Friday, December 11, 2009

We Love Louie's!

Matt ready to dig in!

Two years ago one of the first accounts I visited as a wholesale representative for Carina Cellars, was Louie’s at the Upham Hotel in Santa Barbara. Although I had lived in Santa Barbara for nearly six years prior to that point, I had somehow failed to check out this hidden gem, and so I was delighted by my experience the day I finally came stopped by to visit.
I’ll admit that I must have driven by this restaurant numerous times, without realizing what I was missing. For the past twenty years Louie’s has been located in the beautiful Upham Hotel, with 50 rooms and cottages spread throughout gorgeously manicured grounds in a quiet neighborhood. A wrap around porch with heat lamps allows guests to enjoy their meals outdoors year-round, and the inside dining area presents a chic yet cozy locale. Owners Anne Rizzoli and Trey Brook, along with chef Tony Manzanares, focus on providing California cuisine with an artistic flair, and a wine list that does a fantastic job of promoting local wines.
Louie’s has carried the Carina Cellars Syrah “7 percent” for the past couple years, so my boyfriend Matt and I decided it was time to dine at Louie’s and enjoy a bottle of that very wine! We chose a table for two along the wall, and although the appetizers menu tempted us, we opted to just enjoy our wine with the fresh, warm bread delivered to our table (I had my eye on a certain dessert and was determined to save room!) We ordered the last bottle of the 2005 “7 percent”, and for those of you saving a bottle of this in your cellars, it is tasting fantastic right now!
So we skipped right to the main course: Matt ordered the Meat loaf with sautéed mushrooms, onions and garlic mashed potatoes, an ultimate in California comfort food, yet when served with a tasty Cabernet sauce the flavor of this dish was astounding. The meat loaf was cooked perfectly-incredibly moist and perfectly seasoned-and Matt quickly gave his review: “best meat loaf ever”. The rich, beefy flavors were a perfect compliment to the glasses of “7 percent” we were drinking as well.
Upon our waiter’s suggestion, I went for a slightly lighter dish of grilled Scottish Salmon with an orange-pear chutney and lemon beurre blanc over red curry mashed potatoes. I was intrigued by the combination of flavors and spices presented in this description, and once my meal arrived I was not disappointed. The chutney was subtle, as was the beurre blanc, yet the red curry mashed potatoes exploded with flavor without overpowering the flaky and delicious salmon. My compliments to the chef-I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of salmon while dining out, and I must also echo Matt’s refrain that this is one of the best salmons I’ve eaten in a while. This also, the waiter told me, happens to be one of their most popular dishes.
There was definitely still room for dessert once the entrees cleared, and so we went for the kill: a decadent chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. Seems simple enough, but this is an easy dish to mess up if the brownie is cold or dry or overcooked. But this one was just right-very light and spongy and not too rich. And to top it all off, Trey very generously shared a glass of Costo d’Oro’s late harvest Pinot Blanc. It’s not often that you see a Pinot Blanc on a wine list, let alone one made into a late harvest, and I loved how this wine tasted just like a French Sauternes, yet was made locally in Santa Maria and can be purchased from the winery for a very reasonable $27.99.
For those of you who have yet to experience this hidden Santa Barbara treat, you can enjoy lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30am – 2:00pm, and dinner Sunday-Thursday from 5:30 - 9:00pm, and on Friday & Saturday until 10:00pm. Meals run about $12-$30.
Louie’s at The Upham Hotel
1404 De La Vina Santa Barbara, CA

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cooking with A Tavola

I love food. I love wine. And somehow I had the good fortune to land a job that pays me to consume both on a regular basis. The Fates were truly smiling down on me when I began working for Carina Cellars three years ago, and since then I have enjoyed learning as much as I can about the wonderful world of wine and the culinary creations with which each wine pairs best. My passion for these two consumable arts has led me to organize wine tastings and winemaker dinners with some of Santa Barbara County’s greatest chefs, yet only recently did I have the pleasure to put on a cooking class with the talented chef John Fernandez of Santa Barbara’s A Tavola!

I met John at an industry tasting at the Bacara hotel a couple years ago. An incredibly gregarious and enthusiastic individual, John’s passion for cooking took him all the way to Italy where he attended culinary school and worked as a chef in a restaurant near Parma.

Chef John demonstrating how easy it is to use a rolling pin: if an old Italian grandma can do it, so can you!

“My greatest lessons from my experience in Italy included not only those involving food and cooking,” said John, “but also that family, friends, and community drew their greatest strengths from dining together, every meal, everyday.” So when John returned home from his time in Italy, he knew he wanted to share this experience with others, which is why he created A Tavola!, a company that focuses on teaching how to create those traditional Italian dishes in your own home.

“I cook because I love food,” said John. “I also cook because food can bring people together with family and friends. Family and friends come together to become a community. I want to enable people to enjoy good food and to enjoy good food with the people they love.”
And so John and I, with our passions combined, created an Italian cooking class where each dish would be paired with one of Carina Cellars’ wines. Hayward Design Center in Santa Barbara was generous enough to allow us to use their beautiful demo kitchen to conduct our cooking classes, and so we gathered about 30 people and put on three nights of cooking classes! Each class followed the same structure: John talked about traditional Italian cooking techniques, then demonstrated how to create the dish, and I followed by talking about the wine with which it was paired, and then everyone ate and drank and enjoyed!

The first dish created was a Tagliatelle with asparagus and white wine sauce, full of mixed summer vegetables. This is a traditional dish from Bologna, but as John put it, it could easily be from anywhere in Italy. We paired this dish with the 2007 Viognier and the balanced acidity and citrus notes were the perfect pair to this summer veggie pasta.

Next John showed how to create Tortelli d’Erbetta, an emblematic pasta from Parma, filled with a mixture of homemade ricotta and spinach with a bit of melted butter and parmesan sprinkled over it. These absolutely melt in your mouth! And when paired with the 2007 Grenache, the bright fruit flavors were complimented perfectly by the sweeter notes of the parmesan cheese.

The Agnolotti con pollo came next, and is another example of a traditional neighborhood Parma dish filled with chicken and served in a savory grape sauce. Agnolotti literally translates to mean “nun’s hat”, and these little filled pastas looked just like that! We paired this dish with the 2007 Clairvoyant, which is a southern Rhone-style blend of 55% syrah, 33% Grenache and 12% mourvedre, and exhibits an array of berry flavors that paired perfectly with the grape-flavored sauce.

At this point in the evening the teacher-student tension had well since worn off, and John was interacting quite candidly with the “students”, allowing them to try their hand at creating “nun’s hats” and learning how to make the dough from scratch. We continued to learn how to make Tagliatelle Bolognese, which as John calls it, is the “ultimate in Italian comfort food”! This traditional dish from Bologna is made with a wide-cut pasta simmered in a ragu bolgnese sauce, and we paired it with the 2006 Syrah from Tierra Alta Vineyard. This syrah exhibits rich, dark fruits with a delightfully peppery finish, and when brought together with the beefy Bolognese dish, it was decadent.

We continued with another “nun’s hat” pasta: the Agnolotti al plin, which means “pinched nun’s hat” and is a pasta characteristic of the Piemonte region. John showed us how to make the lamb filling, and the lamb and tomato sauce, then we paired it with the 2006 Syrah “7 Percent”. This blend of 7% Viognier and 93% Syrah has a smoky, meatiness with a nice peppery finish, which helped bring out the lamb flavor in both the filling and the sauce.

You might think we would have been too stuffed to go on at this point, but there’s always room for pear raviolis with a pancetta gorgonzola sauce and walnuts sprinkled on top. These little pasta pouches were filled with pears in a light cream sauce, and when paired with the 2006 Late Harvest Viognier, the slightly salty flavor of the gorgonzola cream sauce countered the sugar in the wine, and satiated our palates with nothing but delicious pears!

For more information about chef John’s cooking classes with A Tavola! check out The pictures are provided by the lovely Rosminah Brown, and you can check out more of her beautiful food photography here!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. Picky picks Carina Cellars!

Mr. Picky is an application that can be downloaded to your iPhone, and will help you plan your next trip to beautiful Paso Robles wine country! Carina Cellars is of course listed, so we will (shamelessly) plug this application as a fantastic tool for planning your next visit.

The application features:

A list of Paso Robles wineries
A Near Me button where you can find wineries closest to you
A short description of each winery
Hours of operation
A call button to call the wineries
A map button to get directions to your winery
Mr Picky's Tips, which gives the user wine tasting tips for the Paso Robles region
A Restaurants page, which lists restaurants hand-picked by Mr. Picky

And for those of you who still use a regular old cell phone (and NOT an iPhone), we would still love to have you visit us! We are open Friday-Sunday from 11am-5pm, and Monday-Thursday by appointment only (call Ryan at 415-309-2046)

Rancho del Cielo
3525 Adelaida Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446

See you soon!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Haven Gastropub: Not your Ordinary Pub!

A Gastropub (noun): a British term for a public house that specializes in serving high-quality food.
Located in beautiful Old Towne Orange, at first glance Haven Gastropub would appear to be like any other pub: loud and fun atmosphere with large screen televisions outfitting the joint, and booths and bistro tables scattered comfortalbly throughout the room. But take a closer look: Haven isn't your average pub serving average pub food. Sure their menu offers ribs, hamburgers and fries, but each of their dishes goes above and beyond the ordinary. Cordon Bleu-trained chef, Greg Daniels strives to create a truly uniqe twist on the average pub faire.
I was lucky enough to to have lunch here with my Orange County sales rep, Dave McPhillips, and even more luckily I had a craving for a big, juicy burger. So I ordered the Havenburger, a house specialty that was recommended to me by the chef, as well as owners Wil Dee and Jeff Hall. Upon serving my burger was not only beautifully presented, it was also one of the best burgers I've ever eaten! The Havenburger is served with pickeled red onions, roasted red bell peppers, wild arugula and St. Agur cheese, and as a side I opted for the harvest pear salad- with pecorino cheese, rum soaked golden raisins, mesclun and a pear vinaigrette. I devoured every last morsel, which unfortunately left me too full for dessert, but believe me I'll be back for more!
Although I was already quite full, Dave gave me a taste of his pulled pork sandwich, with homemade BBQ sauce, warm apple cabbage and port salut cheese. His order came with a side of fries, which were perfectly seasoned and served with homemade ketchup! I'll admit it was a bit difficult to continue the word day after such a satiating lunch, but somehow we made it through, ending the day with a sales trip to Disneyland. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!
Haven Gastropub is open Monday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. with entrees ranging from $10-$20. Visit them at 190 S. Glassell St., Old Towne Orange, CA. 714-221-0680.
From left: chef Greg Daniels, owners Wil Dee, Jeff Hall and Ace Patel

Havenburger and harvest pear salad...amazing!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Clairvoyant Energy!

Clairvoyant is a common term around Carina Cellars. It's the name of one of our most popular Rhone-style blends, a delicious combination of syrah, grenache and mourvedre, which has been woeing fans and guests since its first creation in 2004 by winemaker Joey Tensley. But recently Clairvoyant has incurred a new wave of publicity in the news, as owner David Hardee's solar energy company-Clairvoyant Energy-released its plans to create the largest Renewable Energy Park in the USA.

Not only does David Hardee own and operate Carina Cellars, but he has also been hard at work as CEO of Clairvoyant Energy, a global renewable energy developer that builds, owns and operates utility scale solar photovoltaic energy generating systems. Clairvoyant Energy's mission is to promote renewable energy projects and create renewable energy manufacturing in the U.S. to create new “Green Jobs”, reduce carbon emissions and to lower the U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Clairvoyant Energy is already well known for its successful development of the World's Largest Roof Top Solar Energy Panal installation on the rooftop of the General Motors Corporation manufacturing facility in Zaragoza, Spain.

The most recent project in Wixom, MI involves Ford selling its assembly plant to Clairvoyant Energy (based in California) and Xtreme Power (based in Texas), to create a renewable energy manufacturing park, which will redevelop the 320-acre site and create over 4,000 jobs in green energy.

Watch David Hardee during the press release!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Infinity Pool!

Breaking news: the infinity pool at the top of Rancho del Cielo is now finished! Please note the panoramic views of Paso Robles' westside in the background. Feel free to come out and visit on your next trip through Paso Robles...we would love to show you the newest developments around the ranch!
3525 Adelaida Rd. Paso Robles, CA 93446
open Friday-Sunday 11am-5pm, Monday-Thursday by appt.

We also have some exciting events coming up at Rancho del Cielo for the Paso Robles Harvest Festival October 16-18:

Friday, Oct. 16
11am-5pm: Enjoy our rhone-style wines paired with gourmet pizzas and get to know Carina Cellars through vineyard tours guided by owner, David Hardee, and barrel tastings with winemaker, Ryan Saccomano.
6pm-9pm: Join owner, David Hardee, and winemaker, Ryan Saccomano for a fine dining experience in Hardee's private residence which offers breathtaking views of Paso's westside. This five course menu created by De La Saison Catering is paired with Carina Cellar's hand-crafted new release and library wines. Iconoclast Members $85 Non Members $105

Saturday, October 17
11am-5pm: How well do you know your wine? Join winemaker, Ryan Saccomano, in the tasting room for blind tastings, harvest lectures, a line up of fantastic wine and gourmet pizzas. Owner, David Hardee, will be conducting tours of the vineyards and new Paso winery.
5-8pm: Relax with friends on owner, David Hardee's patio at the top of the property. Sip on a glass or flight of Carina Cellars wine, order tasty tapas by De La Saison Catering and take in the vineyard views. Small charge per item: $5-$7.

Sunday, October 18
11am-5pm: Come by the tasting room and chat with owner, David Hardee, and winemaker, Ryan Saccomano, about the future plans for Carina Cellars, tour the vineyards, participate in harvest activities and most important, taste Carina's delicous wine!

For more information about upcoming events in Paso Robles, please contact Rochelle at 916-606-3553 or

Monday, September 14, 2009

Long Beach Love

I was recently in Long Beach for a sales trip, and spent the day working with Mario Mitchell-an incredibly jovial and fun-loving American Wines sales rep, and together we took the Long Beach territory by storm!

We started off by visitng Avia Hotels, a chain of high-end hotels with only a few locations in Savannah GA, the Woodlands TX and Napa CA. The Long Beach branch only recently opened in August (last month!) and they excitedly brought in the Carina Cellars SBC Syrah to share with their guests! Even if you don't decide to stay here on your next trip, or if you're a Long Beach local, I highly recommend coming to their bar for a drink. It's casually chic and incredibly comfortable, and the food is fantastic!

Next we headed to Main Street Wine Cellars, a beautiful wine bar in the heart of Seal Beach, a mere few blocks from the ocean. I had a fantastic dinner here when I was in town a few monhs ago, and enjoyed spending time with the owner, Chris (shown here amidst my lovely friends). Chris just brought in the Carina Cellars Viognier, so make sure to stop by and enjoy a glass!
Our last stop was Bono's- a delightful Italian restaurant in a fantastic corner lot in downtown Belmont Shores. They have a huge wrap-around patio and a lovely airy interior, and to add to its appeal they now carry the Carina Cellars Viognier as well! I came back later that night with my friend Paige, and we enjoyed a fantastic dinner with the general manager Mario (that's right, another Mario!) We started off with the gourmet Mac and Cheese (shown here) with black truffle shavings, pancetta, gruyere and asiago cheese, and it was absolutely decadent!
For dinner I enjoyed the Alaskan Halibut, topped with fresh strawberries, vine-ripened tomatoes, and feta cheese over rice pilaf...what a flavor combo! The picture I took just didn't do it justice...hurry over and try it. Right now!
Paige enjoyed the grilled Swordfish with garlic, scallions and a splash of white wine, and Mario (the general manager, not the sales rep), joined us and shared his shrimp scampi served with a garlic, lemon and white wine sauce over spinach risotto. An absolutely wonderful dinner...a must visit!

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