Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One of the events of my recent birthday bash was an invitation by John and Steve Thornton to attend one of their Champagne Jazz concerts,  held at Thornton Winery.  This was the 27th year for these concerts which have become a premier jazz venue.
Headlining the concert we attended  were George Benson and Vincent Ingala.
Our exciting afternoon started with a gourmet supper prepared by Executive Chef Jeffr Massey of the five star Cafe Champagne Restaurant at the Winery.
Traditionally each of these suppers open with Thornton Brut champagne and this day was no different.
First course was a spinach salad with almonds, dried cranberries and a raspberry vinaigrette.  Our wine a Thornton 2013 Vermentino.   Next a pan roasted Alaskan halibut with corn puree, asparagus, and a cilantro-lime beurre blanc sauce which we thought memorable.  Our wine a Thornton 2012 Estate Syrah which showed its age with a delicate nose, full flavors and a soft finish.
Dessert was peanut butter cheesecake filled with peanut butter cup on a cookie.
Then it was time for the show before a full house in attendance.
Vincent and his side men showed intense vitality and soon had the audience participating with every number.
George Benson in his long career has redefined jazz and is a ten time Grammy winner.
This day was no different and with a most talented group in accompaniment had the audience demanding three additional encores before the concert was over.
Thornton's 27th Champagne Jazz season will conclude with three performances ending on October 18.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last evening we experienced both an entertainment and educational experience as we learned about Guam, the United States most western possession and now billed as "where America's Day Begins".
We watched with pleasure and interest the cultural dancing of some of the Island's young, graceful women and experienced some of the food that is traditional to Guam.
The native people of Guam are Chamorra with as history and culture that is four thousand years old.  The island was revealed to the western world when Ferdinand Magellan sailed to it in 1521 as he circled the planet for the first time.
Today Guam is becoming an ever more popular tourist attraction with visitors arriving from many Asian countries as well as the U.S.  This year it will host one million visitors to enjoy its tropical island ambiance with all the trappings and outdoor activities of the modern world.
The event that took place for the media last evening was held at the Tiato Market Garden Cafe.  This was new to this Writer and we enjoyed its ample facilities with both an extensive garden patio as well as the inside bar, lounge and meeting space.
It is located at 2700 Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica with extensive underground parking.
We will have more to tell about the Chamorra who are rediscovering their earlier culture and bringing it to the American lifestyle they now live.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Our two day stay in Montreal was both a pleasure and productive as a journalist.  Isabelle Cyr of Tourisme Montreal arranged a program that allowed us to see Montreal as the Cosmopolitan city that is truly is.
When we left the Maasdam cruise ship  in Montreal as a visitor there was no doubt that we were  in a foreign country unlike the rest of Canada.
The language is French and Montreal is, next to Paris, the largest French speaking city in the world.
We found the people friendly  and eager to help visitors.  The Metro underground was easy to use and proved a great way to get from place to place.
The city offers many multi cultural neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown.  It is home to McGill University with its world wide reputation.
Old Montreal shows the city's long reign as one of the  oldest on the Continent, and we enjoyed our visit with its cobblestone streets, and visible signs of its five century history.
One day we walked to the top of Mont Royal, highest point in the City which offered wonderful views of the beautiful city  stretched along the St. Lawrence River.
The city is famous for its Festivals which continue throughout the year and we were fortunate to attend one.
We would like to go back to Montreal.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our time in Quebec City was far too short.  It is one oldest cities in the Americas and has retained much of the charm of the Old World.  We had the feeling that we were someplace in France since the language is French and the architecture of the original stone buildings can still be viewed.
We arrived in Quebec City aboard the Maasdam cruise ship but it arrived at 7 a.m. and left at 3 p.m. leaving us less time to explore the city than we would have wished.
However we did find the square that is the heart of the Old Quebec noting the date of 1624 and the name of the founder, Jacques Cartier.
We also viewed the battlefield where the conflict between French and British forces took place in the 17th century that decided Canada would be British.
Strolling through P:lace Royale moves one back to the founding of that place in 1608.  Old Quebec has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We enjoyed our wandering through the Quartier Petit Champlain with its cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and quaint shops.
There are good reasons for Quebec City ranking as Canada's second most visited destination.

Friday, September 25, 2015

In the next week we will be making reports on our cruise aboard Holland American's Maasdam to North East Canada.  The trip ended at Quebec City and Montreal and these two destinations were new to us.
We spent two days in Montreal and one day took yet another wine road.
This one is called La Route Des Vins and takes one to the Eastern Townships in the countryside outside Montreal.  It is a region of lush pasture, woodland, orchards, vineyards and villages most picturesque.
Here are wineries producing traditional wines but also ice wines and apple cider as well.
The wineries are using grapes that have adopted to the more severe winter climate typical of the region.
One winery is producing a chardonnay and also a white wine from Vidal Blanc.
Riesling does well in this region and red wines mostly use a varietal called Marechal Foch originally from northern France.
The ice wines are marvelous and tasting them a real treat.  At Domaine Pinnacle we tasted some outstanding apple ice wines which have achieved an excellent reputation and come as both a still and sparkling cider.
More about Montreal and Quebec City to follow

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The beauty of the scene that greeted us at Kriselle Cellars was breathtaking.  The tasting room looks like a ski lodge with its huge timbers and open beam ceiling.  It is located on a ridge that commands a wonderful pastoral scene sloping down to the Rogue River flanked by vineyards and meadows.
We were greeted by Owner and Winemaker Scott Steingrober and here we tasted some outstanding wines and enjoyed a grand luncheon.
The surrounding vineyards include varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc.   Kriselle Cellars includes two hundred acres with thirty in vineyards with eight varietals.
It is no surprise that during the summer Kriselle Cellars is a destination for visitors to enjoy the patio with its outdoor fireplaces, excellent wines, interesting food and pastoral beauty.  There is also live music on weekends.
A wine we will remember here is 2012 DiTani, a blend of Cabernet Franc,. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Tempranillo.  It displayed aroma, full flavors and a lasting finish.  We had to be impressed with the 2014 Viognier that earned a gold medal at the San Francisco competition.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

As a history buff our day exploring the past and present of Jacksonville, Oregon was pure joy.  The town was founded in 1851 when gold was discovered and soon boomed as mining towns did all over the west.
Our first stop was the Jacksonville Cemetery which was founded in 1860 making it the oldest in the state of Oregon.  Divided into many sections with religions, fraternal organizations, race all included, it also has family plots with several generations.
Civil War veterans,from both sides, are buried here as they came west to find new lives after that terrible conflict.
In Jacksonville itself we went aboard the Jacksonville Trolley to see what the town looked like in its glory years.  After many years of decline Jacksonville gained a new life when in 1960 it was named a National Historic Landmark and a serious effort was made by local citizens to restore the City as it once was.
This has been a remarkable success and tourism now accounts for much of the City's current popularity as people view public buildings and private homes  in their original state.
Jacksonville now also is in the midst of the southern Oregon wine country and a part of one of the three wine trails in the region.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Among our many discoveries on our trip to southern Oregon wine country was the fact that the wineries are all family owned putting the decisions on what varietals to plant and what wines to make on a very personal basis.
Our visit to the Le Petit Tasting Room of Ledger David Cellars demonstrated this personal relationship when we learned it is named for the first born son of owners Lena Varner and David Traul.
Like many of the wineries in this region the owner here went their own way with what varietals were planted and wines produced.  Theirs is the only winery to feature a Chenin Blanc and their vineyard of this varietal the only one in the region. We tasted their 2014 Primoris Chenin Blanc and thought it excellent.
We also liked their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc which received mention in Wine Enthusiast.
Among the reds we tasted was an interesting blend entitled Dark Night.  It included Tempranillo, Malbac and Syrah. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Progressive dinners where one moves from restaurant to restaurant is always fun and exciting but even more so when it occurs on a trip to a new town or city.
So it was on our recent trip to Medford, Oregon with the primary purpose to explore southern Oregon's wine country. With its several wine trails that span out in several directions Medford is the perfect place to start.
Our group of Writers were staying at Inn at the Commons in the historic downtown area of Medford and the three restaurants we visited one evening were all in walking distance from the Inn.
We started at Porters which is located in the original 1912 built train station of the City.  Porters has a great reputation for both its cuisine and ambiance and has been given many awards.
First course at Porters was a whole collection of platters offering various seafoods, another with several meats and hummus.  Another with a collection of breads and dips like a warm spinach, artichoke and Parmesan cheese.
Then after thanking Chef Dustin Farley we moved on to our second location, a bistro called Elements which features Tapas with a full bar of spirits and Spanish wines.
We met owner Chris Dennett as he presented us with course after course of items like Ceviche, Mahi Mahi, Boquerone Canapes, tomato peppered anchovy, bacon wrapped dates or bacon wrapped sardines to name just a few that crowded our table that evening.