Israeli Terroir Reflected in this Elegant Red

Contributed by wine writer and consultant, Zachary Sussman

You might say that the tradition of winemaking in Israel extends as far back as the Old Testament, ever since Noah famously “planted a vineyard” and “drank of the wine” in Genesis. Given such ancient origins, it’s ironic that the modern Israeli wine industry has hardly outgrown its adolescence, at least compared to the legendary vineyards of Italy or France.

Sure, by now Israel has proven its ability to make high-quality wine: the most critically-acclaimed and “serious” examples, of course, are the rich and powerful expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon that currently dominate the country’s high-end market. But as Israeli viticulture enters the next stage in its development, the question inevitably emerges: what distinguishes an Israeli Cabernet, for example, from any other expression of that grape hailing from anywhere else on the globe?

What, if anything, makes an Israeli wine Israeli? Continue reading

Napa Round-up and Farewell

Here’s a round up of the final days of our extraordinary eating  (yes, and drinking)  adventures in Napa Valley. I could have spent another few weeks there, speaking with passionate food growers, vintners and chefs.  But alas, the east coast called us back to our reality.
I chose to visit Robert Sinskey Vineyardsfor many reasons.  They are fully organic and biodynamic, they grow all of their own grapes, they have an abundant cooking garden from which their chefs pull fruits and veggies and best of all, they serve lunch.I started at 11 AM with  the farm to table tour, which takes guests through the  culinary garden,  the cellar and then on to their stone terrace for lunch. Continue reading

Brassica, Local & Mediterranean in St. Helena, CA

Last week, I headed to Napa for a carefully planned week of wine tasting, eating and learning more about the abundance of fruits and veggies in this remarkable region of California. I chose a balance of wineries that prepare and serve food from their own gardens, and restaurants that are vegetarian or which have exciting choices for vegetarians or pescatarians (yes, I eat acceptable fish, also).

Off the plane, and feeling lucky to  have somehow skirted the traffic heading out of SF, we headed to Cindy Pawlcyn’s newly  opened  BRASSICA, a “Mediterranean kitchen and wine bar”. At the entrance I noticed bright orange Sabra fruit growing in beautiful clusters. Was it a coincidence (themed planting with  Med cuisine?) or an omen bearing symbolism about the prickly ups and downs of my newly launched project? I know the flavor of this sweet and juicy desert fruit and thought about the many rewards of my culinary explorations. Positive omen, I decided.

Pawlcyn’s menu is loaded with a wide array of veg choices highlighting flavors of southern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. Her innovative approach to familiar Med dishes was what I came for.  This Chef/Owner is  a pioneer in the farm to table movement in northern CA. She opened her first restaurant here in 1983 and currently owns and operates three restaurants in Napa, with Brassica being her latest. Brassica has an extensive list of wines by the glass (70!!). In addition, Pawlcyn highlights the BRASSICA 12, a dozen small production Napa winemakers who do not have tasting rooms. Her menu of small, medium and full size plates, all designed around utilizing the Napa valley’s abundant harvest and long growing season, re-enforces her identity as one of the very earliest farm to table chefs in the country. Her affable  and approachable style shined when she was a contestant in Season one of Top Chef masters.

Remember her?

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