Paul Marcus Wines
Oakland, CA 94618
You can choose the prix fixe option (details below), which includes all six wines, or you can order both food and wine à la carte.
A group of us from the store will be there, so please stop by our table to say hello, ask us about the wines and producers, and let us know what you think.
Chef Christopher Lee's menu:
Capunet-cabbage filled with veal, squash flowers, and Parmesan
Bagnat Vert-marinated anchovies with parsley sauce
Carne Cruda-veal tartare
Primo piatto: Tajarin-saffron noodles with porcini and mint
Secondo piatto: Veal Osso Buco with marrow risotto
Contorno: long-cooked cauliflower with garlic and olive oil
Baroli from the Paul Marcus Wines cellar:
Paolo Scavino 2000 Barolo
Paolo Scavino 1997 Barolo
Elio Grasso 2000 Barolo 'Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté'
Elio Grasso 1998 Barolo 'Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté'
Giovanni Corino 1997 Barolo 'Vigneto Arborina'
Silvio Grasso 1997 Barolo
Prix fixe cost: $100/person for the complete menu, including a 2 oz. pour of each Barolo.
In case you prefer not to eat a full-bore Piemontese meal (or simply prefer to spend less), you also have the option of ordering off the menu, which will include all the items listed above. You can order any of the wines individually by the 2 oz. pour, glass, or bottle.
Reservations or questions: Call Eccolo at 510.644.0444. Eccolo's
address is 1820 Fourth Street, Berkeley.
by Paul Courtright
"Aie confiance en toi-même!," my French teacher said to me a few months back. We had just spent an hour discussing politics and social issues when I commented that I have a hard time speaking with others. French is not natural to me, but it's not the lack of fluency that keeps me from speaking - it's lack of confidence.
It's like that for most of us with wine. I hear it from customers all the time. "I don't know anything about wine, but...." The sentence usually ends with a well thought-out request for a specific kind of wine. There's so much to learn about wine, and for most of us in the U.S. it's like a new language - we didn't grow up with wine in our lives and have come to it from beer and cocktails. I've been working with wine for seven years, and there's still so much that I don't know.
So it's no wonder the wine press has become so powerful in today's wine world. More people are drinking wine in our country than ever before. We're spending lots of money on a product that hasn't previously been a part of our culture. There's a lot to decipher, and it's convenient that there are a few lifestyle magazines that help unravel the mysteries of what to spend our money on. Few people have the time or resources to find all this information themselves.
And the magazines offer a great service. They attempt to predict what their customers' tastes are, they sift through thousands of available wines, and they feature the wines that have proven to be commercially appreciated. This creates a bit of a Catch-22 though. If wine drinking has not been a part of our culture - has not developed a market - and the wine magazines are catering their coverage to market forces, then who are they speaking to, consumers or marketing firms? How does wine integrate itself into our daily lives - how does wine ever have a chance to speak for itself?
In cultures where wine has had a significant role are things different? The international wine press has profound impact in France and Italy. Both countries have publications similar to our domestic magazines, and some famous American and English wine writers are top sellers in translation. The difference is that most Europeans already know how wine fits into their lives: They want something they can have with a meal, and they want something they can afford to drink on a regular basis. They have confidence in what wine means to them - it's second nature.
We've talked before in this newsletter about wine and food, and we're happy to recommend a bottle to drink with your dinner. But that doesn't help you out if you still don't feel comfortable with your own tastes. I always tell people (my friends, customers, strangers on the street...) to find a place where there's somebody to actually talk to about the wines they sell, a place where the staff actually knows the wines. That's just a useful first step, like reading the wine rags can be for some people.
If I could give one piece of advice to help people navigate the world of wine, it would be: "have confidence." Confidence does not come from reading all the magazines and books you can get your hands on. Confidence does not come from tasting thousands of wines. Confidence does not come from using a few key words from some "wine expert's" vocabulary to limit your choices. Confidence does not come from "developing a palate." Confidence comes from knowing what you like, and from confidence comes the ability to like more things.
All it takes is a little bit of attention. When you have a glass of wine you like, ask yourself, "What do I like about this?" The answer doesn't have to be anything profound. Often times it's something as simple as, "I like the fruit flavor," or "I really enjoy drinking this with friends." It's not quantum physics, and it changes every time you put a glass to your lips. All the flowery adjectives that we use ("minerally, with flavors of peach pit and camphor..."; who's actually tasted a peach pit?) often just get in the way of true appreciation and understanding. It's not a contest. There's nobody that you need to impress. All you need to do is enjoy yourself.
It's the same with me and my French. If I get too caught up in what I don't know, I lose sight of what I do. Not knowing something about a wine shouldn't keep you from appreciating it. We're always happy to educate and provide information about the wines we sell, but that is secondary. What really matters is that you are open enough to try something new - and not be cowed by fear of what you don't know.
We all have a natural tendency to try to make up for what we don't know by exclaiming loudly what we do (especially me). But if you take a second to listen to what a wine has to say - any wine, even the ones you don't think you like at first - you open yourself up to a world of experience. If you can have the confidence that these experiences belong in your life, then they will simply make a place for themselves.
Ayez confiance en vous-même!
We asked Paul Courtright to suggest a few wines that well help build confidence. Here are three of his experience-expanding favorites:
2003 Turnhof Goldmuskateller ($16): "Goldmuskateller" means "yellow muscat", and when most of us think of muscat, we think of sweet wines. But this wine is completely dry - and tons of fun. It's the kind of wine that brings a smile to everyone's face.
1994 López de Heredia Rioja Blanco 'Viña Gravonia' ($24): Ten-year-old white wine from Spain?! Yep. Find out what a decade of aging in barrel and bottle can do for the right white wine. It's a classic style of Rioja that most of us in the U.S. are utterly unfamiliar with - and another wonderful eye- and palate-opener.
2000 Clos Rougeard Saumur-Champigny ($37): It's hard to walk through our store without bumping into a Loire Valley cabernet franc enthusiast - whether it's an employee or a customer. If you don't yet know what the fuss is about, here's your wine. And if you're already converted, this wine will have you singing in the choir.
by Mark Middlebrook
The hardest thing about returning home from Piemonte, which I did last Sunday, is knowing when to shut up. There are so many memorable meals, superb wines, and interesting conversations with the Piemontese people that one is tempted to go on ... and on ... and on. I promise to keep it *relatively* short here.
I was fortunate indeed to join up this time Denise Pardini and Jay Russell of La Vita Vera Italia (http://www.lavitaveraitalia.com/) and a group of savvy, fun-seeking Paul Marcus Wines customers. Denise and Jay organized a week-long wine and culinary tour of the Langhe (Barolo, Barbaresco, and the Alta Langa) and the Roero to coincide with the end of harvest. In case your Piemontese geography is a little fuzzy, here's a map from our September newsletter: http://paulmarcuswines.com/newsletters/pmwnews_2004-09.html#geography
As the vineyards dazzled with their brilliant fall colors, we visited wine and food producers, ate lunches prepared by supremely skilled home cooks at several of the wineries, and dined at some great Langhe restaurants. White truffle season was getting into full swing, so we ate plenty of truffles and even went on a little truffle hunt with Drago the trifolau ("truffle hunter" in Piemontese).
In between the packed tour schedule that Denise and Jay had arranged, I visited other wine producers in order to taste current releases and barrel samples and get a reading on the 2004 vintage. These visits also provided the opportunity to renew acquaintances and friendships that had developed during my previous trips.
The 2004 harvest in Piemonte was a late one, and by most accounts, a great one. In marked contrast to 2003, summer temperatures were moderate, which allowed slow, steady ripening. There was no hail or excessive rain to damage the grapes. The producers I talked to ranged from very happy to ecstatic about the quality of the harvest. Everyone mentioned that grape quantities were abundant this year, which is what caused a few producers to be more moderate in their praise of the vintage. (Large harvests sometimes result in less concentrated and complex wines.) But everyone agreed that the grapes were healthy and the fermentations were going well. And the up-side of a large harvest is that more wine should keep prices down, despite the weak dollar. In short: While 2003 was a year for intense, full-bodied, succulent wines, 2004 looks like a more structured, more classicly Piemontese vintage. Most of the wines are still fermenting in barrel, so it's too early to tell for sure, but I can't wait to start tasting the wines in barrel next year.
I also learned - or re-learned - that 2002 has been mis-reported by most of the wine press. That notoriously cool vintage, with serious hailstorms in a few places, did indeed cause problems for early- ripening dolcetto. But September 2002 brought warm, sunny weather, and the late-ripening nebbiolo did perfectly fine in most places (i.e., those places that didn't suffer hail damage). Our tour group drank bottles of 2002 nebbiolo on several occasions during the week, and all of them were good wines. No one pretends that 2002 is a vintage on par with 2000 or the magnificent 2001, but there is good nebbiolo to be found at very reasonable prices.
During our group's lunch at Cascina Raflazza, a producer of Murazzano cheese in the Alta Langa, Anna Maria Abbona poured her full line-up of dolcetto, barbera, and nebbiolo. Anna Maria's 'Sorí del But' is easily our best-selling dolcetto, and its many fans will be happy to know that the 2003 vintage of it remains in top form. We also discovered that dolcetto can make a "serious" wine, too, in the form of her 'Maiale' and Dolcetto Superiore.
The next day, I made the obligatory - and always pleasurable - pilgrimage to Elio Grasso outside Monforte d'Alba. Elio and his son, Gianluca, continue to craft superb and moderately-priced Baroli from special plots in two top vineyards - Gavarini and Ginestra. (The lucky diners at this Sunday's PMW/Eccolo Barolo dinner can taste both the 1998 and 2000 vintages of the latter - Barolo 'Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté'.)
Later in the week, Denise and Jay arranged for our group to visit the famous cantina of Paolo Scavino, near Castiglione Falletto. Enrico himself - the proprietor of this estate and one of the true Barolo greats - showed us around the new cantina, which is still under construction. This was my first visit to Scavino, and as we tasted through all their wines, the lightbulb went on. These are *great* wines. They're models of elegance and balance, with nothing out of place. I can't wait for the 2001 Barolo 'Bric dël Fiasc" to show up in the store next year.
Perhaps the highlight of this trip, though, was spending time in the Roero - the wine-producing zone just across the river from Barolo and Barbaresco. It's similar to the Langhe in some ways, but a little wilder and a little newer in terms of producing top-notch wines. The Roero is best known for arneis, a white wine, but producers there also make excellent nebbiolo, which is labeled either Nebbiolo d'Alba or Roero. I visited the cantinas of four of our Roero producers - Mario Roagna (Cascina Val del Prete), Angelo Ferrio (Cascina Ca' Rossa), Filippo Gallino, and Marco Porello. The five of us had a memorable dinner at L'Enoteca, a brilliant restaurant in the Roero's main town of Canale. The knowledge, passion, and dedication of these producers is truly inspiring. They're making excellent wines at prices that are usually lower than in the Langhe, and they're well on their way to making Roero the third great appellation for nebbiolo - alongside Barolo and Barbaresco. Come in and ask us about the wines from this region, and look for an article about the Roero in a future Paul Marcus Wines newsletter.
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