Friday, June 7, 2013

Knee Deep Brewing Company Citra Extra Pale Ale

Tonight I had a refreshing, crisp Extra Pale Ale from Knee Deep Brewing Company in Lincoln, CA in the Sierra Foothills.  Its a single hop ale meaning they only used one varietal of hops in this case Citra which has been surging in popularity in recent years. As you would imagine from the name, Citra hops yield more citrus flavors such as grapefruit and lime than other hops.

At 7% alc/vol it is a little stronger than the average pale ale which I guess is where the "extra" in the label comes from.  The "extra" could also be because this is a lot hoppier (45 IBU) than most pale ales. As you can see in the picture below it is definitely not an "extra-pale" ale as the color is about average for a pale ale.

At $6.99 for a 22oz at Whole Foods (you can probably find it cheaper elsewhere) its a special occasion beer and to be honest there are better beers at this price point or lower, but if you really want to know what Citra hops taste like this a great specimen.  Its a great beer, but the price takes it out of being highly recommended.



Monday, December 24, 2012

Local Wines for the Holidays


This is my December column from the Marinscope Newspapers

When you are enjoying the holidays with your friends and family try pairing these wonderful local wines with your meals.

Point Reyes Vineyard's non-vintage blanc de blanc ($29) is grown sustainably just north of Point Reyes Station along highway 1. It is a wonderful sparkling wine with citrus, pear and a slight yeastiness on the nose. Upon the palate the citrus refines itself into lemon, the yeast becomes baked bread and there is a floral note reminiscent of orange blossoms. This is tart and crisp and would pair wonderfully with shellfish.

Pey-Marin's 2009 "Trois Filles" pinot noir ($39) is grown at several vineyards in West Marin with the majority hailing from the dry farmed and organically grown, Corda Vineyard. The wine was aged for 14 months on French oak barrels with 25% new oak. The long extraction period with a moderate percentage of new barrels balances the aromas of the fruit and the bouquet from the oak. The wine is a dark garnet color. On the nose there are layers of earth and spice with notes of sour cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, clove, and forest floor. On my tongue I tasted rich earthiness, bright cherry, raspberry, and cloves as well as some dark fruits and slight fresh leather notes. This is an old world style pinot that is more bouquet driven than fruit forward with a soft front to mid palate mouthfeel and bright acidity. This pinot noir will pair nicely with turkey.

Pacheco Ranch Winery's 2005 cabernet sauvignon ($25) is grown in Novato on an East facing hillside along highway 101. The nose is earthy with notes of eucalyptus and bell pepper. The earthiness carried through to the palate where I noticed dark cherry, cranberry, cloves, and rich tobacco. The tannins yield a gravely, astringent mouthfeel. The bold tannins will enable it to pair nicely with beef as tannins bind with the meat's proteins in your mouth making the meat more tender and juicy. This wine would also be great for making mulled wine.

Mulled wine reminds me of visiting my dad in Berlin and going to the Christmas markets where it is called glühwein. It is pretty easy to make, all you need is a decent bold red wine, a pot to heat it up in, spices, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of brandy and an orange or a lemon, peeled and sliced (keep the peels for adding zest). The spices vary on individual tastes and traditions, but they all have cloves and cinnamon sticks at the center with other spices including ginger, allspice, cardamon, peppercorns, vanilla beans, and nutmeg. You put all of the ingredients into a pot and heat them up together for 30-60 minutes making sure not to let it boil. Play with the proportions to taste. Strain the mulled wine into mugs and serve warm to hot.

For dessert I recommend Charbay's pomegranate dessert wine ($45) made with 100% organic, tree-ripened pomegranates from the Central Valley. It exhibits intense pomegranate flavors with a slight minerality. The wine is sweet but not too sweet and is great when served chilled. I find fresh orange peel makes it even more festive or a splash of orange bitters will give it a bit of a kick. It goes great with roasted chestnuts or chocolate.

Point Reyes Vineyards is located at 12700 Hwy 1 in Point Reyes Station and is open for drop-ins Saturday and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. For more information, call (415) 663-1011 or visit ptreyesvineyardinn.com/winery.htm.

Pey-Marin can be found at Insalata's, Il Fornaio, Marin Beverage, Whole Foods, Mill Valley Market, Ludwigs, and many other fine wine shops throughout Marin. For more information on Pey-Marin, call 455-9463 or visit scenicrootwinegrowers.com.

Pacheco Ranch Winery is located at 235 Alameda Del Prado Road in Novato, Ca 94949. For appointments call 883-5583. For more information visit pachecoranchwinery.com.

Charbay is available at The Buckeye Restaurant, Mill Valley Market, Rick's Wine Cellar, and other establishments throughout Marin. The tasting room is located at 4001 Spring Mountain Rd in St. Helena, California.. For more information, call (707) 963-9327 or visit charbay.com.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great Gift Idea - Tastingroom.com review


A while back I received a free sample from Tastingroom.com. (They currently have a buy 3 for the price of 2 special going on right now!  Guaranteed to ship by Christmas if you order by the 20th.)  What sets TastingRoom.com apart from all the other online wine stores is they sell sample packs of the wine in 50ml or 100ml bottles so you get the "try before you buy" experience like you would in a real tasting room without the costs of traveling to wine country.  Depending on the pack that you order you get 4 to 6 small bottles of wine per pack and then you can buy the wines you like.  All the wines of this particular sample pack range in price from $15-20 per standard 750ml bottle.  The price of the 50ml sample packs range from $20-50 with the majority being $20-33.  The 100ml samples range widely from $4-18 dollars for a single small bottle.  The wineries range from ones I've never heard of to heavy hitters like LaetitiaSilver Oak, and Duckhorn.

I received the "A Taste Adventure: Food Friendly Wines" sample pack ($30).  This consists of six 50ml bottles of wine.  Three whites and three reds, the line up was: 2011 Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand; 2008 Chardonnay by Urraca from Mendoza, Argentina; 2009 Lucas & Lewellen Chenin Blanc from Santa Barbara County; 2010 Il Cuore "The Heart" Barbera from Mendocino County; 2009 Stickybeak Syrah from California; 2009 Penley Estate "Condor" Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Down Under.  

A bit of a warning for anytime you have having wine shipped to you.  First and foremost, if you can have it shipped to your work do that!  Someone 21+ will have to sign for it so they can't just leave it on your door step.  UPS is a pain in the butt to try and track what time something will be delivered.  If you are receiving from UPS and you cannot get deliveries at work and don't want to feel trapped at home all day waiting for a delivery, then you need to set up an account online with UPS (or possibly call them up) and then you can have the package delivered to the store and you can simply pick it up during normal business hours.

Now for the reviews:

2009 Lucas & Lewellen Chenin Blanc from Santa Barbara, CA is a tasty pale greenish-yellow wine with scents of green apple, pear, and tropical notes.  The wine is crisp and refreshing making it a very good summer white wine.  Pair it with raw oysters, tilapia, or other subtle fish dishes.

2011 Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand is lacking the usual strong green/vegetative flavors that I have come to expect from an NZ Sauv.  This wine features tropical notes and hints of grapefruit and herbs on the nose. On the palate there are more tropical notes as well as lemon, lime, and slight herb notes as well.  Not the overpowering asparagus and such that we have come to expect from NZ.  The wine is has racing acidity and saying it is crisp is an understatement.  It is a little bizarre to have that much acidity without many green flavors, but as I'm not a fan of vegetative flavors (unless it pares with whatever I'm eating e.g. herbs in a Cab F. with an herb-encrusted roast) I liked it.

2008 Urraca Chardonnay from Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina:  I very rarely review Chardonnays, this is no exception.

2009 Stickybeak Syrah is made with grapes from three counties in California: Monterrey (57%), Napa (25%), and Sonoma (18%).  Monterrey and Sonoma are known for making great Syrahs and Napa is known for great Bordeaux varietals so I figured it would be pretty good and true to form which it is.  The wine has a lovely dark ruby color and the bouquet has heavy oak, cedar, and dark cigar notes with aromas of black fruits.  On the palate there is black plum, black pepper, vanilla, blackberry, concord grape, and a slight savory herbal element.  There is a lovely little coffee nuance on the finish.  The tannins are nice and round, but the acidity is a little high so it would be better with food than without.


2010 Il Cuore Barbera from Mendocino County, CA is very oaky and smokey with notes of concord grapes, sour cherry, and savory hints.  The acidity is bright as one should expect from a Barbera.

2009 Penley Estates "Condor" is a blend of 52% Shiraz and 48% Cab hailing from the Coonawarra region of Australia.  This is my favorite red of the group.  It was dark purple with a dark ruby rim.  The wine exploded  from the glass with jam, white peppercorns, and a little smokiness.  On my palate the jam and white pepper continued and were joined by fresh dark berries with herbal notes.  The tannins were soft and sultry with a little gravely astringency.  The wine is ready now and it will continue being wonderful for a few years to come.

So in conclusion this is a great way to try wines that you won't normally come across and if you aren't blessed with living near wine country then this is a much less expensive way to taste great wines than traveling to wine country.  Of course, traveling and experiencing is far more enjoyable for most people, but this is a great substitute.  This is also a great gift idea if you have a picky wine drinker (like me) on your Secret Santa list..


Santa Con - Beer and Bars in SF review

Union Square shot by Jess Maron
December 15th was Santa Con, which is my favorite event of the year.  Last year was my first Santa Con and I had an amazing time.  This year was even better.  For those that don't know, Santa Con is a spreading of joy and merriment.  Thousands of people flock to a designated area of the city around noon (last year was the Civic Center and this year it was Union Square) dressed as Santa Claus and other holiday characters and objects such as menorahs.  Some people stay at the gathering place but most drift off down the pre-planned routes which start the pub crawl aspect of the day.  The rules can be found here, but basically they state that Santas are always nice, to especially to kids, and Santas are respectful to businesses whether they are patrons or Santa-haters. The more fun rules are:
  1. You MUST address everyone as "Santa."
  2. You SHOULD "ho-ho-ho" like Santa.
  3. You OUGHT to give out gifts like Santa.
  4. You MIGHT want to drink like Santa.
Cloudy skies above Union Square shot by Jess Maron
The highlights for me were giving candy canes to kids, seeing children's eyes light up, the myriad of costumes, seeing my friend Jess who just got back from India on Thursday, beautiful women, and of course delicious beer!

The worst part was traffic and parking which was to be expected.

We took the China Town / North Beach route.  The first couple of bars were packed so we continued onward.  A few Santas and Mrs. Claus had bells on that make the most delightful sound track on our jaunt through China Town.

Fun with Mirror
Eventually we made it to O'Reilly's Pub where we had planned on having lunch.  It was packed, but luckily there was space at a table with a couple of girls who had also just arrived.  So we made a foursome, had some delicious food, and shared some stories.  I had the corned beef sandwich which was tender, juicy, and delicious.  It came with thick cut fries which I like much more than thin cut.  It was a smaller portion than I usually like to eat, but just the right amount to leave room for all of the beer I was consuming and planning on consuming.  Speaking of which, I had a pint of Lagunitas' IPA which is my go to beer.  I love this stuff.  Hoppy, but not over hopped with some nice malt notes.  It didn't seem like the bar was ready for this many Santas.  When we sat down there was only one waitress (a pretty, tall blonde) and she was amazing.  There were about 10 tables lined with people and she was friendly and courteous as she weaved her way through the crowd to each table.  The food came out within 10-15 min far quicker than any of us were expecting.  Everyone enjoyed their food, Jess had a burger, Shala had a lamb burger and Anchor Steam, and the other girl who's name is escaping me had some sort of scrambled eggs with spinach and country fried potatoes and a Stella Artois.
The restaurant area.  The bar area was completely packed.

When Jess took off, to get some sleep since he had been up since 4am because he was still adjusting from India time, I stood up and joined the crowd.
Jess and I at O'Reilly's Pub

I realized that I should follow my Irish heritage while I'm in an Irish pub so I got a Jameson on the rocks.  While standing by the bar a lovely, buxom lass (Katie) in a red and white corset and white fishnets bought me an Irish Car Bomb (Guinness and a drop shot of Bailey's Irish Cream) which tastes and has the texture of a mocha milkshake.  She was doing a Bingo scavenger hunt and I fit the "Santa with a real beard" box.  We hung out with her friends for a while before leaving together to find a cocktail made with eggnog for the Bingo.

After walking past a couple of packed bars, we saw Rogue Ales Public House.  We both like stouts and porter so we tried to go in, but they were enforcing a no Santas Allowed policy.  We found this rather annoying, but giving that some people act like douches when they are drinking all day I have no ill will towards Rogue (especially because their beer is delicious!).

Then we went to a little bar/restaurant called Bottle Cap.  It was lack luster: there was about half a dozen Santa's and it was much too quiet.  The bartender wasn't very helpful with cocktail advice and referred us to a menu with cocktails with any questions we had.  If he was busy then that would have been fine, but it was ssssslllllloooowwww.  I had a beer that wasn't particularly memorable and Katie had a honey infused cocktail that she liked.

We left Bottle Cap and found a liquor store (Colt Liquors) that had an awesome, but small beer selection.  The store really focused on wine and liquor.  While there a couple of Indian guys were having a hard time deciding what they wanted.  Katie mentioned my blog so after hearing what they were looking for, I recommended a Pale Ale to one and a bottle of Roederer for the other.  For the $15-20 price range Roederer can't be beat.  I chose Stone Brewing Company's Smoked Porter for us to share.  We briefly went to a house party before heading back on the town.

We walked around and found a table and chairs to sit at in front of Bottle Cap.  We shared stories and interests as we enjoyed the chocolate and coffee notes of the porter.  Katie mentioned a hard cider bar somewhere in the city.  Cider is not really my thing, but I do like new experiences so I'll have to check out Upcider at some point.


 Before I gave my beard to Jess
More Santa Con Pics by Jess Maron!







Thursday, November 22, 2012

As seen in the Marinscope Newspapers: Pey-Marin a Primo Pinot Producer

Jonathan Pey in one of his blocks of Pinot at Corda Vineyard

I met with Jonathan Pey in the budding Marin wine growing region of Chileno Valley at Corda Vineyards where Pey-Marin sources their riesling and some of their pinot noir. The vineyard is 22 years old; 15 to 40 years old is ideal for most varietals. Pey-Marin has been managing their grapes from Corda for the past 12 years using organic methods such as compost, cover crops, and dynamic pest management including the use of beneficial insects such as lady bugs to fight pests.

Hand Picked Pinot in the Rolling Hills of West Marin, CA

The coolest part of the vineyard, for an environmentally conscious wine connoisseur like me, is it's organically, dry farmed.  The vineyard has drip irrigation lines, but not the permit to use them. The advantage of successful dry farming is putting the vines under lots of stress to reach their tap roots down towards the water table helps produce more complex wines. The downside of dry farming for a grape grower is the yields are lower which means they have less tonnage to sell than their counterparts who are using drip irrigation. Corda Vineyard averages about 2 tons/acre while many other pinot vineyards fall in the 3 to 5 tons/acre range.

Jonathan is a friendly and talkative winemaker who uses his 35 years of French vineyard management and winemaking expertise to craft wonderful wines with a touch of old world style. His wife Susan has dedicated her life to the wine industry as well as a wine writer for Bon Appetite and is currently a sommelier for Il Fornaio. In 1999 they started Pey-Marin together.

Riesling Grapes in the Morning Sun
Pey-Marin's 2011 "Shell Mound" riesling ($29) is grown entirely at Corda Vineyard using the rare neustadt clone. This dry, aromatic wine features scents of nectarine, citrus, orange blossom, and other floral notes. On the palate, I got more floral notes, nectarine, lemon, and a hint of minerals. This wine goes great with spicy foods as the high level of acidity, that rieslings are known for, will cut right through the spice and bring relief to a burning tongue while delivering refreshing flavors.

Pey-Marin's 2009 "Trois Filles" pinot noir ($39) is grown at several vineyards in West Marin with the majority hailing from Corda Vineyard. The wine was aged for 14 months on French oak barrels with 25% new oak. The long extraction period with a moderate percentage of new barrels balances the aromas of the fruit and the bouquet from the oak. The wine is a dark garnet color. On the nose there are layers of earth and spice with notes of sour cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, clove, and forest floor. On my tongue I tasted rich earthiness, bright cherry, raspberry, and cloves as well as some dark fruits and slight fresh leather notes. This is an old world style pinot that is more bouquet driven than fruit forward with a soft front to mid palate mouthfeel and bright acidity. This wine is ready to drink now, but will also age beautifully for several years.

Tight Bunches of Pinot Noir
Both of these wines encapsulate why Marin County is a wonderful place to grow cool climate wines. They also showcase what can be done with organic vineyard practices, dry farmed vineyards, and stellar winemaking.

Although they live in San Anselmo, their winery is located in Napa, but is too small to offer tastings or tours. Pey-Marin can be found at Insalata's, Il Fornaio, Marin Beverage, Whole Foods, Mill Valley Market, Ludwigs, and many other fine wine shops throughout Marin. They also have three other labels (Textbook, Forager, and Spicerack) that source their fruit from Napa and Sonoma counties.

For more information on Pey-Marin, cal455-9463 or visit scenicrootwinegrowers.com. 

Sunrise over the Chileno Valley, Marin County, CA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heretics in Martinez

Earlier this week I had a great first date at the Creek Monkey Tap House in Martinez.  The menu consisted of basic bar foods (like wings), salads, and sandwiches/burgers.   Meghan had the Pulled Pork sandwich which was quite tasty and I had a bacon mushroom burger. It wasn't the best of burgers, but I've been spoiled lately by Lincoln Park's Wagyu Slider and M&G's 1/2lb organic burger in Fairfax.  The patty didn't live up to my expectations, but the mushrooms and bacon on the burger were fabulous.  Ugh, I'm becoming a food snob in addition to a wine snob.  I miss the days when everything tasted great.  I went from super picky as a kid to eating everything in my 20s and now edging back towards picky again.  I guess the difference is now I'm trying things before I decide that I don't care for it.

While the food was ok, the beer selection was phenomenal with 19 craft beers on tap and one cider.  Most of the brews are from Nor Cal.  There is a wide variety of beer styles from light to dark, but I didn't see any sours.  Meghan recommended the Heretic Gramarye (4.4%) which is a spicy yet smooth rye beer.  I loved it.  I really should have started with a pale ale and then gone to the Gramarye later as the spiciness of the rye overpowered the Grand Tetons Sweetgrass (6%) that I tried to have for my second beer.  I have enjoyed Grand Tetons beer before, but I'm never had the Pale Ale.  Luckily they will give you a sip of the beer before you buy it.  So after trying several lighter beers I tried another Heretic beer, the Evil Twin (6.8%) which is a hoppy red ale.  I liked it, but it still wasn't quite what I was looking for so I made my own blend with the bit of Gramarye still in my glass and it was awesome.  So I asked the very nice waitress if I could have it half and half.  (I wonder how brewers feel about people blending their beer.  Any brewers feel free to leave a comment.)  It was awesome.  So not only is the beer selection great, but the waitress was super patient, friendly, and happy to help me find the right beer.  (Tasting notes are limited because I wasn't planning on writing it up.)

I'm sure we will be back there soonish to take pictures and review more things like the stout float which is reminiscent of Doc's beer milkshake from Steinbeck's Cannery Row.  I tried making a beer milkshake many years ago and it was kind of foul, but I probably used IPA and vanilla ice cream.  So hopefully the CMTH can do it better.

So in conclusion if you love craft beers and/or you could use a bite to eat then check out Creek Monkey Tap House.  Also if you find Heretic pick up a bottle.  I've never seen it before so good luck!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Awesome Wine Bar in San Anselmo

Published in the Marinscope Newspapers on 9/12 in section B1.  Something happened with uploading to the net, link will be posted at some point.


The newest wine bar in Marin is located less than a block from the hub in San Anselmo, Lincoln Park was opened on August 12th by renowned local chef Stephen Simmons. Much of the produce comes from Skywalker Ranch where Simmons has been the executive chef since closing the doors at Bubba's Diner in San Anselmo and working at a long list of other fine establishments over the past 30 years. Simmons describes himself as an old hand in the restaurant business and considers Lincoln Park a place to have fun with his creative side.

The white wines are arranged from floral to full-figured and the reds are listed from fruit forward to fat. There were five whites, five reds, a sparkling wine, two cold sakes, and 10 beers to choose from. The wines ranged in price from $6 to $11 for a 4 oz pour and $10 to $17 dollars for a small carafe. These are exceedingly great prices for a wine bar, let alone a wine bar in Marin. For $16 you can get three wines paired with little nibbles of almonds, cheese, and fruit. The wines and beers fit a variety of palates and come from small cult wineries and breweries. Six out of the ten wines and nine out of the ten beers are from Northern California which fits their buy locally philosophy.

I accidentally went for the two most expensive wines on the menu because I love viogniers and I wanted to try the Marin wine. Cowhorn's 2011 viognier/roussanne/marsanne blend from Oregon had aromas of honey, lemon, and citrus blossoms. On the palate, there were notes of lemon, mineral, pear, and slight hints of lychee. Kendric's 2008 pinot noir from Marin is a bright, fruit-forward wine with aromas of cherry, vanilla, earth, cinnamon, and hints of mocha. The pinot exhibited both stewed and sour cherries, dry earth, white pepper, and dark plum with hints of tar on the palate.

The food is fresh, lively, and intricate. The ingredients are nearly 100% local and organic. The wagyu slider was sourced from Skywalker Ranch and the chicken from Marin Sun Farms. I had the wagyu slider and the steamed mussels with fennel. The slider was one of the best I've ever had. The meat was tender, juicy, lightly seasoned with black pepper, and topped with white cheddar on a ciabatta bun. The mussels were amazing as well. The menu which consists of appetizers and desserts ($6-$12) changes often and is written on a large blackboard in each room. A picture of the menu is posted on their Facebook page almost every day.  (Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures when I was there the first time so I don't have any pics of the food.)

The space is divided into two rooms. One room has a marble bar top with shelves of reclaimed wood, an old typewriter, and early 20th century radio for decorations. The other room has high backed leather booths with tables. Classic relaxing jazz was playing lightly in the rooms while the patrons sipped their wine and gossiped. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. Both rooms were pretty full, on the Tuesday evening that I dropped in, with mostly women in their 30s and 40s and a few couples. Everyone left with a smile on their face; I overheard many well deserved complements to the staff and the chef.

I highly recommend Lincoln Park for the food, wine, and atmosphere.



Lincoln Park is located at l98 Sir Francis Drake in San Anselmo and is open Sunday - Wednesday: 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm and Thursday - Saturday: 4:30 pm - 12:00 am . For more information, call 453-9898 or visit lincolnparkwine.com.

Question for the readers:  What is your favorite wine bar and what makes it special?