Friday, December 30, 2011

Schiller’s Favorite Wine Bars in San Francisco, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Terroir

During the summer of 2011, I spent a couple of weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area with my wife Annette. It was the end of a trip that had started in the north, in Seattle. From San Francisco, we went as far south as Paso Robles. As my daughter Katharina used to live in Berkeley until recently, I was a regular in the Bay area for many years. This list is the outgrowth of it. It also contains a number of places where I do not go for the wine, but the oysters.

Barrel Room

A San Francisco wine bar featuring carefully selected small production wines from all over the world.

620 Post St.

Bar Tartine

Not one of the 60 or so wines could be called a major brand.

561 Valencia (at 16th St.)

District Wine Bar

Gorgeous space – an old brick building opening into a lounge of a room with table, bar and sofa seating.

4- 6 Happy Hour Mo – Fr, 5-7 Happy Hour Sat
1 $ Oysters during Happy Hour
216 Townsend Street (at 3rd)
Telephone: (415) 896-2120

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant

Mainly a wine store. The wine list and selection of flights rotates regularly. Small bites like cheese and bread are also on the menu.

San Francisco Ferry Building, Embarcadero

Hog Island Oyster Bar

I got there for the oysters: The Hog Island Oyster Bar offers indoor and outdoor tables with spectacular views of the bay. The oysters arrive fresh daily from Hog Island's oyster farm on Tomales Bay.

San Francisco Ferry Building, Embarcadero

Hotel Biron

Hotel Biron isn't actually a hotel; a small space on Rose Street, behind Zuni Café, with the ambiance of a well-appointed wine cellar. Biron serves up a nice list of wines and a short menu that includes a cheese plate and an olive mix.

45 Rose Street
Telephone: (415) 703-0403


A gathering place north of the Panhandle, serving urban rustic food and specializing in organic wood-fired cuisine. With a large community table and bar.

560 Divisadero at Hayes


A second wine bar by the owner of Yield, just next to the Zuni Café. Like Yield, the focus is on “green” wine.

1666 Market Street

RN 74/Michael Minna

RN74 is a San Francisco urban wine bar and restaurant featuring modern interpretations of refined American and regional French cuisine with an extensive wine list highlighting the Burgundy region of France.

Happy Hour to 6 and after 10
301 Mission St

Slanted Door

The Slanted Door is a Vietnamese restaurant that blends Vietnamese cooking technique with local ingredients. Relaxed atmosphere; Riesling-driven wine list.

San Francisco Ferry Building, Embarcadero


A fine dining restaurant. As a German and lover of German Riesling, of particular note is the outstanding selection of over 160 German Rieslings. They pair beautifully with Chef Sullivan’s house made charcuterie. As a minus, I am a fan of the dry Rieslings; Spruce offers not more than a handful of those. The wine list is dominated by sweet German Rieslings.

I have referred to Spruce in a posting on schiller-wine: The Focus on Dry German Riesling – Daniel Hubbard Presents the German DSWE Portfolio to the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter)

3640 Sacramento Street

Swan's Oyster Depot

Opened in 1912, Swan's is essentially a fish market with a long marble bar and 20 stools. You'll have to wait in line for a while to get in, but it's worth it.

Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
1517 Polk (at California)


A wine bar that serves only Old World “natural” wines, mainly French and Italian. I have written about Terroir on schiller-wine: The Natural Wines of Terroir in San Francisco

1116 Folsom Street


Yield is a small, intimate wine bar located in the heart of San Francisco's historic Dogpatch Neighborhood serving only “green” wines.

2490 Third Street (between 20th and 22nd)
Telephone: (415) 401-8984

Zuni Cafe

Zuni Cafe always has a large selection of oysters. An oyster menu lists the species and the place name of each oyster in meticulous detail.

Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
1658 Market (at Franklin)

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Natural Wines of La Cremerie in Paris

The Natural Wines of the Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley, California

Wine bar: Paris --- Le Petit Monceau, Willi's wine bar and Lavinia

Wine Bars in London: Vats Wine Bar, the Cork and Bottle, the Providores and Tapa Room

A Cult Paris Wine Bar - Juveniles

Focus on Natural Wines: The Terroirs Wine Bar in London

The Natural Wines of Terroir in San Francisco

New York Manhattan Wine Bars -- Bar Boulud, The Ten Bells, Terroir and Clo.

Terroir(s) Wine Bars in London, New York and San Francisco – Wines with a Sense of Place versus Natural Wines

The Focus on Dry German Riesling – Daniel Hubbard Presents the German DSWE Portfolio to the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Visiting Patrick Reuter and his Dominio IV Winery in McMinnville, Oregon, US

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Patrick Reuter in McMinnville

With a production of about 5000 cases, Dominio IV is one of the smaller wineries in Oregon. It is family run by: Leigh Bartholomew - vineyard manager and owner; husband Patrick Reuter – winemaker and owner; and parents Liz and Glenn Bartholomew - vineyard owners. The winery is based in McMinnville, south of Portland, while the estate vineyard is in the Columbia Gorge, east of Portland, near The Dalles.

Earlier this year, on my California, Oregon and Washington State tour, we started out in the morning in Walla Walla in Washington State, drove by – but unfortunately did not have the time to stop – Dominio IV’s blab la vineyard in the Gorge and arrived just in time for a winery tour and tasting in McMinnville, south of Portland, Oregon.

I had met Liz and Glenn Bartholomew earlier this year in Washington DC, where they poured Dominio IV wines: Meeting Glenn and Liz Bartholomew from Oregon and Tasting Their Dominio IV Wines

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Liz and Glenn Bartholomew in Washington DC


About two-thirds of Oregon’s wineries and vineyards are in the Willamette Valley. Buffered from Pacific storms on the west by the Coast Range, the valley follows the Willamette River north to south for more than a hundred miles from the Columbia River near Portland to just south of Eugene. But Oregon is not only about Willamette Valley. Oregon’s vineyards span the whole State, rising up and falling over the rolling hills and gentle valleys of more than 12,000 acres (4,858 hectares) of wine grapes. Oregon’s major wine regions are the Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. Some regions straddle the border between Oregon and the States of Washington and Idaho.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Oregon

Wine was made in Oregon in the 19th century already, when Italian and Swiss immigrants planted wine grapes and started bottling wine. Oregon's wine industry was suppressed during Prohibition. It wasn’t until1961, when Richard Sommer set up shop in southern Oregon and planted Riesling, that the modern Oregon wine industry was borne. Other pioneers include David Adelsheim, Dick Ponzi and Bill Sokol-Blosser. Then the French also came with Domaine Drouhin bringing European sophistication to Oregon. In the past 40 years, Oregon has become one of the country’s top three wine States, with 350 wineries producing an average of 5,000 cases each a year. Most of it is Pinot Noir, but there’s also Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and modest amounts of Riesling and Merlot.

Oregon produces wine on a much smaller scale than its southern neighbor California. Oregon's biggest producer ships only 125,000 cases per year and most produce under 35,000 cases. The State features many small wineries which produce less than 5,000 cases per year. In contrast, E & J Gallo Winery, the US’ largest winery, produces about 70 million cases annually. The majority of wineries in Oregon operate their own vineyards, although some purchase grapes on the market.

Dominio IV

The husband and wife team Leigh and Patrick are the driving forces behind the winery, supported by Leigh’s parents Liz and Glenn. Leigh is in charge of the Dominio IV vineyards, but her main job is to be vineyard manager and co - general manager for Archery Summit, a producer of ultra-premium Pinot Noirs in Oregon. Leigh studied viticulture at the University of California at Davis and joined the team at Archery Summit in 2000. Patrick also studied at the University of California at Davis and is the winemaker of Dominio IV.

Pictures: Patrick Reuter

The estate vineyard is owned by Leigh’s parents Liz and Glenn; Glenn is retired from the US army. The winery is based in McMinnville, south of Portland, while the estate vineyard is in the Columbia Gorge, east of Portland, near The Dalles.

Three Sleeps Vineyard

“We grow most of our grapes ourselves in Mosier, Oregon to ensure that they are cultivated with biodynamic techniques that don't just sustain, but strengthen, the land. What we don't grow, we contract from sustainable wine growers in Oregon who share our farming values” said Patrick.

Picture: Columbia Valley

Biodynamic Farming

Dominio IV started farming biodynamically in 2001. “Biodynamic farming meets the organic standard including the prohibition of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, but goes much further. The integration of animals and animal feeds, perennial plants, flowers and trees, water features, and composting is emphasized. Three Sleeps Vineyard is one of a handful of Oregon sites to attain Biodynamic certification by Demeter” explained Patrick. The vineyard is planted to Tempranillo, Syrah, and Viognier. Dominio IV also makes Pinot Noir from fruit purchased from the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

McMinnville Winery

The Dominio IV winery resides in the thriving Granary District of McMinnville, Oregon. What was once a dilapidated, agricultural storage building has since been renovated into the perfect home for creating and enjoying wines.

They tore away the interior facades from previous remodels to reveal original walls composed of beautiful, local lumbers. Stacked, rough-cut two-by-eights glow with a natural warmth that makes the tasting room cozy and intimate: the ideal space to share stories and learn from Patrick or other pourers.

Pictures: Winery and Tasting Room

Beyond aesthetics, the winery's old woods provide insulation for the actual production of the Dominio IV wines. “Steady conditions ensure that in our processing, pressing, and storing rooms, we can accurately develop the best wines possible. Even the 250 oak casks, stacked like looming monuments, in our barrel room benefit from such constancy” said Patrick.

The Wines

Dominio is Latin for a feast or banquet, and power or strength. It is also Spanish for territory or dominion. “The IV refers to four people, four wines, four seasons and four vineyards of Dominio Wines” said Patrick.

The 4 wines from Dominio Wines are Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Syrah and Viognier. “Like our every changing moods, we present four wines for your pleasure. Each one entangles you in its own character. Tempranillo is often like the mathematician who sits in his forest lair, contemplative, complicated, and rich in conjecture. Syrah is the spice; she is the dance, and an evening of dangerous possibilities. Viognier is the evangelist announcing the benefits of a diet based solely on fruit and flower. And Pinot Noir is the amazement of a card trick, it is the feeling of a bath, it is magic at the ends of the fingertips” Patrick explained.

The Wines Patrick Poured

2008 Dominio IV Tempranillo/Syrah Blend “the technicolor bat"

The back label says: “By day, the Technicolor Bat waits while hawks and eagles take flight over the vineyard by day. With wings of licorice and brown sugar and eyes that glow spiced cinnamon and chocolate, this Bat is made to fly by night. Grown on a gentle east facing slope: Tempranillo (80%) Syrah (20%)”.

Picture: Dominio IV Wines

2007 Dominio IV Syrah/Tempranillo Blend "Spellbound"

Syrah 58% and Temprenillo 42%.

The back label says: “ You’re so pretty you’d make any mountain quiver. You’d make fire fly from the crater. If you walk across my camera I will flash the world your story. I will pay you more than money, not by pennies, dimes, nor quarters but with happy sons and daughter. To Leigh from Patrick via Woody Guthrie and Ingrid Bergman.”

2006 Dominio IV Tempranillo "Sketches of Spain"

The back label says: “The summer winds blow like Miles’ across the vineyard’s face. In the beat of the long days, you can find the sun buried within the vineyard’s skin. It grows fresh and green. Rolling in the breeze, it grows Tempranillo. Beneath the soil the roots drum up jazz notes staccato and velvet while whispering memories of Spain.”

schiller-wine: Related Postings

A Riesling Guru and a Killer Guitarist cum Cult Winemaker: Ernst Loosen and Jay Somers and their J. Christopher Winery in Newberg, Oregon

One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC

Wine tasting: Soter Wines from Oregon at Out-of-Sight Wines in Vienna, US

Wine Tasting: The Pinot Noirs of Patricia Green, Oregon, US

The Excellent Wines of Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon

The Jay Somers Wines of Bill Holloran,Oregon

Meeting Winemaker Dianna Lee and Tasting Her Siduri Wines and Her Novi Family Wines

Meeting Bill Holloran from Oregon and Tasting His Holloran and Stafford Hill Wines

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC

Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro

Visit: Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro, Oregon

Meeting Glenn and Liz Bartholomew from Oregon and Tasting Their Dominio IV Wines

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rapturous Reds - Tasting German Red Wines Available in the Washington DC Market, USA

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Riesling Star Ernst Loosen, who also makes red wine in the Pfalz at Villa Wolf

There is a red wine revolution going on in Germany. Of course, given its location, the red wines of Germany tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, in the international scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this has changed. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world. The share of red wines in terms of production has increased from 10 percent in the 1980s to about 35 percent now in Germany.

Against this background, the German Wine Society (DC Chapter) organized a red wine tasting earlier this year. I could not make it for the tasting but was very much involved in the preparation of it.

The Tim Atkin Tasting of October 2011

Interestingly, the German Wine Society Tasting in Washington DC took place at about the same time as the now famous Tim Atkin Tasting in London, where German red wines put on an extremely strong performance.

Sponsored by the German Wine Institute (Deutsches Wein Institut), Tim Atkin organized a Pinot Noir tasting in London in October 2011, at 7 of the top 13 wines of the 40 Pinot Noirs from around the world were German Spaetburgunder wines. This tasting has a good chance of becoming a miles post in the ongoing process of international recognition of Germany as a producer of premium red wines.

Rapturous Reds Tasting in Washington DC

The tasting in Washington DC was organized and led by German Wine Society member by Michael Fritze, who gave the tasting the title “Rapturous Reds”. Mike and I spent some time during the summer meticulously researching candidates for this tasting. To come up with a sensible list of wines was not easy. Many wine stores in Washington do not carry any German red wine. Who drinks German red wine? Others do carry German red wines, but these were the red wines that did not meet our standards in the pre-tastings. Finally, we had to be budget conscious. All in all, there were perhaps another 6 wines available in the Washington DC market that were not in included in the tasting for one of the two reasons above.

Here are the wines presented at the tasting.


This very old red variety probably originated in, and derives its name from, Tirol, where it is known as Schiava (Italy) and Vernatsch (Austria). A large yielder that ripens very late, it produces fragrant, fruity, light wines with a pronounced acidity.

We were very proud to be able to include a Trollinger in the tasting; it was the only Trollinger we came across in our research. And it was a NV wine. But not bad, easy drinking, light.

NV Winzergenossenschaft Württemberg, Trollinger


In Germany, the Spätburgunder is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. In fact, Germany is the world's third largest producer of Pinot Noir. The German name for the grape is Spätburgunder - late (spät) ripening pinot (burgunder). Today, Germany is the third biggest producer of Pinot Noir (called Spaetburgunder in Germany), after France and the US, with more planted than Australia and New Zealand combined. However, despite being the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir, the country exports just over 1% of its production.

2008 August Kessler Spätburgunder Trocken, Rheingau (Assmanshausen)
2010 Vier Jahreszeiten Pinot Noir, Pfalz (Bad Dürkheim)
2008 Meyer-Näkel Blauschiefer Pinot Noir Trocken, Ahr
2008 Knipser Blauer Spätburgunder Trocken, Pfalz (Laumersheim)
2008 Becker Estate Pinot Noir Qualitätswein, Pfalz (Schweigen)
2008 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir, Pfalz (Ernst Loosen owned)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, one of Germany's Pinot Noir stars.

Picture: Christian Schiller with Helena Becker from Weingut Friedrich Becker in the Pfalz

Frankly, I think this was quite an impressive collection of German Spaetburgunder wines, which included a number of big names when it comes to German red wine.


A prolific, relatively early ripener, Dornfelder produces wine far deeper in color than is typical of German reds.

2008 Georg Albrecht Schneider Dornfelder Trocken, Rheinhessen (Nierstein)
2007 Weingut Binz Dornfelder Trocken, Rheinhessen (Nackenheim)
2008 Weingut Walter Merk Dornfelder Trocken, Pfalz

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Georg Albrecht Schneider from Rheinhessen

Three reasonably priced Dornfelder wines which showed very well what Dornfelder is able to achieve.

Dornfelder (Virginia)

Finally, Michael Fritze, at the suggestion of the German Wine Society (DC Chapter) Board, included a Dornfelder from Virginia in the tasting.

2009 Windsong Dornfelder Virginia

Michael Fritze’s Power Point Presentation

Mike prepared a very nice Power Point Presentation for the evening. In addition to a lot of background information on German red wine, he prepared for each wine a separate sheet.

schiller-wine - Related Postings

Phil Bernstein’s Third Annual German Riesling Tasting with the German Wine Society, Washington DC Chapter - Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

The 2011 Pinot Days in San Francisco

In the Glass: A 2007 Pinot Noir from the Gault Millau Shooting Star of the Year - Estate Baron Gleichenstein, Germany

California Pinot Noir Pioneer Walter Schug: From the Rheingau in Germany to Carneros in California

Visiting Walter Schug and his Schug Carneros Estate Winery in Carneros, California

Meeting Winemaker Dianna Lee and Tasting Her Siduri Wines and Her Novi Family Wines

Visiting Anne Moller-Racke and her Donum Estate in California: Old World, Terroir-driven Winemaking in the New World

August Kesseler’s Pinot Noir and Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen in San Francisco, USA

A Pinot Noir Star: Visiting August Kesseler and his Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, Germany

Chat Sauvage Versus Peter Querbach – An Impromptu Pinot Noir Wine Tasting with Kai Buhrfeind at His Grand Cru Wine Bar in Frankfurt, Germany

The Wines of Up and Coming Winzerhof Thoerle, Rheinhessen

One of the Fathers of the German Red Wine Revolution: Weingut Huber in Baden

German Pinot Noirs are increasingly coming to the US Market

The Tim Atkin Pinot Noir Taste-Off of October 2011: Germany Versus the Rest of the World - German Red Wines Show Strong Performance

The Doctor Made a House Call - A Tasting with Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, at MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC, USA

Visit: Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany - for Upcoming German Wine Society Tasting in Washington DC, USA

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pacific Rim Riesling #1 of Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Best Buy List 2011 - Meeting Founder Randall Grahm and Winemakers Nicolas Quille and Steven Sealock

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Pacific Rim Winemaker Nicolas Quille in Oregon

The Wine Enthusiast Best Buy Top 100 List just came out. Pacific Rim is #1 - “Over the past 12 months, our tasting panelists reviewed more than 16,000 wines, granting the coveted Best Buy designation to only 1,224 (7.6%). From there, we whittled the numbers down to the Top 100 listed here, based on the relationship between score and price and factoring in availability and buzz. We also tried to balance the list in terms of wine style, variety and origin. The result is one of the finest and most eclectic collections of Best Buys we’ve ever come up with, testament to the efforts of the wine industry to offer ever-improving wines at realistic prices, and—dare we toot our own horn a little—our reviewers’ efforts to find the wine world’s best values.”

3 names came to mind, when I heard this - Randall Grahm, Nicolas Quille and Steven Sealock. I met all three of them earlier this year, at different places and different times. Randall Grahm created Pacific Rim in the 1990s and recently sold it. Nicolas Quille has been the head winemaker of Pacific Rim Riesling for a decade or so. He is based in Postland Oregon, while the winery is in South East Washington State, near Walla Walla. Finally, Steven is the resident winemaker at Pacific Rim; he showed me around and introduced me to the new wines, when I visited Pacific Rim during the summer of 2011.

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim produces 160,000 cases of wine now, almost all of which is Riesling made from Washington grapes (Grahm stopped using German grapes in 2008). That means only Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hogue Cellars make more Riesling in Washington. Pacific Rim produces 190,000 cases of wine now, almost all of which is Riesling. That means only Chateau Ste. Michelle and Hogue Cellars make more Riesling in Washington. Today, Pacific Rim makes 10 different Rieslings, as well as a Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, raspberry dessert wine and two blends. It is owned by the Banfi family from New York.

Pictures: Pacific Rim Winery in Washington State and pacific Rim Wines

First released by Randall Grahm in 1992, Pacific Rim Dry Riesling quickly gained a loyal following among Riesling lovers. Known for its fresh and bright characteristics, the wine was a welcome alternative to other wines available in the American market. Today, Pacific Rim makes 10 different Rieslings, as well as a Chenin Blanc, Gewürztraminer, raspberry dessert wine and two blends.

Randall Grahm

One of the wine world’s true iconoclasts, Randall Grahm, founded Pacific Rim. The owner of famed Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz in California started his Pacific Rim project in 1992. Unusually, he used grapes from Washington State and from Germany.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Randall Grahm in San Francisco

By 2006, Randall Grahm’s decided to downsize and reorganize. Randall sold his popular Cardinal Zin and Big House brands and started to spin off his Pacific Rim wines as a standalone winery in Washington State, where the US Riesling grapes came from. He worked with the Den Hoed family, longtime grape growers in the Yakima Valley, to create a winemaking facility in the shadow of Red Mountain. The DenHoeds built the building, which they own and lease to Pacific Rim. This year, Pacific Rim has been purchased by the Banfi family, which owns an important wine import company in New York and a famous winery and vineyard in Italy.

I met Randall recently in San Francisco while I was there to see Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen at the San Francisco Opera. Randall was accompanied by his wife and his daughter. His wife is Japanese and this explains there is a Geisha on the Pacific Rim label.

Nicolas Quille

Nicolas joined Randall Grahm’s Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz as General Manager in 2004 and initially managed the whole company, including Pacific Rim, but then focused on coordinating the spin-off of Pacific Rim and eventual sale to the Banfi family in 2010. He is now the General Manager and Winemaker for Pacific Rim winery.

Nicolas came to the United States in 1997 and worked for J. Lohr and The Hogue Cellars. During his time at Hogue Cellars, he went back to school and earned a MBA from the University of Washington. Nicolas Quille was born in Lyon, France, from a family in the wine business for three generations. He holds a Master degree in Winemaking from the University of Dijon, Burgundy and a Master in Wine Business from the University of Reims, Champagne. Prior to coming to the United States in 1997, he worked in Burgundy and the Rhone Valley as a winemaker.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Nicolas Quille in Oregon

I met Nicolas at the 1. Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium in Hillsboro near Portland (OR), where the headquarters of Pacific Rim is. We had lunch together and talked a lot about Pacific Rim.

Steven Sealock

Steven Sealock is the resident winemaker at Pacific Rim in Washington State. Steven told me that “as an Air Force brat, I lived in Germany for several years. Combine this with a German mother and you can begin to understand why Riesling has a special place in my heart. To me, Riesling and German beer is a normal accompaniment to a filling meal. So I jumped at the chance to work here at Pacific Rim, a great company dedicated to making world class Riesling.” Steven started his career in the wine industry at Columbia Winery.

Pictures: Christian Schiller with Steven Sealock at the Pacific Rim Winery

I toured with Steven Sealock the winery and we did quite a bit of barrel tasting of the 2010 vintage. Steven said: “2010 has been coolest season in many years. We had to go through a cold early spring and very cool end of season. A cool season like 2010 brings its load of challenges in the vineyard especially late ripening, low maturity, low yields and potential for rot. In challenging vintages, such as 2010, the trick is to accept that there will be compromises and to choose them carefully.”

schiller-wine: Related Postings

German American Wines: (1) Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, (2) Eroica, (3) Woelffer and his Schiller Wine

Wine ratings: Two American/German wines - Eroica and Poet's Leap - on Top 100 Wines from Washington State list for 2009

The Wines of Hightower Cellars in Washington State, US

The Wines of Abeja, Washington State

German American Wines: (1) NV Two Worlds Pinot Noir, (2) Poet's Leap Riesling and (3) Herrmann Wiemer's Finger Lakes Rieslings

The Excellent Wines of Ken Wright Cellars, Oregon

Meeting Joel Waite, Winemaker and Owner of CAVU Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington State

Visiting Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla, Washington State - Where Armin Diel’s Poet’s Leap Riesling is Made

Visiting Winemaker Steven Sealock at Pacific Rim Winemakers in Washington State, USA

August Kesseler’s Pinot Noir and Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen in San Francisco, USA

Oregon Pinot Gris Symposium at Oak Knoll Winery in Hillsboro

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sea, Sand, Soul and Sakafo, and Whales and Wine – At Princesse Bora Lodge on Ile Sainte Marie in the Indian Ocean

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Johary Rakotoson, Chef and Food & Beverages Manager, Princesse Bora in the Wine Cellar of Princesse Bora

On the magic Island of Madagascar there is now a growing number of fine lodges, which offer lodging in the paradise with world class food. One of them is Princesse Bora Lodge on Ile Sainte Marie off the east coast of the Grand Ile de Madagascar. There are 2 things that are very particular about Princesse Bora Lodge, as far as I am concerned. First, it is a good place for whale watching during July to September, when the whales migrate from the Antarctica and arrive in Malagasy waters to give birth and to mate. Second, Princesse Bora Lodge has a good selection of wines, but does not have a wine card; you go - with or without the Sommelier - into the wine cellar and you select your bottle(s) of wine there.

Il Sainte Marie – Sea, Sand, Soul

Il Sainte Marie is a beautiful, unspoiled island that lies in the lee of Madagascar’s east coast. Protected by coral reefs from the sharks that patrol these waters, the long narrow island is a haven of pristine beaches and has seen little in way of development. Ile Sainte Marie is just paradise. You can go there by boat or by plane. Ile Sainte Marie is about a 50 minute flight from Antananarivo.

Pictures: Unspoiled Beaches and Little Development

Pictures: Ile Sainte Marie Impressions

Princesse Bora Lodge

Princesse Bora Lodge is owned and run by the Swiss/Malagasy Francoise-Xavier Mayer, whose ancestors arrived in Madagascar in 1825. Francoise-Xavier was born in Madagascar, but left the country with his parents during the period of the “Socialism Malagasy” (in the 1960s and 1970s), when the enterprise of his parents was nationalized. His family was a big player in the rice sector.

Built in the Sainte-Marienne tradition of local stone, wood and thatch, the beautiful villas lie at the edge of a lagoon. Each villa has a wide veranda with chairs and hammock, and direct access to the beach. The beds are king sized with Mosquito nets so you can open the windows for air and light.

Pictures: Princesse Bora

The gardens are immaculately maintained and still keep that wild exotic feeling. The main building is a series of wooden houses interconnected with walkways.

Pictures: The Garden and Art

There are lots of things to do...or you can do nothing at all. I recommend a day or afternoon trip to Ile aux Nattes on your own: grab a bike from the hotel (free), then cycle to the little beach where guys will take you into their pirogues with the bike in their boat to Ile aux Nattes and then discover the inside of that tiny island and its beautiful shores.

Picture: Biking on the Landing Strip of the Ile Sainte Marie Airport

Pictures: The Boats to Ile aux Nattes

Princesse Bora Lodge also has a spa - the jungle spa. There are various relaxing spa treatments available from well trained therapists. There is a beautiful infinity pool with a large deck with very comfortable beach chairs and umbrellas. On the beach, there are palapas with back rests and cushions. There is also a sea swimming pool off the long pier. The resort has all kinds of water gear for use for free.

Pictures: Princesse Bora Pool and Spa

Whale Watching at Princesse Bora

July to September is a very busy period for Princesse Bora, when people from all over the world come here to watch the whales. The whales migrate from the Antarctica and arrive in Malagasy waters between July and September. They come here to give birth and to mate, and remain in the protected channel for four months until their calves have grown big enough to return to the waters of the South Pole.

Guests can whale-watch from the lodge or from boats (to get closer to the whales). Francois-Xavier is the founder of Megaptera, an international association for whale protection. I have never seen the whales in Madagascar, but in Hermanus in South Africa; it is breathtaking.

Sakafo - Princesse Bora

Sakafo is the Malagsy word for food. Generally, the Sakafo in Madagascar is very good. You can dine in its capital Antananarivo and other Malagasy towns like in France, but at much, much lower prices. Before becoming a sovereign country again in 1960, Madagascar was a French colony for over 60 years. The food in Madagascar is thus French-Malagasy. French food in Madagascar ranges from basic bistro food to one star Michelin food.

I have written on Malagasy food and restaurants: Wining and Dining in Antananarivo, the Capital of Madagascar – Schiller’s Private List of Restaurants in Antananarivo, Madagascar and Schiller’s List of Restaurants in Antananarivo that Serve Malagasy Wine - Madagascar on schiller-wine.

At Princesse Bora, for dinner, you sit in one of the open wooden houses of the main building, close to the beach and eat a set 3 course menu, with 2 choices for each course. I was very impressed by the Sakafo at Princesse Bora Lodge and would put it at a par with the restaurants in Tana that I have given four stars. Here is an example:

Salade folle a la Sainte marienne ou Terrine de foie gras; my wife Annette and I both chose the foie gras.

Cuisse de canard confite aux thyms frais de l’ile ou La grillade du jour: Brochette de merou a la papaya verte, Riz safrane, fondant de poireaux; we both chose the brochette.

Chaud-froid a la banana ou Ananas rotie au caramel

Pictures: The Menu

Wine - the Princesse Bora Wine Cellar

When it came to ordering the wine, the sommelier informed us that there was no written wine card at the Princesse Bora restaurant. But there is a very interesting wine cellar adjacent to the restaurant and the sommelier invited us down there and instructed us how to proceed.

The wine cellar - underground, temperature-controlled and totaling about 40 wines - consists of 5 sections. Unusual for a top restaurant in Madagascar, the selection is very broad and not so much focused on French wines. First, there are about 10 different wines from South Africa, with an average price of Ariary 55.000. Second, there is the same number of Latin American wines, on average a little bit more expensive. Third, there are about 10 different wines from France on average at Ariary 150.000. Forth, Princesse Bora does not carry any traditional Malagasy wine, but the new star on the Malagasy wine scene, Clos Nomena, rouge, blanc, rose, for Ariary 60.000. I have recently benefited from a tasting at the house of the owner of Clos Nomena in Antanananarivo and have posted about it: Clos Nomena: Taking the Wine of Madagascar to New Heights Finally, the wine cellar is complemented by a range of Champagnes.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Sommelier Randrianaivo Mandimbisoa

Here is how it works: Whenever you are up to, you just go down to the cellar and look at the wines available. When you have made your choice, you put the bottle on the table in the center of the cellar. The Sommelier keeps an eye on the table and brings the bottle to your table and serves the wine.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

Wining and Dining in Antananarivo, the Capital of Madagascar – Christian G.E. Schiller’s Private List of Restaurants in Antananarivo

The Wines of Madagascar - Good and Interesting Table Wines

Christian G.E.Schiller’s Private List of Restaurants in Antananarivo That Serve Malagasy Wine

Clos Nomena: Taking the Wine of Madagascar to New Heights

Fine Wine and Fine Oysters in Madagascar: Oysters from Fort Dauphin and Wine from Clos Nomena

Restaurant and Hotel AKOA – An Oasis of Tranquility in the Buzzing Third World City Antananarivo in Madagascar

Tsiky – Charming Restaurant in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Serving Good Food and Malagasy Wines