Archive for the Sommelier Category

Catching up

Posted in Inked Rogue Chefs: The Book, New Product, Personal, Podcast, Sommelier with tags , , , , , , on June 27, 2010 by winechef

Lots of catching up to do. I can see by the numbers that you’re still reading, so I feel like an ass for not posting for so long and for neglecting my original readers, I am so sorry. But maybe some of you have been following me and my more current endeavors: the SF WineChef podcast, getting the Inked Rogue Chefs proposal out there, the iPhone App for wine pronunciation Enotria Guide, and working full time as a Wine and Spirits Consultant for the most kick ass wine and spirits store in existence, K&L Wine Merchants. One other thing, I passed my Certified Sake Professional exam. But that’s no excuse. Well, maybe it’s a reason…
Ether way! I’m back! Or at least I’m going to try to throw in a few more posts about some of the more esoteric wine topics that I’m into. First ones that come to mind are Blaufrankish, Spatsburgunder, Zweigelt, and Gruner Veltliner. My position at K&L also includes liaison to the buyer for Germany, Alsace, Austria, Loire, and Eastern Europe. It was kind of a perfect match for someone into the esoteric. I have continued to hod my title of Turley Girl and into all things Cult. Dunn being my latest love. Then there’s the urban wineries, and of course the ridiculously complicated world of sake.


What’s the deal with…Retsina?

Posted in Sommelier, What's the Deal With...?, Wine Review on January 26, 2009 by winechef

retsina-boutariAh, we revisit the “What’s the deal with…” section of the blog with the long awaited Retsina tasting. I’ve had these hidden in my fridge for about a year consuming the attention of a personal dare with anticipation centered on fear and not much else. I selected 2 bottles to compare (these are kind of hard to find in my part of the world) and I believe both were under $10 a bottle, so who knows if they are “typical” showcases of the varietal, but I’m not going to go any further out of my way to investigate a sommeliers’ inside joke, which associates Retsina with pine and turpentine. Let’s see if my palate is indeed on par with these CMC’s and the people that actually grew up drinking this legendary wine, (when and where did that take place by the way?). Read on.

So I expertly remove the cork of the first wine and I am overcome with adrenaline, I’m here and I am going to go through with this! It can’t possibly be as ridiculous as Blue Nun or Cold Duck


It reminds me of the time when I was six, hiding under the Christmas tree finishing off every ones left over wine and chasing it with laps of water from the metal tree base holder! The amount of purple children’s Tylenol it took to get rid of that hangover bordered on an overdose.  Just kidding. But seriously, maybe it happened in a past life because I swear that it must have happened to and inspired the early makers of this mythical Greek wine. 

The labels of both of the wines are borderline cryptic, (but I’m sure if I drank enough of this I’d be fluent in Greek) until they are turned to the back where they profess the love that the Greeks feel for their traditional wine, boast the harmonious blend, and the characteristic “Retsina” taste. Hmmm, where does it come from and is there any chance that it would compliment any food? Doubt it, but try me.

Apparently the pine, I’m not even going to call it a scent because it is most certainly a FLAVOR, comes from the addition of pine resin to the grape must. What?! According to Wikipedia pine resin was used 2000 years ago to seal the container the wine was stored in and masked any spoilage in the wine, then became a popular taste component, and was thus added to the wine once they started using barrels which made the resin unnecessary. Here is a historian Liutprand’s account of being served Retsina:

According to Liutprand, he was treated very rudely and undignified by the court of Nikephoros II being served goat stuffed with onion and served in fish sauce and “undrinkable” wine mixed with resin, pitch and gypsum-very offensive to his western tastes.

Nailed it. 

I had to stop drinking the infamous Boutari that I started with because I was starting to associate it with what Santa’s urine probably tastes like. The second bottle, the Achaia, was much more subtle, but I don’t think I am going to make myself finish the pour. 

Key things to know about Retsina:

  • It is not a varietal but a style of wine that was recently protected under the European Union. (who knew that would be necessary?!)
  • The primary varietal used is savatiano
  • Modern Retsina is made following the same wine making techniques of white wine or rosé with the exception of small pieces of Aleppo Pine resin added to the must during fermentation. The pieces stay mixed with the must, and elute an oily resin film on the liquid surface; at racking the wine is clarified and the solids and surface film are removed from the finished wine.
  • Vintage Retsinas are rare (though I couldn’t find any explanation for the reason). 


Now that I know what Retsina is maybe I should find out what turpentine is…

Favorite things of 2008

Posted in Book Review, Chocolate, Cooking at Home, Food News, Personal, Podcast, Pork, Product Review, Sommelier, Wine Review on December 29, 2008 by winechef

Sure it’s a random list, but it’s been a random year. Who knew I’d still be serving at the same restaurant after a year? Add getting married, a trip to Thailand, adopting a Teacup Dane, and pursuing Rogue Chefs full time has made for some amazing experiences. Here is a list of the little things that have contributed to making life just that much better.

M. Chevallier Carte Noir Brut Cava cava

A wedding on a budget. I tasted 6 methode traditional bubblys under $10 to serve at our wedding (the difference? no headache being at the top of the list) and was beyond pleased with this one. At about $60 for a case I made sure to stock up, so the wedding was just the beginning of the experiences with this awesome cava. It served for everything from last minute gifts to Hibiscus tangerine mimosas to an excuse to practice sabreing. Available at Trader Joe’s for $4.99

Metrokane Champagne Sealermetrokane

And on the off chance that you haven’t removed the top of your champagne (or beer) bottle with your trusty 12 inch chef knife and have some champagne left over, this easy to use sealer works better than anything I’ve used. You can store your opened bottles on their sides and never lose a drop. They remove with hardly a flinch and apply with little to no effort. Available online and in stores at Bed Bath and Beyond (I covet the 20% off coupons).

Moo Cards

These are inexpensive unique customizable business cards that can be designed and received within 2 weeks. High quality and always sure to leave an impression on the receiver. I’ve used mine to promote the blog, the book, my chef and sommelier services, and photography. Available online 100 for $19.99 plus shipping and handling.


I did not start out liking this. If it weren’t for my genius techie husband in the adjoining room it probably would have ended up following the sewing machine out the window. The problem? It’s just too easy. It makes too much sense. It practically knows me. And now I can’t imagine life without it. I even love the screen saver. I would however have opted for the bigger screen (24″) if I were to do it over again. And a laptop is on the short list of things to get when I receive that enormous advance for the book I’ve been counting on. Available online and in stores for $1199


My iTunes audio faves of 2008 in order of awesomeness:

goodfoodKCRW’s Good Food, Splendid Table, NPR’s Kitchen Window and NPR Food, and Vinecast.


I wonder where I would be without my iPod, it’s Podcasts, and membership. Needing something to distract from the hour and a half that I spend commuting daily I have become practically addicted to audio distractions. Yes, there is always a print book next to my bed or in my bag, but I have come to rely on audiobooks to help me get through the growing stacks that I have accumulated during the year. There aren’t as many food related audiobooks out there but here are my faves of 08:

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, Waiter Rant by The Waiter, and Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Molecular Gastronomy by Herve This may have you fall asleep on the road and still not clear on the concept.

Blue Bottle Coffee

blue-bottleAh, legal crack in the morning. Not available in as many places as necessary but you can find it here. Order more than you think you need.

Breville Stainless Steel Electric Kettle

And make it with this awesome, sleek, effective water heater that can allow you to make perfect batches of french presses at home or while catering…Available online and at Bed Bath and Beyond for $79.99 (use the coupon!).breville

Bacon and…

Oh Vosges, only you could get me addicted to a chocolate that I can’t afford on a regular basis. So thanks to a recent podcast I’m making my own version. And thanks to my husband, I can’t stop dipping my bacon in maple syrup. There was also a drink “Bacon and Eggs” at Epic that used bacon dust to rim a martini glass. Oh and the Maple Bacon lollipops from Lollyphile. The bacon lip balm that I have yet to try. Bacon and Cocoa Nib infused whiskey that I’m making. The Bacon, Chestnut, and Brussels Sprout dish that I am still swooning over. And Bacon and Skulls blog where I can stay up to date on everything Bacon.

That’s about it, now on to 2009…

Cameron Hughes

Posted in Sommelier, Wine News, Winery Review on October 14, 2008 by winechef

I stumbled onto this man and his company after researching Bay Area negotiants. I find what Cameron Hughes is doing inspiring, forward thinking, and his wines a ridiculous bargain. Cameron is a phantom producer, sourcing and then blending ultra premium wines from around the world and then selling them almost exclusively at Costco.

The wines are sourced from high end established wineries, blended, bottled and given the sleek and cryptic “Lot” label. Cryptic because we are given the unique appellation, but figuring out exactly who made the wine is up to us. Check out the Cameron Confidential portion of the Lot descriptions for even more exciting clues as to the wine’s origin. It’s possible that we are drinking an $80 of Silver Oak, or $70 Leeuwin for under $20.

Trying to find the wines can be like a Costco scavenger hunt. If you want to cheat just type in your zip code on the CH website and it will tell you where to find each wine, weather or not they still have them when you get there is another thing.

The two I was able to track down at my local Costco were the Lot  91 ’07 Chardonnay from Russian River Valley and the Lot 73 ’06 Cabernet from Chalk Hill Sonoma County. Just by doing a Google search it seems that the Cab could be anything from Herzog ($89.99) to Chalk Hill ($66.99). The Chard on the other hand is said to be priced at around $30 and I’m guessing is either Patz and Hall or Sabastiani given the clues about the legal reasons for passing on all of the fruit…my money’s on Sebastiani. Actually my money’s on Cameron. For an exceptional product at an even more exceptional price, I will purchase his wines with confidence and pour them for even the most discerning palates.

Read more about Cameron Hughes here.

1+1=3 = Great Bubbly

Posted in Product Review, Sommelier on January 5, 2008 by winechef


A chef friend of mine was inspired to use this beautiful cava in a zabaglione, and offered me a taste of the rest of the bottle. Wow! Definitely one of the best cava’s I’ve ever had. Tight little bubbles, nice and dry but very balanced, it tasted like happiness, a wine that would make you smile versus turn inward for careful thought and analysis.

My chef had no idea where the bottle had come from so the search was on. Of course I found it at the ferry building so as I was turning the bottle over I was holding my breath…$13.00!!! Definite a score for those that just want to celebrate because it’s Tuesday, or shower time, or because your morning oj might be that much better with a bit of bubbles.

For further reviews visit CellarTracker and The Zeitgeist Blogger.


What’s the deal with…Cold Duck?

Posted in No! No! No!, Product Review, Sommelier, What's the Deal With...? on October 29, 2007 by winechef


The second instalment of, “why do sommeliers think this is so funny?” is…

Andre Cold Duck! 

This one took some real searching to find. The illusive bottle was finally unearthed at the Smart and Final off of the Central Freeway in San Francisco for under 4 dollars. Boy was I excited. I was anticipating something like a sparkling Shiraz when I was told it was a red wine with bubbles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated what came to be a cross between grape Fanta, Cranberry Juice Cocktail, and one of those “Champagnes” that you need to swallow Advil with in order to circumvent the inevitable immediate headache. The syrupy sweet elixir wasn’t even worth a second glass.

But what is Cold Duck? The dredges of spit buckets with a heavy dossage?

Here are some snippets from Wikipedia: Cold Duck is the name of a sparkling wine made in the United States that was at one stage the best-selling “champagne” in America.The wine was invented by Harold Borgman, the owner of Pontchartrain Wine Cellars in Detroit, in 1937. The recipe was based on a traditional German custom of mixing all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with champagne.Baskin-Robbins had an ice cream called Cold Duck Ice in the 1970s. The cultural trivia section explains almost all you ever need to know about Cold Duck’s place in society. Meanwhile…

This mixture was called kalte ende (“cold end”); over the years, ende transliterated to ente (“duck”). The wines used to make cold duck are often of inferior quality. The resulting potation is quite sweet with few other distinguishable characteristics.–Copyright (c) 1995 by Barron’s Educational Series, from The New Food Lover’s Companion, Second Edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst

In doing research for this article I came across other obscure wines that may warrent some type of further investigation. Apparently I missed a lot in wine in the years prior to 1980 such as: Ripple (?) Bali Hai (?) Thunderbird (?) Matues (?) Spanada (?)

Until those treasures are found Retsina is next on the list. I leave you with my favorite thing about Cold Duck:

What’s the deal with…Blue Nun?

Posted in Product Review, Sommelier, What's the Deal With...? on October 9, 2007 by winechef

blue-nun-cauliflower-etc-001.jpgSince my move to Napa Valley when I was 18 I have been in love with wine. I have studied it, appreciated it, analyzed it, and consumed my fair share of it. So why are certain wines looked at as an inside joke that I have never been a part of? These specific wines found their way into multiple lectures where everyone would laugh in unison and I was always left confused and out of the loop.

Well no more! It took a lot of searching and inquiring but I have landed some of the society’s premiere laughable wines! After the sommelier exam I decided to start a journey to explore these wines, I too wanted to be able to laugh among the wine snobs, even if it cost me valuable palate time.

We’re going to start the journey with Blue Nun, a Riesling from Germany that is thin and sweet, and one dimensional. Oh, and about 6.99 at your local BevMo. According to someone in their early 50’s, now an avid Merlot drinker, it was the bottle you bought to impress a lady. About 30 years ago. LPR? Not with an alcohol content of around 10%, but I’d love to hear stories of how a lifetime of happiness began over a bottle of this and whether or not glasses were bothered with!