Check, Please! Bay Area Season 12 episode 2 airs Thursday, April 20 at 7:30pm on KQED 9. See other television airtimes. And never miss an episode by subscribing to the video podcast.

Nostalgia abounds at the old-school Italian mainstay Gold Mirror Italian Restaurant in San Francisco. In contrast, a trip to the South Bay supplies a modern twist with sumptuous bites, a huge wine list and amazing service at The Plumed Horse Restaurant. Finally, unwind at a modern cantina with elevated contemporary Mexican cooking at NIDO in Oakland.

Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests having fun on the set of season 12 episode 2.
Host Leslie Sbrocco and guests having fun on the set of season 12 episode 2. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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Host Leslie Sbrocco tasting wine.
Host Leslie Sbrocco tasting wine. (Wendy Goodfriend)

My name is Leslie Sbrocco and I’m the host of Check, Please! Bay Area. Each week, I will be sharing my tasting notes about the wine, beer, and spirits the guests and I drank on set during the taping of the show. I will also share some wine tips with each episode. This week I discuss: mezcal and how it differs from tequila.

2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile $15
Chile is often thought of as red wine country, but I’m a fan of their whites from Riesling to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This version of Sauvignon hails from the cool climate Casablanca Valley, which is home to many of the country’s top whites and Pinot Noirs. Located on the western coast of Chile running alongside the coastal mountain range, Casablanca is influenced by cold Pacific Ocean currents providing a long, slow growing season. Ritual’s version of Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and fresh with a ping of vibrant acidity making it an ideal wine to pair with fish of any kind and fresh-from-the-garden salads. The wine marries layers of complexity with affordability and versatility. Stock up as it will become a household favorite.

2015 Amavi Semillon, Walla Walla Valley, Washington $24
I have long adored the wines of Amavi Cellars in Washington’s Walla Walla Valley. Their focus on sustainability and quality is unmatched. This Semillon – a white variety known in the Bordeaux region of France – showcases how well the grape has taken to Washington’s sunny yet cool climate. Like its European brethren, Amavi blends a touch of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon to balance its richness. Flashing a generous amount of ripe melon and citrus fruit character on the nose and palate, it also teases with minerality and brightness. A white with class and style.

2011 Donnafugata “Mille e una Notte” Sicily, Italy $80
When I opened this wine, I let a genie out of the bottle and the magical carpet ride of aromas and flavors began. Swirling dark berry fruit notes kicked off the vinous journey quickly followed by wafts of black licorice, earthiness and spice. Once I sipped the wine, the texture took over wrapping me in a plush cashmere-like cloak. It’s no doubt I was enamored as Donnafugata is one of Sicily’s famed producers. With a 160-year history and a name that means woman in flight, there is a whimsical yet serious approach to all their wines. The “Mille e una Notte” is a blend of the island’s signature red grape, Nero d’Avola, along with Petit Verdot and Syrah. It ranks among the top tier of wines I’ve sampled in the past several years. I encourage you to experience Donnafugata’s adventure in a glass. It’s worth every cent…and more.

2014 Broadside Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California $15
When it comes to affordable Cabernet Sauvignon to grace your dinner table and share with friends and family, look no further than Broadside. This Paso Robles winery shines a light on the type of powerful yet balanced reds that can be produced in the region. It’s brambly, blackberry-like fruit flavors are interlaced with notes of pepper and brown spice. A remarkably easy wine to sip and enjoy with grilled steak, roast pork or stuffed mushrooms.

Duplais Swiss Absinthe Verte, Switzerland $80
When the Green Fairy –“la fey verte” — visits, it’s said to bring transformation and enlightenment. Better known as Absinthe, this green-hued, aromatic elixir is crafted from a neutral spirit infused with a variety of herbs and plants like anise, fennel and wormwood, from which it takes its name. Dating back to 18th century Switzerland and France, it was sold as a medicinal remedy for just about everything before it was banned in 1910. No longer banned, Absinthe is undergoing a renaissance and Duplais is the place to start (and finish) your exploration. It’s the first post-ban Absinthe back on the market nearly a century later and is based on the original recipe from Switzerland. Traditionally served in a small glass with a sugar cube drizzled with water, pour yourself a glass and head to green fairyland.

Wines that guests drank on the set of season 12 episode 2.
Wines that guests drank on the set of season 12 episode 2. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Check, Please! Bay Area reviews: Gold Mirror Italian Restaurant, The Plumed Horse, NIDO 20 April,2017Check, Please! Bay Area

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