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Sep 12, 2013 8 min read

September 13, 2013 - This week's tablehopper: red, red wine.

September 13, 2013 - This week's tablehopper: red, red wine.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: red, red wine.                    

It’s about that time! Plump grapes at Jordan Winery. Photo: ©

Happy foggy Friday to you. I also think if you attended last night’s tablehopper singles event, you may be experiencing another kind of fog—the one that comes from drinking too much wine! Last night’s event at MKT Restaurant—Bar at the Four Seasons was a blast. I mean, really, what’s not to love about being in an elegant room with 30 fabulous gay men all at once? Total catnip. Huge thanks to everyone who came to the event, to the fantastic Four Seasons team who helped me pull off another fun singles event (the logistics on these things are not easy, let me tell you), and especially to our sponsors—Purple Wine Company, Charbay, and Boisset Family Estates—who helped everyone get verrrrrry comfortable as the night went on, heh heh.

More wine! Today I have a totally awesome giveaway in the sugar mama: a Coravin Wine Access System! (I was so fired up over the technology that they generously gave me one to give away to y’all.) Check it out.

Quick shout-out to the amazing team at Bar Tartine, which was the scene of my dear sister’s birthday dinner party on Wednesday evening. How is it possible that the food just keeps getting better over there? The smoked potatoes were already magic, and now they’re really beyond. Ditto the farmer cheese dumpling, wow. And you have to try the tomatoes with smoked salmon sauce and laver. The entire meal was such a bounty—thanks all for such a memorable meal!

Okay, last tidbits: Over on, here’s my monthly recap of five new restaurants to check out now (so many openings!) and here’s my Tablehopping column at the SF Bay Guardian (check out that pic of the Nombe ramenburger!).

All righty folks, have fun this weekend, I’ll see you next week. Marcia Gagliardi

the sponsor

This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)

(Sponsored): Get Your Fix @ SAVOR the Central Coast

It’s fall, and your summer days were too much work and not enough play. Now it’s time to play at Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast—the West Coast’s premier wine and food event held in San Luis Obispo County.

Tickets are still available for cool events such as Sunset in the Vineyard at Vina Robles, which promises to be “brighter than the sun” with an intimate concert by two-time Grammy winner Colbie Caillat, paired with your favorite wines and farm-to-fork delights.  Adventure Tours, such as Plant Your Vine in Cambria, Lasso the Wild West with Madonna Inn, and a Chardonnay: From Grape to Glass experience are available. And then there’s the Main Event, where you can meet some of the nation’s hottest celebrity chefs and winemakers, and taste to your heart’s content.

Buy tickets before they sell out!

707 scout

Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)

Annie's Kids After Party at Redd Wood on September 17th


Redd Wood, in Yountville. Photo from Facebook.

Chef Richard Reddington is hosting a benefit in memory of his mother, Ann, on Tuesday September 17th at Redd in Yountville. The dinner portion of the evening is all sold out (and was a spendy $1,000 per person), but you can still snag a ticket to the after party at REDD WOOD, Reddington’s more casual outpost across the street.

In attendance you’ll find chef Donald Link of Cochon in New Orleans, and Mitch Rosenthal of San Francisco’s Town Hall. Plus, the fabulously charming fellas from Trick Dog will have a pop-up bar set up, and they’ll be shaking cocktails all night long.

The party begins at 10:30pm, and goes until everyone wears out. Tickets are $50, and benefit two pediatric charities: Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Crosby’s Fund. Purchase by email, or by calling 707-944-2222 ext. 31. You can also check out the online silent auction, which includes some pretty sweet items, like a stay at the Calistoga Ranch and a tasting menu at Jardinière for four. 6755 Washington St. at Pedroni, Yountville, 707-944-2222 ext. 31.


the wino

Guest Wine & Spirits Writers (in vino veritas)

Checking Lists: A Critical Look at Restaurant Wine by Alan Goldfarb (JoLē)


Alan Goldfarb was the wine editor at the St. Helena Star, where it is said that assignment must be akin to covering Catholicism in Vatican City. He was also the senior editor for His work has appeared in the San Jose Mercury News, Wine Enthusiast, and Decanter. He’s the contributor of the chapter “Chewing on Chile” in the Travelers’ Tales book Adventures in Wine. He was also the technical editor for California Wine for Dummies.

He’s a restaurant wine consultant and advises wineries on public relations projects. (For his “Checking Lists” column, he will not promote his clients.) You can listen to his latest appearance on iWine Radio. Have a question or a comment? You can email Alan. He’d love to hear from you.

JoLē Is Certainly Unique, Throughout.

Whenever I’m in at a restaurant that I intend to write about, I try to be as inconspicuous as possible. But when I sat down at JoLē in Calistoga, it was impossible to remain anonymous, because I was with John and Felicia Tudal, owners of the nearby Tudal Winery. When having dinner in Wine Country with two winery principals, it’s virtually impossible to stay incognito.

That’s why wine director Dan Kaiser plied us with wine—all kinds of wine, wine that wasn’t even on the list. Beautiful wines. Unusual wines. Interesting wines. In the end, the experience was serendipitous because it was a wonderful way to immerse myself in the breadth of JoLē’s wine program. It’s deep, idiosyncratic, and well realized.

Oh, and the food—octopus with brisket (!), clams with chorizo, lamb tongue with watermelon, and chicken-fried quail with roasted peaches—is as innovative and daring as the wine list.

In fact, I think JoLē is the best restaurant to inhabit the Mount View Hotel since Jan Birnbaum’s Catahoula left it almost nine years ago. The chef-owner is Matt Spector, who along with his wife Sonjia (the pastry chef), were at Matyson in Philadelphia. Though the brisket and octopus are prepared so thoughtfully it’s as if they’re the same species, Spector’s Jewish grandmother—who taught him to make brisket—would probably blanch at the thought.

But it was the wines that coalesced the experience at JoLē. For me, without thought-provoking, acid-based wine, a meal—no matter how good the food—feels as if something is missing. Kaiser knows his stuff; he not only curates the wine list, he also puts the right wines on the table with Spector’s food.

It’s always a monumental task putting a wine list together in Wine Country. You have to please all the people all the time. “Why isn’t my wine on the list?” wine industry types query. “You’re gonna charge me corkage!?” “How come you’re selling wines from Sonoma in Napa?”

Kaiser handles it deftly. As I experienced, he made sure to treat the Tudals with care, by bringing out taste after taste. He surprised and amazed us when he brought a white pinot noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, made by Adam Lee of Novy. That is not a typo; the pinot noir was white. Lee pressed the juice off rapidly without allowing the red skin color to leach into the hopper. This was not a rosé, but a fairly full-bodied, unoaked white that was reminiscent of a good chard or roussanne. And it held its own with the octopus-brisket.

Next we tasted a 2011 Recuerdo torrontés from La Rioja in Argentina. Torrontés is the white of Argentina. It comes from a vineyard at 2,600 feet, halfway between Mendoza and Salta. The Recuerdo’s minerality had an affinity with the flavors of the octopus-brisket and clam-chorizo duos.

With the chicken-fried quail, came a ‘10 Rhône-like blend from 2880 in Calistoga, made just blocks from the restaurant. Made from grenache, syrah, and petite sirah, the balanced wine had enough tannins to stand up to the sweetness of the peach and the guts to marry with the chipotle-honey salsa.

I would have loved to taste the Spiegelberg furmint ‘10 from Hungary, but didn’t.  Whenever most people even think of Hungarian wine, the sweet Tokajis generally come to mind. This furmint is dry but full-bodied and opulent. Or how about the Plavic Mali Vinrija Dingač ‘10 from Croatia? This is the original zinfandel before it migrated to California via Italy and Massachusetts. These bottles are just more examples of JoLē’s expansive wine list.

Kaiser’s list is categorized into sections: New World, Old World, Our World. Every item is served by the glass, save for the reserve list, and there’s a pichet offering, or jug. It’s a pretentious term for carafe. But that’s about all that is not real about JoLē.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: 2011 Recuerdo Torrontés, Argentina, $42

Why we don’t see more of this grape here, I’m not sure. It’s affordable, it can be lovely, and it’s a hell of a food wine, what with its minerality and good acid. This torrontés is aromatic with peach and citrus; and has delicious tropical fruit flavors with lemon/lime zest undertones.

Please feel free to email Alan with your comments and your experiences with restaurant wine. He’d love to hear from you.


the sugar mama

Giveaways (get some)

Enter to Win a Coveted Coravin!


The Coravin in action.

Have you heard about the amazing new innovation, the Coravin Wine Access System? (I posted a little demo video about it on YouTube here.) It’s a pretty revolutionary product: you can access wine without pulling the cork. No, really. So that beautiful bottle of Gaja Barolo you have been hanging on to? You can actually pour a taste of it, a glass even, and what remains in the bottle will remain safe from oxidation. So if you want to compare vintages, or maybe you’re dining solo and just want to pour yourself a glass (of something good, hopefully), here’s your new best friend!

Here’s how it works: a thin, hollow needle pierces the cork and foil, and the bottle is then pressurized with argon (an inert gas). It pushes the wine through the needle and into your glass without any oxygen getting into the bottle. Once you extract the needle, the cork reseals itself (ahhh, the wonders of cork) and you’ve just poured yourself something nice. It’s easy to operate, and damn cool.

The Coravin retails for $299, but I have been able to secure one Coravin to give away to one lucky tablehopper reader! To enter to win it, all you need to do is forward today’s tablehopper newsletter to two friends (but even more would be so very fabulous), and add a note to your friends about Coravin, what bottle of wine you’d like to pour yourself a glass of, or all of the above! Be sure to Cc: or Bcc: me at so I know you sent it—I promise I won’t use anyone’s email address. The deadline to enter is Friday September 20th at 11:59pm! We’ll notify the winner soon thereafter and get your Coravin in the mail to you! Good luck! And cheers.

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