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What’s going on in the fine beverage blogosphere?


Six Point Brewing Barcode

What’s going on out there in the blogosphere? Here’s a few things that caught our attention.

1 comment 07.08.2011 |

Event Recap: Family Wineries, Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays


Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

Who doesn’t like champagne, sparkling wine?  Incredibly and uniquely complex reds, like an ’08 Noyes Sonoma Coast Pinot?  And who wouldn’t pair that with some succulent tri-tip on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon?  That’s why all the tables were occupied on Saturday June 25th, for Family Wineries’ Tri-Tip & Wine Saturday.  If not the perfect way to spend a Saturday, then, as one guest told me, “It’d be pretty darn tough to get any closer.” And at this cooperative tasting room, with its many bottled characters, no wonder this gentleman vocalized such elevated regard.

Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

No excess crowds to deal with, just a tranquil afternoon in Sonoma Valley.  Family Wineries, being known for its impressive variety of wine types, varietals and styles, hosted their Saturday Tri-Tip & Wine Saturday.  The pervading profile of the day’s happening, relaxation.  Most of the tables were occupied by wine club members, locals, tourists the same, just out to have a nice wine-timed midday.  Like visiting a friend’s house, that’s what it felt like, many told me.  The structure has the exterior of a cabin, or vacation home.  So, no surprise the day’s guests were so eased.

Some of the favorite Wine & Tri-Tip pairings, that guests notified me of, were with the 1) Cass Winery 2008 Paso Robles Grenache, 2) Cass Winery 2006 Paso Robles Petite Sirah, 3) Collier Falls 2007 Dry Creek Primitivo [romantically layered, this is a must-sip], 4) SL Cellars 2004 Dry Creek Syrah, and 5) Tres Hermanas 2005 Syrah/Sangiovese Blend from the Central Coast.  Oh, one guest reminded me, the N.V. Grand Cuvee, Extra Dry – Pour La Vie.  “And,” she said, “pretty much any other of the champagnes here.”  Myriad, you might mumble.  True, as Family Wineries is a collective tasting Room, representing numerous approaches, appellations, oeno-aesthetics. “Tastes great with a tri-tip sandwich,” she told me, as I snapped a pic of a meat slab on the BBQ.

Family Wineries Tri-Tip & Wine Saturdays

As the event came to close, the acoustic singer packing up his guitar, gear, most just hung around, not wanting to let go of the pleasant embrace of this distinguished wine world moment in Sonoma’s picturesque valley.  Family Wineries Kenwood is just the spot you’d come to delight in easiness, enjoyment, more than enough wine variety, taste shapes.  That’s just a small pour of the accoladed acclaim sheet that follows this tasting Room.  Keep watch for the other events they have in cue.  All assured, by Family Wineries’ staff, to be equally relaxing, incomparably tasty.  A splendid slice of Sonoma Valley, and County.  Sip, sip …

1 comment 06.29.2011 |

Recap: Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival


Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Pebble Beach Food & Wine is perhaps the glitziest of the gadjillion or so culinary festivals in the United States right now. Every year for the past five years and counting, the event has borrowed the inimitable Inn at Spanish Bay for a spring weekend; draping itself across the grounds like a glittering evening dress you can’t afford or a royal picnic blanket most people only get to feast on in pictures.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Thanks to Lexus – a major sponsor of the event – from April 28 to May 1, 2011, sleek luxury cars navigated from the resort to neighboring Carmel and beyond, and back again. The right event pass earned attendants carriage service from sun-up ’til long after sundown; either the beginning of the day or the end of it, depending on which side of the table celebrants stood on.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

And which was the better side of the table? In a sea of food and wine luminaries, that’s hard to say. It would’ve been great to be a guest; but lucky diners, servers and sommeliers alike, got to share space (and Lexus rides) with the likes of Jacques Pepin, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Roy Yamaguchi, Graham Elliot, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard and Stephan Pyles – 100 chefs, in total, pulled out their knives for the gala. While an elite team of wine professionals (many were specially invited, based on knowledge and reputation), slaved away for 16+ hours/day, what they had the pleasure of pouring was, literally, without equal: The very best of Burgundy, Premier Cru Bordeaux, Cult Cabernet, a flight of prestige Champagnes from 1990, and a Port vertical dating back to 1880, to name just a few.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Attendees selected seminars, dinners and tastings before the celebration as part of event packages ($995 to $4,750) and add-ons ($150 to $2000). With a little time off between indulgences, there was golf (of course). Shopping, horseback riding. Some of us learned the hard way that the food festival’s only sustenance was served during specific events (chef demos, meals or pairing workshops, the Lexus Grand Tasting). We Dwellers of the Lower Tax Bracket and Woefully Unprepared Seat-of-Pants Fliers survived between sessions on water, crackers and a fruit-and-cheese basket thankfully left in our ocean-view press room the first night, at the ultra-luxurious Monterey Plaza Hotel (a little far from the festival, but worth a weekend in its own right).

And then there were cocktails. After a long day of foie gras, king crab, caviar and Grand Marque Champagne, chefs, sommeliers and civilians gathered on the same piece of real estate to cleanse their palates with scotch and stogies. A lone bagpipe player serenaded the 18th hole as strangers became friends over Rob Roys and margaritas, and the rolling ocean caught and cast back the last, dying rays of sunlight. Although the crowds dispersed for dinner, they came together again for the after parties. The music pulsed as a new line up of chefs served small bits to beautiful people. Bartenders came out of hiding to mix caipirinhas, tin cups and an unpalatable combination of root beer liquor, club soda and whipped cream. New friends embraced or ignored each other and the night poured on.

And then, the next morning, bacon sizzled, corks popped, and hangovers were artfully hidden behind Prada sunglasses or a perfectly pressed suit and tie, and everyone took their places and did everything all over again.

Comments Off on Recap: Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival 06.29.2011 |

Event Coverage: St. Francis Winery, Fandango 2011


St. Francis Winery

June 18th.  Another fun Fandango at the Frannie.  St. Francis Winery, located at Highway 12 and Pythian Road, for years has demonstrated their appreciation for their wine club members, and fondness for having a great time.  Pouring some of its more mesmerizingly encompassing wines, red and white alike, pairing them with incredible cajun dishes and antagonistically brilliant music with New Orleans/Mardi Gras consistency, St. Francis once again delivered another memorable event for its club members.  Frannie employees looked almost as excited as the club members, which contributed heavily to the evening’s positive persistence.

St. Francis Winery, Fandango 2011

In years past, the weather has been hot, harsh, nearly of a vengeful pace.  But on June 18th, no such circumstance set.  I interviewed one gentleman, who’d been a club member for more years than he wanted to tell me, saying “…it would be a mistake to ever miss this…Fandango at St. Francis should make anyone want to join their wine club, or at least come with someone in the club, I’m serious…” Just looking around, you could tell many felt the same.  Me, not covering an event, but captured by the energy, the flavor profile of the occasion itself.

A winery known for its perfect balance of scenery, elegance, and humility, all guests about the lovely lawn were laughing, engaged with the other’s presence, if not dancing.  Even some of the Frannie employees could be seen a-jitter to the band’s electric arrangements.  One lady, a local, said that this event has always been like a condensed vacation, as though every year was like being in Sonoma Valley, on that expansive St. Francis green on a maiden visit.  The gorgeous Wild Oak Estate Vineyard only feet away, the Mayacamas Mountains grinning down at the jubilant time in motion, all were on holiday.

St. Francis Winery, Fandango 2011

The cajun dishes, both delicious and uniquely cooked, according to guests.  A multi-layered array of offerings paired with arguably the most consistent and formidable reds in Sonoma Valley, maybe even County, could only dazzle club members.  And again, with the event’s geographic texture and palate: tangible ideality.  Some attending were guests of club members, as was the gentleman I spoke to from Sacramento.  He said, impassioned, firm: “I’m joining.  That’s it.  I’m joining.” So don’t be startled if St. Francis and its hospitably knowledgeable troops execute another trumping Fandango in 2012, and the crowd’s slightly, of maybe even significantly, more populous.  Sip, sip …

Comments Off on Event Coverage: St. Francis Winery, Fandango 2011 06.22.2011 |

The Great Aussie Wine Mutiny


The Great Aussie Wine Mutiny from Alan Kropf on Vimeo.

Mutineer Editor in Chief stakes a proverbial claim on the beach were the Indian and Arctic Oceans converge in the Margaret River region of Western Australia.

Greetings my fellow Mutineers. After an extended absence from the Mutineer blog, yours truly is back and ready to contribute with enthusiasm. To kick things off I’ll be presenting a series of video posts under the moniker “The Great Aussie Wine Mutiny” sourced from a trip I took around the continent in early May and featuring reports from Adelaide, Coonawarra, Eden Valley, Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula, Nagambie Lakes, Orange, Rutherglen and more.

In the meantime, check out this video with Winemaker Chris Hancock of Robert Oatley Vineyards sharing his insights on the rip roaring world of beverage culture in America.

1 comment 06.20.2011 |

Napa’s Wined Downtown: Easily Savored, Accessible


Bounty Hunter

Many new to wine will hear “Napa” and perhaps say to themselves, “Maybe when I get a little more refined with my palate, that’s for the experts.” They may also balk at the prospect of a Napa mission because of the vast, expansive geographic reality that truly is Napa.  On Highway 29 alone, countless tasting rooms.  But, in the condensed, colorful, and cute downtown of the heralded Napa, visitors find relatable spots, inviting rooms, hosts, offerings.  And not to forget, the wine knowledge’s pervading persistence.  If you want to learn more about wine, “refine your palate,” these manageable streets, all illustrating their tasty cache, with approachable and Human surfaces, serve as more than an optimal starting point.  Shall we begin? … Did you bring your camera?

One spot I’d be remiss to pitch, Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Provisions.  The wine selection, so plentiful it’s almost daunting.  Don’t even think about stressing within their walls, as the staff is not just patient and fun, but enviably astute with wine’s mysteries and knowns.  The cuisine, inviting a wine mate, and the hosts, hostesses, leap at the prospect of pairing suggestions, in addition to some oeno-culinary harmonies already stamped on the menu.  The atmosphere, emphatic and withheld, historic and modern.  Truly eclectic, not to mention artistically animated, with all efforts.  One often-preferred wine, the 2007 Ridge Runner Napa Valley Cab, paired with the pulled pork sandwich.  Supernal, paradisiacal.  This spot demands return, the regular.

Another, Carpe Diem Wine Bar.  Owner Steve Distler has made sure this flavorful fort forwards in balance, variety, tranquility.  A true wine location, with one of the most distinguished and focused wine selections, dishes for union, that you find in Napa’s center.  Around your table, you’re enveloped by eased elements, no frenzy, which is precisely what Mr. Distler intended when the doors were opened not that long ago.  Some of the favorites of those interviewed: the 2008 La Follette Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the 2009 Brown Napa Zinfandel.  Dishes, you’d be “delusional” to not order a flatbread, one tourist from Iowa told me.  The flavor profile of these scrumptious separatist pizzas co-mingle with almost any wine on Steve’s menu, especially the aforementioned bottles.  And, more than likely, Distler will pour you something he likes.

A Bistro con Sabor.  Bistro Sabor–catty-corner to Zins Valley Restaurant and Ristorante Allegria, two other wine beaconing eateries on 1st Street–offers not just whirling wines by Ceja Vineyards, but dauntingly delectable Latin cuisine.  Owner Ariel Ceja welcomes locals, tourists, even wine blogging Mutineers, to pass through the doors, place an order.  Every one of Ceja’s wines push with pristine palate presence.  Especially the Syrah, when paired with skirt steak tacos.  Family-lamented surroundings, smattered with positive energy, music motifs, genuinely pleasant homeliness.  Be sure to check out the night where salsa dancing controls the floor.  “Wine paired with music, salsa especially,” one local exclaimed, “How is that not awesome?”

Zins Valley Restaurant

There are more than a cluster of other corners that didn’t fit into this piece.  But all the more reason to just go visit, explore.  You don’t have to have an elevated wine, or cuisine, barometer about your person.  Just walked around, and stop to taste.  Especially the spots above cited.  And don’t forget to bring your camera.  You’ll want to hold on to such scenes.  Sip, sip …

1 comment 06.15.2011 |

Mark Cuban Celebrates Big with Ace of Spades Champagne for NBA Championship Win


Ace of Spades Champagne

Some people just know how to party, as seen in this crazy bar tab (reportedly belonging to LeBron James) from Vegas a few weeks ago, but Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t gonna get showed up by LeBron on the court or at the bar. To celebrate his team winning the NBA Finals, Cuban spent $90,000 on a very large bottle of Ace of Spades Champagne. How big is it? It’s 30 liters big and known as a Melchizedek, which is the equivelent to 40 normal sized bottles of Champagne. On top of the huge price tag, he left a $20,000 tip. No big deal, right? Probably not when you’re ranked 459th on the “World’s Richest People” list, according to Forbes.

Ace of Spades Champagne

How the monster bottle of bubbly was delivered.

Dirk Nowitzki Celebrates Winning NBA Finals

Dirk drinking from the massive bottle.

2 comments 06.14.2011 |

The Kapalua Wine and Food Festival Celebrates the Big 3-0


Kapalua Wine and Food Festival

The Kapalua Wine and Food Festival celebrates 30 years on Maui with their annual celebration of great wines of the world and cuisine of Maui. That means I wasn’t even 21 at the first one! Starting in 1981, the wine world was a different place.  The wine industry has come a long way in 30 years, with tremendous growth seen in the United States with 712 wineries in ’85, compared to more than 4,000 now. The event has been long known for its kick off tasting party that features hundreds of wines called the Grand Tasting, which will have a new twist this year. Also new is a 3 hour intro wine course on Thursday. Friday also features the festival golf tournament at the Bay Course and the cab tasting seminar. On Saturday more wine tasting seminars, and festival wine dinners. On Sunday more seminars, Farm Fresh with celebrity Chef Peter Merriman, and the Finale, the Maui Seafood Festival with live entertainment from local band An Den.

The passion for wine and wine knowledge is no longer reserved for the elite. Wine grown around the world are more approachable than ever. The signature wine event in Kapalua continues to transform itself, this year in two specific events. The addition of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Introductory class on Thursday, targeting local food and beverage professionals. Here attendees, under the guidance of Master Sommeliers, will take a tour of the wine growing regions of the world. There will be lively discussions of wine by these Masters of wine, some of which are experts on certain regions. All of the proceeds of this course will go to the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation.

The Friday kick off event, The Grande Tasting has a new taste too, incorporating the significance of our local island bounty. This party has its roots in the who’s who social place to be on the island while featuring over 200 bottles of wine from around the world. Now the Friday night party follows the farm to table trend by partnering with the Maui County Farm Bureau and pairing our talented island’s chefs with our equally skilled farmers.

Under the splendor of the Ritz Carlton’s Aloha Garden Pavilion you will explore an insane combination of chefs, farmers, and wine. The wine stations that total over 200 hundred selections include Tour of California selected by Festival Host Fred Dame, Southern Hemisphere selected by Master Sommelier Andrew McNamara, Pacific Northwest Wines, European Wines selected by Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher, and Sparkling Wines selected by Larry Stone.

The Maui Restaurant Chefs and Maui Farms that will be creating the culinary route of your wine adventure will be as follows:

  • Cilantro Mexican Grill and Pacific Produce – Mahi-Mahi ceviche tostada with citrus, watercress and jicama salad and Mother Clucker Flautas with hibiscus jalapeno jelly on a bed of Kula greens, roasted corn and pomegranate vinaigrette
  • Flatbread Company and Hana Herbs and Flowers  – Pohole fern flatbread and salad
  • The Plantation House Restaurant and Escobedo Farm – Chef’s Meze Table with Bab Ghanjouj (eggplant-tahini), Melitzanosalata (eggplant-walnut), Eggplant-Sausage Caponata, Hummus, Mediterranean Olives, Peppers, Marinated Cheese and Pita, Flatbread and Crostini
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House and J Shishido Farm – Broccoli Beef with house cured bersola, sautéed broccoli with a cilantro vinaigrette and Wild Mushroom Fricassee with house cured pancetta, parmigiano reggiano, red wine demi glaze and whole leaf parsley
  • The Banyan Tree and Syl’s Produce – Seafood Sausage with pumpernickel and béarnaise sauce and Smoked Ono on a Maui-Style tortilla with crème fraiche
  • Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman and Olowalu Nui Farm – Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Olowalu Nui Farm Tomato, Pineapple and Beet Gazpacho
  • Desserts by Chef Ashley – The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and Kula Country Farms

10:00 am – 1:00 pm – Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation  Introductory Class
12:00 pm – 3:00 pm – Local Industry Trade Show
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm – Welcome Reception (By invitation only)

FRIDAY, June 10
7:00 am – Shotgun Start – Festival Golf Tournament, The Bay Course, Kapalua
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm – Three Decades of Reserve Cab
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – The Grand Tasting – Maui Grown

11:00 am – 12:30 pm – Pinots Meet Cheese
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm – A Drive Up Hwy 101
Time & location varies – Festival Winemakers Dinners

Wine and dine with Festival Winemakers. For more information on these awe-inspiring dinners and priceless opportunities, please visit the Festival website at kapalua.com.

SUNDAY, June 12
11:00 am – 12:30 pm – You say Shiraz, I say Syrah
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm – Farm Fresh with Chef Peter Merriman
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – Maui Seafood Festival

Purchase tickets online at kapalua.com or call 808-665-9160

1 comment 06.08.2011 |

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