Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Fest 2016

The 4th Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Vintners Association Wine Festival
Last Saturday I took a scenic drive up the Antelope Valley Freeway and through Agua Dulce to the Sierra Highway for the Fourth Annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival. The event at Reyes Winery is always a fun way to get to know local vintners, sample their wines, and taste some authentic local food. There are plenty of handmade crafts and jewelry from  artisans and a stage with live music; all surrounded by vineyards in the early growing season. The visual impact of the mountain vineyards is absolutely stunning.
This year the festival supported the Senior Center of Santa Clarita Valley. The goal was to help the center acquire at least one new bus to serve the Santa Clarita community.  Judging by the good attendance, enthusiastic auction, and the rowdy raffle it seems like they may have achieved it!
The featured wineries included Agua Dulce Winery, Alonso Family Vineyards, AV Winery, Bouquet Vineyard, Chavez Cellars, Charles Wine Company, Coruce Vineyards, CPB Winery, Du Nasi, Golden Star Vineyards & Winery, Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery, Iconic Wines, LA International Wine Competition (featuring California wines from Strey Cellars and Sagebrush Annie’s), Reyes Winery, San Antonio Winery and Stephen Hemmert Wines.
The Rhone-style wines from Paso Robles by Stephen Hemmert were a real treat. The Viognier, Rousanne, and " Entwined," a blend of the two, were all excellent! 
Agua Dulce Winery
I enjoyed the Syrahs from Agua Dulce Winery, Alonso Family Vineyards, Hearthstone and Reyes. Other memorable red wines included the Purple Haze from Golden Star, the Red Blend (50% Barbera, 25% Primitivo, 25% Syrah) from Charles Wine and the Cabernet Sauvignon from Bouquet Vineyard.
Brown Knows Cider
In addition to these fine wines, there was a little something for those not interested in wine. A refreshing cider was available from Brown Knows Cider, AGWA Cocoa Leaf Liquer attracted many tasters, and the popular trio of Belgian beers -- Leffe Blonde, Hoegaarden and Stella Artois -- were on tap.
Best of Belgium
Truffles N Toffee
I enjoyed some of the gourmet food in the VIP area and many of the specialty foods offered by The Broken Bit, Gourmet Blends, Le Chene French Cuisine, Persia Restaurant and Hookah Lounge, Porto’s Bakery & Cafe, Tochigan Farms and Truffles N Toffee. My favorite snacking foods were the Tochigan Farms Hot Salsa (and a little of the Very Hot) and the Truffles N Toffee Almond Praline Bar samples.
Just Us
Throughout the festival you could hear the live entertainment that began around noon. The musical acts were Just Us, Sierra Highway, The Still Moving Project and The Sean Hughes Experience. Nice to hear the original tunes by some of the groups. It was great that they continued playing until 5:00 this year.
Click on this link to view a time lapse video of the Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Fest  (in Ultra High Definition / 4K). You can watch the whole event in a few minutes and maybe spot yourself! Music from The Still Moving Project and The Sean Hughes Experience is featured in the video...
And The Crowd Went Wild!

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Friday, April 22, 2016

California Jazz & Wine Fest 2016

Presented by Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise
The 5th Annual California Jazz & Wine Fest moved to a third location this year and the new venue at the Westlake Village Four Seasons was a nice change.  It was a great place to sample wine, beer, spirits and food, plus shopping--all nearby two stages with outstanding entertainment.  Composer, arranger, saxophonist and three-time Grammy award winner Tom Scott headlined the live entertainment.
You can view and listen to some of the performers I managed to catch by clicking on their links below. Audio recording is always a challenging situation whether musicians are performing outdoors or indoors. The ambient crowd noise is definitely noticeable, but hey, you get that festival feeling! The video of Paul McCallum & Friends also includes pictures of most of the festival exhibitors.

Main Stage
- Tom Scott Quintet
- Adam Clark Trio
- Paul McCallum & Friends
- Santa Barbara City College Jazz Big Band

Bistro Stage
- The Doug Webb Group
- The Barrelhouse Wailers
- Lori Andrews, Jazz Harpist
- Westlake High School Jazz Ensemble

Festival Tour
Click on this link to get a feel of the festival vibe in both the ballroom (Main Stage) and the tent (Bistro Stage). Parts of the Adam Clark Trio and the Doug Webb Group performances are in this video.

The California Jazz & Wine Fest supports important jazz and music education organizations. This year proceeds are going to support Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, in particular for the Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program that focuses on healing the whole child through art and music.

Food, Wine, Beer, Spirits and Shopping
I was especially glad to see the festival had replaced the food trucks with restaurants, caterers and other food vendors.  Some of the great food I tasted was served by Mastro's, Stonefire Grill, and Conejo Valley Catering, plus Sweet Arleen's, of course.  Others included Barone’s Pizzaria, Paul Martin’s American Grill, Marmalade Cafe, Spanish Hills CC, and Four Seasons (in the VIP area).
Local, Santa Barbara and even Paso Robles wineries were well represented. I was pleased to discover a winery that was new to me -- Lavender Oak Vineyard, with a nice Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.  All of the wines I sampled were very good, but Cantara's Zinfandel, San Vicente's Malbec and Sunland Vintage's Alicante Bouschet were excellent! Additional enjoyable tastings were available from:
  • Aldabella Custom Crush Winery
  • Cielo Estate
  • Labyrinth
  • Nabu
  • Plan B Wine Cellars
  • Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery
As an interesting side note, this was the first local festival I've attended where all of the member wineries of the Conejo Valley Wine Trail were pouring their wines. Several of the Ventura County Wine Trail members participated as well.
Beer tastings included:
Energren Brewing Company for a taste of "The Big Meat" Smoked Lager, a German rauchbier-style beer brewed with Beechwood smoked malt. Different!

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion (Revolving Hop Series) which is billed as "an ever-evolving mix of experimental hops, designed to deliver mind-blowing flavors that break the rules with each new release." And they won't tell you what hops are used in it...  It had a hoppy nose, but I couldn't describe the flavor because my mind was blown after the first sip.
Twisted Oak Tavern poured their LAB Brewing Company "Honey, I'm Honey Blonde Ale" and "The Lab After Midnight Moo" milk stout.
Ventura Limoncello Company served a "Califonia Sunset" cocktail that combined their Ventura Limoncello Originale with Cranberry Juice, Sweet & Sour and Club Soda. Devon said it was great!
This colorful art by Jack Jambazian says "Jazz & Wine" to me!
I think this colorful California Kettle Corn would pair well with the mind-blowing Luponic Distortion beer from Firestone Walker Brewing Company.
In case you missed it, more pictures of the event are included in the Paul McCallum & Friends video.
If you like jazz and wine or beer or spirits and food then this is the best festival in the Conejo Valley area! Check it out next year.


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