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12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: The Vinnibag

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Day six of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover goes to the VinniBag.

The VinniBag is a reusable travel bag with inflatable air chambers and is designed to provide superior protection against impact and leakage.

The VinniBag can be used for wine, olive oil, liquor, fragile items etc., and can hold most 750ml bottles—even larger magnum bottles (Bordeaux style only).

The Vinnibag exceeds all airline requirements and has been independently tested for alititude and temperature changes.

The VinniBag is recyclable & 100% USA Made. You can actually send used VinniBags back and the company has them turned into garden hoses to help keep our planet green and will give you a discount on your next VinniBag purchase.

The VinniBag is made by Ellessco, a women-owned company originally founded by a mother and her daughter (who still get along!). Their passion for travel, design, and technology led them to develop innovative products for life on the go.

The Vinnibag is $28 and $25 if you buy 2 at a time. You can purchase them here.

Why do I love the VinniBag? It’s pretty simple. It gets our wine from point A to point B with no bottle breakage. Andy and I have used it repeatedly over 3 years and it’s never failed. It even transported a magnum of Scribner Bend’s Black Hat Tempranillo to Mexico in perfect condition. Thank you, VinniBag! :)

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You can find VinniBag on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. Check back tomorrow for day seven of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: A Membership to the California Wine Club

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My number five selection of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover belongs to the California Wine Club. And my recommendation applies especially to non-California residents who are not as fortunate as I am to live within an hour of hundreds of small production wineries.

The California Wine Club focuses on small family wineries handcrafting extraordinary wine in quantities too limited to be found in local stores or shops. In 1990, wine club founders Bruce and Pam Boring discovered that these wine making families were the most passionate in the wine world and that their wines were the hidden gems of wine country! Together Bruce and Pam embarked on a journey to help these artisan wineries introduce their exquisite wines to the world.

Each month they visit all areas of California’s wine country. Then they share their delicious discoveries with you and your gift recipients, along with the rich stories of each winery. Plus you can reorder your favorite wines at up to 50% off normal retail.

With five wine of the month club levels to choose from, they have wine selections and wine gifts to suit all tastes and budgets. For questions or to place an order call 1-877-826-2101

The reason I am recommending this wine club as a gift idea is because you can pay month to month and cancel at any time. Also, Bruce and Pam the time to personally visit each winery (can you say dream job?), meet the families, the winemakers and then select two bottles of their best to ship to their customers. There are never any private labels and no bulk wine.

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You can find the California Wine Club on Facebook here on Twitter here and they have a Pinterest page here.  Check back tomorrow for day six of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: Wine Gifts from Big Mouth, Inc!

Day three of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover brings us this fun (and functional) wine gift from BigMouth Inc.

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The World’s Biggest Wine Glass holds THREE bottles of wine and is a fun way to impress your guests over the holiday.  Retailing for $19.75, it comes in a colorful gift package and is made of hand-blown glass.

For the full selection of wine accessories and other gifts, feel free to check out their online catalog – http://www.bigmouthtoys.com/CATALOG-VIEW. BigMouth Toys are also available at nationwide retailers like Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and online at Amazon.com.

I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day four of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

You can find BigMouth Inc. on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here.


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: jcoco Chocolate Bars Gift Set

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It’s day two of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover and my second Christmas selection is this gift set of chocolate bars from jcoco chocolate.

jcoco chocolate is a remarkable new line of American couture chocolate. Like fashion’s haute couture, jcoco draws inspiration from cultures across the globe to create a fresh, contemporary style.

Their line of flavors include: On Dasher! On Ginger!, Peanut Strawberry Baobab (like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich dipped in chocolate), Black Fig Pistachio, Vanuatu Coconut Pecan, Edamame Sea Salt, Agave Quinoa Sesame, Cayenne Veracruz Orange and Noble Dark.

jcoco sent me the three bars you see above to sample and though my favorite of the three was the Noble Dark (72% couverture chocolate with Casa Luker cocoa nibs from Colombia), the most Christmassy flavor was On Dasher! On Ginger, a bar with pieces of candied ginger and a hint of allspice (below).

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What I really liked about the packaging of the bars is that each package has three individually wrapped 1 oz bars. This makes it perfect to open a package, take one bar out for yourself, and share the other two in the package with your besties. :) I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day three of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

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You can order jcoco directly from their website here. You can follow jcoco on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter here.


12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover: SIMI’s Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon

With twelve days remaining until Christmas, I thought I would count down until the big day by bringing you a dozen holiday gifts for the food and wine lover.

I’ll kick off the festivities with day one’s selection: A bottle of 2011 SIMI Landslide Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

We enjoyed this wine while at our home in Incline Village a few weeks ago, and we paired it with filet mignon, Andy’s wilted chard, some sweet potato medallions and a salad. It’s always so fun to be up there relaxing in front of the fire and enjoying dinner on the giant wooden table.

The recently released SIMI Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon is a food friendly Cabernet blend: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, & 1% Tannat. It is 100% oak-aged for 24 months in French oak barrels, 56% new. It has aging potential, but the tannins are soft enough that the wine can also be enjoyed at your holiday event in the next few weeks.

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SIMI Winery was founded in 1876 by Giuseppe and Pietro Simi. They were brothers who had originally traveled from Tuscany, Italy, to California for the Gold Rush (didn’t pan out so much for them). ;) Instead, they ended up selling fruits and vegetables in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Eventually they bought grapes from the Healdsburg area and decided to make wine in their house. The wine making went a little better than the gold finding, so they then moved to Healdsburg in 1890 to expand their growing and wine production, and bought land with a winery already on the property.

In 1904, both brothers passed away from Spanish flu, leaving the winery to Giuseppe’s 18 year old daughter Isabelle. During prohibition, SIMI Winery survived by making alter wine and wine sold for medicinal purposes. They also shelved 500,000 cases of wine during this time and in 1933 when prohibition ended, lots of thirsty customers flocked to SIMI. I can only imagine!

In 1934, Isabelle designed and opened the current tasting room (fashioned from a 25,000 gallon cask that was installed in front of the winery.

By 1970, Isabelle sold the winery to Russell and BJ Green, but kept a position in the tasting room for many years. Russell and BJ updated the wine making facility and hired MaryAnn Graf in 1973. MaryAnn was the first female enology graduate in the United States. In 1979, Zelma Long became the wine maker at SIMI. Zelma just happened to be the country’s second female enology graduate.

The Landslide Vineyard in the Alexander Valley was purchased in 1982. The Landslide name comes from a series of earthquakes and landslides which occurred in the area. The vineyard has an interesting amalgamation of soils that have shifted from the uplands, midlands and lowlands and is now home to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot that make up the Landslide Cabernet.

Here’s a photo of the full dinner we paired with the wine. Highly recommended! I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for day two of my 12 Days of Christmas Picks for the Food and Wine Lover! Cheers!

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

 


Gluten Free Menu Shines at Siino’s Pizza, Pasta and Grill in Lincoln

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A few weeks ago, Andy and I visited a restaurant in Lincoln called Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill. We were originally going to sample the gluten free pizzas as a part of National Pizza Month in October, but instead we decided to go with other items on the gluten free menu.

Siino’s story began in February 2011, when Annalisa Siino opened the doors of her first restaurant as a franchisee. When Annalisa took over, the restaurant was an Original Pete’s, and in just three years Annalisa turned it into her own community establishment and gave it her own name: Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill. The rebranding took place in May of 2014.

Siino’s concept is to partner with local growers and feature their produce/products within the new menu. The menu also includes baked goods from Divine Desserts in Loomis, and hand-crafted brews from Loomis Basin Brewing Company & Roseville Brewing Company.

But back to that great gluten free menu. I am not sure of the inspiration for that, but I was pleased to see a restaurant with a whole section of their menu devoted to gluten free items. Patrons can order pizza, burgers and pasta sans gluten.

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Siino’s also has a succinct and approachable wine list and an even more impressive beer selection. They offer a happy hour from 2-5pm, and an all day happy hour on Mondays, with a $1 off pints and $2 off wine by the glass. Then there is Wine Wednesday, that involves half off bottles and $2 off glasses of wine. Sign me up for that! :)

We chose a bottle of 2011 Chateau St. Jean Merlot, because of its versatility. We decided within a few minutes of looking at the food menu, we were going to both order a burger, so this wine was appropriate.

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Our “appetizer” was a salad— the Balsamic Chicken salad. The salad was composed of mixed lettuce with grilled chicken, julienned salami and mozzarella cheese, red onions, roasted bell peppers and pepperoncinis. It was served with balsamic vinaigrette (easily ordered on the side). Another note: the picture below depicts half of the serving. The kitchen staff kindly split the salad between the two of us.

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I loved the local touch on the menu of the Zebra Burger (lovingly named after the Lincoln High School mascot), so I ordered it. It came topped with pepper jack cheese, sliced avocado, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a spicy brown mustard.

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Andy ordered Siino’s Mushroom Burger with sautéed red onions and mushrooms topped with melted Swiss cheese. I actually liked this burger more than the Zebra burger. The mushrooms and the Swiss cheese were an incredible combination. We both enjoyed sweet potato fries with our burgers. Sweet potato fries were a nice touch and an interesting alternative to regular fries.

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Siino’s has many great characteristics as a restaurant: a very local gem, family friendly, great beer selection, fun wine list, lots of gluten free options, and I did not mention this previously, but the service at the restaurant was also very good. My only suggestion is for Siino’s to incorporate some local wineries into their wine list, since they are already using local purveyors for their produce.

Thanks to the servers and management team at Siino’s for a fun Friday evening. You can find Siino’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill on Facebook here and on twitter here.


Farm to Fork Wine Dinner Series: Piatti Presents Matchbook Wines, Spectacular from Beginning to End!

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If you missed Piatti’s last wine dinner for the year featuring Matchbook Wines, I feel really bad for you! It was even more than I thought it would be––even though I knew it would be amazing. Piatti is one of my long time advertisers, and I have always been a fan of their food, but I never knew it could be pulled off like this. This dinner was probably one of the best meals I have eaten there. I think it’s mostly due to Chef Lance Carlini who combines his take on Italian cuisine with Farm to Fork/seasonal and brings it to a whole new level.

And then there were my wonderful table mates. So, at the Piatti wine dinners, patrons are sat 6 to a table, so you prepare to make new fellow loving wine friends–at least for the night! I was lucky enough to sit with Sharon, Tamara, Eduardo, and James and be a fifth wheel. :)

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We were sat fountain side with illuminated trees surrounding us. We had been welcomed with an opening glass of Matchbook’s Rosé of Tempranillo as John and Lane Giguiere (owners of the winery) were making the rounds and introducing themselves to each table.

Then it was onto the opening dish: A wood fired spot prawn with Grass Valley polenta and a hatch chili chimichurri. It was paired with the wine we were already enjoying: Matchbook’s 2013 Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills.

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As you can see. the plating was flawless on this dish. My favorite element was the chimichurri (a green sauce made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar) which I love on anything from seafood to chicken to beef or pork.


The second course presented to us was a Riverdog Farm Potato Gnocchi served with fall squash, Apple Hill apples, lacinato kale and cream. It was served with the 2012 ‘Arsonist’ Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills. The upfront nose on the wine revealed aromas of toasty oak, caramel apple and crème brûlée. It was an automatic match with the plump buttery gnocchi and apples in the cream sauce. Gnocchi is the only pasta I even missed post-Paleo, so this was like eating dessert for me!  Also, lots of wonderful comments from my table mates––they also loved the squash and apples in the dish. It was the essence of fall! Great pairing, Chef Carlini! :)

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Then it was time to get serious. The third course presented to us was a Tinto Rey Red Braised Short Rib with Thyme Toasted Mushrooms and fresh Horseradish paired with the 2009 Tinto Rey Red Blend, California. The Tinto Rey is a red wine blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Graciano, Tannat and Cabernet.

So, if you didn’t gather from the course description, the short rib was actually braised in the wine with which it was paired. We didn’t even really need a knife on this one, just a fork to pull apart the meat. Again, the plating was gorgeous and the pairing was genius.

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Dessert came soon after that: A Milk Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Hazelnut––topped with Pomegranate arils. It was paired with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. I boxed up the dessert to take home to Andy, but took full advantage of the Cabernet. :) The Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon has vibrant ripe red fruit characteristics followed by layers of spice and earth and chocolate and that’s enough dessert for me!

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I was completely wowed by this wine dinner and I was seated with the best company! Thanks to the marketing and management at Piatti for the great partnership we have had over the years. And thank you, Chef Lance Carlini! Amazing job. :)

As of October 25 this year, Matchbook now has a tasting room located in Zamora here.  GO VISIT THEM! :)

You can learn more about Matchbook Wines here. You can find them on Facebook here and their parent company on twitter here. You can find Piatti on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.


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