Check, Please! Bay Area's third season Joyce Goldstein Special episode (#391) profiles these three Bay Area restaurants:
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My name is Leslie Sbrocco and I’m the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I will be sharing my tasting notes about the wine the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show. Also, in my "What to Sip" suggestions, I choose one restaurant from each show and offer tips for selecting libations to enjoy with your meal.
Chatting with Joyce Goldstein — a Bay Area treasure — was sheer pleasure. What added to our conversation was sipping bubbly during the show. I chose to pour Schramsberg, Napa’s sparkling wine star. Their selection of sparklers is world class. From the affordable Mirabelle bottling to the coveted J. Schram, Schramsberg’s lineup shines.
Schramsberg "Mirabelle" Brut Rosé, $24
Delicate aromas of strawberry and floral notes lead into a refreshing sparkler that is perfect for any holiday meal.
2005 Schramsberg "Blanc de Blancs" $35
Crisp, elegant, and complex, this lovely Chardonnay-based bubbly is a top choice for a range of shellfish from oysters to crab.
What to Sip: Medjool, B44, and DaFlora
The hip restaurant-cum-nightclub, Medjool, has an enviable wine list. There’s much to be said for restraint when it comes to a well-chosen list. Bigger is not always better. Medjool's one-page list is organized by style category with headers such as "voluptuous whites and vivacious reds." Winners abound with pricing mostly in the under $50 category.
My don’t-miss wines include the luscious white blend of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, and Aligote from Au Bon Climat in California’s Santa Maria Valley ($38), and the eclectic, earthy red, Cuvee Rouge from Chateau Musar in Lebanon ($38). Both of these selections are ideal with the Mediterranean-influenced cuisine served up at Medjool.
Take a virtual vinous trip to Spain just by perusing the fantastic wine list at B44. The selections are primarily Spanish but are peppered with well-chosen French and California options, as well. Organized by style with price ranges for all budgets, it’s an exciting task to pick a wine (or wines) for your meal. I recommend seeking out hot Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriquez’s crisp white from Rueda in Spain ($22) made with Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, and Viura grapes. Also, a unique white to sample is from Segura Viudas named "Creu de Lavit". Priced at a cool $30, it’s a winner for shellfish.
With hearty fare, spend a bit more on Vall Llach’s "Idus" ($99) from the rugged Priorat region of northeastern Spain. Made with red grapes Carinena and Garnacha, it’s earthy and powerful. Some of my favorite but hard-to-find reds hail from the Bierzo region of Spain. The grape variety is the rare Mencia and it produces elegant, Pinot Noir-like reds. B44’s list has two to try: the Domino de Tares for a deliciously affordable price of $35 and the Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos de Bierzo for a mere $45. I’m on my way to enjoy a dish of paella and a bottle of this beautiful wine right now.
This small, North Beach spot is a culinary treasure. Not only did the Venetian-inspired cuisine garner raves from our guests, the wine list is one worth exploring again and again. Owner Flora Gaspar has compiled an eclectic array of Italian wines that rotates regularly. The picks I’ve chosen may not be available on your next visit, but have no fear as Flora’s frequent jaunts to Italy result in fairly-priced, sure-fire selections. Though each of the wine options has an accompanying description, I recommend asking Flora for her help when navigating the terrific list.
2004 Sergio Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto, Veneto $32
It’s tough to find wines priced under $40 on high-end lists in the city, but Flora offers a selection of them. This white — made from the Trebbiano grape variety — comes from northern Italy around the shores of beautiful Lake Garda. Juicy and smooth, it drinks well as a cocktail before dinner or with the meal.
2001 Arnoldo Caprai, Sagrantino di Montefalco “Collepiano,” Umbria $95
This is a rare red made from the Sagrantino variety in Umbria, which is Tuscany’s neighbor. Deeply-colored and dripping with wild berry flavors, this is a powerful wine to experience with hearty meat dishes. A sexy stunner.