Wine 101

  Wine 101 is an occasional series of blog posts that will introduce novice wine drinkers to the wine culture.  One of the goals of this website is to introduce more people to wine.  In particular, I want to introduce more people-of-color to to the wine world. 

Wine 101 will discuss topics from how to open a bottle of wine, how to order of a wine list, wine glasses, health issues, etc.

In a scene from one of my favorite movies, Do The Right Thing, Da Mayor (Ozzie Davis) says to Mookie (Spike Lee): “Doctor, always try to do the right thing”  This is the first rule/lesson of Wine 101: Do The Right Thing…enjoy responsibily.  I know this is a well-worn advertisers phrase, but it’s well said.  Know your limits.

What am I enjoying  responsibly tonight?  Glad you asked.  Chateau St. Jean, 2005 Fume Blanc (Sonoma).  Fume Blanc is a term coined by Robert Mondavi, essentially it’s Sauvignon Blanc.  This Chateau St. Jean, Fume Blanc has Sav Blanc as well as Semillon.  It’s an excellent wine for the price.  Pale straw color, honeydew/melon nose with a faint mineral note.  On the palate it’s slightly dry, semi-sweet (cantalope) with low/moderate acid.  I have a few bottles of this wine, I do not believe it will hold for more than two years and is unlikey to improve with aging.

 If you have no idea what I am talking about…read Wine 101.

 Always Do The Right Thing



 Food and wine paring.  What about food and music paring?  I’m serious.  When I have a glass of wine, often think of what food would compliment the wine.   When I listen to music, I occasionally think of what wine would compliment the music.

I am a jazz fan.  Straight ahead jazz.  Recently I’ve been listening to Christian Scott’s lastest album, Anthem.  I really dig this Cat.  Mr. Scott is a trumpet player orginally from New Orleans.  I like his style.  It’s hard to describe his sound.  Not Bebop,  kind-of-a Funkybop.  Reminds me of Miles album Tutu.  Check it out, especially the last cut on the album featuring Brother J of X-clan.

Anyway, Anthem has been in heavy rotation at the household for the past two weeks and I’ve been thinking of what wine would compliment this album.  Anthem is hard, but smooth.  It has an edge, but the more I listen to the album the more layers are uncovered.  It’s complex.  I am thinking a Bordeaux would go well with this CD.  But this is vibrant, New World music so I tried a Napa Cab.   Brown Estate’s 2002 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Perfect synergy…

Brown CS 2002

 Brown Estate is located in Chiles Valley District of Napa Valley and they are known for their zinfandels.  I found Brown by tracing the vine from another Napa vintner know for zins, Green and Red.  It’s an African American owned winery.  They previously sold their zinfandel grapes to local wine makers but started producing their own wine in 1998 (?).  Their first Cab came out in 2001 and they have recently added a chardonnay.  Brown Estate features my favorite label.  It’s a simple label, but strong and features a scarab.  My second favorite label is Calon-Segur (Bordeaux).  I like simple wine labels that have meaning.

 I know Brown’s zins but I was skeptical in regard to their Cabs, but the 2002 Cab is excellent.  The colour of this wine is amazing.  A beautiful deep ruby colour suggesting extensive skin contact during extraction.  Strong expression of the grape varietal.  Nice acidity and crisp tannins.  Good balance.  Exceptional finish.  This wine also has legs…if properly stored I think will hold for another decade.  I’m impressed by this wine.  I am very impressed with the 2002 Napa Cabs.

Like the CD, Christian Scott’s Anthem, this wine builds.  Meaning, after letting the wine breathe for two hours the flavor of the wine has really come into it’s own.  Complex…Syngery.

Cheers to Christian Scott and Brown Estate.  I’m ready for Monday.

For dinner?  I paired this wine and music combo with steak.  A Kobe (Wangu) flank steak, pan cooked medium well.  Seasoned with a garlic infused soy sauce I bought back from Miya-jima (Japan).

My favorite album title?  Winelight, by the late-great Grover Washington Jr.  I’ll have to listen to this this album again, it’s been awhile.  I think I’ll pair it with an Italian barbera…


Harvest For The World

Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 005 

On Sunday morning, September 30th, I had the fortune of participating in the annual Grace Family Vineyards Harvest in Napa Valley.  I was invited by Mack and his wife.

We left San Francisco at 6am, started harvesting around 8am and finished by noon.  There were approximately 150 invited guests from around the world.  As a group we harvested slightly more than 8 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon from three sites.  The Grace Family provided lunch (serious homemade tacos)

Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 001


 Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 007 Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 010 Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 027 Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 013 Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 021

I met a lot of good people.  Spent some time talking with Dick Grace (in photo, between Mack and I) about faith and politics.

Grace Family Vineyards harvest 07 016

  It was a beautiful day in Napa.  A Harvest For The World. 

Love to the Grace Family.



For dinner, we had penne pasta with homemade basil pesto, topped with local salmon brought from Half Moon Bay CA, and fresh Roma tomatos from our garden. The salmon was cooked in light olive oil, salt, pepper, and butter.

I thought the garlic pesto would overpower the wine, but this dish was a fantastic compliment to the ’06 DuMol viognier.


I Must Say It Was A Good Year (2004 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon)

It’s Fall, my favorite time of the year. The weather is fantastic, football is back, and the new Cabs are being released. Over the past 6 weeks I tried about twenty 2004 Napa Cabs.

Yesterday alone I tasted 12 Cabs. I went to a Saturday tasting at one on the local wine shops, The Wine Club, and they featured the “Big Guns” of California. Quintessa, Dominus, Rudd Oakville Estate Proprietary Red, Hewitt Rutherford, Far Niente, Ramey Jericho Canyon, BV Georges de Latour, Joseph Phelps Insignia, Mondavi Reserve, Beringer Private Reserve, Opus One, and Ridge Monte Bello. I’ve also tried the ’04 CS from Neal, Turnbull, Hourglass, Pride, and Groth.

Continue reading “I Must Say It Was A Good Year (2004 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon)”

A good weekend, made spectacular by a difficult Monday

Damn…it was a long day, not difficult but long. 12 hours long. It would have been nice to sit in front of the big screen tonight and watch Monday Night Football, but I have a family so I did the next best thing. I opened a big Zinfandel.

Rosenblum 2005 Rockpile Road Vineyard Zinfandel. As my palate has evolved, I have moved away from Zinfandel. But, this one brings me back to my roots. I usually don’t like Zins because they are too big…big nose, heavy fruit (black currants, blackberries), overripe (jammy), high percentage of ETOH (alcohol). The mouthfeel is too heavy. Usually to heavy to enjoy with food.

This, however, was no ordinary Zin. Rosenblum specializes in Zinfandels and grapes from Rockpile Rd are above average. Rockpile Rd is a hilltop area in Sonoma County California. It’s a small viticultural area just north of Lake Sonoma.

There are specific occasions when I will drink Zin. For example: after long day at work, at BBQs/cookouts, cold nights, and usually on their own (i.e. without food). The heaviness of a Zin will blow most food dishes away.

Tonight my wife made sukiyaki. With Japanese food, I usually go straight for the sake. I was suprised that the sweetness of the sukiyaki really brought out the fruit in the Zin. The wine was less heavy and more approachable. I have never found a wine that goes well with Japanese food, but this combination worked well.

More about Zins later. More about sake later. Later this week, a full report on the Cab harvest at Grace Family Vineyards in Napa.

Zinfully yours,


What is Vinoyo?

Vinoyo is a wine community, primarily, but not exclusively for African Americans. I have been a vinophile for years and I am suprised by the lack of diversity in the wine community. More often than not, I have found myself to be the only person of color at wine related events.

Our goal is to increase the involvement of minorities in the wine culture by starting a community that will support diversity.

Seven years ago, I attended an Italian cooking class at the San Francisco Culinary Academy. The instructor (Chef Angelo) told the class that “wine is one the best things that can happen to you.” I believe this. We would like to provide an evolving forum that will support consumers, producers, and merchants. The wine world is a big world. Wine is a culture.

I invite you to participate in the experience…and if you’re not careful, you just might learn something.

What am I drinking now? glad you asked. Yesterday, I received my “Club” shippment from Vision Cellars. Vision is a African-American owned winery located in Winsor CA (Sonoma). I am enjoying their 2006 Chileno Valley Vineyard (Marin County) Pinot Noir. It’s good, but young and needs just a little more time in the bottle…but I could not wait. After being open for about two hours, however, this young Pinot is really opening up. Beautiful color, full nose (burnt sugar, black cherries and vanilla), and a suprising legnth (finish). This California Pinot has a Oregon nose. More on Vision Cellars later…

I am looking foward to this Sunday. I’m going up to Napa Valley early on Sunday morning to participate in the 2007 Cab harvest. Report to follow…

Have a good weekend. Enjoy resposibly.

Red Beans and Ricefully Yours (Louis Armsrong)


A late summers nights Rose (or, how I learned to stop worring and love the funk)

it is a warm late summer night in San Francisco…long day at work, the Giants have been out of contention for months…no better reason to have a glass of Rose

this evening I opened a bottle of 2006 DARE Rose from Viader, to compliment a sourdough organic pizza from a local bakery, Arizmendi.  The pizza was topped with sweet onions, fresh tomatos, basil…simple, but very good.  The wine and the pizza were very good, however, they did not compliment one another as much as I had expected.

The ’06 DARE was fruit foward, low to moderate acidity, and moderate alcohol for a rose (14.5%).  This appears to be typical of “new world” Rose wines.  Last night I had a French rose that was just the opposite, an ’06  Domaine des Corbillieres, Touraine, Pinot Noir Rose.  This “old world” rose had bite: big acid, less fruit intensity, and a lower alcohol content (12.5%).  The Touraine is a much better wine with food.  The DARE is very good…better on it’s own (without food) than the Touraine.

It’s not that I don’t like the DARE Rose…but with food, bring the funk (acidity).

When I initially started to seriously drink wine, I wanted every glass to be like butta’ (malolactic fermentation).  Now I want balance.  I want to enjoy a glass of vino that is appropriate for the vibe.

How did I get here?  Where and when did I begin to appreciate wine.  When did I learn to stop worring and love the funk? 

My serious foray into the wine culture began about 10 years ago and it continues to evolve.  I will continue to nuture and cultivate my interest in wine and invite others to join in the experience.

bring the wine, bring the funk

red beans and rosefully yours,