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Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites: An Original Wine-Themed Hotel Experience

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It’s no secret that Andy and I love wine. I mean, that’s how we met. So, when I was invited to stay at the Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites, a beautiful wine-themed inn about a mile from downtown Carmel, I was more than excited to visit.

When we arrived, Andy and I met with one of the Inn’s proprietors, Brian Lee, and he gave us a little background on the property, and the story behind its concept.

He explained that in 2012, he and his brother Jonathan bought the 86 year-old block of lodging with flowered wallpaper and $40 per night rooms. At the time it was called the Carmel Crystal Inn, and was not exactly the type of place travelers would recommend on TripAdvisor.

Brian then told us about coming up with a new name for the property, and how he and his brother remodeled everything they could without ruining the hotel’s historic integrity. As far as what they should call their new venture, Brian had attended UC Davis, (a university well known for its viticultural program) and had a lot of exposure to wine-centric terms during his time there. He also thought about how the number of wine tasting rooms in Carmel had multiplied since his return from college. He figured putting a wine-themed stamp on the new place (especially a local one) would create a solid brand. So, he pulled “Vendange” (a French word meaning “grape harvest) from the wine making lexicon. More specifically, it’s a French word describing late harvest fruit.

Along with the rename, they finished the bathrooms with stone and Spanish marble, gave each room brand new furniture (including one of the most comfortable beds on which I have ever slept), linens, duvets and down pillows. They landscaped the grounds, drained a foul-smelling pond and put in a gorgeous fire pit in its place, and renovated the lobby with fixtures that compliment the hotel’s history and also reflect the family’s love of wine.

The Lee brothers then partnered with local winemakers (beginning with Twisted Roots). The wineries (13 of them now) sponsor themed rooms and suites that reflect their wineries’ personalities and the feel of their winery’s tasting rooms.

“We wanted to do a theme, but we wanted it to be modern and not antiquey, like so many other places in Carmel,” Brian told us, “We live in wine country, so we chose a wine theme. We wanted to work with the wineries because they make very good wines and we support local businesses. It seemed natural to partner with them. It’s a win-win situation: They get the exposure (and references), and we get the theme.”

After learning a little about the history of the Vendange, it was time to check in!

We were a little hungry from our drive (about 3 hours from Sacramento), so Andy and I really enjoyed the wine and cheese reception (5-7pm on weekends in the hotel lobby). There are both white and red wines from which to choose (so you can do a little tasting), and a few cheeses, salami, grapes, nuts and crackers. It was fun to chat with some other people who had also just arrived.

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Then it was off to take a look at our home for the next two nights: The Ventana Room:

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welcome

The Ventana room was decorated handsomely with custom canvas prints, and the winemaker’s story on the room wall. In the living area, there was a Ventana Vineyards wine barrel that had been converted into a custom snack bar, designed to hold Ventana Vineyard branded snacks and wine for sale. There was also a throw on the bed embroidered with the winery’s logo, and the wall had small vines from the vineyard affixed to them.

Here are some scenes from inside the room:

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fireplace

bathroom

I was impressed to learn about the green features of the hotel including water saving shower heads and insulation made from recycled blue jeans. Also, the gardens on the grounds are on a drip irrigation system.

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I can’t say enough about the bed. Not only was the bedding gorgeous, but the mattress was just the right balance between soft and firm. I felt so refreshed when I woke up both mornings. :)

One of my favorite things about the Vendange is the landscaping and the fire pit. Andy and I had a great time sitting outside both evenings after dinner and enjoying a little more wine by the fire. There is live music by the fire pit in the summer.

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hotel exterior

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Here’s what to expect at breakfast time: A spread of fruit, bagels, pastries, granola, yogurt and coffee, and it’s there for guests from 8-10am. If that’s not early enough for you, there’s Carmel Bakery & Coffee Company on Ocean Avenue about a mile away from the hotel (they open at 7am).

breakfast bar

The parking lot even has a wine theme, and the lines to indicate the parking spaces are painted a deep purple inside of white. Here’s Andy’s car parked just outside our room.

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Wineries that have a room decorated at the Vendange include: Blair, Cima Collina, Dawn’s Dream, Galante, J. Lohr (a Paso Robles winery that sources Monterey County vineyards), Joullian, Manzoni, McInTyre, Otter Cove, Ross’ Place, Tudor, Twisted Roots and Ventana. If you belong to one of the wineries’ wine clubs, you’ll receive 25% off the rate when you stay in their room.

Vendange is conveniently located a short drive away from the Monterey Peninsula Airport, just off of scenic Highway 1, with free parking for guests. They are minutes away from downtown Carmel’s shopping and fine dining, scenic 17-Mile Drive, and the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Vendange Carmel is located at 24815 Carpenter St., Carmel, CA 93923.  Telephone 831.624.6400, fax 831.624.5111.  Website: www.vendangecarmel.com, email: reservations at vendangecarmel dot com.

You can find Vendange Carmel Inn and Suites on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. Ventana Wines can be found on Facebook here.

Come Fly with Me at the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon & Half Marathon!

Calling all runners…Come join Andy and me for the 16th annual Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon on May 4th, 2014! We’ll be running the half marathon for the third year in a row, and this year, I will be there as a guest of the race director and reporting on the race itself.

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I am very excited about this particular race because it’s held very near my hometown, and during the race, I get to run by my college alma mater, Antonelli. I am happy to be coming home to spend time with family (who I have not seen since last year’s Flying Pig), so I am really looking forward to the trip.

As far as any particular goals, I am just hoping to beat my time from last year, and so is Andy. One of the nice things about this race is that you can get a printout of your time pretty much immediately after crossing the finish line. It looks like this:

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I can tell you that the course is pretty tough and very hilly. The hills not so much steep as they are long, but there quite a few of them. I’m not trying to scare anyone away with that disclaimer, I just wanted to warn that this is not a PR course. That being said, the race IS not only fun, but it’s one of the most well-organized races I have ever run. And if you used to live in Cincinnati like me, or you live there now, once you see the course, you’ll agree that it is the best tour of the city you’ll ever take on your own two legs. And the spectators come out and support the runners in droves. Cincinnati definitely has the best cheer section I have ever seen. Mile after mile.

Here’s me finishing my first Flying Pig Half Marathon in 2012. It was my first half marathon and one of the happiest moments in my life!

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This year Packet Pick-up (bib, timing chip) is at the Millennium Hotel Cincinnati, 150 West 5th Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202, in the Grand Ballroom. You can pick up your t-shirt and other premiums at the Duke Energy Center, across the street from the Millennium.

Here are the hours of the expo: Friday, May 2, 2014, 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, May 3, 2014, 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

All preregistered Half Marathon participants will receive a commemorative moisture-wicking t-shirt, limited edition poster, goodie bag, and a “special gift.” All Half Marathon finishers will receive a finisher’s medal, a mylar blanket, and Finish-area refreshments.

The 16th annual Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon weekend powered by P&G will be May 2-4, 2014. Follow the Marathon on Twitter @runflyingpig and ‘like’ their page on Facebook. Hope to see you there! :)

How to Manage Depression Without Drugs: That’s So Paleo!

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I recently had the privilege of reading a review copy of Janna Marlies Maron’s (pictured above) brand new book How to Manage Depression Without Drugs: 5 Game Plans to Help Me Get My Life Back.

I was eager to read and help promote the book because I feel it ties in directly with the Paleo lifestyle. I mean, I am not even sure ancient man had the time to be depressed. I don’t even think “depression” existed in the context it does today. A Paleolithic man only had 2 real needs as I see it: 1. Getting enough to eat. 2: Not getting eaten by another animal. I wonder how long it took before real emotions came into play. But one thing is for sure. He didn’t take a bunch of antidepressants to kill the pain. He found ways to deal with pain. Naturally.

In the modern world, there are so many little things on which we hang ourselves. We trap ourselves into thinking we need this or that in order to be happy. We compare ourselves to others, and put immense pressure on ourselves to be the first person at such and such restaurant or the first person to have the latest smartphone. The list goes on. I think it’s a dead end to unhappiness.

And I should know about depression, because I suffer from it, too, from time to time. If you know me personally, you have a little bit of a background about me and know the root of some of the sadness, but I also believe that the most highly creative people (again, me) all suffer from some sort of mental defect. Yes, I am a little mentally defective, but I am still a wonderful human being. And I have a happy song.

Wait, what’s a happy song? You’ll have to check it out in Janna’s new book! :)

Speaking of wonderful human beings, that would be Janna, too. I asked her some questions about her new book, and this is what she had to say:

CAVEGRRL: What was the point when you decided you were depressed enough to seek help from a therapist/counselor?

JANNA: I’ve experienced two pretty low points in the past 3 years. One was at the end of 2010 when I had gone through a bankruptcy, I had been laid off from my job, and the church I had been involved with for about 5 years was ending. The second low point was at the end of 2012, about 5-6 months after I was diagnosed with MS. Both times I remember not wanting to do anything except sleep or lay on the couch and binge-watch crappy TV shows like Gossip Girl. Both times I remember having thoughts like, it won’t matter if I don’t get out of bed today. Both times I remember having those thoughts but also knowing in my gut that something was wrong, because it’s not like me to be unmotivated and apathetic. Both times I knew I wanted to change and that I couldn’t do it by myself so I started seeing a therapist.

CAVEGRRL: What made you decide to write the book? (Also: Did I get the whole book, or was it an abbreviated version?)

JANNA: I write because I believe in the power of personal storytelling. I share my story in hope that it will help or inspire at least one person. So I was writing about my personal struggle with depression on my blog, and what I found was that “depression” is the number one search term that sends people to my blog. It made me sad to think that there were so many people searching for help with something that I know from personal experience can be so debilitating. That’s why I decided to write How to Manage Depression Without Drugs. It’s my personal story that is meant to be a concise guide and a quick read (so, yes, you did get the whole book).

CAVEGRRL:  Please tell me about a little about MS, and also a little about your bout with shingles. I know both can be provoked by stress.

JANNA: Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. “Autoimmune” means the body’s immune system attacks itself and, in the case of MS, this reaction affects the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves in the brain and spinal chord causing scars, or lesions, where those attacks occur. There are varying degrees of severity and I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS, which means that the disease can be in remission for any length of time with intermittent relapses of attacks when symptoms can flare up.

Regardless of treatment, a person with MS has a compromised immune system and can be susceptible to getting sick easily. I believe this is why I developed shingles. It happened this past November, which was a month when I completely overextended myself. On top of running ThinkHouse Collective with my husband, publishing Under the Gum Tree, my client work and teaching three college classes, I also hosted a huge event for the second anniversary of Under the Gum Tree and took two writing workshops. It was too much, and on Thanksgiving day I found myself in urgent care with these strange blister-like sores all over the left side of my face.

Yes, stress can provoke both MS flare-ups and shingles. But my experience tells me that it’s usually a combination of stress and other factors that cause a physical reaction. The body stores information in the form of memory and cellular energy, and it can only take so much before it reaches a breaking point.

CAVEGRRL: What are the most important things (in your opinion) a person can do to keep themselves happy?

JANNA: I think it all comes down to self-care. And that is probably different for every person. In the chapter on ritual in my ebook I write about how for some reason in our American culture it’s not okay for use to take care of ourself, because it’s seen as selfish or indulgent. But that’s exactly what we need to be healthy—we need to indulge from time to time. So I would say that we each need to figure out what we need to be happy, and take care of our self in that way.

CAVEGRRL: Do you think depression is a choice?

JANNA: I certainly don’t think anyone chooses to be depressed. However, when we find ourself in that place, the choice becomes: do we want to stay there or do we want to change and find our way back to health? I believe health is a choice.

To see an interview of Janna about her upcoming book, you can click on the interview below:

Here’s the list of dates and events for the virtual tour Janna will be doing with her new book:

April 1: Podcast interview with Alejandro Reyes at Successfool.com

April 8: Interview with Susan Herman at edit2yourcredit.com

April 10: Interview with Kristy DeVaney at CaveGrrl.com <—That’s me!!

April 11: Review of the ebook by Danea Horn at ChronicResilience.com

April 14: Review of the ebook by Ronna Detrick

April 15: ”Life-change can be an adventure. Really.” Guest post on Jennifer Snyder’s Journal

April 17: A reading from the ebook at TrueStory in Sacramento, CA

April 18: RELEASE DATE! If you preordered the book, you’ll automatically get your copy & it will be available for the Kindle at Amazon.

Additional links:
Janna’s blog post announcing the book & book tour: CLICK HERE.
Janna’s book page on her site: CLICK HERE.
preorder on itunes: CLICK HERE.
preorder on Barnes & Noble: CLICK HERE.
preorder on Smashwords: CLICK HERE.

Would you like a FREE copy of the book for yourself? Please leave a comment or share this post and email/tweet/facebook me that you did so. Or, if you want to contact me privately here to enter, that’s OK, too. The winner will be emailed directly with a coupon code to download the book or receive the book in their format of choice.

Now go out there and have a HAPPY Thursday! A friend of mine said to me, “There are seven days in a week, and SOMEDAY isn’t one of them.” ;)

Wine Wednesday: Don’t Miss TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting, April 27th, 2014

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So I am pretty sure that the wine event I am promoting today was specifically designed for me. See, Tempranillo is my favorite red varietal, and the most extensive tasting of domestically produced Tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines, featuring nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners is about to take place at the seventh annual Grand Wine Tasting held at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco on Sunday, April 27, 2014. I’m in! :)

Trade and consumers will be able to taste Tempranillos, Albariños, Garnachas, Verdelhos, Tourigas, and many other varieties, in a casual walk-around setting where they can chat with the growers and vintners. Explore the diversity of grapes and styles produced across the western United States.  Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small lot wines that are not widely available. Many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event.

This year’s event will highlight Tempranillo’s aging potential with a Kickoff Seminar comparing pairs of Aged and New Tempranillos from the same vintner.  See one of the reasons why Tempranillo is the fastest growing variety worldwide!

The event schedule is:

12:00 Noon – 1:30 p.m.  – “Aged Tempranillos”  This one-of-a-kind seminar will feature pioneer vintners pulling aged Tempranillos from their cellars to pair with their current release wines.  Compare mature and young Tempranillo wines and taste how the world’s fastest growing variety mellows with age to become civilized and refined. The session will be moderated by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker of St.Amant Winery and President of TAPAS.

Tickets are $95 and include early admission to the Consumer Tasting.

2:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Consumer Tasting.  In conjunction with the walk-around tasting, the TAPAS Wine School (included with admission) will feature these informative consumer-oriented seminars and guided tastings:

Garnacha/Grenache: A great European wine grape which produces world class wines.  Taste an exciting selection of Garnacha wines vinified by premier American wine producers specializing in Iberian grape varietal wines made in the USA. Vino dulce: Taste rare dessert wines crafted by top American winemakers in a variety of styles.

Tickets to the Consumer Tasting are $60.

TAPAS President Stuart Spencer noted, “The TAPAS Grand Tasting is a unique opportunity for you to discover, savor and celebrate this treasure chest of exotic and delightfully food-friendly wines. You will gain appreciation for what some visionary winegrowers are doing here on American soil. Don’t miss it!”

About TAPAS: TAPAS started at the 2004 Unified Symposium, when Tempranillo winegrowers from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Arizona met for the first time to discuss their avocation.  Since that first visionary group pointed the way, the organization has incorporated and grown to over 100 members.  The first Grand Wine Tasting was held at Copia in Napa in 2008, and has continued annually since then, as one of many initiatives to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula and wines produced from them in North America.

To purchase tickets, click here.

You can find TAPAS on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

Wine Wednesday: 5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff Takes Place Sunday, May 18, 2014

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Oops. So I haven’t posted anything since last Wednesday, which was also Wine Wednesday. Well, this one comes from my friends at HALL Wines. Their 5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff is on Sunday, May 18th, and here’s a press release I received to tell you all about it:

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The fifth annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff features an all-star line-up of both San Francisco and Napa Valley based Chef teams vying to win a culinary pairing challenge. Bringing together local foodies and wine for a good cause, over 15 chef teams will compete for a local charity as judged by industry judges (including Sacramento’s own food and wine writer Chris Macias) by creating small bite dishes paired with the recently released HALL 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. During the event, guests will be invited to taste farm-to-table dishes from each chef team paired with the wine and vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice Award.

The 2013 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 480 culinary and wine lovers and raised $30,000 for the top four winning team’s sponsored charities.

5th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff combining a bevy of well-known culinary teams competing in a food/wine pairing challenge. Chef teams participating in the HALL Cabernet Cookoff include:

  • Tyler Rodde, Oenotri
  • Victoria Acosta, The Grill at Meadowood
  • Rodney Worth & Audrey Perrone, The Pear Bistro
  • Corrie Beezley, The Farmers Market Pantry
  • Christopher Ludwick, Earth’s Bounty Kitchen & Winebar
  • Valentina Migotto & Dario De Conti, Ca’ Momi
  • Jesse McQuarrie, Feast Catering
  • Brian Overhauser, Jamieson Ranch
  • Jason Toji & Spencer Weiss, Press
  • Will Wright, Bounty Hunter Smokin BBQ
  • Nenad Stefanovic, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins
  • Kara Lind, Kara’s Cupcakes
  • Mark Dommen, One Market Restaurant
  • Alex Marsh, Yankee Pier Larkspur
  • Daniel Capra, Paula Le Duc Catering

WHEN:  Sunday, May 18, 2014, from 11:00am – 2:00pm PST                                   

WHERE: HALL Wines, St. Helena: 401 St. Helena Hwy. South St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff. To purchase tickets to the event, please visit CellarPass.

Wine Wednesday: Esporão 2012 Alandra Rosé

 

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Did you know Portugal ranks 6th in terms of per capita wine consumption in the world?  According to The Wine Institute, the Portuguese drink 42.2 liters of wine per person each year.

And just in time for the warmer temperatures outside, today’s featured wine happens to be from Portugal. It is a lovely, simple, and fruitfully delicious rosé of Aragoñes, Syrah, and Touriga Nacional called Alandra. (Alcohol 13.5%) It’s strawberry-scented and floral.

Last night I enjoyed it with some sauerkraut and sausages, though the best pairing could be possibly be found this spring/summer with food in your picnic basket (meats & cheeses). The screw-top makes this wine convenient for on-the-go. And upon learning the price, I’ll be on-the-go to stock my wine refrigerator! It retails for just $6.99. To find out where you can purchase this wine, contact northamerica(at)esporao(dot)com. Also, my quick internet shopping yielded these results (click here).

To learn more about Esporão Wines, you can follow them on twitter here or find them on Facebook here.

If you represent a winery and would like to be featured in a wine/food pairing on my website, please contact me here.

A Trio of Pinots and Food Pairing with Holman Ranch Wines

 

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First of all, a big thanks to Holman Ranch for sending me six bottles of great wine to taste and give feedback to all of my readers. Not all wineries are quite that generous, and you make this particular writer feel appreciated for what I do. :)

Now, onto the reviews! :)

It was a lot of fun to have a varietal tasting last Wednesday night with Andy. We chose to break into the three different Holman Ranch Pinot Noirs I received in my mixed half case.

I also made a dinner to pair with the wines: Pork and beef meatloaf wrapped in bacon (with a mushroom and shallot sauce), hasselback potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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The first wine we opened was the 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill Pinot Noir.

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The 2011 Estate Grown Heather’s Hill was the best wine to have with food. It’s lighter in color (ruby) and very tight/tart at first. It has lots of aging capability, as it even opens up in a 20 minute time frame. This wine is not as delicate as most Pinot Noirs I have tasted, but it’s got some good characteristics that will make this wine finer as it ages.

The second wine we tasted was the 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. This wine was Andy’s favorite. It is aged for 12 months in French oak.

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It’s lower in alcohol, smokier on the nose and palate, and just a little more… Pinot-y. It was a great wine to me because it was a little more quaffable without food, but was also a great pairing with our meal. The mushroom sauce (we had on top of the meatloaf) and this wine are a great match.

Our final wine of the evening (and my favorite) was the 2010 Hunter’s Cuvee Pinot Noir.

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This wine was my favorite! I could drink it with or without food. It’s earthy/leathery, but lots of fruitiness as well. It’s the highest in alcohol of all three wines we tried, so no wonder I like it best. Hmmm…

To make the meatloaf, I blended 1 part grass fed ground beef and 1 part ground pork. I seasoned the meat with garlic infused alderwood salt, added two eggs, one 1/2 cup of almond flour, 1 Tbs crushed garlic, and 2 Tbs Bragg’s liquid aminos. Then I wrapped the loaf in slices of bacon and baked it at 400°F until the bacon showed signs it was getting crispy. Test the loaf with a meat thermometer and don’t let it get past 125°-130°F, or you’re gonna be hosed and you might as well use that loaf as a door stop or paperweight. Take the loaf out of the oven just BEFORE or as you reach that temperature range, and it will be perfect.

I topped the finished loaf with a mushroom sauce (for the Pinot Noir pairing, naturally). The sauce was made of shallots, mushroom, white wine, butter, garlic. No recipe there, I just wing it.

You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.

If you represent a winery and would like to be featured in a wine/food pairing on my website, please contact me here.

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