Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends

Cakebread Cellars, Champagne Bottles, and Special Events

by Monty and Sara Preiser

Follow Up Regarding BYOB

The response to our last column about bringing wine to restaurants was overwhelming, and we are happy to say they were also 100% positive. Since usually one sees responses from mostly dissatisfied people, the agreeable tone of all the emails we received was surprising, and appreciated. It simply seems that most people who read about wine agree with us.

One of our readers from Boca Raton, attorney Rod Coleman, expanded on our discussion of whether or not restaurants themselves could be held liable for serving an intoxicated person. As you may recall, we answered that issue in the narrow context of our column when we said that the potential liability was the same whether customers brought their own wine or purchased it from the restaurant, and so a restaurant that used that reasoning as an excuse to ban personal wine was off base. But Rod really removes that argument entirely from the restaurant when he points out that the Florida legislature has gone a step further in protecting businesses by adopting section 768.125, dictating that one who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages shall not be responsible for injury or damage caused by the intoxication of such person, unless the serving party has direct knowledge that the customer is not of lawful drinking age, or is habitually addicted to alcohol.

La Follette Offers Personal Wine Experience

Most of you will remember a column of about six months ago where we extolled the wines of winemaker Greg LaFollette. Well, if you plan a 2011 visit to Sonoma or its environs you should know that Greg has started a new program called “In the Cellar with Greg.” This 10:30 a.m. – noon private event and tasting experience offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look with Greg at his winemaking operations, a barrel tasting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and, at the end of the tour, a private sit-down tasting featuring Greg’s current releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a few nibbles of local cheeses. This is a nice deal for $30, and there are plenty of dates in 2011 to take advantage of it. Call for reservations.

February 11, March 18, April 1, May 6
June 3, July 1, August 5, and December 2

www.lafollettewines.com 707-395-3902


Cakebread Cellars and Some Surprises

If there is a winery in Napa that seems to evoke wonderful reviews from almost everyone that visits, it would be Cakebread Cellars. With products that are uniformly excellent, the owners and staff here are some of the most approachable and charitable people in the Valley.

Not too long ago we bought an auction lot that included a few bottles of Cakebread wine, plus lunch and a special tasting with President and COO Bruce Cakebread at the company’s Dancing Bear Ranch high up on Howell Mountain. This property, named after a friendly bear who enjoys his “share” of the fruit being grown at 2,000 feet (who doesn’t?), grows the magical Bordeaux style grapes that comprise the blended Dancing Bear Cabernet Sauvignon.

As expected, the scenery was gorgeous and the food enticingly prepared. The vertical of Dancing Bear (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008) was, also as expected, a highlight of the summer. Wines of unquestioned complexity and balance, each nonetheless was unique in its overall characteristics. For us the 2003 could best be described as intense, the 04 as earthy, the 05 as aromatic, the 06 as structured, the 07 as dessert-like (chocolate, vanilla, and cherry pie notes), and the 08 as still too young to decide.

Under the category of “we can always learn something and be surprised,” after sipping the just released (and constantly top scorer) 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, we then tasted and fell in love with the 2003 vintage of the varietal. Normally, we admit, we would not even open a bottle of S.B. with that age, but we had Bruce as a host and quality voucher. And he was right. This wine was 25% fermented in French oak, and then 75% aged for at least 5 months in barrel. It retains its silky mouth feel, fig overtones, citrus backbone, and hints of oak, all the while showing off some decided secondary flavors from its age. Delicious. It has changed our opinion on what a Sauvignon Blanc can be, especially in Napa, where winemakers are giving it new twists geared toward making it a broader food wine that can last for a while.

You never know what you are going to get when you buy an auction lot, but leave it to Cakebread and its penchant for class to be certain that a visit will be worth every minute.

www.cakebread.com 800-588-0298


The Champagne Region Goes Green

We have long been proponents of lighter wine bottles. Those on the heavy side make it difficult to lift a case, not to mention in this “green oriented” world that they unnecessarily use up greater resources (more glass, more cardboard, more human energy, etc.). If these heavy bottles added some benefit to the wine itself (as opposed to a perceived PR value), we could give an argument for their use some credence, but as far as we know there is no positive effect to the wine itself added by an overweight bottle.

Well, thank you to the Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC), which has introduced a lighter bottle intended to reduce the area’s carbon emissions. By reducing weight of the bottles by over 2 ounces (mostly due to almost imperceptible design changes in the neck), U.S. spokesman Sam Heitner says that the CO2 reduction will be equal to that put out by 4,000 cars. The goal of the CIVC is to reach a 75% reduction in the next 40 years.

The 2009 vintage will be bottled in the new containers and should show up in the United States by 2012. These bottles, however, are only being used for non vintage cuvees. But that is plenty, as they comprise about 85% of Champagne’s production.

Time for the American Fine Wine Competition

The American Fine Wine Competition begins this weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Designed to be the world’s most comprehensive tasting of premium wines made in America (a wine must reach a designated threshold of cost and be invited by an acquisition panel), a stellar group of internationally known judges from four states will spend two days sampling blindly and awarding appropriate medals. Some of the results will be published in this column very soon. For complete information, including past medalists, go to www.americanfinewinecompetition.com.

Wine writers and educators Monty and Sara Preiser divide their time between Palm Beach County, Florida and the Napa Valley in California. They publish the world's most comprehensive guide to Napa Valley wineries and restaurants titled, appropriately, The Preiser Key to Napa Valley.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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