Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wine and Coffee - You like what you like

Every time I visit wine country in Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, Napa or Sonoma, I am reminded of the similarities between wine and coffee.

Both are “emotional products.” People get attached to that favorite Cabernet or that favorite Chardonnay. It really comes down to one thing that counts: You like what you like, but either way, you have to enjoy the tasting note descriptions – the creative writing of wine makers and coffee roasters.

The Classic Shot at Silver Oak Napa
 The Silver Oak Cabernet has a “velvety, soft texture.” The Cakebread Chardonnay boasts vivid, beautifully delineated sweet apple, melon and citrus aromas – with hints of ginger and white peach – layered with toasty, creamy tones from barrel fermentation.”

Coffee is much the same. Our number one selling micro roast, Seattle Blend, is described as “A Blend of Colombian, Costa Rican and Guatemalan beans - rich, dark roasted, with a smooth finish.” Peet’s French Roast is described as, “Our darkest roast. An intense, bold coffee, with pronounced smoky overtones.”

Soil is a key factor that leads to the distinct, defining qualities of both wine and coffee. At the beautiful Napa vineyard of Nickel & Nickel, your guide will show you several glass containers, each displaying a noticeably different type of soil – each resulting in a distinctly different grape and style of Cabernet.

At Napa’s Hess Vineyards, emphasis is put on dry farming and making the vines struggle. Instead of producing lots of leaves, the stressed plant focuses on survival and reproduction, which in this case, means plump and juicy grapes.  A visit to Hess is a future topic in itself.

Fine Arabica Coffee Beans experience the same stress, grown on rough, mountain soil at over 5000 feet. As coffee growers will tell you, as with grapes, some stress in the growing process results in richer, higher quality beans.

Like wine drinkers, there is a tendency among coffee drinkers to gravitate to the big names. For wine, Silver Oak and Cakebread are two fine examples. Excellent wines, but not in a class by themselves. On a recent trip to Sonoma, we discovered 2008 Bob’s Burn Pile Cabernet Sauvignon, a mouthwatering Cabernet produced by the Robert Young Estate Winery. Only 8 barrels produced. In our taste test, this 100% Cabernet was preferred over the popular Silver Oak. At the same time, enjoy the 2008 Steven Bannus Oakville Chardonnay, very drinkable, quite crisp, with a hint of apple…about a third of the price of the well known Cakebread name.

While Peet’s, Starbucks, Coffee Bean and very hip coffees like CafĂ© Intelligentsia, Dunkin Donuts and Blue Bottle tend to dominate the landscape, I would challenge them with our Gourmet’s Best coffees: House Blend, Italian Roast, Donut Shop, Breakfast Blend and French Roast. Each coffee is handcrafted with great care, roasted in small batches; a delight for the palate, featuring complex and rich flavors.

Bottom Line: You like what you like.

Wine and food pairing of the week: 2007 Buena Vista Pinot Noir with a spicy tuna roll. Pinot Noir compliments sushi beautifully and the Buena Vista winery is a fantastic place to visit. We’ll talk about that down the line.

Big and Bold Red
Value Wine of the Week: Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Riserva 2007 - Sangiovese from Italy.  Seriously - for under $20 - this is wonderful, big and bold - think Pasta and Italian Sausage or a thick steak! You can find this powerhouse red avaialble from our friends at

Here are the Winemaker's Notes:  It appears a deep, purple-edged ruby red, of impressive brilliance. Solid fruit notes of wild blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and dark cherry emerge initially on the nose, gradually yielding to more pungent impressions of sage, rosemary, vanilla, and cinnamon. That spiciness segues onto the palate, and then into a finish that ends with a flourish of balsam, black pepper, and cocoa powder. The mid-palate shows alcoholic warmth and roundedness, while the tannins and acidity are noticeable, adding to the wine's overall harmony. 

What I’m listening to on the crowded LA Freeways: Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy. I’ll admit it…because of this thriller; I’ve missed a few exits! Awesome.

If you drive a lot, or if reading just wears you out, you have to try Audible. I am thoroughly addicted to the Audible downloads program. Check out the amazing introductory offer from our friends at I’m personally cranking through a book each week.

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