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Proof that Zinfandel Can Go Very Well with Food

I hear a lot of people say that Zinfandel isn’t good food wine. Perhaps they are drinking the wrong Zinfandel. The fact is that traditional Zinfandel is an excellent wine to drink with a meal. It offers attractive fruit flavors with moderate body and acidity. And when the Zinfandel is blended with compatible grapes, such as Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, and Carignane, the wine is more complex but is still not so delicate that a person need be concerned about overwhelming it with hearty food.

It’s true that these days there are some Zinfandels which are very high in alcohol, heavily oaked and dominated by flavors of over-ripe, even raisined, fruit. As Alton Brown would say, that’s not good eats. Frankly, it’s not necessarily good wine either. But we should not dismiss a whole category of wines based on one subset of its bottlings.

Good Zinfandel is a versatile partner for good food. Its fruit-focused flavors vary based on the region in which it’s grown and the way it’s treated at the winery. Do you want blackberry to go with game, cherry for duck or strawberry for chicken? You can get any of those and more by selecting the right bottle. If you’ve got spicy food, look for a Zinfandel with rich fruit but relatively low alcohol. Tomatoes are notorious for being tough on wine. And most people think only of white wines for seafood. But, if you’re having cioppino (seafood, tomato AND spice) Zinfandel is your wine. And it's fine with grilled salmon too.

But, to paraphrase Dante, the proof of the pairing is in the tasting. Fortunately, there is an easy way to learn more about pairing Zinfandel with food. It’s a learning experience that will delight your taste buds. Go to the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing tomorrow night in San Francisco. Part of this weekend's Zinfandel Festival, it is dinner, drinks, live entertainment, and wine education all at the same time.

 

Good Eats and Zinfandel is a walk-around tasting/grazing. More than fifty Zinfandel wines will be available for tasting. Each will be paired with a complementary dish from a good Bay Area restaurant. There will also be live cooking demonstrations.

You can see the full list of pairings, and buy tickets, at the ZAP website. (ZAP members can purchase discounted tickets.) Scanning through the list has me salivating. Here are a few of the pairings you should make a special point of trying (starting with light dishes and moving toward hearty):

Alexander Valley Vineyards with Sweet Potato Souffle Timbale from Flavor Bistro
Starry Night Winery with Truffled Porcini Tortellinin fro Il Davide Restaurant
McCay Cellars 2007 Truluck with Mushroom Risotto Cake from Wine and Roses
D-Cubed Cellars with Beet, Gaeta Olive and Ricotta Crostini from A16 Restaurant
Gamba Vineyards with Green Tomato BLT from Estate Restaurant
Storybook Mountain Vineyards with Beef Tartare on Crostone from Rose Pistola
Bedrock Wine Company with Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo from Town Hall
J Dusi with Corn and Shrimp Fritters from First Crush Restaurant
Grgich Hills Estate with Bocadillo of Smoked Pork, Romesco, Olive Tapenade and Idiazabal Cheese from Solbar
Rancho Zabaco with Pan-Seared Kobe Flat-Iron with Huckleberry Jam from Equus
Three Wine Company with Zinfandel Risotto of Duck Confit, Mushrooms and Bacon from One Market Restaurant
McCay Cellars Reserve 2009 with Smoked Duck Breast, Cranberry Relish and Dark Chocolate Sauce from Wine and Roses
Scott Harvey Wines with Black Garlic Sauce Beef from Chef Tyler Stone
McCay Cellars 2007 Jupiter with Beef Short Rib, Juniper Berry, Cloves, and Aged Cheddar Polenta from Wine and Roses
Sausal Winery with Short Ribs in Chili-Zinfandel Sauce with Parsnips and Blue Cheese on Potato Crisp from Q Restaurant

With at least 15 “can’t miss” pairings — and there are more — Good Eats & Zinfandel is itself a “can’t miss.” I’ll see you there!

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Lotus of Siam - A Delicious Value for Food and Wine in Las Vegas

Over the years, as the Las Vegas restaurant scene has changed, so have the wine lists. Steakhouses, with their big collections of full-bodied reds, have been joined by countless authentic French, Italian and Asian restaurants which call for different directions in wine. And, whereas the wine lists used to be heavily-weighted toward trophy wines for the expense account crowd, many restaurants now offer very good selections of excellent yet affordable wines. That said, since the typical markup in Las Vegas restaurants is 3x retail, most wines on the better lists come in at or above $100 per bottle. By the glass is certainly an option, but expect to pay at least $15 for something decent. Moving “off the Strip” can get you better prices, but there is usually — but not always — a corresponding drop in quality.

Perhaps the best off-the-Strip option in Las Vegas is Lotus of Siam. Nearly every big city in the United States has a restaurant called “Lotus of Siam.” Few, if any, hold a candle to the one in Las Vegas. It is a destination restaurant, though not because of a famous chef, beautiful decor or a see-and-be-seen aura. Frankly, it doesn’t have any of that. It’s hidden away in a very quiet strip mall that was nearly vacant last Friday night and it’s table settings are paper place mats, not white linen. What this Lotus of Siam does have is the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten, very reasonable prices and a tremendous wine list. The list is strongest in Riesling, particularly German, since those wines go so well with the food. However, there are hundreds of other wines available, including many from California.

The Wine
Lotus of Siam offers roughly thirty wines by the glass. Most of them are stored in an auto-dispensing system with gas to keep the wine fresh. While a couple by-the-glass choices at Lotus of Siam aren’t much of a surprise, such as 2007 Kendalll-Jackson Chardonnay ($6.50), most are. Among the reds are the delicious 2007 Siduri Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir ($17) and 2006 Showket Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($19). There’s also old vine Grenache from Minervois ($14), Cabernet Franc from Chinon ($14) and a Brunello di Montalcino ($14). The most expensive glass is the 2007 Domaine de Marcoux Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($22) — an excellent wine with a release price of $71 per bottle. There are nearly twenty half-bottles available too, including offerings from Spring Mountain Vineyard, Pride Mountain, Storybook Mountain, Parallel and Viader. At just $22, the Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2004 is an excellent choice for the budget-conscious.

The list of full-sized bottles at Lotus of Siam runs 41 pages. It is full of icons, such as 1990 Krug Brut Champagne which is reasonably priced at $350, but also nice surprises such as the 2004 Gruet Blanc de Blancs, New Mexico ($40). If the gaming tables are very good to you, you might spring for the 2000 Lafite Rothschild ($1050). But the smart money is on 2005 Pontet-Canet ($150) or 2005 Clos du Marquis ($95). There are three pages of fine red Burgundy and verticals of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, such as Le Vieux Donjon, Clos des Papes, Chateau de Beaucastel and Domaine du Pegau.

The list of California reds is extensive and tends toward toward big names and full-body: Colgin Estate, Turley, Shafer Hillside Select, Sine Qua Non, Carter, etc. However, there are plenty of wines that tend to be more delicate in style such as Pinot Noir from Mount Eden, Calera, Sand Hill Durell Vineyard (now Dunstan) and Littorai. The most expensive California red on the list is a 2001 Harlan Estate ($795) but the majority of wines are substantially less. The Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir is a nice bottle and just $35. There are a few good back vintages too, like the 1993 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon ($175).

The list of California whites is much shorter, less than a page. It also offers good options though, from 2008 Handley Pinot Gris Anderson Valley ($30) to Alban Estate Roussanne ($60) and 2004 Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay ($68) on up to 2006 Kongsgaard “The Judge” Chardonnay ($235).

We had gone to Lotus of Siam for Thai food and German Riesling though, so that’s what we ordered. We tried two wines there: 2007 Jos. Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett ($55) and then the 2008 Egon Muller Scharhofberger Kabinett ($75). Both wines were very good, the latter being just off-dry with more mineral, green apple and citrus. The Prum was substantially sweeter with more body and a lot of tangy stone fruit and floral notes. I thought it to be the best of the two. Both went very well with the food, though I would recommend the Jos. Prum over the Muller with rich curries and spicy dishes. In retrospect, it would have been interesting to try the Jos. Prum side by side with the 2007 Dr. Loosen Wehlener Sonnenuhr ($42). Oh well.

The Food
While not as long as the wine list, the menu is also extensive. There are nearly 150 main dishes to choose from. We tried quite a few things. Our favorite starter was Moo Dad Deaw ($8.95) which the menu describes as a Thai-style pork jerky. Essentially, it’s thoroughly marinated strips of pork that are quickly deep fried and served with a slightly spicy sauce. It was chewy, yet somehow still tender, and very flavorful. The sauce was nice, but not entirely necessary.

One of the specialties at Lotus of Siam is Northern Thai cuisine. We tried two of those dishes. The Sai Qua (Northern-Style sausage, $8.95) was very good. It comes one to an order, grilled and cut into quarter-inch thick slices on the bias. It’s a pork sausage with herbs and spices. It was a bit dry, but had great flavor. Think of the rich, slightly sweet, red sauce from really good Pad Thai blended with pork and stuffed into a sausage casing.

The Kang-ka-Noon (spicy jack fruit curry, $9.95) was good, but less exciting than some of the other dishes. The flavor and texture of young jack fruit is similar to that of artichoke heart. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it is subtle and the curry broth was thin and soupy rather than thick and rich. The other dishes were bursting with flavor and the Kang-ka-Noon was simply overwhelmed.

One of those more powerful items was the Crispy Duck with Chu-Chee (Thai red curry sauce, $19.95). There was more crispy duck skin than duck meat, but that didn’t disappoint most of us. While duck skin isn’t diet food, it’s packed with flavor. One of my dinner partners found the meat a bit too fatty; for the rest of us it was just ducky. And we all loved the creamy red curry sauce. It was a perfect complement to the duck, was nicely off-set by the wine and, if there had been more sauce, we would have been eating it with a spoon.

sea-bass
The standout dish of the night was Sea Bass Som Thum (sea bass with Thai papaya salad, $23.95, pictured above). The salad was very good: fresh, crisp and with the sweet, savory, tangy, spicy dressing that Thai salads are known for. The sea bass itself was ridiculous. Almost two inches thick and cooked through, yet extremely moist — almost creamy. It was so sweet, flavorful and obviously fresh that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a fisherman leaving through the back door.

There a lot of great restaurants in Las Vegas. The day after our visit to Lotus of Siam we ate at Pierre Gagniere’s Twist in the new Mandarin Oriental Hotel. But you don’t need to go all out like that to have a tremendous food and wine experience. If you like Thai food, or are willing to give it another try, head over to Lotus of Siam.

Lotus of Siam is located at 953 E. Sahara Ave., Suite A5, Las Vegas, NV 89104 - (707) 735-3033. They are open for lunch on weekdays only, from 11:30 to 2:00. Dinner is available daily from 5:30 to 9:30 (until 10:00 on Friday and Saturday). Dinner reservations are recommended. Dress is casual.

We paid full price for our meal and wine and were not compensated in any way by the restaurant for this article.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas. All rights reserved.

Review: Food & Wine Magazine App for iPad

Food & Wine Magazine has released an app for iPad. They previewed the app at the 2010 American Wine Awards ceremony last Tuesday night and released it on Thursday. The app is essentially a digital version of their magazine with an attractive interactive interface and some extra features made possible by its digital nature. The app and the inaugural issue — “the wine issue” — are free for now. There will be a fee for subsequent issues. Whether or not you buy future issues, I think there’s more than enough value in the current one to justify your time in downloading it.

food-and-wine-app

Speaking of downloading time, as with most iPad magazines, getting the app itself is very quick but the magazine files are large and takes a few minutes even on WiFi. You only have to go through that process once for each magazine though, so it’s not a big deal. The attractive design and stunningly good photos alone make it worthwhile. (The photos in the print version are very good, but on the iPad the food shots practically leap out of the screen — absolutely gorgeous.)

The iPad issue also gives you more than just a shiny copy of the printed publication. There is extra content. In the current issue, there are videos of chefs Michael Chiarello and Mario Batali demonstrating cooking techniques and recipes. (The videos are well done, but the app crashes every time I close the video window.) There are also 100 new wine pairings that were put together expressly for this iPad issue.

Here’s a list of the primary articles included in this issue of Food & Wine for iPad:

  • Batali’s Eataly - Covering Mario Batali’s new 50,000 square foot “artisanal-food-and-and-wine market and restaurant complex.” Recipes are included.
  • Trendspotting - The focus is on Italian-American food.
  • Chef Recipes Made Easy - Seattle chef Jason Franey’s recipes are tweaked for home chefs.
  • Well-Being - Seamus Mullen, a finalist on last year’s “The Next Iron Chef” series from Food Network, offers healthy tapas recipes.
  • The Gastronaut Files - Domenica Marchetti shows how to make ravioli.
  • Fast - Grace Parisi of Food & Wine offers 9 recipes for good food you can make quickly.
  • Travel - A guide to the “best wine & food” in Canada.
  • Sonoma Vineyard Lunch - An article, recipes and videos focused on the wines of Jamey Whetstone’s Whetstone Wine Cellars and wine country lunch prepared by Michael Chiarello.
  • Wine Lessons - Sommeliers give their advice on 12 different topics, from “essential gear” to good values in sparkling wine and their favorite web sites.
  • Wine and Food Pairing - Recipes for 8 tasty-looking dishes and pairing suggestions.
  • Trends - Wine country art and art related to wine.
  • 100 Bottles to Drink Right Now - A list of wines that executive wine editor Ray Isle thinks you need to try. [Can anyone drink 100 wines "right away?"]
  • 2010 American Wine Awards - Find out which wines really got F&W tasters excited.
  • Italy's Lazio - “Eat & drink like a Roman”
  • Where to Go Next - 5 new favorite hang-outs for sommeliers.
  • Buying and Pairing Guide - Wines from Food & Wine’s 100 Bottles list are arranged into lists by color and price point, then paired with a recipe.

As good as this iPad-azine is, there are things I’d like to see enhanced, or added, in future issues:

  • Shopping lists - Give me a button after each recipe that sends a shopping list to Mail or Notes.
  • Links - There are a couple of links that take readers to the Food & Wine webpage that itself has links to certain cookbooks on Amazon. That’s not enough. Shouldn’t every chef's name link to a bio? Personally, I think every wine name should also link to the winery, though I imagine that F&W feel they should get paid for that. Restaurants and shops have their addresses, phone numbers and urls listed, but the urls aren’t clickable. This is 2010 folks, if you’re going to include a url in a digital publication, make it functional!

    no-links
                                    Clickable icons and scrolling for recipes, but non-functional urls

  • Interface tweaks - The app is very interactive. There is a lot of scrolling and tapping. Changing the orientation of the iPad can change the layout and make more content visible. There’s also a fairly helpful introduction to the interface that pops up when you first open the issue (and is accessible thereafter via the table of contents). And the “recipe index” is marvelous. But I get the impression that the graphic designers won a few too many battles against the human factors/user-experience people. 
For some recipes, there is a fixed header (with the title and a photo) that takes up so much room in landscape mode that the scrolling window for the recipe below is too small to be practical.
 Photo links are easy to spot — marked with a camera icon — but text based links blend in too much with the body text. 
The video buttons (““tap for video” WATCH MARIO cook!”) are cool, but please tell me WHAT he’s going to cook. Don’t make me watch the video to figure it out
  • Finally, I think digizines like this should interact with my digital life more. It would give me a richer experience and be better for the publishers and their advertisers. Why aren’t there opportunities to Tweet things like “check out the the great list of wines in the Food & Wine iPad app?” Why can’t I “like” the app or a recipe on Facebook? Why can’t I tap the address of a listed restaurant to add it to my Contacts? Why can’t I tap the date in the ad for the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to add the event to my calendar? Publishers need to accentuate the “digi” and move beyond the “zine.”

These mild-mannered suggestions aside, the Food & Wine app for iPad looks great and, if you drink every listed bottle and make every recipe, will keep you busy and gaining weight for at least four months. Check it out!

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All art in this article is from screenshots of the Food & Wine Magazine app for iPad and belongs to them. All rights reserved.

A Taste of the Food & Wine Magazine American Wine Awards Ceremony

Last night, Food & Wine Magazine presented their American Wine Awards at FARM restaurant at The Carneros Inn. I was there along with the award winners, other notable winemakers, winery owners, celebrity chefs and media people. The event is structured as a large, wine country cocktail party rather than as a traditional awards ceremony. The actual hand-off of awards is rushed through in less than 10 minutes so as to allow people to focus on conversation and tasting the award winning wines.

Here’s a complete list of the winners:
Best New Winery:
Gramercy Cellars, Washington State
Importers of the Year: Domaine Select Wine Estates
Winemaker of the Year: Thomas Rivers Brown (Schrader, Rivers-Marie, Hestan, Black Sears, Outpost, Maybach, etc.)

Best Wines $20 and Under
Sauvignon Blanc: 2008 Honig
Chardonnay: 2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Wolff Vineyard
Pinot Gris: 2008 Elk Cove
Pinot Noir: 2008 Wallace Brook
Merlot: 2007 Columbia Crest H3
Zinfandel: 2007 Four Vines Old Vine Cuvee
Syrah: 2008 Red Car Boxcar
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2007 Louis M. Martini

Best Wines Over $20
Sparkling: 2006 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
Sauvignon Blanc: 2009 Merry Edwards
Chardonnay: 2007 Hanzell
Pinot Noir: 2008 Brewer-Clifton Mount Carmel
Merlot: 2007 Pepper Bridge
Zinfandel: 2007 A. Rafanelli
Syrah: 2006 Qupé Bien Nacido Hillside Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon: 2007 Buccella
Bordeaux-Style Blend: 2007 Continuum

While I didn’t get a chance to taste every one of the wines, I did try most of them and enjoyed them all. Standouts for me were the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, both Chardonnays, the Four Vines Zinfandel, Qupé Syrah, Buccella Cabernet and the Continuum. After I was done with my judicious sipping, I went back for a glass of the Qupé. If not for all the red wines I’d just tasted, the Hanzell would have been very tempting as well.

Speaking of tempting, Ryan Jetté, chef de cuisine at FARM, and his team turned out a delicious array of passed hors d’oeuvres. They were interesting, delicious and visually attractive. My favorite was probably the braised pork belly, but it had a head start in my view since it was made from... pork belly. While Ryan was busy in the kitchen, other star chefs were enjoying his food and wine while mingling. Among them were Christopher Kostow, chef at the two Michelin-star restaurant at Meadowood. Kostow recently defeated Cat Cora on an episode of Iron Chef as well (Battle Oats). Also in the crowd was Duskie Estes of Zazu Restaurant and Farm in Santa Rosa. She's currently competing in the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef competition.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

A Delicious Assortment of Bacon Paired with Wine at PRESS in St. Helena

Americans love bacon. It is loaded with so many of our favorite flavors: pork, pork fat, salt, smoke and sometimes sweetness. It has a great chew or crunch, depending on your preference. The flavors are deep and addictive, the pleasures are guilty. And you can eat it with your hands. It’s a shame that for so long bacon has been treated as just another breakfast side dish or burger add-on.

In recent years though, bacon has become an “it” food. Artisanal producers have started offering higher quality bacon and making it in a widening range of styles. Top chefs are using the rich flavors and al dente texture in amuses bouche, main dishes and desserts to mouth-watering effect. At Pirate Cat Radio Café in San Francisco you can even get a Maple Bacon Latte.

Now bacon is often the star of dishes, though it remains just one element in an ensemble of ingredients. To get the full impact of bacon and truly appreciate the great complexity of its flavors, you have to taste it by itself — no eggs, no cheese, no chocolate, no heirloom tomato soup. The best bacon-tasting experience I’ve had was at PRESS restaurant in St. Helena. I highly recommend you give it a try.

PRESS gives bacon all of the respect it deserves, enabling you to compare and contrasts the aromas, flavors and textures of not just one type of bacon, and not just three or four, but seven. You can order bacons individually ($3 to $5 for two slices) or do what I did and get a sampler platter. For just $14, you get one slice of each of their seven offerings. These artisanal bacons are deliciously powerful, so you might want to share the sampler with a friend as I did. Or, if you have a serious craving for comfort food, go all out and order the Truffled Mac & Cheese small plate ($10) to make a complete, and completely decadent, meal.

My platter of bacon included five selections (I was there just two days before they increased their selection to seven): Double-Cut Nueske Bacon, Crispy Hobbs Bacon, D’Artagnan Wild Boar Bacon, D’Artagnan Duck Bacon and Candied Hobbs Bacon. To add to the experience, I asked sommelier Scott Brenner to help me select wines from PRESS’ by-the-glass menu to pair with the bacon. He said that, in pairing wine with bacon, it is important to choose wines that have rich fruit. Less flavorful wines can be overwhelmed. At the same time, bacon has its own delicate nuances and you don’t want wine so powerful that it masks those flavors.

The bacon was arranged, as listed above, in order of flavor intensity. We decided on three wines that offered a similar progression: 2008 Ma(i)sonry Marsanne, Stagecoach Vineyard ($14/glass, $56/bottle), 2007 Abiouness Pinot Noir “Ten Rows,” ($13, $51), and 2005 Hunnicutt Zinfandel ($14/$56). I tasted each of the wines before trying any of the bacon and then tasted the bacons sequentially with each wine. PRESS also provides a basket of tasty house-made gougeres and exceptionally good bread sticks which allowed me to keep my palate fresh.

The Wines

The 2008 Ma(i)sonry Marsanne has a lovely nose of white flowers, lychee and orange marmalade. It’s full-bodied and the alcohol is 14.5% but has enough minerality and freshness to be balanced. It has flavors of orange rind, lanolin, marzipan and slightly bitter minerality with a long finish of briny mineral. Highly Recommended.

The 2007 Abiouness Pinot Noir “Ten Rows” had more aromatic intensity and showed fresh Rainier cherry, Christmas spice and dried orange zest. Being Pinot Noir, the wine had a lighter body than the Marsanne, but was still rich with very smooth tannins and medium-plus acidity. Flavors of strawberry, cherry, raspberry and slightly bitter tobacco promised to be a good complement for the bacon. Highly Recommended.

We ordered the 2005 Hunnicutt Zinfandel to accompany the sweet and smoky Candied Hobbs Bacon. This wine comes from the Chiles Valley AVA and includes 5% Petite Sirah. All of the fruit is from old vines and the wine saw a 75:25 mix of American and French oak, 50% of that being new. The alcohol is 15.2% and the cherry and marionberry fruit is ripe but not jammy. The most prominent aroma and flavor for me though was whiskey barrel. Sweetly, but powerfully, spicy and oaky, it would go well with traditional slow-cooked BBQ with crusty bark and sweet, tangy sauce. Recommended.

On to the Bacon!

The Double-Cut Nueske Bacon is pure porky goodness. The thickness of the bacon gives it a meaty, chewy texture. To me, it tastes like “traditional,” albeit very high-quality, bacon — not too much of the applewood smoke and no perceptible added sweetness. Neither is it overpowering. If I wanted to eat several slices with breakfast, this would be my choice. The Marsanne was a very good pairing with the the Double-Cut Nueske. The flavors worked nicely together without merging and the Marsanne’s finish refreshed my palate. The Abiouness Pinot Noir was also a very good match and its flavors married with those of the pork. The bacon also made the wine more interesting, bringing out meaty and smoky elements. The Hunnicutt Zinfandel was good with the Nueske bacon, but not as good as the other two. The wine’s aromas and flavors were too dominant.

The Crispy Hobbs Bacon was indeed crispy. A much thinner and less meaty cut than the Nueske, you could snap it with your fingers. The fragile bacon breaks apart in your mouth and becomes creamy as you chew. It tasted like really good fried carnitas. Ma(i)sonry Marsanne was an excellent match for the Hobbs Bacon as the wine’s cleansing minerality cut through the richness of the bacon fat. The Pinot Noir did not work well though, because its flavors overwhelmed the bacon and, with less meat in the bacon, the wine’s tannins ran wild. The Zinfandel was okay, too strongly flavored but not tannic.

D’Artagnan Wild Boar Bacon is very lean with good smoked bacon flavor. It was saltier than the Nueske or Hobbs. Once again the Ma(i)sonry Marsanne was an excellent and refreshing pairing. The briny flavors in the wine fit well with the salted boar. The Pinot Noir was fine, but not exceptional, the fruit being a subtly jammy complement. The D’Artagnan Wild Boar was the first bacon strong enough in flavor to hold up to the Hunnicutt Zinfandel and it was a very good combination though neither element improved the other.

D’Artagnan Duck Bacon has a softly chewy texture that reminded me of fresh, moist, thick-cut jerky. It is dense and meaty with brine, smoke and a hint of sweetness complementing the duck’s natural flavor. That sweetness, though mild, was enough to mask all of the fruit in the Marsanne. As a result, this is the only bacon which that wine did not go well. On the other hand, the meaty duck bacon accentuated the cherry fruit in Abiouness' Pinot Noir and married with the tannins to give the wine a luxurious, creamy mouthfeel. The Zinfandel didn’t match up as well, it’s oaky flavors simply replacing, rather than complementing, those of the rich duck.

The Candied Hobbs Bacon is very good and reminded me of Chinese spare ribs, only better — more tender and artfully flavored. It is lightly smoky with complex spice notes and sweetness that is pronounced and, well, candy-like. It is a dessert bacon and best eaten after you have finished all of the others. Despite the Candied Hobbs Bacon’s sugary nature, the Marsanne was a very good pairing. It’s fruit was masked somewhat, but the wine refreshed after the luscious richness of the bacon. The Abiouness Pinot Noir was also very good. Its flavors melded with those of the Candied Hobbs Bacon, adding red fruit to create a scrumptious dessert in my mouth. Strong oak again limited the appeal of the Zinfandel with the bacon.

My favorites among the bacons were the Double-Cut Nueske and the D’Artagnan Wild Boar Bacon with their deep, traditional flavors that made me want more. Nor would I hesitate to order the Candied Hobbs Bacon to share with friends instead of a traditional dessert or cheese plate. Since my visit, PRESS has added two more varieties: Benton’s Country Bacon and Black Pig Bacon. I’m eager to go back and give those a try. When I do, I’ll be sure to order a glass of the 2008 Ma(i)sonry Marsanne.

Visit PRESS

PRESS is located at 587 St. Helena Highway, right next to Dean & DeLuca. They are open every day but Tuesday. Their bar hours are 5:00PM to 10:00PM and the dining room is open from 5:30 to 10:00. Bar menu items can be ordered as appetizers in the dining room and you can also order full meals in the bar. Make reservations by calling (707) 967-0550, by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by clicking here.

Reservations for the bar are not accepted on Wednesdays, because they have a $10 Blue Plate Special on those days which is extremely popular. You can see a list of upcoming Blue Plates here. Wednesday is also “Locals’ Night” at PRESS. All bottles on their extensive Napa Valley wine list are available at half-price. (Bottles from the reserve list are not eligible for this discount.)

If you enjoyed this article, please share it! Icons for popular sharing services are at the right above and also below.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. Photos courtesy of PRESS and Balzac Communications. All rights reserved.