Review

Shop: Vintage Berkeley

While I didn’t have time to head to Sonoma this weekend while I was visiting a friend in Berkeley, I did stumble across a gem of a wine shop. After having lunch on Monday at Gregoire, a cute-as-a-button French takeout spot, I mean check out this quiche and blood orange French soda:

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my friend, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, had to head to class and I had an hour to kill. Lucky for me, there was a wine shop nearby that my friend recommended I check out.

From the outside, Vintage Berkeley doesn’t look like a wine shop. It doesn’t look like a store at all. It’s housed in a former water pumping station built in 1930. The station operated until the 1980s, but it sat vacant until nine years ago when Vintage Berkeley moved into the city landmark. 

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While the exterior remains the same, the owner made some tweaks to the interior and rather than pumping water, the site now pumps out wines from labels you’ve most likely have never heard of. And here comes the selling point: most of them are under $25.

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Vintage Berkeley throws the age-old point system out the window and instead offers descriptions of the wines written by staff. It reminded me of the staff picks at Skylight Books, my favorite book store in Los Angeles. When I told Ryan, who started working at the shop after being a frequent visitor at tastings during his time at Cal, that I’m on a kick to try wine types I’ve never had before, he pointed out wines from Slovenia, the Basque region of Spain, Corsica, and other exotic locales.

He sold me on the Slovenian number, a blend of dry muscat and riesling that came topped with a bottle cap. It’s a 2012 Crnko Jarenincan.

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I also picked up two others–a red and a white–from Portugal. The white is another dry muscat, 2012 Herdade de Gambia, and the red is a 2011 HMR Varal Tinto. All were $15 or less. As soon as I get my package in the mail and can uncork (uncap for the Slovenian wine) those suckers, you’ll be sure to see some reviews.

If you’re in the Berkeley area, check out their free tastings on the weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

It’s very beautiful right now, as the fall leaves come in and crisp breezes bookend the days.

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Review: Peachy Canyon Zinfandel

When Peachy Canyon Winery gave me a hat tip on Twitter for my handle, which is the same as my blog name,  I knew we’d get along. Then when they told me they they made luscious reds, I really knew we’d get along.

I picked up a bottle of their 2008 “Incredible Red” Zinfandel recently and it was the last in stock! It had a different label than the more recent vintages, so I assume the winery went through some sort of rebranding. Sometimes it pays off to pick one of the things that’s not like the others.

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I poured my boyfriend and I each a glass as we were cooking dinner last week. I almost always start sipping while stirring and chopping, well before dinner is actually served. A deep ruby, the wine envelops your tongue with its peppery, but fruity flavor. This is an easy drinking wine and great to have around for a mid-week sip.

It got along swimmingly with the chimichurri chicken and paprika brussel sprouts we had for dinner. According to foodandwinepairing.org, it’s not ideal to mix chicken with Zinfandel, but it tasted fine to me!

Sometimes I pay attention to food pairings, but usually by the rule of thumb: whites with fish, reds with meat. I usually drink what I want to drink and eat what I want to eat. If someone wants to make me a delicious six course meal paired with matching wines and blow me away with the pairings, maybe I’ll change my tune.

So who’s ready to cook me dinner?

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Peachy Canyon
  • Type: “Incredible Red” Zinfandel
  • Origin: Paso Robles, Calif.
  • Vintage: 2008
  • Price: $13.99
  • Alcohol content: 13.9%
  • When to drink: Mid-week, relaxing on the couch with your iPad, Yo La Tengo playing on Pandora

 

Review: Main & Geary Pinot Grigio

The first time I had Pinot Grigio I was way under the legal drinking age in the United States, but I wasn’t in the United States! I was in Florence, Italy during a summer abroad “studying” art history after my junior year in high school. It was the first summer that I wouldn’t be going to camp playing Color War and swinging on the ropes course. Instead, I was going somewhere fancy, sophisticated; it made all my friends jealous.

On one of the first nights there, a few of us from the trip decided to see if we could order alcohol. I honestly think none of us had before, but this one very artsy, very Karen O girl seemed to know what she was doing. She ordered a bottle of cheap Pinot Grigio.

We were a couple of 16-year-olds in Florence, ordering wine on our own! The city smelled old, not musty, but old like a favorite well-read book. I remember the Pinot Grigio being sweeeet and honestly not liking it very much. I didn’t pick up another glass of the stuff for years.

Over time, I had transformed into a smoky red wine fan through and through. I thought whites were all syrupy. I had a closed mind. I was outright wrong.

Main & Geary Pinot Grigio, while arguably not even close to the best Pinot Grigio, made me a fan of the varietal about a decade after that trip to Florence.

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I bought Main & Geary for the first time two years ago at a BevMo 5 cent wine sale (Yes, I sing the song: 5 cennnttt winnne sale). One, it was inexpensive: $12 for the first, 5 cents for the second. It’s become a favorite sipping wine, the kind you go to when you’re making lemon-butter shrimp stir-fry. It’s not complex or super special, but it’s crisp and refreshing and has a hint of melon. Like a good alfredo pasta or Martha’s Perfect Mac & Cheese are comfort food, I think of it as comfort wine.

There’s often a bottle chilling in my fridge and when I go to a 5 cent sale, it’s one of the first things in my cart.

Do you have a favorite Pinot Grigio? Tell me about it! Try Main & Geary and give me your review in the comments.

 Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Main & Geary
  • Type: Pinot Grigio
  • Origin: California (bottle’s not specific)
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $12
  • Alcohol content: 13.9%
  • When to drink: On your porch, on a hot day while gossiping with a girlfriend