Late Night Bling, or I *Heart* SF

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(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.

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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”:

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Big Bottles

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What can I say? I’m a bit of a size-queen when it comes to magnums (or bigger) of wine.

Large-format bottles age better than 750s, the greater volume making for subtle and slow aging thanks in part to a low ratio of oxygen to wine. Perhaps hindering the desire to age your magnum is the fact that big bottles just look more enticing: Nothing quite says “party” like 1.5- or 3-liters of wine.

Found myself at NOPA this past Sunday where a friend had gathered a group of survivors from the annual Rhône Rangers tasting here in the city. I skipped the tasting myself, shackled as it were to several deadlines that needed immediate attention. Pity, as there were some lovely wines to be tried. (Check out Jon Bonné’s write up here.)

But that’s not to say I wasn’t feeling Rhônish, so I brought along the above magnum of 1999 Clos de Cuminaille Saint-Joseph from Pierre Gaillard to share. I picked this wine up years ago over in the East Bay at North Berkeley Imports, and it’s been stashed away since. Anyway, it tasted great, starting off minty but closed and then loosening up with some partial decanting. It grew more aromatic with air, and after a couple hours showed fresh pepper, dried rose, cranberries and a slightly meaty funk. A minerally beast too, as the vines are planted in decomposed granite soils. Aging beautifully, with several more years ahead of it. Mmm, Syrah.

We raided NOPA’s magnum list for the rest of dinner, starting off with Gaston Chiquet’s 1998 Club Millésimé a.k.a. Special Club (okay, we ordered two 750ml-sized bottles of that because it’s freaking awesome); then the 2005 Privat Riesling from Nigl (precise and focused, even for such a warm year; still a baby); and the 2001 Riserva Montestefano Barbaresco from Produttori del Barbaresco (pictured above, really aromatic and floral at this point in its life, elegant and silky and then quite gripping on the finish; another baby).

* The dinner menu at Nopa is quite good right now (rockin’ cod: thanks Richie!)

Super Bowls and Birthdays

Busy with multiple deadlines at the moment so this one’s quick…

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Above: Football? What football? Super Bowl Sunday at the Hog Island oyster farm in Tomales Bay. Taken as things were winding down. FYI – If you fancy oysters in January or February — both ‘r’ months — then skip out on the Super Bowl and head up to Hog Island. We practically had the place to ourselves.

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Above: Diner at NOPA for my birthday, where we drank U Baccan, a single-vineyard pigato from Ligurian producer Bruna. One of my favorite white wines from Italy, and certainly one my two favorite pigatos (the other being Bruna’s Le Russeghine vineyard). It’s incredibly complex, with a powerfully deep mineral expression. It also has that groovy little neolithic man on the label, which just seals the deal.

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Above: the prep area at the wood oven station at NOPA. I think I took this picture because I spent the entire night seated on the opposite side of the glass from that bin full of delicious pancetta. It ain’t a birthday without pancetta!

2009 Trends: Cabernet Franc tops Pinot Noir?

Okay, maybe not. Although I’d put money on a substantial cooling of the California pinot noir market in 2009. But that’s not really so surprising, is it?

linecook415, written by Richie, one of cooks at NOPA in San Francisco, is a blog I enjoy reading for my back-of-the-house-the-kitchen-is-my-life fix. Say what you will about shows like Top Chef or Iron Chef, or even Anthony Bourdain: If you’ve spent time working anywhere in a restaurant, chances are good that you secretly covet a cook’s life. Parts of it anyway.

So back in December just before the holidays, Richie posted this end-of-night tally of items sold in the restaurant — and one of the guys on the line set a new record of 78 burgers (and that NOPA burger is damn good, btw). Check it out:

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(image via linecook415)

But what’s also impressive here, at least from a wino’s point of view, is that cabernet franc outsold pinot noir 42-25. (I presume that’s by the glass.) How ’bout them apples?