Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

wine

Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar Fires Up the Scottsdale Dining Scene

A few months ago, I visited Scottsdale, Arizona during the National Alopecia Areata Foundation’s Annual Conference. Typically when I travel, my trips become more about the food and wine available at my destination than the main reason for the trip, so I do more research on places to eat/drink than I do on anything else! Since my hotel room at the Gainey Suites Hotel was equipped with a full kitchen, I planned to get groceries and make my own dinner for the first evening. Then on the second evening of my stay, I would dine out. Since I had never been to Scottsdale before, this would require some web surfing on some of my trusted travel sites.

I stumbled upon Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar after only searching for a few moments. Since opening last year, Starlite BBQ has been named one of the Seven Metro Phoenix Restaurants you Need to Try Right Now by the Phoenix New Times, as well as one of the 11 Best New Restaurants in Phoenix, Arizona (area) by Eater.comStarlite BBQ was also selected as an 2018 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Winner. This would be the place for Friday night’s dinner for sure!

So on Friday evening, after a short Uber ride, I ended up in a shopping center where Starlite BBQ resides. It sits prominently on the edge of the center, complete a facade decked out with hip white font lettering that can’t be missed. There is an outdoor seating area, but during my visit it was over 100 degrees, so I opted to sit inside and people watch as the filled up the place for dinner.

I sat at a small table against the wall, facing an already lively bar scene and two televisions broadcasting different sporting events–one of them a Diamondbacks game. Across from me on the table was a selection of house-made sauces. I was eager to try them all, but stopped short of squirting the bottles directly into my mouth. First, I selected a beverage to nurse while I contemplated what to eat.

Prosecco was the perfect drink for an opening act. Starlite also has a specialty cocktail menu featuring many whiskey-based drinks, as well as four rotating handles of beer on draft, an ample selection of bottled and canned beer, and a nice list of wines available by the glass or bottle.

While I was selecting my entree, this skillet of cornbread topped with an enormous dollop of melty honey butter appeared on my table. Now this is something I don’t normally eat, but it was really calling my name. The cornbread was still warm, both sweet and savory, and I still remember its delightful texture (just enough crumb without being too dry) even three months later! I’m not exaggerating when I said it was one of the best cornbreads I have ever had.


The Grilled Cauliflower (with Green Goddess, Crispy Black Eyed Peas, Arugula, Pickled Onions) dish really caught my eye (I saw it served to another table as I was about to order), so I snagged one for myself. The dish’s flavor was expertly balanced by the sweet and sour of the dressing (and just enough of it without making the dish soggy), the char on the cauliflower, the crunchy texture of the black eye peas and the peppery arugula.


For the main course, I selected the 1/2 plate of Chopped Pork. It comes with pickled onions and mustard on the side. I ordered a glass of rosé to pair with the pork. I could have gone a little heavier on the wine, especially because of the sauce on the meat, but in the heat of summer, I am hardwired to order bubbles or rose, no matter what the protein or the “traditional” pairing.


I guess you could say I ordered these potatoes for “dessert” and an excuse to try one more dish. Crispy little potato nuggets. This is where the aforementioned BBQ sauces come in. I tried them all on the potatoes and it turns out the middle “Starlite BBQ” is my favorite. I wish my husband had been with me so I could have sampled a little bit more of the menu items. Instead, I was already taking half of the meal back to the hotel in boxes, which was great because it made for the next night’s dinner. In other words, the portions are large and perfect for sharing.

Also good to know: Starlite BBQ supports local organizations and uses local vendors, such as Arizona Beef, organic produce from McClendon’s Farm, fresh breads daily from MJ Bread, and local pecan and mesquite woods to smoke their meats.

Starlite BBQ and Whiskey Bar is located at 7620 E Indian School Road Suite 101, Scottsdale, AZ 85251. You can contact them at 480-553-9330.

They are closed on Monday and Tuesday, and open Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm-11pm, on Friday from 4pm-midnight. They are also open on Saturday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-midnight and on Sunday for Brunch and Regular Menu 10am-10pm. The bar is open until 12 Midnight on Wednesday and Thursday, until 2 AM Friday and Saturday and 12 Midnight on Sunday.

You can find Starlite BBQ on Facebook here and follow them on Instagram here.

Disclosure: My meal was complimentary in exchange for social media exposure and this blog post, however my opinions are all my own.

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28th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden Set for October 6th, 2018

The 28th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden returns on Saturday, October 6th, 2018 from 4-7pm. I am honored to be a part of this year’s planning committee, helping to organize some of my favorite local restaurants and wineries for my Curtis Park neighbors and for my husband, who I met at this event in 2011.

This year’s event will feature a special ticket for VIP is available (which includes admission at 3pm for an extra hour of wine sipping and tasting galore). We are proud to announce our VIP Restaurant sponsor will be one of Sacramento’s newest and (hottest) restaurants, The Diplomat, located directly across from our State Capitol building! The VIP wine sponsor will be Ironstone Vineyards.

Purchase tickets for the event HERE.

Returning to support this year’s event are Curtis Park Wine Tasting veterans Selland’s, Dad’s, Espresso Metro, Miso Japanese, La Famiglia Catering, Gunther’s Ice Cream, Casa Garden, Sugar Plum Vegan, and Oak Cafe as well as the culinary students from American River College (under the tutelage of the amazing Chef Roxanne O’Brien).

New to the event this year (so far!!) are Cellar Door Platters (a custom charcuterie, fruit, and cheese platter creation service), Seasons 52, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op, Burgess Brothers BBQ (Antojito’s), Thai Farm House BBQ & Bistro, Buffalo Pizza and Cornflower Creamery, and Adamo’s Restaurant!

Wineries set to participate are Revolution Wines, Moniz Family Wines, Tryphon Vineyards, Matchbook Wines, Seka Hills Winery, Steiner Family Vineyards, and Via Romano Vineyards. If you’re a cider fan, we’ve got Two Rivers Ciders coming, and as always Pangaea Bier Cafe‘s Rob Archie will coordinate his fabulous Beer Garden for all the brew lovers out there.

I have intentionally tried to reach out to restaurants that produce food that not only pairs with wine, but restaurants that will give this event more variety and make it more culturally diverse. If we all have one thing in common, it’s that we need to eat to live. Food can be a great connector to people who have different backgrounds. I feel this event is a great way to taste and get introduce Curtis Park residents to restaurants they might not normally seek out on their own. As one of my favorite travel hosts (and star of Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil”) Phil Rosenthal says, “Food is the great connector for me, laughs are the cement. It’s all about getting to know people.” Yes!

Proceeds from the SCNA Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden help support upkeep and maintenance of the historic Sierra 2 Center and Senior Center, community events like the Spring Egg Hunt, Music in the Park and Curtis Fest. Additional funds go toward Bret Harte’s 6th grade Nature and Science Camp and the McClatchy HISP program and the debate club.

We are still looking for restaurants and wineries who want to showcase their food at the event, and particularly restaurants/wineries to represent different cuisines/wines throughout the world. If you are interested in participating, please contact me by calling 916-612-0035 or email me: misscavegrrl at gmail.com!

For information about participating, donating or volunteering, you can also contact Terri Shettle at the Sierra 2 Center, 452-3005. No prior event planning is necessary, and it is a great way to connect with neighbors and support your community.

Click —-> donate an auction item, or here to purchase tickets for the event. See you there!


Garagiste Wine Festival Comes to the Heart of Sonoma Wine Country


On May 12th, 2018, the internationally renowned Garagiste Wine Festival comes to the heart of Sonoma, California for the very first time. The festival will showcase the rich variety of small-production wines currently being crafted by some of the most innovative winemakers in Sonoma, Mendocino, Livermore, Lodi, and Napa, as well as other California regions. The non-profit event will be held at the Sonoma Veterans Building near Sonoma’s historic downtown plaza.


Why are the Garagiste Festivals Different? (source CaliforniaGaragistes.com)

1. The focus is on small-production winemaking.
Most other wine events focus on a single region or certain varietal (Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Rhones, etc.), but not The Garagiste Festival. This is the widest range of wines available in one place anywhere, from all over California – Paso Robles, Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Sierra Foothills, and more. Our case limit is around 1500 per vintage so this is hands-on, high-quality winemaking.

2. You can taste over TWENTY different varietals.
Sure, we’ll have excellent Cab, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Zin, and all the faves, but you will also be able to taste Teroldego, Albarino, Riesling, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, many different Rosés, amazing blends, and many more. Expand your palate, find new favorites.

3. You will have a hard time finding these wineries on your own.
The majority of these wineries do not have tasting rooms and aren’t on “wine country” maps. We know where to find them and we bring them to you…all in one place. Let us do the work so you can do the tasting!

4. The average price of a bottle of red at our Festivals is about $40.
Nowhere else can you taste so many wines (over 200!) at this price point and level of quality for one low entry fee. You will have an amazing opportunity to taste world-class wines and discover your new favorites without having to commit to the purchase of a whole bottle.

5. No Black Ties Here
Lots of wine organizations hold expensive fundraising events, sometimes formal, sometimes a bit stuffy. Not here – this is casual and fun. As we like to say, “No Snobs Allowed”

6. No Annoying Crowds, Either
Ever been to wine festival where you have to fight your way to the table to get a taste? That doesn’t happen at the Garagiste Festival. We limit ticket sales to make sure you will have a comfortable, uncrowded experience, and even have time to talk to the winemakers. And that brings us to…

7. It’s the Winemakers and Owners themselves pouring their wines.
No robotic, scripted sales pitches like “this wine goes perfect with a Sunday BBQ!” or “Would you like fries with that?” You will be talking to the passionate people who make these wines, and get to hear their personal stories about why they make them. The winemakers love talking to you – they always tell us this is their favorite crowd for which to pour.

8. You help deserving students at Cal Poly just by drinking wine!
We are a 501c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to the education and support of future professionals in the wine industry through The Garagiste Festival Scholarships at Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo. Simply by buying a ticket and drinking excellent wine you are doing a good deed. And that makes you a good person!


Over 90% of Northern Exposure participants do not have a tasting room – 90% percent! – so this is truly a singular chance to discover and meet the next great winemakers and get the opportunity to taste their amazing micro-production wines. Your appointment to try these wines is all in one room, right here! You won’t be able to duplicate this tasting experience at any other wine event.

Wineries Schedule to Participate Include:
Betwixt Wines, Brooks Note, Burning Bench, Calstar Cellars, Camlow Cellars, Chenoweth Wines, Crux Winery, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Enoteca Five, Fallon Place Wine, Fields Family Wines, Gordenker Wines, Gregory James Wines, Halcon Vineyards, Kendric Vineyards, La Pitchoune Winery, Lightning Wines, Magna Vita Cellars, Mastro Scheidt, Merisi Wines, Montagne Russe, Montemaggiore, Murder Ridge, Nicolette Christopher, Nowell-Smith Wines, Parmeson Wines, People’s Wine Revolution, Piezo Winery, Powicana Farm, Sosie Wines, St. Romedius Wines, T. Berkley Wines, The Larsen Projekt, Theopolis Vineyards, Trojak-Knier Winery, Tulocay Winery, Two Shepherds, Von Holt Cellars and Weatherborne Wine Co.

The Sonoma Garagiste Festival will kick off at 11:30 am on Saturday, May 12th, with a signature tasting seminar: “The Garagiste Variety Show: Exploring the Diversity of Small-Production Winemaking.” The seminar will focus on the range of wines being produced by Garagiste winemakers, and investigate why garagiste winemakers have stepped away from Cabernet and Chardonnay to work with grapes considered under-the-radar in Northern California. Moderated by McLennan, panelists include: Paul Gordon of Halcon Vineyards and Randy Hester of Lightning Wines.

In the afternoon is the main event: the Grand Tasting, which runs from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Like all Garagiste Festivals (and unlike many larger wine festivals), the Sonoma festival will limit ticket sales to give attendees a comfortable and relaxed tasting experience with personal winemaker interaction. For a full schedule of events for the day and to buy tickets, click HERE.


Zinfandel Tasting at Beatnik Studios, Sunday, April 8th, 2018

I’d like to let you all know about a special event starring Zinfandel, which happens to be the first red wine I fell in love with!

Shortly after moving here in the summer of 2004, I began visiting Amador and Plymouth, home to some of the oldest vines in California. I quickly developed a taste for zinfandels that were very robust and jammy, and later on the more restrained and lower alcohol zins. I might have also moved on to enjoying other reds, but there’s nothing like a good zinfandel, especially paired with hamburgers, pizza, red sauced foods, and lamb.

Zinfandel first made its California debut in the 1860s, and is now grown almost exclusively in California. It was even considered being adopted as California’s state wine until the bill naming it so was vetoed by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. His argument was that the varietal would snub other wines or make them less notable. However, I believe that Zinfandel itself has been slighted and it’s (sweet) rosé version has been the butt of many a wine snob’s joke for years, even though it has been the gateway wine for so many people (including myself!)

So join me in a Zinfandel appreciation event and tasting of California’s true historical grape at Beatnik Studios in downtown Sacramento. We’ll taste zins from all around the Sierra Foothills. The wineries will be arranged by regions such as Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Placer, and Nevada. The winemakers will also be there to talk about the wines they made and why California zinfandel is so special!

Artisanal food purveyors and informative seminars are included with each admission. Bella Familia Pizza is coming out to serve creations made by hand… they’re featuring organic their hand-made dough recipe with local ingredients on every pizza. Like I mentioned earlier, zinfandel and pizza is a match that can’t be beat!

While you’re there, check out the interactive Zinfandel video booth and make plans to visit the nearby wineries you discover. This is an afternoon of Zinfandel exploration you won’t want to miss!

For tickets, CLICK HERE!

JUST THE FACTS…
WHAT: Zinfandel Stories from Sierra Foothills
WHEN: Sunday, April 8th, 2018, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
WHERE: Beatnik Studios, 722 S St, Sacramento, CA 95811
HOW MUCH: $45 per person
WHY: Because the California wine lineup wouldn’t be complete without zinfandel and you need to taste them all!!
WHO: This event has been organized by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) is a membership-based organization that advances knowledge and appreciation for American Zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history. ZAP is a non-profit, educational 501(c)(3) organization.

PS: You MUST be 21 or over to attend this event. No one under 21 years of age will be admitted, including babies or infants in strollers or backpacks. No exceptions. Valid I.D. is required to enter all ZAP events.


Notes on Norton


If you like trying interesting wines, then feast your eyes and tastebuds on this varietal. It’s called Norton, and it’s the oldest native grape in the United States!

Norton is named after Dr. Daniel Norton, and is similar in taste and smell to its European cousins. It’s a tough grape and can survive harsh weather conditions and was resistant to diseases that many French varietals would succumb to when brought into this country.

These all-American Norton wines had soon after become renowned in Europe (during the 1873 Vienna World Exposition a Norton from Hermann, Missouri won a gold medal), served at the White House, and enjoyed by many until 1920 when Prohibition forced farmers to rip up their Norton vines (along with Cabernet and Merlot vines) and plant table grapes (Concord) in their place.

During Prohibition, people secretly drank wines that came from other countries, and that did not include Norton, so when the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933 by the ratification of the 21st Amendment, Norton was rarely planted.

After 56 years, Norton was more or less forgotten about until a man named Dennis Horton bought some land in Virginia he would dedicate to the planting of Norton for winemaking. Since then, Norton has slowly been making a comeback. In the states of Virginia (the largest single planting of Norton in the world is 69 acres at Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, VA), in Missouri where it had first become popular, and even in California. In 2009, Riedel jumped on the bandwagon and created a glass specifically for wine made from the Norton grape!

The bottle of Norton pictured above was produced by Heringer Estates in Clarksburg, California, just south of Sacramento. We received it as a wedding present from a friend back in September and had the chance to open it just the other night. Heringer Estates only has 5 acres of Norton, but manages to produce such a beautiful wine with their crop. It’s a very dry wine, yet somehow it’s got a luscious raisin flavor and aroma. Pretty mouthwatering.

Curious to try? You can buy Norton directly online from Heringer Estates here. Cheers!


A Duo of Delightful Wines to Try

One benefit of having this website is that I am often sent complimentary bottles of wine to try so that I will write about them and give my opinion. It makes my job even easier when I actually like the wine and am enthusiastic about recommending it!

This was such the case with the pair of wines I present to you in this post: a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Blanco, and a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha.

I was highly intrigued by the Tempranillo Blanco, because though I have had my fair share of Tempranillos (red wine) I had never tasted a white one. This wine is actually a blend of 60% Viura, 20% Malvasia, 20% Tempranillo Blanco. It is entirely fermented in stainless steel, which makes this wine fruitfully crisp. I would recommend this wine as a starter glass with appetizers such as cheese, or other tapas of some sort–Tortilla Española and Gambas al Ajillo come to mind. I was really impressed with the wine’s quality vs. the price. If you care to know, the wine scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find Vivanco Tempranilla Blanco online here. As I write this, it’s only $9.99 per bottle. Wine.com also sells it, but they are currently out of stock.

The second wine I tried was the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha. The wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha. It’s a true deep pink versus a pale salmon color, but it is still a dry wine (as sometimes a darker color can indicate a sweeter rosé). This rosé is made using a method called “free-run”, a term used to describe the release of juice from the grapes (after they are harvested) as a result of the weight of being stacked on one another (and before any pressure is applied to crush them). This is a good wine to enjoy with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, paella, and grilled chicken or fish. It also scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha online here. As I write this, it’s only $8.99 per bottle.


You can find Vivanco Wines on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

*I was sent these two complimentary bottles of wine so that I might share my thoughts about them with my readers. Photos of the wine and opinions on the wine are my own.


It’s Always Time to Visit Wine Country!

I’ll never forget last October (2017). It was a month of great loss. The strange thing was that only days earlier, Andy and I had celebrated our marriage at Caverna 57 with my mother and about 50 or so friends. We were so happy on the last days of September.

Then October came. Las Vegas (where we married in March) was rattled by a great tragedy that Sunday evening. I had to take my mom to the airport so she could fly home on Monday morning (this is never easy, BTW). I went from a great state of joy to being bummed out for the world. Then exactly one week after the Las Vegas incident, wine country caught fire. For a little while, I thought the world was going to end. Smoke drifted all the way to Sacramento by Tuesday and we all knew just how serious the situation had become, however, we faced the heartache of helplessness. Since the fires had popped up all over wine country, and the unusual winds howled on, the fires spread and became unmanageable despite the efforts to fight them.

What do you do when your favorite place on Earth is burning down? It seemed like a nightmare, but how could I even say that? I was not there or displaced from my home. I was not a first responder who had to battle the smoke or the flames. I was sitting safely on the sidelines in Sacramento, a place that would have more of a chance of floating away in a flood than burning up. When the fires were finally extinguished and the smoke cleared, I sent myself on a mission to visit Napa. I realized that reports of the damage had been highly exaggerated in the media. In fact, there were only about 50 wineries with any direct damage, and less than 5 wineries with significant damage! I felt it was my duty to visit, spend money and publicize on social media that Napa had not burned down and was open for business!

It was October 27th when I finally made it out. My real job gets very hectic until the end of the month, but I came as soon as I could. As I was driving through the valley, it was as beautiful as ever! The air was so clear and the sun so bright! All of the wineries on Highway 29 were all still intact and sort of majestic looking in a way.

I scheduled to meet a friend (now one of my very best friends) in St. Helena at Ehlers Estate. I tasted several phenomenal wines there, and even bought a few bottles (though out of my normal price range). If you’ve never been to Ehlers Estate, its located on the east side of Highway 29 on Ehlers Lane. The tasting room is in a beautiful old stone barn surrounded by 42 acres divided into five blocks (based on soil type) and 25 sub-blocks, defined by clone and rootstock combinations. 25 acres are are home to six different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on multiple rootstocks. The vineyard also produces sub-blocks of Merlot, four of Cabernet Franc, two of Sauvignon Blanc and a block of Petit Verdot.

Another notable factoid: Proceeds from tasting fees/sales of wine at Ehlers Estate help support the Leducq Foundation‘s international cardiovascular research programs.

Below, I’ll share a view photos from my tasting at Ehlers Estate. I was impressed with the way they greet each guest with a little personalized sign. Bonus points for spelling my name correctly! 😉


I’m not going to jump into reviewing all the wines, but the most notable one at Ehlers Estate (in my opinion), is the 2014 Merlot. If you know anything at all about contemporary wine culture, you know that Merlot has suffered a bit of a backlash, but it’s finally making a comeback. But drinkers of good Merlot will tell you this varietal never went away! October happens to be International Merlot Month, and International Merlot Day is on November 7th. Worldwide, there are 600,000 acres of Merlot planted. If you happen to be a fan of Merlot, this is the one to try. I am really looking forward to opening it with my mom when I go visit her this year.

My friend and I had lunch at Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, (literally a stone’s throw from Ehlers Estate). We both ordered the diet-friendly Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad, with bacon, carmelized onion, parmesan, and soft cooked egg. I sipped a Diet Coke because I knew I was off to more wine tasting later in the day. My friend had to return to lunch after work, but I was on to Mumm Napa for sparkling wine!



Driving to Mumm Napa down the Silverado Trail was the first time I noticed fire damage or any sign that a fire had come through at all. If you can imagine my trajectory, I was headed south from St. Helena on the Silverado Trail towards Napa, so the damage I began to see was on my left hand side, from the Atlas Peak fire. Still, I was surprised at how little damage there was overall, compared to how much damage had been reported on the radio, internet, and television. Here I was with dozens and dozens of wineries open around me on a gorgeous day, and hardly anyone in them because all of the Valley had (allegedly) burned down. I was giddy to be there and see for myself that it was business as usual. When I arrived at Mumm, I was ready to buy some more wine! But, first, more tasting. 🙂

 

The wine on the far left is the Brut Prestige, made with 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Lately, it’s my go-to sparkling wine at a restaurant for a starter glass (I usually get the split) because it’s on so many menus and I know exactly what the wine will taste like and that it will make me smile. It’s just under $20 for wine club members, and $24 for non-wine club members.

The DVX is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The name of the wine honors the late Guy Devaux, founding winemaker of Mumm Napa. The grapes for DVX come from a half-dozen of the winery’s vineyard sources. The wine is available to wine club members only.

The Brut Rose is a 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay sparkling wine with the most lovely blush/coral/salmon color. It is my favorite sparkling rose under $25, and I bought 3 bottles to enjoy myself when Andy is out of town or is on a “bro date”. 😉






I also bought a bottle of the most interesting wine I tasted while at Mumm. It was a sparkling Pinot Noir. It is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is dark in color like a still Pinot Noir (ruby/garnet). Suggested pairings on the sell sheet for this wine are rack of lamb and prime rib, but Andy and I will open it this Valentine’s Day and we plan on making a turkey breast to pair with the wine. I am pretty sure as of November 2017 this wine is completely sold out.

Following my tasting and purchases at Mumm, I made my way to my home for the night at the Napa River Inn. They were kind enough to extend a media rate to me.

The Napa River Inn is located within the Historic Napa Mill (built in 1884, and is a National Registered Landmark). The Inn spreads into three buildings with 66 rooms that are designed and decorated to reflect the period (1800s). Most rooms overlook the river and have romantic views. The Inn is located next to restaurants such as Angele and Celadon, Silo’s Jazz Club, Napa General Store, and Sweetie Pies Bakery. For more information/a flashback/torture ;), you can read my post on the Napa River Inn on cakegrrl.blogspot.com located here. NAPA RIVER INN

This time I was in Room 212 and had enough time to take a bubble bath and recharge before heading downtown for more wine tasting and dinner.

Below are a few photos of my room, equipped with a fireplace.



The Napa River Inn also hosts nightly wine tastings, free to its hotel guests. Pietro Family Cellars was the featured winery on the evening of my stay. You can find and try their wines in downtown Napa at the Gabrielle Collection tasting room and store on Opera Plaza at 1000 Main Street.


Backroom Wines must have known I was coming to Napa, because that evening they held a sparkling wine tasting. So close to Halloween, I figured this would be my trick-or treat! Even better was that once I parked my car at the hotel, I didn’t get in it again until I checked out at 12pm the next day.

I headed out to walk over to the tasting, and on my way I spotted a large wooden chair next to a jack o’ lantern ghost. This really was like trick-or-treat! I saw another couple sit in the chair and try to do selfies, but I stopped them and said, “Hey, I’ll take your picture, if you will take mine!” They nodded in agreement.

On a placard at the bottom of the chair, it asks you to tag #riverfrontchair if you post your picture online. Here’s a look at some others who have posed in the Riverfront Chair for Instagram. Fun!


OK, no more shenanigans, let’s get down to real business… more wine tasting! As I said earlier, this tasting was tailor-made for yours truly. I sauntered into the wine shop and plunked my 20 spot down on the bar! Let’s do this thing!


OK, so I did NOT take formal notes at this tasting, nor do I remember a lot about what I had, but I do remember how much fun I had at Backroom Wines, especially because I struck up a conversation with a couple visiting from Reno. I was wearing my GIANT Garmin running watch and it caught their eye. I didn’t end up buying any wine at the store, mainly because I was headed to dinner after, but I highly recommend Backroom Wines for tasting and shopping in downtown Napa!

After I left Backroom, I remember sort of stumbling around and not being 100% sure where I wanted to go for dinner. I finally settled on Carpe Diem, surely lured in by the $%&#! Truffle Fries on the menu. 😉 Yes, I’m that person. I’m the one who orders “truffle” anything.

I snagged a table in the bar, even though the server wanted to give me a giant table. Nope, just me, only need a hightop. Then I ordered a big glass of rosé. Since it seemed like I had already participated in the Winolympics® that day, I was content with one glass with dinner. 😉


My dinner that evening was composed of two small plates: a tuna tartare with seaweed salad, avocado and taro chips and a giant plate of truffle fries. For me, shame would quickly set in, but both dishes I highly recommend!



OK quick selfie at Carpe Diem! 🙂

The next day I woke up to join my friend Elizabeth for a Body Boot Camp workout at Napa Fit Body Boot Camp. After, I ran on the Napa River Trail to make it 8 miles total for the day.


The Napa River Trail is something I had no idea existed! I found it by accident when I was running back to my hotel from the boot camp class. I’ll certainly be running on it a lot this summer when we go back to Napa for the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway on my birthday weekend!


It was a whirlwind trip, but I packed so much food, wine, fun (and exercise) in 24 hours! Before I close, I wanted to let you know a few facts about the fires in Napa I collected while at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa (in November). I wanted to list them to encourage people to continue to come to Napa and also to continue to buy Napa wines. This includes even the 2017 vintage when it is released.

  • 90% of the grapes were harvested before the fires began.
  • Winemakers are very optimistic about the overall quality of the grapes.
  • It was mainly Cabernet left on the vines, but it is a very resilient, thick skinned grape.
  • There are many unknowns about the possible effects of smoke on wine.
  • Winemakers are using rigorous and repeated lab testing and will continue to do so.
  • Only the highest and best quality will go to market, because the wineries’ reputations are at stake.

There are also a few new places in town, and a few specials going on at places to stay. The Napa River Inn has a specials page located here, but since it’s timely for an upcoming Valentine’s Day trip, I will share their Romance Package, which includes Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, a Bottle of Champagne, and Breakfast in Bed from Sweetie Pies Bakery.

A new restaurant/wine bar has opened called Compline. The name Compline refers to end of the working day, when things get quiet and evening settles in. You can sneak a peek at their menu here.

Also, 2018 Napa Wine Tasting Cards are available now. For $15, you can pick up a tasting card and check out ten of Napa’s best downtown tasting rooms (all within walking distance of each other), enjoying wines for half the price. Cards can be re-used with no limit throughout the year. You can buy them here.

In closing, I want to thank the Napa River Inn for offering me a discounted stay and the staff there for making everything perfect, Elizabeth Smith for leading my tasting at Ehlers Estate and joining me for lunch at Brasswood. I’m so glad we met and I can call you my friend. I’d also like to extend gratitude to Tessa at Mumm Napa for her incredible hospitality and service, the staff at Backroom Wines (please do MORE bubble tastings, and I will be there!), and the staff at Carpe Diem. All of these people depend on your visits to make a living. I’ll be back as soon as possible.

With much love… please continue to stay #napastrong #sonomastrong #winecountrystrong!
Beautiful video done by 3 Rock Marketing and Wildly Simple.


WBC17 Wine Dinner Excursion at Thomas George Estates Winery


One of the most exciting parts of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is the excursion dinner at an offsite location (most times at a winery with catered food). This year, we bought our tickets ahead of time so we could join our friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings, who we had met at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi. They bought their tickets as soon as the Thomas George Estates excursion was announced, and we did as well soon after. The dinner experiences are a hot commodity at the WBC. This time, the tickets were only $20 per person, and I’m not kidding when I say it was the best Andrew Jackson I have ever spent on a wine and food pairing! Don’t believe me? I have the pictures to prove it.

I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm as I detail the evening, but I have to admit I felt like royalty from the moment we left the conference hotel to the moment we returned. We met our dinner group and loaded on to a limo bus. Below is a photo of us on the bus, and you can see the excitement in our faces! We heart wine dinner excursions!


After a long and bumpy ride, we arrived at Thomas George Estatesa bit of a mystery spot for me, because I could not find much information about them on the web. After getting off the bus, I was pleasantly surprised to see our group was being escorted into a wine cave! We were led into a foyer area and presented with a charcuterie spread from Black Pig Meat Company the likes of which I had never seen before. Our glasses were also filled with Thomas George Estates Blanc de Blancs, an estate bubbly made from chardonnay.


We mingled amongst ourselves while sipping the sparkling wine and enjoying our selections from Black Pig Meat Company: Cured Meats, Roasted and Marinated Vegetables, and Hummus with Crostini. I snuck away from the group to take pictures of the tables where we would later be dining. The attention to detail of the table setting was remarkable. Plus, I took a peak at the menu for the evening and I could hardly wait for what was to come!





Our first course of the meal would be a roasted Brussels Sprout Salad, with Black Pig Bacon, Asian pear, Marcona Almonds, Aged Sherry Vinegar, and Bohemian Creamery “Capriago”, an asiago-style cheese made from goat milk and aged between 8 and 10 weeks. This course was paired with a 2015 Chardonnay from the Thomas George Sons & Daughters Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The best part about this dish was the crispy bacon nuggets and Marcona almonds nestled in the salad hidden like buried treasure. Alyse and I laughed about our disdain for frisée…I did not know someone else shared my dislike of its curly texture and overall annoyingness when trying to cut/eat it. Still, this salad was a major hit with me.



The entrée course was a stunning “Cracklin'” Pork Belly and Star Anise Liberty Duck. It was served with Black Rice, Thomas George Estate-Grown Pomegranate and Watercress. The wine pairing was an Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Baker Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The texture of the rice was wonderfully chewy and sticky and was offset by the crispy pork skin and the tenderness of the duck leg. As you can see it was a beautiful presentation and the pomegranate lent itself in both flavor and color. There was also a bit of persimmon on the plate, special to me because Fuyu persimmon is my favorite fruit, and it was my first taste of it that season!


For our final course, we were presented with a Quince & Apple Tartin, served with Bourbon Gelato. I was served a dessert without the crust, as they kindly remembered my gluten free request. I thought the Bourbon Gelato was pretty incredible, especially with the wine we were served as a pairing: an Estate 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from the Baker Ridge Vineyard “Baby Block”, Russian River Valley. Success! The wine WAS slightly sweeter than the dessert, and that is how it should be in a dessert/wine pairing. Lately, I have come to appreciate/enjoy dessert wines more and more, and might have even purchased a few bottles of Pinot Gris in the last month. I used to hate on sweet/dessert wines (like, a lot), so here is my formal apology of sorts.

Our dinner was skillfully prepared by Chef Duskie Estes of zazu kitchen + farm. I asked her to take a picture with me and she kindly obliged (below). I just took a peek at zazu’s sample menu and I’m probably going to have to stop in next time I am in the area! Luckily, we have friends who live in Sebastopol… 😉


  



Not only were the wines and the meal terrific, the company I shared them with and the memories I have of the evening are unforgettable. Thank you to the staff at Thomas George Estates for your hospitality and to Chef Duskie for her food presentation.

To connect with Thomas George Estates, you can find them on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, or follow them on Instagram here. Their website is located here.


For another account of this excursion, head on over to Appetite for Wine, and read what Kent had to say!

AN IMPORTANT P.S.!!!
The winery is closed to the public during the month of January for annual maintenance and improvements, but will return to regularly scheduled operations on February 1st. So this means you have plenty of time to plan a future visit!

If you’re a wine blogger or play one on TV, don’t miss out on the next Wine Bloggers Conference, to be held in Walla Walla, Washington from October 4-7, 2018.

Keep an eye out for more coverage on this website from the 2017 Santa Rosa conference. I’m not sure which direction I will go content-wise, but would like to say something that hasn’t been already said. It was a conference definitely filled with mixed emotions as a result of the fires in October, but definitely an uplifting place to be in witnessing the resilience of wine country and its representatives at the conference. Cheers, and thanks for reading! #WBC17


27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden, set for October 14th, 4-7pm

This year it will be SIX years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting! It’s an event that is really near and dear to our hearts. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends. 🙂
If you’d like to read how we met at this event, you can click HERE.

I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the BEST food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center and I hope you will join us for the 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting!  -cg

PS: The Curtis Park Wine Tasting Organizers are STILL LOOKING for the following (click the links below for more information!):

 

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The 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden, one of SCNA’s largest fundraisers, brings local wineries, breweries and restaurants to Sierra 2 Center for tastings. Attendees enjoy delicious food and beverages along with the exciting silent auction and raffle drawings. Items available for bid include original art, spa packages, beach rentals, dance lessons and much more.

 



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Tickets:
Advance until 11:59pm, Oct.13th : $45 (SCNA Members)/$50 (Non-members) Membership can be purchased or renewed during your registration process.

Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 13. After Oct. 13: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.

You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here. They are now on Instagram here.

 


Sacramento Bachelorette Trips


The wedding planning experience is something of a roller coaster from start to finish, but it’s important to keep the end result in mind. The bachelorette party is one of the best opportunities to celebrate this milestone with your closest friends and let some of that anxious energy dissipate. When you think about it, there’s no better place to plan one of these events than the city of Sacramento when you consider the diverse array of activities, bars, and restaurants to chose from that will interest everybody in attendance! There are also some out of the box ideas you might not have thought of before.

Push the Comfort Zone
One of the best ways to start off a bachelorette party is to push yourself with a physical activity at a local spot like Asha Yoga or even pole dancing classes for those who are really daring! It should be noted that any physical activity will always be saved for the period before any drinking occurs. Epic Pole Fitness is another choice that offers an empowering environment to learn new skills while getting in touch with your sensual side, and it’s even better when you’re there with your friends.

Wine Tastings
Sacramento offers seemingly limitless opportunities to enjoy wine both in the city and in the surrounding areas. It’s always a pleasant and relaxing experience to sip on some locally made wines and learn more information about them. The Underground Tasting Room can be found across the street from the Railroad Museum serving selections from Twisted Twig and Fenton Herriot. Revolution Wines is another destination that shouldn’t be passed up, as they have a full menu of delightful plates like salmon tartine and fruit bruschetta to go along with an impressive selection of wines.

Painting and Sipping
Creativity is something that everybody can appreciate, and that’s why a trip to a spot like the Painted Cork in Midtown is a perfect stop on the itinerary for this type of celebration. You’ll be instructed by a local artist step by step while sipping on your favorite beverage, and that takes away a lot of the intimidation behind creating a piece of art. The piece that you create will be even more special when you look back and remember your bachelorette party.

The best way to tie your bachelorette party together is to ensure that you have a reliable form of transportation. After all, if you plan on drinking, it’s even more important to ensure that safety is a main concern. However, ride share services and taxi cabs don’t offer the same experience that a limousine or party bus does, especially when a group is involved. Investing in a party bus or limo rental often turns out to be the same price as an Uber or Lyft when it’s split up per person, and you’re able to enjoy spacious interiors for socialization. It’s easy to stream your favorite music with the top notch audio systems and auxiliary ports that can be found within the Best Buses in Sacramento!


Your bachelorette party in Sacramento is sure to be a fond memory to look back on for years to come. Let the party begin!

This post was sponsored by Sacramento Party Buses