Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wine Steal Round-up

The holidays are upon us, friends!  But so is the recession.  How ever is a cheap frugal wine drinker to survive?

Thank goodness good wine values abound this time of year.  Wine Spectator released their “10 California Red and White Values” in October, and it included some of our favorites to pair with turkey, ham, and of course late-night Christmas cookie sessions:

Autonom Red Cuvee

AUTONOM Red Cuvée California 2008
Score: 91 | $28

A big, ripe, complex and intriguing mix of flavors, offering stewed berry, game meat, firm mineral, loamy earth, spice, cedar and cigar box, with plenty of muscle to back it up. Tannic as well. Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Best from 2012 through 2022. 280 cases made.—James Laube

QUIVIRA Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2009
Score: 91 | $20

Deep and well-structured, with smoky wild berry aromas and layered black cherry, cracked pepper and loamy earth flavors that are wrapped in ripe but firm tannins. Best from 2013 through 2017. 5,363 cases made.—Tim Fish

WILSON Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Carl’s 2009 Score: 91 | $34

Big, ripe and zesty, with bold cherry pie and licorice aromas and vibrant wild berry, cassis and cracked pepper flavors that finish on a lively, sweet note. Drink now through 2016. 596 cases made.—Tim Fish

BECKMEN Syrah Santa Ynez Valley 2009 Score: 90 | $25

Distinctive for its restraint, with spicy, peppery notes on a trim body. The dried berry flavors are ripe yet not overdone, ending with a long, tight, focused finish. Best from 2012 through 2022. 1,800 cases made.—James Laube

FOUR VINES Zinfandel Amador County Maverick 2009 Score: 90 | $18

Ripe and jammy, with an appealingly rustic edge, offering aromas of blackberry cobbler and cracked white pepper that lead to soft, supple black cherry and licorice flavors. Drink now through 2016. 5,175 cases made.—Tim Fish

PEIRSON MEYER Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley Ryan’s Vineyard 2010 Score: 90 | $28

A wonderful undercurrent of honeysuckle and marmalade notes add complexity and charm to the fruit bowl of flavors, including peach, nectarine, melon and tangerine, that are equally tangy and juicy. It all comes together on the long finish. Drink now. 150 cases made.—Maryann Worobiec

Sequum 2007 Zinfandel

SEQUUM Zinfandel Napa Valley Kidd Ranch 2007 Score: 90 | $30

Rich and supple, with aromas of baked cherries and ripe, zesty flavors of huckleberry, white pepper and licorice. Drink now through 2016. 120 cases made.—Tim Fish

DEL CARLO Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Teldeschi Vineyards Home Ranch 2008 Score: 89 | $32

Zesty and appealingly briary, with baked cherry and cracked pepper aromas and lively flavors of raspberry and smoky anise. The tannins are a bit rustic on the finish. Drink now through 2016. 330 cases made.—Tim Fish

CLINE Syrah Los Carneros 2008 Score: 88 | $20

Notably beefy and leathery, but in a pleasing way. Dense, chewy and extracted, with the core of dried berry and blueberry flavors ending with a minerally aftertaste and firm tannins. Drink now through 2020. 1,283 cases made.—James Laube

MCMANIS Merlot California 2010 Score: 86 | $10

Soft and juicy, with modest notes of red currant, tomato leaf and toasty oak. Drink now through 2017. 42,000 cases made.—Tim Fish

We also love Sunset Magazine’s under-$15 picks from the Western Wine Awards:


Clayhouse2010 “Adobe Pink” (Central Coast) The Adobe Pink sparkles in the glass with a pretty, light salmon hue. The nose is filled with strawberry, dusty spice, and vanilla aroma, and

Clayhouse Adobe Pink

round and lively flavors of berry and vanilla carry over to the palate. The finish is crisp, with just a touch of residual sugar.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs (New Mexico (Lower Rio Grande, New Mexico) The rich and toasty character of our Blanc de Noirs is balanced and superb. Aged for two-year minimum, the palate is developed and shows rich complex flavors. The amazing berries aromas and the creamy texture play a leading role and create a great finesse. Winemaker’s Note: A fine salmon color, aggressive mousse and a lovely fruity wine with plenty of immediate charm and toasty aromas. There is also an explosive juicy flavor of raspberry.

Liberty School 2009 Chardonnay (Central Coast) Fruit-driven in style, this Chardonnay offers up-front aromas of green apple and citrus blossom typical of the variety. Bright flavors of citrus, pineapple, bosc pear, honey and a subtle hint of toasted oak are balanced by a clean, crisp finish.


Hahn 2009 Syrah (Central Coast) On the palate, flavors of black cherry cola and tobacco give way to  notes of leather, pepper and cinnamon. The tannins are silky and round,  and the finish is long and memorable. Zesty acid ensures a pleasing  pairing with food.

Paso Project Red Wine Blend

Project Paso 2009 Red Wine Blend (Paso Robles) A variety of multi-layered aromas gush out of this distinct Paso Robles blend: intense, jammy red cherry from the Grenache, followed by white pepper and spice from the Zinfandel, darker blackberry and blueberry from the Petite Sirah and Mourvedre, and a light, floral character in the background. The berry flavors continue on the palate, led by red cherry, raspberry, and cranberry. Subtle caramel and walnut nuances from the French and American oak aging lend complexity and structure to the blend, along with cinnamon bark and warm spices. Silky and medium bodied, the balance of eight Paso Robles varietals creates a complex and easy-drinking wine that shows off Paso’s signature red blends.

Waterbrook 2008 Merlot (Columbia Valley) Bright aromatics of black raspberry, clove and nutmeg swirl in the glass. The soft, juicy and plush palate presents interwoven layers of dark fruit. This easy-to-drink Merlot leaves a hint of star anise on the finish.

For those of you who don’t have a great wine shop nearby BUT have a Cost Plus World Market in town, check out the 2009 Pennywise Pinot Noir, which is available in stores at just $9.99 and received 90 points from Wine Enthusiast:

PENNYWISE Pinot Noir 2009 Score: 90 | $10

#18 on the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Best Buys of 2011 and 90 points: “Surprisingly sophisticated for a Pinot Noir at this price. It’s dry, light in the mouth and elegantly structured, with a nice bite of acids and tannins. The flavors are delicate in sour cherries, sweet tomato jam and dusty spices.”

La Crema 2009 Chardonnay

Another great steal is the La Crema 2009 Chardonnay, which our friend Steve Heimoff recently poured as one of his “picks” at the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association’s “Best of the Blue” tasting event.  Available at both BevMo! and Cost Plus, this supple Chardonnay is a screaming deal at $15.00:

LA CREMA Monterey County Chardonnay 2009 Score: 91 | $15

Here’s a classically rich, barrel-aged Chardonnay. With a beautifully golden color, it brims with pineapple, golden mango and lemon custard flavors, enhanced with bright, citrusy acidity. Very fine and classy, at a great price. – Steve Heimoff

Whichever wine you end up drinking along with your feast, we here at Parker Sanpei & Associates wish you a happy, hearty Thanksgiving.


Leave a comment

Filed under Wine

Phew! Harvest is over. Pass the Beaujolais.

One of the most challenging California harvests in recent history is finally over.  Tomorrow is Beaujolais nouveau day.  And the timing couldn’t be better.

Just as every season calls for different clothing, every season calls for different wines: Bordeaux (Cab Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc) in winter, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhône reds in summer, and without question, Beaujolais in the fall. (Pronounced BO-zjo-lay.) Yet, outside our circle of in-the-know wine drinkers, we find that few Americans are familiar with Beaujolais.  This is truly a shame given how delicious, festive, and affordable Beaujolais can be.

This light red wine from the southern end of Burgundy is made with the Gamay grape and can be either nouveau, which is released just six to eight weeks after the harvest; or as a village or cru wine, which must come from one of ten appellations in Beaujolais and isn’t released for at least another year.

Jamie drinks a glass of the good stuff

With Beaujolais nouveau released so young, you might imagine how fruity and quaffable it is.  Often, nouveau shows ester flavors of passion fruit, cherries, pear drops, and even bubblegum as a result of carbonic maceration, which ferments whole grapes without extracting tannins from their skins.  Because the wine isn’t allowed to undergo secondary fermentation, nouveau has a sprightly, youthful character that lends itself to drinking right away – the quintessential French bistro wine.  (This is not, however, the case with many cru Beaujolais wines.  Footnote Eric Asimov’s piece “Beaujolais Shows its Complex Side” from the NY Times a couple years ago.)

Beaujolais is often recommended as a pairing with Thanksgiving dinner – not a shock considering it’s released the third Thursday of November as a celebration of the harvest’s end every year.  We asked Gregory Dal Piaz, Editor-In-Chief for the world’s largest wine website,, to weigh in on nouveau and he admits he’s a fan not only of nouveau but of nouveau-style wines from around the world.

It’s that time of year again, the mad dash for the new wines of the season. While pioneered by Beaujolais, these nouveau wines are now appearing from all corners of the globe and they’re giving Beaujolais a run for their money. While a novello from Italy, for example, might be just another “new” wine, it’s not Beaujolais, and I enjoy trying as many of these first wines of the new season as I can.

Nouveau and nouveau-style wines are especially appropriate as a convivial accent to the inclusive nature of Thanksgiving. They say you can’t choose your family, which means you can’t choose your dining companions for Thanksgiving, so why splurge on something fancy when a festive wine perfect for celebrating the season’s bounty comes along every year, and with a price that makes it easy to stock up?

Some of my favorite nouveau-style wines include:

This year’s “Beaujolais Day” is Thursday, November 17th, and parties for the new release will be held far and wide to celebrate another year of putting the harvest to rest.  Why not purchase a bottle – or a case! – from Snooth in preparation for Turkey Day 2011?  Salud!

Leave a comment

Filed under Cuisine, Lifestyle, Wine

Ticking Off Traditionalists with Around-the-World Twists on Thanksgiving Classics

For those of us who love to cook with the flavors we’ve encountered on our travels, it is a new era for Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays.  A few years ago, Gourmet Magazine’s Lillian Chou did a feature on multi-ethnic Thanksgiving recipes that has compelled us to look beyond the standard recipes for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie.  Here are a few of our favorites inspired by the far corners of the globe.  (Thanks to the wonderful Gourmet Magazine for all of these recipes and their descriptions.)

Japan: Miso-Rubbed Turkey with Turkey Gravy

Using miso on the turkey is a great way to get wonderfully moist meat—always a challenge at Thanksgiving. The skin doesn’t get as crisp as it would without, but we think the succulent results are well worth the trade-off. The miso won’t give the turkey an Asian flavor, but it will add a rich meatiness to the gravy. Don’t use a brined or kosher turkey for this recipe or the bird will be too salty (miso has a high sodium content).

France/Italy: Roast Turkey with Black Truffle Butter and White Wine Gravy

When food editor Shelley Wiseman was asked to develop a recipe for an over-the-top turkey, she began by rubbing truffle butter under its skin. “It’s a cheap shot,” she admitted, “but it’s damn delicious.” We all agreed—it’s the best turkey most of us have ever tasted. The butter, an excellent carrier of that unmistakable truffle flavor, moistens the turkey’s meat and crisps its skin during a high-heat roast. For this splendid centerpiece, a nuanced French shallot-wine sauce is just the thing.

Latin America: Corn Bread and Chorizo Stuffing 

What started as an arepa recipe evolved into a play on traditional American corn-bread stuffing. Chorizo takes the place of fresh sausage, and garlic adds punch to a buttery base. Imagine all of the classic textures with Latino flavors—it’s that good.

Middle East: Jeweled Rice with Dried Fruit

Here, you only boil the rice briefly before combining it with the dried fruit and cooking it without water. We adapted this rice from a Persian method that yields a buttery crust (called tah-dig) on the bottom of the pan—later the crust is served with the rice. Usually you have to dip the pot in cold water at the end of cooking to release the crust, but a happy kitchen accident occurred when we tested this recipe. Food editor Ruth Cousineau let the rice stand for almost an hour (things can get hectic when you’re preparing a holiday meal), and the crust came right out without the dipping. Using a heavy pot helps keep the rice hot, too.

India: Cranberry, Quince, and Pearl Onion Compote

In this chutney-like compote, quince lends a ripe-pear creaminess, and pearl onions a lush sweetness, to tart cranberries.

Italy: Pumpkin Tart with Anise Seed Crust

Truth be told, it’s hard to reinvent the Thanksgiving wheel year after year. But this crust—anise seeds baked into sweet pastry dough—is a little kiss of Italian spice; it takes pumpkin pie to a whole new level.

Mexico: Pumpkin Flan with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

A bite of this flan, fragrant with traditional pumpkin-pie spices, is very comforting despite the dessert’s modern looks; a topping of pumpkin seeds, seasoned with cayenne, creates a play of sweet and heat.

France: Galette de Pommes au Calvados (Apple and Calvados Tart)

A layer of Calvados applesauce hidden under golden sliced apples raises this galette above all others; Calvados-spiked whipped cream subtly complements the flavor of the filling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cuisine, Lifestyle, Travel

Guest Editor: Jessica Tringali of Paper Sky

We recently decided to invite guest editors to contribute occassionally, and our first guest is Jess Tringali, who boasts a winning triumverate: great taste, great style, and a great sense of humor.  Her charming San Luis Obispo stationary boutique, Paper Sky, is the area’s go-to hub for creative invitations, whimsical greeting cards, and one-of-a-kind paper goods.  While staying competitive as a brick-and-mortar shop in the stationary industry is no small feat in this era of dwindling paper correspondence, Jess has grown Paper Sky into a local institution with her attention to detail and offbeat eye for design.  An avid blog-reader, Jess has graciously curated a list of lifestyle blogs for The Dish that she follows to keep her finger on the pulse of current trends.  Take it away, Jess.

Cup of Jo is the work of lifestyle blogger Joanne Goddard in New York (I love, love, love New York).  The tagline for the blog is “Fashion, Design, Photography, Bikes, and The People I Love,” so you can get an idea for how broadly she writes, but the common theme is an unabashed delight in beautiful things.  For instance, some of her posts cover vintage engagement rings, a New York apaprtment tour, vacationing in Palm Springs, and avocado popsicles.  And as a writer for Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine and the like, Jo is always an engaging blogger.”

Desire to Inspire

Desire to Inspire is about one Canadian and one Aussie blogging from separate hemispheres…all about design. This blog features beautiful pictures, not much to read (sometimes a girl just wants to soak in a good image), and it’s totally inspiring.”

Feist on Black Eiffel

Black Eiffel is another great all-around lifestyle blog.  Blogger Rachel Jones is a graphic designer based in Northern California who, according to the blog, “decided to catalog and share her everyday inspiration including her love of design, music, food, travel and more all in one place.” While Rachel has been featured in Glamour, Design Quarterly, Lucky, and Martha Stewart Living for her design acumen, it’s her “Music Mondays” that have turned me on to a ton of great new musicians.”

Blueberry Crumble Bars from Smitten Kitchen

Smitten Kitchen is my foolproof cooking headquarters.  EVERYTHING I’ve made from this blog has been amazing!!!  Just look at some of blogger Deb’s irresistible concoctions from her 24-square-foot New York City kitchen: pear cranberry and gingersnap crumble, cumin seed roasted cauliflower with yogurt, and apple and honey challah.  See?  Irresistible.”

Creature Comforts is written by a local blogger…what’s not to love?  The tagline is “The simple things that inspire and make life sweet,” which totally speaks to me.  Author Ez (pronounced eee-ZEE) culls the web for the prettiest, most delightful things to wear, decorate with, make yourself, and inspire.  Some recent posts featured artfully personalized family trees, clever Halloween flower arrangements, and favorite finds under $30.”

Paper Sky Boutique
778 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401


Filed under Lifestyle