Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “wine tasting

A Trio of Upcoming Food and Wine Events

Harvest time is approaching and with that it seems there are also a flurry of food and wine events during the next few months. To give you a heads up on what’s happening and to help you decide which ones to attend, here are a list of three of my favorites. Two are local to Sacramento, and one is in Santa Rosa.

Photo by Visit Sacramento

Legends of Wine
Did you know the largest crop coming out of Sacramento County last year wasn’t rice OR tomatoes? It was wine grapes! Come celebrate the bounty of our county at the California State Capitol on Thursday, September 19th from 6-9p.m. during the 7th Annual Legends of Wine, one of Sacramento’s yearly Farm-to-Fork Festival’s keystone events.

Guests of the occasion can expect to explore unlimited tastes from over 30 regional wineries selected by Darrell Corti and David Berkley (both internationally known food and wine experts). You can buy tickets to the event online by going to http://farmtofork.com.

 

 

 


Pinot on the River
Pinot on the River
moves from Healdsburg to Santa Rosa this year with more than 40 small-production artisanal wineries joining with guest artisan food vendors. The event takes place on Saturday October 5th, 2019 from 11a.m. to 3p.m. at the Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa. At the event, you’ll be able to meet the winemakers as well as mingle with other Pinot Noir-loving consumers.

Proceeds from the event benefit Sonoma County Pride, an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives and well-being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex (LGBTQI) people. Sonoma County Pride serves as a liaison with government, businesses, and other organizations on behalf of the LGTBQI community, as well as recognizing and celebrating their history, achievements, and contributions in Sonoma County. The event’s main sponsor is Roadhouse Winery. Tickets are $50, and you buy them online at pinotfestival.com.

29th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden

The 29th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden returns on Saturday, October 12th, 2019 from 4-7pm. I’ll also be returning to this year’s planning committee, rounding up my favorite restaurants and wineries for your enjoyment.

Returning to support this year’s event are Buffalo Pizza, Casa Garden, Freeport Bakery, Gunther’s Ice Cream, Miso Japanese Restaurant, La Famiglia, Seasons 52, Sacramento Co-op, Sugar Plum Vegan, and more. Featured distributors/wineries are Epic Wines, BellaGrace Vineyards, Bogle Vineyards, Casque Wines, Ironstone Vineyards, Sean Minor Wines, and Wise Villa Winery.

J.J. Pfister Distilling Company will be sponsoring our VIP early entry and providing a spirits tasting as well as a special cocktail for VIP attendees, and Urban Roots Brewing will be sponsoring the VIP area for all the beer lovers out there. The VIP restaurants will be Dawson’s Steakhouse and Seasons 52. The VIP winery will be Silt Wine Company and they will be featuring another label called Fellow Wines of Clarksburg.

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.

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, 916-452-3005. Cheers!
Tickets are now onsale here!


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.


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.

 


An Introduction to Sicilian Wines

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Thanks to a Twitter tasting sponsored by Wines of Sicily, I was introduced to some wines I had never tried before and some varietals of which I had never heard. I also learned a little bit more about how wines are labeled in Sicily, and that there are nearly 50 native grape varietals unique to Sicily.

Sicily is the triangular-shaped island off the “toe of the boot” in Italy and is the largest Mediterranean island.

The weather in Sicily is very favorable for grape growing. It has a lot of bright sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, but overall a very warm and dry climate.

This warm and dry climate is ideal for  grape growing because of the absence of mildew and rot (which doesn’t tend to happen in a drier climate). Much of Sicilian wine is produced from organic grapes (because they don’t have a lot of disease), and therefore do not need to be sprayed with harsh chemicals.

There are 250,000 acres of combined international and native grapes planted in Sicily. The best known native grape varietals are Grillo, Catarratto, Nero d’Avola, and Frappato, of which all but the Catarratto I had the opportunity to sample this week.

Below is a map of the country with wine growing provinces marked with numbers. The names beside the circles mark some of the major wineries in Sicily. For this blog post I will focus on the wines I received from Mandrarossa (Nero d’Avola), Planeta (Frappato), and Firriato (Grillo), which you can easily spot on the map.

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Now that we have our geography lesson, next a tasting…

The first wine we tried was the Grillo produced by Firriato. Because wine labels read a little differently in Sicily, I have done my best in the photo below to break down what each item means. It’s rather tricky not being too familiar with Sicilian wines, and because the labels can vary in their layout.

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Grillo: It’s pretty much like the Sicilian version of a very light un-oaked Chardonnay. My tasting notes for the Grillo are as such: Light straw color, off dry, flavors of lemon and hints of tangerine. It’s a nice wine on its own, however some pairing ideas would be: grilled fish, shrimp, scallops or vegetables, brie and crackers (gluten free-Paleo style, of course!).

Label breakdown: Varietal (grape) is Grillo, produced by the Winery Firriato, Vintage (year grapes were harvested) 2014, and Brand Altavilla Della Corte; kind of like what model of car it is as in Pontiac Bonneville, the Bonneville part correlates with the Altavilla Della Corte. I hope that makes sense!

Next up in our flight was a Frappato. Frappato is most often used as a blending grape with Nero d’Avola (which you will read more about later in this blog post). In the bottle below, Frappato goes solo…

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Label breakdown: Varietal (grape) is Frappato, produced by the Winery Planeta, Vintage (year grapes were harvested) 2015. This time the label does not bear a brand but the Designation Sicilia Vittoria DOC. Vittoria is a town in the province of Ragusa and a DOC is an Italian wine classification (there are 330 DOC titles, each with its own laws overseeing viticultural zone, grape varietals and style of wine). So, it would be sort of like saying Sonoma, California, if Sonoma had only certain grapes it could grow in their county and the wine produced in a certain style.

Upon tasting, the wine very much reminded me of a Beaujolais Nouveau, trying to mature into a more robust wine like a Pinot Noir or a Grenache. That’s no knock on Beaujolais Nouveau (made from the Gamay grape and released the same year it is harvested to showcase it’s fresh and fruity deliciousness), and which coincidentally is about to be released this year on November 17th. The Frappato definitely had Beaujolais Nouveau characteristics, but also had a nice charcoal and smoke overtone.

My pairing suggestions would be roasted chicken and root vegetables, mild to medium cheeses, mushroom-centric dishes, and believe it or not, a cheeseburger, especially with mushrooms on it. This is a fun, affordable, crowd friendly red wine, and keep it in mind for your upcoming Thanksgiving table!

Lastly (but not least, of course) comes the bottle of Nero D’Avola sent to us by Mandrarossa.

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Once again, we’ll do the label breakdown. The Producer/Winery is Mandrarossa, the Varietal is Nero D’Avola. The Vintage (which is waaay to the right on the bottom is 2015). The phrase “Costa Dune” means sandy coast, and I am sure that’s an accurate description of the vineyards.

Upon examination, we noted the wine’s deep yet brilliant color, deep mauve, and its richness exuding hints of oregano and plum spice. I am not making this up. I’m going to venture out and say that the things we smelled in the wine probably grow within yards of the grapes.

Therefore, a simple pairing rule to keep in mind is: If it grows together, it goes together. So I’ll say a nice red meat sauce with basil and oregano on top of zucchini “noodles”, an eggplant lasagna, Cincinnati chili, or beef stew. Just have fun with it.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little about Sicilian wines, and that if you see them where you happen to buy wine, you will give them a try.

Thanks to the Wines of Sicily (on twitter @winesofsicily) for sending us the sample bottles (great to taste non-US grape varietals I had never heard of) and to Leslie Sbrocco (on twitter @lesliesbrocco) for hosting the Twitter chat on November 3rd on the Wines of Sicily which can be found here.

Cheers and don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never heard of before! It might just be your new favorite.

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Pre-Holiday Grand Tasting at Matteo’s Pizza and Bistro Set for Mon, Nov. 14th, 5:30-7:30pm

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This premium wine tasting probably should have been held on Halloween because the wines you’ll get to try are SCARY GOOD. Admission to the event is only $30 per person AND you get food during the tasting! Sounds to me like you should already be penciling this event onto your calendar with a giant permanent marker, but if you need more convincing read on…

First, the tasting is on Monday, November 14th from 5:30-7:30pm. So, if you have plans, cancel them and do this instead! Seriously, if you like great wine at all, Matteo’s Wine and Bistro/Matteo’s Cellar Wine Shop is the place to be.

The food menu served will be: pizza, polenta fries, meatball sliders, empanadas, a bread and cheese tray. So I guess I am running 10 miles that morning. 😉

The tasting will include wines from the following labels:
*indicates a cavegrrl.com favorite

Archery Summit, Arrowood, Bella, Brassfield, Bridesmaid, Borjon, Canard-Duchene, Carmenet, Chalk Hill*, Cliff Lede, Dominus, Don & Sons, Double Canyon, Duckhorn*, Dutton Goldfield*, Fisticuffs, Flowers*, Freemark Abbey*, Fuse, Gerard Bertrand, Groth, Guigal*, Hall*, Hartford Court, Hourglass, Jeio, Kansler, Lewis Cellars, Maldonado*, Mer Soliel, Obsidian Ridge, Petree Cellars, Pine Ridge*, Pride Mountain Vineyards*, Raeburn, Regusci, Resonance, Robert Craig*, Roederer*, Sonoma Cutrer*, VDR, William Harrison*, Yao Ming*

As you can see by the asterisks, a lot of my favorites will be served during the tasting, and I am looking forward to tasting some new favorites I can recommend to you.

To reserve your spot please email Margo(at)pizzamatteo.com. Cheers and hope to see you there! You can find Matteo’s Pizza and Bistro on Facebook here.

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One-of-a-Kind Hofsas House Hotel Celebrates 70 Years

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In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating 70 years of European hospitality in their Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.

The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance to the beach, multiple restaurants and shops, and several tasting rooms.

The hotel is also within just minutes driving distance to Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s boasts 38 spacious rooms (all unique) with fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios, and the Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air.

Before I jump into all the amentities the Hofsas House has to offer, I want to talk about the hotel’s rich history, and what makes the hotel so special. On the Saturday morning of our stay, Andy and I met with Doris Theis, the mother of the current owner of the hotel, Carrie Theis. She was such a joy to interview and she filled me in on a lot of the history of Carmel as well as the Hofsas House.

The Hofsas House story begins with a woman named Donna Hofsas and her husband Fred. They moved to Carmel from Los Angeles in the late 1940s, and purchased four cottages in town. They lived in one of them and rented out the other three. The cottages were the humble beginnings of the hotel, as the main building was built in 1957, adding 25 more rooms.

Donna commissioned her friend, artist Maxine Albro (also famous for painting a fresco at Coit Tower in San Francisco) to paint a Bavarian-themed mural which has since been restored and still remains as a lovely welcome to guests. A swimming pool was also added at that time, making Hofsas House Hotel a Carmel destination.

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Fred Hofsas created the mosaic coat of arms, the Latin inscription translates to English as “Leisure with Dignity”.

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The various additions to the hotel proved to be very stressful on their marriage, and eventually Donna and Fred divorced. Donna retained ownership of the hotel and in the mid-1960s, she added the north wing and a meeting room. Also around that time, she built her house, and the cottage she had occupied became a family suite (Room 9/10) and is still available to guests today, as well as the three other original cottages.

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In 1981, Donna passed away, and her only son Jack took over the Hofsas House Hotel. Which brings us to Doris, the incredible lady I spoke with about the history of the hotel. Doris was Jack’s wife. Together, they had two children: Carrie and Scott. The hotel was very much a family affair and Jack ran the hotel until 1996, when he passed away. Doris and Scott then took over the management from 1996-2000.

Then in 2000, Carrie Theis returned to Hofsas House to become general manager. Carrie was no stranger to the Hofsas House Hotel, because she had been escorting guests to their rooms since she was 8 and working behind the welcome desk at check-in since she was 12. Carrie had pursued a college education and a career path of her own, however, felt it was important to carry on her grandmother’s legacy of service and hospitality at the hotel.

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And the hospitality is really what keeps the guests coming back to Hofsas House Hotel. I’m told that there are many guests that return because they know the history and the family and there is simply no other place in Carmel where they would rather stay.

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I can understand that. My first visit to Carmel was in June of 2013 and I stayed at Hofsas House Hotel. It was my birthday weekend and incredibly special. I think once you know the family and the history of the hotel, you just have to stay there. For me, it’s like being part of the hotel’s legacy. Below is a shot of the bedroom in which we stayed during this visit.

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Below is the incredible view from outside our room.

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Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. For more information, call (831) 624-2745 or visit www.hofsashouse.com. You can like them on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.

Before I go on to recommend some dining in the area, I’d like to list some add-ons the Hofsas House offers that you can book during your stay:

• First is the Monterey Wine and Cheese Pairing (which we enjoyed, there were two cheeses and a bottle of wine in our room upon arrival) for $30. It’s pretty wonderful to finally get to your hotel room and there’s a chilled bottle of wine with cheeses waiting for you!

Champagne and Cheese Pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes for $50.

• The Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea Passport for $65.

In-room his and her couples massage starting at $160 for 45 minutes.

Decoration of room in a romantic, anniversary, or birthday theme for $75.

Golf packages that start at $65 per person including cart.

2-day pass for the price of one Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.

And right now and valid until December 31st, 2016, you can celebrate Carmel-by-the-Sea’s 100th Anniversary and Hofsas House Hotels 70th Anniversary with a History Tour! Delight in the special charms of Carmel on a leisurely, fun and informative two-hour guided walk past enchanting Fairy-tale cottages, through secret pathways, hidden courtyards and award-winning gardens. At the end of the tour, you’ll  feel like a local. Cost is $25 per person. Guests who book this package will also receive a Carmel-by-the-Sea history book complimentary upon arrival (value $26.00). Learn about the 100-year history of Carmel-by-the-Sea. When booking use promotion code: HHWALKS. (Block out dates apply.)

On Friday evening, we were hoping to visit, Dametra Cafe. Since the restaurant was completely booked, we ended up at Mediterranean Restaurant (the sister restaurant of Dametra and just a few doors down). I have to say, if you can’t get a table at Dametra, Mediterranean is the next best thing. OK, well, except for a few menu items, it’s exactly the same thing. And you even get the same live music! They did not host our dinner, but I am recommending them as a favor to YOU! If you like Greek-Italian-Middle Eastern food combined, you should check it out!

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Another routine in Carmel for us is a lunch stop at La Bicyclette. It’s my annual excuse of the year to eat a high calorie lunch and love every bite. 🙂 Right now they have a cassoulet special (you must try). And they have a gluten-free dough which they can substitute for any pizza on their menu (I picked the fig, arugula & prosicutto). Pretty much heaven with the Alsatian sparkling rosé we had.

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On Saturday evening, we visited Lover’s Point walked around the coastline for a while, and then and went to the Beach House at Lover’s Point for dinner. It was one of the most beautiful walks I have ever taken and the weather was still really cooperating. It wasn’t cold or rainy that evening.


 

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The Beach House at Lover’s Point is a very popular restaurant. I highly suggest making a reservation and then arriving a little early to have a drink at the bar. The restaurant is right on the water, so the views are spectacular.

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For dinner we started out with a Brussels sprouts appetizer. It was prepared with roasted garlic cloves, chorizo, butternut squash, shaved parmesan, smoked paprika oil. I am probably the biggest fan of Brussels sprouts you’ll ever meet, which is funny because I HATED them when I was a kid. Not anymore. Especially when you throw in chorizo AND cheese! This was an interesting dish and I loved the roasted garlic cloves that added a a slightly sweet flavor–balancing out the spicy sausage.

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Next was a little side salad…

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For my entrée, I ordered the Crab-stuffed Petrale Sole with sautéed spinach, smashed potatoes, saffron cream, shaved fennel, micro green salad. I am getting hungry all over again just looking at the picture and remembering the textures of the tender crab and flaky sole and the creamy sauce over the potatoes.

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Andy had the Hazelnut Crusted Sand Dabs with charred Brussels sprouts, pumpkin gnocchi, cipollini onions, beurre blanc, arugula pesto, and balsamic glaze. We shared both entrées because they were equally fantastic. By the way, the chef could have put pesto, hazelnuts, or balsamic glaze on a shoe and I would probably eat it. #allmyfavoriteingredients!!

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You can find Beach House at Lover’s Point on Facebook here.

In closing, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming events at the Hofsas House Hotel! One is the hotel’s 70th birthday celebration on Monday, November 7th, at 10:00am.

The event will begin at with coffee and light bites from Paris Bakery, then at 10:15 there will be a ribbon cutting with the Carmel Chamber and a Champagne toast with birthday cake at 10:30. There will also be a property tour and history discussion of the hotel’s 70 years.

Additionally, there will be a raffle to win an overnight stay! To RSVP (required by November 1) to marci at chatterboxpublicrelations.com

The second event is a little closer to the holidays. On Saturday, December 3rd, the 5th Annual Fundraiser for The Carmel Library Foundation will be held. The event will be a Gingerbread House Making morning/afternoon for the family. Together, families can create a gingerbread house to take home and display throughout the holidays. Children will receive one gingerbread making kit, hot cider and a cookie for a $25 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation.

Adults that want to attend will receive a glass of wine of award winning Monterey County wines from Twisted Roots Winery and can enjoy a gourmet cheese and fruit and tray for a $10 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. Additional glasses of wine can be purchased for a $5.00 donation to the Carmel Library Foundation. (The $10 donation for adults does not include decorating a gingerbread house.)

There will be two sessions and you can sign up for 10:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 per child and $10 per adult (Adult does not include decorating a gingerbread house. The cost to decorate a gingerbread house is $25. All proceeds benefit The Carmel Public Library Foundation.)
Call Carrie at the Hofsas House (831) 624-2745 to make a reservation.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Hofsas House Hotel for hosting us during our stay in Carmel and being a direct ambassador to the 5th Avenue Deli and the Beach House at Lovers Point during our stay. Happy birthday to Hofsas House Hotel and happy 100th birthday, Carmel!!

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Marriott Napa Valley Hotel and Spa Revitalized with a Multi-Million Dollar Renovation

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Recently, Andy and I had a chance to experience the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa’s stunning remodel. The property, located in the heart of the Napa Valley, has within the last few months, revealed a stunning new resort-style pool and courtyard that will serve as the hub of upcoming weddings, events and activities––from poolside gatherings, dining and yoga, to movies, wine and cocktails under the stars.

Upon arrival, I explored the newly renovated room and was greeted by an exquisite plate of goodies and a fine bottle of wine. A bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact.

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We had a big day ahead of us with two tastings scheduled at Walt Wines and Gundlach Bundschu, so we only had one drink in the hotel’s bar before retiring. As you can see below, the bar area has been updated and is quite beautiful.

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The next morning, I snapped a few pictures of the sun outside our room before I took off to the also updated workout facility and spa.

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After our workouts, Andy and I went wine tasting, headed to Walt for a Pinot Noir specific tasting, and then to Gunlach Bundschu for a tasting and a lesson on the winery’s history. We ended up spending a few hours at both wineries and then returned to the Napa Valley Marriott to relax by the pool for a few hours before dinner.

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After the pool and outdoor excursion, we got ready for dinner and then enjoyed some time in the lobby with a wine tasting. The lobby wine tastings feature different wineries each day. That evening’s featured winery was Raymond Vineyards.

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Soon, we settled into dinner at the Marriott’s restaurant VinEleven. Brian Whitmer is the head chef and focuses on American cuisine that celebrates culinary traditions from around the world incorporating locally and sustainably-grown produce.

Andy and I like to order several different items and share them. Our appetizers were the Truffle Fries served with Parmesan Cheese and Truffle Oil:

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We also enjoyed the Lolita’s Fish Taco with Cod, Mango Pineapple Slaw and Sambal Aioli.

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For our entreés, Andy ordered the scallop special, which upon tasting, we begged for them to put on the regular menu. The scallops were presented on a bed of mushroom risotto and were perfectly seared as you can see in the photo below.

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For my dinner, I ordered the Spiced Chicken Cashew Lettuce Cups (which are on the menu in the appetizers section). Since Andy and I share food, it’s not strange for us to order only one main course and 2-4 different appetizers. I believe that it’s possible to get a solid impression of a restaurant this way. Appetizers are one of the most important parts of a menu because they are supposed to intrigue a customer and make them look forward to the next part of the meal.

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At VinEleven, you can enjoy a signature summer cocktail at the beautifully lit bar or outdoor patio from 6:30 a.m. to midnight, and as late as 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Heirloom Organic Gardens feature over 2,000 square feet of raised and in-ground beds, a lush herb garden, and a communal dining table that serves 18 guests. After such a grand meal, it was time to retire.

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The hotel’s pool and outdoor wedding and event space also proves to be a showstopper. The Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa has made their outdoor space a place where visitors and locals alike can gather. The pool is a sparkling 100-by-30-foot oasis with luxe lounge furniture and umbrellas, cozy fire pits, shady Redwood nooks, and all-day dining. Poolside yoga is available for guests to begin their day and then afterward they can enjoy a swim.

All 275 guestrooms have been completely renovated with a design specifically to mimic the colors and feel of a tasting room. They have warm greys and Earth tones that appear naturally in wine caves, as well as burgundy/grape hues that take on the grape color so familiar in Napa. There is a sliding wooden barn doors with exposed hardware that provides bathroom privacy while creating a rustic wine country feel to the tranquil space.

Crisp white tile, grey granite and luxurious amenities provide a spa-like experience in the bath with electric mirrors for ideal lighting. Modular seating by large windows provide a cozy sitting area to enjoy a bottle of wine or in-room dining.

All guestrooms come fully equipped with a new state of the art guest entertainment system that provides unique content choices such as, on-screen weather, flight data, and Bluetooth® connectivity. The Enseo guestroom entertainment system will allow you to access your Netflix®, Pandora®, YouTube®, Hulu® and Crackle® accounts directly through the guestroom TV.

The Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa $20 Daily Destination Fee includes the following daily amenities:

  • Culinary Garden Tour with Sparkling Wine (4pm)
  • Yoga Class every morning meet in the lobby (7:30am)
  • Preserve Spa Access Eucalyptus Steam Room (8:30am to 12:00pm)
  • Specialized Bicycle Access with hybrid bicycles with helmet, available from dawn to dusk
  • Bottled Spring Water replenished in your room daily
  • Starbucks House Blend Coffee, two available daily in VINeleven Market
  • Daily Vintner Pour every evening in the lobby (5-6pm)
  • Wireless High Speed InternetTo learn about the Marriott Napa Valley’s special packages, you can click here.

For more information, visit www.NapaValleyMarriott.com or call (707) 253-8600. Become a fan of the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Napahotel and follow the hotel on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NapaMarriott and on Instagram here.

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Gundlach Bundschu Winery: Wines Deeply Rooted in History

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Gundlach Bunschu’s story began way back in 1858 when Jacob Gundlach purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and named it Rhinefarm. He then returned to Bavaria (in Germany) married, and traveled through Germany and France with his new wife Eva, buying up the rootstock they would need to plant on the land in Sonoma when they returned to the property.

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When planting began on Rhinefarm in 1859, Jacob had three partners (Dresel, Kuchel & Lutgens), and they planted the first 60,000 vines on the ranch. (This was a number that towered over the perhaps only dozen other vineyards in wine country at the time with only 27,000 vines.) The first vintage was in 1861, but Gundlach & his partners were already producing wine and brandy from locally grown grapes and fruit.

In 1868, Charles Bundschu joined the winery after working in the produce industry for six years.

During the phylloxera outbreak in the 1870’s, Gundlach and his partner Julius Dresel averted the crisis by grafting the sickly European rootstock to the vines that Dresel had brought from Texas, making them the first in Sonoma to use this procedure. The grafted plantings produced high quality grapes for almost 100 years, until being replanted by Jim Bundschu in 1969.

In 1875, Charles Bundschu joined the family by marrying the eldest child of Jacob Gundlach, Francisca. Jacob retired and Charles managed the winery’s business in San Francisco for many years. Following Jacob’s death in 1984, the winery was renamed Gundlach Bundschu.

The winery was at the height of its success, when disaster struck in 1906. The San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed one million gallons of wine and three family homes. The family took refuge at their country home at Rhinefarm and began plans to rebuild.

By 1910, 68-year-old Charles Bundschu passed away (never fully recovering mentally from the trauma of the fire and physically ill from an illness he came down with during the devastation). His sons Carl and Walter took joint command.

In 1919, prohibition closed the winery, and the company was liquidated. The family was able to hold on to the 130 acres of land and continue to grow grapes to be sold to the “juice grape” market, but half the vineyard was ripped out and replanted with Bartlett pears and some was used as pasture land.

in 1933, prohibition was repealed, but Walter’s wife Sadie remained a prohibitionist and was against reopening Gunlach Bundschu as a winery. Carl Bundschu was soon hired by Suzanne Niebaum to run Inglenook Winery in Napa and to mentor John Daniels, Jr., who eventually took control in 1938.

In 1938, Towle Bundschu took over Rhinefarm following the death of his father, Walter. He also restored Rhinefarm to 200 acres by acquiring an adjacent parcel of land. Soon after, a long contract with Almaden Winery was signed. Towle also served in the Korean War as an aerial gunner until he was discharged in 1946.

In 1969, Rhinefarm was replanted (for quality reasons) by Towle’s son Jim. By 1973, Jim crushed 20 tons of Zinfandel to produce the first wines in the old stone winery in over 50 years. When Towle saw the passion and commitment to the quality and success of the winery Jim possessed, he gave his blessing to use the family name and so Gundlach Bundschu Winery was given new life!

In 1976, Gundlach Bundschu released its “first” three wines: a 1973 Zinfandel, a 1975 Riesling, and 1975 Kleinberger, all estate grown and produced. Also in 1976, the winery became one of the first in California to produce a Merlot.

In 1981, came a Cabernet Sauvignon release, and a Best Red Wine award for it at the annual Sonoma Harvest Fair.

Jim Bundschu had a cave for the wines dug and completed by 1991, to mimic wine caves he had seen while visiting France. The 10,000 square foot, 430-foot-long cave ultimately benefits the 1,800 barrels it can accommodate by keeping the temperature and humidity at optimal levels.

Jeff Bundschu took the helm of the winery in 2000, and in 2001, it is decided the winery will produce estate-grown only wines. Currently, the winery produces Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Mountain Cuvée, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and a Vintage Reserve.

Why are they able to grow all of these different grapes (who need all different climates to flourish)? Because Rhinefarm is located at the intersection of four AVAs––Carneros, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast. If you visit the property you will see its elevation changes. Parts of Rhinefarm are hilly and parts are flat. The land is cooled by the coastal influences of the San Pablo Bay from the south and Pacific breezes through the Petaluma Gap on the west. This cool climate allows for slow ripening and more complexity, structure, and overall more control of the outcome of the harvest. If you’d like to see an interactive map of the vineyards you can click here and congratulations, you have completely geeked out (but that’s a good thing!!)

I wanted to share a little history of the winery because I think it is so interesting. During our visit we tasted the wines listed below, and were hosted by a tasting associate named Ronni, who literally told us everything I wrote about in the paragraphs above and had the whole story committed to memory. If you get stuck with her for a tasting, you’re in for a treat.

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Gundlach Bundschu is a winery to visit if you want to stay a while. It has many picnic tables and great views and beautiful landscaping. I took several photos of the property for you to enjoy below:

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Artist Nate Reifke came to Gundlach Bundschu Winery to help turn a rusted 1953 International panel truck that had been collecting weeds in Huichica Creek on Rhinefarm for four decades into a centerpiece at the entrance to the winery.

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If you plan on visiting, there are even different tours you can experience. There are the Pinzgauer Tour (aboard a 12-person, 6-wheeled, Austrian Army Vehicle), the Cave Tour, the Heritage Experience, the Vista Courtyard and the Historic Tasting Room options from which to choose. (We enjoyed the historic tasting room option.)


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You can like Gundlach Bunschu on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here and find them on Instagram here.


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

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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.

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Tickets:
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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)
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7. Ask questions.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!


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…

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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 harneylane.com.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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


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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 durstwinery.com.

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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.

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

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

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

uvaggio rosato

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

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

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

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Over $60,000 Raised for Charity at the 7th Annual HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff and an Interview with Duff Goldman!

Here’s a little press release (combined with some photos I took that day and some of my comments) on the recent HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff from my friends at the winery. After that, scroll down to read my interview with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Food Network’s Cake Masters!

On Saturday, April 23rd, over 700 hundred wine and food aficionados helped raise over $60,000 at the sold out 7th Annual Cabernet Cookoff at HALL Wines in St. Helena. Thirteen impressive Napa and Bay Area Restaurants teamed up with a nonprofit of their choice with the goal to create the best dish to pair with 2013 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Competition was fierce, the wine was inviting, and the weather paired beautifully with this lively philanthropic event.

the scene outside

“Our team is humbled that such talent, both in competing chefs and judges, clear their schedules each April to help us raise money for these noteworthy charities,” says Vintner Kathryn Walt Hall. “Thank you to our generous sponsors and loyal attendees for joining our efforts to make a difference in our community.”

craig and kathryn hall

Five judges, Duff Goldman, Celebrity Chef from Food Network, Leslie Sbrocco, host of “Check Please!” Bay Area, Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast, Ian White, SF Magazine, and Ken Frank, Chef at La Toque, took on the impressive task of choosing a runner up and first place winner from dishes like “Cherry Marinated Skirt Steak with Broccolini, Point Reyes Blue, Chive Blossom” or “Black Currant and Rose Macaroon with HALL Cabernet infused Geleé”.

group shot

Mark Dommen from One Market Restaurant in San Francisco took first place with his mouth-watering “Pancetta Wrapped Passmore Ranch Sturgeon Du Puy Lentils, Smoked Garlic, Thyme Jus” benefiting nonprofit Collabria Care of Napa (re-create here). Sorry for the obscene shadow! 😦

pancetta wrapped sturgeon
judges choice collabria care
Ca’Momi placed runner up with a delectable “Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti, Savoy Cabbage, Napa Valley Cabernet Pan Jus and Parmigiano Reggiano” aiding organization Do It For The Love of Napa.

Heirloom Pork & Veal Agnolotti
Judges Choice Runner Up Do it For the Love

Restaurants also had the opportunity to raise money for their charity through People’s Choice, a voting system by corks serving as the tallies. First place for People’s Choice was Napa restaurant, Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, preparing “Fried Chicken with Spring Succotash” with the winnings benefiting Napa Humane.

fried chicken
peoples choice napa humane

Paula LeDuc Fine Catering of San Francisco took runner up of People’s Choice with the “HALL Cabernet Roasted Strawberries with White Chocolate Crumble and Mascarpone Cream,” partnering with nonprofit St Helena Hospital.

Peoples Choice Runner Up St Helena Hosp

Proceeds of both ticket sales from attendees and 15% of purchases of 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon were also donated to the participating winning charities. Sponsors of the event included at Magnum Level: San Francisco Magazine, Bright Event Rentals, Certified Parking Attendants, MyOffice Products, and Nixon Peabody. At the Harvest Level: Signum Architecture, DP&F, Benefit Marketing, Harvest Sanitation, Snap Fiesta, Napa Valley Tours and Transportation, Print Inkorporated, Frank Zimmerman and Co LLC, and Culligan Water. Bergfeld Sponsorships included Yelp, Alkar Staffing, UpOut.com, Napa Valley Engraving, Tre Posti, Barbier Security Group, The Lux Productions and Villagio Inn & Spa. Local radio station The Vine, 99.3 was on site to capture the excitement, led by personality “Good Morning Bob!”.

panoramic 2

For more information about the event, please visit HALL Wines. To re-create the winning recipe visit HALL’s Recipe section. Check out the exciting sizzle reel courtesy of Flynn Kelleher here or more pictures from the event available here. Next year, the 8th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2017, tickets available now! The event sold out this year, so make sure to reserve your spot for next year.

I had the chance to sample many of the dishes at the event, but my favorite was the Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Cranberry Beans and Horseradish created by Brix on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I make short ribs with a wine sauce at home quite frequently, so this was just a dish I already like to eat. 🙂

short rib
I also had the chance to chat with Duff Goldman, star of several Food Network TV shows such as Cake Masters, Duff Till Dawn, Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America and Kid’s Baking Championship.

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I asked him a few questions about the event and his latest show on Food Network, Cake Masters, which currently airs Monday evenings on Food Network at 8pm EST.

ME: So, how did you get involved with the HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff fundraiser?
DUFF: Well, I’m not really sure, uh… you know, I went to school here, uh for culinary school (CIA), and I probably do (appear at) about 3 events in Napa every year and my name is around, I’m a friend of the valley, and this is the place where I became a chef.

ME: So your new show is Cake Masters. Please tell me a little bit about that.
DUFF: It’s a really cool show, it’s a lot like Ace of Cakes, you know, it follows my staff, we make big crazy cakes, uh, but it’s in Los Angeles instead of Baltimore, so we really up the stakes. So now what we do is partner with special effects houses, so these cakes are really just wild.

ME: Yes, I heard about the Fantastic Four cake, and that it was pretty cool.
DUFF: Yes.

ME: So what cake project were you most excited to do?
DUFF: Uh, well we just made a life-size working R2D2.

ME: That’s so awesome, that’s great. So you’re know for cake decorating, but what on the savory side do you like to make/cook?
DUFF: Well, right now I’m writing a book about soup. I’ve got a soup brain right now.
ME: Yes, I’m sure you probably have soup a lot living in Baltimore, especially during winter.
DUFF: We do, and I actually grew up in Cape Cod, so you know it’s a big soup country up there. It’s cold.

ME: I was reading a little bit about you, and found you started out bread making. How did you transition into making cake and not just cakes but cakes that are really works of art?
DUFF: Well, I was a graffiti artist when I was younger, and I started cooking to make enough money to pay for my spray paint. Uh, I got arrested a lot.
ME: Oh!
DUFF: Yeah, so I had to stop doing that. So then I started doing metal sculpture, bronzing, welding making giant things like that bunny out front (Duff is referring to Bunny Foo Foo, the large metal rabbit sculpture in front of HALL wines created by artist Lawrence Argent). And then, I started working on cars since a lot of my friends liked working on cars–and I was a really good welder, and they were like, hey can you come over and fix this thing, it’s like you know asking an artist to come over and paint your house, and I really liked doing it, so that’s how I kind of got into mechanics…I’ve been a working pastry chef my whole career and then I’d say when I was about 25, I was in a band in Baltimore and the band was doing really well, we were starting to get looked at by record labels.
ME: And you’re a bassist?
DUFF: Yeah, so I quit my job and I started selling cakes out of my apartment to try and help pay the rent while I was trying to be a full time musician.

ME: You’ve always had the pastry thing in the background and you were in Colorado for a while?
DUFF: Yeah, I used to carve ice out there.

ME: Well it was really cool to hear a little bit more about your background and I appreciate your time.
DUFF: Absolutely.
ME: My blog is kind of small and out of Sacramento…
DUFF: Well send it (the link) to me, I want to read it.
ME: *faints* (KIDDING!) Oh I will! Totally, totally. Thank you so much!
DUFF: Nice to talk to you.

Well, isn’t that something? 🙂 Truthfully, I just didn’t want to take up much of Duff’s time, so I kept it short. It was really warm that day and we were standing outside in direct sunlight and he was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt so probably not the most comfortable place to be and get drilled with a bunch of questions from a nervous blogger. And yeah, I was nervous about interviewing Duff, I admit it. The funny thing is, I had met Duff before a few years ago at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco when he was kicking off his line of cake products (pic to prove it below!), and he was super nice and complimented me on my pink chef coat. But then I met Thomas Keller the next year (if you want to call it met) and I tried to ask him a question and he basically dissed me. So, the encounter with Thomas Keller (famous person) made me nervous that the Duff (also a famous person) thing would go awry. And well, I’d say it went alright. I want to thank Duff again for coming out to HALL and for putting up with me for about five minutes. 🙂

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I also want to thank HALL Wines for inviting Andy and me out again. We always have an incredible experience.

Don’t forget to visit www.hallwines.com or follow their social channels on Instagram here, Twitter @hallwines and on Facebook here. CHEERS!!


Seasons 52’s Winter Menu Features Savory Flavors and Holiday Cocktails

This week, Andy and I were invited to try out the new winter menu at Seasons 52. Seasons 52 describes themselves as a fresh grill and wine bar that offers a seasonal menu inspired by the appeal of a farmer’s market and what’s good now. I would also add that they cater to people who enjoy dining out, but like to stay calorie conscious. That pretty much describes me, and why I have accepted every invitation the restaurant has sent my way. I really love the concept of the restaurant and enjoy the food!

We started out in one of the banquet rooms, (other writers were also invited and gathered there) to taste a few of the featured wines and flatbreads. Andy and I passed on the flatbreads (which Seasons 52 does specialize in because they can make them very seasonal—by swapping out the toppings when the seasons change—and low in calorie). However, later on we found out that they can make any of the flatbreads on the menu with a gluten-sensitive dough! I have been to the restaurant 5 or 6 times now and I never knew this! 🙂 More on the gluten-senstive flatbreads later, but before I get too off track, let’s get back to the wine tasting at the beginning of our evening:

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red wines
I particularly enjoyed the Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, a reasonably priced food friendly wine, that is a recent addition to the Seasons 52 wine list. Their international wine list features 100 wines and offers at least 52 of them by the glass.

During the wine tasting, Andy and I met up with Susan Cooper (who writes the blog Finding Our Way Now) and her husband. Since both of our websites have shifted towards wine, we decided to sit together during dinner and talk about some of our current and future projects.

I started out with this rosé of Syrah from Casas del Bosque. It was an off-dry wine and a great appetizer in my book. 🙂

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Speaking of appetizers, this is the gluten-friendly flat bread I mentioned earlier. We chose the Grilled Garlic Pesto Chicken with fresh mozzarella cheese, balsamic onions, roasted red peppers and arugula. The entire appetizer clocks in at 490 calories. It’s called “gluten-friendly” as opposed to “gluten-free” because the kitchen and oven are exposed to gluten. Celiacs should always take extreme caution when dining out, but people who are gluten-free for other reasons can enjoy this flatbread as much as I did! 🙂

gluten friendly flatbread

Of course, there are dishes that are not gluten-free, but still worth a try such as the Black & White Lobster Ravioli.

ravioli
The raviolis are made with squid ink and egg pasta, and topped with shitake mushrooms and roasted red peppers. The dish is finished with a sherry-lobster sauce. (320 calories)

If you’re looking for a cocktail in between your appetizer and entrée, Seasons 52 currently features a Bourbon Berry Bramble and a Cranberry & Sage cocktail to enjoy this holiday season.

Entrée time! I think Andy and I were really feeling the seasons change and both ordered red meat for dinner.

I ordered the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Salad: Bibb lettuce, butternut squash, grilled red onion, a cheddar tuile and horseradish vinaigrette. (450 calories).

steak salad

I wish I would have known the presentation of my salad was going to be so dramatic, because I would have filmed it and posted the video. The salad is brought out in on the plate with a cuff/ring around it and then it is released upon service. It was like “voilá” here’s your steak salad. I ordered dressing on the side because truthfully, there’s so many flavors going on, I didn’t really need it. Cheddar tuile, I wish I could wrap you around me like a blanket. 😉

Andy ordered another meaty dish: The Oak-Grilled New York Strip. Ut was a soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon potato mash and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. (750 calories) Whoa, Andy, hope you don’t plan on eating dessert.

steak

Just kidding! I love it that Andy is willing to tag along with me and try all this incredible food. We both agreed that the steaks on the salad and on his entrée were perfect (medium rare).

By the way, our server was John. You’ll need to know that because you will want to ask for him when you visit Seasons 52. Here’s what he looks like if you need to chase him down. 😉

server john

Truthfully, I am amazed this kid isn’t working as a wine rep. He knew almost as much as one. This is an instance where server training has really paid off. John is just as enthusiastic and passionate about wine as I am. Maybe. 😉 Anyway, if there are not enough reasons to stop by Seasons 52, do so, so that you can be waited on by this guy! 🙂

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More wines (some of our server John’s favorites) he allowed our table to try. I went with sparking wine (sorry, John!) because these days, I try to keep the alcohol content down while I am out and about. 130 calories per glass in the prosecco, by the way. 🙂


And then it was time to order dessert! 🙂 At Seasons 52, they have a portion-controlled dessert menu that is brought out so you can see exactly what you are ordering!

desserts

I passed on the dessert plate, because I was actually so full from dinner, but I heard great things about the S’More dessert as well as the gingerbread dessert from my table mates.

This Friday (Black Friday) you can enjoy Seasons happy hour menu from open to close. With $8 specialty cocktails, $6 select glasses of wine and $5 Chef-inspired small plates, there’s something for everyone!!

Social Media Roll Call:
You can find Seasons 52 on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here.

Special thanks to the management at Seasons 52 for setting up this special tasting. We’ll definitely be back!!


Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden Event 25th Anniversary, October 10th, 2015

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I can’t believe it’s been four 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. 🙂

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 25th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting!  -cg

The tradition continues at the 2015 Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event on Sacramento, October 10th, 2015 4-7pm.

Building on the success of 24 previous years, this event showcases more than 50 wineries, 20 restaurants and handpicked craft brews by owner & operator of Curtis Park’s own Pangaea Bier Cafe.

The Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event is the biggest event of its kind in Curtis Park. Event proceeds benefit SCNA, Bret Harte Elementary School and McClatchy High School. The event takes place at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th Street, Sacramento, California 95818

Bring your friends with you, or come meet some new ones. This year we’re turning 25 and we’re celebrating in a VERY big way.

Event Highlights:
• Raw Oysters on the Half Shell (Scott’s Seafood on the River)
• Dad’s Kitchen
• Freeport Bakery
• Lucca Restaurant & Bar
• Localis (apart of the Broderick Restaurant family)
• Sugar Plum Vegan Bakery
• Tower Café
• Tapa the World
• Taylor’s Kitchen

Event Sponsors: Cook Realty, McDonald Plumbing, Joseph F. Eschleman, Black Pine Communities, Melissa Heede (Remax)

Advance until 11:59pm, Oct. 7: $40 (SCNA Members)/$45 (Non-members) Membership can be purchased or renewed during your registration process. Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 7. After Oct. 7: $50 all online tickets available until 11:59pm, Oct. 7. After Oct. 7, 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 9, 2015. 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.


My “Best of the Best” California State Fair Wine Winners

Now that the California State Fair is in full swing (July 10th-26th), and Save Mart Supermarket’s Wine Country is open for tasting, I wanted to give you a heads up on my favorite wines this year from the Winners of the California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Andy and I attended a media event a few weeks ago at which the 2015 Best of Show winners were announced, and here’s what we liked best:

Handley Pinot 2012 Mendocino Silver2
2012 Handley Pinot Noir (Mendocino County)
Andy and I discovered Handley Cellars at the Pinot on the River event last year in Healdsburg, and we have been buying their Pinot Noir ever since. Not a shock to see them win an award. They took silver for the pinot noir pictured above and their 2013 Anderson Valley Gewürtztraminer pictured below. Congrats to a well-deserving winery!

Handley 2013 Gewurtz Silver

Gold Hill Rose
The Rosé of Barbera pictured above from Gold Hill Vineyard took Best of Show Pink DOUBLE Gold 98. If you remember a few years ago, I told you it was hip to drink rosé, and I chose some of my favorites at Total Wine. You can read those picks here. If I were to rewrite my list of summer sippers this year, the 2014 Gold Hill Barbera Rosato would be one to buy!

 

Zucca 2014 Rose
Speaking of rosés, here’s one from Zucca Mountain Vineyards, the 2014 Belle Nipoti a rosé blend. This wine earned a Silver for Best of Class of Region.

 

 

2014 Robert Hall Orange Muscato
Upon the suggestion of California State Fair wine judge and co-host of the Bottle Talk with Rick and Paul radio show and podcast Rick Kushman, I visited the table where Robert Hall wines were featured. I found this Orange Muscat I liked very much, even though I am not typically a fan of dessert wines. It won a Gold honor for Best of California, Best of Region ‐ White.

 

Barsetti Sparkling Wine
I also found this sparkling wine made by Barsetti quite delightful. It was actually the first wine I tasted when we arrived at the event. What a way to kick things off. This wine scored a Gold Best of Class of Region.

 

 

Uphill Rose 2014 Primitivo Double Gold
This Rosato di Primitivo was Amador’s Uphill Vineyards first attempt at making a blush wine. Nice job there, because it made my list of wine picks and more importantly, took a Double Gold honor from the wine judges.

 

Matchbook Arsonist Chard Silver
Last but not least, we have a Chardonnay produced by one of my favorite local wineries, Matchbook Wine Company. You might remember my recent tour of their facilities. Matchbook’s The Arsonist Chardonnay won a Silver, and even though I knew exactly how the wine tasted, of course I had a little taste anyway. 😉

 

Andy and Rick
There’s Andy and Rick deep in discussion, no doubt. 😉 Actually, Andy met Rick through running before he met me. And I met Rick through the whole Sacramento food and wine scene before I met Andy. So now it’s always fun to see him at events and get each others’ opinions on what we liked (and didn’t like) and why. Good times! 🙂

About the State Fair Wine Competition
The first State Fair Wine Competition was held in 1855. The competition is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wine events in the country. Top wines including Best of Region and Best of California winners will be featured at the State Fair in the Save Mart Supermarkets Wine Garden for visitors to enjoy July 10-26.

A complete listing of award-winning wines can be found at castatefair.org. Hope to see you at the fair (most likely in the Save Mart Supermarket Wine Country)! 😉

You can find the California State Fair on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.


Touring and Tasting with Matchbook Wine Company

in the vineyar
As a wine writer, I get invited to some of the most interesting events.

This time, it was a media/blogger tour and taste at Matchbook Wine Company in Dunnigan Hills. I was already a major fan of the Matchbook Wine label because of its quality vs. price ratio, so I was delighted to accept the invitation. Plus, I am an ex-employee of Toasted Head (special events sous chef and tasting room associate), so any excuse to head back to those Dunnigan Hills and I am in! 🙂

I actually managed to be somewhat outgoing (shocker) and met a few of the other writers, and after you read my blathering and reflections on my experience at the oasis just a few miles from the I-5 Zamora exit, you might want to read from their point of view here: Erin at Adventures in Nor Cal and Susan at Finding Our Way Now.

But first, a recap of my experience. It was a Friday night, and quite frankly one of the best happy hours (or two) I have ever spent. Just think of it: The moment Andy and I arrived at the new, beautiful tasting room, we were welcomed with a glass of 2013 Arsonist Chardonnay and introduced to some of the other writers (Lynn of Sacatomato was also there), tasting room associates, and the owners of Matchbook, John and Lane Giguiere.

I have followed the Giguieres for a while now, and have enjoyed their wines on several occasions, so it was nice to officially meet them and spend a bit of time with them instead of exchanging a few sentences here and there when I have met them at fundraisers/various wine tastings.

It was also great to finally see the tasting room (which has been open since October of last year). It’s an oblong shaped space with the tasting bar at one end and a large dining/board meeting table at the other. There is an impressively large chandelier that hangs above an island of items for sale. Out the back doors leads to a patio with a drop-dead stunning view of the vineyard. Nice digs.

TASTING SPACE

One of the most memorable and fun parts of the evening was speeding up and down the hilly vineyards in a golf cart with the winery’s owner John Giguiere at the helm. It was and his wife Lane who lead the tour, which included a tasting in the vineyard (the 2014 Matchbook Rosé of Tempranillo) and a look at some of the farming techniques being used on the grapevines, followed by a barrel tasting of several wines in the Matchbook/Arsonist portfolio.

the tour

Inside the barrel room, we tried 2 different wines that are used to make Matchbook’s “The Arsonist” Chardonnay. The first wine was big and buttery and would make even Rombauer and Falcor Chardonnay lovers fall to their knees. The second was a more fruit forward Chardonnay aged in neutral barrels. Together they make a stunning food-friendly wine that would best compliment a cheese plate, a chicken dish, or anything with an Alfredo sauce.

Wine barrel ine

After the barrel tasting, we returned to the tasting room (for more wine tasting, of course!) and enjoyed appetizers provided by Kitchen428 Restaurant and Mojo’s Lounge. We tasted the 2012 Arsonist Red Blend and the Matchbook 2011 Tinto Rey (a blend of Syrah and Tempranillo).
The two aforementioned wine along with most wines in the Matchbook Wine portfolio are so very conducive to enjoying with food—I am pretty sure that’s why I like them so much.

panoramic at matchbook

On a side note, you might remember my story on the Matchbook wine dinner held at Piatti late last year. You can find that here. If not, you can find Matchbook on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.

Thanks so much to Matchbook Wine Company for the invitation to explore their wines and their beautiful property. Both Andy and I feel truly blessed to have met with the group. Heaven on Earth, indeed.

There are five wines in the Matchbook portfolio including their Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Tinto Rey, Syrah, and Rosé of Tempranillo. You can find most of them in your local supermarket, but I’m going to encourage you to visit the winery and tasting room and figure out which one is your favorite there. Spend an afternoon on the patio with the beautiful view of the vineyards, and please tell John and Lane I said “Hello!!”.

vineyard one

 


Urban Wine Xperience Takes Over Oakland Waterfront on Saturday, August 1, 2015

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In honor of Wine Wednesday, I am excited tell you about another upcoming food and wine event—this time in Oakland!

East Bay Vintners Alliance presents the 10th Annual Urban Wine Xperience on Saturday, August 1, 2015, from 1:00-4:00pm.

The event will take place at Market Hall in Jack London Square. More than 20 urban wineries from the EBVA will pour a wide array of white, rose, red and dessert wines for you to taste and enjoy.

In addition, local eateries and food purveyors will team up with the various wineries, creating delicious bites that pair beautifully with the EBVA’s wine portfolio. No need to travel to wine country when you can experience the ultimate wine tasting in your own urban backyard!

Participating wineries include: Aubin Cellars, Carica Wines, Chouinard Vineyard and Winery, Dashe Cellars, Jeff Cohn Cellars, Mead Kitchen, R&B Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosenblum Cellars, Stage Left Cellars, Paradox Wines, Urban Legend and Urbano Cellars with more wineries set to join.

Last year’s event was sold out and tickets are expected to go fast for the 10th anniversary event. Tickets are priced at $45 before June 1, and will be $70 at the door. Wine Club members’ tickets are $35 with promo code. Designated drivers receive discounted tickets at $15. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.

New this year for the first time, UWX ticket holders will receive a $5 coupon at the door, applicable to any wine purchase at the event. A portion of the proceeds from wine sales will be donated to the Alameda County Food Bank.

You can find the East Bay Vintners Alliance on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.
Make it a social experience by using the hashtag #UWX15! See you there 🙂


NakedWines.com Tour Makes a Stop at Sacramento’s Vizcaya on May 13th

Wine lovers, you won’t want to miss this!

Over 7,000 bottles of wine will be uncorked on NakedWines.com road trip across California, and this coming Wednesday, May 13th, the tour makes a stop right here in Sacramento at the Vizcaya!

More than 30 of your winemakers are hopping on the Naked Tour Bus and roaming around California to share their best wines with all the people (like you!) who funded them.

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So, how is this different than any other wine tasting?

Every wine you’ll taste was crowd-funded by regular wine drinkers, and the winemakers didn’t pay to attend and share their wines. We recommend going up to a table and asking one of the winemakers to explain it. (They’ll be wearing blue shirts).

Who is behind all of this? 300,000 wine drinkers realized they could get better wines at better prices if they supported winemakers to cut out all the costs you can’t taste, like marketing. They weren’t rich enough to do it alone, so they teamed up and invested people like Ken, Tom and Carmen below.

After winning fifty 90+ scores for his wines at Flora Springs, Heitz and Joseph Phelps in a 4 decade long career making Napa Cab, Ken is finally striking out on his own with a personal range of Napa wines at unbelievable prices. Even reserve barrel-­aged Napa Cabs for under $30.

ken

One of our first thousand Angels revealed a hidden talent for making world-­class wines in his garage at home. 75,000 Angels teamed up to invest in Tom’s first professional range of wines made with award-­winning fruit from Pickberry Vineyards.

tom

Carmen is an amazingly talented winemaker, but she had a hard time getting funding as South Africa’s first black woman to graduate in oenology since Apartheid. Angels saw her qualifications and immediately agreed to fund her personal project in exchange for exclusive access to these delicious treats.

carmen

To purchase tickets to the event, you can go here. The Vizcaya is located at 2019 21st Street, Sacramento, CA 95818. The event begins at 6:30pm and goes until 9pm.

You can find NakedWines.com on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here.


TAPAS Tempranillo Tasting is April 26, 2015 at the Presidio, San Francisco!

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If you like wine at all (especially wines made in a Spanish style), don’t miss this event:
TAPAS is pleased to announce the most extensive tasting of domestically produced Tempranillos and other Iberian varietal wines. Join nearly 40 TAPAS member vintners for the 8th annual Grand Wine Tasting held at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio in San Francisco on Sunday, April 26, 2015.

Trade and consumers will be able to taste Tempranillos, Albariños, Garnachas, Verdelhos, Tourigas, and many other varieties, in a casual walk-around setting where they can chat with the growers and vintners. Explore the diversity of grapes and styles produced across the western United States.  Many TAPAS members are limited-production, family-owned wineries and will be pouring small lot wines that are not widely available. Many of the wines will also be available for sale at this event.

The year’s event will feature a Tempranillo Shootout starting at noon – watch the website for details!

The public event schedule is:

  • 12:00 Noon – 1:30 p.m.  – Tempranillo Shootout.  Tickets are $75, and include early admission to the Consumer Tasting directly afterward.
  • 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.  – Trade/Media Tasting.  Qualified members of the wine trade and media may register using the appropriate link below:
  • 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Consumer Tasting.  In conjunction with the walk-around tasting, the TAPAS Wine School (included with admission) will feature informative consumer-oriented seminars. Tickets are $55.

Tickets to the Tempranillo Shootout and Consumer Tasting are now on sale at tapas15.eventbrite.com.

TAPAS President Stuart Spencer noted, “The TAPAS Grand Tasting is a unique opportunity for you to discover, savor and celebrate this treasure chest of exotic and delightfully food-friendly wines. You will gain appreciation for what some visionary winegrowers are doing here on American soil. Don’t miss it!”

To me, this is one of the best wine tasting events of the year and a nice walk off the beaten path of common varietals. It’s fun to taste lesser known wines like Touriga Nacional (originates from Portugal) along with wines like Albariño, Garnacha, and Verdelhos which are slowly gaining domestic popularity. I walked away from the event last year with a better knowledge of wine in general and a few new favorites. I am looking forward to this year’s event and a day at the scenic Presidio in San Francisco. 🙂

About TAPAS
TAPAS, now in its eleventh year, started at the 2004 Unified Symposium, when Tempranillo winegrowers from California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Arizona met for the first time to discuss their avocation.  Since that first visionary group pointed the way, the organization has incorporated and grown to over 100 members.  The first Grand Wine Tasting was held at Copia in Napa in 2008, and has continued annually since then, as one of many initiatives to promote Tempranillo and other varietal wine grapes native to the Iberian Peninsula and wines produced from them in North America.


Exploring Russian River Wineries and a Stay at the Applewood Inn


National Pizza Month Concludes with Chicago Fire’s Gluten Free Pizza

facade chicago fire
Our last yummy stop for National Pizza Month was Chicago Fire in Midtown Sacramento.

Andy and I were excited to work with Chicago Fire because it’s so close to home and we had actually been there before a few times (thanks to a $100 gift card that I won at a Christmas party my boss threw last year). Don’t ever try to win Christmas Carol Word Jumble against me. You will lose! 😉

We were able to actually use the gift card twice, so we had already tasted their fabulous version of gluten free pizza and already had a favorite wine we like to drink with our dinner (the Windy City Red blend that Boeger Winery creates just for Chicago Fire). 🙂 We already knew the service was great and were lucky enough once to have a server who had adopted a gluten free diet as well. I am seeing that more often in restaurants and it is very comforting.

It’s been a head-spinning 3 weeks since our visit (my apologies to the team at Chicago Fire for not being a little more timely on this piece–life has been absolutely crazy lately with multiple visits to San Francisco, training for a 20 mile race, working 45 hours a week, and being in the process of moving happening all at once). Still, I remember what a great time Andy and I had that night, and we always enjoy the food at the restaurant. So, here’s a recap of what we ordered:

Starter drinkys!! It was Friday night and I was ready for one of the cocktails I had seen earlier in the day on Chicago Fire’s inventive drink menu! I was interested because I saw a few descriptions that were not going to be sweet (like a lot of other drink menus unfortunately are). I picked the Basil Lemonade with Tito’s vodka muddled with fresh basil & lemon juice over ice. It hit the spot, just as I had imagined it would. Basil and lemon together in my drink, yes please! 🙂 Andy had a glass of Bolla Chianti. OK, now we’re all set…

starter drinks

In an effort to make the entire meal gluten-free, we chose the Baked Artichoke for an appetizer. It’s a whole artichoke, doused with lemony caesar sauce and topped with fresh parmesan cheese. Chicago Fire has quite a Greek influence in their menu and many things are flavored with lemon and garlic. That’s a plus in my book and in Andy’s, too because he is half Greek. 🙂 My favorite part of the artichoke was the cheese on top that had slightly browned and gotten crispy, and the way it tasted with fresh lemon juice on it. It was a great lead in to the salad we ordered.

artichoke

Next up we tried the Chicken Pesto Salad, which is a favorite of mine. It is made of Romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, pesto-marinated artichoke hearts and red onion. We ordered the house made pesto ranch dressing on the side. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces and the dressing that comes with the salad is addictive. 😉 The chicken on the salad was grilled perfectly. I recommend ordering a large size salad because it is perfect for sharing if you are a party of two and plan on ordering a pizza as well.

greek salad
I wanted to mention the wine pairing we had. This time, we did not order the Windy City Red that we usually drink, but instead went with a Greg Norman 2012 (Santa Barbara) Pinot Noir (because of the lighter nature of ingredients in our salad and our pizza). We chose the Greg Norman Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara) because it was a better value than the other Pinot Noir on the wine list (La Crema).

greg norman pinot noir
By now it was pizza time! We decided on the gluten free Greek pizza. The Greek is topped with Gyro meat, white Sauce, Artichoke Hearts, Kalamata Olives, Red Onion, Fresh Tomato, Feta Cheese & Pepperoncini and served with what else? Tzatziki on the side. Love it. My favorite part of the pizza (other than the super crispy edges on the crust were the little slices of Gyro meat that had also gotten super crispy/crunchy in the pizza oven. We squeezed the lemon juice over the slices for an extra burst of flavor and the tzatziki lemon combo was just paradise. It’s a real treat for Andy and I to eat pizza/things with crust/bread at all even if it is gluten free, so it was fun to try the Greek flavor combination on a crust. Bonus points for the presentation, one slice of pizza was slightly propped up with the ramekin that held the tzatziki sauce. Beautiful!

greek pizza
Thanks Chicago Fire, we’ll definitely be back for more very soon! We’ll continue to work our way around the menu of gluten free pizzas. We’ve already tried and given thumbs up to the Stockyard and Chicken Pesto on previous visits. 🙂

Chicago Fire has a loyalty program called Square Points. You can points as soon as you get a Square Points card from your server. By registering online, you’ll be able to redeem your points. Then you can earn more points when you buy food, drinks & merchandise. Some of the rewards from the Square Points membership include a free Deep Dish Delight on your birthday, a free specialty pizza for every 500 points, and free corkage. Of course the term FREE CORKAGE was music to our ears, so we decided to enroll in Square Points, too!

Are you hungry for a visit yet?!?! Good news for you if you aren’t near downtown but live closer to Folsom or Roseville, because in addition to the Midtown location on 2416 J Street, there are 3 other locations: Historic Folsom (Chicago Fire made its debut on Sutter Street in Folsom in March 2003), Folsom at Palladio, and in Roseville at Sunrise/Eureka.

Thanks for the wonderful hospitality and service all the way from the marketing team to the staff at Chicago Fire Midtown. We’ll see you again soon. 🙂

You can find Chicago Fire Pizza on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here.