Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gimme! Coffee

When I come to NYC, I like to go waaaay out of my way before work and head down to Gimme! Coffee on Mott St. in NoLita. Since my last trip a year ago, several other Third Wave cafes have opened in NYC, but I like Gimme's little shop. It's very narrow, with no room for seats, an L-shaped counter. They roast light and have at least two different coffees on tap. Plus they know their stuff.

When I came in last year, and starting talking shop, I got skeptical looks from the barista. "Who are you again?" he asked, after a brief discussion about natural vs. washed coffees, CoE and vacuum sealing at origin. Perhaps it was because I wasn't spotting hipster clothes and tats (I was wearing a tie and a jacket).

This time I talked to Jenni, and had a great conversation about some of the different beans they were selling. She was raving about their Panama Hartmann Honey, a small lot of mixed varietals that I'll call a field blend. It includes Caturra, Catuai, Tipica, Geisha, San Ramon, Pacamara and Bourbon varietals, and is semi-washed, where the fruit of the coffee cherry is stripped off but the mucus is allowed to remain on the bean while it dries. This imparts more fruit flavors on the bean than if it were totally wet processed.

Unfortunately she didn't have any for me to buy then, but will be receiving some tomorrow and I'll try to make it down to get a bag to bring back to SF.

I did have a nice Rwandan Bourbon Bufcafe that showed light tropical fruit flavors that Jenni pegged as cantaloupe. These were more present as the coffee cooled, then receded somewhat as it grew cold in temp.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Naughty Boy Vineyards

At the Wine Mine in Oakland Saturday, Jim and Emjay Scott from Porter Valley, Mendocino-based Naughty Boy Vineyards were pouring some of their wines, including two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noirs and a Dolcetto. I was really digging the Pinot Noirs - a 2006 and a 2005. The more recent vintage was actually drinking easier than the prior year. The 2006 was almost brick-like in color, with a moderate nose of bright fresh strawberries and grape candy. These were present as flavors in the mouth, and the wine really gave me a pepper zing on the tongue at the finish. It was very approachable.

The 2005 seemed more complex and Old World in style, with earthy notes not present in the 2006 dominating the nose, and more pepper and spice in the mouth. The fresh strawberry component in the 2006 was muted in the 2005, or more like the pepper was kicked up a notch.

According to technical notes on Naught Boy's website, the 2005 Pinot spent 18 months in French oak, with 28% being new barrels (the newer the oak, the more likely you're going to find oak and vanilla flavors in the wine). In fact, I don't think I tasted any oak at all in these wines, showing a nice handling of the barreling, compared to many American Pinot Noir producers who overdo that aspect of aging, leading to woody, heavy wines that aren't that interesting or even resemble Pinot Noir.

These small production wines (less than 1,000 cases produced) are made from organic grapes. I didn't get prices for all of them, but I think I saw the 2005 going for $14 a bottle.

Palate Fatigue?

I haven't posted about coffee in some time because I haven't been that impressed by the coffees I've had during the past month or so. They've included two from Ritual Roasters - a Honduran and a Costa Rican - el Cedral, Terrazu, as well as a pair from Barefoot - their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Dominion Trading and a Rwandan Ruseyini co-op Kinunu lot. All were pleasant, but I just didn't find myself compelled to write notes about them as the complexity in each one muted.

Makes me start to wonder if I'm not suffering from a little coffee palate fatigue. Most of these I purchased at Whole Foods in Oakland, which means they're not these roasters' primary offerings, and some had signs of aging prior to roasting (pencil shaving/lead flavor), however I have had them before and liked them more than my most recent experiences.

Anyway, I'll be heading to NYC for a week, and am looking forward to hitting up some of the small, third wave roasters popping up. If you have any suggestions, send them my way.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Starbucks making instant?

Starbucks brewing up plans for instant coffee

February 12, 2009

NEW YORK — Starbucks Corp. said Thursday it will unveil a new instant coffee as part of its attempt to turn around sluggish sales and shed its reputation for pricey lattes.

The company has been working on the product for more than 20 years and has a patent pending on the technology that will allow it to "absolutely replicate the taste of Starbucks coffee in an instant form," spokesman Vivek Varma said in an e-mail to employees.

more here....


Not that I drink Starbucks regularly, but they've always held up their ideal of making fresh coffee from quality beans (you can debate the execution of these goals, but the company was responsible for creating the perception in the American consumer mind that coffee is a daily luxury and not some caffeine delivery system to be had for the cheapest price). With a move away from that freshness, we're getting one step closer to falling back into the coffee hell that has gripped this country for the past several decades.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wine Mine

Discovered a great wine shop in Oakland last weekend, called the Wine Mine at 5427 Telegraph Ave. They have $1 wine tastings on Saturday from 2pm to 5pm, and when I went they were pouring several Italian bottles from “Central Italy” - Tuscany, Abruzzo and Sardinia. All less than $15, if I recall correctly. I was really impressed with the 2007 Quattro Mani Montepulciano d'Abruzzo that sells for $10.99.

On the nose I found anise, slight vanilla and some dark chocolate. In the mouth this wine was really juicy, featuring strawberries with a note of fennel and black pepper. Spicy tannins throughout.

It's a decent $10 bottle of wine for everyday drinking. Not too racy or exciting, but very pleasant and better than a lot of American bottles in the same price.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2005 Christian Moueix Merlot Bordeaux

Christian Moueix is the winemaker for Petrus, the super expensive Merlot (bottles go for thousands) from Pomerol deemed "the most famous red wine in the world," according to Robert Parker Jr. (the 2000 and 1998 vintages received 100-point scores). He also makes Napa's Dominus Estate, another perennial winner of high ratings and high prices.

Even though this bottle was only $10, I still thought it might be a decent given Moueix's reputation and the fact that he put his name on the bottle. I was looking for a restrained, old-world wine. Instead I got a nose of ripe cherries and alcohol. In the mouth there was red berries, some heat, with a spicy finish of black pepper that tangs the tip of the tongue, maybe cinnamon.

Pass on this one, there's better $10 bottles of Merlot out there.

Winemaker's notes (via

Christian Moueix has created this uniquely personal cuvée through a selection of wines from numerous small growers in the Côtes de Castillon, Côtes de Francs and Côtes de Bourg appellations. The common factor in these three areas is the predominance of the Merlot variety. In the Côtes de Castillon, it acquires elegance, finesse and longevity; in the Côtes de Francs, structure and fruitiness; and in the Côtes de Bourg, is selected for aroma, body and richness.

Blended to evoke each of these aspects of the Merlot's personality in a very Bordelaise style, the wine spends, depending on the vintage, approximately six months in old oak casks to enhance structure and harmony. Sweet, supple berry and wild cherry fruit mark this charming, medium bodied wine. Fruit impressions carry into nuances of herbs and vanilla underscored by a fresh, elegant acidity and ripe, soft tannins.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2006 Charles Smith Boom Boom Syrah

I'm really loving Washington State Syrahs. First there was the 2006 Gramercy Cellars' 'Lagniappe' Syrah from Walla Walla that I had at Cyrus in Healdsburg (review here) and now this Charles Smith entry level Syrah, that is anything but entry level. As I mentioned in my review of his Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Smith is a Walla Walla, Washington State-based winemaker generating a lot of excitement among wine Geeks. His labels, "Charles Smith" and "K Vintners" sell a variety of wines, with the more expensive K Vintners specializing in field blends and Syrah.

I paid about $18 for this bottle, though you can probably get it for as low as $13, if Google Shopping is any guide.

On the first night of pouring this wine, I got an interesting nose of earth, old rubber and vanilla. These melted away in a few days, and what was left was more dark berry scents.

In the mouth, on the attack, this wine tasted a lot like a Grape Jolly Rancher. Remember those? I also found Boysenberry and jammy notes. Slight bit of heat on the finish.

Overall this wine was intriguing, but not challenging. There was some complexity, some layers, but it's not a geeky wine where it compelled me to sniff and swirl all night trying to discern what was going on. It was enjoyable, and kept me interested with every sip. It also makes me want to try some of Smith's K Vintners Syrahs, which start around $35 a bottle and go up from there.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

2007 Rosenblum Kathy's Curvee Viongier

2007 Rosenblum Kathy's Cuvee Viognier

Tried this in the tasting room in Alameda a few months ago. I remember liking it, and almost buying it, but not wanting to spend $18 for it at the time. However, I've seen it on sale all around recently, and will probably pick up a bottle this week. The cheapest I've seen it is at Nob Hill in Alameda for $10, IIRC. Safeway had it for around $15.

On the nose, the wine showed a nice fruit bowl dominated with peaches and apricot. In the mouth it was initially chalky, followed with dried fruits, such as apricots. Spicy finish.

It's a nice, interesting white wine that would go well with a lot of foods, and if you haven't had a Viongier before, it would be a good place to start.