A Day of Divine Drinking

Most of you who know me well know that even though I talk a lot about drinking, I’m a lightweight, a “Cheap Date” as some of my friends say.  2-3 drinks in a day is a lot for me (and I don’t drink every day!).  4 drinks, and it must be a major event (like the recent Lady Gaga concert).   Yesterday I outdid myself (over the course of 10 hours), and it was a spectacular drinking day!  I feel great today, and still have a smile on my face.  Of course, the enjoyment of the drink has to do with the company too.

Starting off, we had an all-day corporate strategic planning meeting, at my house.  Since I was hosting, I offered wine with lunch.  I find it clarifies your thinking, makes you more honest and straightforward, and generally contributes to a better outcome!  (Don’t you agree?!).  So while we were working, we enjoyed:

Gary Farrell

Gary Farrell 2005 Russian River Chardonnay.  Wine Spectator rated this 93.  Notes: This 2005 Russian River Chardonnay is bursting with aromas of golden delicious apple, honeysuckle and pineapple. The wine exhibits rich, creamy flavors of lemon custard, butterscotch and hints of nutmeg in the mouth followed by citrus zest and notes of hazelnut.  This generous offering will pair nicely with rich, creamy cheeses, salads with citrus fruits and sumptuous shellfish dishes.  “Rich and expressive, with a wide range of flavors built around pear, spice, hazelnut and green apple, yet it’s also tightly focused, deeply concentrated and fresh and lively on the palate. drink now through 2010.–J.L.” – Wine Spectator  So according to WS, we were a little late, but I think it was still quite good.

Our next afternoon bottle was:

rochioliRochioli 2009 Russian River Chardonnay.  WS gave this a 93.  International Wine Spectator gave it a 91, and said: Bright gold.  Perfumed aromas of peach, tangerine, melon and flowers.  Lush, sappy and seamless, offering deep pit fruit and candied citrus flavors with nuances of tarragon and toasted bread.  Finishes very long, with enticing sweetness, a touch of lemon pith and lingering smokiness.  This is pretty complex for an entry-level wine.

After the meeting was done, a couple of us went for spa treatments to celebrate a significant work anniversary.  After that, we started our evening drinking.  First up was the Pelican Hill Resort bar’s


Lemon Drop, with Grey Goose Vodka, Luxardo Lemoncello and Fresh Lemon Juice.  This was a nice palate cleanser.

While dining at Andrea, the restaurant at Pelican Hill, we enjoyed two very nice wines:

La Scolca Gavi di Gavi

La Scolca 2010 Gavi di Gavi (Black Label).  Pale straw color, with delicate greenish highlights. Intense fruit and floral fragrance. On the palate it is strongly typical of Gavi: fruity and flinty with notes of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts lingering in the finish. 100% Cortese.  The prestigious La Scolca “Black Label” Gavi dei Gavi is the “Grand Cru” of the appellation. The wine is produced with the utmost respect for nature, from pruning to harvest and through vinification. Grapes are sourced from estate owned hillside vineyards in the Rovereto Superiore region of the Gavi appellation. These are the oldest Cortese vines in the entire appellation averaging over 60 years old.  The Black Label is vinified according to traditional methods. The juice is vinified in neutral vessels and then aged on the lees for 9 months prior to bottling.

The ratings I saw were in the mid to upper 80’s, but I would rate it higher for my palate.

One of my companions said this wine was the love child of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio!

Our last wine of the evening:


2008 Bouchard Pere et Fils Volnay 1er Cru “Les Caillerets – Ancienne Cuvée Carnot”

This is French Pinot Noir, from Burgundy (Chateau de Beaune).  We found that this wine changed considerably with more air and time, and by the end of the bottle, which had been decanted, it was really quite wonderful.  It paired well with the Wagyu beef that several of us had.  Here’s what the experts have said about it: 92-93 Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate: “Around 60% of the crop that informed Bouchard’s 2008 Volnay Caillerets Ancien Cuvee Carnot was spared by the July hail, and around 40% of that remainder declassified. But these circumstances still leave 8-9,000 bottles worth, which I tasted from tank. Musky narcissus, smoky Lapsang black tea, and black fruits on the nose lead to a silken-textured yet invigorating, subtly tart but berry-ripe palate suffused with chalk and savory salinity.  This finishes with precisely the sort of ‘animated interchange of fruit, mineral, and inner-mouth floral elements’ I credited to the 2006, and here the effect is both strikingly buoyant and positively reverberative. A bottle opened 24 hours earlier (for Michel Bettane, as it happens) had not lost any of its allure. I would look for at least 15 years of excitement.” (06/10)  92 points Wine Spectator: “There’s beautiful purity to the raspberry, black currant and violet aromas and flavors as this compelling red moves across the palate. There’s depth and detail, with a long, fruit- and mineral-filled aftertaste. Best from 2012 through 2024.”  (10/10) 92 points Wine Enthusiast: “Structured and concentrated, it has a silky richness that is very Volnay, while at the same time giving the bright fruits of the years. The final tastes are smoke and crisp acidity.”


Thanksgiving Cocktails

Are you looking for something different to serve this Thanksgiving?  Tired of Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, or whatever you usually serve with your turkey?  Thanks to my pal Barry, who sent me this link from Food & Wine (a magazine I love, by the way) to Hard Cider Sangria, which looks and sounds wonderful!

  • 1 cup quartered and thinly sliced unpeeled green, yellow and red apples
  • 1 navel orange—quartered and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup apple juice, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup apple brandy
  • One 22-ounce bottle hard apple cider, chilled
  • Ice

In a pitcher, combine the apples with the orange, apple juice, lemon juice and brandy. Just before serving, add the hard cider. Serve in tall glasses over ice.

If the Sangria doesn’t make you Thankful, here is a stronger one that will put you on the couch for a nap:

Felicitation Punch

In a punch bowl, muddle the lemon zest with the whiskey. Add the gin and let stand for 2 hours. Stir in the maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and Rich Simple Syrup and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. Just before serving, stir in the club soda and add ice.


Annoying Cocktail Trends

Have you had cotton candy dissolved in your martini?  Marshmallow flavored vodka?  Drinks with so many ingredients you want another drink before the Mixologist has made your first one?

Somehow I have the patience for trendy food, but not so much patience for trendy booze.  Give me a bartender rather than a mixologist, and a cocktail with no more than 4 ingredients, served in a glass I can hold comfortably.  Not a mason jar!  Unless I’m drinking sweet tea in the southeastern US. 🙂  And get me my drink now!  Don’t like waiting 10-15 minutes and paying $18 for a drink with well brands.

LOVED this article on Zagat about the 10 most annoying cocktail trends.  If you are younger than 35, you probably disagree with me!  That’s fine.  I’ll drink to that!

9 Basic Traits of Wine

I love the Snooth web site and its wine writer Gregory dal Piaz.  In an article today called 9 Basic Traits of Wine, Greg, or GDP as Snooth calls him, reveals in very simple terms, how wine can be tasted according to these 9 traits: Acid, Tannin, Sweetness, Oak, Spicy Flavor, Savory Flavor, Fruity Flavor, Intensity of Flavor and Weightiness in the Mouth.

I’ve never seen such a simple, common sense explanation.  This will enhance my enjoyment of wine!  I encourage you to read this.

Buzz and Brain Freeze


I’m sure RA Sushi won’t mind if I quote them directly today.

RA Sushi has taken frozen cocktails to the next level by introducing the Fuzzy Momo Bellini and the Red Bull Cherry Bomb, available now for $8 each.

Cool down with the Fuzzy Momo Bellini, our take on a famous Italian cocktail. It’s an icy blend of sparkling and white wines, Cruzan Rum, yuzu, peach and strawberry purée. It’s guaranteed to make you incredibly sophisticated, utterly intriguing and wildly attractive – particularly to those enjoying one with you.

Next up is our Red Bull Cherry Bomb. Warning: this is not your typical Red Bull and Vodka. We mix a generous helping of Three Olives Cherry Vodka, TY KU Soju, Red Bull, orange juice, and a splash of Monin Cherry.

Now, swim on in and try one (or both!) of these delicious icy treats.

Loire Valley Wine Ratings

Wine Spectator’s June issue has a wonderful article on the excellent 2009 and 2010 vintages for Loire Valley wines.  The Loire Valley in France runs 600 miles east/west from just south of Paris to the Atlantic Ocean, and there are wonderful varietals, focused mostly on crisp whites, like Sancerre, made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Another well-known varietal from the Loire is Vouvray.  Lesser known names are Savenierres and Quarts de Chaume.  These are featured often on menus in Europe, but seen less in the US.  I enjoyed these several times on my last trip to Europe.

In a recent testing of over 400 wines, Wine Spectator rated 38% of them 90 points or more, making Loire whites the thing to drink this summer!

You have to be a subscriber to read the whole review article, but if you want a fantastic reference document, they have issued a FREE copy of the ratings page, listed alphabetically.

Orin Swift Saldo – Yummy Zin

Our friends Barry & Kathi (who stayed with us around the holidays) were kind to arrange for a bottle of wine to be sent to our table the next time we came to Andrei’s in Irvine.  They conspired with owner Natalia, who recommended the Orin Swift Saldo.  We liked it a lot!  This is a blend with 80% Zinfandel,  9% Petite Syrah, 8% Syrah, and 3% Grenache.  It was very smooth and fruity for a Zin, I’m guessing because the other grapes provide that balance.  I found it especially easy on the tannin and the oak, which I really appreciate in a Zin.  We enjoyed this with roast lamb and short rib sliders, and it went wonderfully with the food.  The label looks like a Dymo printer label, which makes it new, but retro looking.  It is 15.5% alcohol.

Here is the info from Orin Swift’s website.  They sell this for $28.  Would probably be around $60 in a restaurant.


2009 Saldo Zinfandel

Through the success of his Prisoner label, Orin Swift Cellars owner/winemaker Dave Phinney has gained access to some of the best Zinfandel vineyards in the Northern California growing community. Dave recently decided he wanted to make a high quality Zinfandel and what he created did not fit the constraints of a single AVA.

There are grapes from Sonoma, Napa, Amador, Mendocino, and Contra Costa counties. Some of these great vineyards include Monte Rosso, Eagle Point, Rockpile, Bismark, Beatty, Page Nord, Duarte, Solari, Evangehlo, Battuelo’s, Tofanelli, Korte, Mable Tiedemann, Frediani, Lewers, Alta Vista, and Bald Mountain just to name a few. Dave is so committed to this concept he is now developing his own Zinfandel vineyard in Sonoma specifically for this project as well.

The word “saldo” has many different meanings in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. In Spanish, it mainly refers to “balance on hand”, and sometimes it can mean “from here and there.” This wine represents the best of the best lots made by Dave from vineyards all across Northern California.

Winemaker Notes

The 2009 Saldo bursts with aromas of ripe strawberry and black fruits with well integrated oak. The entry is mouth coating and leads into a mid palate with structure and good acidity. The finish is bright and long with soft tannins and subtle oak sweetness. Drink now and enjoy over the next five years.


80% Zinfandel
9% Petite Syrah
8% Syrah
3% Grenache

California Appellation

Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Amador, Mendocino, and Contra Costa




25,505 cases


French and American Oak barrels, 20% new

Tasting NotesLabel


2009 | 2008 | 2007