30 November, 2017

Top Five Reasons to start your California Wine Journey in Sacramento #SMF

The International Food Blogger Conference was held this September in Sacramento for a second year.   I was once more delighted by the amazing farm to fork food along with other intentional items like the Original Balsamic Vinegar. Many thanks to the organizers, Foodista and Zephyr, as well as all the attendees and presenters.  You made my IFBC17 experience memorable and productive.  See you next year when I will again enjoy the reduced conference rate for writing about the conference! 
 For my third obligatory post, I wanted to write about Sacramento as a destination.  Many of the sponsors provided food for free.

 First, when planning your wine vacation in Northern California, don't forget to check Airport code SMF - that's Sacramento. .  Many people like the glamour and plethora of long haul direct flights to SFO and others like scrappy, affordable OAK.  For many people SMF or Sacramento will get you to a number of up and coming wine regions as well as get you past a lot of icky traffic if you are going to Napa.  Download their handy wine region card here:
Check out some very tasty wine regions that are an easy drive from an easy airport and you will see why SMF is a great base to explore.  Especially if you are coming from across the country, make your trip easy and spend your first planning night in Sacramento.

It will give you the opportunity to try the best of California produce transformed into delicious meals and snacks. So much of the produce that comes from California makes its freshest appearance in dishes in Sacramento

Two of my favorites were Vegan/vergetarian.  My favorite Vegan Option came from Red Rabbit.  2718 J Street, Sacramento. We we sampled the most delicious Vegan Poke I ever had.  With the mastery of spices and fresh produce the team at Red Rabbit conjured up a meaty yet meatless Poke.  With such nuanced spices and deft preparation, I didn't miss the Ahi! From cocktails through desserts, Red Rabbit focuses on the fresh and the seasonal and how they can help you experience farm to fork.

Another was Thai Basil 2341 J Street, Sacramento.   Connect with them on Facebook to learn more.  They provided IFBC attendees with a bite of authentically Thai spices and fresh California produce.  I was so enamoured of the bite I forgot to take notes, but the star was unmistakable; it's on my list for my next SMF Sojourn.

Downtown and Vine 1200 K Street Suite 8 Sacramento rocked my world with a taste sensation I would never have thought to put together: Edamame and roasted Grape Crostini.  Each bite was savory and crispy and the roasted grape was a revelation.  They do catering, have an event space and also have a tapas room.

Puur Chocolate was a delicious treat for all of us.  Chef Ramon Perez has taken his well earned pastry expertise to create a unique online chocolate boutique.  His skill with confisserie and his facility with relationships culminates in creative and provocative chocolate combinations.  Delicious!
it was amazing to try his combinations.   I hope I end up on Santa's nice list to get some of these under the tree!

I can't leave you without a shout out to my favorite Sacramento hot spot Ella's, 1131 K Street Sacramento - valet parking on 12th street.  This lovely spot where Randall Selland puts out amazing farm to fork cuisine, has a  wine list is a delight (I don't even know what their corkage policy is as I never feel the need to BYOB), and the bar is a spirit filled revelation .  We closed down our IFBC experience there with a series of small plates..including my favorite:Patatas Bravas.

And of course, a recap of last year's favorite things can be found here:

Next year in New Orleans, people!  I will miss Sacramento and the fresh delcious farm to fork cocktail to dessert feasts!

15 November, 2017

Materra WIne Review - Perfect Thanksgiving WIne and fun place to visit

Photo Credit: Materra/Cunat Family wines
This time of year, a lot of people ask me where to take their out of town relatives in Napa. With so many delicious, luxe fun places, I wanted to highlight a "smart" choice, where you can "drink for the kids"** during this holiday season.  I was hosted here during the summer.

Materra| Cunat Family Vineyards in the Oak Knoll District is a relatively new tasting room open by appointment where you can taste wines of quality.  Here, artistry in oenology is served in art filled setting.  

Brian Cunat and his wife Miki and their extended family invested in fifty acres in the Oak Knoll AVA in 2007. Today, they leverage relationships with mountain fruit growers as well as their own estate fruit to create lovely Napa wines.  
We get excited about Fancy sorter destemmers

Calling their wine club the "Dean's" list is a nod to Dean Cunat,  a Midwestern farmer who inspired a love of the land and farming in his son, Brian.  When Miki and Brian saw the lovely parcel in Oak Knoll with its distinctive soil, then experienced the flavor profile of local finished wines, they knew they had found their spot.  Partnering with Brian's brother, John to purchase the estate, today many members of the family participate.  We met Neena, the oldest daughter who leads the winery's efforts.  Neena walked us through the impressive production facility and did not laugh when we gushed over their pristine operation, which includes a very cool mechanical sorter destemmer.  We also quizzed her about a cool experimental cone shaped stainless vat.  Walking around it was easy to see the family's investment in action.  But what was more fun was to taste through those successful efforts:

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon,  Rutherford($65) Wine from this tough year is frequently sparse but delicious,  Materra is no exception.  Difficult harvest produced a wonderful wine with a long elegant vinous driven finish.  Flavors are a balance of vinous and fruit with a top note of black raspberry and gorgeous dusty notes, the hallmark of Rutherford dust.  They marked the bottles with silver foil to mark the achievement.

2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain (wine Club only) Blending in a little Petit Verdot, Merlot  and Malbec creates a Bordeaux inspired wine. They only produce fifty cases of this Wine-Club-Only  wine.  A luscious perfectly integrated blend with lively aromas of anise and blueberry and a beautifully vinous finish will tempt  you to join.  

They also make white wines,  Both a lovely Viognier, which is a balanced wine with nice structure and hints of stone fruit as well as a rich, but elegant Chardonnay with "Golidlocks" oak #Just_Right. 

Tactile art in one shelf-drinkable art in the other
Their Merlot varietal is lush and balanced lots of dark fruits and touch of bittersweet chocolate in the aromas and flavors with dark, forest-y berry in the finish.  Until December 31 2016, Materra has a cool holiday special of  a three bottle Merlot vertical that includes one bottle each of 2009, 2010 and 2011 Right Bank Reserve which is a bargain at $100.  Merry Christmas to whomever receives that!

It's a great place to visit.  Care is taken to telegraph the family's artistic focus by their beautiful facility.  Artful touches like the beautiful, tactile art enhance your visit.

**For Christmas they are doing something awesome.  If  you bring a new and unwrapped toy with a value of at least $25, Materra will waive your tasting fee as well as organize toy delivery to Toys 4 Tots.  So you are as smart as a Dean's list member, drinking great wine to benefit the kids.
Even if you miss the holiday festivities, it's a great place to visit to experience artful wines in a friendly place.

For more information about tastings and tours, click here:
Visit Materra