What is Your Favorite Wine?

 

my restaurant career began here

Usually when you’re starting off drinking wine, we tend to like the sweeter versions, and of course… the cheaper versions. Who wants to spend a lot of money on something which is an acquired taste?

In college I started with Moselle wines from Germany. This one liquor store in Chico had a whole barrel full of Moselle wines positioned right near the front of the store. I’d go in and usually grab a German Riesling called the “Black Cat”. Unlike other Rieslings from Germany it was easy to pronounce, easy to remember, moderately sweet, and had a smooth finish. That was my go to and was the right price for under four dollars a bottle.

I kept that liquor store busy filling up that barrel over the course of my tenure at Chico State University. Later as I was introduced to red Burgundy’s from France and Cabernet’s from the Napa Valley, my wine world expanded. Over the course of the years I probably could have bought a small yacht for all the money I’ve spent on wine and the food to accompany that wine.

Anyway the point of this blog is not to tell you about my spending habits related to wine and food. No, the jest of this blog is to help you understand the paring of wine and how it relates to weather, food, and atmosphere.

Enjoying wine can be enhanced by the correct choice. This is an art form that evolves through experience. First let’s delve into the world of white white wine. In this blog we will only broach the subject of the three most common white varietals:

  1. Chardonnay:
  2. Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Riesling

If you’re going to drink Chardonnay only drink the finest… life is too short to drink cheap wine. The most critically acclaimed Chardonnay comes from three places in my humble opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are other places that claim they produce top notch Chardonnay but please… they can’t compare with these places.

First and by far the best, is the Burgundy region of France. The Cote de Beaune is the Belair of white Burgundy production. The roughly 25 kilometer strip of the Cote de Beaune produces some of the most show-stopping, intense expressions of Chardonnay on the planet. Just a couple examples would be the 2017 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Montrachet Grand Cru, or the 2015 Domaine Leroy Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. These earth first representations are the most delightful mix of being full bodied, rich and powerful, with intense aromas and flavors of almond, apple, white flowers, spices, with incredible length in the finish which propels you to a place few wines can take you.

Second on my list of exceptional chardonnay but definitely a notch below the above mentioned… the Russian River region of California and the Napa Valley of California. The buttery constitution of the California chardonnays mixed with the terroir add flavor to a rich composition. The top two I’d list in these two areas would be Kistler (Russian River) and Kongsgaard “The Judge” (Napa Valley). Kistler has many different vineyard options and they vary from year to year. Cuvee Cathleen and the Dutton Vineyard are my two favorite representations from this winery.

For the Napa Valley I would have to choose the Kongsgaard “The Judge” Chardonnay. Aromas of honeysuckle and green apple with candied lemon peel and soft French oak notes. At $840.00 a bottle this is the most expensive Chardonnay in California.

The pairing of Chardonnay with food is an easy match. Usually with a more robust fish such as Salmon, or shell fish, shrimp, mussels, crab cakes, and even lighter meats prepared in a lemon butter sauce such as veal.

Chardonnay at an out door party in the summer is a wonderful introduction to any pass around hors d’ oeuvres. Drink in one hand, food in the other, smile on your face… perfect!

Sauvignon Blanc is a green skinned grape variety that originates from the city of Bordeaux in France. The Loire region is famous for this varietal and produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc’s in the world.

The district in Loire that produces the most famous Sauvignon Blanc is called Poully Fume. Les Chemins De I’Abbaye is an elegant example that bursts with vibrant, citrus-fruit flavors. Most Sauvignon Blanc in this region is aged in stainless-steel and bottled while fresh and youthful. However, later, as in any evolutionary process the finest wines of Pessac-Leognan in Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is blended with other white grapes and fermented and aged in oak.

Other regions that produce quality Sauvignon Blanc include South Africa, New Zealand, Napa Valley, Sonoma, Central Coast California, Santa Maria California, and even the Algarve southern coastline of Portugal.

Sauvignon Blanc in the Loire region of France is typically a crisper, more herbal, refreshingly chalky minerality with a whisper of floral. Each region producing Sauvignon Blanc has its own characteristic that pronounces its terroir.

As a rule, (depending upon the region) the dryer region character I enjoy from the Loire is perfect with more delicate fish, or higher in acid items that contain capers like carpaccio. Of course this is another wine that pairs perfectly with shell fish, especially west coast oysters (higher in salt content).

One of my favorite parings is with a dish indigenous to the Balkans, Moussaka, a eggplant based dish stuffed with ground meat. The acid in the wine pairs perfectly with the richness of this Balkan/Middle Eastern dish.

Finally there is Riesling. There is really only one place to obtain Riesling, and that is Germany. There are five different Riesling types from dry to sweet. I will only be talking about one type for the simplicity of this discussion.

The type I will discuss is not the type I drank in college. My taste buds evolved as I grew more accustomed to pairing Riesling with food. The Riesling I enjoy the most is Kabinett the lightest style of Riesling in the German Pradikat System.

This fresh off dry white hails from colder German wine regions like Mosel and Rheingau. It usually has intense floral aromas and delicious apple, peach, pear and fruit flavors. In 1971. the term Kabinett was officially noted in German law. It was defined as wines that are light and non-chaptalized (no sugar added to grapes during fermentation.)

Kabinett is naturally high in acid and minerality and can age in your cellar for up to ten years. I love pairing this wine with salads. Especially salads that have a variety of different vinegars that enhance the flavor of the fruit and vegetables. Fresh fish, and complicated versions of vegetable dishes make for the perfect pairing.

As with most white wines the perfect season is from spring through the fall. Although anytime of year is perfect for a wine that has the quality and strength of composition to relate its history of terroir in every sip.

 

Jazz, Wine, and Food

The beat of your heart dances to the rhythmic sway of music, no matter what the genre is. This coupled with a glass of wine and a wonderful plate of food makes for the perfect evening. Of course some may not wait for evening. You could say, in your defense, that it is evening somewhere.

When I was knee high to a grass hopper my parents would love to listen to my dad’s orchestra play, or popular music, and even jazz. Those albums would play when my parents hosted parties out on the deck overlooking the trees in the Cascade area of Fairfax California. My parents friends and family members would dance, drink, eat, and definitely be merry. Most of the attendees were musicians, teachers, or family that were less than inhibited as the party lasted well into the night.

As for my love for music, other than the above mentioned occasional parties, I was influenced by my dear friend Jimmy Putman. Jimmy learned to play the guitar at an early age and for some reason was drawn to jazz. After listening to his passion for music I learned to love the music he played the most: Performed by the great jazz musicians of the day, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Maynard Ferguson, Dave Brubeck, and the great Sarah Vaughan among many others.

My parents moved when I was in the third grade. As fate would have it the Putmans moved too. They moved to Greenbrae, California, which was less than two miles from our new home in San Rafael, California.

I would ride my bike over to his house (he had a pool) and we would swim, play football at the school accessed from his back gate, or play music (I played the violin). It was so fun doing those activities and eventually (on the weekends) we’d ask to do sleep overs. This way we could get out of chores and have fun until we had to go to our respective schools.

In high school we both had drivers licenses so we would go to concerts in San Francisco, back when there were no homeless, or other degenerates. We’d go to the Keystone Corner and listen to Rahsaan Roland Kirk who played three saxophones at the same time. Also playing at the Keystone Corner and establishing the Keystone Corner as one of the top jazz nightclubs in the country were Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans, and Stan Getz.

Another favorite venue was the Great American Music Hall. I saw at this venue Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Stephane Grappelli, and McCoy Tyner. Each time I went to this venue and other jazz venues I felt the energy of the musicians. That energy would vibrate through the concert goers creating an unparalleled connection. Then, as one, the audience would explode as one with thunderous applause.

My connection with music led to other heart felt relationships with wine and food. The joy that is felt when you sip a Gevrey Chambertin red Burgundy, decanted perfectly, and poured into the ideal glass, promoting the terroir and skill of the wine maker… flawlessly, is magic.

To take this experience to the next level, one must pair this wine with food (as God intended). The complexity of the wine exhibiting earth first quality must be paired with a regional product produced with the freshest ingredients. The quality of the dish is of course, first and foremost, followed by presentation.

The wine will make the food taste better and the food will make the wine taste better. It is a complex pirouette between chemical composition and the nuance of flavor profile. This, coupled with the saxophone of Stan Getz, Coltrane, or Cannonball Adderley will surely take you to a place as close to perfection as you could possibly experience in this life.

 

 

Surprise is the Magic of Discovery… a Story that will AMAZE you.

 

Alex Golitzin’s family had escaped from the Russian Revolution to move to the wine region of the Loire Valley in France, and that is where Alex was born. However, when WWII broke out  Alex Golitzin and his family moved to Paris.

When the war was over the Golitzin’s felt there was still a threat from Russia based upon the power they gained relatively quickly. They felt Russia was aggressively taking over countries and ruling with an iron fist, which was unnerving to many Russian immigrants in Europe.

The Golitzin family could have never guessed that their son, Alex, would become a key player in establishing the production of great Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon. Even more unbelievable was that he would be helped by an uncle who would arguably become the most famous U.S. winemaker of all time.

Luckily, Alex had a maternal uncle in the United States who could help him and his family emigrate. To be clear, it wasn’t any ordinary uncle…it was the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff, know as the “Dean of American wine making”.

Andre had been left for dead in the Russian Civil War. He escaped and fled to Paris where he became a student of chemistry and agronomy. A Frenchman named George de Latour convinced Andre to work for him at his winery, Beaulieu Vineyard in the Napa Valley in the late 1930’s… and the rest is history. Tchelistcheff became the most influential individual in the history of California wine making which led to the Napa Valley  achieving worldwide recognition.

Andre went on to help his nephew, Alex Golitzin, and his wife Jeannette, to start a winery in Washington State. That would become one of the critical pillars of establishing the Columbia Valley in Washington State as an area for producing one of the finest Cabernet’s in the world.

Andre’s main advice was to “make one wine and make it really well.” And so, they made an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon and named their winery after a nearby creek, Quilceda Creek Winery, releasing their first vintage in 1979.

Alex and Jeannette’s son, Paul Golitzin, was bitten by the winemaking bug at an early age (no wonder, since his great-uncle was Andre Tchelistcheff). Paul learned a great deal from Andre and his son Dimitri, which keeps Paul, to this day, always trying to find improvement in reaching a higher level of excellence.

A great winemaking prowess is undoubtedly present in the very talented Paul Golitzin. As he approaches the 50th anniversary of his family winery he is focused on Quilceda Creek Cabernet’s balance between power and elegance.

As the director of winemaking his goal is to express the nuanced differences of terroir between his Champoux vineyard, the cooler climate Mach One vineyard, and several other vineyards owned by the family.

Paul has been working towards not only single vineyard bottlings of his Cabernet Sauvignon but also adding another facet to the expression of place, a single clone Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety that matches the aspect and soil of a particular plot.

Quilceda Creek is now taking another leap forward by bringing attention to the unique “thumbprint” of each clone to the ideal plot of vineyard. One recent bottling of the 2020 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon “Palengat” was awarded 100 points from the Wine Advocate, which is sourced from a plot of their Mach One vineyard using Cabernet Sauvignon clone 685.

When it comes to assessing a historically significant person’s legacy, it is always difficult to say whether they achieved more while they were alive or if they achieved a greater pronouncement of their achievements in death.

It is a debate that has merit on both sides. Still, there is one defining principal not to be ignored: Paul Golitzin benefited from the knowledge passed on from Andre. He’s going to show the world there is so much more to Cabernet than possibly imagined.

The exquisite beauty of these wines are breathtaking, with lovely structure as the tannins feel like delicate lace. Exotic aromas from each single vineyard balancing the terroir with the skill of a master craftsman gives us pause as to the possible greatness still to come from this award winning winery.

 

 

Happy New Year 2024

learn about yourself experience life

Every year becomes a notch in the calendar of life. Most people step into the new year with a resolve to become better in their personal and professional lives.

When we are younger it’s about new jobs, better income, perhaps hobbies/travel, and most certainly personal growth for those evolved enough to realize how important that is. The ticking clock of our expiration date isn’t thought about except for landmark ages where our friends remind us of just how old we are. That starts at age 30 and continues until 60.

After 60 (if you are a male)  you are addressed as sir or some variation to let you know that you are now “elderly”. Even your friends start telling you how good you look, “Compared to what?”

If you are blessed enough to have made some good decisions along the way, you can craft your own direction and life to perpetuate the happiness we all deserve.

This year of 2024 is a tale of two thoughts. On the one hand I am so very thankful for Nancy, my daughter, my friends, my health, our home in Idaho and the vision to travel and explore the world I’ve only read about.

Of course health is the most important. Without good health we are stifled in our ability to fulfill new and exciting chapters in our life. If you’ve experienced health issues and have recovered you realize how precious life is.

Now, time becomes a race against the aging clock. To experience the fruits of our labor and expand on the wonderful relationships we’ve cultivated through-out our lives. We must live in the moment always confident that the future is bright, the past is a memory, and the present is a gift.

2024 will be another trip to other parts of the world. Spain, Portugal, Madeira, and other places yet to be explored. This, while improving our home environment with beauty and creativity, breathing excitement into our visual wonderland.

The above thoughts are the best part of what is coming for Nancy and I in 2024. The flip side is to see what is becoming of the country we once loved so much.

With all  of the “Woke” hyperbole, gender confusion, mask mandates, more government over-reach, our personal freedoms being erased by greedy politicians, more “fake news”,  and the left wing control of most of the messaging… 2024 could become our Waterloo.

Children are now taught in our schools to hate our country. Our country’s history is now being used against us as a tool to erase all that which came before us. Teachers are now apologists attempting to cast hateful rhetoric about our history by suggesting those historical statues and events promoted systemic racism and other negative connotations.

History shouldn’t be erased to comfort those that don’t understand the benefits of learning from our past. While there is admittedly past and even present figures, historical events and symbols we should not blindly support… there is the pride we should feel in a country that far outdistances the rest of the world in humanitarian aid, technology, and more freedoms that have yet to be compromised.

When organizations such as “Black Lives Matter” identify with a racist agenda promoting one color over all others the time to stand up and be counted is now. If I said “White Lives Matter” I would be canceled in a heart beat… the hypocrisy is palatable.

Once again the double standard for those that are offended by everything, except their own systemic guilt for all that has transpired before them is a destructive force gaining incredible momentum.

This momentum is perpetuated by our educational system. From elementary school through college the teaching narrative of gender confusion, entitlement ideals, and socialist propaganda is simply brain washing. This is exacerbated by a left wing media that takes that agenda and spins it for their own destructive narrative to further divide us.

The owners of this mind control are the spinners of the web for their own economic benefit. From mask mandates, climate disinformation, and all the other laws going into affect to “protect us”. This is a sad commentary for those that still possess the ability for critical thinking.

2024 is poised to be the most important election year in our history. We either continue down this path of self destruction, which will wipe out our constitution, or we stand up for what this country used to stand for, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.