Wine Tasting

Peachy keen and bubbly!

"Come the day you're mine
I'm gonna teach you to fly
We've only tasted the wine
We're gonna drain the cup dry."

from "The best is yet to come"

If, like me, you're starting to feel the end-of-summer blues, let this week's pairing be a reminder that things are still peachy keen and that "The best is yet to come! Though written for and introduced to the world by Tony Bennett, it was Frank Sinatra who popularized this song (the linked version is from his final performance in 1995). As we begin to wave buh-bye to summer, let us remember that the best days are still ahead.


This week we sample one of those "Crémant de Somewheres" you keep hearing about (Crémant de Bourgogne and Crémant de Limoux are the two you've likely seen popping up on shelves recently). The Perle Noire by Louis Bouillot is absolutely one of my favorites! In our extremely humble opinion, these Crémants can be even more delicious than their typically much more expensive cousins over in Champagne (don't tell them I said that). Taste the delicate, silky robe of bubbles and make sure to hold a sip in your mouth before swallowing to let the bubbles dance all over your tongue! Why not make the Frenchies squirm and add a small pour of peach nectar for a Bellini!


Sweet Treat
Because California stays warm into much of the fall, peach season can last through the end of September. There are endless things we can do with peaches: can them, make pies out of them, slurp them fresh from the farmer's market stand... but consider baking them! Instead of vanilla ice cream, try serving them over fresh ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey and a sprig of mint... perfect for pairing with the Perle Noire Crémant de Bourgogne. YUM!

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Staying true to our Red, White, and Blue

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant." - Martin Luther King, Jr.


Our "Red, White, and Blue" Pairing of the Week this week is the smallest possible attempt to bring some light to a week full of darkness. We sample delicious things from coast to coast this week while we remember all the goodness, diversity, and beauty that surround and unite us.


Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" was written in 1942 in response to America's entry into WWII and Vice-President Henry Wallace's comment that we were entering the "Century of the Common Man." The short piece for brass and percussion is touching and approachable yet the open, almost hollow-sounding intervals have a hint of the mysterious about them. There is plenty of air in between musical entrances and in those open chords allowing plenty of time to take in the rich aromas and flavors of our wine and cheese choices. 

American composer Carlisle Floyd composed his opera Susanna in the mid-1950s, some speculate as a response to the paranoia of McCarthyism. It tells the story of 18-year old Susanna from New Hope Valley, Tennessee who is shunned by her community initially only because of her innocence and beauty. The beginning of her aria, "Aint it a pretty night?" is soft gentle opening but rises in intensity as she dreams of bigger things away from her hometown. Think of those big dreams as you sip your wine! As an aside, this version was recorded a few years ago at Ash Lawn Opera in Charlottesville, Virginia by my friend, Leah Partridge.


Turiya: a state of consciousness wherein reality and truth are harmonious.
Turiya WInes is run by our friend, Angela Soleno, up in Lompoc, CA. I had the chance to meet her and taste her truly magnificent wines a few weeks ago. This 2009 Petite Verdot particularly blew my mind. The price tag on this bottle calls for a special occasion, but the message behind its name hits so close to home as to merit being included in this week's pairing.


White Chocolate
As we all know, white chocolate isn't really chocolate but rather a mixture of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids. Some love it, others hate it, but it's worth a try if you're still a skeptic.

Try this delicious truffle, humorously named Passion Aggressive from our friends over at Bitchfix

Jasper_Hill_Bayley_Hazen_Blue _ Murray's_Cheese.jpg



Bayley Hazen Blue
From the beautiful state of Vermont, the Bayley Hazen Blue is my go-to blue cheese on any day. Named for an old military road commissioned by George Washington, Bayley has a fudge-like texture, toasted-nut sweetness, and anise spice character. The paste is dense and creamy, with well-distributed blue veins. Why not try it with a bite of white and bite of dark chocolate and taste the difference!
(notes borrowed from Jasper Hill Farm's website).

Napa Valley never disappoints!!

I know, I know there are a bajillion other wine regions in the world equally as fabulous as Napa Valley but come on, it's just gorgeous up there! I had the chance to meet with a few really special wineries and hang out at some cool new wine bars. Happy to share my top three!


1) Trinchero Family Estates, St. Helena

It's impossible to overstate the value of having a personal connection anywhere and most especially at a winery. I could not be more effusive in my positive comments about the staff and the whole experience at Trinchero Family Estates. From the beautiful, newly renovated tasting room to the extra touch of a free cheese plate and a bottle of wine, every moment at Trinchero was peaceful, fun, and kind of just like a big sunny, wine hug. Thank you all for your hospitality!




2) Wente Vineyards, Livermore


It surprised me to learn how many of my wine-drinking friends had not heard of Wente Vineyards, especially since this is a brand you can often find in large grocery stories. I can only chock it up to the fact that this remarkable place is in Livermore, not Napa or Sonoma, and so it requires making a whole separate trip to go visit it. They are in the midst of their amazing summer concert series featuring names like Diana Krall and Alanis Morisette. I had the chance to meet with the President of Wente, Amy Hoopes, who was incredibly gracious, arranging a full tasting even though the tasting room was shut at the time I was there. This vineyard has a lot of history, and there was a lot of synergy between their philosophy and ours. Both unassuming and dedicated to the importance of specificity, Wente crafts wines that represent the five generations of family history and a true sense of dedication to learning what their customers want.

3) The Saint, St. Helena

Open only a month when I stopped in, you'd have thought this wine bar had been around for decades. The two gentlemen behind the bar seemed so at ease in the space – one of them told me it was his first day on the job but I would never have known that – and it felt almost like an English country manor of sorts. Previously a bank, the space was cavernous, in a good way, with the original vault door a slightly imposing though beautiful decorative addition. I really appreciated that their wine list wandered beyond the region in which it's situated. I went for a South African Chenin Blanc, but I could have made a veritable trip around the world had I had the time. The only thing I'd encourage them to do is quickly update the website with their wine menu so that you can see their wonderful selections!