I hadn’t been to Bubble Lounge in awhile, recalling former pleasant weeknights sipping bubbly while live jazz played, but not as into sceney crowds there for DJ sets on weekends. I returned to meet with Wine Director, Sabawun Kakar, who’s passion for bubbly shows in his thoughtful selections and sabrage skills.
Food is surprisingly tasty, and welcome to settle that bubbly buzz. A “Korhogo 126″ Mini-Cheeseburger is cooked with brie, Swiss, American cheeses ($11). Favorite sandwich: Brie/Smoked Duck Breast/Fig Jam ($14). Finishing with strawberries and a mini-dark chocolate fondue (with cinnamon notes) was an obviously ideal pairing.
I was delighted to discover that in June, they will launch a new dessert menu from none other than Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake (call beforehand – currently, it looks like mid-June as a launch of the menu). I’m returning for desserts like Lemon Verrine: lemon curd, yogurt, blueberry sauce, maple crunch, champagne granita. Or Upside-Down Cherry Cheesecake with Amarena cherries and buttery graham crust.
Here were Kakar’s lovely selections. The prices reflect Bubble Lounge’s by-the-glass costs:
Dampierre Cuvee des Ambassadeurs ($16 a glass) – light, earthy, a pleasant aperitif
- Henri Billiot Brut Reserve ($17) – 80% Pinot/20% Chard, structured, refined, complex – possibly my favorite out of all seven champagnes, but difficult to choose
- Jean Vesselle Millesime 1999 ($22) – 70% Pinot/30% Chard, smooth but robust, buttery, toasty, golden-hued
- Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs (by the bottle only) – small producer, clean, with notes of herbal tea, tangy apple
- Pierre Gimonnet Fils 2004 Premier Cru (by the bottle only) – another small producer, vibrant, floral, mineral
- Laurent Perrier Brut Rose ($23) – 100% Pinot Noir, full-bodied, bright, berries
- Champagne Aubry Brut Jouy-les-Reims Premier Cru – toasty, dry, apples
Heaven’s Dog – I always leave happy here with exquisite drinks from Charles H. Baker’s Gentleman’s Companion of 1930′s cocktail beauties. For perfected balance with rum, try Will P. Taylor’s Hotel Nacional Special ($10), a Havana classic with Barbancourt 8 year Rhum, Small Hands Foods pineapple gum syrup, apricot brandy, lime and Angostura bitters. Bright and sweet enough, yet never too much. Giving bartender free reign with a “Freedom from Choice” and bourbon as the chosen spirit, I was served a gorgeous Whiskey Smash with lemon, mint, simple syrup and hand cut ice that barely melted throughout the time I lingered with friends.
5/3 AUSTRIA UNCORKED at Fort Mason’s Officers Club – Another of those radiant, only-in-SF days enveloped by pristine blue Bay and sky, I sipped Austrian wines in the intimate Officers Club at Fort Mason during a leisurely trade afternoon. Fairly unschooled on Austrian wines, this event was a pleasure, with more high quality tastes than not. Due to weather calamities, recent years yielded small quantity but high quality in Austrian grapes. The range is well beyond the Rieslings or Gruner Veltliners one might expect. I found myself particularly taken with Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch red varieties, loving an array of refreshing whites and the food-friendly nature of most.
- Loved the story behind Martin Arndorfer, a 27-year old winemaker who only makes around 10,000 bottles a year of all his exquisite wines – each a pleasure, from a spicy, acidic 2006 Gruner Veltliner Strasser Weinburg to a floral, mineral ’05 Riesling Die Leidenschaft (meaning “the passion”), with hints of spice and fruit
- JURIS – family-owned and operated winery for generations, I met the winemaker for these hand-harvested grapes; highlight was a complex ’07 Zweigelt
- Another delightful line is Jurtschitsch-Sonnhof, particularly a crisp, spicy ’07 Schenkenbichl Gruner Veltliner and a smoky, berry ’06 Reserve Reid Tanzer Zweigelt
- Rosenhof – appreciated a refreshing, just bottled 2009 ORION Eiswein (ice wine)
- Heidi Schrock – using traditional methods to make her dessert wines that no one else in the country does, these are unique; I took to an ‘ 07 Ruster Ausbruch – On the Wings of the Dawn, which manages to be both sweet and acidic, or a 2006 Shrock & Kracher Greiner Welschriesling (a white grape not related to the Riesling grape) that is fermented dry, is complex and to me tastes surprisingly of tea
- Erich Sattler – another pleasing Zweigelt, the ’07 Reserve is dense, herbal, plum-like
Iona – Iona’s 2009 Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc ($18) are both stunners for the price from a mountain plateau east of Cape Town. The Sauvignon Blanc showcases Old and New World with ripe, crisp fruit, and a mineral dry finish. The Chardonnay is creamy, nutty and balanced with a clean finish. Both these stood out – my favorite whites of the event. Iona is served at Gary Danko and should be on its way to K&L soon. $18
- Stellekaya 2005 Shiraz – I love the story behind this winery run by Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first black female winemaker (see a recent CNN video). The best part is her Shiraz is a true stand-out: full-bodied, lush, with pepper and ripe berry notes. $30
- Diemersfontein Pinotage – I sipped an ’06 & ’08 side by side, while gracious winery owner, David Sonnenberg, explained the popularity of their flagship ’06 wine, the more refined ‘sister’ of the two, while the ’08 is the rocker sis with playful edge and cult following. Despite the negative reputation of pinotage grapes, both were unusual, lovely and reasonably priced ($25 for ’06, $20 for ’08), but I took to the cult version with spicy berry and coffee notes.
- Villieria Estate – From the Stellenbosch region, I savored Villeria’s fruity, slightly woody 2008 Chenin Blanc ($14) and a vibrant 2006 Sauvignon Blanc ($21).
- Hamilton Russell 2008 Chardonnay – acidic but full, nutty, touch of fruit, gorgeous, marrying Old and New World in Burgundian style. $22
5/3 BARREL TASTING of CABERNET at Bently Reserve – One Cab blended into another at the trade/media afternoon in the Bently Reserve. I preferred to try bottled versions vs. the barrel samples, but really just came away with two stand-outs (besides Viader, who I’m already a fan of):
- Vineyard 7 & 8′s 2007 “7″ is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, hand-picked, aged in new French oak showcasing the terroir of Napa’s Spring Mountain with mineral berries and rich tannins. I especially liked their 9, also 100% Cab, hand-picked, with hints creme de cassis, berry and smooth tannins.
- Carter Cellars stood apart with balanced cabs and Old World sensibilities, especially the 2007 Coliseum Block: floral, berry and tannin-rich.