February 29, 2008
Weatherstone Restyled, Relaunched

Weatherstone Coffee & Trading Co., which opened in 1974 as Sacramento's first coffeehouse, will be officially rechristened Saturday as Old Soul at The Weatherstone, signalling a change in ownership, program and decor.

Tim Jordan and Jason Griest, owners of the young but prospering Old Soul Co. in a warehouse fronting the alley connecting 17th and 18th streets between Capitol Avenue and L Street, have bought Weatherstone and will open it in its latest incarnation at 6 a.m. tomorrow.

Guests can expect new lighting, new paint, new seating, longer hours and an expanded menu. And more changes are coming, including additional furnishings and possibly beer and wine, says Griest.

Jordan and Griest will continue to operate Old Soul Co. as a coffee roaster, lunch spot, bakery and casual hangout. At the Weatherstone, they'll be serving their organic coffees, specialty teas, pastries and breads, and gradually extending cuisine.

On March 8, Old Soul will continue its popular participation in Second Saturday, and Jordan and Griest also will add Weatherstone to the art stroll with music by Lovepile and art by James Cameron.

Old Soul at The Weatherstone, 812 21st St., will be open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

February 28, 2008
PlumpJack Cafe Lands New Chef

Flynt Payne 06.jpg Five years ago, my son Justin and I had an amazing run of good luck while fishing in the Sea of Cortez off Cabo San Lucas. Within a few hours, we'd reeled in a husky blue marlin and a boatload of dorado, a.k.a. mahimahi. The marlin we immediately released, but the dorado that we didn't give the capitan we bagged and turned over to the chef at the resort where we were staying, Esperanza. We asked him if he could base each course of our dinner that night on the dorado, whose delicately sweet white flesh tends to the firm and lean, though not as dense as swordfish, with which it often is compared.

Under a nearly full moon, at a table on a ledge just above loudly breaking waves, and with glasses of poised and refreshing Mexican chardonnay in our hands, we savored a meal that included dorado ceviche, dorado dusted with the spice of habanero chile pepper, dorado sweetened with a mango salsa, and dorado prepared a couple of other ways now lost to memory.

We've had other successful fishing ventures in the Sea of Cortez since then, but we haven't again eaten at Esperanza, though we've remembered the name and talents of that chef, who at the time had been on the job just three weeks.

He's Flynt Payne, and after five years at Esperanza he's traded the sun and surf of Baja for the sun and snow of Lake Tahoe. He's just been named the new executive chef at PlumpJack Cafe Squaw Valley, a wing of the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn.

Payne grew up in North Carolina, studied cooking at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vt., and has put in stints at such restaurants as Joy America Cafe in Baltimore, the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe and Atwaters in Portland, Ore. Along the way he's gained recognition for quickly insinuating regional ingredients and techniques into his seasonally oriented dishes.

Over the years, PlumpJack Cafe Squaw Valley has been our most frequent Sierra dining destination, retaining a reputation for solid New American cooking through a succession of talented chefs. The current menu includes some PlumpJack staples, such as ahi tartare cones, barbecued venison and "duck two ways," but Payne looks to be adding touches stemming from his stay in Baja, like the agave-glazed prawns and grilled lamb with avocado pie. No dorado, however. But if I'm ever fortunate enough to land a mackinaw from Lake Tahoe, I know where to head.

February 27, 2008
Fresh & Easy Prepares to Launch

Details are sketchy right now, but officials of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets, a branch of the British-based retail giant Tesco PLC, are to reveal plans Thursday morning for a mind-boggling 19 stores in the Sacramento area.

At 10,000 square feet, Fresh & Easy stores are smaller than traditional supermarkets and boast of a narrower marketing strategy that emphasizes "fresh, wholesome food at affordable prices," including private-label products without artificial colors or flavors, hormone-free meats, cage-free eggs and date-coded produce. Stores don't sell cigarettes or anything in Styrofoam, but they do stock wines. (Six Fresh & Easy wines won medals at the recent San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition; most were bronze, though a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon that sells for $11 got silver.)

Bee colleague Jon Ortiz is working on the story, scheduled to appear in tomorrow's Bee.

February 27, 2008
Deeper and Deeper into Wine

Let's catch up with Michael Chandler, who for five years was the popular general manager and wine director of Enotria Restaurant & Wine Bar until he left abruptly last fall. Since then, he's been one busy guy.

He's still living in Sacramento but working in Napa, where's an account manager for the online wine brokerage In that role he's traveling throughout northern California and into Nevada, Colorado and Utah to appraise the wines of collectors who are thinking of listing all or part of their cellar for sale on

He hasn't given up on the restaurant trade, and took the job in Napa in part to study with fellow sommeliers who also are preparing for the next in a rigorous series of exams administered by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Through his Web site he also lines up clients as a restaurant consultant and wine educator. And he's also making wine under the label Chandler Cellars. He's to release his first commercial wine, a pinot noir from Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, in late spring or early summer.

February 27, 2008
At 18, He's the Chef

At 8, Kevin James O'Connor was serving his parents breakfast in bed - eggs Benedict. At 14, he was washing dishes at Z's Bistro in El Dorado Hills. Today, at 18, he's the new chef at Balcony Bistro in Folsom.

"My family is really big on family meals every night. It's a four-hour process. I started to develop a palate at a very young age," says O'Connor, who already is retooling the Balcony Bistro's French-grounded menu to make it more contemporary.

"He's real smart, with a real passion for food, so I said let's do something together on a trial basis. So far, he's awesome," says Rhonda Renee Lynam, the restaurant's owner. O'Connor recently visited the restaurant for a job interview, and even though it wasn't open for lunch some guests walked in as if it were, so he stepped into the kitchen in dress shirt and tie to prepare their meal, which impressed Lynam.

He started just last week, and already I've received an email praising his scallop pot pie. "He’s going to be famous, this kid, just watch, he’s that good," says Lynam.

Aside from his family's influence - both parents are serious cooks, and tend their own young wine-grape vineyard in El Dorado Hills - O'Connor picked up his culinary acumen from reading cookbooks and working alongside several notable local chefs, including Jonathan Kerksieck when he was at Ristorante Masque and Kevin Nichols of Serrano Country Club. (Some of his kitchen stints had to be scheduled around his play as a defensive lineman with the Oak Ridge High School Trojans.)

When he isn't in the kitchen, O'Connor plans to start working toward a degree in business and hospitality management. He also hopes to spend a year or so in Paris working for a Michelin-starred chef. "To work and train under a chef there would be awesome," he says. Eventually, he'd like to have his own restaurant, a career move being encouraged by his parents.

In addition to the scallop pot pie in beurre blanc, O'Connor's new menu, to be formally introduced next week, includes such dishes as seared salmon paupiettes with caper-and-tarragon cream cheese; seared pecan-crusted sole with a roasted-grape and white-wine butter sauce; and duck breast with lardons, pearl onions, a sun-dried-cherry reduction and a root-vegetable gateau ("A gateau is a cake, but I didn't like the sound of 'cake' on the menu.").

February 27, 2008
She's Got the Wine for the Chuck Wagons

Clarksburg vintner Patty Bogle is sounding upbeat as she looks forward to next week's Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, even if she has to catch events on television from her room at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where she is undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

She reports her white blood-cell count is down, her third round of chemotherapy looks to have taken hold, and that a donor for a stem-cell transplant has been found. That procedure is another four or five weeks off. She's posting progress reports on her CarePage, where family, friends, neighbors and colleagues in the wine trade also are adding their support to a board that is nearing 400 messages.

To visit her CarePage, go here. For colleague Lakiesha McGhee's Bee report on Patty Bogle and a Valentine's Day drive in Clarksburg for blood donations and bone-marrow registration for her, go here.

February 26, 2008
Trickle-Down Economics

The Sacramento region's slumping housing scene is affecting at least one dealer in high-end wine. Roseville wine merchant Marcus Graziano, customarily a big buyer at the Premiere Napa Valley barrel auction each winter, spent just $80,000 on unusual wines during this year's sale last weekend.

"Our business is still growing, surprisingly, but a lot of my clients are in home building," said Graziano in explaining why he cut back his bidding this year. A year ago he spent about $250,000 at the sale and the year before he invested $174,000. "I've been looking at the economy, and when you see those prices (for which auction wines sell) you go at it with a little different perspective," said Graziano, who owns Capitol Cellars Diamond Creek.

The four lots he bought are largely from "under-the-radar" wineries whose reputation for extraordinary cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends will rise as they become better known, Graziano is confident. The lots he bought - five cases each - were from Roy Estate, Alpha Omega, Bressler and O'Shaughnessy. The wines won't be bottled and released for another year or two.

Sales at Saturday's auction totaled a record $2.2 million, up slightly from last year's total, but there were 200 lots this year compared with 192 a year ago. Gary Fisch of Gary's Wine and Marketplace with two stores in New Jersey was the day's top bidder, paying a total $429,000 for 30 lots. The top-selling lot was five cases of 2006 cabernet sauvignon by Shafer Vineyards in the Stag's Leap district; Susan Owens of Ultimate Distributors in Atlanta paid $62,000 for the lot.

Each lot is a one-of-a-kind wine available only at the auction.

February 26, 2008
Crash Course in Wine Appreciation

Sacramento grocer Darrell Corti is in Portugal, searching for Port, but the trek was scheduled before a car tore into the wine department of his Corti Brothers store last week, destroying about 40 bottles, including some Port.

The damage could have been more extensive, but the driver, shoppers and staff all escaped injury. The driver thought she had the car in reverse instead of drive when she hit the accelerator. "This isn't the first time this has happened," says store manager Rick Mindermann.

As the car shot through glass windows alongside the front door it struck a large and ancient clay amphora once used to hold olive oil, sending it into stacks of everyday wine and lockers of rarer releases, especially Madeiras and Ports. The most valuable bottle lost was an 1869 Madeira with a price sticker of $869, said Mindermann. A $500 bottle of rum also was destroyed.

The store remains open, but it will take another several weeks for a new front door to be custom made, said Mindermann. By then, Corti is to be back and the shelves replenished with Port.

February 22, 2008
Not Only Staying Put, But Growing

A sign indicating a change in ownership at Mulvaney's Building & Loan in midtown Sacramento has raised alarms among the restaurant's clientele that owner/chef Patrick Mulvaney could be moving on.

Not at all, says Mulvaney. The sign is an official formality stemming from his incorporation of the business in anticipation of an expansion into a neighboring former auto repair shop at 19th and L. Mulvaney has no plans to extend the restaurant into that site, but once parking and improvement issues are resolved with city authorities he intends to use the additional quarters as a banquet hall for special occasions, such as wedding receptions.

He's also toying with the notion of using the shop, which will be able to seat up to 100, for family-style multi-course dinners a couple of nights a week. The featured entree would change with each meal, such as fried chicken one time, roast pork another. It's a strategy that Napa Valley chef Thomas Keller has adopted with much success at his restaurant Ad Hoc in Yountville.

Mulvaney also said he's just hired pastry chef Kira O'Donnell, who recently closed her bakery The Real Pie Co., and given her a free hand with the restaurant's desserts except for one caveat - she must continue to make the popular Ding Dongs.

February 22, 2008
Napa Bound? Book Table, Grab Umbrella

Weather wise, this doesn't look like the best weekend to tour Napa Valley. Nonetheless, the valley during a storm does have its advantages - less traffic on the main route between Napa and Calistoga, Highway 29; fewer people shouldering up to the winery tasting counters; easier parking for visiting boutiques and galleries along Main Street in St. Helena; and more open tables at the enclave's popular restaurants.

We were reminded of this yesterday, when despite frequent showers and cold winds we nevertheless spent a leisurely day among shops, wineries and restaurants, most notably Mustards Grill, the landmark bistro along the west side of Highway 29 just north of Yountville.

Mustards Grill was an early player in the evolution of Napa Valley into a diner's paradise. This June, it will celebrate its 25th anniversary. That's a heck of a milestone in an area so dependent on fickle shifts in tourism, especially during the winter months. Yet, it was pretty busy last night despite a steady downpour throughout our dinner.

More significantly, Mustards Grill is maintaining the high standards with which it began its long and happy run. The wine list still is enthralling, and the straight-forward contemporary grill food remains fresh, accessible and imaginative. (We won't quibble about the service, which was fine but a bit blunted compared to what we've experienced in the past.)

Some recommendations: The sweet, smoky and spicy chipotle-rubbed quail with cippolini onions ($22.75), the buoyant potato gnocci with a sweet dice of roasted celery root ($18.95), the sunny sweet-corn tamales with wild mushrooms, pumpkin seeds and a salsa of tomatillos and avocado ($10.50), and the substantial grilled-swordfish tostada ($24.95).

Some other recommendations: Take an umbrella, make a reservation at (707) 944-2424, and if you can't get into Mustards Grill consider another of Cindy Pawlcyn's Napa Valley restaurants, Go Fish, the subject of my dining column in this Sunday's Ticket+ in The Bee.

February 20, 2008
Empty Calories

Cooking Light magazine is smart, lively and helpful, but my confidence in its reporting is rattled. Or maybe it's my confidence in Sacramento that is rattled. I've been convinced that Sacramento is a pretty healthful place to live. We've got all kinds of farmers markets, a long riverside trail to invite year-round exercise, several natural-food stores, supermarkets with large departments devoted to produce and organic foods, a growing network of metropolitan bike lanes, and so on and so forth.

But to celebrate their 20th anniversary, editors of Cooking Light decided to compile a list of the 20 cities in the United States that best fit the magazine's philsophy to eat smart, be fit and live well, and Sacramento didn't make the cut. Seattle tops the list, largely for its "abundance of fresh local foods, walker-friendly streets, and inclusive attitudes." I don't know what "inclusive attitudes" means, or how the editors measured them, but isn't Sacramento reputedly the country's most diverse city?

Other cities rounding out the top 10 are Portland, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Tucson. Even Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Las Vegas made the full list, but not Sacramento.

Cooking Light's editors include with their online report the 15 criteria they used to compile the list, such as relying on the James Beard Foundation to tell them whether a city has any "critically acclaimed food professionals." As someone who has followed the James Beard Awards for years, I can tell you the foundation has trouble recognizing anything west of the Mississippi River. To determine whether a city has any notable restaurants, Cooking Light's editors relied on the Zagat Survey, which doesn't know Sacramento exists.

To determine how many farmers markets a city has, Cooking Light relied on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer's Markets Directory and When I visited the USDA site and punched in a request for farmers markets in Sacramento I got this response: "There were no farmers markets found matching your criteria." In a similar search at the Web site of I was told of farmers markets at Sun City Lincoln Hills, Sutter Creek, Capay Valley and Sonoma, but not a single one in Sacramento.

Something's light at Cooking Light, all right, but it isn't necessarily the cooking.

February 19, 2008
Wine Descriptions: How Much Is Enough?

IMGP2644_edited.jpg"Cedar hope chest, all memory and hope."
"Smoky sunset but no need for alarm."
"Hey, zinfandel doesn't own all the raspberries."
"Here's the mushrooms, now get the pappardelle."
"Monumental, but built of redwood, not granite."

Oh, excuse me, I was continuing an exercise I began while at a tasting of cabernet sauvignons at Trefethen Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley earlier today. Just before heading over that way this morning I read an online commentary in which Andrew Barrow of Guardian Unlimited challenged himself and readers to describe a wine in just seven words.

How Barrow settled on seven words isn't clear to me, but I suspect the number is irrelevant to his greater goal, which seems to be to get wine enthusiasts to tell him what they expect of tasting notes. Do they simply want to know whether the wine tastes good, whether it's ready to drink now and the kind of food for which it is best suited, or do they also expect a rundown of all the grape varieties in the wine, the kind of oak barrels in which it was aged, the nature of the vintage, the level of acidity and so on? He challenged readers to come up with their own seven-word wine descriptions, which are being tacked on to the end of his commentary. My favorite so far probably should be disqualified because it's only four words, but it does provide basic information: "Good, riesling, immediately, fish." Basic, but just how helpful and inspiring is it?

I'll be saying more of the Trefethen tasting down the road, but to sum up in seven words the overall nature of the 20 cabernet sauvignons we sampled: "At 40, Trefethen's sharp, nimble and centered."

In this photo, incidentally, that's Matt Kramer, wine columnist for The Wine Spectator and the Oregonian in Portland, and Janet Trefethen, a member of the family that established its Napa Valley estate in 1968.

February 15, 2008
Ken Frank Moving Down Valley

Napa's rise as a city where you want to stop and eat rather than bypass as you drive to and from wineries will be further enhanced this fall when Ken Frank moves his seamless La Toque restaurant from Rutherford to the Westin Verasa Napa hotel nearing completion along Napa River.

La Toque was one of 23 Bay Area restaurants to be annointed with one star when Michelin critics released their first California guide in 2006.

Frank, one of the state's more acclaimed chefs for his contemporary if classically grounded interpretation of French cooking over the past 35 years, moved La Toque from Los Angeles to Napa Valley 10 years ago.

He is to have more to say of the pending relocation late this month, though early indications are that the Westin will give him a more spacious and luxurious setting than the quarters La Toque occupies at Rancho Caymus Inn in Rutherford, where the restaurant is to remain open until September.

The new Westin is a short stroll from another new Napa culinary attraction, Oxbow Public Market, featured in The Bee's Taste section this past Wednesday.

February 13, 2008
Jamie Davies, Napa's Sparkle

At any gathering of Napa Valley's wine elite over the past four decades, the woman who invariably inspired the most favorable comparisons to the tradition, grace and glory of sparkling wine was Jamie Davies, who with her husband Jack built Schramsberg Vineyards into California's most highly regarded producer of Champagne-style wines.

After struggling with Parkinson's disease in recent years, Jamie Davies died Tuesday afternoon surrounded by family at her historic Calistoga estate. Writer L. Pierce Carson gives an early tribute to her in today's Napa Valley Register.

February 12, 2008
A Menu to Share, Or Maybe Not

The most imaginative Valentine's Day menu we've seen from a local restaurant is the five-course prix-fixe dinner to be served at Folsom Bistro in Folsom. It's broken down by his and her dishes for each course. Aside from the predictable asparagus for him, executive chef Matthew Newton and sous chef Michael Goularte avoided gender typing while assembling the menu. She, for example, will get braised beef short ribs, while he will get the risotto croquette.

Newton says their intent in providing five dishes for him and another five for her is simply to expose the style and range of their food on a day when the relatively new restaurant is likely to draw a fairly substantial audience. The real Valentine's Day twist is that with different dishes for each course a couple will be encouraged to share what they get. For the third course, for example, he'll get a duck-confit crepe with caramelized apple and goat cheese, while she'll get puff pastry with black truffles, chanterelles and Gruyere. Ultimately, how much they want to share could be a test of their romantic commitment.

The cost is $69 per person. Newton says the restaurant isn't completely booked, though the only seatings left are early or late. For more information: (916) 990-0630.

February 12, 2008
Crepe Cafe Folds

For every two steps forward, K Street Mall seems to take one step back. It happened again this weekend when Michel Bloch abruptly closed his Crepe Cafe at 9th and K, open only since August, a time when several restaurants bloomed along the struggling mall.

"It's better to have a painful end than an endless pain," says Bloch, recalling advice handed down by his father.

Bloch hung up his creperie and raclette for two principal reasons: Business didn't materialize as he anticipated, and he needs to tend to pressing family matters in Europe. While the restaurant was busy at lunch, breakfast and dinner were so slow he couldn't afford to hire the help he would have liked to give him a break. His work schedule was complicated by living on a ranch at Cool in El Dorado County, making for a long commute.

"I couldn't make it," says Bloch, who introduced crepes to midtown Sacramento three decades ago when he set up a trailer along P Street between 19th and 20. He then took the trailer on a circuit of county fairs, music festivals and the like, established crepe cafes in outlying areas, and created the Crepe Institute to train prospective crepe entrepreneurs.

His immediate plans are to visit his mother in France and to pay more attention to his horse, which he says he's been neglecting since opening the cafe.

February 11, 2008
Golden Weather, Wines Not So Much

IMGP2614_edited.jpgIf you thought the weather in Sacramento this weekend was pleasant, you should have been in Dallas, where temperatures rose into the 70s under skies blue and still. Unfortunately, I only got to enjoy spring's early tease as I walked between the Magnolia Hotel and the Dallas Convention Center, where along with about 60 other wine judges I was sequestered in a ballroom staring at a large white screen where our scores were projected for debate and tabulation.

This was the setting for the 24th annual Dallas Morning News Wine Competition, which drew nearly 3,500 wines, a record high. Our panel was assigned about 240 wines, including large classes of cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, pinot grigio and zinfandel.

We won't get our coded results for a week or two, so I have no idea of the identity of the wines that we gave gold medals. I do know that there weren't many of them. The most surprising class was the pinot grigios, which as a group showed more refreshing and alluring fruit than I've generally associated with the varietal.

A few days ago, a reader emailed me to ask what I thought of zinfandels from the 2006 vintage that I tasted at the recent Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco. I haven't answered because I didn't taste many zinfandels of any vintage that day. At Dallas, however, the 37 zinfandels our panel tasted were almost solely from the 2006 harvest. We weren't awed by the category, and ended up giving just three gold medals. It was an unusually uneven group, with a bright and clean zinfandel often followed by a string of muddled and clumsy releases. An unusually high number had funky smells and flavors. Based on this experience, I suggest zinfandel partisans approach the 2006s cautiously. Taste before you buy; short of that, look for wines that rank high either at several competitions or are scored high by several critics whose view you tend to share.

February 7, 2008
Paul Newman Finishes Setting the Table

Newmans Own Wine Group - HIGH RES.JPGNearly 40 years after it was released, could the Paul Newman and Robert Redford vehicle "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" still resonate with an American audience?

The folks at Rebel Wine Co. in Napa Valley are counting on it. "Newman's Own," a brand long associated with salad dressings, pasta sauces and popcorn, now is a wine that in its packaging and marketing hopes to capitalize on the enduring appeal of the movie. There are two wines, actually, a cabernet sauvignon and a chardonnay, both bearing California appellations, and both with the sketched likeness of Paul Newman on the label, designed to resemble a strip of celluloid.

Unlike the principals in the popular "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," a likeable and amusing sendup of oldtime Westerns, these aren't wines you need to chase down and wrestle to the ground to get a grip on what they have to say. They're smack in your face, with hefty builds and lush ripe fruit. There's no hole in the wall here. Both seem to have a trace of residual sugar, qualifying them as candidates for a People's Choice award if not an Oscar.

The chardonnay is true to type, its ripe fruit running to pineapple and apple, with unusual complexity for an example of the varietal more at home as an aperitif than a companion at the dinner table.

The cabernet sauvignon is dense in color and thick through the middle, its herbal and cherry fruitiness shot through with suggestions of port. It's a stew wine, or better yet a wine to pair with saltena, the beefy, fruity and spicy Bolivian version of an empanada.

Both wines are from the 2006 vintage and each carries a suggested retail price of $16. As with Newman's other culinary products, all profits from sale of the wines are donated to educational and charitable programs.

Rebel Wine Co. is a collaboration of the St. Helena wineries Three Thieves and Trinchero Family Estates, which also releases the Bandit line of wines. Newman's Own wines just are starting to be distributed, with the first wave available at Nugget Markets along Florin Road, in West Sacramento and at El Dorado Hills.

February 6, 2008
Valentine's Day Affection

Patty Bogle, doyenne of the Delta wine trade, has been hospitalized in Houston since November to fight acute myeloid leukemia, but her family, friends and neighbors in and about Clarksburg are arranging an unusual Valentine's Day tribute for her.

They are teaming up with BloodSource for a blood drive from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. next Thursday - Valentine's Day - in the gym at Delta High School in Clarksburg. Sign-ups also will be taken for the national bone-marrow registry. Those unable to get to the gym at that time can schedule a donation elsewhere through the organization's Web site. Her donor-club number is P572.

Since being hospitalized at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Patty Bogle has been receiving blood transfusions and platelets about four times a week. She's gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and is expected to be hospitalized another four months, said her daughter, Jody Bogle VanDePol. "We’re very hopeful her body will respond to these drugs and we’ll have her home," said VanDePol. Once the cancer is in remission, she will be up for a stem-cell transplant, she added.

Her mother's most difficult adjustment has been not being able to be around her three grandchildren, who must stay away because of her suppressed immune system. Other family members and friends, however, have been making frequent trips to Houston.

Bogles have been farming the Delta for more than a century, but only in 1968 did they start to cultivate wine grapes. Today, the family tends 1,200 acres of wine grapes about Clarksburg. In 1978, they established Bogle Vineyards, which with annual production at nearly a million cases is ranked the nation's 18th largest winery by Wine Business Monthly. Patty Bogle has overseen the winery since 1989, assuming even more responsibility for the family's farming operations since the death of her husband Chris Bogle in 1997.

She's also a prominent player in the state's wine community, particularly with respect to the understanding and appreciation of petite sirah, the winery's flagship varietal and one of the more historical varieties to be grown in California.

February 4, 2008
Speaking of Endorsements...

Grape growers and winemakers who gathered in Sacramento last week kicked off one day of speeches and workshops with an appreciative chuckle. Their amusement was triggered by the debut of a 30-second commercial that is to start appearing today on cable TV networks. The spot touts California as the ideal destination for visitors who like wine tasting and eating out to play a significant role in their travels.

Toward that end, the commercial calls upon several culinary and winemaking celebrities - restaurateur Pat Kuleto, chef Guy Fieri, winemakers Kathy Joseph, Jill Davis and Paul Draper, among others - to make a series of rapid-fire plugs about the joys to be found in California wines and foods.

Developed by the California Wine Institute and the California Travel and Tourism Commission, the spot isn't likely to be seen much in California itself because Californians already are familiar with the wines and foods the state has to offer, reason the sponsors. However, MeringCarson, the promotional agency responsible for pulling together the marketing campaign, has made this clip available for local residents to see what amused last week's conventioners.
For the kicker, however, stay tuned until the very end of the spot, when Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger make a cameo appearance that has nothing to do with Barack Obama and John McCain.

The commercial, incidentally, is just one segment of a broader effort to promote California's wine and food culture. Another is "The Land of Wine and Food" Web site, where additional videos, an interactive guide to California wine regions and the like is available.

February 4, 2008
Change of Plans

Charles B. Mitchell isn't giving up on the wine and food potential of southwestern El Dorado County after all. Two weeks ago I reported here that Mitchell, who'd been instrumental in developing the stature of the Fair Play appellation, was selling the second of his two wineries in the area, Winery by the Creek, and its neighboring restaurant, Fair Play Bistro, to Michael Conti.

Both Mitchell and Conti agreed that the deal was as good as done. Conti already had purchased Mitchell's original winery, now known as Conti Estate/Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards. That will remain in Conti's hands, but Mitchell will continue to hang on to Winery by the Creek and Fair Play Bistro, currently closed.

Mitchell says Conti apparently had second thoughts about investing more enthusiastically in the area and told him he no longer was interested in buying the second winery and the bistro. Conti says he withdrew his offers for the properties for "personal reasons" and declined further comment.

Mitchell isn't interested in resuming a hands-on role at the two sites. He says he's seeking a manager to run Winery by the Creek and an operator to reopen the bistro, which he hopes to see again running this spring.

In the meantime, he's planning a blowout of his wine inventory at both the restaurant and the winery over President's Day weekend, Feb. 16-18. He has some 200 cases of wine at the restaurant that he will sell for a flat $7.50 per bottle from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. He'll also be serving food. At the winery just across the creek from the restaurant he'll also be selling his stock for $7.50 a bottle during the same hours.

People who frequented Fair Play Bistro will recall that its wine list included some Chateau Lafite. Mitchell, however, is keeping that for himself.

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