Jun 19, 2016

Starbucks, things we did not know...

Sarbucks. One of the worlds most famous coffee company's. The butt of many an over expensive coffee joke. In my mind the great American success story. A company created by possibly one of the greatest businessmen of our times. This company has managed massive growth globally and yet has systems in place to take care of employees locally. I have had the pleasure of being friends with a VP at Starbuck for many years and have been privy to some inside information from time to time that has given some insight to the man that started it all and has returned the company to the top. Howard Schultz has done with a massive corporation what few have ever achieved. Here are some of the things that besides good coffee the corporation does for its partners (employees). More than 70% of their U.S. partners (employees) are students or aspiring students. They want to help. Supporting their  partners’ ambitions, they believe that this is the very best investment Starbucks can make.
Below are just some of the programs accessible to those partners.

College Achievement Plan
A first of its kind collaboration with Arizona State University, we’re offering all part- and full-time benefits eligible U.S. partners full tuition coverage for every year of college to earn a bachelor’s degree. Partners receive support from a dedicated team of coaches and advisors, 24/7 tutoring on a variety of subjects, and a choice of more than 50 undergraduate degrees through ASU's research driven and top-ranked program, delivered online.
Learn more about How It Works

Frequently Asked Questions

They are also supporting those that have served and their families.

Learn more about ASU
Veteran and Military Families
Our military service member and veteran partners can now help a family member realize their dreams of pursuing a college education. To show our gratitude for their service, they can extend an additional Starbucks College Achievement Plan benefit to their spouse, domestic partner, or child. The participating family member will receive all the same benefits as our partners in the program.
Frequently Asked Questions and Eligibility

Learn more about How it Works

Military and Spouses – Serve with us
Become a Partner
The Starbucks College Achievement Plan is just one way we’re committed to the success of our partners. From growing as a person, as a partner, in your career and in your community – the opportunity is here for you to shape and make your own. That’s why when you launch a career inspired by human connection and the opportunity to become your personal best, the possibilities are endless.
Work in Our Stores

Work in Our Corporate Offices

Work with one of Our Brands

Please take a couple minutes and Listen to Howard speak  

So before you just dismiss Starbucks as a heartless corporation check em out. Read Howards book 'Pour your Heart into it'. Also how else are you supposed to get the morning started than a great flat white!

Happy Tasting Adventures,



May 30, 2016

PBFW Grand Tasting 2016 Part one the WINE

What did you do from March 31st to April 3rd 2016? Well if you were one of the lucky ones you were at the 9th Annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine event.

This wonderful and successful wine and food event is possibly one of the words best. A place to mix and mingle with the best chiefs and wine makers in the world. A place to taste food and wine that is of truly uncommon quality. Throughout these few days you can revel in access to the best of culinary and wine rock stars at wine tastings, cooking demos, and some very exclusive and unique dining opportunities.

The Pebble Beach Food & Wine is an annual event sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine and according to those who count stuff, attracted an estimated 8,500 attendees. According to the event organizers, that was the highest number of eaters and drinkers in the event's history.
They must have known we were coming...

This year we attended the Saturday Lexus Grand Tasting.  While some have told us its too expensive for three hours of tasting and nibbles, there is a couple things to remember. There are some truly world class wines that most normal people would never afford themselves a bottle or could even realistically gain access to them. Ultra premium wines from Europe, Australia and New Zealand as well as North and South America. This is also in addition to some of the worlds best chefs serving some exceptional nibbles (small bites). As a bonus there is also spirits and Beer.

Entering the event is a snap, the easiest event we ever attend. How is that you ask. The answer is drive a Lexus. The Lexus rewards of ownership program gets you a 15% discount and a drive up to the front door with free valet parking opportunity. Also pull your Visa Signature Card out to get into the slightly early entry line (one card per couple please not your entire group).

The Grand Tasting can be an intimidating experience for the uninitiated. There are so many wines to taste and so many food options that picking a starting point and wanting not to miss anything is a stressful feeling. But we had a plan. This event was to be mostly about the Aussie wines. First stop inside the door (which took too long, 10 minutes after the start time due to line delays) it was straight to the Penfolds station. Starting with a Bin 389, 707, RWT and a lovely sip of the 2010 Grange. Short of a trip to Australia this is a great start to any wine tasting. Found some New Zealand friends as well with Craggy Range and Peter Yealands (mmmm).

On the way to the wine Australia table we stopped to visit one of our Aussie wine favorites, Mollydooker and producer of Wine Spectator's #2 wine in the world. Watched a demonstration of the Mollydooker shake and enjoyed some amazing wine. Moving along it was a stop to say g'day and have a sip or two with some California fav's with Pisoni Vineyards Gary and Mark Pisoni. We must say that having the owner, founder and son pouring is a class move. Cheers Gary and Mark. Gary even had a good story about buying cheap Grange at a restaurant in Fiji many years ago. The Pisoni wines from the SLH region in Monterey County are world class. Thanks for the great wine and good laughs guys.
Next was a stop at Daou Vineyards. These guys are leading the charge for Paso Robles Cabernet to be the best in the world and are doing an excellent job. Go taste them and see for yourself. We do!

We never miss an opportunity to taste / drink some Tablas Creek wine. Consistently world class Rhone wines. Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. A shared vision that creates such beautiful wine and these were no exception.

We made it to the Wine Australia tables and were well rewarded with a series of lovely wines from a variety of producers. With favorites from Yalumba, Jim Barry, Balnaves, d'Arenberg and Wirra Wirra to name a few.

David saying thanks and until next year.
The Valet when leaving.
Spent some time going through the offerings. There were a few to get through but we are professionals. While we may be a little biased the Aussie wines were hitting the spot and generally are great value. Just stay away from the critter wines that come from there that you see at the grocery store.

The food, the wine and the experience, are worth the price of admission as this is a wonderland for foodies and wine lovers alike. Coming up in part two will tell of our food experience.

Go to the Pebble Beach Food and Wine web site and register for notifications so you do not miss next years event April 20th - 23rd 2017. See you there...

Happy Tasting Adventures,


May 22, 2016

#WW Justin Vineyards 2010 Focus

Justin Vineyards 2010 Focus is not what most people expect from Justin Vineyards. While most associate them with good to great Bordeaux wines this Rhone will make you Focus.

Okay pun aside, this is an amazing wine. With only a few hundred cases this is a very limited release for Justin Vineyards.
In 1981 Justin Baldwin purchased 160 acres in Paso Robles, with the aim of crafting wines that belong in the company of the finest in the world. Rich in limestone, the soil of Paso Robles produces grapes with intense flavor and great structure, making it what Justin Baldwin believed to be a perfect location for his quest to produce the finest Bordeaux-style reds, he planted three of the five classic Bordeaux grape varietals: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. Back then there were only about ten wineries in the Paso Robles appellation.

The first estate grapes were harvested in 1987 and were made into a blend of the three varieties and was called the Justin Reserve. This was what would soon become the franchise icon ISOSCELES.

But now there is a new kid on the block. FOCUS. This Rhone blend uses the same general winemaking philosophy as its Bordeaux brother. This is a sultry seductress of a wine that just like a beautiful curvaceous Hollywood movie star from the golden years once experienced one will never be able to forget.

Blended mostly from Syrah, with 5% Mourvèdre and 3% Grenache, it's rich, ripe, round and velvety smooth. The wine has a warm climate ripeness with blueberry and blackberry in the chocolate-covered raisin flavor, which gives it a wonderful warm mouth feel and long soft tannin finish.

A voluptuous wine Justin Vineyards that we rate an 8 and ** on our scale.

Happy Tasting Adventures,

May 1, 2016

Paso Robles Cabs of Distinction 2016 The 'Judgement of Paso'.

Front entry of the Allegretto Vineyard Resort
Paso Robles has been a top wine destination for a number of years now. The region has grown into arguably one the best overall wine weekend / holiday destinations in America with world class wine, a good number of great restaurants and some fantastic places to stay. The world-class quality of its signature Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux varietals are why Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Paso Robles Wine Region of the Year in 2013.

View from my balcony
This visit was the 4th annual Cabs of Distinction event that we have attended. It also happens to be the 4th annual event. #CABs2016 was the hashtag and we used it a bunch to share some of the numerous high lights of this great couple days in Paso Robles.

Formed in 2012, the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective (PRCC) strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior-quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals to consumers, trade and media worldwide.

Heading down to Paso on Wednesday morning there was one session on my mind. The Judgement of Paso. There were to be eight Bordeaux wines made up of French, Napa and Paso Robles wines and six sommeliers tasting and guessing just like the rest of us. This was a chance to compare the best of the best and compare my palate against some top somms. This was going to be awesome! But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Gary Eberle pouring
This year the event was to be held at the relatively new very swank and stylin Allegretto Vineyard Resort. Having been open less than a year they are still adding statues and other beautiful decorations throughout the facility. Check-in was a snap and I was soon into my beautiful suite with a lovely large balcony overlooking the beautiful 12,000sqft piazza where they were setting up for the walk around tasting. A quick unpack and down to the where the wine was and collected my mane badge and of course a glass.

Daniel telling how it is
Brecon a Tasty surprise
The walk around was full of great Bordeaux wines and the good folks of the Paso Robles Cab Collective really showed the quality and value of Paso Robles wine. Tasting around the 22 wineries and trying to sample as many as possible I was constantly impressed. There were some you expect to be good or great and then there are those that I had never had or those I had not tasted in a long time that have stepped up their game. Of course stepping up of the game is one of the goals of the Paso CAB Collective. There were some absolutely crackin wines to be tasted but one in particular struck a chord with me. It was the 2012 Calcareous Vineyard Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. So impressed that when asked by Kyndal Kennedy of Parker Sanpei what my favorite wine from the tasting was the Calcareous is what I told her. Little did I know...

Next up was 'The Other Cabernet: In-depth exploration of the deliciously complex glories of Paso’s next big Bordeaux-style wine: Cabernet Franc'. The session was  moderated by the winemakers and some great insights were given as we tasted through the lovely wines. Cabernet Franc, a grape with softer tannins, floral notes and a much more feminine quality compared to the intense, bold and dramatic Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s commonly used as a blending grape and is often called the supporting actor.

At Adelaida with Daniel
That evening the group had a wonderful dinner at the fantastic new Adelaida Winery tasting room and facilities. It was a great way to end the day. The food was amazing and was prepared by prepared by Crush Catering and of course the wine was spot on. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Daniel Daou and we discussed the impressive wines of Paso Robles and in particular the positive effect of the CAB Collective.

Thursday morning it was off to learn about Cab clones at 'Know Your Cab Clones'.
Winemakers and vineyard managers choose clones for many different reasons, from their resistance to certain local crop diseases, to their sugar concentrations, yields and flavor profiles. This along with farming techniques, site selection and the art of wine making date back hundreds of years. As a result, most of the wines you enjoy boast clone lineages that date back several centuries. The key clones in Paso include Clone 8, Clone 169, Clone 7 and Clone 337, among many others, and carry equally rich histories, and unique flavor characteristics.

The last event of #CABs2016 was held in the Allegretto’s lovely and perfectly sized Veneto Ballroom.
'Judgement Of Paso'
The team of experts taking center stage
Here six somm's and wine experts put their skills to the test with eight wines and under the intense scrutiny of a room full of other somm's, industry professionals and wine experts and, well, me. Although it wasn’t really a judgment as there was no judging or rating by the team of sommeliers on the panel, it was more of a guessing session. I found it interesting how little familiarity most of the panel had with Paso Robles wine in general other than their last couple days of tasting. Perhaps something that the Somm Guild needs to correct in their education process.

8 beautiful wines
The six sommeliers blind tasted the eight wines with the rest of us. They discussed and debated and engaged the crowd as they spoke on the qualities and personalities of the wines all the while attempting to determine the origin of each. Surprisingly few correct guesses were made, as many pros declared several Paso wines to be from Napa and vice versa. Back to the need for more Paso exposure for upcoming somms. All of them stated how pleasantly surprised they were after tasting Paso. “Well, I literally got almost all of them wrong,” said Scott Young CS, CSW, director of operations of Blackhouse Hospitality Management who was the moderator of the tasting.  He commented “I’m officially one of the converted.” All the other panelists I talked with echoed his statement. I'm proud to say I was able to accurately identify or at least guess 6 of the 8 wines.

Wine of the event in my uneducated opinion.
The wines for the Judgement were, from the Paso CAB Collective the 2012 Calcareous Vineyard Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 The Farm Winery LPF and the 2013 DAOU Vineyards Soul of A Lion. The Bordeaux wines were the 2012 Pichon Longueville Baron and the 2012 Chateau Lascombes. The Napa Valley wines were from 2012 Chappellet Cabernet Pritchard Hill, the 2012 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red Wine and the 2012 Continuum Proprietary Red.

Thanks to  Kyndal Kennedy of Parker Sanpei  and the Paso Robles Cab Collective I had a fantastic couple days of great wine at an event that was well organized, in a beautiful resort, with weather specially ordered in to make for the perfect way to show all who attended that Paso Robles is a world-class cabernet sauvignon region easily comparable to Napa Valley and Bordeaux?
Happy Wine Adventures,


Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article72790582.html#storylink=cpy
Panel plus two enjoying an after the event glass of the good stuff #CABs2016

Apr 24, 2016

Is this the perfect gift? SWIG.

Some time back we were offered a look at a relatively new companies entry into the flask market. Being always curious about anything to do with eating and drinking we said yes.

The first thing that came to our mind was when we think of hip flasks is Hipsters...
The media has a thing out for hipsters and frankly as far as we are concerned hipsters have been asking for it. Wearing their urban outfitter jeans rolled up with their checkered shirts and suspenders, shoes without socks (gross) and carrying a whole foods shopping bag.

But we have a problem here. We have a problem of definition: everybody who seems like a hipster denies being a hipster, which of course is a sure sign of being a hipster. But we digress as we're not talking about hipsters as much as we're talking about style, about function, about beautiful surface's and about the inside, out. The SWIG was setup in 2013 to produce and sell Amazing Hip Flasks.

The day when carrying a hip flask was normal had seemed to have passed but in recent years there are two trends that seem to be diametrically opposed and yet both seem to embrace the hip flask. The two trends are the afore mentioned Hipster and the GQ James Bond type. Both have adopted the hip flask and as such are setting the trends for some of the rest of us regular folks to follow along.
They are also a standard for all wedding parties and camping adventures.

A lot of flasks on the market are more for show than for use. When warming up they spew their contents into your pocket, bag or purse and ruin whatever great moment was to come. So imagine asking your new date to put the flask in her new purse that sits in the sun in the car. See where we are going with this... Potentially the first and last date!

Well the good news here is that we put the SWIG flask to the test. Half filled with colored liquid and put into the refrigerator after a few hours the top was removed and then put back on tight and put into an oven that was then set at 250 deg f. (0-125 deg C) Not a single drop escaped. We did this twice to be sure.
Filling was a bit difficult with the small opening size so we recommend you order a funnel with your flask which has been specifically designed to make filling a snap..

The flask was a SWIG 'Naked' Hip Flask 170ml (6oz).
  • The body is seamless stainless steel. So there is no risk of leaking.
  • The bottom is flat, so it can stand up straight.
  • Engraving is available.
  • Add a SWIG Funnel. (we recommend you do)

  • There are a number of different style sleeves and accessories as well as the most amazing option in our opinion the ultimate gift of class the SWIG Handwritten Note that is Wax Sealed in an envelope. Brilliant!

    Another really cool thing as well as a big part of SWIG and something they are very proud of is the SWIG Society. It’s an exclusive club just for SWIG owners, their individually numbered flasks acting as a passport. Their members then send in photos of their SWIGs from all around the world, from the deserts of Africa to the outback of Australia to the canyons of America as well as to the spiritual home of Scotch whisky (well you get the picture).

    So all in all this flask from SWIG is attractive, seems very well made, comes with many ways to personalize and will not spew liquid with massive temperature change. So go check them out at SWIG, a classy cut above.

    Oh, and then there is the cool factor, no matter what your fashion style is...