Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Travel Guide to California

The 2014 Travel Guide to California was released in January and includes my article on wine revised and expanded from last year to include tasting room trends and some new local spots such The Barlow.

You can find the article here:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

San Francisco Showcase of British Columbia Food and Wine

Last month I attended a wine dinner at the San Francisco Four Seasons that was part of the International Fancy Food show in San Francisco. The dinner was co-hosted by the B.C. Wine Institute, which builds and markets the Wines of British Columbia and the Province's trade and investment office. Several of the wines featured at the dinner from Laughing Stock, Black Hills Estate, Meyer Family Wines, and Painted Rock -- will now be available in the states through Sonoma based Good Wine Company. This is very good news for wine lovers like myself who gladly take on the role of pack mule to get wines home from Canada. The new distrubution partnership will make the purchase and enjoyment of BC wines in the states much easier. 

The food and wine pairings showcased the regional food bounties of BC and the talents of Mark Richardson, Executive Chef of MKT at the San Francisco Four Seasons and chef Trevor Bird of FABLE Restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. (See full menu below.)

I was familar with the wines presented and have visited all the wineries, and it was an extra treat to reconnect with David Enns, owner and winemaker at Laughing Stock Vineyards and also with Ingo Grady, Director of Wine Education at Mission Hill. The 2011 Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Perpetua Chardonnay, and the 2011 Laughing Stock Vineyards Blind Trust Red were two of my favorite wines at the dinner. 

The room was heavy on “mood lighting” so my photos of the evening are not the best, but the standout pairings of the evening were: 

Chef Trevor Bird’s Black pepper glazed sable fish, British Columbia bok choi, pickled honey mushrooms -- paired with the 2011 Meyer Family Vineyards McLean Creek Road Vineyard Chardonnay, and the 2011 Quails’ Gate Winery Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir, both from the Okanagan Valley.

Chef Mark Richardson’s Goat milk & British Columbia cherry semifreddo, jasmine infused chocolate cake, Mission Hill sweet and Rainier warm poached cherries -- paired with 2007 Vista D’oro Farms & Winery D’oro. 

I’ve been harping on the wonders of British Columbia wine for over three years now, and with good reason, but as always, I encourage you to make a trip and discover the wines for yourself.  

For more details on the wines that will be available thru the partnership visit

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Enduring Bonds of Wine and Love

Celebrating my birthday with my brother and sister

Every year my sister comes to visit between the last week of January and first week of February for my birthday. I plan our days around visits to wineries in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino. One year I took her to a wine sensory experience class in Calistoga where we had a blast guessing the scents and aromas found in wine.

Slowly, my sister became very interested in wine. And I became my sister’s personal sommelier. I’m not a wine expert, I am in a constant state of learning, but I have the advantage of living in a world-class wine region and the opportunity travel and taste wines around the world. Also, I have plenty of wine on hand to share and help my sister discover what suits her palate. 

Last year when she was here she really enjoyed the wines I had from my friends in Texas, Merrill and Paul Bonarrigo at Messina Hof.

This Christmas, I sent her a box Messina Hof wine. She called me on Saturday, December 14th, all excited. “A big box came yesterday! It’s wine right?.” 
--Yeah, it’s wine. It’s your Christmas gift, but open it now Mag, I said. Don’t wait.
--Okay, she said. I’ll call you tomorrow.

That Sunday we discussed the joys of Moscato and she texted me photos of the wine bottles.

“You are turning into me.” I texted back. “Next thing ya know, you’ll start a wine blog!”

Then she called me a few hours later and to say how much she liked the wines and was so glad I told her to open the gift early.

“This is the best Christmas present since the Matel Vac-U-Form we got when we were kids!” She said. 

The Vac-U-Form was kit that allowed you to heat up sheets of plastic over a bazillion degree hot plate (completely exposed to the touch) and then flip the near molten plastic over on to a mold to make all sorts of things like little boats, and cars, and space capsules. God we loved that toy. Well, my brother and sister did, I was too young to use it. It was essentially a child size mold maker with a heat element that approached smelting pot temperatures. That was back in the day when kids toys could maim and kill and it was not considered to be grounds for a lawsuit.

We reminisced about Christmas past and how strange it felt to be the only surviving members of our family. We talked about her pending visit.  

Christmas past: My sister, brother, and me. 

Then, less than 12 hours later, I got the 4am phone call everyone dreads. The call you know is bad before you even answer the phone. My sister was dead. It was sudden and unexpected. A blood clot to the heart.

There was nothing to be done. With no one else to call about the devastating news, it seemed as if it were not real. My first instinct was to call my sister and tell her “You are never going to believe this but apparently you are dead! WTF! How I’m I supposed to carry on?”

I felt like my entire family had left for the airport without me.

I sat in bed in shock and scrolled back through our texts and pictures from hours earlier. I went back through the entire year of texts and found it comical how almost every photo featured a bottle or a glass in the foreground, her happy face in the background. Many of her texts were of labels she came across in the wine shop –“Hey what about this? Would I like this?” she’d ask.

Over the past year we had texted about the thrill of a bright New Zealand Riesling, and the simple beauty of Umbrian Merlot.

Last February, a few days after she returned back home from her last visit here—she sent me a message – “I’m going to try and drink more this year!”-- Meaning she wanted to expand her experience with wine and try new things.

She loved to hear about the places I’d been to discover wine, and the people I’d met along the way. We were planning a trip to the Okanagan --she’d really loved the wines I shared with her from my travels there.

When Maggi died I lost my last anchor to my childhood memories and my best friend as an adult. I feel adrift.

She was my big sister, my protector, my champion.

I was her wine guide.

In the aftermath, wine has become a touchstone of sadness filled with bitter-sweet memories. The last conversation I had with my sister was about wine. I hope in time I’ll find my way back to the joy of wine. And when I do, I’ll raise a glass to my sister Maggi, in a toast to our love for each other, and of wine. 


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