Monday, March 07, 2005

Wine & Friends

Turns out that wine and friends go well together. Aren and I made our umptenth trip of the year to Napa with friends visiting from Seattle. We toured a total of four wineries.

Cakebread: Having enjoyed a tour of Cakebread a year ago, we thought the winery would be a good intro to Napa for our friends. We tasted their current releases of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I was pleasantly surprised when a wine buyer on our tour approached me, wondering if I was in the wine business too. We left with a bottle of Chardonnay, the varietal for which Cakebread is probably the most well-known.

Domaine Chandon: I like sparkling wine. I almost always default to buying Roederer because its wines are reasonably priced and reliable. So, I was happy to discover an alternative at Domaine Chandon. We left with two very different wines, their more high-end Etoile, which is more aged than most of their wines and has a distinct almond taste, as well as their Riche which has a sweeter style I think will go well with Asian food. Chandon's open-air tasting bar was a beautiful setting for tasting these wines.

Frog's Leap: Frog's Leap had a really fun tour. Rather than lecture us on how they make their wine (something most tours focus on), Frog's Leap's tour focused on the history of the winery. Our tour guide sat us around a wooden table on their grounds and had a storytime with us while we enjoyed some nice wines. The style of this tour is very much in sync with the winery's culture -- friendly, organic, and laid back. The most interesting thing I learned is that Frog's Leap's name comes from Stags' Leap's name -- I had always thought this was a coincidence! The winery's founder made his first batch of wine from stolen Stags' Leap grapes (er, I should say "liberated" grapes). We left the winery with a very fun wine, their Leapfrögmilch, which is a blend of Chardonnay and Riesling. The wine seems a little schizophrenic, but was too fun to pass up.

Peju Province: I was a little wined out by the time we reached Peju, so I did't taste too much. I did, however, find out about an interesting wine Peju makes, their Provence. Provence is a table wine which Peju has created in the spirit of European table wines, such as your Chianti or traditional Beaujolais. The idea is that the wine is very refreshing and gulpable -- it's not heavy like your classic California reds.

What goes with wine and friends? Food! We kicked off the weekend with a visit to the Slanted Door. I hadn't visited their new Ferry Building location, so it was nice to do so. The space is much bigger than their last location. They have a nice big bar with lots of seating. Plus, they serve much of their menu in the bar -- it's nice to know that we'll have the option of dining there without making reservations a month ahead of time. Aren and I shared their spring rolls, claypot chicken, and eggplant dish. The claypot chicken was excellent. Their desserts, however, were disappointing. I had been impressed by the excellence of their desserts on a previous visit -- normally, Asian restaurants don't shine in this department. The beignet and caramelized apple I had on Friday were really pretty pathetic.

On Saturday, we visited Bistro Jeanty, for literally the fifth time in the past year. Aren and I shared their duck foie gras pate, which I recommend over their duck and goat cheese and rabbit pates, both of which we've had before. Feeling adventurous, I tried their rabbit special instead of my standard mussels steamed in red wine. Yum!

Signing off until my next yummy experience...


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