Sparkling Wines … Really, I tried not to throw Veuve under the bus!

Well, it’s that time of year, so of course we had to taste some bubbly on the TV show this month. There are plenty of $40 “meh” options out there (no need to name names … oops I guess I did with the subject line above). Anyway, what I did was bring some bottles that might not be so well-known, but show well up against those overpriced Champagnes brought to you by the folks that make purses that cost the same as a down payment on a small condo.

Click on picture below to watch the sparking wine clip from the TV show.

The wines poured this month:
Barth Sekt ($21.95)
Gosset Brut Excellence ($29.95)

White Burgundies – Pure Unadulterated Chardonnay

As most people know, I’m on a one-woman crusade to move my friends away from oaky, buttery California Chardonnay and over to the more elegant style of White Burgundy, which shows off the true beauty of this ever-so-popular grape. So when I did my little TV gig this month, I brought three examples of whites from France that actually taste like Chardonnay and not like pencil shavings dipped in Crisco. OK, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but you get the gist of what I’m trying to do …

All three of these wines are readily available and as “starter burgs”, an added bonus is that they are all under $20. That said, many of us Burgheads would rather drink them than Cali Chard that costs twice as much!

Click on the picture below to watch the white Burgundies clip from the TV show.

Pouring White Burgundies on the Roger Hedgecock TV Show

The wines poured this month:
Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuissé ($18)
Louis Latour Grand Ardeche ($13)
William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux ($17)
If you try these wines and find that you enjoy them so much you’d like to sample some higher end White Burgundies, see below for links to wine stores in SoCal where they can help you find the ones that fit the flavor profile that you prefer.  The next level of quality, 1er Cru, tends to be priced at $30-$80, and the highest level (Grand Cru) is typically $100-$300. But any wine lover that has had Grand Cru from a great vintage will tell you that they can be life-changingly ethereal.  Really. Hey, I wouldn’t have chosen it for my crusade if I wasn’t serious about this, would I?
http://www.vintagewinessd.com (Vintage Wines, San Diego)
http://www.winex.com (Wine Exchange, Orange County)
http://www.winehouse.com (Wine House, Los Angeles)

Pinots with Rex Pickett, author of Sideways

Rex Picket joined me on the Roger Hedgecock TV Show to talk about his play Sidewayss, opening at the La Jolla Playhouse later this month. I really enjoyed the production when I saw it last year at the Ruskin Theatre in Santa Monica. It’s based on Rex’s novel so that even if you’ve seen the film multiple times (like most of my wine geek friends!) it’s quite different with both an additional poignancy and one hilarious scene that didn’t make it into the movie.

So in honor of all that Rex has done for Pinot Noir, I brought three different ones for us to try. The picture below is of Roger doing his impression of Sandra Oh hitting Jack with her motorcycle helmet (if you saw the movie, you know that he deserved it!) See if you can catch my major gaffe in the first minute of the show:

Click below to watch Rex Pickett & Robin Stark on the Roger Hedgecock TV Show

To learn more about the La Jolla Playhouse production:

Pouring Value Napa Cab on the Roger Hedgecock TV Show

Last week I was on Roger Hedgecock’s TV show pouring High Quality-to-Price Ratio Cali Cabs. We were having too much fun for a Friday morning! Check out our California Cabernet show…

I’ll be doing these wine segments on a monthly basis and I’m open to suggestion for future shows

Robin Stark & Roger Hedgecock present Great California Cabs – Click below to watch

Gaja and Produttori di Barbaresco … A Wine Study in Contrasts

I knew my group would be in for a major learning experience when I scheduled our visits in Barbaresco.  The first stop was Gaja, the most exclusive winery in the region, and the second a visit to Produttori di Barbaresco, the co-op that produces wines for a collective of 54 farmers. Angelo Gaja has done more to put Piedmont on the map than anyone. He is an ambassador that has promoted these wines and this region for decades. His single-vineyard Barbarescos are extremely hard to find and command prices of over $300.

Gaja bought and renovated the Castello di Barbaresco. It is decorated with art commissioned from countries where the Gaja wines are most popular.
Gaja bought and renovated the Castello di Barbaresco. It is decorated with art commissioned from countries where the Gaja wines are most popular.

Alessandra Forlani, Gaja import director, showed us around the winery, which is joined to the Barbaresco castle, an incredible building which they have restored into an incredible wine tasting facility and art gallery.  Halfway through the tour, she took me aside and said that Angelo Gaja remembered me from last time, and would join us for the tasting. Turns out that Angelo is an avid cyclist, and rides some of the toughest hills in Piedmont!

Everyone was blown away by our tasting with Angelo Gaja. I put him up there with Piero Antinori and the late Robert Mondavi as someone with so much charisma that people who have contact with him are buzzing for days afterwards.
Everyone was blown away by our tasting with Angelo Gaja. I put him up there with Piero Antinori and the late Robert Mondavi as someone with so much charisma that people who have contact with him are buzzing for days afterwards.

Continue reading “Gaja and Produttori di Barbaresco … A Wine Study in Contrasts” »

Bike and Wine Tour Through Piedmont Italy, Sept 2009

It was back in February when I met with Richard and Ann Opper, a couple who asked me to put a bike and wine trip together for them and their friends. They said it could be in any wine region, my choice, and that the biking should be challenging, but not ridiculously hard. It took me all of a minute to come up with the Piedmont region of Italy. It is incredibly beautiful, I love the wines (Barlo, Barbaresco, Barbera) and the hills are more difficult than Tuscany, but not as crazy as the Dolomites.

My good friend Maru Davilla decided to join the trip just one week before we left. This is a totally typical view … it was like this the entire first two days of the ride!
My good friend Maru Davilla decided to join the trip just one week before we left. This is a typical view … it was like this the entire week!

Continue reading “Bike and Wine Tour Through Piedmont Italy, Sept 2009” »

Bottle Shock – The Judgement of Paris Updated

Now that Bottle Shock, the movie about the famous Judgment of Paris tasting, is coming out on DVD, it seemed like a good time to post about our restaging of this famous wine event.

For anyone that is not familiar with the history, this is the competition in 1976 where ten top French wines were put up in a blind tasting against ten of California’s best. The judges, all French, included luminaries in the wine industry. To everyone’s shock, the California wines came out on top, Chateau Montelena won for the whites, and Stag’s Leap for the red.

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Bottle Shock, the movie based on this historical wine event, was chosen for the Sundance Film Festival last year, and will be out on DVD in February.  As a fundraiser for the Museum of Photographic Arts, we organized a restaging of the Judgment with updated vintages of the wines from the original tasting. There were 50 attendees and we began the evening by … Continue reading “Bottle Shock – The Judgement of Paris Updated” »

The Vatican Tour for Jews and Infidels

As a student of Renaissance art, I’ve been obsessed for years with the following question: “Am I the only one that’s noticed there is nothing from the New Testament in the entire Sistine Chapel Ceiling?” Think about it. The most important work of Catholic art ever, in the Pope’s personal chapel, consists of panels depicting Genesis, Noah, Jonah … scenes entirely from the Old Testament. Surrounding these panels are prophets, sibyls from pagan mythology, and a frat-house-worth of nudes. 300 figures in all, and not one Saint, Virgin or Savior, the subject matter of 99% of the Renaissance art found in Catholic churches.

So there I was, my first night in Rome, mentioning this to my friend James Barron, an ex-pat art-dealer who has lived there from years, and he replied “Actually there’s a new book about it, a collaboration between a Rabbi and a Vatican tour guide. It made the NY Times best-seller list.” That night I googled it and found, The Secrets of The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican, by Roy Derliner and Rabbi Benjamin Blech. The book argues that Michelangelo, unhappy with the Church and the Pope that commissioned him, drew heavily on Jewish culture and the doctrine of Kabbalah in designing the Sistine Chapel.

So my first point of biz in Rome …

Continue reading “The Vatican Tour for Jews and Infidels” »

The Best Wine Bars in Rome

I’m here in Rome, camping out between bike trips. While looking up wine bars, I happened across an entry in Hungry Girl, where she runs into Mario Batali and he tells her “I only eat at wine bars in Rome. That’s where the best food is.” So I decided to put my list of bars up against Mario’s. The research has been exhausting! In checking them out, I found some new favorites, found that some of my old faves had gone downhill, and verified that the tried-and-true great wine bars of Rome are NOT resting on their laurels! For this “best of” list assume fabulous wine selections and good food … wine bars with sh**y selections didn’t make the list. Each address below is linked to the google map.

 

  

Cul de Sac – This has always been my favorite. Why? Walls lined with bottles, outdoor seating, always crowded, perfect location, great array of cheeses and meats, darn good food, too. Along a cute sidestreet close to the Piazza Navona. Piazza di Pasquino, 73

 

Il Simposio di Constantini – Classy place connected to a very good restaurant. I was sitting at the bar, enjoying a glass of Pinot Nero and the free hors d’oeuvres, and I met a group of ex-pat journalists, which led to two more glasses of wine, which led to … Continue reading “The Best Wine Bars in Rome” »