Annual Alsace Festival Draws an International Crowd

Print The annual International Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley draws an international crowd of wine lovers.

This year, an especially enticing educational seminars start with a feature tasting of the sparkling wines of the region, Cremant d’Alsace.  Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis will lead a panel of my wine friends, Fred Swan (who has a fancy new WSET Diploma!), Deborah Parker Wong, also a DipWSET, and Master of Wine Dr. Liz Thach in a deep dive breakfast session on this delightful fizz.

Immediately following the tour of Cremants, David Strada, representing the Wines of New Zealand, will walk us though some beautiful food pairings with Alsatian varietals from the Kiwis.

Finally, before the Grand Tasting in the afternoon, a unique look at Michigan’s Dry Rieslings will explore this up and coming wine region.  I have only tasted a few wines from Michigan, and admittedly I am somewhat dubious, but this will be a great opportunity to learn more and step out of my comfort zone.

Image courtesy of Anderson Valley Winegrowers

Seminar tickets sell out fast!  Get yours today for $60

After a break to hydrate, the Grand Tasting begins at 1pm.  This extravaganza features wines from around the world, including California, France, and more!  Some of my favorite wineries that wll be pouring are Cartograph, Greenwood Ridge, Navarro, Toulouse, and of course, the Wines of Alsace and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry – pairing tastes include seven unique tasting stations featuring pork belly B-B-BACON, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and so much more.

Grand Tasting tickets are $90, and can be combined with the educational seminars for $135, which is a great deal! Designated drivers can eat all the food at the tasting stations for $60.

If you aren’t too full, I highly reccomend one of the very small Winemaker Dinners, at the Apple Farm, featuring Long Meadow Ranch and Balo Cellars, or the Scharffenberger Cellars Dinner, featuring six wineries including Scharffenberger, Navarro, and more.  Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Winegrowers of New Zealand, Lichen Estate, and  Husch Vineyards.

These very intimate dinners sell out early so be sure to book on ASAP!  Dinners are $150 and area almost sold out so hurry!

If you are planning a full weekend, be sure to book a room in nearby Cloverdale or Ukiah and enjoy the Open Houses on Sunday.  This is a very special opportunity to get up close and personal with the winemakers, pouring special selections and many offering food pairings and no additional tasting fees.

This annual event is not to be missed and always sells out so get your tickets early and head on up to the Anderson Valley!

Hospice du Rhone: A great line up is announced!

The 2016 Hospice du Rhône event schedule has been released, and it’s going to be another epic one!  This annual gathering of producers and aficionados of the many delicious Rhône grapes begins on Friday, April 15th, in Paso Robles CA.

This year there are some new events to add to the grand tastings.  The seminar series this year is sure to be a knock out.  Discovering the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape, to an in depth look at Washington State Rhônes, guests will be treated to a wine education second to none.

Prefer to deep dive in to the whites?  Check out Costières de Nîmes – A Southern Rhône Exception for Whites.  Prefer to stay close to home?  A Tale of Two Treasures:  Paso Robles and Santa Barbara will take you through the various AVAs that specialize in Syrah and Grenache, visiting four produces and digging in to the soils.

Hospice du Rhône has become somewhat famous for it’s lunches, and this year, of course, includes the Rose Lunch, a fan favorite.  Sit back, relax, and drink pink from the attending producers.  It’s often quite warm this time of year, so a bit of chilled rose is the perfect refreshment before the afternoon seminars resume.

Ever been to a cowboy auction with wine?  Well you’ll love the Lunch and Live Auction on Saturday, April 16th.  This spirited affair will get everyone in the mood as rare lots are offered up in support of the 2018 HdR event.

The Farewell BBQ on Saturday night is always a bittersweet affair.  This year, the Hitching Post II is manning the pit, and the casino is open!

Of course, interspersed in all of this fun are the Tastings.  Sip wines from the 130+ producers of the 22 Rhône varietals in these interactive walk around tastings.

Have a hankering for an intimate dinner?  This year, the Rhône-Around Dinner Series takes guests to Paso Robles best dining hot spots, each with a different theme.  Saturday, you have 3 epic dinners to choose from:
CdP on Assignment, Rhône Valley Relocated, and the Rhône Exchange.

With such a selection to choose from, it will be difficult to manage which events to choose!  I can’t wait to make a return appearance, see some old friends, and make some new ones next month.

Tickets are available for each dinner, from $100-150.  Event tickets are available for the Opening & Closing Tastings, a la carte, or a full weekend pass, as well as the lunches and farewell BBQ.  But buy them early, this is sure to be a sell out!

She’s Back! Hospice du Rhone returns home

Sixteen years ago, Hospice du Rhône

was founded with a dedicated goal to education and celebrate Rhone varietals from around the world.  With 22 varieties, one gorgeous region of France, and many countries producing quality Rhône style wines, what’s not to love about a celebration of this magnitude?

After twenty years in Paso Robles, HdR migrated east to Blackberry Farm, to share the love of the grape with more Rhone lovers.  This year, however, I am ecstatic to celebrate the return of this event to California’s Paso Robles wine country.

The weekend of April 14-16, 2016, Hospice du Rhône makes a return appearance with star studded events at the Paso Robles event center.  The highlight of the weekend, for me, is the education seminar series, which dives deep in to different topics impacting producers.

This year, these seminars include a discussion of the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape.   With so much diversity in a small area of southern France, I am truly excited to learn more.  Additional seminars are being developed but they are sure to be outstanding.

Throw in the always epic Rose Lunch and Grand Tasting, and that alone is worth the price of entry.  But have you ever been to a Rhône Cowboy BBQ?  Yeehaw!  Who says Rhone wines are for the dusty shelves of a wine cellar?  Come celebrate the diversity the 22 grapes have to offer.  From affordable pinks, to fun blends, to collectors loves, the Rhône are grown all over the world and produce amazingly unique, diverse and delicious wines.

Event passes for Hospice du Rhône are on sale now, and start at $100 for single events.

More details are to come, so stay tuned!

Experience America’s Heritage Grape!


It’s that time of year again, time for the annual Zinfandel Experience!  Attracting Zin lovers from around the world, Zinfandel Experience is celebrating its 24th anniversary with three days of wine tasting events with zins from all over California, as well as unique corners of the world!

A classically American wine, Zinfandel is one of the oldest grapes grown in California.  From the old school Italian field blends of the Central Valley to the bold expressions of Dry Creek, there is a zin for everyone!

January 29-31st the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers association presents 4 days of spectacular events showcasing zinfandel.

Epicuria – formerly known as Good Eats and Zin, you get the idea.  Each producers selected wine is paired with a fabulous restaurant for this information walk around wine & food pairing.  VIPs can sip in the special lounge where you can relax and chat about the delicious tidbits.
Some of the pairings you can look forward to:
  • Bella Vineyards and Presideo Social Club
  • Ravenswood with Central Market
  • Saddleback Cellars with Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Flights! Forums of Flavors – Friday, January 30th
Flights features a professional tasting seminar with a focus on highly allocated, limited production Zinfandels. Learn insights from the experts and experience the range, depth and character of the wines. ZAP will once again partner with the Historic Vineyard Society to present wines from exceptional old Zinfandel vineyards.

Presentaion of 3 Historic Regions, moderated by Joel Peterson, featuring Contra Costa County, Amador County, and Dry Creek Valley

 

 

Winemakers Reception, Dinner & Auction – Zin State of Mind – A Benefit with Taste, Friday January 30th

Go glamorous! Mad Men, the popular TV show, is our inspiration for this year’s dinner and auction. The stylish, sleek, and jazzy atmosphere will captivate you as the city lights of San Francisco dazzle. Our reception will feature winemakers ‘pouring it big’ with magnums and reserve offerings. You’ll experience an intimate dinner hosted by celebrities of the wine world and a customized menu that boasts the best in farm-to-table cuisine. The live and silent auctions will feature one-of-a-kind lots, rare bottles, winery experiences and so much more, with proceeds benefiting ZAP’s programming, education and Heritage Projects. It will be an evening full of personality—fashionable, yet slightly provocative—what else—a Zin state of mind!

The Tasting – Saturday, January 31st

The centerpiece of the 2015 Zinfandel Experience is The Tasting, where wine lovers engage in personal conversations with winemakers while exploring the flavors of Zinfandel blends, single vineyards and old vine Zinfandels or discover the distinctive dialects of Zinfandel growing regions. Experience Zinfandel from the perspective of sommeliers, with all due respect to terroir, at the complimentary Sommelier & Winemaker Terroir Workshops located at the Golden Gate Club.

Reserve and Barrel Tasting with VIP and All Day Ticket Purchase

Winemakers and principals will pour samples at their tables during this exclusive tasting for VIPs and all-day ticket holders. From 11am to 1pm, you will enjoy a “sneak peek” tasting of upcoming vintages and special Zinfandels that have earned the title of “Reserve.” This walk-around experience offers an special foray into the wineries most prized Zinfandel treasures.

Tickets are available HERE and be sure to get them early!  Events sell out!

Viva Espana!

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Summer is in full swing, and so is Spain!  Do you like paella?  Dancing?  Wine?

Join Gloria Ferrer at the Catalan Festival on Saturday & Sunday, July 19th & 20th for a party benefiting Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

Honoring the spirit of the Ferrer family, each day guests can stroll Las Ramblas, recreating Barcelona’s popular main street with the colors, smells and sounds of Spain. Along the way they will sample savory tapas, enjoy paella and cooking demonstrations, and participate in educational seminars, cocktail demonstrations,food & wine pairings and a festive grape stomp.

Along Las Ramblas, stop and state the Gloria Ferrer Carneros sparkling and estate varietal wines, as well as select wines from the Ferrer family’s Spanish wineries.

Live Flaminco music will be playing and you can learn to dance, and admire the artist replica of the Gegants de Mataró made specifically for Gloria Ferrer!

The festival runs each day from noon to 4:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased HERE for this fabulous benefit event!

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Passport to the best of Dry Creek Valley

It’s that time of year again – warm sunny days, cool rose, and wine events galore.  One of the best events in Dry Creek is Passport, which takes place April 26-27 in Dry Creek Valley, part of the Sonoma County region.
This year, the region celebrates 25 years of Passport to Dry Creek, where 50 wineries open thier doors and welcome wine lovers.

Saturday and Sunday, special vineyard tours are offered to give visitors an insider peek at the grape to glass experience.  This year, you can choose from Pasternick, specializing in Rhone style wines, Grey Palm Vineyard, who is home to the newest member winery – Cast Wines,  or on Sunday, head over to Palindrome Vineyard where you can dig in the red bench soils, or – finally  – Hawley Winery high up on Brandford Mountain.  These tours are a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a deep dive in to a particular area of Dry Creek, and worth the price of admission alone!

I love the themes, the music, and the fun atmosphere of this event.  I also love that there are many wineries that are not open to the public, and this is my best chance to taste the wines and visit the properties.

Check out some of my favorite wineries along Dry Creek Valley:

  • Frick is serving up Rhone style wines in a quiet secluded spot with gorgeous views
  • Kokomo Winery – with so many options, it’s hard to choose which is my favorite wine, but the pinot and the grenache rose are very special.  Take a taste of some fusion cuisine, and enjoy the new age bluegrass band
  • UNTI – always amazing, will be shucking oysters to pair with thier rose, as well as food from local fave Spinster Sisters, all to the tunes of the Healdsburg High School band
  • Ridge Lytton Springs will have southern confort food to go with their stunning zinfandels and rhone blends
  • Mounts Family Winery is a hidden gem on the west side, with a circus theme of magical elixirs to quench your thirst

With over 50 wineries participating, and musical, food, and winery experiences, why not spend the weekend in Dry Creek Valley!  Sunday only tickets are sold out but you can book your full weekend pass for $120 now Many of these wineries are not open to the public on a regular basis, so this is your to check them out!

I plan on visiting my favorites, but also a few new stops along the way.  I’ll be sure to report back after the event with some top stops along the wine road.

My passport is stamped and I’m ready to go!

My visit was provided by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek, but my picks and thougts are my own.  Follow along on Twitter for updates during the weekend at #DCVPassport and be sure to follow @DryCreekValley and @luscious_lushes on twitter!

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Cabernet all day!

Do you love Cabernet Sauvignon?  Are you curious about the different regional characteristics in the Napa Vallley that create dynamic, bold, and different wines?

Check out CabFestNV, from Feburary 28 through March 2nd in various venues in Napa.  This  inaugural three-day celebration of the king of Napa Valley wine varietals will featuring more than 100 of the biggest names in the wine industry.

And, in case you haven’t heard, there will be a celebrity guest star!  Yes that’s right, Jeff Bridges, movie star and rocker, will be performing in his band.  In addtion, keynote presentations by “The Wine Bible” author Karen MacNeil, and cult winemakers are sure to draw people in.

Here are some of the highlights:

Friday – CabFestNV Kickoff Winery Tasting Circuit at more than fifteen select, participating wineries from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for complimentary wine tastings. At 7:00 pm, famed Oscar-winning actor, singer and songwriter Jeff Bridgesand his country-rock band, The Abiders, take the stage at the Lincoln Theater for the CabFestNV Kickoff Concert, with Bridge’s talented daughter Jessie Bridges as the show opener. 

Following the Festival Kickoff Concert, the exclusive “Cigars & Guitars” afterparty (open to VIP All-Access Pass holders only), will feature an intimate post-concert, private performance by Jessie Bridges, Cigar Aficionado Magazine’s cigar-sampling tent (AJ Fernandez, Room 101 and Casa Magna Cigars), whiskey tasting (Redbreast by Pernod Ricard USA), a rare guitar exhibit (co-sponsored by the Napa Valley Museum and Gibson Guitars) and exceptional fortified wine and library Cabernet wines.

Saturday:  Grand Tasting

Saturday, March 1, Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.):

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by Symphony Napa Valley’s Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists;
  • “Napa Valley Rocks” film, presented by the Napa Valley Vintners;
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil: “What Makes Great Cabernet Sauvignon Great” – Interactive keynote address, with a fun blind-tasting mission. (Wine tasting limited, first-come basis)
  • Napa Valley Vintners: “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The Paris Tasting of 1976 launched Napa Valley into the international spotlight, and Cabernet hasn’t been the same since. Includes a panel discussion and wine tasting with some of Napa Valley’s most renowned and iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Sunday:  Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by The Symphony Napa Valley Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil“Cab on the Couch,” a spontaneous conversation and uncensored observations featuring such well-known vintners as Charles Krug’s Marc Mondavi (aka the Water Witch); Food & Wine Magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year” Aaron Pott; wine auctioneer, musician and vintner Fritz Hatton; pioneering Napa Valley grape grower Andy BeckstofferBlake Gilbert, director of ultra-premium winery Bond, and other surprise stars.
  • 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Take the “Last One Standing Challenge” presented by The Culinary Institute of America: A blind-tasting and knowledge challenge that will put everyone in the starting lineup as CIA Wine Instructor, Robert Bath, MS asks a series of progressively probing questions about Napa Valley Cabs. Someone will be the “Last One Standing.” Prizes and bragging rights will be rewarded!
  • To Blend or Not to Blend” featuring a star-studded lineup of Napa Valley winemakers moderated by Paula Kornell and including Heidi Peterson BarrettCelia WelchMartha McClellanAmy AikenSara Fowler and Dawnine Dyer. A panel discussion and tasting exploring the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon with master winemakers noted for their high-end Napa Valley wines.

Tickets are now available online at www.lincolntheater.org or by calling 707-944-9900:

  • CabFestNV VIP All-Access Ticket (Limited to 100 attendees, includes Friday night VIP “Cigars & Guitars” Party, preferred seating for both concerts, Grand Tastings, Private Tastings, VIP Lounge): $500
  • Grand Tastings Only: Two-Day Pass $225 & Single-Day Pass $125
  • Kickoff Concert (Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, Jessie Bridges): $100, $75*, $65*, $55*  (*discounts available with purchase of a Grand Tasting Pass, 20% off with a two-day pass and 10% off with a one-day pass)
  • Wine Industry Insiders “Meet-Up & Concert” (The Silverado Pickups): $10 (open to the public)

Hope to see you there!

Media passes were provided for consideration.

Be a Zinner in 2014!

Here were are, in another new year, looking forward to what is to come.  Every new year brings changes, lessons learned, and reminders of years past.  In the case of the annual Zinfandel Festival, 2014 brings a change in format, as well as venue.  Exciting things to come!

The 2014 Zinfandel Experience occurs January 23-25th at the Presidio, instead of the previous venues of The Concourse and Fort Mason, as well as the gala Evening with the Winemakers at the plush Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.  This year, with the smaller, more intimate setting in the Presidio, guest can look forward to more conversation with the winemakers, more education and more Zin!

The all new Zinfandel Experiences highlights America’s Heritage Grape, with several events including the new Tasting Tracks on Saturday, which replaces the Grand Tasting.  This creative track format allows Zinfandel fans to choose their own adventure:  

  • The Sensory Tasting – stroll through 80 wineries and winemakers and discover what your favorite note is.
  • Reserve & Barrel Tasting  taste the future of Zin in the barrel, and a exclusive tasting of reserve wines from 44 wineries.
  • Terroir Tasting – focus on a particular region as you stroll through wine country locations like Napa, Lodi, Sonoma and Paso Robles, tasting the terroir of each location through wine.

Each of these Experiences runs in a concurrent format, in 2 hour blocks.  Do one, or do them all!

Additional events that are familiar to ZAP alumni will be Flights, a professional tasting seminar featuring limited production wines, Epicuria, where you can eat to your hearts delight delicious morsels paired with Zinfandels, and the swanky soiree Evening with the Winemakers, a benefit auction and dinner with famous Zin creators.

Tickets for Tasting Tracks start at $60 for a single track, with savings for multiple tracks, and individual events are priced differently.  For details, see the ticket page HERE.  My friends at VinVillage are giving away tickets to Epicuria and the Tasting Tracks, but enter soon!  Also, use discount code “VinVillage”!

I’m exciting to see this new format for the event, and I look forward to tasting some delicious wines January 23-25!

 

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Happenings!

Wow!  July is over, and August is coming.  Here in San Francisco, the fog has been thicker this year than it has in many summers past, which makes me both want to escape, and drink really great red wine.  Luckily, there are several events coming up in August that will allow you to do that!  Check out these great events in San Francisco and beyond:

August 3-5 – West of West
This celebration of the far west Sonoma County wineries is a great chance to explore the region in one place, and check out the latest urban wine center, The Barlow, in Sebastapol.  There are several events to choose from, from Winery Welcome dinners, to two Grand Tastings.  I can’t wait to check out some new wineries, and old favorites!

August 4 – SF Chefs Week actually started this week, and is a celebration of San Francisco’s food, wine and spirits culture.  Saturday, there are several events around the city to celebrate the end of the week including a DIY Cocktail Mixer (What???) and the 7% Solution Tasting tastings.  This is a great week to celebrate food!

August 11 – Wines with Altitude celebrates Lake County wines, and on Treasure Island on the 11th, you can taste these great wines that hover above Napa Valley in the southern Mayacamas Mountains, where high elevations create unique wines.  Taste the terroir!

August 17-18 is the penultimate California tasting, where Family Winemakers of California showcases over 200 wineries that are family owned, from large to tiny.  I love this event as it is a unique opportunity to taste many varietals in a single place.  This year, there are many new names on the participant list, and one of my favorite things is discovering new producers.

August 17 – Proejct Zin is the brainchild of restaurateur Charlie Palmer and winemaker Clay Mauirtson, to gather some of the most sought after zinfandel paired with great food.  This walkabout dinner will be an amazing chance to try both world class wines and world class food.

August 17 – Vendimia celebrates the Napa-Sonoma Mexican American Winemakers Association, which is dedicated to supporting Mexican American wineries as well as charitable causes.  This year, the party will be at Robledo Winery, which always has fantastic food, wine and music!

In addition to these great wine events, there are several great beer events happening as well.  But more on that later.  There is a lot more going on in September, but we’ll talk about that closer in!

Happy sipping!

Get your passports ready!

It’s that time of year again!  The are APril showers, which means…bud break, wildflowers, and Passport!

It’s been 23 years of Passport to Dry Creek Valley.  Way back in  1990, the Winegrowers of DCV started this event to bring people together at a time of year when we can celebrate the vineyards, the families, the roots of DCV and of course – the wines.

I am so excited to be attending Passport to Dry Creek Valley again this year!  During the weekend of April 27-28, 50 wineries will welcome visitors with special pairings, wine, food and entertainment.  One of the special parts of Passport is that many wineries offer unique tours, and grape to glass stories of their property.

Check out this list of yummy wineries that I’ll be stopping by (partial list of all pouring)

  • Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves
  • Chateau Diana
  • DaVero Farms and Winery
  • Dry Creek Vineyard
  • Dutcher Crossing
  • Frick Winery
  • Fritz Winery
  • Göpfrich Winery
  • Gustafson Family Vineyard
  • Kachina Vineyards
  • Kokomo Winery
  • Malm Cellars
  • Martorana Family Winery
  • Mounts Family Winery
  • Papapietro Perry Winery
  • Peterson Winery
  • Quivira Vineyards & Winery
  • Ridge Vineyards
  • Roadhouse Winery
  • Seghesio Family Vineyards
  • F. Teldeschi Winery
  • Unti Vineyards
  • West Wines

I’m really excited to see all of the new names on the list!

In addition to these graet wineries, you can take a tour of Preston Farm and Winery on Sunday, and check out Grandpa’s Red jug wine – one of the last great jug wines produced.  You can also wander the gardens, and taste some of the delicious organic produce.   Or, on Saturday, take a ride up the hill to Gustafson Winery, with sweeping views of the valley, and learn about the unique soils while sipping the delicious Cabernet.

I can’t wait to see you there!  Tickets are $120 for the weekend, or $70 for Sunday.  This is event ALWAYS sells out, so make sure to pick up your tickets early HERE!

Hum – smallest little city in the world

00000042Hum is a tiny little hamlet, still surrounded by it’s hilltop walls, in the middle of Istria.  A small remnant of medieval life clinging to it’s roots, it has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest town in the world.  While it might not be the smalled in size, it’s officially a town and has it’s own government.

Getting to Hum can be a challenge, and we found ourselves backtracking the highway on local roads with signs pointing in every direction.  There is no GPS out here, so we just threw caution to the wind – and maybe said a small prayer to the rakija gods – to find this hidden treasure.

Seventeen turns, 3 misguided dead ends, and one near miss with a local, and we were on the right road to rakija!

How’s that for the little guy!  But there is more to Hum than meets the eye.  This castle (really, that’s what it is, a castle and the court around it), is a center point for the now lost Glagolitic script, which is considered to be the earliest form of the written Croatian language – and be the forefather to modern Cyrillic.

But…since this is a post about wine tourism, what about the wine?  All around the steep and sloping hillsides, you can see the vineyards that roll on to the coastal borders of Istria.  Here in Hum however, they are more known for Rakija.  Rakija is the Croatian word for Grappa, and is typically made from distilling the alcohol that is produced from the leftovers of wine making, like grape skins.  Here in Croatia, Rakija can also be made from a base alcohol of brandy, applejack, or other forms of fruit liquor.

As we meandered around Hum, Mladen – our intrepid Funky Zagreb driver, tour guide, comic relief, and all around Mad Max replicant, pointed out the Rakjia museum & shop.  Yipee!  What a way to break up a long drive!hum - mladen

Here, we tasted many of the flavors, including Biska, the most famous – made from mistletoe, or Medcina, made from honey, red wine, apple, pear, and so many more.  In Croatia as well as other parts of this region, everyone makes their own Rakjia.  It is a point of pride as to who makes the best, and the secret recipes are a much guarded treasure.  Try as we might, we just couldn’t get the secret out, although Mladen did give us a sample of his famous walnut upon our return to Zagreb.

After imbibing in several flavors, we all left, happy, warm and well stocked.  And, according to legend, rakjia cures cancer, and can be used as liniment for sore muscles.  I think I’ll try it!

And, if you’re in the mood for a real treat, Hum hosts an annual Rakija festival every October.  Bring your best attempt and share in the fun!

After Hum, we were back on the road to Rovinj, and the coast.  Stay tuned for the continued adventures of the Bourne Wine-Premacy!

Zinning in to 2013 – **WINNERS ANNOUNCED**

Happy New Year!  How the heck is it the second week of 2013 already?  Wowzah.

But here were are, smack dab in the middle of a chilly winter in San Francisco; what better time to celebrate America’s Heritage Grape than a cold winter night?  Celebrating 22 years of Zinfandel, this year’s event will be just as entertaining as last year’s, in the new event space at The Concourse.

One of the most unique American wines, Zinfandel has a long history in California.  From Italian field blends during the gold rush to the new gold rush of wine, zinfandel has a solid palace in history.  There are so many different flavor profiles you can find, from raisiny ripe Paso Robles to spicy & racy Sierra Foothills, to brambly blackberry punch of Dry Creek.  What better way to taste them than at the 2013 Zinfandel Festival!

January 31st, the Festival kicks off with Epicuria, my favorite event of the week.  This informal walk around event allows you the opportunity to nibbly on tasty tidbits, paired with 50 delicious zinfandels hand picked to bring out the zinny flavor.  There will be plenty of pork to go around, as well as some wonderful dessert offerings.  Come early, and come hungry!  The best bites go quickly.  $125

Congratulations to Amy Abascal and Cindy Gooch, who each won a pair of tickets!  Looking forward to seeing you!

 

Friday afternoon, Flights is designed for the enthusiast with a passion for the legendary, this exclusive seminar-style tasting ignites your imagination for the varietal as you delve into the history, culture and science behind the many flavors of Zinfandel. Flights offers unique insight into the Zinfandel varietal and allows you to experience the true character of the wines through the eyes of experts as you revel in a sensory experience like no other.  $75

 

Friday evening, a benefit event whisks you back to the 1940s with a Casablanca theme, benefiting ZAP and the Heritage Vineyard project.  The Winemakers Dinner is always a banner event, where premier winemakers host, and share the intrigue and romance behind their craft at this elegant reception and dinner.  Specially chosen private selections of Zinfandel will be poured as you get in the time machine and learn about the origins of Zinfandel, and modern techniques in wine making.  $250

 

Culminating in Saturday’s Grand Tasting, featuring over 100 zinfandels from all over the US, the week is sure to be zinny, zany, and downright purple.  Create your own Zin-fari, as you weave the isles through each growing region, to explore the diversity of American Zinfandel.  Taste barrel samples, new releases, and more!  $65

Congratulations to Shari Johnston & Amy Holtzman, who each won a pair of tickets!  See you there!

Tickets for this year’s festival are available HERE .

That said, you lucky readers, I have something special for you!  Two lucky readers can win a pair of tickets to Epicuria.  Two other lucky readers can win a pair of tickets to the Grand Tasting!  You must be in San Francisco for the event.  Tickets are non transferable once claimed.  Good luck and the deadline for entry is Jan 18th.  Enter below!

See you zinners there!

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Carnival of Spirits

Fall is here!

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line.

To borrow a line from CAKE, I am reluctantly embracing Fall.  Somehow summer passed us by and didn’t even wave hello.

But here we are, at the end of September.  Luckily, I have a few events to keep me busy and distracted from the cold, foggy soup out there.

First up, October 13th and 14th is the first annual Craft Spirits Carnival!  Brought to you by the good folks who created teh San Francisco Vintner’s Market, The Craft Spirits Carnival promises to be a one of kind tasting room for handcrafted ultra-premium spirits.  I’m especially looking forward to it, as my bar is sadly empty, and I need to stock up on some great spirits.

Craft spirits are wildly popular, and with well known names like Charbay and Hangar One, many other producers are offering unlimited tastings (yikes!) of over 100 spirits from some of the world’s best producers.  One of the key features of this event, like the SFVM, is that if you like a spirit, you will be able to purchase that day.  This is  a unique opportunity to take that hooch home with you!

To add a special flair to the show, there will be a carnival sideshow, featuring top aerialists, trapeze acts, fire eaters, sword swallowers, knife throwers, contortionists, burlesque, and so much more. Watch these incredible performances in the middle of the largest walk-around tasting of ultra-premium craft spirits – all included in the price of admission.

Tickets for the Craft Spirits Festival are available for $125 for one day, or $200 for two days.  If you HURRY you can get the early bird discount until 11pm TONIGHT for $100!  If you are attending the SFVM, you can get a discount on the Craft Spirits Fair, but more on that shortly.
I can’t wait, and I hope to see you there!

Airing that Dirty Laundry

Parking for Wino's ONLY!


Our first stop on the tour of the Okanagan was Dirty Laundry Vineyard, in Summerland.  Our hostess,

Judi Skinner, is a viticulturist and vineyard designer by trade, and the chief Sales & Marketing Manager for Dirty Laundry.  I’d call Judy half Las Vegas, half Miss USA and a whole bundle of energy and fun!  Buried under the quirky and electric personality, Judi has a long history here in the Okanagan and is very well versed in the local climate.

The vineyards are on the Summerland Plateau, which rises gently above the lake.  The microclimate is mild, and provides for wonderful degree days.  Dirty Laundry is a force of nature, much like Judi herself.  Playfully named after the gold rush era to be the town laundry, which may or may not also have been the town brothel, Dirty Laundry is a growing winery.  They craft playful wines from most of the major varietals, with names like Woo Woo and Bordello.

Dirty Laundry is an eclectic, irreverent look at the wine industry producing some entertaining whites

and reds.  We sat on the soon to be vine trellised deck, overlooking the loping vineyards, to enjoy a picnic lunch with a bottle of Thread Bare Gewürztraminer, which is a lovely semi-dry style that is “bare” of oak treatment.

The location on the bluff is simply stunning, and the varied wines are a treat.  The Thread Bare was a lovely departure from the sweeter Gewürztraminers also available, and the Bordello is a play on

a classic Bordeaux blend.  Two of my favoirtes!  If you’re in the area, make sure you say hi to Judi, who is sure to make you smile.

Stay tuned for a report from the Okanagan Crush Pad, the regions biggest custom crush facility!

 

 

I heart Pinot, that is all.

Are you an pinot noir addict like I am?  Can you have pinot every night and not get sick of it?  Oh wait maybe that’s just me.  Well, it’s nearly time for the annual Pinot Noir Summit, an event that I’ve been participating in and attending now for 5 years.  This is the 10th Anniversary of the Pinot Shootout, and it looks like the best one yet!
Held at the Hilton Chinatown on February 25th, this all day affair allows you not only to taste 32 pinots like a judge, in a blind tasting environment, but also to attend educational seminars and a grand tasting reception as well.
This year, Spencer Christian, the Bay Area’s favorite meteorologist (formerly of Good Morning America and well known wine aficionado), will be the emcee for the Grand Awards Tasting and Ceremony.
Starting at 1:30, you will be blind tasting 20 wines.  These wines have all made it to the finals by the official judges (ahem, yeah, like me!) and are now up for you to taste.  Votes are tallied based on male vs female, and then we can see the judges faves vs your faves.  The first year I attended the Pinot Summit I had so much fun learning about what the differences are, because believe me, there are!
After tasting these delicious wines, you will be able to choose between two seminars:
Sleek, Silky and Seductive – Pinot Noir or What Makes A Great Vintage.  Both of these discussions will be interesting, informative and tasty afternoon interludes.  After class, you can see what happens when pinot noir is given some gas.  That’s right, sparkling wine!
Finally, it’s time to unveil the winners from the earlier blind tasting.  As previously mentioned, Spencer Christian will be hosted the awards ceremony, where winners are crowded and histories are made.  You will be able to taste the wines again, and also taste some other offerings.
I hope you will be able to join me for this great day of wine here in the city!  Right now, tickets for the full day are $100, which is a $30 discount.  This event usually sells out so you should make sure to get your tickets now if you plan to attend.  If you can’t make the whole day but would like to attend the awards ceremony, tickets are also available for $80.  Almost 7 hours of pinot noir!  What a bargain!
See you there!
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