Vajra Wire! and killer wines I drank in San Diego

Wow, everybody was at Jaynes last night for our fantastic Piedmont tasting and a great tavolata afterward. That’s my super good buddy John Yelenosky, with his “Barolo King” t-shirt by Mouton Noir (John and his lovely wife Megan brought 2004 Asili by Produttori del Barbaresco. YES!). I’d like to thank everyone for coming out and taking the time to taste and chat with me about wines I truly love.

Above: 1999 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo by Valentini and scallop ceviche? Hell yeah!

Between me, Jon of Jaynes, and Whitney of Brunellos Have More Fun, nearly half of the Barbera 7 was also there! @Whitney so great to see you and get to taste together again!

I also wanted to thank my good friend Anthony Wilson, who made the trip down from Los Angeles to make the tasting. So good to hang with you, man. You make one Puro? Czak czak! ;-)

Above: My friend John Rikkers brought a magnum of 2006 single-vineyard Barbera Falletto by Giacosa… sheesh! good stuff…

I also wanted to thank everyone for all the thoughtful comments about yesterday’s Vajra post. If you have a Facebook, check out the comments I got over there: Roberto Paris, Ed McCarthy, David McDuff, Kyle Phllips, Colum Sheehan… wow, a heartfelt thanks to all of ya’ll for taking the time to read my posts and weighing in on Aldo’s remarkable Riesling. I felt like a celebrity with all this star-power! (Btw, if we’re not friends on Facebook, you can find me here.)

Above: Grand cru Chablis from 2002, anyone? Woooooooowwwww… THANK YOU ROBIN! :-)

I don’t really have time to post today and so my Italian fan, the one who expressed his “burning disappointment” that I haven’t finished posting on our February trip to Piedmont, will just have to wait.

Above: Top San Diego sommelier Brian Donegan is the KING of German Pinot Noir. Killer wine…

I’m going to be taking tomorrow off from blogging: tomorrow is the first day of the Passover and tonight we’re doing the seder at brother Micah’s house.

Above: Jayne let me try the new Pimm’s cup at Jaynes. Tennis, anyone?

So I’ll see you day after tomorrow. Thanks for reading in the meantime!

One note before I go… The 2005 Vajra Barolo Albe showed BEAUTIFULLY at the tasting yesterday. I noticed that a lot of folks have trouble pronouncing Vajra. It’s easy… It’s pronounced just like my middle name, Ira.

Hag sameach, ya’ll!

Recently tasted: Timorasso and Barbera from Vigneti Massa

Above: Barbera Terra by Walter Massa and the cheese board at Third Corner in Encinitas, CA.

The ever-pungent Terry Hughes, one of my favorite daily reads over at Mondosapore, often teases me that out here in far-flung San Diego, I’m living among the antipodes and that I should come to my senses and move back to the City (yes, there is only one city in Terry’s mind). Despite his antipodean chiding, I’ve been enjoying the ocean and the sun and the laid-back feel of “America’s finest city.” And to Terry’s surprise (and often to mine as well), I occasionally come across some interesting Italian wine here: case in point, wine director Brian Donegan at Market (in Del Mar) recently poured me a glass of Timorasso, a rare white grape from the Tortonese hills of Piedmont, nearly forgotten and extinct until Walter Massa of Vigneti Massa revived it some years ago.

Above: Brian Donegan, wine director at Market, is one of San Diego’s leading wine professionals. He always surprises me with his by-the-glass program: last time with a Vin de Savoie by the glass. My experiences at Market have been good, although I’ve heard that mileage may vary. To a New Yorker (which I remain in my heart, despite my California roots), it’s a strange confluence of high-end market-fare dining and So Cal “heavy metal” attitude (including sports programs on the constantly glowing flat-screens in the bar and a row of luxury SUVs in the valet parking lot). Brian divides his list into “New” and “Old World” selections, an editorial decision that I believe educates his patrons and informs their palates. But, unfortunately, he includes Californian-grown Italian varieties among the Italian lots — a blow to us terroirists.

According to Calò, Scienza, and Costacurta’s Vitigni d’Italia (Grape Varieties of Italy), Timorasso Bianco (also known as Timoraccio, Timorosso, Timorazza, or Morasso) was a popular grape variety in northwestern Italy until the advent of phyloxera, when it virtually disappeared. It was brought back to the fold by Massa, who makes wines in the province of Alessandria (Piedmont). The straw-colored wine was fresh on the nose and had more body than Cortese, the top white grape in a region where red grapes prevail. It also had a pronounced minerality that you don’t find in other Piedmont whites.

Above: in classic So Cal fashion, the bar at The Third Corner in Encinitas is also dominated by flat-screens and sports programs. I’ve always been a fan of the Ocean Beach location and although you won’t find me at the bar (wine and TV don’t pair well in my view), the main dining room in Encinitas is one of the warmest, most comfortable in San Diego.

Massa’s been on my mind: another one of San Diego’s sommelier stars, Alex Lindsay of The Third Corner in Encinitas recently turned me on to Massa’s entry-level Barbera, “Terra.” This stainless-steel, very reasonably priced wine impressed me with its earthiness and it certainly deserves its name (terra or earth). It showed natural fruit and vibrant acidity, pairing perfectly with the cheese board. I’ve not tasted Massa’s higher end wines (I believe he makes a Croatina and a single-vineyard Barbera, both aged in barrique — probably not for me). But I found this $15 bottle to be a great example of an affordable terroir-driven wine. Californian Barbera just doesn’t cut it for me.

Terry, I’m pouring Massa’s Timorasso tonight at Jaynes Gastropub if you’d like to stop by!