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I find happiness in an honest meal. Whether it's a simple pasta or an exquisite risotto, a perfectly cooked steak or an intricately prepared curry, all great dishes are a seamless blend of ingredients and indulgence, of style and substance.

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Many poets have waxed philosophical about the values and virtues of wine, about its power and principles, its joy and attraction.

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Travel isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. It is about the people and places you meet along the way.

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As I crisscross the globe I often discover innovative wine products, new gadgets or the perfect gift for wine lovers; and so I have created a collection of Wine Portfolio merchandise.

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Wine can sometimes seem complicated and intimidating but it doesn't have to be. Wine should bring joy not stress and you don't have to be an expert to learn to love wine.

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A Small Inn in Sonoma Making a Big Impression

July 31, 2015 11:14 am - Posted by Jody in Travel

The Farmhouse Inn

How does a relatively small Sonoma County inn find itself ranked among the world’s best hotels?

The answer lies partly in the simple richness of the guest experience; from the farm-to-table organic food served in the Michelin-starred restaurant, to the relaxing and energizing spa featuring botanical massages and wraps, everything at Farmhouse Inn is designed to make each visit to the wine country memorable.

Now, satisfied guests have had their say, voting Farmhouse Inn onto the short list of Travel + Leisure’s best hotels. Farmhouse Inn not only earned a #2 ranking among Small Inns in the U.S., but also ranked 8th on the 100 World’s Best Hotels list. That’s truly rarefied air, and it speaks to the elite experience enjoyed by guests. Not only that, but 2015 marks the third year in which Farmhouse Inn has achieved a ranking.

The hotel was also recently selected as the Best Wine Country Hotel/Resort in Sunset Magazine’s 2015 Travel Awards this June. The award honors the West’s top destinations and those displaying excellence in the tourism industry.

Guests quickly fall in love with the inn after the first visit—which explains the high praise bestowed by Travel + Leisure readers. The mission of this unique inn is simple: to provide an authentic, “insider” experience of California Wine Country. Hidden treasures abound in this large and diverse region, just an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Through connections with local vintners and an intimate knowledge of the community, guests can expect a one-of-a-kind experience every time.

The passion of sibling owners, Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, comes through in a myriad of little details, like the farm fresh eggs on the breakfast table. As fifth-generation Sonomans, the Bartolomeis have deep roots in the community.


“Our goal here at Farmhouse Inn has always been to create a unique and vital Sonoma wine country experience. This last year we added nine new luxurious rooms, a completely new spa building, and complete revamped all outdoor spaces while maintaining the luxury and attention to detail the staff is known for. Our guests can see and feel the love that has gone into our intimate boutique hotel; that’s how we’ve created such a sense of loyalty with many of our guests returning time and time again,” said owner Catherine Bartolomei. “The recent accolades from Travel + Leisure and Sunset Magazine are just more evidence that we’re doing something quite special. Please come celebrate with us.”

Travel + Leisure readers rated hotels and accommodations on five criteria: rooms/facilities, location, service, restaurants/food and value. See more http://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/survey-methodology.

Sunset Magazine is the leading lifestyle brand in the West covering the West’s best flavors, destinations, design trends, and innovations. See more www.sunset.com/travelawards.

July 27, 2015 11:08 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

CedarCreek Estate Winery has rattled the wine world once again. On July 1st, 2015 CedarCreek’s 2012 Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir was awarded the Trophy for ‘Best Red Wine in Canada’ at the prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards, in London, UK. That same day, the winery also announced the appointment of internationally acclaimed winemaker Alexis Moore, a preeminent wine figure from New Zealand.

“I’m excited to hear you got Alexis,” exclaims Lynn Penner-Ash of Penner-Ash Wine Cellars in Oregon. “What an incredible winemaker,” says Lynn, who herself was one of Oregon’s first female winemakers and today a leading winemaker and consultant on winery design.

“I never thought I’d leave New Zealand,” says Alexis Moore. “After ten years of successfully establishing roots in the wine world, New Zealand had definitely become my home,” she confirms . “My great love is Pinot Noir and aromatic whites,” continues Moore, whose very first vintage of Pinot Noir went on to claim 5 Gold Medals at reputable international wine competitions including Mondial des Pinots in Switzerland. “That moment when Darryl Brooker called me to convey the incredible opportunity to build the Okanagan Valley into one of the five great Pinot Noir regions in the world was something I just couldn’t say no to.”

Ironically Alexis Moore is Canadian and originally from Nova Scotia. Alexis’ winemaking experience transcends international borders having first honed her skills in the vineyards of Provence in France. This led to positions at such notable US producers as Flowers Winery in Sonoma and Oregon’s Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. With 16 harvests under her belt, Alexis’ return to Canada comes from her most recent role with Gladstone Vineyard in New Zealand, where she earned international acclaim for crafting exceptional Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Alexis completed her degree in Viticulture and Oenology at New Zealand’s prestigious Lincoln University which created the first cool climate wine production and education program. “I honestly believe that great winemaking starts in the vineyard, in fact, for the first three years of my winemaking career, I worked in vineyards.” proclaims Moore.”I couldn’t believe it, but one of the bonuses of working at CedarCreek is that all of our grapes are Estate grown. And nothing is more fulfilling for me as a winemaker than getting the chance to walk every row and learn about every inch of our Estate Vineyards, first-hand with Darryl Brooker, who knows every intimate detail of this land and whose Single Vineyard Block program is something I am in absolute admiration of.”

“A relentless perfectionist is how I perceive Alexis,” says Darryl Brooker, CedarCreek’s ex-winemaker, who was recently appointed as Chief Winemaker at Mission Hill Family Estate. “CedarCreek means so much to me. I have put my life in to building CedarCreek over the past five years and as I moved on within VMF Estates, I was not prepared to let go unless I found the right person who could take CedarCreek further. Alexis’ passion for cool climate viticulture, respect for sense of place in winemaking, and her outstanding wines that I tasted when I visited New Zealand were some of the things that convinced me she was the perfect fit for CedarCreek.”

“Alexis is passionate and intellectual,” states Proprietor Anthony von Mandl. “It was critical to find someone who embodied the purity of CedarCreek to ensure that we can carry on what Darryl has started here, all the way from the vineyard to the bottle. Alexis comes with an open mind, her sincerity is reflected in her wine and in her philosophy. And the fact that she is actually Canadian provides an extraordinary and very positive twist in the next chapter of CedarCreek’s proud history as one of the first eight pioneering wineries in British Columbia. Indeed what is New Zealand’s loss is most definitely British Columbia’s gain.”

This new appointment comes shortly after the announcement that Darryl Brooker will transition into the Chief Winemaker role at Mission Hill Family Estate.

Hollow wine is like growing grapes in valleys

July 24, 2015 11:04 am - Posted by Jody in Drink
Avoiding hollow wine

Avoiding hollow wine

We all occasionally experience something in a wine that lessens what should be a grand experience. One of my peeves is encountering a hollow wine. What that means basically is there can be great aromatics, and wonderful impressions on the sides of the palate, but nothing seems to be going on in the middle of your… read more

China To Unveil World’s First Smart Wine Bottle

July 20, 2015 11:00 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

China has a black market for wine, which is why Chinese-owned winery Ferngrove Wine Group is dabbling in the “smart wine bottle” domain. These bottles will help prevent counterfeit bottles from infiltrating the market and allow the winery to communicate with their consumers. The prototype of the smart wine bottle will be unveiled at Mobile World… read more

A Biker-Chic Dinner Defined

June 19, 2015 11:10 am - Posted by Jody in Eat

What happens when you fly a celebrity Chef from southwest California up to Toronto to work on a Biker-Chic Menu?

Well, you know dinner was good when you don’t even want to think about breakfast!

I woke up this morning with memories of superb Lobster Bisque, Crispy Eryngii Mushrooms (encrusted in parmesan, garlic and lemon!) and killer Kurabuto Confit Pork Belly on Togarashi Seared Fijian Yellowfin dancing in my head. I’m no culinary genius, but the folks at Ufeast.com, so far, are doing it right!

Böehmer Restaurant at 93 Ossington, just north of Queen Street in Toronto is becoming iconic to foodies. The ambiance is a casual mix of natural and industrial materials, anchored by a comfortable long bar and stunning wood and a crystal chandelier. The room beckons you to just chill out! Owner and Chef Paul Boehmer has impressed groups, couples and the masses (I just learned he does weddings!) with dishes like his succulent grilled hammer steak, Butter Poached Shrimp and an almost infamous lobster mac & cheese, unusually presented with a small pellet pasta, (I believe called Acini di pepe(?)).

Take one Toronto Chef with great dishes in his own right, and introduce him to a celebrity Chef from San Diego and what do you get? A night of North-East meets South-West food genius, that’s what!

Chef Ivan Flowers and Chef Paul Boehmer concocted quite a feast for the senses on this Chef Concert Series evening brought to Böehmer’s by a food club with a twist; U-feast. Chef Flowers, a Le Cordon Bleu SCI Culinary Institute graduate, came by his love of food honestly, from his dad in New York. Brooklyn born, he worked his way across the USA in four diamond award winning restaurants, eventually landing in San Diego, California where he turned the “Top of the Market” restaurant into a celebrated food landmark for the city.

Ivan’s food virtuoso was fundamental to this delectable evening. The 6-course-meal (plus desert) started with a Lobster Bisque with Porcini Mushroom Infusion Starter-Shooter, the secret recipe held fast by Ivan, was given to HIM by a revered Chef and friend in Monaco. Fantastic! I found my tongue embarrassingly sneaking into the shooter glass. The small second platter was an appetizer of sorts, consisting of parma ham wrapped around a soft serving of Lobster Boursin Roulades, topped with a drop of Confit Tomato Lobster Rose and Jalapeno Syrup Tip. You’d almost think you could just whip these little babies up at home. You can’t. The platters of Chicken Fried Quail served on ripped up Bacon Corn Bread with Pickled Jalapenos and Red Eye Jus seemed very southern to me, and were finger lickin’ good. This was followed by Ivan’s innovative take on Kurabuto Confit Pork Belly on Togarashi Seared Fijian Yellowfin with an Ell Sauce Glaze, Black Garlic Tempura and Smokey Piquillo Droplets. Yes, I’m stealing the ingredients list off of the menu, a little hard to recite off of the top of your head – but wow, what a fantastic blending of flavors. The saltiness of the pork belly complimented the tuna perfectly, and this all went down nicely with a somewhat understated Henry of Pelham wine called “Sibling Rivalry”. Best selling wine author and sommelier Carolyn Evans-Hammond even complimented the inexpensive but well balanced red and white – which happened to be the wine of the evening. Before dessert Chef Boehmer entertained with a brilliant lamb dish that anyone who lives in Toronto will want to try.  I’ve almost cited the whole menu here, but must move on to the eclectic crowd in attendance.

Things started off with Comedian and Personality Mike Bullard pulling up on his white Harley Davidson (horse? LOL) and a crowd of well-wishers gathering at the front of the restaurant for pictures on the U-feast red carpet. Both Chefs came out front to greet our host for the evening, and all had trouble getting back inside due to the interest on the street.

The press turn out on such an intimate event (sold out at around 100) was great, with the Toronto Star, Newstalk 1010, The Best of Toronto, The SUN, CP24 and others milling about for early cocktails and food-chat. A cool little tasting bar was set up with Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack for the tasting, provided by Cocktails, The Fluid Experience – thematically this was a really perfect fit, and very warm and tasty! The theme of the evening was biker-chic, as both Chefs (over 6 foot tall, burly guys) are motorcycle enthusiasts, along with host Mike Bullard. Doc’s Leather’s was a key sponsor for the evening, filling the swag bags with bike-themed gifts and Doc himself showed up for the dinner. The other sponsor included Steam Whistle Beer. It all seemed to “fit” in a comfortable way, with the relaxed and very unpretentious (yet gourmet) evening.

U-feast is doing it again soon, bringing cheeky, punky and very talented Michelin-Starred Chef Cristina Bowerman in from Rome July 9th for a “Three-way at the Windsor Arms Hotel”. I don’t know what that means food-wise – but I am IN! Here’s the link for tickets.

To attend more events like this register and become a member of Ufeast.com
PS: Want to learn some of Ivan Flowers’ great recipes? Check out this link.
Oh, and like him on Facebook .

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Global celebration of baijiu planned for August

June 16, 2015 9:35 am - Posted by Jody in Drink

baiju

Assorted baijius. Photo provided to China Daily Beijing wine and nightlife blogger Jim Boyce announced this week that bars and restaurants in several countries will participate in World Baijiu Day, a series of events designed to make consumers outside of China familiar with the nation’s popular white spirit. The world’s most-consumed alcoholic beverage is little-known abroad,… read more

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Taiwan Earns Its Chops

June 11, 2015 1:44 pm - Posted by Jody in Eat

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The island’s seasonal produce is the highlight of slick, new restaurants Taipei – Pungent slices of fermented tofu, piping hot pork buns and crisp green guava slices are some of Taiwan’s classic street eats, with the best stalls attracting queues of locals and visitors. Now these no-frills favourites are being joined by a new wave of… read more

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Dresden Is The New Unlikely Place for Fine Barolo Wine

June 9, 2015 1:40 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

dresden

Martin Schwarz has only 30 bottles left of his new wine. Despite their hefty €50 price tag, 70 have already been snapped up since the batch went on sale a few months ago. That may be because it’s the first-ever barolo grown in the East German state of Saxony. “Saxonian barolo” is what Schwarz jokingly labels… read more

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The grape revolution

June 4, 2015 1:37 pm - Posted by Jody in Drink

porto

Portugal is the dark horse of Europe. Often ignored until the 21st century, it has undergone a wine revolution. Portugal has not been helped by the fact that it’s traditionally a country of blends rather than easily identifiable ‘celeb’ grape varieties. Having been tongue-tied about its native grapes, Portugal is suddenly starting to take pride in… read more

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wine news

Paris (dpa) – The United States retained its ranking as the world’s biggest wine drinker in 2014 as China crept to second place globally in terms of vineyard surface area, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine said Monday. Americans drank 30.7 million hectolitres of wine last year, beating the French who drank 27.9 million hectolitres.… read more

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