Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Moment Is All That It Takes

Many people who are really into wine have related stories to me about their “wine moment.” This is when a person discovers for the first time the treasure that this glorious beverage can bring. It’s after this revelation that wine will forever be more than just a casual drink. After such a “moment” — hopefully you have been blessed with one — wine becomes a part of your diet, a hobby, a passion,an endeavor, a lifestyle, a social bond.

The “wine moment” occasion is etched into your being, much like a significant world event. It seems everyone can recall exactly where they were and what they were doing at their “moment.” And each can remember the name of the wine that opened their eyes, and usually the vintage date as well.

In listening to these stories, I often hear tasting descriptors, such as “it was like a handful of fresh blueberries,” “it was like a ripe peach,” and one I hear most often is “it reminded me of the smells of my childhood.” Whatever the tasting sensation experienced, the impression is indelible.

Interestingly, the types of wines providing these moments are all over the board. For many, taking a leap didn’t require a great wine, just something that rang a bell. There were Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels, Chardonnays, old Bordeaux, young Bordeaux, red and white Burgundy, Italian ... and on it goes.

My wine moment happened in 1975. I was studying and working in the field of architecture, and to supplement my income I got a job at the first French restaurant in North San Diego County, called Mon Ami. I was 24 years old, and didn’t know anything about wine, except that my brother and I had gotten very sick on some cheap, sweet, fortified grape juice while still in our teens. I wanted nothing to do with it ever again.

It was midsummer, and the Mon Ami was having an opening party, a kind of rehearsal dinner for friends and a small gathering of the local culinary crowd. Since it was my first job in the restaurant industry, I was obviously going to be washing dishes that night.

It was a hot evening, and the kitchen staff was full of kinks, bad timing, overcooked foods, dropped plates — you name it. Dinner lasted until 11 p.m., and by that time, I had washed every wineglass in the house twice, and pots and pans three or four times each. I was tired, my legs were worn from standing nine straight hours, and I was building up a mighty thirst.

One of the servers that night, Tom, kept telling me how great the wines were that were being poured at the dinner. He offered me a taste of a few, but I declined, recalling the scourge of Red Ripple many years back. It must have been about midnight when I caved in, and Tom poured me a half-glass of the 1973 Ridge Zinfandel, Geyserville.

I must have looked like I’d seen a ghost; I am sure my eyes grew wide while focusing on the red liquid I had just tasted. Wait a minute! It tastes like fresh blackberries and vanilla ice cream! This can’t be. It’s wine, not an ice cream sundae.

I will never forget that moment — that taste, that wine. That was it for me.

The 1973 Ridge Zinfandel, Geyserville later became known as one of the finest Zinfandels ever produced in California, and is still alive and well in the bottle today. I had one about four years ago, and it was wonderful. However, it did not have the same taste of the blackberry and vanilla that had such an impact back in our youth. It was refined, elegant, and smooth, as hopefully one becomes when aging gracefully.

Gary Parker
Gary Parker is the owner of The WineSellar & Brasserie

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumnal Favorites

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

As the weather becomes crisper and the leaves begin to fall I thought it the opportune time to reflect upon some of our new and unique wines perfect for Autumn!

All of these wines are available to you now...and better yet...all are under $20!

NV Capdevila Pujol, Cava, Spain
Try Cava! It's a delicious alternative to Champagne. This limited production bubbly with notes of pears, baked apples and lingering minerality is truly a showstopper! Try with apple pie or an apple tart tatin!

2009 Crnko, Jarenincan, Slovenia
A delightful blend of 40% Riesling, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Chardonnay from an area of Slovenia just south of the Austrian border that is thirst quenching and light with amazing aromatics. Serve this with a mustard seed encrusted pork loin!

2009 Mas Grand Plagniol, Rose, Costieres De Nimes, France
A beautiful rose produced from Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault full of luscious red fruits and citrus. This rose with butternut squash or pumpkin soup would be an ideal Autumnal treat!

2009 Berger, Zweigelt, Austria
Fun and funky, this wine comes in a 1L bottle with a crown cap just as it is served in Austrian cafes and bars! Zweigelt can best be described as having the body of a pinot noir with the spice of a zinfandel and it's 100% delicious! Put a twist on your turkey dinner with this one!

2005 Avante, Mencia, Spain
Never heard of the grape varietal Mencia? Not many have, be one of the first stateside to try this phenomonal wine...notes of roasted coffee, chocolate, raspberries and dark cherries. Cutting edge and delicious with a cocoa rubbed flank steak!

R.L. Buller & Son, Muscat, Rutherglen, Australia
For starters this muscat just scored 96 pts from Robert Parker! It's similar to a tawny port...flavors of toffee, melted caramel, hazelnuts and maple syrup...perfectly pairs with coffee cake or gingerbread!

-Bridget Cheslock, Certified Sommelier

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hand Me a Screw Cap Bottle, Please!

I was just doing some math . . .
I open bottles of wine everyday, as I sample wines for my business, and have wine every evening with dinner. In addition to this, I have put on a few thousand wine tastings, special culinary events, as well as various parties, celebrations and wine dinners. Add in serving lunch and dinner in restaurants I have worked in or owned, I can easily say I have opened an average of 10 bottles of wine a day.
I have been in the wine and restaurant business in San Diego for 35 years now. At ten bottles a day for thirty five years, I figure I have opened about 127,750 bottles of wine during my career in this industry.
If you stood these 127,750 bottles up side by side, you would have an eight-mile long row of wine bottles. If you laid them down end to end, you’re looking at a twenty-five mile trail of opened wine bottles.
It now takes me an average of 20 seconds to open each wine (I just opened another to qualify this remark). This means I have spent 42,583 minutes opening wine, 709 hours in total. With an eight-hour workday, this tally’s up to eighty-eight days of work doing nothing but taking corks out of bottles of wine.
The wine experts claim up to 5% of all bottled wine is ruined by cork taint. If that is the case, then I have opened up 6,237 of bottles that were contaminated by cork bacteria, “corked” as we call it.
Can someone hand me a screw cap bottle, please?
Folks, screw cap wine bottles are really cool. Yes, historically, screw cap bottles generally signified a wine of a lesser and often inferior quality, but that image is diminishing rapidly among consumers. Literally, hundreds of top quality wines are now being placed in screw cap enclosures for ease of use, but most importantly to preserve the wine and offer the best, most consistent product possible to the consumer.
I know that screw caps diminish the drama and romance of opening a bottle of wine. I think that is great, actually. Some of the ‘pomp and circumstance’ surrounding the use of table wine should be dropped to allow easier social accessibility. Take the fear and mystery of opening a bottle of wine out of the picture, and more people will enjoy and understand the benefits of having wine with meals.
On my day off, Sunday, I often go to a chain restaurant just to have a dozen or so fresh oysters from their impressive selections. Always ordering a bottle of a fresh, white wine to go with them, I would wince watching our ‘server of the month’ struggle while opening a cork-enclosed wine. More than few times, I ended up taking over the corkscrew to aid in the battle. Now, with ordering a screw cap bottle there, I feel more relaxed, confident and secure the server can readily twist off the cap and pour away.
Corks are still necessary!
Most all screw cap enclosures are placed on wines not meant for cellaring. 90-95% of wine produced is consumed within its first year of release. Wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, some Chardonnay, Rose’s, and even some lighter red wines are perfectly suited for easy opening enclosures.
If you want a wine to place in your cellar to age for a more than a couple years, a cork enclosure is better suited for aging the wine. Cork allows minute amounts of air into the bottle, which assists in the development of the wine.
I recently spent some time with one of the finest winemakers in the world, Luis Barraud, from Vina Cobos in Argentina. His observations about cork enclosures are: “the general public is getting used to the idea of fine bottles of wine are being sold in screw cap nowadays, and certainly anything under $20 retail does not seem to raise an eyebrow.”
I totally agree. Let’s embrace the proper utilization of both screw cap and cork enclosures. Then after we have adjusted to these circumstances, we will be a little more ready to accept the next generation of premium wine containers: wine in a box! (Yes, I like this, too!)

Gary Parker
Gary Parker is the owner of The WineSellar & Brasserie

Friday, August 20, 2010

Decadently Darioush

Darioush Khaledi offers us the classic American success story. An immigrant who traveled to the United States with few resources in the 1970s, Darioush made his fortune with decades of hard work and perseverance. The fruition of Darioush's efforts culminates in his winery that offers wine of pristine craftsmanship and intense flavors.

We are pleased to announce the summer release of Darioush's Signature Collection of wines with a wine lunch & dinner series offering these wines and featuring Darioush Khaledi, Founder and Proprietor for the Saturday evening dinner.

Below is the weekend's schedule of events and the wines being offered for each:

Friday, August 27, 7pm Wine Dinner, 4 courses and 6 wines for $79

2009 Viognier: Pure heaven in a bottle.

2008 Chardonnay: The quintessential CA Chard with intense texture and fruit.

2006 Merlot: Savory lavender, cinnamon stick, ripe cherry and cacao

2007 Shiraz: Enticing aromas of cassis, pomegranate and orange zest with a wealth of dark fruits and spices.

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon : Supple and focused; black currants, blueberries and espresso

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon:
*Be the first to try the national release of the much anticipated 2007 DARIOUSH CAB!*
We are the first location to receive this prized wine from the outstanding 2007 vintage.

Saturday, August 28, Caravan vs. Darioush,
$35 for Wine Tasting, an additional $12.50 to tasters for featured lunch entrees Lunch reservations being taken from 11:30am-1:45pm

2009 Viognier: Pure heaven in a bottle.

2008 Chardonnay: The quintessential CA Chard with intense texture and fruit.

2006 Merlot: Savory lavender, cinnamon stick, ripe cherry and cacao

2006 Cabernet Franc: Bright bluberries, black cherries, plum and bittersweet chocolate

2006 Cabernet Sauvignon : Supple and focused; black currants, blueberries and espresso

2007 Caravan, Cabernet Sauvignon: Brimming with sweet black fruits, cherry cola, French roasted coffee and chocolate

Saturday, August 28, Wine Dinner with Darioush Khaledi, SOLD OUT

2009 Viognier: Pure heaven in a bottle.

2008 Chardonnay: The quintessential CA Chard with intense texture and fruit.

2007 Shiraz: Enticing aromas of cassis, pomegranate and orange zest with a wealth of dark fruits and spices.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon:
*Be the first to try the national release of the much anticipated 2007 DARIOUSH CAB!*
We are the first location to receive this prized wine from the outstanding 2007 vintage.

2006 Darius II Cabernet Sauvignon (only available to dinner guests):
This is Darioush's flagship wine and the embodiment of his winery.

2006 Shahpar Dessert Wine (only available to dinner guests):
Fashioned in the deliciously decadent style Bordeaux dessert wine this "secret" release is named after his wife.

For reservations or wine inquiries, please call: (858)450-9557

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wine Club Feature: 2006 Melanson Chardonnay, Napa Valley

A little background:
Greg Melanson started his winery in 1988. It rests above Napa Valley on Pritchard Hill, and is located near Colgin, Chappellet and Bryant Family. The 42-acre property has 10.5-acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay.

Great California Chardonnay that has all the classic notes, but also possesses notes reminiscent of Meursault and other Burgundy aspects. It’s beautiful from the outset with delightful aspects like vanilla bean, gala apple, white flowers and enchanting minerality. From there the wine shows lemon peel, caramel, wet stone and cashews.

When sipping this wine I am drawn to the approachability of the verve that pulsates throughout. The body has the right amount of weight and body without being called flabby or excessive. I continue remarking on the remarkably pleasant nature of the wine that will make anybody appreciate California Chardonnay again.

It continues to be a pleasant and enjoyable wine experience once it starts mingling with the palate. Initial efforts show a range of green apple, crème brulee sugar, baking spice and vanilla. Complimentary notes like peach, pear, butter and pineapple emerge as you continue enjoying the wine.

Serving Options:
This is the type of white wine that I really enjoy on the warmest days of summer. We opened this on July 4th and played horseshoes while waiting for the fireworks to start later. The wine didn’t last very long to say the least, but for the lucky few who were able to get a taste it was an impressive wine to behold.

-Mark West, Sommelier/Club Coordinator

For more information about joining one of our three fabulous wine clubs call:

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wine: Developing a Subtle Swagger

Wine is what you make of it. It can be a hobby or a consuming passion. It can be a person’s lifestyle, and for some (such as myself) can carve out a living in the wine industry. For others, wine can be confusing and intimidating; therefore, less rewarding.

For instance, you might ask, what am I supposed to do with a cork the waiter handed me after opening my wine at the table? Would I know it if I were drinking a “bad” wine? Can I taste things in wine like other people do? Through the appreciation of wine, I have received so many wonderful, enriching life moments involving friendships, conversations, laughter, travels and dining experiences. I even wooed my wife with bottles of wine from my meager wine collection.

Somehow, her preferences seem to run towards the more expensive Burgundy
and Bordeaux wines, which I began to run low on after our first few months of
dating. I knew I had to pop the question before she was given to think I may be as shallow as my wine collection. If you can taste food, if you can smell butter and garlic cooking, you have the ability to enjoy and discuss wine with anyone else on the planet.

Allow me to help you feel more confident and assured about your wine prowess
next time you grab a glass in public. (But wait, don’t GRAB it!)

Hold the wine glass by the stem only.
Do not put your fingers or hands on the bowl of the glass. No matter how clean
your hands are, after a short time you will have unsightly smudges and oils on
the bowl.
Swirl the wine in the glass before your first sip. (and as often as you like after that). Swirling releases aromatics of the wine, allowing you to experiencemore of what the wine has to offer. You will find swirling is easier to do while the base of the glass is on the table. Practice at home.
Breathe in the fragrances. Let your nose hover as close to the top of the glass as you can without getting it wet. Back off and focus for a few seconds. Was there one scent that came at you strongest? Was it fruit, herb, spice or wood? Go down for another whiff, and see if it is different from the first one. Often times the aromas will change as the wine is exposed to air.
Many people actually detect different fragrances from each nostril. One side may be more available to fruit, the other more towards woods and acids, etc. Using the edge of the glass, gently press one of your nostrils (shut) and sniff the wine with the open nostril. Back off and then reverse nostrils. Did you notice a difference?
Take your first sip. Bring in enough wine to thoroughly coat the inside of your mouth. Here is where experts say you should “Trill” the wine, which is actually sucking air through your mouth while wine is still in it. I really don’t do this unless I am thoroughly evaluating a wine for business. Because of the gargling sounds it may create, “trilling” is generally not accepted at the dinner table or around people who are trying to enjoy a civilized social event.
What was that? After you swallow, the flavors of the wine become more expressive in your mouth and olfactory system. So does the texture of the wine.Was it powerful, rich, fruity, viscous, and balanced,or was it acidic, harsh, and watery? I have heard people describe flavors in wine I wasn’t able to detect, but I never consider them wrong. Everyone has unique senses, and wine drinkers give high respect to that.
Get reference material. I taught myself how to taste and enjoy wine before there was any real reference material available: not quite the stone ages, but before the internet. Whenever I had a wine I knew little or nothing of, I read World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson while imbibing. It told me what I needed to know, and I began to get a foundation of wine knowledge that is invaluable to me. I want everyone to enjoy winewho may be so inclined.

-Gary Parker

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Celebrating Bastille Day Brasserie Style

"In victory, you deserve Champagne,
in defeat, you need it" Napoleon

On July 14 the French will be celebrating victory and independence on Bastille Day much like we in the United States celebrate ours on the 4th of July.

So, one might inquire, what is Bastille Day?
Bastille Day is a French celebration of the storming of the Bastille, a prison in Paris in 1789. This is seen as the day that celebrates the beginning of a new form of government. A government where there are no more kings and queens and the people themselves rule and make their own decisions.

Come toast victory with us as we celebrate Bastille Day all week, July 13-17 with a fantastically French 3 course menu:

Salmon Canapé

Frog Leg Lyon
Onion tart

Niçoise Salad
Arugula Salad Black and Bleu
French Onion
Leek and Fennel Vichyssoise

Charged Blood Orange Jus

Lamb or Venison Rack with Lemon Gremolata accompanied by Mint or Goose Berry Jus, Wild Mushroom Risotto and Braised Swiss Chard
Halibut En Papiotte accompanied by Roasted Fingerling, wilted Spinach and Pancetta Lardon
Center Cut New York with Cabernet Reduction accompanied by Lemon Basil Mash, Braised Brussel Sprouts
Duck Confit with Cherry Reduction accompanied by Brown Butter Almond Risotto, Heirloom Baby Carrot

Vegetarian option available upon request
Champagne & Fantastic French Wine Flights Available