A True Day

Some times it is the simplest things that make the largest difference. A walk in the waning light with the one you love, your dogs at your feet, and a good glass of wine in the hand that’s not holding onto your beloved’s. There is nothing simpler and truer.

June and I have been able to settle into this rhythm as we also settle (somewhat) into the house at Steven Kent’s estate vineyard in the Livermore Valley. The natural beauty of this place is mind-altering and life-changing, and it is a constant reminder of my belief that beauty exists everyday…even if it is sometimes buried beneath heartache.

The WineLife Got Really Real

The 2014 harvest was always going to be a special one. It was the year of changing our relationship with the winemaking facility in which we worked, Craig Ploof’s first vintage as a full-time assistant winemaker for Steven Kent, the year we actually bought a forklift of our own.

The season itself was also a special one…3 weeks early to start and a compacted rush of fruit within a week to end it very early as well.

Those “new” and “special” things were nothing though, when we found out on September 23rd that my wife, June, had been diagnosed with a grade 4 Glioblastoma…a particularly nasty kind of brain tumor.

A lot of what seemed sure has come tumbling down, and it is taking time to wrap my mind around our new life. Most of what I thought I knew, I don’t anymore. Except the most important things: we are surrounded by many people who love us and who can never be adequately repaid for all the kindness they have shown us in the last month, and June Mirassou, the woman I first met 32 years ago in our Freshman dorm, is the Best person I have ever known.

There will be much more to come in these pages about June’s courage, and her feistiness, and my love and admiration for her, but suffice it to say that getting back on the blogging horse is a many-stepped process.

If you want to read really excellent writing, check out June’s blog here.

Everything Tastes Better at the Beach

I was able to sneak away from the winery yesterday and head down with June to Capitola, one of our favorite places.

Home to Pizza My Heart’s original location along the beach and this day, playing host to what seemed like a million kids at Life Guard Camp, Capitola shone (even in the intermittent sun).

The town itself is tiny and when you look at from the end of the pier it resembles – in its multi-colored buildings rising up away from the water – like a kid’s exuberant and capitola imagetemporary block sculpture. There are nice shops and decent beach food and the weather always seems ideal, sun or not. Capitola is the same as a lot of beach towns in California in all these regards, but there is just something about how it has all come together that makes every experience a little more heightened. A little more perfect.

This is the way the wine experience at a winery ought to be. You are as close to the source as you can be. As close to the grapes hanging pendulously in the vineyard, as close to the crush pad where that fruit is started on its way to vinous glory, as close to the hospitality and the stories that make that one winery different than any other. That’s the way it should be.

And just as a slice on the beach will never taste better, that glass of wine (in that setting with the winery’s folks’ careful attention to helping create your extraordinary experience), will be this close to perfection.

Can Fibonacci Sequence Un-Muddy Wine’s Cloudy Ratings Picture?

Because it’s hard not to compare things, especially (for me) barrels of wine that will ultimately fit into one of a few different categories, I developed a full-proof, easily understood rating system composed of Negative ( – ), Neutral ( O ), and Positive ( + ).

Now, of course, there have to be gradations of each of these three primary categories, right? We’re comparing a lot of wines to each other…there have to be finer shadings so as to capture the whole panoply of my tasting experience. Voila! There’s ++, +-, ++-, O++, +-+, etc. Totally transparent, yes?

Well, over the 4th of July weekend I was mercilessly skewered for my innocent little system. My wife, June, going so far as to call it ridiculous and stupid. Consequently, I’ve re-thought this whole ratings thing and decided on a much simpler system…

fib imageFrom now on each wine will be given a rating based on the Italian mathematician, Fibonacci’s sequence. Found all over nature, the Golden Ratio (based on Fibonacci’s sequence in decimal form) was used by illustrious artists like Da Vinci to define perfection. So my new system has that going for it…the third-party endorsement of one of the greatest artists of all time. It also has size.

The longer the string of numbers…what I call the F-Seq, (ef-seck), the better the wine. So, I had a Zin yesterday…1,1,2. The Chardonnay – 1,1,2,3,5. And, the Cabernet? Brilliant – an F-Seq of 1,1,2,3,5,8,13!

We’re a comparing species; there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Grab some wine, give each one an F-Seq. Grab some apples, forks, carburetors…give them F-Seqs too!!

That’s the beauty of the Steven Mirassou F-Seq System™. The System fits everything, and everything fits the System!

The next time you want to differentiate two of anything, use The F-Seq. My gift to you, free of charge.


Winning the Jackpot Without Betting a Dime

I’ve never seen the odds in cards or craps or slots. Too little control, too much to lose.

Too little control when it comes to sucking the marrow out of the Las Vegas experience

Short Rib Ravioli - Marche Bacchus

Short Rib Ravioli – Marche Bacchus

too…but everything to gain.

June and I LOVE Las Vegas. We go to eat and to relax and to bring Lineage and The Premier Cabernet out to like-minded sommeliers at the great restaurants in town. And as transient as the restaurant business is, we have now begun to create some really great relationships with folks that we’ve dined with a number of times.

Las Vegas is the kind of place you want to have your wines. There are more Master Sommeliers here than in New York; the quality of the restaurants attract people who are passionate about food and wine; and the traffic is truly international, so there is that chance that someone at CarneVino or Bouchon or Delmonico’s will taste our wines here and bring back a great memory to their home an ocean away.

On this most recent outing we ate at Jaleo in Cosmopolitan and had amazing Tapas. The Chorizo with olive oil mashed potatoes and Endive with Orange and goat cheese were amazing dishes. We didn’t know until recently that one of our good friends is the sister-in-law of Jaleo’s owner and master Chef Jose Andres. Small world. That’s another great thing about Las Vegas too.

Another first time spot for us was Restaurant Guy Savoy in Caesar’s Palace. Classic French cuisine; classic (and utterly spectacular) service. Chef Mathieu Chartron prepared one of the great foie gras dishes I’ve ever had and the soups were rich and light and perfect.

Year of the Horse: Bellagio Conservatory

Year of the Horse: Bellagio Conservatory

And as great as the food was, the people (true professionals!) who took care of us were every bit its equal: at once, gracious, on point, and warm. It was as if your friends decided to put on the perfect ballet in your family room. Just an amazing experience. Thank you General Manager, Alain Alpe, and your team!

Marche Bacchus off the strip was a great lunch choice. About 20 minutes away from the Bellagio, this restaurant is also a wine shop (and one with an amazing selection of some of the best wines in the world). June and I had a table in the enclosed patio that looks right out onto a lake where black swan, ducks, and turtles meander a few feet from you.

photoWe finished off the weekend, as we always do, with brunch at Bouchon. One of Thomas Keller’s bistros, Bouchon has the best roast chicken to be found, amazing pastries, and a stellar wine program. One of our friends, Paul Peterson, is the sommelier here, and he treated us to a great tasting of Loire Valley and California Cabernet Francs. He was incredibly generous with his time, as well. This is THE perfect spot to finish up a trip to VinCity.

I’m a very lucky man to be able to combine the things I love to do most with the woman I love best; I’m sure there are Las Vegas trips ahead…here’s to hoping they’ll all be as great as the one that just ended.

In Praise of: Basketball, Bourbon, and BBQ

pigolbittiesThe Wine Life is the best life.

But the Three Bs need to have their stuff rendered unto as well.

I used to watch a ton of sports, was a rabid Oakland Raider and A’s fan, the world coming to a stop every time McGwire or Canseco came to bat. Either the world got too busy or the Raiders just too damn bad, but I stopped watching those teams for the most part.

I’ve never stopped watching the Golden State Warriors, though. Through the decades of suck there were occasional glimpses of beauty…the drafting of Chris Webber (which quickly turned into disaster), the We Believe team’s playoff run. Then came Steph Curry.

St. Steph as he’s called. Purest shooter ever, all around good guy, potential Superstar. He makes you feel good about rooting for professional athletes again. Fifth year in the league, first all-star game (first Warrior voted in as a starter since Latrell Sprewell), and the only reason to watch the game show that is the NBA All-Star contest. More than reason enough, though.


I’ll be watching it with June while drinking Bourbon and eating BBQ in downtown Livermore.

warriorswallpaperBourbon is Whiskey but made only in Bourbon County Kentucky…so like appellated wine in that regard. And Bourbon is like wine in that it tastes great and makes you glad to be alive. And the fact that it’s made by passionate people who love what they do, makes it like my wine.

And though I don’t eat it often, sometimes the cure for what ails you is The Pig. The Pig over a fire, slowly. The Pig in little pieces with jalapenos and cheese and chips. The Pig in bigger pieces with sweet sauce and just a touch of heat. The Pig, The Pig.

So that’s what’s in store in the Wine Life today. Here’s to deliciousness and beauty into your Life too!

In Praise of: St Emilion

I had the opportunity to go with June to a tasting of 35 chateaux located in St. Emilion on the Right Bank yesterday. Put on by Balzac Communication, our marketing company and the representative of this group of wineries, the tasting was held in San Francisco and featured the 2009 and 2010 vintages, nearly 70 wines total.stemilionmap

St. Emilion grows the classic Bordeaux varieties, Merlot making up the bulk of each wine, followed by Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Most of the wines we tasted yesterday had at least 65% Merlot while many contained no Cabernet Sauvignon at all.

Coming from the perspective of a California winemaker this tasting was amazing for its ability to show how different familiar grapes can be when grown and vinified in different climates. It took a while to noodle through the intricacies of flavor and structure that belong to St. Emilion, and with just a fledgling understanding still of the region, there were a number of observations I’m comfortable making:

  • The 2009 vintage was uniformly darker in its fruit presentation (think dark to black berry flavors) and seemed to be richer through the mid-palate in terms of viscosity and tannin
  • 2010, while showing redder fruit than 2009, had extraordinarily focused tannin and acidity, and a length that far-outstripped 2009.
  • Many of the 75% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc blends, especially in 2010, showed significant red fruit and acidiity. The addition of Cabernet Sauvignon markedly changed the structure of the wine, addiing midpalate richness and a change in the “color” of the fruit.
  • Compared to California, these wines appeal most to those who prize structure over fruit, who want a wine that is leaner and harder through the mouth and that may show its best with significant age.
  • There is very little difference between alcohol levels in this part of Bordeaux compared to California. In fact, many of the wines crept into the high 14% and low 15% range. This was one of the most surprising personal discoveries. I think the California wines show less alcohol than the St. Emillion wines because of a sense of more fruit-forward, fleshier structure.

If one is attempting to make blends from traditional Bordeaux varieties like I am with LINEAGE | Livermore Valley that can compete against the world’s best, it is absolutely essential to have at least a passing familiarity with how those grapes are being handled in other parts of the world. This tasting was a great opportunity to accomplish that.