Holiday Gift Guide for Wine Lovers

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Baby it’s cold outside!  Yes, even in the San Francisco Bay Area, we get chilly.  Fountains freezing in Napa, car windows frosting over in Berkeley.  That can mean only one thing – it;s time for the annual wine gift roundup! From wine lovers, to wine snobs, there is something for everyone on your list, from the inexpensive to the extravagant.  While I haven’t included wine on purpose, these accessories can make – or break – the perfectly stocked wine cellar or bar. Capabunga – these innovative bottle toppers are handy little buggers when you want to recork something for ready access.   A reusable silicone cap that reseals a bottle of wine, the concept was inspired by the bung caps that are used to reseal wine barrels.  Once you pop a Capabunga on your wine bottle, it’s air – and wine – tight.  No more spills if you knock the bottle over!  I am impressed by the usefulness of these gems, and at $7.95 for a pair, they are also great for resealing beer or champagne bottles.  I have had a bottle of bubbles still fizzy after a day in the fridge.     Bella Vita Bottle net looks like a trivet or potholder when flat, but when stretched out, it becomes gift wrapping and a carrier all in wine.  These fun designs come in several colors with unique handles $4 Indigo Root Drink Dotzare fun and creative wine glass identification stickers.  Do you remember Colorforms?  You know, those sticky plastic things that you could affix to anything, and reuse, stick again, etc…well these are colorforms for drinkware!    For $10, you get a set of Drink Dotz and Wine Wrapps, which wrap the bottom of a wine stem.  What a fun party gift!  With creative designs and holiday themes, these are great for your next party and last forever.  Indigo Root also sells fun temporary fabric wall squares, called Tilez, which are perfect for apartment or dorm room decorating.  In fact, I’m going to decorate my apartment with some! Soiree Opus gift set – there is no end to my love of the workhorse Wine Soiree Aerator, but this set is the Jaguar of the series.  For the wine lover who has everything, the Opus is a collection of Soiree Home’s greatest hits: Wine Soiree – the best wine aerator out there Stopair in bottle wine preservation system Tempour wine chiller – this frozen cylinder goes inside your wine bottle to keep a bottle cold or rapidly chill a bottle that is slightly too warm. Happy Festivus! Google

Risky business at the Marques de Riscal hotel

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       After spending a leisurely morning horseback riding in the high tableau above La Rioja and her vineyards, the intrepid travelers were treated to a luxurious after noon at the Marques de Rical Spa. Opened in 2006, this stunning art piece stands high on a hill, well hidden from the prying eyes of road warriors, in the town of Elciego, Spain.  Master architect Frank Gehry, who is well known for his work on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, designed the building in a similar style – with a waving metallic roofline, and soft, unctuous features. Since the opening, the Marques de Riscal has become a famous retreat for the elite, as well as the masses, with a focus on design, art, gastronomy and of course – wine.  For our group, we spent the afternoon relaxing in the spa, massaging away the horseback – behind, travelers aches, and other stresses.  The Spa Vinothérapie Caudalie Marqués de Riscal is tucked away in the lower levels of the hotel, with a peaceful outdoor sitting area overlooking vineyards and the hillside.  With an indoor pool and hottub, as well as a variety of luxury treatments, I could have stayed with my book all afternoon. Special treatments at the spa were designed to highlight the benefits of essence of the grapes, from the surrounding wine culture, to sooth and invigorate the skin.  I had a massage with grape oil, and there is an option for a barrel bath, soaking in the grape pomace.  Ahhhh! After our spa treatments, and exploring the hotel grounds, we headed to the restaurant for an epic feast.  Awarded with a Michelin Star in 2012, the traditional Spainsih fare is turned on it’s head with a modern twist. From wine “caviar” to beer “soup”, our evening progressed in to a classic, and long, Spanish dinner, full of wine and laughter.  The dishes were magical a retelling of simple and classic traditional Spanish items, and we enjoyed them to the very last crumb of dessert. Spa treatments start at 60 Euro for a 20 minute massage, with a Barrel Bath treatment at 110 Euro.  The pool area is open to hotel and spa guests, and is a fantastic way to relax on your trip to Rioja.  A full day of touring in the region and and access to the spa is a very affordable 80 Euro for you day trippers out there! For those who are points collectors, the Marques de Riscal is a Starwood Preferred Guest program property, and I can envision myself saving up some points to stay here!  I highly recommend a visit to the Hotel Marques de Riscal, in the “City of Wine”, in the heart of Rioja.  You won’t be sorry! This visit was provided by the good folks at: Google

It’s so good – Elyse Vineyards

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Elyse Winery started in 1987, with a classic California varietal – Zinfandel.  Over the last 25 years, they have grown, but have remained focused on creating vineyard driven wines that pair with food.  While you may think that a Napa winery can’t make quality Rhone varietals, but with the help of some great fruit from the Sierra Foothills, Elyse is making it’s mark with two red blends and a white blend. The 2009 C’est si Bon is a red blend with 5 Rhone reds and a touch of Viognier.  The powerful Grenache and Mourvedre bases give it a rich and bold foundation, peppered with black pepper, spice, and blue fruit.  I love the addition of the Viognier, since it adds a brightness and aromatic tone that you wouldn’t otherwise get.  Chewy leather and meat combine with cloves, gingerbread and earthy notes with plums, cherries and a bright burst of citrus.  The C’est si Bon is a great example of the power of Chateaunuef de Pape and how it can be transformed in the Sierra Foothills. On the white side, the 2011 L’Ingeneue – Naggiar Vineyard would have you believe she is an innocent or unsophisticated young woman (the definition of inginue).  However, there is nothing innocent or unsophisticated about this white Rhone blend!  Comprised of 52% Roussanne, 32% Marsanne, 11% Viognier, and 5% Grenache Blanc, this elegant white blend evokes grilled pineapple, ruby red grapefruit, nectarines, and sweet cream.  The dominant Roussanne gives it a bold body and rich creamy each base, with honey suckle, honey, and juicy pear following.  The long, silky finish is a nightclub act in 1932 Paris. Elyse is a winery to watch! These wines were provided by the winery for consideration.  All options are my own.   Google  

Where in the world is Rioja?

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Rioja is a vast region of Spain, and one of the most well known wine regions from that country.  While you can make similarities to Sonoma County, as La Rioja is also a community (or county), the wines from that area can be from Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Baja, and even the surrounding regions of Navarra and Alava. Located in a north east pocket of Spain, Rioja can be mountainous, lush, dry, desert, or anything in between.  First recognized as a wine growing region in the middle ages, it has evolved to be a world renowned and diverse wine region. The three regions within La Rioja are microclimates, each with specific soil types and terroirs that differ, while holding a similar continental climate.  Rioja Alta, where I spent most of my visit, is on the western edge and has the highest elevation.  Known for old world style wine, the higher elevation makes a cooler climate.  Rioja Alavesa is similar to Rioja Alta,  but tends to make bigger, bolder wines.  Poorer soil quality means that vines have to struggle more, producing stronger wines.  Finally, Rioja Baja is less of a continental climate are more of the warm, balmy, Mediterranean climate. The most common varietal planted in Rioja is Tempranillo, though Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano, and Mazuelo (Carignane) are alos allowed and are commonly used for blending.  There are a few rebel wineries that are doing some single varietal bottlings of these grapes and are really very interesting.  While they are the same grapes as their French neighbors in the Rhone valley, they are quite different and more powerful.  The more rare and special Rioja Blancas are usually Viura (Macabeo, which is often used or Cava), Malvasia, and my favorite – Garnacha Blanca. One of the keys to understanding Rioja, beyond the sub regions, is understanding the classification system.  Much like Bordeaux and it’s first growth Chateau, Rioja has rules around what can be a Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Rerserva.  But it’s not what you think! Spanish wines are labeled based on how long you age the wine; while there is a newer classification that is simploy “Rioja”, or declassified wine, you can classify most wines in three categories. Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak. Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Gran Reserva wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Gran Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 4 years with at least 6 months in oak. Confused?  Yeah me too; so Crianza is what most people drink on a daily basis, and what you’d order in a bar.  Reserva is probably what you’d bring to a dinner […]

A Spanish Castle stands guard over Rioja

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On a bright early summer day, as our jet lagged bodies were drug out of bed to meet Rioja sun, we were off on our first visit of the trip, to Bodegas Castillo de Sajazarra. This beautiful castle was purchased in the 1960s and restored by the Libano family as their family home.  Investigating the property, they realized that there were remnants of wine productoin facilities, and they set out on an adventure to impart their own stamp on a new, modern winery. The 700 year old original fortress was situated on the border of the Moorish Muslim territory and the northern European Christians, which – as you can imagine could be quite a contested region during the crusades. Enter the current owner and his family, who are Basque.  Again, a hotly disputed territory, they moved to the now tranquil region of Rioja Alta to escape persecution from the separatist movement in Basque country. After restoring the wine making facilities to modern standards, the first vintage was produced in 1973 from the the rich chalky soils of the region.  Here, the bold wines of Rioja are front and center, along with the lesser known, delicate and delicious whites.  Today, 250,000 bottles are produced, and aged an average of 3 to 4 years. While the castle isn’t open to the public, I highly suggest making the time and arrangements to view this piece of history in Rioja!  You wont be sorry, and you might get lost in the dungeon!        Google  

Battle of the best: Cocktail Wars

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Are you over turkey and cranberry sauce?  Done with wine pairings?  Well, Dishcrawl is at it again!  Bringing cocktail deliciosuness everywhere!  This season, they are launching Cocktail Wars, where North American mixologists from all over the country compete for the best, most creative, most delicious cocktails in 11 cities. Here in the Bay Area, the first battle will be in San Jose on December 10th, which is co-hosted by Sacramento’s own Andrew Calisterio, current frontman at Maven San Francisco. At the show, you can sit back and watch the panel of celebrity judges and hear the inspiration behind the drink while you sip some of the contenders. But wait!  In January, to beat those mid-winter blues, you can also join the battle in San Francisco!  Stay tuned for more on that soon. If you like a good, creative, inspired cocktail as much as I do – be sure not to miss it!  I’ll be there voting! For tickets and more information please see Cocktail Wars!  Packages including tasting menus are available starting at $29. Cheers! Google    

Jordan Royalty

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Sitting on the mountaintop overlooking Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Geyserville, you might feel like doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio impression from Titanic.  I’m the king queen of the world! Jordan Vineyards & Winery was founded in 1976, with a passion for world class Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, made in the heart of Sonoma.  Today, that vision has grown to include a showcase for the local terroir, as well as a focus on sustainability and stewardship of the land that the vineyards are planted on.  From solar panels to water treatment facilities, Jordan strives to maintain the land that produces these beautiful wines. On a gorgeous late summer day, I joined a group of fellow bloggers to preview the newest tour & tasting offering, the Estate Tour & Tasting.  This 3 hour tour will make you feel like you are Gilligan, lost in the rolling hills of oak trees and back acreage, but you will soon be found in your glass of wine and several stops along the way. Meanding down from the main chateau and tasting area, the first stop is in the gardens, where the produce for Chef Todd Knoll’s culinary program.  Having had several meals at Jordan, I know first hand what amazing vegetables can do for a meal.  Wandering through the rows of raspberries, roses, and veg, we had a mini feast of summer tomatos and fruit before boarding the newly christened (and air conditioned) Jordan shuttle for our next stop on the tour. Next up, Seven Oaks is a stand of oak trees surrounding a new tasting bar, with sweeping views of the lake and olive orchards.  Here at Seven Oaks, we tasted two vintages of Chardonnay, paired with bento boxes of fresh vegetable sushi.  My favorite was the 2011, with beautiful crisp green apple and citrus fruit, with a healthy dose of white necterine.  The 2010 was equally beuatiful if not differnt.  The 2010 was a classic California Chardonnay, but more restrained, with creamy golden delicious apple, pear, vanilla, and baking spice.  Two yin and yang experiences, refreshingly chilled on a hot day.   At Creekside Landing, on next stop, we strolled through the vines heavy with Malbec and Petite Verdot grapes, and tasted the componant grapes that go in the Jordan’s Cabernet program.  If you haven’t tasted fruit off the vine, this is a once in a lifetime opportuinty to taste the tannic Malbec skins, and the rich ripe flesh of Petite Verdot!   At our final stop on the tour, with the time going all too fast, we reach the crest of the hill at Vista Point.  This open air gazebo has 360 degree views of Alexander Valley, Geyserville, and peeps of Dry Creek and Chalk Hill and is an amazing viewpoint for sunset.  There wasn’t a bad seat in the house, as we sat down to enjoy our tasting of Cabernet and nibbles. Starting with local cheeses, artisan bread and Jordan’s olive oil, we moved on to Sonoma miso beef, served with […]

When good wine gets…better

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Ah vermouth, that mystical beverage that started it’s life as wine, and was elevated with aromatics and botanicals.  Vermouth varies so widely, it might as well be called the gin of the wine world! While there are two distinct types of vermouth – dry, or white, and sweet, or red, the flavor profiles within each realm vary so widely that it is akin to determining who your favorite wine is.  For me, it’s impossible. You have probably heard of, and used, the classic Martini & Rossi vermouths in your cocktails, be it a Manhattan or a Martini.  While these are inexpensive and readily available, there remind me of white zinfandel.  Fine, if you must, but must you? Recently, I had the good fortune to taste a local vermouth by Sutton Cellars.  This delicious example of a craft vermouth is made from a white wine from Sonoma, and infused with a burst of citrus and baking spice, this is the perfect sipper of choice on these warm fall afternoons. While most vermouth is used in cocktails, this beauty should be enjoyed alone, or with a minimum of other ingredients. My two favorite cocktails with craft vermouth: Sutton & Soda Made by Carl Sutton himself, this was a gorgeous interlude before we completed our wine tasting.  Simple, yet elegant, vermouth on the rocks with a splash of soda water and a grapefruit twist.  Delicious! Not so French Kiss I found this recipe online, and it uses both dry and sweet vermouths.  My version kicks it up a notch with the addition of some aromatic bitters for flavor emphasis. Mix half sweet and half dry vermouth over rocks.  My choice for the sweet (or red) is the Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth.  While sweet is a bit of a reach, this rich red vermouth is dark ruby and complex, with orange marmalade, coffee, and spice.  Yum! Add a dash of bitters and orange bitters, and top with a lemon slice.  Ahhh refreshing!  For extra fun, try cardamon bitters!  the earthy exotic spice works perfectly.  This is like a gingerbread man, smoking a cigar, in Marseilles. Sutton Cellars is hosting a vermouth tasting in San Francisco, at 18 Reasons, on December 2nd.  If you are in the area, check it out!   Google      

Bubble, bubble, toil and Trouble-maker!

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What’s better on a dark and storm haunted Halloween than a bold red wine with a name like The Troublemaker?  With all of the goofy holiday wines out there, the Troublemaker brings you a solid wine at a great price.  And it’s fun! The Troublemaker, a zesty little blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel from Hope Family Wines should do just the trick.  Or is that a treat? The non vintage blend is mostly from 2011, with the bulk of the blend being the workhorse syrah.  The fun of this budget friendly $20 bottle is that the rest of the blend is from multiple varietals from the 2010 vintage. I love the easy drinking style of this wine, with bold spicy notes, and dark blackberry powering through the dark chocolate.  I can imagine this being a fantastic base for those witches brews you might be concocting for your Halloween hauntings!  Thank you to the kind PR folk for providing me the yummy – I am going to go make some bubble bubble toil and trouble now!  Happy haunting!   Google    

Naramata Bench adventures

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 On the first full day of the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, while I was doing some last minute rehearsal and logistical planning for my discussion on Saturday about positioning your blog(more on that later however), the rest of the attendees were enjoying some interesting insights on podcasting, the use of photography, and other digital media in their blogging efforts. After a morning and afternoon filled with Google Plus, Compelling Content, Wines of Ontario, and a rather wonderful speech from author James Conway, we were off on our chosen buses to our evening excursions to local wineries. Unlike past WBCs, we were able to chose our buses based on an activity, or theme.  I chose the paddleboarding adventure, since I hadn’t been to the Naramata Bench area of the Okanagan and was curious. Off we went in our two mini buses, darting in and out of wineries for a quick dry by tour before stopping to hear more about the unique terroir of the area.  The Naramata Bench Wineries Association is a group of 24 wineries that stretch along 24 kilomenters of lakeshore, both high and low, on the east side of Lake Okanagan. With sandy cliffs and gently sloping lakeside land, these vineyards have a unique climate that is perfect for some of the areas Bordeaux styel reds.  The views aren’t bad either! Our adventure took us through a vineyard, and culminated at Sandy Beach Lodge, where the Naramata Bench wineries were hosting a walk around tasting and dinner, showcasing the best of the area. In addition to the tasting, here at the sandy beach, we had the option of partaking in the paddleboarding.  Now, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion (hey it was my birthday!) but several of my blogging brethren certainly did!     If you go, be sure to stop by these wineries: Black Widow Winery – specializing in single vineyard wines, I especially liked the Merlot. Elephant Island Orchard Wines – I was not expecting to enjoy these fruit wines, but boy was I wrong.  Some were more like a hybrid between wine and cider, others were refreshing and unexpected. Howling Bluff – I love Pinot Gris, and the Okanagan makes some stunning examples.  This is one of my favorites. Popular Grove – the view from the terrace is simply stunning and second to none.  The home of Vanilla Pod restaurant, this was my favorite stop on my first visit to the region.  The red wines are world class and I wish I could take home a case! With four seasons and a festival for each one, now is the time to visit the area! Google    

Cocktail of the week: Gintonica

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Put on your yalmulka, here comes gin-tonica, Its so much fun-akkah to celebrate gin-tonica! With all due respect to Adam Sandler and his holiday chuckles, a well crafted Gin & Tonic is one of my favorite cocktails.  The wide variety of gins available these days is far reaching, and goes beyond hte bathtub varieties of Prohibition, and past the mass market varieties that resemble little more than nail polish with a fancy label. Before I delve in my three favorite Gin & Tonic recipes for your Friday enjoyment, let’s look a little bit at the history at gin.  I first became fascinated with gin when I first went to Spain, where the Gintonic has long been held as a sacred ritual and art form.  As it turns out, filed under the heading strange but true facts about booze, Spain boasts the third highest per capita consumption of gin around the world, after (oddly enough) the Phillipines and the United States.  Britain, which is what pops in to most minds when you say gin, falls fourth in line.  Considering that Spain produces world class wine, this is a pretty crazy statistic – but this Luscious Lushes is happy to have stumbled in to the country where a gin & tonic is a creative outlet for even the most back country bartender takes pride in. Gin was originally derived from juniper berries in the Middle Ages, and was used as an herbal medicine.  Today, gins are any clear spirit that is made from botanicals, and can be floral, herbal, woodsy, or juiper-y.  The key difference here, is that while vodka is a flavorless spirit, gin has a ton of flavor, and distillers pride themselves on a unique and secret combination of herbs, flowers, and spices, to give their own special twist to their version. legance in a glass.  There are two distinct types of spirit that can be called gin:Today, with the craft cocktail craze sweeping the US and the world, gin is no longer a medicinal beverage or a poor man’s drink – it is e Gin – This is a juniper flavored spirit made by adding natural flavors to a neutral spirit.  The predominant flavor must be juniper. London Gin – must be at least 70% ABV and cannot have any added sugar beyond .1 grams per liter.  Because there is not added sugar, London Gin is usually called London Dry Gin. My favorite gins are all quite different, and I continue to explore and disvoer new versions that are as widely varied in falvvor as a Bordeaux is from a California Pinot Noir: St. George Spirits Terroir Gin – St. George Spirits, the makers of Hangar One Vodka, is across the bay from me and prouces three gins.  Terroir is my favorite, with earthy, forest flavors, minty goodness and cedar notes. Old World Spirits Blade Gin – fruity and spicy, with ginger and hot pepper notes this is a citrus driven gin with earthy bones that really sing. Hendricks Dry London GIn […]

Tinhorn Creek

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On another gorgeous early Summer day in the Okanagan, in the general direction of Covert Farms, I made a beeline for Tinhorn Creek Vineyards.  Founded in 1993, Tinhorn Creek has been growing grapes and making wine for 20 years in the south Okanagan.  A driving force behind the beauty of the Okanagan, Sandra Oldfield, has been an active member of the social media community of wine writers for several years and wasn’t exaggerating when she said it was one of the greatest places on earth.  Built on a strong friendship, the winery has become a destination. A refugee defector from the Sonoma County wine industry, Sandra headed north in 1995 and landed in Oliver after studying winemaking and Canadian history at UC Davis (ok well that’s an interesting combination!).  Slogging away at producer Rodney Strong in Sonoma County, she is now part owner at Tinhorn Creek.  While we miss her talent and energy here in California, Sandra is part of an exciting future for the Okanagan wine industry and I can’t wait to go back and visit more. Tinhorn Creek sits on a unique hillside, rising steeply above the river valley, where you have rock, gravel, sandy loam an alluvial fan soil beds all mixing together to create a fantastic terroir for wine.  Tinhorn Creek owns two distinct tracts of land, in an area of the south Okanagan called the Golden Mile; with 50 acres of estate vineyards and 100 acres of additional land on the Black Sage Bench, Tinhorn Creek has the perfect growing climate for some amazing Bordeaux style wines as well as aromatic whites. In addition to expressing the best of the region, Tinhorn Creek focuses on sustainability and being ecologically responsible.  With programs that includes recycling, composting, and making smarter choices, they maintain stewardship of the land and local people to maintain their livlihood and safety while reducing carbon production and water use, keeping the area clean and pristine for generations to come. But what abou tthe wine?  Not that I’m biased or anything, but Tinhorn Creek would be one of my favorite wineieres in the Okanagan.  I was told about the Cab Franc from my friend Marcy, who had previously travelled tot he region on a scounting mission while I was on the northern end in 2012.  Her depiction of the wine and the winery made me crave my own visit.  As kismet would have it, I walked in the door of the winery, and randomly walked straight in to Marcy – who was also in Penticton a day early for WBC13.  Well!  An expert guide to the wine was just what I needed. And now, the wine!  The Oldfield Series 2 Bench White blend is a unique wine, with a blend of a Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion that were co-fermented  in addition to a co-fermented Semillion and Viognier that was blended in.  The result is a rich, barely off dry white with beautiful aromatics that are perfect for porch sipping.  I love the use of Semillion in Sauvignion Blanc, because it rounds out any […]

Painting the story

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The morning sun rises over the mountains, casting light on the lakes below.  The thin light of morning almost seems like moonlight, as it peeks through the thin curtains in my room.  It was 4:30am, and I groaned as I looked at my iPhone with disdain.  This was a summer morning in Penticton, British Columbia. Knowing there was no possibility of going back to sleep with the light growing with every passing minute, I climbed out of bed to get dressed.  Poking my head outside, I remembered how far north I was, and ducked back inside for a warm sweater and my camera. Capturing the early morning light is something I’ve always thought I would enjoy doing, save for my slight love hate relationship with early morning.  So up I get, and wander outside to the terraced grounds of God’s Mountain Estate Bed & Breakfast, where the dew was still glistening on the grapevines surrounding the house. Sitting on a bluff high above Skaha Lake, God’s Mountain is a 115 acre property with a rambling neo classical Mediterranean villa, that in some ways, resembles Fawlty Towers.  The maze of rooms was both delightful and maddening to explore, with each doorway opening up a new view and experience. A throwback to the B&Bs of my mind’s eye, the inviting living room and guest library offer you a peek in to the bohemian nature of the property, which is also a working vineyard.  The Wild Goose Vineyard has produced award winning wines, and the outdoor living space is inviting and relaxing. After wandering around the property while it still slept, I was greeted by a breakfast spread fit for a king.  Reminding me of the meals I’ve had at pensions all over Europe, my request for some fruit and yogurt was granted beautifully, and summarily understood to be just the beginning: Well fed and with some local coffee fueling my adventures, I headed down the east side of the lake, in to Okanagan Falls to explore more of the beautiful country and backroads of the Okanagan.  There was no doubt that I would slept well on this night, with dreams of mountain sunrises and wine to remember. With direct flights and easy transfers from the west coast, Penticton is closer than  you think.  For a unique expereince and a retreat you will not forget, visit God’s Mountain Estate and enjoy the views, the wines, and the hospitality! Accomodations were provided by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and God’s Mountain Estate Google  

Battledish: 2013

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Have you heard of Dishcrawl?  It’s a craze that’s sweeping the nation, where like-minded foodies get together on a themed “dish” crawl.  Much like the traditionally bar crawl, each Dishcrawl stops at several locations; typically themed around a food or a neighborhood, it’s an amazingly fun way to meet new people, discover new restaurants, and enjoy some really awesome grub. Now, Dishcrawl has launched a new event to focus on the food truck craze! Battledish will be hosting events all over the country, including Seattle, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.  Lucky us, the first event will take place here in the Bay Area – at San Mateo’s Bay Meadows Expo Center! As in most metro areas, food truck culture is huge here.  From Off the Grid here in San Francisco, to lunch time random truck-ness, there is nary a time when a delectable food truck isn’t a stone’s throw away.  This makes my taste buds very very happy! On October 5th, Battledish is sure to be an entertaining afternoon, with food truck chefs competing for the best dishes!  With 15 food trucks and 30 dishes, only one can win.  Featuring new concepts from your favorite food trucks, you can join in the fun and be a beta tester too!  Entry to the event is $10, and you can enhance your experience with one of the ticket packages that include food, beer, wine and spirits. Here’s a few of the trucks that will be featured at the event: We Sushi – Lobster Taco, BBQ Albacore, Vegan Taco Tia Maria – Beef Picadillo, Chicken Afritada, Fresh Vegetable Lumpia Cluck It Up – Mini Mochiko Chicken Sliders, Won Ton Tacos with Honey Sriracha Chicken, Garlic Fries Frozen Kuhsterd – Mini Dynamo Donut Sandwich, Napa Style Sundae, Boba Guys Sundae There are fives titles to be won, including:  Most Delicious, Most Creative, Best Modern, Best Cocktail, Most Authentic. Stay tuned, because every week in preparation to the event, a new dish and truck will be revealed! Now for the fun part.  Be your own judge!  The ticket packages below allow you to nibble your way through some, or all, of the tasty treats being offered, plus, beer! Teaser Package: 6 Chef Dishes: $35 – Try six dishes with this package! (6 tickets valued at $5 each for food and/or drink). Includes Admission. Gourmand: Chef Dishes with all 15 food truck chefs: $80 – Get your belly full by trying a full collection of dishes from all 15 chefs with this package! (15 tickets valued at $5 each for food) Includes Admission. VIP: Dishes and Drinks at all 15 trucks, Beer Tasting, and swag bag: $100 – The VIP package includes 15 food dishes and 1 Beer Tasting, and swag bags. Admission with Beer Tasting: $25 – This includes a drink wristband good for a 5-beer tasting as well as admission into the event.  (food packages sold separately) Just added!  Wine Tasting Package sponsored by my friends at Uncorked Ventures!  For an additional $10 you can taste a flight of 5 wines.  Remember to use […]

Covert Operations at Covert Farms

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Tucked away in a corner of British Columbia that is a well kept secret, Covert Farms evokes an earlier time in North American history; a simpler time, a slower time. Exploring the south Okanagan Valley before the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference began this June, I took some time to savor some of these special treats. Covert Farms was founded by George Covert, who was a produce broker and business man from Tracy – a now suburban city near San Francisco. In 1959, Tracy was a rural landscape, where George was part owner of a packing company that worked with the fruit growers in the Okanagan. Tired of the grind in California, he packed it in and headed north to see what was so special about the area and the produce grown there. Discovering the land on top of the mesa where Covert Farms now sits, he purchased it on the spot and the rest is history. Little has changed in the last 50 years, where tomatoes, onion, potatoes, corn and grapes, are still grown, along with cherries, strawberries and – today – wine grapes. Still one of the leaders in organic, sustainable fruit and vegetables, Covert Farms is a major supplier of fresh produce to western Canada as well as locals. Touring around the farm in an old red truck, you can feel how this piece of land inspires.  Tucked away from the prying eyes of the highway, up a hill, you wouldn’t know that it was there.  Driving through the farm in an old truck, you can imagine that it’s 1959 and George Covert had just arrived.  As I learned about the history of the farm and how they are trying to maintain and encourage sustainable, natural, and local food culture in the Okanagan, we stopped to pick strawberries and sample some of the other fruits that were ripe for the picking in early June. As the Okanagan was once all fruit trees and farms, taking the land back to the early days with thriving, lush organic crops makes it clear why this place is so special.  But we’re here for the wine right?   Covert Farms Family Estate Winery was founded as Dunham & Froese Estate winery in 2005, and part of the 600 acre farm.  Today, the organic wines are crafted from 100% estate fruit, and focus on the artisan nature of the farm.  The organic fruit is sought after by other winemakers, and display the terroir of the area beautifully. As I learned on my first trip to the Okanagan in 2012, the aeromatic white wines of the Alsace, northern France  and Germany do exceptionally well here.  That said, this part of the Southern Okanagan is also a welcoming climate for Bordeaux reds.  The Oliver-Osoyoos region is a special area within the Okanagan and can be a bit of a chameleon.   2012 Sav Blanc Semillion – I love the natural pairing of Semillion which softens sav blanc and gives it a lush roundness.  This wine was fermented in primarily stainless steel, which a few […]