Monday, June 29, 2009

Blueberry Zin Happiness

While dining this weekend in San Diego with friends, Joe Plonk selected the wine both nights. The first night selections were the 2005 Markham Merlot ($49, to which the waiter dutifully but unconvincingly said to me “excellent selection sir”) followed by the 2003 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon ($100, to which the waiter whispered to the guy pouring water “this is a great wine”). The Markham Merlot was a nice, although somewhat understated, match for appetizers and salad. The Spring Mountain was a massive dose of chocolate, cherries, strawberry, earth, and leather – brilliant Napa cabernet that caused me to consider disappearing with the bottle and a straw.

However, the real star of the weekend was the 2006 Napa Valley Zinfanel from Frank Family Vineyards ($46) that we enjoyed the second night. It’s not a typical zinfandel. It’s better. It had a big, bold mouthful of blueberry happiness followed by a complex layer of pepper, spices and blackberry. Both novice and expert wine lovers at the table agreed that this wine by far exceeded our expectations, and we quickly ordered a second bottle.

Winemaker's notes from the web site say: Frank Family Vineyards’ 2006 Napa Valley Zinfandel is dark and rich in color, reminiscent of violets. This classic Zinfandel leads with sweet blackberry jam, white and black pepper and clove spice. Further opulence emerges as layers of black cherry, blueberry and Asian spice are exposed. The palate is big, bold and ripe with juicy brambleberry and warm plum pudding, supported by integrated tannin and spice, giving a full mid palate and setting the stage for the long supple finish. 15 months maturation in 35% New French Oak and 65% once and twice filled French Oak Barrels. 92% Zinfandel, 8% Petite Sirah.

Two thumbs up!

Best, Joe Plonk

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wine or Beer?

Joe Plonk has been traveling and working, with little time for blogging unfortunately. In my travels, I’ve noticed that you can tell whether an establishment promotes wine or beer by how they feature those beverages in their restaurant. When traveling outside of California and major metropolitan areas, I’m often amazed at how you have to look long and hard to find the selection of wines. Whether this has to do with the increased costs of wine due to shipping and taxes, and the strange licensed-reseller networks in many states that does little more than increase costs to consumers, or just simply because the citizens of Texas prefer Bud, isn’t always clear. However, one recent mid-western stop at a TGI Fridays restaurant revealed the preference in an unusual way. The advertising placard on the table announced that “People were liming up!” for Corona and Corona light. But, upon closer inspection, peaking out from below was a second larger placard that said “Featured Wine”…

What could this mystery “Featured Wine” be? Did TGI Fridays think that Corona was actually a white wine? The waitress eyed me as I pulled open the advertisement stand (her look said “must be one of them Californians, what with them unstained trousers and recently brushed teeth”). Under the Corona advertisement appeared…

2006 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay! A good value at $18, having scored 90 points by Robert Parker. Why the Featured Wine was covered by a Beer advertisement is anyone’s guess, and probably speaks volumes to why I rarely eat at TGI Fridays (37 piecess of flair or not).

Best, Joe Plonk

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Monday, June 1, 2009

The Big Pour

While writing my last blog post about our waiter’s confusion over Chateau St. Michelle and Chateau St. Jean, I thought of another unique restaurant wine experience. While traveling though San Francisco’s Marina District one evening, we stopped to get an early evening dinner at a casual looking hang-out. We were not expecting anything fancy, but in the world’s greatest restaurant city we anticipated some minimal level of professional service.

Our young waiter was friendly with a warm smile and a cork pull at the ready. She brought over our bottle of inexpensive wine, plunged the cork pull into the top of the bottle through the foil wrapper covering the cork, and proceeded to twist the cork and extract it from the bottle. The cork pulled through the top of the foil wrapper and out of the bottle. No inspection of the cork or sampling of the wine. Portions of torn wrapper dangled in the evening breeze as she poured wine into a glass in front of me. She poured to the very top of my glass, and did the same with the other three glasses at the table to empty the bottle. She did all of this while joyously chatting with the four of us about nothing of great importance.

I felt a rush of weird emotions, but ultimately settled on humor and happiness as I reflected upon the absurdity of the moment. I might not have been too happy had this been a bottle of Pomerol at Boulevard, but there was no reason to blame the friendly young waiter who clearly had no training from her restaurant employer. Others at the table also found humor in our full glasses, and I wondered to myself if her Big Pour was really just my nightly dream finally coming true.

Best, Joe Plonk

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