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Heritage Fire Napa Serves Up a Blazing Food and Wine Feast

Do you remember what it was like when you were a kid at a BBQ? Growing up, we had so many family gatherings in my parent’s backyard and many times they were on my birthday and involved a pool.

Last Sunday at Cochon 555 Heritage Fire brought back those nostalgic smells, sights and tastes for me. The thick smell of smoke and various meats in the air and several blazing hot fire pits alongside the vineyard at Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena. Though I did not ever see a vineyard for the first 25 years of my life (I was deprived, I know), my dad had an enormous garden back home and used to set bonfires in the area next to it.

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Before I get into the fun we had and the images I captured at Cochon Heritage Fire this year, I want to tell you a little bit about the man who organizes the event, Brady Lowe. He started Cochon in 2008 in Atlanta and quickly expanded the event as a tour across the country with stops in Napa, New York, Seattle and Miami.

He grew up in Iowa and as a child, grew a fondness for reading his mom’s cookbooks. She had everything from Martha Stewart and Betty Crocker to Mickey Mouse Disney cookbooks. He preferred browsing the cookbooks instead of reading books and loved the process of recipes. His mom was an experimental cook who liked to try out recipes and tweak them slightly. Brady’s father would cook recipes exactly as printed in the book and repeat them over and over until they were perfect. It sounds a lot like my parents, except my dad was the mad scientist and my mom was more methodical. Either way, food became a core and important part of life for Brady.

During college, he sold premium cigars, and then bought wine with the money he made. He became a sommelier of sorts to his college friends, who preferred beer, but he was able to open their minds to drinking wine. Brady enjoyed grilling and parties and continued throughout college and beyond.

It really struck me when he spoke this year during our media tour of the event. In a sense, he referred to the “good ole days” before the age of the George Foreman Grill. He even mentioned our ancestors and how they cooked with fire. It is our heritage to cook with fire. And we can cook anything (meats, vegetables, even fruit) with an open flame. It’s so true, and in my opinion, tastes the best!

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During the tour, Brady also spoke about Cochon’s beneficiary, Piggy Bank. Piggy Bank is a farm, a genetic sanctuary for heritage breed pigs, where all pigs are gifted to farmers in need. Piggy Bank helps build a future for independent family farms as a community working together to develop and share business plans that promote responsible farming practices.

Annual contributions help the organization give pigs to new and existing farmers in need of free genetics (breeding stock) and send pigs to culinary schools for research. Contributions are used to pay for a livestock facility, feed and labor to raise the heritage pigs in a safe and protected environment. All gifts are a 100% tax-deductible gift.

You can find Piggy Bank on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

I don’t know if you have ever tried a Heritage breed pig, but I can tell you the flavor is incredible. A common breed is the Berkshire, which was discovered over 300 years ago in Berkshire County in the United Kingdom. Berkshire pork (prepare to salivate) is sought after because of its texture, marbling, juiciness, tenderness, and above all its FLAVOR. Berkshire is also referred to as Kurabota. It’s important that we support organizations that help farmers who breed these pigs!

I’d like to point out that this particular Cochon had some of the best food dishes of all the past ones I have attended, but it really turned into a major wine tasting with several premium brands coming out to pour. This year, Del Dotto, Clif Family, Faust, Lake Sonona, Valley of the Moon, Silver Oak, Rombauer, Robert Craig, Inglenook, Rocca, Jigar, Wines of Germany, and of course Charles Krug (the location of the event) were there.

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As you can see, we tasted multiple dishes and had some really incredible food. Don’t miss the Cochon 555 Tour when it heads back our way (if you are located in Northern California) with the Heritage BBQ event on October 16th in San Francisco. Magnolia Brewery at Dogpatch will be the venue. You can purchase tickets here.

You can follow Cochon 555 and all of their events on Facebook here or on Twitter here.

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Lodi Wine: It’s What All the Cool Kids are Drinking

Do you ever have reservations about doing something because you are not sure you are good enough or that you will be accepted?

Initially that is how I felt about attending the Wine Bloggers Conference. I was not sure whether or not I even belonged there. All I knew is what I heard about previous conferences and above all my love of wine. Even though I am not a wine expert and I have no formal wine education. Even though I am honestly uncomfortable writing about wine in depth because I think I will sound ignorant to someone well-versed in the world of oenology.

It doesn’t matter. I eventually decided I DID belong at the conference and I do have something relevant to say about wine (most of the time), and more importantly, I can HELP small winemakers by trying their wines and promoting the ones I like, especially when I can pair them with a recipe (as I do in my Flights by Night series).

Following my self-pep talk, I began to get excited about what was to come, and finally opening day had arrived.

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The opening reception was held on Mohr Fry Ranch, home of 12 varieties of grapes grown to purchased by several different wineries and turned into magnificent bottles of wine.

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I don’t know if Andy was as excited as I was that day, but I felt like a kid on Christmas morning as we looked around to find the registration table and pick up our badges. It was kind of like the first day at school, as a lot of attendees that evening were bussed in to Mohr Fry and meeting other writers for the very first time. Another set of writers we met later on that evening, Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings share this “new kid”-type sentiment with me and you can read about it here.

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Then there was the table of excursions that would be held on the next evening. Each blogger chose from these clipboards where they would be going for touring, tasting, and dinner based on a title, and no other clues as to location. Some titles included “99 Bottles of Wine”, “The Wine Abides”, “The Clone Wars”, “She’s a Brix House”, etc. Out of several very clever and funny titles, I chose “Gone with the Wine”. You can find out about my selection and the incredible evening Andy and I had here.

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Oh yes, and then there was wine, because that is why we were there! Several Lodi producers brought out some of their finest elixirs hoping to grab our attention. One of those wineries that caught our attention early in the evening was Harney Lane. I recommend their Albariño and Tempranillo, two varietals I am nuts about.

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Other wines we loved that night: Fields Family Wines, Oak Farm Vineyards, St. Amant Winery, Turley Wine Cellars, Bokisch just to name a few.

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Musical entertainment of the evening was Snap Jackson and the Knock on Wood Players

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Then there was the FOOD! Pizzas by Paul’s Rustic Oven (not so Paleo, but I snuck a piece or two and highly recommend the Asian Pear & Gorgonzola) and incredible salads by Beth Sogaard Catering.

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I got a kick out of the “guess the grape varietal” display. I had no idea which grape was which, but it sure was fun tasting them all!

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It was a fun evening meeting new faces (Jennifer Nelson of Wine Antics, as well as Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings, and Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator, just to name a few) re-familiarize ourselves with Lodi wines (after a 4 year absence), and kick off the weekend to come. Lodi wine, it’s what all the cool kids are drinking!!

Oak Farm Vineyards and Chef Michael Midgley Team Up for an Extraordinary Evening of Wine and Food

14046140_10208622569415151_2711788180007773046_nAbove photo courtesy of Holly Shaw of Wine not WHINE.

Can we just go back to Lodi this weekend?

That’s what I was thinking a few days ago as I was going through all the pictures I took and the thinking about all the fun we had and the great people we met. Sigh, back to the real world and my life as a pixel pusher. I think I might slightly have Post Wine Bloggers Conference Syndrome (symptoms include sadness, low energy, crying episodes–SOBBING, anxiety, and irritability).

Of course I am kidding and I have some very exciting wine-centric things coming up in the next few weeks, so I am not sobbing at all. I am actually still buzzing with excitement about my first conference and wanted to use this blog post to tell you about one part of it in detail.

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attendees get the VIP treatment throughout the conference, but they get even more special attention during the Friday evening excursions built in as part of the conference package. On the Friday afternoon of the 3-day conference, all writers were split into small groups and shuttled to secret locations for property tours and a hosted dinner. We chose our secret location during registration at a reception held the night before, only by a title to name the experience (not to describe where we were going, what was for dinner or what winery would host). There were names like “The Wine Abides”,  “The Rolling Stones”, etc. I chose the excursion titled “Gone with the Wine” because I really love the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

It turns out our destination was Oak Farm Vineyards for a tasting, tour, and dinner. Of course Friday night is pretty early on in the conference, so I was hoping for a winery I knew a lot about already and I didn’t know a thing about Oak Farm (though I had tried some of their Cabernet at the opening reception and thought it was good). Andy and I are very local to Lodi, and are very fond of McCay, Michael David, M2, just to name a few, and I would have preferred any of those because I knew I would not be let down by the wine. It’s sad, because I get stuck in familiarity all too often, and many times it keeps me from discovering new and exciting things. My chagrin was only temporary, because my mind was about to be blown.

It was dry and hot and I was very thirsty when we arrived at Oak Farm, and we were all led into a reception area to be introduced to Keith (tasting room manager), Dan (one of the owners), and Chad (the winemaker). The introductions were paired with a crisp and cold glass of Albariño. Albariño happens to be one of my favorite white wines, so I was very pleased to be tasting it in Lodi, and also that it tasted so wonderful. I’ll also mention it scored 95 Points and won a (Gold) Best of Class of Region Award at the 2016 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

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chandelier oak farmI took the above picture inside the room where we tasted the albarino.
I love light fixtures, so I thought I would share this with you.

Soon, our little group (including Holly Shaw of Wine not WHINE, Eli Med of Fine Wine Poet, and Maia Parish of The Wine Suite LLC, Heather Atherton representing Sacramento International Airport, Rhett Moffatt of Gone with the Wine, Steve and Charlotte Ferree of Wine Prof Guy, Jamie Gall of Minnesota Girl in the World, Maureen Blum of Mo Wino) was directed outside for a tour of the property. We walked down a path towards the main house through a field of Cabernet Sauvignon as we sipped the Albariño and got to know each other a little better.

Other varietals grown on the Oak Farm property include: Chardonnay, Verdelho, Malbec, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese and Barbera. The aformentioned Albariño is sourced from two relatively new vineyard sites not on the property, but also located in Lodi AVAs: Silvaspoons Vineyard and Wetmore Vineyard.

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During the tour, tasting room manager Keith told us many stories on the history of the property, including tales of its original owner William DeVries, who purchased the property in 1860. DeVries simply loved trees, especially oak trees, which to this day are allowed to thrive on the land, hence the name of the property and the winery today. The home on the estate was built in 1876 (it looks a lot like the house in Gone with the Wind (Tara), which is probably why the excursion was named Gone with the Wine. Eventually William DeVries became a congressman, a judge, and a legal authority on wine regulations in the 1930’s. Which if you think about it, the latter helps immensely when you are already growing grapes and producing altar wine during the prohibition era. Something tells me I would really get along with this guy!

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Oak Farm Vineyards is more than well equipped to host events big and small, and is the home of many weddings throughout the year. The winery actually happened to be set up for a wedding on the night we visited that would take place the next day. I can’t imagine what the to-do list at Oak Farm must have been like that weekend because of both its participation (and constant presence) at the Wine Bloggers Conference and holding a rehearsal dinner and a wedding simultaneously. To me, that makes our experience all the more impressive because I felt like the staff took their time with us and made us feel very welcome.

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Of course, I have only talked about the glamorous side of Oak Farm Vineyards and the beauty of the property. However, the truth is that wine making is not at all glamorous, and actually quite messy. Above is a shot behind the scenes of one of the giant machines used to press the grapes.

 

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OK, back to the pretty stuff.😉 How about this brick mantle inside the tasting room? We had to get a shot of us in front of it. Thanks to the winemaker, Chad, for taking our picture below.

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Pictured above is winemaker Chad Joseph, who also makes wine for a few other labels in Lodi. Andy and I love his efforts at Oak Farm. I have to say that Lodi is so different than it was the last time I visited four years ago. It’s like they always made pretty good wine (as far as I knew having been in California and familiar to Lodi wine since 2004), but it is as if something good grew into something great in almost no time at all. We also had the pleasure of sitting with he and Keith during the dinner that evening which I am about to share with you!

 

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2016 Oak Farm Blogger Dinner prepared by Chef Michael Midgley of Midgley’s Public House (Stockton, California)
August 12th, 2016

Menu Oak Farm

First Course
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Heirloom Truffle Caprese
Heirloom Tomato, fresh Mozzarella, Basil, Truffle Tapenade, Balsamic Vinegar and Basil Lemon Oil

 

We felt particularly lucky  to taste the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc which is currently sold out! The grapes were from the same clone (clone 1) that helped put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map. This one was more balanced than that with equal citrus and grass notes. It was a great pairing with the food, just strong enough to stand up to the cheese and the basil and the truffle in the dish.


Second Course
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Seafood Cocktail featuring Crab and Shrimp in a Cocktail Sauce
Served with Pork Belly Chips

This Barbera received a Silver – Best of Class of Region – 2016 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition Award. It also received a “two thumbs up, baby I’m down with that one” award from me. I’m not the only lady who loves it because it received Best of Show Red, Best of Class, Gold at the 2016 International Women’s Wine Competition. Ding!

Then there was the food course. Midge was killing me with those pork rinds. I loved scooping up the seafood cocktail in those crispy, salty, fried pieces of pork. It was tomato, seafood, crunchy, porky bliss!

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Smoked Beef Ribs BBQ Plate
Midgley’s BBQ Sauce, and Lobster Mashed Potatoes


OK I am dead. We can safely have my funeral right now (as long as everyone promises to drink Oak Farm wine at my service and watch a marathon of Robert Downey, Jr. movies in my honor). I mean, I’ll talk about the wine first, but seriously, look at the crust on that meat!! That’s the kind of crusty grubbin’ you dream about. The lobster mashed potatoes were a rich, decadent side dish. This course also brought us a glass of Oak Farm Zinfandel. It was recently rated 91 points in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Are you still in doubt about Lodi wines?? To think I didn’t even know about Oak Farm three hours before this dinner? Head still spinning.

Third Course
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Oak Farm 2015 Fiano
Peach Cobbler
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Dessert brought along a peach cobbler, much of which went to my partner-in-wine, Andy, while I fully enjoyed the dessert wine, Fiano. I was kind of longing for something even more simple like roasted nuts, dried fruit, and cheese, but I know I am odd that way and everyone else loved the dessert and ice cream. Fiano is an actual varietal, and this one was sourced from Clarksburg. The wine was an admitted experiment of Chad and Dan’s, but I really enjoyed it and was happy they shared it with us.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our conference host hotels, and get ready for the next big day ahead! I snapped the picture below to show you how lovely the patio of the Oak Farm Vineyards tasting room looks like at night.

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I am sending out a huge thanks to the staff at Oak Farm Vineyards for hosting such an incredible excursion and making every one of us feel like we were family. The next time I am in Lodi, Oak Farm will be one of the first stops I make because of the great memories I have there.

If you are local and have not yet visited, tasted, or experienced all that is Oak Farm, please put it on your immediate to-do list. If you are not local, but you are a true wine lover, please put Lodi on your destination list, and put Oak Farm Vineyards on your trip itinerary. I recommend the Historical Legacy Tour ($30) which lasts about an hour and includes a stroll of the grounds through the vineyard while learning about Lodi’s wine history, the estate’s history told as you stroll past the family home, cemetery, barn and outbuildings, a walk through the first tasting room and lesson about Oak Farm’s beginnings, a walk through the new tasting facilities and barrel rooms, and a tasting in the VIP room.

You can follow Oak Farm Vineyards on Twitter here and “like” them on Facebook here. The next Wine Bloggers Conference is November 9-12, 2017 and will be located at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa. Will I see you there?

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Flights By Night #5: Lamb-Stuffed Tomatoes and a Duo of Reds

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Flights by night is back with another food and wine pairing we recently had for dinner. I made this recipe in an emergency after being reminded via email that I was supposed to make the meal that evening. Fumbling to come up with a grocery list, I recalled a picture of some meat-stuffed tomatoes I had seen online somewhere a few days earlier… I think the author used beef and I couldn’t even remember if I even saw the recipe or followed the link, so I decided to come up with my own version using lamb and spices/herbs commonly used in Greek cuisine.

Ingredients:
4 Beefsteak tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 bunch of fresh oregano
fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp allspice
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 pound ground lamb
2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 385°F. Wash your tomatoes thoroughly, then use a serrated knife to remove the very tops of the tomatoes. Then carefully hollow out each tomato (without going through the bottom) and reserve the insides for later use. After the tomatoes are prepped, place them in a pan deep enough to catch any drippings. Place them in the oven so they can precook while you are preparing your lamb mixture.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and then sauté your onion (finely chopped) until it cooks through a bit. Return to the tomato pieces from the hollowing out process and chop them up. Add the chopped tomatoes to the sautéed onion and continue to cook them. Then add the ground lamb and the herbs and spices and cook them together until the lamb is no longer pink in color. Allow mixture to cool slightly (5 minutes or so), then stir in 2 beaten eggs, incorporating them thoroughly.

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, by now they will have gotten a nice head start. Scoop the lamb mixture into each tomato, and fill them to the top. You’ll most likely have meat leftover, so you can put it in the pan alongside the tomatoes to eat with dinner, or reserve for use the next day in an omelette!🙂

Bake the tomatoes for about 25 minutes or enough time for the lamb to brown on the top. Now lets talk about those wines we drank!

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The Wines
The first wine we had with dinner was a Duckhorn 2012 Merlot. The fruitiness of the Merlot really paired well with the succulent tomatoes & the oaky heft of the Domaine Eden 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (our second wine pairing and a completely different tasting wine) balanced out the gamey, in-your-face, Hit-em-with-the Hein-iness of the spiced lamb. Color my teeth purple and my tongue impressed! Thanks to Andy for bringing out this powerhouse duo of vino on an ordinary week night.

You can read about other food and wine Flights By Night here! Keep up with all the latest by following me on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

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Wine Bloggers Conference Puts Spotlight on Lodi Winemaking

Written by cavegrrl.com contributing writer Andy Harris

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When I was kid, wines from Lodi were considered to be the bargain basement of wine making (I grew up in nearby Sacramento). Lodi wines of the 1980s and 90s were cheap, simple and normally sold in gallon jugs. I happen to know this, because that’s what we were drinking in college. The wines were a mixed bag of fairly pleasant to barely palatable. We knew the difference between the Charles Krug Chenin Blanc my parents drank by the case, and the cheap $5.00 gallon jugs with screw tops we drank.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and the game was changing. Wineries like McCay Cellars, Michael David, St. Amant Winery, Fields Family, Klinker Brick and countless others started to spring up. These were serious wine makers dedicated to raising the bar on Lodi wine making, and changing the image of Lodi wines being the “Rodney Dangerfields” of the wine industry to something very special and unique. Now legendary, but possibly underappreciated and not widely discovered, the aforementioned wineries have not only produced award-winning wines, but have introduced the American wine drinking populous to affordable wines without compromising on quality. Some are mass produced while others are made in small lots. But the number of Lodi wineries has exploded from about 30 wineries 20 years ago to nearly 200 as of this date. With this expansion has brought almost endless varietals and wine making methods.

One of the more intriguing projects to date is the Lodi Native program. In an effort to express the unique terroir of the Lodi appelation, the above wine makers and others adopted a collective philosophy of producing 100% native Zinfandel from single vineyards and bottling them under their own wineries’ names, but with the “Lodi Native” label affixed to the bottles. At a fixed price of $35.00 per bottle or $180.00 per assorted six-pack, the wine makers involved agreed to make their wines from vines planted prior to 1962, and to use only native yeast fermentation. The first vintage year was 2012, and all producers agreed to use no new oak barrels, commercial yeasts, water additions to reduce alcohol, acid adjustment, and filtration or color enhancers in producing their wines. Wineries affiliated with the Lodi Native program are M2 Wines, Macchia Wines, Maley Brothers, St. Amant Winery, and McCay Cellars.

The ratings are in, and these Zinfandels have not only scored highly in wine tastings and competitions, but they are helping to put Lodi on the wine map and help diffuse the negative stereotypes surrounding discussion about Lodi wine.

To my fellow wine bloggers, tasters and judges, welcome to the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, and enjoy everything wine-related Lodi has to offer. Salute!

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You can find Lodi Wine on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here. The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference kicks off this evening and will be held until Sunday. You can find the entire agenda on their website here. Follow on social media with #WBC2016!

You can find me on Facebook here and on Twitter here! We’ll be at the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference this weekend and will be writing about our adventures and discoveries. Stay tuned!

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Will You Be in Lodi for #WBC16? Check out St. Amant Winery!

So this is a public service announcement of sorts for all attendees of the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference. I am reposting a blog post I wrote waaay back in 2012 about the Portuguese and Spanish varietals produced by Stuart Spencer. If you’ll be in Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference, please check out St. Amant Winery.

Also, Stuart Spencer (not only the winemaker at St. Amant, but Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission as well) will be a moderator at the conference during a Friday morning (11:00am) seminar called The Truth About Viticulture. Panelists at the seminar include: Tegan Passalacqua, Director of Winemaking at Turley Wine Cellars; Stan Grant, Viticulturist, Progressive Viticulture; Chris Storm, Viticulturist,Vino Farms. If you’re a wine geek like me, this presentation is not to be missed!!

I am like, completely psyching myself out right now! Andy and I are looking forward to meeting all of you this week and now I will try and calm down.🙂

Please enjoy the following from December 2012… a little food and wine pairing. Cheers and happy Monday!

PS: You can find the Wine Bloggers Conference on Facebook here.

DON’T MISS OUT!! Register for #WBC16 by clicking HERE!
Catch #WBC16 on Twitter @winebloggerscon for any updates and new information.

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If you’ve never heard of St. Amant Winery, here’s an introduction. They are located in Lodi where lately, especially the last 3 years, some of my favorite red wines have also originated.

I first discovered St. Amant wines at a tasting at Treasure Island (in San Francisco of all places) during Fleet Week. I had the St. Amant Barbera and I thought it was the best red wine there. So, my recent interest in local Tempranillos has me searching around Lodi  to see what I can find. It’s becoming more and more popular of a varietal there. It turns out that St. Amant has been growing Tempranillo a long time. Their 2009 was their 8th vintage, so I’m guessing they’re not just trying to be trendy.😉

In fact, St. Amant was growing grapes prior to the beginning of commercial wine sales in Lodi. In 1979, Tim Spencer (the late father of the current owner, Stuart Spencer) owned a couple of acres of Zinfandel vines and grafted them to five Douro Valley Portuguese varieties: TintaCao,Touriga, Alvarelhao, Souzao, and Bastardo. By 1981, he produced his first vintage port.

In 1996, the winery relocated to Lodi. St. Amant (named after Stuart’s mother’s maiden name) is one of the first wineries in Lodi to list Lodi on their label. Since the move, Stuart has been making some of the most interesting and food friendly wines including: a Verdelho, the aformentioned Barbera and Tempranillo, a Touriga, a red blend: Speakeasy Red, and of course the ever popular Old Vine Zinfandel (2 varieties). The current lineup also includes 3 different kinds of Port.

Last night’s food pairing (with the 2008 Tempranillo) was a baked sweet potato topped with broccoli, onions, hard boiled egg, and Diestel Turkey Chorizo. I also added a little Greek yogurt and black pepper.😉

I encourage you to visit St. Amant this weekend, especially if you are looking for a special bottle of wine as a gift. They are located at 1 Winemaster Way, Lodi, CA. You can also find them at Total Wine & More or fax your order from this form here.

You can like Lodi Wine on Facebook here.

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Legends of Wine Returns to the State Capitol on September 16th

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Farm-to-Fork events are kicking into high gear all around Sacramento as noted by the Farm-to-Fork regional events page. Farm-to-Fork Restaurant Week begins on September 8th and takes place for 18 days, along with the Farm-to-Fork Festival on the 24th of September and the Farm-to-Fork Gala (Tower Bridge Dinner) on the 25th of September. But if you’re a wine lover, Legends of Wine (on Thursday, September 16th from 6-9pm) is the hallmark affair of the Farm-to-Fork celebration.

Legends of Wine provides the unique opportunity to sample and discover more about some of the region’s most celebrated varietals, as selected by two of Sacramento’s internationally recognized culinary powerhouses—Darrell Corti and David Berkley. Set against the backdrop of California’s majestic State Capitol, guests will sip a wide array of award-winning wines paired and presented with artisan cheeses and local delights.

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Each year of Legends of Wine, Lodi wine has been well represented. I have always been a bigger fan of the region for its Zinfandels (over Amador who I feel produces better Barberas). I bring up the Lodi region because this year it is the home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference taking place next week, August 11th-14th. I am looking forward to learning more about Lodi and revisiting the wineries and taking part in the many seminars planned for the weekend, so that during Legends of Wine, I can chat more in depth with the winemakers about their craft as I try the wines.

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This year’s Legends of Wine is September 16th from 6:00-9:00 p.m. on the west steps of the State Capitol. Tickets are $65 each. To purchase tickets, click here. Hope to see you there!

To keep up with all the delicious Farm-to-Fork events, click here, “like” Farm to Fork on Facebook here, or follow them on Twitter here.

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Wine Bloggers Conference to Take Place in Lodi, California from August 11-14

12615328_1102448016462617_5155791170573274305_oAfter a little hesitation, I finally signed up for the Wine Bloggers Conference taking place in Lodi, California from August 11th-14th. Why did I wait so long? Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. But after chatting with a few other wine bloggers (Traveling Wine Chick in particular) and Public Relations Pro Heather Atherton, I was convinced it was a weekend not to miss!

I am very excited to attend my first blogger conference and that it will be specifically for people who blog about wine. In the past five years or so, I have moved more towards the grape and have had the opportunity to travel to different wine regions throughout Northern California, and write about my experiences. A big reason for this is because I have the best travel partner in Andy, as shares my love for food, wine and travel.

I look forward to a weekend full of learning, making new friends, networking, incredible food, and of course tasting wine.

If you haven’t signed up yet, I urge you to do so. There are lots of fun surprises planned for Friday, August 12th during the afternoon-evening dinner excursion. I’m not even sure what exactly has been prepared, but the conference attendees will be splitting into small groups and taken to different wineries/locations for dinner. I can hardly wait!🙂

I am attaching the conference itinerary below in utter anticipation of the upcoming conference (and perhaps to encourage you if you have a wine blog or are in the industry to attend!)

2016 WINE BLOGGERS CONFERENCE, LODI CALIFORNIA AGENDA

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10
2:00 PM – Arriving bloggers picked up at Sacramento International Airport and whisked away to Pre-Conference Excursions in several wine regions (in Lodi, bloggers will walk through vines and meet winegrowers showcasing “Experimental and Ancient Vines”)

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THURSDAY, AUGUST 11
4:00 PM – Drop Off at Host Hotels from Pre-Conference Excursions
6:00–8:30 PM – Registration and Lodi Opening Reception

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12
8:00–9:00 AM – Registration

9:00 AM – Opening & Welcome

9:10 AM – Keynote Address by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson

9:55 AM – History of Grape Growing and Winemaking in Lodi: A talk on how Lodi became a pre-eminent wine region; moderated by Mark Chandler (Lodi City Mayor and former Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission), with panelists Aaron Lange (LangeTwins Family Vineyards Manager and Vice Chair of California Association of Winegrape Growers), Kevin Phillips (Michael David Winery/Phillips Farms Vice President of Operations), and Markus Bokisch (Bokisch Vineyards Owner/Grower).

11:00 AM – The Truth About Viticulture Panel: Moderated by Stuart Spencer (Program Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission and St. Amant Winery Owner/Grower/Winemaker), with panelists Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars Director of Winemaking), Stan Grant (Viticulturist, Progressive Viticulture), and Chris Storm (Viticulturist, Vino Farms).

11:55 AM – Lunch and Expo (including the new Writers Corner)

1:45 PM Wine – One of three Wine Discovery Sessions, including sessions hosted by
• U.C. Davis : U.C. Davis alumnus Loyal Miner discusses Clarksburg Viticultural Area and Miner’s Leap family estate.
• Visit Oakland
• Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori: Deborah Parker Wong DWSET presents the varied and delicious wines of Italy’s Veneto, from Prosecco to Amarone

3:00 PM – Live Wine Blogging (White & Rosé): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.

4:00–8:30 PM – Excursions into Lodi Wine Country: Eight different excursions going to eight different Lodi winery/estates; each excursion to include hands-on winery or vineyard activities, tastings, and dinner.

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SATURDAY, AUGUST 13
9:15–10:15 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Advanced Social Media for the Wine Industry: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant) discuss their favorite social media platforms and how to utilize them to promote blogs and Web sites.
• Traffic Analysis – Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss data usage such as Google’s Search Console, BrainstormTools, and Facebook Insightsto increase traffic and revenue.
• Wine Samples: Marisa Indelicato (Fox Run Vineyards), Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like), Rebecca Gomez Farrel (The Gourmez) and Chris O’Gorman (Rodney Strong Vineyards ) discuss the intricate, often indelicate dance involving procurement of bottle samples from the wine industry.

10:30–11:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Social Media Platforms: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant discuss Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Periscope, the four hottest photo and video social media platforms on the internet, and best practices and tips and tricks of the trade for building community and audience.
• Climate Change: Michael Fagin (West Cost Weather LLC) discusses how climate change in United States wine regions will impact the major wine growing regions of Washington, Oregon, California, and New York, and how the industry is adjusting.
• Monetization: Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss earning a respectable income through blogging with use of Ad Networks, Adsense, Affiliate programs, display ads, product sales and by becoming a paid consultant.

1:00–2:00 PM – Wine Discovery Sessions, including
• Discovery Session : Wine Educator May Matta-Aliah DWS presents Au Natural Alsace: The leadership role taken by France’s Alsace region in Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines, sponsored by Wines of Alsace.
• Discovery Session: Yealands Family Wines Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington leads a tasting/discussion of the world’s first carboNZeroCertTM certified winery, located in Marlborough, New Zealand’s extremely windy, cold, coastal Awatere Valley.

2:15–3:15 PM – Wine Blog Award Winners Panel: Five winners of the 2016 Wine Blog Awards tell their stories; including Sophie Thorpe from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Mary Cressler from Vindulge, Jill Barth from l’Occasion, Susan Manfull and Jerry Clark from Provence WineZine, and moderator Sujinder Juneja from Town Hall Brands.

3:15–4:15 PM Live Wine Blogging (Red Wines): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.

4:30–5:30 PM – From Passion to Pro – Getting Paid to Write About Wine: Moderator Randy Caparoso (LoCA’s lodiwine.com and The SOMM Journal Editor Editor-at-Large) discusses how to make the jump from personal blogging to paid wine journalism, while sharing secrets of their success, with panelists Debra Meiburg MW (Debra Meiburg Master of Wine), Jameson Fink (Wine Enthusiast Magazine) and Deborah Parker Wong (The Tasting Panel Magazine, Vineyard & Winery Management, and Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori).

5:30-7:00 PM – Wines of the World Receptions featuring Wines of Alsace from France, Yealands Family Wines from New Zealand, and wines from the Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori from Italy.

7:00–9:00 PM – Dinner with LoCA (Wines of Lodi)

9:00 –9:30 PM – Wine Blog Awards Presentation: Presentation of 2016 Wine Blog Award winners will be presented their awards.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 14
9:30 – 10:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• The Big Jump – Austin Beeman (of Understanding Wine, former Ohio wine retailer and Bonny Doon Director of Marketing) discusses why wineries are “desperately seeking” the skills of wine bloggers.
• Increase Your Audience & Engagement: Mary Cressler and Sean Martin of Vindulge discuss going from social media groups to television producers, freelancing to working with other media sites, and finding ways to promote your blog and increase your community engagement.

10:45 – 11:45 AM – Blogger Reports: Five-minute reports shared by fellow bloggers describing what they are doing to contribute to the world of wine blogging.

11:45 AM – 12:00 PM – Conference Closing

12:15 PM – Departure for Post-Conference Excursions to Ironstone Vineyards in Calaveras, and in Lodi (an exploration of Lodi’s “Heritage Vineyards and Ancient Vines”

You can find me there from Friday-Sunday morning!
You can find the Wine Bloggers Conference on Facebook here.

DON’T MISS OUT!! Register for #WBC16 by clicking HERE!
Catch #WBC16 on Twitter @winebloggerscon for any updates and new information.

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It’s Time to Eat Drink SF!

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Here’s a press release from my friends at Eat Drink SF, a series of food, wine, and spirits events taking place at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, August 26 – 28!!🙂

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Eat Drink SF, the premier food, wine, and spirits festival that celebrates the Bay Area’s world-class chefs and restaurants, announces full main stage programming and festival activations for both the Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila on August 25, and the four signature Grand Tasting sessions at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, August 26 – 28.

Presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Eat Drink SF invites food and drink enthusiasts to connect directly with top local chefs and bartenders and get a taste of what makes San Francisco a top-rated food city. From Thursday to Sunday, more than 160 restaurants participate and guests will enjoy bites as well as unlimited pours of beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries.

In addition the comprehensive line-up of local culinary talent, Eat Drink SF is thrilled to announce new activations in the festival line-up:

All four Grand Tastings will feature San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café who will be serving their famous Irish Coffees featuring Tullamore D.E.W. to bring guests a quintessential flavor of San Francisco.

This year, Eat Drink SF has added a special Grand Tasting on Sunday, August 28, to celebrate the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s 80th anniversary and honor the legacy restaurants in the Bay Area. The Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting will feature Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years and that have helped shape the distinct flavor of the local culinary experience including Scoma’s, Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Tosca and Goat Hill Pizza.

Eat Drink SF has added the “Bay Bar” to all Grand Tastings, which will feature a rotating lineup of San Francisco’s beloved cocktail bars, such as Hard Water, Prizefighter, The Treasury, Whitechapel, and more. Additionally, The San Francisco Brewers Guild will be pouring local craft beers at all Grand Tastings in the “Backyard Bites” section.

In addition to the participating restaurants at the Grand Tastings, Eat Drink SF presents 23 culinary, wine, and cocktail demonstrations and panels. A sampling of Main Stage programming and talent includes:

Friday Evening Grand Tasting, August 26:
Emcee: Joel Riddell of iHeartMedia
Cocktail Demo with Selena Donovan of Maven & California Gold of Beretta Presented by Sipsmith Gin
Beer Pairing Demo by Chef Anthony Strong of Locanda Presented by Stella Artois

Saturday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 27:
Emcee: Margo True of Sunset Magazine
Culinary Demo with Elaine Johnson of Sunset Magazine
Cocktail Demo with Alex Smith of Whitechapel Presented by Imbibe Magazine
Culinary Demo with Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s Presented by All Clad and Fine Cooking

Saturday Evening Grand Tasting, August 27:
Culinary Demo with Andrew Le of The Pig & the Lady Presented by Hawaiian Airlines
Cocktail Demo with Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Group

Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 28:
Emcee: Liam Mayclem of KCBS Foodie Chap
History of the Tiki Drink by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove
Culinary Demo with Thomas McNaughton of flour + water and Ryan Pollnow of Aaxte Presented by All-Clad

Inside the Grand Tasting, San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom announces the following classes:
Friday, August 26: “Wine 101: Speak Like a Geek”, “50 Shades of Gris”, and “Cabernet is King?”

Saturday, August 27 (Afternoon): “Discover Beaujolais”, “Bubbles, Bubbles, & More Bubbles”, “Chardonnay: Burgundy, Butter & Beyond”

Saturday, August 27 (Evening): “Do Points Matter?”, “Savvy Blanc: Too Cool for the Pool”, “The Dark Side of Pinot Noir”

Sunday, August 28: “ViniPortugal Class”, “Summer Through Rosé Colored Glasses”, “Que Syrah Syrah”

Guests can kick-off festival weekend with Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila at Folsom St. Foundry on Thursday, August 25. Returning after a sold-out debut in 2015, this year’s taco competition has added a “Milagro Margarita Mix Off” with local bar stars: Brandon Bigalke (Wingtip), Brian Nelson (Whitechapel), Ted Ronnie (Mosto), Oz Serafin (Trick Dog).  Reigning champs DOSA and Trick Dog will defend their titles against a new batch of fierce taco contenders: AQ, Bar San Pancho, Delfina, La Urbana, Matador, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, Myriad Gastropub, Palm House, Picco, and Souvla. From 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., taco lovers will sample 12 unique tacos from participating restaurants and drink beer, wine, competing margaritas and other cocktails crafted by The Bon Vivants.

For a full list of participating restaurants, visit each of the event pages at www.eatdrink-sf.com. VIP and General Admission tickets for the Grand Tastings are available for purchase at www.eatdrink-sf.com. General Admission tickets are $109 but will increase to $119 on July 25 and VIP tickets are $199 – $209. A limited number of tickets for Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila are still available for $85. For more information, visit www.eatdrink-sf.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Eat Drink SF benefits the GGRA Scholarship Foundation and CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). GGRA’s scholastic-based scholarship program has given more than $500,000 in the past 14 years alone and was established to encourage and provide assistance for students who wish to further their education in pursuit of careers in the hospitality industry.

Platinum Sponsors include Hawaiian Airlines, Morningstar Farms, PG&E, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Mineral Water, Stella Artois, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, The Glenlivet, Woodford Reserve, Fine Cooking, iHeartMedia, Imbibe Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, SF Travel, Sunset, Tasting Table, Wine Spectator, DPEM Event Marketing, Noise 13, and San Francisco Wine School. For a complete list, please visit http://eatdrink-sf.com/sponsors.

To purchase tickets to any of the events, please go here.

About Eat Drink SF
Eat Drink SF, (aka SF Chefs), was founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association in 2009 to celebrate the Bay Area’s world-class restaurant community. Each year, more than 160 restaurants participate in Eat Drink SF’s events that include Taco Knockdown and its signature Grand Tasting sessions. With more than 8,500 attendees, Eat Drink SF provides an opportunity for top area chefs to connect directly with enthusiastic food lovers. Guests enjoy bites and beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries. EDSF 2016 takes place August 25 – 28 at Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center (San Francisco).

About Golden Gate Restaurant Association
This year, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Founded by restaurateurs in 1936 to give San Francisco restaurants a collective voice, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) has evolved to be the Bay Area culinary community’s representative and trusted partner. GGRA supports and celebrates its members through year-round educational programming, professional development, and annual events including SF Restaurant Week, Eat Drink SF and its Industry Conference. The member community includes restaurants of all sizes and profiles.

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New Menu Features and Gluten Free Finds at Yard House

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starter drinks
A few weeks ago Andy and I checked out some new menu items and gluten free options available at Yard House in Roseville. You might remember my visit to Yard House shortly after they opened back in 2011. We kicked off our meal with this round of drinks. On the left is a glass of Zardetto Prosecco (sparkling wine is my go-to opener) and on the right is a glass of Honig Sauvignon Blanc.

gluten free menu
Then it was on to decide what to order. If you are reading this website, you are either eating a gluten-free diet, or you are thinking about eating gluten-free. Yard House makes it easy because there is a separate menu you can ask for when you are seated. The menu features many of items from appetizers to salads and burgers that can be served wrapped in lettuce instead of on a bun, as well as three different gluten-sensitive beers.

brussels and potatoes
Our first appetizer was the Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Ripped Potatoes (served with Malt Vinegar Aioli). It’s featured on the “snack” portion of the menu, but can easily be shared if you are going to be ordering an entrée, too. The dish’s description was accurate as both items were very crispy, yet soft on the inside. The vegetables were highlighted by just the right amount of seasoning and were dressed with the Malt Vinegar Aioli.

For our second appetizer, we decided to try a new menu item (though it is not on the gluten-free menu), the Poke Nachos made with marinated raw ahi, avocado, cilantro, serranos, green onions, nori, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha aioli, white truffle sauce, and crispy wontons. This plate is one of several you can get that features ahi tuna. I like this one not only because it is very shareable, but because it highlights the ahi by merging ingredients that are both used in Asian and Latin cuisine. The combination of the different textures and flavors is delightful.

ahi nachos

What is not delightful is an empty glass, so Andy and I revisited the drink menu and ordered another round. I was curious about the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail choices, so I ordered a Skinny Margarita with El Jimador silver tequila and fresh lime. Other drinks on the Fresh and Skinny™ menu are the Pure Cosmo Martini, the Lite Lemon Drop Martini, the Juniper Fusion, and the Citrus Crush. For more information on the Fresh and Skinny™ Cocktail Menu you can click here. Andy ordered another glass of wine, this time a glass of Meiomi Pinot Noir.

skinny margarita
For my entree, I chose the Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad (from the Gluten-Sensitive menu) composed of greens, kale, tomatoes, edamame, carrots, radish, egg, blue cheese, corn, bacon, avocado, ranch. I usually get dressing on the side when I order a Cobb Salad because there is so much flavor (fat IS flavor!) from the blue cheese, egg, avocado and bacon, I don’t need to cover anything up with dressing. I love simple and fresh ingredients and this salad certainly fit that description.

pork burger and fries
For dessert, we enjoyed two more glasses of wine, mine a glass of Protocolo Rose Tierra de Castilla (a Spanish Rosé made from 50% Tempranillo and 50% Bobal. Andy ordered the Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Michael David Winery (Lodi).

round three drinks
Another healthy menu and gluten-free option we did not try, but was recently added is the Red Quinoa Salad Bowl, which Chef Jocson describes as the greatest hits of all super foods. The salad is a nice shareable dish or can be an entrée for one with a garden of kale, parsley, Brussels sprouts, roasted beets, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, baby tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and feta cheese. Guests can request that the cheese be removed for a vegan option. Carnivores can choose to add chicken or steak for a heartier meal.

Red Quinoa Salad Bowl

“In order to stay relevant menus have to evolve,” added Chef Jocson.  “Five years ago no one would have imagined blueberry ketchup, but it’s an amazing condiment for our Kurobuta Pork Burger and ours is made in-house.  These days offering vegan and vegetarian selections aren’t an option, but a necessity as more people reevaluate their diets and intake.  We already have several of such items, including our new Vegan Burger, as well as gluten-sensitive options.”

If you’re reading this blog post, Yard House will have already debuted its new menu items at all 65 locations. Open daily for lunch, dinner and late-night dining, Yard House offers one of the largest selections of beers on tap plus a creative list of cocktails and wine by the bottle or glass.

For more information, visit yardhouse.com or follow on Facebook at facebook.com/yardhouse and the Roseville location of Yard House on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter @yardhouse

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