Tea + Wine = The Perfect Cold Weather Beverage

Last year I stumbled across a unique company called Vintage TeaWorks.  Vintage TeaWorks is the brain child of Brandon Ford, a wine connoisseur who took his knowledge of Wine and married with with his passion for Tea to create one of the most uniquely delicious teas I have ever tasted.

I’ve tasted all of the teas that Vintage TeaWorks offers – but I have to say that probably my favorite has to be their Oolong Chardonnay. It’s luscious and smooth, with a hint of vanilla in it.  It reminds me of Fall.  I live in Southern California, so our change of weather is a little different than other parts of the country. Where leaves are falling in other states, here, the leaves are pretty much swaying in the breeze — that’s what the Oolong Chardonnay reminds me of, a cool breeze at the end of a warm day just as the temperature starts to drop for the evening.  Thinking about it just makes me want to brew a cup right this instant!

If you haven’t tried them, do yourself the honor and try their teas, try them all.  Come to think of it, the holidays are coming up, and this would be a great gift for some of those special tea lovers in your life!

Vintage TeaWorks is available online at www.vintageteaworks.com.

Wine tasting, Ghetto Style — the Lompoc Wine Ghetto that is!

What would you do if you received a phone call at 3:00 in the afternoon Friday evening and were invited to an “almost” free weekend of wine tasting, complete with lodging?  If you’re anything like me — you’d GO!

I was so excited!  A weekend, no stress, ok maybe a little stress in the beginning, but none after that, and lots of wine, some food, and good friends — that’s my kind of weekend.  When I arrived to the Wine Ghetto, I found myself driving around an industrial complex full of wine tasting rooms -22 wine tasting rooms to be exact.   Can you imagine 22 different tasting rooms, all within walking distance of one another, and each one serving 5 – 15 different wines?  Yup – I found Wine Heaven, and it’s in Lompoc, California!  Needless to say, we weren’t able to try every single one of them, but we did get through to some pretty good ones!  Here’s what you can expect to find when you go there: (map)

  1. Ampelos Cellars
  2. Arcadian Winery
  3. Bratcher
  4. Brewer–Clifton
  5. De Su Propia Cosecha
  6. Fiddlehead Cellars – Fiddlehead has this tasting bar in the back and if you’re fortunate enough, go taste your wines at that bar.  I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy being surrounded by wine barrels when I’m tasting.  It adds to the ambiance.
  7. Flying Goat Cellars
  8. Jalama Wines – Jalama was a fun place to taste.  I had the pleasure of not only tasting their wines, but I also receiving plenty of affection from the two winery dogs, Chester and Oscar.
  9. Joseph Blair Wines
  10. La Vie Vineyards
  11. Longoria Wines – Longoria was having a member’s only party the day we visited, um, we may have ended up there at one point.. (shhh…)
  12. Montemar
  13. Moretti Wines – Mrs. Moretti poured us their delicious wines and was so gracious.  I can see how her and Mr. Moretti make the perfect wine couple!
  14. Pali Wine Company
  15. Piedrasassi
  16. Palmina Wines – Palmina’s tasting room is the place to be seen.  There are plenty of tables, people socializing and plenty of wines to sample.  If you’re lucky, like we were, you may even get to try some of Solminer’s wines while your there.
  17. Samsara
  18. Scott Cellars
  19. Stolpman Vineyards
  20. Taste of Sta. Rita Hills – Antonio Moretti brings in wines from wineries that don’t have tasting rooms and pours them at the Taste of Sta. Rita Hills.  If you’re fortunate enough to meet with him, do so because he’s just great.  He also has some killer salami that he pairs with some of the wines — delicious!
  21. Transcendence
  22. Tyler Wines & Zotovich Cellars – we tasted Zotovich Cellars, their wines were all really nice.

If you’re in that area, trust me, you need to stop over at the Wine Ghetto and do some tastings.  It is a stress free, low key, fun environment where you will definitely find something you like.  The people are friendly, the wines are at temperature and, did I mention, they are all right next door to each other!

Birthday Bash at Rideau Vineyard

Let me tell you a little bit about Iris Rideau.  She is a charmer, a risk-taker, an inspiration, a pillar of strength and an overall amazing woman – and I got all that just by spending a few hours.  On Saturday, September 14th, we celebrated Iris’s Birthday at her beautiful Rideau Vineyard in Solvang.  What a great time we had!

First, if you haven’t been to the Vineyard yet, you need to get out there! The grounds are beautiful – with lush green grass, vines in the distance, mature trees and roses everywhere.  We were directed to park on the back side of the vineyard which frames one side of the vineyard’s yard – this is where the celebration takes place.  Iris has tables and chairs strewn throughout, complete with dance floor, a band and this whiff of some delicious smelling food.  Off to the distance is the tasting room, where just outside, under the patio a bar has been set up with the fruits of Rideau Vineyard’s labor — their delicious wines!

Iris, of course, was a lady in demand that afternoon – family, friends, wine club members – all present to celebrate with her on her special day.  What a treat to have been invited.  We laughed, we ate, we drank.  We had a wonderful time in honor of this fun-loving woman.  Happy birthday Iris – may this year bring you more joy, more prosperity, and more love than you heart can ever imagine — CHEERS!


If you have a passion for wine, then you’d agree that being a winemaker for a day is a special treat.  On Sunday, 8/25, I had the opportunity to attend Pulchella Winery’s Winemaker For A Day event at their super-secret winery here in Santa Clarita.  I attended the event with a few of my very good friends, Eve Bushman, Jill Friedman and Melissa Pietrosanti.  To say that we had a blast doesn’t do the afternoon justice.

Upon arrival, winery co-owner Nate Hasper greeted us, handed us a wine glass and explained the order of events for the afternoon.  He then opened the doors to the Pulchella Winery where we were treated with 4 walls lined with wine barrels, tables for the guests and a quaint little spread of munchables.  His partner, Steve Lemley, took over at that point and explained that the 5-gallon bucket was our “dump bucket” and the bottles of wine surrounding it were bottles of Cabernet, Field Blend (a blend of Petite Sirah and Tempranillo) , Syrah and Zinfandel that will be used for blending.  The four stainless steel tanks at the end of the room held the same wines from which we were could sample the wines to be blended.

Ok, now for blending time.  The term “blending” alone is a little intimidating, so Steve explained that we should start with one of the wines from the stainless steel tanks and add other wines to try and make it better.  So to break it down, basically, you get a little of this wine, add a little of that wine, maybe through in a drop of the other wine and voilà – you have a blended wine! I quickly realized, however, that the art is in trying to figure out exactly how much of this and how much of that to add.  Oh, and write everything down, because after about 10 attempts at blending, you will absolutely forget which blend you enjoyed the most.

Once you concocted your “ultimate” blend, you handed the numbers over to Nate and Steve where they proceeded to bottle your blend for you.  My blend of choice was 50% Cabernet and 50% Field blend.  The winning blend of the day, however, was 40% Cabernet, 5% Syrah, 5% Field Blend and 50% Zinfandel bottled by “The Winning” team.  Congratulations, I look forward to tasting your blend at the Pulchella Tasting room in the near future.

If you have the opportunity, join Pulchella for one of their blending afternoons, I guarantee that you will laugh, drink, eat and enjoy everything about it.  Thanks Nate, Steve and Eve for a memorable afternoon!

2011 Vintage Port Declaration – My discovery of CROFT Port

What do you do on a Monday afternoon between engagements in Los Angeles with a good 4 hours to spare?  Wine Tasting Of Course!  As if there really was another option – really?

Picture it,   a little “Pink Palace” known as the Beverly Hills Hotel on the corner of Sunset and Rodeo Drive where history is all around you, from the famous Polo Lounge to the long list of celebrities that have come through the doors for the last 100 years.  Now picture one room off to the side, overlooking the gorgeous pool.  In this room are tables and tables of delicious Port wines ready for tasting.  Yes, if Mondays were like this every week, I would welcome them much more lovingly.

So I’m inside and I meet a gentleman who starts up a conversation with me and he suggests an order for tasting.  You see when you’re tasting that many wines in a short amount of time, you really need to come up with a plan.  He suggests that I first try the 2011s from all of the presenters and then I move to the older ones, comparing the vintages from each winery against each other.  So I do just that.

I started with the 2011s and they were all delicious – except one stood out to me – the Croft Vintage Porto 2011.  It had this gorgeous deep purple color, this rich aroma and this velvety texture and masculine undertones that reminded me of every romantic movie I had ever seen that had a couple looking over an amazing view with a candlelight backdrop.  Where, of course, the girl in the movie would need to be me and the man would need to be GORGEOUS!  Ok, focus.

photo (2)So once I was done with the 2011 vintage, I went around the room trying the 2009 vintage ports, then the 2007 and finally the 2003s.    If the 2011 Croft was the city view, then the Croft 2007 was the one that was like sitting in front of a camp fire on a crisp evening.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Winemaker David Guimaraens about the Croft wines.  (David is the Technical Director and head wine maker of The Fladgate Partnership at Taylor Fladgate.)  He was asking my opinions and I felt so at home speaking to him about my new found love of the Croft ports.  He, in turn, shared his love of making wines and his affinity for Croft – how every wine was like his children, no one better than the other, all with different characteristics and personalities, but full of admiration and love.  We spoke of how all too often ports are wines that tend to be placed on the shelf for that special occasion. David reminded me not to “wait for a special occasion to open your best bottle. Open your best bottles to create many special occasions.”  I just love that!  And he is so right, why do people wait?  Just open it and enjoy the moment, the company and the experience, right then and there.

What a wonderful way to spend a Monday afternoon. Thank you Christine for thinking of me when you put that invite list together for The 2011 Vintage Port Declaration!  And, Thank you David for taking the time to share Croft with me, I can still taste it.

Dinner at Thelma & Luis

Ok, the food was DE-LICIOUS!

IMG_0951I was invited by my good friend Eve Bushman (www.EveWine101.com@evewine101) to the inaugural Winemaker Dinner, hosted by Robert Reyes of Reyes Winery, at the newly opened Thelma & Luis restaurant in Santa Clarita.   The menu was thoughtfully crafted and the wines selected to pair with the courses definitely worked.  The wait between courses was a bit long, but totally worth it!  Thank you Robert and Chef Luis for your hospitality, I enjoyed the visits and the care you both placed in making sure that everybody was having an good time.  Chef Luis – the food was perfect!

If you have a chance, stop in a visit Chef Luis at Thelma & Luis.  If it’s on the menu, order the causa potato cake with tuna tartar and wasabi caviar.  I don’t even like wasabi, but served like this, I’d have it daily!

And if you find yourself in the Agua Dulce area, stop over at Robert Reyes Winery, they’ve got a great vineyard, Robert has an inviting soul and his art is beautiful!

Update: A Toast and A Wish

At press time we’ve since added a red carpet entry and a “step and repeat”, just like celebrities stand in front of at movie premieres. And as we don’t want anyone to wait too long, as soon as our guests check in they will be handed a program and a wine glass into which our volunteers will be ready to immediately pour a taste of sparkling wine! Now, here’s the latest press release, with a special THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS:

April 4, 2013 – A limited number of tickets are still available for the inaugural WiSH Education Foundation wine tasting event planned for Saturday, April 13, 2013 from 7 -10 pm at the Old Town Newhall Library. This spectacular venue will provide the perfect atmosphere for an evening of wine tasting, enjoying delicious appetizers from local restaurants, a live quartet and mingling with friends and community leaders. Tickets are $75 each and are available online at www.WiSHscv.org .

One hundred percent of the ticket sales and auction directly supports programs in all the junior high and high schools that make up the Hart School District.

The Co-Title Sponsors of the event are CISCO and CDW, with the Magazine of Santa Clarita as a Media Sponsor and Silver Sponsors including Chiquita Landfill, Oasis Landscaping, Spirit Properties and Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost LLP. Sempra Energy is a Bronze Sponsor.

WiSH board members Marlee Lauffer, Amy Daniels and Gail Pinsker, along with local wine writer Eve Bushman, host the inaugural event with Eve Wine 101 Consultant Michael Perlis and volunteer coordinator Claudia Sheridan providing their expertise during the evening.

A-toast-and-a-wish-flier-art-by-Alex-Hafizi-214x300“The WiSH Education Foundation is grateful to all our fantastic sponsors and wine, food and auction item donors,” Lauffer, Vice Chair, WiSH Eduation Foundation, said. “We are looking forward to a wonderful evening for a great cause supporting programs in the Hart School District.”

Donors to date include TGIC Importers, Loring Wine Company, Fiddlehead Cellars, Ken Brown Wines, Iron Horse Vineyards, Salt Creek Grille, Wolf Creek Brewery, Stephen Hemmert Vineyards, Two Hearts Vineyard, Pulchella Winery, Ventura Limoncello, Wildflour Gourmet Baking Company, Robert Biale Vineyards, Bagrationi Sparkling wine from the Republic of Georgia, Regusci Winery, Edna Valley Vineyard, Gagnon Cellars, Gary Farrell Vineyards, Nuggucciet Cellars, Barrel 27, J Dusi Wines, Byron Estate, and wine pairing from Leona Valley Vineyard’s Culinary Director, Dusti Patterson.

Auction items include a two-night stay in a Paso Robles private guest house; cooking classes at Culinary Wonders (formerly known as Kitchen Wizards); a magnum of 06 Pinot Noir from Papapietro Perry Winery; gift items from WineDogs.com, ForWhiskeyLovers.com, Ma Maison and Barnes and Noble; a Gagnon Cellars gift basket; wine tasting for four at Robert Biale Vineyards; wine tasting and tour for six from winemaker Wes Hagen at Clos Pepe Vineyards, as well as Gary Farrell Vineyards and Regusci Winery; a magnum of 08 Head Honcho Syrah from Barrel 27; a gift certificate for The Egg Plantation; a complimentary night at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort; two gift certificates from Valencia Wine Company; dinner for two at Vines; and wine from the private cellars of winemaker Gerard Zanzonico of Del Dotto Vineyards, Marlee Lauffer, Laine Hedwell, Eddie and Eve Bushman, Larry and Gloria Stahly, Michael and Karen Perlis, Louise Castaldo and Kerry Malony, Steve and Rose Chegwin, Chris and Jeannie Carpenter and others.

The number of ticket sales will be limited to guarantee each of our guests an exclusive experience. At the end of the evening all guests will receive a special gift bag with special offers from our special vendors. Adults over 21 only, please.

Sponsorships are currently available; contact WiSH at 661-799-9474 or wish@hartdistrict.org for more information and to purchase event tickets.

The WiSH Education Foundation, a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization, was established with a group of local community leaders and public school advocates to raise additional funds for the Hart School District to maintain its high quality programs during this challenging time of state budget cuts.

What do the New Year, Champagne and a Nun’s Fart have in common?

With the New Year coming, I can only imagine how many people will be opening Champagne at midnight to welcome a year that will be better than the last one.  But of those people, how many people will be doing this for the first time?

I remember the first time I opened a bottle of Champagne, I was intimidated!  Why?  Oh I don’t know, I guess I didn’t want to break anything, or anyone, with the cork as it flew out of the bottle.  I read that there is so much pressure in a Champagne bottle that it is equivalent to the pressure in a double-decker bus’s tires.   So imagine placing a cork in the air valve and watching it fly out of the tires – yeah, that would hurt!

So ok, the moment comes to learn how to properly open a bottle of Champagne and I’m told by my good friend, Peter, that the cork really shouldn’t shoot out of the bottle, but rather it should come out nice and easy with a slight “poof” sound, like that of a “nun’s fart”. What? Nuns farting & Champagne?

Ok, so let me explain.  On New Year Eve, it’s all about the the excitement and the sound “pop” when a bottle is opened at midnight with a cork flying through the room and Champagne spilling out of the bottle in search of the nearest glass.  BUT, the process of opening the bottle correctly is almost the exact opposite. It’s quiet, elegant, appreciative.

To open a bottle properly, unlock the cage (the metal wire around the cork), which is known as a “muselet”, by twisting it 6 times.  Yes, 6 complete 180 degree turns.  Next grab a dish/bar towel and use that to begin twisting the cork.  Don’t use your bare hand because we’re keeping the muselet on the cork to help with grip and you don’t want to cut yourself.  Get a solid grip on the cork, then begin turning the bottle slowly.  The bottle, not the cork.  You’ll start to feel slight pressure building under the cork, forcing it out slowly.  Keep turning.  After a few turns, you’ll notice that the cork is almost out and there is a solid pressure built up – that’s when you just tilt the cork and “poof” the cork come out.  Did you hear that sound, “poof” – not “POP” – but “poof”, a nun’s fart.  No big dramatic explosion, just a silent sound and maybe a little giggle because you did it.  Now find the nearest flute and pour.   Cheers to an amazing New Year!

PRESS RELEASE: The First New Year’s Celebration Sponsored by Eve’s Wine 101 is a Perlis Pick: Cheers@All Corked Up

CONTACT: EVE BUSHMAN eve@evewine101.com

SANTA CLARITA, CA – 20 December 2012 – Ring in a new year in a new venue that promises all the bells and whistles, along with wine, beer, live music and an outstanding menu, at Santa Clarita’s only Puerto Rican themed restaurant and wine bar: Cheers@All Corked Up. This year, to ring in the inaugural event, Eve Bushman, owner of Eve’s Wine 101 and editor Michael Perlis have chosen to sponsor the event. “We support all locally-run wine events, but never two on the same night,” Eve began. “And Cheers@All Corked Up is our choice this year as we were looking for something new and exciting for our wine friends to try.” Guests with reservations will be able to select in advance one of four tasty main entrees in a four-course plated dinner created by Chef Dominik. While seated in one of two expansive dining rooms, guests have a choice of being close to the live music (The Bobby Cuba Band followed by the multi-talented G3 Band) in the main room or wine-ing and dining with pals in the VIP room. Dessert, a decidedly “Perlis Pick” will be Chef Dominik’s homemade Tiramisu that should pair well with the toy noise makers and midnight Champagne toast! Don’t miss out by making your reservation today: 661-259-2000. Cheers@All Corked Up is located at 26340 Diamond Pl Ste 100, Santa Clarita.

Four Course Menu Created by Chef Dominik

First Course: Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

Second Course: Crisp and Creamy Caesar Salad

Please reserve one of the following Entrées:

Rich Mustard Dijonaise Glazed Chicken

Chicken in Marsala Wine and a Mushroom Reduction Sauce

Piccata Salmon in Lemon and Capers

Salmon topped with Steaming Mussels and Spinach

Pork Chop with Supreme Roasted Piquant Pepper Sauce

Rack of Lamb Bathed in Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Puerto Rican Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder Pernil with a choice of: Arroz con Gandules ( Green Pigeon Peas), Smashed Potatoes or Grilled Fresh Vegetables.

Dominik’s Vegetarian Dinner available

Fourth Course: Dominik’s Velvety Tiramisu

To ensure that you have a reserved dinner make your reservations in person or by phone today: 661-259-2000.

*$100 per person price includes four-course meal, two live bands, toy noisemakers and a midnight Champagne toast.  *You can reserve a spot without a meal if you prefer for $50.