World of Pinot Noir: Sweet 16 in 2016

World of Pinot Noir LogoPinot Noir producers and lovers from all around the world will converge on the first weekend of March at the 2016 World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara.  This year is the 16th Annual World of Pinot Noir and it is going to take place on Friday, March 4th and Saturday, March 5th at Bacara Resort & Spa. This festival of Tasting Seminars, Grand Tastings, Gourmet Lunches and Winemaker Dinners offers plenty of celebrations to choose from.

Two of our favorite parts of the World of Pinot Noir are its two separate Pinot Noir by the Sea Grand Tastings with about 100 different producers at each session. The Grand Tasting sessions take place between 3 and 6 pm each day (tickets are $110) or you can purchase early access tickets allowing you to enter 30 minutes early (for an additional $25).  This is a comprehensive chance to “get current” on the latest wines made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in places such as the Carneros Region, Russian River Valley, Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, Sonoma Coast, and the Willamette Valley.

Bergström Wines

Bergström Wines

For example sixteen domestic wineries we are really looking forward to enjoying at this year’s Grand Tastings are Archery Summit, Au Bon Climat, Bergström Wines, Bouchaine Vineyards, Brewer-CliftonFreeman Vineyard & Winery, Goldeneye, Kosta Browne Winery, Merry Edwards Winery, Morgan Winery, Presqu’ile WinerySea Smoke, Stephen Ross Wine Cellars, Talisman WinesTalley Vineyards and Wayfarer.
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Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival: To Heck with Domoic Acid

Crab and BeerThe good news is there’s still time to join in on the 2016 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, a wonderful opportunity until January 31 to celebrate the County’s offerings. Mendocino County, a rural county of striking natural beauty and friendly small towns, is just 90 miles north of San Francisco and 145 miles west of Sacramento. This countywide celebration offers family-style crab and cioppino feeds, gourmet seafood-themed dinners, food and wine pairings, fishing and whale watching adventures.

Unfortunately, domoic acid levels have been too high in local crabs to allow this year’s event to feature Mendocino County-harvested crab. Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin that is related to a “bloom” of a single-celled plant (Pseudo-nitzschia) and while crustaceans, fish and shellfish are capable of accumulating elevated levels of domoic acid without ill effects, those elevated levels pose a significant health risk to people if consumed. The California Department of Public Health lifted an advisory along the coasts of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties a few weeks ago, but Mendocino County crabs are still testing too high.

Crab Cakes and BeerWe’ll offer highlights of the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival and the County’s offerings below (including information about the awesome Anything But Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition on January 30) but you can also follow this link to the extensive Festival Brochure.
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2016 Napa Restaurant Week: More than Cabernet-Braised Lamb Shanks

Napa Valley Restaurant WeekWe hope you’re ready to do some exploration of the restaurants in Napa Valley because January 24-31 is Napa Valley Restaurant Week. Starting today, whether you’re a visitor, a Bay Area native, or a Valley local resident, this week-long promotion allows everyone to experience the valley’s legendary food and wine culture (and at a discount, no less).  Through multi-course prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner, you and your family (and/or friends) can try out the latest culinary hot spots or revisit old favorites all week long.

Local chefs have created menus to celebrate the occasion and several of the restaurants offer optional wine pairings at a nominal additional cost.  Many restaurants are also donating their corkage fees to the Napa Food Bank, a program administered by the Community Action of Napa Valley (CANV) providing nutritious food to low-income individuals, families, seniors and non-profit organizations throughout the County.

Chicken & Waffles at The Pear

Chicken & Waffles at The Pear

So if you’ve been meaning to check out Carpe Diem Wine Bar’s return to 2nd Street, Chef Charlie Palmer’s new Harvest Table, or three of Napa Valley’s Michelin Star restaurants (La Toque in Napa, Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, and Solbar in Calistoga), this is a good time to do so. Depending on where you go, you can enjoy delicious Sushi, Fish Tacos, Burger & Fries, Greek Salad, Porcini Mushroom Ravioli, Chicken & Waffles, Pepperoni Pizza, Mahi Mahi, Kurobuta Pork Chop, Hanger Steak or a Cabernet-Braised Lamb Shank.

Keep reading and we’ll share some of the highlights of the 2016 Napa Valley Restaurant Week.
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2016 Winter WINEland: A Happy New Year of Wine Tasting

2016 Winter WINElandKick off 2016 with a wonderful Sonoma County wine event, the 24th Annual Winter WINEland. On January 16-17, over 100 wineries throughout Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Russian River Valley are ready to help you welcome in the new year with wine tasting, entertainment and delicious seasonal bites. Between 11 am and 4 pm each day, you and your friends can try limited production wines, embark on winery tours, and perhaps meet the actual winemakers.

Winter WINEland attendees can enjoy wine tasting at all of the participating wineries that weekend, and advance ticket prices are just $45 per person for both days or $35 for Sunday January 17 only (plus tax and a small service charge).  Designated Driver tickets are $5 for either one or both days. To purchase advance tickets (before January 11) and/or to see the complete list of participating wineries, please go here.

Fog Crest Vineyard

Fog Crest Vineyard

If you miss the advance purchase window, you can still purchase tickets at participating wineries during the weekend but prices increase to $60 for both days, or $45 for Sunday only.  Designated Driver tickets will be $10 (for either one or both days) at that point. So, it probably makes more sense to just buy your tickets now.

The 2016 Winter WINEland, sponsored by the Wine Road, offers over 100 premium Sonoma County wineries to choose from and each one will have something on sale that weekend. The bad news is now you have to choose which ones to visit (but if you keep reading we’ll try to help with that).
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Napa Valley’s Mount Veeder: Our Latest Recommendations

Robert Craig Mount Veeder Cabernet SauvignonAs we head into the holidays, this may be a perfect time to reacquaint yourself with wines made from grapes grown in Mount Veeder, a wonderful AVA on the southwestern side of Napa Valley.  Wineries here have been producing richly intense, age-worthy wines since the 1860’s and their grapes have been crafted into some of our favorite wines over the years.  Keep reading and we’ll recommend wines and wineries, including those we enjoyed the most at this September’s Taste of Mt. Veeder event (Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, of course, but we were also impressed by Mondeuse, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel wines).

We’ll also let you know about a holiday tasting coming to Yountville next month featuring about 10 wineries from the region.  On the other hand, if you want to go wine tasting to explore these wines (and the rest of the wineries’ portfolios) on your own, we’ve included the street addresses for the wineries’ tasting rooms that are open to the public (and also noted if you need to have an appointment).

Roasted Pork Sandwich

Roasted Pork Sandwich

We always enjoy attending the Taste of Mt. Veeder, an enjoyable afternoon of wine, food, and live entertainment. Attendees paired their wines this year with Salumi, Olives, and an array of artisan cheeses including Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed, Bellwether Farms’ Carmody, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s Toma, Cypress Grove Chevre’s Truffle Tremor and Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel. Hess Collection Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson also prepared small bites such as Radishes with Sea Salt, Grilled Figs with Balsamic and a delicious Sandwich made with Roasted Pork (brined in Citrus and Fennel) Layered with Roasted Peppers, Bacon and Arugula.

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Quick! Block Off Tuesday Night: Wine & Spirits Top 100

2015 Wine & Spirits Top 100 IssueHope you’re still free for next Tuesday night, October 20, because you’re going to want to spend it attending the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting in San Francisco.  Over the past year they have tasted over 13,000 bottlings at Wine & Spirits and these one hundred wineries came out on top, consistently delivering quality wines. This 12th annual event is produced with local chefs and artisanal purveyors serving small bites to complement tastes from the honored wineries between 6:30 and 8:30 pm at City View at METREON (135 4th Street, San Francisco).  We consider this one of the best international-in-scope Food and Wine events around and if you move quickly you can still buy tickets (including a chance to get you in the door an hour earlier than most people).

Chapter 24 Vineyards

Chapter 24 Vineyards

You can start the fun by pairing Champagne from Louis Roederer and Oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co., enjoy Rieslings from both Germany (Dr. Loosen) and New York (Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard), and then compare and contrast Pinot Noirs from Beaune (Bouchard Père & Fils), the Willamette Valley (Chapter 24 Vineyards), the Anderson Valley (Drew Family Cellars) and Santa Barbara County (Sandhi Wines). Then, re-acquaint yourself with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (Smith-Madrone and Diamond Creek Vineyards) and cap off your evening with Port from Quinta do Noval and wonderful confections from CocoTutti Confections. If that isn’t enough to fill your evening, you still have wines from another 90 wineries and food samples from at least another dozen food purveyors to choose from.

This is a sublime opportunity to sample wines from California, Oregon, Washington and New York at the same time as international wines from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. General Admission tickets for the 2015 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting are available online for $125 each for event entrance, a tasting glass and a one-year subscription to Wine & Spirits magazine. Or, you can splurge for a Collector’s Admission which provides you early entrance at 5:30 and the opportunity to taste special bottlings from ten different wineries. To buy your tickets, please go here (but be sure to do that by October 19).
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Taste It, Buy It, Make It: A Wine and Food Affair

Sanglier Cellars

Duck and Pork Country Pate with Cherry Jam paired with Sanglier Cellars Pinot Noir in 2014

Call, text, and/or grab your friends because it’s time for you to plan a Sonoma County trip for the annual A Wine & Food Affair taking place next month.  Your entourage can savor fantastic wine and food for two days straight as you travel around the beautiful wine country in the Russian River, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley areas.  If you and yours enjoy eating and drinking together you are bound to have a blast at this fun and unique event (it’s one of our favorites each year).  Since there will be over 100 wineries participating, everyone in your group is sure to find wines and small bites to their individual tasting preference.

Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate

Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate

Here are just some of the wineries participating in the 2015 A Wine & Food AffairBalletto Vineyards, Colagrossi Wines, Fog Crest Vineyard, Fritz Underground Winery, Gustafson Family Vineyards, Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens, Kokomo Winery, Longboard Vineyards, Portalupi Wine Co., Ridge Vineyards, Roth Estate Winery, Sanglier Cellars, Taft Street Winery and West Wines.

This year’s event will take place November 7-8, 2015, from 11 am to 4 pm each day. Tickets are $70 per person for both days or $50 per person for Sunday participation only. Designated Driver tickets are just $30 per person for the whole weekend which allows them to enjoy the food and non-alcoholic beverages offered.  Please be warned that this event sells out so you should really go here soon to purchase tickets. Also, please realize that this event is for adults only so no one under 21 is allowed (including babies or children of any age).
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