Girls’ Night Out

Egads  – I’ve been working, crafting and awash in inspiration and ideas over at Pinterest; all the while neglecting my blog. I’ve a slew of pictures to post over the next few weeks, so let me begin.

A neighbor and I hit Girls Night Out at Ironstone Vineyards – a fundraising event for Santa’s Express. Santa’s Express in Calaveras County provides food, clothing and toys for the disadvantaged; their funding relies entirely on donations. Entry was a new unwrapped toy or $10 (they partner with Toys for Tots). Entry included tickets for six tastes of Ironstone wine or one glass plus hors d’ouvres of cheeses, vegetables and perfectly spiced hummus. In the past, Girls Night Out has benefited the local abused women services – it’s always a truly enjoyable low cost night that benefits a good cause.

We began our evening with an “always fantastic” meal at Grounds (I’ve mentioned before this is one of my favorite restaurants – I start to crave it if I haven’t been there often enough). Terry went for superb mussels with a huge side of sweet potato fries and I their “always to die for” pasta (this mushrooms, pesto and more). We skipped wine with dinner and opted for the glass at the fundraiser so we wouldn’t be tethered to the tasing bar. Sipping the Viogner while perusing the silent auction and vendor tables is the way to shop.


Wines from Newsome Harlow and Twisted Oak (their River of Skulls – 3 consecutive years) were some of the more popular items in the silent auction. In the top photo, you can see the beautiful Christmas quilt that was raffled off – the quilt effectively hiding the crowd at the tasting bar.

Home party consultants from the County comprised a good number the vendor tables – even the sex toy folks were nestled into a corner (“Slumber Party”). Although I’ve been dragged off duty-bound to many friends’ home parties (always purchasing the polite requisite of at least one item – I’m really not a home party kind gal) had not been to a chocolate tasting party.


Our local Dove Chocolate party consultant Kim hosted a fantastic table (locals- I saved her card, leave a comment if you need her phone number and I’ll e-mail it to you). I had to keep an eye on it to be able to get a shot when it wasn’t mobbed. The chocolate was truly luscious.

I’d also not heard of home tea parties – a fun idea where they sell flavored tea, scone mixes and such. Mary of Tealightful has both a web and a Facebook page. You could also indulge in a hand treatment, shoulder massage, mulled wine or sangria, more shopping from local jewelry creators, cosmetic lines, clothing vendors, a wonderful heat/cold pack vendor, custom hair accessories, cottage-y memo boards or a fine handcrafted soap, sugar scrub, lip balm vendor. There was so much creativity in that holiday space.

As Terry works at a winery, we had to check out the wine sayings on the T-shirts. She and another friend enjoy the shopping/shoe sayings (the last time I wore cute maryjane slip-ons for a walk about our town of dirt paths robust with full bumpy tree roots – gawking with the camera and not paying attention – I took a truly spectacular flying nosedive, never was a shoe person, now even less so). Given my locale and my penchant for machine embroidery, the phrases are something I collect. Know of the age/wine ones, skip the rude drunk ones, our Bodega Del Sur winery had Bears around a campfire along the lines of “Is it deer Hunter with red and fishermen with white?” If you have any, please share them in the comments. I just might have to stitch them up.

 Ironstone has decorated for the holidays with spectacular outside lighting this year; sorry no shots – it was raining and we made a mad dash for cover. They have indoor woodland and wine themed ornaments and decorations for sale as well.

They reported that 195 ladies and 30 vendors attended and they collected 250 toys and just under $3,000 cash for Santa’s Express.

This post is participating in Unknown Mami’s Sundays in my City. I’d thought I might pop in a few new sunset shots for the photographers in that crowd, but this post is long enough – so later. Hop on over to Unknown Mami if you want to see what other folks around the globe are doing in their neck of the woods.


“Honey I’m Hoooome”

Okay, so I never saw Jack Nicholson in The Shining, not a fan of horror movies, but some movie phrases we all know. You may have noticed I’ve been a little absent lately and as I sit down to write this “honey, I’m home” has been dancing through my mind. I’ve had a great little break with out-of-state visitors, in-state visitors, demands of spring and, well yes work (but that’s a good thing).

Murphy’s California, my marvelous little tourist town, has also been a hoppin place to be. Today I’ll share a bit about Zintastico and get this posted in time for Unknown Mami’sSundays in My City. Newsome Harlow winery hosted their fourth annual Zintastico fest and it was fantastico. Zintastico is their party for wine club members with yummy appetizers and tasting of their new single-vineyard zinfandel releases plus samples of their futures. Luckily, my bud Kim is a member and we hit the patio party on opening day – the one with the best weather for their planned patio dining. Wine in one hand, appetizer in another – no place for a camera so I didn’t tote it along (check their web or Facebook for better pictures, that’s Christine and Barbara below, pic taken awhile ago). Now, you may find this odd, but a person who drinks white wine only at a zin tasting? Going to an event where oenophiles might look down their nose at your lack of sophisticated taste or appreciation for the reds? Eh, I was curious to taste their appetizers as Newsome has also opened a new kitchen adjourning their tasting room and the folks around Murphys are generally a friendly bunch, no prevalence of looking down ones nose to judge. Plus, I expected accommodations for designated drivers so I’d certainly not die of thirst. Fortunately, they had a few whites open – and I now have a new favorite. Dry Muscat Blanc, mmmmm. Heavenly. They paired it with rock shrimp cakes with cilantro and chipotle candied oranges. Fish is ever popular on dinners I make for guests, and this is a really nice wine to pair with it. I’ll also give an official nod of approval to their Sauvignon Blanc.

Cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, a California organic artisan cheese producer, were featured. I fell for their imported Manchego.  Other pairings that you Zin fans may want to be aware of were their Big John’s Vineyard with organic strawberry soup and a fried smoked mozzarella ravioli with crème fraiche. Do I need to add that from my perspective this was lovely with the above whites? Shake Ridge Ranch was paired with quail eggs with smoked salmon and basil-feta aioli over pumpernickel crostini; the Donner Party (yes, these are wines) was paired with a wild mushroom and roasted lamb tartlet, chimichurri and soft goat cheese; and Frank Herbert Vineyard was paired with s’mores crepes – graham flour crêpes sandwiched with dark milk chocolate and homemade rice marshmallow cream. If you have a chance to stop by The Kitchen at Newsome Harlow and they have either the shrimp cakes or the s’mores crepes on the menu that day – try them. I’d skipped both the lamb (don’t do red meats) and quail eggs, although I understand they were yummy as well.

The courtyard was packed with people wine and food. They have comfy couches, warmers and lots of seating – it’s always a great place to stop by. She’s firing up the fire pit within a table in this shot.

Another nifty thing for techno geeks – the label on the back of their bottles has a barcode you can scan with your smartphone to get info and a list of what pairs well with it. Twisted Oak  (I’ll write about them soon) also offers scanable info on their labels. 

If you enjoy crowds and wine tasting activities – Passport Weekend is a big deal here, June 25th and 26th – culinary creations, barrel samplings, special discounts, fine art, live music, drawings, scenic venues and more. If you prefer quieter weekends – well, come on up any other weekend this summer for relaxed visiting. Here are other posts mentioning my fantastico town and my Murphys page.

Murphys, the Sierra’s Foodie Mecca

It’s time for another Sundays in My City (actually Sundays in my teeny tiny town) post where a global collection of folks share what they’re up to on Sundays (or some day of the week) in their area. My friend Kim and I have been meaning to grab a little holiday lunch plus a few wine stops as she’s a member of some of Murphys’ wineries wine clubs. We’re in the midst of what I’ll call bigger than normal weather – so far rain storms at my level with snow just a few miles north. Although I grabbed my camera, my shots outside were quick as hadn’t grabbed an umbrella and really didn’t want to get my camera lense wet. The shots inside were also point and shoot as folks would step aside for me and I didn’t want to delay and deter the enjoyment of those braving the weather.



We began our outing at my all time favorite restaurant in Murphys, Grounds. The food is consistently wonderful, the coffee rich and deep (I’m always amazed at how many otherwise decent restaurants don’t serve top-notch coffee – some I won’t breakfast at simply because the coffee is too weak) the menu diverse enough to please everyone (veggie through red meat fanatic) and, although I don’t need it, the portions are quite generous. I find myself craving their food if I can’t get there often enough. We were at the very end of lunch (actually I rushed in and asked if it would be ok if my friend came sliding in after their 3pm lunch stop and lock doors time as she’d been running late) so we were the last out and I got a few shots of the empty dining area. There’s also patio dining and their web shows the very front wide open space.


Mike Dunne, who writes the A Year in Wine blog,  recently posted Murphys, Where Tasting is a Walk in the Park  noting “Murphys has the most concentrated and most varied array of tasting opportunities of any wine community in Northern California.” I take that to mean he’s giving us a nod over Sonoma, Northern California’s more well-known wine tasting region. Thanks Mike! I agree but no one would believe lil ol me. We have somewhere near 22 or 23 winery tasting rooms – it’s difficult to keep track and I’ve never made an attempt to count them all myself. I also agree with Mike on his acclaim for Lavender Ridge 2009 Sierra Foothills Roussanne. Luscious. You should be able to click on any of these photos if you’d like a larger size view.


The post is titled foodie mecca as we don’t simply attract vinophiles. These shots of Lavender Ridge , where in addition to their superb organic wines you can taste and bottle organic olive oils or indulge in artisan cheeses that they pair with the wine tasting, illustrate my point. My first Sundays in my town post shared photos and information on Marisolio Tasting Bar, our olive oil and balsamic vinegars tasting bar as well as Creative Cookware our popular ‘everything kitchen’ store.


Val du Vino , specializing in handcrafted limited production wines, was out next stop.  Jeannine and Jonathon are always at the counter manning their tasting room. Jonathan is a tremendous flirt – sure to keep the ladies entertained – and Jeannine brings her European grace to the conversations at the bar. Jeannine is also a superb chef and wine club members have the opportunity to attend her wine pairing dinners. Jonathan treated us to a “dessert” that I’ve written up here. Yumm.  I couldn’t resist acquiring more wine than I’d planned to pad a few gift baskets with – I just had to share their 2009 Viognier.

Val du Vino also carries many gifts for the wine lover. My brother, who’s more a fan of reds than whites when it comes to wine (the exact opposite of me) received the lovely blown glass wine aerator you see on the right bottle here last year. They also carry lovely carved wood wine holders and an eclectic assortment of gifts.




I’m also a solid fan of the Viognier at Beau Cheveau where the always bubbly Becky is usually in attendance. You’ll find I’m not writing on the wines’ flavors  as “wine writers” do as I don’t have much of a taste for reds – which most local wineries excel at – so could never do the wines justice. When it comes to whites however, there I know what I like.

Our final wine stop was the excellent Newsome – Harlow , where Christine and Barbara were our happy hosts at the bar.  If you want to try some recipes developed with wine parings in mind – check out the wealth of recipes developed by their chef and posted on their website. For dreary days like the one we braved, they keep their woodstove burning over in a corner of the tasting room. Such a treat!

I’ll close the post with a quick shot having nothing to do with food or wine, Animal Kingdom, Adele’s marvelous little store for all things animals. My shot is the front – she has quite a bit for doggies as well through the door labeled you can see at the back. This is another place you can always frind a gift for someone – the “petless” could get a cute nightshirt, earrings or lovely little napkin rings. She just has so much to choose from.

Normally I just snuggle up on our stormy days, but Kim and I had great fun getting damp and trundling about town. For more information on some of our local wineries, check out the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance page. They often do a bio/story on the different member vineyards that provide a glimpse into the wonderful families running our outstanding vineyards.

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