Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: Taste, Meet, Feast, Enjoy and more…

Wine & Spirits Top 100 2013

Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting

Hope you’re not doing anything next Tuesday night because you’re going to want to spend it attending the 11th Annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting in San Francisco.  Over the past year they have tasted over 14,000 wines in the Wine & Spirits offices and these one hundred wineries came out on top, consistently delivering quality wines. This event is produced in San Francisco with Bay Area chefs and local artisanal purveyors serving small bites to complement the bottlings of the honored wineries and this year’s celebration is between 6:30 and 8:30 pm at City View at METREON (135 4th Street, San Francisco, 415-369-6000).  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 options that will even get you in the door an hour earlier.    

Alloro Vineyard

Alloro Vineyard

You can start the fun with Champagne from Louis Roederer and Oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co., enjoy domestic whites from King Estate and Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard, compare and contrast Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley (Alloro Vineyard, Bergström Wines) and the Sonoma Coast (Peay Vineyards, Hirsch Vineyards), re-acquaint yourself with Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (Shafer Vineyards, Smith-Madrone), and then cap off your evening with Port from Quinta do Noval and Chocolate Truffles from XOX Truffles.  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.


Don Maximiano wine from Viña Errázuriz

This is a sublime opportunity to sample wines from California, New York, Oregon, and Washington at the same time as international wines from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.  Tickets for the 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting are available online for $110 each. Ticket purchasers will also receive a one-year subscription to Wine & Spirits magazine.  To buy your tickets, please go here (but be sure to do that by October 20).
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Celebrating California’s Central Coast: Favorites from Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

Halter Ranch Winery

Halter Ranch Winery in Paso Robles

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, California’s Central Coast region offers a wealth of premium wine tasting opportunities.  Paso Robles was named “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2013 and is home to over 200 wineries growing Spanish, Bordeaux, and Rhône varietals in addition to the famous Paso Zinfandel.  In southern San Luis Obispo County, the prevalent ocean air helps produce full-flavored and balanced wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir grapes (and more) on vineyards from the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

California’s Central Coast also boasts outstanding restaurants, food purveyors, microbrews, and opportunities for entertainment as joyously demonstrated at the 5th annual Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast just two weeks ago. We’ve already described how much fun we had at the Sunset Dinner at Hearst Castle, but now we’re going to share our favorite experiences from the weekend’s two-day “Main Event” so you can savor and enjoy the highlights of the Central Coast yourself.

Activities at this action-packed festival on September 27-28 included:

  • A Central California “Marketplace” with over 40 wineries and more than 20 restaurants and food purveyors from the Central Coast.

    Tanya Holland, Fabio Viviani, Peggy Northrop

    Tanya Holland, Fabio Viviani, and Sunset Publishing Editor-in-Chief Peggy Northrop

  • Cooking demonstrations from Chefs and cookbook authors Tanya Holland (Brown Sugar Kitchen) and Fabio Viviani (Fabio’s Italian Kitchen) and Margo True (co-editor of Sunset The Great Outdoors Cookbook).
  • Wine Seminars on topics such as Rosés, Sparkling Wines from around the world, Wines from the Paso Robles Appellation, and the Impact of a glass on the tasting experience (from Riedel).

    The Monroe

    The Monroe

  • A beer garden-style setting with local microbreweries and musical entertainment culminating in a performance by Atascadero-based The Monroe.
  • Lifestyle presentations such as water-wise gardening and flower arranging in the “California Grown” Pavilion celebrating the quality and breadth of the State’s produce.
  • A “Travel and Adventure” stage where local experts offered tips for outdoor activities in the Central Coast such as cycling, kayaking, and zip-lining.
  • The finale of a lamb-cooking showdown between four talented chefs from across the nation.

Keep reading, and we’ll let you know what food, wine, and beer we recommend you seek out yourself to best enjoy the bounty of California’s Central Coast (whether from the comfort of your home or on your next visit to Atascadero, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Santa Margarita, or somewhere in between).
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An Extraordinary Evening: Sunset at Hearst Castle with Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

Have you ever witnessed a sunset at Hearst Castle? We think we just found the best way to experience that.

Sunset at Hearst CastleIt’s always enjoyable to attend a food and wine event in an outdoor environment based on award-winning wines and delicious food prepared by talented chefs. The level of enjoyment rises when live entertainment is thrown into the mix and microbrews are also available for attendees as an alternative beverage choice. But when you take all of that, locate it on the California Coast, schedule it at a time which includes watching the sun set, and then actually place the festivities in the middle of Hearst Castle, well now that’s an event composition that is going to be hard to top.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

We recently experienced that alignment of elements at Sunset at Hearst Castle on September 25, 2014, the kickoff event for this year’s Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast weekend. This was our first time attending this dinner, a spectacular combination of food, wine, music, and setting which also showcased some of the best food and wine available in the central California coastal region.  Keep reading and we’ll try to capture the highlights well enough to convince you that you should attend next year.
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Sonoma Wineries Open After 5 pm – September 2014

Longboard Vineyards

Longboard Vineyards, a Sonoma County Winery Open After 5 pm

Do you need a winery in Sonoma County 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 in the area and your daytime activities have included enjoying the water on the Russian River, gambling at the Graton Resort & Casino, or reminiscing with Charlie Brown and Snoopy at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. If you are 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” we can help with that too.

Cartograph, open in Healdsburg until 6:30 pm

Cartograph, Open in Healdsburg Until 6:30 pm

Look below and you’ll find a list of winery tasting rooms in Sonoma County that are open after 5 pm for tasting (without an appointment) which we would recommend. We’ve grouped the tasting rooms into Upper Sonoma County (Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys) and Lower Sonoma County (Sonoma Valley and the city of Sonoma).

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. Also, please check your watch as many wineries will not start tasting experiences for guests once it is 15-30 minutes before they close. If you would like to see our personal recommendations for wineries and restaurants in Sonoma County, please click on “Favorites By Wine Region” in the navigation bar above and follow the drop-down menus to the area(s) you are most interested in (but you should know that many of these wineries are not open after 5 pm).
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Napa Valley Rocks! – So Come Enjoy It (and Support its Recovery)!

Napa Valley Rocks! LogoFans of Napa Valley are invited to join the local community between September 25 and 28 at Napa Valley Rocks! Weekend, four days that will celebrate and showcase what Napa Valley has to offer.   A coalition of chefs, vintners, business owners and residents have joined forces to support earthquake relief efforts and offer an attractive collection of activities to raise awareness that Napa Valley is ready and open for business.  So come sip Napa Valley wines, savor local delicacies, shop at the Valley’s diverse stores, and shake your booty at your choice of many musical performances.

For exercise, your options include everything from casually strolling while shopping to running a half-marathon.  Food and wine opportunities range from peak-of-the-season fruits and vegetables at the Napa Farmers Market to an elaborate wine and food dinner featuring dishes from nine different restaurants including La Toque, Morimoto Napa, and Zuzu.  Musical performances include indoor concerts and outdoor concerts at venues both big and small.

Grapes at HarvestSo please come visit the Napa Valley and help bring its economic engine back into high gear.  Either part or all of the proceeds from the paid events will be contributed to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.  To learn more about the Fund and/or to make a separate donation, please go here.

Keep reading and we’ll share highlights of the main events over the Napa Valley Rocks! weekend including paid events, free events and community events as well as advice for exploring Napa Valley on your own schedule.
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Mount Veeder Wines After The Quake

Mount Veeder Appellation Wine TastingLast weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the 15th annual Mount Veeder Appellation Wine Tasting, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Mount Veeder AVA.  The host venue, The Hess Collection, was one of the wineries hit hardest by the recent Napa Earthquake (two 20,000 gallon tanks ruptured, over 14,000 cases of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon lost) and yet they pulled off their hosting duties with grace and class.

Mount Veeder grapes are crafted into some of our favorite Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa Valley and our experience this year just reinforced that opinion.  We were also impressed by a Zinfandel, a Syrah, a Rhône White blend and a Rosé at the Tasting.  This appellation has been producing worthy wines since the 1860s and Mt. Veeder is the only hillside appellation in Napa Valley that adjoins the cool bayside Los Carneros region, benefiting from the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay.

Smoked Chicken Bruschetta

Smoked Chicken Bruschetta

If you weren’t at this year’s Mount Veeder Appellation Wine Tasting, we strongly suggest you consider going next year for an afternoon of wine, food, and music. In addition to the wine, attendees enjoyed small nibbles such as Caprese Skewers, Smoked Chicken Bruschetta and Grilled Figs by Hess Collection Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson as well as Charcuterie, Nuts, and Cheeses (including Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed and Bellwether Farms’ Carmody).  Eventgoers also had the pleasure of listening to live music from The Hummingbirdz as they bid on Silent Auction items.

Keep reading, and we’ll tell you exactly which wines we enjoyed the most at this year’s event and recommend you seek out.  If you want to go wine tasting to explore these wines (and the rest of the wineries’ portfolios) 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).
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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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