Say Goodbye to Summer in SLO: Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

unset SAVOR the Central Coast logoA spectacularly fun way to say goodbye to the Summer of 2014 would be to indulge in the wine, food, and music of the Central California Coast at the action-packed Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast. Between September 25 and 28, this winner of the 2014 FAME Award for Best Epicurean Event offers four days of culinary immersion highlighting the beauty of the Central Coast locations and its active outdoor, farm-to-table lifestyle. Whether you have attended Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast before or not, this year’s program has plenty of activities to keep everyone interested, entertained and satiated.

Events at night include a Sunset Dinner at Hearst Castle, a concert by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, and Winemaker Dinners featuring local and celebrity chefs. Daytime activities include tours led by Sunset experts on outings such as a foodie tour through Arroyo Grande, a hayride with Clydesdales, and advice on how to create your own spa products.

Daou Vineyards & Winery

Daou Vineyards & Winery, one of the wineries at Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast’s Main Event

The central attraction of the Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast weekend is The Main Event, a two-day extravaganza of food, wine, beer and music all gathered at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch where you can enjoy samples from Central Coast wineries such as Chamisal VineyardsDaou Vineyards & Winery and Talley Vineyards. Come to the Main Event on Saturday, Sunday, or both days to enjoy unlimited food and wine tasting, savor microbrews as you listen to local musical performers, observe celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, or attend a wine seminar.

Keep reading and we’ll give you an overview of what you could be doing at the end of September in the Central Coast. But then, please move quickly to buy your tickets before they start to sell out.

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Wines (and Wineries) We’re Recommending in the Napa Valley Right Now

Napa Valley VineyardsDo you need some Napa wine?  Over the last few weeks we’ve had the pleasure of attending the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine Tastingthe Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival, and the Family Winemakers of California Tastingand we found many wines reinforcing Napa Valley’s world-class reputation for winemaking that are tasting particularly well right now.  In the wake of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake centered near the city of Napa on Sunday morning, we thought we’d recommend our favorite Napa Valley wines from these recent events and encourage you to buy the wines and/or visit the wineries yourself (to help the local community return to normalcy and re-start the revenue engine).

Since we’re talking about Napa Valley wines, you won’t be surprised to hear that we found outstanding Sparkling Wines, Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernet Sauvignons. But, we also found delicious Viognier, Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, and a few Rosés to recommend.

Napa Earthquake Impact Matthiasson Wines

Earthquake Impact as tweeted out by Matthiasson Wines

Please seek out these Napa wines at restaurants, stores, or through the wineries themselves. Or, to make a stronger contribution to the local economy, please feel free to drive on over for wine tasting and then you can enjoy the fabulous restaurants in the area as well.  If it helps, please note that while most of the 20+ wineries we recommend below will arrange for a winery tasting by appointment, nine of them don’t require an advance reservation at all and you can just drop into their tasting room (as long as your party is less than six people): Ceja Vineyards (Napa)Clos Du Val (Napa)Grgich Hills Estate (Rutherford)Heitz Wine Cellars (St. Helena)Monticello Vineyards (Napa)Mumm Napa (Rutherford)Robert Sinskey Vineyards (Napa)The Hess Collection (Napa) and ZD Wines (Napa).

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Excellent Wines from the Sonoma Coast: Favorites from the West of West Festival

2012 de Coelo Quintus Pinot Noir

Benziger Family Vineyards’ de Coelo Quintus Pinot Noir, from grapes grown just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean

Earlier this month we discovered a number of excellent wines from the West Sonoma Coast at the West of West Grand Tasting, part of the fourth annual West of West Wine Festival. The wines poured were made from grapes grown in areas such as Annapolis, Fort Ross/Seaview, Occidental, Freestone, Green Valley and the Sebastopol Hills. Sunday’s Grand Tasting (the WOW Festival holds two) was well orchestrated, which made it easy to access and enjoy the wines poured by the 40 participating wineries.

The West Sonoma Coast is ideal for producing grapes that are able to be crafted into wines with balance, integrity, character, and nuance. While the area may be best known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, we also found a few Rosés and a Syrah that impressed us as well.

Marimar Estate's Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir

Marimar Estate’s Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir

In case you aren’t personally familiar with wines from this area, we thought we’d share what our favorites were at the Grand Tasting event so you can explore the region on your own. You can look for these wines at local restaurants and stores, purchase them online, and/or follow the links below to the wineries’ websites to learn more about visiting and tasting room options. Or, there is a similar tasting event coming to Southern California in November if that would work for you.

The white wines and rosés we enjoyed the most at the West of West Wine Festival Grand Tasting were:
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Recent Favorites from Lake County: Sauvignon Blancs and More

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Rosa d’Oro Vineyards at the Lake County Wine Adventure

We had the pleasure of attending the Lake County Wine Adventure two weeks ago, a passport-type food and wine event spread out around Clear Lake, the largest national freshwater lake in California. We always enjoy food and wine events where the participating wineries aren’t too spread out and the event hours provide enough time to relax and enjoy yourself. This year’s Adventure gave us premium wines, delicious food, and hot-summer-by-the-lake weather.

Over the weekend, we particularly enjoyed Sauvignon Blancs (from five different wineries) and other white wines made from varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Moscato and Pinot Grigio.  Our favorite red wines included Aglianico, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel (as well as several intriguing red wine blends).

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

No, we didn’t make it to all 28 of the wineries participating in the Wine Adventure but we did find plenty of wines (and wineries) worth recommending if you’d like to explore Lake County’s offerings on your own.  We encourage you to visit the area and/or seek out these wines and wineries at your local wine stores and/or restaurants.
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Fiesta del Vino en Los Carneros: The Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival

Mexican-American Harvest Festival PostcardTo try some wines you’ve probably never had before, you should consider attending the upcoming Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival.   On Saturday, August 16, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm you can enjoy a walk-around Wine Tasting at Renteria Wines’ Brown Ranch Vineyard (4254 Old Sonoma Road, Napa) in the Los Carneros Region enjoying samples from over a dozen wineries such as Ceja Vineyards, Mario Bazán Cellars, and Mi Sueño Winery.

The 2014 Harvest Festival features Mexican-American member wineries pouring their wines next to food pairings from Winery Chefs. Some of the dishes available that day will be:

  • Baja Fish Tacos (with Chili Lime Aioli and Cabbage)
  • Roasted Pork Tortas Sliders (with Mashed Avocado and Pico de Gallo)
  • Grilled Cumin and Coriander Marinated Skirt Steak and Chicken Skewers (with Salsa Verde)
Ceja Vineyards

Ceja Vineyards Tasting Room in Downtown Napa

The idea of an association of Mexican-American wine producers grew from a discussion in 2010 when vintners from Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley gathered to pour their wines at the Michoacán State Fair in Mexico. This year marks the 4th annual Harvest Festival for the Napa Sonoma Mexican-American Vintners Association (NSMAVA) and the Festival will also include live entertainment from Trio Soleá and a Silent Auction.

Advance tickets are $100 per person, but tickets at the door will be $125 each so it would probably make more sense to just go here now and order your tickets. For more information on the wineries that will be at the event, and the families behind those wineries, please keep reading.

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Napa Wineries Open After 5 pm – Summer 2014

Grapevines in Napa ValleyDo you need a winery in Napa Valley that is open after 5 pm for wine tasting? Sometimes you go wine tasting and at the end of the day, it’s getting close to 5 pm but you just left a winery that didn’t quite live up to what you had been hoping for.  If what you really want is one more chance to end the day on a good note, we can help with that.

Or, maybe you’re visiting the Napa Valley, done with the day’s activities and back at your hotel thinking “I wish we could go wine tasting at just one place before we go to dinner, but it’s after 5 and the winery tasting rooms are all closed now, right?” Luckily, you’re wrong and we can help with that too.

Vintner's Collective

Vintner’s Collective, a Collective Tasting Room Open After 5 pm in Napa

Look below and you will find a list of some winery tasting rooms and winery collectives in the Napa Valley that are open after 5 pm for tasting (without an appointment) which we would recommend. We’ve grouped the tasting rooms into three locations:  Lower Napa Valley (in or near the city of Napa), Central Napa Valley (Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford) and Upper Napa Valley (St. Helena and Calistoga).

Please realize that tasting room operating hours occasionally change, so you may want to call them before you drive (or walk) over to make sure they are still open.  That’s right – many of the winery tasting rooms open after 5 pm are in easy walking distance from hotels in downtown Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga.  Also, please check your watch as many wineries will not start tasting experiences for guests once it is 15-30 minutes before they close.
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Napa Valley Wine Library Weekend: From Vineyard to Label

Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine TastingFor a classic Napa wine tasting event, it’s hard to beat the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine Tasting. This year’s event is coming up on Sunday August 10th between 5 and 7 pm at the Silverado Resort & Spa with a focus on single-vineyard designated wines. The “classic” part of the event stems from the 52nd annual occurrence of this tasting and the involvement of wineries such as Beringer Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars, Caymus Vineyards, Grgich Hills Estate, Heitz Wine CellarsLouis M. Martini Winery, Schramsberg Vineyards, and ZD Wines.

This refined event consists of 75 wineries sharing some of the best wine in the Valley on a lovely summer evening under the sheltering oaks of The Grove at Silverado (1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa). At this year’s Wine Tasting, you will find white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Roussanne, and even Vermentino. On the red wine side you can expect to taste Charbono, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel (and of course, Cabernet Sauvignon). Or, you can enjoy Rosés from wineries such as Peju Province Winery, Swanson Vineyards, and Tres Sabores.

Annual Tasting of the Napa Valley Wine Library Association

Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine Tasting

The wineries at the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine Tasting come from all over Napa Valley from Calistoga to Los Carneros.   The sides of the valley are represented as well, including Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain, and Mount Veeder. The NVWLA Wine Tasting is free, but for Napa Valley Wine Library Association members only. The good news is that membership is easy to purchase (online or at the event) so buying your way in is pretty easy (and your membership dollars help support a worthy local cause).

Keep reading and we’ll tell you more about the 2014 NVWLA Wine Tasting on August 10th and their Winemaker’s Seminar scheduled the day before which focuses on vineyard care and the role of a designated vineyard in winemaking.
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