Paleo & Primal Food, Wine, Travel & Living

Posts tagged “wine

Notes on Norton


If you like trying interesting wines, then feast your eyes and tastebuds on this varietal. It’s called Norton, and it’s the oldest native grape in the United States!

Norton is named after Dr. Daniel Norton, and is similar in taste and smell to its European cousins. It’s a tough grape and can survive harsh weather conditions and was resistant to diseases that many French varietals would succumb to when brought into this country.

These all-American Norton wines had soon after become renowned in Europe (during the 1873 Vienna World Exposition a Norton from Hermann, Missouri won a gold medal), served at the White House, and enjoyed by many until 1920 when Prohibition forced farmers to rip up their Norton vines (along with Cabernet and Merlot vines) and plant table grapes (Concord) in their place.

During Prohibition, people secretly drank wines that came from other countries, and that did not include Norton, so when the 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933 by the ratification of the 21st Amendment, Norton was rarely planted.

After 56 years, Norton was more or less forgotten about until a man named Dennis Horton bought some land in Virginia he would dedicate to the planting of Norton for winemaking. Since then, Norton has slowly been making a comeback. In the states of Virginia (the largest single planting of Norton in the world is 69 acres at Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, VA), in Missouri where it had first become popular, and even in California. In 2009, Riedel jumped on the bandwagon and created a glass specifically for wine made from the Norton grape!

The bottle of Norton pictured above was produced by Heringer Estates in Clarksburg, California, just south of Sacramento. We received it as a wedding present from a friend back in September and had the chance to open it just the other night. Heringer Estates only has 5 acres of Norton, but manages to produce such a beautiful wine with their crop. It’s a very dry wine, yet somehow it’s got a luscious raisin flavor and aroma. Pretty mouthwatering.

Curious to try? You can buy Norton directly online from Heringer Estates here. Cheers!

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A Duo of Delightful Wines to Try

One benefit of having this website is that I am often sent complimentary bottles of wine to try so that I will write about them and give my opinion. It makes my job even easier when I actually like the wine and am enthusiastic about recommending it!

This was such the case with the pair of wines I present to you in this post: a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Blanco, and a bottle of Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha.

I was highly intrigued by the Tempranillo Blanco, because though I have had my fair share of Tempranillos (red wine) I had never tasted a white one. This wine is actually a blend of 60% Viura, 20% Malvasia, 20% Tempranillo Blanco. It is entirely fermented in stainless steel, which makes this wine fruitfully crisp. I would recommend this wine as a starter glass with appetizers such as cheese, or other tapas of some sort–Tortilla Española and Gambas al Ajillo come to mind. I was really impressed with the wine’s quality vs. the price. If you care to know, the wine scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find Vivanco Tempranilla Blanco online here. As I write this, it’s only $9.99 per bottle. Wine.com also sells it, but they are currently out of stock.

The second wine I tried was the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha. The wine is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha. It’s a true deep pink versus a pale salmon color, but it is still a dry wine (as sometimes a darker color can indicate a sweeter rosé). This rosé is made using a method called “free-run”, a term used to describe the release of juice from the grapes (after they are harvested) as a result of the weight of being stacked on one another (and before any pressure is applied to crush them). This is a good wine to enjoy with tapenade or a salade Niçoise, paella, and grilled chicken or fish. It also scored 89 points in Wine Spectator. You can find the Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha online here. As I write this, it’s only $8.99 per bottle.


You can find Vivanco Wines on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

*I was sent these two complimentary bottles of wine so that I might share my thoughts about them with my readers. Photos of the wine and opinions on the wine are my own.


It’s Always Time to Visit Wine Country!

I’ll never forget last October (2017). It was a month of great loss. The strange thing was that only days earlier, Andy and I had celebrated our marriage at Caverna 57 with my mother and about 50 or so friends. We were so happy on the last days of September.

Then October came. Las Vegas (where we married in March) was rattled by a great tragedy that Sunday evening. I had to take my mom to the airport so she could fly home on Monday morning (this is never easy, BTW). I went from a great state of joy to being bummed out for the world. Then exactly one week after the Las Vegas incident, wine country caught fire. For a little while, I thought the world was going to end. Smoke drifted all the way to Sacramento by Tuesday and we all knew just how serious the situation had become, however, we faced the heartache of helplessness. Since the fires had popped up all over wine country, and the unusual winds howled on, the fires spread and became unmanageable despite the efforts to fight them.

What do you do when your favorite place on Earth is burning down? It seemed like a nightmare, but how could I even say that? I was not there or displaced from my home. I was not a first responder who had to battle the smoke or the flames. I was sitting safely on the sidelines in Sacramento, a place that would have more of a chance of floating away in a flood than burning up. When the fires were finally extinguished and the smoke cleared, I sent myself on a mission to visit Napa. I realized that reports of the damage had been highly exaggerated in the media. In fact, there were only about 50 wineries with any direct damage, and less than 5 wineries with significant damage! I felt it was my duty to visit, spend money and publicize on social media that Napa had not burned down and was open for business!

It was October 27th when I finally made it out. My real job gets very hectic until the end of the month, but I came as soon as I could. As I was driving through the valley, it was as beautiful as ever! The air was so clear and the sun so bright! All of the wineries on Highway 29 were all still intact and sort of majestic looking in a way.

I scheduled to meet a friend (now one of my very best friends) in St. Helena at Ehlers Estate. I tasted several phenomenal wines there, and even bought a few bottles (though out of my normal price range). If you’ve never been to Ehlers Estate, its located on the east side of Highway 29 on Ehlers Lane. The tasting room is in a beautiful old stone barn surrounded by 42 acres divided into five blocks (based on soil type) and 25 sub-blocks, defined by clone and rootstock combinations. 25 acres are are home to six different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon planted on multiple rootstocks. The vineyard also produces sub-blocks of Merlot, four of Cabernet Franc, two of Sauvignon Blanc and a block of Petit Verdot.

Another notable factoid: Proceeds from tasting fees/sales of wine at Ehlers Estate help support the Leducq Foundation‘s international cardiovascular research programs.

Below, I’ll share a view photos from my tasting at Ehlers Estate. I was impressed with the way they greet each guest with a little personalized sign. Bonus points for spelling my name correctly! 😉


I’m not going to jump into reviewing all the wines, but the most notable one at Ehlers Estate (in my opinion), is the 2014 Merlot. If you know anything at all about contemporary wine culture, you know that Merlot has suffered a bit of a backlash, but it’s finally making a comeback. But drinkers of good Merlot will tell you this varietal never went away! October happens to be International Merlot Month, and International Merlot Day is on November 7th. Worldwide, there are 600,000 acres of Merlot planted. If you happen to be a fan of Merlot, this is the one to try. I am really looking forward to opening it with my mom when I go visit her this year.

My friend and I had lunch at Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, (literally a stone’s throw from Ehlers Estate). We both ordered the diet-friendly Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad, with bacon, carmelized onion, parmesan, and soft cooked egg. I sipped a Diet Coke because I knew I was off to more wine tasting later in the day. My friend had to return to lunch after work, but I was on to Mumm Napa for sparkling wine!



Driving to Mumm Napa down the Silverado Trail was the first time I noticed fire damage or any sign that a fire had come through at all. If you can imagine my trajectory, I was headed south from St. Helena on the Silverado Trail towards Napa, so the damage I began to see was on my left hand side, from the Atlas Peak fire. Still, I was surprised at how little damage there was overall, compared to how much damage had been reported on the radio, internet, and television. Here I was with dozens and dozens of wineries open around me on a gorgeous day, and hardly anyone in them because all of the Valley had (allegedly) burned down. I was giddy to be there and see for myself that it was business as usual. When I arrived at Mumm, I was ready to buy some more wine! But, first, more tasting. 🙂

 

The wine on the far left is the Brut Prestige, made with 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Lately, it’s my go-to sparkling wine at a restaurant for a starter glass (I usually get the split) because it’s on so many menus and I know exactly what the wine will taste like and that it will make me smile. It’s just under $20 for wine club members, and $24 for non-wine club members.

The DVX is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The name of the wine honors the late Guy Devaux, founding winemaker of Mumm Napa. The grapes for DVX come from a half-dozen of the winery’s vineyard sources. The wine is available to wine club members only.

The Brut Rose is a 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay sparkling wine with the most lovely blush/coral/salmon color. It is my favorite sparkling rose under $25, and I bought 3 bottles to enjoy myself when Andy is out of town or is on a “bro date”. 😉






I also bought a bottle of the most interesting wine I tasted while at Mumm. It was a sparkling Pinot Noir. It is made from 100% Pinot Noir and is dark in color like a still Pinot Noir (ruby/garnet). Suggested pairings on the sell sheet for this wine are rack of lamb and prime rib, but Andy and I will open it this Valentine’s Day and we plan on making a turkey breast to pair with the wine. I am pretty sure as of November 2017 this wine is completely sold out.

Following my tasting and purchases at Mumm, I made my way to my home for the night at the Napa River Inn. They were kind enough to extend a media rate to me.

The Napa River Inn is located within the Historic Napa Mill (built in 1884, and is a National Registered Landmark). The Inn spreads into three buildings with 66 rooms that are designed and decorated to reflect the period (1800s). Most rooms overlook the river and have romantic views. The Inn is located next to restaurants such as Angele and Celadon, Silo’s Jazz Club, Napa General Store, and Sweetie Pies Bakery. For more information/a flashback/torture ;), you can read my post on the Napa River Inn on cakegrrl.blogspot.com located here. NAPA RIVER INN

This time I was in Room 212 and had enough time to take a bubble bath and recharge before heading downtown for more wine tasting and dinner.

Below are a few photos of my room, equipped with a fireplace.



The Napa River Inn also hosts nightly wine tastings, free to its hotel guests. Pietro Family Cellars was the featured winery on the evening of my stay. You can find and try their wines in downtown Napa at the Gabrielle Collection tasting room and store on Opera Plaza at 1000 Main Street.


Backroom Wines must have known I was coming to Napa, because that evening they held a sparkling wine tasting. So close to Halloween, I figured this would be my trick-or treat! Even better was that once I parked my car at the hotel, I didn’t get in it again until I checked out at 12pm the next day.

I headed out to walk over to the tasting, and on my way I spotted a large wooden chair next to a jack o’ lantern ghost. This really was like trick-or-treat! I saw another couple sit in the chair and try to do selfies, but I stopped them and said, “Hey, I’ll take your picture, if you will take mine!” They nodded in agreement.

On a placard at the bottom of the chair, it asks you to tag #riverfrontchair if you post your picture online. Here’s a look at some others who have posed in the Riverfront Chair for Instagram. Fun!


OK, no more shenanigans, let’s get down to real business… more wine tasting! As I said earlier, this tasting was tailor-made for yours truly. I sauntered into the wine shop and plunked my 20 spot down on the bar! Let’s do this thing!


OK, so I did NOT take formal notes at this tasting, nor do I remember a lot about what I had, but I do remember how much fun I had at Backroom Wines, especially because I struck up a conversation with a couple visiting from Reno. I was wearing my GIANT Garmin running watch and it caught their eye. I didn’t end up buying any wine at the store, mainly because I was headed to dinner after, but I highly recommend Backroom Wines for tasting and shopping in downtown Napa!

After I left Backroom, I remember sort of stumbling around and not being 100% sure where I wanted to go for dinner. I finally settled on Carpe Diem, surely lured in by the $%&#! Truffle Fries on the menu. 😉 Yes, I’m that person. I’m the one who orders “truffle” anything.

I snagged a table in the bar, even though the server wanted to give me a giant table. Nope, just me, only need a hightop. Then I ordered a big glass of rosé. Since it seemed like I had already participated in the Winolympics® that day, I was content with one glass with dinner. 😉


My dinner that evening was composed of two small plates: a tuna tartare with seaweed salad, avocado and taro chips and a giant plate of truffle fries. For me, shame would quickly set in, but both dishes I highly recommend!



OK quick selfie at Carpe Diem! 🙂

The next day I woke up to join my friend Elizabeth for a Body Boot Camp workout at Napa Fit Body Boot Camp. After, I ran on the Napa River Trail to make it 8 miles total for the day.


The Napa River Trail is something I had no idea existed! I found it by accident when I was running back to my hotel from the boot camp class. I’ll certainly be running on it a lot this summer when we go back to Napa for the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway on my birthday weekend!


It was a whirlwind trip, but I packed so much food, wine, fun (and exercise) in 24 hours! Before I close, I wanted to let you know a few facts about the fires in Napa I collected while at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa (in November). I wanted to list them to encourage people to continue to come to Napa and also to continue to buy Napa wines. This includes even the 2017 vintage when it is released.

  • 90% of the grapes were harvested before the fires began.
  • Winemakers are very optimistic about the overall quality of the grapes.
  • It was mainly Cabernet left on the vines, but it is a very resilient, thick skinned grape.
  • There are many unknowns about the possible effects of smoke on wine.
  • Winemakers are using rigorous and repeated lab testing and will continue to do so.
  • Only the highest and best quality will go to market, because the wineries’ reputations are at stake.

There are also a few new places in town, and a few specials going on at places to stay. The Napa River Inn has a specials page located here, but since it’s timely for an upcoming Valentine’s Day trip, I will share their Romance Package, which includes Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, a Bottle of Champagne, and Breakfast in Bed from Sweetie Pies Bakery.

A new restaurant/wine bar has opened called Compline. The name Compline refers to end of the working day, when things get quiet and evening settles in. You can sneak a peek at their menu here.

Also, 2018 Napa Wine Tasting Cards are available now. For $15, you can pick up a tasting card and check out ten of Napa’s best downtown tasting rooms (all within walking distance of each other), enjoying wines for half the price. Cards can be re-used with no limit throughout the year. You can buy them here.

In closing, I want to thank the Napa River Inn for offering me a discounted stay and the staff there for making everything perfect, Elizabeth Smith for leading my tasting at Ehlers Estate and joining me for lunch at Brasswood. I’m so glad we met and I can call you my friend. I’d also like to extend gratitude to Tessa at Mumm Napa for her incredible hospitality and service, the staff at Backroom Wines (please do MORE bubble tastings, and I will be there!), and the staff at Carpe Diem. All of these people depend on your visits to make a living. I’ll be back as soon as possible.

With much love… please continue to stay #napastrong #sonomastrong #winecountrystrong!
Beautiful video done by 3 Rock Marketing and Wildly Simple.


WBC17 Wine Dinner Excursion at Thomas George Estates Winery


One of the most exciting parts of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference is the excursion dinner at an offsite location (most times at a winery with catered food). This year, we bought our tickets ahead of time so we could join our friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings, who we had met at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi. They bought their tickets as soon as the Thomas George Estates excursion was announced, and we did as well soon after. The dinner experiences are a hot commodity at the WBC. This time, the tickets were only $20 per person, and I’m not kidding when I say it was the best Andrew Jackson I have ever spent on a wine and food pairing! Don’t believe me? I have the pictures to prove it.

I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm as I detail the evening, but I have to admit I felt like royalty from the moment we left the conference hotel to the moment we returned. We met our dinner group and loaded on to a limo bus. Below is a photo of us on the bus, and you can see the excitement in our faces! We heart wine dinner excursions!


After a long and bumpy ride, we arrived at Thomas George Estatesa bit of a mystery spot for me, because I could not find much information about them on the web. After getting off the bus, I was pleasantly surprised to see our group was being escorted into a wine cave! We were led into a foyer area and presented with a charcuterie spread from Black Pig Meat Company the likes of which I had never seen before. Our glasses were also filled with Thomas George Estates Blanc de Blancs, an estate bubbly made from chardonnay.


We mingled amongst ourselves while sipping the sparkling wine and enjoying our selections from Black Pig Meat Company: Cured Meats, Roasted and Marinated Vegetables, and Hummus with Crostini. I snuck away from the group to take pictures of the tables where we would later be dining. The attention to detail of the table setting was remarkable. Plus, I took a peak at the menu for the evening and I could hardly wait for what was to come!





Our first course of the meal would be a roasted Brussels Sprout Salad, with Black Pig Bacon, Asian pear, Marcona Almonds, Aged Sherry Vinegar, and Bohemian Creamery “Capriago”, an asiago-style cheese made from goat milk and aged between 8 and 10 weeks. This course was paired with a 2015 Chardonnay from the Thomas George Sons & Daughters Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The best part about this dish was the crispy bacon nuggets and Marcona almonds nestled in the salad hidden like buried treasure. Alyse and I laughed about our disdain for frisée…I did not know someone else shared my dislike of its curly texture and overall annoyingness when trying to cut/eat it. Still, this salad was a major hit with me.



The entrée course was a stunning “Cracklin'” Pork Belly and Star Anise Liberty Duck. It was served with Black Rice, Thomas George Estate-Grown Pomegranate and Watercress. The wine pairing was an Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, Baker Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley. The texture of the rice was wonderfully chewy and sticky and was offset by the crispy pork skin and the tenderness of the duck leg. As you can see it was a beautiful presentation and the pomegranate lent itself in both flavor and color. There was also a bit of persimmon on the plate, special to me because Fuyu persimmon is my favorite fruit, and it was my first taste of it that season!


For our final course, we were presented with a Quince & Apple Tartin, served with Bourbon Gelato. I was served a dessert without the crust, as they kindly remembered my gluten free request. I thought the Bourbon Gelato was pretty incredible, especially with the wine we were served as a pairing: an Estate 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from the Baker Ridge Vineyard “Baby Block”, Russian River Valley. Success! The wine WAS slightly sweeter than the dessert, and that is how it should be in a dessert/wine pairing. Lately, I have come to appreciate/enjoy dessert wines more and more, and might have even purchased a few bottles of Pinot Gris in the last month. I used to hate on sweet/dessert wines (like, a lot), so here is my formal apology of sorts.

Our dinner was skillfully prepared by Chef Duskie Estes of zazu kitchen + farm. I asked her to take a picture with me and she kindly obliged (below). I just took a peek at zazu’s sample menu and I’m probably going to have to stop in next time I am in the area! Luckily, we have friends who live in Sebastopol… 😉


  



Not only were the wines and the meal terrific, the company I shared them with and the memories I have of the evening are unforgettable. Thank you to the staff at Thomas George Estates for your hospitality and to Chef Duskie for her food presentation.

To connect with Thomas George Estates, you can find them on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, or follow them on Instagram here. Their website is located here.


For another account of this excursion, head on over to Appetite for Wine, and read what Kent had to say!

AN IMPORTANT P.S.!!!
The winery is closed to the public during the month of January for annual maintenance and improvements, but will return to regularly scheduled operations on February 1st. So this means you have plenty of time to plan a future visit!

If you’re a wine blogger or play one on TV, don’t miss out on the next Wine Bloggers Conference, to be held in Walla Walla, Washington from October 4-7, 2018.

Keep an eye out for more coverage on this website from the 2017 Santa Rosa conference. I’m not sure which direction I will go content-wise, but would like to say something that hasn’t been already said. It was a conference definitely filled with mixed emotions as a result of the fires in October, but definitely an uplifting place to be in witnessing the resilience of wine country and its representatives at the conference. Cheers, and thanks for reading! #WBC17


Make the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Your Home for the Holidays!

amazing skyline

A few weeks ago, I was planning a business trip to San Francisco, and I did not want to hassle with driving back to Sacramento after dark. The event I was planning and would be working in the city was a catered food and wine event at a major car dealership, and I knew I would be exhausted by the end of the evening. That’s when I decided to stay overnight in San Francisco, preferably close to the dealership.

Lucky for me, I have been and stayed in San Francisco several times and have a bit of a history and relationship with the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. I have been invited to past events, such as the opening of their 46th floor lounge, CityscapeCityscape is located inside tower one of the Hilton (which also happens to be the largest hotel on the West Coast).

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. Below is the video I took inside the Cityscape last year. I am using it because the Cityscape was closed (for a private event) the evening I stayed at the Hilton, and I was not able to obtain any new footage. Enjoy!

I connected with the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, and they were able to place me in a beautiful tower room with a patio overlooking Union Square. I was happy to be back and able to check in and relax in my room before I headed to the event at the dealership that evening.

Of course the rooms inside the Hilton SF Union Square are spacious, modern, and the beds are beyond comfortable, but it was the new amenities since my last stay that were really impressive. First, there is a touch pad tablet in the rooms that is personalized to each guest. You can basically explore the entire city and find things to do during your time in San Francisco. There are recommended activities and restaurants, and you can see several menus to check out exactly what a certain restaurant offers before you make a reservation.

tablet

Not only can you become a San Francisco travel expert from your room, you can also workout at any time of day or night (with just a swipe of your hotel key) in the newly-renovated fitness center on the bottom floor of tower one. It’s a 2,800 square feet Precor®-equipped fitness area with a Cardio Theatre personal viewing system, ellipticals, treadmills, and free weights. There is also a towel and water station so you can stay fully hydrated during your workout. I really enjoyed being able to tune into Food Network and watch live time as I put in seven miles on the treadmill, and I can proudly say I didn’t miss my gym in Sacramento the slightest! Can I move in with you, Hilton San Francisco Union Square? 😉

front of gym

 

gym 1

gym 2

gym 3

 

sauv blanc

There are refrigerators in the rooms, and you can purchase wine and snacks (like the ones below) at the lobby café/store (Herb N’ Kitchen, click for menu). I also tried the Turkey Cobb Salad for dinner that evening, and it was very satisfying.

If you are looking for more of a full service experience, you can head over to Urban Tavern which features a full menu of locally-inspired cuisine (click here for menu), and highlights 50 wines within 50 miles, Bay Area beers and indigenous spirits. I dined there during my last stay, and here are some photos of the delightful dishes Andy and I sampled!

Here’s the part where I post a bunch of pictures I took from my 44th floor room 🙂

skyline 2

 

skyline 3

skyline 5

IMG_2404

tree in hotel

This is the most wonderful time of year to stay at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The lobby is fully decorated with Christmas trees, just like the one above on the main floor of tower one.

poached

breakfast two

breakfast one

After my workout, I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Poached, (click here for PDF menu), 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.)

union square

Things to do this season!
There are lots of activities for the whole family during the holiday season, and the Hilton San Francisco Union Square welcomes you during this festive time of year. As you can see in the photo above, Union Square is fully decked out with lights and a Christmas tree, and they have their Holiday Ice Rink open for business! There’s even a package rate that includes accommodations, 2 ice rink tickets, and a Bloomingdale’s 15% savings certificate! Follow this link for full details/to take advantage of this offer!

A Charlie Brown Christmas LIVE!
A Charlie Brown Christmas—LIVE!
 at Davies Symphony Hall is an experience you won’t want to miss. The performance begins with a reception in the lobby, so make sure to arrive early. The lobby will be filled with festive decorations and activities, including gigantic Christmas trees and special Peanuts décor. There will be several performances beginning this Thursday, Dec 21st and running until December 24th, 2017. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

A Christmas Carol
Over at the American Conservatory Theatre, you can enjoy a performance of A Christmas Carol. Performances run Wednesday, Dec 21st-Sunday Dec. 24th at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary Street. For more information, click here.

A New Year’s Event with Seth McFarlane and the San Francisco Symphony
Sunday, December 31st, at 8:00pm, Davies Symphony Hall
Celebrate in timeless style with Academy and Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter, actor, producer, and director Seth MacFarlane, who brings a winning combination of rich crooning and cool pizazz that would do Frank and Dino proud. Watch him light up the stage with the San Francisco Symphony in a dazzling concert of finger-snapping jazz standards and holiday favorites conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets click here.

door

parking

Another amenity I found impressive is the valet parking service. As you are checking out, you can text the code (ten minutes before you are ready to leave) on your valet ticket to the valet number (see above) and they will fetch your vehicle for you so you don’t have to wait for it.

With its state-of-the-art amenities and breathtaking views, it’s no wonder the Hilton San Francisco Union Square is my go-to place to stay in the City.

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. Tag them on social media with #hiltonfunionsq. Much thanks to the marketing team at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for your hospitality. I’ll be back soon!

*I was given a one night stay, breakfast, and parking in exchange for this informative blog post.


Headed to Santa Rosa for WBC17

Andy_harneylane
This weekend, Andy aka (@curtisparkandy, on twitter, and pictured above) and I are headed to Santa Rosa for the Wine Bloggers Conference!

This year will be the conference’s 10th, and it will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country. We are looking forward to meeting new writers and reconnecting with the ones we met last year.

It is particularly meaningful to me to attend this year because the conference is being held in the area most damaged by the fires that recently took place. It will be wonderful to play tourist in this area and promote this region just when they need us most. I feel it is my duty to serve the area because this wine country (Napa/Sonoma) is the very reason I moved to California. I fell in love during my very first visit to the region in 2003 and moved not far away to Sacramento in 2004 (also a growing hub of food and wine with its close proximity to Amador, Lodi, Napa, Capay, Dunnigan Hills, and more).

Thirteen plus years later I will discover even more of the Sonoma region along with my husband and hundreds of other bloggers. Our itinerary and agenda for the weekend is very exciting for anyone the slightest bit nerdy about the grape.

I am especially happy to be reunited with Elizabeth of Traveling Wine Chick tomorrow and our Oregon friends Neal and Alyse of Winery Wanderings for the Thomas George Estates wine dinner on Friday. I’m sure our interactions won’t be limited to those events, because we just love all three of those awesome people! We even stayed with Neal and Alyse for a few days last June and ran a half marathon in Eugene! Have to burn those wine calories somehow… 😉

While I am at the conference, I am also actively promoting one of my lady bosses, SG Coaching and Consulting. With over 35 years of experience, the SG team creates custom-tailored programs to fit your winery needs. They provide detailed analyses and work with you to make improvements that can will get people into your doors and make your business successful. They offer Digital Marketing, Event Planning, Front Office Improvements, Recruiting and Hiring, and Wine Club Management.

Friday Excursions
    
So let’s do this, Wine Bloggers Conference 2017!! Let’s get together this weekend, taste a lot, encourage tourism, learn from each other, inspire each other, network, and taste a lot more. Andy and Kristy Harris from cavegrrl.com are thrilled to participate and share the experience on this blog as well as our social media channels.

See you there! Cheers 🙂


27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction and Beer Garden, set for October 14th, 4-7pm

This year it will be SIX years since I met Andy at the Curtis Park Wine Tasting! It’s an event that is really near and dear to our hearts. We are really looking forward to taking our annual walk over to the Sierra 2 Center in a few weeks to enjoy food, wine and friends. 🙂
If you’d like to read how we met at this event, you can click HERE.

I am happy to share information on this event (which happens to be one of the BEST food and wine tastings of the year in Sacramento) put together by the Sierra 2 Center and I hope you will join us for the 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting!  -cg

PS: The Curtis Park Wine Tasting Organizers are STILL LOOKING for the following (click the links below for more information!):

 

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The 27th Annual Curtis Park Wine Tasting, Silent Auction & Beer Garden, one of SCNA’s largest fundraisers, brings local wineries, breweries and restaurants to Sierra 2 Center for tastings. Attendees enjoy delicious food and beverages along with the exciting silent auction and raffle drawings. Items available for bid include original art, spa packages, beach rentals, dance lessons and much more.

 



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Tickets:
Advance until 11:59pm, Oct.13th : $45 (SCNA Members)/$50 (Non-members) Membership can be purchased or renewed during your registration process.

Online ticket sales will close at 11:59pm on Oct. 13. After Oct. 13: $60 all. REGISTER FOR TICKETS HERE.

You can follow the Sierra 2 Center on twitter here and find them on Facebook here. They are now on Instagram here.

 


Cochon Heritage Fire Lights up Napa on August 27th, 2017

One of the best local (to Northern California) food and wine events of the year is put on by my friend Brady Lowe. It’s called Heritage Fire by Cochon555.

Cochon555 is a nose-to-tail culinary tour dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating chefs and diners on heritage breed pigs, and on August 27th, 2017, they make their stop on the lawn of Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. For a preview, watch the video below!


The Heritage Fire event helps foster relationships between local farms and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests flavorful food that is also raised locally, responsibly, and safely. Inspired by global grilling traditions, chefs build their own fires and roast everything from whole lamb, goats, pigs and ducks, dry-aged beef to foie gras, sturgeon, and heirloom vegetables in a beautiful vineyard setting. A decadent event featuring endless helpings of artisan cheeses, charcuterie, free-flow boutique wines from around the globe, micro brews, and more. Tickets start at $125 for an all-inclusive afternoon feast in wine country!

Chefs scheduled to appear:
Thomas Boemer of Corner Table (MSP)
John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA)
William Wright of Helen Greek Food and Wine (HOU)
Duskie Estes & John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen + Farm (Sonoma)
Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF)
Albert Ponzo of The Royal (TOR)
Christian Page of Cassell’s Hamburgers (LA)
Francis Derby formerly of The Cannibal (NYC)
Jordan Keao of āina Restaurant (SF)
Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root (Sonoma)
Rodney Wages of R.T.B. (SF)
Eric Nyeste of Smokestack at Magnolia Brewery (SF)
Rafael Barrera and Pedro Juan Álvarez Cortés (Puerto Rico)
Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF)
Dustin Valette of Valette (Sonoma)
Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America (NAPA)
Blaise Bisbey of Napa Valley Heritage
Tu David Phu of ĂN: A Vietnamese Dining Experience (OAK)
Dominic Orsini of Silver Oak (NAPA)
Scott Ostrander of Foundation Fire (SAC)
Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF)
Francis Ang of Pinoy Heritage (SF)
Larry Forgione (NAPA)
Alex Lovick of Inglenook (NAPA)
Sophina Uong of Mestiza Taqueria (SF)
Rob Lind of Ella Dining Room (SAC)
Sara Hauman of Octavia (SF)
Kim Wiss of Antica Wines (NAPA)
Peter Jacobsen of Team Toast (NAPA)
Joshua Schwartz of Del Dotto Vineyards (NAPA)
Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI)
Brock Macdonald of Beast + Bounty (SAC)
Reema Shroff of Frost 321 (SF)
Chef Robin Song of San Francisco

Guests will also enjoy wine cocktails spotlighting Angostura Bitters and an award-winning lineup of beers from Magnolia Brewing Company. There will be wine selections from over 30 wineries including Silver Oak & Twomey Cellars, BenMarco, Wines of Germany, Antica Napa Valley, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Azzurro Wine Company, Scholium Project, Pax Wine Cellars, Del Dotto Vineyards, Faust, Alysian Wines, Agharta, Trinity Hill, Kosta Browne, CIRQ, Charles Krug, Robert Craig Winery, Priest Ranch, Lando Wines, Qupe, Leviathan, Rombauer Vineyards, ONEHOPE Wines, Rocca Family Vineyards, Jigar & Sedition Wines, Sandeman Porto, and a refreshing, non-alcoholic offering from DRY Sparkling.

ALL THE DETAILS:
Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 27, 2017
VIP Admission: 3PM
General Admission: 4PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP -4 hours total incl. early admission + exclusive sommelier and cocktail competition tastings

Purchase tickets HERE

Created in 2008 in response to the lack of education around heritage breed pigs, Cochon555 is a nose-to-tail competition dedicated to supporting family farmers and educating chefs and diners about the agricultural importance of utilizing Old World livestock. We work with every type of restaurant and bar imaginable – Mom-and-Pop, farm-to-table, BBQ, Michelin star – and our participating chefs all share one core value: they source products responsibly. Our epic 2017 culinary tour starts in New York City and culminates with the finale, Grand Cochon. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit http://www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.

About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe – founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network – Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agricultural platform of its kind. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, raises pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding through a model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith at piggy-bank.org, watch the video http://j.mp/PIGGY_BANK or visit www.piggy-bank.org.

You can find Cochon 555 on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.


We’re Married! (Part Two)

The next day of our Las Vegas adventure began as each of our mornings do. With a workout! I was off to find the hotel gym and Andy went out for a run. He usually runs 5 miles a day during a vacation that is not wrapped around a race (although a lot of our getaways are).

The gym at the SLS is shockingly small, and every treadmill in the place was taken. Time was an issue that morning (we had two major things to accomplish and were not sure how long each one would take), so I took my run outside to the scenic Las Vegas Strip!

Then it was errand time! The first item to cross off the to-do list was to get our marriage license. This is a very important document you have to have to get married in Las Vegas. Even if you roll up to any one of those chapels, you have to first get the marriage license at the Clark County Courthouse. Also, bring cash. It’ll cost you $77, and the courthouse does not take plastic.

Doesn’t Andy look excited?


After we got our license (by the way, there was barely any wait and it was really easy), we headed to Tuxedo Junction to choose a tuxedo for Andy for the big day! I had found Tuxedo Junction through a web search, and then looked at their Yelp reviews to help me ultimately select them as our preferred vendor! The store manager Armando (Mando) was a tremendous help in putting together a really hip ensemble for Andy. We looked at several styles (and laughed at others) before Andy pointed to one he liked best on the wall. Armando informed us that they might not have everything in that particular style ready to go that day. But after taking Andy’s measurements faster than I have ever seen anyone take measurements before, and a trip to the stockroom, he emerged with an even more stylish jacket and the rest of the pieces of the suit.

Armando guided Andy into a fitting room as I pulled up the Yelp app (there’s a 15% off discount when you check in to Tuxedo Junction) to retrieve the discount. A few moments later, I looked up and there was Andy, dressed up more than I had ever seen him before. Wow. Tears began to well up in my eyes! My husband-to-be, looking pretty much like a perfect mannequin, was standing in front of me waiting for my approval. What a hunk!

I’ll stop gushing and post pictures of the tuxedos that did NOT make the cut 😉 :

 

 

The tuxedo needed a few temporary alterations, so we had lunch next door at Gianna’s Pizza… they served a Chopped Chef Salad that we shared that was just enough to tide us over to dinner.
After about an hour, Andy’s tuxedo was ready to be picked up. Since we were not going to have enough time to drop off the tuxedo before leaving on Monday morning, we opted to leave it at the hotel’s front desk and have Tuxedo Junction pick it up (for $10 extra).

Then we returned to the SLS Hotel and our room. Since I was determined to wear my human hairpiece, the Ellen Wille Cascade, to dinner and the show that evening, I began styling my hair. I hot rolled away as Andy caught a nap. And when my hair was done, I did my makeup. And then… it was time to put on the Nicole Miller gown I had rented for that evening. I rented it from a website called Rent the Runway. They offer designer clothing you can rent for a special occasion at an affordable price. They also make receiving/returning the rentals a snap. I also really liked the option of a FREE backup size (that comes along with your order) in case the size you ordered did not fit.

For dinner, we chose to stay at the hotel (because of the Carvey/Lovitz show being at our hotel). The restaurant we chose (Katsuya) and the show (at The Foundry) were literally footsteps away inside the casino. Since we were early for our dinner reservation, we sat at the sushi bar and had pre-dinner drinkys. 😉

Andy opted for the Kiwi Envy… a boozy blend of Bombay Sapphire Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, kiwi, and lime juice. My God, it was good and I need to replicate it at home soon. Since I was watching calories (Betty Boring) I ordered a vodka and Diet Coke.


As you can see, it truly was happy hour…


After our cocktails we were seated in front of the sushi bar. Andy likes to watch the chefs make everything and rarely wants to sit at a table when we eat at a sushi restaurant.


Yes, there are three different glasses in front of me, all different wines, and all mine. There goes the calorie watching. Time to have some fun!

 

Food we had at Katsuya: I chose to be a little adventurous and order this Lobster & Truffle “Chawan-Mushi”. You had me at lobster and truffle. It was like a congee, and I have to say I didn’t LOVE it. It was just ok. But, it was beautiful to look at! Also, Andy and I share food almost every time we go out because it allows us to taste and experience more food. I pick most of the dishes because I am more picky than him. 😉


Next up, I chose the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic soy reduction and toasted almonds. Very good, but already slightly having panic attacks about my sodium intake, retaining water, and fitting into my wedding gown the next day. So salty, crispy and irresistible!

Then we tried a dish that Andy picked out, the Salmon Sashimi with Caviar. The little pieces of salmon were filled with an onion chutney and then topped with caviar and placed on a little cucumber chip. I really enjoyed this dish. It was easy to eat in one bite–most pieces of sushi I am struggling to remain dainty/eat in two bites and make a mess. This would be a great passed appetizer at a party.

 


The next dish we tried was my favorite! The Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna. It’s basically a little crispy rice patty on the bottom (the texture of the rice was crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle!!!), topped with spicy tuna and a few slices of jalapeño.


 

We also ordered a few rolls: The Special Katsuya Roll: Tuna, yellowtail, salmon, scallop, crab and avocado wrapped with rice, soy paper and cucumber, served with wasabi ponzu on the side. It’s always fun to order an atypical sushi roll (cucumber instead of nori on the outside).


Then there was the Tiger Roll. This one was calling my name, and I answered because there was caviar AND truffle oil involved, along with shrimp tempura, cucumber, and avocado.

 


The wine we chose was an Alsatian Riesling. It was on the drier side and very crisp. It was a great pairing with all the plates we ordered. At that point, we could have ordered more food, but I was getting pretty full. I was also so excited to see the show and ready to get our seats inside the club!


Our seats were pretty close, but then again, the Foundry is pretty small, so I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. We ordered a few more drinks (wine this time). There is a bar conveniently located in the back of The Foundry. I can’t stop thinking about how much fun we were having and yes, how good we looked! Everyone around us was in a great mood. All major fans of Carvey and Lovitz, I suppose. I had seen Dana Carvey’s Netflix special Straight White Male, 60 (do yourself a favor and watch the special) fairly recently as well as his interview with Howard Stern, and had also seen Jon Lovitz a few months earlier on The Celebrity Apprentice. I could not believe our seats were so great and Andy wanted to see the show just as much as I did! AND THAT WE WERE FINALLY GETTING MARRIED THE VERY NEXT DAY!!


Someone at the bar was nice enough to take our picture together. 🙂

Andy took these pictures of me wearing the Nicole Miller gown. 🙂


I was having too much fun!


So. Happy.


Dana Carvey. Love him!

 

 

It was harder to get a good picture of Jon Lovitz, but I tried! Both comedians’ sets were excellent, and at the end they came out onstage together for a while. Somehow, Andy managed to procure another drink during a bathroom break. It was so fun to see him cut loose and know he was enjoying himself as much as I was.

Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz Reunited have a few shows coming up on June 30th and July 1st, 2017, so you can go to The Foundry’s website and order tickets. It’s so worth it!

So there you have it. We finally got married because we wanted to see a Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz comedy show that happened to be in Las Vegas. 🙂 Next post, the Big Wedding Day!


We’re Married! (Part One)


I feel slightly guilty about not writing anything for this website since November. To be honest, there wasn’t much to write about over the holidays, and pitches in my inbox have not been very interesting or have not been a good fit. So I decided to come back with something very personal which I would enjoy writing about and definitely love reading many times over the years. Please indulge me as I recall the most perfect weekend of my life (so far), March 17-20th, 2017, our trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Andy and I got married.

We flew out on St. Patrick’s Day (Friday) on Southwest Airlines directly to Las Vegas from Sacramento, which is probably one of the easiest and shortest flights in existence. I ran 10 miles that morning (it was weigh-in day) and I was doing everything I could do look good for the ceremony (planned for Sunday), so I didn’t have the free cocktail offered to us on the plane (it was only about 3:30 when we took off, and a little early for me anyway).

Thanks to a late(r) check-in, we didn’t get to sit together––Andy was sitting directly in front of me––and I was sandwiched in between two guys in their twenties, passing the time by doing a crossword puzzle (which is one of my go-to things to do to occupy myself on an airplane). People are so weird with their window/aisle seat obsessions. I was admittedly overly annoyed with having to sit between two “bros” and not be able to sit beside Andy. It’s just that I love our time together and know that it’s finite. I already don’t spend enough time with him because we both work so much. I love the person he is while we are on vacation. Andy really likes to have fun when it’s time to have fun. I love that about him. I love sitting beside him and looking over at his profile and his face and I love holding his hand. I love it that he kind of ribs me about stuff. But, I love that he makes me laugh sometimes when I least expect it.

Anyway, I just sat there in my seat and prayed that the flight would be done soon and that my wedding dress (which I had checked in the larger of the two suitcases we checked) would arrive with me along with my designer dress I rented and all of my cosmetics and skincare products. See, it takes a lot to make me look like a girl…I mean, Industrial Light and Magic would shudder at the job. I was on the verge of hiring a team for hair and makeup for this trip, but ultimately I decided I had enough faith in my own skills.

We landed soon, and I was reunited with Andy. We were able to find our luggage right away and get the rental car fairly quickly. Our trip to Las Vegas was a package deal with flight, hotel and rental car all rolled into one cost. I think it was around $1500. I tell you that only because I want to look back ten years from now and laugh/cry about how affordable this trip was.

Our hotel reservation was for the SLS Hotel and Casino, mainly because we wanted to see a show at the same hotel on the next evening. And not just any show, but Saturday Night Live alumni Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz. We figured it would be so great to have dinner at our hotel, then walk across the casino into the nightclub to see two of our favorite comedians, and then be able to walk back to the elevator to head up to our room. We stayed on the 19th floor, room #311933.

We checked in around 5:30 or 6:00, and huddled on where we might go to dinner. The only criteria I had was that I wanted to eat at a celebrity chef-owned restaurant (that night). We had already made plans for Saturday and Sunday night dinner destinations, so this was the only night we weren’t sure where we would end up. We decided to try Guy Fieri’s Las Vegas Kitchen and Bar at the LINQ. Aaaand cue the food and beverage pics!! 🙂

We arrived at the restaurant around 7:30-7:45, and there was probably a 30 minute wait. We really didn’t give a damn. We were both so happy to be in Las Vegas and all checked into our hotel, and to be at Guy Fieri’s restaurant.

To all the Guy Fieri haters, I don’t know what you’re mad about. Maybe you’re just extremely jealous. For me, I find Guy Fieri’s story extremely fascinating. Andy and his mother actually met him during the Tex Wasabi days in Sacramento. I saw him live at a food and wine festival and thought he was very entertaining. I am not sure what all the negativity is about. At the bar, we were actually excited to wait for a table amidst all the St. Patrick’s Day partying and shenanigans of others (which were actually entertaining to watch, as we could see a lot of people were having bachelor/bachelorette parties). While we waited for a table, I had a vodka and diet coke (came with one of those giant ice cubes I like), and Andy had a white wine blend.

We were seated fairly quickly and again, I just remember being so excited about the weekend to come (and all the food and beverages, OK, that, too)! We decided that we would order the Triple T Fries (because I am obsessed with Truffle flavored anything). The description on the menu is as follows: Julienned-cut fries tossed with black truffle & truffle infused gouda, served with a creamy white truffle dip.


For my entrée, I ordered the Italian Deli Salad (crown of prosciutto-wrapped smoked provolone, imported Italian meats and cheeses, romaine lettuce, olives and pickled Italian veggies with chicken breast added). The prosciutto was the largest piece I have ever seen and very thick. I thought I was taking the light way out by getting a salad, but I can imagine Guy himself laughing in my face at my attempt.

Andy ordered the Flat Iron Steak and Smashed Potatoes (8 oz. prime flat iron steak, seared and sliced with garlic smashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, onion straws and chimichurri sauce).


And to pair with our meal, we ordered a Red Wine Blend by Hunt and Ryde Winery, produced by Guy Fieri and named after his sons, Hunter and Ryder.

We had to call it a night fairly early because we had business to take care of the next day (workout, wedding license, tuxedo rental) before dinner and the show we had come to Las Vegas to see: Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz: Reunited, so we headed back to the SLS Hotel immediately after dinner.

The next day, we were off to the Clark County Courthouse to get our marriage license. And that’s where I will pick up with Part Two of We’re Married!