I’ve been out this week with a rather virulent virus, but wanted to update you on the 2017 San Francisco International Chocolate Salon award results held at the Hotel Kabuki on March 18, 2017, where I reprised my recurring role as judge.
Unlike judging wine, you can’t ‘sip and spit’ when judging chocolate. No, you must savor and swallow each morsel offered by every chocolatier attending….thank god for hotel fitness facilities.
My favorites include Basel B Inc (www.baselbinc.com), whose hand-painted truffles resemble elaborate, Byzantine bijoux – with equally exotic flavor combinations like pistachios with honey and cardamom, and candied ginger with lavender.
Sonoma’s Firefly Bean to Bar California Bay Laurel Chocolate (www.fireflychocolate.com) still haunts me – a tantalizing combination of organic cacao beans, wild harvested bay nuts, and organic coconut sugar with an unusual nutty texture that pairs exceptionally well with Pinot Noir, a discovery I learned later on my own.
And for the vegans among you, Cadence Chocolates (www.cadencechocolates.com) offer a variety of toothsome truffles like Hibiscus Rose (my personal fave), Negroni, Olive Oil, and Sunflower Seed Butter, in addition to their non-vegan assortments. (Disclosure: Trade samples were provided by Cadence Chocolates.)
While I’ve been judging this event since 2012, I have to admit that the 2017 San Francisco International Chocolate Salon far exceeded my expectations, not only in the breadth and depth of artisan chocolatiers, but in their commitment to fair trade, exceptional sourcing, and creative flavor combinations. Bravo!
Copyrighted 2017. L.M. Archer \ binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.
Welcome to Wine Writer Confidential, where I spill, thrill and chill you with all the news unfit to print about my world of wine writing.
Yes, the title pays homage to Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” (2000, Bloomsbury Publishing). But here all similarities end, except the spirit of unpretentiousness. And unpredictability. Because I honestly don’t know how often I’ll be posting this series, nor where it will take us. But I do know that we’ll be taking the ride together.
As a highly reserved person by nature, you can be sure that I’ll be kicking and screaming in the background throughout. However, in a world incessantly competing for our attention, I feel we all need this place – a refuge where we can all decompress, peruse, and leave the site thinking, “Hey, life’s not so bad after all.”
Indeed. Not while we have wine to share, the redThread™ that binds us all.
February 21-24 2017: Professional Wine Writers Symposium Meadowood Napa Valley
Held at luxury resort Meadowood Napa Valley, this attendance-by-invitation only allows wine writers worldwide the opportunity to meet with peers and premier industry editors, publishers, and writers for three days of well-paced seminars, wine tasting, and gourmet fare.
As one of the fortunate attending fellows, I appreciated the themed program schedule (“Arrival and Recharge”,”Craft of Writing,” “Career Advancement,” “Wine Knowledge), as well as the intimate-yet-utterly-universal-in-tone keynote by legendary Kevin Zraly, creator and author of “Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.” The man survived 9/11, lost a number of his co-workers, not to mention the restaurant he’d worked at most of his adult life – and still continues to inspire others. My personal takeaway? Life involves ‘resiliency,’ ‘perspective,’ and ‘chutzpah.’ The general takeaway? Life goes on – with a little help from friends, family – and wine.
The general symposium theme “Wine Writing Goes Digital” proved both provocative and bemusing, given the conference allowance for brief, 15-minute ‘digital breaks” throughout – enough time to check social media, but not enough time to get sucked into its vortex. A win-win situation all around.
Most of all, I treasure the friendships, mentors, and professional connections established in such a magical setting.
Many thanks to Julia Allenby and team Wine Writers Symposium 2017, Meadowood Napa Valley, The Culinary Institute at Greystone and Copia, and Napa Valley Vintners for their graciousness and hospitality.
March 13 2017: Made in New Zealand Trade Tasting | Gallery 308 – Fort Mason Center, San Francisco
The best part about living in Northern California is proximity to San Francisco’s vibrant wine industry events. And as a student of Burgundy, the recent “Made in New Zealand” trade tasting held at Gallery 308 in Fort Mason Center (with gobsmackingly gorgeous views of the marina and Golden Gate Bridge) expanded my understanding of terroir – and my palate.
Organized by island, north to south, standouts include a sparkling wine by huiavineyards.com giving Champagne a run for its money, a ‘wild-ferment’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014 by Greywacke.com of unusual nuance, and nervy Marlborough winery hillersden.com, a family willing to literally going out on ridge to make their wines.
Not familiar with the name? Arínzano claims fame as northwestern Spain’s first Vino de Pago certified winery, producing exquisite, small-lot premium wines. The stunning site also lends itself well to enotourism, offering bucket-list experiences like their annual ‘Running of the Bulls’ adventure in nearby Pamplona.
The term “French Paradox” emerged in the ’80s to describe that country’s contradictory high-fat diet coupled with its low incidence of heart disease. Today, another “French Paradox” plays out; this one, in Burgundy. While the region grapples with a new normal of rising weather catastrophes, lower yields, as well as increasing land and production costs, domaines and vignerons search for opportunity elsewhere.
The Drouhin family (from left), Laurent, Véronique, Philippe and Frederic, has made a second home here in Oregon. Photo by Mathieu Garçon
For many Burgundians, that search leads to Oregon. Visionaries like Maison Joseph Drouhin rooted early in its volcanic and sedimentary soils. Other houses followed, like Maison Louis Jadot and Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, along with legendary vignerons like Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon. As a result, today’s Old World Burgundy and New World Oregon enjoy a complementary relationship based upon an overarching respect for Pinot Noir in particular, for terroir in general and for excellence overall. Read more here.
Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer \ binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved.