I recently viewed the movie “Bottle Shock,” an attempt to capture the essence of the wine event that catapulted the Napa appellation into world prominence: the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, when French judges declared two Napa wineries, Stags Leap with its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau Montelana with its Chardonnay, to be the winners against a group of established French counterparts. It was another disappointment by moviemakers who only deal in what may make money, with disregard for the truth and beauty of the matter.
If you want to know what really makes Napa-Sonoma the crown jewel of winemaking, you have to walk the walk and get up there. It’s the only place I know where the heady odor of grapes fill the air and the senses with the scent of sweet Cabernet and Chardonnay perfume-like vapors. These two varietals rule.
Cabernet Sauvignon is really a hybrid grape, originally a Bordeaux style blend of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc that thrives in both Sonoma and Napa.
The same for Chardonnay, California’s most popular white wine with many styles to choose from. You can get a toasty, full-bodied “chard” or a lean mineral-like version. The traditional barrel fermented kind will give off a butterscotch and toast quality, while the newly popular un-wooded types will go toward a citrus and mineral-like profile.
A good place to begin your Chardonnay tasting tour would be Grgich Hills on Napa’s Highway 29. You may see 82-year-old Mike Grgich in the tasting room talking up his latest lovely Chardonnay, the 2006 and the first one certified organic and biodynamic, a natural process without chemicals of any kind. Mike was the winemaker of the Chardonnay that won it all at the famous ’76 Paris tasting.
It gets a little more complicated when it comes to “best Cabernet Sauvignon” as both Sonoma and Napa have champions. Sonoma Cab was recently complimented in a recent article by my friends at Wine Spectator, the world-best wine publication. In it, the top Cab was from the Knights Valley area of Sonoma, a 2005 Les Pavots, which scored 97 points. Eleven thousand acres are devoted to Sonoma Cab, but Napa devotes 19,000 acres. The argument can be made though that with Sonoma closer to the ocean and cooler, Cab grapes feel more at home in that environment. One thing you can count on when you go: the wines you taste will be among the world’s best.
Frankie’s Steak & Seafood in Temecula
Fast becoming a local favorite in Temecula, Frankie’s Steak & Seafood delivers with delicious entrees, big town ambience and some cool jazz and other entertainment in the busy bar.
Sinatra, Sammy and Dino of the Hollywood “Rat Pack” are in full evidence with a piano, martini bar and images reminding customers of the fun and decadence of the “good old days.” Owner Frank Vessia features aged New York steaks paired with an extensive wine list. Wine Tasting Wednesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. are a must.
Five wines paired with rustic appetizers are just $20 per person. Vessia has his own vineyard and produces Italian style in-house wines.
For a reservation, call (951) 514-5212.
The Local Sip
— Congratulations to Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas on being awarded “Best Wine Shop in San Diego,” by ABC TV San Diego’s Channel 10. They cited Meritage’s ability to provide the best of the personal and business wine needs of the community. Call (760) 479-2500 for details.
— Vino 100 in San Marcos is staging a “Wicked Zin” Halloween party on Fri. Oct. 31. The cost is $15 each. Call for details at (760) 591-3113.
— Celebrate the Craft is a two-day art, wine and food celebration at the Lodge at Torrey Pines taking place Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. For more information, call (858) 777-6635.
— Meet winemaker Pablo Fallabrino with wines from Uruguay at Bacchus Wine Market in the Gaslamp District of downtown San Diego from 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 1. Fee is $10 each. Signature wine is Angel’s Cuvee Ripasso from Tannat. Call (619) 236-0005 for details.
— When in Rome Restaurant in Encinitas has its annual Harvest Wine Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6. Five wines from Puglia, Italy will be served, including Primitivo and Aglianico. The cost is $75 per person. Call (760) 944-1771 for details.
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