Thursday, September 30, 2010


Every once in a while, I try a wine that really gets me jazzed. I like most of the wines that I try, but sometimes there are single ones that really stand out. These are the wines that I want all of my friends, family, and customers to try because they have something special to them. This has happened with the 2009 Pinol Ludovicus.

This wine is a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Cabernet, coming out of the Spanish region of Terra Alta- located a bit Southwest of Priorat. It is aged for a mere 3 months in French oak, resulting in a wine that is fruit-forward and a bit modern, but has enough "Spanishness" to it to make it interesting. The nose has a ton of floral notes, and the palate follows that up with black cherry, and blueberry flavors blended seamlessly with a touch of baking spice and mushrooms.

This is one of those wines that you start off slowly sipping a glass with your burger, then suddenly realized you and your spouse have polished off the entire bottle without thinking about it. I suggest buying multiple bottles in case this emergency occurs.

Starting tomorrow, it will be available at all Friar Tuck locations, Wine Styles, Veritas, Wine Chateau, and served at Modesto Tapas and Five. 33 Wine Bar, The Wine and Cheese Place, and Sanctuaria have all said they would bring it in as well. Your retail cost on the bottle should be about $11 or $12.

Cheers, and Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Be Forwarned: this post has very little to do about wine or restaurants.

I want to bring up something that I have noticed lately, that has probably been going on for a long time.

Why is it that people, as a whole, are getting less and less positive? Seriously. I'm generally a pretty happy-go-lucky, smiley type of guy. However, if I tell someone that I'm having a great day, the reaction is usually a suspicious look. I know we can all blame the economy, or the weather, or Obama, or GW, or Satan, or God, or whomever, but I personally think that being happy and positive is a choice.

When was the last time you were honestly happy that a co-worker got a promotion that they worked hard for, and deserved?

When was the last time that someone lost weight, got into shape, and you were glad that they made a healthy lifestyle choice, instead of being jealous?

When were you last happy for someone who won an award that they honestly should win?

Heck, even for you reality TV watchers- when was the last time you were excited about the person winning whatever show it is that consumes you?

I wonder (out loud, evidently) if the trend that our culture is taking towards chatting/facebooking/tweeting/emailing all of our emotions has left us a bit cold and uncaring and as a consequence we have gotten bitter.

I challenge you- take somebody that you don't know very well out for a cup of coffee or a beer this week. Ask them about themselves, and listen to their response. Don't think about how your experiences match up or beat theirs, just learn about another human, face-to-face. Or, how about this- write someone a letter. Seriously, there are these things called pens. Go get one, and get another thing called stationary. Then just send someone a handwritten note, letting them know that you are thinking about them. Not an email. Not a text. Not a tweet. Not a DM.

Will you do one of those? If you do, please let me know how it goes. I really think it might put that thing called a smile back on your face.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pietra Santa Cab

My wine suggestion today is for those that have 1) gotten sick of the hot weather that is the scourge of all things that show sweat, and 2) those that think that you still have to pay $75 for a decent bottle of California Cab.

Go check out the 2006 Pietra Santa Cabernet Sauvignon. Yeah, I know that the '07s that are coming onto the market are all the rage right now. However, I also know that they tend to cost a lot of dough. I don't know about you, but during the middle of the week, I'm willing to sacrifice just a touch of quality in lieu of not paying so much for a bottle of good wine. This is exactly why I like the Pietra Santa stuff. Made by Italian-born winemaker Alessio Carli, these wines are from estate grown, hand harvested, sustainably produced grapes. Their belief is that the wines can only be as good as the grapes that go into them. Trust me, these grapes are good. Oh, and then there's the oak treatment. Carli likes long oak treatments- this cab saw nearly 3 years in oak! By the time the wine sees that much wood, it really integrates the spiciness and vanilla notes well. Production on this wine is only about 1200 cases.

So, if you put all of these things together- green farming, extended oak, small production, hand harvesting, you get the things that make Napa Cabs $75 a bottle. However, since this wine is from the Cienega Valley (25 miles inland from Monterey), you get a cab that is going to cost you $18 or less retail.

Check it out. If you don't like the wine, I'll buy the bottle back from you.


Monday, September 13, 2010


When it comes to areas of the world that produce really nice, value driven wines, Spain must currently be at the top of the list. From this wonderful country, you can get reds, whites, rose's, dry, sweet, bubbly, and just about every other imaginable sort of wines at decent prices. One such wine that I recommend is the 2008 Torremoron. This particular wine hails from the Ribera Del Duero region in North Central Spain, which is an area that produces stunning examples of Tempranillo. Torremoron, besides being a good little, slightly oaked version of the grape is also a cool story. You see, the winery is located in the town of Quintanamanvirgo (say that ten times fast). This is a tiny town of around 200 people. That in and of itself isn't notable, but the fact that nearly the entire town works for the winery is. The winery literally supports this town- they employ most of the adults, and pay for health services and schooling for the majority of the children. Pretty cool for a winery that produces 66,000 total cases of wine.

Go buy yourself a bottle- it should only cost about $12, drink up, and toast the fact that not only are you getting a nice, inexpensive bottle of wine, but you are also doing some social good in Spain (even if you can't pronounce the name of the town).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Don't Believe the Hype

There is an trend that happens this time of the year regarding wine that is starting to bug me. For some reason, restaurants and retailers start the rumor with their customers that Rose' "season" is over as soon as Labor Day passes us by.

Don't believe the hype!

I stand with my feet firmly planted in the camp that rose', when made correctly, is a wine that can be enjoyed year-round. Caveat number one is that I said "made correctly". I'm not talking about Beringer White Zinfandel here. Don't drink that plonk, it sucks. However a rose' from Southern France, Spain, Italy, or even some producers in California tastes just as good when the humidity in the Lou dips below 93%. Here are a few reasons why you should still be drinking rose':

1. It's made from red grapes. Gentlemen, this one is aimed directly at you. I don't know how many times I have heard guys say something to the effect of "My wife likes that pink stuff, but I only drink red." Well, do a little research Einstein- the pink stuff that your wife is drinking is likely made from the same grapes (often time the same batch) as the red wine that's in your glass.

2. It's refreshing. Trust me, I'm just as much of a fan as a big, bad, robust glass of Cabernet as the next guy. However, sometimes at the end of the work day I'm just plain thirsty. I want the flavors of red wine, but also want something nice, cool and delicious. Once again, Rose' fits the bill.

3. It pairs with a huge array of foods. Rose is the wine version of a classic blue suit for men- it just goes with almost everything. Chicken, salmon, tuna, fillet, pizza, burgers, mushrooms, by itself, etc, etc, etc- it just matches. Notice I said "almost". If you try to throw the asparagus or jalapeno harpoon into my argument, I'll just tell you to drink a beer.

4. It causes a stir. One of my favorite things to do with a large group tasting or dinner is to unleash a rose' onto them, right in the middle of the event. Inevitably, I will see lots of eyes rolling, and hear people muttering under their breath. What happens once they are forced to drink the wine is fun. All of the sudden, I walk around the room, and people start saying things like "I had no idea!", or "Wow, this is surprisingly good!". If you are out with a group of wine sophisticates, order a bottle of Spanish Rose in the middle of dinner. You will be a short-term hero, and will truly raise your street cred.

5. It's usually inexpensive- unlike the red wines that come out of the same tanks, rose' is very seldomly expensive. In fact you can almost always find a well made example for less than $15 or $20 retail.

Please join me in the fight against post-summer rose' naysayers. Buy a bottle, heck- buy a case and pop it open all winter. You will thank me later.

In the meantime, check out the 2009 Rose from Cortijo. It is a 50/50 blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo from Rioja. It's inexpensive (probably will cost around $11), has wonderful strawberry and earth notes, and will make you look cool.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mediocrity speaks Italian

Last night, we were out of food. Not just out of something good to eat, we were seriously out of groceries. Since the Mrs and I have both been working 12 hour days, going grocery shopping just hasn't fit in. So we did what every couple that is trying to improve their fitness, health, and waistlines should do- we went out for Italian food.

I won't say the name of the restaurant, but if you know me well enough, you will figure out what it is. It's an Italian "Bistro" that is about 3 doors down from one of our favorite watering holes (that I mention on here a lot).

We walked in, and were immediately greeted by a server that seemed surprised by our presence. We were sat quickly, and handed menus and the wine list. The first thing I noticed was the decor. It was like they couldn't decide whether to be upscale, or just a family-friendly checkered tablecloth restaurant. Here's a hint- putting a Guy Buffet poster in a frame doesn't make for fancy art.

The wine list was fine- fairly well chosen, and stuck to their theme of being mainly Italian, with a bit of American wines on there. We chose a Paitin Nebbiolo d'Alba, a nice little wine for the price (I think it was $33).

I will have to say from the beginning that the service was astonishingly bad. I don't know if it was because our waitress was slammed (she might have been the only one on duty), or just couldn't handle 6 tables. She recommended the Lasagna, which I ordered, and Nicole got some pasta. We said that she would eat a couple of bites of the soup that I ordered as an appetizer. We had to ask for a spoon for the soup- which was brought to the table in a small bowl of additional soup by the bus boy (he was by far the shining spot in the service). The soup was bland- Nicole said that "Campbells makes better soup than this", it was completely void of either beans or pasta- either of which I thought usually went into this classic dish.

As a side note, the bread was stone cold. I'm not going to get into the whole bread basket debate, but IF you are going to serve bread that you don't make in-house, is it too hard to throw it into an oven for a couple of minutes before serving it? No, it's not.

The entrees were fine- the Lasagna was smothered in about 2 1/2 pounds of cheese, and I couldn't finish the portion.

Then the bartender walked over to us, with our check and said "Okay, here's your check". No thought from the waitress about asking us for dessert (which we wanted), or even trying to sell us anything. I asked for a dessert menu, and the waitress came over- apologized, and rattled off about 7 desserts in rapid-fire succession. We ordered Tiramisu (awful) and gooey butter cake (actually really good). I asked for Tua Rita to drink, and you would have thought I asked them to solve a Ramanujan equation or something. Tuaca was the closest they had heard of, so that's what I got.

In retrospect, it wasn't a bad meal, but for $100 out the door, I guess we're a bit spoiled and expected more. It was mediocre, which I can deal with. I just feel bad for a couple that doesn't go out often, or doesn't normally spend that sort of money on a meal, should they choose to go to this place.