Thursday, February 2, 2017

Sunshine Millions Wine Festival

Ashleyluvssugar (#1 in 2nd place) about to win the California Cup Turf Classic
The Sunshine Millions Wine Festival and the Sunshine Millions California Cup were a perfect combo last Saturday. 
Santa Anita Park aka "The Great Race Place" is at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and has a reputation as one of the most beautiful horse race tracks in the world. They opened their doors as an official racetrack in 1934 and many famous horses have run there, including Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Affirmed, John Henry and Zenyatta.
We were with a fun birthday party group in the Turf Terrace, which is billed as the "best seat in the house."
I've been to a number of differently themed wine festivals, but this is the first time I've been able to taste a nice variety of wine (and some beer) while watching an exciting horse race. There were ten races that showcased the best Cal-Bred Thoroughbreds. And I even bet on a few.
Devon picked the winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint with Enola Gray and I picked 2nd place Smoove It.
Number 9 wins! Sircat Sally remained perfect in a dazzling 2 ¼ length win as she tried turf for the first time in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks. Turner's homebred, ridden by Baze and trained by Hollendorfer, gets mile in 1:35.08. Click to watch video.
I really raked in the dough with a $6 bet on winning horse Sircat Sally in the California Cup Oaks. Ashleyluvssugar won the California Cup Turf Classic and Ann Arbor Eddie won the California Cup Derby.  Thanks to West Coast Wheelie’s tip sheet for some great tips.
BUT enough about horse racing! The Sunshine Millions Wine Festival was a fun tasting event by itself.
In addition to Beaulieu Vineyards, I was glad to taste some of these wines...
 Deutsch Family Wines: Josh / Villa Pozzi
Jackson Family Wines Collection: Matanzas Creek Winery / Cambria / Nielson by Byron
Jacob’s Creek / Graffigna
Kendall-Jackson: Vinter’s Reserve and Avant
Motto Wines / Columbia Crest / Chateau St. Michelle /14 Hands Winery
Newton Red Label
Zaca Mesa
I didn't have a chance to catch them all though; the other wineries were...
Barefoot Spritzers
Domaine Chandon

Cape Mentelle
Chateau St. Jean / 19 Crimes
Rodney Strong

Treana Winery
Trinchero Family Estates

A couple of breweries were represented and I was glad to see they were two of my favorites: Pizza Port Brewing (with Pick Six Pilsner) and Stone Brewing (with Delicious IPA).
Any wine or beer would go well with one of these Homeboy Pretzels.
Two criminals tasting 19 Crimes wine.
Want to talk to the winemaker? Better visit the winery. Unlike some other wine festivals with winemakers pouring, this one had a few knowledgeable distributor reps and many of the other people were employees of the track or hired for the event.  I noticed this at the beginning when two people pouring beer had not been instructed on how to do it yet, so they couldn't serve any beer! (I thought you just pulled back on the tap?)
The horse racing was entertaining enough, so I didn't worry about talking to winemakers to learn more about their wines.
Photo by Debby Hall
Gary & Devon with the Seabiscuit statue in the Paddock Gardens at Santa Anita Park.
Photo by Debby Hall
A professional photo bomber and Taste N Trip fan joined us for a picture.
Video on YouTube at
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Unless otherwise noted all pictures are by Gary Coon / Taste N Trip.

Friday, January 20, 2017

California Wine Tasting Events 2017

It's never too early to plan your 2017 tasting trips! So save these dates now. The following festivals are only a few of the many events in California that may be interesting. (Listed in order by date.)
  • 6th Annual Winter Wine Classic – Santa Barbara
  • Sunshine Millions Wine Festival - Santa Anita Park, Arcadia
  • Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend - Paso Robles 
  • 2017 LA Beer Fest - Los Angeles Center Studios, LA
  • 6th Annual California Jazz & Wine Fest - Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village
  • Santa Barbara Vintners New Release Spring Weekend - River View Park, Buellton
  • 35th Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival - Downtown City Park, Paso Robles
  • ZinFest Wine Festival - Lodi Lake Park, Lodi 
  • 5th Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Assoc Wine Festival - Reyes Winery, Agua Dulce
  • 34th Annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival - Lake Skinner, Winchester
  • 24th Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival - Camarillo
  • The 31st Annual Ojai Wine Festival - Lake Casitas Recreation Area, Ojai
  • 2017 Santa Barbara Wine and Food Festival - Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
  • 30th Annual A Taste of Camarillo – Wine, Brew & Food Festival - Camarillo
  • Wine and Fire 2017 - La Purisima Mission, Lompoc
  • Harvest Wine Weekend - Paso Robles
Harvest Wine Weekend - Paso Robles
6th Annual Winter Wine Classic – Santa Barbara
Saturday, January 21st

4:00/5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Enjoy amazing wines, gourmet appetizers, an ocean view & amazing sunset under a beautiful heated tent at the Fess Parker
Resort. One of the largest gatherings of California’s ultra-elite winemaking masters will be held on Saturday, January 21st.
Ticket price includes commemorative crystal wine tasting glass, live music, wine tastings and appetizers.

Santa Anita Graphic
Sunshine Millions Wine Festival
Santa Anita Park, Arcadia

Saturday, January 28th
11:30 am - 5:00 pm
One of the most exciting days at Santa Anita Park’s Winter Meet includes the Sunshine Millions California Cup. It is one-part showcase of the best Cal-Bred Thoroughbreds, and one-part celebration in the fashion that Santa Anita Park delivers. The Sunshine Millions Wine Festival and The Great Race Place offer a bevy of wine (*no list of wineries available) and food to complement an amazing card of racing. Wines from across California will be paired with a day of world-class racing on the Santa Anita Park apron. The racetrack opened it's doors in 1934 as an official racetrack. Many horses have ran at Santa Anita Park, including Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Affirmed, John Henry and Zenyatta.

Paso Wine Website Graphic
Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend 
Paso Robles
Friday - Sunday, March 17 - 19
During Vintage Paso, producers and enthusiasts come together in celebration of everything that Zinfandel and Zinfandel blends add to your palate and your experience. Enjoy a zin-filled weekend with activities including an exciting Zinposium seminar, winemaker dinners, exclusive Zinfandel tastings, winery and vineyard tours and so much more! (Not exactly a wine festival.)

Pic by Drink Eat Play Facebook
2017 LA Beer Fest
Los Angeles Center Studios, 450 South Bixel Street, LA
Saturday, April 8th
12 pm - 3 pm & 5 pm – 8 pm
The 9th Annual LA Beer Festival will feature dozens of international and domestic beers, food trucks (food sold separately), and  live entertainment. The fest will take place at LA Center Studios in 2 different sessions: noon to 3pm and 5pm to 8pm. GA tickets include unlimited beer tastings with food sold separately. Connoisseur's Tickets ($80) are limited and offer attendees exclusive access featuring limited beers/one-offs not available to general admission. Proceeds will benefit Noah's B-ark, whose aim is to rescue dogs from shelters and find permanent homes for rescued pets. Proceeds from the event will fund food, shelter, and veterinary bills for rescued pets.
Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village
Sunday, April 9th
1 pm - 5 pm
An eclectic mix of hot jazz and cool swing will be performed on two stages and unlimited sampling of wine, craft brews, boutique spirits and gourmet food are happening on Sunday.
Along with artisans displaying their wares, music will include Danny Janklow, saxophonist, producer and composer  known internationally for his soulful and passionate sounds. Also performing are the Adam Clark Quartet, Lao Tizer, D.on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers, The Barrelhouse Wailers and Bruce Forman’s “Cow Bop.” Presented by Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise, proceeds will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley.
Santa Barbara Vintners New Release Spring Weekend
River View Park, Buellton
April 22nd
1 pm - 4 pm
The Santa Barbara Vintners New Release Spring Weekend is four days of wine, food and fun. The highlight of the weekend is the Festival Grand Tasting on Saturday at River View Park in Buellton. Enjoy new release wines from participating member wineries; food sampling from more than twenty food purveyors; live music; wine and culinary demonstrations; local artisans; and a silent auction.

Throughout the four day weekend many wineries host their own events, including open houses, winemaker dinners, library tastings, vineyard walks, and barrel tastings. Some of these individual events require reservations directly with the host winery.
35th Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival 
Downtown City Park, Paso Robles
May 18 - 21
The Paso Robles Wine Festival
is the marquee tasting event held along California's Central Coast. The Wine Festival starts Thursday, May 18th with Winemaker Dinners. On Friday, May 19th, select wineries feature their Library, Reserve, White/Rosé, and Futures complemented by fresh and local gourmet bites at the RESERVE Event. There is a fun and educational Winemaker Seminar on Saturday morning, May 20th. Following the seminar, more than 70 wineries come together in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to showcase their wines during the Grand Tasting. Wineries at the Grand Tasting will be arranged by “regions” for a seamless and focused tasting experience: Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style, Zinfandel, Burgundian-style, Italian varieties and Other Wild Wines for your tasting pleasure. Plus, new this year, food samples! (Finally!) Live music provide the perfect atmosphere for your wine tasting experience in the picnic area and near the gazebo.
ZinFest Website Graphic
ZinFest Wine Festival
Lodi Lake Park, 1101-1301 W. Turner Road, Lodi 
Saturday, May 20th 
12 am – 5 pm
Sip, swirl and savor from a selection of 250 handcrafted wines from 50 Lodi wineries. Passionate winemakers and winery representatives welcome guests, offer practical knowledge and share their delicious wines. Enjoy local provisions, learn some new tips at the ZinFest Wine and Cooking Schools, or relax along the beautiful Mokelumne River to an eclectic mix of live music. Guests can peruse merchandise from regional vendors and take home a commemorative bottle of custom blended Old Vine Zinfandel from the ZinFest Wine Shoppe. There is no better way to celebrate the fantastic wines of Lodi Wine Country!
5th Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association Wine Festival
Reyes Winery, 10262 Sierra Hwy, Agua Dulce
Saturday, May 20th
11/12 pm - 4 pm
The Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival is a showcase of Los Angeles County premier wine and spirit producers and culinary professionals. Now, in its fifth year, the Festival showcases nearly 150 wines from over 40 local wineries, over 40 of Santa Clarita’s fine dining restaurants, spirit purveyors, gourmet food companies, and artists.

Combined Graphics from Internet
34th Annual Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival
Lake Skinner, Warren Rd, Winchester
June 2 - 4
The Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival offers top-name entertainment, wine tasting in the Wine Garden, Kids Faire, Arts & Crafts, Commercial exhibits and a Food Court. Wine tasting features different premium wines from numerous Temecula Valley wineries as well as others from Southern California. Enjoy a memorable experience and book a hot air balloon flight. Your journey will begin at sunrise as the balloon lifts gently into the sapphire skies above Lake Skinner.

24th Annual Casa Pacifica Angels Wine, Food & Brew Festival
California State University Channel Islands
1 University Drive, Camarillo

Sunday, June 4
A wonderful day of sampling excellent wines, delicious foods, and marvelous micro-brews, all to benefit the programs and services provided by Casa Pacifica to vulnerable and deserving children and their families. The Festival showcases delectable creations of the finest restaurants, caterers, bakeries and specialty shops from Santa Barbara to Conejo Valley. The event also features many renowned wineries and vineyards from throughout California's rich wine-producing regions, as well as many local breweries.

The 31st Annual Ojai Wine Festival
Lake Casitas Recreation Area, Ojai
Sunday, June 11th
12 - 4 pm
The Ojai Wine Festival has grown into a leading regional event attracting about 5,000 people from throughout the central coast and southern California. The Ojai Wine Festival has made its home at beautiful Lake Casitas Recreation Area event site and has become a favorite event for attending wineries with their numbers doubling to event capacity. Wine and beer connoisseurs can delight in over 60 of California’s award winning wineries with more than 250 selections of wine and 15 excellent Premium Beers and Microbrews. VIP Tickets are available for the VIP Lounge with early entry at 11:30 am, exclusive fine wines, Belgian craft beers and hors d'oeuvres. Each year the Ojai Wine Festival has one or two bands playing during the event keeping people grooving on the dance floor. 

2017 Santa Barbara Wine and Food Festival
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
June 24th
2 pm - 5 pm
The festival takes place along the banks of Mission Creek at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Mingle with winemakers, bakers, and chefs in the sunshine, under the oak trees. Guests will enjoy the best of Central Coast Wines and try their luck in our Every Cork Wins! raffle. One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the Wine Festival supports nature and science education for adults and children. 

30th Annual A Taste of Camarillo – Wine, Brew & Food Festival
Adolfo Camarillo Ranch House, 201 Camarillo Ranch Road, Camarillo
Sunday, July 30
1 pm - 4 pm
Spend an afternoon sampling fine wines & gourmet foods on the beautiful grounds of the historic Camarillo Ranch. Enjoy live entertainment, boutique shopping, silent auction and cash opportunity drawing. Visit with winemakers and chefs in the shade of 100 year old trees.
Dust off your boots and enjoy country western music and dancing again this year with live music, a VIP Lark Saloon and the Wet Your Whistle Watering Hole filled with craft beers. A Taste of Camarillo promises to be a wonderful event for everyone with all proceeds benefiting local and Ventura County charities.
~ and ~
Wine Auction Gala
Live & Silent Auction
Saturday, July 29
5 pm - 10 pm

Pictures from Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance website
Wine and Fire 2017
La Purisima Mission, Lompoc

August 18 - 20
The Sta. Rita Hills Wine Alliance holds their annual Wine and Fire event in August. It’s a weekend of world class wines and wood grilled specialty foods. The three main events include a barn party, a seminar and lunch, and the Grand Tasting at La Purisima Mission. Additional events are hosted by member wineries throughout the weekend.

Harvest Wine Weekend
Paso Robles

October 20 - 22
Love wine, but not all the fuss that sometimes goes along with it? In Paso Robles Wine Country, you’ll discover award-winning wines, exceptional restaurants and breathtaking views all without tension or pretension. Try a taste for yourself during Harvest Wine Weekend! Harvest in Paso Robles Wine Country is a time of excitement and celebration! The changing colors of the vines, crisp autumn air, and the promise of a new vintage create a wine country experience not to be forgotten. Explore more than 140 weekend activities, including winemaker dinners, ceremonial grape stomps, barrel tastings, artisanal food pairings, live music and so much more!

More events for 2017 will be added as I learn about them...

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Unless otherwise noted all pictures are by Gary Coon / Taste N Trip.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Balloon Fiesta and Beyond...

At the end of September we headed east on I40 (aka Historic Route 66 in some places) to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
The first weekend of the fiesta the weather was perfect and we attended the "Twilight Twinkle Glow"on Saturday night. Our tickets included the "Chasers Club" viewing area with tables and a sloooooow buffet of food, plus drinks for sale.  I can't recommend this viewing option if you want to wander around on the field among the balloons.
On Sunday we got up before dawn and caught the "Dawn Patrol," "Morning Glow" and "Mass Ascension" as the sun rose over the Sandia Mountains to the east.
I took so many pictures of balloons that I had to make a video, rather than uploading them individually.  Click here to watch the CoonToonStudios slideshow. It starts with The Glow and ends with the Mass Ascension of balloons. Watching the balloons fire up at night or early morning is a great way to see how colorful they really are.
I used my GoPro to record a 4K Video of the action.  Click here to watch the ascension video. Multiple video quality levels up to 2160p are available. 

ABQ (Albuquerque)
Devon managed to find some great places to eat and taste wine while in ABQ. Our first dinner was a quick plate of Baby Back Ribs that were out of this world! Rudy's Real Texas Bar-B-Q was a real basic, but gourmet food joint!
Los Cuates (which translates to "The Twins") for lunch was fantastic and I discovered Carne Adovada -- pork marinated in New Mexico red chile. I'd never seen anything like it on menus in California or Texas. It was great! I had the Taco Plate with Carne Adovada tacos and New Mexico Green Chiles. Delicious!
Zacatecas Tacos & Tequila - Kyle the bartender was a real showman! The drinks were fun and the food was great! Zacatecas is an authentic Mexican taqueria and tequila bar located in Nob Hill, Albuquerque. Named for a region in central Mexico known for its classic, cross cultural blend of foods and recipes, Zacatecas offers a variety of soft tacos with fresh, organic ingredients and a Margarita bar featuring tequilas and beer from Mexico.
Gruet Winery was a fun place to taste wine in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe. 
In ABQ Devon sampled the Tête de Cuvée Tasting and I had the Fiesta Favorites Tasting.
Our favorites were:
Sauvage Vintage 2011
Sauvage Rosé NV
Grand Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2011
Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2012
Grand Blanc de Noirs Vintage 2013

Santa Fe
We enjoyed a New Mexican breakfast at Whoo's Donuts in Santa Fe. The Blue Corn Maple Pecan donut was perfect before hitting the Santa Fe Shopping Trail.
A gourmet lunch at Coyote Cafe Rooftop Cantina.
On the Old Santa Fe Trail
Santa Fe Bite is a funky diner that has the Best Damn Green Chile Cheeseburger in all of New Mexico!
The green chile cheeseburger went very well with a Cumbre Brewing Company IPA.
Santa Fe Sights
We were glad to spend time in the Santa Fe area; there is so much to see there: Aspens starting to change colors in the Hyde Memorial State Park, the Santa Fe Opera, Canyon Road galleries, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and the Santa Fe Railyard.
The Canyon Road area had over 80 galleries and studios exhibiting a wide range of art, including Native American art and antiquities, historical and contemporary Latino art, regional art, international folk art, and contemporary art. Bring your Smart car for the tiny street though.
Our favorites were the Adobe Gallery, Morning Star Gallery, and Zaplin Lampert Gallery.

Adobe Gallery specializes in contemporary and historic Southwest Indian Pueblo Pottery and Native American Paintings.  We especially liked their pottery from San Ildefonso Pueblo.
Morning Star Gallery carries cultural and artistic treasures of unparalleled quality and beauty from over fifty Native North American tribes.
Zaplin Lampert Gallery partners Mark Zaplin and Richard Lampert discovered a large collection of photographs by the legendary photographer and ethnographer Edward S. Curtis in a Boston bookstore. This trove of images, from Curtis' thirty-year project, The North American Indian, led Mark and Richard to move west and begin their careers as dealers in fine art.
Zaplin Lampert Gallery had the best display of Chile Ristras
I was very impressed by the Pictorialist-influenced images that Curtis made. The 14 x 11 inch vintage Goldtone image of The Fisherman - Wishham, 1909, hanging on their gallery wall was very real looking, yet dramatic in its lighting and shading and it conveyed an expressive mood. Don't know if he actually speared a fish though...

The first place we visited in Taos was the Millicent Rogers Museum. It has all of the cultures of the Southwest under one roof. Their twenty galleries and exhibition spaces have displays of prehistoric pottery to contemporary jewelry, and works of art from Hispanic, Native American and Anglos in the Southwest.
Millicent Rogers was a socialite, fashion icon, and art collector. She was the granddaughter of Standard Oil tycoon Henry Huttleston Rogers, and an heiress to his wealth. After a split with Clark Gable she came to Taos in 1947.  Rogers is notable for having been an early supporter and enthusiast of Southwestern-style art and jewelry, and is often credited for its reaching a national and international audience. Later in life, she became an activist, and was among the first celebrities to champion the cause of Native American civil rights. She is still credited today as an influence on major fashion designers.
One of our favorite exhibits was the Maria Martinez Gallery that features a large portion of the Maria Martinez family collection. Maria and her husband, Julian, from San Ildefonso Pueblo were responsible for a revival of the San Ildefonso ceramic tradition in the early 1900s.
One display case illustrates the black-on-black pottery process re-discovered in 1919 by Maria and Julian. This gallery was the most impressive display of pottery we saw.

While in Taos we stayed at El Monte Sagrado ("The Holy Mountain") Resort & Spa. It is a very nice resort with a confused reservation system that lost our confirmed reservation (while completely full). It turned out OK when they eventually upgraded us to the 575 square-foot Native American Suite inspired by Cochise.
The scenic view from our Cochise suite patio overlooked a pond surrounded by trees--very relaxing.
Georgia O'Keeffe would have liked this room!
 Happy Hour at the resort's Anaconda Bar
We dined at the Anaconda bar and the food was very good. It was also a good break from searching for local restaurants.

The next morning we were happy to find Michael's Kitchen right on the main street--Paseo del Pueblo Norte. They served the best breakfast burrito (Martin's Breakfast Burrito) I had in New Mexico! I ordered it with red and green chiles (left & right sides).  It actually turned out to be both breakfast and lunch!

After breakfast we browsed around several galleries and ended up at Devon's favorite place--Act I Gallery.  We found a few New Mexico plein-air paintings that jumped into our car.
We didn't buy any sculpture or welded art.
The bridge over the Rio Grande river gorge north of Taos is always an impressive vista. You can walk out on the bridge and shoot straight down 656 feet as 18 wheelers rumble by you bouncing the bridge up and down. I visited here around 1984 and shot a bunch of film with my old Olympus SLR. The shadows were covering the gorge more then and the results were not that great. This time around I had my Canon DSLR and was able to take a few shots that show it off much better.
The Rio Grande Gorge is a geological feature in northern New Mexico where the watercourse of the Rio Grande follows a tectonic chasm. Beginning near the Colorado border, the approximately 50-mile gorge runs from northwest to southeast of Taos, through the basalt flows of the Taos Plateau volcanic field. The gorge depth is 800 feet just south of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which spans the gorge 10 miles northwest of Taos.

We had a nice walk around Taos Pueblo and Red Willow Creek.
Lots of art, crafts and homemade foods, like frybread, were for sale. I'm not sure what I think about the Taos Pueblo having a website...

Doc Martins at the Taos Inn was a great dinner location. The Adobe bar was jumping and the restaurant was very popular with tourists and locals alike. I enjoyed a Santa Fe Pale Ale with my 1/2 Rack of Smoked Pork Ribs and green-chile cornbread. YUM! Devon had Doc's Chile Relleno Platter with 2 blue corn-beer battered Anaheim chiles, green chile, rice, pintos, pumpkin seeds & goat cheese cream.

Painted Desert & Petrified Forest
On our way home we stopped for a quick tour of the Painted Desert and the Painted Desert Inn, just north of I40. The clouds were as spectacular as the colorful desert.
The rest of the drive was just as scenic...
Devon (Chief Navigator & Restaurant Locator)
Gary (AKA Taste N Trip & CoonToonStudios)
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