Cocktail Corner: A Taste of Italy with DoctorWine

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As far as I’m concerned, one of the only things more fun than enjoying a great wine and food pairing is enjoying it with smart people who are willing to share their knowledge and make the experience even more delicious. When DoctorWine himself, Daniele Cernilli—a highly acclaimed expert on Italian wines and the author of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017—came to town last week, I was thrilled to be able to break bread with him and taste wines from some of his favorite producers.

Our tasting at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant was definitely a treat.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photos by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Named one of the “50 Most Influential People in the Wine World” by Decanter Magazine, Cernilli is a journalist by trade, and in addition to being a regular contributor to Italian newspapers, trade and consumer publications, he has written a number of technical books on wine and wine tasting. In addition to multiple editions of The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine, his books include, among others, Memorie di un degustatore di vini (Memories of a Wine Taster), a chronicle-memoir of his first 25 years as a taster with this opinions on many Italian and foreign wines, and Vitigni del Mondo (World Wine Grapes), written in collaboration with Dario Cappelloni, which is the most complete catalog of wine grapes ever published in Italy.

In other words, he knows his stuff, and so did the eight wine producers who accompanied him on a tour of California.

First up was Torre Rosazza – Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Fruili DOC 2016. Torre Rosazza is one of the largest producers in Europe, and Pinot Grigio has been cultivated in Friuli for centuries with great results that showcase the area’s hilly terrain. Luisa Bortolotto, the winery’s Export Manager was on hand to answer questions. Paired with a delicious salad of gems lettuces, heirloom tomato, cucumber, mint and  mouth-watering herb creme fraiche, this wine was fresh and very drinkable.

DoctorWine Daniele Cernilli leads The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour luncheon at Les Marchands, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

DoctorWine Daniele Cernilli leads The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017 California Tour luncheon at Les Marchands, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Next up were two wines paired with a delicious summer corn chowder: Querciabella – Chianti Classico DOCG 2013 from Tuscany, along with Owner Giacomo Neri; and Feudo Maccari – Saia Nero d’Avola Sicilia DOC 2014 from Sicily.

Querciabella, as DoctorWine explained, has been organic since 1988, long before there were any regulations around the practice and this very classic, 100% Sangiovese Chianti was quite lovely with a balance of fruity and savory notes. The Feudo Maccari wine, made from 100% Nero d’Avola grapes was very complex and full bodied, but quite well balanced, and also paired very well with the soup.

Our main course was the Les Marchands fabulous take on Steak Frites, with pan seared hangar steak, wild argula, salsa verde and French fries. It paired really well with three different wines: Poliziano Asinone Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montepulciano, accompanied by Owner Francesco Carletti (“King of the old Tuscan wines is the Nobile,” says DoctorWine, and it did indeed have some royal flavor); Pio Cesare Barolo DOCG 2013 from Piedmont, a lovely 100% Nebbiolo classic Barolo; and Velenosi Roggio Del Filare Rosso Piceno Superiore DOCG 2012 from Marche. 

Finally a lovely assortment of cheese and Helena Ave Bakery breads accompanied the last two wines: the Robert Parker 100-point-rated Casanova di Neri – Tenuta Nuova Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012 from Tuscany/Montalcino, along with General Manager Roberto La Sorte (yes, it was excellent); and the Bertani – Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007 from Veneto/Amarone, accompanied by Technical Director Girdano Formenti. DoctorWine explained that the Bertani was a classic Amarone, made the traditional way, in vineyards devoted entirely to producing drying grapes. The grapes are set aside to dry on (racks made from bamboo canes and then they ferment in concrete and age in barrels for seven years. It’s a complicated process, but so very worth it.

Want to learn more about Italian wine? Cernilli’s website, www.doctorwine.it,  is entirely bi-lingual (Italian-English) and is designed especially to give an Italian perspective to a global public. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on September 5, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Local Restaurants Earn Wine Spectator’s Top Honors

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch, courtesy photo.

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic!  By Leslie Dinaberg

As if there were any doubt that Santa Barbara County is Wine Country, Wine Spectator recently honored 20 local restaurants with their highest honors for excellence.

“Wine Spectator‘s Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers,” according to the guidelines.

The Stonehouse at San Ysidro Ranch earned The Grand Award, which is Wine Spectator‘s highest honor, given to only 89 restaurants around the world. According to Wine Spectator, this honor is “given to restaurants that show an uncompromising, passionate devotion to the quality of their wine programs. These wine lists typically feature 1,000 or more selections, and deliver serious breadth of top producers, outstanding depth in mature vintages, a selection of large-format bottles, excellent harmony with the menu, and superior presentation. These restaurants offer the highest level of wine service.”

Angel Oak at the Bacara Resort & Spa, Los Olivos Wine Merchant & CafeOpal Restaurant & Bar and Wine Cask all earned The Best of Award of Excellence. “These wine lists display excellent breadth across multiple winegrowing regions and/or significant vertical depth of top producers, along with superior presentation. Typically offering 350 or more selections, these restaurants are destinations for serious wine lovers, showing a deep commitment to wine, both in the cellar and through their service team,” according to Wine Spectator.

“We are thrilled for the honor in our first year of opening,” says Anne Elcon, Director of Marketing & Communications at Bacara Resort & Spa.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak Wine Cellar, LaFemme Photography, courtesy photo.

Also receiving The Award of Excellence, for “wine lists, which typically offer at least 90 selections, feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style,” were several other local restaurants: BarbareñoBella Vista at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Bouchon Santa Barbara, Chuck’s Steak House Of Hawaii, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, Olio Pizzeria, Olio e Limone Ristorante, S.Y. Kitchen, Sly’s, The Harbor Restaurant, The Hitching Post II, The Lark, Tre Lune and Willows at Chumash Casino Resort.

Cheers! Click here for more Cocktail Corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on July 14, 2017.

Cocktail Corner: Test Your Taste Buds

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

Emily Johnston, General Manager and Advanced Sommelier for Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg  

Are you curious to learn all about the secrets behind recognizing a wine from just a glance and a taste? Next week, on Thursday, May 18, you can try your skills at blind tasting. Starting at 6 p.m. at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St., Ste. B),  Advanced Sommelier Emily Johnston leads a fun, interactive event that is open to everyone at any level of wine knowledge.

Sommelier Secrets is a monthly series of SOMM-led tastings, and at $25 per person, it’s a fun way to deepen your general knowledge and also learn about new wines.

The SOMM tastings take place on the third Thursday of each month. They’re basically guided educational events hosted by Johnston and focused on understanding the nuances of a specific wine producing region or a particular grape. The tasting is comprised of flights of three or four wines to highlight classic styles and current trends.

This is an opportunity for wine lovers of all experience levels to learn more about wine in the most enjoyable way possible.

Les Marchands, photo by Rob Stark.

After the blind tasting on May 18, next up is a White Burgundy Tasting on June 15.

“Tasting wines that speak to a region is not only a key study tool of mine, it can also be a method of transport to another place or time,” states Johnston. “I’m looking forward to getting to know more wine lovers in our community and sharing this experience.”

Johnston’s early training includes interning at Brander Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley followed by wine sales for a small Italian wine import company in Santa Barbara. Thoroughly inspired, Johnston left for Italy to study as a sommelier at ALMA Scuola Internazionale di Cucina’s Wine Academy where she received the highest academic honors in her class

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, courtesy photo.

and achievement in Italian fluency. She became a Certified Sommelier with the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers (AIS) in 2011 while working alongside AIS Master Sommelier, Roberto Jacquemod Pane.

She became a Certified Advanced Level Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2016. Before arriving at Les Marchands as General Manager in 2017, Johnston served as Wine Director/Sommelier for the Toscana Restaurant Group overseeing the wine programs at four operations–Toscana, Bar Toscana, S.Y. Kitchen and Nerano for four years.

At Les Marchands, she oversees the wine bar’s ever-changing menu of selections, educational programs and retail offerings. In 2015, she was awarded Zagat’s “30 Under 30” award for young talent to be watched in the hospitality industry.

For further information and to make reservations contact Les Marchands at 805/284-0380, email inquiries@lesmarchandswine.com, or visit www.lesmarchandswine.com.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

 Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on May 12, 2017.

 

Local Dish: Les Marchands Expands Food Offerings

Clockwise: Cheddar- Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche, Couscous Salad, Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad Photo credit Laura Ray

Clockwise: Cheddar- Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche, Couscous Salad, Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad
Photo credit Laura Ray

Best known for having an impressive variety of wines and exceptional wine education classes and special events, Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant has expanded its menu options to include an everyday lunch menu created by Chef Weston Richards

The lunch menu includes snacks like Pastrami Fries and Cheddar-Herb Fries with Dill Crème Fraiche.

Also available is a Couscous and Tomato Salad with feta, olives, avocado and Moroccan spice, the Brussel Sprouts Caesar Salad, and a Cold Fried Chicken Sandwich with blue cheese dressing and house-made pickles served on Helena Avenue Bakery brioche. Chef Weston’s Weekly Cheese and Charcuterie Selections are available for lunch and throughout the day. 

Oven Roasted Porchetta, Rosemary Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Salsa Verde | Photo Credit Laura Ray

Oven Roasted Porchetta, Rosemary Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts and Salsa Verde | Photo Credit Laura Ray

In addition, Les Marchands has added Porchetta Thursdays, featuring a new Porchetta Dinner in addition to the regular menu options.

 Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

 Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant is located at 131 Anacapa St., 805/284-0380.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on August 21, 2016.

Happy Anniversary to Les Marchands

Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic: Photo credit | Macduff Everton ©2013

Eric Railsback and Brian McClintic: Photo credit | Macduff Everton ©2013

Tuesday, August 26 is your night to hit the town and join the team at Les Marchands to celebrate their doors being open for one year!

From 5:30–7 p.m. Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant toasts its one year anniversary with an exceptional lineup of Santa Barbara, French and Austrian rosé wines, including Vallin and Lieu Dit, the stunning wines produced by Les Marchands partners Brian McClintic and Eric Railsback.

Selected wines are:

Lieu Dit Rosé Santa Ynez Valley 2013

Vallin Rosé Santa Ynez Valley 2012

Gros Nore Bandol Rosé 2013

Fontsainte Gris de Gris 2013

Jager Rosé Wachau 2013

Abbatucci Faustine Rosé 2013

In addition, Chef Weston Richards will prepare food to stimulate conviviality and complement the wines. His menu features a Cheese Board with Breads and Accompaniments; House-Made and Imported Charcuterie with Weston’s own Mustards, Pickles and Olives; and Crostini with Fava Beans, House Ricotta, Mint and Chili Oil.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here:http://lesmarchandswinebar.securecheckout.com/product/detail/OneYearAnni8-26-14.html.

Les Marchands is located at 131 Anacapa St. in the Funk Zone.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on August 20, 2014.

Cocktail Corner: Wine and Film Pair Perfectly With Santa Barbara Film Feast

Star in your own romantic comedy with SB Film Feast's wine tasting specials. (photo: photostock, freedigitalphotos.net)

Star in your own romantic comedy with SB Film Feast’s wine tasting specials. (photo: photostock, freedigitalphotos.net)

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg 

Santa Barbara’s Film Feast, coinciding with the 29th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) January 30th – February 9th, has something for everyone, including a slew of great wine specials and award-worthy prix fixe tasting flights.

Nominees include The Graduate Wine Flight” at Au Bon Climat Wine Tasting Room and The Jim Clendenen Wine Library (813 Anacapa St.), which includes eight wines comprised of four sets—one older and one younger vintage of the same wine. Taste the youthful, perky vintage against the graceful, nuanced library edition, accompanied by artisan cheeses from C’est Cheese.

“Film Noir and Pinot Noir,” is on the marquee at Conway Deep Sea Tasting Room (217-G Stearns Wharf), offering a flight of three different Pinot Noirs. The grapes all come from within Santa Barbara County and highlight movies that focus on Pinot Noir’s as well.

Featured at Grassini Family Vineyards Tasting Room (813 Anacapa St.) is the documentary film Wine for the Confused,” a light-hearted introduction to wine for novices.  John Cleese, a longtime resident of Santa Barbara, hosts the film. Tastings will offer interactive lessons on tasting wine, including blind tastings, as well as sensory experiences to help you decipher the sometimes confusing world of wine.

At Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St.), it’s your turn to be the sommelier with SOMM II: The Sequel.” Join the SOMM movie talent, Brian McClintic, as he and the Les Marchands team guide you through your own blind tasting just like in the movie. Enjoy a wine flight with your choice of red or white and take your best guess, while exploring and learning a little more about wine. 

At Margerum Wine Company Tasting Room (812 Anacapa St.) enjoy the It’s Complicated tasting flight and see where parts of the movie were filmed. Try a speciality tasting of the single vineyard Syrah flight, while enjoying clips from the film.

Silent films take center stage at Municipal Winemakers (22 Anacapa St.). With “Blind and Silent,” sharpen your wine tasting skills while enjoying a variety of famous films that will be silently projected. Muni will be offering blind tastings of a variety of its wines, while letting you guess the blend and silent film.

It’s opening night at Santa Barbara Winery (202 Anacapa St.) “Starring Grenache!” and featuring a new release wine flight starring their 2011 Grenaches. Co-starring in the performance will be boxes of locally made Grenache chocolate truffles. Sounds like a delicious way to celebrate the film festival.

Cheers!
Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 24, 2014.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Les Marchands Presents New Year’s Eve With Pierre Péters Champagne & Raw Bar Extravaganza

Brian McClintic and Eric Railsback of Les Marchands (photo by Emily Railsback)

Brian McClintic and Eric Railsback of Les Marchands (photo by Emily Railsback)

Looking for something elegant to do this New Year’s Eve? As the ball drops, the bubbles rise. when Master Sommelier Brian McClintic and Sommelier Eric Railsback, managing partners of Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St. in the Funk Zone), showcase the best in Champagne and include a Santa Barbara seafood feast to ring in 2014.

The stars of the 2013 hit film SOMM celebrate the passing of 2013 and the arrival of 2014 with a spectacular party befitting this paean to fine wine producers.
Pouring plentifully for solo guests and couples is Pierre Péters, the Champagne produced in France by the family since 1919. This champagne will be accompanied by a raw bar for the ages—replete with Blue Fin Tuna, Oysters on the Half Shell, Local Uni with Burrata and much, much more.
Space is extremely limited; tickets are available for purchase on the Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant website.
—Leslie Dinaberg
Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on December 23, 2013

Cocktail Corner: Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur

Cutler courtesy photo

Ian Cutler, courtesy photo

A spirited toast to all things alcoholic! by Leslie Dinaberg

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I’m sure some super-organized hosts already have their menus color coded and the ink is dry on their calligraphy place cards. To those people I say, “thanks for making the rest of us look bad” … and to the rest of us I say: “forget struggling over the crust:  Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur is the best apple pie you’ve ever had in your life!”

I’m not kidding!

I was hooked from the first sip of this spicy, cinnamon-tastic, delicious liqueur from Cutler’s Artisan Spirits (the tasting room and distillery is at 137 Anacapa St., Suite D, in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone). Seriously, it’s even better than dessert, and I don’t say that very often.

Cutler's Artisan Spirits: Grandma Tommie's Apple Pie LiqueurAs Ian Cutler explained when I visited the tasting room a while back, the flavor was inspired by his Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie recipe (which had to have been out-of-this-world yummy). He starts with Cutler’s ultra premium extra smooth 7 times distilled Vodka, and adds fresh apple juice, certified organic whole vanilla beans, certified organic cinnamon and other spices to mimic that perfect fresh baked apple pie taste.

Taste it at Cutlers’ Artisan Spirits, then mosey a few doors down to Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St., Suite B) to buy a bottle (or two)  to take home and get into the spirit and “prepare” for Thanksgiving.

(Click here for an additional list of local places to purchase Grandma Tommie’s Apple Pie Liqueur, as well as the fine establishments where Cutler cocktails are served.)

Cheers!

Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine on November 8, 2013.

Leslie Dinaberg

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”