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Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Sutro's at the Cliff House, El Coqui Puerto Rican Cuisine

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Check, Please! Bay Area Season 13 episode 6 airs Thursday, July 12 at 7:30pm on KQED 9. See other television airtimes. And never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

Check, Please! Bay Area strives to reflect the local dining scene, and this episode does just that, bringing home the reality of the restaurant business. A fire broke out in the kitchen of Molly's pick, Kronnerburger in Oakland and now the restaurant is closed which leaves us to discuss just two spots this time.

From playful seals and stunning sunsets to classic cocktails and elegant cuisine, San Francisco's historic Sutro's at the Cliff House has it all. And due to a fire at our second eatery, we only feature two restaurants in this show. Our second spot takes us to a place that evokes the musical call of tree frogs and dreams of tropical flavors in a lively setting at El Coqui Puerto Rican Cuisine in Santa Rosa.

Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests having fun on the set of season 13 episode 6.
Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests having fun on the set of season 13 episode 6. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine on set
Host Leslie Sbrocco sipping wine on set (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, beer and spirits tips with each episode. This week I discuss: Wines from Virginia.


Gruet Blanc de Noirs, American Sparkling Wine, $17
Want to sip a crisp, delicious, bubbly surprise? Find Gruet and buy, buy, buy. The French-bred Gruet family had been crafting Champagne in France, but on a trip to the States in the early 1980s, founder Gilbert Gruet fell in love with New Mexico. He took a leap of faith and planted vineyards. The family has now been creating sparkling and still wines for more than 25 years.

This wine is a classic blend of mostly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay. It’s an appealing lightly pink-hued sparkler with a dry finish. Priced well below what international bubblies charge, this American-born wine made in the labor-intensive traditional Champagne method of ageing in bottle. It’s has a tremendous value-to-quality ratio and is one of the best bargains you will find in the wine world today. Period.

2015 Barboursville Vineyards, Vermentino Reserve, Virginia $23 (current release is 2016)
One of the things I love most about being a wine professional is the process of discovery. Tasting wines that I may have heard about but have yet to embrace is one of those discoveries. This is surely the case for Virginia wines. I have known for years that Virginia is producing high-quality wines. I have sampled some and been impressed. I put a visit to Virginia on my “to do” list years ago. This year I finally checked it off. What a beautiful, historic, emerging region for unique world-class wines. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Located a few hours from Washington D.C., Barboursville Vineyards encompasses not only a winery, restaurant and inn, but the property showcases one of Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpieces. The winery was founded by Gianni Zonin of the well-known Italian wine family, Zonin. Winemaker Luca Paschina is also from Italy, so many of the wines celebrate their Italian heritage. The Vermentino is one such wine. Vermentino is a white grape hailing from Italy’s coastal regions of Liguria and Sardinia so it takes well to Virginia’s warm climate. This white has a full-bodied flair but is more earthy than fruity and more mineral than citrusy, but it still maintains a signature freshness. This Virginia wine will take you on a journey of discovery.

2014 Magna Porcum Pinot Noir, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California $45
Sonoma wine country is made of up wineries large, small, and very small. Camlow Cellars is a two-person operation that’s truly a passion project. Photographer, Alan Campbell, and winegrower, Craig Strehlow, paired up to make Pinot Noir with stuffing and elegance. Their Big Pig Vineyard (hence the Magna Porcum name) is the source for their flagship bottling. It’s a wine that’s lush and dark-fruited, but also light on its feet with spicy complexity. These wines sell out quickly, so you might want to sign up for their newsletter and – as the duo says – “join us in the pig pen.”

Villa Massa Limoncello of Sorrento, Italy $28
Not many Americans drink, or even know about limoncello. Made with Sorrento lemons, sugar and water, it’s a lemon-scented, richly-flavored classic liqueur. Villa Massa’s version is the best-selling limoncello in Italy and is making a splash on our shores now. The family recipe dates to 1890 and has been handed from generation to generation. Typically, you would sip a well-chilled glass of limoncello at the end of a meal as it’s very sweet. Drinking Villa Massa that way will certainty evoke the feeling of basking in stunning Sorrentine peninsula sunshine. But, I also like to use it in limoncello-based cocktails. Add a dash of sparkling wine and garnish of orange peel. Top it with tonic and a sprig of mint. You’ll be transported to Italy in no time.

Wine that guests drank on the set of season 13 episode 6.
Wine that guests drank on the set of season 13 episode 6. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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