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: