Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living


Dignity Health’s Care Begins with Me Event Set for Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Care Begins with Me, Sacramento’s premier annual health and lifestyle event focusing on inspiration and connection, will take place this year on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 from 5-9pm at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

Guests will have the opportunity to attend care talks with Dignity Health doctors and hear from our featured keynote speaker Kimberly Williams-Paisley. There will also be a lifestyle, fashion, and beauty galleria, along with gourmet food and drinks.

Don’t forget to bring your friends—because of course you care about them, too.

To learn a little more about the event, you can watch the video below (highlights of Care Begins with Me 2015).

Looks like a lot of fun!

Tickets to the event are $20 for a Care Begins with Me member and $25 dollars for a Care Begins with Me non-member.

To register for Care Begins with Me, click here.

You can find the Care Begins with Me event page on Facebook here. Register and let all your friends know you’re going! See you there.🙂



26th Annual SCNA Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden Event Set for October 8th, 2016

I can’t believe it’s been five years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting and now we live here in Curtis Park together. 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 26th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting!  -cg

The 2016 Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event promises to be one of the best ever! In it’s 26th year, the event boasts more than 20 of the best restaurants in Sacramento, more than 50 wineries, and the always popular Beer Garden orchestrated by Pangaea Bier Cafe & Bottleshop. We will have special demonstrations by culinary students of American River College and Oak Cafe along with hundreds of silent auction and raffle items.

The annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event is the largest fundraising event for the Sierra 2 Center and Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. Proceeds from the event help us fund artistic, cultural, educational and recreational activities at Sierra 2 Center and throughout Sacramento, including the operations of the Senior Center and community building events. Additional beneficiaries of this event include Bret Harte Elementary School and C.K. McClatchy High School. The event’s success helps fund many different important community activities.

Advance until 11:59pm, Oct.5 : $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. 5. After Oct. 5: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.

Online tickets available until 11:59pm, Oct. 5. After Oct. 5, tickets available at Sierra 2 Center office and at the door the day of the event. Tickets are also available for purchase by visiting the Sierra 2 Center office at 2791 24th Street or by calling 916-452-3005 prior to 5:00 p.m. Friday, October 7, 2016. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door prior to the event.

You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here.


10 Tasting Room Tips for the Aspiring Wine Lover

10 Tasting Room Tips for the Aspiring Wine Lover

No matter if you are new to wine or wine tasting, or if you visit tasting rooms often, it’s useful to remind ourselves of good etiquette and read up on ways to improve your experience. Whether you are a first time visitor to a winery, or if you know enough about wine to impress your friends, this list of tips is for you!

1. Avoid wearing heavy cologne/perfume/body spray.

This is without a doubt the number one tip. When you are tasting wines, you need the ability to smell what is in your glass without any interference. A key factor in tasting a wine (as it is in tasting food) is smelling it. Many wines have floral, herbal, spicy characteristics that can be masked when a stronger scent is present, so it’s important that the wine is the only thing you can smell! If you must wear a cologne, apply it at least 2-3 hours before you plan to head to the tasting room. P.S.: Do wear deodorant, but make it unscented if possible.

2. Wine with friends!

Wine with Friends copy
Wine is always more fun with friends! Groups of 2-4 people work really well for a number of reasons:
A. 2-4 people do not overwhelm a tasting room associate like a larger group might. Imagine if a bus load of people all arrive at the same time and the craziness that would ensue.

B. A group of 2-4 is bound to have different opinions on what they thought of the wines. One person might hate something that you loved, but that is totally OK! Learn to discuss the wines and get different perspectives at the end of the day.

3. Take a photo of your favorites!

Take a Photo of Your Favorites copy
Sometimes you might not be in a traditional tasting room, but at an event where there are nearly hundreds of wines being presented. Maybe there is not an opportunity to purchase the wine at the tasting, but there will be at a later time. This is the perfect opportunity to whip out the camera or cell phone and snap a picture of what you loved so you can make it a part of your cellar later on!

4. Take notes.

Lined blank notebook opened to the centre with a silver metallic ballpoint pen

Remember when we used something called a pen and paper? Jot down your favorite wines if you don’t have a camera. Write down what you liked about a wine or what it brings to mind. If the tasting room associate says something important (like a food pairing or their recipe for meatballs) get that on paper, too! The most important thing is to document your experience, because most of us have been on tastings and have forgotten parts of them.

5. Use the dump bucket.

Use the Dump Bucket
But not like that. Part of why we sometimes can’t remember what we tasted is because we have not used the dump bucket to its full potential. The plastic or metal container sitting on the bar beside the wines is there for a reason. So you can taste and spit and keep a sound mind. By all means, taste as many wines as you can, but don’t feel obligated to drink the entire pour. Keep your taste buds refreshed so you can still distinguish wines even if you are at your 3rd or 4th stop. Additionally, a winery is really the only place where spitting in public is NOT frowned upon, so sometimes I have a smaller cup I spit into and then pour it into the main dump bucket, so I am not directly spitting into the bucket. Trust me, I have seen this technique go awry and the liquid ricochet into the spitter’s face when they spat into a mostly full bucket. And they were wearing a white shirt. Not pretty.

6. Get your taste, then step aside for the next person in line.

get a taste step aside copy
Be aware of others around you who might be thirsty. It’s really rude to monopolize a tasting room associate when there are other people behind you waiting to taste the long awaited release of Matchbook Arsonist Chardonnay. You can always get back in line for another taste, but don’t just stand there like an oaf and prevent someone from getting one! (I am only 5’1″ tall and have been corkblocked many times!)
cork blocker

7. Ask questions.

ask questions
Tasting room employees are not there to intimidate you. They are there to share information with you and to hopefully sell you tons of wine and maybe convince you to join their wine club. Ask questions about the wine. Ask about wine in general. Ask about the wine club. Ask about the perks of the club. Joining a wine club might be a great deal of savings to you if you like the winery and the wines they make. Sometimes wineries through big parties during releases of a particular varietal they make and the parties are for wine club members only. PS: Do ask questions, but adhere to rule #6 and do step aside as to no monopolize the tasting room associate so others can taste/ask questions, too.

8. Plan your day ahead of time.

Plan Ahead
Plan to visit 2-3 wineries maximum and spend quality time at each. Most tasting rooms have put time and effort into making their property somewhere you might like to be for while (maybe even all day). Visit the winery website (almost all of them have some sort of web and social media presence) before your visit, and learn about what makes the winery you choose unique. Some wineries have food and wine pairings/tastings. Some have live music or get food trucks to come by to provide food for purchase. If you like food and music (like I do) those are the most attractive! If you do find a winery with musical entertainment, there will also be comedic entertainment by someone who has had a little too much to drink and has decided to bust out some awesome dance moves!

9. Pack snacks and water!

pack snacks copy
So if the places at which you are tasting do not offer food, call them and see if you can bring food, more appropriately snacks to the tasting room or winery grounds. I am not talking about getting a Domino’s pizza and having it delivered to the winery, or rolling up a Weber BBQ next to the bar, but I do suggest calling the winery ahead of time and asking them if it is OK if you bring cheese, crackers, dried fruit, etc. with you. Sometimes there might be food sold on the premises, and in that case outside food might be frowned upon. In all cases it is best to call the particular winery ahead of time and ask. If you are bringing something to snack on, keep it classy and bring in a nice picnic basket or small cooler. Water is a no-brainer when it comes to drinking and helps prevent a hangover if you do accidentally overindulge.

10. Buy at least one bottle of wine from each place you visit.

buy wine take home copy
You don’t have to always follow this rule, but it’s just good practice. When you buy a bottle of wine after a tasting, almost always the tasting room will refund your tasting fee. It’s a very strategic move especially in places that charge more than $10 for a tasting. At the very least you get to take home a memento from where you have been that day.

And it’s always nice to have a souvenir from a great trip you had. When you open the wine, you can relive your tasting room visit all over again. Invite your friends over (if you have not gravely embarrassed them from the winery visit and they are still speaking to you) and have a great dinner built around the wine. There are recipes all over the internet geared to almost any common varietal you can buy.

Hopefully my tips have prepared you for your next visit to wine country! Cheers!

The Sacramento Greek Festival Returns Labor Day Weekend!

greek festival logo

The Sacramento Greek Festival is back this Labor Day weekend and will be celebrating its 53rd anniversary!

Come experience the culture, traditions and fabulous food of Greece right here in Sacramento. All of the food at the festival is homemade by volunteers and is derived from authentic recipes passed down through generations directly from the Greek Mediterranean.

There is a fun and lively village-style atmosphere at the festival which accurately represents the Greek passion for family, life, church, food, drink and dance!

The food menu includes classics like:

  • Pitas – traditional tiropita (feta) or spanakopita (spinach & feta).
  • Saganaki – flamed kefalograviera cheese with a hint of lemon and brandy.
  • Loukaniko – traditional spiced Greek sausage, served with pita bread.
  • New Loukaniko – sausage with mountain feta and Kalamata olives, served with pita bread.
  • Keftethes – Greek meatballs with tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, and yogurt sauce) and pita bread.
  • Gyro – savory slices of lean beef cradled in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.
  • Calamari – seasoned strips of crispy fried calamari.


In the dining court there will be:

  • Spanakopita – phyllo dough filled with herb seasoned spinach and a blend of cheeses
  • Tiropita – cheese puff triangles made with a blend of cheeses, eggs and seasons wrapped in buttered phyllo dough.
  • Fasolakia – tender green beans baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil and seasonings.
  • Beef Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef and seasonings.
  • Vegetarian Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings.
  • Pilafi – rice flavored with butter and lemon juice..
  • “The Old Spaghetti Factory” Spaghetti – with browned butter and Mizithra cheese
  • Kota Psiti (a la carte) – Baked chicken basted with lemon juice and Greek oregano.
  • Horiatiki Salad – traditional village salad made with fresh veggies, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, and seasonings.
  • Pastitsio – macaroni layered with Greek seasoned beef and cheeses, topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
  • Roast Lamb (a la carte) – dinner sized portion of the all famous Greek-seasoned lamb.
  • Moussaka – layers of eggplant and Greek-seasoned ground beef topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
  • Shrimp Santorini (Friday only) – shrimp in a tasty sauce with feta cheese and herbs with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
  • Stifado Dinner (Saturday only) – a popular and uniquely spiced beef stew with cloves and cinnamon, originating from the island of Cyprus. Served with Pilafi and Fasolakia.

Beverages include Kafeneion (Greek Coffee), Greek Wines and Beer, as well as water and soda. A full menu can be viewed here.

There are also several activities planned during the festival. There will be live music, dancing lessons, choir presentations, and the famous festival raffle. In addition there will be cooking demos and a few eating contests! For a full schedule of events each day, you can click here!

The hours of the festival are as follows: Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm.

Price of admission is as follows: General $5, Senior $4, and Children (Under Age 12) Free. On Friday (9/3) from 11am-3pm admission is FREE. The price includes admission only. Food and drink are an extra charge and the price varies for each item. The Sacramento Convention Center is located at 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814

chicken kabobs
You can the Sacramento Greek Festival on the web here, find them on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and catch them on Instagram here. See you at the festival!





A Tale of Two Lodi Wineries

By Andy Harris

Opening night of the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference kicked off at Mohr-Fry Ranches, with locally catered food and live music by Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players, a bluegrass band. All in the backyard of fourth-generation Lodi grape farmers Bruce and Peggy Fry. Coincidentally, the Frys were not only hosting this party, but celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary. But, let’s not forget the purpose of this gathering: Wine!

Multiple tasting booths were set up in a semi-circle in the Fry’s backyard, with many familiar wineries represented. Fields Family Wines, St. Amant Winery and Turley Wine Cellars were in attendance, and they are very well regarded as being among many area wineries leading a renaissance in Sacramento Valley wine making. But I was out to try something different. Maybe something I’d heard of before, but did not really know that much about.

I had heard and read about Harney Lane Winery, and was anxious to try a tasting of what they were pouring. I also wanted to get the back story on when and how the winery was established. It turns out that this winery is only in its eleventh year, having first tried their hand at making wine with their 2006 vintage. The owners, Kyle and Jorja Lerner, told me that Jorja’s great-great grandfather bought land in Lodi in 1907 and started farming grapes, which he sold to others for wine production. Up until 2006, the Lerners were doing the same, but never producing their own wine. Then that all changed…


Their line-up of wines at this event started with a very crisp and fruity 2015 Albarino. This one won a silver medal in the 2016 California State Fair wine competition, and definitely lives up to its billing. It won’t break the bank for $20.00.

Next up was their 2013 Tempranillo. At 15% alcohol, it was a big, tannic wine, but not overpowering.  At $26.00 a bottle, it certainly won’t overpower your bank account. Probably slightly more costly than typical Tempranillos, but try it and you’ll see why. I believe this one will improve with age.  It was awarded Double Gold, best Tempranillo, 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Last but not least were a duo of Zinfandels that I believe represents what is unique and wonderful about Lodi Zinfandels.  First up was their 2012 Estate Zinfandel.  This one was aged 21 months in American Oak, and comes in at 15.5% alcohol, but doesn’t taste even slightly hot. This one has the distinctive Lodi spice and fruit, and is very competitively priced at $22.00 per bottle. It is also an award winner, garnering a Silver Medal at the 2015 California State Fair Wine Competition.

Then I sampled the 2013 Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel. Lizzy James is a 20-acre plot of land that is so special, the Lerner’s named it after their children, Kirsten Elizabeth and Ian James. The property is within the Mokelumne River Sub Appellation which is characterized by its deep sandy soils, common for the Lodi region. Also at 15.5% alcohol and aged in American oak for 21 months, this is a wine of uncharacteristic complexity and power derived from 109 year-old vines. Definitely the best wine I tried that evening, and possibly the top wine of the entire conference. Somewhat more costly than your average Lodi wine, but at $36.00, still a relative bargain as compared to Napa wines twice the price. This wine won a significant award at this year’s California State Fair Wine Competition, a Double Gold, Best of Class of Region. Only 650 cases produced, so get some before they run out! Visit Harney Lane Winery & Vineyards at


WBC16’s Saturday night dinner party was aptly named Dinner With Lodi Wine.  And that it was.  But before I start talking about the wine we shared that night, let me tip my hat to local Sacramento restaurant South. South is a downtown Sacramento establishment specializing in barbeque, and they were the caterers for this special dinner. They prepared an outstanding three-course dinner to pair with typically-hardy Lodi wines. The huge conference hall at Hutchins Street Square was divided into several round dining tables with each table hosted by a different Lodi winery.

Kristy DeVaney and I had the distinct pleasure of sharing dinner and wine with Cassandra Durst of Durst Winery & Estate. She shared her wines with us and we sat right by her at our table. We also sat with Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings. I had never heard of Durst, which is not surprising, as the number of wineries in Lodi have gone from 30 to about 200 in the last 15 years. At this point, I can’t keep track!

menu saturday

The first course was a fantastic kale salad paired with their 2015 Albarino, which was very crisp and fruity with just the right balance of acid.  This is an outstanding summer wine at only 13.4% alcohol.

durst albarino

Next up was the main course, which was actually five different items, highlighted by a chili rubbed pork loin and dry rubbed smoked brisket with garlic mashed potatoes and baby carrots. The three cheese macaroni and cheese topped with breadcrumbs is something I avoid because of wheat, but it was offered. (Kristy and I shared a gluten free pasta dish instead, which is pictured below). This course was paired with the fantastic Durst Winery 2013 Fairbanks Blend. This wine was 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot for added structure.  At 14.8% alcohol and aged in American oak for 18 months, this is a perfect pairing for barbeque.With smooth tannins and a peppery nose, this was a truly excellent wine.

dinner saturday south

Finally, it was time for dessert.  This was a treat for me, as I don’t normally have dessert.  But the wine pairings were too good to ignore, so I gave them a try. Featured were 2013 Durst Winery Amada Mia White Blend and 2014 Durst Winery Amada Mia Red Blend. These wines were paired with an excellent brown sugar cinnamon streusel with whipped cream. I liked it so much, I ate mine and Kristy’s!



Note: Since I chose the gluten free option, I took a picture of my dessert instead of the desserts Andy had! Sorry! -Kristy

saturday dessert

durst OVZ

Amada Mia is in reference to the house at the 90 year-old vineyard in nearby Acampo that was scheduled for demolition before Dan and Cassandra Durst rescued and restored it to its former glory.  Along with the house, they also restored adjoining 50-acre vineyard which had fallen into complete neglect. Now, after years of hard work, they are making some of the best wine in the Lodi area. Visit them at


These are only two examples of the passion of the wine makers who make Lodi such a unique region. In every tasting room you will find wine makers who farm the land and take the big risks to put something special in your bottle. Enjoy!

You can find Harney Lane Winery online here, find them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. They also have an Instagram account you can follow here and if you are into Pinterest, you will find them here.

You can find Durst Winery online here, find them on Facebook here.


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.


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!


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.





gutzler pinot noir


faust cabernet


robert craig rose












dont fear the fat

andy_me 2
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.




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.

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.

reception sign
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.

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.

Friday Excursions
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.

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

st amant

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

the band

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.

Menu thursday
caprese salad
salad 1

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!

name that grape
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.

Wine Blogger Conference
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.

foyer oak farm albarino copy

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.


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!

cabernet closeup
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.

i dos sign oak farm
oak farm wedding 2

oak farm pond

oak farm pond and albarino

tasting room from behind

oak farm garden 2

oak farm garden

grapes trellis

pressing grapes

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.


OF and chandelier
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.

us at oak farm


winemaker chad
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!


oak farm table setting

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
caprese salad oak farm copyOak Farm 2015 Sauvignon Blanc
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
shrimp cockail with pork chips copyOak Farm 2014 Barbera
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!

Third Courseoak farm main course copyOak Farm 2014 Zinfandel
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
oak farm dessert copyDessert
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.

oak farm fountain
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?

sunset at oak farm








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

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.

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!

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.


Wine Bloggers Conference Puts Spotlight on Lodi Winemaking

Written by contributing writer Andy Harris


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!

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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