Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “food

Experience the Stunning Views of San Francisco at the Cityscape Lounge

A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a media preview at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for the unveiling of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).

It’s hard to leave out hyperboles when describing the Cityscape Lounge, because it’s almost too pretty to believe. I was giddy as we rode the elevator up and as I watched the number climb on the display. Once inside the lounge, I was awestruck.

The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City.

“No two days look the same from Cityscape, where San Francisco weather flows over the ever changing skyline,” said Lenny Gumm, general manager, Cityscape. “What doesn’t change are the views and the great food and drinks to enjoy with them.”

Lenny Gumm is a veteran bar and lounge manager in which he’s held positions with several local watering holes, including Hotel Rex, One Market Restaurant, Temple Nightclub, DOSA Restaurant, La Urbana and the Four Seasons.

And instead of trying to put anymore of what I saw into words, below are the photos I took and a Facebook live video I broadcasted that evening to give you a full view of the space!







The tables, couches and seats line the windows inside the lounge, which means wherever you are seated, you’ll have a magnificent view. If that’s not enough, here’s a peek at some of the libations and nibbles available to enjoy!

This is one of the drinks from the Cityscape’s signature cocktail menu (drinks all named after areas in San Francisco)––the Mission: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit, and lime. Other selections include a Russian Hill: Stoli Elit Vodka, Cointreau, white cranberry, and fresh citrus, a Pacific Heights: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, squeeze of lemon, a Noe Valley: Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, lemon, agave nectar, splash of Prosecco, just to name a few. The full offering of specialty drinks as well as a list of wines and beer available can be found here.

The media group and I also previewed the Cityscape‘s menu of small plates, designed especially to be enjoyed with the signature cocktails. The appetizers were all neatly arranged on a shelf and we were encouraged to sample all of them and as many as we wanted.


A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.


Chilled Prawn with a “Cioppino” Cocktail Sauce and Citrus Gremolata


Spiced Cucumbers with Sesame, Crushed Chile, Scallion, and Burnt Peanut


The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips


The Kennebec potato crisps served with a black garlic-charred scallion aioli.

Other menu selections include California Pistachios and Almonds, Avocado Hummus, Dungeness Crab, Beef Satay, and a Selection of Seasonal Sweets Dessert Plate.

I brought Catherine Enfield of Munchie Musings as my guest and it was a fab Girls’ Night Out. The bonus of the evening was parking the car and never leaving the hotel, so in a way, it was actually a Girls’ Night In!



The photo below is a shot of the suite on the 26th floor (also inside tower one), where the Hilton was kind enough to let me stay for the night. There is a balcony outside the room and a fairly large patio with outside seating to enjoy the views (also incredible at a 26th floor level). I can’t wait to go back and spend the night there again!


The next morning, Catherine and I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Urban Tavern, located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)

Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!


SunBasket Offers a Healthy and Convenient Solution for Weeknight Meals

If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day at the office is go to the grocery store (after sitting in traffic for almost an hour), wade through the aisles, figure out what to make, shop for the ingredients, wait in the checkout line, then actually COOK a full meal after all of that.

Now, if I didn’t work full time with a giant commute, I would be planning out multi-course menus for the week, shopping for the freshest ingredients and taking my time with all the preparations. I would be all about making every night’s dinner an event to remember.

But, for most of us, that’s just not a reality. Enter Sun Basket. The product that delivers a weekly box equipped with 3 meals for 2-4, and inside the box includes everything you’ll need to make them.

With Sun Basket there are easy and delicious recipes that YOU choose weekly for 2 to 4 people at $11.49 per meal. You can customize for a Paleo, gluten-free, or vegetarian diet. All recipes are created by top San Francisco chef Justine Kelly and approved by a nutritionist.

The Sun Basket kits are certified organic and sustainably sourced. All the ingredients are pre-measured which is less hassle and creates less waste. You can feel free to skip the grocery store and enjoy the best seasonal ingredients. You might even enjoy an ingredient that is hard to find or you have not tried on your own!

Sun Basket delivers weekly right to your door. The ingredients are shipped in an insulated box so they stay fresh and the packaging is recyclable and reusable.

So what did we enjoy in our Sun Basket? We chose strictly Paleo options for the week and ended up with the 1. Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, 2. Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, and 3. Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad.

Here’s what it all looked like!

Meal One: Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups, recipe HERE.


Of all the meals in the Sun Basket, this was the smallest in portion size, and could be eaten as an appetizer if you are both really hungry. That being said, I enjoyed it the most because of the several levels of flavors with the pickled vegetables, fish sauce, maple syrup, etc. And, there were cashews in there, too, another favorite ingredient of mine.🙂

Meal Two: Steaks with Artichoke-Red Pepper Tapenade and Sweet Potato Fries, recipe HERE.


And meal three: Trout in Parchment with Warm Date and Apricot Salad, recipe HERE.




If you’re a big eater, then perhaps you might choose the 4 person serving to feed 2 people. I like that the calories and nutritional information is all right there on the recipe card, as well as detailed instructions on how to prepare each dish that is in the box.

One of the best things about Sun Basket is that you can order when you want and skip when you don’t. There is no commitment to order week after week, but you’ll want to order repeatedly once you discover the convenience and taste of the box contents.

You can find Sun Basket on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here, Pinterest here and on Instagram here. To place an order, you can visit

Two Upcoming October Food Events in Sacramento, Mark Your Calendars!

Sacramento is a food lover’s paradise this time of year and there are two upcoming events I’d like to tell you about happening this month. Special thanks to The Grid Agency for passing along the information to me!

The first event is called A Taste of New Sacramento in Old Sacramento. It will take place on Sunday, October 9, 2016 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM at the Delta King Hotel.

The food, wine and brews affair will feature breweries such as Rubicon Brewing Company and Calicraft Brewing Company.

Wineries including: Cate Ao Vinho, Lone Buffalo Vineyards, Boeger Winery, Fiddletown Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Van Ruiten Family Winery, J and K Estate Wines, Haraszthy Winery, Merlo Family Vineyards, Cabana Winery, Carvalho Family Winery, Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Bogle Vineyards and Winery. Jeff Runquist Wines, Van Ruiten Winery

And restaurants present will be: Roxie Deli & Barbeque, Sactown Bar and Grill, Ten 22, Indo Cafe, Vallejo’s Restaurant, Bingo B.B.Q, Kupros, Cabana Winery & Bistro, Shady Lady Saloon, Blue Prynt Restaurant, Coin-Op Game Room, Dad’s Kitchen, and Drewski’s.

Proceeds benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. Featuring a live adoption run by Front Street Animal Shelter. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.

But, wait, there’s more….

The weekend after that, Smoke on the River rolls into town on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 from 1pm to 5pm at 2700 Marina View.

The event is hosted by Sacramento Artists Council, Inc. with its friend and sponsor The Grid Agency. Smoke on the River is a fundraiser for Sacramento Artists Council and will raise money for art programs that assist at-risk children, children of homeless families and fund adopt a school art programs for Sacramento Regional Schools.

Smoke on the River is a state championship and Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. The event will feature a People’s Choice BBQ award and tastings, People’s Choice award for Best Beer and Best Cider, live entertainment from Swimming in Bengal and Sacramento Jazz Project, and beer tastings provide by local breweries.

There will also be a corn hole tournament at the event with prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

Full Access Pre-sale Tickets including unlimited tastes of BBQ and Craft Beer/Cider are $35 + 2.75% convenience fee and $40 with a 2.75% convenience fee for credit cards at the door. You can purchase and see other ticket options here.

Featured breweries will be:
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing
Alaskan Brewing
Hoppy Brewing
Dust Bowl Brewing
Auburn Alehouse
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Device Brewing Company
Shmaltz’s Brewing
Track 7 Brewing
Mike Hess Brewing

Pitmasters include:
Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
Bones Sauce n Harmony
The Smoking’ GrOVENators
Old Chico BBQ
Ric’s Righteous Ribs
Papa Bobs Backyard BBQ
Smokin Slabz BBQ
Big Poppa Smokers
Bones N Brews BBQ
Five Hundy BBQ
The Smoking J’s
Smokey Luv BBQ
Canyon Riders BBQ
2 Rolling Bones
Fat Dad’s Barbeque
Hickory and Spice BBQ
Smokin’ the 916
Smokey Valley Q
Ed’s Smoked Out BBQ
Smokin Fatboyz BBQ
Daddy O’s Smokin’ BBQ
Pipin’ Hot Smokers
Simply Marvelous
Rollin’ Smoke
The Brothers Throwdown
Cowbunga BBQ
Git R Smoked
Big O and MO BBQ
Smokin’ Bliss
J&J Smokin BBQ
Franklin BBQ
Son of Smoke
Pit Perfection
G & Pops BBQ
Schaffner Fabrication

Sacramento Hotel Association Fundraiser Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser set for September 29th at Hyatt Regency Sacramento

The Board of Directors of the Sacramento Hotel Association is proud to announce that the Association is expanding its community service activities with a new fundraiser as part of its program: The Hospitality Industry Helping in the Community.  For 2016, the new fall fundraiser—set for September 29 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento—will benefit two local organizations that work with youth in our community.

Featuring —
• Festive Farm-to-Fork Food Stations from local hotels and restaurants
• Craft Beer Tastings from local brewers
• Wine Tastings from area vintners
• Silent Auction of delightful gifts and prize packages
• Musical Entertainment

Tickets—$35 plus processing fee per person Buy your tickets HERE.

About the Beneficiary Organizations
SkateMD is a nonprofit with a mission to heal hearts by spreading kindness and skateboarding to special populations of children facing developmental, physical, emotional or family challenges. SkateMD serves special populations of children who may not otherwise be able to pursue skateboarding, who may not have easy access to skateboard equipment or facilities, and/or who just need some extra kindness in their lives.

Sacramento Sheriff’s Toy Project functions as the charitable arm of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Toy Project is a year-round program supporting the less fortunate children and families in the Sacramento area. They support area schools with after-school programs, school supplies, computers, clothing, shoes, jackets, bikes for transportation, summer kid’s camps and support scholarships for college-bound students.

Use hashtag #SHAFarmtoFork via Twitter and Instagram.
You can follow the Sacramento Hotel Association on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Andy and I will be there to cover the event, so I hope to see you there!


Lots of Eating and Drinking (and Eating and Drinking) at Eat Drink SF

shot with sign overhead

It was a tasty scene for fans of food, wine, beer and spirits August 25 – 28, 2016 at Eat Drink SF. The event was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Andy and I attended on the last day of the event on a Sunday afternoon and were introduced to some restaurants we had never tried, as well as a few new wines. There were also some familiar vendors, as Sunday was the “Legacy Grand Tasting” featuring San Francisco eateries that have stood the test of time.

Almost immediately after we arrived, we heard about a “beverage classroom” presented by San Francisco Wine School. The first presentation was on the Wines of Portugal. It was officially titled ViniPortugal. Since we are always looking to broaden our knowledge of wine, we decided to sit in on the seminar & tasting.

beverage classroom

It was led by the founder of San Francisco Wine School, David Glancy. Glancy is one of only twelve people in the world to hold both the revered Master Sommelier diploma and a Certified Wine Educator credential.

discover portuguese wines
In the brief seminar, we discussed 4 wines from Portugal, tasted and examined them.

vinho verde closeup

lady with vinho verde

portuguese wines line up
The tasting was a very worthwhile experience, and a chance to get to know a little bit more on the wines of Portugal as well as a little bit about the San Francisco Wine School, which currently offers 65 different wine education classes.

Of course, we were also there to eat. Some of my favorite bites were as follows:

Nectarines wrapped in speck from Tosca Cafe.
A caprese salad on a stick.
mozzarella salad

A cod fritter served on greens.

This Lahmbiajeen (Arabic for “Meat in Dough”) It is fresh baked flatbread with housemade tomato beef sauce, labneh parsley and lemon zest from Reem’s.
reems appetizer

And my food favorite item was this pintxo from Teleferic Barcelona. Pintxo is a Basque word that means “skewer.” This particular pintxo is called a Torito (bull). It has xistorra (spanish chorizo), natural honey and manchego cheese and it is wrapped in puff pastry with dulce de leche.

bull hot dogs
This smoked salmon bite was Scoma’s featured dish, and a favorite of Andy’s.
scoma salmon dish

Now, back to drinking. There was much to choose from. We didn’t taste any beer, but if you are a beer or cider lover, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre (that IS how it is spelled), and Gowan’s Heirloom Cider had you covered.

One of the beverage highlights for me was this Whispering Angel Rose made primarily from Grenache, Vermentino, and Cinsault. A big reason I am a rose fan is because it is a wine that can pair with many different kinds of food.

rep with whispering angel

whispering angel rose

Beaulieu Vineyards was at the event pouring both their classic Tapestry (a Bordeaux blend) and the Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a treat to taste these wines, because we know their retail value. Tapestry is around $50 and the Georges De Latour is around $100 per bottle. I actually buy Andy a bottle of the Tapestry as one of his Christmas gifts every year.

BV Goerges Latour

Meadowcroft Wines was sharing this lovely chardonnay with us. The grapes are sourced from the Bonneau Vineyard (in the Carneros appellation of Sonoma County).

meadowcroft chardonnay

There were also cocktails featured at Eat Drink SF, and my favorite was this one at the Hangar Vodka booth. It is a combination of grapefruit, elderflower, sage and sparkling wine.

drink with social media
I liked the drink so much, I will admit I had two of them. And I am going to buy the ingredients so I can make it for myself at home.

I love the inspiration I get at tasting events like these and the enthusiasm I see from all the chefs, sous chefs, cooks, bartenders, and tasting room associates. It’s a joy to have another excuse to come into the city and visit Fort Mason and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I only wished we could stay a little longer!

SF view

Eat Drink SF supports the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. The foundation grants financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs. Golden Gate Restaurant Association‘s mission is to celebrate and empower the restaurant community through advocacy, education, marketing, events and training.

You can keep up with Eat Drink SF by following them on all their social media channels:
On Facebook here.
On Twitter here.
On Instagram here.

To see more images from the event, you can head over to their Flickr page here.


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.


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.