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SATISFYING SATURDAYS
09/04/2010
Satisfying Saturdays
RISTORANTE BOTTEGA

91 RISTORANTE BOTTEGA 625 Washington Street Yountville California 707-945-1050
www.Botteganapavalley.com

Back in the 1980s, Chef Michael Chiarello opened the soon-to-be iconic Tra Vigne restaurant in St. Helena and helped define Napa Valley as an important culinary destination. After a long run of success in the kitchen, Chiarello has since established himself as a culinary celebrity with numerous books, a signifcance presence on television’s Food Network and as the proprietor of his eponymously named winery. Last year, he resurfaced in the restaurant scene with his latest endeavor, the new Ristorante Bottega in Napa Valley and is now serving up some finest regional Italian fare to be had in the San Francisco Bay Area. Bottega has, in fact, become one of our favorite spots for dining after a day in the vineyards. Located in Yountville’s V Marketplace (formerly Vintage Marketplace), the spacious and very comfortable Bottega is at once both rustic and refined in feel with open-beam ceilings, weathered brick walls, a pair of stone fireplaces and old tongue-and-groove wood floors. Named as the top Bay Area newcomer in 2009 by Zagat, Bottega offers a broad selection of Italian-inspired fare, all with a certain California twist and made from the freshest local ingredients. From its house-made pastas, fresh cheeses and cured meats to an extensive roster of antipasti, main courses and desserts, Bottega has justifiably earned applause as wine country’s best Italian table, and we would not argue the point. Not one dish put a foot wrong on our visits, but, of particular note is Chiarello’s Polenta Under Glass with caramelized mushrooms and balsamic game sauce.

The restaurant’s extensive wine selection, while heavy on both Italian and Napa Valley listings, includes outstanding bottlings from Sonoma, Mendocino and California’s Central Coast as well. Corkage is $20.00 should you chose to bring your own wine and is waived one-for-one with each bottle purchased. There are several hundred interesting, well-chosen offerings from which to select, and, and with prices that are modestly marked up (about two times cost as opposed to the more typical 2½ to 3), the list compels investigation. The atmosphere is professional and congenial, and, on any given night, you might expect to see Chef Chiarello wandering out from the open kitchen to chat with his guests. If you happen to be in the neighborhood on Saturday, September 12, the restaurant will be hosting a celebration and book-signing of Chiarello’s new Bottega Cookbook.

Wine of The Day

We just typed the word “priceworthiness”, and our trusty spellchecker tried to convert it into “praiseworthiness”. No Freudian slip that, the spellchecker was simply telling us that it knows a thing or two when it comes to choosing a wine. Today, we offer a wine that is not only priceworthy but eminently praiseworthy as well.

The Castle Rock label has become synonymous with the notion of priceworthiness in these page. There are plenty of contenders like Chateau Ste. Michelle, Columbia Crest, Bogle, McManis and others large and small, but they all must play second fiddle to Castle Rock on the famous QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) scale. The latest of the Castle Rock wines to impress us is their Zinfandel reviewed below. Give it a try.

85 CASTLE ROCK Zinfandel  Mendocino County 2007 $11.00 GOOD VALUE
Light and fruity notes start this mid-sized offering out well, and it returns the compliment by being fairly lithe and balanced on the palate with nominal berries and hints of vanilla in its personality. Needing no aging, it is a great choice for the here and now.

Comments

Wine Flavors
by Terry Rooney
Posted on:9/6/2010 11:08:52 PM
Charlie, it would be interesting to see if the various flavors and aromas attributed to a wine (wild cherry, red cherry, black raspberry, etc. etc. etc.) are actually there. Using GC Mass Spectrometry it would be relatively easy to see whether those esters are actually in the wine.Perhaps Leo McCloskey has done some research like that. I met Leo when I was an applications chemist at H-P, and he was trying to use GC to compare various wines.I suspect, as you say, that a lot of the flavors are more our imagination that actual facts. Are you aware of any such research?I have always been especially interested in Mr. Parker's smells of granite and wet rock!Terry Rooney, Ph.D.
Wine Flavors
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:9/7/2010 6:54:15 PM
Terry--Interesting ideas. I think there has been some research along the lines about which you speak. Some of the chemical compounds in wine aromas are apparently either the same or related to compounds in other fruits. Problem is, as I understand it, some of the compounds in the fruits we associate with white wines are also found in cherries and raspberries.I prefer to think of it all as analogies and leave it that. Oh, and about granite and rocks. Two comments.It has been shown that wine comes with no compounds that are found in stones and other minerals. But, if one accepts the "analogies" thesis, then it does not matter.And then there is the Randall Grahm experiment. Apparently the innovative Mr. Grahm put actually stones in one of his fermentation tanks, all the better to get minerality into his wines. Not only did he not succeed, but rumor has it that the authorities censured him severely.

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