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Snooth User: EMark

Various Musings

Posted by EMark, Sep 9, 2015.

I have decided that sometimes I think of or observe things that are so compelling that it is criminal for me not to share them with the rest of the world.  Of course, the more likely scenario is that these things are so trivial that it is criminal to thrust them on the rest of the world.  Oh well, you can always stop reading now.

Today, I happened to learn about a restaurant in Orcutt, CA.  For those unfamiliar with Orcutt, it is near Santa Maria.  For those unfamiliar with Santa Maria, it is, roughly, half-way between Paso Robles and Santa Ynez.  If anybody is still not clear, get a map.

The Far Western Tavern describes itself as a "steakhouse."   Their dinner menu is certainly not adventurous, but it does look tasty.  I think their wine list is pretty nice.

  • A reasonable selection of local Central Coast wines.
  • A couple of domestic "wine geek approved" labels such as Sea Smoke, Marcassin, Kistler.
  • Seven bottlings of Silver Oaks.  I'm guess that's the minimum for a steak house.  Surprisingly, though, no mags.  I think they're missing a sales opportunity there.
  • I really don't know whether the French offerings are distictive.  One that caught my eye, though, was CLOS MANOU, 160 YEARS OLD VIGNES PREPHYLLOXERIQUE 2009.  Pre-phylloxera vines?   I find that intriguing.  Are they in sandy soil, which I understand is Phylloxera resistant?
  • Only two Zinfandels?  Ridge/Ponzo and Turley/Hayne.  I would think that Zins sell pretty well in a steak house. At least the two they have are good.
  • I thought this was funny.  Under "Rhone Varietals and Syrah" they list the 2010 Wolf Edna Valley Petite Sirah.  Under "Other Reds" they list 2011 Wolf Edna Valley Petite Sirah.  Both are $39.  I don't know why they are listed under separate categories.  Also, they misspelled the name of the winery.  It's Wolff.
  • I was a little surprised at the number of Italian wines.  I would not that Italian wines do not pair well with steak--quite the contrary, in fact--but I just don't think that most steak house diners are going to go with a Tuscan with their red meat.


Reply by Really Big Al, Sep 9, 2015.

Well I am impressed with the wine list.  Assuming a steak dinner, I would have the bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from Barnett (2011 for $130) and with dessert the obvious choice is the Grappa.

Reply by MJET, Sep 9, 2015.

Solid wine list. The Heitz and Pine Ridge Cabs seem like good QPR's. I'd go with either one of them with a nice filet. 

Reply by GregT, Sep 9, 2015.

US - heavy wine list, largely focused on recent vintages. There's a lot I would drink on that list, but it's also a reason i bring my own wine most often, like I'm going to do this Friday. You get to drink wine that's aged to the point that you want to drink it and it's not going to cost you any more than those in the restaurant.

That's not a fault - it's costly to keep wines in storage. I don't think that 1990 LB was held though - they picked that up recently.

As far as the pre-phylloxera vines, I don't know that wine but I'm not convinced it has everything to do with sand. Maybe it does - that's what they tell you in Spain and other places where they have sandy soil and pre-phylloxera vines, but in Argentina they say it's because they flood their vineyards and that drowns the bugs. So unfortunately it may just be that nobody's introduced the bugs to that area yet.

I don't know that there's a definitive answer - I haven't researched it though and it would be kind of interesting to find out more.

But eMark - haven't you learned that if it's sandy soil the wine can't be very good? Wine is supposed to come from limestone!!

Or wait, was it granite?

Or volcanic soils?

I'll get back to you on that.



Reply by EMark, Sep 10, 2015.

How about dirt, Greg?

Regardingthe US-heavy content, that does not surprise me.  In my view steak houses are catering to customers who want to spend a lot on "comfort food"--keeping in mind that I like red meat as much as anybody.  The natural pairing for comfort food is comfort wine.  What is more comfortable than wines that can be bought in the local grocery store?


Musing #2.

We do a lot of TV watching in our house.  Mostly shows that we have recorded and watch at our convenience.  There is a series on some channel called "Mighty Ships" that we have been enjoying, lately.  These are one hour documentaries on various commercial ships.  Most of them are special function vessels about whicn I'd not given much, if any, thought.  However, the other night we saw one on a small cruise ship on a voyage from Buenos Aires to Antarctica.  I have to say, this cruise ship was pretty elegant, and this trip to Antarctica was quite an adventure.  They hit a two-day storm made Mrs. EMark, a foul weather sailor if ever there was one, quite envious.  Her envy will have to remain unrewarded, however.  The tarriff for this cruise would cause Mr. EMark to forgo far too many bottles of wine.

Anyway, to my point.  Obviously, food is an important part of life at sea regardless of the type of vessel--arctic icebreaker, freighter provisioning remote Canadian outposts, specialty oil drilling support vessel.  So, every episode has a few minutes on the meal preparation and dining facilities.  Obviously dining is very important on a cruise ship and, again, this ship was quite elegant.  I should also mention that this is a French ship--every one of the officers is French.  The chef is, no surprise, French.  So, in his 50 seconds of fame on this documentary, the chef explains that the evening's dinner centers around a beef dish with "a Pinot reduction."  Well, that sounds good.  However, wouldn't a French chef prepare a "Burgundy" reduction?  

My guess is that if your passengers are mostly American, and I really don't know if that was the case, then you bite your lip and prepare a "Pinot" reduction.

Reply by EMark, Oct 22, 2015.

OK, this was interesting.  I am on the mailing list for various flash sales sites.  I think in the last year I have placed one order for two bottles from any of these purveyors.  So, as a rule I find them interesting but not compelling.  It is quite easy to delete e-mails.

Today, I found two offerings for the same wine:

  • Sterling 2012 Limited Edition Celebration Red Wine

From Last Bottle:  $15/bottle with free shipping on orders of six or more bottles.

From Vivino:  $19.99/bottle with free shipping on orders of six or more bottles.

This is the first time I have received an multiple offers from this type of vendor for the same wine.  The price difference is notable.  Vivino's is 33% higher than Last Bottle's, or, if you prefer, Last Bottle's is 75% of Vivino's.

FWIW, if I saw this wine in a retail store for $15-20, I might pick up a bottle.  For an everyday drinker, I'll  bet that it is just fine.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 22, 2015.

"I would not that Italian wines do not pair well with steak--quite the contrary, in fact--but I just don't think that most steak house diners are going to go with a Tuscan with their red meat."

Ever heard of 'bistecca Fiorentina'? Absolute great steaks, some of the best anywhere. But wait, Americans invented the steak house, of course! Just like New York and Chicago invented pizza.  ;-)

Next time you're in Florence go to Perseus. It's up near the station, not in a fashionable part of town nor particularly chi chi. In the same mini-group of one-off restaurants, but not quite like my other always-go-to touchstone trattoria in that town, TreDice Gobbi, down on the edge of the fashionable area, where you might have the Ferragamo family at a large table next to you. All sorts of seasonal menu items at 13 Gobbi as well as meat, but at Perseus it's all about the monster T-bones that two of you will have trouble finishing. And in both, lots and lots of Tuscan and Piedmont wine being consumed...

Oh, don't worry about the Italian in the links. Just enjoy the pictures.  ;-)

Regarding the Far Western Tavern's winelist, I'd rather have a Gaja (of course that's the first Italian label they position) Dabromis Barbaresco at $145 than a Silver Oak Alexander Valley (!) at $141. That's the definition of a no-brainer. Looking at the Champagne & Sparkling and Dessert Wine page, there are some surprisingly cheap options there, unless those are half-bottle prices. Looking on the other pages, some prices aren't too bad yet others are utterly ridiculous--very inconsistent in that regard. The local (to the restaurant) wines are more expensive than it seems they should be.

I noticed Brewer Clifton was amped up on the pricing. Not impressed for quite awhile with that winery. Last week I spoke for my NPO at a 20th-anniversary-in-Tokyo gathering for a monster law firm, and was pleasantly surprised that they had a couple of CA reds, and a Schramsberg sparkling at their party. The B-C pinot was, however, rubbish. Murky, muddy, ill-defined, and I tested out of three bottles so it was the wine, not the bottles, unless that whole import lot had been cooked and centrifuged and something else. Overall I stuck with the Schramsberg after a brief foray into the reds which was one combined B-C glass and a couple of Girard petite sirah glasses. The Schramsberg blanc-de-noirs went down so much easier. All told I was happy that night, since another event a few nights earlier had had a 3rd rate Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux as its only red and a 4th rate NZ sauvignon blanc as its only white. I moved on to the scotch selection, which was marginally better, after the food part of that evening was finished. The earlier event a celebration of the 50th anniversary of a Japanese auto racer's career (he, with the rest of the Mazda team, won Le Mans multiple times), the latter event a bunch of successful lawyers in one of the largest law firms on earth. Not surprising who was drinking better....

Regarding the steak place in the Santa Maria 'burb, I'd BYOB if I was winetouring locally, though buy a couple of restaurant bottles, too, if it was a larger group, and maybe even quaff one of their craft beers first if I was hot and my throat dusty from a long day trudging through the vineyards. If I was just rocketing through up 101, I'd wait for Nipomo and eat at Jocko's. BYOB there, too, of course.  ;-)


Reply by dmcker, Oct 22, 2015.

BTW, Mark, Last Bottle will also waive shipping if you buy a certain no. of bottles. Does Vivino? The main site behind Last Bottle, BP Wine, also carries good quality wine at good prices. I've never had trouble with their shipments, and they often have older bottles.

Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 22, 2015.

I'm more interested in the previous posting regarding oil drilling support vessels.  Why you might ask?  Let me tell you...

I met this Norwegian guy named Sondre a few years ago via Facebook because he and I both had an interest in a certain Covington Customs 2002 Chopper called the Green Limo.  I was looking at the bike in 2008 (the owner was in Vienna, VA) when I ended up buying a 2004 Pitbull chopper (located in Fredericksburg, VA) instead.  The owner of the 2002 Covington Customs 2002 Green Limo wouldn't let me test ride the bike so I did not want to buy it.  Later that year, Sondre bought the bike and took it to his 2nd house in Florida.  Then he shipped it over to Norway, where he and his family live.  I saw the bike picture posted somewhere on Facebook and that's how we met.  The interesting part is that Sondre is a captain on an oil drilling support vessel (see below) in the North Sea.  He also spends part of his year in the Gulf of Mexico and hence the 2nd house in Florida.  Anyway, we finally met this summer when he and his wife were coming down the east coast of USA and they stopped by for a quick visit.  I let him ride my 2004 Pitbull chopper (subsequently I sold it the following month) and I took them out to lunch.  He is a great guy as you can imagine most captains are.  Anyway, he has heard of your show "Mighty Ships" on the Discovery channel.  So there is connectivity across the world.

Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 22, 2015.

Here's me on that same 2002 Covington Customs Green Limo in 2008:

Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 22, 2015.

I like WTSO for their good prices and quick (and free) shipping if you buy the 4-bottle minimum.


Reply by EMark, Oct 22, 2015.

DM, I really messed up that sentence--fire the editor.  it should have read:

"I would not SAY that Italian wines do not pair well with steak--quite the contrary, in fact--but I just don't think that most steak house diners are going to go with a Tuscan with their red meat."

I am pretty much on the same page with you.  A couple weeks ago I had a Super Tuscan with a dish called "Bistecca Toscana."  The wine was much better than the steak.

My whole point is that a percentage closely approaching 100 of all American restaurants who describe themselves as "upscale steakhouses" will have Silver Oak on the menu.  More often than not, they will have multiple bottlings, as this one does.  They will also charge as much as they can for it.  My observation is that a significant portion of their clientele views Silver Oak as a quality, prestigious wine.  I have nothing against Silver Oak.  I think it is a very good wine.  In fact I think that most wine forum habitues will agree that it is a good wine.  The objection seems to be that it is overpriced--i.e., you can get a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon of comparable quality for about 60% the price of a Silver Oak.  

Now, when you talk about a Japanese racecar driver who has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans multiple times in a Mazda, my curiosity is piqued.  Everybody here knows that I am a big motorsports fan, and not as many know that I drove two different RX-7s for about 20 years.  In 1991 a Mazda 878B won at Le Mans.  The drivers of that car were Johnny Herbert, Bertrand Gachot and Volker Weidler.  There was another team running a similar Mazda 787B with two Japanese drivers, Takashi Yorino and Yojiro Terada.  They finished eighth.

Now, endurance races generally have multiple classes running simultaneously, but, other than this 1991 overall win, I cannot seem to track down any more victories for Mazda at Le Mans.

I did find that in 1979 a Mazda RX-7 driven by Takashi Yorino, Yojiro Terada and Yoshimi Katayama was a class (IMSA GTU) winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona.  The RX-7 "owned" GTU for many years, and I'm a bit surprised that I can't find more class wins for them at Daytona.

The Italian restaurants links were fun.  Here is mine--Johnny Herbert driving the 1991 Le Mans winning Mazda 787B in a demonstration lap at Circuit de la Sarthe in 2011. You see that backstretch with the two chianes?  That is the Mulsanne Straight.  Before they installed those two chicanes it was 2 miles--straight.  Can you imagine holding the throttle on the floor--the tach pegged at the red line--for two miles straight?  Can you imagine doing it in the dark of night?  Can you imagine doing it in the rain?  Can you imagine doing it at night, in the rain while dodging 40 or 50 other cars driven by guys (usually) that are as crazy as you?  I love watching it, but I've always know that I could not do it.

Last Bottle and Vivino both ship with orders of six or more bottles.  Not at all tempting to me for an everyday drinker.

Al, that is a great story. The pic of the ship is pretty cool.  Thanks.  I've never had a desire to ride a motorcycle, but I enjoy your stories.  And I get the WTSO e-mails. also.

Reply by MJET, Oct 22, 2015.

EM-You took me back to some very fond memories. I had a 1994 Rx-7 which I hot lapped at Homestead, Moroso and Sebring for about 7 years. What a car and what an experience. Cheers! 

Reply by EMark, Oct 23, 2015.

Very cool MJET. Some time in the 1990s I think they turbocharged the RX-7 rotary.  I had a '79 with the 12A engine and an '89 with the 13B.  (The '79 was a better car.)  Did yours have a blower?  The engine compartment in your picture looks a lot "busier" than I remember mine.

Reply by MJET, Oct 23, 2015.

EM-This was a 13B-Twin Turbo with 255 hp from Mazda. I put on every bolt-on upgrade available: Intercooler, Radiator, Air filters, ECU remapped, Fly wheel, Clutch, Pulley system and a complete 3" custom exhaust. The weighed less than 3,000 pounds and I was putting down at least 320 hp. At the track I could hold my own with cars costing 2 and 3 times more. 

Reply by dmcker, Oct 23, 2015.


I'm looking at the 'Mazda Motorsports Encyclopedia', which was one of the gifts I received on the way out of that benefit. It was for Yojiro Terada's 50 years as a pro in the sport, mostly in partnership with Mazda. I spent that evening, and some of the earlier day at an event I helped produce, talking to the guy and the Mazda team (including racers and staff all the way up to the Chairman). Lots of famous actors and singers and round-the-world sailors and the like at the evening event, too. The people were very much OK, the drinks were just 3rd tier.

The literature shows Mazda winning their classes 23 times at Daytona, with RX-2, RX-7 and MX-6 models. I see Terada racing at Le Mans between 1974 and 2008, for a total of 29 times. Probably knows that course pretty well. Looks like he won his class in '83, '88,  and '90. The best overall placing I can see for him was at 7th in '95.  They also look at Mazda's IMSA rally efforts, all the car types put into their Le Mans efforts, their GT-R domestic races, all the racers who've driven for Mazda, a timeline for all Mazda models, the 787B model and its powerplant in depth, etc., etc.

A good friend of mine, who has nothing to do with racing per se but started in the petroleum industry and ended merging large convenience store chains before going into NPO work, put the benefit on for Terada. He does other things like produce TV events in Tokyo Dome with Derek Jeter coaching Japanese junior high school baseballers playing against a US military dependent junior highschooler team coached by Hideki Matsui. This year another event celebrating Gary Player's 50 years since first winning the British Open is also in the works. I have no real use for that Mazda publication and if you're interested I can send it to you if you PM me your address. Text is in Japanese, but it has lots of photos.



P.S. Beware of any place that has a 'Bistecca Toscana' on its menu. It will by definition be bastardized. The proper term is always Bistecca Fiorentina, even if Firenze is in Tuscany. If they can't be proper with their terminology heavy odds are against them taking proper care with their cuisine.

Reply by EMark, Oct 25, 2015.

What good is the internet if you search on "Mazda class wins at Le Mans" and you can't get a comprehensive answer?

Having Terada's name was very helpful, DM.  The Wikipedia entry for him indicates that he was a class winner at Le Man four times--the three you cited and 1996.  Also, he had two class wins at the Daytona 24--the GTU class win in 1979 that I cited and GTO class in 1983.

And yes, I'm pretty much aware that something called Bistecca Toscana is going to be more steak than Tuscan.   I know I've led a shetered life, but in all honesty, I'm not sure I've never heard of Bistecca Fiorentina.  No big surprise there.  The list of things I've never heard of is quite long.  After my introductory sentence in this post, I suppose that I should not rely on the resouces of the internet for any additional education, but I tried.  The only common thing that I could find in multiple "authentic" Bistecca Fiorentina recipes is that it is that the cut of steak is a Porterhouse.  I know the steak I had was not a Porterhouse.  It was probably a Sirloin.

In all honesty, however, I am not particularly impressed or even comfortable with the concept that a recipe can or should be described as "proper" or "authentic."

Has anybody noticed that when they make a recommendation for a Mexican restaurant, invariably, somebody will ask, "Is it 'authentic' Mexican food?"  The questioner, of course, feels that he alone knows what defines "authentic Mexican food."  He will then proceed to tell you about this place he knows (it's always a "little hole in the wall" place) that has the "best" Fajitas.

Rarely, if ever, is one questioned about the "authenticity" of a recommended Italian restaurant, or a Chinese restaurant, or a Greek restaurant.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 25, 2015.

Actually, all of those in your last paragraph are very legitimate questions, Mark. I like very few Chinese restaurants in San Francisco--Chinatown or elsewhere--after so much time in mainland and peripheral China and nearby countries. There are some good ones in San Fran, but fewer than I ever expected. Ditto Italian in whatever overseas city, whatever the regional cuisine--Tuscan, Umbrian, Sicilian, proper Neopolitan pizza, Northern Italian, whatever. And same for Greek--some of the saddest food I've tended to continuously order out of vague hope has been weak attempts overseas at Greek salads.

Asking for the same quality in your food as you do in your wine--if not even more so since we eat more food than we drink wine--seems like a good policy to me. Now Mexican can be a different matter. I'm just happy to get anything in this part of the world which is close. And some tequila that is 100% agave and not refrigerated. I grew up on Californian Mexican but that was before fajitas and burritos with rice and lettuce in them and other sketchy subsequent TexMex and CalMex market flourishes. After extensive travel through Mexico and points south I do know the difference,  but my comment two sentences earlier stands when I'm offshore except when in the Americas where my standards do greatly stiffen. I've discovered a couple of good places in Tokyo that do come close, and found myself sitting near Penelope Cruz of all people at one of them recently, but the rest are merely more-or-less acceptable stopgaps when the Jones hits, as are all of them I know of in other parts of Asia.

Bistecca Fiorentina is more than a porterhouse--look at the cuts of meat hanging in the window in the restaurant I gave the link to above. It's a massive T-bone with more breadth of meat on it than you'll see on a US porterhouse or T-bone, and cut *very* thickly. Seasoning is a bit particular, as is the grilling. It's just basically a world-class steak cooked as they do in Florence, and always more than enough for two hungry people at any table. An empty platter with the stripped bone pointing towards the ceiling is a sign of achievement and pride for trenchermen and women across Italy. When I was climbing in northern Italy decades ago our standard cooldown meal after a return to civilization was a platter of several of those bisteccas and lots of Tuscan beans (whereas even earlier in Nepal when we'd return to not-so-civilized villages at lower altitudes it was dozens of boiled eggs since we were well tired of beans by then and had bodies demanding as much protein as possible). Anyway, cooks who pay attention to the smallest details are the ones who create the tastiest food, so 'authentic' is conceivably a worthwhile descriptor.

Didn't go to the Wiki page for Terada, though I assume it's mainly been maintained by Mazda. Sorry if I didn't read the 'Encyclopedia' page by page...  ;-)

The offer to send it to you if you collect any such items is real.

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