Santi Moscato: More Than A Dessert Wine

December 16th, 2011

Moscato...great with cheeses & desserts...& so much more

By Steve Mirsky

I’m always impressed when a wine visually reflects its terroir. You actually begin getting to know it just by pouring. My most recent instance of this was when I tasted Santi Moscato Montedoro 2010. Santi Moscato grapes are grown in Italy’s Trentino region on foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. The word “Montedoro” is derived from the golden hue reflected on the pointed spires of these mountains at sunset.

Upon first taste, this wine has enough sugar to lull you into the assumption that it can only be a dessert wine, but it would be a disservice to limit it to that. Light white unspiced fish and chicken along with a fresh steamed vegetable side is sure to get the possibilities started. Soba noodle soup also immediately comes to mind. This golden-hued mead has ripe melon on the nose with a tight underlying effervescence upon swallowing giving it a lively kick to the palette. Otherwise tropical fruit sweet and smooth…consistent from sip to swallow. For me, it deftly exposed the earthy flavor dimensions of the black truffles in the Sottocenere cheese I paired it with.


Photo (pictured right) courtesy of Steve Mirsky.  Coverage made possible by Frederick Wildman

A Tasty Napa Christmas

December 14th, 2011

Story & photos by Linda Kissam

Looking for a truly unique pre or post-Christmas getaway in a magical setting? Is it innovative cuisine, a romantic hotel, Christmas activities, and amazing Napa Valley premium wines that are on your mind?  Well, I think I may just have found “that” place for you.  You might have missed this place in your last visits to Napa Valley, or if you’re new to the whole Napa scene, then I think I am about to become you’re new BFF.

I love small towns.  I love walkable towns.  I love the passion and courage of a town that believes in its own renewal.  You’ll get all that and more when you visit Downtown Napa.  No, I am not referring to Yountville, St. Helena, or Calistoga.  I am talking about Downtown Napa, located right off Highway 29. Once considered the slacker stepsister of the other big three, Downtown Napa has gone through a multimillion dollar renaissance that definitely now makes her the belle of the Napa Valley ball.

Interior of the Napa Valley Wine Train

Before you go! Make a reservation at the gorgeous Napa River Inn, the only historic hotel in Downtown Napa.  Enjoy your beautiful accommodations and river front view while you’re putting on your walking shoes.  Everything you need to do can be done on foot.  The daytime temps can range in the 50’s – 70’s.  The evenings can dip into the 30’s.  Dress in layers.  Make a reservation for the Napa Valley Wine Train for day 2.

DAY 1: Pick up a local map at the Napa Visitors Center, located just across the street from your hotel. Napa absolutely has its Christmas Groove on.  Enjoy 1,026 Christmas tree ornaments, 2,567 Christmas tree lights, 79 Christmas banners, 3,532 Sweetie Pie Christmas cookies, and 35,040 mini lights throughout Downtown.

Set out for a day of Christmas fun. The official 30 foot Christmas town tree is located just a block from your hotel. Take some pixs then head down to second and Coombs St for the glorious Napa on Ice adventure.  This outside rink has 360 pairs of skates – one of them is certain to have your name on it. For $12 you can be a kid again. Glide, twirl and “connect” with the ice at your leisure.

Anette's Chocolates

A brisk walk to First and Main takes you to the Napa Valley Roasting Co.  Warm up your toes and nose while enjoying the premium coffee drinks so you’re ready to head off to Anette’s Chocolate Factory on First St.   You’re going to find original, glorious premium chocolates and peanut brittles here.  Ask for samples.  Indulge in your every chocolate and brittle dream.  This is a great place to purchase some unique Christmas gifts… or goodies for your room.  Of special note is their Chili Lime Tequila Brittle.

Right across the street is Eiko’s.  This is fresh culinary wizardry at its best.  Casual dress is fine, but this is a classy place.  Eiko’s delivers imaginative twists on traditional Japanese cuisine. The menu combines modern and authentic traditional Japanese cuisine including seasonal, fresh sustainable fish and ingredients delivered daily from local markets and vendors.  Don’t miss the wildly imaginative and yummy Shishito Peppers $6 and Country Miso $ 7.  For a real treat ask for organic coconut water Ice cubes ($1.50) and tableside cocktail service.

Take a stroll up the street (known as the West Side) to the Gordon Huether Gallery. Embrace your inner artist as you explore Gordon’s vision of large-scale commissioned work inspired by the effects nature have on man-made materials.  You’ll find all kinds of items- small and large – to purchase.  Your only limit is your imagination and your wallet. Be sure to look for his oil well with cow toppers series.  Fun, funky, and demonstrative.

Day 2:  Use your free breakfast voucher from the Napa River Inn.  You’ll find a great selection of breakfast items, pastries and specialty coffees at Sweetie Pies, located right next door to the hotel. This day is all about wine and we’re going to start with a stellar activity, The Napa Valley Wine Train.    It’s about a 20 minute walk to the train.  If you don’t want to walk, ask the Inn if they will take you.

Napa on Ice

If you’re thinking the Napa Valley Wine Train might be a tourist trap, you would be VERY wrong.  It’s affordable, has a variety of price points for every interest and credit card. It is one of the top dining establishments housed in an antique train that runs on 25-miles of track in the heart of the Napa Valley. The train itself has two engines, three kitchens on board, and a collection of early 20th century rail cars. The Napa Valley Wine train offers guests great regional food and hard-to-find wines. You will love it.

Getting off the train, head back into the downtown area.  Downtown Napa has dozens of tasting rooms and thousands of wines for you to enjoy.  Purchase a Napa Downtown Wine Tasting card to taste at 12 of those. Only $25, the Taste Napa Downtown wine tasting card allows you to sample wine at 12 different tasting rooms and wine bars in Napa. Using the card, your initial tasting is only 10 cents! You can taste from among thousands of incredible boutique, hard-to-find wines as well as your favorite wines from Napa Valley and around the globe.  Taste Napa Downtown is available at any of the 12 participating tasting rooms.  Find out more at  Be sure to end your fab day at one of my favorites, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, for a unique dinner and thoughtfully selected wines.

Twinkling lights guide you home to your Inn as you are surrounded by the many facets of Christmas cheer in Downtown Napa.  Happy Holidays!

Dunning Vineyards Wine Review

December 2nd, 2011

Dunning Wine Lineup

By Linda Kissam, Journalist and CityRoom Contributor

It feels like Christmas at my house every few weeks or so with new wine shipments arriving for my review.  I was especially thrilled to see 4 wines from Dunning Vineyards arrive last month: three reds and a white.

Dunning Vineyards is located in California.  Their vines live in the gnarly limestone hills west of Paso Roble and each wine is crafted in a unique vision of the perfect wine experience by owners Bob and JoAnn Dunning.

Wine this special need to be shared; so I scheduled them for a Womens Wine Council tasting. The Council is made up of 4 writers and 2 consumers.  Each person is assigned a dish to bring for a specific wine.   I could have guessed by what was sent which wine would be selected as the group’s favorite…but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.  This tasting reminds me that great wines can show up at any time despite  serious competition and pre-conceived notions.

Here’s the line-up and a recipe to go with the tasting.

The Women's Wine Council at the Dunning Tasting

2009 Estate Chardonnay ($24) : 100% Estate Grown & Bottled. Classic style of Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.  Fifty percent new French Oak with very tight grain producing round full-bodied flavors of rich vanilla, pear, citrus, mineral and nutmeg. 600 cases produced. Should age for 3-6 years.  Paired well with apricot sage crackers, Judee Smith’s Artichoke and Parmesan Dip, Sue Richter’s turkey lasagna, Corie Maue’s fontina pizza and persimmon wrapped in prosciutto with a touch of  Temecula olive Oil balsamic vinegar drizzled on it. Generally I am an ABC (anything but Chardonnay) girl but give me wines with mineral characteristics showcasing luscious fruit and you have my vote.  And as it turned out, it seemed to have everyone’s vote, as it came in first.  As one of our Council members remarked, “Who would ever think a Chardonnay could win in a Paso Robles tasting? “

2008 Estate Vin De Casa ($24): 100% Estate Grown & Bottled. A classic style red table wine featuring a blend of 45% Cabernet Franc, 35% Zinfandel and 20% Syrah. It showcases great structure and balance between fruit and oak finishing with big Zinfandel fruit. The Cab Franc brings a wild berry and dark currant flavor to the wine.  The Zin adds raspberry, cocoa, and spice flavors.  The Syrah finishes the wine with structure & tannins.  Should age for 6-8 years. 425 cases.  Paired well with apricot sage crackers,  turkey lasagna, Carmen Micheli’s Midnight Espresso Cookies with salted caramel drizzle, and a wonderfully jazzy Orange Coast Winery Cranberry Tarragon Wine Dip brought by Debbie Wiens.  This wine came in third place.

Food and Wine at the Dunning Tasting

2009 Estate Zinfandel “Ridge Top” ($28) This rich and full-bodied wine is packed with classic Paso Zinfandel flavors of raspberry & spice. Produced from dry farmed vines from the top of the vineyard at 1400-foot elevations this wine aged in French and American oak is kind to the palate featuring soft tannins and rich concentrated flavors.  450 cases produced from a 2-acre block with a tiny production of 2 tons per acre. This wine made friends easily, pairing well with almost every dish on the table and came in second.

2009 Private Reserve Estate Zinfandel ($35): This Reserve Zinfandel is big and full-bodied with great structure and balance.  Classic Zinfandel flavors of raspberry along with a rich spice and pepper framed in French Oak.  Expect some tannins. Head pruned to keep production low resulting in excellent grape quality. Limited production of 375 cases. Would go well with smoked ham or salty foods. We enjoyed it with salty pepitas (Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seed) and the Midnight Espresso cookies. This wine came in fourth.  With a little aging, this could be a big winner.


And another big winner, an easy to make dish that is beloved by all: classic Bruschetta, courtesy of Dunning Vineyards.


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