Tom Claire

Top-Notch (And Affordable) Napa and Sonoma Wine

September 17, 2010 at 9:01 am , by

It isn’t every day that you get to sit down with a third- or fourth-generation member of one of California’s founding wine families. So I was pleased as proverbial punch to visit with Michael Martini recently as he walked me through tastings of a few of his vineyard’s recent releases. (Michael’s grandfather established Louis M. Martini in Napa County in 1933.) Apart from being a veritable encyclopedia of California’s wine scene (past and present), Mike represents what every wine enthusiast hopes to find: the genuine article. He knows the farmlands and vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties as a typesetter knows fonts. So he discerns which vineyard areas produce the best grapes and he has the ability to source his vineyard pickings to his liking, giving him (and us) the absolute best Cabernet Sauvignons available at mid-level prices.

His 2008 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($17), for instance, features the inviting aromas and flavors of red cherry, blackberry and crushed sage in a full-bodied wine that finishes in a long-lingering complex chocolate and vanilla dénouement. And his 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) is even richer, featuring the concentrated flavors of ripe plums and Bing cherries combined with spices and vanilla; this wine’s finish of fruit and dried herbs tapers off to a mellow tobacco. I highly recommend both.


Confucius says: “You will never have to spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine again”

July 26, 2010 at 9:42 am , by

A wonderful complement to Chinese take-outThat’s what my fortune cookie read when I recently met Nicole Hitchcock, senior winemaker at Turning Leaf, for a sampling of their new releases. Why the fortune cookie? A new Turning Leaf survey on American take-out habits found that nearly twice as many Americans choose Chinese over Italian food for takeout (41% compared with 21%; the runners-up being American take-out, 18%; Mexican, 14%; and Japanese, 4%). Other American habits? Friday night is the most popular take-out evening and more than a third (34%) of respondents in the survey admit to (occasionally?) serving take-out as homemade dishes. And one last fact that’s not hard to fathom is how well the Turning Leaf Pinot Grigio pairs with Chinese food.

“Wine doesn’t need to be reserved for fine dining,” points out Nicole, who developed the food survey to demonstrate not only the casual (and inexpensive) side of dinner but to show off Turning Leaf’s wine selections, most of which retail for from $8 to $10 per bottle.

Now is the perfect time to start experimenting with wine-and-take-out combos: it’s much too hot to cook. Nicole suggests these pairings:
Sauvignon Blanc—Seaweed salad, green curry, broccoli and garlic sauce
Riesling—Pad Thai, chicken tikka masala, spicy tuna rolls
Pinot Noir—Falafel, salmon rolls, tacos
Cabernet Sauvignon—Cheese pizza, meatball heroes, cheeseburgers
White Zinfandel—General Tso’s chicken, rainbow rolls, California rolls
Pinot Grigio—Miso soup, garlic knots, tortilla soup

Happy pairing, everyone!


A Hiccup in Marathon Prep

January 29, 2010 at 10:48 am , by

IMG_0167OUCH! Here I am, diligently (and at ever-greater lengths) preparing for my spring marathon (April 11, in Paris. I run two a year: in the spring and in the fall) and I just found out that Clif’s Shot Crisp Apple with Caffeine, my favorite electrolyte replacement, will no longer be available. I only have a half jar left and just ordered two more as backup but after that I’ll have to switch either to the CranApple or Lemonade flavors or — GASP — change drinks altogether.

One of the first things distance runners are told when training is to avoid sudden changes in diet. So here is my question, to any and all distance runners: What are your recommendations for electrolyte replacement drinks? Does anyone else like Clif’s Crisp Apple above all others? How about the GU2O product? I have tried this but prefer Clif. I see that the Vitamin Shoppe carries a few that also include protein—are they any good? Thanks, looking forward to hearing from you and good luck in all of your running . . .


Even Cats Get Cancer

January 20, 2010 at 11:12 am , by

IMG_0674My wife and I learned a term the other day, a term we wish we had come across earlier so that when we did hear of it—from our vet—it would not have knocked our happy family so hard: feline fibrosarcoma. This is a rare form of cancer in cats that’s malignant and fast-spreading; the tumor that hit our nine-year-old Lydia (at right), showed up in mid-December on her left side. The biopsy results confirmed our vet’s initial suspicion. He’s seen a few other recent cases, and since feline fibrosarcoma is caused by vaccination, he could read Lydia’s shot history in her medical file. The vet did surgery as quickly as he could and now we’re waiting for Lydia to heal. So far the sarcoma has not spread but the vet says it’s likely to.

Anyone else have this happen to their beloved cat? I’d love to find someone out there who’s been through this, so if you have any experiences to share, thanks in advance. Feline fibrosarcoma is not an immediate death sentence but its survival rates apparently vary widely. Lydia has used up a couple of her lives already so we’re hoping she has quite a few more to count on!


Lucky Find: Winston Churchill’s The Second World War

November 16, 2009 at 12:04 pm , by

IMG_1560This morning’s scene: Crowded commuter train about to enter the tunnel leading to Grand Central Terminal. I notice a lanky casually dressed 25-year-old intently reading a big blue hardcover; he is so caught up in the book that he seems oblivious to the crush around him. Instantly I want to know what it is that he is reading—it must be good. So I inch my way forward until I can look over his shoulder: Voila, he is reading The Gathering Storm! I am amazed, since The Gathering Storm is the first book in Sir Winston Churchill’s six-volume opus The Second World War (Houghton Mifflin; hardbound, 1948 first edition), which I had just picked up in its entirety in near-mint condition at an estate sale for $40 along with a few other choice hardbacks. So I reach into my bag to show him my copy of The Gathering Storm (I am already about a third of the way through it) and ask why it is that his version is so much bigger than mine. He looks at it and at me and says in reply: “This is sci-fi/fantasy, man; you got the wrong book . . .

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