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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Duende, The Dark Horse Inn and Morimoto Napa

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Check, Please! Bay Area Season 11 episode 4 airs Thursday, May 5 at 7:30pm on KQED 9. See other television airtimes. And never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

Kinetic energy, cutting-edge cocktails, wine, sherry, paella and more make Duende the Spanish influenced, contemporary hotspot in downtown Oakland. Next, a family-friendly gastro-pub specializing in unique beers, hearty grub and a welcoming neighborhood vibe at The Dark Horse Inn in San Francisco. And lastly, for a modern upscale decor, spot-on service and a rock star chef who creates contemporary California-inspired Japanese cuisine, we visit Morimoto Napa.

Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests on the set of the episode 4 of season 11.
Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests on the set of the episode 4 of season 11. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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Host Leslie Sbrocco tasting wine.
Host Leslie Sbrocco tasting wine. (Wendy Goodfriend)

My name is Leslie Sbrocco and I'm the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I will be sharing my tasting notes about the wine, beer, and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show. I will also share some wine tips with each episode. This week I discuss: the wines of Calistoga.

Distillery No. 209 Gin $35
Being a gin devotee, one of my favorite picks is Distillery No. 209. When the brand’s owner, Leslie Rudd, bought the historic Edge Hill wine estate in Napa Valley, he uncovered an old building with the words “Registered distillery no. 209” painted above the door. He traced the background of the verbiage to the property’s original owner, William Sheffler, who was an award-winning distiller in the late 1880s. Using this as inspiration, a new distillery was built in San Francisco on Pier 50. The gin now being crafted there is a marriage of botanicals such as juniper – the key ingredient in gin – as well as up to 11 other botanicals from bergamot orange and lemon peel to coriander seeds. It’s a crisp yet aromatic gin that I love with a simple splash of tonic and fresh lime or as the base for a classic martini. Bottoms up.


Gonzales Byass “Tio Pepe” Fino Sherry, Jerez, Spain $19
Sherry may be an underappreciated wine style, but through education and exposure many new wine drinkers are gaining an understanding of and desire for the historic beverage. Hailing from the south of Spain, it is a fortified wine made in a variety of styles from dry to dessert worthy. This famous version is Muy Seco or very dry and since people often think Sherry is only sweet, it’s a discovery for most. Zesty and light with a refreshingly nutty tang, well-chilled Fino Sherry is ideal with appetizers, nuts, cheeses and Spanish jamon.

2012 Hess Collection “Small Batch Collection Series” Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley, California
In honor of the 30th vintage of world-class wines from Hess Collection on Napa’s Mt. Veeder, we hit the cellar and pulled out an older bottle to share with the guests. Usually a wine with a few years of age would be red, but white wine can age beautifully, too, as evidenced by this spicy, floral-scented Gewurztraminer. The winery’s small batch collection series is available at the winery and is only one reason to plan a trip. Visiting Hess Collection Visitor’s Center and Art Museum is an experience in itself. If you enjoy art and wine, this is THE destination in wine country.

Gin and wines that guests drank on the set of the fourth episode of season 11.
Gin and wines that guests drank on the set of the fourth episode of season 11. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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