Archive for June, 2010

The San Diego Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival!

June 29, 2010

Well, it’s been nearly a month ago, but I’m finally getting around to posting pictures from the San Diego Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival that took place on June 4th.  Boy does time fly!  This month has been busy for me, what with the end of one internship and the beginning of a new one with ONEHOPE Wine, but that’ll be the topic for another blog entry entirely!

Now, I’m going to give you the details of the event through the planner’s point-of-view!

The WCCF, as I shall now refer to it, is a fundraiser for the Women’s History Museum of San Diego.  The past couple of years the WCCF’s been held in Balboa Park, but this was the first year the event was held in Balboa Park’s Spanish Village.  It was a beautiful venue and perfect for accommodating the size of this year’s event.

I came on board the WCCF in February through my internship with Lindsay Pomeroy of Wine Smarties, whose been involved in this event since it’s inception.

Besides helping out in pretty much every area of the event, Lindsay’s main focus was securing all the wine donations for the event.  She did a great job because there was definitely more than enough wine flowing at the event!  We had some great sponsors including…

Jake-Ryan Cellars

Hill Family Estate

Skylark Wine Company

ONEHOPE Wine & PRP Wine

Orfila Vineyards & Winery

Fallbrook Winery

I was assigned with the task of finding cheese and chocolate sponsors for the event, which sounds a lot easier than it actually is!  You try calling local businesses during a recession and then ask them to donate their time and product for 600 guests, and let me know how that goes ;).

Luckily there were a lot of great businesses in San Diego that generously agreed to be a part of this year’s event.  This event would not have been possible without the donations from our sponsors!

Here’s a few pictures of our lovely cheese & chocolate sponsors…

Big Kitchen

I want to send out a special thank you to Judy and Mark from Big Kitchen!  We couldn’t have pulled off the festival without their help.  They loaned us kitchen supplies, baskets, and had staff from their restaurant help out in our kitchen.  HUGE thanks to them!

Cupcake Love

Let me just tell you a thing or two about Cupcake Love.  They have the best cupcakes ever!  Their chocolate cupcake with whipped peanut butter frosting is to DIE for!

I really can’t say enough about them other than you have to go check them out :P.  Their store front location is in Solana Beach.

Ghirardelli Chocolates

Godiva Chocolates

Eclipse Chocolat

I wish I could pay homage to each and every sponsor, but my blog can only handle so much!

Even Jasmine, my friend and fellow blogger showed up to check out the event and do a write-up about it on her blog.

At the end of the day, I think the festival turned out to be a huge success.  I’m so glad I got to be part of such a great event.  With that said, I’ll leave you with some festival highlights below…  Enjoy!

Cheers,

Jess

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My first trip to Napa Valley

June 21, 2010

Napa Valley is the place for wine.  If you’re a wino like me, you know what I’m talking about.  Just like skiers have the Swiss Alps, political junkies have Washington D.C., and geeks have Comic Con—we have Napa Valley.  I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Napa for the very first time on a recent family mini-vacation up to San Francisco.

On the recommendation of my wine instructor, I visited The Hess Collection Winery.  The winery was started by Donald Hess, a Swiss-born entrepreneur who came to the States looking for business opportunities.  During his stay he fell in love with Napa Valley and eventually started his own winery in 1989.

The building where the Estate lives today was originally built in 1903 as a winery.  When prohibition came about in the 1920s, the winery was overtaken by The Christian Brothers who were permitted to make sacramental wine.  Up to this day, Mr. Hess continues to rent the property from The Christian Brothers.

First thing’s first, we headed to the tasting room!

For ten dollars, I tried four wines.

I began with the 2007 Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvée, a delicious blend of 74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Malbec, 4% Syrah, 4% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot.  This complex wine has aromas of black currant and plum.  Intense dark fruit flavors and medium plus tannins interact on the tongue to produce a strong finish.

Next I tried their 2007 Artezin Petite Sirah.  Not to be confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah is a varietal whose namesake came from early planters who mistook the variety for Syrah when it was first being introduced to Californian vineyards, but because it’s grapes are much smaller it was deemed “Petite Sirah”.  Black fruit character, high tannins and high acidity intertwine to create a highly drinkable wine.

Hess produces two characteristically different Chardonnays—think of it as French vs. Californian.  Their 2007 Su’Skol Vineyard Chardonnay is more reminiscent of a traditional, French-style Chardonnay because of it’s time spent in 30% new French oak barrels, adding flavors of toast and vanilla to the mix.  In stark contract, their 2007 Hess Collection Mount Veeder Chardonnay reflects a crisper, more fruit-forward style with flavors like nectarine and apricot—a trend that is becoming increasingly popular with Californian Chardonnays.

Surprisingly the Mount Veeder Chard was aged in four-to-five-year-old French oak, not stainless steel like one might assume.  Because the oak is older it only gives off neutral flavors, no oak.  I favored the Mount Veeder Chard, which is saying a lot for someone like me who is slightly obsessed with buttery and oaky French-style Chardonnays.  Wine Spectator gave it a 90 point rating out of 100, so you know it must be good!

The best part about The Hess Collection Winery is the winery itself.  Like something straight out of a fairy tale, the property is breathtakingly beautiful.  In the garden they have a lovely outdoor seating area reserved for food and wine tastings.  Luckily it was a slow day so we were able to secure a nice table beneath the trellis.

We ordered a sampling of three cheeses for $14.00 which came with Manchego cheese, blue cheese, and a triple-cream cheese made from organic cow’s milk.  On the side they included a bowl of candied walnuts and the best dried Michigan cherries you’ve ever tasted.

During our visit to the winery, we took advantage of the free tour where I learned a lot about the history of the winery and the owner, Donald Hess.  The tour also included a visit to the vineyards, where they harvest grapes for their Mount Veeder wines, and is followed by a short-film in the theater.  The film goes into depth about the land they harvest the grapes on and the specific opportunities and challenges they face with growing wine on mountain terrain.

The tour finally ended with a stop in their wine barrel room.  Here the wine ages for a chosen period of time in oak barrels, allowing it to develop new flavors and complexities.

If The Hess Collection Winery is any indication of what Napa Valley has to offer, then I’m ready to dive in feet first!  Even though I only had time to visit one winery, I definitely maximized my visit by taking advantage of the free tour, enjoying a wine tasting, and noshing on tasty cheeses.

If that isn’t the quintessential Napa experience, I don’t know what is.  What I am sure of, however, is that I want to return someday in the near future.  In the words of my Govenator, “I’ll be back.”

Cheers,

Jess

Jazz & my Californian Adventure

June 4, 2010

Yesterday I took my friend Jazz up to California Adventure to celebrate her birthday!  She had been dying to go to Disneyland for awhile now and finally settled on her birthday for the date.  Looking back now I wish we had gotten the “park hopper” pass so we could have go back and forth between Cali Adventure and Disney, but I was attempting to be frugal.  I think it worked out though because we got to see all the attractions that mattered and now I have something to look forward to next time I go!

Did you know Cali residents can get an annual pass for just $8 a month?!  All you have to do is purchase one ticket for the day, tell them you want the annual pass, and they’ll withdrawal it from your bank account automatically.

As soon as we entered the park we came across a vineyard!  Turns out you can’t go anywhere in California without tripping over grape vines.  The sign said Golden Vine Winery.  I didn’t get to do any wine tasting, but perhaps next time?

First we rode Mickey’s Ferris Wheel of Impending Doom where they lock you up in steel cages and force you to go round and round until you become nauseous!  This is the “before” picture, clearly…

Thankfully we recovered and managed to see the rest of the park!  I finally got the ca-hones to ride the Tower of Terror appropriately named the Hollywood Tower Hotel in California.  I still ended up screaming my head off!

While waiting in line we encountered Master Yoda.  I wanted to say hi but he looked like he had his hands full training the next Luke Skywalker…

We also managed to visit Muppet Vision, one of my favorite attractions as a kid and we didn’t even have to wait in line!  I love being able to go to Disneyland during the middle of the week when we can avoid the crowds.


After the park, we walked around Downtown Disney and ate dinner at the Rainforest Cafe.  Cool place, great food, baaaad wine.  I guess I should have known better being in a tropical paradise and all, but I’m a wino at heart—can you blame me?  Next time I’ll go for the Paradise Punch.

All & all it was SO MUCH FUN and I cannot wait to go back!  I also want to hit up the French Cafe in Downtown Disney where they serve fresh made benets!  Mmm… my favorite!  Reminds me of New Orleans, but that’s another story. 🙂

Cheers,

Jess