Project Food Blog 2010, Round 6: A Picnic @ Behrens Family Winery, Spring Mountain

S'more Pots du Creme: Scharfenberger Chocolate Custard, Graham Crackers, and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff.

Last Tuesday felt like the last warm day of 2010. Whether or not that proves to be true, tomorrow can only tell. It’s very possible that November or December might offer an odd sunny day here or there — that happens fairly frequently here in Northern California — but as far as planning a picnic was concerned, Tuesday just seemed like the last sure-shot bet of the season. Instinctively, and with the last vestiges of summer quickly fading into fall, I felt like I needed to plan just one last visit up to Spring Mountain. Among the many wines of Napa Valley, I love Spring Mountain Cabernet in particular, and if I had to name a handful of my personal favorites, I’d list Pride Mountain, Behrens Family, Terra Valentine and Paloma (although the [… read more …]

Wine Tasting Notes from Spring Mountain: Behrens Family, Pride Mountain and Paloma Vineyards

A picnic table at Pride Mountain: Perhaps the best argument for bringing along a lunch.

I’m back in the Napa Valley after an extended trip down to the Santa Ynez Valley for some wine tasting. It was a successful journey, and one that I plan to embark upon annually. But before I rehash the details of my venture down to Santa Barbara County, I still need to acknowledge my trip to Spring Mountain last week, where I tasted the wines of Behrens Family, Pride Mountain and Paloma. Each of these three wineries is most certainly worth a visit, and I’ll preface my notes with a helpful caveat for anyone who wishes to journey up Spring Mountain Road: Plan your appointments carefully, and definitely pack a lunch. The drive up Spring Mountain Road is somewhat steep and winding, and since there’s nowhere to buy food on Spring Mountain, [… read more …]

Scouting Bay Area Sandwiches, and a Couple Other Half-Formed Thoughts

Hella Tasty: The Tri-Tip Sandwich with “The Works” (#84) @ The Brazil Fresh Squeeze Cafe, Berkeley. In this case, “The Works” includes fresh cheese, grilled onions, pineapple, jalapeño, lettuce, tomato, and cilantro-garlic sauce. One of the great sandwiches of the Bay Area, for sure.

Personally, I don’t think the apocalypse is upon us. If the world didn’t implode when Sandra Lee prepared her infamous Kwanzaa cake in 2003, then I think we’re probably good through 2012, and well beyond. However, with December 21st less than a fortnight away, it’s still as good of a time as any to clear out my “to do” folder. And why not? A couple of these photos have been in turn-around for months, so it’s time to finally give them some daylight. Other pics were part of a sandwich run-down that never really developed a decent angle or hook. So, yeah, I just [… read more …]

The 10 Best Napa Cabernets for Under $50

The 10 Best Napa Valley Cabernets for Under $50

Having lived in the Napa Valley since 2005, and having worked in kitchens and wineries during that time, I’ve developed a pretty good palate for the local product. As I’ve spent the last decade combing the Napa Valley for great wines, over the past few years I decided to pay special attention to the Cabernets that were priced at $50 or less, hoping to one day compile a list of favorites. I submit the following 10 wines, listed in my order of general preference. Of course, prices are subject to change over time, but hopefully not by too much.

1. Martin Estate Bacchanal Cabernet ($48) : One of the great unsung wines in the Napa Valley, I have already placed Bacchanal into a blind tasting of Oakville and Rutherford Cabs, pitting it against the 2006 Groth [… read more …]

Cab Tasting Notes: My Favorite Napa Valley Cabernets for $50 or Less

Having lived in the Napa Valley since 2005, and having worked in kitchens and wineries during that time, I’ve developed a pretty good palate for the local juice. As I’ve spent the years combing the Napa Valley for great wines, over the past few years, I decided to pay special attention to the Cabernets that were priced at $50 or less, hoping to one day compile a list of favorites. I submit the following 10 wines, listed in my order of general preference. Of course, prices are subject to change over time, but hopefully not by much.

• Martin Estate Bacchanal Cabernet ($48) : One of the great unsung wines in the Napa Valley, I have already placed Bacchanal into a blind tasting of Oakville and Rutherford Cabs, pitting it against the 2006 Groth ($58), 2005 Rubicon ($175), 2006 Pedemonte ($39), 2006 Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger ($90), [… read more …]

Napa's Top 25 Wine Tours

Outside Quixote (left) and outside Schramsberg (right).

These types of lists are always debatable — if not questionable — because you have to wonder about the author’s credentials. Who really comes up with these lists, and much do they know about anything? It’s a fair question. Lots of travel writers have come to the Napa Valley and covered the wine scene, and there are plenty of opinions about all kinds of wineries.

My own perspective is uniquely local. I’ve lived in Napa for over 10 years and have spent most of that time as a professional chef (at the moment, I work as a chef-instructor at a local cooking school). Over the years, I have taken breaks from restaurant life to work as a wine educator. I spent a year at Grgich Hills pouring wine, and I spent three years at Nickel & Nickel hosting tours and tastings.

[… read more …]