Browsing articles tagged with " wine festivals"
Dec 7, 2013
Terri Judson

JP master chef pens New England cookbook

Chef Daniel Bruce, one of Boston’s top chefs and a Jamaica Plain resident, last month published his first cookbook, “Simply New England: Seasonal Recipes That Celebrate Land and Sea.”

Bruce is the executive chef at the Boston Harbor Hotel downtown, where he oversees its acclaimed restaurants Meritage and the Rowes Wharf Sea Grille. He also founded the Boston Wine Festival there and operates other wine festivals in California and Washington, D.C.

The cookbook focuses on 125 New England-based recipes that are simple to prepare.

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“Great food doesn’t have to be complicated,” Bruce said in a press release. “These are dishes that I make over and over again because they taste good and they work.  I hope they will become part of your personal culinary history as well.”

Bruce, a longtime client of the Centre Cuts salon at 6 Belgrade Ave. in Roslindale, will sign copies of “Simply New England” there on Dec. 14, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The book, published by Lyons Press, was co-written with former Boston Herald and Boston magazine restaurant critic Mat Schaffer and photographer Ron Manville.

The cover of chef Daniel Bruce’s “Simply New England.” (Courtesy Image)

The cover of chef Daniel Bruce’s “Simply New England.” (Courtesy Image)

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Dec 7, 2013
Terri Judson

Three Magical Wines for the Holidays


Daniel Johnnes is one of New York City’s major-league slurpers. The 58-year-old is Daniel Boulud’s wine director at the starred restaurateur’s Dinex Group. But he also runs his own wine importer, Daniel Johnnes Wines, and Burgundy wine festivals in San Francisco and New York called La Paulée. I had just one question for Johnnes: “Which wines would you serve your own family and a few of your closest friends over the holidays?”

“This is a small group? Not a party?” We’re sitting in his light-filled SoHo offices, and he’s pensively stirring his espresso. “So you want to be generous. Serve something really special for people who are precious to you.”

Johnnes says the first tipple of an evening should act like an oenophile’s amuse-bouche, turning on the palate for the heavier juices flowing later. He would start with a Champagne, a ­“Salon—which is a blanc de blanc, 100% Chardonnay—vintage 1996. Maybe the 1999.” (Average pretax sales price for the 1996 is $469, according to Wine-Searcher.)


Credit: Thomas Schauer
Oenophile Daniel Johnnes

Salon is “a fairly small Champagne house in Le Mesnil, which is a village in the Champagne region that is renowned for its Chardonnay production. Salon is a leader of this style of wine. Very ‘crafted,’ which means there is great ­attention to detail. No expense is spared, whether in the harvesting, the selection of grapes, or the aging of the wine.”

Johnnes would follow with a grand cru white Burgundy, the Chevalier-Montrachet 1996 from Domaine Leflaive. (Average price: $1,084 a bottle.) “This particular terroir –Chevalier-Montrachet—is a vineyard that lies directly above (in altitude) Le Montrachet, which is considered the greatest of all dry white wines. Chevalier-Montrachet has a little stonier soil, and the wines tend to be a little lighter than Montrachet and very ‘minerally.’ That’s a geeky term—the general public often doesn’t know what you mean by that—but it has this sort of stony, chalky, and salty taste. It leaves the palate tingling with acidity, not in a negative sense, but in a kind of saline and savory way.”

At this point my mouth was watering. “The hallmark of a great Chevalier is that it grabs the palate and lingers for 60 to 180 seconds afterward. The term ‘complexity’ is overused with wine, but this is where you do get complexity, where you have these somersaults of flavor on your palate. And I say the 1996 ­because it is a very dynamic vintage with a lot of energy, but it’s old enough to start showing evolution, so you get layers of ­flavors. I think the Chevalier-Montrachet is one of the great wine experiences.”

What would he serve with it? “Lobster, scallops, langoustine, or turbot.” No exotic Asian spices or too-imposing flavors. The fish dishes should be subtle—“butter, citrus, some tarragon. Sometimes, with a wine like this, you get a hint of mint or citrus, so you want to complement it with the dishes. Langoustine would be perfect.”

Johnnes suddenly turned to his wife and said, “I think I’m planning our Christmas meal.” His wife, who, with the entire office, was listening in on our conversation, amusingly retorted, “That depends on the relatives.”

For the main course of duck, pigeon, or roast chicken, Johnnes would drink a Jacques Frédéric Mugnier Musigny 1988 vieilles ­vignes (“old vines.”) But the “old vine” version of the vintage is virtually impossible to find these days.  The U.S. available fallback, says Johnnes, is the 1999 vintage, available for about $1,506 a bottle, according to Wine-Searcher.

“For me, Musigny is the pinnacle of red Burgundy, in that it combines nobility, complexity, power, and depth—with elegance.” When he saw my perplexed look, he explained, “Pinot Noir is known for its elegance; it’s part of the grape variety’s DNA. But Pinot Noir from Oregon or New Zealand or other parts of ­Burgundy can emphasize the earthiness or the fruitiness—so many things. With the Musigny grand cru, you get a certain backbone of acidity and structure that’s enrobed with this beautiful, textured fruit, never heavy but also very present. It always stays fresh and refreshing on the palate.”

I noticed that both his red and white choices were described as having force but weren’t heavy. “I like refinement. In all three of these choices, there is a subtlety, which is why I asked how many people at the dinner. These are not the kind of wines you serve to a group larger than six. Maybe eight. But that’s kind of pushing it—because then you don’t get enough for yourself.”

Generosity, in other words, but not of the foolish sort.

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Dec 7, 2013
Terri Judson

More than two dozen wineries commit to April’s Taste of Vail

VAIL — Vineyard owners and winemakers from all around the world have begun making travel plans to showcase their products at the 24th annual Taste of Vail taking place April 2-5. The involvement of the owners and winemakers is part of what sets Taste of Vail apart from other food and wine festivals throughout the United States.

Taste of Vail already has more than two dozen wineries lined up to participate in the event and will feature new wineries along with a few returning favorites. New wineries include:

• Capture

• De Martino

• Dinastia Vivanco

• Domaine roux Pere Fils

• Dutton Goldfield Winery

• Jeff Runquist Winery

Additional wineries featured at this year’s event include:

• Canyon Wind Cellars

• Chateau de Dours/Le Fleurs

• Flora Springs Winery

• Gloria Ferrer Champagne

• Grgich Hills Estate

• Hahn Family Wines

• HDV

• Humanitaas

• Klinker Brick Winery

• Ladera Vineyards

• MacPhail Family Wines

• Margerum

• Milbrandt Vineyards

• Moshin

• Peter Paul Winery

• Rock Wall Wine Co.

• Rotie Cellars

• Saintsbury

• Schug Carneros Estate Winery

• Souverain

• The Hess Collection

• VML

• ZD Wine

As the wine industry continues to evolve, so do the wineries featured at the Taste of Vail. Following are some notable facts about select vineyards pouring at the event:

Grgich Hills estate

Celebrating his 90th birthday this year, Mike Grgich, founder of Grgich Hills Estate, has achieved a lifetime of accomplishments ranging from a seat in the Vintners’ Hall of Fame, a place in the Smithsonian and a Global Citizen Award to name a few. The Grgich wines also have earned their spotlight beginning with the 1972 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, the impetus for the movie Bottle Shock, up to its most recent release in honor of Grgich’s birthday, a 2010 Paris Tasting Chardonnay. For additional information, visit www.grgich.com.

Milbrandt Vineyards

Launched in 2007, Milbrandt Vineyards has already begun collecting regional accolades such as a spot in the Top 10 Hot Brands from Wine Business Monthly, Washington’s Best Value Wines of 2012 from Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Winery of the Year in 2012 also from Seattle Post-Intelligencer. With a goal to be the best farmers in the state, the Milbrandt family set out on uncharted territory in 1997 and paid exceptional attention to matching the right varietals to its respected site. Today, Milbrandt creates highly individualistic wines as it is home to 12 estate vineyard sites totaling more than 2,300 acres. Visit www.milbrandtvineyards.com for more information.

Saintsbury and ZD Wines

Saintsbury is a leader in the Napa Valley eco-friendly farming movement, having been amongst the first wineries to achieve Napa Green Farm certification. Visit www.saintsbury.com to learn further details.

ZD Wines began farming organically in Rutherford in the early 1980s, long before actually applying for certification. ZD’s organic approach stemmed from Founder Norman deLeuze who had a strong belief in building vineyard strength through biodiversity. Visit www.zdwines.com to learn more.

Additional wineries for the 24th Annual Taste of Vail will be announced once confirmed in the months leading up the to event.

Ticket Information

Individual event tickets and signature event passes are now on sale with special discounts of up to 20 percent until Dec. 31. Four and six-pack seminar tickets are now available for those wanting hands on experience with participating wineries and local chefs.

The four-pack seminar tickets are on sale for $110 (regular $150) and a six-pack for $155 (regular $185). The signature Mountaintop Picnic is currently available for $108 (regular $135) and the Grand Tasting for $140 (regular $175). For access to the entire event, the signature event package is on sale for $350 (regular $385) until the end of 2013.

Please visit www.tasteofvail.com for more information about the event.


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Dec 6, 2013
Terri Judson

Give the Gift of Good Taste with Tickets to the Sandestin Wine Festival; A … – SYS

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DESTIN, FL, Dec. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – For people searching for a convenient
gift of “good taste” for the holidays, look no further. The Sandestin Wine Festival, one of the most treasured traditions in the
South, makes it easy and convenient to give a memorable gift by
purchasing tickets online to this special event this April 10-13
.

Held in the charming Village of Baytowne Wharf, the Sandestin Wine
Festival has affectionately been called the “Kentucky Derby of Wine
Festivals” because of its popularity and grandeur. It was also named
the “Best Annual Event” by Destin Magazine.

Now in its 28th year and hundreds of tickets sold already for the 2014 event, the Sandestin Wine Festival is the original and most established and
continuously running wine festival on the Coast.  There is no
substitute for this magnificent tradition of the pouring of more than
700 wines in the comfortable, scenic, charming and family friendly
setting of the Village in the top rated Sandestin Golf and Beach
Resort.

A Friday evening Grand Wine Tasting on April 11 is combined with the
Grand Wine Tasting on Saturday, April 12.  Based on the success of last
year’s event, the wine festival is further expanding in the Village of
Baytowne Wharf and at the Baytowne Marina.   Additional events include
specialty wine dinners on Thursday, April 10 and a lovely wine and
champagne brunch on Sunday, April 13 at the scenic Baytowne Marina.

Discounted tickets to the Grand Wine Tastings can be conveniently
purchased at
www.sandestinwinefestival.com.  All people need to do is click, pay and print, and put this special
gift under the tree. Packages combining discounted accommodations and
tickets are also available by calling 1.866.91.BEACH.

New this year as a major sponsor is the addition of ABC Fine Wine Spirits, Florida’s oldest and largest independent fine wine and spirits merchant.

Coastal Living Magazine, the premier magazine for people who love the
coast, is a presenting sponsor, and other notable organizations
including The Atlanta Wine School and the Visit South Walton Tourism
Development Council are supporting sponsors.

Proceeds of the Sandestin Wine Festival will go to children in need
through the Sandestin Foundation for Kids and the Fisher House, a
home-away-from-home for the Military families of seriously ill or
injured patients.

Check out videos about the Sandestin Wine Festival at YouTube.com,
including last year’s touching “flash mob” marriage proposal at the
Baytowne Marina http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sevg2w8C8xg; the donation of more than $50,000 to local charities http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXPOOzlIcwI; and other great visuals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWQyT1DsiCU

Additional news about featured guest and events will continued to be
posted at sandestinwinefestival.com.

About Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort (www.sandestin.com) was named the #1 resort on Florida’s Emerald Coast. The resort invites
guests to a world of 2,400 acres and 30 charming neighborhoods
featuring more than 1,200 Destin vacation rentals, condominiums,
villas, town homes and among the best in South Walton hotel
accommodations. As a member of Visit Florida and Visit South Walton,
the resort features more than seven miles of beaches and pristine bay
front, four championship golf courses, 15 world-class tennis courts, 19
swimming pools, a 113-slip marina, a fitness center and spa, meeting
space and The Village of Baytowne Wharf, the area’s leading pedestrian
village with shopping, dining and nightlife.

SOURCE Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

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Dec 5, 2013
Terri Judson

More Than 2 Dozen Wineries Signed Up for Taste of Vail 2014

One of America’s premier food and wine festivals, Taste of Vail, is returning April 2 to 5 for its 24th consecutive year. Held at several different venues throughout Vail, Colo.’s mountain resort, the festival is a sought-out event among people in the food and drink industry.

What makes Taste of Vail stand out among other food and wine festivals is the involvement of an impressive amount of vineyard owners and winemakers from all over the world who participate in the festival.

A recent announcement reveals that Taste of Vail already has more than two dozen wineries lined up to participate in the event, and will feature new wineries along with a few returning favorites. New wineries include Capture, De Martino, Dinastia Vivanco, Domaine Roux Père Fils, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, and Jeff Runquist Winery.

Additional wineries for the 24th annual Taste of Vail will be announced once they’re confirmed in the months leading up to the event.

Individual event tickets and signature event passes for the festival are now on sale with special discounts of up to 20 percent until Dec. 31, 2013. 



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Dec 4, 2013
Terri Judson

Beer festivals brewing in Montgomery














Montgomery County is already home to multiple wine festivals each year but the county now wants to also celebrate beer.

A bill will go before the General Assembly in January to give the county permission to host up to four beer festivals each year.

The legislation is one of nine local bills from Montgomery that seek to change alcohol regulations. The beer festival bill was requested by Delegation Chairwoman Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville on behalf of Montgomery County.

Currently, the county can host wine festivals each year, but not beer fests, said Kathie Durbin, division chief of the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control.

Seven years ago, when the wine festival license was granted by the state, the county also sought the nod for beer festivals.

Somewhere between draft and approval, the word beer was removed, she said.

“Now beer is trending,” Durbin said. “I think there were some folks at the time who were afraid of having a beer festival, afraid it was too high risk, too big and that only big companies would be there.”

But the license the county now seeks to create for beer festivals specifies that the purpose must be to promote Maryland beer.

The bill would allow up to four festivals each year and would require the organization hosting to obtain a license as well as each vendor who serves beer.

Much as the wine festivals held locally, the beer festivals would celebrate local brews and products, Durbin said.

Montgomery is home to several brewers, including Baying Hound Aleworks and Gordon Biersch in Rockville, Growlers in Gaithersburg and Rock Bottom in Bethesda.

More craft breweries are expected to emerge, Durbin said, like Citizens Brewing Co., a craft brewery that Julie Verratti plans to open in Silver Spring next summer.

A sister bill proposed by Del. Sam Arora (D-Dist. 19) of Silver Spring would ease restrictions on microbreweries by allowing tastings and pours without serving food. Under current regulations, only breweries with restaurants may serve their beer on site.

kalexander@gazette.net


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Dec 3, 2013
Terri Judson

Resort tips for visiting Myrtle Beach in Winter and Fall

Myrtle Beach’s Seaside Resort offerings insider tips for visiting the Beach in fall and winter.

1. Myrtle Beach is famous for its 60+ miles of beaches on the world-renowned Grand Strand. For an affordable oceanfront vacation rental, check out Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts. Each of the six condo-hotels offer the amenities of a full-service resort hotel with the space and comfort of a condominium. Highlights are fully-equipped kitchens, washer / dryer and private balconies.
 
2. For breakfast by the beach, head to Sea Captain’s House Restaurant. Try their renowned crab cakes benedict or traditional Southern fare like country ham and pecan waffles. This Myrtle Beach staple has been known for its warm southern hospitality, ocean view and fresh seafood since 1930!
 
3. Hop on a boat (rentals and tour boats available) at Wacca Wache Marina in Murrells Inlet and cruise down the Waccawachee River to see rice plantations, historic landmarks, moss-laden oak trees, alligators, eagles and osprey. Don’t stop until you get to Sandy Island, an approximately 9,000 acre nature preserve open to the public with several boat landings and two nature trails.
 
4. To experience the slow paced South Carolina life, the Greater Grand Strand is home to one of the oldest and most unique towns in South Carolina, Little River. Known for its fresh seafood, fishing charters and annual blue crab festival, it is truly a quaint coastal fishing village. For those seeking a little adventure, Little River also has two Las-Vegas-style casino gambling boats and Jet Ski rentals.
 
5. Searching for the best beachfront burger joint? Look no further than River City Café for a fun, rustic atmosphere and one-of-a-kind, juicy, run-down-your-chin, always-made-fresh burger. Guests are encouraged to throw peanut shells on the floor in this establishment, named “one of the best
places in the nation to feed the kids.”
 
6. Escape the typical Myrtle surf and beach stores and shop ‘til you drop at The Market Common. Located in a beautifully-designed village setting, the complex has the nation’s most celebrated names in retail, a movie theatre, restaurants and a calendar of events featuring car shows, wine festivals and more.
 
7. Is there a better combination than waterfront dining and live music? The Hot Fish Club has it all and remains a favorite gathering place for discriminating locals. Open Wednesday-Sunday, stop in for happy hour at the gazebo bar, enjoy fresh seafood on the back porch and wind down the evening with nightly performances by the area’s best rock and country bands.
 
8. After you have had your share of fun in South Carolina’s most iconic beach town, plan a day trip north to historic Wilmington, N.C. or south to Charleston, S.C. – both only two hours away. A plethora of daily guided tours are available through numerous tour companies or take a road trip and experience it on your own.

For additional information and reservations: Myrtle Beach Seaside Resorts, 888-571-4104
 

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Nov 29, 2013
Terri Judson

Islanders must think bigger to thrive, not just survive

“We want to make a pamphlet to promote Shiraishi Island,” said the 30-something-year-old, sipping coffee as he sat on the tatami mat in my living room. “We want to attract more tourists to the island. So I was hoping to interview you and get your opinions.”

Ah, another NPO coming to save our island from the scourges of aging and depopulation!

“And where will you distribute these pamphlets?” I asked him.

He paused for a moment. “We don’t know yet.”

“But you’re going to make a pamphlet?”

“Yes. We can make them available at the ferry ticket office on the island, and at the international villa.”

I cocked my head the way a dog does when he hears an unfamiliar sound. “But those people are already on the island. Aren’t you trying to attract new people?”

The guy sucked in air through his teeth, a gesture of consternation equivalent to a Westerner scratching his head while thinking. On the exhale, he emitted a long “Sō desu ne.” (“Well, that’s true”).

“We also have an idea to make Shiraishi popular through word of mouth,” he offered. “For example, I brought two friends with me today. They love it here.”

The two friends were also sitting on the tatami in my living room, sipping coffee. They beamed smiles at me to show how happy they were to be on Shiraishi Island.

Next, the man pawed through his knapsack, digging out from the bottom a glossy pamphlet the size of a KitKat. His NPO, he explained, had made this booklet about Okayama Prefecture, highlighting the different projects they had worked on. In fact, Shiraishi Island was already featured on one of the pages. Under a photo of some cotton buds was a Japanese explanation, along with a translation in English:

“We created this project to make opportunities for the revitalization of the island by doing the following: Revitalizing the island by using organic cotton. Growing chemical-free cotton with the people living on the island at the site of an elementary school. Sowing, taking care of the fields, harvesting, spinning threads and weaving. Learning about organic life and feeling the uniqueness of island time through the process of making cloth from seeds by visiting the island throughout the year. Giving visitors a chance to connect with the islanders.”

Great, I thought. If it were only true!

Clearly, I have a different definition of the word “revitalize” than the NPO does.

Is it reasonable to think that six islanders involved with an NPO project can help revitalize an entire island? Possibly. If our island had a population of six. But our island has 580 people, most of whom are over 70. They couldn’t care less about “organic” cotton. They probably even favor permanent press.

Up at the “site of an elementary school,” in the old, defunct gymnasium, is a spinning wheel and weaving loom. It would make a great movie set or a unique shoot for a magazine or coffee table book. But it is closed most days of the year.

But anyone who comes to the island can request it be opened so they can try their hand at making something with organic cotton. Some islander, out of a sense of duty, will open the facility and give you a demonstration. I know because I’ve taken a couple of visitors myself.

Granted, there is not a wide variety of things visitors can make, but as long as you don’t mind making organic cotton drink coasters, you can make as many as you’d like, in as many colors as you’d like, for ¥500 each. There is an additional charge of ¥500 yen per person for opening the facility for you and “connecting with the islanders.”

Nonetheless, I felt the set-up was impressive, and it seemed a shame that my two guests and I were among the limited 100 or so people to have used this facility since 2009, when the project was implemented.

I said to the islander who had opened up the facility, “More people should know about this.” She smiled and said, “Oh Amy-san, we don’t want many visitors. We’re busy enough with our own lives.”

In other words, while no one wants to appear less than supportive of the island, this is not exactly what they had in mind for their retirement.

Japanese people are known to drive hundreds of kilometers for a bowl of noodles at a famous noodle shop, or to go out of their way to have a cuppa at a new swank café. But we’re offering coasters. It’s a limited market.

Rather than simply informing people via a pamphlet that six people are making cotton on a small island, we need to let them know that there’s a great new organic café where you can drink a cup of coffee while enjoying stunning views of the Seto Inland Sea. At this café, located in an old Japanese house (that can be rented for ¥5,000 per month!), you can also buy hand-made organic cotton coasters (perhaps even a set of five) as well as other products such as hand towels, aprons, bags, scarves, clothing and gift items.

In addition, they offer spinning and weaving demonstrations every Sunday afternoon (where you can make your own coasters) and longer five-week courses throughout the year where you can learn to make your own products (Christmas and baby gifts, etc.). You get a young artist to intern at the café (and display their own artwork) et voilà, you have an experience people will want to come and be a part of.

As a resident, may I be so bold as to suggest that we don’t need an NPO to save our island from aging and depopulation. What we need is for an NPO, or anyone, to save our island from itself! People on the island already have the means to start businesses; they just don’t want to. They’re retired, remember?

We need to encourage outsiders to move here with young families to support the school system and the local grocery store. We need 20-something free thinkers to open cafés, restaurants and shops. We need beach-loving entrepreneurs to offer summer businesses (marine sports, row boat rentals, bicycle rentals). We need statues of Elvis! In other words, we must promise people there is something interesting to do once they get here.

We could use funding to make an outdoor museum that highlights Okayama’s historic relationship to the Inland Sea and the Battle of the Heike that would attract school groups from around the prefecture.

We should organize events that take advantage of the infrastructure already here (including five minshuku (travelers’ lodges) that can accommodate 250 people overnight), events with enduring value and annual punch: concerts on the beach, wine festivals, a triathlon or a trail race. And if those visitors told their friends, that would be something big.

In short, the island needs to thrive, not just survive.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

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Nov 28, 2013
Terri Judson

Pinot Days Southern California 2013: December 7, Los Angeles

Text Size:-+

11.27.2013

pinot_days_logo.gifWine festivals in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, aren’t particularly plentiful, for reasons I don’t entirely understand. There are plenty of wine lovers in LA, but the large public wine events that make such frequent appearances in San Francisco, and increasingly in New York, just don’t seem to make it down the West Coast.

Four years ago, the Pinot Days Festival came to Los Angeles, and now every year SoCal Pinot lovers have a reason to celebrate.

This year’s Grand Tasting will offer the opportunity to taste more than 300 Pinot Noirs from about 100 different producers over the course of three hours, with snacks to nibble on from local food purveyors. Wineries from all over California, as well as a few from Oregon and even farther afield will be in attendance.

It’s simply the largest collection of Pinot Noir available for the public to taste in the city limits of Los Angeles. What could be better than that?

Pinot Days Southern California Grand Tasting
Saturday, December 7, 2013 3:00pm-6:00pm
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049

Tickets would normally be $75 per person or $120 for VIP treatment (early entrance and a seminar), but since you’re a Vinography reader, you get a steal. Use the promo code: VINOGSC13 for 33% off the ticket price when you purchase your tickets online.

Who loves you, baby?

My usual tips for large public tastings apply: get a good night’s sleep; wear dark colors; drink lots of water; go with a full stomach; and spit so you can taste more than 5 or 10 wines and actually remember them.

Posted by: Alder on November 27, 2013 8:44 PM


   

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Nov 28, 2013
Terri Judson

Visiting El Camino de Santiago

“El Camino,” sometimes referred to as “La Via” (“The Way”) or the “Camino Francés” (“French Route”) to Santiago, Spain held me captive for 28 days this past September and October. I started this adventure by flying to Paris from San Francisco, on September 4, 2013. Arrived Paris September 5 and took the train to Bayonne, France. Stayed overnight and the next morning (now Sept. 6) caught the train to St. Jean Pied de Port, France where I stayed overnight. Having made prior arrangements to meet with an acquaintance from Alaska, in St. Jean, we started our 500+ miles trek at about 7a.m. on September 7, first crossing the Pyrenees on our way to Santiago.

One thing that seems to be very consistent on the Camino is that every pilgrim “creates” his/her own “way”. I was no exception. Originally I had planned to walk with the acquaintance from Alaska, but after a few days of sharing lodging we found that our schedules just didn’t sync (things like, I am an early riser and she isn’t, I don’t like to eat late at night, etc.). So we went our separate ways and were much happier for the mutual decision. I enjoyed walking alone. Besides I met many lovely people along the way which is part of the experience.

I spent a lot of time researching the route before departing. Partly via books, the internet, and people who had done the trek. From these I concluded the following: the Camino was still there with its medieval towns and villages; prices fluctuated; some “albergues”(pilgrim lodgings) no longer were open or there were new ones to be evaluated; weather was unpredictable; time had a whole new meaning in Spain (read up on business hours and mealtimes so you won’t be disappointed when you find the stores closed at 1 or 2 in the afternoon not to reopen until 5 or 6 pm, or are closed on Mondays, or the restaurant doesn’t open until 2); and if you are a vegan, you might have a problem since seafood (Galicia) and meat (Basque country) are the biggies here along with wine (the route passes through Rioja-one of the most famous wine producing areas in Spain and knowing that autumn is the time of grape harvesting and wine festivals may decide what time of year you do this trek. And no, that is not why I chose to go in September).

People go on this pilgrimage for a variety of reasons: religious, midlife crisis, adventure, etc. If given a multiple choice test on these I probably would choose “all of the above.” However, with that stated, my main reason for doing this goes back to my college days. Having lived and studied in Madrid many years ago, I fell in love with the culture, people and country even though I was there during the Franco dictatorship when censorship was at its height and there was a lot of repression. I learned from that experience to appreciate the true meaning of freedom. I remember reading newspapers or books where whole paragraphs would be blacked out. Movies would have scenes muted if they were considered politically incorrect. Sorry for this digression, back to my reasons.

Since I studied Spanish language and literature, and in particular, the medieval period, I wanted to visit some of the more famous places where the language and literature were born. Many of the places are in Northern Spain and just happen to be on or near the Camino de Santiago. I started researching the idea of connecting the “Way” with literature that was born from this area of 500+ miles, a journey I was not able to do during my student years. First, the route was not as popular then as it was during medieval times or as it is today and was not clearly marked as it is today. (I got lost twice even with the markings. Wouldn’t want to attempt it without them.) Secondly, there was quite a bit of unrest when I was there in the 1960′s in the Basque region through which a major portion of the Camino lies. It has been only fairly recently (1990′s) that the pilgrimage to Santiago regained the popularity that it had in the Middle Ages. Many books written by pilgrims and even a movie (The Way) have helped popularize the pilgrimage, especially for North Americans. We are increasing in numbers but still lag behind many other European groups of pilgrims.

I hope to write a book on my experience and research. I am not going to dwell in detail on pertinent items covered in many books such as cost, lodging, etc. unless they provide additional color or information to my work. What I aim to do is to make this a literary pilgrimage relating the works and their authors (if known) associated directly or indirectly with the pilgrimage route. By means of clarification, works directly associated with the route are those that involve pilgrims on the Camino. Those indirectly associated with it are those works that were composed somewhere on or near the route but not associated with the pilgrimage. From time to time, I may leave the main path to seek one of the shrines or monasteries that pilgrims also sought out because of the legends, miracles, and/or oral folklore connected to them. These places are never more than a few kilometers from the main route and well worth the trip.

Just to give you an idea of the literature involved, the first stage of the Camino that begins at St. Jean Pied de Port and ends at Roncesvalles involves one of the most important French medieval epics, Chanson de Roland. Another stage at Burgos, involves the great Spanish epic, EL Cid. These are just two of the literary connections to the Camino. There are several more and I will reveal them all in my upcoming book.

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