Make the Holidays Sparkle with Franciacorta

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Nothing says festive like a bottle of sparkling wine.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, or any other holiday, we all love to ring in the new year with a sparkling libation. Sparking wines are made all over the world.  From the world famous Champagne region in France, to surprising sparkling Shiraz from Australia, there are delicious options everywhere.  But none of my favorite classic sparklers comes from Italy.  No, it’s not Prosecco, or even Asti Spumante, but rather something that is made in the Methode Classico (or champagnoise), from the Lombardy region in the north:  Franciacorta. I have been fortunate to experience the many colors and flavors of Franaciacorta with Franciacorta USA’s partnership with Balzac Communications.  We have been treated to an annual tasting of several different examples of this iconic Italian bubbly; recently, I was able to attend an informal and delicious tasting of three very special wines at A16 in San Francisco. Frst up, one of my favorite producers from previous tastings, the Contadi Castalidi Franciacorta Brut Rosé NV, which is a blend of 35% Pinot Noir and 65% Chardonnay.  This budget friendly pink is a great example of why you should pay attention to this region.  With light fruity flavors, brioche notes, and velvety plum notes, you will love the holiday wallet friend price point of under $25.           The next selection was a gorgeous 2012 Le Marchesine Saten, which in the DOGCG of Franciacorta, must be a Blanc de Blanc from Chardonnay and or Pinot Bianco (Blanc). Slightly more expensive than the the other two at $30, it’s still a very friendly price point for sparkling of this quality.  With spicy white flowers and bright notes of citrus layered over fresh cream, this is the perfect mid point in this lovely trio of wines.   Finally, the all-star of the evening was the Biondelli Franciacorta Brut, an elegant 100% Chardonnay start hat is bottled aged no less than 2 years.  Officially certified organic since 2014, the 8 hectare vineyard is hand harvested and gently pressed and fermented in stainless steel barrels.  The gorgeous floral notes of this sexy sipper give way to peach blossom, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and just a hint of citrus.  This is my top pick and even at an average price of $20 (if you can find it) you should be buying it by the case. Franciacorta is not the poor man’s Champange.  Despite the user friendly price points on many of these fine wines, the quality and flavor profiles are world class.  Franciacorta wines are widely available at better wine shops as well as online.  Experiment, try a few, and enjoy this holiday season! Special thanks to Franciacorta USA for sharing these delights!      

Ready, Set, Lunch!

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Hidden in the depths of a cozy bar in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley, a secret lurks:  A delicious, inventive pop up called Lunchpad SF.  The Lunchpad has been serving lunch and brunch for the last three years, transforming this hip evening hangout in to a great day time destination. Featured in 7X7 Magazine’s list of San Francisco’s “5 Best Spots for Coffee or Lunch Meetings”, The Lunchpad was created by Adam & Mark Hubbell, and Chris Snowden.  Combining unexpected ingredients with original flavors, this unique hot spot can even be delivered to your door via Postmates, one of the hottest new delivery apps. During the week, the lunch menu includes a wide range of sandwiches, salads, and…wait for it…habanero candied bacon.  Yes, I said bacon. This bacon is tangy, sweet, and spicy, and while it serves as the centerpiece for a few of the sandwiches, it really is best just alone. Other favorites that I enjoyed were the Chicken Run, served only on Wednesdays when chef Chris comes in to make this special.  How could you go wrong with fried chicken? Another favorite, and one that spawned a pickle craze at our table of media guests, was the Turkey Drizzle.  A classic turkey sando with so many twists you could be in the Winchester Mystery House, the candied bacon is layered on with cheese, giardiniera, tomatoes, and house made pickles.  These pickles were of divine creation, and take the classic bread and butter pickle and elevate it up three notches.  We were enjoying them so much that we actually ordered a plate of pickles to nibble on – as if we were going hungry.   We thought we were nearing the end, but then came the Brunch menu!  savory Huevos Rancheros made my mouth water, but the cherry on the cake was the ginormous breakfast biscuit.  Based on a huge fluffy cheddar biscuit, more cheese is melted on top of  a perfectly fried egg, and garlic aioli is added as the finishing touch.  Yum!  Did I forget to mention that the bacon is also hiding in there? To wash all of these tasty treats down, the Brunchpad Bloody is served only on weekends.  With bacon used as the finishing touch of flavoring, this fresh tomato juice cocktail is savory with just the right touch of sweetness.  Normally I’m not a huge fan of the Bloody anything, however, this was refreshing and delicious.  Other cocktails are available. If you find yourself hungry while strolling Hayes Valley midweek, or are looking for a fun new brunch spot, check out The Lunchpad at Noir Lounge.  They are open Monday through Friday, 9am – 2:30pm, and weekends 11am-2:30. On a rainy night you don’t want to go out, order directly from Postmates and enjoy Lunchpad from the comfort of your own home!  Lunchpad also offers pickling classes and other fun events.     Special thanks to Lunchpad for this amazing media preview!  Be sure to stop by and grab a bite when you are doing your last minute holiday shopping on Hayes […]

Two Hands #winestudio

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Australia.  The birthplace of Shiraz.  The wild frontier.  All of these things conjure up images of the pioneering spirit of the Aussie wine industry.  With Two Hands Wines, this story continues with quality, not compromise, from some of South Australia’s best known wine regions. The idea for Two Hands was born in September 1999, when founders Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz set out to make their own mark on the wine industry with the goal of making the best possible representation of Australian wine:  Shiraz. With so much Australian wine being exported around the world, the duo knew that best in class wines were not always being represented globally.  With an eye on the prize of making spectacular iwnes that representaed each of the regions and blends, as well as representing the all encompassing terroir, they set out ot highlight the trademark grape of Australia. The first vintage was produced in 2000, and today, they have three distinct product lines and over 10 wines in production.   Quality without compromise is central to the Two Hands philosophy, driving all the decisions from fruit and oak selection to packaging and promotion.   Throughout the month of October, we were able to taste six spectacular wines from Two Hands, from the Garden Series, the Picture Series, and the penultimate Ares.  Sharing our conversations with winemaker Ben Perkins, as he walked us through his inspiration and style choices.   2014 Gnarly Dudes Barossa Valley Shiraz Bawdy, brawly, bold and inky dark purple..  This is what I think of when I think of Barossa Shiraz.  Full bodied and bursting with blackberries, espresso, old leather and cracked pepper, this is a bruiser.  The bitter espresso tannins mellow out after a bit of air, and I enjoyed it more at the last sip versus the first.  Using only 15% new French oak gives this wine lovely structure without overwhelming it.  Crafted from several parcels, each was crushed and fermented in small open top containers.  Each batch was vinified separately, and blended just before bottling.  ~$22   2014 Angels Share McLaren Vale Shiraz Rounder, softer, less masculine than Gnarly Dudes, the Angels Share reminds of why I love McLaren Vale.  The savory, herbal notes show bacon, tomato leaf and eucalyptus flavors, with dark cherries and chocolate at the finish.  The silky tannins work well with this unfined and unfiltered wine, which also uses minimal oak aging to maintain the fresh and fruity flavors.  ~$22     2014 Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon   Dark and chewy, this earthy Cabernet was quite herbal with firm tannins.  Espresso and lavender pop out and play.  As with many cabs, this wine spent more time in oak, with 15% new French balancing out a combination of one to five year old barrels.  The result is a fresh but firm minty, earthy, McLaren Vale cab, that is a great example of what Australia has to offer beyond Shiraz.  ~$22   The Picture Series demonstrates outstanding value in Australian Shiraz (and Cabernet), while showing the key […]

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards – blendng culturees and family history in Napa

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Tucked away in a corner of Napa Valley known as Oak Knoll, the Materra Cunat estate sneaks up on you out of the bucolic vineyards of the eastside.  This 50 acre property was purchased by the family in 2007, and through the use of modern technology and an expert wine making team, has developed in to a world class winery. The farming roots of the Cunat family are deep.  Brian Cunat was raised on a farm in Indiana, and his 17 lifelong pursuit of travel, wine, and vineyard explanation with his wife Miki have instilled a passion in him to create his own world class wine.  His first visit to Napa had him enthralled with it’s natural beauty, and the rest is history.     On a particularly splendid spring day, I met with the Cunat’s youngest daughter Neena to taste through the Bordeaux inspired wines. “Each Materra wine is a perfect expression of the land, the grapes, the passion the Cunat family has invested in each bottle and the unyielding quality delivered consistently by the growing conditions and terroir of the Napa Valley.” With a special focus on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux blends, Materra is able to showcase the expression of both the estate fruit, as well some additional sources in nearby AVAs within Napa Valley. The stand out wines for me were the Right Bank Reserve and the Howell Mountain Cabernet, which offer a special look at what Napa Valley can offer.  While not estate, these are wines to pay attention to. 2011 Materra Right Bank Reserve An homage to the Right Bank of Bordeaux, which is typically based on Merlot, with it’s silky tannins and grippy dark blue and black fruit.  This is a wine for the ages, and should be tucked away for a while as the sharp edges blur and become calmer, as any age worthy Bordeaux would. 2011 Materra Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain Howell Mountain is one of my favorite areas for Cabernet because of the cooler, acid driven growing climate.  High above the hot valley floor, the inversion layer adds an intensity and brightness to Cabernet that is often lost on wines from lower in the valley.  A classic blackberry note with leather, tobacco and a pinch of black pepper round out this lush winter warmer. Materra Cunat is located on Big Ranch Road in Napa, and is available by appointment seven days a week.  The peaceful patio is a wonderful way to enjoy your afternoon so be sure to stop by next time you are in Napa. Special thanks to Neena Cunat Heitz and Fineman PR for setting up this visit at this unique piece of modern history.    

Lopez Haro – an instant classic from Rioja

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I love Spain.  In fact, I have had the good fortune to have visited five times in five years.  In the heart of Spain’s most well known wine region, Rioja, Bodegas Classica brings you Hacienda Lopez de Haro, a Vintae project.  Focusing on revolutionizing the world of wine while still focusing on the small family feel, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Vintae on my first visit to Rioja in 2011. With Lopez De Haro, the region of the Rioja Sonsierra is the focus.  Located within Rioja Alta, it is nestled at the foot of the Toloño Mountains.  This moderate climate is perfect for making Rioja wine.   From a youthful red blend, to the age worthy La Reserva, these wines are a great example of how Rioja can be affordable but luxurious at the same time. 2015 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Tempranillo – made from fruit from 50-70 year old vines, this weeknight treat is earthy with dried cherries, tobacco and herbal notes.  Simple but not boring, there is a kiss of oak to finish this is a delicious $8 wine for your pizza or hamburger. 2013 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Crianza – the youngest of the classified Rioja wines, this luscius blend of Tempranillo, Garnaca and Graciano is a mouthwatering treat.  Soft and pleasing to the palate but firm in structure, dried orange peel, mulling spices and fresh strawberries jump out while Herbs de Provence and cracked pepper layer of subtle vanilla.  At $12, this is a steal. 2009 Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva – surprisingly elegant at this price point, this wine is full of chocolate and chili spice, with lush dark fruit and balsamic notes.  The finish is is full of smoked meat, and it just gets better with time.  At $13, the selection of low yield Tempranillo and Graciano is elegant and silky.  With 20 months in oak, this wine will just get better and at this price point is an excellent introduction to the higher escalations of Rioja. With wines of this quality for less than $20, make sure some Lopez de Haro is on your Thanksgiving table, or wherever you are celebrating this season!  I can’t wait to go back to Spain to visit this special place.   Special thanks to Rebekah Polster of 401 West Communications for introducing me to these excellent wines will killer QPR.  Yet again, Spain is proving that wines of exceptional quality do not have to be exceptionally expensive.

Stolen Fruit – from the minds of Sonoma’s best winegrowers

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I love to create; specifically, I love to create cocktails from amazing ingredients.  Being a Bay Area native and a Sonoma County resident (well, mostly), when I found out about Stolen Fruit Cocktail Mixers, I was excited to get my hands on them. Created by wine country chef Peter Brown, and Healdsburg grapegrowing royalty Doug & Susan Provisor, these fascinating blends of ver jus (freshly pressed juice) are the perfect base from everything to amped up water, to mock-tails, to elegant cocktails for every season. Beginning with some pretty spectacular grapes, much of which are used to create some delicious wines, these fresh juice mixers come in exotic flavor combinations like: Lemongrass-Ginger-Sav Blanc Jasmine-Juniper-Viognier Blood Orange-Muscat Fig-Grains of Paradise-Zinfandel Hibiscus-Grenache (not reviewed) The freshness of these components and creative blends make them perfect for playing in your cocktail bar, or just jazzing up the every day. Lemongrass – Ginger – Sauvignon Blanc – I love the lively spice of the lemongrass and ginger, and this would make a perfect addition to your favorite sparkling wine on Sunday morning.  Gin-Mosa anyone?  I also love this with sparkling water.  Just a splash wake up the benign and helps you get those 8 glasses in.  It is also a natural base for any vodka or gin drink, such as the amped up Moscow Mule! 7 Mules for Sister Sara Mix 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit with sparkling water to make a light soda. Add 3 ounces of gin (or vodka) Add 2 ounces of ruby red grapefruit juice Stir over ice Jasmine – Juniper – Viognier The surprisingly piquant flavors of lychee and kiwi, with a floral finish pair perfectly with cucumber. Juniper Martini Pour 3 ounces of your favorite gin (Hendricks would work well here) over ice in mixing glass. Add 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit. Squeeze 1/4 fresh lemon on top and shake well Strain in to a martini glass with 3-4 slices of fresh cucumber. Blood Orange – Muscat Brilliant fresh orange flavors and bright citrus jump out of the glass with a hint of nutmeg and tropical vanilla.  This reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean, and screams for rum. But, What About the Rum? 2 ounces of Stolen Fruit 3 ounces of dark rum 3 ounces of light rum A few shakes of tropical or Angostora bitters Serve over ice in a coconut.   Fig-Grains of Paradise-Zinfandel This dark and brooding baby is perfect for the fall.  Nutty with the fig notes, and a winter warmer, this is perfect for a fruity hot toddy. Winter is Coming 3 ounces Stolen Fruit 1 ounces hot water  3 ounces bourbon (or, you can use a strong red wine) cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise (to taste) or 1 tsbp mulling spices   And for yet another use, the Stolen Fruit mixers are fantastic for culinary sauces, dressings, and glazes!  Thank you to Verdant PR and Stolen Fruit for sharing these great bar items.  Pick some up today for $18 each, or the handy gift set!

The Perfect Pairing: Potato Chips & Bubbles

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We’ve all heard it before:  There is no better wine pairing than potato chips and sparkling.  Could this be true?  Was it the holy grail?  Quite possibly.  But what happens when you take some amped up Neal Brothers’ kettle chips, in flavors like Pink Himalayan Salt and Spicy Sriracha, and pair them with Iron Horse Vineyards fizz?  Pure magic. With the pure, sweet, spicy and just plain tasty flavors, we found a perfect pairing for each of the Iron Horse sparkling wines, as well as each of the four chip varieties. 2012 Iron Horse Ocean Blanc de Blanc – this limited edition wine supports National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative, and is bursting with crisp apple notes and salinity that makes your mouth water.  Notes of citrus and chalky minerality make this a natural pairing for bright, clean flavors for the Pink Himalayan Salt was the perfect match. 2012 Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee – with a hint of raspberry, strawberry and blood orange, the sweet hints coming from the 78% Pinot Noir paired perfectly with the Spicy Sriracha.  The sweet and spicy Sriracha brings forward the blood orange and ruby red grapefruit in the wine.  The Wedding Cuvee also matched the intensity of the Montreal Steak Spice, with strong pepper and herbal notes. 2012 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut – the classic, clean flavors of this wine, with grapefruit, brioche, and stone fruit play off of the Pink Salt, as well as the Sraiacha.  Often, Classic Brut can feel dryer than dry, but the special quality of the Pink Himalyayan Salt chips tone this day and create a savory explosion. 2012 Russian Cuvee was originally made for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit meetings, which helped to end the Cold War.  This wine is a richer style, with bold flavors of strawberry, blood orange, and dried tropical fruit.  Surprisingly, the crazy Maple Bacon flavor of the Neal Brothers chips was the perfect match for this wine, which can be perceived as sweet and fruity.  The sweet maple and savory bacon really played off of the Russian perfectly. What is your favorite potato chip pairing?  We tasted several more sparklers from Iron Horse that are sold out, so I won’t tease you, but go out, and have fun.  Pick up a few bags of Neal Brothers kettle chips and experiment!  

In the Navy, I’ll sail to Spirit Works

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I’ve long been a fan of Spirit Works, a small craft distillery in Sebastapol’s Barlow. Since their initial launch of vodka and gin in 2012, Tim & Ashby Marshall have been distilling grain to glass spirits that truly have a terroir of their own Continuing their grain to glass philosophy, Spirit Works recently launched their new Navy Strength Gin.  Navy Strength Gin differs from traditional gin in that it tends to be both higher in alcohol, but also has a brighter expression of botanicals, and juniper. Originally distilled for the British Navy, to help ease the physical and mental aches of a long voyage at sea, the Spirit Works’ iteration is a delicious departure from their traditional Gin. Distilled from a red winter wheat base, this gin is much spicier than the more citrus driven Spirit Works gin.  Smooth and sturdy, this is a fine sipping gin with a prominent spice note, and firm backbone. My picks for cocktails that shine a light on the gin are: Classic G&T Fill a highball or cocktail glass with ice. Pour 3 oz of Spirit Works Navy Strength gin over the ice. Add 3-4 cracked cardamon seeds.  I love how the cardamon plays with this gin, but you can also infuse with Star Anise to create a more earthy fall flavored cocktail. Top with Fever Tree tonic water, or your favorite tonic (anything that isnt’ make with corn syrup!) Gin Gimlet juice of 1 lime (please don’t use sweetened lime juice!) simple syrup to taste 3 oz Spirit Works Navy Strength Gin Pour all ingredients in to a cocktail shaker over ice.  Shake. Strain in to a cocktail glass or coupe Spirit Works is open daily, from 11am – 5pm for tastings, tours, and sales.  Stop by and see them some time in The Barlow, you won’t be sorry!  While you are there, visit some of our local wineries and stop in Zazu for a bacon tasting, and a specialty cocktail made with Spirit Works. While this sample was provided by my friends at Verdant PR, I buy plenty of hooch from Spirit Works.  Support your local distiller! 

Drinking for Charity: Support Pinot Noir, support The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma

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  It’s that time of year again!  Fall arrived with a bang this morning, after a brief Indian Summer.  It’s also time to spotlight one of my favorite events:  Pinot on the River, on October 23rd. This spectacular showcase of Pinot Noir is probably one of the best ways to taste all of what Sonoma County (and more) has to offer in terms of Pinot Noir, and is also a great way to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma. This year, Pinot on the River once again takes place on the square in Healdsburg.  With ample parking nearby, and a collection of tasting rooms surrounding the event, it is sure to be a bustling weekend. A highlight of this event is the silent auction and raffle, with an instant wine cellar. 6 bottle lots from famous winemakers and much more available for your enjoyment.  There will also be a collection of artisan food vendors, so bring some cash and an appetite! Among some of the wineries pouring, you can enjoy some of my favorites: Balletto Vineyards. Bucher Wines Donum Estate Ellipsis Wine Company FEL Wines Handley Cellars J Cage Cellars Kokomo Winery La Pitchoune LIOCO Papapietro Perry Peay Vineyards Wine Guerrilla Wrath And even some that are new to me! Apriori Cellar Bailarin Cellars Balverne Vineyards Blue Farm Wines Dunstan Wines E16 Wine Company Jigar Patel Wines INC Lando Wines Luli Wines Occidental Road Cellars Right Side, LLC The Calling Vaughn Duffy Wines Tickets are $75 for General Admission, and $90 for early VIP entry but get yours early since they are sure to sell out! Support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma, and come out and taste some fabu-luscious Pinot Noir with me!  The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County provide much needed family services and activities for Sonoma County youth.  They couldn’t do it without your support, so if you live, work, or spend time in the County, please support this worthy cause by buying a ticket or donating today.  

Wine Blogging & Content Creation: It’s all about engagement

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Connections.  Networking.  Friendship.  Community.  These are some of the top reasons that people attend the Wine Bloggers Conference, year after year.  As we approach the 10th anniversary event in Sonoma next year, I have to reflect on how this event has grown and changed over the last 9 years. Beginning in 2008, when there were a scant 100 of us gathered at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, we all knew each other (or at least knew of each other).   It was a tight knight community of online writers, and we were all learning about the new platform for sharing our stories.  There were, indeed, a few standout stars already emerging, however the playing field was level.  Twitter was in it’s infancy, and there was very little video out there specific to wine. Moving through the years to this year’s conference in Lodi, a lot has changed.  And yet, very little has changed.  Building a strong network of influence is still about seeking connections.  The primary difference today, is that where you find these connections has changed. In 2008, we found these connections at the conference, on Wine 2.0 (a now defunct social network for wine lovers and writers), at wine events, and on twitter.  Today, those networks have expanded to include video channels such as YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and more.  And yet, the process of searching, connecting, and engaging is still the same. As a professional consultant, I network every day.  That is the key to building my brand and my business.  Translating those skills to my blog, I shift my connections from technology and potential clients to wineries, regional associations, and individuals that I would like to connect with. When you are finding people to build connections with, ask yourself:  What can I offer them with my wine blogging (content creation)?  What problem can I help solve?  How am I benefiting them with my wine blogging?  How am I working on improving my wine blogging?   In terms of the Wine Bloggers Conference, I can offer 9 years of experience watching the conference and the blogging world grow and develop.  In the wine industry, what can you offer?  Do you have a unique angle?  Is your audience something they should target? As a wine blogger, content creator, digital wine writer, however you want to describe it, I look for these connections.  As Andrea Robinson said during her keynote this year, how do you add personal value?  What are you doing to create value in yourself?  By seeking, building connections, and acting on these connections, you are building your personal value. But how do you get to engagement?  You’ve done the hard part, you’ve built your connections by going to WBC.  You’ve met dozens of people in person that you only knew online, or didn’t know at all.  Now, you need to act on those connections.  Today, engagement means more than it did in 2008.  At the first WBC, we had interactive blogs and monthly wine blogging writing challenges.  In 2016, we have live […]

5 Indian Summer Cocktails that the Drapers Would Die For

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Walking through the doors of the historic Clift Hotel in San Francisco, you can almost smell the years of cigar smoke and high powered financial deals that linger in the wood lined lobby.  Long the bastion of high powered deal making, the Clift opened it’s doors in 1913 by Frederick Clift on a family property, to serve the Pan Pacific Exposition. Build to survive earthquake and fire, it still stands with the 1924 expansion of three additional floors.  At the time, it was the largest hotel in the state, and today, while it is now owned by the Morgans Hotel Group, it still remains much the same as when it initially opened. The dark and brooding Redwood Room cocktail lounge feels like you are stepping back in history, with modern touches.  So named for the rich redwood panelled walls, and imposing etched glass and wood bar all pull us back to the original hotel’s glamour and clientele.  Enhancing to the unique flair, the Redwood Room boasts digital art work that will change when you are least expecting it – reminding me of a scene out of the cult movie Clue. Clift’s famous and hanging array of digital artwork displayed on plasma television screens hung throughout the room. Snack on gourmet bites while sipping on delicious cocktails and enjoying curated music provided by well-known native San Francisco DJs along with world-class talent Thursday through Saturday nights., Master Mixologist Anthony Kim created the inventive and refreshing cocktail list just in time for Indian Summer, which is when us San Franciscians traditionally get some sunshine.  Using the freshest ingredients, these 5 cocktails represent traditional drinks that you might find in any bar, but with a twist of fresh, bright, and unique flavors. King’s Lemonade – Woodford Reserve Rye, fresh lemon juice, basil syrup, strawberry puree A bit like a mai tai, this drink was named for two kings:  Bourbon, and basil.  This was my 2nd favorite of the night, because, naturally I love bourbon, and the addition of strawberries and basil adds a savory but sweet note that hits the spot. Cool Desire – Grey Goose vodka, passion frut puree, mint syrup, champagne A mimosa that is splashing out to play, the passion fruit and mint play off of each other in a dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, while the vodka adds a cool touch.  A smooth and refreshing aperitif. Sandìa Amara – (this is the only drink I did not try) – Avion Silver Tequila, Aperol, Watermelon puree, fresh lime juice, agave, chili-salt no the rim Raspberry Sour – Absolut Elyx vodka, fresh lime juice, ginger syrup, fresh raspberries, Chambord float This was my favorite of the evening, where fresh raspberries were muddled through the shaking process making the drink.  The piquantness of the fresh lime juice plays well with the sweet ginger syrup and Chambourd. Clift Painkiller – Bacardi 8 rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, cream of coconut, nutmeg A play on the traditional piña colada, a Painkiller is a great alternative for someone like […]

Wine tickets to a wine safari!

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you know that I love to support local charities, especially by #drinkingforcharity.  Today, I would like to tell you about Vineyards to Village, who is dedicated to supporting clean water for schools in Kenya. Every year, they host a Wine Safari, where you can drink fabulous Sonoma County wines and support water projects for schools in Kenya!  This year, our friends at Christopher Creek Winery, Deux Amis Winery, Fritz Underground Winery, Merriam Vineyards, Pedroncelli Winery, Portalupi Wine, Thumbprint Cellars, Trione Winery, Williamson Wines, the Windsor Tasting Lounge, and Viszlay Vineyards are offering complimentary tastings at their properties for Safari guests from September 3-11. These boutique wineries offer small, intimate experiences with some of Sonoma’s best wines!  Each Safari Passport gives you one week to visit all of these tasting rooms, and participating wineries will donate 1/3 of their sales of a given wine to Vineyard to Village for the week.  This Wine Safari also includes a limited edition keepsake glass! With the purchase of every ticket, you will be entered to win wine raffle prizes! If you visit every “animal” (winery) on the safari and show us your complete safari pass on our Facebook page, you’ll get an additional 10 raffle tickets! You also receive an extra raffle ticket with every purchase of V2V wine! For more information no Global Partners and Vineyard to Village, please click HERE. Enter the giveaway below to win two tickets to the Jambo Safari event!  If you prefer to purchase tickets directly to support this wonderful cause, please click here. Happy first week September!

Celebrate American Whiskey with Basil Hayden Bourbon

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I did it!  Last month, after a year and a half, I passed my Certified Spirits Specialist exam.  PHEW!  A must do for anyone who is serious about spirits, this credential, administered by the Society of Wine Educators was more rigorous than I anticipated, but delves deep in to the history and production of spirits from around the world. That said, I’ve always had a bit of a passion for whiskey, ever since I visited Scotland for the first time.  Today, I am learning more and more about American whiskey.  Today, I am playing around with Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon. The first time I tried Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon, I wrinkled my nose and said to my friend “thanks for smoking me out”.  As a whiskey girl who shies away from peaty Scotch and smokey whiskey in general, I wasn’t sure about the flavor profile back then.  Today, that has changed as I have experienced a wide variety of bourbons and American whiskey in general. This is a great beginner’s drink, as it’s affordable and an easy drinker.  With lemon, fresh cream, and yellow cake mix on nose, classic vanilla and mild campfire smoke mesh with the baking spice and anise on the palate. Introduced by Jim Beam brands in 1992 as part of their small batch collection, the mash bill is said to be similar to the original Basil’s, and thus is his namesake.The primarily corn based recipe lends itself to a clean but richer style, and it’s perfect for a cocktail or over an ice cube or two. Tonight, enjoy some Basil Hayden Bourbon in a Country Lawyer, or celebrate Whiskey Sour day on Friday! Country Lawyer original recipe adapted from the classic Park Tavern drink 3 oz Basil Hayden Bourbon 1 oz Rhubarb Amaro (Zucca is the most common but I used Art in the Age.) 1/4 oz Benedictine 1/4 oz Vya Sweet Vermouth 3 dashes Fee Bros Aztec Chocolate bitters shake well over ice, and pour neat and garnish with lemon. To celebrate Friday’s Whiskey Sour Day, why not try a Basil Hayden‘s® Summer Sour brought to you by San Francisco Mixologist Matt Grippo.  1 ½ parts Basil Hayden’s®  Bourbon ½ part Fresh Lemon Juice ¾ part Sweet Vermouth ¼ part Tonic Syrup 2 dashes of Angostura® Bitters Orange Twist (for garnish) I’ll be testing this one and will get back to you with my tweaks!   This bottle was provided for consideration, and I considered it so much I went out and bought another!

Troon Vineyards M&T Reseve: An Unusual Blend from an Unusual Winery

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You might not expect a dark and delicious red wine to come from Oregon’s Applegate Valley, but Troon Vineyard’s 2013M&T Reserve is just that.  This co-fermented blend of Tannat and Malbec is surprisingly low in alcohol at only 13.7%, but is rich in flavor! Intensely floral, full of black licorice and dried lavender on the nose, the palate is full of bold espresso, dark chocolate and dark berries.  This is a lush wine but also has a beautifully ripe and bright strawberry finish, and is bursting with cracked pepper. As I sip this wine on a cool and foggy summer afternoon, I can’t help but think of how cozy it would be with a roaring fire and some roasted pork, orange and is perfect for some nice homemade lasagne.  Thank you Troon and Craig Camp for sharing these lovely wines!  Next up, we move backwards to the refreshing whites! Edit

Troon Vineyard: Surprises from southern Oregon

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When industry blogger and General Manager of Cornerstone Napa announced he was leaving California for the wilds of southern Oregon and Troon Vineyard, my first reaction was “what the heck?”.  Craig Camp had been instrumental in exposing a luxury Napa Valley brand to a new world of wine drinkers, launching a sister label (Stepping Stone, which is now Cornerstone black label) and had become an essential member of the blogging community. It was with slight trepidation that I waited to hear about this new venture in Oregon.  But, knowing Craig, I trusted that it would be magical.  When the first updates started arriving, I knew we were in for a treat. Troon Vineyard has over 40 years of history in the upstart region of Southern Oregon.  The original vineyards were planted in the 1970s, and was the site of experimental plantings, innovation, and a revolution in Southern Oregon wine.  In 2003, founder Dick Troon sod the property to Larry Martin, who planted new vineyards, diversified the portfolio and created the wines that we know today.  With Vermentino, Syrah, Tannat, and Malbec, as well as blends, Troon is blazing a new path in Southern Oregon. Southern Oregon is often known for Tempranillo, with it’s bright acid and earthy notes.  But Troon goes a step farther and delves in to the big reds, traditionally known to both France and South America. First up: 2013 Troon Blue Label Malbec, Rogue Valley A renegade wine from Oregon’s Rouge Valley, the Troon Vineyard Malbec loves the rocky soils that are decaying from the mountaintops above the valley. This rich, bold Malbec is pleasing on a cold summer night, with ripe blackberry, a touch of smoke, and espresso notes dancing on plum pudding. Old saddle leather and cigar box aromas envelop the pop of acid at the finish, wrapping you in warmth and bold flavors without weighing your palate down, with silky smooth tannins. Thank you Craig and Troon for introducing me to these lovely wines!  Next up, Troon Tannat