Ever wondered what goes into making quality sparkling wine? The answer — aside from lots of grapes, of course — is a lot of labor. Méthode Champenoise (or méthode traditionnelle when referring to sparkling wines made outside of Champagne, France), is the traditional French method of producing sparkling wines, and while at Mumm Winery in Napa, CA, during harvest, we snapped up photos of the step-by-step process. Take a look; the involved méthode may inspire you to savor your next glass of bubbly more slowly.
- Ring in Elvis Presley's 76th with a fool's gold loaf.
- Ring in Elvis Presley's 76th with a fool's gold loaf. — Serious Eats
- Obama has signed the record food safety bill into law. — Huffington Post Food
- Why it was a really bizarre year for California's Napa Valley. — Grub Street SF
- Could airport restaurant delivery be far off? — USA Today
- 2010's hottest US restaurants, according to Yelpers. — Yelp Blog
- Ranchers are pushing for horse meat as a source of nutrition. — Denver Post
- A 754-pound bluefin tuna sold for the record-breaking price of $396,000. — Eater
- After a 40-pound weight gain, Top Chef's Mike Isabella is back on the diet track. — Washington Post
Over the weekend, I jumped in a car with some friends and hightailed it to Napa Valley, where we enjoyed brunch at Thomas Keller's casual family restaurant, ad hoc. With full stomachs, we headed up Highway 29 to Rutherford to hit up some wineries. Visiting Napa wineries isn't unlike barhopping; the experience depends more on the tasting room staff and the crowd than it does the actual wine. After one underwhelming winery stop, we pulled into St. Supéry, which makes some of the best Sauvignon Blanc around.
That's when our fate changed. Ryan, the expert pouring our wines, took turns cracking jokes and recommending interesting wines — including a Petit Verdot, a varietal usually reserved for blending. When he asked if we'd want to try his favorite, how could we resist? The 2008 Chardonnay, sold only at the winery, lived up to his hype. It smelled exactly like bananas on the nose, with a creamy, lush mouth feel. I loved it so much, I took one home for the road. Have you had a similar experience while wine tasting? Share it with us below!
If you were stoked to hear about the release of The Ramen Girl, wait until you hear about the next big foodie flick. Oh, wait — you may have already seen it. Twentieth Century Fox is creating a Japanese version of Sideways, the Oscar-nominated comedy about four friends road-tripping through California wine country that became a runaway hit in 2005.
Given wine's increasing popularity in Japan, Fuji TV, one of Japan's biggest film producers, thought the movie would be an ideal candidate for a remake. But for its new film, tentatively also called Sideways, the company made changes to the storyline.
Rather than drinking their way through Santa Barbara wine country, the group meanders through Napa Valley, a wine region that is better-known among the Japanese. The movie's two main male characters — named Michio and Daisuke, not Miles and Jack — drive up to Napa Valley from Los Angeles. “You can’t do a road trip in California without going over the Golden Gate Bridge,” said the director of the remake, Cellin Gluck.
At first, Napa Valley vintners were not too enthusiastic about the film, given that the original's Merlot-bashing lines led to a plummet in sales of the varietal. However, the new feature doesn't knock varietals of any kind and successfully managed to shoot at local restaurants, as well as winemakers such as Frog's Leap, Beringer, and Chandon.
I'd never have guessed that the Japanese would remake a movie like Sideways, with its focus on a specialized West Coast winemaking region, but I can see how the comedy has universal appeal. Do you like the concept, or should Fox have simply dubbed the original?
Sunset magazine recently featured the 154-year-old Victorian home of a Napa Valley couple that had great bones, but was bogged down with layers of wallpaper and colored with garish blue paint. The home had been neglected for 30 years, but a lot of hard work combined with the couple's pared-down aesthetic transformed it into a welcoming, light, and airy space that any of you would swoon over. To see the transformation, read more
Parts of Northern California have this amazingly fresh, fragrant scent. I'm not sure if it's the eucalyptus trees, the ocean air, the smell of grass, or what — I just know that it is wonderful. So it's no surprise that Olivina, a body-care company in Napa Valley, captures its surroundings so well. Founder Susan Costner-Kenward incorporates hand-pressed California olive oil into her line's body butters, hand creams, body washes, and soaps ($6–$38 ).
Olivina's products are available in three scents: olive, fig, and lavender. All have a fresh, from-the-earth scent, but my favorite is olive. It's unusually beautiful; whenever I apply the body butter, I wind up smelling my skin all day long. And my guy friends liked it, too; Mr. Bella even put a dollop on his hands when he thought I wasn't looking. The scent alone is enticing, but the products are actually quite good, too. The body butter and hand cream provide moisture without getting greasy, and the body scrub uses crushed grape seeds to exfoliate skin naturally.
If, like me, you have a bit of a nature-girl side in you, I would definitely check out Olivina. It's luxurious but not frou-frou, and earthy but not too hippie-ish. Kind of like Napa Valley itself, no?
For my birthday I invited a small group of friends to join me for a wine tasting in Napa. We visited a few wineries, but our favorite was Miner family vineyards. The excellent PR girl had arranged a private tasting and tour, complete with a surprise birthday cake for yours truly! Our guide, the jovial and informative Jaime, began by giving us a sampling of the Miner Sauvignon Blanc and Rosato. Next we moved on to the Sangiovese and the Pinot Noir — both of which were outstanding. However the best wine was the limited edition Benedetto blend series. A smooth and bountiful red, this wine was like heaven in a glass. Jaime lead us through the wine making rooms and into the Miner caves.
Nestled in the base of a small mountain, the caves hold thousands of aging barrels of wine. We sampled a 2006 Malbec which they plan on using to make their signature blends. Later he showed us the private cave dining room where we had an impromptu birthday party. If you are planning a trip to wine country, Miner winery is a MUST stop. If you won't be coming to California anytime in the near future seek out these wines at your local wine shop. Miner wines have been served at the White House so I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. To check out the entire gallery of images from my trip there, read more
A few weeks ago I found myself at one of the Bay Area's top 100 restaurants, Redd in Napa Valley. My cheffie buddy and I glanced at the menu before deciding that there were too many delicious dishes to choose one each. So we decided to try the five course tasting menu.
A tasting menu, if you've never experienced one, is a fabulous way to sample small portions of several dishes. Usually everyone at the table is required to order the tasting and for each course a different dish is brought out. At Redd, the first course I tasted was the tuna tartare, while my dining companion tried the sashimi. We rotated plates half way through each course and were able to taste a total of 10 dishes from the menu! To learn more on tasting menus, and check out pics of the food I ate at Redd, just read more
Today's date, May 24th, is a memorable day in California wine history. Before 1976, France was regarded as the only region to produce great wines. 31 years ago, a blind taste test was conducted by a group of eleven of France's most prestigious figures in the wine industry. The white wines were tasted first and the judges unanimously awarded the top honor to both (Chalone Winery and Chateau Montelena) - two California whites. Likewise, the top red wine went to a Cabernet from Napa's Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. The judges were appalled by the outcome and the results of the tasting were not publicized in the French press. Although it is difficult to evaluate the scientific results of such an objective tasting, the judgment did wonders in elevating the status of California wines.