Thursday, March 10, 2005
FINE LINE ON WINE… Two weeks back I mentioned the great Meador Estate/Ventana Vineyards showing at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The Meador Estate 2001 Magnus won Gold, Best of Class in the category of Bordeaux Blends, over $30. Greg Freeman, a sharp-eyed reader, pointed out that what I wrote implied that it was chosen number one wine overall. Sorry for the misunderstanding, but make no mistake, a Monterey County wine winning Best of Class for a Bordeaux blend is monumental.
Hahn/Smith and Hook did well in the competition as well with its HRM Rex Goliath brand scoring Best of Class with its ’03 Shiraz and Double Gold with the non-vintage Merlot. Bernardus also had a good showing, as did J. Lohr. Check out all the results at winejudging.com and get a good feel for what’s out there. Check out the list of entrants, many of which got bubkas.
MEALS ON WHEELS… Two of the restaurant scene’s favorite and best people, Julio and Marie Ramirez, recently went on a pretty exciting culinary adventure. The owners of the Fishwife/Turtle Bay Taqueria dynasty visited Cuba to sample traditional cuisine. The Ramirezes learned that Cuban chefs are faced with difficult challenges. Meat and fresh produce go from farms to centralized warehouses and are then distributed each day by unrefrigerated trucks. Often, a chef cannot get the ingredients he needs to fulfill menu requirements or the ingredients are in such bad shape that they are have to be omitted or substituted for. Marie and Julio traveled through the Cuban countryside, sharing food with fishermen and basking in the Cuban life. They wrote an article for the January ‘05 edition of The National Culinary Review. I applaud and envy them both for their fascinating journey.
SOMBODY'S GOTTA DO IT… How can I describe the month’s worth of memories I experienced in about 36 hours last week? Here’s the Cliff Notes version (do they still have Cliff Notes?)…11:30am, meet at Bernardus Lodge, two Micheles, two Michelles, a few Mills, a few others and Il Commandante, Marci Bracco. Over the Carmel Valley hills to Bernardus Winery where Michael Oprish, GM of resort operations at Bernardus and Quail Lodge, greeted us. On the patio, grills smoldering, Cal Stamenov and Tim Wood cooking, wine flowing…beautiful lunch, every morsel perfect, literally perfect…wine tour and tasting with winemaker
Mark Chesebro (that’s a good name), back over the hills, get ready for the evening…
…Monterra Estates, fabulous development near Jacks Peak, sister property to Tehama, not yet completed showcase home of Roger “Aw Shucks” Mills (down home demeanor but don’t let that fool ya), photograph exhibition by Douglas Steakley (amazing colors and composition), Sommelier Superbo Mark Jensen (Marinus), Billecart-Salmon Rose flowing, Cal Stamenov et al cooking dinner, George Young saxaphoning, incredible course after incrediblecourse, Bernardus wines, endless sensory excitement.
Next morning…head cloudy, sky also…10am tee time, Tehama Golf Course. Riding with “Professor” Basil Mills—reminds me of a Berkeley or Columbia intellectual…golfing God’s grand gallery of gorgeous gorges, canyons, hills and vistas…lunch in the clubhouse…out-of-town writers and television people drunk on beauty,hospitality, splendor, grandeur and gentility. Me too.
I’ve been fortunate to interact with some of these Mills people, the family behind Mills Family Farms, a large, complex concern of growing, shipping, sales and all phases of the agricultural world in Salinas Valley and elsewhere since 1958. By the way, while I’m on it, their Wholeaves line of ready-to-use lettuce leaves has taken the entire industry by storm, winning the American Culinary Institute’s Best of Class award from 2002 right through 2005. The premium lettuce leaves are individually selected, separated from the core with a patented “no cut” system, meticulously washed and packaged. As a guy who loves sandwiches—and makes some of the most interesting ones anywhere—I almost never use lettuce, even though I love it, because of the nuisance of having to wash it, then dry it before you can use it. Now, I’ve got the world by theleaves, baby.
The Mills Family is tremendously successful at what they do. Let’s face it, they don’t have to be nice to people. I’m not sure I would…but that’s another story. I’ve seen them in social settings and business settings, including times when they were letting it all hang out…nice people, plain and simple. As down-to-earth and kind as you could ask for. Anyone who has the good fortune to do business with this group can be guaranteed a fair, mutually beneficial relationship—you just know it. They’re a hot squad at social events too. Yet another example why we are so blessed to be living in this wonderful place that seems to draw to it so many of the world’s best humans.
FAST AND FURIOUS… Friday the 11th, Passionfish receives PG Chamber of Commerce Award of Excellence in dining—right on…Bert Cutino loaded up more hardware from Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of Chicago at the annual “Diner d’Hiver” in Lyon, France. The honor of Les Disciples d’Escoffier became the latest in a never-ending litany of accolades thrust upon the inimitable Bert—go Chef…Rich Pepe, of Little Napoli, Peppoli and Vino Pepe fame has started his monthly “Pep Talk,” a cooking class series at the Salud! Cooking and Lifestyle Classroom, at Whole Foods Market. It features guest chefs and is fun, so check out the calendar online at wholefoodsmarket.com…Paraiso Air Show is set for Saturday May 7, paraisovineyards.com…Highway 68 Steakhouse is looking really nice inside, still finishing up the 500-gallon fish tank. Right outside the Monterey Airport, lunch and dinner, 869-0476…April 2 (my birthday, but don’t tell anybody) from 3-6pm at Casa Pacheco, Meals on Wheels presenting the third annual Bocce Ball tournament. Mike Marotta, Jr. will oversee the ferociously competed drive to win the coveted Big Salami. Mike Marotta, Sr. will play music with friends; food, wine, beer, help for MOW, what more could you want? Call Linda Strohl, 375-4454 or firstname.lastname@example.org…I’ll revisit the Academy Awards affairs, International Flavors of Marina, a great trip to Bahama Billy’s, the colorful Helcio Milito, percussionist extraordinario, etc. etc…I’m drowning here. Mayday.