Ribolla Gialla + Cherry Chapstick = Yo La Tengo!

(Always did love that Genius + Love = Yo La Tengo compilation.)

There’s a growing number of California winemakers working at the margins of the current industry to produce truly distinctive wines, and some of these fine folks have chosen to work with ribolla gialla, a variety that hails from the northeastern corner of Italy. In fact, it became legal in United States only this year to label varietal wines as ribolla gialla.Exciting!

One recent and (to me) quite successful example is the Arnot-Roberts 2009 Vare Vineyard Napa Valley Ribolla Gialla. Sourced from a tiny nook of a vineyard that industry veteran George Vare planted in the foothills of the Myacamas Mountains on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, it’s both generous in texture and energetic in expression, with a hint of almond and a fruit character that falls somewhere between a Meyer lemon and a tangerine.

Though this really has nothing to do with the Arnot-Roberts Ribolla Gialla — other than I think the band would really dig — in honor of the first day of Hanukkah, here’s a recording of Yo La Tengo performing “Cherry Chapstick” during their annual Hanukkah stand at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey.


Music Trumps Wine

Was going to post something about trying to decide what to drink tonight with dinner but decided that music trumps wine this evening. In fact, I should really be working on a writing assignment that’s painfully late but instead I’ve fallen down a YouTube rabbit hole. Two roots I snagged on my way down:

Rest in peace. As Old World Old School puts it, rock ‘n roll is here to stay.

Nostalgia for me, and on the mind with the Pavement reunion tour and just released best-of compilation. And hey, it is kinda wine-related after all, what, ‘oysters and Dry Lancers’ anyone? Side note for Pavement fans: interesting articles on Slate

Friday Night in San Francisco*

The storms let up Friday night, making for beautiful sky and light.

Grove Street, Hayes Valley

Capp Street & 19th, the Mission District

The Gangway, Larkin Street. A pleasant stop before mind-blowing Thai food at nearby Lers Ros.

*Footage from the original ‘Friday Night in San Francisco’, an incredible guitar performance by Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.

Memories of Autumn

Taking a break from writing up Italian wineries for a book project to report on an interesting wine from last weekend, Domaine La Tour Vieille’s “Memorie (d’automnes)” from Collioure in the Pyrénées-Orientales in southwestern France. Lovely stuff. And what an evocative name.

I believe it’s a blend of grenache blanc and genache gris that’s made in a manner similar to Sherry or perhaps vin jaune (Old wooden vats! Flor!), and here it is at once saline and bone-dry, yet with the sweetness of dried apricots and sultanas. The golden-orange color is also quite pretty to look at, reminiscent of, well, autumn.

Kermit Lynch imports this wine, at least on the west coast, so it is available. In San Francisco it’s available at Arlequin Wine Merchant for around $25.

And here’s some newish music, “Islands” from The xx. I think this is someone’s fan video, but I could be wrong. Lovely song though.

A Wolf at the Door

Time for a little Music Friday. David McDuff, whose wine geekdom is perhaps only exceeded by his music geekdom, recently recapped Meeting People is Easy, a 1999 documentary filmed during Radiohead’s sprawling worldwide tour in support of OK Computer. I don’t really go in for these types of films (really, why bother after this one?), but I do love Radiohead. David rightly points to the disconnect and alienation in Meeting People is Easy which, no matter how successfully or not it’s portrayed here, is certainly a recurring theme with Radiohead’s music, something they really tackle in Kid A and Amnesiac.

Here’s a stop-motion fan video (quite good too) that I found via At Ease Web. The song is ‘Wolf at the Door’, taken from Hail to the Thief.

And here’s a video for a more recent song, ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’. More disconnect, yadda yadda, but I’m really posting this because it’s got some great San Francisco footage. Look, there’s the Pork Store! And Amoeba! Then there’s a trip to Japan to, well, attend a Radiohead concert.

Mother Mother

Via Burrito Justice*, easily one of the top local San Francisco blogs, comes Mother Mother, a rockin’ group from Vancouver. Infectious, poppy rock with solid songwriting. And did I mention harmonies? Harmonies! Sort of a New Pornographers meets the Pixies kind of thing.

Mother Mother has two albums out, and you can stream them both at the band’s website, here.

Here’s a video for “Oh My Heart”, the catchy title track of Mother Mother’s second and most recent album.

*Burrito Justice is also an excellent forum to indulge your inner map geek. Check out this post (and the subsequent ones too) about the new BART system map.

Late Night Bling, or I *Heart* SF


(Above: I started my Friday with a michelada at Nopalito, which is Tecate mixed with tomato, chili de arbol, salt and lime. Yeah, it’s good.)

This post is going up late because I’ve been sick all week. For the record, summer colds suck. And no, I don’t use Zicam.

After gorging ourselves senseless with the Third Degree at Nopalito, we headed over to the Independent to catch Datarock, a fun, dancy band from Norway. The show was great and Datarock had the house dancing wildly for much of the set. The boys in the band got their groove on too, wearing their trademark red track suits (noticeably more blinged out than two years ago when the crew looked like they’d just come from Target).

Here’s a video for what’s probably Datarock’s most well-known song, “Fa Fa Fa”:

Still feeling jazzed after the show, we completed the circle by heading to Nopalito’s big sister, Nopa, where we thought we’d take advantage of the rockin’ cocktail program. Because a fancy rye drink is just what I need at 12.30 in the morning…

Scanning the wine list however led me to Gaston Chiquet’s 1998 Spécial Club Brut. Doing the math for two rounds of cocktails for three people suggested that the Chiquet was a splurge within reach. But really, I don’t care how good a cocktail is: When there’s good Champagne, there’s not much else. And this was pretty epic stuff, with vibrant fruit that felt savory and rich supported by profound mineral depth. Got better with air too. Drink this whenever you get the chance.


As Peter Liem notes on ChampagneGuide.net, the Chiquets have around 40 percent chardonnay, 40 percent meunier and 20 percent pinot noir planted in the Grande Vallée de la Marne, mostly in the villages of Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Dizy and Hautvillers. Interestingly, the family uses no wood in their cellar, and a program using concrete and glass-lined tanks has been in place since the 1950s.

The Spécial Club (shown above) is bottled as part of the Club Trésors de Champagne, a group of independent grower-producers who have organized under a set of guidelines, including a distinctive bottle, to produce what is effectively a prestige cuvée for each member. At Gaston Chiquet, the Special Club bottling typically includes 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent pinot noir. To learn more about grower-producers like Gaston Chiquet, or most any producer of interest in Champagne, I highly recommend a subscription to ChampagneGuide.net.

Another Datarock song, “Computer Camp Love”:

Drink Champagne All the Time

But especially for dessert…

This was the lesson from dinner the other night when we made swift use of some new kitchen toys (birthday presents: all the tools necessary to make western and central European style dumplings, be they ravioli, gnocchi, maultaschen or spätzle). After a hefty stick-to-your-gut feast of potato gnocchi with a wild mushroom ragù, washed down with plenty of Barolo, I grabbed a bottle of Champagne from the fridge (a rare thing; champers doesn’t last long in this house). Anyway, another birthday present: the Zéro Dosage from Ayala.


Lean and refreshing, with lasting flavors of pear, this was yummy stuff. I’d write a longer tasting note, but by the time we got to this wine, well, let’s just say the ol’ cognitive powers of recall were slightly blurred.

Zéro Dosage is one of the terms used in the bubblesphere to denote a sparkling wine made without the addition of a sweetner (whether sugar or grape must) following disgorgement. It can yield some incredibly interesting wines, more of which seem to be appearing in the American market. The practice isn’t just limited to Champagne of course, and can be found in Spanish Cava as well as sparkling wines from places like Slovenia (Movia’s beguiling PURO isn’t even disgorged, so there’s no need for dosage). Anyway, you can read more about no-dosage Champage here and here.

*In other news, I’ve picked up a new and dangerous habit: vinyl records! Got a cool little turntable for Christmas and I’ve been playing with it nonstop. One of the coolest things about it (aside from the Kraftwerk record spinning at the moment) is that it has a USB hookup that I can run straight into my computer to record uncompressed digital audio files. Score!

And with that, the compact disc, at least in this household, finally ceases to have any relevance…

Here’s the video for Blonde Redhead’s 23, taken from the LP of the same name. It sounds mighty fine on vinyl.

Les Concerts à Emporter (or, I *Heart* Paris)

Make that j’M Paris.

Okay I’m not really in Paris, at least not physically. Sometimes when I get a little ancy or am feeling a desire to be easily distracted, I tune in to Les Concerts à Emporter, or the Take Away Shows, a series of intimate musical performances recorded and videoed in Paris by the team behind La Blogotheque. Often set in an apartment living room, kitchen, a bar or even out in the street, the shows have a transporting immediacy. They also — at least for me — inspire apartment envy. And of course, when Les Concerts does go out of doors, to the Parisian streets, the whole thing becomes something of a music video guide to what’s possibly the world’s greatest city.

Here are a couple of favorites from the last year (these might not be viewable in Google Reader, so you’ll need to click through to Spume to view them):

That’s was Grizzly Bear performing “The Knife”. And here’s the National’s “Start a War.”

There are many more; go here to have a look for yourself.