Wine Country Report: Hall Wines, Exciting Sweets from Matthew Tinder

Categories: Napa Valley, Wine

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Tubay Yaput / Hall Wines
It's always a kick to hit the road and see and of course taste what's happening up north. We're guilty of saving Wine Country outings for "special occasions" ranging from big birthday celebrations to visits from childhood pals and family. No more -- there's a lot to do, and it's an easy and fun way to unwind. This marks the first Wine Country Report, chock full of the juiciest food & wine happenings. Do like the pros and use that spit bucket and please send tips our way via writereadeat@gmail.com. Ready, set, go!

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Bay Area Bubbles: Mumm's Tour and Oak Terrace Make It Worth a Visit

Categories: Napa Valley, Wine

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Lou Bustamante
Like many things in life, I tend to believe that wine quality and price don't always correlate. You can have a terrible sparkling wine and pay a lot (though usually with other intangible benefits like prestige or exclusivity), but that you can also find something that suits your palate at a "drink it often" price.

After having visited a number of sparkling wineries and seen the immense amount of labor involved in making great bubbly, I was beginning to dismiss the idea of finding one that I enjoyed at an everyday price as the delusions of a poor-but-optimistic writer. Then this column took me to Mumm.

See also: Bay Area Bubbles: A Visit to Schramsberg's Candlelit Tasting Cave
Bay Area Bubbles: Domaine Carneros
Bay Area Bubbles: Iron Horse Vineyards

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Bay Area Bubbles: A Visit to Schramsberg's Candlelit Tasting Cave

Categories: Napa Valley, Wine

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Lou Bustamante
When I imagine what the Champagne wineries in France look like, my brain inevitably pictures old caves where the bottles and barrels of wine sit and age. It's a romantic image that is most likely divorced from the economic reality of large-scale production required to export the bubbly around the world.

Thankfully here in the Bay Area, there is a place where I can get my fill of that Platonic ideal: Schramsberg in Calistoga.

See also: Bay Area Bubbles: Domaine Carneros
Bay Area Bubbles: Iron Horse Vineyards
Is Your Champagne Unworthy of a Toast? Turn It into Cocktails

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Bay Area Bubbles: Domaine Carneros

Categories: Napa Valley, Wine

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Lou Bustamante
Just in time for the holidays, our series explores handful of wineries in the Bay Area making great sparkling wines. We stop by for a tour and tasting, dive in for a little history, and hopefully introduce you to some new bottles to stock up for the celebrations.

In the Napa Valley, there is really one American Viticultural Area (AVA) key to the production of Napa sparkling wine: Los Carneros, in southern most area of Napa and Sonoma counties. Cool nights and fog from the San Pablo Bay and the Napa River allow the vines to grow chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes in the same conditions as their French counterparts grow Champagne grapes. These optimal growing conditions mean that most sparkling wines made in Napa source grapes from this AVA, and it is its location and estate vineyards here that make Domiane Carneros unique.

See also: Bay Area Bubbles: Iron Horse Vineyards
New Champagnes by Moët & Chandon Are Drier, More Food Friendly
Is Your Champagne Unworthy of a Toast? Turn It into Cocktails

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Napa Wine Aged in the Ocean Yields Surprising Results

Categories: Napa Valley, Wine

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Mira Winery
The wine bottles were aged in a specially designed cage.
Three months ago, Mira Winery in Napa embarked on a grand experiment: It lowered 48 bottles of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon into the ocean outside Charleston, S.C. in a custom-built cage to see what aging in the sea would do to the wine's flavor. On Tuesday, the bottles were retrieved and tasted. The differences between the wine aged in the ocean and the wine aged in the regular process are "incredible," according to Gutavo Gonzalez, Mira winemaker.

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Bottle Rock: Napa Festival's Attempt To Combine Food, Wine, and Music Falls Short

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Anna Roth
These $15 wine pouches were a huge hit at Bottle Rock yesterday.
It seems like a good idea on paper: Throw a music festival in wine country where guests can go wine-tasting and sample some of the region's best restaurants in between musical acts. That was the focus of Bottle Rock, a new festival thrown in a park in downtown Napa that combines stadium-filling rock groups like the Black Keys and the Flaming Lips with high-end restaurants and wineries. "What we're trying to do is a connoisseur's festival -- a rock show for people with a palate," one of the event organizers told SF Weekly music editor Ian S. Port last month. But unlike Outside Lands, a music festival that just happens to have really great food and drinks that you can grab between acts, Bottle Rock seemed to have trouble integrating the two portions, and ended up with without a clear emphasis on either and a crowd that seemed more interested in partying than enjoying the finer points of connoisseurship.

See also: Bottle Rock: The Black Keys and Flaming Lips Can't Break Through Distractions at Napa Valley's New Fest, 5/10/13
Rock the Wine Country: Bottle Rock Festival Is an Odd New Addition to the Bay Area


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Boozy Events Round-Up: Thanksgiving and Black Friday Relief

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Photo by Yountville Chamber of Commerce
If the impending Thanksgiving holiday is giving you more grief than gratitude, or you're really looking forward to the rush of relatives, shopping sprees, and parties, then here are a few events to accomplish both.

The Big Dive
Where: Harry Denton's Starlight Room, 450 Powell (at Sutter), 395-8595
When: Weds., Nov. 21st, 8:30 p.m.
- 1:30 a.m.
Cost: $2 PBR; Wild Turkey Whiskey and a PBR for $5

The Rundown: Kick off the Thanksgiving holiday high above the traffic and Union Square madness at the Starlight Room. Look down from your 21st floor perch at the scrambling folks and the crazies already lined up for Black Friday and laugh a hearty, slightly evil laugh, while enjoying $5 combos of Wild Turkey Whiskey with a can of Pabts Blue Ribbon beer. "Like" the Starlight Room on Facebook and skip the cover charge like the big shot you are. At least for tonight.

See Also:
- Jalisco Cobbler at the Starlight Room
- Hooked on Tonics: Pricilla Young of Brasserie S&P


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Drink of the Week: Best Warm Weather Cocktails

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Lou Bustamante
As if we needed a more dramatic celestial gesture to signal the start of Indian Summer in San Francisco, Wednesday's dramatic sky -- complete with double rainbow, no less -- was almost as grand an entrance as a skydiving queen of England.

With a full 52 entries (yes, a full year) into my tenure with the Drink of the Week column, here's a peek at some of my favorite warm weather coolers to enjoy the sun.

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Drink of the Week: Cucumber Collins at Goose & Gander

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Lou Bustamante

For most people, it takes a talented bartender to make them enjoy a complex spirit in a cocktail, especially whisky or one they might have developed a terrible aversion for (usually tequila). For me, it takes a skilled person to have me enjoy the most basic spirit: vodka. There's nothing wrong with vodka, but I usually find that there are more interesting ways to get a buzz. It's also a tough spirit to build a cocktail around, where the quality of the spirit can shine.

At Goose & Gander, bar manager Scott Beattie's Cucumber Collins ($11, Square One Cucumber Vodka, lemon, yuzu, huckleberries, seltzer, fresh and pickled cucumbers) has me reconsidering my habitual avoidance of the neutral spirit. Served tall and cold in a Collins glass, the tart-floral quality of the yuzu harmonizes with the cooling cucumber for a thirst-quenching drink made for lounging in the restaurant's verdant patio. On a typical Napa summer day, a drink like this is necessary.


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