Learn from Experience

Established in 1857, Buena Vista Carneros has been in the business of making wine longer than anyone in California. These days winemaker Jeff Stewart and a bevy of oenophile staffers are showcasing their Carneros and Ramal Vineyard series daily during an educational tasting and pairing. For $20 per person, learn the nuances of taste and definitions of common buzzwords such as buttery, crisp and earthy, used to describe the wine-tasting experience. Sonoma-grown olives and olive oils will be served during the month of February in honor of the Feast of the Olive. Can’t make the trek? Tasting room manager Rick Bidia has put together a DIY wine pairing. Here’s a sample:

You will need a couple of bottles each of a chardonnay, syrah, cabernet, pinot noir and, for pairing, a lemon (in thin slices), green, picholine unpitted olives, Port Salut cheese, goat cheese, Dubliner cheese (or any hard, mild cheddar), kalamata olives and salami.

Start with a sip of chardonnay. Have friends taste the lemon slice, then sip the chardonnay again. The wine should taste and feel much smoother and richer. The reason for this is that the chemistry (pH balance) of your mouth changes when you taste a high-acid item like lemon juice. If you try a wine in a restaurant and it is far too acidic, just order an appetizer that has some kind of acid component, like fried calamari or fish with lemon, or anything with capers. If you understand this principle, you have the power to make almost any wine match your food.

For the rest of the tasting instructions, go to the Marin Magazine blog page at and type in “Buena Vista.”

Chocolate and Cab—It’s complicated
In the latest issue of Edible Marin and Wine Country, culinary expert David Katz writes that this seemingly perfect pair rarely works out. As with so many one-sided relationships, the cabernet has so much to offer the chocolate, but “chocolate will never love cabernet sauvignon back without hurting it.” He continues his scientific explanation by claiming the match up with a 30 percent bittersweet chocolate, “will clobber the wine leaving it tart, bitter and lifeless.” Sound like any other relationships you know?

If not cabernet, then what? Sausalito’s Stephanie Marcon of Coco-Luxe and her husband, Stan Bradbury, have recently added a wine tasting license to their confections store on Haight Street in San Francisco, where they will be offering gourmet chocolates with zinfandel, durif, sangiovese, syrah and pinot port.

What’s their take on the pairing with cabernet?

“Like everything wine related, it really is up to the consumers how they enjoy wine and chocolate together,” says Bradbury “While the tannins of cabernet can make it difficult to match high-cocoa dark chocolates usually hold their own and if the dark chocolates contain some tree nuts, like hazelnuts or walnuts, which have natural tannins themselves, it can actually reduce the apparent tannins in the wine and bring out more of the other flavors.”

Bad Boy in a Bottle
While some vintners name their varietals after family members or geographical features, brothers Jan and Bart Krupp, owners of Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak, went with Napa Valley lore. Their Black Bart Syrah is named for the infamous Black Bart of the late 1800s, who robbed dozens of Wells Fargo stagecoaches crossing over mountain roads, including the stagecoach passes that once stretched across the Krupp brothers’ present-day Stagecoach Vineyard. Born Charles Boles, the San Francisco businessman became known as a gentleman bandit—a sophisticated gray-haired outlaw with impeccable posture, fine manners, tailored dress and a propensity for leaving poetry at the scene of his crimes.