Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Cult Above

Bryant Family Vineyard makes one of Napa’s -- and the world’s -- truly top tier Cabernet Sauvignons; it’s one of Napa’s cult wines. It’s the only wine Bryant makes and they do it with the utmost care and skill. Barbara Bryant, co-founder and former owner of the winery, has fused her love of wine, food, vineyards and people to produce the new and beautiful Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook, the proceeds of which go to one of her beloved charities, the Bowery Mission in New York. You’ll see my name in the book, but only because I assisted Barbara with her introduction. The book belongs to Barbara, her co-author Betsy Fentress, and the nation’s top chefs who admire the wine and gave their recipes for Barbara’s cause. This is a truly wonderful gift book, because it is all about giving.

The Bryant Family Vineyard Cookbook, $50, Andrews McNeel Publishing.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Six Beers Over Texas

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Texas Hill Country, about 1 hour from both San Antonio and Austin. I went there in search of Texas wine (more about that later) but want to write here about a unique B&B in the lovely German-inflected town of Fredericksburg, named recently by Money magazine as one of the 25 best places to retire in the United States.

Maybe the magazine meant retiring for the night because I learned there are 300 B&B’s in this town of only 11,000 people. There may be more B&B’s per square foot there than anywhere for the more than 1 million tourists it attracts each year. But what I like about this B&B is its novelty: When you stay at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company, you get a queen bed upstairs and a four-beer sampler each night downstairs in the brew pub. This Bed & Brew offers a nice way to unwind after a day of antique or art shopping, visiting museums like the National Museum of the Pacific War, taking a Texas cooking class at Fredericksburg Culinary Arts or even a day of wine tasting. The beers all come in at about 5% alcohol so it is a winding down.

The beer menu at the Fredericksburg Brewing Company is ever-changing but there are usually a range of six types on hand and the menu features many German dishes and some down-home Southern items like deep-fried pickles (surprisingly good).

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sublime Sauvignon

I don’t expect to win any popularity contests by recommending pricey wines right now, but I’m going to do it anyway. Economic times are hard and there’s been a flood of endorsements for “value” wines for everyday drinking. But we are all still living our lives, aren’t we? Still honoring loved ones at such special occasions as anniversaries, birthdays and other milestones?

Coveted $350 bottles from tiny Napa producers may well be anachronisms, I don’t know, but sometimes even in hard economic times you still want – maybe even need – to treat yourself or someone else. Two Napa Valley wines I tasted recently really impressed me with their high-quality and distinction. They also surprised me because they were both Sauvignon Blanc, a wine that’s not normally costly. While I don’t recommend drinking these wines everyday (for me personally they would be too rich and weighty), if Sauvignon Blanc is a favorite of yours (as it is of mine), or fits into a celebratory menu you are planning, these two not-so-value-oriented wines are real treats:

Recommended: 2006 Gamble Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc $50. This wine is rich and intense, not nearly as tart as many SB’s out there. So if you normally like Chardonnay and think Sauvignon Blanc is too zesty and sharp for you, this may be one to try. Alcohol is moderate at 13.7%. It has a rich weightiness in the mouth and you’re still tasting it long after you’ve swallowed it.
Highly Recommended: 2007 Rudd Sauvignon Blanc $45. More like a French Sauvignon Blanc than a California model. Again, a richer Sauvignon Blanc than normal. Wonderful floral aromas and many juicy, fruit flavors.