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Napa

Drinks, Sparkling Wine

Drink This: Richard Grant Cuvée Rosé Brut

September 20, 2016

I never know where I’ll discover a great sparkling wine that I’ve never tasted before.

This summer, it happened at the grand opening of the Axiom Hotel, a tech-enhanced 152-room boutique hotel near Union Square in San Francisco. The owners kept vintage touches like scrolled columns and exposed brick, adding tech amenities like Bluetooth enabled 42-inch flat-screen TVs in rooms, Pac-Man and Space Invaders in the upstairs lobby and fiber-optic cable Wi-Fi that’s lightening fast and free.

The hosts were showing off their signature cocktails like the Axiom, an updated sour with rye, honey, lemon and two kinds of bitters. And it was hard to ignore the dancers in the green LED-light suits.image

But I was more interested in the unfamiliar bottle of sparkling wine I spotted behind the bar: Richard Grant Pinot Noir Cuvée Rosé Brut. When I finally got a glass at the downstairs bar, I loved the deep and intense flavors of berries and pink grapefruit in this dry sparkling wine.

Who is Richard Grant?

It turns out the full name of the man behind this wine is Richard Grant Peterson. Most California wine lovers don’t know who he is, but Dick Peterson just may be the most influential person in the California wine industry you’ve never heard of.

His two daughters are quite famous though: Holly Peterson is a chef and former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena, while Heidi Peterson Barrett of La Sirena is the original winemaker who made cult labels like Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle and Grace Family famous.

Richard Peterson is a scientist and inventor whose wine career started with E&J Gallo in the late 1950s. He’s credited with bringing dry wines and bubbly to Gallo. Next he took over Beaulieu Vineyards from the legendary André Tchelistcheff, later working for The Monterey Vineyard and Atlas Peak.

His biggest impact may be his innovations in wine making techniques and equipment, such as creating the metal wine pallet system that’s used in wineries all over the world. When I interviewed Heidi Barrett a few years ago, she remarked how her dad unselfishly gave that invention — known as the Peterson Pallet — to the wine industry, never seeking a patent or any compensation. thewinemaker cover ss

And here’s another fun fact about Peterson: he created the first wine cooler. We turn up our nose at them now, but when I was just about 21, wine coolers opened a gateway to white Zinfandel, which led to Chardonnay and then international sparkling wine — and the rest is history! You can learn more about Grant’s childhood and his fascinating life in the wine industry in his 2015 autobiography called The Winemaker.

His sparkling wine probably owes some of its distinctive flavor profile to the fact that it’s made from the rare and ancient Wrotham pinot noir clone. Get a taste of Grant’s Pinot Noir Cuvée Rosé Brut at the bar at the Axiom, or order a bottle at Cellar Collections. Grant’s wine sells for an unbelievably modest $22, but trust me — it drinks like a wine twice the price.

Design, Lifestyle

Find Wine Country Design Inspiration at Napa’s Brown Estate

January 26, 2012

There’s a certain similarity about most winery tasting rooms. There’s a tasting bar, bottles of wine waiting to be taken home and hopefully a picturesque view.

Few tasting rooms are sources of design inspiration, but Brown Estate in the remote section of Napa called Chiles Valley, is a striking exception. Before my visit, I admired the winery for their elegant cabernet sauvignons and juicy zinfandels that don’t knock you out with the first sip. But now I’m loving the design savvy of Coral Brown, who’s also the family-owned estate’s wine educator.

The subterranean tasting room is done in luxurious and soothing shades of brown. Each detail in the cozy retreat could easily be found in the lobby of a boutique hotel. If you want to incorporate this look into your own dining room or parlor you’re in luck, as many of the key pieces can be found at Restoration Hardware.

The tasting bar here was an elevated concrete topped table with convenient purse hooks. We sat on metal Vintage Toledo Bar Stools, topped with fluffy free-form lamb throws, kind of like those flokati rugs. A massive armoire filled with wine and decorated with objéts like an overside letter B, a Chinese ginger jar and chalkboard with the day’s tasting selections dominated the area. But the most striking feature of this area is the Adirondak Antler 6-Arm Chandelier, which is crafted from resin.

A barrel pendant lamp casts a soft glow over a high table ringed by armless leather counter chairs draped in warm faux fur throws.

Soft lighting from a Barrel Shade Pendant light and the ring of Army Duck No. 10 Grommet Drapery created a cozy place for tasting wines along with perfectly-paired cheeses. Another elevated table is ringed by Hudson Camelback Leather Counter Stools draped in Luxe Faux Fur Throws.

Cool Bars, Travel

1313 Main: A Lucky Wine Bar for Bubbly Lovers

January 13, 2012

The downtown Napa wine bar 1313 Main features adiverse selection of wines, servers that know Napa like insiders and a comfortable modern setting.

A couple weeks ago, a friend asked me the word for being afraid of the number 13. It’s triskaidecaphobia, though I admit I had to look up the exact spelling.

I didn’t think much of it until I realized that this month, which began with Sunday the 1st, would include a Friday the 13th.

But 13 isn’t always an unlucky number. A trip to Napa that started out poorly — when I discovered I’d left my wallet at home — ended with me feeling quite privileged to experience 1313 Main.

There’s a clever logo of mirrored 13s on the front, along with a window showcasing some of their favorite champagnes and sparkling wines. Inside, 1313 has a modern decor done in a range of neutral tones accented by warm red and carnelian touches.

Like most wine bars, 1313 Main offers a selection of flights. The Bubble Trouble features NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, NV Taittinger Cuvée Prestige and NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. Since I was still getting over a cold, I limited myself to a taste of the Lucien Albrecht, a pristine 100% pinot noir traditional method wine with subtle flavors of plum and berries. The two-ounce tastes range from $3.50 for the Mumm Napa to $5 for the one I chose to $10 for Champagne Collet.

Every Friday, 1313 features a Bubble Bar with a rotating list of 13 sparkling wines by the glass. The lineup usually includes wines like sparkling vouvray from Domain Vigneau-Chevreau, Gruet Brut Sauvage and Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rosé. The menu also includes something amazing, like Krug Grande Cuvée or Salon which are rarely seen in wine bars, let alone by the glass.

Can’t wait for my next visit to see what’s featured on the Bubble Bar.

The words “Champagne Taste” invite bubbly lovers into 1313 Main for a sip of something sparkling.

Celebrity Chefs, Food + Recipes

The Sushification of America + The Best Sauce in the World, According to Ruth Reichl

November 7, 2010
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First thing Saturday morning, I drove up to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to catch the last day of the Worlds of Flavor Japan Conference. Ruth Reichl was just one of the bold letter names in food in St. Helena Nov. 4 -6. The foodie glitterati also included Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, David Chang of Momofuku, Doug Keane of Cyrus, Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef and newish Morimoto Napa and three of the seven Michelin three-star chefs in Kyoto.

Saturday afternoon, Reichl took the stage to reflect on the ways Japanese flavors have influenced American cuisine. She says that for years, Americans pretty much had no concept of what real Japanese food was about – the devotion to seasonal ingredients and achieving an exquisite balance of flavors and textures.

A rare and accurate early account of a trip to a Japanese restaurant was written in 1914 by Clarence Edgar Edwords in his book called Bohemian San Francisco. He describes eating raw fish and enjoying it and even mastering the use of chopsticks.

Up until the 70s, much of the food writing about Japanese cuisine focused on sukiyaki, a winter dish of beef, vegetables and noodles. And Reichl herself caught hell in 1983 for doing her first New York Times food review on a soba noodle place – and giving it three stars. “Never mind that it was an excellent soba noodle parlor,” Reichl added sotto voce.

While other ethnic cuisines took hold because of immigration, that didn’t happen with Japanese foods. Part of the problem is that there wasn’t a good supply of fresh fish needed to make Japanese cuisine in the U.S. But Reichl says things started to change after the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 that made it profitable for fishermen to invest in boats that could freeze fish at sea and deliver sushi-grade seafood to market. (It also set up many fish populations for over-fishing.)

Sushi restaurants started to open on the West Coast and high-end restaurants of all types started serving raw fish carpaccio, crudo and tartare. Now sushi is found in any supermarket. Reichl thinks the generation who grew up on grab-and-go industrial sushi is now creating the nation’s street food culture. “The sushification of America is now complete,” Reichl said.

This simple combination of soy butter and lime is a great sauce for seafood or poultry and can be dressed up by adding ginger, garlic or even chipotle chile.

We’ve started to get our heads — and mouths — around concepts like umami. But the next frontier in food is texture – and the Japanese know there’s more to it than crunchy. Reichl mused that maybe one day Americans will develop an appreciation for slippery – the texture one finds in natto, okra and yamaimo – the misunderstood mountain potato.

During an interview Reichl did with some years ago with David Bouley, Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, they all revealed that visiting Japan had the most profound influence on the way they cooked. They gained a greater appreciation for presenting seasonal fare from kaiseki ryori. But they all realized too how sublime simple combinations can be. J-G dubbed soy, butter and lime to be the best sauce in the world and the other chefs agreed.

Here’s how to make it at home: for every tablespoon of butter, mix in 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce over a low-medium flame. When the butter is melted, whisk in one teaspoon of fresh lime juice. The sauce will be a gorgeous caramel color and tastes delicious over seafood or poultry. Once you have the ratio down, it can easily be varied by adding small amounts of fresh ginger root, minced garlic or even chipotle chiles.

Celebrity Chefs, Cocktail Recipes, Food + Recipes, Travel

Weekend in Napa: Bottega & Domaine Chandon

August 12, 2010
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The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.

The Venetian 75 is one of the lovely, Italian-themed cocktails at Bottega in Yountville.

I’m tired of waiting for summer to start here in the part of the California Bay Area that includes San Francisco and Oakland. You’d be hard pressed to melt a Popsicle in this grey and chilly clime. So this weekend, I drove up to a place where it’s about 10 degrees warmer and the mood is always resort-y and light. I’m talking about the Napa Valley.

As if you needed any enticement, here are a couple more great reasons to make the trip yourself.

Bottega Napa Valley is the grand new restaurant by Michael Chiarello of NapaStyle fame. Located in the tony burg of Yountville — home of The French Laundry — it’s set in an imposing building with a two large outdoor fireplace on the wrap-around porch. Inside, we sat at a long rustic communal table flanked by buttery yellow chairs.

When I opened the cocktail menu, I knew I’d order the Venetian 75, an Italian take on the classic French 75. Instead of champagne, this drink got its sparkle from a splash of prosecco, the sparkling wine of Italy’s Veneto region. And the drink’s gorgeous shade of pink makes me think of the vivid hues created by Venetian painters like Titian, Bellini and Tiepolo.

Venetian 75
2 ounces 209 Gin
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 ounces hibiscus syrup
1 piece candied ginger
2 ounces prosecco
fresh basil leaf, for garnish

Add the gin, lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and candied ginger to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well-chilled. Strain into a champagne coupe or small martini glass with a sugared rim. Top with the prosecco and garnish with the basil leaf.

After enjoying house-made salumi and some of the ridiculously good salsa di Parmigiano — a mix of finely crumbled Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, olive oil, fresh parsley, garlic and a hint of red pepper flakes — I’d wander over to Domaine Chandon, the LVMH-owned winery just over the highway from downtown Yountville.

Domaine Chandon has always been one of my favorite places to unwind and sip bubbly in a beautiful setting. The winery is modern yet feels like its part of the landscape that includes beautiful old oaks, gentle slopes and a moat filled with aquatic life. As they approach the entrance, visitors are greeted by a patch of rock sculptures that resemble beige mushrooms.

The newest feature is an installation of 21 large metal wind sculptures throughout the grounds. Designed by Utah sculptor Lyman Whitaker, the copper and steel pieces inspired by natural motifs are designed to move with the wind.

I can almost taste the bubbly now.

A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.

A series of wind sculptures is the newest art installation at Domaine Chandon in Yountville.