Staglin Benefit for Mental Health

16 09 2008

This past weekend my husband Michael and I headed up to Napa Valley to work as sommeliers at the Staglin Benefit for Mental Health. It ‘s amazing that it has been about eight years now that we have worked this amazing event, even including the 2001 benefit when many couldn’t get to California due to 9/11.

The event starts with a symposium where some of the nation’s leading professionals discuss progress from last year and what the future holds for mental health research in the coming years followed by an amazing tasting in the Staglin caves of some of California’s most prestigious cult wines. This is a once of a lifetime chance to taste all those bottles that the collectors are hoarding in their cellars, Harlan, Bond, Abreu, Screaming Eagle and tons of the “new guard” cult wines, Gargiulo, Sloan, Scarecrow, etc. Sometimes the least familiar names are those that are the best wines of the tasting! I heard great comments from those that came to my table, I was pouring Sloan.

This incredible tasting was followed by a concert by the Pointer Sisters on the property and then a four course dinner with food prepared by Mark Dommen of One Market Restaurant.

Over the past 14 years the Staglins have been able to donate $30 million to mental health research and the most amazing thing is that there are tangible results, their generosity never ceases to amaze me.

I hope you will consider attending next year, or a donation. http://www.music-festival.org/festival_2008.html

Thank you to Shari, Garen, Shannon and Brandon!





San Francisco Food Nation

3 09 2008

I went by the Slow Food Nation events this weekend just to check it out and see what the deal was.  I had trouble getting in as press (Rebecca Chapa’s life on the D List coming soon), as they were overbooked, but was able to help the spirits folks out as a volunteer on Saturday.  The Slow Food group is near and dear to my heart as they sponsored me and nine other New Yorkers to head to Piedmont, Italy for a twenty-one day stint, back in 1993.  We visited and tasted through the regions best wineries and wrecked havoc on the area, but that’s a story for another time.  They took such great care of us, so I am glad to see them making strides in the U.S.

San Francisco is clearly the right place to hold such an event, we tend to have great consideration for the environment, interest in where our food comes from is almost second nature, so it is not a far stretch to get some avid foodies to an event like this.  It was a hard choice, but I did pull myself away from the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market for a Saturday and headed to Civic Center to check out the free offerings of Slow Food.  Things got off to a bit of a late start, but we were able to stroll around the gorgeous Victory Garden, and we came across my favorite Huarache Loco stand that was already open at 10 am, so we got our Blue Bottle New Orleans Style Iced Coffees (without the lines we normally experience at the Farmer’s Market) and ate our delicious blue corn huaraches.  The stands were a bit random, for example our favorite Happy Girl Kitchen Co., from whom we normally get an amazing heirloom tomato salsa, was only serving pickles.  It seemed to me more an exhibition than a realistic food market, as my friend Marcia at www.Tablehopper.com said, there were no eggs to be found.  We found ourselves running off with some corn, a tomato (no basil that I could find) and some great books we picked up at the Point Reyes Books booth.

Then I headed off to Fort Mason to check out the rest of the event.  At the entrance of the pavilion one was immediately struck by a snail made out of bread and the aroma of a clay oven.  Inside the displays were gorgeous, the area was divided into many small sub areas featuring different commodities, honey, pickling, ice cream, charcuterie (I couldn’t even get close), spirits, wine, chocolate, coffee, etc.  Volunteers were not allowed to taste the food, and that was just as well considering there were long lines at most booths, but the displays were stunning.  Possibly the most organized area was Spirits where tasters lined up to try a variety of cocktails and cocktail and spirit folk were on hand to answer questions.  Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican restaurant helped answer tequila questions.  Well-known SF bar owner Greg Lindgren (Romolo, Rye and Rosewood) was on hand managing the flow and seemed to have it under control.  Another area that seemed very organized and efficient was the beer pavilion.  Outdoors it was breezy but sunny and Dave McLean, brewmaster at Magnolia was on hand to offer tasting advice.  Three beer trucks provided beers from draft, cask or bottle.  He spent some time with us discussing the cost of hops and its effects on small brewers.  Overall it was a great day, highlighted by food, spirits and people who get as excited about them as I do.  Thanks to Carlo Petrini for bringing this movement to the US.  www.slowfoodusa.org





The Dregs

21 08 2008

The Dregs © Rebecca Chapa May 2008 

 

Ev’ry party has them, you all know the kind

First to get there they drink your good wine

You don’t know where they came from

Without an invite

Yeah they’re the dregs

 

They’re at every tasting

They mooch all the food

Monopolize winemakers, they’re really quite rude

And then they have the nerve to give attitude

Yeah they’re the dregs

 

Dregs ya know what I’m saying

Dregs drink all your Champagne 

It’s such a shame

We’ve got the dregs

 

They’ll drink your La Tache but bring Yellowtail

At every event they’re drunker than hell

They’ll even use your name for a reference as well

Yeah they’re the dregs

 

Dregs ya know what I’m saying

Dregs drink all your Champagne 

It’s such a shame

We’ve got the dregs

 

Some of you may think you’re immune

But you who inspired this tune

Unless your name is Jancis or Hugh

I’m pretty sure you’re a dreg too

 

Dregs can be winemakers that overvinify

They can be educators and those who just try

And don’t forget all those sales guys

Yeah they’re the dregs

 

Masters of Wine and Sommeliers

Retailers Writers, You’d be amazed!

Wine Critics are the worst  I’m afraid

Yeah they’re the dregs

 

Dregs ya know what I’m saying

Dregs drink all your Champagne

It’s such a shame

We’ve got the dregs

We’ve got Dregs





Vinos de Madrid

16 07 2008

In November 2007, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Salon de los Vinos de Madrid, a tasting of DO Madrid wines conveniently held in… Madrid.  It was a short trip, my second visit, but here are some tips on the wines and where to go if you find yourself there.   

 

 

While Madrid may evoke images of a cosmopolitan nation’s capital full of museums and cultural opportunities, most consumers and even wine industry professionals do not think of Madrid as a wine region.  They may picture themselves drinking a glass of Spanish wine with some tapas at a bar table at the Plaza Mayor, but many don’t even know that wines from Madrid exist, so let me let you in on a secret, Madrid wines have incredible potential, so get to know them!

Although wines have been made in Madrid since ancient times, 13th century, the challenges that Spain faced due to phylloxera, World War I, the Spanish Civil War and World War II followed by financial depression through the 70s squelched the wine culture somewhat.  Many vineyards were abandoned and never replanted, and abandoned cellars abound.  The good news is there is a resurgence in wine growing that is accompanied by increased understanding of viticultural techniques and cleaner winemaking.  What used to be rustic table wine is gaining finesse and has the potential to compete on the world wine market.  The Spanish government recognized the strides that local producers have made by rewarding the Denominacion de Origen Vinos de Madrid in 1990, and wines continue to improve.  It won’t be long until these wines catch on both abroad and in the local market.

All types of wine are made including sparkling, Cava, but the best wines seem to be reds.  A blending of traditional grape varieties, Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) with international varieties, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is proving to be successful.  Joven wines, those without barrel age are bright and fruity with softer tannins and less concentration.  They tend to be simple and quaffable and offer great value.  Crianza wines, aged a minimum of six months in barrel and a full year in bottle, are a bit richer but still very drinkable and reserve styles tend to be more concentrated and fruit driven.  Roses are bright and fruity and whites tend to be lightly aromatic and fresh and include some native varieties such as the Malvar, grown only in Madrid.

Three sub-regions make up the Madrid appellation, Arganda in the Southeast, Navalcarnero due south of the city and San Martin to the Southwest.  While many of the 41 producers of Vinos de Madrid are note yet exported to the United States, it won’t be long until they are discovered.  Some producers have limited distribution and are worth searching out.

Bodega Ecologica Andres Morate is a find, Vino Bosquera 2006 is a Joven blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon that has great intensity and balance and Esther Crianza 2004 a rich spicy wine with a very long and rich finish made  of also of Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. (www.andresmorate.com) 

Bodegas Ricardo Benito produces some of the most elegant and refined wines of the DO including Duan 2004 a very intense blackcurrant flavored blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and a truly great wine called Asido 2003 aged in new Alliers medium toast barrels.  The wine has very refined flavors and great balance of fruit and oak.  (www.ricardobenito.com) 

Gosalbez Orti is a newcomer started in 2000 producing wines from organically grown grapes under the Qubel label.  Paciencia is 70% Tempranillo, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 10% Garnacha .  Excepcion is 100% Garnacha, but my favorite was Nature, mostly Tempranillo with some Cabernet Sauvignon, really concentrated with violet aromas and incredible minerality.  They even have a wine shop and tasting area available for private tastings, the first in their town to offer tastings the potential for enotourism is great considering it is a mere 35 minute drive from Madrid.  (www.qubel.com) 

Vinos Jeromin straddles the bar between tradition and innovation with wines like their Felix Martinez Reserva Cepas Viejas (old vines) 85% Tempranillo and 15% Syrah from 75-80 year old vines.  The wine is really concentrated and spicy with rich anise and berry flavors.  They also make the standout white of the region, an oak fermented Malvar, Puerta del Sol 2006 and a very tasty Rosado (rose) as well under the Puerta de Alcala label.  (vinosjeromin.com) 

The wines from Madrid match expertly with the traditional cuisine, tapas like jamon Iberico and lomo, roasted meats, lamb and pork, and some of the lighter reds are perfectly at home paired with fish.

Although they may be a bit hard to find, Wines of Madrid although elusive are worth searching out and offer a great range of flavors.  

Vinosdemadrid.es

Food Tips!

Oldest restaurant in Madrid Restaurante Botin, Casa Fundada en 1725, Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, botin@restaurantebotin.com specializes in roasted suckling pig

Paradis great spot for lunch incredible calamari (Calamarcitos a la Plancha) near the Palace Hotel, another nice hotel is the Villa Real Hotel

Try Lechal, one year old baby lamb that is fed only herbs and milk, we had it at the Molino de Cantaranas in the Araganda subregion Hotel Molino de Cantarranas Crta. M-204 Km. 2 Tielmes, Madrid

Merluza is a common and delicious fish, known in English as Hake

Don’t miss the Jamon Iberico and lomo

Casa Lucio is in the heart of old Madrid, delicious boquerones (Spanish anchovies), lomo and Jamon Iberico and incredible roasted steak.  President Clinton had visited the night before and the owner was very proud!

Try La Venencia, the oldest sherry bar in Madrid, they keep tabs of what you eat with chalk on the counter!

 





Welcome to my BLOG!

16 07 2008

I have finally decided to start blogging.  Why you may ask?  Well, I have a lot to say.  I plan to use these pages to share my suggestions for wines, spirits, places to travel, things to do, and occasionally for other fun pursuits.  I hope to add in some blogs about my past endeavors to get to know those of you I don’t know and to update everyone on what’s going on with me.  I will also share with you some great tips from my journeys past and present!  Thanks in advance for listening!