Category Archives: california wine

New Year’s Eve Food and Wine

New Year’s Eve is always interesting for the food and wine
choices.  Champagne is a staple,
but what else? 


This year Lori and I spent New Year’s Eve in Santa
Cruz.  Actually, we spent the whole
week in Santa Cruz, and it was great. 
We haven’t relaxed that much in a while.  We saw a bunch of movies, trying to get a head start on all
the ones up for awards.  (American
Hustle was my favorite of the ones we saw.)  We met up with some old friends one night, and got each other
caught up on our lives and our childrens’ lives. 


New Year’s Eve, though, was just the two of us.  We went to Michael’s on Main, one of
our favorites in the area.  We’ve
eaten there a number of times, including hosting a wedding rehearsal dinner
there a couple of years ago.  They
had a 4-course prix fixe menu for the night:


of appetizers, served with a complementary glass of sparkling wine

of green salad or lobster bisque

of steak, salmon wellington or spinach and artichoke raviolis

of cheesecake or chocolate mousse


The appetizers and sparkling wine were nothing to write home
about, or write in a blog about. 
Lori had the salad, which she enjoyed, while I had the bisque, which I
thought was one of the best I had had. 
Not too thick, and plenty of lobster meat.  For her main course, Lori had the salmon wellington, which
was excellent.  I had the raviolis,
also excellent.  And we had one of
each of the desserts, sharing them both. 


We brought a bottle for the evening:  Windy Oaks Estate, 2005 Pinot Noir
Estate Cuvée, Schultze Family Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Over the last 10 years, Windy Oaks has
consistently produced great Pinot Noir from their small winery at the southern
end of the Santa Cruz Mountains appelation, and this bottle was right
there.  It worked great with the
delicate fish and vegetarian dishes we ate. 


Another year in the books, a new year before us like an open
stretch of ocean.  We’re hoping for
us, and for you, that the only big waves are seen from a distance, and it’s
smooth sailing (and eating and drinking) in 2014. 





Winemaker B and Armida Rock the 90s

No, this is not an article about rock ’n’ roll in the
90s.  This is about
Winemaker B (aka
Brandon Lapides), of
, nailing a few 90+ scores from Wine Spectator.  So let’s just lay it out here: 


2011 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     91

2011 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel           90

2010 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     90


Armida:  Looking
past 2013’s empty grape bins toward the Dry Creek Valley. 


Now the bad news – good news story.  The bad news is that you can’t buy
these wines, unless you luck out somehow. 
Both 2010 and 2011 harvests were lower than normal, and these vineyards
were no different. Not that much wine was made either year, especially the
vineyard designated wines, and it’s tough to find now.  The good news is that both 2012 and
2013 had excellent harvests, from a quantity perspective.  And the better news is that both 2012
and 2013 seem better right now than 2010 and 2011, from a quality


One interesting note is that these vineyards, Maple and
Parmelee-Hill, produce completely different grapes.  Not surprising, since they’re in completely different
locations.  Maple Vineyards is the
classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel vineyard, with head-trained vines, including
some blocks that were planted nearly 100 years ago.  It’s all about the fruit as it enters your mouth, and it’s wonderful.  Parmelee-Hill is a Sonoma Coast
vineyard, actually closer to the Carneros region.  Armida gets some Pinot Noir grapes from that vineyard also, so
you know it has to be in a cooler microclimate.  Parmelee_Hill Zinfandels, at least as made by Winemaker B,
have more complexity than usually seen in Zinfandels, and more subtle fruit
flavors.  In my experience it’s
relatively unusual for a winery and winemaker to excel at both styles of



Harvest is drawing to a close for Armida, leaves are turning
colors.  All the grapes were in
about 10 days ago.  There’s still
wine fermenting, and Winemaker B likes to call the end of harvest when they’re
through with primary fermentations and those tanks get emptied.  I think a more practical definition of
end of harvest is when he gets his first day completely off:  not one trip to the winery.  Once again this year, he’s worked every
day from the Tuesday after Labor Day to probably the weekend after
Halloween.  (That’s 9 weeks straight
without a day off, but who’s counting? 
Besides his wife and kids, that is.) 



We went to Armida a week ago to help with grandkids, and
check on the 2013 harvest. 
Beautiful day, and we spent a few hours there tasting, picnicing and trying
to tire out the grandkids.  (They
won that battle.)  Above, future
winemaker Elli was helping behind the tasting room bar, while below, future
winemaker Eden gets to relax with his father. 





Larry Lapides


New York City Food and Wine Visit

Lori and I visited New York City the first week of October.  Just for fun, although the timing of
the trip was determined by my parents being in New York City and having an
apartment where we could crash. 


A quick digression here.  My parents are spending the month of October in NYC.  At 85 and 80 years old, they have
rented an apartment in NYC (midtown/Hells Kitchen/Theater Disctrict area), and
are spending the month going to the ballet, symphony, theater, museums, restaurants
and doing everything else that NYC has to offer.  Plus seeing friends and family and doing a little business
while out there.  (Retirement is just a word to them.)  They’re both
using canes to get around now, but this only seems to just slow them down a bit, not stop
them from doing anything.  So while
this is, at first glance, incredibly foolish of them, it’s actually a wonderful
thing they’re doing.  They are
setting the bar quite high, and I hope in 30 years Lori and I will be able to
do something similarly crazy and wonderful. 


So Lori and I flew in to Newark a few weeks ago, taking the airport bus into Manhattan.  Tuesday was spent relaxing, and going
to a taping of the Daily Show with John Stewart.  More on that great experience in a separate post.  Wednesday, before going to the theater,
we ate at
ViceVersa.  Nice Italian restaurant within walking
distance of the apartment, and of the theater we were heading to.  We had an Acacia 2011 Carneros Pinot
Noir with dinner, and it worked quite well.  


Thursday we went to the theater again.  But before the theater, we met Sean and
Jessica, friends of our son Brandon. 
They were, coincidently, also on vacation in NYC.  So we invited them over to the
apartment for wine and cheese, and they also brought some desserts:  chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli,
éclair.  We picked up a bottle of Ridge Vineyards 2011 Three Valleys.  This
is a blend of 65% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 9% Carignane, 3% Mataro, 2%
Alicante Bouschet, 1% Grenache.  We
love the Ridge Zinfandel-based blends. 
This one was little heavier on the Petite Sirah than we would usually
like for an afternoon wine, but still quite good. 


Friday we splurged on lunch, going to one of the top
restaurants in NYC,
Gotham Bar and
in the Greenwich Village area. 
They have a great prix fixe lunch deal, which we all had.  We started with appetizers of either
salad or a roasted vegetable soup (see photo below). 
For the second course, the ladies had the goat cheese ravioli with lamb
shank, while my father and I both had the cod.  For dessert there was chocolate cake with Almond ice cream,
a trio of sorbets, and a crumble. 
We had a 2010 Wind Gap Pinot Noir, Woodruff Vineyards, Santa Cruz
Mountains with lunch.  Excellent
wine, but still a bit young. 


What a great vacation!  I hope we get to do this again.  




As if one needs an excuse to go to San Diego, I have one for you.  The 6th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, November 18-22, 2009.  It’s an international showcase of the world’s premier wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities, and gourmet foods.  There will be over 800 wines, 70 of San Diego’s top fine dining restaurants, wine tasting seminars, celebrity artists, cooking classes by award-winning chefs, and over 30 gourmet food companies and exhibitors participating in the week of festivities.

“The Festival puts a national spotlight on the trend-setting cuisine created by our participating chefs, drawing an amazing crowd of wine and food enthusiasts. This year will be no exception and our talented roster of celebrity chefs, winemakers and personalities make this the most exciting in our event’s history,” says Michelle Metter, the festival’s co-producer.

Southern California’s largest wine and food experience features a week of action-packed culinary events including:

•    The Tommy Bahama Rum VIP Party (Sunday, November 15) – Media, Chefs and VIPs will hit the beach at W Hotel for a preview of what’s in store at this year’s San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival at the Tommy Bahama Rum VIP Party. By invitation only.

•    WineRave 2009 (Wednesday, November 18) – WineRave San Diego kicks off the Festival by hosting 25 of the edgiest wine and spirits on the market today mixed with a DJ and the uber cool ambiance found only at the W Hotel. Price: $45 in advance; $60 at the door.

•    Wine Tasting & Cooking Classes (Thursday & Friday, November 19 & 20) – Held at the Macy’s School of Cooking and the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center, nationally acclaimed chefs, award-winning winemakers, and culinary personalities host a number of wine tasting and cooking classes that are sure to turn up the heat. Price: ranges from $45-$85.
•    ***The Master Sommelier Reserve Tasting featuring AIWF Silent Auction (Friday, November 20) – An exclusive and elegant evening for collectors of fine wine hosted by an elite group of master sommeliers.  Guests can taste the pride of the vine from 160 wineries, enjoy live entertainment, and indulge on some scrumptious fare from 10 gourmet food companies.  Location: Wonderhaus Building. Price: $100 in advance; $125 at the door.

•    ***Grand Event (Saturday, November 21) – This mega-tasting is among the largest of its kind in the nation.  Features over 170 wineries and spirits producers, 70 of San Diego’s finest restaurants, 30 gourmet food companies, the “Chef of the Fest” Competition, VIP tent, cookbook author signing, live entertainment, and more.  Location: Embarcadero Park North.  Price: ranges from $125- $175.

•    Celebrity Luncheon featuring AIWF Big Bottle Live Auction (Sunday, November 22) – Features 15 celebrity winemakers and a world-class menu prepared by nationally acclaimed chefs.  The luncheon will culminate in a spirited live auction with jet-setting vacation packages, large format bottles, and one-of-a-kind items that are perfect for the serious wine and food enthusiast.  Location: San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. Price: starts at $150.


Wine and food enthusiasts have the opportunity to experience Southern California’s largest wine and food festival with affordable packages that put them right in the action. 

Wine Weekend “Grape Escape” Package:
2 tickets to the Reserve Tasting
2 tickets to the Grand Event (General Admission)
2 nights hotel (Choice of participating property)
Packages range from $679 to $890 based on hotel selection

Wine Weekend VIP Treatment Package:
2 tickets to the Reserve Tasting
2 VIP tickets to the Grand Event
2 Cooking or Wine Tasting Class tickets (Choice of wine or cooking class while supplies last)
2 nights hotel (Choice of participating property)
Packages range from $829 to $1037 based on hotel selection

Participating Hotels include:
San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego,
Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego and the Omni San Diego.

Proceeds from the events live and silentauctions benefit the American Institute of Wine & Food culinary andenology scholarships for students and professionals in San Diego.  Todate the Festival has raised over $125,000 for the AIWF scholarshipprogram.

A complete schedule and line up of all events for the 6th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival can be found by visiting the website or calling 619-342-7337.
If you go, reply to this blog, tweet me, text me 925-872-7987 or email me at so we can hook up.  The events with *** are the two that Larry and I will be attending.  Hope to see you there in beautiful San Diego!