A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of a media preview at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for the unveiling of their 46th floor lounge, Cityscape. Cityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).
It’s hard to leave out hyperboles when describing the Cityscape Lounge, because it’s almost too pretty to believe. I was giddy as we rode the elevator up and as I watched the number climb on the display. Once inside the lounge, I was awestruck.
The Cityscape has a 360-degree view of San Francisco and beyond. Through it’s 14ft floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Transamerica Pyramid, Chinatown, AT&T Park, the Marin Headlands, Nob Hill, Oakland, and giant barges on the Bay. Now that Cityscape Lounge is open to the public, it’s at the top of my list for must-see sites in the City.
“No two days look the same from Cityscape, where San Francisco weather flows over the ever changing skyline,” said Lenny Gumm, general manager, Cityscape. “What doesn’t change are the views and the great food and drinks to enjoy with them.”
Lenny Gumm is a veteran bar and lounge manager in which he’s held positions with several local watering holes, including Hotel Rex, One Market Restaurant, Temple Nightclub, DOSA Restaurant, La Urbana and the Four Seasons.
And instead of trying to put anymore of what I saw into words, below are the photos I took and a Facebook live video I broadcasted that evening to give you a full view of the space!
The tables, couches and seats line the windows inside the lounge, which means wherever you are seated, you’ll have a magnificent view. If that’s not enough, here’s a peek at some of the libations and nibbles available to enjoy!
This is one of the drinks from the Cityscape’s signature cocktail menu (drinks all named after areas in San Francisco)––the Mission: Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, St. Germain, ruby red grapefruit, and lime. Other selections include a Russian Hill: Stoli Elit Vodka, Cointreau, white cranberry, and fresh citrus, a Pacific Heights: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, squeeze of lemon, a Noe Valley: Tito’s Vodka, Aperol, lemon, agave nectar, splash of Prosecco, just to name a few. The full offering of specialty drinks as well as a list of wines and beer available can be found here.
The media group and I also previewed the Cityscape‘s menu of small plates, designed especially to be enjoyed with the signature cocktails. The appetizers were all neatly arranged on a shelf and we were encouraged to sample all of them and as many as we wanted.
A Cheese and Charcuterie Plate with Beet Pickled Egg, Quince, Grain Mustard, Olives, Black Garlic and a Selection of fine Meats and Cheeses.
The Ahi-Salmon Hamachi Poke with Sweet Onion, Inamona Jus, Micro Wasabi, and Lotus Root Chips
I brought Catherine Enfield of Munchie Musings as my guest and it was a fab Girls’ Night Out. The bonus of the evening was parking the car and never leaving the hotel, so in a way, it was actually a Girls’ Night In!
The photo below is a shot of the suite on the 26th floor (also inside tower one), where the Hilton was kind enough to let me stay for the night. There is a balcony outside the room and a fairly large patio with outside seating to enjoy the views (also incredible at a 26th floor level). I can’t wait to go back and spend the night there again!
The next morning, Catherine and I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Urban Tavern, located on the lobby level of the Hilton. Below is a You Tube video of items available (everything!) on the buffet. I was really impressed by the Congee bar with several toppings, as well as the availability of healthy items. (There’s also lots of pastry, cereal, bread, bagels, too, if that’s your thing.)
Cityscape Lounge is open seven days a week from 5pm-Midnight. You can find the Hilton San Francisco Union Square on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sacramento is a food lover’s paradise this time of year and there are two upcoming events I’d like to tell you about happening this month. Special thanks to The Grid Agency for passing along the information to me!
The first event is called A Taste of New Sacramento in Old Sacramento. It will take place on Sunday, October 9, 2016 from 11:00 AM-4:00 PM at the Delta King Hotel.
Wineries including: Cate Ao Vinho, Lone Buffalo Vineyards, Boeger Winery, Fiddletown Winery, Lava Cap Winery, Van Ruiten Family Winery, J and K Estate Wines, Haraszthy Winery, Merlo Family Vineyards, Cabana Winery, Carvalho Family Winery, Balletto Vineyards & Winery, Bogle Vineyards and Winery. Jeff Runquist Wines, Van Ruiten Winery
And restaurants present will be: Roxie Deli & Barbeque, Sactown Bar and Grill, Ten 22, Indo Cafe, Vallejo’s Restaurant, Bingo B.B.Q, Kupros, Cabana Winery & Bistro, Shady Lady Saloon, Blue Prynt Restaurant, Coin-Op Game Room, Dad’s Kitchen, and Drewski’s.
Proceeds benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. Featuring a live adoption run by Front Street Animal Shelter. Tickets are $45 and can be purchased here.
But, wait, there’s more….
The weekend after that, Smoke on the River rolls into town on Saturday, October 15th, 2016 from 1pm to 5pm at 2700 Marina View.
The event is hosted by Sacramento Artists Council, Inc. with its friend and sponsor The Grid Agency. Smoke on the River is a fundraiser for Sacramento Artists Council and will raise money for art programs that assist at-risk children, children of homeless families and fund adopt a school art programs for Sacramento Regional Schools.
Smoke on the River is a state championship and Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned event. The event will feature a People’s Choice BBQ award and tastings, People’s Choice award for Best Beer and Best Cider, live entertainment from Swimming in Bengal and Sacramento Jazz Project, and beer tastings provide by local breweries.
There will also be a corn hole tournament at the event with prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
Full Access Pre-sale Tickets including unlimited tastes of BBQ and Craft Beer/Cider are $35 + 2.75% convenience fee and $40 with a 2.75% convenience fee for credit cards at the door. You can purchase and see other ticket options here.
Featured breweries will be:
Sierra Nevada Brewing
Firestone Walker Brewing
Dust Bowl Brewing
Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Device Brewing Company
Track 7 Brewing
Mike Hess Brewing
UP IN SMOKE
Too Ashamed to Name BBQ
Bones Sauce n Harmony
The Smoking’ GrOVENators
Old Chico BBQ
Ric’s Righteous Ribs
Papa Bobs Backyard BBQ
Smokin Slabz BBQ
Big Poppa Smokers
Bones N Brews BBQ
Five Hundy BBQ
The Smoking J’s
Smokey Luv BBQ
Canyon Riders BBQ
2 Rolling Bones
Fat Dad’s Barbeque
Hickory and Spice BBQ
Smokin’ the 916
Smokey Valley Q
Ed’s Smoked Out BBQ
Smokin Fatboyz BBQ
Daddy O’s Smokin’ BBQ
Pipin’ Hot Smokers
The Brothers Throwdown
Git R Smoked
Big O and MO BBQ
J&J Smokin BBQ
Son of Smoke
G & Pops BBQ
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.
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.
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.
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.)
Sacramento Hotel Association Fundraiser Farm-to-Fork Fall Fundraiser set for September 29th at Hyatt Regency Sacramento
The Board of Directors of the Sacramento Hotel Association is proud to announce that the Association is expanding its community service activities with a new fundraiser as part of its program: The Hospitality Industry Helping in the Community. For 2016, the new fall fundraiser—set for September 29 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento—will benefit two local organizations that work with youth in our community.
• Festive Farm-to-Fork Food Stations from local hotels and restaurants
• Craft Beer Tastings from local brewers
• Wine Tastings from area vintners
• Silent Auction of delightful gifts and prize packages
• Musical Entertainment
Tickets—$35 plus processing fee per person Buy your tickets HERE.
About the Beneficiary Organizations
SkateMD is a nonprofit with a mission to heal hearts by spreading kindness and skateboarding to special populations of children facing developmental, physical, emotional or family challenges. SkateMD serves special populations of children who may not otherwise be able to pursue skateboarding, who may not have easy access to skateboard equipment or facilities, and/or who just need some extra kindness in their lives.
Sacramento Sheriff’s Toy Project functions as the charitable arm of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s Toy Project is a year-round program supporting the less fortunate children and families in the Sacramento area. They support area schools with after-school programs, school supplies, computers, clothing, shoes, jackets, bikes for transportation, summer kid’s camps and support scholarships for college-bound students.
Andy and I will be there to cover the event, so I hope to see you there!
It was a tasty scene for fans of food, wine, beer and spirits August 25 – 28, 2016 at Eat Drink SF. The event was held at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
Andy and I attended on the last day of the event on a Sunday afternoon and were introduced to some restaurants we had never tried, as well as a few new wines. There were also some familiar vendors, as Sunday was the “Legacy Grand Tasting” featuring San Francisco eateries that have stood the test of time.
Almost immediately after we arrived, we heard about a “beverage classroom” presented by San Francisco Wine School. The first presentation was on the Wines of Portugal. It was officially titled ViniPortugal. Since we are always looking to broaden our knowledge of wine, we decided to sit in on the seminar & tasting.
It was led by the founder of San Francisco Wine School, David Glancy. Glancy is one of only twelve people in the world to hold both the revered Master Sommelier diploma and a Certified Wine Educator credential.
The tasting was a very worthwhile experience, and a chance to get to know a little bit more on the wines of Portugal as well as a little bit about the San Francisco Wine School, which currently offers 65 different wine education classes.
Of course, we were also there to eat. Some of my favorite bites were as follows:
Nectarines wrapped in speck from Tosca Cafe.
A caprese salad on a stick.
This Lahmbiajeen (Arabic for “Meat in Dough”) It is fresh baked flatbread with housemade tomato beef sauce, labneh parsley and lemon zest from Reem’s.
And my food favorite item was this pintxo from Teleferic Barcelona. Pintxo is a Basque word that means “skewer.” This particular pintxo is called a Torito (bull). It has xistorra (spanish chorizo), natural honey and manchego cheese and it is wrapped in puff pastry with dulce de leche.
This smoked salmon bite was Scoma’s featured dish, and a favorite of Andy’s.
Now, back to drinking. There was much to choose from. We didn’t taste any beer, but if you are a beer or cider lover, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre (that IS how it is spelled), and Gowan’s Heirloom Cider had you covered.
One of the beverage highlights for me was this Whispering Angel Rose made primarily from Grenache, Vermentino, and Cinsault. A big reason I am a rose fan is because it is a wine that can pair with many different kinds of food.
Beaulieu Vineyards was at the event pouring both their classic Tapestry (a Bordeaux blend) and the Georges De Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a treat to taste these wines, because we know their retail value. Tapestry is around $50 and the Georges De Latour is around $100 per bottle. I actually buy Andy a bottle of the Tapestry as one of his Christmas gifts every year.
There were also cocktails featured at Eat Drink SF, and my favorite was this one at the Hangar Vodka booth. It is a combination of grapefruit, elderflower, sage and sparkling wine.
I love the inspiration I get at tasting events like these and the enthusiasm I see from all the chefs, sous chefs, cooks, bartenders, and tasting room associates. It’s a joy to have another excuse to come into the city and visit Fort Mason and drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I only wished we could stay a little longer!
Eat Drink SF supports the Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation. The foundation grants financial scholarships to students from the Bay Area entering culinary and hospitality programs. Golden Gate Restaurant Association‘s mission is to celebrate and empower the restaurant community through advocacy, education, marketing, events and training.
To see more images from the event, you can head over to their Flickr page here.
I can’t believe it’s been five years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting and now we live here in Curtis Park together. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends.🙂 If you’d like to read how we met at this event, you can click HERE.
I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the BEST food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center and I hope you will join us for the 26th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting! -cg
The 2016 Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event promises to be one of the best ever! In it’s 26th year, the event boasts more than 20 of the best restaurants in Sacramento, more than 50 wineries, and the always popular Beer Garden orchestrated by Pangaea Bier Cafe & Bottleshop. We will have special demonstrations by culinary students of American River College and Oak Cafe along with hundreds of silent auction and raffle items.
The annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden Event is the largest fundraising event for the Sierra 2 Center and Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. Proceeds from the event help us fund artistic, cultural, educational and recreational activities at Sierra 2 Center and throughout Sacramento, including the operations of the Senior Center and community building events. Additional beneficiaries of this event include Bret Harte Elementary School and C.K. McClatchy High School. The event’s success helps fund many different important community activities.
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.
10 Tasting Room Tips for the Aspiring Wine Lover
No matter if you are new to wine or wine tasting, or if you visit tasting rooms often, it’s useful to remind ourselves of good etiquette and read up on ways to improve your experience. Whether you are a first time visitor to a winery, or if you know enough about wine to impress your friends, this list of tips is for you!
1. Avoid wearing heavy cologne/perfume/body spray.
This is without a doubt the number one tip. When you are tasting wines, you need the ability to smell what is in your glass without any interference. A key factor in tasting a wine (as it is in tasting food) is smelling it. Many wines have floral, herbal, spicy characteristics that can be masked when a stronger scent is present, so it’s important that the wine is the only thing you can smell! If you must wear a cologne, apply it at least 2-3 hours before you plan to head to the tasting room. P.S.: Do wear deodorant, but make it unscented if possible.
2. Wine with friends!
Wine 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!)
7. Ask questions.
Tasting room employees are not there to intimidate you. They are there to share information with you and to hopefully sell you tons of wine and maybe convince you to join their wine club. Ask questions about the wine. Ask about wine in general. Ask about the wine club. Ask about the perks of the club. Joining a wine club might be a great deal of savings to you if you like the winery and the wines they make. Sometimes wineries through big parties during releases of a particular varietal they make and the parties are for wine club members only. PS: Do ask questions, but adhere to rule #6 and do step aside as to no monopolize the tasting room associate so others can taste/ask questions, too.
8. Plan your day ahead of time.
Plan 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!
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.
You don’t have to always follow this rule, but it’s just good practice. When you buy a bottle of wine after a tasting, almost always the tasting room will refund your tasting fee. It’s a very strategic move especially in places that charge more than $10 for a tasting. At the very least you get to take home a memento from where you have been that day.
And it’s always nice to have a souvenir from a great trip you had. When you open the wine, you can relive your tasting room visit all over again. Invite your friends over (if you have not gravely embarrassed them from the winery visit and they are still speaking to you) and have a great dinner built around the wine. There are recipes all over the internet geared to almost any common varietal you can buy.
Hopefully my tips have prepared you for your next visit to wine country! Cheers!
The Sacramento Greek Festival is back this Labor Day weekend and will be celebrating its 53rd anniversary!
Come experience the culture, traditions and fabulous food of Greece right here in Sacramento. All of the food at the festival is homemade by volunteers and is derived from authentic recipes passed down through generations directly from the Greek Mediterranean.
The food menu includes classics like:
- Pitas – traditional tiropita (feta) or spanakopita (spinach & feta).
- Saganaki – flamed kefalograviera cheese with a hint of lemon and brandy.
- Loukaniko – traditional spiced Greek sausage, served with pita bread.
- New Loukaniko – sausage with mountain feta and Kalamata olives, served with pita bread.
- Keftethes – Greek meatballs with tzatziki (cucumber, garlic, and yogurt sauce) and pita bread.
- Gyro – savory slices of lean beef cradled in pita bread, topped with onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.
- Calamari – seasoned strips of crispy fried calamari.
In the dining court there will be:
- Spanakopita – phyllo dough filled with herb seasoned spinach and a blend of cheeses
- Tiropita – cheese puff triangles made with a blend of cheeses, eggs and seasons wrapped in buttered phyllo dough.
- Fasolakia – tender green beans baked with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, olive oil and seasonings.
- Beef Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef and seasonings.
- Vegetarian Dolmathes – grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasonings.
- Pilafi – rice flavored with butter and lemon juice..
- “The Old Spaghetti Factory” Spaghetti – with browned butter and Mizithra cheese
- Kota Psiti (a la carte) – Baked chicken basted with lemon juice and Greek oregano.
- Horiatiki Salad – traditional village salad made with fresh veggies, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, olive oil, and seasonings.
- Pastitsio – macaroni layered with Greek seasoned beef and cheeses, topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Roast Lamb (a la carte) – dinner sized portion of the all famous Greek-seasoned lamb.
- Moussaka – layers of eggplant and Greek-seasoned ground beef topped with a creamy Bechamel sauce.
- Shrimp Santorini (Friday only) – shrimp in a tasty sauce with feta cheese and herbs with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
- Stifado Dinner (Saturday only) – a popular and uniquely spiced beef stew with cloves and cinnamon, originating from the island of Cyprus. Served with Pilafi and Fasolakia.
Beverages include Kafeneion (Greek Coffee), Greek Wines and Beer, as well as water and soda. A full menu can be viewed here.
There are also several activities planned during the festival. There will be live music, dancing lessons, choir presentations, and the famous festival raffle. In addition there will be cooking demos and a few eating contests! For a full schedule of events each day, you can click here!
The hours of the festival are as follows: Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 12pm-11pm, and Sunday 12pm-9pm.
Price of admission is as follows: General $5, Senior $4, and Children (Under Age 12) Free. On Friday (9/3) from 11am-3pm admission is FREE. The price includes admission only. Food and drink are an extra charge and the price varies for each item. The Sacramento Convention Center is located at 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814
By Andy Harris
Opening night of the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference kicked off at Mohr-Fry Ranches, with locally catered food and live music by Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players, a bluegrass band. All in the backyard of fourth-generation Lodi grape farmers Bruce and Peggy Fry. Coincidentally, the Frys were not only hosting this party, but celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary. But, let’s not forget the purpose of this gathering: Wine!
Multiple tasting booths were set up in a semi-circle in the Fry’s backyard, with many familiar wineries represented. Fields Family Wines, St. Amant Winery and Turley Wine Cellars were in attendance, and they are very well regarded as being among many area wineries leading a renaissance in Sacramento Valley wine making. But I was out to try something different. Maybe something I’d heard of before, but did not really know that much about.
I had heard and read about Harney Lane Winery, and was anxious to try a tasting of what they were pouring. I also wanted to get the back story on when and how the winery was established. It turns out that this winery is only in its eleventh year, having first tried their hand at making wine with their 2006 vintage. The owners, Kyle and Jorja Lerner, told me that Jorja’s great-great grandfather bought land in Lodi in 1907 and started farming grapes, which he sold to others for wine production. Up until 2006, the Lerners were doing the same, but never producing their own wine. Then that all changed…
Their line-up of wines at this event started with a very crisp and fruity 2015 Albarino. This one won a silver medal in the 2016 California State Fair wine competition, and definitely lives up to its billing. It won’t break the bank for $20.00.
Next up was their 2013 Tempranillo. At 15% alcohol, it was a big, tannic wine, but not overpowering. At $26.00 a bottle, it certainly won’t overpower your bank account. Probably slightly more costly than typical Tempranillos, but try it and you’ll see why. I believe this one will improve with age. It was awarded Double Gold, best Tempranillo, 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Last but not least were a duo of Zinfandels that I believe represents what is unique and wonderful about Lodi Zinfandels. First up was their 2012 Estate Zinfandel. This one was aged 21 months in American Oak, and comes in at 15.5% alcohol, but doesn’t taste even slightly hot. This one has the distinctive Lodi spice and fruit, and is very competitively priced at $22.00 per bottle. It is also an award winner, garnering a Silver Medal at the 2015 California State Fair Wine Competition.
Then I sampled the 2013 Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel. Lizzy James is a 20-acre plot of land that is so special, the Lerner’s named it after their children, Kirsten Elizabeth and Ian James. The property is within the Mokelumne River Sub Appellation which is characterized by its deep sandy soils, common for the Lodi region. Also at 15.5% alcohol and aged in American oak for 21 months, this is a wine of uncharacteristic complexity and power derived from 109 year-old vines. Definitely the best wine I tried that evening, and possibly the top wine of the entire conference. Somewhat more costly than your average Lodi wine, but at $36.00, still a relative bargain as compared to Napa wines twice the price. This wine won a significant award at this year’s California State Fair Wine Competition, a Double Gold, Best of Class of Region. Only 650 cases produced, so get some before they run out! Visit Harney Lane Winery & Vineyards at harneylane.com.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.