Hotel Joaquin: A Hidden Gem In Laguna Beach, California

More than just a pretty seaside town, though we’re not complaining about the miles of sandy beaches, sea coves and caves, high bluffs, and tidal pools stretching along the Pacific Ocean, Laguna Beach with its art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques, has long been a gathering place for artists of every kind.

The list is long starting with silent and silver screen stars—think Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, and Rock Hudson to now (Keanu Reeves sightings have been reported and Diane Keaton had a beachfront home here). Novelist John Steinbeck wrote “Tortilla Flats” when living in Laguna at 504 Park Avenue. Hobie Alter, considered the Henry Ford of the surfboard industry, learned the sport at his parents’ Laguna Beach summer home. If you’ve ever sailed aboard a Hobie Cat, thank Alter. He invented it.

Laguna Beach is that kind of place. So it’s no wonder that Paul Makarechian, founder and CEO of Auric Road, a company that melds history and modernism into petite one-of-kind resorts, decided to turn The Motor Inn Laguna Beach, a 1944 bungalow-style roadside stopover that had decidedly seen better days into Hotel Joaquim, one of the top 25 coolest hotels in the world according to Tablet, the digital guide for hotel curation recently acquired by Michelin.

This relaxing three-tiered resort features 22 rooms with small batch in-room amenities, sweeping views, and bespoke resort-style service, encouraging guests to relax in style.

“The story behind Auric Road is based upon the idea of alchemy and building gold from dust,” Makarechian said in an interview. The Auric Collection of petite hotels includes not only Hotel Joaquim—the name is in homage to the time when much of what is now Orange County was Rancho San Joaquim, a vast track of land granted by the Mexican government—but also Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs, Sonoma Coast Villa Resort & Spa in Bodega, Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana, and Rex Ranch in Amado. The latter is a small town in the Santa Cruz River Valley south of Tucson. Arizona.

Designed by Studio Robert McKinley, the inspiration for Hotel Joaquim derives from a multitude of styles and aesthetics–the French-speaking Caribbean Island of St. Barths, Southern California’s 1950s beach culture, the Mediterranean coast, and even a personal journey Makarechian made along the Camino de Santiago. Also known as St. James Way,  it’s a series of interconnected routes dating back to Medieval times that winds through the mountains and valleys along the coast of the Cantabrian Sea. No matter what passage you follow, the ultimate goal is arriving in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia to enter the ornate 11th century Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Plaza de Obradoiro. And yes, if anyone can make all this come together—Bette Davis, 1950s SoCal, St. Barths, etc., its Makarechian.

Treat yourself to Laguna Beach’s picturesque setting, where bright blue skies, warm sand and cool evenings mark autumn’s arrival. Relax by the sparkling blue pool where St. Barth’s and the French Riviera meet with custom daybeds and chaise lounges. Guests have access to a secluded beach paired with an all-access pass to the Adventure Outpost—home to city bicycles, bodyboards, Dafin fins, corn hole, football, spike ball, Frisbees, Kadima sets and more. Hotel Joaquin has everything from ocean and beach set ups to morning coffee service, to Mediterranean-inspired menus served al fresco at Saline overlooking Laguna’s stunning coastline.

Starting this Fall, stay at Hotel Joaquin for 2 nights from Sunday-Thursday and receive 15% off your room rate! Want to hang out at pool or beach a bit longer, stay 3 or more nights and receive 15% off your room rate plus a $100 credit to use at Saline Restaurant.

This limited time offer is valid for stays from October 1st – November 30th.*

*Certain blackout dates may apply. SALINE CREDIT only offered to guest staying 3 or more nights Sunday- Thursday, credit cannot be used for alcohol. Offer ends 11/30/22.

An Excellent Harvest for Californian Vintners

According to the Wine Institute, vintners across California are expecting a high-quality vintage for 2022 following a season filled with curveballs. For many California wine regions, this was a tale of two harvests, as a Labor Day heat wave divided the season into earlier and later picks. As harvest wraps up across the state, vintners predict that 2022 will produce memorable wines of great concentration and complexity.

In the North Coast, the growing season began with ideal weather conditions through early summer, until an extended heat event beginning in late August accelerated the harvest and reduced yields for some varieties. In winegrowing regions such as Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, mild weather conditions prevailed into early spring, followed by frost that dramatically reduced crop sizes.

Harvest timing was mixed this year, with some appellations, including Napa Valley, starting up to a month earlier than average and others, such as Paso Robles, experiencing an extended harvest. In the North Coast, growers harvested some red varieties as early as mid-August. The Labor Day heat wave caused multiple varieties to reach maturity simultaneously in some regions, which kept vineyard and cellar crews busy through a compressed harvest. Despite the year’s twists and turns, consumers can expect to enjoy excellent wines from the 2022 vintage.

California produces about 80% of the nation’s wine, making it the world’s fourth-largest wine producing region. More than 80% of California wine is made in a Certified Sustainable California Winery and over half of the state’s roughly 615,000 vineyard acres are certified to one of California’s sustainability programs (Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, Fish Friendly Farming, LODI RULES, Napa Green and SIP Certified).

Photo credit: Justin Liddell, Destination Films

Winemaker and Winery Owner Comments on California’s Growing Season and Harvest 

“The early part of the growing season was near ideal, with abundant early season rains and excellent spring and summer weather,” said Renée Ary, vice president of winemaking at Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena, Napa Valley.

The Labor Day heat event brought record-high temperatures to the region, followed by mid-September rains, which challenged winemakers to practice meticulous grape selection.

“I think our 2022 wines will have a bit more concentration than the previous vintage, especially from the warmer, up-valley AVAs,” said Ary. “Our Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are some of the best ever and the Chardonnays are bright, balanced and focused. Given the range of ripeness, blending will be important for the 2022 vintage as we balance our early and later picks.”

At Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars in the Napa Valley, harvest proceeded at a fast and furious pace. Following a mild summer, the heat wave kicked harvest into high gear, contributing to overall yield reductions of 15% to 20%. Harvest continued at a leisurely rate after temperatures cooled.

“I think it’s going be a pretty intense vintage — concentrated and powerful,” said Nate Weis, vice president of winegrowing. “Quality-wise, all of the varieties did great.” He was particularly impressed by Pinot Noir from the Russian River, Anderson Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as Merlot and Cabernet Franc. “The quality,” he said, “is off the charts.”

Robin Baggett, vintner and managing partner at Alpha Omega in St. Helena and Tolosa in San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, noted a wide range of harvest starting dates. “At Alpha Omega, harvest was a full four weeks earlier than last year’s in some vineyards,” he said.

Severe heat around Labor Day required vineyard teams to pick rapidly and strategically, he noted. “The fruit from our early picks is dark, complex in aroma and firm in texture, while fruit that remained on the vines during the heat event is riper with softer tannins and great flavor concentration,” said Baggett. “The overall quality in our Cabernet Sauvignon is very high with strong structure and terroir-driven characteristics. Petit Verdot and Malbec also performed extremely well.”

After a dry winter, Tolosa’s harvest saw two distinct phases: before the heat wave and after. Single-vineyard fruit came in at a steady pace until Labor Day, followed by a compressed harvest during the triple-digit heat. Lower yields — down around 30% — affected ripening speed, pushing everything to mature at once.

“Everything brought in before the heat wave is promising,” noted Baggett, “but you need to cherry pick among the lots brought in post-heat wave to isolate the best ones.”



Photo credit: Justin Liddell, Destination Films

Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, wrapped up harvest just before mid-October, which marks the winery’s earliest finish since 2004. “This is one for the record books,” said Lisa Amaroli, Benziger’s director of winemaking. “A heat wave followed by rain had a whiplash effect, pushing up sugars and then reversing them after the rain.”

The growing season was consistent and mild, resulting in healthy canopies. Signs pointed to an early harvest until Labor Day, when temperatures reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit at the winery’s Sonoma Coast property. This pushed some blocks into high sugars and quickened the harvest pace. September rain brought a sigh of relief, refreshing the vines and allowing remaining grapes to hang a bit longer.

“All white varieties we have seen from across Sonoma County came in in great shape and are very flavorful with just the right acid balance,” Amaroli said. “It was a good year for some Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards — albeit with lower yields — while Malbec and Cabernet Franc came in abundant, balanced and fruity.”

Jackson Family Winein Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, which has vineyards in several North Coast and Central Coast regions, began harvesting a couple weeks earlier than normal in many areas. Winemaster Randy Ullom summed up the vintage as “very memorable and wild.”

“In certain instances, the heat wave accelerated things and in others it actually slowed them down,” he said, noting that vines shut down during extreme heat in order to protect themselves, thus delaying the ripening process. “It depended on the appellation, the vineyard aspect and the watering capacity.”

Despite heavy rain in September, botrytis was not an issue due to the health of the vines before the rainfall occurred.

Ullom said he is happy with the overall quality of 2022 fruit. “Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley and Russian River look especially good,” he said, along with Monterey County Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc produced a larger yield than expected and continued ripening into October in Lake County due to the heavier crop. “That’s another first,” he said. “We’ll remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Vintners in the Lodi and Clarksburg regions encountered challenges this year, including a significant April frost event that dramatically reduced yields.

“We thought it all but wiped out some of our north Delta and Clarksburg Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, but it turned out that we did all right,” said Aaron Lange, vice president of vineyard operations at LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards in Acampo. The winery brought in about 25% of the normal yield for those varieties.

Variable spring weather with unseasonably warm temperatures followed by cool, windy conditions contributed to shot berries and shatter in Zinfandel and other sensitive varieties, yet yield sizes came in around average.

The Labor Day heat wave impacted both scheduling and capacity, while the frost delayed ripening in the whites. “At most major wineries,” Lange said, “there was a major capacity crunch from a cooperage and fermentation tank perspective.”

Healthy vineyards did fairly well during the heat event, he added, and followed a normal development trajectory. White varieties looked good, Lange said, since vineyard crews picked most fruit prior to the heat wave. Larger canopies helped protect the reds from heat and sunburn.

Likewise, Monterey County faced some tough conditions in 2022 due to early-season temperature fluctuations and heat spells during veraison and in early September. Though the heat wave reduced yields, particularly for Chardonnay and Merlot, the September event was well-predicted, allowing winegrowers to take preemptive irrigation measures. Harvest got off to a quick and early start, about 10 days earlier than average, with multiple varieties ripening simultaneously.

“On the bright side,” said Heidi Scheid, executive vice president at Scheid Vineyards in Soledad, “we’ve found that the smaller cluster and reduced berry sizes have resulted in a significant level of complexity and intensity. We are seeing very good quality — and in some cases truly exceptional quality — for the 2022 vintage.”

In Paso Robles in the Central Coast, harvest kicked off early, requiring vintners to utilize their collective knowledge to manage quality, tank space and periodic restarts.

“Despite the challenges,” said Stasi Seay, director of vineyards at Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles, “we remain optimistic and anticipate that vintage 2022 will produce fine wines on par with some of Paso Robles’ most memorable.”

The growing season began smoothly, with minimal frost incidents and temperate weather during bloom and set, Seay said. June crop estimates were slightly below average due to the ongoing drought, and summer was typical with no extreme heat until Labor Day weekend. Extended high temperatures caused vines to shut down, slowing the last of veraison. Unseasonal rains followed, along with warm autumn weather that helped with hang time and fruit maturity.

This was an unusually long harvest in the region, starting in early August and continuing through October’s end. “We are optimistic that this vintage will stand out,” said Seay, “given our hard work both in the field and in the winery.”

Miller Family Wine Company in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, began harvesting on Aug. 8, a week earlier than expected. The season began with excellent growing conditions that continued into summer, followed by abnormally hot weather that accelerated ripening. Though yields were below normal, fruit quality remained high.

“The vineyard has responded well despite another dry winter,” said vineyard manager Greg O’Quest. “The minimal amount of rain was not enough to supply the vines with much-needed water, so supplemental irrigation began sooner than expected.”

Following a uniform bud break during the first week of March and a mild frost season, late spring brought unusually windy and cool conditions for fruit set. Summer boasted ideal weather with only a few days breaking the 100-degree mark. Typical high temperatures occurred in July and pest pressure was minimal. “The 2022 vintage was blessed with normal summer temperatures that allowed a full canopy to develop before the heat hit in August,” O’Quest said.

Late-season reds fared best in terms of yields, he added, and Cabernet Sauvignon has been a stand-out variety thanks to its hardiness and ability to deal with high temperatures. Smaller clusters this year resulted in deep, dark color and higher quality.

View the full 2022 California Harvest Report, including regional reports from Amador County, Calaveras County, El Dorado County, Lake County, Livermore Valley, Lodi, Mendocino County, Monterey County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma County. 

 DOWNLOAD THE FULL 2022 CALIFORNIA HARVEST REPORT

About Wine Institute 

Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group of 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiates and advocates state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization works to enhance the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable winegrowing and by showcasing California’s wine regions as ideal destinations for food and wine travelers to the state. To learn more about California wines, visit DiscoverCaliforniaWines.

Recipe for Homemade Hot Chocolate with Red Wine

K.C. Cornwell

Recipe photo from Holiday Wine Cocktail ebook

This homemade hot chocolate with red wine is a cocktail that doubles as dessert!

  • 2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup brown sugar packed
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups whole milk or almond or coconut
  • 1 750- ml bottle fruit-forward California red wine such as Merlot or Zinfandel
  • Marshmallows or whipped cream for serving

Slow Cooker Method:

Whisk the chocolate chips, brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and milk together in a slow cooker set on high. Cover and allow to come to temperature (10-15 minutes), then whisk again and add wine. Cook on high for one hour, stopping to whisk every 20 minutes.

Ladle hot chocolate into mugs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy.

Stovetop Method:

Whisk the chocolate chips, brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt together in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add milk and bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat, whisking often. Once hot chocolate is blended and smooth (about 8-10 minutes), reduce to low heat and add wine. Cook for 5 minutes more. Ladle hot chocolate into mugs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy.

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas, Carrots and Lemon

Spice rub: 

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 pounds (900 g) 
  • 1 can (15 oz/425 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • ½ pound (225 g) carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal 
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced from stem to root 
  • 1 small lemon, halved lengthwise (quartered lengthwise if large), then sliced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup (10 g) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus a few whole leaves for garnish

Serves 4

In a small bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Sprinkle all over the chicken and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a 9 x 12-inch (23 x 30 cm) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, combine the chickpeas, carrots, red onion, lemon, garlic, cumin, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to mix, then arrange in the baking sheet in an even layer. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, not touching, and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil on top of each one. 

Bake on a center rack for 40 minutes. With tongs, set the chicken aside on a plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the vegetables and stir to mix and moisten everything with the chicken juices. Remake the bed of vegetables and replace the chicken on top. Bake for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes to allow the chicken juices to settle. Tilt the sheet pan and spoon some of the juices over the chicken. 

Transfer to a serving platter or to individual dinner plates and garnish with cilantro leaves.  

Photos courtesy of the Wine Institute.

10 Great Autumn Destinations in California’s Gold Country

There’s fool’s gold, gold dust and nuggets, and high wattage gold when fall amps up the colors in the aptly named Golden State come October and November. So forget leaf peeping along the Eastern Seaboard or in the Midwest and head along the California Gold Rush Trail in the state’s Gold Country. It’s an experience of small towns that boomed during the Gold Rush era when those hoping to strike it rich descended upon the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In California’s Gold Country, Historic Hwy 49 offers an array of colorful foliage – dogwood, aspen and maple light up the Mother Lode with orange, red and yellow. In Coloma, the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park affords spectacular view along the American River as well as many stands of colorful trees.

Stop at one of the Apple Hill Grower farms and pick your own pumpkins, sample mouth-watering baked goods and Sierra Foothill wines. Continuing south, colorful stands of dogwood trees complement the Giant Sequoias at Big Trees State Park.

Traveling north on Highway 49, the charming town of Mariposa is the southernmost destination in the Gold Rush chain of towns. Historic and lively, Mariposa was founded in 1850 and boasts a plethora of shops, restaurants and venues such as  Mariposa Museum and History Center named one of the best small museums in America by the Smithsonian Institute and  the California State Mining and Mineral Museum

Locals call Coulterville “the town that was too tough to die.” Once a major mining and supply town, Coulterville was named after George and Margaret Coulter who arrived in 1849 and began selling supplies after learning that miners had to travel some 30 hard miles to buy what they needed. Two years later gold was discovered. Boom is the operative word as to what happened next. The town prospered. For an interesting tidbit of local history, travel through the downtown off of Highway 49 and turn left on Kow Street to the intersection of Chinatown Main Street–yes, that’s really the name of the street. Located on the corner is what was the Sun Sun Wo Co. It’s an old adobe building, one of a handful left in California (for more, click here).

Built in 1851, it was first owned and operated by Mow Da Sun and his son, Sun Kow and run by Chinese until 1926. Said to have an opium den in the back, it was so successful as a general store that a second store ten miles away in Red Cloud. And if you’re wondering how the Chinese were treated, we can report that according to Sierra Nevada Tourism, a site developed in conjunction with National Geographic, the town’s hanging tree is where an outlaw named Leon Ruiz met his fate in 1856 after robbing and murdering two Chinese miners of $600 in gold, showing not only the money to be made in a Gold Rush town but also that the killing of Chinese did not go unpunished.

Now designated the California State Historical Landmark No. 332. Coulterville also serves as the base point of the newly designated John Muir Highway.

The intriguingly named Chinese Camp, once a busy mining camp with thousands of inhabitants, the town is now for all intents and purposes a ghost town. Tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, its buildings are a feature in movies and television shows about the Old West.

Travel on to Sonora, another Gold Rush town. Settled by miners from Sonora, Mexico in 1848, Sonora, known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines” offers a vast historical perspective with thriving businesses and a bustling downtown housed in historic buildings dating back to the mid-1800s. Check out such beauties as St. James Episcopal Church, built in 1860 and the oldest Episcopal church in the state.

Finish your drive to Yosemite National Park up Highway 120 when the valley floor is its most colorful.

Boysenberry Pie at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

On the menu at the venerable Ahwahnee Inn for more than a quarter of a century, their Boysenberry Pie is a must try dessert. Served in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, with its 34-foot-high beamed ceiling, floor-to-ceiling mullioned windows, granite columns, Gothic-style chandeliers, an dexposed stonework, is a resplendent place to enjoy such a treat. The dining room, designed by famed architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in a mélange of Art Deco and Arts and Crafts architectural styles and flourishes of Native American and Middle Eastern elements to attract high-end visitors, opened in 1927. Located on the first floor of The Ahwahnee Hotel, in itself a masterpiece of an opulent and gracious past, in eastern Yosemite Valley, the entire building was made using 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet of lumber. 

The Ahwahnee Inn Boysenberry Pie

Makes: One 10” pie

Pie Filling

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh or frozen boysenberries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ oz clear instant gelatin
  • Pinch of salt

In a saucepan on a low heat add frozen boysenberries and slowly cook for 5 minutes.  In a bowl combine sugar, gelatin and salt and mix.  Add sugar mixture to sauce pan.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir often to avoid burning.  Set aside and let cool.

Pie Dough

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 4 ½ ounces soft butter
  • 1 ½ ounces very cold water

In a food processor add flour, salt, sugar and softened butter.  Turn on and mix ingredients until they are evenly distributed.  Then add water all at once.  Turn off food processor as soon as the dough binds and comes away from the sides of the bowl. 

Divide dough into halves and roll each into a ball. Refrigerate for one hour.  Roll out on doughball into a circle large enough to fit a 10-inch pie pan.  Preheat oven to 350’F and bake pie shell for 5 minutes. 

Roll second dough ball into a large circle and cover with a towel.  Place filling in shell and cover with remaining pie dough. Use an egg wash to seal the pie rim.  Cut four slits in the top of the pie and brush remaining egg wash across the top. 

Place in the 350° F and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 min.  Let cool before serving.  

Firefall Cocktail

The Ahwahnee Bar

  • 1/2 shot tequila (we prefer Sauza Gold)
  • 1/2 shot Creme de Cocoa Brown (we prefer DeKuyper)
  • 2 tablespoons Firefall Hot Chocolate Mix, see recipe below

Fireball Mix:

  • 2 cups Nestle Hot Chocolate Powder
  • 1 tablespoon pasilla chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Pour tequila and Creme de Cocoa Brown into an Irish coffee mug.

Add the Firefall Hot Chocolate Mix. Add boiling water and stir well. Top with whipped crème.
Sprinkle whipped cream with pasilla chili and cinnamon.

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding from The Ahwahnee Dining Room

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 2 pieces vanilla beans pod (split and scraped)
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 pieces egg yolk
  • 2 pieces large croissants (baked and sliced crosswise)
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate chips

.In a stainless mixing bowl, incorporate the egg yolk, ground cinnamon, sugar and a cup of heavy whipping cream.

Split and scrape the seed of the vanilla pods. Place pods and beans in a sauce pot and the remaining heavy whipping cream and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream into the egg mixture and stir.

Arrange half of the croissant slices in a baking dish. Sprinkle half of the milk and dark chocolate chips over the croissants. Pour half of the hot custard mixture over the croissants to soak. Repeat the layers.
Bake at 320° F degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.


Road Trip Through Golden Foliage in the Golden State

Head to Sonoma this fall as leaves turn jewel colors and the vineyards abound with ripe fruit. Autumn isn’t just for serious leafers, it’s for foodies, outdoor enthusiasts and history lovers as well So grab your keys, turn on the GPS and head out into the glory colors of fall.

Fall Vineyard – Carneros

In the Sonoma ValleyHighway 12 is an incredible route for fall foliage, California-style. The road between the town of Sonoma and Kenwood winds through vineyards and picturesque hamlets. In fall, the rows of vineyards come alive in stunning shades of crimson, orange and gold.

Visitors can take in the scenery from the car before stopping at the area’s tasting rooms and restaurants such as Glen Ellen Star where the culinary team is led by Chef Ari Weiswasser and his wife Erinn Benziger-Weiswasser.

In Glen EllenJack London State Historic Park offers 29 miles of backcountry trails that go through mixed forest, oak woodlands and grassy meadows. You’ll also pass the London’s charming cottage and burned-out castle ruins.

Nearby at Benzinger Winery, guests can enjoy a tasting outside among the oak trees and take the Biodynamic Tram Tour of the property to learn about their winemaking process. Tuscan-style Viansa Winery affords a stunning valley view that takes in the autumnal palette across the valley. Or at Kunde Family Winery, you – and your pup – can take in a vineyard hike pre or post tasting.

No matter what you choose, it’ll be a colorful confetti road trip.

By the Mountains or the Sea: Three Great Luxury Resorts

Go beyond generic and experience the unique with stays at one or more of three distinctive Spire Hospitality properties: The Leta in Santa Barbara, CA, Topnotch Resort in Vermont and High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid New York. 

The Leta

If your idea of the ultimate Southern California retreat is longboards, poolside cocktails and coastal cuisine, we’ve got the place for you. The Leta is the kind of place with the ultimate Golden State of Mind/California Living attitude. So chill and enjoy the California groovy touches such as the surf-inspired décor, and eclectic accommodations, live music scene and VNYL record shop.

Ideally located, 158-room resort is prized for its cool, hip, carefree Californian personality along with it’s artful, quirky, unexpected, open and soulful chemistry. Local art, music, food and wine are at home here and the hotel boasts 6,000 square feet of meeting space welcoming locals and out of town guests alike for one-of-a-kind meetings and events.

Designed with an easygoing, California-cool aesthetic, The Leta’s artful guest rooms and suites channel the radiant spirit of SoCal featuring earthy, eccentric textures and fabrics with a nod to surf-culture nostalgia. This charming beach chic hotel in Goleta also welcomes pets. 

High Peaks Resort

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid is the perfect home base for exploring the Adirondacks. Guests can choose from three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 newly renovated guest rooms; the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. 

Amenities available to all guests include two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully equipped fitness center, the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, and Dancing Bears Restaurant, consistently ranked one of the top restaurants in Lake Placid.

Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddleboards, special activities such as yoga at the waterfront and birds of prey demonstrations, an outdoor barbecue, a fire pit (with complimentary s’mores), lawn games, sweeping views of the Adirondack mountains and close proximity to the region’s top attractions and activities such as the Lake Placid Olympic Sites, Whiteface Mountain, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, High Falls Gorge, Ausable Chasm, and numerous hiking trails, kayaking, boating and more in the Adirondack Park.

High Peaks Resort is also within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment in downtown Lake Placid. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. 

Topnotch Resort

The AAA Four-Diamond Topnotch Resort is a glorious place to stay. Set on 120 acres of woodland at the foot of Mount Mansfield, it’s located between historic and charming Stowe village and Stowe Mountain Resort as well as within 35 miles of four other popular ski resorts: Smuggler’s Notch, Sugar Bush, Mad River Glen and Bolton Valley. Topnotch includes 68 guest rooms and 17 two- and three-bedroom resort homes that allow for a private and very socially distant experience. 

Guests enjoy Vermont fresh farm-to-table dining at The Roost, the Topnotch Tennis Academy (ranked one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the country offering more than 30 programs for all ages and levels of play on six seasons outdoor and four indoor hard courts), the 35,000 square foot award-winning Topnotch Spa, three indoor and outdoor heated pools, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, the Equestrian Center at Topnotch (offering English and Western trail rides, private and group horseback riding, carriage rides and sleigh rides), Mountain Ops Outdoor Gear (an on-property outfitter which can arrange and outfit for any activity year-round, including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and fishing in the summer), outdoor fire pits with s’mores kits, shuffleboard and other games, specialty cocktails, access to the Stowe Recreation Path and more.

Dog friendly, Topnotch provides Fido with the finer things a canine deserves such as dog beds, CBD treats and special canine-friendly turndown service and spa treatments. Just a short drive from Topnotch, Stowe Village is worth the trip. Peruse the many locally owned shops (a personal favorite is Laughing Moon Chocolates) and art galleries, check out the locally sourced offerings at village restaurants, admire the 18th and 19th century architecture, explore the outdoors in a variety of ways such hot air balloon rides and kayaking, and take in a show at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

About Spire Hospitality

Spire Hospitality, led by CEO Chris Russell, is a third-party operator of 7,033 room keys and over 350,000 square feet of meeting space across 20 states. The Spire portfolio, with a focus on large, full-service hotels, includes unique independent properties and premier branded assets across Hilton Hotels & Resorts (HLT), Marriott International (MAR) and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), including 29 hotels and resorts. Spire Hospitality offers expertise in all facets of hospitality management and is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the value of hotel real estate. www.spirehotels.com.

WHALE WATCHING AND A BLOODY MARY CONTEST THIS MARCH AT MENDOCINO’S LITTLE RIVER INN

Historic Property Offers “Whale of a Sale” Special for Little River Whale Festival.  

 Is there a better way to watch the 20,000 gray whales that migrate from Mexico to Alaska along the California coast every March than from the cozy confines of Mendocino’s picturesque Little River Inn (www.LittleRiverInn.com). The Mendocino Coast offer magnificent views of the coves where mama whales harbor with their new calves, and spotting these mighty cetaceans are often spotted right offshore at this time of year.

Little River Inn Whale of a Sale

The iconic and welcoming ocean-view Little River Inn, which has been owned and operated by five generations of the same family, is the perfect place to catch the show. They even have a very special rate – the LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE March lodging special, which overlaps with the annual LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL (March 11 – 13, 2022). And as part of the fun, to benefit the Mendocino Area Parks Association, the inn is hosting the 2nd Annual BLOODY MARY COMPETITION, where local and professional bartenders go head-to-head to claim the prize of Best Bloody Mary.

 During the Little River Whale Festival, Little River Inn will be offering its LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE lodging special. Guests who book a two-night stay during these dates will receive a third night free. LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE is offered March 11 – 13, 2022 on all room types, based upon availability. To book online, use the code WHALE22 to get the Whale of a Sale rate.

BLOODY MARY COMPETITION

In conjunction with the Little River Whale Festival, on Sunday, March 13 from 12 PM to 2:30 PM in the Abalone Room at Little River Inn, anyone can be a judge at the BLOODY MARY COMPETITION. Both local amateur mixologists and professional bartenders compete to claim the prize of Best Bloody Mary. Tickets for 5-6 Bloody Mary tastes are $75 pre-sale or $80 day of the event (if available – only 120 tickets are being sold). The ticket includes a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. ID REQUIRED AND PROOF OF VACCINATION REQUIRED.

The event benefits Mendocino Area Parks Association (MAPA). Tickets are available at www.MendoParks.org.

Entertainment and Events

The 15th Annual LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL takes place from Friday, March 11 to Sunday, March 13 and offers a host of events, including a number of family-friendly activities. Below are two of the events and experiences inn guests and locals can partake of throughout the weekend:

 John Reischman and The Jaybirds Concert:  Friday, March 11, 8 PM (doors open at 7:30 PM),       Abalone Room, Little River Inn, 7901 N Highway One.  The Jaybirds put their own particular         stamp on bluegrass, old time and acoustic roots music, with a satisfying blend of traditional and modern styles. Only 50 tickets available.Tickets are $40 in advance at www.MendoParks.org.       

Whale Watch Walk:  Saturday, March 12, 11 AM – 1 PM. A two-hour guided walk (barring heavy               rain) searching for pelagic cormorants, seaside daisies and of course, whales!  Binoculars         available. Dogs allowed on leash. Free and open to the public. 

Further information and details regarding the LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL can be found by visiting www.MendoParks.org.

About Little River Inn

Little River Inn is a family-owned and operated boutique resort on the Mendocino coast of California with a chef-driven restaurant, nine-hole Audubon-certified golf course, professional tennis courts and day spa. Ideal for the entire family (and pet-friendly as well), the Inn has 65 guest rooms ranging from the economical to the luxurious. Several private meeting and special event spaces with stunning ocean and garden views make the Inn an excellent venue for small- to medium-sized weddings and corporate retreats.

The restaurant, helmed by CIA-trained Executive Chef Marc Dym, is a destination unto itself and the delicious, often hearty California coastal cuisine has a following so dedicated that it is not uncommon for guests to fly in by private plane for Sunday Brunch. Ole’s Whale Watch Bar is a classic local hangout where guests gather for drinks and a casual bite. Little River Inn has a beautiful, nine-hole golf course that plays like 18 and is appropriate for many skill levels. The Inn also has a Day Spa with three treatment rooms and offers in-room services. Overseen by fifth-generation Innkeeper Cally Dym, Little River Inn was proud to celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2019. 

Little River Inn is located two miles south of Mendocino overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456. For reservations and additional information, call 707-937-5942 or visit www.littleriverinn.com

4 Self-Care City Vacation Retreats

Taking Care of Yourself

Busy lives and hectic work schedules can take their toll on both the mind and the body, which is why it’s essential you try to take a break to recharge your batteries as you welcome the New Year. One way of energizing your body and calming your mind is to take a trip focused on self-care and general wellness.

Guest blogger, Lisa Walker of Neighborhood Sprout, recommends four cities you can visit to achieve both.

Minneapolis

In 2020, Minneapolis, Minnesota was voted the third-fittest city in the country. More than 75% of residents work out at least once a week. It’s a haven for outdoor lovers, and travelers would be foolish not to visit the town of Brainerd, with its 450 lakes and year-round recreational activities such as hiking and canoeing and opportunities for relaxation.

With lower-than-average health care costs, an incredible park system, good infrastructure, and a seemingly endless stream of things to do, Minneapolis is a great place to live as well as visit.

Knoxville

Being exposed to high levels of traffic daily can lead to chronic stress. However, this isn’t something you’ll experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, one of the world’s least congested cities. Far less traffic ensures a quicker journey to the country’s most visited national park, just 34 miles away.

The Smoky Mountains spans over 500,000 acres and has 850 miles of trails, including the world-renowned Appalachian Trail.

Besides less congestion, other benefits of moving to Knoxville include lower housing costs. Searching for rental apartments in Knoxville is made easier by visiting sites like Apartment Guide. You can set your price range and other parameters to ensure you only search for properties within your budget and meet other requirements such as a number of bedrooms, pet friendliness, and other amenities. 

San Marcos

San Marcos in San Diego, California, is a fantastic place to recharge and rejuvenate with its tranquil streets, peace, quiet, proximity to the breach, open spaces, and nature. It’s also home to one of the best spas in the world.

The Golden Door features multiple facilities including, a 2,000-square-foot equipment gym, two swimming pools, and a water therapy pool for guests to work out or relax. Discovery Lake, another place of interest, allows visitors to immerse themselves in large tracts of wilderness and connect with nature. Anyone deciding to relocate to the city can enjoy a lower cost of living and a lower crime rate than average. 

Malibu

Escape the crowds at Malibu’s Westward Beach

West of Los Angeles, California, and known for its celebrity homes and beaches, Malibu also boasts an exclusive and sought-after seven-day wellness retreat, The Ranch.

Limited to just 19 guests, visitors immerse themselves in a self-care experience that includes weight loss, fitness programs while also enjoying local plant-based meals.

Eight hours of daily activity include afternoon naps, massages, and an organic vegan diet. Living in a sparsely populated city has many benefits, such as incredible landscapes, top attractions, and a low crime rate. As expected, living costs in the city are considerably higher than the average.

A Necessary Reset

Whether it’s a relaxing massage, a 45-minute workout, or an awe-inspiring visit to a national park or an organic vegan diet, sometimes a change and a reset are not only needed; they’re often necessary. 

Celebrate The Solento Surf Festival in Encinitas, CA September 22-24

For those who love a great tequila at the Solento Surf Festival taking place in the company’s hometown of Encinitas, CA on September 22nd – 24th.  The upcoming Solento Surf Festival is not only fun and a chance to sample the much lauded organic spirit made from the agave plants grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco but also is a giveback event hosted by Solento founder and award-winning surf filmmaker, producer, and director Taylor Steele. Proceeds from all ticket and drink sales will be donated to the following charitable organizations: Changing Tides Foundation, Rob Machado Foundation, and SurfAid

Attendees can partake of exclusive film premieres as well as never before seen edits from the classics. There will also be giveaways, and conversations with special guests such as Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Steph Gilmore, Mick Fanning, Kalani Robb, Pat O’Connell, Pat Stacey, Dane Gudauskas, Benji Weatherley, Gigi Lucas, and more.

Solento Tequila

Like his films, Steele says that Solento “is about creating something that I wholeheartedly stood for, whether that be the taste, the design, the give back or simply how people interact with it. That’s when I started looking at the elements of my life I really valued. One part was sipping tequila with friends after a good day. As I researched turning that into a brand  I fell in love with everything about the idea of a tequila company. The history, farming process and how the end product affects others.”

An award winning USDA-certified, organic tequila, Solento is meant to be enjoyed slowly. It’s smooth taste making it ideal for kicking back and enjoying life at a leisurely pace. The concept is a slow sipping spirit, one that creates a space for conversations that are both elevating and inspiring. elevate. Each of Solento’s tequilas represent the mindset behind their creation–the belief that their tequila is more than just a drink. They are, instead about carving out time and appreciating the real experiences that are already here.

Solento offers three unique expressions, all harvested in small batches of agave that have slowly ripened in the Mexican sun for seven years on a single estate located in Amatitán, Jalisco. Tequila is made from the hearts or pinon of the agave.

After harvesting, the agave hearts are cooked for two days in stone ovens and then pressed in order to release their juices. Fermented and distilled naturally, the tequila comes out pure in flavor, and—in its aged versions—gains complexity from the time spent American oak barrels.

“Solento Reposado is aged for nine months and Solento Añejo for 18 months,” said Steele in an interview in Whitewall Presents, a website that goes behind the scenes and inside the ateliers of historic homes and today’s luxury brands. “Our American oak barrels were previously used for whisky, so by leaving our organic tequila to rest in these barrels we are caramelizing and slightly sweetening the flavor profile leaving us with a smooth, buttery sip.”

Solento is sold in sleekly designed bottles that reflect a Streamline Modern-style, an international style of Art Deco that was popular in the 1930s.

·       Blanco– Flawlessly clear with a smooth and silky mouthfeel subtle notes of Meyer lemon and Tahitian vanilla.

·       Reposado – Aged in American oak barrels for nine months, slightly sweet notes of homemade caramel and cooked agave exude a soft amber warmth.

·       Añejo – Aged in American oak barrels for eighteen months, smooth notes of buttery maple, toasted hazelnuts and hints of oak form a bold flavor profile.

With its glowing popularity,  Solento Organic Tequila continues to expand and now will be available in Arizona with partner Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), a world-class distributor of fine wines and spirits in North America.

A Double gold winner at 2019 SIP Awards, Solento’s expanasion to the Grand Canyon State follows its successful debut in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Colorado, and Hawaii earlier this year. By partnering with RNDC, Solento Organic Tequila is significantly expanding the brand’s national footprint to the highly engaged Arizona market.

“We have partnered with RNDC because of their extensive market expertise not only in Arizona, but across the United States. This partnership allows us to grow long lasting relationships with their existing connections to ensure Arizona locals will be able to find Solento in their favorite bars, restaurants and retailers,” says Steele.

Solento is available in stores across the country and online. For more information visit www.solentotequila.com and @solento_tequila.

Taylor Steele

About Solento

Made for those who appreciate the ritual of slowing down and being present, Solento is an award-winning, USDA certified organic tequila range made in small batches from a single estate in Jalisco. Founded in 2019 by filmmaker and surfer, Taylor Steele, Solento (or “slow sun” in Spanish) is a sippable mindset that invites space for conversations that elevate and inspire. Three expressions – Blanco, Reposado and Añejo – are crafted from certified organic agave grown leisurely under the Mexican sun for seven years. 

COCKTAILS

CALM WATERS

Create chamomile honey syrup by combining 1 part honey with 1 part chamomile tea.

Combine 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz lemon juice, and ¾ oz chamomile honey syrup. Shake with ice. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon wheel and chamomile flowers.

Calm Waters

SLOW CIDER

Place a large sphere of frozen apple cider into a rocks glass and pour 3 oz of Solento Reposado Tequila on top. 

Garnish with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of fuji apple. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon on top. 

Slow Cider

AGED AUTUMN

Muddle 8 organic blackberries, 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, ½ oz of lemon juice, ¼ oz honey in a cocktail shaker. Add 2 oz of Solento Añejo and orange bitters.

Strain into a martini glass. Top with Topo Chico and garnish with fresh rosemary and blackberries.

Aged Autumn

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

Gently muddle 4 mint leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, and ½ oz agave syrup

Add 2 oz Solento Blanco, ¾ oz organic lime juice + ice

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint + cucumber

SOLENTO EASTSIDE

PALOMA TO THE PEOPLE

Rim a rocks glass with Himalayan salt

Combine 2 oz Solento Reposado, 1.5 oz organic grapefruit juice, 1 oz organic lime juice, ½ oz simple syrup + ice. Shake and then strain into the salt-rimmed glass

Garnish with grapefruit slice

For more information, please visit solentotequila.com and follow @solento_tequila.

  Lighthouse Wine Shop: A Beacon to Great Vino in Southwest Michigan

       Cade Carmichael doesn’t want us to drink what he calls “supermarket wines” but he also isn’t advocating we take out a loan for an expensive bottle of wine. That’s why when he opened Lighthouse Wine Shop last year in St. Joseph, Michigan he decided to feature value wines.

         “I didn’t want to start off with big wine names,” he says. “Good wine doesn’t have to be expensive.  Value wines are those that taste like they should cost more than they do.”

         It’s all about knowing where to look and for those of us who don’t want to begin the laborious process of understanding the intricacies of every wine region and producer, Carmichael is willing to do the hard work for us. His fascination with wines came not from living in Southwest Michigan where we have a wonderful abundance of wineries but when he moved with his wife to Frankfurt, Germany where they lived for five years before returning to this area. From Frankfurt, it was easy to explore the wine regions of such countries as France and Italy as well as Germany.

         In the wine appellation of Côte de Nuit Villages in Burgundy, a historic region of France that produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. Appellation or appellation d’origine contrôlée or AOC which stands for “controlled designation of origin” is certification granted by the government that refers to the area’s agriculture products—a list that includes not only wines, but other categories such as cheeses and butters.

         But the thing is, Carmichael tells me, is there are some value wines from the Côte de Nuit Villages that are very affordable if you know where to look. He shows me bottles from Domaine Faively, a winery founded in 1825 in the Nuits-St. Georges.

         “Right next to Nuits-St. Georges is a small village called Vosne-Romanee,” says Carmichael. Another historic village like Nuits-St. Georges, Vosne-Romanee is known as having some of the most expensive burgundies in the world.

         “Vosne-Romanee literally shares a border with Nuits- St. Georges, so they have the same soil and growing conditions- the vineyards facing east get the morning sun and shade in the evening,” says Carmichael. “But there’s a huge difference.”

That means instead of spending a small fortune for a bottle from Vosne-Romanee, you can enjoy the wines of the Côte de Nuit Villages by choosing those produced by wineries in Nuits-St. Georges.

         In an interesting aside, Carmichael tells me that China is now producing Bordeaux style wines, using five Noble varietals— Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot—which comprise the best for making that type of wine. How is it working out?  Well, the 2013 vintage from Ao Yun—the name means flying above the clouds as the winery is 8,500 feet above sea level, in the foothills of the Himalayas that has similar growing conditions to the Bordeaux region of France—was awarded  a score of 93 by Wine Advocate and sells for around $300. But that’s an aside.

         When sourcing his wines Carmichael looks, of course, for value but also the unique such as those made from indigenous or natural yeast rather than cultivated yeast. Sometimes, through diligent searching he’s able to score big.

         “I bought the last three cases of Terreno Vitigno,” he says about a wine from Monleale, a sub region of Piedmont in the Tortonese hills of Italy. “It’s all that’s available.”

         He also has (or maybe had as Lighthouse’s specials sell out very quickly) Piccolo Derthona made from Timorasso, a varietal grape that’s nearly extinct.

         “I try to find things—they’re not weird—but unique,” he says.

         The Lighthouse Wine Shop is in the small mall on the corner of Glenlord Road and Red Arrow Highway and right across the street from Coach’s Bar & Grill in Stevensville. In keeping with Carmichael’s vow not to be a cookie cutter type place, he and his father-in-law built display boxes, used wine barrels as tables for showcasing wines. His wines are divided by country and there’s a good representation of Italy, Spain, France, South America, and California to name a few.

He also sells wine accoutrements like corkscrews, gift baskets and boxes. A major focal point on the store is the large white board or what Carmichael calls “a lyric board” that changes. He uses vinyl records for the music that plays in the background. The groups performing are modern and include Phoebe Bridgers & Waxahatchee as well as classics such as Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Chicago. Speaking of the latter, Carmichael says that his Chicago patrons seem to prefer French wines while those from this area choose Italian. He thinks that might a reflection of Whirlpool Corp. having manufacturing plants in Cassinetta, Naples, and Trento in Italy. Coincidentally as he’s saying this, Doug Washington walks in to buy a bottle of Italian red wine. A Whirlpool employee he says he worked for the company in Italy.

         When I started working on this column, I received an email from Janet Fletcher, who lives in Napa Valley, California  where she develops and tests recipes for cookbooks and magazine features, evaluate cheeses for her classes and columns, does extensive gardening, and prepares dinner nightly with her winemaker husband. I’ve talked to her frequently in the past and wrote about several of her cookbooks including Wine Country Table and Cheese and Beer. I also follow her blog Planet Cheese.

Fletcher, who has won three James Beard Awards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Bert Greene Award, has a new cookbook out called Gather: Casual Cooking from Wine Country Gardens and I asked her if she would share recipes. She agreed, including recipes easily made at home and the California wines she suggests using when serving them.

The following are recipes she shared along with anecdotes about their origins and Fletcher’s wine recommendations. These wines are necessarily easily available but when a Merlot is called for you can substitute a local Merlot or one from another area though keep in mind that Fletcher paired her food and wines very carefully.

Maggie’s Ranch Chicken

Serves 4

Ranch chicken has nothing to do with ranch dressing, says Katie Wetzel Murphy of Alexander Valley Vineyards. “It’s what we called this dish as kids,” she recalls. “It seems that my mother, Maggie, only made it when we came to ‘The Ranch,’ which is what we called the vineyards before we had a winery.” Baked with honey, mustard, and tarragon, the quartered chicken emerges with a crisp brown skin, and the sweet aroma draws everyone to the kitchen. “Kids like it and adults like it,” says Katie, “and most of the food we make has to be that way.”

1 whole chicken, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, backbone removed, then quartered

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup honey

4 tablespoons salted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 fresh tarragon sprigs, each 6 inches long

Wine: Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the chicken quarters all over with salt and pepper. Put the quarters into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, butter, and mustard over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Pour the honey mixture evenly over the chicken. Place a tarragon sprig on each quarter.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, spoon the dish juices over the chicken, and return the dish to the oven for 30 minutes more. The chicken will be fully cooked, with beautifully browned skin. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle.

Antipasto Platter with Southern-Style Pickled Okra

Makes 6 pints

“Napa Valley’s Regusci Winery proprietor, Laura Regusci, developed a passion for pickling in her grandmother’s Kentucky kitchen,” he writes. The family pastime began as a way to preserve vegetables for winter and share homegrown gifts with neighbors. Today, Laura carries on the tradition, growing okra and other seasonable vegetables in the Regusci estate garden for pickling. Each Thanksgiving, pickled okra adds a southern spirit to the family’s antipasto board

3 pounds small okra

6 cups distilled white vinegar

4 cups water

1/2 cup kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

For Each Pint Jar:

1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon dill seeds

6 black peppercorns

6 cumin seeds

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 fresh oregano sprig

1 bay leaf

Pinch of ground coriander

Pinch of red chile flakes

When creating the antipasto platter use the pickled vegetables along with alongside figs, salami, other charcuterie meats, and marinated  veggies like artichokes.

Suggested Wine: Regusci Winery Rosé

Have ready six sterilized pint canning jars and two-part lids. Trim the okra stems if needed to fit the whole pods upright in the jars. Otherwise, leave the stems intact.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep hot.

Into each of the six jars, put the mustard seeds, dill seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, coriander, and chile flakes. Fill the jars with the okra, packing it in upright—alternating the stems up and down if needed—as tightly as possible. Fill the jars with the hot liquid, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and top each jar with a flat lid and screw band. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then cool on racks without disturbing.

Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and use within 2 weeks. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Wait for at least 1 week before opening a jar to allow the flavor to mellow.

HALL WINES HOSTS VIRTUAL CABERNET COOKOFF ‘HOME EDITION’ ON SATURDAY, MAY 30: Participants to Compete for a Charity of Their Choice

Vintner Kathryn Hall of Hall Wines.

 HALL Wines, one of the world’s most notable Cabernet Sauvignon producers, is hosting a Virtual Cabernet Cookoff: Home Edition, on Saturday, May 30. A virtual version of the winery’s annual Cabernet Cookoff that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 shelter in place orders, the creative Home Edition allows chefs to participate remotely.

To compete in the online food and wine pairing competition, contestants simply submit a recipe that pairs best with HALL’s 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The recipes are then reviewed by HALL’s judging committee, consisting of HALL’s senior staffing with backgrounds in culinary arts. The top three dishes will be created by a guest chef and shared live for viewers on Saturday, May 30 at 4:00p.m. PT on Facebook Live. The event will be hosted by Vintner Kathryn Hall.

“It is more important now than ever to support each other,” says Hall. “The ravages of Covid-19 continue to devastate our families and communities. Holding a virtual Cabernet Cookoff this year means we and our friends can continue to support deserving charitable organizations across our nation. On May 30, let’s get creative in the kitchen, drink some fabulous wine, and have fun while we are at it.”

Kathryn Walt Hall, the proprietor of both HALL Wines and WALT Wines, has long been involved in the California wine industry starting when her family first purchased a vineyard in the 1970’s. Besides being vintner, her impressive resume lists a career as an attorney, United States Ambassador to Austrai and community activitist.

The 2019 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 800 attendees for a sold-out crowd and raised $106,000 for local charities. Since inception in 2010, the HALL Cabernet Cookoff has raised $1.2 million dollars for Napa Valley non-profit organizations. 

Participants are asked to fill out an Interest Form to submit their recipe and select a non-profit organization (501c3) of their choice to compete for a donation to that organization. The competition is open to everyone. In total, the event will select three winners with prize donations for First Place: $5,000; Second Place: $2,500; and Third Place: $1,500. The donations will be paid directly to the non-profit organizations connected to the top three winning chef teams.

The wine selection for the event, HALL’s 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($65.00 retail), offers effusive aromas of blackberry, black cherry, freshly turned earth and subtly warm toasty oak notes. The palate is dense and richly concentrated with fine grained tannin and good length. Flavors of dark chocolate, dark berry compote, and hints of dried thyme and leather are abundant, making this wine both versatile and expressive when looking to pair with diverse culinary dishes. During the contest period this wine will offered at a 10% discount as part of HALL’s virtual campaign.

WHAT:           

HALL’sVirtual Cabernet Cookoff: Home Edition

WHEN:          

Saturday, May 30,2020                                                                                                                                       

4:00p.m. PT   

WHERE:        

HALL’s Facebook: Live                                                                                                                                     

For more information, please visit HALL’s Virtual Cabernet Cookoff landing page.

For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using @hallwines #cabernetcookoff.