Browsing Tag

pinot noir

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.

Celebrity Chefs, Food + Recipes

Experience the Magic of Pigs & Pinot with Chef Charlie Palmer

March 8, 2012

Chef Charlie Palmer is hosting a series of events celebrating pinot noir and pork during March at Hotel Healdsburg.

Don’t you love the way some combinations of food and drinks are just perfect together? Milk just begs for cookies, pizza needs beer, and according to celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer, pig likes pinot noir. He should know.

His Pigs & Pinot benefit that started seven years ago as a fun way for Sonoma food lovers and Pinot makers to come together to raise money for charity has become the hottest ticket in Healdsburg. Tickets for the March 23-24 event at Hotel Healdsburg sold out in about five minutes.

But don’t despair. Dry Creek Kitchen is hosting a series of events this month that celebrate the wonderful flavors in both pork and pinot noir. Chef Valette is creating a three-course Sonoma Neighbor Dinner Menu of some of his best por dishes for $36; it’s $51 paired with two wines. Sommelier Drew Munro has added more international pinot noirs to the wine list, and can help pair them with a la carte pork dishes that will be featured during March.

The little benefit became big news when contestants on Top Chef: Las Vegas were challenged to create pinot-loving pork dishes.

“We got about 5,000 email sign-ups on the website and the tickets sold out in 3 minutes,” says Circe Sher. Her family owns the Hotel Healdsburg, where Palmer has his Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant.

On a recent bright and cool Thursday, I drove up to Healdsburg for a Pigs & Pinot preview event. A group of us gathered in the sun room off the main lobby, where we sipped and nibbled on Chef Dustin Valette’s housemade charcuterie and sipped Cuvée Aureole by Iron Horse before a Pigs & Pinot preview tasting.

Winemaker Daryl Groom led us through a competitive blind tasting of 16 of the pinot noirs competing in the Pigs & Pinot judging. Some were elegantly earthy and floral, others were bold and so big they tasted more like syrah.

After choosing a winner, we sat down to a delicious luncheon that starred a roasted porcini velouté (that’s a velvety soup to the rest of us) with crispy coppa ham that sang with the earthy 2008 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir from Oregon. The juicy pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and daubed with violet mustard was well-suited by both the 2009 Rochioli Three Corner Pinot Noir and the jammy 2009 Kosta Browne Kanzler Vineyard Pinot.

To make reservations for your own pork and pinot experience at Dry Creek Kitchen, call 707.431.0330.

Celebrity Chefs, Champagne, Drinks

Champagne Daniel: You Can Take it Home with You

December 14, 2009
Cuvee Daniel Champagne

Cuvée Daniel Champagne

I’ve been in NYC for a few days of press interviews and book signings to promote The Bubbly Bar. The highlights included taping a segment with Audra Lowe that airs later this week, making cocktails for Betsy on Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food with Betsy Karetnick.

But in between all the running around, I was lucky enough to be able to steal away to a few of Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurants that included the fabulous new DBGB Kitchen & Bar where we had the most perfect gourmet burgers and housemade sausages and DB Bistro Moderne, where I enjoyed a a light lunch of an Indian spiced squash soup, Alsatian tart and an Eliot Spitzer sighting.

One element that I found in all three restaurants – besides the amazing food, interesting decor and top-notch service, was the Cuvée Daniel Champagne. It flowed most freely at Restaurant Daniel, where we sipped glasses of the house bubbly along with a series of little morsels including scallops and satiny fluke that were on the appetizer menu. It was elegant and crisp with a richnesss that unfolded around gorgeous streams of tiny bubbles.

Daniel’s champagne is made by Pierre Paillard, a small producer in Bouzy that has specialized in pinot noir-driven wines and champagnes since 1768!

And it turns out, it’s available for purchase from Sherry-Lehman in NYC. This week they’re offering Cuvée Daniel for $45 a bottle; even with cross country shipping it’s a quite affordable way to experience a bit of luxury from one of New York’s top restaurants.

2017 Update: Cuvée Daniel is no longer available.

Sparkling Wine

Bubbly Girl Drink of the Week: Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée

May 8, 2009
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée is a blanc de noirs style California sparkling wine, meaning its made from dark skinned grapes - pinot noir in this case.

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée is a blanc de noirs style California sparkling wine, meaning the pale wine is made from dark skinned grapes - pinot noir in this case.

In case you hadn’t noticed, May wedding season is in full bloom.  Champagne and sparkling wine are classic beverages for this celebratory season, but few seem as appropriate as Iron Horse’s Wedding Cuvée.  The peachy pink wine is ideal whether you’re looking for a wedding toast or a sparkling wine to give as a wedding present along with a pair of champagne futes. Crafted from pinot noir grapes with a hint of chardonnay, the Wedding Cuvée has a soft richness to it with a hint of fruit at the end.

Joy Sterling, who runs her family’s winery, says she always loves the moment when she pours Wedding Cuvée at tastings.  “Everywhere I go I meet people who became engaged over it, had it at their wedding, in the delivery room and for anniversaries,” Sterling says.  I like sipping it on its own, but the wine also shines with salmon in a spring preparation with morel mushrooms and wild spring onions. It would also be delicious with lighter pork dishes or this soup made from the wild onions called ramps  Sterling says she enjoys it with bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa content – she swears the combination is like eating chocolate-covered strawberries.

Iron Horse's open air tasting over looking the vineyards is the scene for the new After Hours Friday wine and food pairing. (Photo Iron Horse Vineyards)

Iron Horse's open air tasting over looking the vineyards is the scene for the new After Hours Friday wine and food pairing. (Photo Ion Horse Vineyards)

If you happen to find yourself with a free Friday afternoon in Sonoma County, then reserve a spot for Iron Horse’s After Hours, a new happy hour with wine and food pairings. It’s available for up to 30 people from 5:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday through October.  To make a reservation, contact tasting room manager Lisa Macek at (707)887-1507 or email her at