Friday, June 26, 2015


Oz Clarke and Master Sommelier Catherine FallisBritain’s most popular wine writer, irreverent Irishman Oz Clarke, led a group of San Francisco area writers and buyers including Matt Kramer, Dan Berger, Leslie Sbrocco, Richard Jennings, Rebecca Chapa, Wilfred Wong and more through an entertaining tasting of New Zealand wines this past January.

Oz Clarke, one of my favorites for his down-to-earth quotes, like “Gewurztraminer smells like the Nivea hand cream in my mum’s boudoir,” and, “Some wines ask a question, some wines answer a question,” was electric, engaging and the best presenter I have seen in a long, long time. Perhaps his time as a West End actor comes into play, a gig he quit after nailing a wine blind on live TV on a dare. His deep vein of passion for the world of wine, impressive depth of firsthand knowledge of vineyards and producers, and his knack for entertaining play together perfectly.

“You are absolutely caught at the bottom of the world,” he said, describing the natural beauty and isolation of New Zealand. “There is nothing between New Zealand and the Artic, and you are surrounded by cool seas.” New Zealand is made up of two islands, North Island, home to commercial wine hub Auckland as well as Hawkes Bay and Martinborough, and South Island, famous the world round for it’s wine producing gem, Marlborough. Martinborough on North Island gets cold cyclonic winds from Australia, while blocking these winds from Marlborough just across the bay. The southwest coast of South Island is dismally wet and windy, “the Greymouth damps” they call it. The Southern Alps however provide a rain shadow, so southeastern South Island, home to Pinot Noir producing Central Otago, and northeastern Marlborough, known for it’s “cloudburst, thrilling, shocking, lime zest, capsicum, love me or leave me” style of Sauvignon Blanc, according to Mr. Clarke, while on the margins still produce great wines. Clarke adds, “All great wines come from the margins,” giving Pauillac & St. Estephe in Bordeaux and Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy as examples.

The Sauvignon Blancs tasted, including Seifried, Ata Rangi, Nautilus and Cloudy Bay Tekoko, showed their signature vein of grassiness under a tropical fruit bowl, a style “invented” by Cloudy Bay winemaker Kevin Judd, who blended peppery stinging early pick with riper middle and tropical late picks of fruit.

While “Australia is giving us a raft of savory Chardonnay,” according to Clarke, the Chardonnays we tasted from New Zealand showed opulence while retaining crispness and brightness. Aromatic, almost feral Pinot Gris, apple pie Riesling, spice cake Gewurztraminer and fruit cocktail Viognier wines were poured, followed by flights of unique, minty , peppery and floral Syrah and classic red-berry and red-rose petal Pinot Noir. Clarke informed us that “New Zealand has thrown the gauntlet down with Pinot Noir.” He added, “The molecular structure of Pinot Noir is similar to the male sex hormone Pheromone.”

Soon-to-be proud papa Clarke was presented with a SF Giants onesie to take home to London.

Check out our expert reviews of New Zealand wines here:

Friday, June 12, 2015




by Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, aka grape goddess®

Store Champagne in a cool, dark place away from heat, light, vibrations and severe temperature variations. Champagne is ready to drink upon release, and, for the most part, does not improve with age. Bottles do not need to be stored on their sides.

Before serving, chill the wine well but do not freeze it. Place the bottle in a bucket filled with ice and just enough water to make a “thick soup” for 30 minutes. Better yet, always keep a chilled bottle in the fridge just in case.

The pressure in a bottle of Champagne is equivalent to that of a bus tire, or about 90 pounds per square inch. Slant the bottle at a 45 degree angle away from guests. Put a thumb on the cork, untwist and loosen the wire muzzle. Grasp the cork firmly, twist the bottle slowly and let the pressure help ease out the cork while maintaining greater pressure on it. A maiden’s sigh is the sound to aim for, not a loud pop.

In times of triumph French officers under Louis XIV, and later, Napoleon’s gallant soldiers – the Hussars – opened Champagne with a strong blow from their swords. Napoleon is known to have said, “Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat one needs it.”​ The tradition continues, though French cavalrymen often practice on beer bottles first. Once they have mastered the technique, they show their skill by riding at full gallop past ladies holding up bottles of Champagne for them to saber.
This is a spectacular start to weddings, feasts, formal dinners, and other special occasions.​ The author is a professional sabreuse – check it out here:

Serve in tall flute or tulip glasses at a temperature of 42-47 degrees or to your liking. Pour a small amount into the glass, allow the bubbles to liquefy, then top up to about 2/3 full. An interesting custom involves drinking Champagne from a lady’s slipper or high-heeled pump.
If you enjoy coupes, by all means use them. Gas will dissipate much more quickly, but in this case the taste of the base wine comes to the fore.

What to do with Leftovers
Champagne stoppers are the only way to fully protect the gas. Interestingly, some Champagnes taste fuller and more mellow the next day.

For our latest Champagne and sparkling wine reviews, please visit

Visit or email


Monday, June 8, 2015

Victory for the Godfather of Paso Robles - Gary Eberle

gary cropped
Former Penn State Linebacker Gary Eberle, fondly and accurately referred to as the Godfather of Paso Robles for his contributions to the wine industry there as well as his fundraising efforts on behalf of many local causes, youths in particular, is having a very, very good week.

Sixteen months ago, he and his wife Marcy found themselves in the line of scrimmage. Shortly after his brother Jim W. Giacobine, Jr. passed, his sister-in-law Jeanne Giacobine took over his namesake winery. The Giacobine’s held a 39% while the Eberle’s held only 35%. This was a collective blow to the local as well as global industry, as Gary Eberle is a well-recognized leader and innovator in the world of wine. How could this happen?

Fortunately Gary and Marcy were able to regain control of the winery, buying out Giacobine and other partners, retaining an 84% stake today. “We’re so happy. I can’t even tell you,” said Marcy. “We know now that no one can hurt us again. It was a very tough 16 months. This is my husband’s heart and his life and his soul, and the thought that it could be lost killed us for 16 months. Now that it’s back, we’re in a bit of shock. We’re elated, and we’re grateful with the partners who stayed with us.”

Look for our upcoming reviews of Eberle Winery releases here: