30 for 30

Serena’s turning 30! Here are her top 30 wine’s on the LB Steak Wine List

It’s safe to say that turning 20 is a time of reflection but also a time to appreciate maturity and growth. Which, obviously, takes my mind to all the wines I’ve had the fortune to taste and truly enjoy during my journey here at LB Steak. Both young and old alike have their own impact on our experiences. Whether we are relaxing with a loved one, coming home from a hard day at work or enjoying an amazing steak dinner, wine has the ability to well, make everything better! I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to select my favorite wines for you to come and enjoy for yourself here at LB Steak.

Cheers!

Serena Harkey

  1. Veuve Clicquot, Brut Rose, “La Grande Dame”, Champagne, France 2006
  2. Jean Grivot, Nuit-St.-Georges, “Les Charmois”, Premier Cru, Burgundy, France, 2012
  3. Chateau Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rhone, France, 2008
  4. Sine Qua Non, Grenache, Stein Vineyard, Ventura, California, 2012
  5. Le Chiuse, Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy, 2013
  6. Bond, Quella, Napa Valley, California, 2013
  7. Bryant Family, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2013
  8. Cardinale, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2013
  9. Chateau Pontet-Canet, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France, 2008
  10. Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Superiore, “Ornellaia”, Tuscany, Italy, 2013
  11. Tablas Creek, Vermentino, Adelaida District, California, 2017
  12. Bollinger, Brut, “La Grande Annee”, Champagne, France, 2007
  13. Domaine Jean-Marc Morey, Chassagne-Montrachet, “Les Chaumees”, Premier Cru, Burgundy, France, 2013
  14. Ridge, Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, 2013
  15. Farella, Cabernet Sauvignon, “Estate”, Coombsville, California, 2014
  16. Kistler, Chardonnay, “Les Noisetiers”, Sonoma Coast, California, 2015
  17. Luciano Sandrone, Barolo, “Cannubi Boschis”, Piedmont, Italy, 2011
  18. Union Sacre, Cabernet Sauvignon, “Le Passion du Diable”, Star Lane Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley, California, 2015
  19. Calluna, “CVC”, Chalk Hill, California, 2014
  20. Nickel & Nickel, “Quarry Vineyard”. Rutherford, California, 2015
  21. Robert Biale, “Black Chicken”, Zinfandel, Napa Valley, California, 2015
  22. Philippe Cheron, Chambolle-Musigny, “Les Quarante Ouvrees”, Burgundy, France, 2013
  23. Beau Joie, Demi Sec, “Sugar King”, Champagne, France, NV
  24. Bodega de Edgar, Tempranillo, Gran Reserva, Arroyo Grande, California, 2014
  25. Krupp Brother, “Synchrony”, Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, 2013
  26. Paul Hobbs, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, 2014
  27. The Mascot, Napa Valley, California, 2012
  28. Domaine Drouhin, Pinot Noir, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 2015
  29. Henry’s Drive, Shiraz, “Magnus”, Padthaway, South Australia, 2010
  30. Austin Hope, Grenache, Templeton Gap District, California, 2014

 


Serena’s Bio

Growing up in Paso Robles, Serena Harkey was given an excellent advantage to learn about wine early on in life. Beginning her career in restaurants at the age of 14 formed the foundation for her passion for food, wine and hospitality from the get go.

During the summer she turned 19, her sister invited her to pick up a few serving shifts at The Wine Attic, a small boutique wine store, owned and operated by Sommelier, Jan Manni.

It was under Jan’s tutelage that Serena was mentored about wine and and developed a passion for wine service, before moving on to study under Ian Adamo at Bistro Laurent in Paso Robles.

In 2012, Serena received her Wine and Spirits Education Trust Level 2 certification, during her tenure as the Wine Director of Thomas Hill Organics. It was in 2014 that Serena made the move north to San Jose where she joined the Left Bank family of restaurants.

As the Sommelier of LB Steak, located on the beautiful Santana Row, Serena drives the wine program with a strong focus on domestic and international wines that compliment the cuisine of a modern American Steak House.  Most nights she can be found at LB Steak facilitating wine service, holding a staff training and doing what she loves most, making guests happy through wine.

In her spare time Serena travels back to Paso Robles to spend time with her family and “small zoo”. When not enjoying a glass of wine poolside, she can be caught at the gym or relaxing with a good book in hand.

American Wagyu Association Profile

On March 14th, 1990, breeders and consumers alike came together to form the American Wagyu Association as a way to promote and protect Wagyu beef and the cattle breeds that it is sourced from. Headquartered at the University of Idaho Research Park, the American Wagyu Association continues to grow its membership base, while they also continue to grow and expand the promotional work they do to educate consumers and the general public about the incredible high-quality of Wagyu beef. Along with this, they also work to keep the industry of beef cattle farming healthy and alive in the U.S., specifically in regards to the breeds of Japanese cattle from which one will find Wagyu beef.

Because Wagyu beef is known to be the best beef that money can buy, we wanted to give a short profile in regards to the American Wagyu Association, especially since their work is pertinent for keeping the Wagyu industry in America alive and well.

 

Origin of Wagyu Beef in America

Before we dive into the discussion of the American Wagyu Association, we thought it would be helpful to share some information in regards to what Wagyu beef even is, as well as how it found its way into the American culinary scene. First, the name “Wagyu” is actually meant to refer to all Japanese beef cattle, with “Wa” meaning Japan and “gyu” meaning cow. However, the different names of Wagyu beef that you will typically see actually refer to the specific Japanese region that the cattle is raised, such as Kobe, Matsusaka Ushi, and Ohmi. Also, every type of Wagyu actually originates from four different Japanese cattle breeds, namely the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled, and the Japanese Shorthorn; however, the legendary Wagyu that is so commonly referred to is notably known as Kuroge Washu Wagyu, which is also the black breed that makes up the majority of both Japan’s and America’s Wagyu beef.  

While Japan has historically allowed minimal export of their Wagyu beef, they have rarely allowed any exporting of their actual cattle. Despite Japan’s strict regulations restricting the exporting of any Japanese cattle, for about 20 years beginning in 1975, Japan actually allowed the export of a small number of its prized cattle. During this time period, American cattle breeders imported a select number of Japanese cattle, which were mostly the black cattle breed known as Kuroge Washu. From this point on, there has been a select few cattle farmers in America that are regulated and certified to raise 100% fullblood Wagyu beef cattle, as well as several crossbreeds.

 

The Arrival of the American Wagyu Association

Due to the strict grading system surrounding Wagyu beef, as well as the delicate and detailed raising techniques used to produce quality Wagyu beef, the American Wagyu Association was formed to further both of these vital aspects of the process. Along with this, the American Wagyu Association wanted to advertise the superiority of Wagyu across America. When it comes to outreach, the American Wagyu Association focuses on educating consumers about the extraordinary attributes of Wagyu beef, such as the high degree of marbling, which produces a buttery texture and rich flavor unlike any other beef you have ever tried. Beyond that, they also provide details regarding the actual health benefits and nutritional qualities that Wagyu has over other beef cuts, such as much of the fat being “monounsaturated,” which has actually been found to be the healthy type of fat for our bodies. Because of these incredible qualities, the American Wagyu Association has made it a top priority to educate consumers about Wagyu.

While the main purpose of the American Wagyu Association has been focused on spreading information and promoting Wagyu throughout the meat industry in the United States, especially for health-conscious meat consumers, it also works to develop a sustainable industry to ensure proper raising of cattle and grading of Wagyu. For example, since the USDA grading guidelines do not typically grade meat that is of such high-quality, especially in regards to marbling content, they have worked to educate the industry and consumers about the Japanese Meat Grading Association and their standards of grading Wagyu since they have a long history of assessing Wagyu beef.

Due to the important and passionate work done by the American Wagyu Association, more Americans than ever before know about the impeccability of Wagyu, while also being able to trust that the Wagyu they find within the United States will have the superior quality that is promised.

Japanese Wagyu vs. American Wagyu

When it comes to the top-tier of quality beef, one name that commonly stands at the top as the most superior cut of meat is none other than Wagyu. Historically, the name “Wagyu” is meant to refer to all Japanese beef cattle, with “Wa” meaning Japan and “gyu” meaning cow. However, the different names of Wagyu refer to the specific region that the cattle is raised, such as Kobe, Matsusaka Ushi, and Ohmi. Every type of Wagyu actually originates from four different Japanese cattle breeds, namely the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled, and the Japanese Shorthorn; however, the legendary Wagyu that is so commonly referred to is notably known as Kuroge Washu Wagyu.

Raised using special techniques, Wagyu receives its extraordinary texture and delicious flavor from its “marbling,” which refers to the streaks of fat in the lean muscle of the meat. Due to how marbling affects the texture of Wagyu, each bite feels like it melts in your mouth. Along with the mouth-watering flavor and texture of Wagyu, it is well-known for its invigorating aroma, produced by the rich resources of the natural environment where the cattle is raised.

With this in mind, many people will probably wonder: What is the difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu?

 

The Difference Between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu

While Japan has historically allowed minimal export of their Wagyu beef, they have rarely allowed any exporting of their actual cattle. Despite Japan’s strict regulations restricting the exporting of any Japanese cattle, for about 20 years beginning in 1975, Japan actually allowed the export of a small number of its prized cattle. During this time period, American cattle breeders imported a select number of Japanese cattle, which were mostly the black cattle breed. From this point on, there has been a select few cattle farmers in America that are regulated and certified to raise 100% fullblood Wagyu beef cattle, as well as several crossbreeds.

 

Grading Standards

One notable difference between the Wagyu beef that you will find in Japan and America actually has to do with regulations and grading standards governing how the cattle must be raised and the overall meat qualities required to be considered true authentic Wagyu beef.

Here in America, the American Wagyu Association, which was formed in 1990, was formed to guarantee that the Wagyu produced in the U.S. will match the strict standards that the Japanese Meat Grading Association has developed over a long history of producing Wagyu beef. These grading standards are mostly based on yield and overall meat quality, which is determined based on characteristics such as marbling, color, firmness, texture, and fat quality. While there is a range to these standards, the top-tier grades include A4 and A5 Wagyu beef.

More recently, the Japanese have actually developed camera technology to objectively measure certain traits such as ribeye area and shape, meat and fat color, and marbling. Since the American Wagyu Association is committed to these standards as well, this camera technology has slowly been introduced into the research done for meat in the United States.

While the Japanese have perfected the grading standards for Wagyu over many centuries, the American Wagyu standards have been largely attempting to follow their lead. At the same time, the USDA already has a strict grading system as well, which has been known to ensure quality standards for over 150 years.

Based on this, as well as the incredibly low number of actual Wagyu beef cattle in America, it is very common to come across restaurants that market “Wagyu” or “Kobe” beef, when in fact, it is typically going to be a cross-bred version of Wagyu, which might resemble Wagyu, but does not contain all of the superior qualities of authentic Wagyu.

 

Raising Techniques

One of the reasons that there can be such a difference is also raising techniques. In Japan, in order to produce a beef as exquisite as Wagyu, specialty raising techniques are required. One of the most important factors when raising cattle to produce high-quality beef is the stress level of the cattle. Because of this, the living conditions in which cattle are raised for Wagyu beef in Japan are focused on maintaining the health and comfort of the cattle. By providing the cattle with high-grade rice plants, wheat, and hay, as well as guaranteeing that their sheds are clean and they have access to enough open space, not only are their needs met, but the cattle receive the highest quality of care and attention in order to ensure the best meat quality.

While these conditions might be met on some farms in America that raise Wagyu breeds or cross-breeds, many will not be regulated as intensely as they are in Japan. Since these raising conditions are actually extremely important for the quality of the meat, slight differences can produce vast changes in quality between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu.

 

Where’s the Wagyu?

Whether you find yourself in Japan or America, Wagyu will always be an easily recognizable name that always implies superior quality. While there does exist several differences in regards to the types of cattle and the standards required to be considered Wagyu in either country, you can still be sure that the meat you will be receiving is incredibly flavorful, fatty, tender, and juicy.

Stop by an LB Steak today to experience the difference of Japanese and American Wagyu yourself!

Corn Finishing

As beef consumers become more aware of cattle raising techniques and how different methods affect the meat quality, there has been increasing attention being paid specifically to what beef cattle are being fed. When it comes to the health and well-being of the cattle, as well as the nutritional qualities of the meat, the research and debates surrounding how beef cattle should be fed has grown to such an extreme degree that it can be helpful to explore these different techniques, and why some farmers choose certain methods over others.

In this context, we will be discussing corn finishing in this post, which refers to feeding beef cattle a corn-based diet as they mature and near the time to be taken to the slaughterhouse.

 

Feeding Options

Before we dive into the specifics of corn finishing, it would be helpful to outline the different feeding methods that are used in the agriculture business, especially since the decision on which method to use directly affects the marbling of the meat, the stress levels of the cattle, the nutritional qualities of the meat, and the price at the store.

Basically, there are two main options available for finishing cattle: grain or grass.

While the majority of cows are are fed in feedlots, where their diet mainly consists of a grain diet, typically corn-based, some cows are raised by allowing them to still roam the land and eat grass, or fed grass in a feedlot. Corn feed is primarily used as a way to quickly fatten the cow up for quicker returns on investment, while grass-fed diets have been slowly becoming more popular as many animal rights advocates and health conscious consumers think it is better for the animal and produces more nutritional meat.

Ultimately, the main difference consists in the diet of the cow as it is raised and nears the end of maturity. Even though corn-based grain has historically been the predominant way to feed cattle, as the methods used to raise cattle have slowly been evolving, grass has become a huge turning point for the way we raise cattle.

 

What is Finishing?

Basically, as cattle mature and gain more weight, typically as they reach around 750-900 pounds, they are transitioned to a finishing phase of feeding. During this phase, cattle are fed consistently for around 150 days, gaining an average of 3 more pounds each day. As previously mentioned, cattle are either fed grain or grass during this phase; however, the majority of cattle farmers still use a corn-based grain diet in order to keep the process quicker, as well as to produce meat that is fatty, juicy, and tender.

 

Corn

When it comes to grain-based diets, the main ingredients include ground corn, corn silage, protein supplements, and minerals. Currently, the main split among farmers that employ grain-based diets regard the usage of whole corn versus processed corn. However, based on most studies, there is not a substantial difference when it comes to the health of the cattle and the price of the feed.

Even though corn-based grain has always been the most common way to feed and finish cattle, over the last decade, there has been a growing movement towards grass-fed methods, typically because its advocates claim that it is better for the well-being of the cattle, as well as improving the nutritional qualities of the meat. Despite these claims actually having some merit, the fact remains that using corn-based grain finishing techniques end up producing meat with a much higher degree of marbling, which delivers cuts of meat that are juicier and more tender, all while being the cheaper option.

Overall, the corn finishing method for raising beef cattle is still the most common technique used among agricultural farmers, precisely because it is the more efficient and produces fattier meat, which is usually desired more. Regardless of the method used, whether it be corn-based or grass-based, what matters most is that you are personally happy with the farming practices and quality of the beef you consume.

Beef Grading

When it comes to beef, we all hope to find the best quality possible, which is why places like the United States and the European Union have developed detailed guidelines to determine the quality of beef for consumption. While these standards have specific grades, such as “Prime” and “Choice,” most of us do not know exactly what these gradings refer to and measure. Because of this, we here at LB Steak thought it would be helpful to provide a short, simplified guide to explain what is included when determining the different beef grades.

 

The Basics

Quality gradings are typically split into two categories: the quality of the beef carcass and the palatability of a specific cut of meat. While the standards for judging the quality of the beef carcass are determined by the degree of marbling and maturity, the factors for judging a specific cut of meat are much more extensive and detailed, including factors such as firmness, tenderness, juiciness, color, leanness, and marbling.

 

Marbling

Marbling is typically the most important factor used to judge the quality of meat, and refers specifically to the distribution of the intramuscular fat throughout a cut of beef, which can be identified by white streaks. Under USDA standards, the degree of marbling is divided into subunits, but the most basic way to understand it is through the following rankings:

 

Grade Degree of Marbling

 

Prime

abundant, moderately abundant, or slightly abundant
Choice moderate, modest, or small
Select slight
Standard traces or practically devoid

 

Even though the degree of marbling is actually decided through an actual numerical score of 100 subunits, these rankings are an easier way to understand the degree of marbling for each grade of meat.

 

Maturity

As previously mentioned, many other factors such as firmness and color will also be used to grade a cut of beef; however, since most of these other factors drastically change as the animal matures, the degree of maturity is an incredibly important factor for grading. Maturity determination does not rely on the actual chronological age of the animal, but rather its physical age, which refers to factors such as bone health, ossification of cartilage, and the overall color and texture of the meat.

The process of determining skeletal ossification and lean maturity are complicated, so rather than attempting to explain the measurements and formulas that are used to decide overall maturity, a simple explanation of the maturity rankings and their corresponding grade should provide the information that is most important for the average beef consumer. Basically, maturity rankings are split up into A, B, C, D, and E. While A and B maturity levels will typically include the main gradings of prime, choice, select, and standard; C, D, and E represent commercial and utility grade beefs.

Once both marbling and maturity is determined, these measurements are then added together to determine the overall quality grade.

 

Yield

Other than quality grades, the USDA guidelines also include yield grades, which are numbered 1-5 and represent the amount of boneless trimmed meat obtained from a beef carcass. A grading of Yield 1 designates the highest amount of boneless, closely-trimmed meat, while the Yield 5 grading represents the lowest amount. Along with this, other factors are also included in the yield grade, such as the amount of external fat; the carcass weight; amount of fat on the kidney, pelvic, and heart; and the area of the ribeye muscle.

 

The Beef Report Card

Since the standards set out by the USDA do such an amazing job at ensuring high-quality beef, many countries around the world have actually mirrored these standards. Based on these standards, consumers and retailers can trust the meat they purchase or sell.

At LB Steak, we pride ourselves on only serving the highest quality beef, such as our USDA Certified Prime Angus beef. Stop by an LB Steak location today to experience this superior beef quality!