April 13, 2006

Some wine with your... sushi?

Wine. Cheese. Sushi for dessert. There IS no more perfect girl's night out, no better way to wind down on a Thursday night.

We've started to make The Grapevine a weekly destination. It's where I discovered Lizard Rock. And broadened my horizons beyond goat, cheddar, and mozzarella.

For this week's visit the theme was wines of Lodi. I know I love Lodi Zin's, so I'm curious about what else the area has to offer...

Like I need more more wine...

"Lodi is local," I remind myself as we walk in the door.

Most of my experience with the Grapevine has been the "Cheap Date Night" events -- wonderful explorations of weeknight wines and playful expressions of artisan cheeses -- but popular and crowded, standing room only events. For our tour of Lodi, we had a smaller, more intimate group. Debbie and I made our cheese selections (more on that in a moment) settled into a small table in the corner until the festivities began.

The Cheese Selection:
Brie de Meaux - a cow milk cheese from France
Lancashire - a cow milk cheese from England
St. Agur Bleu - a cow milk cheese from France -- smooth, creamy, ultra-mild, the complete antithesis of the Kraft Blue Cheese that inspired my hatred of the concept of blue-veined cheeses in general.

The Wines:
Michael David "Incognito" Viognier (2005) - this was delightfully spring-fruit sweet, but not syrupy. I was surprised at how well it went with each of the cheese selections offered.

Maley Brothers' Merlot (2002) - this surprised me... it went better with the brie than the blue. Paired with the blue, it got very muddy tasting.

Wyneland Estates "Prioprietor's Reserve" Zinfandel (2002) - This retails at $20. I can get 7 Deadly Zins for $13 on sale. I'll stick with 7 Deadly...

(Just noted that the Incognito above is also produced by Michael David Vineyards -- no WONDER I love it!)

Klinker Brick "Farrah" Syrah (2003) - nice, but nothing special. Which is good, because...

Klnker Brick "Old Vine" Zinfandel (2004) -- these folks know how to make Zin. Another must-add-to-the-growing-library of Zin's.

Earthquake Petite Sirah (2004) - Another entry from the Phillips brothers -- but for a budget and limited storage, this would be in my cellar too. Mental note: add Michael-David to the "must visit" list for the next dance weekend in Lodi...

The Story:
Because it was a more intimate group, Cara shared her adventures in tasting and procuring Lodi wines. She'd gone to a commercial tasting planning to pick her 5 favorites out of 50-some wines and bring them back to all of us to enjoy. She did her research. She found her favorites. And then discovered that in a community of small, single-family wineries where her telephone calls to the "corporate number" were sometimes answered by the winemaker's five-year-old daughter, she might have some trouble with the actual procurement process. "What? You want CASES of wine? Delivered? Let's see... I visit my grandparents in Santa Cruz on Thursdays... I could drop off... two cases." It was apparently quite an ordeal, but worth it in the end. I walked out with a quarter pound each of the Brie and the Blue cheeses, 2 bottles of the Incognito Viognier and 3 of the Klinker Brick Zinfandel.

The Sushi
So what do a couple of women out on their own with too much of a buzz to drive straight home do? Attempting to avoid breaking into my brie, we wandered around Willow Glen searching for culinary inspiration and settled on... sushi.

John and I had a less-than-stellar experience at the Campbell Kazoo many years ago, but we've read rave reviews and wondered if we'd just experienced a fluke. So Debbie and I ventured into their Willow Glen location. A converted Burger King in a small shopping mall, my second trip was an... odd experience. We skipped the boats in favor of a table -- I don't have an aversion to the boat concept if it's well executed, but when the sushi selections are wrapped in saran wrap and look like they may have been lunch leftovers, I get a little squicky.

We chose a couple of rolls and a couple of nigiri selections. Our order arrived at our table fresh, and the portions were certainly solid for bay area standards. It tamed my constant sushi jones -- I should be good for another day or two before I get the cravings again. It sobered me up, but it didn't... inspire me. And with all the other sushi options out there, it's not somewhere I'll likely return.

Perhaps the answer in this case is to bag the boats and visit the full-blown restaurant in San Jose's Japantown. We shall see.

Grapevine Wine Shop
1389 Lincoln Avenue, San Jose

Kazoo Sushi Boat
1165 Lincoln Avenue, #110, San Jose