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Monday, June 10, 2019

Pebble Beach: 2019 US Open Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a special day for many and extra special for my wife Linda and Hall of Fame son MJ.   In 2008 at Torrey Pines, MJ Won the Golf Channel’s essay contest. The essay had to be 200 words or less and MJ’s was selected from over 25,000 submitted. 

The prize included $10,000 of golf equipment and prizes and being the guest of the Golf Channel for a week at the 2008 US Open. 

The week was highlighted with an appearance on National TV on Father’s Day.
 

This year the USGA invited MJ to Pebble Beach on Father’s Day Of the 2019 US Open. It was extra special as this was the 100th birthday of famous Pebble Beach. The USGA did an inspiring film of MJ’s many accomplishments during the 2018 US Amateur held at Pebble Beach.

Each year we think about these experiences and share this great essay with our friends and family. Enjoy MJ’s winning 2008 US Open Golf Channel’s Father’s Day essay.

I have been playing golf with my dad since I was 5 years old. 

Having been born with a walking disability, he taught me to always focus on my abilities and not my disability. 

As a result, I have won seven straight Northern California State Championships, three National Championships, and have been inducted into 2 Halls of Fame 2004 San Francisco And 2006 Michigan having been born there.

He taught me golf like life is a hard game. But, with a positive attitude, proper instructions, practice and a will to win anything can and will happen. In a round of golf, never, never give up.

He also said enjoy the beauty and the many friends you meet in this game. He often told me you can go out as a single player and meet 3 strangers on the first tee and by the end of the round be friends for life. 


Finally, he told me to never get nervous on the first tee. Like life getting off to a good start is very important. 

Thanks Dad. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Calmere Estate Winery: Outstanding Property Producing World Class Wines

Calmere(Calm Sea) Estate Winery is owned by the Peju family. This winery has a majestic location with outstanding views of San Pablo Bay and produces world class wines. 

Our host today was Derek. He was very knowledgeable and bursting with information about their ‘great’ wines.

We experienced an extensive tasting of these great wines on comfortable couches sitting outside overlooking their sensational and heavenly vineyard.  Some highlights of this tasting included a sparkling Rose that was a smooth blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.  We also enjoyed the 2017 Reserve Chardonnay that had a smooth and oaky finish.
In addition, we especially enjoyed the 2016 Clone 667 Pinot Noir from Carneros. Being a Cabernet lover, this is a rich full-bodied Pinot. All 3 of these wines came home to Danville with us.

After our tasting, we enjoyed lunch at nearby Boxcar. The fried chicken and waffles, fried oysters, root beer floats and honey pecan pie lived up to their reputation for ‘greatness’. It was also very fun enjoying these fantastic foodie delights in a casual setting complete with picnic tables. 


For more information and to make an appointment go to: 
 
https://www.calmereestate.com/

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Napa: Gemstone Vineyard


 

Recently, my wife Linda and I visited Gemstone Vineyard in Yountville. Long time Northern California residents, the Marks Family, purchased this Napa Vineyard in 2008.

Well known Napa Winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown creates 3 worldly acclaimed wines, Heritage, Alluvial and Ruby Red Selection on this pristine 16-acre property. 
 
Per the web site, “Like every precious stone, every wine is unique.” 
 
Shauna was our knowledgeable host today. We enjoyed her passion and joy as she explained the details of these world class Cabernets and the history of the estate. We were treated to a side by side tasting in the newly remodeled tasting room overlooking their vineyard on a sun splashed morning. 
 
We tasted the 2016 Heritage and Alluvial 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were rich, full bodied wines with exceptional smooth finishes that were a joy to sample. The Heritage had an inky rich color and was bursting with multiple fruit flavors. The Alluvial was more complex with a sensational structure designed for any future special occasion. 2016 is being described by wine critics and vintners as a near-perfect growing season in Napa.
 
We especially enjoyed the Heritage and took a few bottles back to Danville with us. We would highly recommend tasting both of these wines to our wine enthusiast friends.

After the tasting, we enjoyed lunch at the famous Thomas Keller’s newest Mexican restaurant in Yountville, La Calenda meaning ‘celebration’.  

The decor and service were warm and friendly. It was also very fun watching these Mexican masterpieces being prepared in their open kitchen.

We especially enjoyed the mushroom and fish tacos, margaritas and churros for dessert. There are no reservations required and they are open every day for lunch or dinner. 

For more information and to make a reservation, go to: 
http://www.gemstonevineyard.com/

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Napa Treasure: Peju Province Winery

In an effort to visit all 600 Napa wineries (400 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently visited Peju Province Winery.

Founded by Tony and Huerta Peju in 1982, the winery is still family owned with daughters Lisa and Ariana at the helm. You feel you are arriving at a special place as you wind thru the perfectly trimmed Sycamore trees to the elegant winery and perfectly manicured grounds. 


Our host today was Ryan who was full of interesting stories about this great wine. We sampled. 13 wines and finished with their port in their elegant tasting room with a huge stained-glass mural.

We especially enjoyed the Fifty/Fifty Wine, a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Ryan described this wine as the ‘little black dress’ because it goes with everything. The Zinfandel was also very enjoyable and described as ‘Croatian Sensation’ since our friend and famous Winemaker Mike Grgich is known to have discovered these grapes. We took a few bottles of Fifty/Fifty and Zinfandel back to Danville with us.
  Ryan also had an interesting story about the Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc having a ‘vineyard baby’ that resulted in Cabernet Sauvignon.  We concluded this extensive tasting with some of their port that went very well with chocolate candies,

We would highly recommend that you visit this Napa gem. They just opened another winery in Carneros called Calmere. We look forward to visiting this winery too in the very near future.

After the tasting, we enjoyed a great lunch at charming Goose and Gander in St. Helena. 

For more information on Peju and to make reservations go to: 
http://www.peju.com/

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Minneapolis 2019: Final Four

March Madness culminated in the city of Minneapolis this year as the 4 best teams in college basketball ala the ‘final four’ earned the right to try and become a National Champion. My wife and son won the final four ticket lottery a few years ago and now get tickets to this great sporting event every year.

This year the final four teams were Auburn, Virginia, Texas Tech and our Alma mater Michigan State.  This sporting event is the ‘pinnacle of fun’.  It is a 4-day party on steroids.

The event was held at the luxurious 67,000 seat USB Stadium in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The stadium opened in 2016 and is the home of the Minnesota Vikings.

In 2018, it was the host of the Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots.

We arrived on Friday and attended the open practice of our Alma mater Michigan State.
We also enjoyed connecting with our California friend and Final 4 announcer Jim Nantz. Jim also does the Super Bowl and heads to Augusta next week for the prestigious Masters golf tournament.

At the Minneapolis Convention Center, we enjoyed ‘Fan Fest’ that has exhibits, celebrity appearances, music, food and fun.  You can also have your picture taken with National Championship Trophy. 

The semi-final games took place on Saturday. In the first game, Virginia beat Auburn by 1 point with 3 clutch free throws with no time left 63-62.  In the second game, Michigan State was upset by an aggressive Texas Tech team that had a brilliant defense 61-51. It was a very disappointing ending to a great year for Michigan State.
 
The National Championship game was played on Monday night.

On Sunday, we went to the Mall of America and enjoyed the indoor amusement park and a unique shopping experience at this massive mega mall. We also enjoyed eating at Jimmy Buffett’s restaurant highlighted by the Minnesota Wild Rice Chicken Soup.  Opening in 1992, the Mall of America has over 350 stores. 40 million people visit every year and the mall generates 2 billion dollars of revenue.

After the Mall of America, we toured Paisley Park. This 9-acre 65,000 square foot property was the artist Prince’s home and studio.  His performance of ‘Purple Rain’ at the 2007 Super Bowl is rated as the ‘best’ halftime show in Super Bowl history.
  The tour is very interesting and takes about 90 minutes. He died in 2016 but they told us he had enough music in his vault to make one album a year for the next 100 years. He was truly a musical genius.
 
The National Championship game was exciting as always. In overtime, Virginia edged Texas Tech 85-77 in a battle to the end. We were very happy for Virginia as it was their first National Championship victory in the school’s history.

In conclusion, our trip to Minneapolis was extra special this year with the MSU Spartans playing in the Final Four. We look forward to going to host city, Atlanta, in 2020 and seeing the Michigan State Spartans return to complete their unfinished business and win the National Championship.
 
We would also highly recommend a visit to Minneapolis, a great city filled with lots of things to do, restaurants and very friendly people.  The best time to visit is April thru October as the weather is very cold and snowy the rest of the year.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Prisoner Winery Company: Napa’s Newest Gem

In an effort to visit all 600 Napa wineries (400 and counting), my wife Linda and recently traveled to Prisoner Winery in the heart of Napa Valley.

Recently opened, this Winery is the latest masterpiece of Architect, Mark Hollis and Interior Designer, Richard Von Saal. It features high ceilings, wood, glass and a very comfortable, fresh modern decor.

Our host was Jeremiah who was very knowledgeable and very proud to be working at this great new winery.

We began our tasting with #39007 a 2017 Chenin Blanc with flavors of floral and white peach. Next, we had Syndrome 2017 Rose. It was crisp with flavors of watermelon and strawberry.
The 2015 Thorn was a Napa Valley Merlot with an earthy taste of dark blackberry and cherry. We then tasted the 2016 Cabernet Cuttings, a full-bodied wine with hints of currant, black cherry and pepper.  Chef Brett Young paired these great wines perfectly with a Fiscallini cheese dip and crackers.

The final tasting was the 2016 Prisoner named after the famous Goya painting. It was ‘bursting with flavor and a perfect blend’ of Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Sirah and Charbono. It was so great that a few bottles returned to Danville with us.

In conclusion, we would highly recommend this new Napa gem.
 
For more information and to arrange a tasting go to:
 
https://www.theprisonerwinecompany.com/

Monday, March 11, 2019

San Francisco Hayes Valley Parisian Bistro: Monsieur Benjamin


In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (1000 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently dined at Monsieur Benjamin in the ‘great city by the bay’.

Monsieur Benjamin is located in Hayes Valley section of San Francisco surrounded by a large selection of shops and restaurants. The area is full of youthful energy and this Parisian Bistro has a large variety of great food creations. 

The restaurant has a warm ambiance and is a very fun place to dine with friends.
 
The restaurant also has a great selection of wine and spirits to enjoy with your meal. If you bring your own wine, there is a $20.00 corking fee.

We brought a 2015 Carmenere from Chalk Hill that was full bodied and bursting with flavor.

We began our dinner with some fruits de Mer and enjoyed 3 types of oysters, Beau Soleil from New Brunswick, Mookie Blue from Maine and Shigoku from Washington. Next, we shared Escargots braised in red wine jus, mushroom duxelles, garlic and parsley with homemade country bread and Spring Hill Jersey butter.   For the entree, Linda ordered the Atlantic Salmon Poelee, leek and sauce Remoullade that was cooked to perfection. I enjoyed Steak Frites with Sauce Choron and a 12ounce Ribeye grilled in the charcoal oven that was sensational.
  For dessert, we shared a warm banana crepe with rum raisin ice cream and cinnamon streusel that deserved a ‘qui qui’. 


In conclusion, we enjoyed this restaurant and vibrant location in Hayes Valley and plan on returning soon. It is a wonderful French Bistro. 

For more information and to make reservations go to:

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Little Paris In Lafayette: Reve Bistro


In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (1000 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Reve Bistro in Lafayette.

Reve Bistro is billed as ‘Little Paris In Lafayette’ and features many French treats.

Owner and Chef Paul Magu learned his cooking skills working for famous French chef Alain Ducasse in Paris and also at the Ritz and St. Regis hotels in San Francisco.It was always his dream to own his own bistro and Reve Bistro is the fulfillment of all his dreams. It has been a grand success since its opening in Lafayette 3 years ago

We also took a bottle of our 2015 Le Reve wine that we blended ourselves at Judd Hill Winery in Napa.  Our wine was a blend of 70% Estate Cabernet,20% Napa Valley Merlot, 5% Napa Valley Cabernet Franc, and 5% Napa Valley Petite Verdot. The wine was full bodied and silky smooth. Reve also has
 an extensive wine list and you can also order by the glass if you do not bring your own wine. The corking fee is $25.00.

For dinner, I began with the classic French onion soup topped with gruyere and Comte cheese and croutons that deserved a ‘qui, qui’.  For my entree, I chose the Coq Au Vin.  A chicken leg and breast slowly cooked in red wine and served with pearl onions and button mushrooms on a bed of tagliatelle. It was tender, full of flavor and very enjoyable.  Linda savored a 
generous proportion of steaming fresh mussels with cream sauce and lightly salted, crunchy and addicting French fries.  For dessert we shared the freshly made vanilla creme brûlée’ that was delicate and delicious.

In conclusion, if you want to experience 5-star Paris quality cuisine at reasonable prices, we would highly recommend this Lafayette bistro.
.
For more information and to make a reservation, go to: 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Les Mars Hotel: Old World Luxury in Charming Healdsburg


In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (1000 and counting), and visit all 600 Napa wineries (400 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently had the pleasure of visiting the charming town of Healdsburg. 

About a two-hour drive from our home in Danville, we enjoyed the movie set like town with Michelin Star restaurants, shops, world class wineries, tasting rooms and the Healdsburg treasure Les Mars Hotel featuring old world luxury.

Les Mars is owned by entrepreneur and Fidelity Title CEO Bill Foley.  Bill owns many wineries and resorts all over the world. He also recently purchased the new NHL Las Vegas hockey team the Golden Knights. The team is appropriately named as everything Bill touches turns to Gold.

Les Mars is no exception. Located one block from the town square, General Manager Brian Sommer demands impeccable service and strives for magical memories for every guest.   There are 16 elegantly decorated rooms, offering wine and cheese every evening and a European style breakfast every morning.

Our trip to Healdsburg began with a private tasting of The Calling Wines arranged by Public Relations Director Karen Brennan and proudly hosted by Winemaker James and Kerry MacPhail.  The Calling Winery is owned by famous sportscaster Jim Nantz and long-time wine expert Peter Deutsch. Their love of wine and partnership is based on the belief that you find success by pursuing a calling in life. 

We began our tasting with the 2017 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. It is a well-balanced Chardonnay with flavors of Meyer lemons and honey crisp apple. Next, we tasted the 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It was a crisp Chardonnay with flavors of citrus, fruits, Gravenstein apple and pear.  The next wine was 2016 Sullivan Vineyard with an elegant pewter label. It was a balanced acidity exhibiting the citrus, spice and mineral notes for which this region is renowned.  The final tasting was the 2016 Patriarch Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located near the ocean in Sea Ranch. The cooler weather creates grapes with thicker skins creating wine with more structure and earthier notes. All of these wines were very enjoyable and available to purchase at Total Wine.

For lunch, we enjoyed Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar on the square that featured a large variety of fresh seafood. We especially enjoyed the barbecued oysters and fish tacos. The calamari was seasoned perfectly and the best we have ever eaten.

We also enjoyed a bottle of 2015 Le Reve wine that we blended and bottled a few years ago at Judd Hill Winery. This beautiful wine was silky and a full-bodied blend of 70% Estate Napa Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 5 % Cabernet Franc And 5% Petite Verdot. We were very pleased with the results of our first blending experience.

After lunch, we checked into the elegant Les Mars Hotel then went to a private tasting of wines at Bill Foley’s magnificent 1400acre Chalk Hill Winery. We took a tour of the pristine piece of property in a 4wheel drive vehicle and enjoyed the sensational vistas on this sunny winter day. They also have a huge facility for private parties, large garden and even a charming chapel for weddings. 

We enjoyed all the wines and took home a few bottles of the 2015 Carmenere that was an elegant blend of 96% Carmenere and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. Returning to the hotel we enjoyed the daily wine and cheese happy hour before an elegant dinner at nearby Valette.

Valette is the dream of two brothers and Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini that opened in 2015. It was a unique foodie experience to add to our rich memory bank as the ambience, service and food presentations was like viewing classic art at the Louvre museum in Paris.

It was a pleasure watching the skilled chef Dustin create these masterpieces in the open kitchen and enjoying the heavenly aromas with a bottle of wine from their extensive wine list. If you bring your own juice, there is a $20 corking fee.

We began with a mushroom soup with a farm fresh egg on the bottom in a large heated bowl. Fresh truffles are then added to this perfectly seasoned soup. It was definitely the best mushroom soup that we have ever experienced.  We were then recommended their famous scallops served in a puff pastry that exceeded all of the expectations.  We then had the Hawaiian Poke with deep fried avocado slices that looked like a Monet painting and so tender it melted in your mouth.  For dessert, we savored carrot cake that was moist and served warm with shaved carrots and a delicate sweet sauce.

It is no wonder this restaurant is highly rated and full of happy patrons every night. We will definitely return.
The next day we enjoyed breakfast in the Les Mars elegant wood paneled library. You can also choose to have breakfast served in your room. After breakfast, we took a walk around the Healdsburg Square and enjoyed shopping at the unique shops that even included a dog store complete with a wine barrel dog house.

We also stopped by the Wurst Restaurant featuring a variety of brats made by Detroit born and bred owner Charles. We enjoyed splitting a perfectly cooked brat and listening to some interesting stories from owner Charles.  Charles played in a band with Ted Nugent also known as “the motor city madman”. He has his guitars displayed in the restaurant and also serves micro brews and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. In addition, he also offers Vernors ginger ale which was invented in Detroit. It was extra special for us since we were also born and raised in the “Motor City”. 

Before we returned home, we enjoyed a wine and food pairing at nearby Jordan winery. It was a great way to conclude our trip. Jordan is another elegant winery producing world class wines. Of course, we took a few bottles of Chardonnay back to Danville with us.
In conclusion, we would highly recommend you put Healdsburg and Les Mars Hotel on your “must do” bucket list.

For more information and to make a reservation go to: 


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Must Do Italian Cuisine: Vino Lafayette



In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants ( 1000 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Vino in Lafayette.

This charming restaurant has been bringing foodie fun and joy to loyal customers for 40 years. It is a very small venue and open for dinner Wednesday thru Saturday 5-8. Reservations are a must. 

Gregarious owner Castro Ascarrunz is the chef, waiter and entertainer playing the piano and accordion for happy patrons.  83 years young, he sang, played the piano and served us great food.


We began with a house salad and glass of house merlot with fresh bread, olives and homemade meat balls. The meat balls were very tender and mildly spicy and the best we have ever eaten.   For the main course, we split the chicken Parmesan with fresh noodles and vegetables that was served steaming hot and a picture-perfect presentation. 

Our meal concluded sharing a ricotta cheese cake that was silky, soothing, and sensational. 

In conclusion, we would highly recommend this restaurant. The food is fresh and very reasonably priced.  Castro is also an accomplished musician and enjoys entertaining happy Bay area Patrons as you savor his great Italian cuisine.  His energy and zest for life at 83 years old is a unique and very special experience. 

For more information and to make reservations go to:
http://www.restaurantevino.com/