Thursday, December 13, 2007

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

I made my second venture to Prince's Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville. This is a wild place. There is no way to describe it. There is Mild, Medium, Hot or Extra Hot. Both times I have gone for hot but this time there seemed to be some extra fire. My first bite brought an immediate endorphin rush. The burn stays with you for at least 60 minutes. It also likes to re-visit you the next day if you know what I mean.

On this evening I even did the crazy thing of having it with wine. I had the 2005 Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett. Actually not bad. The sweetness and light acidity did not distract. A nice Kabinett that may be mistaken as a Spätlese.

If you ever make there I give two pieces of advice. Remember it is made to order and can take up to 2 hours to get your food. Also, watch the Video. It is a little long ... but believe me ... it is worth it.


Prince's Hot Chicken: A Must Watch

Friday, February 16, 2007

2005 Cargasacchi Pinot Noir Cargasacchi Vineyard

Curiosity killed the Pinot here. Had my bottles sitting there and thought these will probably need a few years…but I had know what type of wine this was. Opened and poured a glass. Immediately I could smell the earth, bramble and toast. Expressive nose. Broad across the palate and then hit of tart acids. Finish totally clipped and slightly bitter. I poured my wife a glass and then corked the bottle for the next day. As the evening went on and we had dinner the palate began to smooth out. For the second day the tart acids had added some sweetness (but not cloying) and more complexity had developed. This will be a nice contrast to my Siduris, Lorings and Brewer-Cliftons. Of those this wine may be the prettiest. It has it its own place. But this wine is crying for sleep. If you are acid adverse this may not be for you, at least certainly not right now. I’ll probably pop another one in 18 months to check the progress but I would suspect this won’t hit its stride until 2010.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Vineyard Lunch Gang

The Vineyard Lunch Gang met again for a Kanzler Vineyard Symposium. We tried multiple bottles but I never wrote anything up so I am just putting a link to Gerry’s notes.




Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sushi Lunch w/ Dietz & Frayer/ & A. Mann, Beaux Freres, Pey-Marin, Littorai, Arcadian & Siduri

What to do. About time to close for the holidays so a few of us gathered at the office, grabbed some sushi and enjoyed some wine. We had me, Dietz, Frayer as well as Darren and Matt who just gettings sucked into the world of wine.

We started off with a mystery white. A really nice white which I found rich and mouth coating. Jim and Gerry danced around its Alsace characteristics but then headed down a new world Rhone styled white. It was interesting to hear them go through and narrow the possibilities. It was actually very impressive. I figured this would be a sneaky one. It was a 2004 Albert Mann Auxerrois VV. I really enjoyed this wine. Great stuff and fun one to use as a stumper. Lots of flowers and lush fruit.

Then we poured my 1998 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir. My hopes were not high as experience has shown me that these wines don’t hold up well. The color was showing some age but still very vibrant. The nose was a bad sign. Odd. Probably VA. At first sip there was a lot tannin and the fruit was fading. Not great flavors. Once we broke out the sushi it seemed to smooth out a little but still not great.

Time for my 2004 Pey-Marin Pinot Noir. Nice ripe nose. The wine is still very primary. Tasty but somewhat simple. Still a well made wine that is enjoyable now but will round in about 2 or 3 years. Wine Spectator gave this an 83. Classic! I am not sure what they were smoking.

On to Jim’s 2004 Littorai “Les Larmes” Pinot Noir Anderson Valley. Wow! Fantastic. Tons of ripe red fruit jumping out of the glass then a nice smack of fresh squeezed orange juice on the front palate. A really great wine. I found this more expressive than other young pinots from the Anderson Valley I have had.

Arcadian time. 2003 Arcadian Dierberg & Fiddlestix Pinot Noir. Guess who brought these. The Dierberg is killer. Drinking great right now. Mixed opinions on the Fiddlestix but for me it was very closed off right now. Lots of stix and little fiddle at this stage. Seems to have the right stuffing but I won’t touch it for a few years.

Gerry also provided us with an Arcadian 2000 Francesca’s Cuvee that was opened the night before. Shows age when you look at the color as well as on the nose. There is plenty of fruit but it is also showing earth, blood and meat. Still a bit of a bruiser. A pleasure to drink but I think the elegance will continue to develop as the years go by.

For a final treat, Jim brought a 375 of the 2005 Siduri Sonoma Coast (maybe County…not sure) Pinot Noir. Cocktails. Your basic black cherry milk shake. Enjoyable but out of place in this group.

How They Stacked Up
A. Mann Auxerrois: One 3rd place = 1 pts
Arcadian Fiddlestix: One 3rd place = 1 pts
Beaux Freres: One 2nd place = 2 pts
Arcadian Dierberg: Two 2nd place = 4 pts
Pey-Marin: One 1st place, Two 3rd place = 5 pts
Arcadian Francesca’s: Two 2nd place, One 3rd place = 5 pts
Littoria: Four 1st place = 12 pts
Siduri: No votes

12 points 2004 Littoria “Les Larmes” = 1st place bye a mile

5 points 2004 Pey-Marin & 2000 Arcadian Francesca’s = 2nd place

4 points 2003 Arcadian Dierberg = 3rd place



Friday, October 20, 2006

Dinner @ Belle Provenance Vineayrd W/ St Innocent

As many people know, I am a bit of a St Innocent fanatic. So I need to plan a dinner for the Board that I report to while I am in Oregon. So who do I turn to? Tim Ramey (Belle Provenance Vineyard, previously O’Connor Vineyard) and St. Innocent. Being the resident wine geek in my company they asked me to set something up….during harvest of course. For them wine tasting is driving through the main drag of St Helena in Napa. Not a bad thing … just not my thing. Thankfully Tim and his lovely wife Kari offered up their house, with Kari handling the cooking. Now that’s what I am talking about. Beautiful weather, wonderful company and world-class food.

Since Mark Vlossak was busy taking care of his fresh grapes and he did not arrive until later in the evening, we were joined by his father (John Innocent), his mother Dot and his wife Vickianne. For those of you who have met John, you know that is a walking encyclopedia. It was a pleasure to hear his perspectives as well as Vickiannes.

So what did we drink!?

2004 Adelsheim Auxerrois: This is the first time I have knowingly drank a wine made from 100% Auxerrois. Unique from the nose to the mouth-feel. Mouth coating like cream. Creamy herb flavors mixed with pears and light sweetness. Really nice.

2005 St. Innocent Pinot Blanc Freedom Hill Vineyard (from a magnum): Wow!...and Wow! Awesome wine. I loved the 04 but I like this one even more. This was a major hit. Buy now or you’ll be sorry.

2005 St. Innocent Pinot Gris Vitae Springs: Last year I preferred to Gris to the Blanc. The 05s may turn out the same but I am going to hold off drinking the Pinot Gris while I roll through the Blanc. This is holding back right now. Great fruit with just a hint of spice. I think this well develop more.

John teaching us all

First Course: Salmon (I think poached) served in an amazing fish stock with mussels (with andouille sausage… I think) and potatoes. Top 3 mussels I have ever had.

2004 St. Innocent Chardonnay Freedom Hill Vineyard: No notes here. I only had a small glass but having had this wine on a few occasions, I can say this is world class. Nuts cream and minerals wrapped in perfect acidity.

Main Course: Braised beef cheeks served over risotto and fresh chanterelles. Kill me know. Damn this was good.

2004 St. Innocent Pinot Noir 7 Springs Vineyard: Drinking surprisingly well. Very silky right now and already showing flowery fruit. Very nice but one I would prefer to wait for it to show its true colors.

2004 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Anden Vineyard: Wow. I can’t believe I am saying a 04 Anden is drinking awesome. My favorite Anden so far. A pinot of dark fruits that runs the gamut of spice aromas and flavors. From nutmeg to black pepper. Great stuff that has a bright future.

Now the rare stuff:

1994 St. Innocent Pinot Noir O’Connor Vineyard (from a Magnum): Great color. Cherries and tart strawberries mixed with an almost Rhone like meatiness. Plenty of minerals mixed in as well. On the palate it is showing its age but is also showing the difference in this vineyard from the 7 Springs. There is still quite a bit of structure here. If I had 3 bottles I would drink two now and save one for another 6 or 7 years…if I had one bottle I would save…just to see but I like taking risks and I like old pinot.

1994 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard (From a Magnum): Still lots of tannin and structure on this puppy. Great spiciness and cleaner flavors than the O’Connor. Certainly not acting like a 12 year old Oregon pinot. I love the texture and the way the fruit hit my mouth and then the minerality coated my tongue.

I think most people would pick these as Burgundies. Maybe someone with a long history of tasting Oregon pinot would recognize them as Oregon. I have drunk a lot of Oregon Pinot over the last 7 years but not with this kind of age. And it is great news that Mark V. will be getting fruit from this soil again.

We tasted some other wine during our trip but I will post that separately.

Tim and Mark

Cheers! & Thanks to Tim, Kari, John, Dot, Vickianne.



Friday, July 28, 2006

Dain Wines: An Interview With David Dain Smith, Part Two

Here is the second part of my interview with David Dain Smith. His wines are now released and shipped. If you received your order and have tasted the wine, please post your notes in the comment section. Congrats to David Dain for living the dream. If you haven't read Part One, click HERE .

  • Your wines have been for sale for a few weeks now; how are the sales?

As I write this we have been fortunate to have already sold about 85% of our wine. We will be receiving requests from our mailing list until September 30th. Anything remaining at that time, if any, will be offered through retail channels. I look forward to increasing our produce somewhat for the 2005 vintage and having more wine for both the mailing list and retailers.

  • With wine critics being so influential, do you worry about “scores”? Will you send your wine to the major reviewers?

We will be sending our wines to Wine Spectator for review. I have mixed feelings about that. I am told it simply must be done. IMHO, every time I sell a bottle of wine, the most important critics are the purchasers and their friends. I care more about what my customers think than any other critic. Given that, of course I hope our wines ‘score’ well. Some people enjoy sharing a ‘high-scoring wine’ with their friends. Nothing wrong with that really, I just want to make wine I enjoy, seems to work.

  • Have you recently tasted any “under $20” wines that you can recommend?

I love the Saison des Vin from Copain, great pinot and syrah for about $18. (Copain is the winery of Wells Guthrie, wine-maker at Rossler Cellars. Wine Review ). Denis Mortet makes a Bourgogne rouge for about $28 that is really good.

  • Your wine will be made with grapes purchased from vineyard owners. Are you able to speak into the growing/picking/farming of those grapes and will your wine come from a specific spot in the vineyard or will they just be from "somewhere" in the vineyard?
I am fortunate in that I can communicate virtually daily (hourly) with CrushPad and the vineyard folks. I got a report on Hein Vineyard and Amber Ridge via e-mail literally a moment ago. God bless Al Gore, I love the Internet! Most of the vineyards we work with are rather small. It is more a question of which clones are available rather than a specific block. We try to get a nice mixture of clones for complexity’s sake. In some cases, since I am the new guy, I may get only a single clone from a given vineyard. But since in those cases we may make only a single barrel lot, it doesn’t bother me to do that. Starting with 2006, we will have our own rows designated at Rancho Ontiveros!!

  • You mention "clones". What do you mean?
Clones are genetically identical strains of a given varietal. For example, Pinot Noir has many popular clones that are grown in California. If you had a row of plants of pinot in a vineyard and they were all the same clone, it would be a bit like having a row of identical twins. Different clones have different characteristics and do better in different sites. Some clones ripen earlier, exhibit different flavor profiles, or have different disease resistance.

  • How many different clones are there?

A lot, actually, but probably a couple dozen at the most are routinely planted in the USA as far as I know. Dijon (France) clones, such as 115, 667 and 777 are very popular. Pommard (France) clones and some developed in California are also popular. The Swan clone, Pisoni clone and Benedict clone are highly thought of.

  • Do you have any suggestions about where to get more information on different grapes and clones?
U.C. Davis might have something on their website. Especially since they developed many of the clones popular in California.

  • What are the differences (stereotypically if you like) between California Pinot Noir and Burgundy (France) Pinot Noir?

Same grape, different terroir. California and France have different weather patterns and different soils, of course. Burgundy has a continental climate and California a maritime climate. Burgundy typically has a cooler autumn than California and sometimes a hotter summer. In my opinion, the major differences have to do with weather and soil. California wines do tend to be more fruit-forward and are rich and lush, speaking broadly, French wines tend to show more earth and acidity. The amount of oak is more of a stylistic issue. Other stylistic issues would include the amount of whole cluster fermentation, e.g. stem inclusion and length of cellaring. Both places make great Pinot Noir, just different expressions of the grape. The important thing is the wine is made from pinot :-) !

  • Is it okay to make Pinot Noir in an un-Burgundian style?

No. :-) Yes.
This question starts more fights among winemakers and wine geeks than any other I can think of.
You should make the best wine your vineyard can make. If your vineyard is in California you should make the best California wine you can make. Many people believe wine should reflect where it is grown, not so much the person who made it. Others say wine is a beverage of pleasure and if it is good, so what. A great chef does not care where the vegetables are grown, only that they are good and the end result is the key. As with many things, both views have merit. In California, grapes frequently ripen physiologically (good flavors, put simply) at higher sugar levels than in Burgundy. As a result, one frequently finds ‘bigger’ wines with higher alcohol levels and more forward fruit in wines from California. This does not always have to be the case. Lower yields and good vineyard management can result in riper fruit at lower sugar levels. Still, why feel bad about the great climate in California?

  • Pinot Noir is known for being difficult. Is that from a grape-growing perspective, winemaking perspective or both?

Pinot is difficult to grow because you really need the right vineyard site. Syrah is somewhat more adaptable and can show well in a variety of climates, even Missouri. Pinot is thin skinned, literally and figuratively speaking. The grape does not take abuse well and you have to be gentle in the vineyard and the winery.

  • Do you plan on making a white wine in the near future?
I have plans to experiment with Chardonnay and perhaps Viognier. It is hard to resist such wonderful varietals. Right now I intend to focus on making the absolute best Pinot Noir and Syrah we can possibly make. If we can expand to a few other varietals we feel we can do well, then we will certainly do so!

  • Does wine always improve with age?

Not at all, some wines are meant to be consumed within 10 minutes of arrival in your kitchen. Seriously, all wine gets older if you lay it down, but not all wine gets better. Some very good wines are meant for consumption on release. If you like young wines there is nothing wrong with drinking your wines young. Personally, even for early drinking wines, I prefer to let the wine rest for about a year. Some wines should be left alone for decades. Speaking broadly, Bordeaux, Grand cru and Premier cru burgundy should be left in the cellar for ten years. I probably drink my French reds too old and my whites too young. My California wines are probably all consumed too young; I just love that great fruit!

Also, I believe most folks drink their reds too warm and their whites too cold.
(Scrutiny note: Amen to the above statement. I'll have a blog entry in the near future regarding this subject.)

  • Is there a wine you dream of having one day?

Dain Wines, “Dandy”, 2004 Brosseau vineyard, in 2014!

  • I know you are computer literate, but do you have an iPod…or another mp3 player?

I have a Sony Clie which is useful for photo, video and music. My kids have iPod(s). Clearly I am finally an adult; I can tell because I hate rap and love the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. The Brandenburg Concerto by Bach is proof of the existence of God.

  • You have a link to Project Hope ( on your website. How did you get involved with them? How often do you participate with them?
Project Hope is an inter-denominational effort to help the impoverished people of Nicaragua. Nicaragua is probably the poorest country in Central America. Our local church has a long history of working with the people of Nicaragua. It all began several years ago after a major hurricane hit the region (sound familiar?). Project Hope brings medical missions and building missions to remote villages in Nicaragua. Cathy goes at least twice a year. I don’t get to go as often.

  • Describe for us a perfect day for David Dain.
Every day is perfect. All things work together to good. Sometimes it takes a long view to see. Bad things do happen, but nothing ever goes wrong. Wow, I need to lie down; the C02 levels in the fermentation room must be really high.
Actually, my vision of a perfect day would be one that ends with me grilling salmon while Cathy prepares some veggies and rice. We sit down to the table with the kids and some guests, and drink a 1995 Williams Selyem RRV Pinot Noir!!

  • Who is the most influential person in you life?

“The child is a father to the man”
I don’t know who said that but it is very true indeed.
The most influential person(s) in my life are definitely my children. Certainly the event that changed my life the most was becoming a parent. Hopefully, I am the most positive influence in their lives. All of them are very interested in wine production by the way! ~

Thanks to David Dain for taking the time to share a bit about himself. Soon I will have some reviews of his wines and more pictures. I recently tasted all of his wines at massive Pinot tasting.


Friday, June 16, 2006

? For Those That Score…What’s With Color?

Actually this is for anyone that makes a note and a personal judgment on a wine.

I have kept a record of my tasting notes for 10 years now and have always finished with a score. I love to score! But agree that a note should accompany it. When I read others notes I enjoy seeing their score but focus on the note and descriptors. For many years I have used the “Parker” Wine Advocate scoring system of, 5 (color) 15 (aroma) 20 (flavor) & 10 (overall). Add 50 yada yada.

It is great for comparing my wines and knowing my preferences. I have kept it the same so that my scores should be the equivalent through the years…although my palate or preferences have changed.

But, why judge the color. At the end of the day does it matter? If I taste a wine in a dark room and proclaim my love for it only to have the light turn on and see that it is cloudy or brown, will I retract my love. I drink wine, not look at it. Why does color make up 10% of the score on the “Parker” system?

This is not a rant. It is a real question.



For More Thoughts CLICK HERE

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pinot Fest!!! Siduri, Alcina, Loring, A.P. Vin & Dain

Pictures from Right to Left: Brian Loring Loring (Loring Wine Company) & Frank Murry (host), and finally the wine

So what happens when your friend suggests we do a Pinot Noir tasting at his house and then he invites a few wine makers? Well, I would say an amazing day with a whole lot of wine, almost all of it provided by the generous wine-makers. Once one wine-maker joined in, it seemed like a competition to see who could provide the most wine. This was such a great opportunity because I got to try all 2004 Pinots from The Loring Wine Co (LWC), A.P. Vin, Alcina, Dain Wines and 4 or 5 from Siduri.

With so much wine it is not what I would consider the best way to judge a wine but it is great for getting familiar with the different styles and flavor profiles of different vineyards and wine-makers. Basically, it is a lot of short pours and a lot of spitting. A few wines jumped out at me, in no particular order:

  • A.P. Vin & LWC “Clos Pepe Vineyard” Simply fantastic. There is probably not much A.P. Vin out there but the LWC is not yet released. Get on the list if you want some.

  • Siduri & LWC “Keefer Ranch Vineyard” Both of these were awesome.

  • Dain Wines Anticipation “Alder Springs Vineyard” Wow, this was a nice surprise for me. I had never even heard of this vineyard and of course, this was my first experience with Dain Wines. Great spicy wine with a lot going on. Look for this one to really start shinning in a few years.

  • Alcina is another new wine on the scene. Buy everything you can. This is quality stuff. Greg brought his new Russian River Valley bottling that is drinking well already. Typical red fruit RRV Pinot. Great acidity that makes this wine very food friendly. Alcina’s “Sangiacomo Vineyard” is a different animal. It is a very structured wine that will need time to show all it has to offer. The 03 Sangiacomo is one of my wines of the year (05).

  • Not a Pinot, but Greg from Alcina also brought his 03 “Gabrielli Vineyard” Syrah. To me this is all that is good with California Syrah. California fruit profile with the elegance and age ability of a Rhone. Give this one 4 or 5 years.

I can honestly say I didn’t taste a stinker in the bunch. After tasting about 25 wines, that is an amazing statement.

And a huge thanks to the wine-makers for their generosity. This is a cool bunch of guys.



Jason & Greg Piatigorski (Alcina Cellars)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Copyright Schmopyright

Ok, so I agree with J, especially since I'm a lawyer and much of what I do involves copyright. But, let's face it, the music industry had this coming. CDs cost less than $1.00 to make, royalties add up to about $3.00 or $4.00, so on a $16.99 retail, the label profits over $10.00 per unit. Yeah, yeah, I've heard it costs to package, it costs for this, it costs for that, but you get my point. The labels haven't been hurting for a long time. So they're hurting now. Maybe if they stop selling CDs? Maybe if they stop suing everyone? The direction of music is clear, and it's not the CD. There are better ways to spend money.

Anyway, I was interested to read in US News that some labels are testing CD locks, which allow music to be played in any CD/DVD player, but when it comes to the computer, there are limitations, i.e., anticopying technology. So, what do the 20 million plus iPod users think about these limitations? I don't know, but I can assure you that the iPod is inconsistent with anticopying technology.

My point is not that copyright should be abolished. Rather, you can't 'un-ring' a rung bell. Focus on the future.

It's a fun time to watch or be involved with the music industry.

~ Brock

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Wine Review: The Scrutiny Says "Buy!!!"

2003 Kali Hart Pinot Noir
Monterey County

Wow!!! Great stuff! $9….yeah 9 bucks.

Yummy nose. Lush and smooth body. Great balance. California flavors through and through. Finishes with raspberry parfait. The light acidity works perfect with this wine. It does a touch of earthiness that I love in Pinot. No tartness. Soft tannins hold it all together. Not overly complex or unique but better than most pinots under the 25 dollar range.
90 pts

This has been my house wine for the last month and I will continue to collect dead soldiers.


Please read "J"s comments after "B"s review.

I’m trying to learn to articulate my wine tasting, but this is my first wine note, so give me a break.

My first problem was drinking this wine within 10 minutes of taking it out of the fridge. I’m not sure what the recommended temperature for wine drinking is, but I know that I don’t like red wine cold. I like it at room temperature or maybe a degree or two cooler.

Getting past the temperature, I loved it. The color was excellent. A fresh, juicy red. Dark, but not too dark. Light, but not too light. Right where a wine should be. It could have been darker, but it didn’t need it. (see note)

At first sniff, I was hit with a smell of strawberries, then mixed berries – tart ones, like raspberry and blackberry. The smell didn’t last long, which was disappointing. I don’t have a good nose for smells, so I’m automatically disadvantaged. Anyway, what I did smell was very fruity and young.

My first drink was a mixed bag. With the wine so cold, I didn’t enjoy it. I’ll fast forward to my second glass after the wine settled for an hour outside the fridge. The drink was a continuation of the smell. Fresh, strong strawberry, followed by a pungent mixed berry; even a bit of vinegar. The taste didn’t last, much like the smell. Again, disappointed, because I wanted more.

I would drink this wine again. I don’t know how long it could wait, but it has a very fresh taste. I’d like to try a bottle a year from now to see how it ages.

Scoring: The greatest reason for lack of excellent scores is that it wasn’t a strong wine, flavor and aroma didn’t last long, and was a bit fruity. Still, I’d drink it again.

92 pts


** I wanted to make a few notes about Brock’s comments. First, it looks his ability to smell is just fine. In fact, I think he smells every time I see him.

Anyway, it should be noted that Pinot Noir generally has a lighter color than many of the wines you may be used to drinking such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or red Zinfandel. You may see some “modern” style Pinots that are very dark but traditionally Pinot will have a lighter color to go with its more feminine personality.


Tallbot Vineyards

Friday, February 24, 2006

Wine Review:

2003 Loring Wine Co. Pinot Noir
Rosellas Vineyard

At first, the nose was very muted. I think I smelled a balloon. It opened up to show lots of earth mixed with brambly fruit. On the attack there was immediate cherry cola followed by a touch of anise. This wine showed more earthy tones than the other 03 Lorings. Lots of leather and tobacco. Softer than the other 03s I had. I think this is at a drink now phase. Very nice.

91 pts

Brian Loring has been living in Southern California, with a day job, and making wine in his free time. He has had amazing success and will now be making wine full time. And look out for an interview with Brian Loring in the upcoming months. Email me if there are any questions you would like to ask this artisan Pinot Noir maker.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Must Read

Bono At National Prayer Breakfast

My friend Dan Wilt posted the manuscript of Bono’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. I have long been a fan of Bono and I think this is an impressive and moving statement. Please take the time to read.

And sorry but there is no mention of him getting back together with Cher. ;-)

~ J

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stupid: Nature or Nurture?

Every day we go through life and encounter stupid people. How do they get like that? Where did they learn to be a jackass that drives 55 in the fast lane? What possesses them to keep their fat ass in airplane aisles for 1 minute and thirty three seconds to get their neck pillow, popcorn and cassette playing Walkman (yes they still make them), out of their bag before stowing it?

I spend a lot of time in airports and so I am constantly bombarded with a barrage of this type of madness. As I glare at the barbarian standing in the middle of the moving walkway holding their Jamba Juice, listening to Dave Matthews (further evidence of their stupidity), while 14 intelligent travelers are trying to get by, I begin to ask myself, how did they get there. Is it contagious? Did they go to a special school? Did their parents go to great lengths to mentor them and take out second mortgages to bring in special “idiot tutors”? Or do they just “home school”, so to speak.

I realize it may seem like I am describing discourteous behavior but I see them as parallel acts of offence. For my part, I wake up each day and try to educate my daughter so that she is not stupid. Well, I guess I am counting on “nurture”. If in the end, it is “nature” and my daughter turns to be one of the 46.45% of the population that suffers from “stupid”, I will just bite my lip and love her in the same unconditional way I do now.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Don't Miss The Meat

Cooking at home is great and all, but sometimes you just need a good meal out. Here are two that you must try:

BYBLOS CAFE - Mediterranean
This cafe is located just outside the Orange circle at 129 W. Chapman Avenue. They serve a variety of meat and vegetarian dishes, and do it well. You must try the lamb , or if you try breakfast, the ....I forgot the name! I think it's the "Armenian breakfast," but I could be wrong. Anyway, I've eaten there a few times now and you should too.

SIMBALA - Chinese
Rowland Heights - 18489 Colima, next to SF Supermarket. It has bright yellow sign, but it's kind of tucked away. This place has AWESOME spicy beef noodle soup! In fact, it's the best I've ever had - here and in Taiwan. If nothing else, try that. Otherwise, I think they're known for sausage, because they have about 20 sausage dishes, and they're sausage is the best I've had as well. The fried chicken roll is good, the onion pancake is good, the sticky rice is good. I didn't really care for the distinctly Taiwanese shrimp with egg (Xia Zen Jian?) because of the sauce. The best of that dish is right across the street at Good Time Cafe, just make sure you're not ordering some scrambled egg with shrimp dish. The one you want is a mixture of egg, shrimp and vegetable fried into a sticky substance like Japanese Mochi, which is covered with a red sauce.


~ Brock

Sunday, February 05, 2006


On a recent work trip I was able to carve out some time and taste some wine. My primary visit was to St. Innocent but I also had the opportunity to go to Scott Paul Wines and Patricia Green. Primarily I tasted 04s and I was very impressed with these wines and the vintage. Not a lot of detailed notes but I do have some highlights.

(Mark getting us some samples)

St. Innocent
As always, it was great to visit with Mark Vlossak and glean from his knowledge. His 04s are going to be great right across the board. All of these were barrel samples and as always, these have zero stem inclusion.

04 Justice Vineyard Pinot Noir
This is only available on futures. First vintage from this vineyard and wow, buy it while you can. This will be an amazing $24 bottle of Pinot. I hesitated buying the futures but once I tasted, I whipped out my credit card. I am bummed that Mark no longer makes a Pinot from the Brick House Vineyard but this may fill the gap. Wonderful spice. Clove and pumpkin mixed with a touch of red fruits, while the dark fruits punch in periodically. This should be great right out of the gate. I wish it were bottled now.

04 Temperance Hill Pinot Noir
I normally don’t buy this bottling. It has never impressed me out of the barrel or bottle. But the 04 is great. For me it is the best Temperance yet. I will buy this one.

04 Shea Pinot Noir
Mark is working on this wine right now. We tasted multiple barrels as he using a number of techniques to deal with the present tannins. I am sure it will all come together as great wine. It seems like there are going to be many Pinots from Shea in 04 that will be winners of the vintage. (see my Patty Green note). So complex. Cherry fruit hits you at the front and then reappears 30 seconds later.

04 Seven Springs Pinot Noir
As always, this will probably only have only a short drinking window before needing to go to sleep. Great structure with solid acid that is a tart right now. Darker and more rustic profile.

04 Anden Pinot Noir (formally the lower half of 7 Springs)
I haven’t found an Anden I have liked yet. Better said, I haven’t found an Anden that was anywhere near ready to drink. My first impression of the 04 is that I will love it. For me, maybe the winner of the 04s but that is a guess since it will be years before it is ready to drink. Sweeter acid than the 7 springs but on the front end a great balance of dark fruit and minerals.

(Mark and Jason after having a lot of great Pinot)

Scott Paul Wines
I had never tasted Scott’s wines, so I was glad he was able to make some time for us the Carlton Winemakers Studio. I believe he said this will be his last vintage there and will be moving to his own place very soon. Very nice facility. A great setup with a number of wine-makers and yet it still has a personal feel. I was nice to taste his wines. Great wines made with restraint. Plenty to enjoy at first sip but my impression is these are wines that need time and are to be enjoyed be people that like subtlety.

(Scott Wright and me after enjoying some wine)

04 Cuvee Martha Pirrie Pinot Noir
Scott said he makes this wine as somewhat of a loss leader. A great idea since for about 20 bucks you can taste his wine and get a sense for his style. This is a very nice wine with a bit of primary fruit but also earthy nuances. Lots of strawberry and a touch of citrus. This was the favorite of my two friends.

04 La Paulee Pinot Noir
Showing darker fruit and more complexity but will need some time to work off the baby fat. Shows a bit of roast meats.

04 Audrey Pinot Noir
It was a quick stop with Scott but thankfully I had more time to enjoy this wine since Scott generously let me take this one home to my wife. This wine is not released yet which is wise on Scott’s part. Already showing its potential but the needs some bottle time. I think is at least a middle-ager. Powerful nose of earth, strawberry, flowers and even some stone. It has a silky texture that starts off with cherries but then followed by dark fruits and earth. Seems to have the stuffing but will need time to integrate better.
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Patricia Green
Jim Anderson of Patricia Green provided us with a great tasting of their wines. Their 04 line up is top notch.

04 Four Winds Chardonnay
I never had a chard from PG but I am now a fan. This is an extremely rich and complex chardonnay the sees all neutral wood. I would have guessed it did see new wood but it doesn’t. Very balanced acid and fruit with a touch of minerality. It was a bit buttery but it did not get in the way. The richness took it to the next level

04 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
This was the only 04 I had previously tried. When I had it previously, the nose bothered me because there was a lot of cat pee. I thought maybe I had an off bottle. Nope. Same thing. I found this wine a little odd. We will see if in a few years it comes together better.

04 Croft Vineyard Pinot Noir
Impressive full bodied Pinot. Full smoky nose combined with dark fruits, earth and brush. Lots of dark berries on the front end followed by pleasant tannins and acid.

04 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir
Wow. This wine is simply delicious. As with most of the PGs there is a dark earthy note on the nose and attack. The complexity is shown by all the bright fruits that come through on the mid palate and finish. This wine probably has a small window for drinking but has plenty of fruit tannin and acid to improve with some age. One of my favorites of the day.

04 Notorious Pinot Noir
This is meant to be the top wine from PG representing the best from multiple vineyards and see 100% new oak. As you can imagine, the 04 is showing a lot of oak at this stage but it is not overwhelmed IMHO. The fruit is there and it seems to have the ingredients to survive the oak. Great wine but not cheap. $70. This one should lie down for at least 5 years.

We had one other Pinot but I spaced and did not note which one it was. I think it was the Eason. An enjoyable wine as well but for my taste buds, all of these could use some time with the exception of the Shea, which I will struggle to keep my hands off when it arrives next week.

As I read through my notes, I thought where are the stinkers? Well thankfully, most of the wines we tasted were B+s or better. That is a good day.

I must also mention that while we were at dinner we had the 02 Drouhin Pinot Noir regular bottling and it was drinking really well.




P.S. See the David Dain Smith interview HERE


Monday, January 16, 2006

Wine Review:

I have recently made may way through a few bottles from Roessler Cellars. I have seen there wines but hadn't tasted any...and I thought I should change that. Well I am glad I did. The wines are made by the acclaimed Wells Guthrie of Copain Wine Cellars.

2002 Roessler Pinot Noir (Sonoma County)
A really enjoyable Sonoma Coast Pinot. If you like wines with a toasty dark fruit profile, this is for you. You can immediately smell tobacco and a hint of coffee mixed with blackberry. Flavors follow the aromas. Not much acidity to this wine and so I don’t think it stands up to food very well but if you are just looking for some hedonist pleasure, give this wine a try. Drink now.
91 pts

2003 Roessler Pinot Noir Red Label (Sonoma County)
Very similar to the 2002 but maybe not as well integrated. With a little more bottle time should be very comparable to the previous year. The only distinct difference at this point is the aroma of burnt rubber. Reminded me of something from Spain.
90 pts

2002 Roessler Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard
This was nice but I think it needs some time. Lots of sweet cherry and a touch of earth on the nose. The attack was sweet and tart when I first opened the wine. There was also a lot of heat, which I really dislike. So I poured a full glass and went to cook dinner. After an hour things started to integrate. Red fruit mixed with a small amount of citrus. Medium to high acidity. As more time went by some earthy flavors showed up. This is on the border for me. My thought is that with a couple of years the flavors will integrate and it will an incredible value.
89 pts (I think there is big upside here and in a few years I may want to revisit my score.)

2003 Roessler Pinot Noir La Brisa (Sonoma Coast)
Well this one was a miss for me. Where I felt the previous 3 wines showed bold concentrated flavors, I thought the La Brisa was relatively simple. The nose was completely muted. Mild flavors of cherry and green tea. It is a decent wine but a step down from the other 3.
85 pts

So keep an eye out for Roessler.



Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Constant Gardener is Awesome

There are a ton of great movies out there and a lot more crap. This was one of the great ones. I missed it in the theater, but was happy to catch it at home. Ralph Fiennes did a fine job, but Rachel Weisz was excellent. I love how it was filmed. The story was moving. It's the kind of film that does something to you and makes you feel something. Watch it!

~ Brock

Proof That You Can Eat Like A Pig and Still Kick Butt

If you've followed my posts about pre-event eating, then you know I was scheduled to race a triathlon on October 9. You also know that I didn't change any of my eating habits, including eating butter, fat, red meat, wine and chocolate on an almost daily basis. So what happened? Welcome to the gun show!

On a serious note, I finished slower than I thought I would, but still did well. I really noticed a lack of energy and fatigue. Of course it probably didn't help that I had bronchitis for the month leading up to the race, and hadn't exercised in six weeks prior to the race. In the end, it's not a good message, because I know I can do well in a race without proper diet or exercise. What message does that send?

So, I'm thinking of running a marathon in March 2006. I was also thinking of modifying my diet. Not to remove the good things...are you crazy? Just to limit my intake. I was thinking that if I lost about 15 pounds, I would do just fine. What do you think?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Chronicles of Narnia Disappoints

It's like I'm not allowed to say it. Like I'll be struck down. But be honest, didn't you feel like you were watching a happy Lord of the Rings spinoff? I mean, C.S. Lewis wrote an amazing book; an amazing collection of books. All I saw on the screen was a film using the expensive theatrics typical to every other big budget film. I didn't see the nuances of the story. I didn't see the details from the book. I didn't see the real deal. All I saw was the "wow" factor.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it can't be executed nicely. In Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring, there are many parts of the book that do not appear in the movie. It's a practical problem that I understand. But, when you watch Fellowship of the Ring, you get to know people. You see the story along with the "wow" F/X. It just didn't seem to happen in this film.

Maybe I'm being critical. It's just my opinion. I wish I would have watched Memoirs of a Geisha instead.

Happy movie-going!

~ Brock

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pasta With Sausage and Mushroom Cream

Here is a dish that is easy/medium in difficulty but is sure to impress. The deepness of the flavors will have people thinking they are eating at a restaurant, especially if you make sure the plating is attractive. I have left multiple variations so try this recipe and then tweak to your liking.

First, here are a few thoughts on garlic and hot spice. I would almost always use garlic. My wife and I as well as our friends and family love garlic…so more is better, or a least a little in everything is good. If you are like me, make sure to try things without garlic. One dish that has been a staple in our kitchen for 10 years had lots of garlic and then one night I had no garlic. I substituted shallots and guess what, it took the dish to a new level. I’ll post the recipe soon.

The same goes for spicy hot foods. We love and crave it but I can often destroy delicate flavors and you end up missing out on so much. That is why I first recommend using mild sausage.


  • 1 lb Pasta: (I like penne or rigatoni because the meat an mushroom get inside for a little surprise, but spaghetti or linguini would work well also). My favorite pasta is Latini but Barilla is also very good.
  • ¾ lb Italian sweet sausage: (casings removed and sausage crumbled) Try with a combination of sweet and spicy.
  • ½ cup chopped shallot: (optional: add 1 clove of chopped garlic as well) Could use onion.
  • 2 cups chopped crimini mushrooms : (also known as brown or baby bellas) These are actually young portabella mushrooms. You could also add a small amount of dried porcini mushrooms. Re-hydrate the mushrooms in the broth. Then strain the broth through a sieve or colander lined with a paper towel or coffee filter. Use this mushroom broth for the sauce. Yum!
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ cup dry white wine or low sodium chicken broth (use Swansons)
  • 1 cup parmigiano reggiano + a little extra for the table: (None of that green can crap, get the real thing, you’ll be glad you did)
  • 1 Tbsp Unsalted butter
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley for garnish
  1. In a large skillet with medium/high heat add the olive oil, when oil is shimmering add sausage. Cook until browed. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  2. Begin cooking the pasta as per instructions. Make sure not to overcook. It should be al dente. Make sure the water is salted (like sea water)
  3. Add mushrooms to the pan. Add butter. Toss to coat. Once the mushrooms have released their water, add salt and pepper. Stir occasionally. About 5 minutes.
  4. Add wine or broth and scrape up all the bits stuck to the pan. Then add sausage.
  5. Add cream and reduce by ¾. Should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.
  6. Add Pasta (only add as much as the sauce can take, don’t add too much pasta). If you skillet is too small, drain the pasta and add to pot that had the pasta in it. Stir together over medium heat for about 30 seconds. If it is too dry, add a little pasta water. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese.
  7. Plate it up and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
You can enjoy this dish with a dry white wine such as chardonnay or with dry red wine that is on the lighter side. Maybe a Chianti. I myself had a California pinot noir.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Chaucer's Mead Winds Up A Meal

And New Years wasn't complete without dessert and a wine to go with it. I brought a Chaucer's mead and we warmed it with spices. This particular mead is made from honey and makes you think you should be eating meat and bread in England in the days of king Arthur. You'll love it.

It's worth every penny, and I buy a bottle every single year. Try it out!

~ Brock

Kirkland Bordeaux Ain't Bad

I had new years dinner with my wife and son, close friends and abundant wine. Our host invited us to her beautiful house and shared her famous black bean soup. It was awesome!! The wine was flowing from many bottles, and one of them was Kirkland's bordeaux release. To be honest, I have never tried a Kirkland wine (Costco's brand), but I was quite surprised to find that it wasn't bad at all. It was medium bodied and bursting with berry. Not too sweet or tannic. Decent. I don't recall the particular wine and Costco doesn't list it on the website, so you'll have to go into the store to find it. Good luck.

I think I'll try another Kirkland wine.

~ Brock

Monday, January 02, 2006

Recipe: Chili Chicken Pasta

This is an at home classic for us and I think our own invention. Well sort of. My wife and I started cooking this right after we got married in '93. I am not sure where we got the original idea, but with our friend Mike, we made multiple variations. Well this is where we have landed but as always, try your own variations. You can add mushrooms, use chicken stock instead of wine or even toy with different cheeses.
In the picture, you see two plates. The one in the forefront is my wife's (notice the extra chilis). If I ate that, I would be praying for ice cream.

Bon Appetit!!!

½ ROASTED CHICKEN (To make this dish easy and fast, just buy a roasted chicken from the local market, pull off the bone and shred.)
2 CUPS OF ZUCCHINI (Halved lengthwise and sliced)
2 to 4 CLOVES OF GARLIC (Depending on your taste.)
1 to 4 SERRANO CHILIS, (Sliced) (Depending on how much heat you can handle.)
EVOO (Enough to coat the pan)
1 Pound Pasta (For this I like a thin flat noodle or even a round noodle but something like angel hair would be too delicate. You could also use Farfalle (bow tie).

1. In a bowl, toss the zucchini in kosher salt. This will remove the moisture and make sautéing easier. Pour zucchini onto a clean towel (that doesn’t smell…not washed or dried with fabric softener)
2. Heat the EVOO and butter until hot and shimmering…do not brown the butter
3. Add shallots and a touch of Kosher Salt and a grinding of black pepper; cook until translucent
4. Add Serranos, Zucchini, Garlic and Sweet Basil
5. Cook until zucchini is softened
6. Add chicken
7. Once the chicken is hot, add white wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer
8. Check seasoning. Add salt if necessary
9. Once the sauce is reduced and getting thick (about 8-10 minutes), cook the pasta until aldente and drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water
10. Add pasta to the pan and cook for 30 seconds (add small amount of pasta water if it is too dry), turn off heat and stir in cheese.
11. Garnish with parsley and if you are daring, sliced Serrano chilis.

Wine? Are you fricken kidding me....Go with Beer!


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Recipe: Chicken Salad

This is one of the staples in our house. I think it is an amalgamation of something my mom taught me. A simple salad with broiled or grilled chicken over the top. I like to use a crisp lettuce like romaine because it holds up against the other ingredients. As far as wine, I can’t really give the perfect match. If you’re like me and drink red with almost anything, I would go for a fruit forward Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais. Have a bit of a chill on the wine. For a white, if you are looking for something with richness, go with a Chardonnay otherwise try a Pinot Gris (just guessing, as I haven’t tried it).

Chicken Pre-Prep: Rinse chicken and trim fat. If I am grilling it, I like to butterfly it so I can cook it quickly and have less chance of overcooking. Throw it in the marinade for 1 to 3 hours.

Chicken Marinade & Prep

  • Olive Oil (enough to cover the chicken)
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic (mashed)
  • Fresh rosemary or thyme
  • Lots of fresh ground black pepper
  • Splash of dry white wine (optional)
  • Marinate 2 boneless chicken breasts (1 whole breast)
  • Remove from marinade and salt and pepper it up.
  • Throw on a Hot grill or in the broiler and cook until done.
  • Remove and let rest.


  • Romaine Lettuce (enough for 4 people or how ever many you are serving)
  • 1 Avocado (diced and sprinkled lightly with salt)
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Good quality…be sure to taste alone)
  • ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • Generous grinding of black pepper
  • Blue Cheese for sprinkling
  • Whisk the Oil and Vinegar together and toss with the salad. Do not saturate the salad…this is NOT TGIFridays.
  • Gently stir in the avocado.
  • Sprinkle with blue cheese (a little or a lot, depending on your own taste buds)
  • Put salad in chilled bowls
  • Slice chicken and place on top of the salad
  • Hit it with pepper one more time if you like



Chile De Arbol Salsa

I know this is a common salsa but I originally got the idea from Michael Chiarello and a recipe he calls Felicita’s Hot Salsa. I made his version but I found it bitter a bit lifeless. So I began screwing around with it and came up with this. I changed it by lightly pan roasting the garlic, added sugar, lime juice, and cut the stems off the chiles. This salsa carries a lot of heat so be careful. It is great on chicken tacos. I will post my chicken taco marinade in a few days.

See my wine comments below.

Give it a try!

1 oz. dried chiles de arbol, stems cut off
1 cup of water…just enough to fit the chiles
1 to 2 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 to 2 table spoons fresh lime juice to taste
1 cup of salted water (using kosher salt makes it easy to control). I liked it about as salty as seawater.

  1. Heat the water.
  2. In a foil lined skillet, toast the unpeeled garlic for about 4 or 5 minutes, turning often. Remove.
  3. Add the chiles to the skillet and toast for about 10 minutes. Watch closely and make sure not to burn. They should be somewhat soft.
  4. Peel and chop the garlic.
  5. Add the garlic, chiles, sugar and Mexican oregano to the boiling water and simmer about 10 minutes.
  6. Pour into a blender. Blend (be very careful with the hot liquid. Be sure to cover and hold the lid with a towel.)
  7. Add lime juice to taste.
  8. Adjust salt if necessary.

Because of the heat of this salsa you will need to choose wisely when it comes to wine. Beer may be your best option. For me, I tried a California syrah but the heat killed it so I ended up with a nice 2004 Vouvray from Domain Pichot. I white wine that is slightly on the sweeter side. Be sure not to get a late harvest Vouvray, which will be too sweet.


What Wine Do You Taste In Your Jelly Belly (click here)

Genius. I really do think this is great, although I haven’t tried it yet. This would be really fun for a tasting. What does wine taste like…well…wine, but as interest in wine grows, we want to identify flavors and measure the complexity of the wine. Well now there is one more way to do that. There is even a “dirt” flavored Jelly Belly. Wow! It won’t be long before that “butt” flavored cat food finally shows up.