February 2014


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John On Wine – Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on February 27, 2014 by John Cesano

Destination Hopland, the non-profit group charged with promoting tourism for the Hopland area wineries, is sponsoring a new event on Saturday, April 5 and invited participation from sparkling wine producers from throughout Mendocino County. A “Celebration of Mendocino County Sparkling Wines” will be held from noon to 4 p.m. at Terra Savia, 14160 Mountain House Road, Hopland. Eleven local producers will come together at Terra Sávia winery in Hopland to showcase their finest offerings. Great and classic food pairing treats for sparkling wines will be served, like smoked salmon, local oysters, pate, canapés, fresh strawberries, artisan breads and, for dessert, delicious lavender infused sponge cake. Classical guitarist Joel DiMauro will be performing. Participating wineries include:

Graziano Family of Wines

Handley Cellars

McFadden Vineyard

Nelson Family Vineyards

Paul Dolan Vineyards

Rack & Riddle

Ray’s Station

Roederer Estate

Scharffenberger Cellars

Signal Ridge

Terra Savia

Tickets are $55 and available online at mendocinosparkling.brownpapertickets.com.

The folks at Wine Enthusiast magazine taste a lot of wine, well over 10,000 wines each year, I am sure. Last December they announced their Top 100 wines of 2013, and the #1 wine of the year was the 2004 Roederer Estate L’Ermitage. The 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, with 5,825 wines entered, was the largest judging of American wines in the world. The only winery in the nation to win two Double Gold Medals (unanimous Gold from the judges) for sparkling wines was McFadden Vineyard for the NV McFadden Sparkling Brut and the 2009 McFadden Reserve Sparkling Brut.

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Bubbly in Mendocino County is spectacularly good, the quality high, while the prices are remarkably affordable. Far too many people open a bottle of sparkling wine only to celebrate a special event, when a good quality bubbly is an absolute delight when enjoyed as a before-dinner cocktail, or when paired with a host of foods from oysters to salmon bagels and poached eggs with caviar to chicken breasts in a citrus glaze.

Some sparkling wines that will be poured have notes of green apple and grapefruit, unapologetically crisp, while others will showcase a bready, yeasty, brioche character. Lemon, hazelnut, and toffee are notes you might taste in a sparkling wine, or rose petal and strawberry notes from a sparkling rosé.

Cuveé is a word that you will see on more than one label. Cuveé means blend, and a sparkling wine with a cuvee designation is likely a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with perhaps a small amount of Pinot Meunier.

You will also see NV on a bottle or three, and this is also a blend, but a blend of different vintages. NV means non-vintage. The folks who produce sparkling wines in Mendocino County scrupulously refer to our bubblies as sparkling wines and never Champagnes. Practically the same thing, but we respect that real Champagne comes from Champagne, France. That said, most of us understand and do not mind when our customers use the terms sparkling wine and Champagne interchangeably.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch into how sparkling wine is made: Grapes for sparkling wine are picked earlier than for still wine, at lower sugar, usually in August. Chardonnay is picked for a Blanc de Blanc, Pinot Noir is picked for a Blanc de Noir, and a blend of the two is often picked for a Brut or Brut Rosé. After crushing the grapes for juice, the wine is made in the bottle, rather than an oak barrel or stainless steel tank.

A little active yeast in the bottle feeds the sugar – this is fermentation and where the alcohol comes from. The fruit notes come from the grapes. The wine spends time with unspent yeast, and spent yeast, also known as lees and picks up some yeasty or bready notes.

By tilting the bottle toward a neck down position, and giving the bottle little turns, the yeast and lees collect at the neck end of the bottle. This process is known as racking and riddling. The neck end of the bottle is submerged in a below zero freeze bath so a solid plug of yeast and lees can be formed and removed.

A second fermentation happens when a small dose of sugar, or dosage, is added to the wine and the cork and cage are affixed to the bottle. A small amount of unspent yeast remains in the bottle and eats the dosage, resulting in carbon dioxide, the bubbles that make sparkling wines so fun. This is how good bubbly is made. I hope you’ll get a ticket to the inaugural Mendo Bubbly Fest; If you do, then I’ll definitely see you there. Cheers!

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John Cesano pouring one of two Double Gold Medal awarded McFadden Sparkling Brut wines.

 

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John On Wine ­- Swine Flu vs. Wine Fever

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on February 20, 2014 by John Cesano

Swine flu is bad, even though it sounds similar to wine fever, which is good.

Wine fever is an enjoyment of wines strong enough to make regular wine tasting a priority, wine event tickets are secured, and people start recognizing you in winery tasting rooms near and far.

Twelve days ago, the International Alsace Varietals Festival in nearby Anderson Valley was a celebration of Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and more. I was going, and I was going to write it up here, but my wine fever was replaced by swine flu and I had to miss it this year.

Swine flu felt like someone wearing big heavy boots had kicked me all over my body; my head, neck, ribs ­ especially my ribs – arms, hips, everywhere. Combined with a fever bringing alternating sweats and chills, I spent a bad four days in unrelenting pain.

Last weekend, I was headed to taste Gold Medal winning wines from the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, but I was down again and spent the weekend on the couch trying to get better.

I have seven wines at work, newly bottled, and haven’t been able to taste them to help set release dates, or write tasting notes, for each.

This weekend, I’m going to miss Dark & Delicious, an exploration of Petite Sirah held at Rockwall Wine Company in Alameda. I’m staying close to home, not traveling, but resting and trying to get strong again.

The major symptoms of the swine flu have been gone, but I’ve been suffering an incredibly tight chest, scratchy throat, and limited lung capacity. Breathing deep or talking triggers a bout of painful coughing.

To taste wine for me involves “nosing” the wine, inhaling deeply, and I have been incapable of that simple but important part of wine tasting.

I visited my doctor at the VA clinic and he diagnosed me with bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics to clean up my chest.

I’m looking forward to getting my health and ability to taste wines back, because until then you’re reading a wine column from a guy who can’t taste wines.

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I’m a big fan of Hopland Passport. I work for a participating winery, so I can’t attend, but I would encourage you to.

This year 17 wineries will roll out the red carpet, put their best foot forward; pick your favorite cliché metaphor for trying to impress you and that is what each winery will be doing.

Novice wine taster or rival to Fraser Crane in experience, Hopland Passport has something for everybody and may be one of the most enjoyable, best value, wine events existing. It costs $45, if you are smart, and gets you a collectable loco emblazoned glass, a wristband, and a physical passport to collect stamps in.

Each of the 17 participating winery tasting rooms will pour their wines, offer up food pairings, and Passport attendees can often find some great, best of the year, sales at many of the spots.

In addition to food and wine, a number of the places attendees visit offer vineyard or farm tours, act as a location for local craft vendors to display their goods, or bring in live musical entertainment.

In the past, a year and more ago, the folks at Destination Hopland, the local tourism group that puts on the Hopland Passport events, used to arrange to have public shuttles on Saturday.

A nice idea, the shuttles, but they led to complaints as people got stuck at some of the more remote Hopland area wineries and waited for space on a subsequent shuttle to leave and visit the next winery.

In addition to spending up to half of Saturday waiting in line for a bus or van, visitors to Hopland complained about an inability to make purchases, taking advantage of the big discounts offered at many participating winery tasting rooms, because they would be forced to load and unload wine at each stop, and there was not room on the shuttles for cases. The calls and emails from unhappy shuttle riders followed every Hopland Passport event.

As the public shuttles were the only part of Hopland Passport that people complained about, they were eliminated, but not until a terrific alternative was found.

Terrific Tours ­- www.TerrificTours.com ­- is a private, not public, shuttle option. Book a shuttle and be sure to ask For “Hopland Passport Discounted Pricing” and you’ll ride in luxury SUV or passenger vans, and whether you have a group taking an entire shuttle, or you book space on a shuttle you’ll share with others, this private shuttle option will take your group where you want to go, wait while you taste, hold your wine purchases securely, and take you to your next stop on your schedule. These private shuttles were hugely popular with riders who afforded themselves of the opportunity last fall, and can operate both days of the event.

If you are going to attend spring Hopland Passport on Saturday, May 3, 2014 and Sunday, May 4 this year, then buying your tickets early and online at www.destinationhopland.com/store for $45 saves you $10 per ticket off the $55 ticket price you will pay if you procrastinate. You can use the $10 you save toward a spot on a private shuttle.

I hope to see each of you during Hopland Passport this year. If you don’t already have it, perhaps you’ll catch a case of wine fever.

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John On Wine ­ – Mendocino Musings

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on February 13, 2014 by John Cesano

John Parducci was born Jan. 22, 1918 and died last week on Feb. 4, 2014 at the age of 96. John is the Parducci folks think of when they think of Parducci wine; and more recently, together with his grandson Rich, John was involved with McNab Ridge Winery.

John was named “Winemaker of the Year” at the Los Angeles County Fair, inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame, bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Winemaking, and was a California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. John was the first to put the words “Mendocino County” on his wines. Growing up, there was often a bottle of wine made by John Parducci in our family home. John Parducci is a true Mendocino County wine icon, his contribution to the industry cannot be overstated, and he will be missed greatly.

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William Kubran visited me this week and brought me a pullout from USA Weekend featuring North America’s most romantic places, in cooperation with 10Best. Making the list was Mendocino, California.

William brought my attention to the write up, “Mendocino perches dramatically above the Pacific, a cliffside village brimming with galleries, cozy bistros and bookstores. Sonoma County wines add to the perfection.”

Really? Sonoma County wines add to the perfection of a visit to Mendocino? I suppose in the same way that Maryland blue crabs are a great dinner option when visiting Mendocino. In fairness, I suppose the writer of the piece was operating from a place of ignorance, not knowing that Mendocino grows great grapes and makes great wine. With 75 percent of the grapes grown in Mendocino County ending up in Sonoma and Napa County wines because the quality of our grapes is stellar, while the price is roughly half paid for grapes from those two counties. We do not enjoy the degree of recognition for our wines. I know that my writing is preaching to the choir, that folks in Ukiah are aware that Mendocino County wines are both good and value priced.

It is gratifying to see each mention of Mendocino County wines from writers not named John Cesano. Recently, the entire line up of 2010 vintage Coro Mendocino wines were tasted and reviewed by the folks at the Connoisseurs Guide to California Wines, and by Anthony Dias Blue for The Tasting Panel. I look forward to the day when Mendocino County wines are recommended for a visit to Mendocino in a story written for USA Today.

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In Sonoma County, whether your wines come from the Russian River Valley or Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley or Sonoma Valley, all wines must carry the Sonoma County appellation name on the bottle. In Mendocino County, wines may be labeled Potter Valley or Anderson Valley, and not include the words Mendocino County on the label.

Confusingly, Mendocino County wines may be labeled Mendocino instead of Mendocino County, while no one from Healdsburg would think of putting Sonoma instead of Sonoma County on their wine. Mendocino and Sonoma are towns; Wine labels that are meant to indicate a county should do so more clearly and, like Sonoma County, all wines from Mendocino County grapes should be labeled Mendocino County, in addition to any more definitive American Viticultural Area place name or vineyard designation.

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Valentine’s Day (and night) is coming up tomorrow, and for me that means bubbly. Here is a list of local bubbly producers in Mendocino County (some may be sold out): Elke Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family of Wines, Handley Cellars, Jeriko Estate, Lichen Estate, McFadden Vineyard, Navarro Vineyards, Nelson Family Vineyards, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Ray’s Station, Scharffenberger Cellars, Roederer Estate, Signal Ridge, Standish Wine Company, Terra Savia, and Yorkville Cellars.

Two producers of note: Roederer Estate has a 2004 L’Ermitage that was the #1 Wine of the Year for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and sells for $47, and McFadden Vineyard is the only producer to earn two Double Gold Medals at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Guinness McFadden lowered the price of both of his double gold medal winners 20 percent, so everyone could afford to indulge in quality bubbly this Valentine’s Day; his NV Sparkling Brut is $20 and his 2009 Reserve Brut is $32.

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Speaking of Double Gold Medals from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, every Gold Medal, Double Gold Medal, and Best of Class award winning wine from among the 5,825 entered into judging at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle wine Competition will be poured for tasting this Saturday at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Look for wines by Alder Springs, Bliss/Brutocao, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui, Handley, Husch, Kimmel, McFadden, Naughty Boy, Navarro, Parducci, Philo Ridge, Seebass, and more. Tickets are $65 in advance, $80 at the door. http://www.winejudging.com/event_tickets.htm.

I used to write non wine pieces, writing about whatever I wanted, but found that I would receive more readers for a piece about wine than politics, and the movement toward a wine blog began.

Sometimes I miss the days of very few readers, writing just to write, exorcizing demons. Writing was free therapy, and with the near anonymity of almost no readers I was free to indulge petty inclinations like sarcasm, contempt, and criticism.

Today, after a few missteps where words I have written caused genuine turmoil, I try not to make waves, to upset folks, to be harsh or too critical. I jokingly describe my content now as words about rainbows, bunnies, and Chardonnay.

If you are looking for a wine piece, here on my wine blog, today you’ll be disappointed. I’m writing a piece just for me, it isn’t about wine, but you are free to read it anyway.

During this week’s Olympic coverage on NBC, I heard a report that journalist Tom Brokaw was diagnosed last year with a rare cancer, multiple myeloma.

I instantly froze, and felt a wealth of compassion, and sadness, for Tom Brokaw; my mother died from multiple myeloma.

I posted a note on Facebook about Tom, my Mom, and multiple myeloma. I was amazed at the responses; so many people I know have been touched by, lost family members to this rare cancer.

When my mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, it was a death sentence. There was no cure – there still isn’t – and there was no treatment. Ann Landers, the famous advice columnist died from multiple myeloma, as did everyone who got this cancer, and typically within about six months.

I remember the day that I heard Lou Dobbs talk about Millennium Pharmaceuticals stock prices taking a huge leap on news that the FDA was allowing a new and very promising treatment drug for multiple myeloma to be fast tracked for patients. My cousin Laura heard the same news on NPR, and my step father Lyle heard the same news on a multiple myeloma internet forum.

My mom and her doctors moved a mountain of paperwork and she was the first patient in Arizona to receive Velcade. My mom also received Thalidomide, the drug famous for producing birth defects, and my mom and I joked that I wasn’t going to be getting a brother or sister any time soon.

Anyone can tell you that cancer treatment is a bitch, and it kicked my mom’s ass. She lost weight, became weak, was in pain, overcome by nausea, it just sucked.

I don’t smoke weed, haven’t in a long time, but won’t pretend I never did. I bought a big bag of good Mendocino County weed and drove it to my mom in Arizona where they have a different name for medical marijuana: felony drug.

I brought the weed for my mom to smoke because that works to increase appetite and decrease nausea. The problem with edibles or teas is that they can be vomited before medicine absorption, while smoke puts the medicine into the body even if coughing occurs.

The thing is that I forgot to bring a way to smoke the weed. I never could roll a joint for shit, and I didn’t expect my cancer stricken mom to be a steady roller. I needed a pipe. The problem is that I was in Arizona, a felony weed state. I did manage to find the only head shop in Yuma and went in to talk to the employees about my need, a task made supremely difficult by having to talk around the need and use substituted code words for marijuana. Finally, I saw a twin to the pipe I used at my first Grateful Dead show and bought that, feeling some sense of rightness in the choice.

My mom had a remission. She wasn’t strong, she wasn’t normal, she wasn’t full-on mom, but she managed to knock some things off her bucket list. My mom went river rafting down the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River. There was no way she could hike down, or back up, but was helicoptered in and out. She also was a bow princess, riding while strapped in and not rowing, but she went, and went with a friend, and it was a cherished trip for her.

Mom also wanted to see her grandson, my son Charlie, grow up. She had planned to move to northern Sonoma County and work in a new, as yet unopened then, Indian casino. Mom told me that one of the things she felt most cheated about by cancer was losing the opportunity to be a grandmother to my son.

I remember getting a call that my mom had died, but been brought back in the hospital, and was hanging on. My first ex-wife Dina and my sister Ikuko were going, but I was stuck in Long Beach working for a weekend. Sunday night, after a speed record breaking load out, I aimed my car south to San Diego and west on I-8 across the desert to Yuma, driving between 100 and 120 mph, in a senseless and futile exhibition of grief, my driving was one long scream. I was fortunate beyond reason and was not pulled over. I was even more blessed; my mother recovered.

I remember returning to visit my mom one last time, bringing my young son Charlie, who was perhaps seven years old. Mom was so weak, and sneaking smokes – the worst kept secret ever, I imagine – behind her husband’s back. I was torn. Cigarettes were not helpful for my mom, but seriously, it wasn’t going to be the cigarettes that were going to kill her, and the cancer was certainly going to without question, and soon, so fuck it, if she wanted to smoke cigarettes then I would be her willing accomplice.

My mom spent so much time in bed on the trip. My son was magnificent, spending as much time as he could with her.  She took a field trip to a friend’s home where Charlie demonstrated his new confidence in a pool, swimming for his Grandma Suzi, before pain and exhaustion forced us to bring my mom back home to her bed.

On a shopping run, I remember having to pull my car over and I just totally lost it, crying uncontrollably, my son a mute witness to his father’s grief and pain.

I’m a decent cook, but my mom was a better cook. I had always bragged on my mom’s cooking to my son, and on our last night together, my mom was going to cook one of her specialties for us. My mom’s beef stroganoff is the best I’ve ever tasted, and she sent me to the store three times that day for ingredients.

My mom had a stroganoff secret that she had never shared with me, she replaced the water regularly used with equal parts red wine and seven up. The red wine adds flavor and the lemon lime soda adds balancing brightness.

Embarrassed that she had already sent me to the store three times, my mother did not want to send me a fourth time when she found she had no seven up. Blame it on the pain, or the drugs, but my mom substituted concentrated lemon juice, and an amount equal to the amount of seven up she would have used, instead of a reduced amount because of the concentrated nature of the ingredient.

“John” I heard my mom call weakly, and I came into the kitchen where she told me what she had done, and asked me if we could fix it. I tasted the stroganoff, and probably the best thing would have been to throw it out, it was beyond saving. We added enormous quantities of sour cream, and wine, and anything else we could think of, hoping to cut the strongly dense wrong flavor of thick artificial lime.

We sat down to this last dinner, cooked by my mom; mom, me, and Charlie. Did I mention that we forgot to tell Charlie that this meal was going to be horrible, and that he was operating under the belief that my mom was a great cook, and was also being an angelic son and grandson on this trip?

While mom and I dished ourselves up light, Charlie filled a bowl full. I can’t say he flew through it, but to his credit Charlie ate every disgusting bite of that last meal together. Lucky Lyle, my step father, was saved as he only ate meat, cheese, and potatoes.

It is funny, but I might not remember a perfectly executed dish as well. The horrible dish of nearly inedible food is a bittersweet memory of my mom that I am grateful for and will cherish forever.

When my mom did pass shortly after, I had largely come to terms with the loss. My grieving had begun in earnest on the two trips, the first racing across a desert night, and the second sharing a sweetly human moment over a dinner disaster with my son and mom together.

My mom asked that her ashes, mixed with the ashes of a favored dog Bozo, a pretty terrific yellow lab, be spread at Doran Beach, a state park on the coast of Sonoma County, where mom and Lyle used to set up a trailer in the summers, and where Dina and I would visit.

Of course, it is illegal to spread ashes on a state beach, not that my mom knew that, but I’m sure it would have amused her to put her two boys in the position of breaking the law for her.

On the day of the spreading, out of respect, I dressed all in black; black leather jacket, black shirt, black slacks, and black shoes. My step father handed my brother and I the bags and gestured toward the beach, he was too distraught to scatter his wife’s ashes. My brother Tom and I opened containers and combined the ashes of our mother and our dog brother into a strong bag and tore one corner away to allow a steady stream of ashes to fall and scatter in a walk together down the beach.

I don’t have a lot of ash scattering experience, but found the uneven release managed by my brother annoying; nothing, nothing, a bunch and clumpy, nothing, a bunch…I couldn’t take it and took the job.

I remember my son was moving roughly parallel to us, but playing in the water; my cousin Laura walked with us and kept up a patter of supportive words meant to get us through the task, my brother and I spreading her ashes – now in a perfectly steady stream from the bag to the sand between us. I remember thinking it odd, the cremation wasn’t uniform and there were pebbly bits of what were likely bone mixed in among the ashes, and the colors of ash ranged from black to white with every shade of grey between.

Having emptied about half the bag on a walk down the beach, we turned to come back and empty the other half over the sand just trod. And then the wind picked up. And then the colors of ash from black to white with every shade of grey between were blown onto my black clothing.

The horror of wearing your dead mother, and her dead dog, is bad, but the sense of decorum that required me to continue walking and releasing the ash flow in the same respectful manner was worse.

To say that both my brother and I were incredibly desirous of alcohol is to downplay our absolute need for a drink.

Let me be honest, there really isn’t enough alcohol in the world to make wiping your dead mother off your clothes in the men’s room of the Tide’s Wharf better.

All we could do, Tom and I, as we tried to wipe our mom from our clothes, was imagine her laughing about it from wherever she was now.

It is easier for me to write about the pain, and share the comedy that death offered, than to just write simply and honestly that I miss my mom terribly. I loved her very much and, more than anyone, she is responsible for who I am today.

To Tom Brokaw: I don’t expect that you will ever see this piece, but your fight now made me think of my mom and her fight then. I’m pulling for you. Use the time to make memories with your family.

For everyone else, call your mom if you can.

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John On Wine – Fantastic February Food and Fun Festival Fare

Originally published on February 7, 2014 in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper by John Cesano

I write what I write, sometimes knowing well in advance what it will be, and other times not knowing until I sit down and the words begin to flow from fingertip to computer monitor. This week, I knew what I was going to write because you, my readers, told me what to write.

I receive the occasional recommendation from readers about which winery I should visit and review, or suggestion for a wine related topic that I should turn into a column, but the number of people who stopped me to tell me that I must write about Uncorked, and the passion they conveyed when speaking about eating there, was persuasively impressive.

Last Thursday, after work, I took my son to Uncorked for dinner.

Uncorked Wine Bistro is located on the north side of the courthouse in downtown Ukiah, between Patrona and Saucy, on West Standley Street.

When Charlie and I arrived, T.J. Elton of the Felt Tips was offering up some dinner music, while owner Kerri Barnett was in near constant motion, making sure everything was going well for the evening’s guests.

I’ve been to Uncorked before, and every time it has been an ‘order several things and share’ experience. This was no different. We ordered the Scrimshaw Shrimp and Bacon-wrapped scallops from the Small & Sharing Plates section of the menu, and a French dip and Roasted Cuban Garlic Chicken from the Big Ol’ Plates side of the menu.

Uncorked offers three flights, that they call Wine Sips, where three half glasses of wine are served and can be paired with different foods, making the night more fun. I passed on the red and rose, choosing white wine; 2010 Monte Volpe Tocai Friulano, 2010 Dom de la Collonge (France) Pouilly Fuisse, and 2012 La Playa (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc.

The Scrimshaw Shrimp, poached in Scrimshaw Pilsner, was delicious, with a lovely bright acid from a spicy lemon sauce allowing the natural sweetness of the perfectly seasoned shrimp to pop.

Bacon-wrapped Scallops? Seriously, two of God’s favorite creations together in one, or more if you’re dainty, big bite. What’s not to love?

The wine flight really was great too. Greg Graziano’s sweet Tocai Friulano was a terrific food wine. The French Pouilly Fuisse, a Chardonnay, had a nice light oak and apple nose, that didn’t quite deliver on the palate. The reverse holds for the Sauvignon Blanc, which was much more delicious than first sniff promised.

The French Dip was a Panini styled sandwich with grilled onions and a horseradish mustard sauce, served with a side of Au Gratin Potatoes. Quite good.

The Roasted Cuban Garlic Chicken was flavorfully spicy and very delicious, as were the Mashed sweet Potatoes it was served with.

Everything we enjoyed was so good, we decided on a pair of desserts, too.

I had the Uncorked Smores, an enormous amount of rich dark chocolate ganache, topped with a toasted sweet meringue puff, and served with a housemade graham cracker. Excellent.

Smaller, but more concentratedly delicious is the Housemade Maple ice Cream with Bourbon Pecan Praline Sauce that my son Charlie ordered. Intensely flavorful. I’m getting one of these on my next visit.

Charlie also had an Abita Root Beer. Uncorked has terrific and tasty beverage selections for folks who are too young to drink alcohol, and a great selection of draft and bottled artisan brews for those who prefer brew to wine.  As you would expect from the name, Uncorked Wine Bistro shines in the wine selection, offering over 40 wines, carefully selected to pair well with food, by the bottle or glass.

The atmosphere invites conversation among tables, and I not only knew what everyone else had ordered, but how much they enjoyed their dishes as well.

For reservations, call (707) 463-1523.
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February Events:

The International Alsace Varietals Festival – Saturday, February 8, 2014, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. – Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville, CA. Tickets range from $45 to $100 for educational sessions to the grand tasting, or the complete package, and the focus is on Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat. Participants include Balo, Barra, Breggo, Cutruzzola, Esterlina, Goldeneye, Greenwood Ridge, Foris, Handley, Husch, Lazy Creek, Left Foot Charley, Lula, McFadden, Navarro, New Zealand Winegrowers, Philo Ridge, Phillips Hill, Domaines Schlumberger, Toulouse, Robert Sinskey,  Stoney Hill, Thomas Fogarty, Tatomer, Valckenberg, and more. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit http://www.avwines.com/alsace-festival/

Fifth Annual Chocolate and Wine Festival – February 8, 2014, 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. – $20 admission gets a special glass and tastes throughout the Redwood Valley of Mendocino county. Participants include Frey, Oster, Giuseppe/Neese, Silversmith, Brown, Graziano, Germain Robin/Craft Distillers, Barra/Girasole, and Testa. http://www.atasteofredwoodvalley.com/

Second Saturday in Hopland – February 8, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Hopland winery tasting rooms offer complimentary food pairing treats for special wines, and a special one day discount on those wines every Second Saturday of the year. Participating wineries include Cesar Toxqui, Graziano, McFadden, McNab Ridge, Naughty Boy, and Ray’s Station. http://www.destinationhopland.com/all-events

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting – Saturday, February 15, 2014, 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Every Gold Medal, Double Gold Medal, Best of Class, and Sweepstakes awarded wine from the largest judging of American wines in the world will be poured; that is several hundred wines to choose from. Participating Mendocino County wineries include Alder Springs, Bliss/Brutocao, Campovida, Cesar Toxqui, Handley, Husch, Kimmel, McFadden, Naughty Boy, Navarro, Parducci, Philo Ridge, Seebass, and more.  $65 in advance, $80 at the door. http://www.winejudging.com/event_tickets.htm

Eighth Annual Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah – Friday, February 21, 2014, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. – 46 wineries pour their big and bold Petite Sirah wines, including Artezin and Parducci from Mendocino County, alongside knock out food pairings, at Rockwall Wine Co in Alameda, CA. $65 ticket. http://www.darkdelicious.brownpapertickets.com/

 

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