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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life is Good Indeed! - Monterey, California

Beautiful ocean hole at MPCC
 As we marched down the fairway of Monterey Peninsula Country Club, ocean in view, sun peeking through the clouds, my friend Andrew couldn’t contain his joy. “Bob – life is good. Isn’t life good?”

On the way up north, golf at Rancho San Marcos (near Santa Barbara) was good. Poppy Hills was better and this track in Monterey was best of all. Andrew was right of course.

It only got better that night. We could have easily dined at one of the hip venues around Pebble Beach. Instead, from the deck of our generous host’s home on 17 Mile Drive, our foursome fired up the Weber and grilled filet mignon, served along with baked potatoes, corn on the cob and salad, featuring my own avocado balsamic Italian dressing. The moans were audible at the dining room table, amplified with each sip of the 2003 Kelham Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.

Kelham ages their wine in the bottle longer than most before release. The result: Intense flavor. We’ll talk about our visit to Kelham down the line. It is a high quality vineyard sitting on rich soil and a visit there is a treat for the senses. 
By now, you should have an idea of the direction this blog will go. If you are like me, you enjoy living well; splurge when you can, but without throwing money away. Residing in Los Angeles, with an inherent need to write, I'm a lover of and frequent visitor to Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco, Paso Robles, Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara and Mammoth...all great places to enjoy wine, food and gourmet java. LA is also a fine town for such luxuries, but there's something special about a road trip and the adventures that are part of the ride.  

 The java part of this URL relates to the fact that I intend to share my love of coffee. As a founding partner of Gourmet Coffee Service, the leading coffee service in Southern California. We serve over 2000 corporate clients. I’ll have some exciting products to share with you. In the meantime, visit Gourmet’s site, like us on our Facebook page (there are lots of freebies) check out my coffee blog and if your office is in Southern California, connect with us. Our slogan, “We’re Going to Spoil You,” says it all.

You’ll enjoy this blog:

· If you find pleasure dining out with a special bottle of wine in tow (at restaurants where the menu makes it hard for you to choose),

· If you enjoy eating at home, with your grilling skills enhanced by a nice glass of Duckhorn Merlot - one of my many wineclub affiliations.

· If you love to tee it up with great friends and look forward to the laughs at the “19th hole.”

· If you consider a trip to wine country (with eye on tasting) to be something special.

· If you could easily spend a day wandering the tasting rooms around the Healdsburg town square – another future topic.

· If an early morning bike ride through the vineyards gets your blood flowing.

· If you could follow a day on the slopes at Mammoth with a Crown Royal Reserve.

· If you are interested in cool new products related to wine, food and java.
2007 Peju Merlot

Wine, food, java, good friends and an active lifestyle. Life is good, indeed!

Today's Wine Pairing:  Try the 2007 Peju Merlot with a nice aged chedder... Here are the tasting notes on the wine.  We've actually tried it with grilled salmon - as the winery suggests - it's a wine that pairs nicely with fish.

Value Wine of the Week: Louis Martini 2009 Sonoma County Caberet Sauvignon. I'm a huge LM fan - wonderful winery to visit - and this Cab is quite nice.

Here is what the winemaker says:  The 2009 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon was crafted from several of Sonoma County's most prestigious appellations and blended seamlessly to bring together the unique characteristics of each vineyard, creating a superbly balanced Cabernet Sauvignon. Made to accentuate the high-toned, delightful fruits of Sonoma County's vineyards, this wine offers many layers, featuring aromas and flavors of red cherry, plum and blackberry fruit with an underlying dry creek dustiness.

I like it and you can get it from our friends at

What I’m listening to when I'm driving from LA to wine country:  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. What a great escape from traffic and business news radio!

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.  It's the best thing I've discovered since wine!