At the Bar
If you’re not already a wine enthusiast, visit Walnut Creek’s new Artisan Wine Lounge. Proprietor Lena Chu—she and her husband, Kevin Ng, also own Stave Wine Lounge in Napa—proudly offers an ever-changing array of 32 small-production wines. They come in one-ounce pours (from $1 to $9.75) from her Enomatic wine-tasting machines (the first in the 925).
She chiefly promotes California wines, with some imports included to point up differences in terroir or blending style. Chu serves the wine in oversize “breathable” Eisch German crystal glasses. “The glass opens up the wine in just a few minutes, just like decanting it,” she says.
Chu (pictured above) is fond of European-style blended reds and serves classic Spanish tapas to accompany the wine. Chalk this up to homesickness: Chu moved to California from Spain 20 years ago. Here are some of her recent favorites:
2004 Spicerack Vineyards Paso Robles “Rack and Roll”
Red Blend Enticingly spicy 96 percent Syrah, 4 percent
Mourvèdre blend—a clean, elegant example of California Rhône-style. Tantalizing notes of exotic spice and fresh mushroom waft up from the glass, with swirls of unripe plum. Good tannins.
2005 Robert Biale Napa “Black Chicken” Zinfandel Wonderfully complex cherry-berry fruit in a deep, well-balanced structure. Induces visions of grilled peaches and toasted almonds.
2004 Viader Napa Valley Proprietary Red An elegant, masculine blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 percent Cabernet Franc, this wine has excellent body, with complex nutty aromas and leather-library notes balanced by a delicate floral background.
Very food friendly—think grilled lamb and tomato pasta.