Weekend Winos

Enthusiasts in search of quality libations to enhance weekends.

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Wine in a Can – Why Not? It’s Good Wine!

Wine in a box, wine in a glass, wine in a keg, wine in a can.  Why not?

It is readilyimg_9141 available.  Trader Joe’s, BevMo, the local grocery store,  7 Eleven, and the local drug store all have some selection of wine in a can right next to the wine in a box.  Some,  have it refrigerated and ready to go at the end of the craft beer section.   The prices vary, some are expensive, but you can not beat the convenience.

And, it is not the sweet, inexpensive wine that you expect from a boxed wine (sorry Maggie Griffin).  Many of the wines we tasted were good, and all agreed very refreshing.  Many compared the experience of drinking wine in a can to drinking a beer at an outdoor party or sporting event.

I believe that the reason for packaging wine in a bottle is to ensure it ages properly. Most of the winos in our group have rarely kept a bottle for more than a year.  I think we are probably in the majority of casual drinkers.

Personally, I like drinking from a bottle (water, beer, juice) so the Bon Affair packaging appealed to me and the wine was quite good.  I also like that the can stays cooler and is “cooler” than the small box wines or even the single-serve wines in a plastic glass.  I still can not figure out why Sofia comes with a straw? Before the weather gets too cold (it is still in the 90s in CA right now),  I’m sure we’ll gather to do some more “research”- maybe wine in a keg is next.



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Eat Drik SF 2016 – Grand Tasting VIP Style

We last attended on August 2013, when the event was still called SF Chefs and it was under a big white tent in Union Square. We wrote about it: Party in Your Mouth! SF Chefs 2013 Grand Tasting Tent.

eatdrink2016This year we gathered for the Saturday Evening Grand Tasting at Eat Drink SF, which is now held at Fort Mason (we love this waterfront location with gorgeous views). We splurged on the VIP tickets; it was expensive but well worth it.  Access to the event 45 minutes early made a huge difference, and the VIP lounge was OK (they needed lots more seating and in my opinion, a more  relaxing/spa-like vibe so you could regroup and venture out again, instead of more food and wine booths). Still, well worth it!

It is an impressive event where you can enjoy tastings of  wine, beer, liquor and more than 35 of the Bay Area’s top restaurants. Yes you can go back for seconds! Since it is all under one roof now, there are chefs & bartenders that do demonstrations on the main stage and an area for the San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom.

Since we were able to enter the event 45 minutes early, it does get very crowded later in the evening, it gave us a great opportunity to get a quick overview, speak with some of the Chefs as they were doing their last minute prep.   We identified libations and restaurants that we knew and wanted to taste and others that we had never heard of and caught our eye.

Who knew that Ca’Momi had restaurants or that Fogo de Chao just opened in SF? Both served delicious bites.  It can be overwhelming – there is ice cream and pastries (some like to start with that) foie gras, delicate bites, braised pork, delicious broths, Serrano ham, Mezzeta olives, olive oil, burgers and lots of different wines, beers, port, liquor and even Pure Leaf Tea and Pellegrio Sparkling water.  We also noticed lots of “photo booths” this year from Beaujolais Wines, Taiwan Tourism Brewery dumplings and Celebrity Cruises.

We divided to conquer, and although there was no possible way we could taste everything, there were some clear standouts that the group agreed on.

Our Go-to Beer = Stella Artois, they were also pouring Cidre.  I think they have been at this event every year and they are very generous with their beautiful Stella Chalice glasses (I think you can take them with you, we did) and a full pour.  Also at the event was Trumer Pils and the San Francisco Brewers Guild Craft Beer bar with 5 different brewers.

Best Bite = Parallel37, Michael Rotondo, none of us had actually been to this restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton in SF, it is now at the top of our list to visit.  I am sure the Chef would describe it better, but it was a delicious broth poured, as we approached, over the noodles and garnish. It was delicate and robust at the same time.  Just delicious!

Touching Moment = J.Lohr Carol’s Vineyard, in all the craziness of the event, we tasted a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, and enjoyed meeting Carol Lohr’s daughter who told us about her mother and how they donate $2 for every bottle purchased of the Carol’s Vineyard Cab and Sauv Blanc to the National Beast Cancer Foundation.  We bike to their tasting room in San Jose, so will have to keep that in mind next time we visit!

Amazing Pastries = Cafe Madeleine, out of this world!  The biggest compliment I can think of is that around 9:30 pm there were LOTS of Chefs in white jackets who had left their stations and were tasting these beautiful and delicious pastries.  We chose chocolate and caramel and that was our last bite of the evening.

Not sure when, but we will definitely be back to this event.  Now we need to “prepare” for the Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival 





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From Jail to the Pour House in Truckee


The winos met in Tahoe for a long relaxing weekend at the lake.  But no trip to North Shore Tahoe is complete without a stop in Truckee.  We stop there every time, usually when we first arrive, for a nice relaxing lunch and libations before heading down to this lake.  This time we ventured one block north of  Donner Pass Rd, the main street, and stumbled upon some delightful new finds.

old_truckee_jailA jail on Jibboom Street – how cool is that! It is a museum  now and, as they say, one of only a few surviving 19th century jailhouses of its kind in the West and one of the few remaining original buildings in Truckee.   Did you catch that it is on Jibboom Street?  The Truckee-Donner Historical Society  states that:  Life in early Truckee was never dull. Money was plentiful, saloons and gambling houses attracted desperados of all kinds. Gunfights in the streets occurred almost nightly, many of which were consequential to disputes that occurred along Jibboom Street’s red light district. Numerous accounts of violence were published in the Truckee Republican, many chronicling tales of Jibboom Street’s infamous ladies of the night whose names included “Carrie (Spring Chicken) Smith;” “La Belle Butler” and “Lotta Morton.”

IMG_8202After a quick stop at the Coffeebar Truckee we spotted The Pour House Wine Shop & Tasting , yes still on Jibboom Street!  What a cool little place.  The selection of wines from around the world is impressive, but the cheese and charcuterie options are also something to take a close look at.  This is the perfect place to stop, taste some wines and then pick up a full basket of goodies for a picnic by the Truckee River or down by the lake. Yes you can pick up some box wine if you prefer.


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Stroll the Alameda: Exploring the New Neighborhood

Stroll15CardsWhat a great event to make new acquaintances with wine and beer lovers as well as local businesses! 

We convinced the group to join us for a local event Stroll the Alameda to explore the neighborhood, specifically The Alameda in San Jose, CA.  At first there was limited enthusiasm, but by the end of the afternoon, as we enjoyed some much-needed nourishment at Rosie’s New York Pizza, everyone agreed it was a lot of fun.

The event was well-organized with 20 wine/beer tasting locations to visit. We checked in to receive our wristbands and tickets which included 12 tastings, and then we were off. Most of us were not familiar with this area, and we struck gold at our very first stop Schurra’s, where we found delicious chocolates paired with Lightheart Cellars wines.  Other standouts for various reasons included Travieso Winery, Savory Kitchen, Seeker VineyardGreen Design and Wine Affairs.  A constant in this area is J. Lohr Vineyards with their tasting room right off The Alameda.

The libations providers and local merchants included:

Sarah’s Vineyard • 5 Color Cowboy; Stroll2015Travieso Winery • Metamorphic Tattoo; Various Wines • Tee Nee Thai; Lagunitas Brewing • Crossfit Silicon Valley; Fenestra Winery • Green Design; Santa Clara Valley Brewing • La Dolce Velo; Drake’s Brewing Co. • All-American; Stefania Winery • Mission Pipe; J. Lohr • Art Boutiki; Strike Brewery • Art Boutiki; Aimee June • The Arsenal; Guglielmo Winery • Alameda Artworks; Fortino Winery • Alameda Artworks; Lion Ranch • San Jose Made; Seeker Vineyard • Black Bird; Das Brew • Black & Brown; Lightheart Cellars • Schurra’s; Coterie Cellars • Savory Kitchens;Mission Creek Brewing • Whole Foods

This is an event that we will add to our regular list.  Already looking forward to the 2016 Stroll, and in the meantime we will be back to enjoy the new acquaintances we made.

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Egg Nog – Love It or Leave It?

There were just a few of the winos in town after Christmas, and we quickly discovered that only one (our host) had a true appreciation for egg nog.  We agreed to start with some homemade egg nog and then set out to taste the different store-bought brands.

Egg Nog Options

Egg nog for the Holidays is not a tradition that I grew up with, so I was intrigued by all the options to consider.  Cold or warm? Rum, brandy, bourbon, cognac or Baileys? Nutmeg or cinnamon? Diluted with milk or creamy thick? Soy based? Low fat? Shaken or stirred? Cocktail or straight up? Is it one word (eggnog) or two words (egg nog)? And of course — homemade versus store-bought egg nog ?

As a group we always agree that there can be many winners, everyone has different tastes and preferences.  In this case, the homemade option prepared by our host was the clear winner.  He insisted that it was a simple recipe and his preference is to use a light rum.  The critical steps he mentioned, other than the constant whisking, are to make sure that the mixture cools down before adding the rum, vanilla, light cream and nutmeg and to refrigerate overnight.

We started the pre-made tasting using shot glasses (more than that would have been too much) and found that the group quickly agreed on: cold, creamy, with liquor, not shaken, with nutmeg and not soy (very watery, just unpleasant). The store-bought preferred options were:

  • Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice Egg Nog (220 calories and 9g fat for 1/2 cup): There is no liquor in it as the name may imply, it is lighter in color than the others and basically tastes like a profiterole.  The option with E&J XO brandy (versus rum) was also the preferred choice.
  • Sunnyside Farms Low Fat Egg Nog (130 calories and 2g fat for 1/2 cup): The dark yellow color was off-putting to some, but it tasted pretty good, like pudding, at almost 1/2 the calories.  Once again, the E&J XO brandy was the preferred liquor option.

We never did settle if it is egg nog or eggnog, I guess we’ll leave that to next year’s celebration.  And like everything else, don’t overdo it, too much of a good thing is not good, and that is especially true for this creamy libation.

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Halloween VooDoo in Vegas

One of the winos had a multi-room time share (no comment on time shares) in Las Vegas, so a few of us decided to join them to see what we could discover.  Hint – we did not realize it was the weekend before Halloween so everyone in Las Vegas was “extra” happy.  Also by coincidence, the weekend started with Champagne Day so we knew we were off to a good start.  The Bellagio was at the top of our list.  The Fountains of Bellagio are an amazing attraction, and with their 16 sommeliers (including 2 Master Sommeliers), 90,000 bottles, 4,000 selections and 250 wines by the glass under a single roof and AAA Five Diamond-awarded Las Vegas restaurant options – how could we go wrong.  Well, we never made it to the Bellagio. The closest we got was a delicious, leisurely, late lunch at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Hotel from where we could see the fountains.

VoodooThe highlight of the trip was the VooDoo Rooftop Nightclub at the Rio Hotel & Casino.  It is one of the best views of Las Vegas (indoor/outdoor, bi-level club, 51 floors high)  and the bartenders do put on a show as they mix their signature drink the Witch Doctor.  For around $30 this drink is big enough to share and the dry ice they put in it makes it look like smoke billowing over the glass – perfect for Halloween!

  • 2 oz. Cruzan Pineapple Rum
  • 1 oz. Cruzan Raspberry Rum
  • 1 oz. Bacardi Light Rum
  • 1 oz. Captain Morgan Rum
  • 1 oz. Malibu Rum
  • 1 oz. Peach Schnapps
  • 1/2 oz. Grenadine
  • 2 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 4 oz. Sour Mix
  • Maraschino cherries 

It was early Sunday morning when we left the VooDoo Lounge and the taxi line  (there are taxi lines everywhere in Vegas) full of characters in costume was actually a nice breath of fresh air before heading back to the resort.  Next time the Bellagio is definitely on our list!

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Heavenly Angel – Picchetti Winery’s Mission Angelica 2012 Vintage

For the long Labor Day Weekend, the winos decided that packing a picnic and tasting wine was the right amount of laboring. After much discussion Picchetti Winery was the destination that everyone agreed on – they had a live band.

Picchetti Winery Tasting Room

Picchetti Winery Tasting Room

We first drove all the way up Monte Bello Road to Ridge Vineyards – just for fun!  An infinite amount of turns, with many weekend bicyclists to watch out for, but the perfect ride for a convertible with the top down.  (Note to self – buy convertible soon).  But I digress,  the group agreed that Ridge was a place to keep in mind for a future adventure and we moved on.

Picnic at Picchetti Winery

Picnic at Picchetti Winery

Driving down the road, we wondered if our trek up the hill to Ridge would make it too late to find a comfortable spot to picnic,  but decided not to worry that we would make the best of it.

And we did,  we claimed our spot and proceeded to the tasting room.   There were a few club members in the group so tastings were free and the discount was put to good use as we all bought bottles to drink with our picnic.  Let the tasting begin, which 5 would the group gravitate towards?  What a nice surprise to see that we had 14 to choose from, the port was sold out.

My memory of Picchetti was mostly of red wines and of course Angelica.  Not today:

  • Brut Rose sparkling wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains that they hand crafted using the traditional Champenoise methods (yes really!)
  • 4 whites
  • 8 reds
  • Port and Mission Angelica

AngelicaIt was a hot day so we all started the tasting with the Sparkling Wine (we were told they would be releasing more in the future) smooth and refreshing with slight strawberry aromas.  From there to the Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Rose to finish with the Mission Angelia.

Yes, everyone LOVED the Mission Angelica, Blunden Vineyard 2012 Vintage! Picchetti describe it as:  A recognized “heritage crop”, the Mission grape was first introduced to California by the Franciscan padres in the eighteenth century, and recent DNA analysis has linked it to the very rare Spanish varietal, Listan Prieto.  The fortification (addition of brandy) process traditionally served as a preservative in the production of sacramental wines, creates a wine high in residual sugar as well as alcohol.  They poured it as an aperitif, served chilled over ice with a twist of lemon.  Why is the bottle so small (375ml)?

Once reacquainted with what Picchetti had to offer we bought 6 bottles to start, 4 white and 2 red and went back for 2 more.  Before we knew it, it was time to go with a big thank you to all the very nice folks at Picchetti who worked on their Labor Day Holiday to entertain us.

Let’s see what next weekend brings.