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Famous Wine: My 10 Day Journey Through Germany

I am in crunch mode preparing for my trip to Germany. This second time around will be 10 days by convertible, through the northern wine regions of the Rheingau and Mosel, crossing over to the Netherlands before hopping back over Frankfurt to Berlin, so I’ve been carefully plotting the journey I will share through video journal with my readers. I will be joined by a clever kiwi with an accent to match and a hankering for sausage, who has agreed to film my escapades in exchange for random mid-air planking photos. Think traveling garden gnomes, or something.

Anyhow, let’s get to the good stuff; the wine. I will be visiting one of the most famous vineyards in the world, the prestigious Bernkasteler Doctor vineyard (picture below) whose vines climb the steep slopes leading up from the Mosel River. There, I will taste the sweet nectar of Weingut Lay and Sophia Thanisch VDP.

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Then, I’m off to Clemens Busch winery, one of the top producers of organic wine in Germany. The estate is located in the village of Pünderich (near Bernkastel) in the Mosel wine-growing region.

I first discovered the wines of these three amazing producers of amazing Riesling through German wine importers Petra and Dade Thieriot of Dee Vine Wines, after having hosted my first German tasting three years ago out of a lean start-up office in San Francisco. I then had the opportunity to try a Doctor Reisling at Sofia Thanisch’s winemaker lunch last year, hosted by Dee Vine (label pictured below), and the rest is history.

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About a dozen tastings later and a deep knowledge of Riesling, which is humbly shallow compared to that of my mentors and idols in the industry, I will be taking my first trip to the Mosel Germany to share my experiences with you.

You won’t be able to find these gems just anywhere, however, Dee Vine imports Clemens Busch wines as well as wines from Sofia Thanisch exclusively for the state of California and sells them wholesale as well as to consumers.

While Mosel Riesling will be far more satisfying than an oenophile could ever hope, I do have quite an affinity for the Pinot Noir grape and must add Weingut Robert König to the list. His elegant Spätburgunder asked me to come try it. How can I refuse? So I sneak in a quick visit before the Mosel and I’m off to the Rheingau.

Fast forward to day 10 and we’ve covered two countries, 1,204 km and I’m sinking into my chair to enjoy a last supper with a dear friend, Katharina. I’ve blogged, video journaled and social media’d the crap out of you, all while relearning how to drive a manual, but hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about wine.

Read more on my HuffPost blog!

April Wine Tasting | Bordeaux: Left v. Right Bank

In January we began our trip through France, starting in the South West and now working our way deeper into Bordeaux. This Thursday April 17th, we will continue our journey into Bordeaux, where we will explore the wines of the Left Bank, Right Bank and Entre-deux-mers.

Andrew Fidelman, formerly of Spruce, and myself, will guide you through this tasting at French inspired Aquitaine Wine Bistro located in San Francisco’s Financial District. What does that means for us? Luscious wine from the largest wine growing area in France.

There will be a surprise special Performance by lead singer Kyna Wise of funk band The Go Ahead. “The topping of this funk rock stew is a formidable force of female vocal fireworks equal parts Grace Slick, Mick Jagger and Gwen Stefani. When you mix all these elements it’s hard to imagine an ass they couldn’t get shaking.”- Ryan Brown, bay area comedian and musician.

Tickets available on Eventbrite for $40 and will not be available at the door.

Introducing the Huffington Post Blog!

On March 10th I posted the first of many wine articles for the Huffington Post. I wanted to take this time to thank my readers, share this news and gain your support. It would not have been possible without you. Please share and become a fan to learn more about wine!

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January Wine Event | Wine Soirée 2014: Southwest France

Our next stop on the journey to wine enlightenment will take us to Southwest France. We will celebrate 2014 in style at Andrew Fidelman’s next endeavor – French inspired Aquitaine Wine Bistro, located in San Francisco’s Financial District. As you may know, Andrew opened and co-wrote the wine list at Spruce and has masterfully created the wine list at Blanc et Rouge, and now Aquitaine.

A quick fact you all might not know, Aquitaine is the home of Bordeaux. What does that means for us? Amazingly luscious, velvety wine. The evening will feature a selection of 4 representing the area of Southwest France.

Ticket includes full wine tasting and light hors d’oeuvres and will not be available for sale at the door. If you’ve joined us in the past, then you know this will be a ball.  Dress to impress.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite here.

New Mission wine bar 20 Spot

I settled into one of the sleek mid-century stools lining the bar of the newest Mission wine bar, 20 Spot and knew instantly this would be the spot. Those who know my prowess for finding the best wine in the city may have heard me utter that the Mission was devoid of a fit wine bar since Heart left the hood. Well folks, as of late March I’d been missing out.

As I admired the vintage inspired architecture, a picture perfectly painted in an article by Daily Candy last month, under the glow of the lamps which illuminated the seductive reclaimed eucalyptus bar, I perused the by the glass list.  I noticed owner Bodhi Freedom was pouring, who I upon introduction, I realized was the owner of Bacchus in Russian Hill. I was excited to try something weird. The words blurted out of my mouth…”I’d like to try a wine – with funky earthiness.”

After he delivered the words back to me to ensure he’d heard me correctly, yes HE understood exactly what I was looking for, but wanted to make sure that I did, as I suppose this is not a descriptor you hear from a customer all too often, Bodhi immediately pours me a glass and explained that it is his favorite on the list.

The wine was an Etna Rosso from the island of Sicily. The grape — Nerello Mascalese and confirmed to be a blend of Sangiovese and another unidentified grape. It was just my speed, and after a swig, I realized why. It was very similar to the Canary Island wine I tasted the week before at Terroir, farmed from soil dark brown in color, volcanic in origin, well-drained – almost sandy in some parts (from Vinity Wine Company). I would be sure to include this in my next tasting, as this unique selection was missing from my first Italian tasting, which was more of a big-picture overview given the complexity of the country’s wine growing regions.

The wine is very pretty, with cherry, herbs and flowers. It was delicate while maintaining the funky earthiness I was looking to enjoy. 20 Spot helped me uncover yet another gem, and I’m excited to return for my next glass.

The Wine:

2010 Graci Etna Rosso

Nerello Mascalese | Sicily, Italy

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10 Steps to Sipping Wine like a Wanker

With all the talk about wine wankers in the news after Nick Bhasin’s article in the Sydney Morning Herald last week, I’m going against the grain a bit and thought I’d give a proper introduction on how TO look like snob whilst sipping wine. Because lets face it – we all want to look like we know what we’re doing. While many savvy sippers try to avoid looking like a wine snob, I personally own it, embrace it and apologize later…actually I don’t. Wine is meant to be enjoyed – not hidden – and here are a few slightly tricky steps to sipping wine like a true professional. There are no rules in drinking wine, but if you want to play the part, you’ve got to know the basics! So the next time you’re at Hotel Biron, do the following, and be prepared to dodge flying objects.

1. Swirl the wine around in your glass and don’t spill it all over the place like a twat.

2. Jam your entire nose in the glass. Sniff. Ladies, please mind the rookie mistake of repeating after your lipstick has rubbed off on the rim, leaving a red moustache on your face.

3. Press your index finger over each nostril. Sniff.

4. Thrust your stemware into thin air, dramatically in search of the perfect lighting with which to inspect the wine. This will ensure that everyone sees that you clearly know what you’re doing.

4.a If you are in the mission replace “stemware” with “mason jar”…scratch that…drink PBR instead.

5. Inspect the 3 Cs. We’re talking color, consistency, clarity here.

6. Raise your glass to your lips, tip the glass and let the wine slide into your mouth. But do not, I repeat, DO NOT swallow. I know this might be hard from some of you.

7. Give the inside of your mouth a little wash with the wine and make sure it touches each part of your tongue to experience it’s full flavor profile.

8. Oxygenate the wine in your mouth. Try not to choke on it. Taste again.

9. Turn to your friend and nod in approval with an awkward grin…because, you know, there’s still wine in your mouth.

10. Now that you’ve properly teased your tastebuds, you may swallow.

You’re welcome.

The Younger Member Forum Tastes the Wines of Germany

On Tuesday I hosted the San Jose Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers  (ASCE) Younger Member Forum.  Civil Engineer and Officer Matt Bower put it simply – “we work on the city’s infrastructure” – from buildings to roads to reservoirs.

That being said, there were some great questions including “what is the soil like in the Nahe region?” – thoughtful questions that we like to hear!  Given the rocky terrain of the region, the soil definitely played a  part in the mineral and slate he tasted in the wine.

The crowd was quite engaged in both the tasting and conversations amongst their peers. Overall a successful event with great folks, great food and great wine.

Here’s the list:

NV Solter Spätburgunder Rosé Deutscher Sekt Brut
Rheingau and Baden, Germany | Pinot Noir

2009 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling QbA Trocken
Nahe, Germany | Riesling

2009 Reinert Wawern Ritterpfad, Riesling Spätlese
Mosel (Saar), Germany | Riesling

2009 König Assmannshausen Höllenberg, Spätburgunder Kabinett Trocken
Rheingau, Germany | Pinot Noir

Wine Tasting for Engineers with Brits Wine

An Unexpected Journey to the Canary Islands by way of E.Vil.

This week I spent some time exploring the wines of Manhattan, and before I knew it I’d been swept into a sea storm – an ocean of wine with crimson waves crashing overhead.  Just when I surmised the current was too great to stay afloat, the clouds part, the ocean calmed, and ahead a promising outlook as I approached land with an unexpected journey to the Canary Islands by way of E.ViL.

As I scanned the wine list at Terroir in Manhattan’s East Village, starting at the top and gazing quickly down the list of appellations I’ve come to adore, my attention was drawn to a wine of which I recognized from Valle de la Orotava.  I’d had a bit of experience with the wines of Spain through my travels and hosted tasting – Txakoli from Basque Country, Priorat and Ribero del Duero, but this one was special.  A unique red farmed on the volcanic soils of the largest of the Canary Islands situated just about 60 miles off the southwest coast of Morocco, on Tenerife, with its black sand and long strand – truly begotten by paradise.

Experts and critics like The New York Times writer Eric Asimov, have praised the wine from this region over the years, and I am familiar with one of its producers Tajinaste through research on the islands, however, this was the first taste encounter I’d had with a Canary Islands wine, and that made me extremely happy.  I excitedly solicited our pourer for information about the wine and before he could he could check (as it had apparently been added to the list the day before) a splash was in my glass, swirling around and then filling my mouth and I was slowly savoring the wine, exploring each layer of complexity and depth like you might do with a piece from Dali. I was in love.  I almost didn’t care to do more than drink it in that moment, but my curiosity brought me back to reality and I instantly knew that the subject of my next piece would be this wine.

The Wine:

2011 Suertes del Marqués | 7 Fuentes |  Valle de la Orotava

Tenerife | Canary Islands

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This Canary Island wine is a blend primarily of Listan Negro and 10% Tintilla, and was fermented and aged in the combination of concrete tanks and French oak barrels.  Importer Jose Pastor Selections’ staff aptly describes it: “Pale red. Fruity, peppery fruit and quite light with some of the island’s volcanic soils showing through. Very appealing, round and early-maturing. Transparent fruit and a satisfying finish. A grainy quality – or am I thinking of the famous black sands of Tenerife? Long.” – JR http://www.josepastorselections.com/

Tenerife is largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands; it is also the most populated island of Spain, with a land area of 2,034.38 km² and 898,680 inhabitants (43% of the total population of the Canary Islands).  Read more about the grape here as Eric Asimov, NY Times writer takes you through this archipelago of Spain.

Where to Buy:

The 2010 vintage is available for $21.99 at K&L Wines. “This is definitely an early contender for Canary red of the year, and a producer to keep an eye on.” – Joe Manekin, K&L Spanish wine buyer.

March Wine Event | Rhone Varietals from Northern California: Big Wines, Small Producers

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Our next tasting on Wednesday will take us through California, where we will explore some big wines from small, boutique producers from various AVAs in northern California. What is an AVA?  An American Viticultural Area is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features.  We’ll be exploring the following wines from 4 AVAs in northern California.  Another fun fact – all of the wines are Rhone varietals!

The Wine

2011 L’Apiculteur | Le P’tit Paysan | Arroyo Seco

100% Viognier. Stone fruit, river stones, excellent focus.

Arroyo Seco, in Monterey County, California, southeast of Monterey Bay, is famous for white wines full of tropical fruit and refreshing acidity. This AVA hosts a small but prestigious list of wineries and supplies fruit to many of California’s most prominent producers who appreciate the distinctive character shaped by this AVA’s unique terroir.

2011 Rose | Bugay Vineyards | Sonoma County (Mayacama Mountains)

97% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre. Amélange of tropical fruit, fresh-cut strawberry, ruby-red grapefruit and citrus.

The Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma County. The proprietors of Bugay Wines immediately fell in love with the stunning beauty of this rugged, inaccessible and forested parcel. To their fortune, the parcel revealed hillside meadows suitable for vineyards and the soils proved to be a winemaker’s dream.  We’ll be tasting a beautiful Rosé.

2008 Syrah | Duende | Russian River  

Lush, rich, balanced.

The Russian River Valley provides a cool climate for growing grapes and accounts for one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The climate in the Russian River Valley is similar to that of the northern Rhone Valley of France, Syrah’s ancestral home, and the wines are stylistically similar to the wines from this region.

2008 Mathis Grenache | Mathis Vineyard | Sonoma Valley

81% Grenache clone 513 and 515 Tablas Creek, 10%  Carignane, 8% Petite Sirah and 1% Alicante Bouchet.  lush fruit combined with pepper notes, hint of juniper

The Sonoma Valley AVA centers on the Sonoma Valley (also known as The Valley of the Moon) in the southern portion of the county. The appellation is bordered by two mountain ranges: the Mayacamas Mountains to the east and the Sonoma Mountains to the west.

Come join us this Valentine’s Day, February 14th, at Blanc et Rouge!

For those of you who may be dreading the most romantic day of the year, you’re in luck. The tasting this week at Blanc et Rouge will be your sanctuary as you avoid prix fix meals and waiting for a table despite the reservation you booked months in advance. Come celebrate with us, and taste delectable wine from around the world. Perhaps you’ll meet your mate! Tickets are available through Eventbrite.

The lineup:

NV Vincent Raimbault | Vouvray Brut | Loire, France

A beautiful sparkling Chenin Blanc from the Loire region of France

Cantalupo il Mimo | Nebbiolo Rose | Piedmont, Italy

A romantic wine of the Nebbiolo varietal made from brief contact with the skin, this lovely dry rose is from the Piedmont region of Italy

2011 Riesling Kabinett, Feinherb | Reinert Wiltinger Schlossberg | Mosel-Saar, Germany

This off dry riesling has a touch of sweetness to warm anyone’s palate. From the Mosel region in Germany, this wine has high acidity and zesty minerality

2011 Locations by Dave Phinney “E” | Garnacha/Carignane | Spain 

Full of ripe, round fruit, displaying the classic hot, arid climate of Spain, like a blast of warm wind carrying savory fragrance and the smells of Spanish cuisine

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