Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting To Know Dolcetto - Brutocao, 2006

The dolcetto grape is not wildly popular in the United States, but has many of the same qualities as a Pinot Noir and Beaujolais. The Piedmonet-grown varietal is very light, but filled with delicate hints of fruit and rich licorice. The fact that I like this wine despite this licorice flavor should say something right off the bat. The most striking characteristic of dolcetto wines is their high level of acidity that result in strong tannins at the very end of the finish. It wouldn't be an Italian wine without the appearance of acidity, now would it?

Dolcetto grapes are commonly called Douce Noire in the Savoie region of France (think: French Alps) and Charbono in California. Due to some recent conflicts about true DNA, the grape varieties grown under these names have been proven to be different varieties than Dolcetto. Perhaps that is is why Brutocao Winery in Anderson Valley chooses to use the Italian name of the grape on their bottles.

Brutocao Winery first earned my respect when my girlfriend brought home a bottle of their Primitivo (the same DNA as California Zinfandel) from an Anderson Valley trip. When I visited the winery myself, I learned that Winemaker Fred Nickle had a lot more up his sleeve. The day we arrived their wonderfully acidic Chardonnay was on sale for $4 a bottle! Don't think we didn't take advantage. But the Dolcetto was the wine that really stood out - it was perfectly light, with the nice tartness of cranberries, and a beautiful tannic finnish that made it a perfect food wine. We enjoyed our bottle with stuffed mushrooms and a simple pasta of fresh, sliced tomato, arugula, lots of garlic, and lots of olive oil.

Even though Dolcetto is meant to be drunk young, I suggest allowing it to breathe fifteen minutes to a half hour before drinking. By then, the sharpness of the acidity resides to reveal its bright and rich characteristics. Brutocao grows its own Dolcetto grapes on its Feliz Vineyard near Russian River and a bottle of Dolcetto costs $18.

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Francisco's Farmer's Market Celebration

It was hot in San Francisco last Saturday and the heat from the Prop 8 protests added to that. Of course, withholding equal rights from anyone is libel to raise the temperature in a room. To escape the heat of an angry city, my girlfriend and I decided to visit the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building at Embarcadero. James Baird, who works at the Hayes Street Grill stand at the Embarcadero Farmers Market each Saturday (he also bartends at Eos Restaurant and Hayes Street Grill during the week), invited us to an annual party held for the farmers at the market.

The party was held at the MarketBar after the farmers had finished packing up what was left of their delicious fruit and vegetable stands. At around 2:30pm we decided to check out the open bar. It featured artisan beers and plenty of fine wines, including a Mendocino Farms red, a dry DaVero Sangiovese rose, and two wines from two especially wonderful winemakers, a Chardonnay by Dave Guffy at Hess Winery and a Cabernet Sauvignon by Michael Beaulac at St. Supery.

When the SF skyline finally eclipsed the sun, the party was underway and I met several friendly farmers, such as Jesse Schlesinger who works at Dirty Girl Produce. Jesse, who is part of the Trigger Collective, currently has a show up of his photography at Milk and Honey Art Gallery in Mill Valley.

The day reminded me once again just how important the Meal is. A meal served with wine becomes an event. Wine can actually make me thirsty for food. The flavors of a pasta with pesto cream sauce are heightened by an earthy, dry Merlot - and after the sip of Merlot I crave the next bite of food which will in turn compliment the wine. One necessity for complimenting anything is, of course, those around us. When people come together for a meal they celebrate life. And shouldn't we be doing that three times a day? Thank you Bay Area Farmers, for another year of uncompromised flavor and freshness.

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