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Classic Wine Club

Classic Club - July

This month, we've got three wines from our friends at Handley in Anderson Valley, and a killer Cabernet that we've been touting about alot in the shop.


First off is Handley Anderson Valley Estate Chardonnay, a lively, well balanced wine, made from organically farmed grapes.

The fruit for this wine was delivered cold to the winery. The grapes were destemmed and crushed, then gently pressed to tank. Crushing and pressing the fruit allows us to retain flavors from the skins while also slightly reducing the acidity that can sometimes be very high in Anderson Valley. The juice was settled for 3 - 4 days before racking to French oak barrels (18% new) and puncheons for six months to ferment and age. During this time, the barrels were stirred to help build texture. About 30% of the wine underwent a malo-lactic fermentation that reduces the wine’s acidity and increases texture. The wine was transferred to tank, blended, and bottled in May of 2010.

The delicate aromas of this Chardonnay offer ripe apple, pear, vanilla, and paperwhite floral, while
the palate comes through with apple pie, baking spices, Satsumas, and a long meyer lemon cream
finish.  This Anderson Valley Chardonnay is balanced and fresh enough to be served as an aperitif or with
food. It can be a lovely pairing with many cheeses, as well as with roasted chicken, sautéed scallops,
or mushroom risotto.

Next up is Handley 2010 Rosé of Pinot Noir, a perennial store and staff favorite that's only made every few years or so.  Handley only makes a tiny bit of the wine, and we snagged virtually all of the California retail allocation!

Rounder than the Sinskey or Copain rosés that are currently in the shops, this organic saignée-style wine is made with organically-farmed grapes from Handley’s Estate Vineyard. This is a delightful wine, presenting aromas of roses, strawberries, hibiscus, lavender, and orange blossom, with mouth offerings of ripe strawberries, raspberry, and mandarin orange, a great mid-palate texture, and a long, long, smooth finish.

Pinot Noir Rosé is the perfect evening aperitif for summer. Salmon?  Creamy Cheeses? mmmm. 

When our Handley rep visited a few weeks ago, she hinted that although their Handley Mendocino Pinot Noir 2009 wasn't quite ready for market, they might be able to release it a few weeks early for one of their favorite wine shops. 

A few days later, a package arrived with two bottles of the wine arrived.  I let them rest for a day or two and cracked one open.  YUMBO!  Here was a very well made wine - softer than previous vintages, but chock full of bright cherry fruit.  (The rep told me that they used a bit more non- Anderson Valley fruit in this vintage, hence the rounder flavors from the warmer clime of Potter Valley, an inland valley that characteristically produces Pinots with plush mid-palate texture, soft tannins and red fruit flavors). 

Winery Notes:  Destemming and gently crushing the fruit left about 40% whole berries in the fermenter. After crushing, the must was cold-soaked for three days before adding yeast to start fermentation. We used six different yeasts to promote complexity in this blend. When fermentation was complete, the must was pressed. After three days’ settling, the wine was racked to French oak  barrels (35% new) to finish malolactic fermentation. The wine aged in oak for nine months before bottling. The Mendocino Pinot Noir is a fruit-forward wine that is multi-layered. It shows aromas of blackberry and dark plum in addition to nuances of dried cherry, blueberry, cinnamon & vanilla. Cherry flavors continue with hints of raspberry and a suggestion of toast. A smooth texture carries the flavor into a long finish.

Finally, we've got Rubus Cabernet, a great example of a 2007 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon!  When I was attending importer extraordinaire Fran Kysela's annual MondoVino tasting in Winchester VA in February of this year, I was blown away by a premium Napa Valley Cabernet that I had never heard of.  

Premium '07 fruit in a prestige bottle, the wine had a long finish that showed full mature flavors of blackberry, currant and chocolate with just a hint of toasty oak and black cherry. The tannins were refined and polished, allowing the fruit to be the focus.  

I had to find out about this wine.

I asked Fran about the wine's provenance, and he told me about fantastic lots of 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that had become available on the bulk market. Napa Valley vintners and growers had  found themselves in a very odd predicament: they’ve produced their best wines since 1997, possibly the best in 30 years, but thanks to the recession there’s no market for $80.00 - $175.00 per bottle Cabernet Sauvignon.

Fran was in Napa and tasted a 2007 Stag ’s Leap AVA that was finished and bottled but had no home. Given the price and quality, Fran knew that this was a“one off”, and he knew that he'd never be able to replicate this deal.

We've brought in a lot of this wine, and are one of the only spots in the Bay Area where you can find it.  Trust me, if you like Napa Cabernet, this one is a no-brainer. 


For the Chardonnay:  Butter Poached Lobster and Mascarpone Risotto Serves 4

This rich decadent dish is pretty labor-intensive but is sure to impress your dinner guests. Pair with Chardonnay from California for the perfect meal.

2 live lobsters, about 1½ pounds each
1 cup white wine vinegar
¾ pound butter
3 cups bottled clam juice
2 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

In a large pot,bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, and add the  vinegar. Place the lobsters in a deep  tight-fitting pot. Pour water-vinegar solution over the lobsters until it covers the lobsters completely, and allow to steep for 2 minutes. Remove lobster and using gloves or a towel, twist the tail in one direction to remove it from the body. Twist off the lobster’s arms (knuckles and claws) and return them to the pot of hot water to cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the meat from shells and place meat on a paper towel-lined plate, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use. You can rinse shells and reserve to make lobster bisque. If your lobsters are female, reserve the dark green roe from the body and tail. Fry the roe in a teaspoon of canola oil until it turns bright red. Finely chop roe and use as a garnish or save for another use.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to thoroughly coat. Pour in the wine, and cook, stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm clam juice and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the juice 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring constantly until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper.Stir in the chives and mascarpone.

Remove lobster from refrigerator and leave for several minutes to bring to room temperature.

In a saucepan, heat one tablespoon of water until boiling. Whisk in one or two chunks of butter to form an emulsion. Reduce heat to low and continue to whisk in butter, one chunk at a time, until the about 1-inch high.

Use an instant-read thermometer to maintain the temperature of the sauce (Beurre Monté) between 160F and 190F during cooking.

Add lobster pieces to Beurre Monté (in several batches if necessary), and cook for 5 or 6 minutes. If lobster pieces are not fully covered, use a spoon to gently turn over after 3 minutes.

Serve the risotto in 4 large dinner bowl. Spoon the lobster on top of the risotto and garnish with the chopped roe.


For the Rosé:  Herbed Ricotta Tart  Serves 4

This tart is one of the simplest thing to make that you could imagine. True, it does require a bit of chopping and cooking, but there’s no mountains of long-cooked onions like pissaladière. It’s wonderful served warm or at room temperature. And it’s even better the next day, when the top gets crusty-brown during reheating.

3 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 ounces flour
8 ounces spring onions
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, plus more for sprinkling over the finished tart
8 ounces fresh ricotta
1 large egg
1/2 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup whole milk
2 ounces spicy Spanish chorizo sausage, finely diced
salt and freshly-ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 410º F

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt. Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling and starts to brown just around the edges. When done, remove the bowl from oven, dump in the flour and stir it in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a spatula.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your and, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork about ten times, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.

Let the shell cool before filling.

Slice the spring onions into 1/2-inch pieces. Melt the butter in a skillet and cook over medium heat, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper, until tender and cooked through. When you remove it from the heat, stir in the fresh thyme and let cool to room temperature.

Turn the oven down to  to 400F.

In a large bowl, mix the ricotta, with the egg, crème fraîche, milk, chorizo, and a bit more salt and pepper along with the onions.

Scrape the filling into the baked tart shell and bake until just set and slightly-browned on top, 20-30 minutes. Let the tart cool briefly, then serve either warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle fresh thyme leaves over the top of the tart before serving.

For the Pinot:   Parmesan Crusted Halibut with Caponata and Chanterelle Risotto  Serves 4

Meaty but delicately flavored fish, like halibut, wild striped bass or snapper, work well with lighter style reds such as Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Cabernet Franc from the Loire (stay away from oily fish like bluefish when serving red wines—they tend to make the wine's tannins taste metallic).

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped in 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup basic tomato sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 sprigs mint, chopped
2 shallots, minced
1/2 pound fresh chanterelles, stemmed and sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1 fresh bay leaf
2 cups white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Moliterno Tartufo
4 halibut fillets, skin off (about 7 ounces each)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon water
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large 12 to 14-inch saute pan, over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the onions, pine nuts, currants and chili flakes and saute for 4 to 5 minutes until softened.Add the eggplant, sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the thyme, tomato sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil.Lower the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, garnish with mint and chili flakes.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Add a little olive oil and butter. Add shallots and cook until translucent, and then toss the mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf into the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their moisture and begin to turn golden brown.

Pour  ½ the wine into the pan, and bring to a simmer, allowing the wine to evaporate. Continue cooking until the mushrooms are dry.Season with salt and pepper. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Discard the bay leaf.

Reduce the heat to low, and add  a little more butter and oil to the pan. Stir in the rice and coat with the oil until the kernels are shiny. Pour in the remaining cup of wine and let evaporate. Add the stock, 1 ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid. Stir over a gentle flame until each ladle of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until most of the broth is incorporated and the risotto  is al dente.

Fold the mushrooms back into the rice and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the the grated cheese. Keep warm until needed.

In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs with water, salt and pepper. Dip halibut fillets into the egg mixture. Then dip fish into the grated Parmesan and coat on all sides. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When pan is hot, lay fillets in pan and brown each side until crust has formed. With a spatula, gently transfer halibut to a baking dish with the browner side up. Place in the oven and bake approximately 10 minutes or until halibut flakes easily. Remove the finish from the oven.

Divide the risotto among 4 large dinner bowls. Place a piece of fish on op, and spoon the caponata over the fish.


For the Cabernet:  Skirt Steak with Caramelized Shallots and Tarragon Dressed Bibb Lettuce Serves 4

The extremely loose grain and ample marbling of skirt steak results in a chewy yet tender cut of meat that tastes robustly beefy.

2 (10-ounce) skirt steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced shallots,
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, plus additional for garnish
1 Bibb Lettuce
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon whole tarragon leaves

Cut each steak into 2 pieces, cutting it where the thick portion turns to thin. Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks and sear, without moving them, for about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is browned and the steak is cooked to the desired degree of doneness, 2 to 3 more minutes for medium-rare, depending on the thickness. (The thin cuts will be done sooner than the thick cuts.) Transfer the steak to a cutting board, cover with foil and set aside.
Return the skillet with the drippings to medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and thyme, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the shallots are golden but not crisped, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside to rest. If desired, sprinkle with additional thyme.

Combine the shallot, mustard and lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil as you whisk to emulsify the dressing then stir in honey and fold in chopped tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper and give it one more whisk to combine.

Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves.  To dress the salad, smear the dressing on the inside of the salad bowl and toss the leaves in the bowl.   Fold in some more fresh tarragon leaves and serve.Slice the steak crosswise, against the grain, into thin strips and top with some of the shallots. Serve the salad on the side.


510 864 WINE (9463)  ♦  866 931 WINE (9463) ♦ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.