Sparkling Wines and Hopland Passport Events: More Reasons to Visit Mendocino County

Champagne Being PouredIt’s almost time for Sparkling Wine Season, so we thought you should know about A Celebration of Mendocino Sparkling Wines coming to Terra Sávia Winery (14160 Mountain House Road, Hopland) on April 11. A few weeks later, the Destination Hopland organization presents Hopland Passport when over a dozen local wineries invite guests for two days of wine tasting, food pairings and/or live entertainment the first weekend of May. Keep reading and we’ll tell you more about these two excellent reasons to visit the Hopland region this Spring and personally experience this “Gateway to Beautiful Mendocino County.”

Strawberry with ChocolateTen of Mendocino County’s premier sparkling wine producers will join together for a stellar wine and food event at A Celebration of Mendocino Sparkling Wines between noon and 4 pm on April 11. The wines will be accompanied by artisan Cheeses, fresh Tomales Bay Oysters, Paella Valenciana and Strawberries with Dark Chocolate at Terra Sávia Winery.

Let’s face it: Mother’s Day, Graduations, and June weddings are coming up.  And, it’s no fun standing in the middle of Safeway on your way to a celebration trying to remember which sparkling wine Ashley and Christopher served at their wedding last summer that you sorta liked.  With A Celebration of Mendocino Sparkling Wines, you can sample a variety of sparkling wines and then you will know for sure which ones you want on hand for upcoming scheduled (and spontaneous) special occasions.
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bASH 2015: Showcasing St. Helena’s Wine and Food Capabilities

Cured Snapper with Green Bell Pepper Gelée

Cured Snapper with Green Bell Pepper Gelée (paired with Sauvignon Blanc at bASH 2014)

If you’re free on Saturday, April 18, you should go here now to purchase tickets for bASH 2015an annual food and wine event from Appellation St. Helena. What is bASH? Well, it’s a popular spectacle showcasing the Napa Valley community with over 35 premium wineries joining forces with local culinary talent between 6 pm and 8:30 pm.  More than just a wine tasting event, it’s a delightfully fun food and wine pairing competition where your votes help select the ultimate winners (and believe us, the competition is fierce).

bASH 2014 RibbonsIn addition to trying dozens of delicious wines at bASH 2015 you will be able to enjoy food offerings from local restaurants such as Archetype, The Farmer & The Fox, Goose & GanderThe Grill at Meadowoodand PRESS.  However, most of the food pairings will be created by “Rising Star” students at the Culinary Institute of America.  These competitors will present dishes specifically designed and developed to pair with the wine that they will be paired with.  This makes your evening of wine sipping and food tasting a challenge as you keep trying to figure out which combination (and team) deserves your vote the most.

The St. Helena appellation is (deservedly) well known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and you’re bound to find many outstanding food pairings with that varietal on April 18th. However, we’ve also enjoyed pairings with well crafted wines made from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel grapes at past competitions.

Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

CIA at Greystone

For the fourth time, this lovely extravaganza will take place in the historic Barrel Room at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (255 Main Street, St. Helena, 707-967-1100). Tickets for bASH are $125 each and that’s a pretty good price for what is practically a 35-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with wine pairings for each course (which also comes with a chance to win an instant wine cellar).  
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Finding New Favorites: Recommendations from the 2015 World of Pinot Noir

Bacara Resort and Spa

Bacara Resort & Spa

We had a wonderful time at the 15th annual World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) earlier this month, enjoying copious amounts of high quality Pinot Noirs enhanced by delicious food and classic Southern California weather. Pinot Noir producers and lovers from around the world converged at the beautiful Bacara Resort & Spa for the weekend’s stellar lineup of seminars, tasting sessions, luncheons and winemaker dinners in Santa Barbara.

For us, the highlight is always attending the “Pinot Noir by the Sea” Grand Tastings showcasing over 200 wineries from around the world. Each year, we have the opportunity to taste the latest wines from old friends (Alma Rosa, FreemanMerry EdwardsLIOCO and Soter) as we seek out new discoveries (at least, to us).  Our new favorites at this year’s WOPN included Aberrant Cellars, Carmel Road Winery, Deovlet Wines and Stolo Family Vineyards.

Deovlet Wines

2013 John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir from Deovlet Wines

It’s also fun when wine tasting events help you recognize an attraction to wines made from grapes grown in the same vineyard but crafted by different wineries. We are definitely fans of the grapevines in Bien Nacido Vineyard, Brown Ranch Vineyard, Gap’s Crown Vineyard, Garys’ Vineyard and John Sebastiano Vineyard.   Keep reading and we’ll tell you our favorite wines (and food bites) at this year’s World of Pinot Noir in case you are interested in finding some new favorite Pinot Noir wines for yourself.

If you’re interested in opportunities to sample many potential new favorites at the same time, please go here to see our list of Pinot Noir-centric events taking place in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Sonoma County and the Willamette Valley later this year.
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Awesome Party, Great Cause: Taste of the Nation San Francisco

Taste of the Nation SF LogoFoodies and funseekers still have ten days left to finalize their travel plans to attend Taste of the Nation San Francisco and enjoy scrumptious tastes from popular local chefs such as Michael Tusk, Nancy Oakes and Jennifer Puccio. This delightful fundraiser will feature the Bay Area’s best chefs, vintners, brewers and mixologists coming together to support Share Our Strength’s goal of ending childhood hunger in the United States.

Michael Tusk

Michael Tusk, Chef Chair

Quince and Cotogna Chef Michael Tusk is returning as the Chef Chair again this year, leading the culinary charge.  With about 100 restaurant and beverage companies participating, you’re sure to enjoy yourself on Thursday, March 26 at City View at Metreon (135 Fourth Street). A General Admission ticket is $125 per person and offers entrance to the party from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm.

Or, you show some extra support by purchasing a VIP ticket for Taste of the Nation SF for $250 (which also provides early access into the event at 5:30 pm, complimentary valet parking and a special gift bag).  So call your friends and then come taste some of San Francisco’s finest dishes and pair them with the wine, beer, or cocktail of your choice.  But, don’t forget to go here and purchase your tickets first (before the event sells out).
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Celebrating Cabernet: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Events

Cabernet Grapes on Howell MountainIf you’re trying to factor your love of Cabernet Sauvignon into your future travel plans, we’re here to help. You’ll find a list below of 20 Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Tastings and Festivals in 2015 including food and wine events, walk-around tasting experiences and passport-style drive-around opportunities. There are even a few weekend-long celebrations. Not all of these events are exclusive to Cabernet Sauvignon, but that varietal will have at least a predominant presence at the events listed.

With destinations including Los Angeles, Napa Valley, Paso Robles and the Santa Cruz Mountains, these celebrations could be the basis for incredibly fun excursions.  So keep reading, grab your calendar and see how many of these you can fit into your own personal travel plans. But, it’s a long list so you may want to consider pouring yourself a glass of Cabernet before you start.

If you are also a fan of Pinot Noir, you can see our posting on 2015 Pinot Noir-centric events by going here. Although our list of Cabernet Sauvignon events is limited to California locations, the Pinot Noir list includes activities in Chicago, Houston, Portland and New York City.   
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Twenty Petite Sirahs: Favorites from the 2015 Dark & Delicious

Dark & Delicious GlassesTwo weeks ago, we had fun focusing our taste buds on a single varietal at the Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah™ event during a delightful wine and food experience. The Petite Sirah varietal is an offspring of Syrah and Peloursin that is crafted into big, bold red wines with herbal and black pepper aromas and strong fruit flavors (like cherries or blueberries) and plenty of tannins. After enjoying pours from over 40 wineries (along with small bites from restaurants, caterers and food purveyors) we ended the evening happy and satiated.

Dashe CellarsPart of the mission of PS I Love You (the event organizer) is to emphasize the terroir uniqueness of Petite Sirahs, and Dark & Delicious helped achieve that with wines made from grapes grown all over California.  Some of the wineries were new to us (Theopolis Vineyards) and some weren’t (Concannon Vineyard, Dashe Cellars) but that’s why we enjoy going to these events – revisiting old friends and making new discoveries.

We will let you know which wines were our favorites, in case you want to do some research, tasting, and purchasing on your own.  If you aren’t that familiar with Petite Sirah, please use the list below to guide your introduction.  We’ll also tell you which Bay Area food purveyors made our taste buds the happiest at the event.

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Fifty Shades of White: Favorites from the International Alsace Varietals Festival

Grand Tasting

International Alsace Varietals Festival Grand Tasting

It’s hard to find a wine festival focused on white wines, which is one of the things that makes the International Alsace Varietals Festival so enjoyable.   We were lucky enough to attend this year’s events and found many outstanding white wines to recommend for you to try on your own. This fun and unique event was sponsored by the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association and celebrated varietals such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat.

The Festival’s events included an Educational Session with winemakers where we learned about scientific studies dating back to 1969 on the effects of skin contact (C.S. Ough and H.W. Berg, 1969 & 1971), compared Pinot Blancs from different wineries made from grapes grown in the same vineyard, and heard about the different AOCs in the Alsace region as we enjoyed Alsace Grand Cru wines.

"Honey" at Lula Cellars

“Honey” at Lula Cellars

We also enjoyed driving around the Anderson Valley visiting the winery Open Houses as part of the Festival weekend, enjoying food and wine pairings, art displays, live entertainment and more.  But the highlight of the weekend for us was the Grand Tasting of over 100 Alsace varietals from around the world.   Keep reading and we’ll tell you our favorites.

So, if you are heading to a wine store, a restaurant, or planning a wine tasting trip, these are the wines (and wineries) we strongly suggest you check out.
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