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Mountain View Art & Wine Festival offers hodge podge of artwork, food and live entertainment

A collection of lockets and necklaces by local jewelry maker Melissa Huntsman.

A collection of lockets and necklaces by local jewelry maker Melissa Huntsman.

The Mountain View Art & Wine Festival was such a random cluster of so many things that it was hard to just focus on the art and wine.

The event attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people to downtown Mountain View and was a hodge podge of vendors selling just about everything: trinkets and knick-knacks, clothing, jewelry, food, commercial business services, political campaigns, etc.

There was a big mix of things to browse and buy at the event, which was contained between Evelyn Avenue and El Camino Real on Saturday, Sept. 12 and Sunday, Sept. 13.

There was also a live concert stage for local bands, big screen television for guests to enjoy live football games, and a kids’ park with face painting, balloons and bouncy houses. It was a “come one, come all” kind of event.

My focus was mostly people-watching and checking out some of the unique artwork and creations. Check out the gallery of some of those finds from the festival.

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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in art, live music, wine

 

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San Francisco Bay creates beautiful backdrop for Treasure Island day trip

A view of the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island.

A view of the San Francisco Bay from Treasure Island.

When an acquaintance of mine invited me to spend the day on San Francisco’s Treasure Island for her birthday, I was very apprehensive about making the one-hour drive.

The last time I drove into the city, I was almost side-swiped and rear-ended, and I almost hit a skateboarder who jumped out in front of my car. Plus, the traffic and drivers on Highway 101 tend to be insane.

Despite my anxiety, I wanted to explore Treasure Island, which is surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and is connected to both San Francisco and Oakland by the Bay Bridge. It ended up being a beautiful 80-degree day along the water with some great people.

The Crabcake Sandwich at the Treasure Island Bar and Grill.

The Crabcake Sandwich at the Treasure Island Bar and Grill.

Treasure Island Bar and Grill, 60 Clipper Cove Way

A couple ladies and I first stopped at a deli, which ended up being a very small convenience store that looked like it should be connected to a gas station. We decided to leave and look for another location that offered a place to sit.

Our second stop brought us to Treasure Island Bar and Grill, a casual-dining restaurant with a great view of the bay from its patio area. Customers order at the counter, and the waitstaff brings your order to the table.

I ordered the Crabcake Sandwich, served on a brioche bun and dressed with lettuce, tomato, onion, tartar sauce and chipotle pepper sauce. All sandwiches are served with a side of potato chips, potato salad and a pickle. Guests can take off the chips and add a side salad for $1 more. My order came out to about $10, including tax.

The crabcake was thick and filled with fresh crab meat and spiciness throughout the patty. Even with the tartar and chipotle pepper sauce, the sandwich wasn’t soggy or overloaded. The brioche was soft and had a nice toasting on the edges. The potato salad was chunky and had a rich, creamy flavor and texture. I wish the crabcake was a bit bigger, but overall it was an enjoyable lunch.

In addition to its lunch and dinner menu, Treasure Island Bar & Grill offers several happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. throughout the week, including $1.50 tacos, $2 domestic beers and $3 well drinks, according to its website.

The restaurant also serves bottomless mimosas and $5 Bloody Marys on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call (415) 627-9060 or visit treasureislandbar.com.

The inside of Vie Winery upon opening for the day.

The inside of Vie Winery upon opening for the day.

Vie Winery, 400 California Avenue

Vie Winery’s tasting room has a rustic and quaint setting. It’s located inside a large shed-like structure, with sheet metal walls, wooden pillars string lights draped along the rafters. Our hostess was very nice, accommodating and made sure we had great service.

The wine tasting flight cost $15 per person and featured five wines: a Rose, Zinfandel, two Syrahs and a GSM blend (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre).

My favorites were the 2009 Beatty Ranch Zinfandel and the 2009 Les Amours Syrah. Infused with blackberry and black cherry, as well as a hint of flowers, the Zinfandel had a beautiful aroma, full flavor and a medium heaviness on the tongue. I also enjoyed the fruity aroma of the Syrah, which I thought had a slightly heavier feel than the Zinfandel, according to the menu.

A view of the bocce ball courts upon guests' arrival.

A view of the bocce ball courts upon guests’ arrival.

Vie prides itself on producing high-quality wines from Zinfandel and Rhone varietals from many fine vineyards in California, including Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County.

Vie Winery offers daily wine tasting from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and by appointment Monday through Friday, according to its website. The bocce ball courts are open from 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and for private events Monday through Friday. For more information, call (415) 756-1791 or visit www.viewinery.com.

Sol Rouge Vineyard & Winery, 400 California Avenue

Right next door to Vie Winery is the Sol Rouge Winery’s tasting room, also located in a shed-like structure with red clay-colored walls, decorated with various artwork. Our host was a funny guy, and we had a great time exploring new wines with him.

A few of Sol Rouge's wines at its Treasure Island tasting room.

A few of Sol Rouge’s wines at its Treasure Island tasting room.

Sol Rouge offers a wine tasting flight for $15, but we used a complimentary wine-tasting pass to try the six wines. The 2010 Gypsy Rouge and 2010 Syrah. The Gypsy Rouge had a great fruity aroma (I obviously gravitate to that), floral notes and was light on the tongue. The Syrah was smooth and rich in flavor and lighter than what I expected. I’d like to have it with a dish of steak and potatoes.

The Sol Rouge vineyard is a family estate located in Kelseyville, north of Napa Valley in the Red Hills Appellation. The 70-acre estate is planted with Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and several other grape varieties, according to its website.

The Sol Rouge tasting room on Treasure Island offers wine tasting from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The winery share bocce ball courts with neighbor Vie Winery during wine tasting hours. For more information, call (415) 756-2254 or visit www.solrouge.com.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in San Francisco, seafood, wine, winery

 

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Day trip to Livermore Valley leads to affordable Wine County experience

The view of Livermore Valley from 3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road in Livermore.

The view of Livermore Valley from 3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road in Livermore.

Napa Valley is undoubtedly a wine lover’s paradise, with its rich, beautiful landscape and hundreds of wineries, each with their own unique style and ambiance.

But there is one town east of the Bay that wine enthusiasts should not overlook: Livermore.

About 35 miles northeast of San Jose, Livermore is home to about 50 wineries, and I had the pleasure of visiting some of them with a couple friends on a recent 90-degree-plus weekend.

Wente Estate Winery & Tasting Room, 5565 Tesla Road

Wente Vineyards was founded about 130 years ago, touting itself as the “oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery” in the U.S, according to its website. The winery reports drawing from about 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed estate vineyards for its wines.

Wente made a good impression on me. At the entrance, we were greeted by a friendly staff member, who treated us to a complimentary tasting of white wine. It was a great way to welcome the guests and create a relaxing, fun atmosphere.

Part of the courtyard at Wente Vineyards, 5565 Tesla Road.

Part of the courtyard at Wente Vineyards, 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore.

Wente’s courtyard was decorated with small fountains and flowered shrubbery, green lawn space for a picnic and plenty of shade-covered, bistro-style tables and seats to enjoy our complimentary tasting.

When we entered the tasting room, I was surprised at the affordability of the tastings. I chose the Legacy Flight, which feature two whites and three reds for $10. The other offering was the Winemaker’s Flight, which featured five red wines, for $15.

The most enjoyable wine was the 2012 Sonata, the Wine Club Exclusive.The wine is made from a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and stands out for its aromas and flavors that include dark berry and chocolate. The wine was not super heavy on the tongue, and I really enjoyed the bold flavors.

The Estate Tasting Room is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (925) 456-2305 or visit www.wentevineyards.com.

Wente's The Winemakers Studio, 5565 Tesla Road.

Wente’s The Winemakers Studio, 5565 Tesla Road in Livermore.

The Winemakers Studio, 5565 Tesla Road

Across from Wente’s Tasting Room was the winery’s The Winemakers Studio, which invites guests to participate in a hands-on, educational wine-making experience.

The Winemakers Studio offers classes that include teaching guests how to blend wine, pair wine and cheeses and identify a wine by taste and aroma alone.

For wine tasting, I chose the Winemakers Artisan Selection Keg Flight, which included a sampling of six wines for $15.

My favorite was the Artisan White, which was light, smooth on the tongue and had a sweet finish. It was a perfect wine for a hot day.

The Winemakers Studio is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. For more information, call (925) 456-2385 or visit www.wentewinemakers.com.

The Brut Sparkling Wine at 3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road in Livermore.

The Brut Sparkling Wine at 3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road in Livermore.

3 Steves Winery, 5700 Greenville Road

The last leg of our wine-tasting excursion brought us to 3 Steves Winery, owned by friends Steve Burman, Steve Melander and Steve Ziganti.

According to the winery’s website, the friends have made wine together for years and opened 3 Steves Winery in July 2013 at its Greenville Road location. The business touts several awards, including its Best in Class award win for its 2012 Merlot in this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Customers can enjoy wine in the winery’s casual, laid-back tasting room, or they can relax on the patio and look out onto the landscape of the valley. The view of the hills was quite beautiful, in my opinion.

3 Steves offers a wine-tasting menu of six wines for $10 per person, and the fee is waived if you purchase a bottle of wine. I bought the Brut Sparkling Wine, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. It was effervescent, smooth in feel and fruity. If you’re a champagne lover, I recommend this wine, which cost $24 per bottle.

3 Steves Winery’s tasting room is open from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, call (925) 997-7736 or visit 3steveswinery.com.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in wine, wine country

 

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Day trip to Napa’s Wine Country offers peek into rich Northern California treasure

Me, standing in front of the famous Napa Valley sign.

Me, standing in front of the famous Napa Valley sign.

One dream of mine is to return to Italy and enjoy the rich landscape and culture of Tuscany.

I had the opportunity to travel there in the summer of 2001 with my high school choir to participate in an international choral festival. During our five-day trip, we toured the beautiful architecture and artwork of Pisa and Florence, tasted the bold flavors of authentic Italian cuisine and met some courteous, kind people along the way.

I cried on our last day because I didn’t want to leave. The only thing we didn’t get to do was sample the wine (our strict choir director was not having any of that!).

Until I can bring that Tuscan dream to fruition, the closest I can get is Napa Valley, about 100 miles northeast of the San Jose area.

Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.

Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.

This is not a knock on Napa Valley, which is beautiful in its own right. Despite the drought, the rows of vines were plush with green leaves and plump grapes when my friends and I visited the area this past Fourth of July weekend. After my trip, I discovered that I have so much more to learn about the area and wine in general.

Since there are hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley area, we got a small taste of what the area has to offer. Below are highlights from some of the wineries we visited.

Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga

It’s hard to not be in awe of the large, brick castle surrounded by floral and grassy landscaping at Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga. The structure was built to look like an authentic,13th-century medieval Tuscan-style castle, according to the winery’s literature. Inside this castle are 107 rooms with 95 of them dedicated to winemaking, eight levels (four of them underground), and all ironwork, doors and windows made by Italian artisans.

The grounds also include a drawbridge and moat, three courtyards, prison and torture chamber and five towers. Visitors can be guided on a tour by an expert or guide themselves through the grounds.

Just as stunning are Castello di Amorosa’s wine offerings. The winery prides itself on producing wines in the Italian style, such as Pinot Bianco and Sangiovese, and growing red grapes in mostly hillside vineyards in the Napa Valley and around the castle.

I enjoy my wines on the sweeter side, so my favorites during the tasting were the Dolcino Gewurztraminer ($25 per bottle) and the Simpatica ($29 per bottle), a blend of Riesling and Moscato.

Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.

Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga.

The Dolcino was fruity, crisp, light on the tongue and had floral notes (again, I’m a rookie at describing wine and excited to learn). The winery describes it as a “spicy, delicate white wine” that is on the slightly sweet side.

The Simpatica had a fruity aroma and was sweet and light, a nice summer wine to drink while relaxing on your patio or by the pool. This dessert wine has a citrus essense as well as aromas of gardenia, honeysuckle and hibiscus, according to the winery.

If you have to choose one winery to go to while in Napa Valley, I would highly recommend Castello di Amorosa for its beautiful architecture as well as its great variety of delicious wines.

Castello di Amorosa is located at 4045 N. St. Helena Highway. For more information, call (707) 967-6272 or visit www.castellodiamorosa.com.

V. Sattui Winery, St. Helena

I heard that V. Sattui in St. Helena is very popular not only for its wine but for its extensive food menu as well. The winery was jam-packed with cars and visitors, and the lines for the barbecue and the deli store were long.

Close-up of the Salmon Filet Sandwich at V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena.

Close-up of the Salmon Filet Sandwich at V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena.

What appealed to me about V. Sattui was its large lawn area filled with picnic tables and large, shady trees for people to enjoy some al fresco dining to pair with their wine.

In the barbecue area, the staff were grilling slabs of beef, pork, chicken and seafood, as well as offering an intriguing mozzarella bar and wood-fired pizzas. I decided to go with the salmon filet sandwich, grilled and served on ciabatta bread with cucumber, tomato and mixed greens. I also ordered a mixed greens salad with blue cheese, walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. My bill came out to about $20.

The salmon was fresh and flaky, with a good amount of smokiness from the grill. The only thing that was missing was that crispy skin that gives the fish extra brininess. The bread was nicely grilled and soft on the inside. However, it was dusted with a bit more flour than I would have liked, and I proceeded to get it all over my mouth and hands (I am kind of a messy eater, though).

The greens in the salad were crisp and fresh, but the vinaigrette had a little too much vinegar in it for my taste. I wish the walnuts were candied to offset the strong, bold taste of the blue cheese. Overall, there was a generous amount of food for what I paid for.

V. Sattui is located at 1111 White Lane in St. Helena. For more information about V. Sattui Winery, call (707) 963-7774 or visit www.vsattui.com.

Peju Province Winery in Rutherford.

Part of Peju Province Winery in Rutherford.

Peju Province Winery, Rutherford

What I liked most about Peju Province Winery was that it offered a great deal on wine tastings: if you buy two bottles of wine, your $25 tasting fee is waived. I had no problem choosing two wines to bring home with me.

Of the four wines we tasted that day, the Sauvignon Blanc ($22 per bottle) and Provence ($23 per bottle) were my favorites.

The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp, tart and light on the tongue. It was described by Peju as a bright, lively and fresh wine. This is another great wine for the summer. It was more on the drier side to me, but it was very enjoyable.

The Provence had a fruity aroma, oakiness, a medium heaviness in the mouth, and was a nice mix of red and white. The wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and French Colombard. It was also aged in 100-percent neutral French oak barrels for six months, according to the winery.

Peju Provence Winery is a family-owned estate that was purchased by the owners more than 30 years ago.

Peju is located at 8466 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford. For more information, call (800) 446-7358 or visit www.peju.com.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Napa Valley, seafood, travel, wine

 

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Vibrant combinations of bruschetta please the eyes and palate at San Mateo wine cafe

The bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Bruschetta appetizer at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Up until last Saturday, I thought of bruschetta as a relatively plain dish – tomatoes and basil on top of bite-sized pieces of toast.

San Mateo’s B Street and Vine proved me wrong and helped me gain a better appreciation for the classic Italian appetizer.

The quaint wine cafe has more than 15 combinations of bruschetta to choose from, including Gorgonzola cheese & honey and ricotta with dates & pistachios. Bruschetta lovers should be pleased by what B Street & Vine has to offer.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

Dish of Choice

My friends and I ordered the bruschetta to split. Diners can choose four combinations, so we ordered the following: salami with feta and pesto; olive tapenade, cucumbers, tomato and feta; red pepper remoulade with tomato, feta and basil (I obviously enjoy the strong, salty taste of feta); and mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. A plate of bruschetta ranges from $12 to $16, depending on if you want some the restaurant’s more premium ingredients or gluten-free bread when available.

For dinner, I ordered the Autostrada Panini, made with four Italian meats: soppresata, prosciutto, salami and mortadella. It was dressed with tomatoes, provolone and pesto and served on grilled ciabatta roll.

Guests can also choose sliced sour bread, or gluten-free bread, when available, for $2 extra, according to the cafe’s website. The panini came with a side salad or kettle chips. Trying to be somewhat healthy, I went with the side salad. My entree cost $8.50. Our table also split a bottle of Riesling Kabinett from Germany for $25.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Autostrada Panini at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Taste

The bruschetta was the standout item of the night. The bread was cut into shareable pieces, was perfectly toasted on the edges and soft and hearty on the inside.

My favorite combination was the salami, feta and pesto. I love Italian meats like salami because they typically have a more distinct bite and peppery taste than regular cold cuts. The pungent taste of feta paired well with the pesto, which was smooth and rich in flavor.

I also enjoyed the mango, tomato, cilantro and avocado. I’ve always liked the creamy texture of avocado, and the mango was sweet and juicy without making the bread soggy.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

The Riesling Kabinett at B Street and Vine in San Mateo.

As for the panini, I thought having four different Italian meats on one sandwich would bog it down, make it messy and be over-the-top in saltiness. But the meats were cut in manageable, thin slices and placed neatly on the sandwich, and there was just enough ingredients without feeling stuffed or dehydrated. Just like the bruschetta, the bread was soft on the inside with just the perfect amount of grilling on the outside.

The Riesling was light and sweet, and the honey and apricot flavors were prominent. It wasn’t quite sugary enough to be a dessert wine, but it was close. If you like your wines more on the sweeter side, this wine is worth a try.

Other Details

For those who enjoy wine but are also looking for a bargain, B Street & Vine has some good specials throughout the week. Any glass of wine is half-off from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to its website. Diners can also get wine by the glass for half-off on Monday nights with a purchase of any entree.

B Street & Vine also has patio dining and live music from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. I will admit that the seating we got was a bit tight, but that might be to create more of an intimate atmosphere. Plus, it was a Saturday, which is a popular dining night. The live music was also at the right volume, so I didn’t have to shout in order to talk to my friends. Overall, it was an enjoyable night.

B Street & Vine is located at 320 S. B Street in San Mateo. For hours, music schedule and more information, call (650) 347-8463 or visit bstreetandvine.com or www.facebook.com/bstreetandvine.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Italian, sandwiches, wine

 

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