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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Judd's Hill Winery: Your Chance To Be A Winemaker For The Day

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and to visit all 600 wineries (350 and counting),my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Judd's Hill winery in Napa to be a "winemaker for the day."  Our foodie and wine friends Ron and Josiane Hable joined the fun.

Judd's Hill winery is a small winery owned by Art and Bunnie Finkeistein original owners of Whitehall Lane. That winery was sold in favor of a smaller and more manageable one. Judd's Hill produces 3000 cases and their son Judd and wife Holly are highly involved in managing the operation.

 In 1992, they pioneered "microcrush" giving grape growers an all inclusive opportunity to make their own small lots of high quality wine.

 In addition, you can be a "Winemaker for the Day" and schedule a blending experience.

Our experience was conducted by our knowledgeable host CJ who has forgotten more than most will ever know about wine. We began with an explanation of how to drink wine with the important swirl, smell and tasting process of the 4 wines we would blend, bottle and name. When completed, we each took one bottle of our carefully crafted creation home with us.

We experimented with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. After careful analysis and tasting various percentages of the wine, we agreed on a blend of 70 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot, 5 percent Cabernet Franc and 5 per cent Petite Verdot.  We named our wine "Le Reve"  which is French for The Dream.  We then bottled the wine, corked it and finished it with a black foil using their high tech equipment.

The final touch was placing the Le Reve label on the bottle proving "Dreams do come true."

The entire process takes around 2.5 hours and it is a unique and fun experience that is highly recommended for people who love wine. In addition, CJ also has a session on pairing wine and food that we plan on scheduling at a future date.

 For more information and to make an appointment

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Resort At Pelican Hill: "Refined, Relaxed 5 Star Luxury On The Deep Blue Sea"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (800 and counting) and to visit all 600 Napa wineries (350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to the 5 star luxury resort at Pelican Hill in Southern California.

From our home in Danville, it is a easy 1 hour flight to Orange County Airport and 15 minute drive to a 504 acre slice of heaven on the deep blue pacific that offers "something for everyone."

From the moment you drive into this Italian Renaissance inspired 504-acre luxury Resort with 750 mature olive trees, all your cares and concerns quickly disappear as you are greeted by a happy staff of people with a " What can I do for you " attitude dedicated to making your stay a memorable experience. The architecture was inspired by the renowned Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. Many of the resort furnishings are antiques imported from Spain, Italy and France. A self guided tour book is provided to guests describing Palladio's influence throughout the property as well as excellent descriptions of the art and tapestries located in the Lobby, Hallway and Great Room Social Lounge.   Our favorites were the Flemish Tapestries that were from Brussels located on the walls beside the fireplace in the Great Room Social Lounge.  These tapestries date back to the 17th century and depict flower filled vases lined by cupids on each side. The colors are vivid and provide the beautiful room with a tranquil effect as guests gather and linger at the heart of the Resort.
We checked into our elegantly appointed Bungalow guest room complete with fireplace, balcony and ocean views ranging from 847 square feet to 2100 square feet.   If you require more room for a family affair or other event, the resort offers villas that are much larger and up to 3500 square feet of luxury. These accommodations may be reserved by the evening, weekly or monthly.

The 23,000 square foot Spa has been Awarded the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star rating consistently each year since opening.  It offers a wide array of services to soothe your senses from the rigors of modern life and where every moment is one of extraordinary pampering and rejuvenation.

After a spa treatment, relaxing by the  unique "Coliseum Style" pool forming a 136-foot diameter circle with over 1 million hand cut mosaic tiles and stunning ocean views is a great way to wind down before dining at one of the Resorts 3 restaurants or 2 cafes.

For the more adventurous, guests can enjoy the Crystal Cove Experience. You can explore 3.5 miles of ocean front strolling the beach, swimming, jogging or cycling along the trails at Crystal Cove State Park on one of the last oceanfront preserves left in Southern California
Executive Chef Jean Pierre Dubray brings his French Culinary training and passion for perfection to the resort's  restaurants. There is a dining experience for every mood a guest may have.   Our experience included Andrea Ristorante, the Pelican Grill at the Golf Club and the Coliseum Pool & Grill.

Andrea Ristorante offers Northern  Italian cuisine with an extensive wine list and fresh pasta homemade daily in a temperature controlled pasta room. Pasta Chef Julia also offers weekly classes in traditional pasta making. We especially enjoyed the risotto prepared in a unique manner. A large 90 pound wheel of parmesan cheese that is imported from Italy is wheeled to your tableside. The chef shaves the inside of the cheese wheel and then puts the hot Italian Risotto into the middle. The melted cheese and risotto then are expertly mixed together resulting in a burst of incredible flavor for the diners.  We loved this experience and highly recommend it.

The Pelican Grill also offers an extensive wine menu and outstanding coastal California cuisine prepared in an open kitchen. Views from the ocean view terrace make for a "very special " culinary experience. There is also a popular lounge with two huge 9’ x 6’ HD TVs for viewing sports events after your golf game or for a more casual get together.

There are also 2 World Class Golf Courses designed by legendary architect Tom Fazio that offer panoramic views from each of the 36 holes. A modern and high tech Golf Academy led by Glenn Deck and a team of knowledgeable PGA professionals is also available to help improve your game.

We played the Ocean North that was a par 70 and offers tees for all levels of golfers. Linda found the ladies tees to be very friendly and fair. The ocean views on every hole made you not care about hitting a bad shot or missing a putt.

The sad part about enjoying this great Tuscan like refuge is...... having to leave. The service staff prides themselves in making you want to extend your stay or to come back soon. We definitely plan on returning soon and highly recommend that you put The Resort At Pelican Hill on your bucket list to experience this pinnacle of excellence. 
For more information and to make reservations go to: pelicanhill.com.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

St Francis Wine and Food Pairing "Simply the Best"

 In our quest to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and to visit all 600 Napa Wineries(350 and counting),my wife Linda and I recently traveled to St. Francis Winery near enchanting downtown Sonoma. From our home in Danville, it is about a 90 minute drive.
Having been to many fine dining experiences all over the world, we would highly recommend this unique experience. The wines are fantastic and wine club members enjoy access to exclusive parties and wine club discounts. In addition, on your tenth anniversary of being a wine club member, you receive a vine in their vineyard with your name on it.
The St. Francis wine and food pairing has been voted number one in America by Open Table Diners in 2013 and 2015.  We were not disappointed as Chef Bryan Jones prepared a wine and food pairing that can be described as "Simply The Best."

They offer this exceptional foodie experience
 Thursday thru Monday at 11, 1 and 3. Reservations are required and the cost is 68 dollars for non wine club members. It is less if you are a member. 
The pairing is limited to 16 people and the fun begins with the ringing of the large church bell on top of the winery that resonates throughout the vineyard. A knowledgeable wine host leads you into a beautiful and spacious room overlooking the scenic and serene property.

You are seated at an elegantly appointed circular table with the menu, tasting notes and wines that will be paired for this unique experience. The menu changes every six weeks and chef Bryan's passion for excellence is perfectly presented in each of his creations. Our favorite tasting was the King Salmon topped with bacon jam. When paired with the Chardonnay the flavors exploded in your mouth.

The menu and wines for our tasting consisted of the following:

Compressed Persimmon & Grilled Asian Pear
Red Endive and Wild Arugula |  Pomegranate | Toasted Hazelnuts
Honey Goat Cheese | Cardamom-Moscatel Vinaigrette
2015 Wine Wine, Estate Cuvée Blanc, Sonoma Valley
Pan Seared King Salmon
Blistered Sweet 100s | Corn Pudding | Bacon Marmalade
2014 Chardonnay, Wild Oak Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
Roasted Tomato Braised Pork Collar
Ricotta Gnocchi | Long Cooked Romano Beans | Pine Nut Relish
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lagomarsino Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Applewood Smoked Duck Breast
Rogan Josh Spiced Beluga Lentils | Honey-Ginger Eggplant
Pickled Antohi Peppers
2013 Artisan Collection Zinfandel, Sonoma County

Chocolate Pudding Cake
Chocolate Florentine Cookie | Blu del Moncenisio
Candied Pecans
2014 Port, Sonoma County

We especially enjoyed the 95 point rated Cabernet Sauvignon and the 750ml size of port that was smooth and loaded with power at 21.5% alcohol. We took home a bottle of each.

For further information and to make a reservation, go to:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Barnett Vineyards: "Passionate Perfection Proudly Perched On The Top Of Spring Mountain"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visiting all 600 wineries (350 and counting), my wife Linda recently traveled to Barnett Vineyards at the top of Spring Mountain with our foodie friends Ron and Josiane Hable.

Owners Fiona and Hal Barnett purchased this 40 acre labor of love in 1983. Perched 2000 feet above Napa Valley their grapes produce world class wines and the views are heavenly. Driving to the top of Spring Mountain, you feel you have arrived at a special place as the iron gates open to this majestic hillside vineyard.

Our host today was Kevin who was very passionate and proud of the highly rated  Barnett wines. We began our tasting with the 2013 Chardonnay from Anderson Valley that was crisp and very refreshing. It retails for $42.00.  The  2015 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Tina Marie Vineyard was light, lively and retailed for $45.00. We also sampled the 100 percent 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Rattlesnake that was a full bodied rich wine that would be great paired with a juicy filet or for any special occasion or celebration.  It retails for $175.00.  The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon was a "perfect" blend of 85 percent  Sauvignon, 10 percent Cabernet Franc, 4 percent Merlot and 1 percent Petite Verdot. It retails for $75.00.  We took home a few bottles of the Cabernet and our favorite the 2014 Spring Mountain District Merlot. It was blended with 12 percent Cabernet Franc with an elegant and beautiful smooth finish,  It retails for $65.00
After our tasting, we dined at the R and D Kitchen in Yountville that is part of the Hillstone Family of restaurants that also owns the Rutherford Grille in Napa. The servers are very knowledgeable, happy and helpful and the restaurant has an open kitchen with a friendly ambience and plenty of comfortable booths. If you want to enjoy the many days of the perfect Napa weather, there is an outdoor bar with fire pits and plenty of seating.

There is no corking fee so we brought in a bottle of the 2014 Merlot to enjoy with the famous Fried Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Thai salad that was highly recommended and presented  picture perfect. We were not disappointed.
To complete our meal, we all shared the generous Ghirardelli hot fudge sundae that brought smiles of joy to all of our faces. It was also served with extra hot fudge that added to this excellent, decadent and delicious dessert.

For more information and to schedule  an appointment go to: https://www.barnettvineyards.com/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Schweiger Vineyards: 4 Generations of Family Fun

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting), and visit all 600 wineries (350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Schweiger Vineyards. It is 55 acres of serenity located on the top of Spring Mountain about an hour ride from our Danville home.

The Schweigers  have owned this pristine piece of property for 53 years spanning 4 generations of family living and working this spectacular piece of real estate producing elegant wines.
Our host for the day, Laurel Shapiro, was full of wine passion and very proud to share her knowledge about their great juice.  We enjoyed sampling the wines on the balcony of their warm and friendly tasting room overlooking the happy vines planted on the heavenly hills surrounding their property
We began with their 2013 Chardonnay that had rich flavors of peach, lemon, pear and apricot that was refreshing and retails for $35.. There are only 3 wineries that produce Chardonnay on Spring Mountain and have created a winner. Although my palate like Laurel's is described as "ABC- anything but Chardonnay", this was great and came back to Danville with us.

We then tried the 2011 Merlot hailed as Spring Mountain's "signature varietal" with blueberry characteristics that was very good and sells for $52.
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is a blend of 97 per cent Cabernet  Sauvignon and 3 percent Merlot. It is aged in French Oak for 32 months creating a full yet elegant mouth feel. It retails for $65..
The 2011 "Dedication" is a blend of 58 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 32 percent Merlot, 6 percent Cabernet Franc and 4 percent Malbec creating intense berry and stone fruit aromas with a silky and balanced finish. It retails for $95.

Our favorite was the 2012 Family Cuvée that had a memorable blend of 76 percent Cabernet Sauvignon,  19 percent Petite Syrah and 5 percent Cabernet Franc and retails for 65 dollars. We also took a bottle of this home with us.

Schweiger also offers private parties and a wine club. They were preparing for their annual lobster fest that sounded like lots of fun.

After our tasting, we had lunch at one of our favorite places famous chef Thomas Kellers Bouchon in Yountville. The restaurant requires reservations offering an elaborate Oyster Bar and carefully crafted specials with superior service. We enjoy their warm and delicate Quiche that is the best we have ever eaten. Linda enjoys their Irish Coffee made with Equator coffee and we always enjoy treats from their  fabulous bakery next door. This time we especially enjoyed their toffee and decadent chocolate eclairs.
For more information and to schedule a tasting go to:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Justin Winery: Producing World Class Wine On The Central Coast"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco Restaurants( 800 and Counting) and visit all 600 Napa Wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I  recently traveled to Paso Robles home of 200 great wineries on the Central Coast.

From our home in Danville, it is an easy 3 hour drive and about an hour South of Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula. We stayed in the heart of downtown Paso Robles at the famous Paso Robles Inn.  It is walking distance from the park and downtown area, packed with many great restaurants and wine tasting rooms. The Inn also has a great Steak House and each room is named after one of the 200 wineries nearby. The rooms also have patios with a mineral bath tub overlooking  impeccable gardens and modern 2 person swings to take you back to your childhood days and relieve any stress from the rigors of city life.

We chose to have a private tasting at nearby Justin Winery. In 2015, it was named Winery Of The Year by Wine Enthusiast. If you dine at their great restaurant, the wine tastings are complimentary. Also, if you are a Wine Society Member tastings are nearby at an elegant tasting room paired with various cheeses and very good prices to take a few bottles home with you.

There are also 5 spacious rooms available ranging from 600 to 1400 square feet if you want to stay and visit the many wineries nearby.

Our tasting host was very knowledgeable and passionate about sharing his wine knowledge. The cheese pairing with the tasting is very well done and adds to the richness of the wine.

We began with the 2013 Chardonnay that was aged in French Oak for 18 months, very refreshing on a warm day and retails for $40.

The 2013 Justification is composed of 58 per cent Cabernet Franc and 42 per cent Merlot billed as blending the old world and new world. It retails for $50 .

Our favorite was their celebrated Isosceles 2013 composed of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon,16 % Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot. We also tasted the 2012 Isosceles Reserve that is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14%  Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot and 1% Malbec. Both were great with the 2013 retailing for $70 and the 2012 Reserve for $105 per bottle.

The final taste was the 2013 Savant composed of 65% Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Grenache, and 4% Petite Syrah. It retails for $50.

The bottom line is that "Paso Robles Rocks" and is producing some great juice. We would highly recommend a visit to this wine making heaven on the Central Coast. The area is a very beautiful and has lots of great wineries to visit and it is not too far from Danville and the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more information and to schedule a tasting at Justin go to:


Friday, August 12, 2016

Bacara Resort And Spa: Relaxed Oceanfront Luxury

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants (800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Santa Barbara. 
From our home in Danville, it is an easy 5 hour drive. We stayed at Bacara Resort and Spa on the Santa Barbara coast offering 78 acres of relaxed luxury. It is located about 2 hours north of Los Angeles and offers 3 restaurants, world class spa, meeting rooms, wine tasting, and some great golf courses nearby.
We had a nicely appointed room and very comfortable bed with pool and ocean views from a large balcony.
The service staff has golf carts that will shuttle you to the restaurants or spa after a day at the beach or nearby Sandpiper Golf course that is known as the "Pebble Beach" of the Central Coast. We enjoyed playing the course with many holes overlooking the deep blue Pacific. It offers 4 sets of tees for to satisfy all skill levels. After golf, the spa offers an extensive list of treatments to soothe your soul and pamper any of your golf aches and pains. 
On site, Foley Wines has an elegant tasting room with many of their great wines and daily wine tastings and a knowledgeable staff of wine lovers. If you purchase one of their great wines, you can bring it to dinner for a $15 corking fee. 
Angel Oak is their new restaurant that just opened 1 month ago. Like an eagle, it proudly sits high above the ocean with spectacular vistas and sunsets. We ate on the patio of this great place and enjoyed a knowledgeable, attentive and happy wait staff feeling lucky to be working at this beautiful restaurant. They have an extensive wine and drink selection and blankets and gas heaters provided if it gets too cool. 
We began this foodie experience ordering one of their specialty cocktails called "Smoke On The Water." It is fabulous and finished tableside  with Woodford Reserve Select Barrel, Apple Brandy, Creme De Noyaux, All Spice, Smoked With Cherry Wood. 

Chef Alexander Bollinger recommended we try the bone marrow for an appetizer. We were not disappointed as it was cooked to perfection with oxtail marmalade, pistachio gremolata, herbs and grilled sourdough.
There is a wide variety of steaks and seafood dishes all served with warm homemade rolls and house butter made with coriander-lime-espelette or truffle and herb. 
We chose to dine on the light side ordering a jumbo shrimp cocktail with 3 large shrimp served on a bed of popcorn, Caesar salad with Pecorino Romano, boquerones, radishes and herbs. We also tried the French Onion soup served steaming hot with a variety of imported cheeses that was the best we have ever experienced. 
Since it was Linda's birthday we were advised to try their famous candy bar desert. It was presented with a birthday candle and happy birthday written in chocolate gracing the plate. It is dark chocolate cremeaux, peanut butter crunch and salted caramel ice cream that was fabulous. The couple seated next to us ordered Baked Alaska flamed at table side with toasted coconut ice cream, strawberry elderflower gel and grand mariner that added to the fun of this special foodie experience.
We would highly recommend this resort and on your way home to stop at one of the 200 wineries making great juice in Paso Robles only 2 hours away. 
For more information go to:

Friday, July 29, 2016

Palmaz Vineyards.. "Passionate Pursuit Of Perfection"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San  Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently returned to Palmaz Vineyards. We shared this "special wine experience" with our Danville wine and foodie friends Ron and Josiane Hable.

We met this warm and passionate wine family many years ago and their spectacular story is unique and impressive.   We had the pleasure to travel with Julio, his wife Amalia and daughter Florencia on a fabulous trip to South America in 2013 .  The wine cruise sailed from the 2016 Olympics town of Rio De Janerio down the coast ending in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires. The trip included fabulous private wine dinners  served on the attentive Silver Seas Cruise Line.  The trip was highlighted with an elegant luncheon and day of "fun in the sun" at the Palmaz oceanfront summer home in Punta de Este, Uruguay. 

Palmaz Vineyards features over 100,000 square feet of caves and a gravity feed winemaking system that produces high quality wines. In addition to quarterly shipments of wines, their wine club members enjoy elegant theme parties throughout the year.  Upon joining  the wine club, you receive an Argentinean Gaucho facon, a  silver personal steak knife, that can be used at the Palmaz Winery annual Asado barbecue.

From the web site:

"Julio Palmaz was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Julio invented the Palmaz Coronary Stent, a device that revolutionized medicine. (Artifacts related to his research now sit in the Smithsonian Institution’s medical collection.) Having moved to the United States from Argentina in the late 1970s to pursue medical research at a notable institution, Julio completed his residency at the University of California, Davis, where his passion for wine first emerged. To unwind on weekends, Julio and his wife, Amalia, would drive through Napa in a white Triumph Spitfire, visiting wineries and restaurants. “I had wanted to make my own wines since my days at U.C. Davis,” he would later say. “And where better to make the best wine in the world than Napa Valley?”

Our host for this tour and elegant tasting was Nick Woodhams. He reflects the "passionate pursuit of excellence" of the family and the entire staff. He proudly toured us through this high tech winery producing world class juice. Having been on this tour before, it is still very impressive. It was the first visit for our friends and they marveled at the attention to detail and gentle care of the precious grapes and gravity feed process. We learned  a tid bit about "Angels Share" of the wine which was fun to hear.  If you visit the winery make sure to ask your tour host what that means.

Following the tour, the tasting took place in an elegant tasting room overlooking the 600 aces of heavenly beauty and paired with carefully selected foods. The long wood table was accented with fresh flowers and a  high tech presentation of each wine.  We began with the 2014 Amalia Chardonnay that was chilled perfectly and paired with Edamame Purée and Piave Vecchio Curls and Hawaiian Sea Salt.

The next selection was the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. It is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2 % Petite Verdot and 1& Cabernet Franc. It was perfectly paired with a bite of a smoked duck breast with cream cheese and fig preserves.

The 2012 Cabernet was next and a blend of 96% Cabernet, 3% Petite Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. Vineyard Pasty Twigs with olive, garlic and Parmesan added to the this bold and beautiful wine. The final taste was 2014 Florencia Muscat paired with fresh goat milk cheese with apricots on a short bread cookie that was sensational. A dark chocolate truffle completed this elegant tasting experience.  We enjoyed all the wines and took a few of each back to Danville with us. We also took a bottle of olive oil that is supposed to be fantastic
In conclusion, this winery is very very "special" and well worth making an appointment to visit.
For more information go to  https://www.palmazvineyards.com

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"Lake Tahoe Edgewood Country Club Hosts Super Bowl Of Celebrity Golf"

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I will travel to beautiful Lake Tahoe.

Edgewood Country Club hosts the American Century Celebrity Golf tournament and this year is number 28. The golf course is a slice of heaven located on the shores of beautiful Lake Tahoe. The tournament gets bigger every year with 80 famous sports celebrities and movie stars trying to win the $125,000 first place prize. 

For the past 15 years, I have been playing in the Celebrity Pro Am  with many interesting people like Alphonso Riberio ala "Fresh Prince", 5 time Champion Dan Quinn, Hall of Famer Tim Brown, and  Super Bowl MVP Joe Theisman to name a few.

I am given Celebrity names prior to the tournament and our son, MJ, chooses the celebrity and rides with him/her during the tournament.  Last year we played  with former Olympic Tennis Star, Mardy Fish, who is also a great golfer and one of the favorites to win. He finished second to Michigan State Spartan Mark Mulder who was also a great pitcher for the Oakland A's. This is the second year that he won the tournament and we hope  to play with him. 

My foodie and avid golfer friend from Chicago Brad Browder is also joining us again this year. 

Linda and her friends have an annual tradition to play Edgewood the Monday before the tournament begins. We enjoy our traditional lunch on the patio of Brooks Bar at Edgewood that is fueled by their famous mojitos.  Brooks Bar overlooks the lake and the famous 18th hole pond ala "Lake Lambier" named after Detroit  Piston Basketball player  Bill Lambier when he deposited a lot of balls a few years ago.  Brooks Bar has also been named as one of the best 19th hole bars in America.

A new tradition this year is staying at the grand opening of Edgewood Lodge, a magnificent 151 room 100 million dollar development right on Lake Tahoe and next to the golf course. We will also have a dinner there the nigh before the pro-am and start a new tradition. 

Another tradition is dinner at Friday Station on the top of Harrah's Hotel. It has spectacular sunsets and full of celebrities enjoying the great service and fantastic food.  Many of the waiters have worked there over 25 years. They are  professionally dressed in black tuxedos and intent on making your eating experience a memorable one.  It is no wonder many of them have worked there such a long time as the spectacular sunsets over Lake Tahoe each evening make for a soothing working environment  and "I love my job" attitude. 

The event is also televised on NBC. NBC has just renewed their contract through 2022. Watching it on TV is great but attending the tournament is much more fun.

It is also fun to watch your favorite sports and movie stars try to master the difficult game of golf.  In addition, the deep blue lake guarded by towering pines and snow capped mountains feels like being in heaven. It is no wonder the nearby ski slopes are named Heavenly Valley. 

In conclusion, mark your calendar for July 10-18 in 2018. For more information, go to:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sensational Sherwin Family Vineyards

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Sherwin Family Vineyards in St. Helena.

After spending 30 years in the Bay Area as a builder and developer, Steve and Linda Sherwin decided they wanted a slower life style and purchased 30 acres of grape vines on the top of Spring Mountain in 1996. As you drive into this serene location complete with a pond, you immediately feel a sense of peace and tranquility from the rigors of city life.

The tasting room has a fireplace for the cool days and patio for the warm days. Like an Eagle, it proudly overlooks this spectacular piece of property and enhances your wine tasting experience.

Donna was our knowledgeable and energetic host and we were also joined by Steve Sherwin owner and winemaker. We began our tasting with the crisp and refreshing Chardonnay balanced by rich fruit and hints of oak.

Steve then let us taste the Cellar Scraps. With a proud smile on his face, he said "this fun Cabernet changes every time we make it. We take a look around our cellar and use the leftovers from some of the finest wine ever produced at Sherwin."   We liked it so much that we took a few bottles home with us. We also joined their "Cellar Scrapper" wine club which includes an annual 6 bottle shipment and an invitation to their "Swill and Grill" barbecue bash.

The estate Cabernet Sauvignon is made from the fruit of the 16 acre estate grapes on the top of Spring Mountain. It is their flagship wine and ready to drink now or add to your cellar. It is a blend of 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent Cabernet Franc and 8 percent Merlot.

For the grand finale, Steve gave us a special treat as we tasted the Reserve Cabernet right from the barrel. Aged 8 months in French Oak, this 100 percent Cabernet is excellent and elegant. The gold label and golden wax cork is like owning a expensive piece of art and a great addition to any cellar. Besides being dipped in red or gold wax, the special Sherwin bottles can be bought with the American flag etched on the bottle making for a great gift, golf tournament, or charity auction item. Steve said he is the only winery in America that has been approved to place the American flag on the bottles.

We would highly recommended this winery to visit. The wine is great and the  setting is "sensational" on the top of Spring Mountain.
For more information and to schedule a tasting go to.: 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Artisan..7 Years Of Foodie Perfection

In a effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(300 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently dined at Artisan restaurant located in nearby Lafayette.
We went to the restaurant when it first opened 7 years ago and again for lunch recently as were reminded by our friends of its excellence.  The restaurant serves locally sourced Californian-French fare in a lovely converted house with patio seating.
Chef John Marquez, owner and chef, is a local guy who grew up in Danville and graduated from San Ramon High School.  His first apprenticeship at Danville's Bridges and a culinary degree from Diablo Valley College. He originally wanted to open his own place in San Francisco, but eventually turned his attention to the Walnut Creek area. He has a rich foodie history including working  at San Francisco's Coi and Fringale and for Thomas Keller at the famous French Laundry in Napa, also helping him open Per Se in New York in 2004.  He prides his creations as using the freshest, finest ingredients and  a labor of love. We had the pleasure of meeting him.
Our server Ken was very knowledgeable and has been with the restaurant since its beginnings 7 years ago.  Chef John features a 3 course luncheon special for 30 dollars. For 5 dollars more you can include a Martini or Perfect Manhattan.
We chose to order ala carte and began with Tempura Squash Blossoms with goat cheese that were warm, fresh and fantastic.  For the main course, we ordered the fish tacos and corn soup, Croque Madame and sweet potato fries. Both entrees were nicely prepared. For dessert, we shared the chocolate decadence that was a cake with chocolate mousse and a ganache frosting.

Chef John, who is of Peruvian decent, told us he will be opening a new Peruvian restaurant in Concord called Lima. It will be open around July 1st and promises to be a joy to experience with lots of unique and flavorful Peruvian recipes planned.
We would highly recommend Artisan as it is close to Danville and food prepared with great attention to detail and very, very good.

For more information and to make reservations go to:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spottswoode Winery: The Grace Kelly of Napa Wines

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(300 and counting),my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Spottswoode Winery in St. Helena. From our home in Danville, the winery is around an hour drive.

The historic winery has an interesting history.  It was established and designed in 1882 by George Schoenwald, in a style reminiscent of the Hotel del Monte, an early luxury resort located in Monterey that he managed. He planted wine grapes on seventeen of the estate's thirty one acres.

In 1910, it was christened and named after Mrs. Albert Spotts husband. Prohibition had started to take hold in the US and the Spottswoode Estate fell into disrepair.  The Spotts family survived this time by selling grapes to the Christian Brothers, who made sacramental wine, growing mushrooms in the cellar, and raising frogs for frogs' legs, popular in San Francisco restaurants during those years.

Mary and John Novak acquired the winery in 1972. After realizing his dream of moving his family to an agrarian community, Jack Novak tragically and suddenly passes away. Faced with the difficulties of running a vineyard while raising five children, Mary Novak decided to stay and pursue the vision she and her husband shared.  She began managing the Spottswood Vineyard, successfully completing her first harvest, and selling grapes to various Napa families, among them the Schafers and Duckhorns.

Mary continued to make their dream come true and produced the first Cabernet Sauvignon in 1982 one hundred years after the winery was established.  Today Mary's daughter Beth Novak Milliken manages the winery and her sister Lindy Novak oversees the marketing.

From the web site, Paul Lukacs, author of the great wines of America says" the women of Spottswoode produce an unfailingly elegant Cabernet Sauvignon--the Grace Kelly of Napa Valley wines conveying an almost aristocratic impression of refinement and class."
The wine advocate describes the wine as "the Chateau Margaux of Napa Valley."

Our knowledgeable tasting hostess was Nicole Knoth. We enjoyed walking around the serene and manicured grounds learning about the rich history of the elegant Spottswoode home that Mary stills lives in.

Our tasting began with the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc blended with 73 percent Sauvignon Grapes and 27 percent Sauvignon Mosque. It sells for around 40 dollars and we learned that it is Mary's favorite.
2013  Lydenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon was our next wine. It is a blend of 92 percent Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. 4 percent Malbec, 2 percent Cabernet Franc, and 2 percent Petite Verdot.
The final tasting was the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon that recently received a rating of 95 by Robert Parker. Aged in 100 percent French Oak and blended perfectly with 88 percent Cabernet Sauvignon estate grown grapes, 8 percent Cabernet Franc and 4 percent Petite Verdot. The label has a picture of Mary's home on it.

We made sure that a bottle of each of these wines went back to our home in Danville to share with our wine loving friends.

After our tasting, we went to one of our favorite foodie lunch stops, The  Rutherford Grille. The restaurant is always full of happy people and the heavenly aroma  of the "famous ribs" and open kitchen  insures you that your foodie experience will be very special.

Our meal always begins with the corn bread that is served steaming hot in a cast iron pan and goes great with the wide selection of reasonably priced Napa wines. You can also bring your favorite bottle of wine and there is no corking fee. We always order the "knife and fork ribs," French fries, and Cole slaw. It is a generous proportion that we always split. The ribs are moist, savory, and the "best" we have ever eaten. The fries are crispy and hot and the Cole slaw is crafted to perfection.
For more information and to schedule a wine visit go to:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Blackhawk Sausage Extravaganza

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(800 and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries( 300 and counting), my wife Linda and I recently had the pleasure of participating in the first Blackhawk Sausage Extravaganza. 

This unique event was organized by dining etiquette author/consultant Rose Marie Burns and good friend and neighbor John McSherry. It was held at Cynthia and John's beautiful Blackhawk home.  The fun began at 9 in the morning with the avid group of "foodies" making 6 different types of sausages.

The party began with an early morning champagne toast by Chefs John and Rose Marie.  15 people participated in the process to prepare the sausages for the afternoon barbecue. The 150 pounds of meat resulted in around 500 sensational sausages.

McSherry's home radiated with a heavenly aroma of various herbs and seasoned meats used to make the 6 sausages.  Chicken And Apple, Kielbasa, Jalapeno. Italian, Greek Turkey and Macedonian Leek Sausage were carefully crafted by the group of serious foodies. 

Each sausage was also perfectly paired with the following wines by Sommelier Wendy Hughes.

The Chicken and Apple sausage was paired with 2014 William Fevre Champ Royaux Chablis. Kielbasa was matched with 2014 Pessimst Red from  Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles. Jalapeño went with 2007 Caprcho de Landaluce Riota. Italian Sausage was paired with the 2011 Barolo. The Greek Turkey Sausage was matched  with the 2014 Virage Rose and the Macedonian Leek Sausage was paired with the Clos Pegase 2013 Chardonnay.

The entire process took 8 hours and was completed at 5 pm.  At that time, the chefs began barbecuing our heavenly creations.  Everyone was very pleased with the results of this unique foodie experience and each sausage was a joy to taste with the well thought out wine pairings of our able Sommelier Wendy. 

As a genius addition to this very special foodie day, John's wife Cynthia, a true Cajun, deep fried lightly dusted nuggets of catfish and alligator which were so good there was not "one bite left over." 

Additional invited guests also arrived for the sunset feast and enjoyed a beautiful Blackhawk evening on the McSherry's patio overlooking the second green of the Lakeside golf course. 

As the sun set over the majestic hills of Blackhawk, Rose Marie and John smiled with a sense of great accomplishment and said, "today was so much fun that we are already mentally planning "Extravaganza 2." 

Finally, each lucky guest was also given a selection of sausages to take home with them. 

Great job Rose Marie and John for organizing this great day of "unique foodie fun."  Now that we are all no longer "sausage making virgins," we eagerly look forward to participating in "Sausage Extravaganza 2."

In an ef."

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Final Four And Whole Lots More

My wife Linda and our son MJ, National Special Olympics Golf Champion and Hall of Famer, recently traveled to Houston to attend the "Final Four" National Basketball Championship at NRG Reliant Stadium. 

We were hoping our alma mater Michigan State would also be playing. 
Unfortunately the Spartans were eliminated in round one of this exciting tournament also known as "March Madness." The good news is that long time MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo was honored for his success as one of the 2016 Hall of Fame inductees. 
This event is different from a Super Bowl as there are many young college students watching their teams play rather than just corporate types attending a game for the first time all year. Having done both, this creates a more pure and wholesome environment and experience.

The final four teams this year were Villanova, Oklahoma, Syracuse and North Carolina. After exciting battles in front of 75,000 avid basketball fans, we watched  Villanova  crowned as the 2016 National Champions with a dramatic buzzer beating shot by Nova's Kris Jenkins to win 77-74. North Carolina had tied the game at 74 with 4 seconds to play before the calm poised, well coached Nova team executed this perfect game winning shot.

Long time basketball announcer Dick Vitale said  " This was the best National Championship final game I have ever witnessed and maybe the best in NCAA history."

This was my second experience at a final four and is a "must do" if you love sports and the spirit of young athletes trying to achieve the difficult goal of being a National Champion.  The pure excitement is addicting as loyal fans wildly cheer for their respective schools. In addition, having been to many major sporting events, it is great to see 75,000 fans behave with respect and root for their teams with class rather than with alcohol infused shouting and  fighting.

The NCAA does not allow alcohol to be served at this event and in my opinion contributes to a fan experience that is peaceful, dignified and more like a serene Augusta Masters Golf tournament experience. 

Houston was also hosting the Shell Open PGA Golf tournament bringing many big name golfers to play golf and also watch the basketball games.

We also had the pleasure to play the famous Houston Tour 18 golf course. General Manager Darren Busker heads a gracious staff that enhances this special golfing experience. This course has 18 famous golf holes played on the PGA Tour highlighted by Augusta's Amen corner and the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

Linda totally enjoyed the experience and found the ladies tees to be very fair and friendly. Having been to Augusta and the Masters twice, our favorite golf hole is number 12.  It is a short par 3 surrounded by beautiful multi colored flowers reminding one of a painting by Monet. It is also intimidating and historic flanked by the famous Hogan bridge that many famous feet have  proudly walked over. My memory bank will be eternally blessed as I rolled in a 12 foot putt for a birdie on this world famous hole.

When we played number 17 at TPC Sawgrass in Jacksonville, MJ birdied the hole and offered some friendly advice for his mom at Tour 18. "Don't be short Mom,  a lot of people go in the water."

As a matter of fact the starter Cecil told us that 275,000 balls find their watery grave every year on this intimidating short par three hole at TPC Sawgrass. 

MJ's noble advice almost worked as Linda's ball landed just short of the island green and mine hit on the green but bounced left into the water too. Our nephew Troy Sanchez hit his best shot of the day and proudly landed on the green.

Tour 18 is a fun golf course and a great and affordable way to experience 18 of Americas Golf Holes. if you are ever in the Houston area, we would highly recommend this unique golfing experience.

For more information and to make a tee time, go to:www.tour18golf.com