Dec
15
2014

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Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

Cocktails at Archetype in St. Helena (Napa Valley)

My Top Drink Articles: December 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Special Features & Year-in-Review

Bay Area Holiday Dining Survival Guide

2014 Bay Area Food & Drink Trends

Cocktails

RN74 from a vegetarian perspective – an array of creative new vegetarian dishes

Beer

Visiting the new Brewcade (beer with vintage arcade games) and Tap 415 in the Westfield Centre

Wine & Sherry Lists

4 things to know about the new chef and menu at Gitane

Wine Country

Napa Valley newcomer: what to love at Archetype in St. Helena

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Dec
15
2014

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5 Wine Picks for December

Article by Virginia Miller

Many wines cross my desk or are tasted at numerous restaurants and bars I visit almost night… For December, here are 5 wines that stood out in the last 4 weeks, whether by the bottle or tasted at a local restaurant/bar.

1. 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc ($16)
Recently at Gitane, I fell for the mineral, citrus notes of a layered 2012 Margalleau Vouvray Sec Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, France ($11 glass, $32 carafe, $44 bottle). It averages around $16 retail.

2. 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis ($20)
During a recent return to French wine mecca RN74, I savored more excellent white and red Burgundy by the glass, one of my favorite wine regions in the world. My favorite of a number of half pours was the balanced acidity and yellow orchard fruit of a 2012 Jean-Marc Brocard Chardonnay from Chablis, France (I do so love Chablis). For purchase at K&L Wines.

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

Photo Source: riccicurbastro.it

3. 2009 RicciCurbastro Franciacorta Saten Brut ($35)
This Italian sparkling wine from Italy’s Lombardy region is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, delivering a bright burst of acidity with unexpected notes of vanilla lavender, baked apple and toasted almond. This wine is a refreshingly affordable alternative to Champagne. For purchase at Binny’s.

4. 2012 m2 Wines Tormenta Tempranillo ($22)
From a 24-year-old vineyard on the east side of Lodi, comes this unexpectedly balanced, pleasing Tempranillo. The medium-bodied red is dark and lush, balanced by acidity. Purchase via m2’s website.

5. 2012 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo ($23)
Another balanced offering from Lodi and Bokisch Vineyards (try their Albarino at Picnic on Third) is this medium-bodied Tempranillo, delicately smoky with blueberry, subtle tannins and leather notes and acidity.

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Dec
01
2014

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Crystal Jade cocktails

Crystal Jade cocktails

My Top Drink Articles: November 16-30

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

3 new SF wine bars you should know

Cocktails

Hapa Ramen opens its first brick-and-mortar – with cocktails – in the Mission

Crystal Jade opens its first location outside Asia – cocktails with Embarcadero views from a spacious patio

Just what Napa needed: La Taberna, an all day destination for Spanish food and sherry, wine, Madeira

Creative cocktails in Napa Valley: The Farmer & the Fox in St. Helena

Hapa Ramen cocktails

Hapa Ramen cocktails

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Dec
01
2014

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3 Spirits Picks for November

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk — or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries — in any given month. For November, here are international spirits — mezcal, a cacao spirit, an agave spirit and a single malt whiskey — that stood out or offer something different.

Amaras Mezcal ($49.99)

Photo Credit: Mezcal Amaras website

Photo Credit: Mezcal Amaras website

Amaras, also known as Mezcal Amores in Mexico, is a mezcal made from espadin agave, just released in the US in November through Anchor Distilling, starting with a handful of cities, including SF, LA and NY.

Founded in 2010 by Jorge Rodriguez-Cano and Santiago Suarez Cordova, they sought the best distillers for espadin mezcal (and have also started growing tobala agave plants for future release), tahona processed, which means the slow-roasted agave is crushed by a volcanic rock wheel (a tahona), an old world practice I’ve seen in my travels to distilleries around the state of Oaxaca (more here) and on a rare occasion, in tequila production in Jalisco.

Amaras is a soft — but by no means subtle — mezcal, one that sits in the happy middle both mezcal novices and aficionados can appreciate.

Solbeso Cacao Spirit ($35)

Photo Credit: Solbeso Twitter page

Photo Credit: Solbeso Twitter page

Distilled from cacao, and yet it functions like a tequila or an unaged rum? Yes, that is the surprise of Solbeso, a cacao fruit-based spirit based on an ancient practice of distilling cacao fruit into a clear, unaged spirit. It’s distilled from the pulp, not the beans, so don’t expect chocolate-y notes so much as a floral, clean citrus aroma from the 12 varieties of cacao from farms in Peru and Ecuador used in the distillate. It makes an unexpectedly bright, lively margarita and even works well in gin cocktail classics heavy on the lemon, like a Bee’s Knees or a Daisy.

Venus Spirits’ El Ladron Blanco & Wayward Single Malt

Venus Spirits is a distillery newcomer to Santa Cruz this year, opened by founder/distiller Sean Venus. He’s distilling gin, vodka, aquavit, whiskey and agave spirits. I sampled Venus’ unaged and aged gins (the latter will be released in Spring 2015), the agave spirit, El Ladron Blanco, and Wayward Single Malt Whiskey.

Photo Credit: indiegogo.com/projects/venus-spirits-the-tasting-room

Photo Credit: indiegogo.com/projects/venus-spirits-the-tasting-room

The first standout: El Ladron Blanco made from 100% organic blue weber agave from Mexico — akin to tequila and distilled twice in their alembic pot still — it is fruity, bright, salty and plays well in classic tequila cocktails (namely a margarita).

The second standout: Wayward Single Malt Whiskey made from organic malted barley, twice-distilled and aged 5 months in new American oak (Venus is also aging bourbon and rye). With a background in craft beer, whiskey wasn’t a big leap and, in fact, was his inspiration behind starting a distillery. Inspired by a pale ale beer recipe, this whiskey plays light, partly due to its young age but also its pale ale nature (there will be a two-year aged version released in a couple years) — but it isn’t without caramel, woody character.

Watch the Venus Spirits website for pricing and links to where you can purchase – currently, the site merely links to social media.

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Nov
15
2014

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New drinks at the Alembic

New drinks at the Alembic

My Top Drink Articles: November 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

Bluxome Winery & Les Clos team up for a month of (delicious) sailing on the bay

Cocktails

New cocktails on ALEMBIC’s menu alongside dishes from its brand new kitchen

Second Annual Give Back the Bird: drink Wild Turkey whiskey cocktails for charity this Thanksgiving at 5 favorite SF bars/restaurants

Beer

3 new BEER BARS you should know in SF and Oakland

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Nov
01
2014

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Blackbird's refreshing carbonated cocktails

Blackbird’s refreshing carbonated cocktails

My Top Drink Articles: October 16-31

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine & Spirits

6 things to know about 1313 MAIN in DOWNTOWN NAPA

FLAVOR! NAPA VALLEY readies for its 4th year mid-November

Cocktails

BLACKBIRD’S carbonated draft cocktail line-up

Coffee

TINY WARRIOR: A new Mission coffee outpost with creative iced coffees & a pour over coffee menu from various producers

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Nov
01
2014

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Lost Spirits Cuban Rum

3 Spirits Picks for October

Article by Virginia Miller

Many spirits cross my desk or are tasted at numerous bars or distilleries I visit in any given month… being in Asia half of October, there were dozens of spectacular (and rare) spirits I tasted, mostly in Japan. Those will be explored more in upcoming articles in Whisky Magazine UK, on my Liquor.com page, here at The Perfect Spot and in other publications I’m writing for.

For October, here are 3 international spirits — gin, rum and Scotch— that stood out most this month.

LOST SPIRITS’ CUBAN RUM ($40)

You’ve heard me talk about Monterey’s visionary and excitingly experimental Lost Spirits and its distiller Bryan Davis before. Davis has done it again. Just I am in love with their Navy-style rum, their just-released, 151 proof Cuban-style rum is my new addiction. With those beautiful funky notes, it’s a sweeter but still bracing, potent rum that evokes island breezes and vacation, but with earthy depth and complexity. This is some of the best taste-to-value rum you will find anywhere — and I am a fan of their classic-style artwork (pictured above). I can’t wait for more from Davis, Joanne Haruta (co-owner) and Lost Spirits.

Where to Buy: At K&L

GLENROTHES 1992 Vintage, 2nd Edition ($249.99) and 2001 Single Malt Scotch ($70)

Glenrothes has long been a favorite Speyside Scotch producer of mine for its balance and general elegance.

Glenrothes 2001It was back in 2011 that I last had dinner with Ronnie Cox, Glenrothes’ longtime brand ambassador (his official title is Brands Heritage Director for Berry, Bros. & Rudd — BBR). I had the privilege of doing so again this September at Dirty Habit. We tasted through Glenrothes’ 1998, 2001 and 1995 Scotches and were the first in the world (outside of BBR staff) to taste the 1992 Vintage before it was poured during VIP hour at this year’s Whiskyfest SF.

The 2001 and 1992 were my favorites for different reasons. Glenrothes 1992 Vintage, 2nd Edition (44.3% ABV), is aged 10 years longer than the 1st edition (released in 2004) and is a mixture of ex-sherry and bourbon casks. It is actually the first Glenrothes vintage made of Scotch aged entirely in refill casks, meaning the wood doesn’t dominate and the base spirit shines. I caught plenty of apple and vanilla on the nose and warm apple notes, bright pear and butterscotch to taste, balanced by a long, dry finish. The 2001 Glenrothes has more spice (the sherry cask showing off) and a rounded depth that whispers of citrus, sandalwood and even chocolate. I could linger with that one all night.

Where to Buy: Master of Malt

ANCHOR DISTILLING’s OLD TOM GIN ($29.95)

Anchor Old Tom GinIt has been awhile (the last release was Hophead Vodka) since there was a new Anchor Distilling spirits release. Anchor’s Old Tom Gin is a worthwhile new addition to a gin line-up that includes their fascinating Genvieve, a Belgian/Dutch-style genever, and their longtime, standard-setting London dry style gin, Junipero. This Old Tom is more approachable (and easily drinkable) than other versions on the market (I wrote more about the category here) — and it tastes wonderful with a quality tonic.

Old Tom is a classic style hearkening back to 18th century England, juniper-dominant in keeping with gin as we know it, somewhere between malty genever and London dry gin. Distilled in a pot still, it’s sweeter than a London dry, thanks to star anise and licorice root botanicals as well as stevia sourced from Paraguay, adding a silkier texture and mouth feel than in a London dry.

Where to Buy: Alchemy Bottle Shop in Oakland

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Oct
15
2014

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Burritt Room + Tavern's Chameleon on the new fall menu

Burritt Room + Tavern’s Chameleon on the new fall menu

My Top Drink Articles: October 1-15

Photos and articles by Virginia Miller

From my numerous articles a week as Zagat Editor, I summarize and link to some of this coverage here – you can follow along on Twitter @ZagatSF, where I post daily, or on my own @ThePerfectSpot via Twitter or Facebook.

Wine

All-day dream cafe, LES CLOS, opens from Saison sommelier Mark Bright, serving impeccable French food & wines

Cocktails

CHARLIE PALMER’s BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN: New Chef’s Table with cocktail pairings

MARLOWE reopens in the former Coco500 space, now with cocktails

ALTA’s new cocktail & food pairing menu, new fall cocktails, house root beer and house made spirits

PATHOS, Berkeley’s Greek dining, wine and cocktail destination

Best Thing We Drank: New Fall Cocktails at BURRITT ROOM + TAVERN

Beer

MONK’s KETTLE REOPENS with sidewalk seating and new draft system

SF CRAFT BEER Festival

Alta's Conquistador on the fall menu

Alta’s Conquistador on the fall menu

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