Farm to Fork Wine Dinner Series: Piatti Presents Matchbook Wines, Spectacular from Beginning to End!
If you missed Piatti’s last wine dinner for the year featuring Matchbook Wines, I feel really bad for you! It was even more than I thought it would be––even though I knew it would be amazing. Piatti is one of my long time advertisers, and I have always been a fan of their food, but I never knew it could be pulled off like this. This dinner was probably one of the best meals I have eaten there. I think it’s mostly due to Chef Lance Carlini who combines his take on Italian cuisine with Farm to Fork/seasonal and brings it to a whole new level.
And then there were my wonderful table mates. So, at the Piatti wine dinners, patrons are sat 6 to a table, so you prepare to make new fellow loving wine friends–at least for the night! I was lucky enough to sit with Sharon, Tamara, Eduardo, and James and be a fifth wheel. 🙂
We were sat fountain side with illuminated trees surrounding us. We had been welcomed with an opening glass of Matchbook’s Rosé of Tempranillo as John and Lane Giguiere (owners of the winery) were making the rounds and introducing themselves to each table.
Then it was onto the opening dish: A wood fired spot prawn with Grass Valley polenta and a hatch chili chimichurri. It was paired with the wine we were already enjoying: Matchbook’s 2013 Rose of Tempranillo, Dunnigan Hills.
As you can see. the plating was flawless on this dish. My favorite element was the chimichurri (a green sauce made of chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar) which I love on anything from seafood to chicken to beef or pork.
The second course presented to us was a Riverdog Farm Potato Gnocchi served with fall squash, Apple Hill apples, lacinato kale and cream. It was served with the 2012 ‘Arsonist’ Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills. The upfront nose on the wine revealed aromas of toasty oak, caramel apple and crème brûlée. It was an automatic match with the plump buttery gnocchi and apples in the cream sauce. Gnocchi is the only pasta I even missed post-Paleo, so this was like eating dessert for me! Also, lots of wonderful comments from my table mates––they also loved the squash and apples in the dish. It was the essence of fall! Great pairing, Chef Carlini! 🙂
Then it was time to get serious. The third course presented to us was a Tinto Rey Red Braised Short Rib with Thyme Toasted Mushrooms and fresh Horseradish paired with the 2009 Tinto Rey Red Blend, California. The Tinto Rey is a red wine blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Graciano, Tannat and Cabernet.
So, if you didn’t gather from the course description, the short rib was actually braised in the wine with which it was paired. We didn’t even really need a knife on this one, just a fork to pull apart the meat. Again, the plating was gorgeous and the pairing was genius.
Dessert came soon after that: A Milk Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cake, Sea Salt Caramel and Hazelnut––topped with Pomegranate arils. It was paired with the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. I boxed up the dessert to take home to Andy, but took full advantage of the Cabernet. 🙂 The Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon has vibrant ripe red fruit characteristics followed by layers of spice and earth and chocolate and that’s enough dessert for me!
I was completely wowed by this wine dinner and I was seated with the best company! Thanks to the marketing and management at Piatti for the great partnership we have had over the years. And thank you, Chef Lance Carlini! Amazing job. 🙂
As of October 25 this year, Matchbook now has a tasting room located in Zamora here. GO VISIT THEM! 🙂
So picture this: I work in Roseville (as a graphic designer/life saver) from 8:30am-5pm, and last Wednesday Andy and I have to be at a Kings Pre-season game by 7:00pm. Factor in a 30 minute commute time, and 10-15 minutes to get to the game from my house, and there’s pretty much NO TIME to cook and have a meal before we go.
Enter National Pizza Month and zpizza! They have a gluten free menu and salads suitable for a busy person like me.
All I had to do was call them ahead of time and let them know I wanted to pick up my order just a little after 5:00pm. I browsed their website, and chose what looked interesting to me. I thought their website was fantastic at showing what and was not available in gluten free. All you have to do is check a little box in the upper right hand corner, and the gluten free items remain listed, while the gluten items are grayed out. See?
So two items on the menu immediately caught my eye, beginning with the Arugula Salad! The salad has cucumbers, caramelized onions, parmesan cheese, candied walnuts and guess what? Arugula! Sold! I added on some avocado and chicken breast for an extra charge.
The other menu item that grabbed my attention was the gluten free Italian pizza with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, ham, basil, pesto (yes!!) mozzarella cheese, and black olives. At first I was worried I didn’t order enough food, but as we ate, we both got really full. I guess we’re not used to having a treat as nice as pizza––even the gluten free variety––and any kind of dough is really filling. I had 3 pieces and it was so gooood. The crust was great and really crispy on the edges. The pesto was terrific and I only wish I had ordered extra on the side to dip the crust in! The crust had a nice buttery flavor and even a sort of flakey texture. I am glad I have Andy to eat the other 5 pieces, because I would have demolished them for sure! 😉
Now, onto the wine we had with dinner! 🙂
Andy brought over 2 different wines to have with dinner. The white wine he brought was a 2012 Chardonnay from Mercy Vineyards. The second wine he brought (yep, I am pretty lucky to have such premium wines with a take out dinner!!) was a Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap which is produced from 127 year-old vines in Clarksburg!
Andy said he chose the wine pairing to resist the traditional “pizza wines” like sangiovese or chianti, because this pizza had pesto on it and really lent itself to a lighter style of wine. Enter the Chardonnay from Mercy––a less oakey more fruit forward wine, but still a Chardonnay lover’s wine, and the Pinot Noir mimicky Cinsaut from Miner’s Leap. Try either of these two and you’ll just think wow.
Kind of too fancy for pizza, but hey, gluten free zpizza is pretty fancy–especially before a Sacramento Kings game, so OK I’ll take it. 🙂
PS: The Kings won the game against the Toronto Raptors, 113-106! 🙂
Lake County is a wine region that might not have the cachet of Napa Valley, but I can definitely tell you they are making wines of Napa Valley caliber. Currently, Lake County has over 8,400 acres producing winegrapes. There are now 167 growers and 32 wineries in Lake County. I was first exposed to a large cross-section of wineries who call Lake County home at the Wine, Tunes & Classics event held at the California Automobile Museum last year.
The event combined a showcase of classic cars, music, and featured wineries from the Lake County Winery Association. There, I was able to taste and find several wines I really enjoyed. I was also told about the People’s Choice Wine Tasting that was held in 2013, and unfortunately already had plans for the weekend.
This year, however I am excited to attend the People’s Choice Wine Tasting this coming Saturday at Guenoc & Langtry Vineyards (21000 Butts Canyon Rd, Middletown, CA 95461). The event will begin at 1:00 PM and ends at 4:00 PM.
It will be an afternoon of wine, music, and fun. Music will be provided by the popular band “The Special Guests”. The Yuba College Culinary program will be featuring some of their sweet treats, and food trucks will be onsite to satisfy your culinary cravings and stop by the photo booth to create a lasting memory of the event.
Tickets are $35 per person ($25 if you buy before June 10th with a special promo code–see below). Designated drivers encouraged and will be admitted for free. You must be 21 or older to participate in this event.
The Lake County Wine Competition is open to wines that contain at least 75% Lake County winegrapes and bear a Lake County appellation on the label. Lake County’s reputation for both high-quality wines and high-quality winegrapes continues to grow. The 2013 competition drew more than 120 wines to be judged. This number is expected to increase this year.
People’s Choice Wine Tasting – Special Offer
Treat your favorite Dad to an afternoon of wine, food, music, and fun and celebrate Father’s Day at the People’s Choice Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 14th. Eighteen of Lake County’s premium wineries will be pouring their award winning wines at Langtry Estate and Vineyards. Use promo code “4dad” to get $10 off the ticket price. This offer expires on June 10th. Tickets will be available at the door for $35. For complete details or tickets, go to www.lakecountywineries.org/choice
Back in Napa again at last and a return to one of our favorite places to stay: The Meritage Resort. By the way, at the end of this column, read about the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage event being held at The Meritage Resort in February over Valentine’s Weekend. Attention couples, a great way to celebrate!
Here’s the lobby at The Meritage, and a shot of the room in which we stayed.
After checking into our room, we had a glass of wine to kick off a romantic evening. I was so excited to return to the Napa Valley Wine Train for dinner, and this time I was able to bring Andy as my guest. I originally wrote about The Wine Train on my other website: cakegrrl.com. You can read the entry by clicking here. 🙂
The Wine Train Depot is located at 1275 McKinstry Street in the Oxbow district, just 5 minutes from downtown Napa on foot.
This is a diagram of the wine train. The Napa Valley Wine Train consists of nine rail cars and two engines on point: Lounge Cars (3), Lounge Car with Wine Tasting Bar (1), Gourmet Express Dining Cars (2), Silverado Car Al-Fresco Style Dining(1), Vista Dome Dining Car (1), Power Car (1), Chef de Cuisine Kitchen Car with Glass Observation Corridor (1)
Andy and I were assigned to the beautiful Vista Dome.
The Vista Dome is a 1952 Pullman domed rail car that offers the most private dining experience. The Vista Dome Car is an elevated observation style dining car expertly refurbished using Honduran Mahogany paneling and brass accents. Perfect for a private function or one of our special events, this domed rail car hosts up to 56 dining guests.
Above is a picture taken inside the Vista Dome! I was feeling so spoiled and lucky to be sitting beside Andy. 🙂 Especially when the server brought out the welcome glass of Chandon. All guests on the wine train get a glass of sparkling wine included with their dinner.
Corkage on the Napa Valley Wine Train is $15.00 per 750ml bottle and $30 for a Magnum sized bottle. If you bring one bottle of wine on board and buy a bottle
on board, they will waive the corkage for that bottle. FYI, most of the wines on the Wine Train menu are very reasonably priced.
Here’s a picture the dinner menu we chose from. It is slightly different from the other dining car. Executive Chef Kelly Macdonald offers a unique menu for this dining option with all selections prepared in the kitchen located on the first floor of this car. The meals are freshly prepared on the train using fresh, environmentally responsible ingredients, humanely raised, hormone free meats and fresh, line caught fish. For a closer look, you can click here.
For our appetizers, Andy went with the Salmon Crepe and I chose the Rabbit Confit. The lighting in the Vista Dome was dim, but I did not want to use a flash, so please forgive the photos I took of our meal. They are slightly dark.
The Salmon Crepe is served with Crème Fraîche, American Caviar and Honey Onion Marmalade.
It was a shrimp and seafood bisque, and though we have been experiencing warmer than normal temperatures this winter, the temperature had dropped enough by the time we boarded the train to appreciate a delicious soup. 🙂
The salad was not for dieters. 😉 It was a Red and Green Apple Endive Salad with Gorgonzola Cheese, Hazelnuts and Mustard Vinaigrette. I was happy because I am on a real hazelnut kick right now and have been for a while.
After our second course, a sorbet trio was brought out. I forgot to snap a photo of it. The flavors were mango, pineapple, and mixed berry. They are made by the chefs at the Wine Train and were a wonderful intermezzo.
Then it was time for the entrees. Andy and I both chose the Roasted Beef Tenderloin on Potato‐Fennel Gratin topped with Fried Lotus Root and Red Onion Marmalade in a Red Wine Cabernet Reduction. I had reviewed the menu ahead of time and chosen my entrée and that is mainly why Andy brought the Bell Cabernet. The wine pairing was excellent. And though I gave a little bit of my beef portion to Andy to finish, it was all so good I had nothing left on my plate.
It was quite the adventure walking from car to car and fun to catch some fresh air between courses. It sort of felt like we were in a James Bond movie! After that, we were re-seated to enjoy our desserts, as well as a glass of port that Andy and I shared.
Below is a picture of the dessert I chose, a Chocolate “Pot Pie” and below that, Andy’s dessert: a Blondie with Mint Ice Cream. This job is so tough, isn’t it? In typical fashion, I had a few bites and then shoved my dessert over to Andy, who did not object to finishing it. I was eying the blondie on his plate and asked for the chocolate-dipped edge. He gladly shared with me. I love eating meals with my best friend. 🙂
Wine Train FAQs I found particularly interesting:
Q: Is a tip included in the price?
A: Optional tipping is solely based upon the guests’ experience on board. It is not unusual for guest to leave 3%-8% additional based upon receiving excellent service. Your tip should be on your food and beverage service (the value of your on board pre-paid meal is $55.00) per person tax included, and not the train fare.
- Q: Is Wine Included?
A: One glass of welcome wine is included with every Wine Train package for guests who are over the age of 21. Wines are included during the Vintner’s Lunches and the monthly Moonlight Escape Dinners. Cocktails, beers and wine can be purchased on board throughout your journey. More than 100 wines are on the wine list and in the Wine Tasting Car.
- Q: Do you have to drink wine on the Napa Valley Wine Train?
A: No, you do not have to drink wine on board the Napa Valley Wine Train. For our guests who do not want to drink wine, we also offer juice, soda, non-alcoholic wines, beers, cocktails and brandies.
During the 3-hour-long, 36-mile (58 km) round-trip between Napa and St. Helena, passengers can choose to enjoy a gourmet meal prepared on board. They can also sample several of the region’s wines available at the wine bar located in one of the lounge cars. The train offers optional stops for tours of Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville, Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, and a motor coach tour of Raymond Winery in St. Helena and ZD Winery in Napa for an additional fee. The train hosts several special events throughout the year including murder mystery dinner theater, vintner’s luncheons, appellation dinners and holiday excursions. Guests are invited to explore the rest of the train after the entree and prior to the dessert.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has been in operation since September 16, 1989 and has now carried more than 2 million passengers.
Here’s a list of special events on The Wine Train, including a special Valentine’s lunch and dinner.
Since I was a return guest, I was presented with some chocolates as a parting gift. (Some guests around us were repeat customers and also got chocolates as well, not just the journalist!) Since I was a little sad my mom (who lives in Ohio) was not there to enjoy this experience with us, I decided to send them to her and they are currently en route to the midwest. 🙂
The next morning, it was time to pay for all those glorious calories and the night of indulgence aboard the Wine Train. 🙂 Lucky for me, The Meritage Resort has a killer gym with a great view. And I put in over an hour on this bad boy:
Then it was time for a well needed shower, just in time for check out. Thanks for everything to the staff at The Meritage Resort and see you next time!
The Meritage Resort and Spa will host the inaugural Masters and Makers @ Meritage Napa Valley food and wine experience February 14 to February 16, 2014. This celebration will showcase Napa Valley and Sonoma County wines and farm-fresh foods through creative wine tasting experiences, seminars, culinary classes, a wine maker dinner in the Estate Cave, a wine tasting gala and more. Join The Meritage Resort’s Executive Chef, Krisztian Karkus, Master Sommeliers, including Gillian Balance from Treasury Wine Estates/Beringer and Fred Dame with Southern Wine and Spirits as well as some of the best and most well-known wine makers in the region.
The weekend of events is aimed at teaching each attendee, no matter their wine tasting background, from novice to aficionado, more about the wines the Napa Valley is famous for. Guests are able to choose from a variety of educational and fun activities throughout three days of tastings and events with master wine makers and master sommeliers making this the wine event that is not to be missed.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage begins Friday, February 14 with The Master and The Makers Tasting, an Amuse Bouche set to highlight five quintessential blended wines from the Napa Valley. Guests will taste the wines and listen as a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier taste and review each of the wines, giving their opinions and helping guests understand the art of wine tasting. The Friday night Reserve Wine Dinner in the Estate Cave will be led by Master Sommeliers as they take attendees on a food and wine journey and featuring Pine Ridge Vineyards.
On Saturday, guests are able to choose from one of three activities during the day and attend the evening wine tasting gala. The daytime activities include a Custom Wine Tour set to visit three classic Napa Valley wineries with tours and tastings at each, plus a picnic lunch. The Perfect Blending, an educational and hands-on course about what makes the perfect Bordeaux Blend including lunch and your own “Meritage Blend” with a custom wine label. Foodies may want to choose Cook to This! Trinitas Cellars Cooking Class and Wine Pairing, giving attendees the opportunity to create their own multi-course lunch with the help of culinary experts perfectly paired with wines selected by Trinitas Cellars.
The Gala and Grand Tasting on Saturday evening will transform The Grand Ballroom at The Meritage Resort into a majestic tasting room with live music and over 65 wineries from Napa Valley and Sonoma County to showcase many of the finest wines produced in the region. Alongside the wines will be endless culinary creations from the chefs at The Meritage Resort including a selection of seafood, caviars, cheeses, meats and decadent desserts.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage will close on Sunday with the farewell Bubbles & Brunch and a casual afternoon of tasting 30-40 wines at the Appellation Tasting paired with cheeses and charcuterie.
“We’re looking forward to bringing all of the premier wineries to one convenient spot to offer a premiere wine and food experience,” said Michael Palmer, general manager of The Meritage Resort and Spa. “Our goal with the Masters and Makers @ Meritage is to give attendees an exclusive weekend wine and food experience that only Napa Valley can provide.
Masters and Makers @ Meritage 3-Day All Access Passes are $509 per person, and include entry into all events on Friday, two events on Saturday (one daytime event and the evening gala) and all events on Sunday. Guests may also choose to purchase events and activities individually. Discounted room packages are also available, the $950 package includes a 3-Day All Access Passes for two and a two night stay, valid February 14-16, 2014 only. A portion of all ticket sales from The Gala and Grand Tasting will be donated to the Napa Valley’s COPE Family Center. Complete Information is available at TheMeritageResort.com/Napa-Valley-Restaurants/Masters-Makers/.
About The Meritage Resort and Spa
The Meritage Resort and Spa is an extraordinary four-diamond Napa Valley luxury resort set against a hillside vineyard. A destination unto itself, it features 322 Tuscan-inspired guestrooms and luxury suites, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine at the Siena Restaurant and wine tasting in the Estate Cave featuring Trinitas Cellars. Regain a healthful balance with curative treatments at Spa Terra—a lavish underground spa with steam grottoes, soaking pools, treatment alcoves and tranquil walls of water. The resort boasts the most comprehensive event and meeting space in the wine country, including the two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley, the Estate Cave and three covered terraces. Crush Ultra Lounge offers guests a chance to relax with a full bar, sports entertainment and six bowling lanes. Far more than a place for relaxation, our unique property is an Old World escape from the ordinary. The Meritage Resort and Spa experience is the perfect blend of gracious hospitality, unrivaled amenities and peerless personal care. The Meritage Resort and Spa, We are Napa. TheMeritageResort.com.
Last week, Andy and I had the privilege of attending a private wine tasting at Total Wine & More to select my holiday picks that will be featured in the Sacramento area Total Wine & More stores, as well as right here and right now on cavegrrl.com. For the next month, I’ll be pictured next to my wine selections (with a tag that will resemble the one below) in Sacramento area stores with a link back to this website.
Total Wine & More is pretty much my version of a Chocolate Factory and Theo Snyder is my Willy Wonka. She’s the manager of the Arden Total Wine & More, and has come to know my tastes in wine. For the tasting, she pulled several wines for me that were a refreshing departure from the normal Chardonnay and Pinot Noir picks synonymous with Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.
And now, I get to pass them on to you. As not only fantastic beverage choices that will leave your taste buds dancing, but also as picks of value. Nothing in this round up is more than $29.99 per bottle, and you could actually buy all 6 wines on my list for $112!
First up is a sparkling wine that hails from Lodi! It’s the Oak Ridge Sparkling Wine (Private Cuvee) that as far as we know is probably a bubbly made from grapes of Pinot and Chardonnay. It’s $12.99 per bottle and approachable for all of your party guests. It’s off dry, and spectacular with appetizers… a great pairing with anything that has little cheese or a buttery crust. I like sparkling wines so much I could drink them during my entire meal. 🙂
Next up is a wine made by Shenandoah Vineyards (Sobon Family Wines). It’s their 2011 Amador Chenin Viognier Blend. I don’t want to give away my favorite wine of the tasting so soon in the blog post, but I have to tell you… this is the wine I am really still thinking about a week later. It was so unique. It was earthy, buttery and had a certain petroleum characteristic to it. I really love those kinds of wine. They can stand by themselves or pair beautifully with the first course of your holiday meal! Well done, Sobons! A true gem for the $14.99 price. 🙂
For my next pick, we’ll travel into Placer County near the Newcastle/Auburn area to Dono dal Cielo. That’s the 2009 Zinfandel (Foothills) I have chosen to drink with our holiday meal. Maybe you aren’t on speaking terms with your parents, but this wine will ease the tension and have everyone singing together by the second course. It’s also the most expensive wine of my picks coming in at $29.99, but I am pretty sure that’s cheaper than therapy and a whole lot more palatable.
Let’s travel back to Lodi for a visit with one of my favorite wineries, St. Amant. They make two of my favorite local wines in existence: a Barbera and a Tempranillo (the grapes in the Tempranillo hail from Amador). You can find both the Barbera and the Tempranillo at Total Wines & More, but for today, let’s focus on their Tempranillo. Tempranillo is probably my favorite red wine. I love the subtle fruit and the earthiness of the varietal. If I see it on a wine list next to any other red wine, I always choose it. It’s typically cheaper than most other reds, but far more interesting. I would drink this Tempranillo with any of the following ingredients: mushrooms, truffle, olives, meats like pork chops, prosciutto, pancetta, etc, stews, hard cheeses.
Are you ready for a powerhouse wine? Then try the 2011 Macchia Barbera Delicious. ($21.99) Macchia is located in Lodi and makes some of the best (and more potent) wines in the region. Barbera is an Italian grape varietal is the second most widely planted grape variety in Italy. If you are into big and bold, you’ll love the Delicious. It’s an intense concentration of berries with a 14.8% alcohol content.
When God gave out wine making talent, he gave an unfair advantage to Paul Sobon. I don’t think he could make a bad wine if he tried. He’s also the winemaker behind my final holiday selection, and a perfect ending to any celebration, the 2011 Sobon Zinfandel Port ($14.00, 375 mL). Port is something I only drink on very special occasions (and usually during winter) because its sugar level is very high. I treat it like dessert: I would rather have a little glass of it with some fruit and cheese instead of a piece of pecan pie any day! Another reason I like port is because it keeps longer than other wines do in the refrigerator, so no pressure to drink it all in one day. (Even though I don’t think that will be a problem with the Sobon port!)
I’ve had the privilege of attending numerous food and wine events (at no cost to me) since I started writing about the topic in 2005. See, this website is good for something. 🙂 My love of wine began when I was about 24. Someone introduced me to a few labels you could actually get in Ohio back in 2002 without traveling very far: Yellowtail Chardonnay, Penfolds Shiraz, and Beringer (shriek) White Zinfandel. I was intrigued with wine not only because I liked the flavor and smell, but because it seemed to amplify flavors in food and make all the things I cooked taste so much better. Even the White Zinfandel 😉
So I kept drinking the very mainstream stuff until I came out to California for the first time in 2003. I visited Napa Valley and had my first winery tour at Mondavi. I also saw V. Sattui and Coppola’s estate. It was really something for me to experience. I felt something I had never felt before standing there in front of the chateau at Francis Ford Coppola Winery: like I belonged there. In California. In Napa Valley. On a Sunday. A warm, breezy afternoon, two glasses in. Feeling this warm, true, honest feeling as much as possible. This. Is. The. Life.
After my inaugural trip, I became obsessed with relocating to California and living my dream.* I worked two jobs and by June of 2004, I made it happen, moving myself and my most essential belongings 2,319 miles in my car in 3 days.
Fast forward 9 years later, and I am still loving wine, learning more about it everyday and have (not so) secret aspirations to eventually become a sommelier. In an effort to learn more and an indulgence to taste some really great selections, Andy and I recently attended a wine class at Total Wine & More led by Theo Snyder, the manager at Total Wines & More, Arden Location.
It was titled “Romancing the Rhone”. A “Bordeaux, How do I love thee … let me count the ways” class will be offered on Thursday, October 10th, from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
And does it ever. At the class, you get a printed breakdown of all the wines you’ll be trying, as well as a writing utensil to take notes. You can write all the things you liked/disliked about the wines. Theo is an encyclopedia of knowledge and I promise you, you will walk away with something you didn’t know before the class.
My mind was um, blown to say the least with this white châteauneuf-du-pape (25% Roussanne, 25% Grenache, 25% Bourboulenc and 25% Clairette) which I didn’t even know was produced/existed. That one is a must try.
We tried about 6 different wines during the class. Beyond that, they were all French wines (hence the Rhône name of the class) and very obscure to me. I don’t have the chance to try them that often, because I usually try new wines at local fundraisers and wine events, at which mostly local wines are poured. I loved having a forum to taste new things and discuss them with people of all knowledge levels. To hear feedback from other class members noting what they liked and why. And to hear Theo tell me all the stuff I didn’t know.
You can visit Total Wine & More’s facebook page here. Cheers!
But, it wasn’t a dream. It was real…
The latest cavegrrl.com getaway was to the idyllic Stonepine Estate Resort, located in Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is twelve miles inland from Carmel, (its more celebrated sibling). To be honest, I preferred Carmel Valley because of the sunshine and warmer temperatures.
The Estate boasts 330 secluded acres of gently rolling oak-studded hills, an affiliation with the Historic Hotels of America (formerly Relais & Chateaux). The Mediterranean-style Chateau (pictured above) is framed by 12 formal gardens. Chateau Noel includes eight luxuriously appointed suites, each lavishly named and decorated (with namesakes’ approval) after the Hentschels’ (the current owners of the Estate) favorite designers, champagne, china, jewelry, honeymoon location, philosopher and artist. There are also four cottages on the property: the Briar Rose, the Paddock House, the Gate House and the Hermes House.
Our visit was tailored to one of the packages now offered at Stonepine called the Carmel Valley Wine Discovery, which included:
- 2 Nights in One of Stonepine’s Houses or Cottage Accommodations
- Welcome Amenity Upon Arrival
- Full European Breakfast Each Morning
- Romantic Fireside Dinner for Two in the Chateau Noel
- Chauffeured Carmel Valley Wine Tour in the Stonepine Rolls Royce (optional upgrades to Cachagua Vineyards are available)
- Wine, Cheese and fruit at One of Stonepine’s Picturesque Venues
We were treated to a stay in the Don Quixote suite, which is actually hidden behind the wall of the library on the first floor of the Chateau Noel. The suite features a separate sitting room with fireplace, king bed, two bathrooms and French doors leading to a secluded garden and patio.
Andy and I already felt welcome and knew we were in for one of the best hosted trips I have ever experienced.
Our room boasted 2 bathrooms (a his and hers).
After rubbing our eyes and giggling in delight about the state of our room, we got ready for dinner. Typically, dinners are held in the dining room, but the staff at Stonepine had something more special in mind for us. Here’s a shot of the dining room, which is the setting for the Estate dinners.
There is another dining table alongside this one that is identical to it. There are wine bottles of everything (Palmaz, Far Niente for example)
randomly decorating the room… just waiting to be opened… 🙂
We were led into the great room which has a beautiful fireplace and a piano, to enjoy a glass of wine and some appetizers before our dinner.
Dessert was a chocolate mousse (Andy polished off both of them, and I didn’t get any photos, because dessert just isn’t my thing (anymore) 😉 However, I did enjoy another glass of wine and time together in front of the fireplace with Andy. The whole setting was just unbelievable/surreal, and you have to experience it someday yourself.
The next day, we worked out and ran around the Estate. It was some of the hardest running I have done in a while… basically like a cross country course. Here’s the map:
Then it was off to breakfast. I loved the buffet spread. Plenty of Paleo options!! My favorite was the fruit salad. It had the best raspberries I have ever tasted, so I am pretty sure they were local and probably picked within a day of serving them.
Andy and I also ordered two poached eggs each, which I have found is the safest way to order eggs so that they don’t come cooked in butter or some strange oil. 🙂 They were served with a sautéed spinach and onion mix and some tomatoes.
Then a few hours later, our concierge Jordan took us wine tasting in downtown Carmel Valley. That’s him on the right. 🙂 He’s from France and pretty familiar with the grape! Our first stop was Mercy Vineyards Tasting Room located at 40 W Carmel Valley Road, Unit A, Carmel Valley. All the wines at Mercy showcase the Monterey County Arroyo Seco AVA and are sourced from three contiguous vineyards, all located in a specific part of the appellation – the dried riverbed.
The partners at Mercy come from Foley Estates. The vintners Mark and Mike have known each other over ten years and combined have been in the wine industry for over 45 years. They specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir, but also make a sauvignon blanc and a syrah. They are open for wine sales and tasting Thursday-Sunday, 11:30am-4pm.
Our next stop was Talbott Vineyards. (25 Pilot Road, Carmel Valley Village) Their tasting room is decorated with a menagerie of bikes and things with wheels, all lining the walls and hanging from the ceiling!
Talbott Vineyards is an estate winery that grows & produces Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from two of Monterey County’s grand cru sites: their Diamond T Vineyard in Carmel Valley & the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott, and the wines are crafted by Dan Karlsen.
The tasting menu at Talbott has two columns. One for Chardonnay and the other for Pinot Noir. The wines from Talbott were really something to experience. Especially the Pinot Noirs. My favorite was the RFT Pinot Noir, while Andy favored the Sarah Case Pinot. $75 per bottle. Yowza! Thanks 30% industry discount. Like a boss, Andy bought a bottle of each of them plus whatever else I liked. Thanks, Andy. 😉
Our third (and final) stop was Cima Collina. Their tasting room was also impressive, but in a different way. It looked very country-rustic. The wines were impressive as well. The winemaker at Cima is Annette Hoff and she specializes in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet blends. Andy and I also found some really nice wines to buy there, too. One of our favorites was their Chalone Pinot Blanc, and I really liked their Non-Vintage “Howlin’ Good Red (of which 25% of the profits from the sale of this wine goes to the local SPCA), so again, I made Andy buy some. 😉
The folks at Cima really made an impression on me, and I wanted to let you know about their event on October 12th. It’s a fundraiser for the Monterey County SPCA, so if you are in the area and are an animal lover, this is the event for you! See the poster in the photo below for details!
After all that tasting, I was ready to relax. Jordan drove Andy and I back to the chateau at Stonepine. We relaxed in our room for a little while ;), then shortly after, we walked across the lawn to the Waterfall Pavilion and were treated to an afternoon happy hour wine and cheese presentation. Jordan prepared several cheeses for us to sample along with a bottle of local Chardonnay by Heller. #magic #ilovecheese #jordanhowdidyouknow??
This was a book I stumbled upon in the collection of books at the Waterfall Pavilion. It was a great read! I got a kick out of reading some of the passages to Andy because he already practiced them (like a good gentleman) 😉
After our time at the Waterfall Pavilion, we decided to head out to dinner. We ended up at a place recommended by Jordan called Cafe Rustica. I will recommend the restaurant, too. We sat outside on the patio and were warmed by a little heat lamp. The food was good and my company was even better. It was a charming European bistro. I can’t wait to come back to Carmel Valley and try another one of many dining establishments. I also hear Corkscrew Cafe is a great lunch place. 🙂
The next morning we went on another run, this time a little longer. Here’s the map of that run:
Not the fastest run of my life, but at least it was a workout. 🙂 After we cleaned up, we headed for breakfast number two. I was feeling a little sad because it was almost time to leave Stonepine, and this is not a place one is eager to leave! This time for breakfast Andy and I ordered an omelet and two bowls of fruit. OK, I eat like a truck driver sometimes. Don’t judge. 😉 I gave Andy my croissant (he needed it more than I did, although I did take one bite of it). It was superb, but my omelet was even better, and once again, the fruit was so good: a mixture of 3 kinds of melon, pineapple, strawberries and raspberries. And bottomless coffee. We were spoiled!
Andy and I have agreed we will come back to Stonepine (annually, perhaps), as we love Carmel Valley so much. It’s funny because I didn’t know such a place existed even a year ago, yet so many celebrities ( Johnny Depp, Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Diane Sawyer, Brooke Shields, Bill Gates, Jim Carrey, Renee Zellweger, Warren Buffet, The Rolling Stones, Shakira and Joe Montana) have made Stonepine their destination. Now I know why. It’s a very special and private place. Once you are past those gates (and believe me, it’s a high security place for people who don’t want to be seen), it’s like stepping back in time, even into another country.
I can’t say enough about the kindness of the staff at Stonepine. They are all people I hope to see year after year. Thank you to Relevance PR for arranging my visit and a huge thank you to Gordon and Noel Hentschel for accommodating us. Stonepine Estate is one of the most lovely places we have ever experienced and I look forward to our return.
Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event: October 5th, 2013, 4-7pm
It’s that time of year again, and I can’t believe it’s already here! The Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden event presented by Cook Realty, benefitting Sierra 2 Center for the Arts & Community, McClatchy High School Drama Club and Debate Club, and Bret Harte Elementary School will take place on Saturday, October 5th, 2013 from 4-7pm at the Sierra 2 Center.
If you are a wine lover and only attend one event per year, this is the one you should experience. Make it your mission to visit Taylor’s Market wine booth to meet Dick Ebert (wine guru at Taylor’s Market) and check out “Dick’s Picks.”
cavegrrl.com readers may recall this event as especially important to me because it is where I met Andy almost 2 years ago. If you don’t know our story, here’s my post from last year to get you up to speed 🙂
This year, the event boasts more than twenty of the areas finest restaurants, fifty wineries, and a dozen breweries will be sampling their culinary treats and beverages to nearly six hundred enthusiasts within the halls and courtyards of the historic Sierra 2 Arts & community Center. Attendees will spend an indulgent three hours sampling food and drink, vying for high-end auction items and ‘experiences’, and socializing with other guests. In addition to the usual tasting rooms and outdoor pavilion, the event features an outdoor Craft and Belgian Beer Garden orchestrated by Pangaea Two Brews Café and, as a unique offering, cooking demonstrations by Roxanne O’Brien’s culinary students from American River College’s Oak Cafe.
The Wine Tasting & Silent Auction committee has confirmed some of its favorites will return again, like The Supper Club, Lucca, Aioli Bodega, Tower Café, Chops Steakhouse, Espresso Metro, Taylor’s Market, American River College’s Oak Café, Dad’s Kitchen, Gunther’s Ice Cream, and Freeport Bakery.
Scott’s Seafood will also be returning with their fabulous oyster dish. Newcomer of Wicked ‘Wich mobile food truck fame is Chris Jarosz, introducing his brick and mortar restaurant, Broderick’s.
On the beverage front, the aforementioned Dick Ebert, is again coordinating the more than fifty wineries to bring the palate to a perfect state of seduction. There will be no shortage of ways to pair the food options with the beverages flowing from table to table, with representatives on hand to answer questions and provide suggestions.
As tantalizing as the gustatory elements might be, they’re not the only aspects of the event that patrons look forward to. Each year over one-hundred fifty items are put up for bid on silent auction or included in a raffle. The spa certificates, unique art and photography pieces, ceramic sculpture, “green building” consultations, fencing lessons, and musical instruments have no problems finding bidders. But the items that cause the most stir are the experience-based packages and the private group dinners. These ‘experience packages’ combine the best in educational and cultural outings, culinary and gustatory adventures, and outdoor recreation experiences. Vacation rental packages for Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, and Cabo San Lucas will surely get even the most reluctant bidder in the game.
In addition to the art, entertainment, and service donations, we have lined up such things as Date Night packages, Private wine tastings in Napa, Cut your own organic Christmas Tree outing, Create the Flavor of the Month at Gunther’s Ice Cream and more. Italian language classes packaged with Italian delicacies and Chianti, Date-night packages including restaurant and entertainment vouchers, private wine-tasting experiences at wineries, and the opportunity to create the ‘Flavor of the Month’ at Gunther’s Ice Cream are small representatives of what will be offered this year. Not to be missed!
One of the most fun and unique aspects of the Curtis Park Wine Tasting & Silent Auction event is the ‘neighborhood dinners’—privately hosted, themed events for six or more people, donated to SCNA for individual seat purchase by neighbors. This year, more than a dozen of these “dinners” will include themes such as southern-style Kentucky Derby Day brunch, a ‘Pub Crawl’, French and Indian cuisine, Specialty Wine and Cheese pairings, and more.
The Sierra 2 Center for the Arts and Community is a charming, Andalusian Spanish Revival-style stucco building built in 1923 as an elementary school.
Located on three lushly landscaped acres in the beautiful Curtis Park neighborhood within easy reach of midtown and downtown Sacramento, the historic site was saved from demolition by SCNA in 1979. SCNA’s members and community volunteers renovated the school, transforming it into a non-profit center for artistic, cultural and educational activities.
Included as a beneficiary of the event in 2013 are two groups that are as important to the development of young people in our community as any: the C.K. McClatchy High School Drama Club and the Debate Club. SCNA is proud to promote and support these two groups through our fundraising efforts. Additionally, local school Bret Harte Elementary has been gifted with $30,000 since 2003 for its participation in the event.
The remainder of the event proceeds goes to the upkeep and restoration of the Sierra 2 Center, and to support SCNA initiatives such as the operation of the Senior Center at Sierra 2, hosting neighborhood gatherings such as Music in the Park and children’s playgroups, the artisan festival in William Curtis Park-Curtis Fest, and enhancing general neighborhood quality of life.
Advance tickets thru 10/2: $35 SCNA Members; $45 Non-members. Tickets from 10/3 to event day are $50 for everyone. To purchase tickets or receive more information on the Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association’s 23rd Annual Wine Tasting & Silent Auction, please call the Sierra 2 Center at (916) 452-3005. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sierra2.org thru 10/2. The Sierra 2 Center is located at 2791 24th Street, Sacramento, 95818
The American Red Cross Capital Region Chapter invites you to Tablescapes 2013 on Thursday, September 26th, 2013, at Pottery World, located at 4419 Granite Drive, Rocklin, CA 95667. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. and lasts until 9:00 p.m.
The Tiffany Circle, Society of Women Leaders, of the American Red Cross, is a powerful leadership network of women who want to change lives and strengthen communities through a focused investment of their time, talent and treasure.
Join us for this magnificent annual American Red Cross event and mingle with interior designers, event planners, florists, and artists showcasing themed table setting displays. Gather ideas for every occasion and holiday, as you enjoy live music, wine tasting and light refreshments. Cast your vote for the best design and see how your vote matches up to our panel of local celebrity judges.
Bring your checkbooks as Pottery World is generously offering 15% off all purchases made at this event and 10% of all sales proceeds will go directly to the American Red Cross.
Discounted tickets may also be purchased in advance at Pottery World for $25.
AUBURN, Calif., July 16, 2013—Many Sacramento residents aren’t aware that there are nearly 20 award-winning wineries right in their own backyard—along the Placer County Wine Trail. The trail runs from Lincoln to Loomis, Newcastle to Auburn and up into Meadow Vista, which is also convenient for Reno and Tahoe residents. On August 3rd and 4th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Placer County vintners invite local residents to try the region’s noteworthy wines at Grape Days of Summer, a farm-to-table wine tasting event.
Vintners are partnering with local restaurants and artisans for the annual event in which attendees will enjoy wine and barrel tastings, complementary fare, live music, vineyard tours and educational experiences. Educational activities will include sessions on winemaking, farming, sustainable practices in the vineyard and more. Tickets are $30 per person in advance and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/vKYTb3, $40 per person at the door.
Highlights of Grape Days of Summer include:
- Celebrate local agriculture at Le Casque with an Alpaca demonstration, hayrides and a historical farm tour. Food provided by Flower Farm Catering.
- Dono dal Cielo will feature the local sounds of Ghost of the Opera House on Saturday afternoon and Two Barrels Shy on Sunday afternoon. Karen McGillivray, the winery’s owner, will lead educational vineyard tours at 12 and 2 p.m. both days and food will be provided by the Chef’s Table.
- Have a “A Zinful Experience!” at Lone Buffalo Vineyards, where you’ll experience an interactive sensory tasting, sip the winery’s gold medal-winning 2010 Thunder Beast Zinfandel, and enjoy grass-fed bison and PlacerGROWN beef sliders prepared by Café’ Zorro’s Gourmet Garage Catering.
- Popie Wines and Ciotti Cellars will provide an interactive bottling session of a special PlacerGROWN blend of wine and the High Hand Café will provide food & wine pairings.
- Wise Villa Winery will offer guests live music and gourmet tastes from its on-site bistro.
For a Grape Days of Summer event map and other information, visit www.placerwine.com.
ABOUT PLACER COUNTY VINTNERS ASSOCIATION:
The Placer County Wine Trail is organized by the Placer County Vintners Association, a nonprofit association created to provide a forum for wineries to collaborate on events and programs. Together the Association also develops marketing programs to raise awareness of the Placer County wine region. The group believes that sharing best practices with all county wineries inspires the vintners to provide a high quality experience for winery visitors. For more information and maps, visit www.placerwine.com or call (916) 663‐4486.
Supported by Placer County, PlacerGROWN is the information source dedicated to educating residents about the freshest agricultural products the region has to offer. Through its website, social media channels, and other outreach programs, PlacerGROWN connects community members with the farms, orchards, ranches, wineries, nurseries, farmers’ markets and specialty food stores in one of the most diverse growing areas in Northern California. To discover the bounty of agricultural products produced by farmers who call Placer County home, or for more information about PlacerGROWN, visit www.placergrown.org.
The Placer County Wine Trail runs from Lincoln to Loomis to Newcastle and Auburn and is easily accessible from I-80 and Highway 49.
Photo Credit: Barry L Walton
Ultimate wine pairing: Rhubarb Ketchup and New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc.
Yes, believe me. It happened. I made butternut squash fries and a nifty little “ketchup” to pair with them. It turns out that the wine I happened to also be sampling was a perfect match for the tangy, tart New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc.
Here’s the recipe, it’s very simple.
3 stalks rhubarb
1/2 large yellow onion
2 Tbs molasses
3 packets of stevia or 2 Tbs honey
1 tsp salt
Chop rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and finely dice the onion. Heat 1 Tbs olive oil in a pot and sauté the onion until it’s translucent. Then turn down the heat to low-ish/medium and add the rhubarb. Then add the molasses, salt, and stevia, and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook on low heat until the mixture becomes a thick ketchup consistency.
Its just that easy. Serve on top of potatoes, pork, chicken, or better yet, lamb burgers!
Happy 4th of July! 🙂
“Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not…”
I feel extremely lucky right now. I live in a small one bedroom condo and the air conditioning works great. I have access to a pool. I might not have a lot of money, but I am counting my blessings now that I have a steady job and the financial bleeding has stopped (until something else dastardly happens). 😉
This week’s temperature predictions top anything I have ever seen since I have been here (it’s my 9th summer) and according to Andy (a life-long Sacramentan) anything he has ever lived through as well. It’s supposed to be 109° today, but rather than bitch about it (like most people) I am going to swim, tan, sweat, drink water, eat ice and just get through it with a smile on my face. I’d like to apologize for said face in advance: melted, smeared and greasy! Ah, the fresh look of summer! Also, there will be lots of bad, half fixed hair (wig) days. Again, sorry. 😦
To help YOU make it through the swelter, [yellow tail] Wines has sent me this lovely beach kit, which I am going pass on to one lucky reader. I want to help [yellow tail] introduce their latest wines: The [yellow tail] Pink Moscato (with notes of strawberry and watermelon) and Sweet White Roo (flavors of tropical fruit and lemon sorbet)! They’re a perfect match for your backyard BBQ or bringing to the beach (screwtops!)
The Summer Survival Wine Kit (pictured above) Contains:
One bottle [yellow tail] Pink Moscato
One bottle [yellow tail] Sweet White Roo
One huge beach towel
One pair sunglasses
Set of plastic wine glasses
One straw hat
One pair of sandals
…All in one big pink tote! (sorry, ice cubes not included!)
OK wine lovers (especially you sangria people out there, because this wine makes a great base for sangria or summer cocktail!) 🙂 The Summer Survival Kit is up for grabs for anyone local to Sacramento!
To win, please share this post via twitter or Facebook and leave a comment below. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 4th of JULY? 🙂 Feel free to share a link to your favorite recipe or blog!
I’ll pick a winner on the morning of July 3rd, so you can have your bag o’ fun by the 4th of July! Stay cool out there. xo
Remember a few weekends ago when Sacramento felt hotter than Christie Brinkley in the Uptown Girl video? (Here’s a link for the children in the audience). Well, Andy and I were able to escape the brutality (before melting) on a little getaway in Carmel, kindly hosted by the Hofsas House Hotel.
It happened to be my birthday weekend, which made the trip even more awesome. And again, so happy to have Andy in my life and to treat him to fun couple of days in return for treating me to great wine and occasional dinners out, as well as most of dinners made at his home on the weekend. Below is the front of the part of the hotel in which we stayed. I have never seen such great landscaping in my life as I saw in Carmel. All the flowers and plants just seem to love the cool (but not cold) climate.
Upon on our arrival, this spread of wine and cheese (from The Cheese Shop) was waiting for us (a $30 upgrade for hotel patrons), along with a lot of information about the hotel, and two passports for The Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea.
For visitors to Carmel, the wine tasting passport is $65 which entitles the buyer to one $10 flight at each of the ten tasting rooms. It can be used in one day or spread out over a weekend, several weeks, or even months. The Wine Tasting Passport is available for purchase at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th in Carmel-by-the-Sea or for purchase online here.
The Wine Walk by-the-Sea is a self-paced self-guided stroll to ten tasting rooms in the 1×1 square mile of Carmel-by-the-Sea: Blair Estate, Caraccioli Cellars, DeTierra Vineyards, Figge Vineyards, Galante Vineyards, Manzoni Cellars, Scheid Vineyards, Shale Canyon Wines, Vino Napoli and Wrath Wines.
Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea offers the opportunity to savor superior still and sparkling wines without ever having to think about transportation, parking, or even dinner plans. Each tasting room on the Wine Walk will offer recommendations for dinner or call to make reservations. As an added bonus, corkage is waived for bottles purchased at a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea tasting room at participating restaurants for one bottle per visit, per party. You can find Carmel Wine Walk-by-the-Sea on Facebook here, or follow them on twitter here.
We decided to wait until the next day for the wine walk, as we had dinner reservations at 7:30pm at Mundaka. Before dinner, we sat on the balcony of our room, enjoying the wine and cheese left for us and the beautiful view on an unusually warm evening.
We also were treated to the Sunset Beach Package (available July-October 2013).
The Hofsas House Sunset Beach package Includes: Wood and starter for a 3 x 3 foot beach fire, Comfy oversized beach blankets to relax upon, all the fixings for s’mores including marshmallows, Hershey bars, graham crackers and long handled roasting sticks (for 10 people), and a safety flashlight.
Total cost for this upgrade is $60. Return the beach package tote bag and skewers and you will receive a $10 refund. Beach fire must be ordered from the Hofsas House 24 hours in advance and subject to availability. This particular package can be booked through the Hofsas House concierge or if reserving online use Booking Code: HHSunset.
Speaking of upgrades, there are several at Hofsas House. Other packages available are:
1. In-room his and her couples massages starting at $160 for 45 minutes.
2. Hotel room decoration (for a special event: anniversary or birthday theme) for $75.
3. Beach fire setup including flowers, s’mores, blanket, flashlight and message in the sand for $139.
4. Golf add-ons (Hofsas has partnerships with 6 area courses) starting at $65 per person (including cart).
5. Two-for-one admission Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets.
6. Champagne and cheese pairing with Hofsas House engraved flutes.
Included with your stay at Hofsas House is a continental breakfast, abundant with fresh French Roast coffee, tea, juice, fruit and pastries from a neighborhood bakery. For those of you like myself who do not eat wheat, there is also fruit available. Most importantly, there is a refrigerator in your room, and you can pack necessary breakfast items. We brought a Tupperware container full of cantaloupe. Below is a picture of the lobby, warm and welcoming.
Below is a shot of the Brut Rosé from Caraccioli Cellars. We stopped at two wineries on the Carmel Wine Walk By-the-Sea and Caraccioli was one of them. If you’re lucky, a sweet young lady named Anyssa will wait on you. You can find them on Facebook here. And on twitter here.
The other tasting room, and actually part art gallery we stopped by was Figge Cellars. Along with superb wines, the tasting room was also a unique art gallery with pieces like the one below. You can find them on Facebook here and on Twitter here.
In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Theis family is celebrating six decades of European hospitality in this Bavarian-inspired Hofsas House Hotel.
The Hofsas House Hotel is within walking distance of everything Carmel has to offer, including a stunning beach, fine restaurants and shops, and the aforementioned wine tasting. It provides peaceful respite and European charm just minutes from Monterey, Pebble Beach, Big Sur and Pacific Grove. The Hofsas House’s 38 spacious, one-of-a-kind rooms boast European comfort and lovely views, not to mention amenities like fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, kitchens and patios. Large suites provide the perfect stay for newlyweds and everyone else seeking an extra special getaway. Dutch doors in every room allow guests to welcome in the ocean air, and free WiFi enables them to stay connected if they wish.
The Hofsas House Hotel family works to ensure every visitor’s experience is special, striving to offer the highest quality personal services. or the personalized concierge services for guests and their families, including their four-legged family members, who are welcome, as well. The pet fees are as follows: $25 fee per night for one dog, and $40 per night for two dogs. If you mention you would like the “Tail Wagging Package” you’ll get these items with your room upon arrival:
1. A Hofsas House dog frisbee
2. Special dog bed
3. Letter from the onsite pet concierge Cajun
4. Tips and recommendations for your four-legged friends stay
5. A Package of treats
6. Coastal Canine Magazine
7. A special amenity package from California Pup
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.
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 wineries and restaurants we visited during our stay.
It was very convenient that it happened to be our montha-versary 😉
Sunday morning, June 2nd, Andy ran the Lake Chabot Half Marathon. It’s worth noting because he finished 27th out of 179 runners, and it was trail run. (Meaning rather treacherous and very hilly at times).
Then we were off to Sonoma for a night’s stay at MacArthur Place Hotel. I was approached a few months ago via email to schedule a visit to this former 19th century estate just few blocks from Sonoma’s Historic Plaza. Now, MacArthur Place is a luxurious 64-room retreat and spa. I’m not kidding when I tell you: this place is magical.
Each of the Inn’s 64 rooms and suites are individually designed. Suites include special touches like fireplaces, original art, 2-person hydrotherapy tubs and patios or balconies that overlook the estate’s opulent gardens. The in-room shampoos and soaps are made locally with grapeseeds from neighboring vineyards, organic olive oil, lavender and rosemary.
These are beautifully appointed rooms, rich with woods and luxuriant bedding, some with outdoor showers, many with decks where you can sunbathe in privacy. Yes, please.
Upon check in (we stayed in the Azalea suite), I was greeted by a card and a box of chocolate truffles.
Here are some interior shots of our suite:
I was so excited when I saw the room. It also had a fireplace that could be seen from the huge tub/hot tub.
We decided to change into our swimsuits and enjoy the pool area before dinner. We brought a bottle of dry rosé and some plastic cups and laid out in the sun. It was heavenly. I thought about the fact that we had to check out the very next day and I became momentarily depressed! 😉
Then it was off to Happy Hour, because Lord knows, I can’t miss complimentary wine. 😉 MacArthur Place offers a daily Happy Hour in the Library complete with good local wines and appetizers (cheese, fruit, and crackers) – just enough to get your appetite going for dinner. If you’re lucky, you’ll get Cynthia pouring your wine for you!!
Speaking of dinner, the Inn’s restaurant Saddles is housed in a century old barn that was designed to replicate the barn at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Originally used to house prize Trotter horses and buggies, the Barn is now home to a top-of-the-line steakhouse featuring a wide selection of Prime, Grass Fed and Dry Aged Beef. After Happy Hour in the library, we headed to our room to gussy up again, and then we walked across the property to Saddles Steakhouse.
During that walk, I encountered the largest wall of jasmine I had ever seen! 🙂 It’s just about my favorite thing that grows wild here in California.
Though not gluten-free, we did try out the bread. Come on, it’s brioche, housemade, and comes with two different spreads. If you’re going to treat yourself, this is the time to do it! 🙂
Andy ordered the Oysters on the Half Shell with house mignonette, and I ordered the Chopped Iceberg Lettuce with bacon, tomatoes & a blue cheese dressing. My plan was to cut up my steak and eat it with the salad… BOOM! Steak salad with blue cheese! 🙂
The next morning, the treadmill was waiting for me. The gym at MacArthur Place is small, yet you can still get the job done. There’s an elliptical, a treadmill, a bike and some other standard gym equipment (weights, mats, etc.). You can also opt to run outside, like Andy did.
The grounds of MacArthur Park are particularly lovely. There are statues made from different mediums everywhere. One piece of giant artwork are these life-sized stone chess pieces sitting on a giant chess board.
MacArtur Park Hotel also offers complimentary continental breakfast (inside Saddles Restaurant) from 7am-10am. Andy and I were able to grab some fruit and a few other things before we checked out and headed back to Sacramento.
This Thursday evening, February 7th from 6:30 to 8:30pm, 33rd Street Bistro & Rick Kushman present Kushman on Wine and Food. He will be educating you about wine and maybe a few other bonus items, who knows?!? Fun, humor, conversation, knowledge are guaranteed. This month’s topic is Chardonnay (How much oak?), Pinot Noir (Rich? Bright? Other?) and Cabernet (What do you really like?). Tickets are $35 (on sale at the door and at 33rd Street Bistro) and include appetizers. I took a class lead by Rick last summer at Lava Cap Winery and it was a lot of fun! Don’t miss out!
Last week I was sent two boxes of wine samples from TastingRoom.com, a unique online retailer that enables consumers to discover and consume wine in several formats. The company is currently promoting a new series of celebrity chef wine samplers, curated by Chef Emeril Lagasse.
The two collections, Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler and Emeril’s Everyday Sampler, include Emeril’s favorite wines from around the country, his suggested wine and food pairings for every meal, and customized tasting notes.
Emeril’s Holiday Party Sampler is a party-helper that offers the perfect pairing from Thanksgiving to New Years and every occasion in between. Priced at $39.95 per wine sampler, the collection includes:
- 2010 Schug Carneros Chardonnay
- 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
- 2010 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
- 2007 Jake-Ryan Cellars Bald Mtn. Vineyard Zinfandel
- 2009 Gundlach Bundschu Sonoma Valley Merlot
- 2009 Clayhouse “Show Pony” Red Cedar Vineyard Paso Robles Petite Sirah
Emeril’s Everyday Sampler is a hand-selected collection of wines ideal for long lunches with friends or everyday dinners with the family. Priced at $32.95 per wine sampler, the collection includes:
- 2011 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc
- 2010 Dr. Frank Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling
- 2010 Coppola “Director’s Cut” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
- 2010 Il Cuore “The Heart” Mendocino County Barbera
- 2010 Decoy Winery Sonoma County Merlot
- 2010 Fess Parker Santa Barbara County Syrah
We brought the Everyday Sampler with us on our recent trip to Ixtapa, and enjoyed tasting the wines on our private patio outside our hotel room. This past weekend, we brought the Holiday Sampler with us to Incline Village and played a little game of “guess the varietal”. The bottles are really the perfect size for tasting (even shared by two people), and serve just the right amount to sense the wines properly (tannins, bouquet, color).
TastingRoom.com‘s innovative wine samplers are curated collections of six premium wines from around the world packaged in small 50ml (1.7 oz.) bottles. Their wines by the glass allow consumers to enjoy a single 100ml (3.4 oz.) glass of wine (singles or 4-packs) similar to a restaurant experience but without leaving home. TastingRoom.com‘s wine club allows members to make their own selections for each shipment, which includes a sampler and two bottles of the recipient’s choice. Whether it’s by the taste, by the glass or by the bottle, TastingRoom.com lets consumers enjoy wine the way they want it.
TastingRoom Inc. uses its patented TASTE Technology™ to transfer wine directly from regular-sized wine bottles (750ml and up) into smaller formats. A focus on wine quality drives every step of the transfer and testing process so that wineries and consumers alike can rest assured that the samples are a true representation of the original. TastingRoom.com customers can be confident they will enjoy every bottle they buy because they are able to sample the wine prior to making a purchase.
Our latest trip in Napa centered around a birthday present for my boyfriend Andy. It was tickets to a Robert Cray show at the Uptown Theatre. Once I found out about the concert, I obtained the seats, and then immediately started planning the rest. I knew just the show and possibly getting a place to stay would be more than enough, but I wanted to plan some wine tastings the day of the show.
There are literally hundreds of wineries from which to choose when you visit Napa, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, etc, but I wanted to choose an extra special tasting. Last time we visited Napa, we went to Nichelini Winery for their Rosé of Cabernet release. We talked to one of the tasting room managers, Doug, at length about the area wineries and which ones were the best. Andy brought up Opus One and asked Doug if he thought that Opus One was worth the hype. And he said it was. He urged us to visit. Andy’s eyes widened and he promised Doug we would go there.
Of course, seeing Andy’s reaction… that curiosity and wonder…I wanted to make sure the visit happened sooner than later. I won’t lie. I had never tried Opus One, and I too was curious. I wanted to learn more about the classic wine and the history behind it. So, even before I booked a place for us to sleep for the night, I set our tasting appointment at Opus One. A full two months from the day we were set to visit. I was so excited about the tasting, but I kept it to myself for as long as I could! Eventually, none of the Napa Valley trip I had lined up as a birthday present would stay a secret. I had to begin promoting the Robert Cray concert, the Best Western Inn at the Vines, Opus One, Far Niente, and Tarla Mediterranean Grill. I wanted the first birthday that Andy spent with me to be extra special, and I think it was!
We met our host Adrian at the front desk inside the Opus One facility. We checked in, and then Adrian took us outside to the vineyards out front. He began to tell us the story of how the wine was born. It was a joint venture of Baron Phillippe de Rothschild (of Château Mouton Rothschild) and Robert Mondavi. They started making the wine in 1979 and in 1984, released the 1979 and 1980 vintages simultaneously. Phillippe chose the “Opus” (a musical term) because he wanted the name to have a Latin origin and be easily recognized in different romantic languages.
As soon as 1985, Opus One became known as America’s first ultra-premium wine, establishing a category of wine priced at $50 and above per bottle. In 1989, a year after Baron de Phillippe’s death, ground breaking for Opus One Winery takes place (July). Construction of the winery is finished by 1991.
I didn’t even come to California until 2004. That’s when the winery’s board of directors placed CEO David Pearson in charge and wholly responsible for Opus One. Michael Silacci is named the winemaker, the first winemaker that would oversee both viticulture and winemaking. That same year, Constellation Brands, Inc. purchases Robert Mondavi Corporation and with it, 50% ownership of Opus One.
In 2005, an agreement between Baroness Phillippe de Rothschild and Constellation Brands allows Opus One to uphold operating independence in the areas of: vineyard management, sales and marketing, and administration.
And in 2012, there we were. Standing in front of the magnificent structure and looking out across the vineyards. The fruit was nearly ready to be picked and a deep purple. I was intoxicated by the experience without yet having a sip! Adrian led Andy and I into the lab where corks are tested for TCA (the compound responsible for a “corked” wine). The testing done on the cork samples is so successful in detecting TCA, that less than 1% of all Opus One wine produced ends up “corked”!
We went on to tour the production facility, and saw some of the machines used to de-stem the fruit and kick out any less than perfect fruit. Then we were taken to another room where the barrels are laid out several single rows. It reminded me of a theater, only instead of seats, barrels lined the ground. And then, it was time to taste the wine. We were led into a little boutique with a table and three chairs, and six glasses poured for the three of us. Two vintages of Opus One each. The 2004, and the 2008.
The 2004 is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. It has 25 days skin contact and was barrel aged 17 months in new French oak barrels. (PS: The barrels used to age wines at Opus One are not re-used for Opus One. They are used once and then sold to other wineries.
The 2008 is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec. It has 22 days skin contact and was barrel aged 17 months in new French oak.
I could list the tasting notes written in my press kit, or even list some of mine, but I really believe wine tastes different for everyone. I will tell you that I preferred the 2008 over the 2004, even from the first smell. Even as both wines oxidized in the time we were sitting there. From beginning to end, for me, 2008 won hands down. I won’t go as far as to say that the 2008 Opus One was the best thing I have ever tasted, but I will definitely put it in the top 3. I will put the experience and the tour and how thrilled I was to be there with Andy as my favorite so far.
Another point I want to make is that this wine is so balanced and brilliant, it doesn’t need food. In fact, food would definitely mess things up.
We sat in our tasting room and sipped the wines and reflected on them. We had containers in which to pour any wine we didn’t want/like, etc. Who ever uses those? Especially tasting Opus One? 😉
At the end of the tasting, Adrian directed us to the terrace on top of the building. We stood there and enjoyed the view, and then Adrian brought us another tasting! This time it was the 2003 vintage of Opus One. The 2003 is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot, and 1% Malbec. I liked it the least of all the vintages I tried, but even at that it was still divine!
I highly recommend the tour and tasting, as it is only $40 per person at the time of this column. It’s one of my best memories in the Napa Valley/Oakville area. 🙂 Cheers!!
Here’s a press release from my friends at the California State Fair!! 🙂
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2012) – The state’s finest winemakers, vineyards and wineries will be honored on Aug. 18, when California’s Grape & Gourmet – the country’s largest tasting of award-winning wines – returns to Cal Expo.
The 17th annual Grape & Gourmet is a celebration of the prestigious California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, the oldest wine competition in the United States.
Winners were announced in June and will receive their awards at Grape & Gourmet, prior to the public tasting and wine sales.
The public event is 3-6 p.m. in Cal Expo’s air-conditioned Building A/B. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 at the door. Online group sales of 10 or more are $35 per person. To purchase tickets, go to http://www.calexpo.com
Award-winning wine will be available for sale by the bottle and case. Proceeds benefit the Friends of the California State Fair’s scholarship program, which this year awarded a total of $32,750 to 27 students.
California’s Grape & Gourmet features pours of the State Fair’s medal-winning wines, award-winning beer from the State Fair’s Commercial Craft Brew Competition, award-winning cheese from the Fair’s cheese competition, and samplings of great food from area restaurants.
In this year’s Commercial Wine Competition, 2,890 entries were received from 688 participating wineries. Seventy-two judges on 18 panels awarded 2,156 medals, including 74 Double Gold, 268 Gold, 1,195 Silver and 734 Bronze.
Complete results of the wine competition appear in “California Wine” magazine, a publication of the California State Fair, which will be available at the event and at Save Mart Supermarkets in the near future.
SPECIAL TREAT (or not)!! Archive post from cakegrrl.com below!!
Here are a few pics from the event a few years ago. (The last time they had it indoors at Cal Expo, and wayyy before I was Paleo).
Shout out to the Bread Store for the Ciabatta loaf I scored at the end of the night and the olive loaf they gave to my stunning mystery companion. Mulvaney’s was serving two refreshing sorbets–one with mint, maybe basil in there too? The other one was fig. Both fantastic! 🙂
Wine lovers are invited to enjoy A Divine Affair on Friday, May 25, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Grand Oak Ballroom and Garden Terrace at the Jackson Rancheria Hotel.
The event features dozens of Northern California wineries, plus food and entertainment.
Tickets are $30 in advance and are available online or at the Dreamcatcher’s Club® in the Casino.
The day of the event tickets are $35 and must be purchased at the Dreamcatcher’s Club® (no tickets available online or by phone on May 25). Must be 21 to attend.
Tickets include a complimentary wine glass and tray, wine tasting and food. Wine purchases may be ordered, but must be shipped by or picked up at the winery.
Live entertainment will include a smooth unplugged show by the Rhythm Vandals and acoustic melodies by Manny Sousa.
A portion of the proceeds benefit the Amador County Recreation Agency and the Jackson Rancheria Parks and Fields Restoration Fund.