Aug 6, 2017

Our Viking Vacation, Day 1


It's always an exciting time as you embark upon your trip. The joy of being in an airport 2 hours ahead of your flight and guessing on traffic to get to SFO so you don't get stressed.

At the airport a solid 3 hours early and ready to go. This was going to be an epic Viking River Cruise and #euopeanvacation. Why does this hashtag have a certain familiarity? Anyhow, this was not our first trip to Europe but it was our first flights with Lufthansa. How would it be? Where would they stack up against other airlines we have flown with? Well let us say it felt a bit underwhelming. We left 30 min late. Not finished loading the catering. Not very German but may have nothing to do with them. Efficient and effective flight crew without much else (may we say stereotypical German).

So was it good or bad? It was actually neither. Food? OK. Wine and beer, OK. Entertainment system was OK with limited options and pretty clunky. 
Overall we give  a rating of  'Yeah it's OK'. We did end up arriving on time in Frankfurt. Just as well as we had to hike 24 gates to the end of the terminal go downstairs and hike back 24 gates (not very German). The second leg from Frankfurt to Paris was short and over in no time. Getting off and getting luggage easy enough and just as advertised, as we exited our Viking host was there to greet and take care of us.

From here our #europeanvacation now start. 

Happy Travel Adventures,


Jul 16, 2017

A Look at People, Planet, Prosperity with SIP Certified

The Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified program certifies that vineyards and wineries meet a strict threshold for environmental and human resource protection. The program relies on independent verification and inspection, is free from conflict of interest, and is 100% transparent with regards to the standards and rules.

SIP Certified is dedicated to the 3 P’s of Sustainability – People, Planet, Prosperity. They are committed to the ‘3 P’ approach, ensuring that both natural and human resources are protected, all of which means you can enjoy wine that has been grown for the greater good. Gives one that warm fuzzy feeling. But all this requires a vision and a plan and a structure that allows the looking at the bigger picture. One that allows things to change if necessary to stay the course of the vision.

There is a realization for those who follow the SIP practice's that how they farm impacts not only their vineyards, but things beyond their fence lines, so there is an independent verification and certification practice that protect the community, the workers, and the environment.

In this article we are focusing on the 'Planet' P
SIP practices require the monitoring of soils, plants, and weather, irrigating vines only when needed and measuring water usage in the winery to prevent waste. Sustainable viticultural methods include cover crops for erosion control, owl boxes for rodent control, native oak tree retention for ecosystem balance, planting to drought resistant rootstock, and advanced irrigation systems for water conservation.
Keeping water clean by growing grasses to reduce erosion and filter storm runoff and also filtering winery water for reuse. There is the introduction of beneficial insects, attracting raptors, and plant enriching cover crops to keep vineyards healthy and the use of alternative fuels and energy sources like solar and wind, minimize tractor use reduce their carbon footprint, and use insulation to increase energy efficiency. There is even the use of wildlife corridors to give animals access to traditional watering holes and food, helping to maintain biodiversity.

Improvement comes in the form of annually updating their farming and wine processing and using standards such as Best Management Practices to evolve with new science, technology and research. Today, there are over 40,300 certified acres throughout California protecting the future of the land they farm on.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Jul 2, 2017

Tenuta Vitalonga Winery in San Francisco

At the recent James Suckling and Great Wines of Italy 2017 we not only tasted some amazing Italian wines we again made some new friends. Gian Luigi Maraville was one of those new friends. Meeting folks at a tasting is always fun but the expectation of any future followup is low. You know, everyone is having fun and it all sounds good after some wine, food and laughs. However with the type of  offer on hand we cannot miss this opportunity to go back to Italy and have part of a travel plan in that includes what sounds like an amazing place.

We tasted a lot of great wines and as we were discussing some of our favorites we came back to double check our palates and Gian was excited to see us. We started chatting about the wines of Tenuta Vitalonga Winery and the area and discovered he was also the Mayor of his town.  The same town his father and his farther had been Mayor of. As we talked wine and vineyards he told us of the family property and invited us to visit. We warned him that we are the traveling type and may very well come and stay. He was unconcerned and reiterated his invitation. As we sipped on his lovely Terra di Confine we decided that the trip was on.

Terra di Confine is the name by which the Marvalle family has called their estate wine since way back when. Back in the day, this wine was produced on the property in one of the Etruscan caves. This cave has became the wine cellar.  The Ficulle area is on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. Terra di Confine is a blend of Montepulciano and Merlot and is aged in French oak for 12 months producing a very lovey balanced wine.

We enjoyed our tasting and conversation Gian and just so you know we will be coming to visit as soon as we figure out when our next Italy trip is (2018-2020) so be rewarned! Ciao ciao.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Jun 24, 2017

What is SIP Certified?

As we travel around and visit wineries we have often seen SIP certified signs. We also see organic and Bio-dynamic tossed around as well. So you have any number of certifications to show you care. Here is a partial list;

Image result for sip certified wineries in california
USDA Organic. ...
“Made with Organic Grapes” ...
EU Organic. ...
SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice) ...
Certified Green (The Lodi Rules) ...
Salmon Safe.
Certified California Sustainable Vineyard and Winery (CCSW)

The U.S. government regulates use of the term “organic,” but “sustainable” and “biodynamic” have no legal definitions. So there are two types of organic listings on wine bottles. Wines can be made from certified organically grown grapes, avoiding any synthetic pesticides or additives, or, to take it a step further, “organic” wines are made from organically grown grapes, and are also made without any added sulfites (although naturally occurring sulfites will always be present).

Image result for sip certifiedBiodynamic is somewhat similar to organic farming as both take place without synthetic chemicals but biodynamic farming deviates from organic is it incorporates ideas about the vineyard as an entire ecosystem. Where it gets weird and such is where it also incorporates things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. A biodynamic wine means that the grapes are farmed biodynamically, and that the winemaker made the wine without doing things like adding things like yeast or making acidity adjustments. Sometimes you may see a wine that says “made from biodynamic grapes”. Basically this means that a vintner used biodynamically grown grapes, but may have followed a less strict list of rules in winemaking (used sulfur to preserve their wine).

Sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but are also economically viable and socially responsible. Sustainable farmers may farm largely organically or biodynamically but have flexibility to choose what works best for their individual property and they also focus on energy and water conservation, the use of renewable resources and other issues.
Some third-party agencies offer sustainability certifications, and many regional industry associations are working on developing clearer standards.
Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified is a certification agency that helps farmers and winemakers demonstrate their dedication to preserving and protecting natural as well as human resources. SIP Certified is a rigorous sustainable vineyard and winery certification that has strict, non-negotiable requirements and standards that are based on science and expert input with independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.

Both Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified and the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing (CCSW) programs are important supporters of the sustainability movement and encourage responsible vineyards and winemaking, but there are a couple distinct differences. As an example with SIP You must have a winter cover crop, whereas with a CCSW program you have a plan to prevent erosion during winter?

SIP Certified is all about the 3 P’s of Sustainability – People, Planet and Prosperity. So we will be taking a look at each of these 3 P's individually and talk with wineries and vineyards that follow these practices to get two cents worth as well in some upcoming articles. We might even have a taste or two if all goes well.

In the mean time look around as you drive through the vineyards and see if you can spot these SIP certified signs.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Jun 18, 2017

Affordable world class wine vacation in Paso Robles

Sophisticated travelers (like us) longing to experience a luxurious wine country vacation in a stunning, unspoiled slice of California will find Paso Robles to be a great getaway. The area offers all of the amenities of other well-known California wine regions, yet with approachable small town feel with a northern California sophistication. Located in the Santa Lucia Mountains of Central California midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles is California’s fastest growing wine region with 200+ vintners boasting many select renowned boutique winemakers producing highly coveted wines such as Tablas Creek, Denner Vineyards, Daou, Justin, Vina Robles, L’Aventure and Saxum. Epicureans will find that the cuisine rivals that of large cosmopolitan cities yet with a relaxed, local style.

Not-to-be-missed restaurants such as Enoteca, Villa Creek, Bistro Laurent, Artisan, Buona Tavola, Thomas Hill Organics and il cortile are creating innovative farm-fresh cuisine that pairs wonderfully with the robust local wines. Hotel Cheval, Allegretto Resort, Paso Robles Inn and La Bellasera provide ideal retreats with refined amenities such as fireplaces, sumptuous beds and soaking tubs. Wallet-Friendly Paso Robles is the ideal affordable California wine country region and boasts a wide selection of hotels with reasonably priced, comfortable accommodations such as Adelaide Inn, Black Oak Motor Lodge, La Quinta Inn & Suites and Courtyard by Marriott. River Oak Hot springs offers a variety of spa treatments incorporating the on-site mineral spring waters. Champion golf courses, upscale boutique shopping, artisan food stores such as We Olive, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Vivant Fine Cheese and one-of-a-kind cultural attractions such as Hearst Castle State Park and historic Mission San Miguel de Arcangel provide the ultimate, well-rounded, upscale yet relaxed escape.
Delicious meals can be enjoyed for a fraction of the cost at spots such as Basil Thai, Odyssey World Cafe and El Vino Mexican Restaurant. There are many free and low cost activities to be enjoyed including hiking and biking on pristine trails and picnicking on the charming downtown square. Don't miss the concerts in the beautiful park. Most of the wineries charge low tasting fees (around $10) and will credit towards a bottle purchase. Affordable yet fantastic wine can be found for under $35 per bottle. Parking is easy and free throughout the area. Plan your trip now through Travel Paso and be prepared to fall in love.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Jun 4, 2017


Gregg waited in the dark on a cold foggy New York morning on the corner of 13th and Third. His heart started to race with anticipation of Julie's arrival. He was supposed to be helping her train, but something deep inside him knew it was becoming more than that. As cupid would have it, it was to be the beginning of a journey that would take him around the globe and in directions he never dreamed of...

Recently we were contacted by Gregg Rothberg of 13th & Third wines asking if we would be interested in a sample of his wine for reviewing. Well, we are always up for wine and giving our opinion, but after reading a bit about his story we decided the appropriate thing to do was step it up, show a little restraint and instead of just taking and reviewing his wine, try to schedule a meeting and tasting when he was in Paso Robles for bottling. This however proved to be impossible.

The story stayed on our minds and having Gregg just send us a sample just seemed, well, not the best way to do the wine or the story justice. One of the things besides the wine that we love about the wine industry, are all the wonderful people and the amazing stories that go along with them. We have learned of many beautiful stories over the years and this one is one of the top few. That being said, we just had to approach this story of 13th & Third a little different than a regular wine review. Read on and find out why we believe that this one could easily be a movie of the week.

Gregg, his wife Julie are foodies and winos. Food is their passion, but wine is their obsession, and a little more than two years ago Gregg left his marketing agency life behind to seek adventures in the world of wine - a passion of his for many years. That adventure turned into the launch of their own label - 13th & Third. The name comes from the cross-street in Manhattan where Gregg and his wife Julie first met (2010), and discovered they both had an insatiable appetite for food and wine. Their story really should be a movie. Here is the short version of how it began with an excerpt from their website -" The corner of 13th Street & Third Avenue in New York City is where Julie and I first met. Twice a week we’d meet there on our bikes before sunrise. She was training for her first century ride, a 100-mile lap around Lake Tahoe, in honor of her father who had recently passed away; I was one of the coaches. We would ride through the darkened streets of New York City on our way to Central Park. With plenty of time to chitchat during these cold pre-dawn hours, it wasn’t long before we discovered our mutual passion for wine and wine country.

We also both love visiting and exploring new wineries. So Julie and I tacked on a few extra days in Napa and Sonoma, on our way to Lake Tahoe, to visit a handful of vineyards. While on our little excursion we were consumed by amazing wines…and each other. Just 10 months later, we got engaged surrounded by the incredible aromas of wine aging in barrels, as I proposed in the caves of one of Napa’s most prestigious wineries."
Julie works for a large wine importer distributor and exposed Gregg to a much bigger world of wines and what was a love became a passion.

In the beginning, after traveling from Washington to southern California looking for the right region and wine maker, Gregg reached out to ten Central Coast winemakers, most of whom were from the Paso Robles area, that he thought would be right for their vision. In typical Central Coast hospitality, nine of them contacted him, and after interviewing all nine of them one was selected to be a part of 13th & Third.

Gregg also did an internship with Adelaida Cellars and experienced wine from the vineyard to the bottle and all the exciting and not so exciting aspects of the process. It was during this time he became friends with another New Yorker, winemaker Jeremy Weintraub.

Gregg and Julie love Rhône varietals and wanted to bring more of these lesser known varietals from California to the east coast and the city they call home. Thus the tag line of their brand - New York Roots. California Vines.

As native New Yorkers, they grew up surrounded by Graffiti, now more widely known and accepted as "street art." Because it was such a big part of their environment, and a passion as a young artist for Gregg, they wanted to find a way to integrate that into their brand to better represent who they are, and show where they came from. All of the labels are designed by acclaimed local street artists from the New York area, and feature family members who are no longer with them, that they want to honor.

The first label featured Julie's Grandfather. The original photograph was taken on the eave of prohibition. That photo was then photographed on the corner of 13th & Third. Kinda gives one goosebumps just thinking about it. What a wonderful way to kick off this journey into wine by honoring the past and having hope for the future. The wine was their 2015 Rosé of Grenache (out of Paso Robles' Willow Creek District) and was 13th & Third's inaugural wine. This year they are releasing a 2016 Rosé of Grenache, 2016 White Blend (Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier and Picpoul) and a 2015 GSM. The 2015 GSM is extra special. The wine is in memory and honor of Gregg's father Norman Martin Rothberg, and appropriately named NMR. Gregg's dad is also shining brightly as he's featured on the label. Although Norman passed away when Gregg was just a teenager, his father had a profound influence on who he is today. We are really looking forward to sitting down with Gregg down the road, breaking bread, learning more of his story and tasting the lineup.

They would love the opportunity to share their wines and more of their story with you (there is a lot more story to tell). So check out their website and order some wine.

Although we have not tasted any yet, with the infectious passion and great sources for grapes, we can hardly wait. To add to the potential for exceptional wine is their winemaker, Don Burns who has his own label Turtle Rock and is also assistant winemaker under Justin Smith at Saxum.

This year they produced 400 cases and the vision for the future is to grow to 1800 - 2000 cases. Big enough to be sustainable and small enough to have a hand on everything. While currently Paso based they plan on finding the best sources from other areas in California as well to be true to their tag line 'NEW YORK ROOTS. CALIFORNIA VINES'. Stay tuned for part two of story on 13th & Third.

Happy Wine Adventures,

May 29, 2017


A few years back I had the pleasure of spending some time with Geoff Hardy of K1 by Geof Hardy. We had a good night at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide South Australia and a couple days later a day at the beautiful Cellar door in the  in the Kuitpo region in the southern Adelaide Hills. in the southern tip of the Adelaide Hills wine region.

 Geoff showed me around the vineyards and the property and the new home he was building overlooking one of the spectacular lakes on the property. This was all followed up by a comprehensive tasting of the current release wines.  His son Sebastian took me through the wines in
their beautiful tasting room.

When you visit the K1 cellar door you can experience their wines in a spectacular lakeside tasting room, the centerpiece of which is a hand crafted tasting bench made by Geoff from a 400 year old red gum from his Limestone Coast vineyard.

Finding many great wines, a few were purchased for sharing with family and friends. One that did not get shared and came to be carried back to California was the 2007 TZIMMUKIN.

So here it was early 2017, 10 years after bottling and the temptation to drink it was more than I could take and the bottle was opened.

Tzimmukin is made from slightly raisined grapes. This style goes back to Babylonian times and the Tzimmukin was one of the more popular styles of wine created back then. Geoff has followed that ancient technique and style of producing the wine from air dried grapes. Using the beautifully elegant cool climate grapes of the Adelaide Hills Geoff basket dried the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and produced a spectacular wine that has to be tasted to understand.
When I first tasted it in 2013 this wine really caught my attention with its beautiful full silky mouth feel and wonderful blackberry and blueberry fruits with a hint of stewed fruit character that you might expect. What I did not expect was the lovely balance and incredible complexity. Seb recommended that I sit on it foe a few years to really get an understanding of how this wine will evolve. Well as I mmmm'ed (technical term) my way through the bottle I was really annoyed at myself for only purchasing the one bottle. The dark, intense Tzimmukin, full-bodied, with notes of black cherry, plum, eucalyptus and cinnamon undertones, has a lovely palate weight and with silky tannin's combine to surprise the palate in the best possible way.
Note to self - when you come across something special, get more than one!

Must head back for a visit the next time in Adelaide.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


May 21, 2017

Wines best friend, Alle-Pia Salami

We recently had the pleasure of touring the facility where the most amazing delicious cured meats are made. The facility of Alle-Pia. Look, we love wine! We also love our cured meats and cheeses to go with it. Then there is the lovely meals that enhance our enjoyment of wine. But we digress. There are not too many things as wonderful as enjoying a wonderful glass of wine and partaking of the deliriousness of cured meats and we have found none better than Alle-Pia. We went to visit the facility when they first opened a few years back and were impressed with not only the product but the passion with which they peruse the making of fine food, whether at Buona Tavola or now Alle Pia.

For over two decades, Chef Varia has delighted residents and visitors with his inventive Northern Italian cuisine in his Buona Tavola (meaning "good table") restaurants. Alex Pellini, Chef Varia’s nephew, came over from Italy in 2009 to help with the restaurant operations and has been instrumental in the creation and supervision of the salami production. Maria Pia Allesina was Chef Varia's mother and he named the company Alle-Pia as a tribute to her. It was a tradition in Italy to make salami each winter with their entire family. Antonio thought using her name would be a nice way to honor her memory. We agree.

The fresh, natural pork comes from a supplier that guarantees vegetarian fed, crate free animals and no hormones or antibiotics are used. Ingredients are locally sourced when possible and all products and facilities are USDA inspected and approved. In fact, a USDA inspector is on site each and every day to constantly monitor and observe.

We were taken on a tour by Alex and discovered that every batch of salami requires careful supervision and timing to ensure the perfect taste and consistency. We were also given a taste of a few employee favorites. Alex explained that they only use the finest spices from a local supplier, Spice of Life and imported Italian paprika. Local wines from Paso Robles and imported wines from Italy add distinctive flavors. 

As well as buying a few of our favorite salami's to take home with us Alex gave us a Luganega Piccante - Spicy Pork Sausage (tasted amazing). They also have other Italian meats and products for sale.

The process is monitored and controlled at every step with state of the art Italian equipment to produce consistent quality and flavors. They have recently expanded their capacity to double the production to better serve their customers as well as to continue to have these great products available at the two Bouna Tavola Restaurant's.

Join their Club!
Thanks to Alex for taking the time to show us around and give us a tasting of all those tasty cured meats. Stop on by their shop in Atascadero and get some for yourself. 

Happy Wine Food Adventures,

You can find all of their meats and fine foods, fresh,
 right from the source 5 days a week.
Give them a call or stop by and say hi. 
They love to meet their customers!

Visit Us at the Emporio Alle-Pia

8390 El Camino Real
Atascadero, CA 93442
Phone: (805) 461-6800

We're Open
Monday: 9AM - 3PM
Tuesday: 9AM - 3PM
Wednesday: 9AM - 3PM
Thursday: 9AM - 3PM
Friday: 9AM - 3PM
Sat/Sun/Holidays: Closed

One of our favorites.

May 14, 2017

Monterey Wines 25th Winemaker Celebration

What could be better than tasting good wines while sampling good food with good people on a beautiful day in a beautiful setting? The simple answer, is not much.

In the beautiful hamlet of Carmel by the sea, with some great local chefs serving small bites complemented by Monterey Wines make the 'Monterey Wines 25th Winemaker Celebration' a very enjoyable event. This is one of Monterey’s premier wine events. The event showcases both the established and small production wineries of Monterey County and its sub-appellations, including Arroyo Seco, Carmel Valley, Chalone, Hames Valley, Monterey, San Antonio Valley, and Santa Lucia Highlands.

This year we were privileged to be given complimentary VIP passes from Monterey Wines. As VIP's we gained early access at 12:00 noon for a more intimate experience by being some of the first in. New to this year's VIP experience was valet parking. Valet parking was a wonderful addition to the experience and a real classy touch. Another classy touch is the availability to get a designated driver ticket and because of all the great small bites not a bad event for the non drinkers and those that sacrifice for the good of the team.

Traffic was light and the easy convenient VIP parking meant we were way early and so a stop in to visit the lovely ladies at Caraccioli Cellars for a starter glass of bubbles was in order. As we sipped our bubbles we watched as the last of the setting up was completed.

Having attended this even a number of times there were no great surprises (a good thing). The wines and food are always satisfying and the event well run. This year we made an extra effort to taste all the whites and not get drawn in too early on the reds and miss some good white wine experiences. After all there are a ton of different ones to taste. Monterey has 53 different wine grape varieties, 30 of which have more than 20 acres of vineyards per varietal. Chardonnay (40%) and Pinot Noir (15%) are the two largest wine grape varietals grown in Monterey County and there are some world class ones made here.

On the food side there were a lot of options but a couple of our favorites (we like simple foods) were the pork belly and beans from La Balena in Carmel and a Salmon and wild rice from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Oh and the potatoe chips from 400deg Burger. On the dessert side, the cannoli's from Little Napoli right there on Delores and the Mini Bunt cakes from Nothing Bunt Cakes were lip smacking good!

Tasted a number of good wines, really good wines. Finding some that stand out would be easier if the event was not so much fun. With that being said a couple of the wines that stood out. On the white side there were -
Caraccioli Cellars Brut Cuvee - Joyce Vineyards Albarino and Dry Reisling - Scratch Wines Dry Reisling - Odonata Wines Sparkling Rose - Blair Chardonnay - Manzoni Wines Chardonnay and Wrath Wines Sauvignon Blanc.

On the red side Wrath Wines San Saba Pinot Noir - Manzoni Wines Syrah - Scrath Wines Grenache and the most amazing breakfast drink was a breakfast bloody Mary to get one through the day from Mulligans Public House. These are just a few of the wonderful wines we tasted.

Against what the weather reports had predicted it was a spectacular day, and we thank Monterey Wines for giving us the hook up. We look forward to this event every year as somehow it just seems to get better. The Monterey Wines 25th Winemaker Celebration was truly a celebration of wonderful Monterey Wine and Food and an event not to miss.

Happy Wine Adventures,