Gina Dallara: November 2008 Archives

Wine Country Itinerary: Calistoga

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By Robert P. Farmer

Part geological wonder, part destination to for the good life, Calistoga is one of the most popular regions of California's Wine Country. It first built up steam as a destination in the 1880s, when travelers made their way to the northern end of the Napa Valley to soak in the warm, sulfuric waters of the many area hot springs. In its later life, visitors grew fonder of the excellent cabernets and chardonnays being produced in the region. Today's Calistoga combines the best of all worlds, and throws in for good measure a great collection of excellent resorts and restaurants.

For a classic therapeutic experience, visit Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort, or Indian Springs Resort & Spa. Notable luxury resorts include the beautiful and secluded Calistoga Ranch, and the chicly appointed Solage Resort & Spa. When hunger strikes, check out the ever-inventive Wappo Bar & Bistro, or the dependable comfort of Brannan's Grill.

Most Calistoga wineries offer tours, many are lengthy, informational tours well worth carving out an afternoon for. Prices for the tastings vary, but are typically between $5 and $15.

Gift Guide 2008 - Wine Gadgets

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iStock_000003501714XSmall.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

This holiday season, make an impression on the oenophiles on your list with stylish wine gifts of all stripes.  Read on for some of our favorites. 

Vacu Vin Crystal Wine Servers $5
Give the gift of a non-drip pour - non-drip pour spouts, that is.  These special non-drip servers snap easily into the neck of most open wine bottles and add a touch of elegance to a meal or tasting.  Remove for easy cleaning, and re-use.  Particularly handy if you're pouring over carpeting or guests' clothing where spilled wine would be - shall we say - a most unwelcome addition to the party.   

Gift Guide 2008 - Bottle Talk

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peoplePickingWine.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

The Latin phrase "In Vino Veritas" - in wine there is truth - could easily inspire a second maxim:  "in wine gifting, there is always gratitude." When it comes to giving, a well-selected bottle of wine is always welcome and - as important - carries the added bonus of leaving an indelible impression that's likely to last long after its final sips have been swallowed.  Read on for our list of top picks for gifting this holiday season, for every oenophile on your list.  Prices are estimates.

A Guide to Giving Wine as a Gift

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wine_gift.jpgSubmitted by My Wines Direct

Whether given as a show of hospitality for a dinner party, or just as a sign of affection during the holidays, wine is a unique and thoughtful token of appreciation.

If you are bringing a wine gift to a gathering where you know the wine will be opened during dinner, you should try to find out what is being served and match the wine appropriately. Contacting the host or hostess mentioning that you'd like to bring a wine to match the meal is a great way way to ensure you don't bring a big red to a light meal where a light white would be a better choice. If you choose to bring white wine, you may want to bring it already chilled so it can be immediately served if needed. And don't take offense if you bring a bottle of wine to a party and it does not get opened -- the wine choice is up to the host or hostess. So unless you were particularly asked to bring a bottle of wine to go with dinner, you might not get to drink your wine at the meal (this is a subject that has surely been debated many times before).

Don't Forget the Wine for the Holidays!

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christmaswine.jpgBy Angela Lytle

Good company, good food, and of course, good wine. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with a bottle of one of the magnificent wines available today. Enjoy the distinctive tastes of merlot and cabernet, sip the cold and flavorful white wines, like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and for dessert, try a nice sweet wine served ice cold.

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of varieties of wine, as remarkably different as the artful bottles that hold the wine. It is said, however, that there are eight major varieties of wine, including: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, for the reds, and Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites.

Cameron Hughes Wine

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lotserieswine.jpgSelling Lots for a Little
by Robert Farmer

Sometimes it's about the craft and sometimes it's about craftiness. For Cameron Hughes, making and selling wines has been about ample doses of both. Most people who peruse the wine aisles at Costco know the company. And it is his relationship with the big-box bulk retailer that really put Cameron Hughes and his eponymous wine company on the map.

SF Wine Week: Pam Simpson - Chase Cellars

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people_pam.jpgMaking Zinfandel with Deep Roots
by Robert Farmer

With a nod to the history of Napa Valley and an eye toward its history, S.E. Chase Cellars is one of a growing breed of nimble "boutiques" in the region making wine for an appreciative niche audience. The winery is founded by the great-great grandson of Sarah Esther Chase Bourn, who came to Napa Valley in the late 1800s in search of the therapeutic waters gushing from the ground in the valley's northern end. She stayed to tend the land, settling on the Madrona Estate, a ranch that would ultimately become a vineyard. Sarah's son grew grapes for wine in the first iteration of Napa's Wine Country and during that time built the imposing stone structure for wine production and storage that today houses the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena.

Turkey Wines

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turkeyWines.jpgby Courtney Cochran

It's that time of year again, and you have no idea which wines to pair with your turkey feast during the Holidays. Do you stick with your usual favorites, Pinot and Cab, and throw in a nice Chardonnay for contrast? Or do you try something you've never had before, like a Gruner Veltliner, to make a big statement?

The answer lies somewhere in between. On upcoming Turkey Days you ought to offer a blend of whites and reds, but you also ought to seek out specific wines whose flavor profiles and weight complement heavier foods, which are often laced with a combination of sweet, savory and spicy notes. Some of these wines are exotic-sounding and can add an exciting contrast to your otherwise traditional table - never a bad thing!

sfwineweek.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

In a city that's practically synonymous with fine food and wine, it seems only fitting that San Francisco should play host to a highly anticipated series of November wine events known collectively as SF Wine Week. And with a bevy of chic nightlife venues lined up and a who's-who of winery and industry sponsors clamoring to get behind it, the unprecedented week-long celebration of wine in the city seems primed to catapult San Francisco to still greater heights of vinous renown.

SF Wine Week: Sommelier Mark Bright

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By Courtney Cochran

markbright.jpgWhen I first met Mark Bright several years ago, I was struck by the way the twentysomething wine guru seemed wise beyond his years.  I suppose that's inevitable for someone who was named sommelier at the venerable Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas on his 21st birthday, then turned heads as a sommelier standout at lauded San Francisco restaurant Michael Mina.

Now a partner in the popular SoMa eatery and wine shop Local Kitchen & Wine Merchant, Chicago native Bright oversees the restaurant's wine program - an imaginative collection that includes edgy selections from his recent travels in China and Japan - and adjacent retail shop, as well as the wine program at partner eatery Oola.

SF Wine Week: Sommelier Cezar Kusik

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Wine Week Heralds New Beginning for Sommelier
By Courtney Cochran

cezarKusic_pic1.jpgIt took Cezar Kusik, erstwhile wine director for the recently shuttered Rubicon in San Francisco, three weeks to catalog, pack up and ship off what remained of the restaurant's widely renowned wine cellar this fall. Dubbed "beyond words" and "hands-down one of the best [lists] that I have ever seen" by standout Bay Area wine blogger Alder Yarrow , Rubicon's wine list was honed over the years by Master Sommelier Larry Stone, who himself encouraged Kusik's interest in wine not long after the aspiring writer landed a job as a bartender at the restaurant in 1997.

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