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World Champagne Day 2016

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I was completely taken by surprise to learn today was #WorldChampagneDay this morning. I’ve been so busy with a new job in the city that wine events have fallen off my radar.

On a whim tonight on the way home, I stopped into Diablo Foods in Lafayette for dinner. The store has historically had a great wine selection, and the chilled wines, sparkling and still, was no exception. I grabbed a 375 ml. of the Piper-Heidsieck Brut to explore after my meal.

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According to Tom Stevenson’s Christie’s World Encyclopedia Of Champagne & Sparkling Wine, the champagne house of Piper-Heidsieck is located in the Champagne region of France. Established in Reims by Florens-Louis Heidsieck in the summer of 1785, the house combined the name with Piper in 1839. Piper-Heidsieck was enfolded into the Remy Cointreau group in the late 1980’s.

The Brut is made in the traditional way with pinot noir and chardonnay and, interestingly, none of the fruit is grown on site, and sourced throughout the Champagne region.

I’ve gotten almost completely over a recent cold, and while the aroma wasn’t strong for me, the flavors were exquisite.  I perceived a light floral nose, perhaps honeysuckle? The taste was light, and citrus, with an abundance of enjoyable acidity.

I love champagne, and actually became a huge fan both from drinking and living vicariously through many of my wine blogger friends’ posts. What has also caught my attention is David Glancy’s Champagne course over at the San Francisco Wine School that is part of the French Wine Scholar program. Now that I’ve returned to my previous profession and am working in the city, I actually have more opportunities to continue my education in wine studies, albeit away from Las Positas. Let’s see what 2017 brings!

Cheers,

~H

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Taste Our Terroir, Livermore Valley 2013

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IMG_2438(Photos by H. Kremer)

I was grateful to attend the Livermore Valley’s kickoff event for Taste Our Terroir 2013 at the Casa Real in Pleasanton on Thursday July 18.  The event was the first of a four-day weekend showcasing the food and wine of the Livermore Valley.  For the remaining days, many wineries were hosting tours, with others offering wine-paired dinners with cooking demonstrations, and much more wine-related events.

Established in 1849, the Livermore Valley has long been a forgotten wine destination.  Within the last two decades, a groundswell has been building to remind us that the Livermore Valley has a great deal to offer.  This movement has come from a variety of different groups, including wine growers associations and the wineries themselves.  Two of the wineries, Concannon and Wente, have deep historical roots in Livermore and have made many contributions to the changing landscape and strive to continue to draw attention to the Livermore region.

Thursday’s event had about 20 wineries each stationed with a local caterer.  The pairings were exquisite, and I had the opportunity to talk with many winery representatives and caterers alike.

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A couple standout pairings were:

  • Eagle Ridge 2010 Zinfandel paired with small gnocchi (green potato dumplings) served with a lamb ragu sauce
  •  Garre Vineyard 2009 sauvignon blanc paired with smoked salmon on bruschetta with capers and goat cheese

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  •  Concannon’s Righteously Rosé with a Gulf shrimp, Coho salmon, Pacific true cod, sea scallop sausage with Olivina EVOO, chives, rosé cream sauce with chervil [a delicate fennel-like herb]

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  •  Occassio Vineyard 2010 Zinfandel paired with American Kobe beef Carpaccio lollipops

My favorite was the watermelon gazpacho with a skewer of miscellany presented by Tender Greens Catering of Walnut Creek paired with the Retzlaff Vineyards’ 2011 Isabelle Blush, a merlot rosé.

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I was fortunate to speak with one of the pairing judges, David Glancy, after the competition.  David is the founder and CEO of the San Francisco Wine School and has a culinary background, so he was well suited for judging the pairing competition.

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I asked him what standards he was looking for in the pairings.  He told me he was looking for pairings that were “right on” for the particular varietals, but he also said that the judging was not about wine or food, but that he was looking for the best pairing.

He alluded that the wine and the food together needed to equal more than their individual parts.  He and another judge mentioned, “1 + 1 = 3.”

All in all, it was a great event to attend, and I’d love to attend it again to see what different pairings the caterers and wineries concoct for the evening.

How about you, did you attend?  Which pairing did you feel was the best, and why?

Cheers!

The Tales of the Traveling Tiara (part 2)

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(this is a second installment of my experience at the Wine Bloggers Conference this past August 2012 in Portland, Oregon.  You can read my first post here.)

Thursday night was an early night to bed.  On Friday, the Wine Bloggers in Portland woke up to a clear, hot sunny day similar to the day before.

After breakfast, I went downstairs to mingle.  On Thursday, sometime during check-in, I had seen Nannette wearing a tiara.  I knew instinctively it was her birthday, and heartily wished her a happy day.  When I saw her Friday morning, I informed her that that day was my birthday, and asked if I may wear the tiara that day?

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As I set the tiara on my head, and began touring the registration and tradeshow area, the day began to look much more interesting.

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(Pardon the blurred photo, I was a new iPhone user!)

The Argentine Food & Wine pairing was for the most part done well.  Some of the pairings weren’t spot on, but most of the food was delicious, and the hosts and hostesses of the event were wonderful.  A couple performing Latin tango during the lunch added visual and aural elements to the already sensory-filled brunch.

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Things happened quickly on Friday, and Randall Grahms’ keynote began and ended in a whirl.

The whites and roses Live Wine Blogging was my first experience at rapid tasting (and spitting!), and since I only had my iPhone, I tweeted my impressions:

  • A memorable wine was the Alexana Pinot Gris from Dundee Hills.  The wine was bright, clean, lemony.  The winery is higher end and only available to a few states.
  • The Johan Chardonnay (Willamette) was aged for 18 months in French oak, and bottled unfiltered.  High acid and delicious, I noted it would pair well with certain cheeses and fruit.
  • Benton Lane came to Table 13 and served a Pinot Gris.  Benton Lane is known for it’s pinot noir.  The pinot gris would stand up well to salads, pear fruit, and salmon.
  • Merryhill Winery, a family owned and operated winery, poured a Rose of Sangiovese that had Best of Show in Sonoma County.  This rose screamed picnic as I envisioned cured meats and cheese on a red-and-white checked tablecloth on sunny Mt. Tamalpais.
  • An Argentine Recuerdo Torrontes had great acid.  I was thrilled to learn it was available in California.

In summary, I loved the sauvignon blancs, Pepi (origin?) and Decibel (NZ, Hawks Bay) that were crisp, not too cold, and acid bouncing off the tongue.

The tasting ended with a Gloria Ferrer Va De Vi which would be a stellar picnic wine in case rose´ wasn’t desired.

Within a half hour after the whites and roses live wine blogging, the buses in front of the hotel began to fill with passengers going to mysterious destinations.  I vacillated between going and not going, and finally jumped on Bus 8 where there were only two remaining seats left in the entire caravan.  I think I made the best decision.

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We sat in heavy traffic for a short time, and then got off the freeway onto a little country highway.  We traveled for about an hour, maybe a little more, when we were stopped by a police break in the road.  What was going on?

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Lo and behold, it was a planned stop by the Carlton Police.  Welcome to Carlton, Oregon!  First stop, Carlos & Julian!

(…. to be continued….)

No Longer a Wine Bloggers Conference Virgin and the Tales of the Traveling Tiara, Part I

It’s been over a month since I returned home from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland.  I had such an amazing weekend *alone* that when I finally returned to the Bay Area on Monday, I was unprepared for the denouement of the entire weekend.

I hadn’t had too much or even enough wine at the Conference, and I continued to drink wine in the evening for a couple days after I returned.  After that, I’d had my limit; I’d become burned out on wine!  I had to put the festivities of the weekend on a back burner including any writing because when I returned my fall family schedule was in full throttle —  my son had started first grade and club soccer, and I had a night class beginning at the end of the week.

This post will be a nice reminder of an amazing weekend I had for which I’ll forever be grateful.

When I arrived in Portland, the first thing I noticed was that it was HOT!  I’d arrived on Thursday August 16 mid day since I wanted to connect with friends before the frenzy of the Conference began.

Since I’d arrived before many of my friends, I settled in the room for a short time and decided to take the opportunity to explore downtown Portland.

I caught the MAX line outside the hotel and took the train across the river into the city, getting off a few stops before my destination.  Since I love music second to wine, I decided to try to find some local record/CDs stores for some hidden gems.

The first store I went into was strictly hip-hop, and the owner was offended I didn’t ask him first if I could take a picture of his store for my blog.  I left quickly and found another victim, which I found at Jackpot Records on SW 9th Avenue.  I was more comfortable with the music this store sold, jazz, blues, mostly vintage, and some vintage rock on LP, but held out on buying anything.

I finally stumbled and fumbled in the heat to Everyday Music (after a confusing trip through Powells’ Bookstore), and found two great finds:  A Hindu Love Gods CD (REM with Warren Zevon on vocals from the late 80’s/early 90’s) and an out-of-print Bonnie Raitt CD.

Happy but tired, I made my way to the MAX station I’d exited and found a seat amongst the commuters for the ride back to the hotel.  After a quick dinner of black bean hummus and vegetables with a couple glasses of my new favorite King Estate pinot gris with Doug Levy (http://douglevy.com/WFW/), Jeff Weissler (http://consciouswine.com/) , and Luke Whittall (http://winecountrybc.wordpress.com/), the Conference began with the Welcome Reception provided by the Oregon Wine Board.

This was a fun event, but a little intimidating for me as well.  As great as it was for me to taste many different wines that night, my focus was on meeting people I’d been virtual friends with for years.  I don’t know how the conference had handled welcoming receptions in the past, but that night should have had fewer wineries to allow more mixing and mingling among the attendees, in my opinion.

The wines that stood out for me that night were pinot gris and pinot noir (my first foray into both varietals) produced by Johan, Cooper Mountain, and Evening Land.

The next day, August 17, was a truly memorable day!
……….(TO BE CONTIUED)……..

Serendipity

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Serendipity – an aptitude for making desirable discovery by accident; good fortune.

After an extremely busy spring, I’m ready to jump into summer with both feet.  I’ve taken the summer off from my studies, my son is obviously out of school, and we’re moving into a wonderful house on a half-acre.

While I’ve been planning this move for some time now (my father is moving in with me as he’s entered his twilight years), I’ve still had my radar scanning for opportunities that are food and wine related.

I’m attending this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland after missing all prior years conference, the most recent in 2011 in Virginia.  Earlier this year, I had begun blogging more earnestly and started looking at my financial situation and budget to see where I could save money for the costs associated with the trip.  I’d also applied earlier this spring for the WBC Scholarship, and was confident I’d receive some much needed help.

On June 18, I received an email that I’d been granted funds to cover airfare, and would be reimbursed for registration, hooray!

While this doesn’t count as a serendipitous event since I’d applied for the Scholarship, it seemed like a good dose of “good fortune,” particularly since I’d already gone through the entire ordeal of qualifying for a loan and buying a home.

Today I was exchanging emails with a local writer who’d written an article I appreciated.  We were both local to the East Bay Area and exchanged a couple emails regarding area landmarks, some of which are no longer in existence.  He must have found my prior comments on articles that I am interested in food, because he then asked if I’d be interested in writing about food for his online magazine.  I responded with a hearty ‘yes’ and sent him a link to my published article with edible East Bay.  This truly would be serendipity if a simple email turned into another writing opportunity.

I’m excited for the long weekend in August in Portland for so many reasons, It will be a huge opportunity for me to learn more about wine and writing from other bloggers and guest speakers.

~H

A new year, a new wine, a new romance?

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As much as I love both wine and writing, I have been remiss in posting.

Tonight I purchased a Hannah Nicole 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Contra Costa County), and was eager to try it. The last time I tried a Hannah Nicole wine was at the winery’s tasting room early 2011. I’d been out there with the public relations gal for the winery for an event, and had interviewed the operations manager about a new appellation Hannah Nicole’s owners were applying for.

Today, the last day of Christmas/New Year break, I was grocery shopping and found this wine and purchased it.

courtesy of jasonswineblog.com

While I’d consumed a fair amount of wine and champagne over the holidays, I had not been writing about it, nor had I been taking any notes.  I felt this would be a good wine for me to post on.

I’d had a lovely New York steak with asparagus for dinner, and had opened and “soireed” the first glass.  I then entered the Romance Zone.

The color was a deep beautiful garnet red, with a clear rim and a deep depth.  It had a delightful nose, more floral than vegetal, albeit a hothouse flower versus a rose.  The nose was low to moderate.

The first taste was a balance of acid, tannins, mild sugars and alcohol.  As an analogy, the first taste was the confirmation of a date with a hot guy.  Definitely interesting, can’t wait to see what happens next!

The next taste, the development of the wine, is another step down Romance Road.  You’re out on the date now, he looks great [on paper] and the date is going great.  There is a wonderful balance of fruit, blackberry?  Currant?  Is that a hint of caramel?  Sweet!  You begin to think to yourself, “I can change my name this time, he may be The One…. What would we name the baby if it’s a boy?”

Then, the death blow  —  the finish taste.  The finish is not considerably less than the first taste or the development of the wine – it’s empty.  He frowns during dessert and coffee.  He confides he is having legal trouble ever since late 2008 when he was working for a large national bank that has since gone bankrupt.  “I only did what I was told to do,” he says, but now the senior loan officers he had managed are now being subpoenaed.

There is no future for this wine; if you have some in your cellar, drink it now.  The romance is over.  You carefully wipe your mouth with your napkin and excuse yourself.  You go to the back of the restaurant where you know you can exit through the kitchen door after you call a taxi.  It’s not a total loss, you tell yourself.  You had a wonderful dinner, and it’s a New Year.

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