Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.

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Olympic Gold – 1999 Zin Rules!

This weekend a few of the winos gathered to celebrate the athletes and events of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  With temperatures in the 70s in California and 60s in Sochi it just did not feel like winter, and the slushy snow and tourists in short sleeves confirmed that. What happened to the ushankas (Russian fur hats)?

Starting off a bit unenthusiastically, have no fear, once the wine bottles were opened the group fully enjoyed the grace and skill of the ice skating competition taking place in the background.  The plan was to focus on red wines, in no particular order, and enjoy some appetizers typical of different countries – spanakopita, empanadas, meatballs, tomato-basil crostini and a large platter of charcuterie.

photoThe top four, we could not agree on three, included some very diverse wines.

  • 1999 Zinfandel, Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley: Bold, red color and complex cherry and spices aromatics. This was a pleasant surprise for the Zinfandel novices in the group and the overall winner.
  • 2004 Syrah, Midlife Crisis Winery in Paso Robles: This winery closed in 2009 with only 800 total cases produced. It was the short-lived dream of a Hollywood couple who bottled their first wines in 2004, a total of 80 cases.   The wine was very smooth and easy to drink.  The fact that we would probably never have it again, and the name, gave it an extra edge.
  • 2008 Pinot Noir, Pichetti Trouchard Vineyard in Napa Valley: A favorite winery of one of the weekend winos, we can always count on them to bring a bottle from Pichetti.  Fruity and spicy the French barrel oak comes through.
  • 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Zolo Gaucho Select from Mendoza:  Yes, this was a Cabernet, not a Malbec and it was rich with hints of chocolate and black berries.  Perfect with the meat empanadas and something I will buy for my next steak dinner.

Only one person in the group had been to Russia, some questioned the politics and leadership, but we all agreed that the history, art and the vodka would all be good reasons to visit some day.  Wine in Russia?  We’ll have to look into that!


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Friends, Turkey, Bubbles and Pinot Noir

pichettipinotA few of the winos gathered on Thanksgiving grateful for our families, friends, pets and looking forward to some delicious food and libations.  It was a smaller group so we started with a champagne toast to all the weekend winos and our host/chef and then proceeded to plan how we would approach tasting the four different Pinot Noirs.  The host had the Thanksgiving meal well under way so we continued with the bubbly telling childhood stories about Thanksgivings past.  We all agreed that this was one of our favorite Holiday gatherings and when it came to the wine, we also agreed that the 2011 Picchetti Pinot Noir stood out from the rest.  The grapes come from Los Carneros in Napa (the winery states this is a region with ideal growing conditions  for Pinot Noir) and it is aged for 12-months in French Oak.  With berry tones, this was a silky, smooth wine.  Our only regret is that we had just one bottle.

We continued with the tasting much to our surprise the 2009 Craftwork from Monterey photo-1was a very close second.             And lucky for us we had more than one bottle!

The other two we tasted – Irony from Russian River Valley and Quimay from Neuquen, Argentina –  just did not compare, extremely jammy and very light.  Same 2011 as the Picchetti, but unfortunately no comparison.  For dessert, we enjoyed the Angelica, which we already knew from previous weekend excursions would be the perfect ending to this wonderful occasion. Looking forward to reconnecting with the larger group to see what they discovered during their Thanksgiving feast.

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Tempranillo with Paella – A Match Made in Heaven over Spain

It was a busy week for the winos, so last weekend we celebrated Tempranillo Day (a few days late, ironic since Tempranillo translates to early) with a delicious paella party and several different Tempranillo wines to taste.

Tempranillo Day celebrations originated with the Tempranillo Advocates Producers and Amigos Society (TAPAS) in 2011 and this year was celebrated on November 14.  They have great information on their website ( http://www.tapasociety.org/) about this grape grown in Spain as well as Argentina, Chile, and many more countries. For 2014, the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting is scheduled for Sunday, April 27, 2014 at the Presidio in San Francisco.  Save the Date!

paellaNext, the paella. There are different types – Valenciana, Seafood and Vegetarian.  To accommodate some allergies to shellfish, our hostess prepared a delicious chicken and sausage paella.  this was perfect for Tempranillo.   With seafood paella we may have been inclined to try white wines.  Just so you know, Juan Galbis from Valencia is listed in Guinness World Records for te world’s largest paella in 1992, but he claims to have made an even bigger one in October 2001 that fed about 110,000 people.

Finally the wines, everyone brought something different,  all from Spain, ranging from $40 to $7.


  • Pago de Sangara, Ribera del Duero Seleccion Especial 2006 – Fantastic, so smooth and everyones winner
  • Pago de Sangara, Ribera del Duero , Crainza 2009 – From the same winery, a bit younger, but just as smooth
  • Albardiales, La Mancha 2012 – Too light, I don’t think hyperdecanting would even help this one.  The paella overpowered it.
  • Luna Negra, La Mancha,  Reserva 2007 – Modest and easy to drink, but after the Pago de Sangara it was a tough act to follow for any of the wines
  • Gorrebusto, Rioja 2012 – we didn’t open this one, that’s the truth.

Looking forward to Tempranillo Day 2014!

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Celebrations – Life, Love & Learning in North Lake Tahoe

Weekend Winos in Lake Tahoe

Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe

The bi-annual celebrations weekend took place in North Lake Tahoe, California.  This is a tradition where the winos get together for a long weekend to celebrate events of the past six months.   Birthdays, weddings, kids off to college, life or just being with friends.  North Lake Tahoe is so relaxing in October – the skiers have not invaded for the winter season, the summer vacationers are home and prices on home weekend rentals are quite favorable.  We found a lovely home Speckled Tree House that we used as the base camp. Adding a few more homes in the surrounding area we managed to keep the whole group within walking distance.   We researched a few of the restaurants in the area and left the rest to chance. 


  • Happy Hour/Sunset at Big Water Grille:  It was Thursday and the place was alive, we immediately knew that the weekend was off to a good start.  Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon and Kim Crawford Chardonnay were the favorites, although the Skyy Cosmos and the well priced beers were also a hit.   With football and baseball on the TVs the sports aficionados (men and women) were happy, and others found peace and quite watching the sunset from the outdoor deck.
  • Lunch at Gar Woods after a walk around Tahoe City:  a go-to destination for views of the Lake and pitchers of Wet Woodys.  Yes that is what they are known for, the group selected 18 Year Old Woody ( with 18 year old Flor de Cana fine rum) and The Black Seal (with Gosling’s Black Seal 151).
  • Dinner with Dehliger:  Everyone cooked and the 1999 Dehligher Syrah and 2000 Dehlinger Pinot Noir were the perfect pairing for the pork loin main course.
  • Brunch with Mumm:  The group split up, some stayed home and popped open magnums of Mumm with a very healthy, home-made chicken salad.
  • Au Revoir Dinner at The Soule Domaine:  A charming log cabin and one of the best local restaurants. The 2012 Laetitia Estate Chardonnay with appetizers,  followed by a 2001 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon were the perfect ending for this weekend adventure.

Weekend Winos Dine with DehlingerWeekend Winos Dine with Dehlinger SyrahWeekend Winos with WoodysWeekeend Winos Dine with ArrowoodWeekend Winos Dine with Laetitia

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Bubbles and a Ray of Sunshine on the Bay

Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz, CA

This weekend the group was determined to relax, enjoy the fresh sea breeze and make the most of this sailing adventure.  The captain was set and the boat was ready to sail.  All the nautical libations had been researched – we quickly found out there were no rum fans at all, so Captain Morgan would stay on shore.

Did I mention that we were in Santa Cruz, California?  Locals know that the fog stays low till after noon and the wind picks up at around 1 pm.   No problem, we planned accordingly and decided that we were committed to relaxing no matter what the weather had in mind for us.

Starting point was lunch at the Crow’s Nest, casual, tasty food with a good variety of drink options. The group quickly gravitated to the nautical drinks:

Kamikaze Sailor

Kamikaze Sailor

  • Kamikaze Sailor: Stoli vodka, lime juice & a splash of Cointreau.
  • El Capitan Margarita: Herradura tequila and Patron Citronge on the rocks with a blend of sweet & sour juices.
  • Crow’s Nest Sailor Jerry Mai Tai:  A polynesian blend of five rums & fresh fruit juices.
  • Champagne: before, during and after boating.

Sailing not exactly,  we did go boating in a very nice sailboat, the wind did not cooperate but that wasn’t going to stop us from having a great time.  The clouds covered the sky as we left the marina in Capitola;  the captain made sure we were safe and had as smooth a “sail” as possible.  As we “sailed” towards Santa Cruz a ray of sun broke through the clouds and magically followed our boat as we travelled north and then back to the marina.  The prosecco kept flowing and everyone agreed we would be back to try our hand at sailing the next time.

See you next weekend!

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Limoncello Waist Wars: Stevia vs. Sugar

This weekend the group got together for the ultimate test – could limoncello made with stevia taste anything like good old home-made simple syrup?  I’ve been making limoncello for years so I have to admit I was curious about the results.  After dinner relaxing at the table with good conversation and dessert, or on a hot summer day a shot of limoncello poured over a tall vodka tonic, there are so many ways to enjoy this lemony delight.

Limoncello StarterThe Preparation:

1) I had the starter ready it had been siting on the counter in a cool place, bottle swoshed around once a day for about 6 or 7 weeks (lemon peel with no rind at all, so there is no bitterness, soaking in everclear).  Everyone volunteered to do some part of it, and we were ready to start.

2) We drained the liquid so now we had 1/2 the total volume = 6 cups to which we would add simple syrup or stevia syrup

3) Three cups of home-made simple syrup with good old sugar got underway = 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water

4) Three cups with stevia syrup – good thing that somebody read that the proper measurement would be 1 1/2 cups stevia to 3 cups water

5) Now we were ready to mix the final product resulting in 6 cups of regular limoncello and 6 cups of stevia limoncello.  We let it rest in the freezer while we ate, caught up and planned future adventures, then it was time to taste.

Seeing that we had lots of lemons the group agreed they would peel away so we could get a new starter going (it takes 6-8 weeks).  Under my close eye, to make sure none of that white rind was left on the peel, we were set, lemon peels and everclear ready to sit for another 6-8 weeks.

The Results: Limoncello Comparison

At first glance you could notice some difference in color and viscosity.  The real simple syrup (blue)  is darker yellow and the stevia version (red) slightly thicker.

The final vote for (some had to taste more than once, but only counted as one) was 70% sugar and 30% stevia.  The regular, tried and true simple syrup juts tasted better.

My guess is that the stevia version will be a perfect topper to other drinks, but for an after dinner digestivo I’ll stick with the simple syrup limoncello.

Drink responsibly and we’ll see you next weekend!

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Party in Your Mouth! SF Chefs 2013 Grand Tasting Tent

A Great Time under the Tent on Union Square in SF!

SF Chefs 2013 Tent

SF Chefs 2013 Tent


This weekend we started off with a little misunderstanding about the time we would be allowed in for the 5th Anniversary Friday Night Opening Celebration because the tickets were printed in such a way that caused much confusion (we were not alone).  Being the overachievers we are, we arrived early so we were first in line for the 7:15 pm (not 6:30 pm) entrance.  We put the time to good use, chatted with a charming, very polite and very apologetic greater who clarified the situation to hundreds who approached her, and also met people around us who had been before and gave us some very good tips.

We were prepared with what we learned: (1) the drinks are mostly in the center and the food around the perimeter; (2) to take our time because everyone is there all night and they just keep cooking and pouring; and (3) to enjoy the experience even when it is crowded.

At 7:15 pm sharp they let us in, they had been looking at us for 1 hour and 15 minutes so I had no doubt they would be prompt.  It was immediately obvious that what we had learned from our early-to-queue compadres was spot on!  Everyone got a lanyard (really, not another lanyard), this one actually held your wine glass which proved to be of great assistance as you savored all the tasty bites.

It is a big tent and it was crowded, so the group dissipated and inevitably met as everyone was doing the rounds.  I am pretty sure I remember the highlights we discussed to be as follows:

* Tyler Florence is even more handsome in person.

Tyler Florence

Tyler Florence

* Mixed drinks were one of the stars of the party, form Elixir To Go, Campari, Chambord, Rum, Gin, Bourbon,  even Stella was there.

* Wines were good all around. From Chile to Portugal , a good representation from California and Washington State,  and super rich and smooth Rhone Valley Wines, all fantastic.

* The food that stood out was the risotto from Kuleto’s and all the delicious poke and prawns from the restaurants around it , the ham and warm apple something or other from Wayfare Tavern and El Paseo, the caviar blintz roll from The Plumed Horse, something fantastic from The Beach Chalet and great lamb meatballs from a sponsor who also has I love lam chap stick ( I hope it was mint).

* Cakes and sweets, yes they were there and we were asked to vote for our favorite cake in the competition, which we could not do in all good faith.  With all respect to the pastry chefs, they were a bit lost in the sea of libations and mouthwatering bites.  Does no one in the group have a sweet tooth?

* Russell Jackson (Food Network Star Finalist) was also there without his Guilty Pleasures briefcase.  I wonder how many will be voting for him?

So how do you end a night like this?  Well….. with handfuls of  Fig Newtons and Port that also doubled as a breakfast of champions, the Fig Newtons of course with Starbucks.

See you all next weekend!