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Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

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Crafty Cocktails and Japanese Whiskey

Photo of Jennifer Collaiu courtesy of Small Hand FoodsAfter a fantastic couple of days indulging in the city I have much to report, from cocktails at the Slanted Door to an open bar at our hotel, I experienced the full gamut of San Francisco tippling at my disposal.

First was the Pisco Apricot Tropical (Marian Farms California-style Pisco, pineapple gum, apricot brandy, lime and Angostura bitters - from the Lima Country Club ) at the Slanted Door. What sounded like a girly drink I knew would provide infinite depth in comparison to most fruity cocktails simply because it was a result of Jennifer Colliau’s infinite bar savvy. 

Don’t know who Jennifer is? Allow me to introduce you. Her company, Small Hand Foods, produces a line of pre-Prohibition era cocktail ingredients, from gum syrup to grenadine. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer for my podcast, SF WineChef, and learning more about these products. The gum syrups add a texture to cocktails in addition to rounding out, sweetening, and smoothing the flavors. At home I’ve used the orgeat in everything from a Mai Tai to the “Japanese.” And while it was still available, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the grenadine, which is unlike any that you’ve ever experienced. Its flavor is hardly contained in the bottle, bursting with ripe pomegranate, and not overly tannic, bitter, biting or too sweet.  I could have had a pitcher of Tropicals, but I received a text that an open bar at the Hotel Vitale next door was calling my name.

The reception with the open bar began and ended with Single Malts. I’m no stranger to the Macallan 18, but one that I have been longing to try is the 18-year-old Japanese whiskey Suntory Yamazaki.  An award winner, this hard to find whiskey is honeyed with notes of cherry juice, toasted cinnamon and toffee. Aged in American, Spanish, and Japanese oak it is unique to other single malts that I’ve tasted, but not a stretch for connoisseurs. Taking full advantage of the situation I proceeded to try the Yamazaki in all of its forms, neat, with a splash of water, and on the rocks. It was the perfect way to cap off an incredible evening.

Melissa Smith

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