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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. JalapeƱo 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."