Last year I went to France. Specifically, the good folks at Planet Bordeaux sent me, and a group of other bloggers, to Bordeaux for an amazing week. In all seriousness, I can’t even explain how amazing.
I could use the fact that I was simply overwhelmed by France as an excuse for not writing about the trip for a year. However, the true excuse is that so many other real-world changes have been happening to me, writing about France was just low-priority.
As many of you know, I’m now living in San Francisco. In fact, as of a few weeks ago, I’m in the heart of the city. We live in Lower Pacific Heights (no, Michael Keaton is not nearby – but Danielle Steele is). We are in the middle of the rejuvenated Polk Street, the hipster Hayes Valley, the trendy Fillmore District, and the trendy AND hipster Marina (Union and Chestnut Streets). This means that there is simply too much to eat, drink, sample and experience than one could possibly imagine.
But back to France. On Sunday, after partaking in the San Francisco constant that is all-weekend-brunch-with-bottomless-mimosas-everywhere, I was walking along Union Street. Despite walking down this street constantly, I’d never noticed a tiny French delicatessen. Perhaps because my companion and I were out earlier than most weekend denizens of Union Street and there was no one around … regardless, I wandered in based on a sign: “French Wine Club – $20.”
The store is called Chez Berlue. While I’ve been obsessed with all things Paris for the last year, I’ve studiously avoided the rest of France. One step into Chez Berlue and I was taken back to Bordeaux last year. Of course I joined their wine club (although I chose a slightly higher level than $20), and I had a wonderful conversation with the young Frenchman behind the laptop. He just got back from China and while in San Francisco right now, is studying wine in Bordeaux. More exploring led me to discover the great French cookies, jams, TRUFFLES, meats and of course, CHEESE in the front of the store.
It’s the back of the store that’s a miracle of French wine, though. Filled to the brim with French wines of every price tag and from all over – Provence, Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Champagne – it’s all there. It turns out that two young French women own this lovely little store. They love San Francisco but opened the store because there are just certain things they miss about French foods (such as how I miss LaRosa’s Pizza Sauce and Four Roses Single Barrel from back home). One of these two young women was born and raised in a Bordeaux wine family, and she (Julie – the Berlue of the name) maintains the enjoyable wine collection.
My entrance into this store had two effects on me:
1 – I immediately left with two wine club reds and a white, which I’ll review tomorrow.
2 – I left with a renewed energy to write – both about my trip to France and all things wine and French related.
That means you’ll be getting a lot of France from me over the next few months, as I dive into French wines, my trip, and everything else remotely related. See, French wines often LOOK intimidating (blame those grand chateaus on the labels), but in truth, they’re amazingly approachable – and affordable – wines. My goal? To make French wine easier for all of us. I think that’s the goal at Chez Berlue too.
I’ve still got an occasional cocktail review I need to share (Fernet Branca, anyone?) and some occasional wine experiences out here in wine country. But there will be a lot of France. Hang on to your french fries …
I think the evenings this weekend will feel a little more Fall-like. It might be a great time to try Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet-Merlot 2010.
This California red blend consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. Although considered a full-bodied wine, I would classify it as medium-bodied.
Deliciously smooth and easy to drink. It has flavors of blackberry and cherry, with hints of vanilla and some oaky spice. It’s fruity and jammy with a nice finish.
A great value at less than $15.
You all know that Apothic Red is one of my favorite wines. So I thought I could not go wrong with the new (well, it was new back in the Spring when it was released) Apothic Rose Limited Release, California 2012. And I was right.
Apothic Rose is a blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. I read that the wine gets its vivid rose color from an ancient winemaking practice called saignée, which means “to bleed” intense color from the grape’s red skin.
It is fruity with flavors of strawberry and watermelon. I thought it had a pretty nice balance between sweet and acidic. Of course, Apothic Rose is best enjoyed chilled.
It is a limited release, but the Apothic Wine Facebook page still features it as its Seasonal Release. $11-$14.
Try it and let me know what you think.
When I think of boxed wine, I think of Franzia. If I’m not mistaken, I remember my mom and aunts drinking the White Zinfandel. No offense, Mom, but not my idea of the perfect wine.
As I’m sure you know, boxed wines have come a long way and there are some very good options out there. Heck, I believe there are now Target stores in Ohio that carry certain varieties.
A while back, I tried Bota Box Riesling 2012 and was very impressed.
It was not as sugary as I thought it would be. It had bright floral aromas and flavors of pear and green apple. It is a tad sweet, but nicely balanced. Crisp and refreshing (especially on these steamy summer days) and very easy to drink. Delicious!
The 3-liter box has the same amount as four regular bottles of wine, so for $18-$20 you cannot beat it.
As the Hyatt in downtown Cincinnati has been upgrading over the past year, one of the changes was to switch from Champs to a new restaurant in the lobby, Red Roost Tavern. They had a blogger dinner last week that I was lucky enough to join where the sous chef, Karol Osinksi, explained the courses for the evening, which were pulled from their everyday menu.
The concept is similar to a few other places around town, to use as much locally sourced items as possible. They even sourced the wood from different barns across Ohio that adds a nice roughness to the overall look. The bar has 10 taps, 5 of which feature different local beers. 6, if you count Sam Adams, which is, brewed right up the street. AS of last week the taps were: Rivertown Blueberry, Rivertown Jenneke, Rivertown Helles, Kentucky Burbon Barrel, and Mt Carmel Nut Brown.
They also have Tessora Limoncello available at the bar and they are looking at adding local wines in the near future. They have at least one ice wine on the menu as well, but this dinner was focused on beer and food.
I’ll leave the images to 5chw4r7z who is much better at photography. The food was a very nice sample of how they have decided to approach combining the need to be a hotel restaurant while still trying to pull the business crowd for lunch and the local diners for dinner.
First course was a Crab Cake, with an Asian inspired slaw. Overall, this was a very light cake with good crab flavor. The light breading helped keep the cake juicy and was a very nice start.
Second was a sweet corn soup with a smoked tomato jam. This was my favorite dish of the evening. The smoked tomato gave a extra kick to the sweetness of the corn. It also qualifies as a vegan dish as tofu and soy milk are used in the base.
The quinoa salad was very light and would be a nice light lunch in the summer. The candied walnuts and summer squash added a nice additional crunch into the quinoa.
The Red Roost fish and chips is different than what I was expecting. They offer a roasted halibut with garlic chips on the side. As I am a garlic fan, I thought that provided a nice offset to the fish. The roasting left my fish a little drier than I would normally prefer, but it was still very nice.
The pork tenderloin with a cherry reduction was served along with the Burbon Barrel Ale that helped compliment the sauce nicely. The pork was server perfectly and was one of the best courses.
Finally, we had a small amount of Organic Corn Ice Cream from Madisano’s. A very nice end to a rather impressive offering of dishes sized for a tasting event.
Overall, I really enjoyed everything about the evening, the ambiance was nice in their offset private dining area, the decor was distinctive, and the food was very tasty. I’m glad that the western side of downtown has another quality choice for dining throughout the day.
Disclosure: I received this dinner as a sample from Red Roost Tavern. The comments above are entirely my own and were not a requirement of the dinner. You can read our sample policy on our site.
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