Posted: February 25, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Sommelier Mark Bright poured a splash of Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée as I settled in for an 18-course dinner at Saison in San Francisco. "We welcome all our guests with Krug," he said, a clear message that this is meant to be a luxury experience, if the credit card deposit of $248 per person didn't already do that.
That's pretty ambitious for a restaurant that started life only three years ago as a pop-up. Its first brick-and-mortar incarnation in a tiny Mission District space got two Michelin stars in the most recent San Francisco guide, and chef-owner Joshua Skenes could fill a trophy case with rising star chef awards. The new location, in a historic building a block from the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, ups the ante with a unique, spacious design, a longer menu and a price tag that puts it among the most costly in the U.S., even more than the long-venerated French Laundry in Napa Valley.
Posted: February 20, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Over a casual dinner of sardine chips, pasta with bergamot and steak with chimichurri and mushrooms at the new Rich Table in San Francisco, Wolf Blass' Chris Hatcher brought me up to date on what his end of the company had been up to. Never among the biggest wines on the block, Wolf Blass has always aimed for balance and drinkability without losing the ripe flavors Australia can do so well.
We tasted three examples of what's coming next. The first wine encapsulated in a single sip the overarching trend in Australian wine today. Wolf Blass Chardonnay Adelaide Hills White Label 2010, silky in texture, graceful, expressive but not at all weighty, tasted like biting into a raw heirloom apple, getting complexity more from maturing on lees in older barrels than from oak. The first word that came to mind was "deft."
Posted: February 12, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Last week, In Pursuit of Balance staged its third annual tasting event in San Francisco, pouring its members' California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of recent vintage for trade and consumers. I was traveling for the first two, but I made it a point to get to this one. I wanted to see what the fuss was about.
Posted: February 8, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Whenever I hang out with serious coffee people, I am struck by how much we wine folks have in common with them. We obsess over the sources of the product and how it was made. We even use some of the same language. Coffee tasters assess acid balance, body, intensity and finish, as we do with wine, and describe aromatics such as fruit, nuts and floral notes. They might find winy character in their brews while we might notice a hint of coffee on the finish in our glasses.
I watched my cousin Shawn Steiman, a coffee consultant who seems to be the coffee guru for the state of Hawaii, blend Hawaiian-grown and -roasted coffee beans on the spot. He used to make a distinctive and heady espresso after the dinner he and his bride Julia cooked for my wife and me at their home near Diamond Head.
Posted: February 6, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Posted: February 4, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Matt Penman pulled the cork on a Huët Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu 2011, poured me a sip and apologizes for the glassware. "I'm sorry for the plastic cups, but they won't let us have real wineglasses here."
We are in the green room in the new SFJAZZ Center, which bills itself as the first concert hall of its type in the United States: a freestanding performance venue with flexible seating and staging for artists of every stature, built specifically for jazz music and audiences alike. It opened recently in San Francisco on the corner of Franklin and Fell streets with a series of all-star concerts.
Posted: January 28, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
When I heard that Shirley Sarvis died last week at 77, it brought back memories of when I first started to investigate wine and food connections. It was the 1970s and not many of us were writing about it. Wine writers sometimes commented briefly on good matches when they came across them, but seldom tried to explain why they worked. Fewer food writers ventured into writing about wine. Sarvis was one of the rare kindred souls who had sound grounding in both camps.
Posted: January 17, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
It looked as if it were just going to be another trade tasting, a collection of importers sampling familiar wines to the trade. Wine Australia, which promotes Aussie wines around the world, expected about 150 sommeliers, retailers and wine media to the event in San Francisco Monday. More than 351 accepted the invitation.
The buzz there was palpable. Imagine, San Francisco sommeliers, notorious for seeking the most obscure wines they could find, excitedly sipping Margaret River Chardonnays, Hunter Valley Sémillons, even a Mornington Peninsula Dolcetto. And yes, Barossa Valley Shiraz. In recent years, as Australia's fortunes took a hit, one could hear crickets chirping at this annual event. Not this time.
Posted: January 9, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Leave it to us privileged foodies to complain about getting too much. The complaint-of-the-month club's latest rant, careening about the Interwebs, zeroes in on famous chefs who keep us strapped to our chairs in their dining rooms, force-feeding us dozens of exquisite courses.
Really. I am not making this up. (Except for the part about being strapped to our chairs.)
Posted: January 3, 2013 By Harvey Steiman
Recently I was enjoying lunch with some friends in one of New York's classier Italian restaurants. Asked to pick an appropriate white wine to drink with the antipasti, I scanned the excellent list and homed in on Terredora Greco di Tufo Loggia della Serra 2010, made from an ancient grape variety grown in vineyards surrounding Mt. Vesuvius in the Campagna region of Italy. I knew the wine from previous vintages. It typically shows more depth than most, while retaining the grape's natural freshness.
I tasted it and smiled. Exactly what it should be, no cork problems. Poured around the table, it got almost unanimous approval. Except for one person, a veteran of many years selling Italian wines. He complained that he hated it when Italian winemakers used oak on wines traditionally made to be fresh.
That stunned me. I tasted no oak, and gently suggested that he try another sip. "I don't like it," he insisted. "It's too oaky." The kicker? The wine was made in stainless steel.
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