Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Getting Down in Reno

July 8, 2013

Last week, Kara and I headed up to Reno to visit my folks.

Here’s a quick look at some of the stuff we found up there…

Upon our arrival, my dad poured me one of his new favorite beers…

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Shock Top Lemon Shandy. If you like wheat beers and lemon zest, this is the brew for you.

Check out what my mom made for us…

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We’re expecting a baby at the end of December. This will be their first pair of shoes.

Now…

My folks have lived in Reno for over a decade, so I’ve gotten to know this town pretty well. Our goal on this trip was to try some new things.

We started off our second day in town visiting a hidden gem at the University of Nevada, Reno…

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Fleischmann Planetarium. They’ve got some pretty cool star shows almost every hour.

Later, we hit up a local favorite for lunch…

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Dish Cafe

I first heard of this spot when it was featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”.

Here’s what I ate…

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The Cowgirl Panini made of Creekstone Farms Tri Tip, Carmelized Onions, Thyme, Goat Cheese, Dijon, and Goat Cheese Spread on Sourdough. Mad tasty.

The good eats continued when we went to Old Granite Street Eatery for dinner.

Here’s what I had…

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Sweet Bacon Chips. Mmmmmmmm…

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Chilled Asparagus Soup with Crème Fraiche and Watercress. A perfect dish for a hot summer night.

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Wood Grilled Burger with Aged White Cheddar and Potato Medallions. So good!

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Pair it all with the Cascina Valpane 2010 Barbera d’Alba and a beautiful woman, and it’s all good.

The next day was the Fourth of July. After waking up to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on ESPN, we strolled around downtown Reno to check out the Wing Fest.

You know I had to sample some…

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Some fantastic Nitro Wings.

That’s how I get down.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

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Curaçao: A Dushi Place

May 5, 2013

Hello!

It’s been a little while!

Kara and I spent a bit of time last week on the island nation of Curaçao for a wedding…

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Wedding on the Beach

Of course the wedding was beautiful, so let me tell you a little bit about the island instead…

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Curaçao

Founded in 1499, Curaçao is a self-governing Caribbean nation under the Kingdom of the Netherlands.  While the official language is Dutch, the natives speak a language called Papiamentu.  Due to its proximity to South America (35 miles North of Venezuela), locals are also fluent in Spanish.  Due to the bad-assness of this country, this is also a go-to destination for American tourists, so you know that everyone speaks English too.

Basically, you could get by in Curaçao speaking any language you want.

That being said, there is one word in Papiamentu that you MUST learn…

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Dushi!

Much like Aloha in Hawaii, Dushi has many meanings in Curaçao.  Literally, dushi translates to delicious or flavorful.  On the real, though… Dushi means that something is good or awesome.

On our first full day in Curaçao, Kara and I explored the capital city of Willemstad to see why this place is so dushi…

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We stopped by the Plein Café Wilhelmina to have a Hoegaarden…

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And a Carpaccio Pesto Sandwich!

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We then took a walk through the Waterfort Arches. Bon bini means welcome, by the way.

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Willemstad is divided into two sides by the Saint Anna Bay. From the side we were on, Punda, you can have a great view of Otrabanda (translated to The Other Side).

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Here’s another shot of the streets of Punda.

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And there’s Otrabanda again!

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What’s really dushi about this place is all the random artwork you see in the streets. Check out this three-dimensional mural!

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There are plenty of water front restaurants where you can get some tasty tropical drinks…

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If you’re lucky, you’ll see some massive ships sail by.

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To get from Punda to Otrabanda, there is a pontoon bridge that swings open and closed to let ships through. While walking across the bridge, I got this picture of Punda.

While walking the streets of Willemstad, I was able to pick up a nice wine from one of the convenience stores to bring to dinner…

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Baron Philippe de Rothschild 2011 Pays D’OC Pinot Noir

Now, you know that Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild makes one of the most epic Cabernet Sauvignon blends in Bordeaux, France.  If you’ve got a grand to burn, I hear that is some great stuff.  If you don’t have that kind of scratch, you may want to give this guy a try.  It was only 25 guilder (14 bucks).

Nose: Definitely old world characteristics on this wine.  Heavy on the earthy mushrooms, but with some good red currant fruit.

Taste: Oh man!  Mushrooms, soil, bacon fat, and black pepper.  There’s some good red fruit on the palate, with a long acidity that is begging for food.

Score: A great value if you can find it.  I had to fly all the way to Curaçao to get this bottle.  88 points.

The next day was the Queen of The Netherlands’ birthday, so we decided to walk around and see how the people of Curaçao were celebrating…

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I spotted some more awesome art on our walk downtown.

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The Queen wears orange. On Queen’s Day, everyone wears orange.

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We ducked into a sports bar to catch some of the ceremonies on TV.

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On the way back to the car, we walked by a party that was being set up in an abandoned lot. We were thinking about stopping, but we had a wedding to get to…

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While driving back to get ready for the wedding, we did see a little graffiti. I got a kick out of this one.

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Back at the wedding, the Champagne was flowing…

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Back at the abandoned lot, the party kept going…

Man!  This place is Dushi!

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Napa at Night… And the Morning After

April 9, 2013

After a great AM and PM of tasting in the Napa Valley last Wednesday, Kara and I checked into our room at the River Terrace Inn along the Napa River.

We had a dinner reservation downtown set for 8:00, and had a little time to kill, so we took a seat at the wine bar in the lounge to have a glass before walking over to the restaurant…

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I nice glass of Franciscan Merlot in the lounge. You know that I’m a fan of Franciscan.

After we finished our drink, we headed over to Morimoto Napa to have some Iron Chef quality Japanese food.

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This is a super tasty Shochu cocktail. I love Shochu.

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Here’s some dope Hamachi Tacos.

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A BIG Green Salad

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Here’s a little of everything… Wagyu Beef, Soft Shell Crab Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Tuna, and Spicy Salmon.

After an amazing dinner, we had a quick cocktail at Fagiani’s Bar…

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Gin Martini

Before leaving Napa the next morning, we hit up the legendary Napa Valley Biscuits

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For a hot cup of coffee…

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And a big ol’ plate of Chicken and Waffles.

Yum!

Thanks for the great time, Napa.  You know we’ll be back soon.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Napa in the PM

April 8, 2013

After our epic visits to Domaine Chandon and Silver Oak last Wednesday morning, Kara and I were primed to continue our Napa Valley wine tasting adventure into the PM.

Our next stop was Paraduxx Napa Valley along the Silverado Trail where we were hosted to a tasting at their outside wine lounge. Paraduxx is a sister winery to Duckhorn Vineyards. The main focus of the winery is to focus on blends… usually red… mostly including Zinfandel… and almost always just two grapes… Get it? Paraduxx.

Here’s what we had…

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The Migration 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay had a beautiful golden hay color to it. The nose was all floral and honey. On the palate, the wine was almost Sauvignon Blanc-like with its grassy green apple flavors. The creamy finish from the 100% French Oak reminds you that it is all Chardonnay. This Chardonnay was the goods. $30. 90+

Next, we got into the red blends…

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The whole lot of ’em…

The Paraduxx 2010 Z Blend is 63% Zinfandel, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Merlot. Fruits of strawberries and figs dominate the nose. On the palate there’s a good minerality, some nice tobacco notes, cranberry and red apples. Nice. $48. 91

The Paraduxx 2010 C Blend consists of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Zinfandel. The nose is blackberry fruit with a touch of brown sugar. On the palate, apple cores and raspberries give way to a long acidity that is sprinkled with black tea notes. This is good stuff. $52. 91+

The Paraduxx 2010 Rector Creek Vineyard is a single-vineyard blend of 65% Zinfandel, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Merlot. Think about cranberries. On the nose, you’ve got cranberries and herbs. On the palate, it’s all juicy cranberry and blackberry fruit. Cranberries, y’all. $78. 91

Now… The Paraduxx 2010 Howell Mountain is my jam. 65% Zinfandel. 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is of menthol and blackberries. The palate is all tobacco, herbs, and oranges with some good red fruit throughout. This wine is mad approachable right now, but it’s got the structure to lay down for the next 10+ years. This wine is great. $78. 93

While at the tasting lounge, we tried a couple other wines from the Duckhorn family…

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The Goldeneye 2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir has the nose of red apples and cranberries. On the palate, you’ve got some more of that red apple with some nice tobacco notes. At 14.5% alcohol, this is a big Pinot Noir that Cabernet Sauvignon lovers will hella dig. $55. 91

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Wine is food. This flight was a meal. Every meal should end with dessert. The Duckhorn 2011 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc is a great dessert. Super orange and gold in color. Nose of oranges, hay, and honey. The palate is much of that same orange, hay, and honey flavor with the addition of some tasty yeast notes. $45 (half-bottle). 91

As much as it pained us to have to leave the beautiful wine (and surroundings) of Paraduxx Napa Valley, there was still plenty of daylight left… So…

It was on to the next stop…

During the day, as I checked in on Twitter, I noticed quite a few people talking up Flora Springs, so we hit up their tasting room in St. Helena…

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The Tasting Room

All the wines were nice. This one was an especially tasty treat…

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Flora Springs 2010 Poggio Del Papa

We finished off our day at one of my favorite Napa Valley wineries…

They’ve got some killer wines. If you saw this video when I posted it a few months back, you would have already known that.

The highlight of the tasting was their EJ Church 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you ever feel like getting me an early Christmas present, please feel free to hook me up with this earthy, herby, menthol, and eucalyptus fun.

As the sun set over the ranch, we knew it was time to bring the day’s tastings to a close…

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The Ranch in the Setting Sun

That’s not to say we didn’t keep the good times rolling in the Napa Valley after dark…

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Be sure to check in next time when Jeff and Kara taste some epic food in the Napa Valley after dark.

What’s your favorite red blend? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Napa in the AM

April 6, 2013

It’s Spring.

One of the many perks about teaching is that Kara and I always get a week off for Spring Break.

One of the many perks about living in the Bay Area is that we are a short drive to some of the greatest wine growing regions in the world.

This past Wednesday, Kara and I decided to drive on up to the Napa Valley to get our taste on.

Now… If you’ve ever been tasting in Napa on the weekends, you know how crowded it can get (both in the tasting rooms, and on the highways). On Saturdays and Sundays, it’s a must to get into Napa by 10:00am (when most wineries open) to beat the rush.

But…

On a lazy Spring Wednesday, it’s really fun to get to Napa early just so you can take your time rolling from one tasting room to the next.

When we first arrived in wine country at 10:00am, we decided to start the day with some sparkles…

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Drinking Bubbles at Domaine Chandon

You know that I’m a fan of Domaine Chandon (What? You didn’t? Click here). Their tasting lounge in Yountville is beautiful and relaxing. I decided to do their Classic Tasting to give you the lowdown on their wines that you should be able to find at a wine shop near you…

The Brut Classic is loaded full of lemon and apple fruits. The Blanc de Noirs (the wine that got me into Domaine Chandon) has some good acid with fruits of cherry and red currants. The Rose was my favorite of the flight. Fruit of red apple with a great minerality. The Extra-Dry Riche had some sweetness of honey and peaches, but was balanced out with herbs of eucalyptus and spearmint.

Not a bad start to the day.

Next, we headed over to the iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producer, Silver Oak in Oakville, where Kara and I were treated to a VIP tour and tasting.

When Kara and I first arrived, we were greeted with a taste of the current release of their Alexander Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the “entry level” wine from Silver Oak. It consists of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from various vineyards throughout the appalachian (including their own). The wine is aged on 50% new and 50% once-used American oak for 24 months before bottling. The wine was then bottle-aged for another 15 months before release. It retails for $70.

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Fruits of raspberry and cranberry with hints of buttered toffee and menthol.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, raspberry, and red currant are rounded out with notes of leather and menthol.

Score: This wine is big and tasty on the palate. It’s an easy 91+ that should get much better with a few years of aging.

While tasting the wine, we got the opportunity to hang out with their library and large format wines in the big glass display case at the front of the winery…

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Check out these bottles…

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And these ones!

Next, we got a taste of the 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet…

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Silver Oak 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet

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Oh man!

Whereas the Alexander Valley is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend that could be considered Silver Oak’s ode to Bordeaux. The 2008 edition consists of 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. It is aged in 100% new American oak for 24 months before another 20 months of bottle aging. This wine runs for $110.

Color: Darker than the AV Cab, but still in the ruby red category.

Nose: Beautiful nose of blueberry (I’m a sucker for blueberries), raspberry, and boysenberry fruits wrapped up in that sweet American oak.

Taste: Fruits of cranberry, blackberry, and blueberry fruits. This wine has some very nice, soft tannins, and a good acidity. It’s beautiful.

Score: You know… When you talk about a wine that rolls in at $110, the first thing you may wonder is whether or not the wine is worth it. This wine is Shakespearean. It’s got an approachability that will please the masses. It’s got the ageability that will turn on the collectors. It’s got the depth that is thought-provoking enough to excite any wine geek. Is it worth it? Yes… Yes it is. 92

While tasting the Napa Valley Cab, we got a chance to check out more of the winery.

If you haven’t been to Silver Oak in a while, things may look different. They had to rebuild the winery after a fire in 2008, but have done a great job of honoring its history. Here’s the memorabilia room…

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They say that this double rainbow over the winery during the rebuild was a signal from late winemaker Justin Meyer that everything was going to be okay.

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The Silver Oak Time Capsule

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An article referring to the 1972 Silver Oak as overpriced at $6 a bottle.

After looking at some of the history of Silver Oak, we got us a taste of the 2008 Twomey Merlot…

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Twomey 2008 Merlot

Twomey is the sister label of Silver Oak. With a slogan like “Life is a Cabernet”, it would be kind of weird to see a Silver Oak Merlot or Pinot Noir. This Twomey Merlot is their ode to the great wines of Pomerol in Bordeaux, France. As such, this wine has been aged on French oak. It costs $50.

Color: Lighter ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry fruit with hints of vanilla and spice.

Taste: Massive blackberry and blueberry fruit, balanced out with a good acidity and herbaceous notes of black tea.

Score: Yes. The Napa Valley Cab is worth it at $110, but the Twomey Merlot at $50 is a steal. 92.

Next, we took a stroll through the winery facilities…

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Fermentation Tanks

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These are barrels of “Growers Lots”. Winemakers will hold on to wines from individual lots to see how these wines age over the years. This helps them predict how certain blends will age over time.

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American Oak Barrels Stacked to the Sky

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This year, Silver Oak is experimenting with barrel size. What I wouldn’t give to aid in this research.

We ended the tour with a taste of one of their older vintages, just to see how well these wines do age…

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Silver Oak 2002 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $100

Color: Nice and dark.

Nose: Dry herbs, tobacco, and menthol.

Taste: I love the way that wines age over time. I love the transition of bright fruits to herbs. That is just what this wine does. There are still some nice juicy plums on the front palate, but they give way to these tasty, earthy tobacco notes.

Score: Just beautiful. 92+

Here’s the thing I love about Silver Oak. In a world where EVERYBODY knows about your wine… and most folks rave about it, they could probably get away with being all stuffy and pretentious…

But…

They are far from it.

When the folks at Silver Oak talk about their winery and their wine, they light up. There is a strong sense of family among their coworkers. That feeling of family rubbed off on us the moment we walked in the door.

Their goal is to make consistently good wine every single year and to share it with the folks they love.

That means you.

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Life is a Cabernet… and some really good Merlot made by a sister label.

Not a bad morning in the Napa Valley.

Not bad at all.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Be sure to check back next time to see what happens to Jeff and Kara when they check out more of Napa in the PM.

Have you ever had any wines from Domaine Chandon, Silver Oak, or Twomey? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know.

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