Southern hospitality is not all that is offered on the menu at tucked away Rusty's Southern in San Francisco's Tenderloin. Neither is it just pizza and beer served up around the fire-pit at Jupiter in Berkeley. But we continue within the galaxy to the elegant wood-fired dishes at culinary comet Glen Ellen Star in Sonoma County's Glen Ellen.
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, beer and spirits tips with each episode. This week I discuss: Franciacorta.
Backwards Distilling "Ringleader" Vodka, Wyoming $35
Hailing from a family-owned operation in Wyoming, this whimsical spirit (yes, you can read the label through the bottle backwards) pairs locally-sourced grains and Rocky Mountain water to create a smooth, pure vodka. The clever packaging and circus theme plays out in the rest of their lineup including Strong Man Gin and Sword Swallower Rum. If you are a spirit lover, this is a high-quality distillery to seek out.
2015 Jordan Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $32
I have a special place in my heart for Jordan. Not only is it globally recognized as one of this country's best producers of age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon, their Chardonnay is crafted in a style that makes me swoon. Crisp, bright, and complex, it sports a medium-bodied vibrancy that makes me want another glass (or three). Winemaker, Rob Davis, has been at the helm since 1976 and this consistency has helped create a legacy of quality. Jordan is also a destination for its European-influenced winery and experiences like garden tours and hilltop tastings. Jordan sits high atop my list of great American wineries.
2014 Gascon Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina $25
Don Miguel Gascon has been producing wines for 132 years. Not a bad track record. Their Malbec bottlings pair top quality with affordability as evidenced by this Reserva. Dark fruit aromas are layered with peppery spice and a snip of black licorice flavors. It is a mouth-filling, lush red, but the grapes are grown high in the Andes mountains where cool night temperatures help maintain freshness. You'll want to channel your inner Argentinian and saddle up to a grilled steak when this wine is in hand.
2014 Columbia Winery Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington $16
When I first got into the wine business, I remember meeting a legendary winemaker named David Lake. He was a Master of Wine (impressive) and helped found Columbia Winery. David's wines were known for their elegance and balance. Though David is no longer there, his spirit lives on. Winemaker Sean Hails has crafted a Merlot that is worthy of Washington state's reputation for producing top examples of the variety. This one is smooth yet bright with welcoming aromas of cocoa and dark berries. The price is right, too, allowing you to stock your wine rack affordability.
2014 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $45
Flora Springs was founded in 1978 by Jerry and Flora Komes. Today, it remains a family operation and is a winery I consider a Napa Valley classic. As such, Cabernet Sauvignon is their calling card. This version marries fruit from their estate vineyards -- including Rutherford and Oakville -- giving it purity of fruit laced with appealing dusty aromas. It is lush and layered with integrated oak and polished tannins. A beauty of a red that showcases this Napa classic at its best.