Monday, January 27, 2014

Ventura County Wine Trail Food and Wine Challenge 2014

This fundraiser for FOOD Share of Ventura County showcased thirteen wineries and restaurants.  They put together some awesome pairings and it was a great opportunity to compare the best food and wine pairings in Ventura County.
I think all of the 350 people at the food and wine challenge are in this picture!
Everyone was offered a glass of bubbly as they entered the ballroom.  The Elvi Wines Cava Brut is from Spain and a "Mevushal" wine.
Team 1 - Peoples' Choice, 3rd Place
Jolly Oyster - Baked oysters bathed in a white wine cream and leek sauce. This must have been good while it lasted! 
Labyrinth Winery - 2011 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County, Cottonwood Vineyard. Ed Schwartz and Greg Leon are always fun to talk with at wine festivals. They were pouring their Haka brand, inspired by their winemaker from New Zealand, Rick Hill.  "Haka" is a powerful, emotive gesture or dance form incorporating words, actions, rhythm, history and life force.  Yeah, that sounds about right when drinking wine!

Team 2  - Taste N Trip, 1st Place 

Austen’s Café at Wyndham Garden Ventura Pierpont Inn - Blackened Pork Tenderloin with Cantara Petit Syrah reduction served with organic Lima Beans. Awesome! (And I don't even like Lima Beans, generally.)
Cantara Cellars - 2010 Intrepid (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc). As usual, a very nice blend! 

Team 3 - Peoples' Choice, 2nd Place & Judges' Award, 2nd Place & Taste N Trip, 2nd Place!
The Waterside Restaurant - Taco-crispy duck confit with red wine pickled onions, cotija cheese, micro cilantro and homemade corn tortilla. Can't wait to see what other fun dishes are served at The Waterside Restaurant & Wine Bar.
Rancho Ventavo Cellars - 2009 Merlot, Santa Barbara County
It looks like everyone agrees, this is an interesting, imaginative, and tasty entry and the Rancho Ventavo red wines are always good!

Team 4
La Dolce Vita - Chef Michelle Kenney made a wild mushroom and fontina blossom topped with Tuscan-rubbed pork with balsamic port wine reduction. Very good!
Vinemark Cellars - 2009 Primitivo, Paso Robles.  I always enjoy Vinemark's Primitvo.

Team 5
Coastal Grill - Pan Seared Diver Scallops on Brioche Spoon with Churassco Sauce and Herb Oil. This was probably pretty good while it lasted!
Sunland Vintage Winery - 2010 Pinot Noir.

Team 6
The Kitchen - Berry brushed chocolate tartlets, with caramel & almond brittle crunch. I heard this was pretty good while it lasted! My photograph of the remaining 'floor' model had previously fallen on the floor.
Alma Sol Winery - NV Ritual (65% 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% 2012 Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah).
Bonus taste: Reserve 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (100% cabernet sauvignon aged in new American oak). Both are outstanding wines, and the Ritual was worth a second taste during the awards.

Hey, who are these guys? I don't know how, but I seem to run into Tom & Sandy everywhere there's wine and food!  Notice how Tom's shirt Blendz into the background.

Team 7 - Peoples' Choice, 1st Place & Taste N Trip, 1st Place

Café Zack - Beef Filet Mignon encrusted with a blend of three peppercorns (pink, green, tellicherry) and finished in a brandy crème reduction.
Magnavino Cellars - 2011 Tuscan Romance (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot).  A very nice Super Tuscan from Magnavino!

Team 8
The Cave - Walnut feta zucchini cake with cherry tomato pepper jam. The Cave's creation was very tasty.
Four Brix Winery - 2012 Desirous (100% Grenache Blanc), Camp 4 Vineyard. I always enjoy Four Brix Grenache Blanc, but I should have had this and the Team 1 wine before sampling the reds.

Team 9
The Aloha Steakhouse - Prime Rib Chili Con Carne in a homemade cuplette.
Panaro Brothers Winery - 2009 Barbera. Panero Brothers wines seem to be getting better every time I taste them.

Team 10 - Judges' Award, 3rd Place
Twenty 88 - Roasted lamb rack, mission fig, cascable pepper sauce served with pancetta, roasted pistachio, and manchego risotto. Everyone said this was very good while it lasted!
Millésimé Cellars - 2010 Cabernet Franc, SB County may have been served with the lamb, but when I arrived the 2011 Merlot, Alexander Valley was being poured.

Team 11
Scratch Food Truck (without the truck) - Braised pork cheeks.
Plan B Wine Cellars - 2011 Petite Sirah, Paso Robles.

Team 12
Tierra Sur - Beef cheek.
Herzog Wine Cellars - Limited Edition 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Warnecke Vineyard. This was an outstanding cab!

Team 13 - Judges' Award, 1st  Place 
The Rhumb Line* Restaurant - Seared duck breast with creamy mashed potatoes and bacon corn relish, with a chocolate Merlot Beurre Rouge Sauce.
Casa Barranca Winery - 2010 Merlot, Santa Barbara County, Evergreen Vineyard.

*In navigation, a rhumb line is a line crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle, that is, upon taking an initial bearing, one proceeds along the same bearing, without changing the direction as measured relative to true or magnetic north. Or, in wine pairing events, a Rhumb Line is a restaurant winning the Judges' 1st Place Award for their duck creation when it's paired with Casa Barranca's 2010 Merlot.

Awards Summary
A great time and lots of winners! Even those not taking home awards were winners with their fine food and wine pairings.

Peoples' Choice Awards

1st Place: Café Zack & Magnavino Cellars

2nd Place: The Waterside Restaurant & Rancho Ventavo Cellars

3rd Place: Jolly Oyster & Labyrinth Winery

Watch the Peoples' Choice Awards video here. 

Judges Choice Awards

1st Place: Rhumb Line & Casa Barranca Winery

2nd Place: Waterside & Rancho Ventavo Cellars

3rd Place: Twenty 88 & Millésimé Cellars


Taste N Trip Awards

1st Place: Austen’s Café at Wyndham Garden Ventura Pierpont Inn & Cantara Cellars (Tied with Café Zack/Magnavino)

1st Place: Café Zack & Magnavino Cellars (Tied with Austen’s Café/Cantara) 

2nd Place: The Waterside Restaurant & Rancho Ventavo Cellars

CoonToonStudios Music Awards
1st Place: Jazz guitarist Paul Weitz and jazz/pop vocalist Donna Deussen performed some very nice tunes. Watch them perform 'Nick of Time' here.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This Week: Ventura County Wine Trail Food and Wine Challenge 2014


The Ventura County Wine Trail Food and Wine Challenge is being held at the Mandalay Beach Resort from 6:30 to 8:30 pm this Thursday, January 23rd. The event will start with champagne, feature a jazz band, and showcase 13 wineries and restaurants competing in the third annual food and wine pairing. Tickets are $55.00 per person and can be purchased on the Ventura County Wine Trail website.


Download the Taste N Trip rating form here. The form has an easy rating system (circle a number) for each restaurant's dish, each wine being poured by the wineries, and the overall paring on a scale of 1 to 5 (and we all know 5 is best). See you there!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wine Tasting Events 2014


It's never too early to plan your 2014 tasting events! Save these dates and maybe I'll see you there. As usual, there are many events all over California; and I've only listed some of them.
I haven't made plans to attend every one of the events below, but I hope to get to the local ones in Ventura County. Most of my other Taste N Trips are to events usually in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Paso Robles areas. And this year I hope to add the Lompoc Wine Ghetto as well.

22nd Annual Winter WINEland
Saturday & Sunday, January 18 - 19, 2014
11 am - 4 pm
Healdsburg, CA

A great opportunity to meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases or library wines.  All wineries will have something on SALE for the weekend! Some wineries will offer food pairings and others will have tours.
Ticket price will include wine tasting at all of the participating wineries for the weekend.
This event does not take place at one location, you travel from winery to winery, visiting the ones you are interested in exploring.


3rd Annual Winter Wine Classic / California Wine Festival
Fess Parker Santa Barbara Hotel
Sunday, January 19, 2014
6:30 - 9 pm (VIP 5:30 pm)

Advertised as the largest gathering ever of the California’s ultra-elite winemaking masters assembled for a once-in-a-lifetime wine event – the third annual “Winter Wine Classic” presented at the luxurious Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort by Evergreen Events.
Tasting nearly 100 classic California wines of this legendary stature at one event is truly a rare chance for fine wine lovers to taste the very best all in one place. The event will include famous names from the wine world like Bernardus, Charles Krug, Heitz Wine Cellars, Whitehall Lane, Peju and Chalk Hill as well as artisan gold-medal producers such as Ahnfeldt, Grassini and Melville who will pour their ultra-premium wines and delight of the hundreds of oenophiles in attendance.
A wide variety of delectable wine-worthy gourmet morsels will be paired and offered by some of the region’s most notable chefs in this luxuriant wine and food celebration.

Ventura County Wine Trail's Local Food & Wine Challenge 2014
Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Resort
2101 Mandalay Beach Rd.
Oxnard, CA 93035

Thursday, January 23, 2014
6 - 8:30 pm

Twelve teams of local chefs and wine makers create their best food and wine pairings. Inspired flavor combinations will be judged by both attendees and a blind panel of experts to discover who has created the "Best Food & Wine Pairing" in Ventura County! Ticket includes all the food & wine, jazz band, champagne reception and parking. 100% of all proceeds go to the local food bank: FOOD Share.

Calabasas Beer Festival
American Cancer Society

Friday, February 7, 2014
6 - 9 pm
Calabasas Community Center
27040 Malibu Hills Road
Calabasas, CA

A night of "all you can drink" beer and food and a charity fundraiser with 100% of the proceeds benefiting the American Cancer Society. Tickets include beer at the event. Join the party for a night of beer and food.

Simply Wine Festival
In collaboration with Tesla and Make-A-Wish 
Four Seasons Westlake Village
2 Dole Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91362

Friday, March 14, 2014
7 - 9 pm

This annual benefit is bound to be one of the most popular Wine Festivals in the Ventura County region attracting thousands of foodies, wine, tequila, and beer connoisseurs, along with car aficionados. The festival is benefiting and making one wish happen for the local Make-a-Wish foundation chapter of the tri-counties. Expecting more than 30 wineries, 5 tequila companies, and 5 breweries this event promises to bring together a selection of alcohol that will quench the thirst of all. Tesla Motors, a California-based company that designs, manufactures and sells electric cars and electric vehicle powertrain components will be participating in the event by offering test drives and showcasing a vehicle in the center of the ballroom.

Paso Robles Wine Country
Vintage Paso: Zinfandel and Other Wild Wines

Friday - Sunday, March 14 - 16

Enjoy a zinful weekend with activities including winemaker dinners, exclusive Zinfandel tastings, winery and vineyard tours. Events at more than 120 wineries! Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more!

Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend
Thursday - Sunday, April 10 - 13, 2014

The 2014 Vintners Festival will be held at the beautiful Riverview Park in Buellton, California on Saturday, April 12.  The Festival also presents some of the best local food from restaurants, catering companies, and gourmet food creators in addition to music, art, and related wine country vendors.

2nd Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association Wine Festival
Reyes Winery
10262 Sierra Hwy
Agua Dulce, CA 91390
April 26, 2014

The Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association hosts its second annual charity event at the Reyes Winery to benefit the Henry Mayo Hospital. Local wineries and wine makers from southern California will offer tastings of their best wines, plus gourmet food and specialty items, organic markets, gift boutiques, live music, and lots of fun for a great day.

Paso Robles 32nd Annual Wine Festival
Friday - Sunday, May 16 - 18, 2014

On Friday, select wineries will feature their Library, Reserve, White/Rosé, Futures and terrific tastes at the Reserve Event. On Saturday, more than 60 wineries come together in the Paso Robles Downtown City Park to showcase their wines alongside culinary samplings during the Grand Tasting. There is also a Winemaker Seminar preceding this tasting event. Travel beyond the Park to explore more than 130 winery events throughout the weekend including winemaker dinners, live music, and barrel samplings.

ZinFest Wine Festival
Saturday, May 17th, 2014
12 – 5 pm
Lodi Lake Park
1101-1301 W. Turner Road
Lodi, CA 95242

Sip, swirl and savor from a selection of 250 handcrafted wines from 50 Lodi wineries. Passionate winemakers and winery representatives welcome guests, offering practical knowledge and sharing 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!

The 3rd Annual California Jazz & Wine Fest
Sunday, May 18, 2014

1 pm - 4 pm
Conejo Creek Park North

1351 E Janss Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91362

The 3rd Annual California Jazz and Wine Fest – an exclusive jazz venue, gourmet wine and food tasting event – highlights the area’s talented jazz musicians and bands, premier wineries, microbreweries, eateries and caterers. Proceeds from the California Jazz & Wine Fest will help benefit youth music programs in the Conejo Valley high schools and other local community projects.

9th Annual LA Wine Fest
Saturday May 31, 2 - 6 pm & Sunday June 1, 12 - 5 pm
Raleigh Studios
5300 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

The LAWineFest brings over 500 wines, brews and spirits from around the world to your doorstep in a fun, relaxed environment. The Fest also offers local celebrity chef demos, live entertainment, fabulously fun seminars (think wine and cheese – yum!), some of LA’s most popular food trucks, boutiques to browse, festival merchandise and more!

21st Anniversary Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival
Sunday, June 1, 2014

California State University Channel Islands
1 University Drive
Camarillo, CA 93012

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. Voted both “Best Charity Event” and “Best Food & Drink Festival” of Ventura County in 2013! 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 several awarded breweries.

The 28th Annual Ojai Wine Festival
Sunday, June 8, 2014

12 - 4 pm
Lake Casitas

Ojai, CA

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. Blast into the past with Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries and the Beatles tribute group, Sergeant Pepper. Get ready to dance!

7th Annual Ventura County Wine Trail Celebration
Thursday, June 19, 2014

5:30 - 8:30 pm
The Collection at Riverpark

Oxnard, CA

The Ventura County Wine Trail's 7th annual Wine Trail Celebration will be held at the shopping, dining and entertainment destination, The Collection at Riverpark, in their outdoor event center. The festival will be located on Park View Court and will feature more than 17 of Ventura County’s local boutique wineries; each sharing their latest releases. For wine lovers, this event is truly unique – as local wine makers bring in grapes from every major growing region across California (from Napa Valley to Malibu). This allows Ventura County Wine Trail tasters to experience the very best of California wine county – all without the road trip. In addition to the lineup of wines, guests will taste the very best in local cuisine – fresh from the area’s hottest restaurants.

8th Annual Calabasas Malibu Wine & Food Festival
Saturday - Sunday, June 21 - 22, 2014

3 - 5 pm
Mercedes-Benz of Calabasas (rooftop)
24181 Calabasas Road

Calabasas CA, 91302

Enjoy an afternoon of Food, Wine, Beer and Spirits in Calabasas! Tickets include tastings of wines, beers, spirits, and delicious food, all while helping to raise money for Free Arts for Abused Children. This event is on the rooftop of Mercedes Benz in Calabasas and honors Gloria Allred for a lifetime of contribution to Free Arts.

2014 Santa Barbara Wine Festival
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
Saturday, June 28, 2014
2 - 5 pm

SWIRL, SIP, & SAVOR...wines from Central Coast premier wineries complemented with savory and sweet delectable delights.

11th Annual California Wine Festival
Chase Palm Park at the Beach, Santa Barbara
Thursday - Saturday, July 17-19, 2014

Great wine and beer, a little food, and music by the beach in Santa Barbara.

Meadowlark Service League’s 26th Annual
A Taste of Camarillo Wine & Food Festival

Sunday, July 27

1 - 4 pm
Adolfo Camarillo Ranch House
201 Camarillo Ranch Road
Camarillo, CA 93012

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.

Paso Robles Wine Country Harvest Wine Weekend
Friday - Sunday, October 17 - 19, 2014
Paso Robles, CA

Wineries celebrate the beginning of the new vintage by inviting you to their individual events that are as diverse as the wines themselves.

Phantom Wine Festival 

Agoura Wine & Food Festival 2014?
Sheraton Agoura Hills?
October? December?

What happened to the 2013 Agoura Wine & Food Festival?  The event to benefit Hats Off for Cancer was originally scheduled for Saturday, October 5, 2013 at the Sheraton Agoura Hills, but at the last minute they emailed everyone with tickets announcing that it was canceled.  This was a big disappointment, especially to the nearby LAB Brewing Company and their planned afrter-party.  I heard that the event didn't obtain a liquor license in time.  Too bad!

I noticed on their Facbook page recently that the event had finally been held on December 28th.  I'm not sure how many people attended since they didn't bother to email me it was back on again. And during the holidays it's a busy time of year to squeeze in another wine festival.  I will have to keep an eye out for this one in 2014, maybe it will be held in October or December.

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