Category Archives: california

Happiness is: Becoming a Grandmother

Happiness is:  Becoming a Grandmother

Elliana Nita= Lots of dark hair, puffy big cheeks, beautiful full lips, long fingernails and everything else perfect.  That is my brand new granddaughter.  My first grandchild and a girl to boot!  Raising two fantastic sons, always wishing I could have had that girl… I finally got my wish.

The call came at 4:55 a.m. on April 29th.  The original plan was that Brandon and Kim would call us as they were on their way to the birthing center.  And then call us after she was born.  But as things turned out, by the time they realized that they were in real labor things progressed too fast and less than 6 hours from the beginning to the end Elliana was born.

                                                                            Elliana Nita 6 Days Young

Once we got the call and
got most of the details we cried with joy.  We got our day in order so
we could drive up to see our new angel.  Brandon and Kim came home to
their house about 6 hours after Elliana was born.  We gave them a
little bit of space to get settled and maybe have a nap before us
getting there.

We arrived and found Elliana in the arms of her grandfather Lou (Kim’s dad) so we just starred at her for the longest time.  The kids were exhausted but on an adrenaline rush.  They visited with us and Kim and the baby disappeared every so often when she went to nurse her.  Everything was so new.  Finally the changing table was used, the beautiful bassinet that Grandpa Lou made was being used and our arms for holding her were being used.

It was a beautiful day with the Elliana Nita, her parents and her two sets of grandparents enjoying the miracle of life.

River Road, Wine Barrel Weekend

A few weekends ago we went on the Wine Road Barrel Tasting weekend in Sonoma County.  We had a map and a list of the participating wineries.  The weekend prior, Larry and I went onto the website to check out the wineries listed in the Russian River area.  Then we went through the ones that we hadn’t been to and made a list of the wineries we wanted to visit.  We ended up having a great 3 days of driving along the winding vineyard roads, dining on some of the best cuisine in the Sonoma County and drinking world class wines.

Friday we left home around 10:00 a.m. and arrived in Geyserville about 11:45.  It was pouring rain the whole way up there.  But we got in to Diavola Pizzeria and Sulumeria Restaurant in time to be seated right away, before the crowds came.  Friends of ours who were on a mission to find the best pizza in the Bay Area had told us about Diavola.  We decided not to drink any wine with lunch, as we knew that we were going to be drinking all afternoon.  Larry and I shared both items.  First as a starter we ordered their heirloom bean and faro soup with chard, prosciutto and rosemary; absolutely delicious and perfect for a rainy day.  Then we shared their Salsiccia pizza, which had housemade sausage, red torpedo onions and pecorino cheese.  The crust was light and crunchy and there wasn’t an over-abundance of cheese on the pizza.  You could actually taste each individual ingredients.  Before we left the restaurant we stopped and purchased their homemade olive mixture to bring to the kids’ house to go toward the appetizers before dinner. (We were put in charge of this course.)

After lunch we decided to go to the Dry Creek Valley to taste wines.  This was decided mostly because the views would be prettier in the Alexander Valley region, as they are up in the hills, and Saturday was supposed to be a beautiful day. We started the day at Fritz Winery.  Their winery is built underground and they have a cave below the winery to store a lot of their barrels.  Here we sampled ’09 Estate Reserve Zinfandel and their ’08 Estate Reserve Cabernet.  They also poured for us their ’07 single vineyard Saralee Pinot Noir, their ’06 Syrah and their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc.  They had really nice views and we need to go back on a non-rainy day.  Then we went on to Forchini


                                                                                Art amongst the vineyards

They were pouring an ’09 Pinot Noir, ’08 Tuscan Red Blend, ’08 Old Vine Zinfandel, ’09 Bordeaux Blend and an ’09 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The tasting room seemed nice; the people pouring in the barrel room seemed a bit burned out.  We then went to Papapietro Perry.  They are located in a nice spot where you can park and go to at least 3-4 other wineries and an olive company.  They poured the ’09 Nunes – Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, ’09 Elsbree Vineyard Pinot Noir and the ’09 Elsbree Vineyard Zinfandel out of the barrel.  We also tried their ’07 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and their ’07 Peters Pinot Noir.  They offer very good wines, and are very nice people.  We then went to Rued Vineyards and Winery.  Here they poured us a slew of wines.  They didn’t have their barrels there; they had poured the wine from the barrels into wine bottles.  It didn’t feel the same as tasting right from the barrel.  We sampled an ’07 Pinot Blanc, ’07 Sauvignon Blanc, an ’07 Chardonnay, ’06 Zinfandel, ’07 Zinfandel, ’08 Zinfandel and an ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon.  The people were nice enough and poured us plenty but I didn’t get the best feeling about their atmosphere.  We then continued to drive south on West Side Road heading to Santa Rosa.  We stopped at the Dry Creek Store, the cutest little store/deli/coffee shop.  There we got cheeses, Spanish almonds and crackers to complete our obligation for appetizers for the night.  Next we went to an old favorite, Hop Kiln Winery

                                Hopkiln Winery

Such a beautiful setting with a very old building that was turned into a winery in the 70’s.  Here we sampled a ’09 Chardonnay and a ’09 Pinot Noir both from Alexander Valley.  We took a walk through their gardens and sat at one of their picnic benches for awhile admiring the vineyards.  Next A left on River Road and a right onto Olivet Road found us at De Loach Vineyards.  Here we got to meet their winery puppy, Pooka.  She was very cute and friendly, though still learning some of her manners.  We tasted an ‘08 Ritchie Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, ’07 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, ’07 Golden Coast Chardonnay, ’07 Boedreaux Vineyard Pinot Noir,  ’07 Green Valley Pinot Noir, ’06 van der Kamp Pinot Noir, ’07 Riebli Valley Zinfandel and their Tawney Port.  Overall we enjoyed their wines and our experience there.  It was at the end of the day and they still had smiles on their faces.  

After all of these wineries we were exhausted.  We made it to Brandon and Kim’s house around 5:30.  Brandon was stuffing a whole chicken with limes and we turned on the Cal vs. UCLA basketball game.  Some of you might remember that Larry is a Cal alumni.  Kim got home with salad ingredients and we all sat together and snacked and got caught up on things.  I got to rub my grandbaby in Kim’s tummy.  She is getting way big now.  She is in her 33rd week.  After we dried out a couple of hours Brandon then opened a bottle of wine to go with dinner.  Cal won the game on Friday, but it was close.  After dinner Kim and I knitted and the boys rested while we watched Robin Hood, Men in Tights.  It’s such a classic Mel Brooks movie; so funny, glad we got to see it again.

Saturday we woke up a little bit slowly to the smell of bacon cooking.  Brandon and Kim were already making breakfast, as Brandon had to go to Dutton Goldfield to pour for Barrel Weekend.  We had a delicious egg scramble with onion, peppers and cheese, the bacon and toast.  Brandon left and Larry and I got ready and left the house around 11:30.  We got in the car and realized that it was going to be a beautiful day; the sky was blue without a cloud in the sky.  We drove straight to the Chalk Hill Region within the Russian River Valley.  We first went to Chalk Hill Winery.  There we barrel sampled their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc, and their ’08 Chardonnay.  They were also pouring their ’06 Chardonnay from the bottle to compare the two vintages.  This is a large facility with many, many acres of beautiful vines.  We need to go back another time and try more of their wines.  Just up the hill from Chalk Hill Winery was Chateau Felice.  We had met Samantha (Sam), the director of sales and marketing and the daughter of the owners, at the Hog in the Fog event last summer.  Here we sampled a ’08 Cabernet Franc, ’08 Syrah and a ’09 Zinfandel.  We really loved the Zinfandel.  We tasted at their new tasting room, which is outside under a covered arbor.  Very nice people and a good vibe.  From there we went to Sausal Winery, which is in the Alexander Valley.  They were the only winery that offers complementary wine tasting that we visited that day.  Most have you pay between $5-10 and you get that back if you buy wine.  Here we sampled an ’08 Private Reserve Zinfandel, and an ’08 Century Vines Zinfandel in the barrels plus an ’06 Family Zinfandel and a ’06 Private Reserve Zinfandel.  They also were the only winery we went to that had cats as the meet and greeters.  Next was Hanna Winery and Vineyard, Alexander Valley tasting room.  The facility here is beautifully situated amongst the hills and vineyards.  We could see most of the Alexander Valley from here.  Here we sampled their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc and their ’06 Bismark Mountain Zinfandel.  When we finished sampling we decided to get out our sandwiches that we had purchased at Raley’s and have ourselves a little picnic enjoying the beautiful views.  It was so nice. 


                                         Views of the Alexander Valley from Hanna Winery

Afterwards we went to Hawkes Vineyards and Winery.  Here the winemaker and his two sons were each pouring out of a barrel.  They offered a ’08 Red Winery Cabernet, a ’08 Stone Cabernet and a ’08 Pyramid Cabernet.  We went into the tasting room and sampled their Chardonnay and their ’05 Alexander Valley Cabernet, ’05 Pyramid Vineyard Cabernet and the ’05 Stone Vineyard Cabernet.  The wife/mother was pouring the wines.  This was only the second family run winery we went to.  We then decided to go to Clos du Bois since we hadn’t been in a number of years.  This is a very large facility with beautiful grounds for picnicking and letting the kids run off some steam.  We went into the barrel room and sampled their ’09 Chardonnay and their ’09 Pinot Noir.  Both were very nice.  We then went into the tasting room and sampled some more wines and looked around at their very lovely gift shop.  They offered samples of a number of mustards and sauces.  Right next door was Trione.  We had heard about them but have never tried their wines.  Here we sampled their ’08 Syrah from the barrel and their ’08 Sauvignon Blanc from the bottle.  They had a very nice winery with an outdoor covered deck with overstuffed chairs to take a load off.  We sat there for a few minutes and enjoyed looking at their outdoor Viking kitchen.  We spent a little bit too much time here and when we got to Frances Ford Coppola Winery they were closed!  We parked, walked down the hill to the winery where there were a lot of people sitting outside enjoying their wines.  When we got to the tasting room the lady there informed us that the barrel tasting was over.  It goes from 11-4 and it was four o’clock.  This was fine, we understood, but there tasting room says that it is open until 5:00 and she wouldn’t let us in, not even to take a look at it, so I can’t say anything about the winery except that that lady pissed me off!  We then went back to Brandon and Kim’s house and watched the second half of the Cal vs. Washington game.  Cal lost.  Too bad.  Kim left to drive to Berkeley to meet up with some friends for dinner.  We took the opportunity and took Brandon out for a nice Parent/Child dinner.  We went to Bistro 29 in Santa Rosa.  We had met the chef Brian Anderson from there at the P.S. I Love You event last month.  We were impressed with his choice of food and execution.  Brandon brought a bottle of ’07 Dutton Goldfield Freestone Vineyard Pinot Noir.  Brandon and Larry agreed to order a Michel Barat – Petite Chablis, Le Pradu, from France as our starter wine.  They opened the pinot and poured us a glass but we enjoyed the Chablis first.  Brandon and Larry shared a dish of Monterey Bay Sardines, grilled with olive oil and served with fresh greens.  And the three of us shared a Buckwheat Crepe filled with Basque-sautéed shrimp, roasted tomato, roasted peppers, cave Gruyere and saffron butter.  You can imagine how good that was.  We had sent our business cards plus a glass of the Pinot Noir to Chef Brian in the back.  He came out and talked with us at the table for a couple minutes as the evening went along.  Very nice guy.  For the main entrée Brandon and I ordered the same dish, which was Ribeye Steak with potatoes and vegetables.  Larry ordered their brick roasted “spring” chicken with tarragon jus and truffle pommes frites.  His dish was served with asparagus and the fries were in a glass lined with paper.  Larry was nice enough to share the fries with us.  They were so good.  Larry loved his chicken dish and we loved our beef!  For dessert we shared a sampler plate with 3 desserts on it.  One was a thin crispy cookie sandwich filled with a lemon mascarpone cream, a mini brown sugar crème brulee and profiteroles.  We spent 2 ½ hours enjoying this dining experience.  Great food, conversation and wine.  We got back to the house and basically went to bed.  

The next morning I woke up to bacon smell again!  This time it was Kim cooking the bacon.  Brandon made over-easy eggs and we had toast.  We packed up.  Brandon went off to the winery for his 14th day in a row!  We left and went first to Harvest Moon Winery.  There they were pouring a ’09 Zinfandel and a ’08 Cabernet.  We were looking for Randy Pitts, owner extraordinaire.  He was busy running all around so we just sampled what they were pouring, a Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  We bought a bottle of his sparkling Gewürztraminer for Brandon who wants it for the celebration of his new baby.  Next we drove to Copain Winery, which recently received a great write up in the SF Chronicle.   They are in the middle of no man’s land.  You have to follow a map and be good at reading it in order to find it.  But we are sure glad that we did.  They have beautiful views and good wines.  We sampled from their barrel a Syrah and a Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley.  We took some pictures and then headed to Dutton Goldfield, which is in the process of opening their new tasting room.  They had their back warehouse open.  This will eventually become their wine making facility/cellar/storage area.  They were pouring from five different barrels.  They had a ’09 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, a ’09 Devil’s Gulch Vineyard Pinot Noir, and a ’08 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah.  It was so great to try the same year of Pinot Noir but from different vineyards.  They are all very different and very delicious.  Winemaker B was there pouring.  It was fun watching him “work”.  After we were there a little bit he gave us a personal tour of the new facilities.  It is going to be very nice when it is done.  The nice thing for Dutton Goldfield is that everyone has his or her office now at one location.  This will makes it a lot easier for communication, sampling and blending the wines etc.  We then went to the table where they were pouring all their bottles of wine.  The table was very crowded and since we were familiar with the wines we only sampled a couple of our favorites.

    Winemaker B (right) talking with happy customers.

After this nice visit we got on the road and headed back to Dublin.  It was a beautiful drive home.  We were pretty happy with our weekend as we went to 3 distinct wine regions, Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley; we went to a couple new restaurants and even had a picnic lunch, not to mention the delicious breakfasts we had with Brandon and Kim.  This time with them is most likely the last time we will see them at their house without any children! ☺

One afternoon = Five wineries in Livermore Valley

Last Saturday I had to go into work for a few hours.  I had Larry drive me so afterwards he could pick me up and we could go wine tasting in the Livermore Valley.  I work in Livermore and we really wanted to visit a few wineries that we have heard about but not visited yet.  So Larry picked me up and off we went into the city of Livermore.  The city, which is large in size but small in reality.  You will find the downtown area with cute stores and good restaurants on First Street.  There are about four to five blocks with all the activity, which makes it easy to take a leisurely stroll and check out the goings on.

The first winery we went to was Ryhan Winery.  I had been there before but Larry had never been and it was close to the two wineries that Larry wanted to visit.  Ryhan winery was very nice; they had a very nice staff and some foods to pair with their different wines.  They offered pepper jack cheese, mozzeralla cheese, homemade chili chicken, olives marinated in different herbs and spices, and some chocolates.  Being a foodie I won’t go into details of what I would have done differently, but they made a great effort.  I liked their raspberry sparkling wine.  Larry and I both had their Syrah, which was pretty good; they also have a Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gricio and many others.  This was strictly a tasting room.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but if you buy wine they don’t charge you.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30-5:00 or by appointment.

Right next door to Ryhan Winery in the same attached building was Cuda Ridge Wines.  Larry Dino the winemaker and owner was there pouring the wines.  This was the winery, cellar and tasting room all in one spot.  Larry’s specialty is making Bordeaux style wines.  Cabernet Franc is one of their specialties.  We also tried a Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Zinfandel that is on a different label.  All of their wines are made from grapes they get in the Livermore Valley.  They opened their winery in 2007 and their tasting room this past fall ’09.  They produce 1100 cases at the present moment.  They will also be offering a Semillon and a Malbec.  The surroundings were very comfortable and Larry and his wife Margie were very hospitable.

Our next stop was about 2 miles away.  These next two wineries are next to each other in a business park that fronts onto the main street.   The first winery we walked into was Occasio Winery.  They have a nice comfortable set up with a front room with the tasting counter, then behind that is a boardroom that can be used for a crowd up to 10 persons.  In that room they offer cheese and or lunch if you’re so inclined for your purpose.  Courtney was the person behind the counter pouring for us.  She was very nice and very knowledgeable.  We found out that the winery similar to Cuda Ridge had its first vintage in ’07 and opened their tasting room in the fall of ’09.  The owner and winemaker is John Kinney.  They currently are producing 500 cases of wine but very quickly will be up to 1,200 by the end of the year.  We got a small tour of the facilities.  They have a very nice sized laboratory.  Then the back area where the winery/cellar is was just the perfect size, room for growth yet small.  Back in the tasting room we tried a Pinot Gris ’08, a Sauvignon Blanc ’08*, a Rose of Zinfandel ’09* and a Zinfandel ’08*.  The future will be bringing a Petite Syrah, Fume Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend of some sort.  We really enjoyed the wines and bought 3 bottles*.  Their wine club membership is different where they give you 20% off all wine purchased.  Their tasting fee is $5.00 but that is taken off if you purchase wine.  Their hours are Friday 12-5, Sat/Sun 11:30 – 4:30 or by appointment.

Right next door was Nottingham Winery and Satyrs’ Pond Winery.  The winemaker/owner Jeff Cranor, makes the wines for both labels.  Justin and Chris helped us with our wine tasting experience.  Similar to Occasio the feel when you walk in was very comfortable.  Their tasting area was a bit more cramped.  But they also have room for you to wander around and look at the different artwork on the walls.  The owner’s brother Pat Cranor is a thriving artist in San Diego and he has quite a number of pieces for sale there.  Chris took us for a tour of the back, which is very large for their size winery.  They like to have enough room for their special events that they host.  We sampled the Viognier from Nottingham Cellars, which was floral but not overwhelming, as it can be.  Then we tried the Satyrs’ Pond Winery Lux Alba white blend, which is a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc blend.  Then in a decanter we sampled Satyrs’ ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I really liked this.  Then in the next decanter we sampled Nottingham ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were very good, smooth but the Satyrs’ had more potential I thought to lay down for a few years.  At the end Chris opened up the Nottingham Ralphi’s Red Blend, which is Merlot from Napa and Cabernet from Livermore.  At first this wine fell flat on the tongue.  But after a bit of swirling and waiting patiently for it to open it did so in a big way.  We had to buy one of those.  They charge a $5.00 tasting fee, which gets reimbursed if you purchase any wine.

After all of this, and I was done, Larry said do you want to go visit Linda and Earl at Cedar Mountain?  I said sure as it was only 2 minutes away.  So we went to see our old buddies.  Unfortunately they were busy but we got to sample their Sauvignon Blanc side by side with their Sauvignon Blanc Reserve.  Quite a difference – I liked the reserve better.  Then I tried their Chardonnay of which I have always felt that they make one of the best in the Livermore Valley.  We both had to sample their Tortuga Royale.  This is a port made by co-fermenting Blanches Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with Scharffen Berger 70% cacao powder and fortified with fine Eau De Vie Brandy.  You can only imagine how amazing this was.  There was just enough of the chocolate aroma and flavor with the grape flavor of the Cabernet and the brandy for the alcohol and smoothness.  I could have continued drinking this all afternoon!  However, we had grocery shopping to do etc.  Next time I’m there I’m going to buy one of those for my liquor cabinet.  For $25.00 it’s a fantastic gift for any wine lover!

So this concludes another wine tasting experience in Livermore Valley.  There are over 50 wineries there now and more popping up.  It’s a great place to go and sample wines without feeling any pressure.  I feel very fortunate that I live 20 minutes away!

Lompoc Wineries are on the Map

Lompoc, is a small community between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.  The Lompoc Chamber of Commerce hasjust put out with their very first wine map.  This consists of 9 wineries that are open to the public.  They will be re-printing this map every 3 months as new tasting rooms will be continuously opening up.  Lompoc is located on scenic Pacific Coast Highway (California Hwy 1)and Highway 246, 55 miles northwest of Santa Barbara, 155 milesnorthwest of Los Angeles and 270 miles southeast of San Francisco.  Below is a list of the nine wineries to go and check out if you are in the area.

1. Palmina

Helping Winemaker B and Kram Harvest Their Grapes

I have a little story about going to work with my son.  You’re like what; you can go to work with your son?  Yes, we can, we did, and we had a blast. 

It all began last Saturday, ah…I remember it well, like it was just three days ago.☺  This is how my story goes…we woke up at Brandon and Kim’s house and Brandon, who is the assistant winemaker at Dutton Goldfield winery had  already gone to work at the winery before we awoke.  So Larry, Kim and I had a light snack of fresh fruit knowing that where we were heading off to was going to serve us breakfast.  We left the house around 9:00 and by 9:30 we were at our destination in Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley.  We were at Dave Kram’s father and stepmother’s (Jerry and Lily) house.  They have a small weekend ranch home that was originally built around 1900, on 18 acres of land.  The house has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, dining room, kitchen and an enclosed front porch.  A perfect size house for two or four not the eight that were staying over.  The property has about 1/4 acre of grape vines, mostly Syrah with some Viognier, that they planted nearly 4 years ago.  Brandon is the winemaker for the Kramatage wine and Dave is the vineyard manager.  The goal for the day was to harvest the Syrah, as they already harvested the Viognier Labor Day weekend.


               Larry and Jerry after Breakfast                                      View from Kram’s vineyards

We got introduced to the whole mishbucha (Yiddish for group) and preceded to eat banana pancakes, bacon and fruit.  We sat outside on their patio while we ate and got to know each other.  The dogs Truman, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, that weighs 115 pounds and Dotty, a 14 year old Dalmatian, were trying their hardest to beg some pancakes off of us.  A little background on Dave Kram.  He and Brandon are friends from their teenage youth group days.  They were paired up as buddies when they went to Israel with a large group from the Bay Area.  They both ended up going to U C Davis together and Dave ended up joining Brandon and graduated in Fermentation Science as well.  However, as Brandon works in the wine industry Dave currently doesn’t so winemaking is a passion and hobby of his.


              Brandon and Dave

After a bit we got together and started picking the grapes.  Unfortunately by the time we went out to the vineyard to pick the grapes it was 90 plus degrees outside!  So we melted very quickly.  We were out there for about 45 minutes and got her done.  I love the feel of a bunch of grapes in my hand.  They are delicate yet substantial at the same time.  Then we cooled off under the big oak tree, I had water in one hand and beer in the other.  There were some snacks of guacamole, salsa, chips, cheese and crackers.

          Lori harvesting grapes                             Lori and others de-stemming these grapes

After rejuvenating a bit we got to work on part two of the days task.  We had to de-stem all the grapes.  We used a piece of equipment that Brandon had rented.  You put the grapes in from the top, turn the crank and the skins and juice come out the bottom into a bin and the stems come out the side.  Very cool.  It took a number of people to get this done though.  Fortunately, as the day went on we acquired more invited guests that we roped into helpers.  We needed four or five people to hold the de-stemmer down, one cranking the wheel and two to three adding in the grapes from the picked bins and one or two to lift the machine every couple minutes to remove the stems that didn’t come out on their own.  This was a good hour of work.  Once that was all done it was clean up time as this was a very sticky proposition.  Luckily the water pressure that died earlier was back working again.

Brandon labeled the barrels, put them in his truck to take home cool down and let sit, before crushing and letting the grape juice start to ferment and turn into wine.

We sat and hung around as more and more people arrived.  Then supper was served.  The Kram’s had made a feast!  There was bbq chicken breast with a Habanero sauce, pork ribs and lamb chops.  Besides that there was a fantastic cold Chinese noodle salad with a choice of a spicy or soy dressing.  There was a green and a fruit salad as well.  No one left there hungry.  There were nearly 30 people there to celebrate in the harvest.

                      Supper ala Kram style                                                          Beautiful grapes

Larry and I had never harvested any grapes other than our own in our backyard.  We have two vines; they had over 180.  It was fun getting the little kids involved, the sister, cousins etc.  

The only disappointing thing about all of this is that we will be missing the pressing of these grapes next weekend.  That would pretty much complete the harvest cycle for me.  But I did have a chance to crush my grapes this summer.  We did it the “Lucy” way.  That is another story to tell at a later date.

Festivals and Other Wine Activities – October-December 2009


                                  Wine Festivals 2009
                                 September – December

September 26th – 28th – Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival 10 am – 5 pm – Historic Sonoma Plaza The oldest festival in California, 112th annual.  There is wine tasting, food, arts & crafts, beer, and all sorts of things to see.  Along with this there is the the Raising of the California Bear Flag Re-enactment. The first Bear Flag was raised in the Sonoma Plaza. Then there are grape stomps, live music all weekend on two stages, and Sunday the local parade.

October 3 & 4 – Amador Vintners Harvest Wine Festival “The Big Crush” – 10 am – 4 pm Amador County, Sierra Foothills (35 miles east of Sacramento).  Over 32 wineries, $30 Sat/Sun $20 Sunday only, $10 designated drivers. 

October 3 – Mt. Veeder Appelation Wine Tasting3 pm – 6 pm – Vintners Golf Club, Yountville.  $50 per person.  Over 14 wineries represented.

October 10th – Celbration of Harvest Festival 1 pm – 4 pm – Rancho Sisquoc, Santa Maria – $65 per person.  Join the 100+ members of the Santa Barbara CountyVintners’ Association tocelebrate the joys of harvest and the season. They will all be therepouring their latest releases.  They we’ll be joined by their culinarycolleagues from the areas finest restaurants, caterers and specialtyfood purveyors. There will be live and lively music to fill the air,and a silent auction full of large format bottles, verticals andhorizontals to benefit local charities and food banks.

October 17 – 1st ever Carneros Harvest Passport – 10 am – 4 pm  Over 18 wineries pouring their award winning wines.  $49 in advance, $59 at the door. 

More to come, keep your eyes peeled.

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month

Governor Schwarzenegger Proclaims September 2009 California Wine Month for the 5th year in a row.  Recognizing the Golden State’s vintners and growers for their more than 200-year-old agricultural tradition,positive impact on the state and national economies, and commitment to sustainable winegrowing practices.  The proclamation praises the wine community’s many contributions.  “Many wineries are also committed to serving their communities and promoting socially and environmentally responsible farming practices,” said Governor Schwarzenegger in the proclamation.  


       California vineyards in the summer                          California vineyards in the fall

California wine generates 820,000 jobs in the U.S., including 330,000 in California. 

The state’s vintners and growers, along with California’s 80,000 restaurants, have helped make the Golden State a top destination for culinary travelers from around the world, attracting nearly 21 million visitors each year to its wine regions.  Visitors to California can explore the state’s 2,800 wineries which produce 90 percent of U.S. wine.  First Lady Maria Shriver is promoting the California Travel and Tourism Commission by appearing on a TV spot promoting California as the “Land of Wine and Food.”  California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world.  With over 60 percent of the state’s winegrowers participating in the Sustainable Winegrowing Program, it is truly a model for wine regions in other states and abroad.  The program has won Governor Schwarzenegger’s top environmental award from the California Association of Winegrape Growers. 

           California Grapes

California Wine Month is also supported by several association partners including the California Travel and Tourism Commission, the California Olive Oil Council, the National Restaurant Association and the California Restaurant Association which recently conducted its second annual “Best California Wine List Competition.”

Retail and restaurant establishments throughout the nation are celebrating California Wine Month and several publications will feature special coverage of the state’s wines.

Retail/Restaurant Partners Celebrating California Wine Month (CWM)

Safeway, Von’s and Pavilions stores (Newspaper ads and in-store displays in stores nationwide)

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (Posters and shelf talkers in stores throughout the state)

Kimpton Hotels (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Beverages & More! (Posters in stores)

Costco (California stores)

Roy’s Restaurants (Special wine promotions in all restaurants)

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (Special wine promotions on board all ships)

The Melting Pot (Special wine promotions in select restaurants)

Vino Volo (Special wine-by-the glass promotions in all airport locations)

California Wine Merchants (In-store tastings with vintners)

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace New Jersey (Three stores doing in-store tastings with vintners)

Grande Harvest Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Morrell & Company New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Union Square Wines New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Zachy’s New York (In-store tastings with vintners)

Cork Bar Los Angeles (Special California wine flights throughout September)

Wall Street Journal September 12

San Francisco Chronicle August 28

Los Angeles Magazine September edition

The Restaurant Standard (California Restaurant Association) — August/September Edition

10 Reasons to Love CA Wine

California is one of the first places that come to mind when we think about wine. Why do we love it so much? In honor of California Wine Month – September 2008 – let us count the ways;

1. A living national treasure, with history and entrepreneurial spirit: California wines have been around for nearly250 years, and the industry is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. After Prohibition, California has led a wine quality revolution by combining art, science, innovation and tradition.

2.A leader in sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices: With its statewide Sustainable Winegrowing Program (SWP), establishing strong environmental standards and practices from ground to glass, California vintners and wine grape growers are a model for other agricultural products and other wine regions in the U.S. and the world.

3.Comprised largely of family businesses: The vast majority of California’s 4,600 wine grape growers and 2,700 wineries are family-owned and operated businesses, many involving multiple generations.

4. Offers immense choice for wine drinkers, because of diverse growing regions, soils, climates, winemaking styles and people: With wine grapes grown in 46 of the state’s 58 counties,California counts 107 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). Starting with the Spanish missionaries, to German, Swiss, French and Italian immigrants, to the modern day entrepreneurs and researchers, all have made their mark on California wines.

5. Inspired a culinary revolution: As the popularity of California wines has risen, so has the national focus on fresh seasonal cooking and dining. Many of America’s top chefs work in California’s wine country.

6. Provides careers for thousands: The California wine industry generates 875,000 jobs nationwide, with wages totaling $25.2 billion. The overall economic impact of the wine industry on the U.S. economy is $125.3 billion.

7.Creates beautiful travel destinations throughout the state: California is the most visited state in the U.S. for food and wine-related activities, with 19.7 million tourists visiting the state’s wine regions each year.

8. Offers unprecedented opportunities for women: Women have played a critical role in the California wineindustry’s past, and today are taking lead positions in viticulture, winemaking, sales, marketing, hospitality and distribution. In the U.S., you’re just as likely to see a female as a male sommelier.

9.Keeps land in agriculture: Although less than 1 percent of California land is planted to vineyards, California wine is the number one finished agricultural product in retail value in the U.S. Wine grapes ensure that land stays in agriculture, and preserves open space and scenic pastoral landscapes.

10. Has driven a new “wine culture”in the U.S., inspiring people in all 50 states to establish wineries:Wine consumption has risen for 14 consecutive years in the U.S., and the proliferation of wine magazines, websites, blogs and yes, even a reality television show about wine, attests to the fact that wine is becoming more a part of mainstream American culture. California’s success in wine quality, production and innovation has helped inspire winemaking ventures in all 50 U.S. states.

Russian River Valley – Grape to Glass Weekend Aug 14-16

Want a good excuse to head up to Northern California?  Here is the perfect reason.  It’s summer, the area is beautiful, there are more wineries than you know what to do with and the Russian River Valley Winegrowers Association is holding their annual Grape to Glass fun-filled weekend.  The festivities start Friday August 14 and go through Sunday the 16th.  This is not like your normal festival.  There are activities that you sign up for in advance and participate in.  Here is a sampling of things to do:

• Get your boots dirty and your wine knowledge refreshed while taking part in our Behind the Wines grower and vintner presentations.
• Taste your way to a winning hand at the Winery Poker Run.
• Take in Sip ‘N’ Cinema – Where Hollywood meets Wine Country at MacMurray Ranch – A Sensory Experience.
• Experience the Russian River Valley Lifestyle by land, water and air – on bikes, kayaks and in hot air balloons.
• Enjoy wine country at its best at the Hog in the Fog Winegrower BBQ, Tasting Fest & Auction showcasing samplings of more than 50 of our wineries.

                      Grape to Glass                                                                              Hog in the Fog

• Wings, Wine and Wind-down is where you can relax, watch the“Wings Over Wine Country” Air Show, experiment with salts and wind-down from your Russian River Valley weekend.

There are so many things to see and do while in the area from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg!  If you need any help in planning it out for you go to, their Education Wine Tours will guide you if you want to stay overnight or make a vacation out of it.

Go to the Grape to Glass website and order your tickets today.  You can order the tickets for individual events or as a whole package (this saves you $$$).  Bring some friends and take a day or the whole weekend.  You will be glad that you did!

You’ve Heard Of Murphy Goode Winery? Did You Hear That Hardy Wallace Got “A Really Goode Job”

I’m sure most of you have heard the term “social media”.  More and more industries are hiring a staff person to strictly be their social media person.  This means that this person will handle the media outreach for the company such as on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linkedin, Plaxo and YouTube accounts, for example.

The wine industry has started to realize that the time is now to hire a social media person.  This could be the golden opportunity that won’t cost them a lot of money and will ideally increase their wine sales.  A winery that has been around for over 20 years named Murphy Goode in Healdsburg, Sonoma County put out a contest so they could hire this perfect social media person for their winery. 

         Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Murphy Goode wanted to hire a lifestyle correspondent who will take care of all their social media outreach needs.  This person had to send in a video of why they are this perfect person for Murphy Goode to hire, and why he/she would do “A Really Goode Job”.  The contest lasted about 3 months and each contestant had to submit their 2 minute video and get their readers, friends and Murphy Goode to vote for them.  After over 1,000 applicants submitted their video Murphy Goode narrowed it down to 10 finalists.   Hardy Wallace from Atlanta Georgia who has a wine blog called Dirty South Wine, won the contest for the six month stint!

Larry had met Hardy last year at the Wine Bloggers Conference and actually voted for Hardy’s video to win.  We saw Hardy once again at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference which was a week after his winning announcement. 

                         Hardy Wallace

As you can imagine with all the publicity, press and piers, Hardy was flying higher than the highest kite you’ve ever seen.  

Larry and I met up with Hardy while we were in the Russian River region last weekend and interviewed him after his first full day on the job.  He is so nice, dang cute and extremely lovable.   After watching the videos below you will see why Hardy won, and why he will do such a Murphy Goode job!  Good luck Hardy!

Hardy’s winning video

Murphy Goode announces Hardy as the winner

Hardy is VERY happy!

Fox News interviews Hardy Wallace and Dave Ready Jr. the Murphy Goode winemaker interviews Hardy after his first day on the job at Murphy Goode Pt. 1 & Pt. 2

 Larry, Lori and Hardy at Murphy Goode Tasting Room

Catch Some Great End of Summer Wine Events

There is still over a month until summer is officially over, but kids are going back to school and the temperatures outside are changing.  So with the end of summer coming up, it’s a great time to go some wine festivals.  For example:

Family Winemakers of California – August 23 – Fort Mason Center – 3-6pm  $50 in adv. $60 at the door. 
This event will feature more than 300 of California’s small, family owned wineries.  More than 30 new wineries just this year! 

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend – Sept. 4-6  MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg
Choose from dozens of winemaker lunches or dinners ($75-$160)
The 30th annual TASTE of Sonoma (Sept. 5 11am-4pm).  There will be over 150 wineries pouring their finest offerings and more than 60 chefs whipping up fantastic food pairings.  ($150-$195).

Wine and Cheese Train Ride on Board the Niles Canyon Railroad – Aug. 30 & Sept. 6 – Sunol, $37.50
Wineries of Livermore are highlighted by the Pacific Locomotive Association.  Boarding at 3pm, departure at 3:30pm and return at 5:30pm are thescheduled times.  This is a fund raiser for the PLA with the goal that guestsexperience and appreciate fine railroad service while learning more ofLivermore Area wines.

Edna Valley Wine Tour – Aug. 22nd 10:30-4:00  San Luis Obispo  $109
Travel along back county roads. Discover the familiar to hidden localfavorites. Taste at four distinctive wineries, fees included and enjoya fabulous gourmet picnic lunch in the most picturesque of settings andmaybe make some new friends along the way!

Santa Monica Pier Seaside Wine Tasting – Sept. 3 – 6:00-10:00pm $20 for 5 tastes plus a glass of your favorite wine
Take in a concert, sip some great wine, and breath in the Pacific Ocean.  The Wine Bar opens at 6pm, 1 hour before the concerts start and stays open until 10pm, as the concerts are winding down.

Have Fun!