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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

About San Diego: Top 10 Wine and Dine Spots

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. Andre Gid

Those little, yet delightful new discoveries which have been under your feet all along, can make it all the more exciting once you uncover them, even as you step unto the shore of the unknown. As I was leaving one of my favorite places to dine in San Diego, known to many locals, and conveniently tucked away, just west of the airport, is Island Prime. If you've not taken the opportunity to dine with them as yet, make plans to do so soon, the food, wine list and service are as delicious as the view of downtown San Diego. I had the good fortune last year to hang out with a new friend; from Wente Wines where we had a grand time discussing everything from wine to sports. On the way home, driving along the harbor, something which greets many visitors leaving the airport, billowing clouds forming overhead caught my eye. So I just had to stop along the waterfront to snap this picture with my iPhone

This picture you see above is just a snapshot of San Diego, my hometown, where I grew up and where I live, work and play. Did I fail to mention also to eat and drink well? If so let me set the record straight, I do my fair share of both, whether it's dining out or a casual meal at home. That said, when it comes to the Wine and Dine 'scene' here in San Diego; I believe I've a pretty good grasp of its top wine and dine destinations, one I'd like to share. Also if I may be so bold, the place where you can find the very best fish tacos in San Diego  period, end of story. 

I was asked back in July, by the Grape Collective to come up with a top ten list of places I frequent and would recommend to thirsty vino-sapiens and hungry carnivores. So I did just that, and you can check out that list I came up with here.  That said, I desired to do more than a quickie post, and instead do somewhat a bit more elaborate. So I decided to give that list a quick shake, then add some and remove some names, you understand, some quick editing as it were, so here it's enjoy.


1. ENO Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Address: 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, CA 92118 Grab a slice, grab a glass and breath in some fresh ocean breezes, because you're just steps away from the beach. As you can see I still managed to keep Pizza in the lineup, what is a great wine and dine list, without a little pizza? 

2. The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro, Address: 897 South Coast Highway 101, (760) 942-2104 If you want to have a tasty, wine paired meal or just want to grab a bottle to go, this is one of my top choices. 

3. Splash Wine Bar, Address: 3043 University Avenue, (619) 296-0714 A great place with small bites, and wine on tap, in fact over 80 different selections to choose from, and you choose the pour size, not the server. Quick, quiet [relatively] and comfortable found in city central North Park, where the locals go, who know what's up. 


4. Island Prime, Address: 880 Harbor Island Drive, (619) 298-6802 Like I said, this is great place for the views, especially in the evening, the food is very good, the wine list is well thought out and diverse, the service is always very good. Located just moments west of the Airport. If you're leaving terminal two, just head straight through the light, and once you see the water, hang a left, it is just at the end of the jetty. 

5. TJ Oyster Bar, Address: 4246 Bonita Road, (619) 267-4577 Now if you the very best fish tacos in all of San Diego, this is the thee place to go. Don't be taken in by any pretenders to the throne, boys and gurls, because this place is the real deal!  Seating is very limited, each taco is prepared once it's order, seating is limited, the line is always out the door and yes you can suck down a cold cerveza to take a bite out the warm sunshine. 


6. The Wine Vault and Bistro, Address: 3731 India Street, (619) 295-3939 Another great wine and dine spot in San Diego, it's a very popular location for vino-sapiens. Because this place is a one stop shop, they really do it all. If you want to arrive early for your dinner reservations, ask Chris to make you his famous and favorite Martini, the 409. You can also buy bottles to take home, if you happened to like a bottle of wine you had with dinner. 

7. The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar and Bistro, Address: 16765 Bernardo Center Drive #1, (858) 673-7512 I really do love this place as well, if you just want to grab a glass of wine and relax with friends, they have a cozy area just to the side of the bar to hang out. If you want a bottle of wine with dinner, great, because unlike most places, the mark-up is just $5 above the retail prices of their attached wine shop. Great food and great service. 

8. Jaynes Gastropub, Address: 4677 30th Street, (619) 563-1011 Another North Park gem, not to be missed, the food is eclectic, the well-stocked bar is always buzzing and wine list is top notch. Do not miss an opportunity to dine here, and hang with the locals, guaranteed to be tourist free. Feeling a bit cramped inside; ask for a table in the seemingly secret back patio, a very comfortable spot to laugh loudly, pop some corks and raise some glasses.


9. Urban Solace, Address: 3823 30th Street, (619) 295-6464 This place is near a San Diego legend, again a favorite with the locals, a central city, North Park gem. Grab a bite, sip some wine, raise a glass to toast and enjoy a great evening dining out in one of San Diego's hot-to-trot dining destinations. 

10. The Smoking Goat, Address: 3408 30th Street, (619) 955-5295 And last but certainly not least, and as you can see from the address, this delicious dining location is found in North Park. A pretty good wine list, could use a bit more imagination, but the food is very good, the menu well thought out and the service will keep you coming back for more.  

That's all for today folks, there will be more Champagne in the next post, so keep that glass full, and remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2010 Big Basin Vineyards, Alfaro Family Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains

“If we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us out of the imminent night”  D.H. Lawrence

Mr. Lawrence may say sip, but honestly I prefer to slurp. With that awful picture planted firmly in your mind, good [late] afternoon to you all, and welcome to my Wine of the Week. I discovered this gem last night during #WineChat, where there was a grape discussion about the fantastic 'juice' being poured in tasting rooms all over the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you've not been to the area before, may I highly suggest you do so soon. 

I swooned [no not kidding] with delight over the three different selections of Pinot Noir, being poured, tasted and discussed last night via #winechat. That's not something I usually do either, typically I'll find at least one wine in a tasting like that to make me wanna 'crinkle' my nose and sigh. But these wines wouldn't allow me to have any of that last night, instead my palate was doing the happy dance.

Sad to say and hard to admit, but this was my first experience with this amazing example of Santa Cruz Mountain AVA Pinot Noir, it was a sheer pleasure. The nose straight from the bottle was complex yet very inviting perfume, cranberry, brown sugar, wet-earth and loads of baking spices. After the first pour a bright colored core of strawberry and red raspberry invite the first sip. Diving into the glass, inviting aromas of baking spices, a slap of of new summer cherries, wild cranberries and sandalwood. 
"The steep hillsides, cooling ocean breezes and fog, and mountain soils promote the development of color and complex flavors." Bradley Brown
On the palate a truckload of finesse coupled together with opulent fruit, which hangs nicely on a canvas of firm acid and delicate tannins [texture baby]. This wine is sleek and elegant showcasing a mix of dried cherry, strawberry jam fused with a touch of spice and toasty oak nuances, leading to a sumptuous, long lasting finish. I cooked up a little wild-caught sockeye salmon action, with my special recipe and some other tasty fixin's [which you see below]. Then Mrs. Cuvee and I were off to the pool don't you know, we were "Swimming in Pinot Pairing Paradise" [the title for my new book].  
We believe in and employ sustainable and organic farming practices." Bradley Brown
This is the type of quality juice that has me wanting to oddly jump inside the bottle to slurp up the remainder and I do that via what I call bottle tipping. What is that you ask, oh that's simple that's just me laying the [nearly empty] bottle on its side which causes it to pool, so I may get those last few precious drops into my glass. Oh by the way, it paired oh-so marvelously with our Salmon-Bake. To say this wine was good would be a vast understatement, because it did in fact "wow" my socks off


They [the winemaking team] at Big Basin, go through a lot of effort to make their wines stand out and stand out they do, at least speaking for what must be one of their flagship and/or signatures Pinot Noir selections. It is an allocated wine [lucky wine club members only] and is very also a super-small production, just 22 cases or 6 barrels produced. I scored this wine 93 points and highly recommend you give it a swirl!

Hopefully there still a few spots open on their allocation list, if not there's always the waiting list, I wish you good luck. Personally, I think it's worth the effort. Okay folks that's all I've got for today, until next time remember to sip long and prosper cheers!

Full Disclosure: The wine in today's review was sent as a sample.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bordeaux Uncorked: An Evening with Chateau Thieuley

"Let’s just stipulate that in the hierarchy of pleasures, people come first. Now that we agree on that, good food and drink can help make any party better." -- Eric Asimov

Welcome to Monday, I trust everyone had a wine-tastic weekend. Because I know I did, in fact I had a relaxing evening hanging out with Mrs. Cuvee's [work] colleagues, residents new and former. I was tasked with bringing a couple bottles to share for the evenings festivities. Sadly even after the delightful sound of the cork being "popped" few had any interest in the vino, mostly due in part [I suspect] to their lack of familiarity with Bordeaux, someone even asked [surprisingly] "what is Bordeaux?".

But that question made for a unique springboard opportunity to dive into a conversation about what Bordeaux is and the many types and styles of wine it has to offer the average vino-sapien. Any chance for me to blather on and on endlessly [or so it seemed] about the virtues of wine exploration and the uniqueness of Bordeaux would be an opportunity I would relish. Mrs. Cuvee was even a bit surprised by my more than talkative nature that evening. But I told her, it was simply what happens when the right button is pushed. 

The appetizer of choice for me? No it was not the salsa and chips [as there wasn't a cerveza in sight] no instead a simple hummus and the rather delightful sea-salted pita-chips which they offer by the pallet. Some fresh fruit added a bit of a foil to the chick-pea delight, while the wine sang a capella in the background, a delightful summer evening pairing to say the least. Even after the smoked wild-caught salmon joined the dining festivities, the wine still held its ground nicely. 

A Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend often referred to as a White Bordeaux, was not a stunning wine. It was not one that would make anyone think "oh-wow what is this", but it is a wine I'd buy again and recommend. It's great to have wines like this in the cellar, ready to go at a moments notice. It really makes for an ideal way to dress up a lazy summer evening, with friends, family or even the occasional co-worker get togethers. This wine sells most places for about $15, I gave it a score of 87 points. 

It has real soul and substance to it; a nice blaze of acid pinning the [fruit driven] Semillon to the mat and vibrant minerality to keep things interesting. In my mind it was the perfect wine [apple/pear lemon butter] for the occasion, simple, light and most of all refreshing. Each, sip and slurp had me thinking about what it must be like to sit on a porch/veranda in Bordeaux, relaxing with friends and family, and perhaps watching the sunset over the vineyards. 

If you'd like to know more them and the other wines they offer, they have a fun and inviting website that you should check out. A winery which boasts of modern sophistication, but one that has not forgotten the path of tradition that has got them where they're today. Until next time folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!  

[Full Disclosure: The wine appearing in this review was a sample]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Myth Busted: The Top 5 Myths about Sulfites in Wine

“A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence.” ― Rollo May

Invariably any number of folks who work in the wine-biz or wine-trades, whether it's your favorite tasting room in Napa or the wine-bar down the street, will be asked about the health effects of sulfites in wine and its supposed link to headaches.This has become even more a question in our health-conscious nation, where even the question of where their food comes from and whether it's ethical are a topic of daily discussion. Since food and wine are so tightly tied together, it's only natural that questions about chemicals that perhaps is potentially lurking in our vino, should also be addressed. Thus the focus on sulfites has become more mainstream, especially since a law was introduced and passed forcing producers to add the phrase "contains sulfites" to the ominous warning label found on wine bottles.

The team at Vine Crowd has compiled a list of the top five myths about the sulfites found in wine we all drink everyday. Done in a style, which I believe to be a similar [style or fashion] to the folks on the once [hugely] popular show Mythbusters. A fascinating show, where they take a common sense approach [aka. scientific method] to prove or disprove popular recurring myths. So, sit back, buckle-up as it's going to be a bumpy ride in the wine-wagon today on our way to discover together what is really going on in our wine and like some popular nineties show once proclaimed, "the truth is out there".

1. You or someone you know is allergic to sulfites.
NOPE, not true. Someone’s been badly misinformed. Sulfites are something that our body naturally produces at a normal rate of about 1,000mg a day. Compare that to the average 10mg per glass of wine and it’s pretty clear that if someone was allergic to sulfites, their problems would be a little more severe than a life without wine. There are, however, individuals that have high sensitivities to sulfites. We’ll get to that in a second.

2. The sulfites in wine are extremely high.
Again, not true. Sulfites are a part of the winemaking process all around the world. They are added in moderation in order to preserve wines for aging. They are also added to other foods for the same reason – anything from the vegetables in a salad bar to dried fruits will contain added sulfites. Sulfites in an average glass of wine will measure 10mg, whereas a 2oz serving of those bright orange dried apricots typically has 112mg. Yep, over 10 times as much as a glass of wine.

3. Sulfites give you headaches.
FALSE. Probably the biggest myth of all. There has been no link to sulfites and headaches in research groups – even among people with high sensitivity to sulfites. Even among the highly sensitive people, adverse reactions (mainly asthmatic) only presented themselves when subjects were given four times the normal amount of sulfites in a single glass. This is not to say that some people don’t get headaches when they drink certain types of wine or alcohol, it just shows that it’s not the sulfites that are causing them. New research is showing that headaches may be related to the type of yeast used in fermentation.

Clarification: "I wanted to clarify that the infamous ‘red wine headache’ is very real for some people, but as mentioned above, it’s not the sulfites that are causing them." ~ Jennifer Kaplan

In the June issue of the Harvard Health Letter, it says ''The red wine headache is a real if poorly understood phenomenon." and according to Marian Burros that quote is what she would call "a masterpiece of understatement."

4. There are less sulfites in white wine.
It’s probably safe to say that we all know someone that doesn’t drink red wine “because of the sulfites.” In reality, white wines have slightly more sulfites than reds.

5. There are more sulfites used in American wines.
Surprise, things listed in bold are still NOT TRUE. Though winemaking practices differ in each country and region, the amount of sulfites used in winemaking tends to be the same among Old World and New World countries. Several studies show that sulfite levels are similar throughout Europe and the US specifically. The fact that the US has a sulfite warning label but Canada and European countries do not tends to add to this myth.

Other Resources: For more information on the topic there's a great article posted entitled; Eating-well the puzzling red-wine-headache by Marian Burros who writes for the NYT. And one other insightful article on the subject; Red Wine Headaches vs. Sulfite Allergies.

This article is cross-posted at Vinecrowd.com and posted here courtesy of the author Jennifer Kaplan who was gracious enough to allow the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog to post it here in its entirety. I believe the information contained in this article is important and will be helpful for the vast wine swirling and slurping public to get their heads around this sometimes controversial topic. Jennifer Kaplan article, does just that with a very common sense approach to dispelling the myths about sulfites.

I hope everyone found this article at the very least helpful and make others feel a little more comfortable about the sulfites found lurking in their wine glass. I believe we can say this myth was emphatically busted. So until next time, remember to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bubbly, Sparkling Wine or Champagne?

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right" Mark Twain

"In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it." -- Napoleon Bonaparte.

"Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it." -- Madame De Pompadour

"Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully." -- Graham Greene



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