Showing posts from August, 2010

Chambers & Chambers Italian Portfolio Tasting with Brian Larky of Dalla Terra, and thoughts on the American wine distribution system

At the Chambers & Chambers trade tasting this week, I had a chance to visit and revisit many wines from all over Italy. Gourmet thin-crust pizzas from Lulu restaurant in the SOMA district of San Francisco complemented what seemed like 80-100 wines. About half the wines at the tasting were imported through Dalla Terra, founded by Brian Larky, a very funny dude. But funny is obviously not all he is - because Dalla Terra is a clever concept. They essentially eliminate one of the tiers in a 4-tier wine import distribution system, through their Winery Direct program. Due to laws established at the end of Prohibition mainly to allow the government to capture more taxes, wine distribution and sales in the United States require wine producers to sell to state distributors / wholesalers who then sell to retailers or restaurateurs before a wine becomes available to consumer. Different states have legislated different quirks - for instance, some allow internet sales and shipping from out-of

The great heirloom tomato taste-off of 2010

Second year in a row, tomato frenzy goes into overdrive in an otherwise quiet corner of the Bay Area in Santa Clara, where the tomato goddess Ann-Charlotte (aka AC) throws the annual tomato taste-off extravaganza from the fruits grown by herself and by her fellow urban gardeners. When I think tomatoes, I tend to think Italian wine, and indeed, Italian wines provided a symbiotic backdrop to the unbridled glory of yesterday. This time of year, I like to prepare zucchini fresh out of my garden, as I find it goes well with tomatoes and light and tart Italian reds, like Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2008 shown below. The giant striped heirloom zucchini from my garden went into this delicious Zucchini Gratin recipe from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook , which I jazzed up by a healthy helping of organic cayenne pepper. Crisp, chilled Italian whites are excellent to whet the appetite or as accompaniment to tomato snacking. (I admit I cheat a little by pre-tasting some tomatoes befor

Impress the ladies with spicy heirloom bruschetta and rich Cotes du Rhone

Guys, wondering what to do to impress the ladies? Step 1. Grow your own heirloom tomatoes. Step 2. Invite the ladies. (can't help you here). Step 3. Make a bruschetta according to my friend Ash's method. Cut up tomatoes from step 1, add a little chopped garlic, basil, extra virgin olive oil, chilies, and salt. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes...then spoon on top of toasted (preferably on the charcoal grill) sliced rustic bread. Step 4. Serve with a wine that has enough sweetness (or ripeness) to counter the spice of the bruschetta, and enough tang to keep it lively. A 2009 Cotes du Rhone from Chateau St. Cosme that runs about $12, hits the spot. Bright, balanced, rich wine, it's a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape without the sophistication and the price tag. This producer churns out excellent values out of Southern Rhone year in and year out, the just released 2009 vintage being no exception. I imagine many of the bolder Italian wines such as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo,

Dining and wining with Persian kitties. Paring padrons and Riesling.

My friend A.C. is an urban gardening queen. In her back yard and in a rented plot in a community garden in Santa Clara she grows enough organic veggies to feed a small army. Once a year she throws her famous tomato taste-off . She is as passionate about tomatoes as I am about wine. And her second most favorite vegetable has got to be padron pepper , pan seared with a little olive oil and sea salt. Tangy, piquant and usually not hot, this delicacy is a favorite finger food amongst the Bay Area's discerning foodies. There is an occasional spice-bomb in the mix that hits you like a chunk of wasabi. In a situation like that, a chilled off-dry German Riesling (Kabinett level, like a Donnhoff Kreuznacher Krotenpfuhl from the solid 2008 vintage ) is just what the doctor ordered - a highly recommended pairing. Even her two championship Persian kitties are enamored with the veggies - I guess it runs in the family. Followed by her signature sausage lasagna, loaded with home-made tomato sauc