Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer of Love...

After my 2 week work related "vacation" in Italy visiting and touring wineries, it was great to come back to Napa and fall more in love with the wines here. One of my favorite spots was in Montalcino, where the famed Brunello's come from in Tuscany. After checking into the hotel, I went to a place called Il Grifo, where the wine list was comprised of local offerings of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino's. That gave me the inspiration of trying to make the wine list at Carpe more focused and comprised of local offerings as well as out-of-town wines. This summer, come into Carpe and check out some of these wines...

 Friuli is one place where I stopped and let it be known, if it isn't already, that some of the most unique and sought after white wines come from this region in Italy. One grape that has gotten a bit of buzz in the wine circles is the return of pinot grigio. I'm not talking about the cheap bulk pinot grigio. I'm talking about sitting on the beach over in Bodega Bay and enjoying crisp, balanced and overall damn good tasting wine. My pick for such an event is the Scarpetta Pinot Grigio. This wine is seductive in the sense that you'll wish it was a day off all of the time and kicking back with this wine. Master Somm Bobby Stuckey and Chef Lachlan MacKinnon from Frasca Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado are completely obssessed with Friulian whites and this Pinot Grigio shows that. This wine is so good, which is why I put it on the list for Carpe, but even better with the House-Made Burrata!

The one thing I constantly tell people about my goal for the wine list at Carpe is to put together an extensive wines by the glass program that you really can't get anywhere else. One such wine is the Barnett Vineyrard Pinot from the Donnelly Creek Vineyard in Anderson Valley. Anderson Valley is quickly becoming the spot to make great pinot noirs. The 2010 Barnett is no exception. This is a bold and beautiful pinot that makes you fall in love with Anderson Valley pinots. With all of the talk of smoke taint in 2008, this will make you forget all of that. Barnett is known for making great Cabs up on Spring Mountain, in Napa. Winemaker David Tate only made 582 cases of this layered pinot.

One of the legends of the Napa Valley, Randy Dunn, makes his wines one way. His way. His wines are so damn good I had to carry a few of his vintages because I couldn't decide which I liked best. We have the 1998 Napa Valley Cab, the 2002 Howell Mountain Cab and another by the glass gem, the 2003 Napa Valley Cab. Having the 2003 Napa Valley Cab by the glass, I think, will give people a better understanding of why he not only makes great wines, but why he is a legend. His wines are big but not too high in alcohol, which makes for a better food pairing. He's worked with many wineries along the way including Palmaz Family in which he made their first vintage in 2001 and has his own project under the Longshadows label called Feather in Washington. The Napa Valley Cab is 85% Howell Mountain fruit and 15% valley floor fruit. Pair this with the ostrich burger and you won't be disappointed!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring wine favorites - Blue Plate Chenin Blanc & Hirsch Pinot Noir

What a great winter we've had so far!! (Those who know my sarcasm know what I mean).  The constant 60 degree days and not much rain- not going to complain about that!  With tasting so much wine in the past few weeks and always trying to improve the wine list, I am going to focus on two outstanding wines that make you appreciate the varietals that California can grow.  These wines are both traditional but something serious and fun at the same time.  They make you think with a smile because you drink them and wonder why you haven't enjoyed them sooner.

These two wines are, to me, a break from the norm.  The Blue Plate, which is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay is something different yet serious.  I think of Chenin Blanc as one of those varietals that is a 'wine-geek's' intrigue (along with Riesling and Nebbiolo).  Founded by 3 friends in Napa, they went against the grain and focused on Chenin as opposed to steadfast Sauvingnon Blanc or the more common Chardonnay.  Bright fruit on this wine and enough acid from the sauvignon blanc and weight from the chard.  This wine received best in show (great movie for those in the know...) in the 2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.  Not to be missed, this is a wine to drink this spring and into summer at Carpe.  Pair this with the Carpe Diem Salad with Chicken.  Check out their website www.blueplatewines .com

While Cabernet is clearly king in Napa, Pinot Noir is like the seductive queen with layers upon layers of alluring juicy complexity.  The Hirsch Vineyards 'San Andreas Fault' is a pinot that has those seductive qualitites and brings a euphoria to you.  It is direct and complex - and that's what I love about this pinot.  David Hirsch founded Hirsch Vineyards in 1978, when he was selling fruit to some the top pinot makers such as William-Seylem and Flowers.  This, to me, is one of those types of wines, where if you are not a fan of pinot, drink this and it'll change your opinion about how good California pinot noir's are.  For more information, check out their website:


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Spreading some holiday cheer!

Some seriously good wines have come through the doors of Carpe since we opened just a 1.5 years ago, which is no surprise given the scope of industry folk and wine seeking visitors that come into Napa.  The holidays seem to be an exceptionally exciting time for wine enthusiasts, because it gives us all the more reason to pop open the special bottles we have been saving all year to share!  We tasted a 1993 Colgin Herb Lamb Cab last night, shared by a jovial, generous patron who just happens to be closely linked to one of my favorite new wines...

The wine: Vineyard 29 'Cru'.  My friend Keith Emerson makes this wines along with a slew of wines in the Napa including Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet, his own project with Brian Brown (winemaker at Round Pond) called Emerson Brown and his killer Oregon pinot from the famed Shea Vineyard called Sonria.  His wine are crafted with balance and elegance- and that is how I feel about the Vineyard 29.  Along with rockstar wine maker Phillpe Melka, they have crafted a true gem among the many good wines in the valley.  

The Cru is like a cashmere sweater- elegant, plush and makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside (not from the 14.8 alcohol though).  Its also incredibly seductive and special, and shows every quality of a focused Cabernet that pulls out all the flavor and aromatic stops and whistles one could dream of.   

The Carpe Diem team tasted and toured Vineyard 29 last month and everyone was absolutely blown away with the facility, hospitality, and of course the wine.  Austin, the director of hospitality is a GGTK (a Saved by the Bell reference for all of you out there- a glass for you awaits for the correct answer) showed us around and it was a magical experience.  I encourage you all to make an appointment at V29 for a real treat. 

We feel privileged to be the only purveyor in downtown Napa doing Cru by the glass at $18.  Check out their website at

Stocking-Stuffer-worthy Brew:

21st Amendment brewery has done it again, and created the perfect holiday-esque brew called Fireside Chat.  Modeled after Franklin D. Roosevelt's fireside chats during the Depression, it is a "kick in the ass while giving you a hug" kind of beer.  A winter ale with spices, its dark, bold and yet soooooooooo tasty.  $5 will get you that warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside.  But hurry, they only brew this until the end of December. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Double Fisting: Vino and Brew for Fall

Harvest 2011 is in the air of Napa Valley!  

As we start to feel those seasonal changes that harvest brings to the valley every year around this time, we cannot help but just want to relax at the end of the day.  We want a wine that is so overpowering, so bold and rich, that it melts all of the cares away.  We want something wild, yet uncomplicated, and something that matches the bold flavors of fall foods. 

Well friends, I have found the quintessential Napa harvest wine, and I added it by the glass just in time for this season....

the Buoncristiani OPC (Ol’ Pa’s Cuvee).   

The Buoncristiani OPC is the ultimate a velvet glove with an iron fist.   The 2007 vintage of OPC is a proprietary blend of almost equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot, with some Syrah and Malbec.  

These grapes are sourced from some of Napa’s most prestigious vineyards including Hyde, Stagecoach, Hossfeld, and Bennett.  Not only is the wine amazing, but their philosophy of ‘quality not quantity’ makes this the kind of wine to sit back and enjoy the good life!  Enjoy a glass at Carpe for $16 or a bottle for $64.  For more information, check out

Let's switch gears.  
Now, for a word on the BREW of the moment

Anyone who has worked a wine harvest knows this saying- "It takes a lot of beer to make good wine."  Thus, I make sure to always have a unique stash of delicious crafted beers so my winemaker buddies can relax with something special at my bar after a long day at the winery.  

Goose Island Brewing Company out of Chicago makes a fantastic beer called Matilda.  

This Belgian Style Pale Ale is the perfect beer for someone who likes wine.  Dry yet quenching, Matilda has a noticeable spicy character to it- it's like the Malbec of beers.  Really unique, this beer is actually a vintage beer and like wine, will age for 3-5 years.  Next time you come into Carpe, try this out!  12 oz/$7   

Monday, August 22, 2011

Steve's latest wine epiphany from NYC

It felt so good to be back in New York City last week-my hometown, the place I grew up and fell in love with wine.  Every day in the city gave me new inspiration to see as much as I could, and most importantly, to eat as much great food and drink as much amazing wine as I could possibly digest.  While sitting at my friend’s restaurant Dell’ Anima  on 8th Ave, I scanned the exclusively Italian wine selection, only to find a rare vintage of Gravner Breg, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla, Tocai.  This has been a long time favorite wine of mine, and has been known to pop up on the wine list at Carpe from time to time.  The winemaker, Jasko Gravner, is known as one of the great pioneers of wine making in Friuli, in the northeastern corner of Italy.  He forgoes the use of oak barrel fermentation and exclusively uses amphorae (large ceramic pots).  Additionally, he will extend the maceration period for sometimes up to 8 months!  This wine is a crazy, out-of-the-box kind of wine, which is why I love it so much.  The flavors make you ponder everything you know about wine and you will find yourself perplexed by its unique flavor characteristics and texture.  I challenge you to pair this wine with our housemade Burrata or the Claypot Harissa Chicken.   For $150 bottle, this is a special wine for an incredible experience.  Check out for more information

            Another wine that got inspired me recently is the 2009 Von Holt Pinot Noir.  I love these small-scale wine producers because I can see and feel the heart and effort packed into their wines.  This boutique wine is no exception.  Chris Von Holt was a secret service agent back in the 80’s and was lucky enough to travel the world during his free time and make it to Burgundy, France.  Like many people before him, he fell in love with the expressive Pinot Noirs of the region, and the rest is history!  His retirement found him the opportunity to buy up some fruit in the Russian River area and begin making wine.  This particular pinot is very approachable and well balanced, with those classic, nice earthy tones.  Pair this wine with our Stuffed Shrooms or our Quack n Cheese for a killer pairing.  This is on the wine list by the glass at $13 or $52 for the bottle.  For more information go to:

Cheers Everybody!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Is your mouth watering yet? Read this, it will be....

For our current selection of every-changing chef's taco trio, I knew I wanted to go with a Middle-Eastern theme. As with all of our taco creations, I will always start with the protein and build around it....

This week... lamb it is! 

I brought in some Merguez lamb because I liked the nice mixture of herbs and spices it has in it. I know I needed something with a creamy and cooling characteristic to complement the lamb’s spices, so I made a batch of edamame hummus, a Carpe summer favorite that we will be adding in the next few weeks. 
After several “test runs” we had the wining combo. Edamame hummus topped with grilled onions and the lamb followed by a fresh slaw, crumbled feta cheese and some toasted sumac. Sumac is a spice that comes from the berries which grow wild throughout the Mediterranean as well as the middle east. It has a nice tartness that finishes of the tacos almost as if it had a fresh squeeze of lemon. 
 If you want to try these tacos you better hurry because they will be gone before you know it. 
We have been having a great  time inventing our “Chef’s selection of Taco’s” and have been changing them almost weekly. Past editions include Filet Mignon with a Blackberry Balsamic glaze, grilled Onions and Slaw as well as Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi with a charred Jalapeno Aioli topped with a Coconut Slaw.  
Come on down and enjoy some great tacos paired with our massive selection of wines or our 6 great ever-changing draft beers.
Cheers, Chef Scott 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Steve's visit with Sean Thackrey, the hidden Mastermind   <-- this is a MUST-see website for winos and history buffs

Walk into the 'barn' of Sean Thackrey and prepare to be shell-shocked with reality and long-lost passion that California winemaking once was.

Deep in the thicket of Bolinas, California...past the winding beach towns of Stinson Beach, across the inlet bay, sits the mastermind at work at his over-sized wooden table.  Notebooks, tasting sheets, winemaking books, beakers, and vintage Russian plastic glove molds line his shelves.  This is where the winemaker/ philosopher/storyteller conducts his business.

Sean has been making small quantities of wine in a 2 story wooden barn, the size of a single-family home, with the rustic feel of a mountain cabin for many years.  I have been carrying his wine for awhile because it is so delicious and unique, but I didn't know the full extent of how minimalistic and old-world his practices were until this highly-anticipated visit came to fruition.

This guy is awesome.  His barn is full of very mature barrels that he is conducting real experiments in.  4 different clones of pinot noir, grown in the same vineyard, with the same exact conditions, and now being made into wine in the exact same style.  Sean feels what he is doing is revolutionary, and it is.  The best part about it, is how humble and real he is about wine.  I can't tell you how many times he exploded into laughter just talking about the wine industry, how much it has changed, and how "funny" its people are.

As Sean unleashed the fury of his technical wine knowledge, background and stories making wine, he kept refilling my glass with something new of his.  His 'Orion' blend is his flagship wine and what he is known for.  However, his 'Pleiades' wine is something to really talk about (side note: all his wines are named after constellations, and bear a little gold moon on the label which symbolizes how wine changes and reveals itself in time).  It's a non-vintage wine that he makes and consists of pinot noir and viognier. He also has some syrah, mouvedre and sangiovese to name a few more, along with grapes that are unknown.  That is what makes this wine fantastic- his attention to detail with homage given to the past.

All of his wines are expressive, rich in color and flavor, and just taste raw (in a good way).  After hours of conversation with Sean, I can honestly say this guy loves wine and everything about it and those are the kind of winemakers worth knowing.