Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Crustacean, Protéa
We begin at San Francisco’s Crustacean where Vietnamese flavors have been perfected in a secret kitchen by three generations of the An family. Then, we head north to Yountville for masterfully-crafted Puerto Rican cuisine. With a hyper-seasonal menu that changes daily, the passion is palpable at Protéa.
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My name is Leslie Sbrocco, and I’m the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I’ll share my tasting notes about the wine, beer and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show.
Marqués de Cáceres Brut Cava
La Rioja, Spain, $13
As a fan of Rioja, I consistently recommend the well-made and well-priced wines from Marqués de Cáceres. Founded in 1970, it’s now the fifth generation of the Forner family at the helm. From their elegant reds to refreshing rosado, this is a name to seek out for sheer deliciousness. Their Cava is one of the best sparkling values on the market today. Crafted with traditional Spanish varieties for Cava – Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Parellada – from 25-year-old vines in the famed Penedès area, it’s made in the traditional method. Crisp and classy, I call it a “stock-up sparkling star.”
2017 Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc
Burgundy, France, $29
The Matrot family has been iconic in the Burgundy region of France for more than a century. Today, it’s run by Thierry and Pascale Matrot who are working alongside their daughters, Adèle and Elsa. Located in the heralded white-wine mecca, Meursault, their organically farmed vineyards represent some of Burgundy’s best. This white is made with Chardonnay grown near the appellation of Meursault from 30-year-old vines. It sports a kiss of creamy complexity from barrel fermentation, but the lemony ping and purity of fruit are what shine through. A gorgeously affordable version of white Burgundy.
2018 Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc
Napa Valley, California, $40
Blueprint is a stylish wine label making a statement. Created by Napa Valley wine royalty, Robin Daniel Lail, it honors climate change pioneers who according to the winery, “put the health of our planet ahead of quarterly reports and the bottom line.” Robin grew up as part of the family behind the legendary, Inglenook winery. She also co-founded two benchmark wineries: Dominus with Christian Moueix and Merryvale Vineyards with Bill Harlan. In other words, she knows Napa Valley. So does winemaker, Philippe Melka, who has crafted a white of precision and purity. A serious Sauvignon Blanc that doesn’t sacrifice juicy citrus succulence and pure drinking pleasure.
2015 Shafer ‘Hillside Select’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, $310
When people ask me about collectible reds, I recommend my short list of "GWTBD Wines: Greatest Wines to Try Before You Die". Shafer’s Hillside Select is on that list as it’s simply one of THE best wines in the world. Every vintage is age-worthy and classic. Why? Because of the meticulous care and focus in the vineyards and cellar of both Doug Shafer and winemaker, Elias Fernandez. When I’m lucky enough to open and enjoy a bottle, I’m always left with a sense of awe. The 2015 is perfectly balanced power. Ripe, dark fruit notes lushly wrap the structured core of polished tannins and sleek acidity to create an opulent red. You can decant the bottle and drink it now, but this is one that will age with grace for decades. If you ever want to splurge on wine to impress others (or most importantly…to impress yourself), Shafer Hillside Select is my top recommendation.
Michter's ‘Toasted Barrel Finish’ Sour Mash Whiskey
Louisville, Kentucky, $180
This is a spirit for the ages. In 2019, the Michter's ‘Toasted Barrel Finish’ Limited Release was named “Whisky Of The Year” by The Whisky Exchange. Never before has an American whiskey taken that honor. It’s no surprise, though. Let me state that I’m a Michter’s fan, too. Every bottle I’ve ever sipped from them has been a treat. But this one is unique. It uses their US1 Sour Mash Whiskey as the base to age in custom made barrels. These barrels are toasted but not charred, which imparts a soft, caramel-like sweetness to the whiskey. My favorite way to sip this brown-spirit-treasure is to pour a small amount in a glass and savor it for hours. It continually changes and evolves down to the last drop.
Thirsty for more beverage advice? You can find more of my wine, beer and spirits tips for you here.