Olive Oil Tasting and Tour at Trattore Farms + Matchmaker Tasting at Ferrari-Carrano

Last July, I went on a pretty fantastic wine tasting tour of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma — the first installment of which I’ve recounted in an earlier post. Here, I’ll be covering my morning at Trattore Farms, a property that not only contains vineyards but also orchards, which are being coaxed back into olive production as a revival of the area’s history and tradition.

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See You at Northstar California!

Photo by Chris Bartkowski, Vail Resorts
Photo by Chris Bartkowski, Vail Resorts

It’s December! I’m super excited about this month every year because it means snow in the Sierras — and that means snowboarding — but for the 2016-17 season, it’s extra special. I’ve been designated an official ambassador for Northstar California, a Vail resort in North Lake Tahoe.

This means that you’ll see me at Northstar quite often this season. I’ll be getting to know the resort as well as nearby Truckee. Whether it’s tearing up the slopes, aprés ski, on-mountain dinners with a winery, off-mountain hot spots, festivals like the Burton Mountain Festival, or night time entertainment, I’ll be sure to get a taste of it all.

Along with a handful of other influencers, I’ll be blogging twice or so per month at a dedicated content blog on the Northstar site, which will launch sometime soon — so keep up to date with my social media channels to learn what that is. I’ll also be doing two instagram take-overs on the @northstar_california handle sometime this season, so you can bet I’ll be trying to catch all the best angles while I’m out there.

I am so excited! See you on the slopes!

*My partnership with Northstar California includes a season pass, stays and compensation. All opinions are still my own.

Food and Wine Adventures in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County


Video shot and produced by John Beck.

Last July, I was invited to the incredible Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County for a multi-day excursion in tasting and learning about the region’s wines and the combined food experiences that can be had throughout the area. The wines the region is known for are primarily Zinfandel are Sauvignon Blanc but also some distinct, under-the-radar Rhône style wines.

The experience really changed how I viewed Zinfandel; I now consider it one of my dinner wine candidates — reframing its peppery-ness as an asset. It was so great to hear about the county’s aim to be an entirely sustainable and how the wine-growing region is already 70% there. In the video, I visit 3 vineyards in a day — however, I basically visited 7 overall. It’s hard work, really. Tasting wine.

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Culinary Experiences at Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Dry Creek Valley

Now in its 27th year, the Passport to Dry Creek Valley event this weekend promises to be a great time to visit and taste Pinots, Zinfandels and other Sonoma wines. If you fly to Sonoma (via Alaska Air), you’ll get to take home a case of wine free of charge. And if you wisely decide to take a bottle from a Dry Creek vineyard to dine at one of the participating charter restaurants, you’ll also get free corkage as a part of their culinary cooperative.

While I love wine, food and wine always taste better when together, so I’ve highlighted some culinary-focused opportunities at certain wineries to turn your attention to this weekend:

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Highlights of the Inaugural Lexus Culinary Classic at Cavallo Point

Our arrival in the Lexus NX 300h at Sunset – Cavallo Point, Fort Baker

Apologies for the lack of updates, but I can only blame an excellent month of March spent traveling and seeing more of North America. The first of the trips was a week-long culinary extravaganza, complete with a trip to Northern California followed by nights and days packed back-to-back with multi-course meals, wine education, a cooking class, and a grand tasting. It was the very first Lexus Culinary Classic, which they plan to hold yearly at Lexus partnership properties around the country.

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Tokyo, Japan: Wonderfully Whimsical Kaiseki at Den

Sagayu Beef Bowl

There’s something comforting, even relieving, about a 10-seat Kaiseki experience in Tokyo with an especially irreverent presence behind each course, each with unparalleled attention to detail. But that is Jimbocho Den, the brainchild of mid-30’s, owner-chef Zaiyu Hasagawa, whose wry sense of humor delightfully pervades every refined dish.

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Niseko, Japan: Outstanding Kaiseki at Sobatei Rakuichi

Soba Master and Owner of Rakuichi

We were closing out an epic week of snowboarding and skiing some serious powder in Niseko, Japan, when on our last night we visited Rakuichi, the 12-seat kaiseki restaurant at the foot of Annupuri resort. During lunchtime, I hear Tatsuru and Midori Rai have quite a queue as they keep service strictly to soba. While absolutely every plate was pristinely and passionately prepared, soba was definitely the centerpiece of our multi-course dinner.

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Avalon of Catalina Island, CA: Highlights of a Weekend Trip

View from Casino Ballroom Balcony

Before this year, I had been to Santa Catalina Island but once for a short day trip that hardly did the 22 x 8 mile island justice. It’s easy to dismiss, with just one incorporated city named Avalon – but the trick to a successful trip here is navigating the proper spots to hit up, and when.

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Tokyo, Japan: Mind-blowing Sushi at Sushisho Masa

Chef Masakatsu Oka

I think I am ruined. I have had sushi in Japan and it was phenomenal. It was the best sushi I have ever had; nay, it was the best meal I have had in my entire life. It surpassed my wildest dreams, if they knew at which point to even begin.

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Baja California, Mexico: The Valle de Guadelupe Paella Festival

Javier Plascencia and Margarita Prieto

When one gets a last-minute, impromptu call from “reverse coyote” Bill Esparza to go down to Baja California for a sold-out paella festival in Valle de Guadelupe on a day trip, one drops everything and goes. Even if she’s supposed to be moving out of her apartment within the week.

And that’s what I did.

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