Bubbles & Boom

So I had a delicious Cava last week, the German Gilabert Cava Brut Nature, which I picked up at my neighborhood shop on the way over to a friend’s place for dinner. Prosecco is usually my inexpensive bubbly of choice but for some reason I went for the Cava instead. Maybe it was the geeky label, done up as it is in a Brady Bunch font?

(I’m a closet label whore. Shhh…)

Or perhaps it was the tag ‘brut nature’, which in bubblespeak means no dosage–that popular, Champagne hipster approved style where zero grams of sugar have been added to the wine. I’m not sure if there are other terms to indicate this method on a label, but ‘brut nature’ seems to show up the most often. Peter (or anyone else), care to elaborate?

Anyway, the German Gilabert is dry as you might expect, but also quite refreshing in the same tingly way that Dr. Bronner’s soap is. Like, it’s searing at first and then suddenly you feel cool and relaxed. Probably not the most ringing endorsement, but damn, it was a nice Cava.

Meanwhile, onto the boom. It seems that some crazy winemaker in Limoux in southern France blew up his winery with his own homemade bomb. As of yet, it’s undetermined if he belonged to CRAV, a group of militant winemakers in the region, or if he was, I don’t know, trying some new technique to soften the tannins in his wine… Gives a whole new meaning to ‘fruit bomb’, now doesn’t it? There’s an article at Decanter all about it.

Oh, and some car is cranking ‘Funky Town’ outside my window. That’s how you know it’s Friday in San Francisco. Check it:


Biodynamics and Classic Japanese Cars

I couldn’t resist that title, sorry.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in the southern Californian auto business, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for classic Japanese cars. I even drive one, the 1976 Datsun 280 ZX seen below pulled off to side of highway 128 in Anderson Valley.

Anyway, the New York Times ran an interesting little article on the increasing collectibility of old Datsuns/Nissans (read it here). While I would love to own a 1972 240 Z, my little ’76 is pretty damn reliable, to say nothing of being quite fast. It’s also yellow. We won’t speak of gas mileage.

(There’s also a nifty slideshow at the NYT showing a few cherry Datsuns from over the years.)

Changing the subject from my wine country getaway mobile to something more vinous, over at Wine & Spirits you’ll find a series of short profiles and tasting notes on wines featured at Josh Greene’s seminar on biodynamics and natural wine at this year’s VinItaly. The seminar itself was lively and fun, and the audience–including some representatives of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair–really dug the proceedings. Anyway, the post will be updated Wednesday and Friday to include all 8 wineries from the presentation. Read the first batch here.

Lastly, my friend and colleague Peter Liem has been profiled by Tom Wark over at Fermentation (thanks for the shout out, Peter!). For those of you not familiar with Tom’s Bloggerview feature, it’s a somewhat regularly updated collection of profiles of the many bloggers posting in the eno blogosphere. I’ve found many a distraction here, and I’m sure you will too.

Bad California Pizza, Killer LA Taco Trucks and Parasite Wine Writers

Golden Gate from Marin Headlands

(Above: The Golden Gate Bridge and entrance to San Francisco Bay as seen from the Marin Headlands.)

I snapped this picture about a year ago during a long ride on a day much like this past Saturday–no big container ships this time, although my friend and I did see a beautifully restored B-17 Flying Fortress soaring over the SF Bay (turns out it was on tour; info about this particular plane can be found here).

I love riding in the Marin Headlands, easily one of the best cures for the doldrums I can think of. Now, if only I had a helmet-mounted video camera, I’d record the fantastic downhill that’s the reward for reaching the summit. But wait, someone beat me to it. Oh well, have a look–it’s a great ride.

Anyway, I had every intention of posting all these links on Friday but an afternoon of glorious sunshine–and a call from a friend saying he was holding down the end of a picnic table in the beer garden at Zeitgeist–convinced me that I had better things to do with my time than sit in front of a computer screen.

Mario Batali thinks California pizza sucks

And you know, he’s about 90% right. I’d rank Pizzaiolo, Pizzeria Delfina, A16, Arinell’s, Tony’s and Mozza (Batali’s LA restaurant in partnership with Joe Bastianich and Nancy Silverton) as serious counterpoints to his argument as outlined in Wired’s homage to New York pizza. Still the piece is a fun read although what it’s doing in a tech-culture magazine is beyond me. Oh wait, now I get it.

I love taco trucks!

If you’re not already reading Jonathan Gold’s award-winning food writing for the LA Weekly, then I suggest starting out with this wonderful article on hunting down the best taco trucks in Los Angeles (and therefore arguably the best taco trucks in the world–where else would the car and Latino cultures mash up so perfectly?).

Taco trucks are dear to me, and while I’ve got a my favorites here in San Francisco, I urge you to hit the comments section with your favorite taco truck in the Bay Area (and beyond).

Meanwhile, I’ll be in LA later in May for the Wine & Spirits Hot Picks event, and in my downtime I plan on seeking a few of these trucks out.

Those Pesky Wine Writers

Like many in the wine world, I took the widely circulated report of remarks made recently by Jancis Robinson with a hulking grain of salt. Actually, make that a salty, puckering Muscadet. Anyway, two interesting comments here from Ray Isle at Food & Wine (go here) and Jim Gordon at Wine Enthusiast (go here).

OMG–it’s Prince covering Radiohead!!!!!

Forgive me this internet indulgence, but I just had to share. During the encore to what was apparently a kick-ass set at this past weekend’s Coachella festival, Prince played Radiohead’s song “Creep”. Well-worth a listen/watch (although the sound quality kinda sucks, sorry. Bootleg video and all If this doesn’t work, try searching on You Tube before it gets taken down)

Rocks, Rain & Coltrane

Rain, water and cooking oil

Greetings from soggy San Francisco! While the recent storms wreaked havoc on the roadways and knocked out power to thousands, the good news is that rainfall levels (and the Sierra snowpack) are somewhat near normal. So, we have temporary reprieve from drought; although that’s no excuse for extended Hollywood showers, as a friend put it.

(I can recall water rationing in the 80s in southern California, where we used captured shower water to fill our toilet tank, and where people were fined for watering their brown lawns. My mother learned how to read our water meter, monitoring our daily use–“today’s a laundry day, kids”–, and I became obsessed with the social and political issues surrounding water use in the west, starting first with Polanski’s Chinatown and then over the years moving to Mark Reisner’s excellent Cadillac Desert, Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang and, later, City of Quartz by Mike Davis. As a 10 year old, I told my parents many times to rip out their garden and lawn and plant cactus.)

Our changing environment weighs heavy on my mind, and between feelings of outrage and helplessness, I am fascinated by this mess we’re in, the mechanics of it all. And so too, it seems, does the New York Times, which has started a section called “The Food Chain–The High Cost of Eating”. The title pretty much sums up the point of the series, which, judging from this first article about the rising global costs of cooking oil, looks like something worth following.


I sometimes find it amusing to browse the wine-related resources on Wikipedia (accuracy, accuracy, accuracy), but this entry listing the common vineyard soil types is genuinely useful. So pop a cork and geek out about rocks. And edit or flag the entry if you find an error.

While you’re at it, I found this arugula entry pretty interesting too.


My Favorite Things (live) by the John Coltrane Quartet

Friday Linkfest: Greetings From Kinkyland!

Haven’t done a linkfest in a while (see previous post for my excuse), so this one’s over due. But I am managing to get it together on a Friday! And I haven’t been drinking either! So, on we go…


Naming Game

We here at the W&S west coast hq often amuse ourselves by looking out the window at the intersection of Market and Valencia Streets. This charming little corner of San Francisco is a snapshot of urban diversity, boasting an art supply shop, a divey piano drag bar, a showtunes bar, two churches for right-wing crazies, Zeitgeist, three pot clubs, an AA club, a wine magazine (ahem), a public TV station, kink.com, a free health clinic, …, and probably a dozen other places I’m forgetting.

Anyway, it seems that the forces of gentrification are hard at work and now this little patch even has it’s own charming name, The Hub (I eagerly await the arrival of the restaurant with said name to make it official). But over at the Tablehopper, a website and weekly San Francisco restaurant newsletter that I consider essential reading, Marcia Gagliardi posted a round up of some emails she received as part of a contest to name this vivacious little corner of the city (she learned later of the name, The Hub). Some clever responses here; I think I’m torn between Inner Zeitgeist and Kinkyland.

(Click here to read the original post–and you’ll need to scroll down about half the page)

Wine Fraud: Fake Jefferson bottles, court battles and a whole stew of controversy

Somebody pointed Wine Authentication Services by Russell H. Frye out to me while I was in New York last week. It’s an amazing time sucker of a site, so I won’t really talk about it much here.

Also related: the fake Jefferson bottles case–subject of a fascinating New Yorker article last Fall–was dismissed in court. Link to the Decanter article via Lyle Fass’ blog, Rockss and Fruit.

Follow the bouncing ball

Or in this case, hundreds of thousands of them.

An Italian group in Rome–also responsible for dying the waters of the Trevi Fountain red last Fall–released a multitude of colored plastic balls down the Spanish Steps earlier this week. Both acts were apparently political protests and the leader of the group, Graziano Cecchini, is associated with the Italian right/center-right (interview with Cecchini in Italian following the Trevi Fountain incident here). I’m not sure I see the political connection, but the Italians are rather colorful when it comes public protests.

Political motives and intentions aside, it’s all rather amusing. There’s a video and write up here (found via BoingBoing), and the same story appeared on the New York Times news blog, the Lede.

Mozzarella, cow diseases and the Mafia

Oh no!

(Thanks to Lindsay for the tip)

Speaking of southern Italian food…

Jeremy Parzen over at Do Bianchi has posted a couple of times recently on the origins of sugo alla puttanesca. An informative look at one of my favorite pasta/pizza sauces. Go here to read up. Also, there’s an interesting follow up to the post (written in Italian) by Terry Hughes at Mondosapore–be sure to check out the comments thread.

As with many Italian dishes or specialties, there’s a story of nebulous origins for this fiery and delicious sauce.

Drooling now.

Bigger than the playoffs


Okay, maybe not. But for those of us who grew up at the beach in California, surfing and surf culture are a part of life. And this past weekend, the granddaddy of all surf contests took place just south of San Francisco near Half Moon Bay at Mavericks. Big, big waves…
SFGate has an entire section devoted to the 2007/08 Mavericks season, with awesome photos like the one above, here.

Some random things:

Portishead is touring!

Where to buy the best meat in San Francisco (via Gridskipper)

Lastly, Looking for a good burrito? Try here.

Urban Development, Wine Bars and Tiny Buildings

Okay, I’m getting closer to posting the linkfest on a Friday, although you wouldn’t know it with yet another Saturday posting. Anyway, a short one this week, but all good stuff.

San Francisco’s Skyline Fever

If you live in San Francisco or have visited anytime in the past two years, you’ll have noticed the numerous cranes towering over the open spaces where new high rise buildings are going up. For the first time in the memories of most city residents (ie, since the Transamerica building and the Embarcadero Center went up), the downtown (and beyond) skyline is changing. One Rincon–the highest residential tower west of the Mississippi–is the most obvious example, a sleek line of glass blocking the view of the Bay Bridge from the city’s hillsides.

Many of these developments are in formerly dodgy neighborhoods, places where it wasn’t really safe to walk at night, let alone stop off for a glass of wine and dinner, or consider buying real estate. But as this article from the Chronicle reports, the development trend is in full force. And wine bars, it seems, are an integral part of the demographic changes in the city.

And just what does the presence of wine and wine culture do for property values? I think of American Canyon near Napa Valley, or Paso Robles, once a rural town home to California’s Mid-State Fair and now, it seems, the St. Helena of the Central Coast. South of Market, under the freeway, might be up and coming with the city’s next hot spot on the corner, but the neighborhood is two small degrees removed from 1st Street & Crack Central.

I’m all for cleaning up the city–and man do we need new housing solutions. But I also find it interesting (perhaps sickening, too) to see what the forces of development believe necessary to build new neighborhoods and communities.

Tiny Buildings

Speaking of buildings, check out this awesome site where an artist has fashioned miniature buildings from business cards. One of her favorite topics appears to be restaurants, and you’ll find places here like Delfina in San Francisco and Blue Hill in New York (made from their business cards, of course)

(Visit the Tiny Buildings site here)

Stink Be Gone

And lastly, you can’t really have a blog that talks about wine, etc, without touching on new and exciting olfactory experiences. Or in this case, the exact opposite: something that seeks to strip away odoriferous offenses. Not sure how I feel about this–I’m known for appreciating a certain funk in my wines, especially those of the Champagne extraction.

(Go here to rid yourself of certain offensive aromas)

I’ll Pass on the 15% Zinfandel, But Hand Me the Soap

No link for this, but this evening while changing in the locker room at my climbing gym, I overheard two guys complaining about the high alcohol levels of California wines. Now this is something that’s been discussed in the wine trade for several years, but to hear it in the locker room at my gym means that the subject has truly gone mainstream. Gadzooks!

Meteorites, Terroir and a Not So Bella Italia

Friday’s linkfest happens on Saturday this week. Oh, the holidays. Busy anyone?

The sky is falling. And falling into my glass. At first glance this Wired article about meteorite impacts on the ancient Earth might not seem to have much to do with the concept of terroir. However, as I thought more about it, and of the natural forces and energies unleashed by such an impact–and, as inferred here, of the minerals and microbes delivered by those forces–I couldn’t help but wonder how meteor impacts might have influenced the geology of Earth today. And, by extension, the soils and rocks in which we grow our food: talk about cosmic forces! And if the meteor idea seems like a stretch, then certainly the biomass buildup after the extinctions resulting from the more massive impacts of the Cretaceous, has had a significant influence on our lives today. They ain’t called fossil fuels for nothing.

(Click here for the Wired article)

The fossilization of Italian culture? This excellent New York Times article about the general sense of malessere sweeping contemporary Italian society made the blog rounds this past week (e.g., here at On the Wine Trail in Itlay and here at Do Bianchi), but it’s a topic that I feel worthy bringing up again for those who haven’t read it. Today, much of what we in the United States understand about Italy and Italians comes directly from a consumerist experience, one driven as much by marketing as anything else. Indeed, the Italian brand is a powerful icon supported even by specialized guides.

But a bigger point lies beneath the surface of this article, one that I’ve seen both while living in Italy and traveling there regularly for work. To put it directly, Italian society is not adapting well to globalization. You could say that about many countries, but in Italy the challenges presented by globalization feel more acute than most modern western nations. Rapidly rising costs, backwards technology, stifling bureaucracy and an astonishing number of young people living with their parents well into their 30s are but the most obvious symptoms. The resurgence of the fascist and nationalist parties of the political right are a darker reaction that many foreign visitors miss entirely.

A couple more links on this theme, then on to the humor, I promise. Salon’s awesome blog, How the World Works, had this post about the shift of populations in the developed world to urban centers, as well the general decrease in overall populations of several Western nations. These are two of the major demographic issues faced by Italy today, and I’ve witnessed them play out in the suburban sprawl of Rome to the winding alleyways of wine towns like Avellino and Alba.

Then there’s this totally awesome Flash movie about Italy and its fellow European nations. I know, it plays with stereotypes, but it’s produced by the animator-humorist Bruno Bozzetto. I find his sharp wit and sense of satire to be quite indicative of a particularly Italian response to the challenges facing the country today.

Sweeney Todd–I can’t wait! NY Times review here.

And then, Friday’s Dinosaur Comics summed up my Christmas shopping thus far: