite some time ever since I tasted with their export manager last year. Their wines are all beautiful, which is not surprising at all given the caliber of these producers and the pedigree of the vineyards they work with.

Among the many wines I tasted from their current release, two stand out for sheer value. I'm astounded by the quality of the modest Cotes du Rhone from wine brought in from a brilliant vigneron in the Southern Rhone. Les Vins de Vienne handled the elevage and bottled the wine. It is the best 2010 Cotes du Rhone under $20 that I've tasted!

The other wine wine that stood out for value wears no appellation, as it's a humble Vin de France Viognier. Yet its pedigree is beyond reproach and, of course, the winemaking was done by these three superstar winemakers. It comes from an estate-owned parcel situated on the Ardeche hillsides next to St. Joseph. It evokes nothing less than pure Northern Rhone Viognier character, but at a very affordable price.

Cotes du Rhone Rouge "Les Cranilles", Les Vins de Vienne 2010 $19.00 (click to buy!)

Vin de France Viognier, Les Vins de Vienne 2011 $23.00 (click to buy!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Burgundy Dinner At Alexander's Steakhouse Silicon Valley

Wine dinners have always been a main part of our service to customers. Learning more about wine through the tasting and at the same time enjoying the conviviality around the dinner table with fellow enthusiasts, nothing beats this kind of wine experience.

The most recent one we held was at Alexander's Steakhouse in Curpertino, California, a bottle's throw away from Apple headquarters. Alexander's is the ultimate steakhouse in the San Francisco Bay Area, serving decadent cuts of domestic beef and imported wagyu from Japan. Yet, "steakhouse" doesn't describe Alexander's very well. First of all the staff pampers you with fine dining service that is formal but relaxed. Secondly, while steak is the highlight, you can wish to ignore that on the menu and still have a memorable dining experience. There is a strong Japanese influence in the kitchen, evident not  just on the variety of wagyu and kobe dishes but also seafood dishes worthy of a ryokan.

Alexander's Steakhouse wine director, Max Klassen, answering questions from guests in his usual witty form.

We featured five wines, a lone Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara and the other four from Burgundy.
Bourgogne Blanc "Fleur de Vignes", Maison Leroy NV (2009, 2010, 2011)
Santa Barbara Pinot Noir "Audire", J. Brix 2011
Fixin Rouge, Maison Lou Dumont 2009
Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Rue de Chaux, Domaine Jerome Chezeaux 2008
Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru La Perriere, Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy 2008

All the wines were a hit. We sold out of almost all the wines immediately after the dinner. Even the lone California Pinot Noir we picked was an eye-opener, though unmistakably California, its elegant character fit in with the Burgundies. These wines are very good values, as all are reasonably priced and made in small quantities by brilliant producers. They are exclusive to Vineyard Gate, one of the very few stores in the country that carry them.

If you happen to live in the San Francisco Bay Area watch out for our next wine dinner and tasting event. Get news about these events via email by signing up HERE.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

4th of July Dinner Pairings

Last week's Fourth of July was a blast, so to speak. With almost every eatery joint closed, saved for mainstream Chinese restaurants, the choice for dinner was pretty clear. We head to Geary in the Outer Richmond, the city's Chinatown west, and found Ton Kiang--a decent Hakka style Chinese but not as good as I remember it several years ago.

I ordered an oxtail clay pot and braised bacon to go with a pristine bottle of 1996 Williams Selyem Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir "Hirsch Vineyard" that I brought. The Selyem was still deeply colored, and though already losing freshness it still offers rich, dark berry flavors along with sweet spices of cinnamon and anise. It was perfect with the braised bacon.

Wok-tossed kangkong in garlic is done really well here. I've been eating kangkong all my life, its flavor is subtle but I love its slippery and crunchy texture. In this dish the garlic strengthens the flavor. It was a stunning match with the sharp and mineral Costieres de Nimes Rosé, a 2012 Chateau Morgues du Gres Fleur d'Eglantine. Who knew a humble vegetable I grew up eating back in the Philippines would pair with a Rosé from Southern France?!

Costieres de Nimes Rosé, Chateau Morgues du Gres "Fleur d'Eglantine" 2012 (click to buy!)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pre-Bastille Day 2011 Burgundy Tasting - 12th July 2013

Nine generations of Muzards have toiled as farmers in Santenay since 1645. The brothers Claude and Herve took over from their father, Lucien, in 1995. They converted the estate to organic farming in 2005, and though the estate has practiced biodynamic farming since 2008, 2011 is the first vintage to be certified as such. The hard work and vision of the brothers are evident in this wonderful vintage.

Buy 2011 red Burgundies early. It is a gorgeous vintage. I'm hoping prices would be a bit more reasonable than 2009s and 2010s on release, but these are likely to firm up quickly as demand for Burgundies these days seems insatiable, while supply appears dwindling.

2011 production is slightly better than 2010 but still down from 2009. But 2012 was a nightmare, as production projected to be down by as much as 50%-75%, even more in some cases. With not much new Burgundy in sight for the next 2 to 3 years 2011s would be snapped up sooner rather than later, as a supply squeeze gets underway.

I've already tasted dozens of 2011s from several producers. I love the freshness of this vintage, but most of all its balance, as the wines are so gorgeous to drink even in their youth. In my years of appreciating wine I have to say that balance and typicity are unfailing signs of a brilliant vintage. With benefit of hindsight, many experienced tasters compare 2011 to 2007 (a vintage that has gained many fans of late). I won't disagree.

This tasting is a terrific opportunity to taste our brilliant selection of overachieving 2011 Burgundies, the kind of wines that you just don't see at most wine outlets as we strive to have an exclusive selection. We do our own research, unlike other wine retailers that rely on wine critics and known brands.

We will pour the following wines and offer a selection of French cheeses to kick off Bastille Day weekend:

1. 2011 Petit Chablis, Val de Mer (Patrick Piuze)
-Canadian Patrick Piuze is the new phenom in Chablis. He's now being compared to Raveneau and Dauvissat. Here's Patrick's most overachieving Chablis from well-established vineyards near Courgis.

2. 2011 Chablis, Gilbert Picq et ses Fils
-with the two young Picq brothers, Didier and Pascal, in charge, this producer along with Patrick Piuze are regarded as bringing "a fresh spirit to Chablis", says Eric Pfanner of the New York Times

3. 2011 Bourgogne Rouge Hautes Cotes de Nuits Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Olivier Jouan
-made by sixth generation vigneron Olivier Jouan of Morey-St.-Denis, this consistent overachiever comes from 40 year-old vines farmed organically

4. 2011 Bourgogne Rouge "Cuvee L'Heritiere", Nicolas Rossignol
-from vines nearly 90 years-old planted in 1922 around Pommard by Nicolas Rossignol's great-grandfather

5. 2011 Maranges Premier Cru Clos de la Boutiere, Domaine Bachelet-Monnot
-from a co-monopole vineyard planted with vines now over 65 years-old near Santenay, with concentration and structure reminiscent of Clos Vougeot

6. 2011 Santenay Premier Cru Clos Faubard, Domaine Lucien Muzard & Fils
-from 35 year-old vines planted on the steep slopes of Santenay, the unique terroir has the kind of limestone found in the Côte des Nuits but not elsewhere in the Côte de Beaune!

Bonus Taste!

7. 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin, Maison Lou Dumont
-former Japanese sommelier Koji Nakada and his Korean-born wife Jae Hwa Park have been producing outstanding Burgundies for the past decade from fruit grown by small growers in some of the best vineyard sites. this comes from two parcels, Aux Corvees planted with 45 year-old vines and La Platiere planted with 70 year-old vines! Primary (alcohol) fermentation was done in barrel, instead in vat, which is very rare in Burgundy. Only 2,801 bottles (233 cases) made and only a few cases imported to the US

8. 2010 Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Maison Lou Dumont
-Koji-san and Jae are proud of this grand cru sourced from 40 year-old vines in the Aux Charmes site just below Chambertin itself. Only 888 bottles (74 cases) made and only a handful of bottles made it to the US

Date and Place

12 July Friday 5:30pm-6:30pm
Vineyard Gate
238 Broadway
Millbrae, CA

Advanced sign-up is required. Tasting will start promptly at 5:30pm. Cost for the tasting is only $40 plus tax. Call us at 800.580.8588 to sign up. Limited seatings. Don't miss this!!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Chicken, An Egg, and A Cab Franc at Roostertail

It was predetermined. Last night we were craving roast chicken and at the same time thinking of nothing else to imbibe but Cabernet Franc. Okay, we've made up dinner in our minds but where to go was the only thing to be figured out.

The answer popped in my head, placed there by the chicken gods, I presume. Roostertail in the Pac Heights. I've never been but it seemed right, particularly on this warm July night. There are not many nights one can go out in San Francisco in a t-shirt, last night was one of them.

Almost as soon as we sat down I ordered a plate of their chicken wings. As far as I can recall this is the greatest order of chicken wings I've ever had. I don't know what they put in it. There was a taste of olive oil and fresh coriander, so these aren't the Buffalo kind. It's not sweet or spicy or sticky as most plates of chickens wings are. It's different and it's good.

Where there is chicken there must be eggs. Having devilled eggs on the menu is brilliant for a chicken joint. An old-fashioned treat that's finding its way back on a few restaurant menus for the past several years. I find devilled eggs addicting.

The cob-shaped cornbread here is the real thing, served with soft butter on the side. Unlike typical cornbreads that are sweet and dense and muffin-like, this is crumbly and doesn't taste sweet at all.

The whole roast chicken comes out conveniently quartered. Mary's Chicken of Pittman Family Farms in the San Joaquin Valley, CA is the source. Tasty, though not the best-tasting chicken I've had. That distinction still belongs to Field to Family in Petaluma, CA.

But the salad was killer. A kind of modified cobb salad, without the dressing, and pitted black olives tossed in. This was simple and genius.

There are only three dessert options but I zeroed in right away on the chocolate chip bunt cake, an old-fashioned coffee cake, moist and really tasking like chocolate chip.

Every dish we ordered was demolished. And the new Loire Cabernet Franc I brought, the 2009 Domaie de la Paleine Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame helped everything go down deliciously. This is from the newest appellation in the Loire, the AOC was just granted in October 2009. La Paleine's new release is wonderful. A great summer red. Next time you're having roast chicken or pulled pork sandwich on a picnic, bring this gorgeous wine.

Saumur Puy-Notre-Dame, Domaine de la Paleine 2009 $21.00 (click to buy!)

1963 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Celebrate the 4th With A Joyful Noyes

Founding winemaker for Kunde Estate, David Noyes started his career working with Paul Draper at Ridge Vineyards. He specializes in Pinot Noir using small lots of exceptional grapes from small vineyards in the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations.

We found two of David Noyes small production Pinot Noirs from prime vineyard sites in the Sonoma Coast and Russian River with the expected high quality but at prices that are almost steals.

Fans of the Sonoma Coast style of Pinot Noir would find plenty to love in the 2010 David Noyes Pinot Noir from the Crane Vineyard. The Crane Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast AVA is planted with 15 acres of Pinot Noir, consisting of three Dijon clones and two Pinot Nera clones from Italy. David Noyes blended these various clones using the the Dijon for its intense, rich flavors and the Pinot Nera for their dark color and bright acidity. The end-result is a seamless, sensuous Pinot Noir that's a pleasure to drink. Only 428 cases produced.

David Noyes is one of the handful of producers that make Pinot Noir from Freestone Hill Vineyard owned by Dutton Ranch. Located on the southwest corner along the Petaluma Gap, this is a very cool and damp growing area that limits vine yields, producing fruit with very good concentration and acid balance. The quality of the 2009 David Noyes Freestone Hill Vineyard is as can be expected superb. The flavors are rich and layered, with good acid balance and alcohol of 13.9%. Only 120 cases were produced.

Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir "Crane Vineyard", David Noyes 2010 $19.00 (Click to buy!)

Russian River Pinot Noir "Freestone Hill Vineyard-Dutton Ranch", David Noyes 2009 $31.00 (Click to buy!)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Central Kitchen

Central Kitchen in The Mission opened a year ago but has been a local cause célèbre of late, thanks to the power of a recent San Francisco Chronicle review. The review's glowing take on the food was drowned out by the reviewer's ballistic rant on the blaring loud music.

As chance would have it I happen to be at Central Kitchen the night before the SF Chron review came out. The music was indeed loud but never distracting and unsurprising for the vibe of the place. The resto attracts a young, hipster, Mission grazing crowd drawn to this kind of scene. If there was any issue with the music, it would be the poor acoustics of the building (an old sausage factory). To be honest, crowd noise bothers me a lot more, alas, that seems to escape restaurant critics. Suffice it to say our group of four didn't have a problem conversing till midnight without resorting to shouting, unlike at places like A16 or Nopa where crowd noise is deafening.

As soon as I saw Wind Gap's Trousseau Gris on the list by the glass I didn't hesitate. Sharp and crisp, almost like a fino, it's a mouthwatering, bracing start.

Someone in the group pointed to a dish that must be ordered. Indeed, I would come back to Central Kitchen just to have another plate of the snap peas, chickpeas and chorizo. Rustic yet also a refined balance of flavors and textures.

I guess we where behaving goodly because the chef sent out a complimentary dish of an ethereal potato stew that showed the more ambitious refined tendencies of the kitchen.

I brought along a bottle of 2009 Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico which was warmly received by the staff. Made in Sicily by the great Giusto Occhipinti, the rich and elegant character of this Nero d'Avola and Frappato blend was a versatile match with the dishes. I got raves from everyone for bringing the bottle.

At the other end of the building the music and the energy was thumping even more at Trick Dog, an attached bar which like the restaurant has an industrial, early 20th century look to it. The cocktails are killer. I had a drink after leaving Central Kitchen, I think it was Pennies from Heaven, which was very good.

The sconces at Trick Dog are part of the old factory look. Nice touch.

Serving as decor above the bar, cast-iron Trick Dog mechanical banks, a vintage Americana that's apparently the bar's inspiration. You insert a coin in the dog's mouth, press a button and the dog leaps through the hoop held by the clown and deposits the coin into the barrel. Cool.

Central Kitchen (Trick Dog is next door)
3000 20th Street
San Francisco, CA