Down the Rabbit Hole with Reds: Pinot Noir and Syrah

A guest post by Henry Trione of Trione Winery

I reached for the tapered Burgundian wine bottle in the cellar, thinking it was a Pinot Noir to serve my guests. Pinot, the classic safe choice to share; a varietal ubiquitous to the typical Californian wine cellar, and a versatile selection for food pairings from pâté to dessert. Many wine connoisseurs enjoy a good Pinot, especially Marin County residents, as were my company. As I brought the bottle into the light it became immediately apparent that it was in fact not a bottle of Pinot Noir, but actually… Syrah.

It was too late. The Marinites saw the bottle. I couldn’t put it back. I suddenly realized I had given away the last bottle of Trione Pinot Noir as a Christmas gift to a friend who had unexpectedly stopped by. My mind raced. ‘The Pinot is gone; the Syrah is all I have. The Syrah is good, to be sure, but was it too exotic for the sensibilities of my guests?’ Seconds passed, it seemed like eternity. I recovered well, though.

“I have a lovely 2013 Russian River Valley Syrah for you try. I chose it specially to pair with the cheese.”

I must confess, even growing up in Sonoma County in a family involved in the business of wine, Syrah was not a common sight. Pinot and Cabernet comprised the extent of my red wine knowledge. To be fair, I was only five years old. Still, I have noticed even today that when perusing the wine list at a restaurant, there are often more labels of Pinot Noir than Syrah. I personally enjoy them both, and yes it depends on the situation, the food pairing and even the weather. Or sometimes, as it appeared in my story above, that is simply what is available.

Let’s look a little into the historical geographical incidence of the two varietals. Pinot Noir originates from the Burgundy region of France, an east-central region of the country with a cooler climate conducive to growing the thin-skinned grape. With weather much like the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, it is not a coincidence that the River Road Ranch is where Trione produces the fruit for it’s Pinot, hand selecting the top three percent of the crop that finds its way into bottles with the Trione Vineyards & Winery label. In the old world, Syrah has historically been grown in the Rhône Valley of France. The climate varies from the north to south of the valley, with the northern part cooler than the southern end. As you may have guessed, the conditions of the Russian River Valley AVA are somewhere in between. At Trione, the top three percent is siphoned off to the winemaker, Scot Covington, before the balance of the crop is sold to other local wineries.

Scot employs a French style in winemaking, so all things being equal on the production end, it is fascinating to taste just how different these wines are and why Syrah is deserving of respect. While Scot describes the Trione Pinot Noir as “Fresh tilled earth, clean, rich and… a walk through a medieval forest, dark but with layer upon layer of blackberry compote.” He describes the Syrah as smoky and “peaty, wet earth with hints of plum, blueberry and wild blackberry preserves.” In his tasting notes, he goes on to say that the Trione Syrah is “Pinot lover’s Syrah.”

Wait a minute.

Describing the Syrah in reference to Pinot is no mistake. People just know and love an earthy, peaty tasting Pinot, so why not compare the lesser known to the standard of excellence in the field? But is it fair to compare two such different wines? This is not what Scot was doing, but I believe I was guilty of this thought process when I was entertaining my guests with the bottle of 2013 Syrah. Syrah should not be considered the less gifted sibling compared to the superstar kid wonder Pinot that went to an Ivy League, rowed on the crew team and achieved a 4.0, while Syrah went to a respectable Junior College and did just fine. The point has been made that the two varietals are distinctly different, and Scot has cued us in with the tasting notes. So, how are they really different and what to pair with?

As we see in the tasting notes, Syrah is classically smoky. It is full bodied and spicy. It is bold, and I have heard it described as “barbecue wine.” At this juncture, I should add that the Trione Syrah contains 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier. This is a stylistic choice, and does not in my opinion obscure the true nature of the varietal. Pinot, on the other hand, is high in acidity, earthy, red fruit notes but lighter. So, when we really break it down to their simplest descriptions, Syrah is bold and Pinot Noir is lighter. This gives us an idea of how to pair.

Pinot Noir is indeed versatile, and the range of foods with which it pairs is generally determined by how tannic or conversely light it is. The bolder more tannic Pinots stand up well to wild game and heavier dishes, while the lighter fruitier variants are more appropriate for poultry, pastas, and seafood like salmon. At a Trione Winemaker Dinner, I even enjoyed the Russian River Pinot Noir with a fruit-based dessert. Syrah, while a significantly different to its Pinot Noir counterpart, actually pairs with similar foods as an elegantly tannic Pinot. For example, Syrah is a good partner to gamey-tasting meats, lamb, and anything barbecue. And cheese? That’s a gouda. Just steer clear of most seafood dishes, and delicate flavors that are overpowered by this full-bodied red.

There you have it. Pinot Noir and Syrah. We have barely scratched the surface of these two red varietals. They represent an intriguing comparison in my opinion because of the spectrum on which they lie. On opposite ends they are just that – diametric reds with the light, highly acidic Pinot Noir on one end and the smoky tannic Syrah on the other. Tangentially close but never quite overlapping on the spectrum, we find fuller-bodied Pinots and less toasty Syrahs. With the multitude of labels available for both varietals, there is seemingly endless opportunity to test the merits of each and to explore one’s preference. To quote The Matrix, “You take the red pill… and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

How did Father’s Day come into being – do you know?

Per Wikipedia, Father’s Day is a day of honoring fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic countries of Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 as Saint Joseph’s Day since the Middle Ages. In America, Father’s Day was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd and celebrated on the third Sunday of June for the first time in 1910. It is held on various days in many parts of the world all throughout the year, often in the months of March, May and June.

On June 19, 1910, the very first Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Smart Dodd whose father, a single parent, had raised his six children there. She felt that fathers should have a similar holiday like Mother’s Day to honor them, and on June 19, 1910, sermons honoring fathers were presented in churches throughout the city.

Ms. Dodd raised awareness for the new holiday at a national level with the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional presents for fathers. 

 In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.  Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

So – now you know! What are you doing for Father’s Day?

Photobooth fun. All virtual!

Hard to believe, but one company here in the Bay Area has found a way to take photobooth fun “all virtual!” – Giggle & Riot. Here is how it works.

Want to book? Contact studio@giggleandriot.com!

OR would you rather go for some simple, informal fun? That works, too. Make a DIY backdrop (e.g. paper flowers strung on fishing line)

… craft a few fun props…

… and take selfies! That’s it – then share online or on a photo sharing app. So easy these days! Have fun!

The Fairmont – an icon of San Francisco history

Everybody knows “The Fairmont,” right? It’s one of those truly iconic San Francisco landmarks. But do you know where it got its name? And who built it?

I was curious, and here is what I found out (courtesy of Wikipedia and my personal contacts).

Gavin Farrington Photography

The hotel was named after mining magnate and U.S. Senator James Graham Fair (1831–94) by his daughters, who built the hotel in his honor.

The hotel was nearly completed before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Although the structure survived, the interior was heavily damaged by fire, and opening was delayed until 1907. Architect and engineer Julia Morgan was hired to repair the building because of her then innovative use of reinforced concrete, which could produce buildings capable of withstanding earthquakes and other disasters.

Gavin Farrington Photography

In 1945, the Fairmont hosted international statesmen for meetings which culminated in the creation of the United Nations. The United Nations Charter was finalized in the hotel’s Garden Room, and a plaque at the hotel memorializes the event.

Evonne and Darren Photography

The Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel was where Tony Bennett first sang his famous “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in December 1961.

The Fairmont has been “the stuff of legends” – especially surrounding its famed Penthouse suite where all presidents visiting San Francisco have stayed.

Evonne and Darren Photography

The suite houses among other “follies” the Moroccan-themed Billiard Room – all walls adorned with artful mosaic.

Evonne and Darren Photography

The 2-story suite also houses a double-height library with a secret passageway to the roof (hidden behind a swiveling bookshelf on the upper level) which used to serve as an emergency escape route for the dignitaries lodging in the suite.

Photo: ADLNO

Rumor has it that the passageway was also used to smuggle President John F. Kennedy’s mistress, the actress Marilyn Monroe, in and out unseen when the president was in residence.

The Fairmont has been featured in many films, including The Rock, starring Sean Connery. My longtime friend and colleague, event planner Duncan Reyes, happened to be the Events Director at the Fairmont just then. I asked him what the most memorable event was when the movie was filmed. You will not believe this: for the escape scene (through the hotel kitchen) at the beginning of the movie, the entire hotel had to be shut down for a whole week!! Go watch the movie and enjoy!

Venue Spotlight: Thomas Fogarty Winery

Many of you will know (and love) Thomas Fogarty Winery as an elegant wedding venue – a good number of you will even have worked there at one or more weddings.

It’s spectacular – on clear days the view encompasses everything from the Bay Bridge to the North, all of Silicon Valley to San Jose in the South. Sunsets – and even the fog rolling in – are sheer beauty.

I am certainly one of Fogarty’s biggest fans! And so I would like to share with you how all this came about – there is backstory to it!

The founder of Thomas Fogarty Winery is actually a famous physician, Dr. Thomas Fogarty Sr., who worked at Stanford University and who made an invention in 1961 that has literally saved countless lives around the world ever since: the Fogarty catheter. This device allows to remove fresh blood clots from arteries without surgery, and it has become a staple of cardiologists everywhere.

Charmed by the natural beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Dr. Fogarty built his family home up on Skyline Boulevard and began acquiring the surrounding land.

By 1977, he had accumulated over 300 acres of land, and in 1978, he planted his first vineyard – with that, Thomas Fogarty Winery was officially founded! The winery is now producing mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and they are fantastic!

With the construction of the architecturally stunning open Pavilion,

where the majority of festive dinners are now hosted, the winery developed into an elegant event space with a capacity of over 200 guests, indoor/outdoor options and beautiful ceremony lawn.

And we all can absolutely not wait to be back there soon, celebrating love and the beauty of the gorgeous setting. You need not take my word for it: watch this video of one of my weddings at Thomas Fogarty Winery!

The Science of Wine demystified: Trione Whites!

A guest post by Henry Trione of Trione Winery

Trione Lineup: The Whites

Trione Vineyards & Winery grows both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes in the Russian River Valley AVA, on the River Road Ranch.

This ranch is right in the middle of the appellation, a prime climate and soil for these cooler climate varietals. The two varietals are distinctly different! From their intrinsic character to the winemaking process, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay each take separate paths to the bottle and on entirely different schedules. To explore the differences, let’s start with their flavor profiles and work our way back to the crush pad.

When someone asks me, “What is your favorite wine varietal?” I reply, “What is the occasion or food pairing?” Applied to the white varietals of the Trione lineup, it is necessary to consider the flavor profiles of the respective wines. In the words of the Trione winemaker, Scot Covington, the River Road Ranch Sauvignon Blanc tastes like the following:

White peaches, nectarines and mandarin zest are the first hints on the nose. The acidity and sweetness on the palate are in perfect balance. This wine is mouth-watering and leaves one craving for fresh oysters, sourdough baguettes, aged gouda, a sandy beach and a setting sun.

I could not have described it better myself, but if I had to define this wine in one word it would be floral. (While also leaving me craving a sandy beach and setting sun, of course!)  Sauvignon Blanc is considered an aromatic white grape, light and refreshing with just the right amount of residual sugar to balance the natural acidity. This differs from the richer qualities of Chardonnay and the slight oak flavor imparted from the mixture of new and “neutral” French oak barrels in the winemaking process. In Scot’s eloquent words:

Bottled poetry is the description of the 2017 Trione Chardonnay. Burgundian in style of both nose and palate. Rich and inviting, this wine offers a complex mix of toasty baguette, warm melted brie; silky but with the structure demonstrating the aging potential. The 2017 Chardonnay is tasting great now but will be awesome for the next 5-7 years.

So what do you enjoy these varietals with? The answer is a resounding whatever you like! Personally, Sauvignon Blanc is light and refreshing enough that it can be a stand-alone wine, not requiring any paring to enjoy. The Chardonnay, on the other hand, is a fuller-bodied wine and in my opinion better served with seafood, poultry and lighter pasta dishes. If you want to pair the Trione Sauvignon Blanc with anything in particular, I recommend cheese or oysters. The sweet-tangy characteristics of the wine seem to do these foods justice.

Working backwards, we can see how we arrived at the individual attributes of these varietals, aside from their intrinsic qualities. Unlike the Sauvignon Blanc, the Trione Chardonnay tastes slightly oaky. To achieve this quality, the winemaking process employs the use of 40% new French oak barrels and 60% neutral barrels that have been used in one to two previous vintages already and thus do not impart all that much oak flavor, but still create a softer mouth feel than if it were produced in stainless steel. The oak compliments the grape’s natural hardiness relative to the Sauvignon Blanc grape. So, the winemaking process is quite different, and takes much longer for the Chardonnay. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the Trione Chardonnay spends 12 months in French oak barrels, while the Sauvignon Blanc is harvested about the same time in the late summer or early fall, and already bottled by April. As Scot mentioned in the quote above, the Chardonnay is suited to age a number of years because of its robustness compared to the Sauvignon Blanc, which in my experience does not benefit from aging. Harvesting the grapes, however, is on a similar schedule. Both Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are considered early-ripening varietals. This is because they do not need as much time on the vine to achieve the appropriate sugar content.

The differences between the two white varietals in the Trione lineup, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, can be attributed to both nature and nurture. Nature gave the fruit different qualities, and the nurturing of the winemaking process further developed these distinctions. The result is a wine appropriate for different situations. One is light, refreshing and floral, the other is full-bodied, rich and creamy. How you choose to enjoy, is entirely up to your personal taste, and the best way to determine that preference is to experiment for yourself.

Royal Roses from Tambuzi

A while ago, my company, A Day Like No Other, had the honor to work with the rose nursery where the roses for the British royal weddings are grown: Tambuzi in Kenya. Today I would like to share with you a very impressive BBC documentary about this nursery and their operations. It’s fun to watch, plus their roses are simply “out of this world!”

Title of BBC show – not clickable! Use link provided in text above.

And here is an English country wedding featuring (among others) roses from Tambuzi.

Well: impressed?!

Magical Nathaniel is teaching magic!

This is one of the very rare occasions that a professional magician reveals one of his tricks – but as Nathaniel Segal (aka Magical Nathaniel) is one of our Bay Area wedding vendor community, he shares it with us all today as a special treat. Maybe you parents watch and learn it first, then teach your kids? So they have something to share and show off to their buddies on Skype?

Let the magic begin…

And if you can’t get enough of it: Nathaniel offers online magic classes!

Let’s have cocktails together! (virtually… of course)

Why not?

Our friends Jim and Stephanie invited us “over for cocktails” last week, and it was just lovely! We all dressed up, joined in a zoom.com meeting (more of that later), and had our cocktails while catching up on things.

So… here are some of my favorite cocktails with recipes!

The Cosmopolitan:

INGREDIENTS

2 oz vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice cocktail, ¾ oz fresh lime juice, ¾ oz triple sec

Orange twist (for serving)

PREPARATION

Combine vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and triple sec in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.

Strain cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

The Mojito:

INGREDIENTS:

10 fresh mint leaves; 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges; 2 tablespoons white sugar, or more to taste; 1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fl. oz white rum; 1/2 cup club soda

PREPARATION:

Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass. Crush the mint and lime with a muddler; add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again. Do not strain! Fill the glass nearly completely with ice. Pour the rum over the ice and fill up with club soda. Stir, taste, and adjust sugar if desired. Garnish with the last lime wedge.

And… my favorite: the Chi Chi

INGREDIENTS:

3 oz vodka, 4 oz pineapple juice, 2 oz cream of coconut (e.g. Coco Lopez), 1 tsp (or more) confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup crushed ice

Pineapple pieces and Maraschino cherries for garnish

PREPARATION:

Combine first five ingredients in a blender; process on high speed until combined, ca. 30 sec. Pour into chilled glasses, garnish with pineapple and cherry. Serve immediately.

Lastly, the meeting format! These days, it’s videoconferencing, and we used zoom.com – free for up to 45 minutes. Just have everyone sign up for it ahead of time, send a zoom link to your event in time to all your friends, and… oh, we forgot. Dress up. And the ladies: “doll up!” Stay tuned for that – the “Barbie Doll” makeup tutorial is in the works!!

Wise advice to engaged couples

A guest post by photographer Anna Hogan

Planning a wedding in the era of the Coronavirus

Photo credit: Anna Hogan Photography

The world around us has taken a long pause due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, forcing most of us to shelter in place and practice social distancing. While the essential businesses are still operating, the wedding industry has literally stopped in its tracks. All events have been cancelled or postponed to the near… or the far future…? The couples who spent months navigating the wedding planning process are now facing a new set of challenges. All small business owners who cater to the wedding industry like photographers, florists, caterers, hair and make-up artists are without work for possibly months. 

When the shelter-in-place order gets lifted, the return to normal life will likely be a multi-stage process, and eventually some gatherings will be allowed.

Below are a few ways how to make your wedding safer for you and your guests. 

  1. Keep it small.

Looking back at the last couple of months, events with over 50 attendees were the first to be cancelled, so it is likely that the return to normal will follow a similar path.   Keeping your guest list small will likely help to “make it happen” as it will be safer for everyone – and as a side benefit in these uncertain times, it will be cheaper, too. I know, you tried to keep that guest list small from the beginning, but in the current situation I think everyone will be much more understanding.

If you are local to San Francisco Bay Area, have you considered getting married at San Francisco City Hall once it reopens?

  • Keep it local and minimize travel.

Even without a pandemic, planning a destination wedding presents its own set of challenges – but risking to contract the virus on a plane or getting stuck somewhere en route is not fun at all. 

  • Keep it outdoors.

The chance of catching a virus in an open space is much smaller than in an indoor space, so take advantage of the beauty of our nature and get married outside! Vineyards, parks, backyards, and beaches are all great options.

  • Streaming your event.

One of the ways to keep your most vulnerable guests safe is to live-stream your wedding.

It could be just the ceremony, or it could include more key events like your First Dance, Cake Cutting or speeches. 

Hiring videographer to document your celebration is a great idea as well.

  • Avoid buffet or family-style served meals. 

Having all guests use the same serving spoon is probably not the best idea in these times, so if you decide to have a buffet make sure that all food is served by catering staff.

  • Offer hand sanitizer and reusable face masks with fun designs to your guests.

I know that hand sanitizer is “worth its weight in gold” right now! Still, try to find it for your celebration. There are also a lot of cute face masks available these days; the skilled craftspeople making them would certainly be happy to help you.

We are sheltering in place to “flatten the curve” – but after a few months of confinement at home we will all go back to our “normal life,” whatever that means. It will certainly take time to recover and life might be different than before, but the world will start spinning again and people will start getting together again and celebrating.  No matter how scary things are right now – the most important things are that we have our health and that the people we love are close. If this continues, then we are winning. 

Written by Anna Hogan