A Taste of Concrete

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last week, we pulled Winemaker Matt Ortman away from the daunting frenzy of harvest at Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery to talk concrete fermentation tanks. Tasting through the Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah currently spending time in VSJ’s concrete cones and cubes, we gained a real appreciation for this method. Thanks to Matt for making time to get “heavy duty” with us.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Wine

Good reads for food/bev lovers.

While fall isn’t exactly in the air here on California’s Central Coast, it’s definitely on the calendar, and that means we at Parker Sanpei are yearning to cozy up with a good book. Fortunately for those of us obsessed with food and drink there’s no shortage of fascinating reads on the subject. Below, a few of our favorites.

heatHeat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford

We’ve loved Bill Buford since the first time we read him in The New Yorker. But this book, about his (mis)adventures in Italian cooking, is by far our favorite of his works.

PubMan Walks Into A Pub: A Sociable History of Beer, Pete Brown

Called “an extraordinary tale of yeast-obsessed monks and teetotaling prime ministers; of exploding breweries, a bear in a yellow nylon jacket, and a Canadian who changed the drinking habits of a nation,” this book feels like meeting a friend at the pub – an incredibly knowledgeable, interesting, and funny friend who happens to love beer.

ParisThe Judgement of Paris, George M. Taber

California vs. France. And the winner is? We all know the story of the famous Paris tasting of 1976, but this book by the only reporter present brings the whole scene (and the fallout) vibrantly to life.

provenceProvence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste, Luke Barr

This book is like our culinary/literary fantasy come true: a table set in the South of France surrounded by iconic figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones. Only this actually happened, and it changed the course of American cuisine forever.

ReichlComfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, Ruth Reichl

If Provence, 1970 was our fist culinary fantasy, Berkeley, 1978 is our second. In Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl details her relationships with Alice Waters, Colman Andrews, and Wolfgang Puck, among others, woven together with personal remembrances and epic meals.

napaNapa: The Story of an American Eden, James Conaway

From our friend Jim Conaway comes the remarkable story of what made Napa the kingdom of American wine that it is today, including stories from the many families who built its foundation (Gallo, Mondavi) to the new aristocracy.

Homemade LifeA Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg

From the author of one of our favorite food/life blogs, Orangette, comes this beautifully crafted collection of stories and recipes from her childhood in Oklahoma, years abroad in Paris, and working-girl-singlehood in Seattle.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cuisine, Hospitality, Lifestyle, Wine

Emergency preparedness, Wine Country style.

It’s unfortunate that it takes a 6.0 earthquake in Northern California to remind us how important emergency preparedness is, but Wine Country is also Earthquake Country and Fire Country. Our hearts go out to all those who were injured,  lost treasured belongings and the wineries who lost so much fine juice.

We at Parker Sanpei talk a lot about living the good life, and that includes living informed and prepared for when disaster strikes. Here we revisit what to do in case of an emergency and how to prepare in advance.

The American Red Cross, recommends a 3-step approach to emergency preparedness.

red cross ready

1. GET A KIT

We love the American Red Cross’ spreadsheet shopping list for building your own preparedness kit (Emergency Preparedness Shopping List), but you can also purchase one directly from their website. Either way, your family’s kit should contain items that enable you to provide comfort for everyday scrapes or treat life-threatening emergencies.

A standard preparedness kit should include the following items (see here for more a more detailed list):

  • Water
  • Food
  • Medications
  • Radio
  • First Aid Kit
  • Personal Documents
  • Contact Info
  • Map
  • Money
  • Clothing
  • Sanitary Supplies
  • Pet Supplies
  • Tools

2. MAKE A PLAN

Planning ahead will help you have the best possible response to disaster. We like the Red Cross’ PDF on making a plan to share with family. In short, when preparing for a disaster, always:

  • Talk with your family.
  • Plan.
  • Learn how and when to turn off utilities and how to use life-saving tools such as fire extinguishers.
  • Tell everyone where emergency information and supplies are stored. Provide copies of the family’s preparedness plan to each member of the family. Always ensure that information is up-to-date and practice evacuations, following the routes outlined in your plan. Don’t forget to identify alternative routes.
    Include pets in your evacuation plans.

As an element of your preparedness plan, choose an out-of-area contact for all family members to call in case of an emergency. Include the contact on your Emergency Contact Card. Your contact should live far enough away that he or she will not be affected by the disaster. You should also:

  • Predetermine meeting places to save time and minimize confusion.
  • Select two meeting places:
    • Right outside your home; e.g., in cases such as a home fire.
    • Outside your neighborhood or town, when you cannot return home or you must evacuate.

3. BE INFORMED

Get info: During a disaster, it’s important to understand the different ways you can obtain information. Make sure you and each member of your family is familiar with the following ways to receive information:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • NOAA Weather Station
  • Printed Notices
  • Telephone/Text Messaging
  • Local Emergency Warning Systems
  • Person to Person

Know your region: Learn what disasters or emergencies may occur in your area, and what to expect from them. If unsure, call your local American Red Cross chapter for more information.

Action steps: If you find yourself in an emergency situation, stay calm and follow these emergency action steps:

  • Check the scene and check the person
  • Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number
  • Care for the person based on the conditions you find (to find CPR and First Aid classes in your area, click here).

Leave a comment

Filed under Lifestyle, Wine

Get your sparkle on, Santa Barbara-style.

At this year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference, we met a new kindred spirit in Liz Dodder, author of CaliCoastWineCountry.com.

109a6dd8b3ccc9c53290686b2640cd4c

“My name is Liz and I’m a drinker, eater and traveler. I’m a food & wine blogger, writer, photographer, recipe developer, web designer, social media maven and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW).”

Liz is also a zealot for sparkling wine and has put together the first sparkling wine guide for Santa Barbara County. Have a look.

Sparkling Wine Map SB

According to this map, Santa Barbara County is host to ten places where sparkling wine is sampled. (Looks like our weekend just filled up!) Furthermore, Liz is working on another sparkling wine guide for San Luis Obispo County, and says there are several more wineries selling bubbles than we ever would have imagined. (Looks like our September just filled up!)

For questions or info on how to get printed copies of this map in your tasting room, contact Liz via CaliCoastWineCountry.com.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel, Wine

Going LOCAL with VONS

Thomas Hill Organics

Thomas Hill Organics

Our friends at Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles are partnering with VONS to celebrate their new “LOCAL” initiative with a multi-course dinner and wine pairing on August 14 at 6:45 pm. The program connects VONS shoppers to their agricultural and culinary community through in-store features of locally-produced ingredients and value-added items.

vons.logoThe launch celebration at Thomas Hill Organics will include five courses of sumptuous, locally-sourced cuisine paired with the wines of DAOU Vineyards & Winery, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Halter Ranch Vineyard and Tablas Creek Vineyard. Furthermore, an all-star lineup of winemakers and winery representatives will be present, including Georges and Daniel Daou, Steve Lohr, Steve Peck, Jason Haas and Kevin Sass.

 – MENU -

PASSED APPETIZERS

Prosciutto Wrapped Belgium Endive with D’Affinoise Brie Crab Ravigote in Tartlette with Apple Tarragon Slaw

Served with Halter Ranch Rose, J. Lohr 2013 Carol’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc,

DAOU 2013 Grenache Blanc and Tablas Creek 2012 Côtes de Tablas

FIRST COURSE

Seared Dayboat Scallops

Pickled Apricot & Ginger, Scented Jasmine Rice, Cucumber Ribbons, Ras al Hanout Broth

Served with Tablas Creek 2011 Esprit de Tablas Blanc

SECOND COURSE

Crispy Duck Breast

Pomegranate Molasses, Roasted Loo Loo Farms Carrot, Maria’s Japanese Eggplant Puree, Spiced Greek Yogurt

Served with Halter Ranch 2011 Syrah

ENTREE

Tournedos of Filet Mignon

Organic Potato Pave, Crispy Kale, Braised Scarlet Turnips, Truffled Natural Jus

Served with DAOU 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

DESSERT

French Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Ganache, Mr. Drew’s Berries, Coulis

Served with J. Lohr 2011 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon

Joebella Coffee

We’re so proud of our community and friends who make it a point to carry the LOCAL banner. Bravo!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cuisine, Wine

De-Mystifying Whole-Cluster Fermentation

whole clusterWhole-cluster fermentation is gaining rapid interest as a winemaking practice, but how much does the average consumer really know about this mysterious method and its effects?

“Whole-cluster fermentation is the act of using the entire bunch or cluster of grapes, including the stem, in alcoholic fermentation,” says Winemaker Eric Hickey of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, who has used whole-cluster fermentation for about a decade. “The winemaker can vary the amount of whole clusters included in the fermentor. For example, in our case, I use anywhere from thirty to seventy percent whole clusters in a given batch.  The remaining percentage in the fermentor is made up of de-stemmed grapes.”

The use of whole-cluster fermentation began as an experiment for Hickey, who has made a career of exploring different approaches to Pinot Noir from Laetitia’s Arroyo Grande Valley AVA estate. “We have a vast array of plantings, clones, and diversity when it comes to Pinot Noir,” he said. “Not all of our lots do well with whole-cluster, but through all of our trials over the years, we’ve located the specific clones and sites that work well.”

In Burgundy, where Pinot Noir is king, whole-cluster fermentation has been used for hundreds of years, perhaps somewhat out of the convenience of tossing an entire bunch into the fermenting vessel. The hallmark of whole-cluster wines – a signature burnt tobacco note entwined with the fruit aromas and flavors – became synonymous with the Pinot Noir variety in Old World winemaking.

Eric Hickey

Eric Hickey

“It’s not always obvious, but there’s an extra layer of structure to whole-cluster Pinot Noir,” says Hickey, “and when it’s at its best, there is a dusty chalkiness to the mid-palate.”

Whole-cluster fermentation can be practiced on any variety, and is often used to tone down fruit characteristics and add another dimension to the wine. (For example, Hickey also uses whole-cluster fermentation on Grenache from the Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard for the NADIA Wines label.) While New World winemakers have used this method for many years, a fruit-driven, de-stemmed Pinot Noir became popular as the variety gained a foothold in the United States market in the late 1980s and 1990s. Today, the pendulum is swinging the other direction, with many winemakers moving away from “pure-fruit” Pinot Noir by fermenting clusters whole to impart complexity, tannic grip, and a lift on the palate.

Laetitia_Pinot_Noir_Whole_ClusterWEBTo bring this style further into balance, when Hickey whole-cluster ferments Pinot Noir, he leaves the intact bunches to rest in the fermentor after harvest rather than crushing them immediately. In this anaerobic environment, fermentation then begins within each individual berry as yeast penetrates the skin wall under the pressure of carbon dioxide, a process called carbonic maceration. “When fermentation takes place inside the berry, you tend to get very high levels of delicate red fruit and floral aromas,” says Hickey. “In the case of the whole-cluster technique, the high fruit tone is a good counter balance to the earthy tobacco characters the stems provide.”

Each vintage, Hickey rounds-out the Laetitia Pinot Noir program by offering a whole-cluster Pinot Noir made from clones conducive to the practice. The most recent release is the 2012 vintage, which included Pinot Noir from clones 115 and 2A to produce a wine marked by focused flavors and a refreshing grip in mouth feel. Crisp notes of cassis, whole-leaf tobacco and black peppercorn mingle with a touch of sweet oak and sultry black tea on the nose and palate. With its heightened earthiness, the 2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir pairs well with similarly earthy cuisine such as roast duck, sautéed porcini mushrooms, or eggplant lasagna.

“Consumer response [toward whole-cluster wine] has been great,” says Hickey. “It usually appeals to those who prefer a Pinot with more power, structure and less ‘pure red fruit’ on the nose.”

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Wine

What we learned: Wine apps

It’s never been a better time to buy the right wine. With so much content available so quickly, we’ll never again wonder what to drink with our osso buco on a Friday night (…or mac ‘n cheese on a Tuesday night!).

We’re talking, of course, about wine apps. At the recent Wine Bloggers’ Conference we polled our fellow wine folks about which apps they use to make buying and tasting decisions. Here are the big winners:

298_298_cor-kz-top-apps-for-wineCor.kz: Powered by CellarTracker.com, Cor.kz allows you to type in the name of the wine you’re considering (or even scan the bar code!) and gain access to over 2,000,000 notes and ratings from experts and from the huge CellarTracker community of wine drinkers. $1.99, available for iOS and Android.

47f1aadf-d960-48dd-8611-fbcddf1eb54cVivino: “Never pick another bad wine.” So says this app that identifies wine labels from a photo snapped on your device and immediately accesses reviews, rankings and price comparisons – right there in the grocery aisle or wine shop. Vivino also claims to be “the world’s largest community for everyone who enjoys wine.” Free, available for iOS and Android.

icon_256Delectable: Like Vivino, this app immediately recognizes whatever wine label you snap with your camera and offers reviews and buying info, but has a social side that allows your own personal friends to weigh-in along with leading winemakers, critics, and sommeliers.

icon_256 (1)Guurgle: While Guurgle is still very California-centric, they benefit from being powered by people who really know and love wine. This app is terrific for touring California wineries and includes maps and events listings to inform your next excursion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lifestyle, Wine