Tag Archives: Louis Villard

Camp Fire Wines

This is a long overdue post from the end of last summer.
We went on a two-nighter camping trip out to the redwood forest in Big Basin.

Considering we were in Santa Cruz County there were only two wineries worthy of the journey!

Bonny Doon and Ridge.

Bonny Doon’s Albariño is one of California’s best, lovely lime and tangerine with lots of acidity crispness.
At $18 too, quite a bargain. The current vintage is from a different vineyard, however without even tasting it I am sure it will be good. Perfect apéritf.

Bonny Doon Albariño

2013 Bonny Doon Albariño

Geyserville was the first Ridge wine I had, it was one from the mid-nighties, from then on I’ve been a fan, collecting different vintages, varietals and trying them randomly….2009 was indeed a superb wine. Soft cherry fruit, pepper, bramble, hint of clove spice, mint – we had these with wild boar and sage sausage and merguez, with harrissa mayonnaise. Being from California I’ll always have soft spot for zinfandel, this guy is a benchmark for the rest.


2009 Ridge Geyserville

2009 Ridge Geyserville


Me and Bonny Doon have got some history. From my first encounter when I set out on the near impossible task of sourcing a bottle of Cardinal Zin in the English country side for a zinfandel presentation at college (I even had the t-shirt!). To some ten years later when I finally got to meet Randal Grahm himself; where I had hard time keeping up with him as he went from tank to barrel trying his newest vintage that had just finished fermentation. To the encounter with Le Cigar Volant below…What in God’s holy name are you blathering about?

Well, I’ll tell you what I’m blathering about man…after having tried all these wines, served these wines and admired these wines….this 2009 Le Cigare Volant Réserve (en bonbonne, no doubt), is by far the finest Bonny Doon I’ve ever had. This wine is silky soft on the palate and gushing with pure blackberry fruit, there’s some mint, black licorice, wild mountain herbs and it just lasts and lasts on the finish. This is not a big wine and the alcohol is on the surprisingly low side at 13.4%. Regardless, this wine is fantastic, and for some god forsaken reason there’s still some left on their website.

I vividly remember sipping this wine well into the night just amazed at its

Well done.

2009 Le Cigare Volant

2009 Le Cigare Volant – best served with steak on the bloody side











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A Trip To The Vintners Market

I went to the Vintners Market event a while back on a rare, sunny, SF November day.

A few wineries stood out from the crowd:

Deux Punks Wine

Deux Punx – a partnership of two, ahem, punks Dan Schaaf (le punx above) and Aaron Olson. First off, I love the labels. As for the wine:

2012 Pinot Blanc (label with dapperly dressed gentlemen, with a reel-camera as his head) – super concentrated and rich, almond and marmalade. This was my fav wine of the bunch, grapes sourced from Russian River. $22
2012 Viognier (cat label) – crazy tangerine flavors, a crisp note of acidity, unlike any Viognier I’ve tried, in a good way. From Scribner Bend Vineyard in Clarksburg. $18(!)
2011 Pinot Noir (the tree label) – Cherry pip, quite crisp too with some elegance. Grapes are sourced high off the 101 in Humboldt County from a vineyard called Elk Prarie. $36
2011 Grenache (owl label) – Savoury black olive and ripe blackberry. From Tejada Vineyard in Northern Lake County. $22

Thralls Wine

Thralls Family Cellars
2008 Alder Springs Vyd Syrah, Mendocino County – $34
There’s great depth to this wine. Rich blackberry, and a whole bowl of blueberries; crunch spicy fruit with a hit of minerality too. Ed, the man himself, makes this on the side of his marketing job at Flowers. He wants to concentrate on Pinot…too bad because his Syrah is pretty f’in awesome.

Wesley Ashley Wines

Wesley Ashley Wines
This is a pretty small project with only a few hundred cases a year and the grapes are sourced from that huge vineyard in what is best known as Santa Barbara highlands, a massive vineyard up near the Los Padres.
2011 Intelligent Designs – Santa Barbara County Cuvée
Rich blackberry and cherry, some licorice but quite herby and juicy.

Larner Vineyards

Larner Vineyards
This quite dapper fellow is Michael Larner, patriarch of the vineyard (and hopefully own estate winery) of the same name. Michael was one of the main drivers of the newly appointed Ballard Canyon AVA….he is also on the front of the line battle against the SB County planning commission to get his winery approved….it’s been a few years.
Regardless, the Rhône varietals grown on his property have fast become one of the more sought after in the county.
2009 Larner, Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley – soft berry jam fruit, quite an easy drinker but full, $38

As massive consumer tastings go, I quite liked this one. Apparently, the wineries are separated in tiers, with the first part of the hall being the less expensive ticket, and two supposedly more exclusive tiers after that…. oddly and slightly surprisingly a gorilla-like bouncer stopped me from entering the top-tier, maybe it was my unshaven, disheveled look, or just the fact that I had a press pass….I will never know.

The next one is on April 12th and 13th — it’s worth a go.

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Finding Berkeley’s Urban Wineries – easy as A, B, C

Urban winemaking is nothing new, and the scene is definitely growing. I took a couple of hours this past Saturday to check out (in fact re-check) some wineries in Berkeley. If you live in the bay area, nothing beats going to the actual regions of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, et al. but if you fancy your quick winery fix, there is all you want a few minutes away. I80 North (or South) get off at Gilman St and a few blocks away are three working wineries.

Berekeley Map 1

Broc Cellars – 1300 5th Street Berkeley, CA 94710

Chris Brocway has been on the scene for a while now, and recently moved to his new digs, directly on the corner of Gilman and 5th. Broc Cellars is a natural wine producer (he adds SO2 just before bottling), I first came across his wares at a Sonoma rosé tasting and was surprised to hear he sourced the grapes from a Spiltwine buddy, Mike Roth of Martian Vineyards. Some wines to look out for at Broc are the Zinfandel (with something crazy like 13.5% alc) and the Carignan – made by carbonic maceration (which is how it’s made in the Languedoc), real light and Beaujolais in style.  The geekiest wine at Broc might just be the skin contact Roussane, basically an orange wine.  Apparently the one we tried was from 2009….and therefore even darker in color and overall complexity, current vintage is the ’11. He sources grapes from all over the state, even Oregon! Oh, and that little cement thing next to the bottle is a sample model of Broc’s egg cement tank, awesome for convection during fermentation – here’s some extra reading on cement and egg-shaped tanks. (I’m a fan, btw)

Broc Cellars 2011 Rousanne

Donkey & Goat – 1340 5th Street Berkeley, CA 94710

I’d been hearing murmurings of this winery even when I was down in Santa Barbara. Owners Tracey & Jared Brandt are full on natural winemakers, and just a few hop, skip and jumps from Broc on 5th Street. My first excuse to pop by the TR was for a Carignan story I was working on….well their Carignan was very impressive! Full of crunchy bramble and blackberry fruit. They source from all over the state and my fav are the Carignan (or course) as well as the Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah, which I later found out received a 97(!!)
in Wine Enthusiast – here’s the review. This high score is particularly interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, is the Wine Enthusiast making a stand that they are willing to give such high scores to wines of this style (ie low alcohol, natural in style), or is this just a one time thing? And secondly will the Wine Enthusiast be the voice (and therefore give more of these higher scores) to the polar opposite views of Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate?  Time will only tell, but when I chatted to Jared about this he too was just as surprised, and made a note that D&G don’t really send wines out to be scored, Wine Enthusiast had contacted them……The Fenaughty is nearly out, so get it quick! They also have some –
bursting with ripe berry flavor – Grenache (and also the best movie poster, in the bogs).

2010 Donkey & Goat Fenaughty Vineyard Syrah (El Dorado)

Lusu Cellars – 805 Camellia St. Berkeley, CA

Another couple of steps from D&G this time on Camelia Street is Lusu Cellars (it’s in fact where Broc used to be). I have never heard of Lusu and was pleasantly surprised with the wine. David Teixeira is the owner/winemaker and guy pouring the wine in the cellar, basically the tasting room is in construction and you will be sniffing and swirling amongst the barrels and tanks, about as authentic as it comes. David (that’s him with the beard, below) grew up on the Delta and his Portuguese family have been making wine since he can remember, mostly Zinfandel.  It was also his Zinfandel that I liked best, a light style (again a 13.5% alcohol level) with soft plum, white pepper and fresh raspberries. All the wines are available at the winery. In the barrels he’s got some port ageing as well as Madiera (!?), I don’t think I’ve ever had a Madiera style wine made in Cali, David’s Portuguese roots stem from the little island…will definitely be going back to see his progress with both of those fortified wines.

Lusu Cellars Zinfandel

There you have it, three very good wineries, all a stones throw away…..more to come on the Bay Area’s urban wine scene….stay tuned!

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Wine before beer you’re in the clear.

One of the main reasons I joined Kermit Lynch’s Adventure’s wine club was the diversity it offered, well diversity between France and Italy. For $39 a month, I get two completely different wines. When I go to a wine shop I will, for the most part, only buy French stuff, as close minded as that might be I really don’t care. The only Italian wine I buy voluntarily is Prosecco….so since half the wine in the club is from that little boot of a country, I figured why not broaden my horizons.

Where I’m leading with all this dithering is the wine we had on Saturday. A fine little number from the region of Langhe in the north western Piedmonte bit of Italy. Made by Silvio Giamello the wine is called Villa Gentiana, it’s a 2011Nebbiolo ($19.95 a bottle).
Nebbiolo (which derives from nebbia, fog in Italian) is named such apparently because of the “thick natural bloom that covers the ripe
berries1”, and to some is considered Italy’s answer to Pinot Noir. Nebbiolo like PN has the amazing ability to take up the flavors from which it has been grown.  This Nebbiolo had densely rich cherry flavors, loads of licorice, some violet and roses as well. In fact, the wine might have been a year or two too young as it was only after some vigorous swirling in the glass that it mellowed out a bit. We had it with some lovely risotto alla diavola a particularly spicy risotto cooked with fresh tomatoes and some chestnut mushrooms. A splendid fusion of rich tannic wine with a creamy flavorful dish.

2011 Silvio Giamello, Nebbiolo, Langhe from Kermit Lynch @ $19.95

2011 Silvio Giamello, Nebbiolo, Langhe from Kermit Lynch @ $19.95

Another little pairing from this weekend was a spicy homemade chicken broth, with the very thin Dongguan rice vermicelli and some pak choi, on the side are fried pork rolls we got from Cordon Bleu, just down the block. For the bevvie here we were in luck as our local corner shop Le Beau just received some Pliny the Elder, need I say more? This would be a good time to remind y’all beer goes great with Asian foods, like you needed to know. This was more of a Eurasian meal but it still did the job! Oh and I’ve recently learned that I am way more into these extra hoppy beers…..and that they get way worse after about 30 days in….so if you get a bottle…drink it quick and bottoms up!!!

Pliny the Elder from Russian Brewing Company, Le Beau Market for $4.50ish

Pliny the Elder from Russian Brewing Company, Le Beau Market for $4.50ish

1Robinson, et al. Wine Grapes, New York, Ecco, 2012, pg 702

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The art of picking ripe fruit and veg

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

For the longest time the only way I knew how to check a fruit or vegetable’s ripeness was by calling my grandmother. She would explain in great detail all the checks and balances that needed to be performed before I made my purchase. For the most part this included firmness and odor of the skin. Once in a while she would add a ‘balance it on your palm while putting it up to the closest light source’ a technique, I am sure, added for her own amusement.

Harvest App

Well the days of calling up nanny (so she can make a fool of me in the veg section) are all but over, for now I have Harvest. Harvest is your guide to selecting the freshest and ripest produce. Whether it’s knocking on watermelons or squeezing tomatoes, you’ll soon be an expert. Sure in avocado rich Santa Barbara pretty much everyone knows which hass is prime, but what about okra or lychees? Very simple to use with a complete guide, plus seasonal setting for regions and a handy little bar guide showing how much pesticide residue could be left on the surface. Great app that’ll get you sniffing and squeezing right away.

On iTunes for $2.99

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Don’t Judge a Rosé by its Color – The Pics!!!

It’s August, Summer is almost over, but there’s still plenty of time to down as much rosé as humanly poss!!! (responsibly, of course)

I tasted through some 40 odd pinks to come up with my top 17 (yeah it’s a weird number) for the Big Rosé Review on ZesterDaily….

for all the tasting notes and buying info, go to this Zester page below.

Zester Daily

Below are bottle shots.

Keep cool!
(unless you’re in SF, then grab a light-sweater)

2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Lieu Dit, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley – Available at The Winehound and K& L Wines

2009 Inman Family, Endless Crush, Brut Rosé Nature, Sonoma County

2009 Inman Family, Endless Crush, Brut Rosé Nature $65 – Available at winery website

2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé, $22 – Available at the winery’s site

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch

2012 Idlewild, Grenache Gris, Gibson Ranch – $28- Available at the winery, also at Little Vine in San Francisco

Action Comics #1

NV Croft Pink, Porto, Douro Valley

NV Croft Pink – Porto –Widely available across the US

2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Vallin, Rosé, Santa Ynez Valley $30 – Available at The Winehound and K& L Wines

2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

2012 Mounts Family Winery, Grenache Rosé, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County $16 –Available at the winery

NV Blason de Bourgogne Rose, Crémant de Bourgogne, Burgundy

NV Blason de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne, about $8.99 Trader Joe’s

2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley

2012 Clendenen Family Vineyards, Mondeuse Rosé, Bien Nacido Estate Plantings, Santa Maria Valley
$15 – Available online and at the Au Bon Climat tasting room in Santa Barbara, 805-963-7999

2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley

2012 Broc Cellars, Santa Ynez Valley, $20 Available online, also at the Village Market in Oakland and many restaurants throughout the Bay Area.

2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley

2012 Cameron Hughes Lot 349, Napa Valley, $9.99 available in most SoCal CostCo

2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva, Russian River Valley

2012 Campovida – Rosé di Grenache Riserva , $34.00 Available at Campovida Tasting Room in Hopland (707) 744-8797, or at the Campovida Tasting Room in Oakland, 510-550-7273

2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa

2012 Gioia, Castello di Amorosa – $24 Available at the winery’s site

2012 Brooks, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley

2012 Brooks – Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $20 –Widely Available

2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare, Santa Cruz

2012 Bonny Doon, Vin Gris de Cigare $16.00 – Widely available

2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence

2012 Miraval, Côtes de Provence, around $23Widely available

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Nice to meet Hugh

One of my favorite chefs Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall, of River Cottage fame, happened to be in town, so we poddled along to [the best ever] foodie bookshop, Omnivore, to hear what he had to say.

Hugh (yeah i call him Hugh, we’re best mates as you can see in the pic) was here to promote his newish book River Cottage Veg.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage Veg

As many of you might know, Hugh was once the T-Rex equivalent of chef/carnivore. However, he recently made a switch to eating mostly vegetables….the guy is super nice and although he didnt chat for too long had a few interesting things to say.

Like “Meat can make you lazy about cooking food from the ground.” Basically, he was saying it’s too simple to cook up a steak or whatever, because they are full of flavor already, rather than the sometimes involved process of getting flavors from veg.

Regardless, his book has taught me (or rather the in-house chef @mariannehumble) a lot about cooking with vegetables and is worth a look. He has a an especially nice flat bread dough recipe that can be ready in minutes.

Oh and I asked him about that very imformative and thought-provoking documentary Hugh’s Chicken Run, apparently he’s trying to bring it to these shores. The link there only works in the UK but it must be on the webosphere somewherewhich if you haven’t seen you should watch!

Also at the event was the winery Scribe pouring their 2011 Carnerors Chardonnay – a very crisp wine, with flavors of apricot and golden delicious apples.
If you like zippy/fresh chards this one is a go!

Scribe 2011 Carneros Chardonnay

Thanks again to Omnivore books for an awesome guest!

They have signed copies available for $35 – http://www.omnivorebooks.com/signed_books.html

River Cottage Veg - US cover

Omnivore Books

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Poujol’s Rockin’ Rosé

I first tried Domaine du Poujol’s rosé some 10 years ago…..it was then, as it is now, one of the best coming out of the Languedoc and could definitely be considered one of the best produced around. Robert and Kim Cripps have been living and making wine at this site, since the mid-90’s.

A blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan, what sets it apart is the deep concentration of fresh red berry fruit and the tons and tons of watermelon.  I grabbed it yesterday afternoon at Kermit Lynch’s shop for $16, repeat SIXTEEN DOLLARS most of the California sweet bombs, masquerading as dry rosé are above the 20 buck mark.

Had it with some steamed, marinated mahi mahi with pickled carrot, mint & cucumber salad on the side.
Find this wine, it’s worth the search.

Domaine du Poujol

2012 Domain du Poujol Rosé, Pay de L’Hérault, Coteaux du Languedoc – $16

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Santa Barbara’s wine future starts now.

Printed in the Santa Barbara News-Press, May 6th, 2013. 


Brian McClintic has sent me this note, explaining there will be a postponement to the futures tasting.


First of all, I wanted to thank you for the amazing support you’ve shown us.  The response has been overwhelming.  
With that, it has become apparent that our license will not cover an event of that size, taking into account the current state of construction.

For this reason we’re forced to postpone the tasting until August 10th.


The Santa Barbara wine futures program made famous by the Wine Cask, in El Paseo, is making its way back to our city. This time however you’ll be heading to the Funk Zone to taste some of Santa Barbara County’s best pre-release wines. Sommeliers Eric Railsback, 28 and Brian McClintic MS, 37, are restarting the program that will give you the opportunity to try and purchase over 50 different producers’ wines, before they are bottled, at the opening of their new wine bar and shop, Caveau, on the corner of Anacapa and Yanonali streets.

This will be a return to Santa Barbara for Railsback who graduated from Westmont College in 2007. While attending, he worked at the Wine Cask where he developed a taste for European wines. Since then, he has made quite a name for himself as a sommelier. Railsback has been up and down the state working for the likes of Chef Gordon Ramsay in Los Angeles and most recently heading up the wine program, for the Mina Group restaurant, RN74 in San Francisco. He’s also managed to stick in a few harvests in France, most notably at Domaine Dujac the famous Burgundian wine producer in Morey-Saint-Denis.

Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic MS

Eric Railsback (left) and Brian McClintic MS (right) – looking studious

You might recognize his business partner McClintic, as he was one of the sommeliers featured in the film SOMM that played at this year’s Santa Barbara Independent Film Festival. The film followed a group of sommeliers for a few years whilst they studied for the Master Sommelier exams, a qualification with a notoriously low pass rate (spoiler alert, McClintic passed). He will be the only Master Sommelier in Santa Barbara County.

The two are both very excited about their new venture and especially about the wines from the county.

“Santa Barbara wine country is way more exciting than Sonoma or Napa or any of those other places, just the potential, the terroir and everything, it’s pretty epic.” Says Railsback, who has been visiting the region off and on over the past few years and is making a wine under the label Lieu Dit, with local winemaker Justin Hewitt of Tyler Winery, since 2010.

McClintic too, really believes in the wines from the area. “Eric and I feel the same way about the wine from Santa Barbara, this is no joke and not a line, we without a question believe this is one of the most underrated terroirs in the country, if not the world. With the soil, the climate, the typography, everything included, Santa Barbara is incredibly underrated and it is an incredibly dynamic area, he says, “We are proud of the area and everything about our business serves to promote Santa Barbara County wine.”

Railsback and McClintic met in San Francisco a few years ago, McClintic was looking for a place to live and through a mutual friend, another sommelier Rajat Parr, was introduced to Railsback.

“What was supposed to be one week staying at his tiny studio flat, ended-up being nine weeks.” Recalls McClintic, it was somewhere in this time that the idea of Caveau was born.caveau site

The pair are modeling Caveau, which is being built in the new development that used to be Santa Barbara’s original fish market, on the Parisian wine bar. A place where you can have a glass of wine, a plate of charcuterie and cheese but also where you can purchase a bottle to take home. McClintic will also be teaching a wide variety of wine courses at the location, everything from beginners appreciation to how to blind taste. Wines sold will be from Santa Barbara County with a wide variety of European wine as well.

Doug Margerum, who started the original futures program in 1987, when his family owned the Wine Cask is happy the torch is being relit. “I am thrilled someone is re-championing it again, it’s really good for the wine community and really promotes the wines of this area to a broader audience. Eric is a superstar in the wine business as is his partner, Brian; I think they’ll do a great job. Santa Barbara County needs some advocates and these are the perfect guys to do it.”

Caveau’s Futures tasting will include: Alma Rosa, Alta Maria, Anacapa Vintners, Au Bon Climat, Barden, Barrack, Bien Nacido, Estate, Beckman, Bonaccorsi, Buoni Anni, Brewer-Clifton, Carlson, Cebada, Chanin, Clendenen Family Vineyards, Curtis, Goodland, Grassini, Habit, Happy Canyon Vineyards, Jaffurs, Kunin, La Fenetre, Lieu Dit, Margerum, Melville, Municipal Winemakers, My Essential Red, Native 9, The Ojai Vineyard, Palmina, Piedrasassi, Piocho, Qupé, Roark, Sandhi, Samsara, Sillix,, Stolpman, Storm, Tatomer, Tyler, Vallin, Verdad, Wenzlau, Zotovich Cellars

“We wanted a good balance of the old guard who started Santa Barbara County, like Adam Tolmach, Bob Lindquist and Jim Clendenen who have been doing it forever. And new smaller, up and coming wines that no one knows about.” Explains Railsback.Caveau Wine Bar Santa Barbara

The Santa Barbara County Wine Futures Tasting will be on Saturday May 18th August 10th at Caveau Wine Bar & Merchant.

131 Anacapa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
From 11am – 5pm

Tickets can be purchased for $70 at www.caveau.eventbrite.com
For more info contact either Eric Railsback or Brian McClintic at info@caveausb.com

Or call 1-503-314-4318

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