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Wine Events to Talk About and Attend (March 13, 2015)


Last weekend hundreds of wine lovers attended Fenestra Winery’s Chocolate and Cabernet event. Fenestra Winery is located in the Livermore Valley, which is an easy 45 minute drive from most Bay Area locations. fenestra picnic2015Fenestra winery was founded in 1976, and has helped lead the renaissance of the boutique winery explosion in this nearby wine region. In fact when Fenestra was established,  there were only five Livermore Valley wineries and now some 39 years later there are over fifty wineries. Yes, the Livermore Valley has again become how it was once known during the turn of the century: a premier wine country destination. 

Many of the attendees spent the entire afternoon sipping and tasting over 20 different wine offerings while sampling various small savory and sweet chocolate dishes. If you have not visited the Livermore Valley, you may want to plan a weekend or two to rediscover California’s original wine country. Make sure to visit Fenestra Winery when you do and if you like to picnic then Fenestra winery offers a relaxed and beautiful family-friendly environment. 

This Sunday “get your chocolate on” at the SF Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason Pavilion. chocolatesalonThe event is from 10 am to 6 pm and featuresyou guessed it! chocolate, and an assortment of fine wines. So give yourselves a treat by spending a part of your Sunday day off at the Ninth Annual San Francisco Chocolate Salon. 

Need a pick me up after a long day of work this coming Monday? Well make plans to attend the amazing IPOB (In Search of Balance) wine event to be held at the beautiful Metreon Complex in San Francisco. Thirty-three amazing wineries and delicious small bites from some of the best SF restaurants will be the stars of the show. has a limited amount of specially priced tickets for you. First come first serve, Go here to get these tickets while they last:IPOB Red Fill-IPOB-2 png

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Red Wine and Garlic Don't Mix.

Okay, that title is a lie. Garlic is delicious with red wine. Tuscan cuisine wouldn't be the same without either Chianti or garlic-laden bolognese! But there is a time and a place, and I found the antithesis of that time and place this past weekend.

If you've ever driven through Gilroy, CA, you know that the city's motto should probably be one word, all capitalized: GARLIC. You see the signs for fresh garlic and garlic ice cream and garlic preserves and garlic braids, you feel like you've got garlic breath just from driving through on 101, you hear about the Garlic Festival every July.

It's a tragedy that I have had three summers in the Bay Area and this past weekend is the first time that I've been to the Festival that makes the city great. I grew up in Small-Town America, so I know how to deal with crowded town fairs in zillion-degree heat (hint: drink early, bring water, wear sunscreen and comfortable clothes). Add garlic fries and garlic bread and free garlic ice cream to that equation, and I am absolutely on board! Plus, I heard a rumor that they would have a wine tent, and honestly, that's a good enough reason to get me to show up anywhere. So on Saturday, my boyfriend and I showed up at my Gilroy-born friend's house at 9:30am to caravan to the festival, eat our fill of garlic-doused food, and have a built-in excuse to drink before noon.

The wine tent turned out to be the best decision of the day; not only was it not crowded when we arrived, but it was a shaded and mist-sprayer-rigged so we could get a respite from the 95 degree heat outside. There were about ten local wineries pouring samples and full glasses for attendees, almost all of which I had passed on my back-roads drive to the festival. I hadn't tasted most of the wineries' offerings prior to that day, so I made quick work of my drink tickets.

Lightheart Cellars gets a shout-out from me here; Sheldon and George poured the gorgeous Colombard of theirs, and they made a white sangria of it for us to taste as well! Both were perfect for the weather and the occasion, and I may have counted the strawberries and apples in my sangria cup as one of my servings of fruit for the day.

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Don't Be *That* Guy

We all have things we get irrationally angry about, and there are a few practices that are pretty widely looked down upon by wine professionals. Here are some tips to avoid making your sommelier, tasting room host, or overly-snobby-wine-friend (yeah... that's me) cringe:

1. Dress for the occasion. If you know you're going to be wine-tasting at a couple upscale or well-known high-end wineries, or you're visiting a more formal restaurant, get the spiffy jacket and shoes out! Ladies, that means cocktail or sundresses and nice shoes! It's completely awkward when someone walks into a fancier venue wearing cargo shorts, oversized t-shirts with screenprinted "clever" sayings on the front, flip-flops, or Daisy Duke cutoff shorts. Yes, this is the Bay Area, and that means you can dress it down a little bit. But please, be respectful of the people around you trying to have a nice, classy time.

This goes the other way, too. If the winery you are visiting has a tasting room in a barn with a wooden or dirt floor, or is hosted in the backyard of the winemaker or vineyard owner, jeans and sneakers are fine. I'm still not crazy about cargo shorts (ever) or flip-flops, but this is not the time women want to be wearing stilettos that will get stuck in the dirt or between boards! The best approach is to just do your research before going to these venues. You don't want to stick out like a sore thumb because you're too over- or under-dressed.

2. When tasting wines at a new winery, don't tell the host or hostess that you only drink "x wine." It's great to have your particular tastes in mind as you try new wines, but if you aren't actually going to taste wine, why would you go to a wine tasting room? This is your chance to try new things!

3. Don't show up drunk. Don't leave drunk. Don't let your friends get sloppy drunk either. I know I've talked about this before, but it's so important not to lose your composure in public. Knowing your limits and being responsible for maintaining a measure of sobriety means that no one gets to tell the story of that time you vomited into the spit-bucket or climbed up to dance on the bar. Fun as it may be to tell those stories when they happen to other people, you don't want to be the main subject!

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Lightheart Cellars 2012 Santa Clara Colombard

Lightheart Cellars 2012 Santa Clara Colombard

Colombard is one of those wine varietals that isn't talked about a whole lot. It's not a familiar grape to most Americans, and there are only two wineries in California that even produce a Colombard wine! Having tasted the Lightheart Cellars release, though, that small production and relative anonymity should change immediately!

Colombard, as a wine, is not something I have tasted a lot of, so it's hard for me to judge this wine against the hallmarks of the varietal. I can only go off of what I've read about its normal characteristics. In the case of a wine I'm not familiar with, I'll always check out what Karen MacNeil says in The Wine Bible, which is my go-to tome for studying wine basics. Seriously, my copy that I bought used for $6 on Amazon is so full of highlights and notes and notecards that I studied for my sommelier exam, it's a miracle the thing still holds together. However, Colombard doesn't even appear in the pages! We have to go to the Oxford Companion to Wine or Jancis Robinson's Complete Guide to the varietals to find information on the grape. Or, you could take a shortcut and go to Wikipedia. All that will tell you, though, is that Colombard is used as a structure-lending blending wine in California, has dry and sweet variations, and has a nice natural acidity.

While that's helpful, it's WAY more fun to drink the wine than dwell on my lack of knowledge about the grape!

I had this wine with my boyfriend and his housemates during their housemate meeting the other night, and it was great to hear their comments on it mirror my own thoughts. It has a gorgeous acidity (as Wikipedia promised) as well as great Honeycrisp apple and heather flavors. The body is rich and reflective of the deep goldenrod color, but that acidity and light sweetness allow it to stay refreshing instead of bogging you down. There's a reason California producers use this wine to lend structure to their Chardonnays--it's rich and textured, without making the wine a chore to drink.

My favorite comment, though, was from my friend Ross, who is more of a beer and whiskey kind of guy. We both loved the wine's pronounced smokiness. It was so cool to see a white wine mirror Scotch characteristics while maintaining its "wine-ness" that it brought the whole experience to another level. The smokiness coupled well with the honey and heather to make such a decadent and refreshing glass that we were sad to see the bottle empty.

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Vitamin FND

An Italian proverb states; “Old wine and friends improve with age.” 

Old Friends and winesIs it wine tastes better with friends or friends are better with wine?

Friendships give us a healthy sense of community. After all, we are communal beings. We rely upon each other to both thrive and survive. I call this "surthrival".  Every day we interact in some manner with each other directly or indirectly.  Even in finding solitutde, it is near impossible not to experience the hand of another fellow humans efforts being present in our life's experiences. Wine reinforces this concept. Fine wine like good art and poetry is carefully crafted both by nature and mankind. Fine wine enhances our abilities to socialize, sympathize and celebrate our lives together. Wine provides a common experience throughout many of our most memorable shared experiences.Wines with Friends

Recently, a new friend shared with me an interesting adage that opened my mind to contemplate a new way for me to appreciate the wines I taste. My new friend, Nick Liang, a very talented Sommelier shared this insight in reference to the aging of a wine.  Many wines available are wines that are only three to four years old. Nick shared the wine adage in the form of a question, "what kind of conversation does one tend to have with a three or four year old?"

The wine Nick and I shared that afternoon was marvelous. It was a 2008 Steven Kent Lineage. An amazingly delicious and well balanced Bordeaux blend that begged for a sumptuous juicy roast duck or fillet Mignon.  Nick proceeded to outline how he would age this marvelous wine.  First, Nick plans on purchasing a couple cases of Steven Kent Lineage for himself. He plans to open a bottle every year for the first four or five years. Nick will then wait 8 years and open a bottle or two of  Steven Kent Lineage each year after that to determine how this wine matured. I hope on some of those occasions that Nick will invite me to dinner.  In this busy busy society and culture of ours how rare it is to find friends. Friends like wines are in themselves treasures. Our experiences with many friends highlight our life's journey and even though time steadily passes, our friendships grow more valuable and dear to us. Good wines are similar and for those of us with the patience to let our wines mature, we may be treated to possible treasures. Treasures that can be shared with our family and friends.

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