Zagat Survey Announces New 2005 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Guide

Zagat Survey Announces New 2005 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurant Guide

Zagat released its 2005 San Francisco Bay Area restaurant guide today giving Gary Danko the #1 Most Popular title replacing Boulevard.

The trend is also showing an increase in “per bottle” dining and a decrease in dollars per meal (from 34.07 to 33.75) while 55% of the Zagat diners reported increasing their spending on restaurants.

While these improvements are good, its basically inline with the improvement in the economy over the last two years. The 9/11 tragedy severly impacted the travel and leisure industry so it is nice to see the restaurants benefitting from the improvements in the economy as well as people’s return to enjoying the wine life.

As far as Gary Danko’s, for locals in the SF area its pretty well known the its a very fine restaurant but there are definitely some lesser known, equally as high quality places in the city. If you really enjoyed Gary Danko’s then take a spin to Michael Mina’s in Union Square, or the Fifth Floor off of Market St. Both are easily as high quality and offer interesting variations to the dining experience. All also have very impressive wine lists. There are few restaurants in the world that have a wine list as extensive as Gary Danko’s but there is more than enough at Michael Mina’s and the Fifth Floor to satisfy (some may even consider Gary Danko’s a bit of overkill).

At any rate, there is no shortage of fine dining in the SF/SJ Bay Area so get out and Enjoy the Wine Life!

A Glass of Red Wine a Day May Keep Prostate Cancer Away

Just another reason to drink a glass of red wine. While alchohol is considered “destructive” or “poison” because it inhibits your body from performing the proper metabolic processes, red wine is created with the very nutrient rich and micronutrient rich grape. By incorporating not only the pulp but also the skin in the creation process its obvious that many of the beneficial characteristics of the micronutrients in the grape make it into the wine.

All just more reasons to Enjoy the Wine Life!

A Glass of Red Wine a Day May Keep Prostate Cancer Away

SEATTLE, Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ — Drinking a glass of red wine a day may cut a man’s risk of prostate cancer in half, and the protective effect appears to be strongest against the most aggressive forms of the disease, according to a new study led by investigators at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

The findings, by Janet L. Stanford, Ph.D., and colleagues in Fred Hutchinson’s Public Health Sciences Division, appear online in The International Journal of Cancer.

“We found that men who consumed four or more glasses of red wine per week reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 50 percent,” Stanford said. “Among men who consumed four or more 4-ounce glasses of red wine per week, we saw about a 60 percent lower incidence of the more aggressive types of prostate cancer,” said Stanford, senior author of the study. “The more clinically aggressive prostate cancer is where the strongest reduction in risk was observed.”

Continue reading “A Glass of Red Wine a Day May Keep Prostate Cancer Away”

Syrah Night in Walnut Creek

Tuesday, September 14th was 2nd Annual Syrah Summit at Prima’s in Walnut Creek. Quite a night really. The night included a three course dinner of solid selections that were not particularly memorable. Good, but not food I would run out to tell my friends about. The highlight of the evening was a selection of 7 Syrah’s of an interesting mix. This was easily the best part of the night as tasting Syrahs side-by-side really gives you an opportunity it understand how the differences in regions, growing conditions, wine makers, etc. can make a wine from the same grape taste very different. If you’re looking for basic knowledge of wines this is easily the best way to get into it – take the same wine from many different places and make note of the variations in flavor, body, and nose. Anyway, on to the best part!

First, a little about Syrah. If you live in Australia you drink Shiraz and if you live in other parts of the world you drink Syrah. Same grape, different name. FYI, Petite Sirah is a completely different grape. In California, the grape grows well in most of the popular growing regions, and in the full spectrum of climatic influence. Of all red wines, Syrah has a comparably broad array of aromas, flavors and textures. The tasting night at Prima’s was a prime demonstration of that…

There were seven Syrah’s that were served but my two favorites I thought would be worth sharing because they are most certainly a part of Enjoying the Wine Life!

2001 Hamel Syrah, Sonoma County
Hamel Wines is a small, Syrah-only winery that has been producing wine for the past 9 years. The 2001 vintage is their 8th and a blend of grapes from Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley.

This Syrah has a fruity, blackberry aroma. When you first taste it, the black berry flavors hit you followed by a little more pepper and herb taste. No taste in it really overwhelms which makes it a good choice to go with food – something with a bit of fat to tame the tannins (pairing note: Fat contained in food reduces the acid and tannin affects of wine. Hence the reason many people pair wine and cheese) but not necessarily too bold of a Overall a good wine with a balance of fruit and spice that pairs pretty well with red pasta sauces or lighter beef dishes.

2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah, Mitchell Vineyard, Napa Valley
Livingston-Moffet is a relatively small, family owned and operated winery out of Napa that produces premium wine. The 2001 Livingston-Moffet Syrah comes from the Mitchell Wineyard, a four-acre site located mid-valley on alluvial soil(soil that is deposited by river run-off). This Syrah has a very interesting twist – the wine maker blended 5% Viognier into the wine which is apparently a practice taken from Northern Rhone Syrah wineries in France. This gives it a a very interesting fruit quality – almost like a hint of Lychee. Thats a wierd description and until I lived in CA I didn’t even know what a Lychee was. But I still think this is the best description for it.

This Syrah was definitely one of my favorites of the night, though it didn’t pair particularly well with the what was served, I probably would suggest pair with a flavorful chicken dish because it wouldn’t quite stand up well to the stronger tastes that are associated with red meat.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

2001 Livingston Moffett Mitchell Vineyard Napa Valley Syrah

2001 Hamel Syrah

Le Colonial – San Francisco, CA

This weekend we attended a friend’s birthday party at a French colonial Vietnamese restaurant called “Le Colonial” in San Francisco. I didn’t really expect too much, I had heard good and bad things about it. The reality is that this is an excellent dining experience even with a party of 12.

Its not a place for a very casual dinner, the price is on the order of $30 for entrees and $12 for appetizers, but the service is first rate and the food is different yet familiar enough to please even the most particular guests. I suppose thats where the term “California Fusion” comes from.

There was a huge variety of food at the party but I had the Lemongrass-seared halibut with sauteed asparagus. The halibut was cooked perfectly and the taste of lemongrass was really well done. Not too much and not too strong. It came on a bed of thinly sliced asparagus and it was covered with a mild white-wine sauce. Really an amazing dish.

A really remarkable feat was the fact that with 12 people and a wide variety of food, everyone was talking about which plate was the best and there wasn’t any mention of anyone dislinking anything.

Probably the most dissappointing part was the poor customer service from the wine director. It was our friend’s 40th birthday and we brought along three bottles that were special for one reason or another – 1996 Opus One and two bottles of 1999 Silver Oak. The house rules were that there was a limit of 2 corkage bottles and no drinking anything they had on the wine list. Did they have three bottles of wine that were sentimental to my buddy on the wine list? Special to him on his 40th birthday? Of course not. They decided that we were “lucky” (thats a quote) to be able to drink stuff they had on the wine list but he would not relax the three bottle rule. Ever hear of customer service? We are a table of 12 people buy tons of food and this is a crowd of wine drinkers so even three bottles was not going to cover us on this night of celebration. Bad call. So that took some of the polish off the place. If there were two of us on a regular occasion, sure we’d abide by the rules. But to relax the one rule and then limit a table of 12 to two bottles pretty much lost them quite a bit of wine business that night and lost them some return customers (some people were irritated enough to suggest never coming back).

Personally, I thought that was part of the “aura” that wine needs to get away from and that customer satisfaction should be a little higher priority than making an extra $100 on wine.

Anyway, the food was excellent and the wine list was repectable but not earth shattering. I would give this restuarant a 7 out of 10 with points deducted to price and poor customer service from the wine director. But the food was excellent, the wait staff was responsive, and the ambience is really interesting and different.

Enjoy the wine life!

U.S. Wine Consumption Hits All-Time High

According the the Adams Beverage Group, a wine industry analyst group often viewed as the authority on wine statistics, US wine consumption climbed to all-time high in 2003 to an average of 2.98 gallons per adult (and there are many adults who aren’t drinking wine so…).

Below is the release. The interesting thing is that the last time it was even close to these levels wine coolers, yes WINE COOLERS, were peaking. I certainly never realized that the quintessential 80’s fad-drink contributed that much to the wine consumption in this country. Thankfully this doesn’t mean that wine coolers are back but that wine has evolved to the point in quality and quantity that the different varietals have created a real wine culture in the US that is beyond just the wine connoisseurs.

By this report it looks like I don’t have to tell you this but I will anyway…

Continue to Enjoy the Wine Life!

NORWALK, Conn., Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ — U.S. wine consumption climbed 5.2% in 2003 to 258.3 million 9-liter cases, the latest increase in a decade of steady growth and a new all-time high on a case basis, according to the 2004 edition of Adams Wine Handbook published by Adams Beverage Group.

“Wine today is a part of the very fabric of American life, as more and more people enjoy it when relaxing, at social occasions and routinely with meals,” said Tiziana Mohorovic, spokesperson for Adams Beverage Group.

Per capita consumption of wine reached 2.98 gallons per adult in 2003 — its highest level since 1989 when wine coolers reached the zenith of their popularity. “The difference now is that table wines — specifically varietals of all kinds and from countries around the world — are fueling the increase in total wine consumption,” said Mohorovic.

Consumers are eating out more and enjoying wine as an accompaniment to their food. Wines by the glass and half bottles, along with a plethora of label choices from around the world, have made wine more accessible and affordable. Home entertaining also has been increasing and consumers are experimenting with a range of wine styles and price points. Wine continues to benefit from the airing of the French Paradox on 60 Minutes in 1991 and subsequent media attention that has focused on the apparent health benefits of moderate red wine consumption.

All wine categories except wine coolers gained ground last year. Consistent with recent trends, imported wine offerings — regardless of category — grew at faster rates than domestics. Imported wines overall climbed 11.3% in 2003, whereas domestics rose 3.4%. Double-digit gains among imported table wines drove overall growth in imports.

The Adams Wine Handbook 2004 contains wine consumption by category, state and metro market. Brand data, retail sales, consumer demographics, and industry statistics are included. The cost of the publication is $595. The Adams Beverage Group serves all aspects of the beverage alcohol industry through Cheers, Beverage Dynamics and StateWays magazines, Adams Beverage Handbooks and Adams Business Research.

Contacts: Handbook Sales Public Relations
Cynthia Porter Tiziana Mohorovic
630-762-8709 914-734-1170

New World Wines Will Win

Well, I tried to create a smart illiteration with the title but I think I stretched it. But the spirit is defintely on the mark. Amid all the talk of the disasterous market conditions for French wine making (Vivi’s has our own thoughts for that) all the talk from New World wines is nothing but great harvests, healthy markets, and improving quality. This is good for everyone because the upside is more high quality competition and inevitably lower prices.

While French wine exports fell 10% between January and May, continuing a trend which saw a double-digit decline in 2003, New World wines are thriving. South American Business Information reports that Chilean wine exports increased nearly 20% in the first seven months of 2004. Australian wines are up 10% so far this year and it is predicted by Australian experts to surpass Australia’s traditional exports of wheat, wool, and beef as the country’s top farm export by 2007. In the UK, a list of top 10 wines, compiled by Marketing magazine, did not include a single French wine!

When it comes to top tier quality wines, France still produces some of the best because of the age, tradition of quality, and shear amount of time the producers have had to perfect it. But if there is one thing that experience in the business world will teach anyone, the best methods doesn’t mean the winner. The winner in the wine industry will be those who can produce quality efficiently and, more importantly, listen to what their customers want and provide it for them. That sounds simple enough but its 2004 and the French still haven’t realized that naming wine by the region helps no one and that isn’t changing for another 2 years at the earliest.

New World wines are on the verge of burying the Old World wines in general and don’t kid yourself, they will give the top tier a strong run for their money (many already do). At the end of the day, all this competition and focus on what we all drink and tailoring to us is the true upside because the result will inevitably be better wine at lower prices.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

Monterey Wine Country’s Great Wine Escape Weekend

Looking for a little Labor Day wine experience in the SF Bay area? You can check out the Monterey Wine Country’s Great Wine Escape Weekend. Its a good chance to visit and get a taste of one of CA’s less known great wine regions (less known translates to “more reasonably priced”…just FYI). This weekend the weather should be beautiful in Monterey so it should be worth the trip.

Have a look!

Wine and Food Enthusiasts Invited to Escape to Monterey County From November 11 – 14, 2004

MONTEREY, Calif., Sept 2 /PRNewswire/ — The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association (MCVGA) is pleased to announce the upcoming eighth annual Great Wine Escape Weekend, November 11 – 14, 2004. As a celebration of harvest, the Great Wine Escape Weekend brings together winemakers, grape growers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and wine enthusiasts in this four day extravaganza. This cross-industry event promotes the diversity of the region and encourages guests to experience all that Monterey County has to offer.

Thursday evening, November 11th, begins the festivities with the Opening Reception Gala at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. To celebrate the “fruit of the vine” in true California style, this gala is a must. Guests can tempt their taste buds as fabulous signature entrees by several local chefs are paired with local wineries.

Friday afternoon, November 12th, continues the celebration with Pairings at the Plaza. Attendees can participate in three educational seminars on “perfect pairings” that will run throughout the day. Guests will also enjoy a fabulous lunch and hands-on dessert demonstration — all, of course, paired with the perfect wines and port to complement the meal.

Friday evening features the ultimate in food and wine pairing as Monterey County vintners and chefs plan their menus together for Winemaker Dinners throughout Monterey County. A winery representative will be present at each dinner to share and discuss their vintages with each course served.

Saturday, November 13th, is the day to capture the essence of Monterey’s Wine Country. Guests can enjoy a self-guided tour or a narrated bus tour of the many wineries that make up Monterey County’s unique wine region. The wineries will be treating their visitors to something special; from barrel samples and tasty appetizers to music, entertainment and games. After a fun-filled day of touring, the Monterey Marriott will be the host for an additional wine tasting, a silent auction, and classical music. The fun continues on Saturday evening with winemaker dinners occurring throughout Monterey County.

Sunday, November 14th, is another wine-filled day at the Inn at Spanish Bay! Pebble Beach is the perfect setting for this event as Monterey County winemakers and grape growers get together to discuss their world-class wines at this showcase event, The Great Wine Escape Finale. This grand tasting will feature barrel samples, new releases, and reserve wines from over 35 Monterey County wineries. Local restaurants will provide their latest delicacies to complement this wine and food extravaganza.

Special Great Wine Escape Packages are available. Many events sell out and guests should order tickets early. For information and tickets, contact MCVGA at 831/375-9400 or order online at


The Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association (MCVGA) brings together the talents and resources of members, partners and our community in order to promote and support our leadership in the art, the science and the business of wine. Founded in 1974, MCVGA is a non-profit organization representing over 70 vintners and growers in Monterey County. MCVGA can be reached by calling 831-375-9400 or visiting online at

Source: Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association

CONTACT: Rhonda Motil of MCVGA, +1-831-375-9400

Costco Run! More Than Just Jug Wine…

Costco is synonymous with bulk retailer. Huge vats of ketchup, giant packs of toilet paper, and even huge containers of hand cream. But what people often overlook is the increasing array of quality wine and food you can get at Costco.

Recently we threw a dinner and wine party that we were, to our surprise, able to do with only a single “Costco run” (our term for going to Costco for supplies). Back in the refrigerated meat section we were able to drum up healthy portions of turkey breast cutlets marinated in white wine sauce. Over in the beef section we grabbed a red pepper seasoned Tri-tip steak. Both of these required only 20 to 30 minutes of cooking on the Weber and then serve.

A trip to the wine section reveals not only bulk wines (because this is, after all, a bulk retailer) but an array of premium white and red wines. To go with the Tri-tip – Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Syrah 2000 for $26.99 a bottle and Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel 2000 for $22.99 a bottle. Not bad bottles of wine and both of which we had tried with steaks before so we pretty much figured they’d go over well. And to go with the Turkey breast – a perennial Vivi’s favorite – La Crema Chardonnay. Since the preparation of the turkey breast wasn’t the traditional “Thanksgiving” version with alot of sweet flavors we decided a solid Chardonnay from a consistent winery would suffice. And wouldn’t you know it, Costco had it there for a reasonable $13.

Most people never think to go to Costco to stock up for a dinner and wine party, maybe a BBQ or pool party, but not dinner and wine. Well our advice is to snap out of it. Costco has some good values on premium wines. They go so far as to carry wines that Wine Spectator classifies as “classics” (95 or above) – Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild, not some of Vivi’s picks at $140 and $130 a bottle but rated 96 and 94 respectively in Wine Spectator!

The wine category has been successful enough for Costco to launch a Shiraz under its own label for under $10 a bottle. We haven’t tried it yet so we’ll hold back on a recommendation, but it just shows the momentum wine has at Costco.

All-in-all you really need to consider making a Costco run for your next dinner party. The Tri-tip and Turkey with wine went over really well at the party. Compliments all around from everyone there.

Who would have thought that even Costco is making it easy to Enjoy the Wine Life!

Real Wines for Reality TV

Wine Expert Picks Perfect Pairings for Fall 2004 Reality TV Lineup

From competing castaways to cutthroat corporate moguls, today’s range of reality TV offers something for everyone. Whether you pride yourself on religiously following a whole list of shows or just tune in once a week for an hour of escapist enjoyment, you’re among millions of Americans who can’t get enough of reality TV. The enticing combination of voyeurism and entertainment just keeps us coming back for more.

This fall, viewers have a new reason to tune into reality TV — to increase their wine knowledge! Just in time for the start of the new fall season, Wine Market Council has enlisted noted wine expert Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible and host of the PBS series “Wine, Food, and Friends,” to pair favorite wines with top reality TV shows. MacNeil says that comparing wines to the “personalities” of reality TV shows is a fun way to learn about different types of wines. “To me, ‘The Apprentice’ calls for a gutsy Petite Sirah to stand up to The Donald, while the fun ‘Queer Eye For the Straight Guy’ is unexpectedly hip like a Sherry,” explains MacNeil.

“This little pop-culture exercise is not only meant to be fun, but it also reminds us that wine has always had a place in sharing a relaxed evening with friends,” says Wine Market Council President, John Gillespie.

Whether you’re taking cues from Jessica Simpson’s ‘Jessica Moments,’ the latest tribal alliances on “Survivor” or the “moberly” advice of Victoria Gotti, MacNeil’s fun pairings offer the perfect opportunity for novice and experienced wine enthusiasts to taste and to learn about new wines. So go ahead, open your favorite bottle, pop up a bowl of popcorn and invite a few friends over for an evening of reality TV — there’s a great fall “wine-up” to choose from.

The Fall Reality TV “Wine-Up”

The very idea of “The Bachelor” has Pinot Noir written all over it. First, there’s the endless-search-for-perfection part (Pinot Noir lovers are relentless in their pursuit). Then there’s the sexy subtext of the search (Pinot’s texture is as sensual as….never mind). And to top it all off, Pinot Noir has an aroma that’s somewhere between manly, earthy and — dried roses!

Petite Sirah — it could trump Trump at his own game. Tough as nails, thick skinned, and with a structure (read ego) that’s monolithic, Petite Sirah — despite its name — isn’t petite at all. The name’s a cunning ploy…extra points for boardroom subterfuge. Petite Sirah’s flavors? Fiercely dark and devious.

Cote-Rotie — the vinous equivalent of the primal scream. Made from syrah grapes in France’s northern Rhone Valley, Cote-Rotie seems like a nice red wine — at first sip. But with a little time, all its primitive wild flavors come unleashed. A polite cafe society wine, it is not.

Just a little ditzy (er, I mean: fizzy) and naughty (in a fresh, lively sort of way). Of course, they’re exuberant and charming, though a little naive — the bubbles, that is.

GROWING UP GOTTI – Sauvignon Blanc

Flaunting its appeal as the “bad girl” of white grapes, Sauvignon is sassy, wild, dangerous (in a feminine sort of way) and above all, could walk onto the set of “The Sopranos” and give those Chiantis a run for their money — without skipping a beat.

It may not be flashy or drive fast cars, but there isn’t a more loveable red wine around. Australian Shiraz is dependable, amenable, happy-go-lucky and born to please. It’s also got a soft core of nice fruit. C’mon girls: it’s everything you always wanted and you know it.

The world’s most misunderstood and underappreciated wine is actually the hippest, most stylish wine of all: Sherry. We know; you thought Sherry was for little old ladies with blue hair. Yeah, but what do you know? (Anyone who would use bar soap as shampoo can hardly consider themselves an arbiter of good taste.) Sherry — from the south of Spain (known for bull fights and cigars) — is actually just about the most macho drink around. Insider’s tip from the Fab 5: drink the style of Sherry called Fino: it’s hauntingly dry and powerful.

A box of Chardonnay, mate! Not only is it packaged in a seaworthy, unbreakable container but Chardonnay is a perfectly fresh, light wine that’s tasty and not too complex to figure out. Save the intellectual complexities for figuring out how to get off the island.

THE AMAZING RACE – Cabernet Sauvignon
First, because cabernet sauvignon is resilient enough to endure just about anything. Second, because cabernet is good at having a partner (usually Merlot) to struggle through life with. But most of all because you can travel the world in a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon (it grows in just about every corner of the globe you can think of; from Texas to the Golan Heights).

Source: Wine Market Council

Wine Market Council is an independent, non-profit trade association of grape growers, wine producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and other organizations affiliated with the wine industry.