VINO LAS VEGAS travels to the Sta Rita Hills for a weekend with the Winegrowers Alliance Open house

We here at Vino Las Vegas travel
often to bring our readers and viewers a unique and inside look at Food and Wine. One ppellation a that really stands out for us is the Sta Rita Hills located north of Santa Barbara California. This area has not yet been spoiled by many large wineries owned by multinational companys. The appellation has some of the best Pinot Noir , Chardonnay and Syrah in the U.S. if not the world. Recently we traveled to attend the Sta Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance Open House weekend and attended many of the events.

The best way to learn about an appellation is to "walk it". This
year there were two vineyard walks. On the Southside walk , guests joined winegrower Ken "Byron" Brown , Mitchell Klug and
Peter Cargasacchi as they looked at the soil , topography and explained the areas many micro climates at the Salsipuedes Vineyard. Guests on the Northside walk joined Wes Hagan and
Dan Kessler as they walked in the Clos Pepe and Kessler-Haak
Vineyards and discussed the geology and geography of the area.

After a morning walking the vineyards, many of the wineries opened their
doors for an Open House. Some of these wineries are normally open by appointment only. We made a stop at Ampelos Cellars and learned about
bio dynamic farming and then it was on to Alma Rosa winery and lunch
overlooking the LaFond Winery where we enjoyed some barrel samples.

We stopped in at the new winery of D'Alfonso-Curran to enjoy a Food and Wine Experience with
Kris Curran and Bruno D'Alfonso. This was an amzeing event with two extraordinary winemakers and food paired by Chef Kurt Alldredge.

The Gala Reception was a must stop on our list. The reception was held in the historic
Sanford and Benedict vineyard and barn. Many of the wineries such as
Clos Pepe , Sea Smoke and others were there pouring their wines. Wine is best with cheese and The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and Vinhus of
Slovang did not disappoint us. The location of this historic barn allowed us a great view of the Sanford & Benedict , La Rinconada , Fiddlestix and
Sea Smoke vineyards as the sun was setting over the Sta Rita Hills

For those who wanted more , many of
the winemakers hosted incredible dinners.
Guests could attend a dinner at Clos Pepe, AP Vin and Loring Wine Company or attend a fun casual dinner with Norm Yost and Flying Goat Cellars or eat among the barrels with Pali and Cargasacchi at Pali wine companys new facility.

On Sunday the only place for a Food and Wine lover was the third annual FiddleFest 2008 held in the Fiddlestix vineyard. We enjoyed fiddling music , great wine and food provided by the Hitching Post. This event allows us to enjoy wines from winemakers that craft Fiddlestix designated Pinot Noir.

This weekend alone shows how special this group of
winemakers and winegrowers are. They are a close group and
have been known to help each other when needed. They all have
their own special style of winemaking but when it comes to the
group as a whole, they are close and many are friends.

We feel you can taste the passion and commitment in all of the wines from this appellation and is well worth a trip to see for yourself.

The Sta Rita Hills is one of the smaller AVAs in California, the eastern edge of Sta. Rita Hills is about four miles west of Highway 101 in Buellton and continues to the western boundary, about two miles east of Highway 1 in Lompoc. The southern boundary is the north side of the Santa Rosa Hills, with the northern boundary the south side of the Purisima Hills.

The two east-west oriented valleys are formed by the Purisima Hills to the north, the Santa Rosa Hills to the south and the Santa Ynez River flowing between them to the nearby Pacific Ocean. The valleys and hillsides (centered around Santa Rosa Road and Highway 246) represent some of the most incredible soils and unique climatic influences in the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay world.
The appellation contains a few of the more revered older Pinot Noir vineyards in the state, many of the Sta. Rita Hills AVA vineyards are distinct from those of older wine growing regions. Because most of the vineyards have been planted in the last two decades winegrowers have been able to use new ‘clones’ of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vineyards and wines have received critical acclaim in a short period of time . When first granted AVA status in 2001, the appellation was known as Santa Rita Hills. The name was officially changed to Sta. Rita Hills in January of 2006, although you may still find wines labeled before that date with the previous name.

Join Vino Las Vegas as well explore the Sta Rita Hills and take you into some of the special events

VINO LAS VEGAS celebrates FiddleFest 2008 in the Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Sta Rita Hills

When you mention the name Fiddlestix to people in the Food and
Wine industry you hear words like quality , dedication , tradition
and of course, Kathy Joseph. In our opinion all of those terms are

We have visited the Fiddlestix tasting room in Lompoc on many occasions. When we heard the third annual Fiddlefest was going to be held in the Fiddlestix vineyard . There was only one place to be!

We spoke with winemaker Kathy Joseph and she explained what FiddleFest is all about. Kathy explained that everyone who crafts
a Fiddlestix designated Pinot Noir pour their wines at the Fiddlestix barn in the vineyard. But there is even more to it than that.

In addition to some of the primer Pinot Noir winemakers in the
area, you also have food prepared by non other than the Hitching
Post Restaurant. For those who have traveled in this area, the Hitching Post is a landmark as well as a past movie location ( you all can imagine what wine movie that was ! ). All of of this great
food and wine can be enjoyed while listening to "fiddle music "
There is even a live auction to benefit Art in the Schools.

When we walked into the barn you feel as though if there was a
Pinot Noir heaven this was it. As we looked around the room and
made our way to the tables with names like Ampelos , Fiddlestix and Hitching post jumping out at us. Others like Rusack , Ancien wines , Paul Lato wines , Jonata and Vogelzang were all pouring
their Fiddlestix designated wines.

Scott from Vino Las Vegas caught up with winemaker Kathy Joseph as she explained the idea behind FiddleFest and much more.

Join Vino Las Veags as we walk around the barn and take a stroll into this acclaimed vineyard.

This was such a great event. Surrounded by the beautiful Sta Rita Hills sampling some of the areas best Pinot Noir and Food in the highly acclaimed Fiddlestix vineyard. It would be hard to find a place we would rather want to be than FiddleFest. The best way we found to describe it was like a Fiddlestix wine family reunion where we are all welcome. This is one event that we will mark on our calender every year.

Vino Las Vegas visits the D'Alfonso-Curran winery and speaks with winemakers Kris Curran and Bruno D'Alfonso.

Kris Curran and Bruno D'Alfonso have been recognized by many as being tops in their field and it is not often you can attend an event where two winemakers of their quality are in the same place. In their case they have been married for many years but have made names for themselves individually and now as a team.

Bruno has been making Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese under his DiBruno label since 1996. In 2005, he added Pinot Noir produced under the BADGE label. Kris has been the winemaker at the renowned Seasmoke cellars since 2000 and helped make Seasmoke Pinot Noir highly recognized as being one of the best . She has been making her own label, Curran which she started in 1997, at Sea Smoke's facility in Lompoc. Curran Wines makes 1,200 cases per year, mostly of Rhone varietals and Sangiovese.
She has recently left Seasmoke for Foley and opened TRIO
( the wines of Curran , DiBruno and Badge ) tasting room with
Bruno in Solvang.

We attended the D'Alfonso-Curran Food and Wine experience at their new winery.
Knowing the reputation of these two great winemakers we were anxious to attend this event to see what type of food pairings they came up with. We arrived at the winery and were impressed by its size and could only imagine what these two could do with wine in this large facility. Like us, they are "dog people " because of surgical complications with one of their German Shepherds they could not use their new facility for the 2007 crush.

We when first walked in, hard to miss were brand new french oak barrels still wrapped in plastic. Live music and of course those beautiful German Shepherds had the run of the winery. Kris and
Bruno , along with Chef Kurt Alldredge introduced each course and the pairings. The Badge Pinot Noir 2005 & 2006 Sta Rita Hills was a stand out as well as the Curran Grenache Blanc 2007 Santa Ynez Valley.

Chef Kurt Alldredge of The Chefs Touch did a great job pairing these
wines from Kris and Bruno. Many of these pairings really took some thought about either contrasting or complementing each course.

2006 Di Bruno Pinot Grigio, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard paired with Pears-jus-tart with ricotta and lemon zest. The was followed by the well known Badge 2006 BADGE Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills/Rancho Santa Rosa paired with Lobster corn dog with vanilla crème fraiche.
The next pairing really stood out for us as the 2007 Curran Grenache Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley paired excellent with Thai shrimp ceviche with toasted coconut and chilies . Of course you have to have a Pinot Noir from this very special appellation. Bruno's 2005 BADGE Pinot Noir , Sta. Rita Hills paired with Duck-shiitake mushroom spring rolls with a star anise-cherry-pinot noir dipping sauce could not have been done much better.

We were then treated with Kris's 2004 Curran Syrah “Reserve”, Black Oak Vineyard with Crostini of chorizo and shaved bittersweet chocolate but we still had one course left. And Bruno's 2004 Di Bruno Sangiovese, Stolpman Vineyards paired with Pulled short ribs with smoked marcona almonds and salted blueberries lived up to the challenge.

Scott from Vino Las Vegas had the opportunity to speak with Kris about how she began and what her plans are for Foley and TRIO

Bruno took some time out to talk with Scott of Vino Las Vegas on his days at Sanford wines and now what he sees in the future for D'Alfonso-Curran wines.

Kris and Bruno did a great job showcasing their new releases , the winery, and great food pairing along with Chef Kurt. As we spoke about earlier, Kris is now at Foley. We stopped by Foley and sampled her new Foley Chardonnay " Steel " Sta Rita Hills 2007. This Chardonnay was refreshing with hints of citrus on the finish. If this Chardonnay is an indication of the future at Foley. We cant wait to see what Kris can do with the other varietals.

Cheers and congratulations guys ! great job.

Vino Las Vegas is on the road once more. This time we will be attending
The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers 2008 Open House Weekend.
We plan to visit the wineries and vineyards to get an in-depth and close-up look at this unique growing region. The weekend will include Open Houses, a gala reception and morning vineyard walks for those who want to see the appellation from the ground up. Optional events (for an additional fee) include a Golf outing, Winegrower dinners and other special events hosted by Alliance members. Designated driver tickets to the weekend event are also available.
For those who want to attend this great weekend .The two-day passport to the Sta. Rita Hills is $75 and well worth the money. There are many special events held at many of the different wineries all over this beautiful appellation
Vino Las Vegas will be there and will be taking you with us into many of the events and a few surprises as well. For more information and tickets you can go to

Sake Fever 2008 at the Palms Hotel Poolside and VINO LAS VEGAS gets a Sake education from the best

The first ever Sake Fever 2008 was held
at the Palms Hotel and Casino poolside.

More than 20 of the best sake BrewMasters from Japan made the long trip to pour over 150 of their highly acclaimed premium sake. Of all of the different wine varietals and appellations. Sake is a wine that most Americans ( Vino Las Vegas included ) do not

know too much about. Master Sommelier Louis Desantos with Las Vegas Southern Wine and Spirits informed us of this event as he knew we wanted to become more educated on the subject of Premium Sake. And besides all the proceeds from this event were to benefit the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. The LRBI is dedicated to help and find treatments for Alzheimer's, Huntington's , ALS and other brain disorders. The institute plans to build a national resource in Nevada to benefit new treatments for memory disorders.

Our first step was to learn the basics of sake. There are four
major components. The first is of course the Rice. The rice
used in sake is alot more expensive than the typical American
store bought rice. There are around 60 types of rice with the best
being " Yamada Nishiki ".

The second component is Water. We know that wine grapes have alot of water in them. Sake is more like beer. Water represents
around 80% of the final product. Like Beer , Sake is made from grain and hops so it needs water to be added.

The third component is Koji. This is similar to the yeast that is added
sometimes to wine. Koji is a mold spore and its enzymes convert starch
to sugar and that is what ferments into alcohol just like wine.

The fourth component is important in wine, beer and sake. That is
Love. In all three, this is what sets one wine from another as well
as different beers and sake as well. This is the Brewmaster's
individual touch and blend that makes his product stand out from the others.

Elaine from Vino Las Vegas had the opportunity to speak with Monica
, Sake Ambassador from the New York division of Southern
Wine and Spirits. She took Elaine through an entire tasting of a sake
line. Most importantly she explained the different levels of sake and
let her taste premium sakes like Junmai Daiginjo. Monica explains in
her interview that at this level, Rice is polished down to half its size which
gives these highly rated sakes and elegant style with most being light
bodied with a very nice finish.

This was truly an extraordinary event. We also heard while walking around speaking to some of these sake Brewmaster's that there are plans already in the works for a bigger event next year. Vino Las Vegas will not miss that one if this first event was any
indication of what is to come next year.

In addition to the sake there was also great Asian cuisine provided
by the Little Buddha and the N9ne Group at the Palms Hotel.
The Palms Pool and Bungalows provided a beautiful backdrop as
guests sampled these premium sakes and food while strolling around the pool at the Palms

The evening concluded with some guests being invited to an after
at the newly opened Simon at Palms Place. Simons is a
renowned restaurant overlooking another pool at Palms Place.
Chef/ Owner Kerry Simon provided us and the Brewmasters world class cuisine served inside and outside in the private cabanas.

With most of the BrewMasters present , the after party was a unique opportunity to taste their Ultra Premium Sake and speak with them about the production process. This event was done first class complete with a sake cask tapping for the guests and great food. Louis DeSantos did
a great job with this event and for a very worthy cause. I hope you, our readers will be able to
attend this event next year. We are sure you wont be disappointed.

VINO LAS VEGAS learns about Slow Food USA at Southern Wine and Spirits in Las Vegas

Our environment these days is described by some to be very precarious. In many cases our food and seafood supply is in danger of disappearing all together.
Terms like Biodiversity , Bio dynamic and organic are terms that
we are beginning to hear more and more in the Food and Wine

Launched in Italy 20 years ago by Carlo Petrini, Slow Food was originally designed to protest the encroachment of fast food on the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle. The trend's principles—choosing locally grown and produced items, preparing them in traditional ways, and eating with friends and family—celebrate a relaxed approach to living that provides a welcome contrast to the fast-paced, eat-on-the-run lives many people lead.

Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice – in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. They seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.

In the US there are over 15,000 members that are organized into 170 chapters around the country. Vino Las Vegas attended a Slow Food Nevada event at Southern Wine and Spirits. We were very
pleased to hear that all food was grown or raised in Nevada.

Many people believe that Nevada is a barren desert state where
nothing much grows. At this event most of those detractors were
proved wrong. Michelin award wining Chef Alex Stratta prepared some of these flavorful dishes that featured figs, eggs, garlic , shallots and even Nevada grass raised beef.

Giovani Moro, owner of Nora's Winebar was the emcee and host of the event. After
hearing him speak , it really made an impact on us here at Vino Las Vegas. It is very important that we pay attention on how all of our food is produced. Many Chefs here in Las Vegas and around the world have really taken Slow Food's mission to heart to create some delicious dishes that are not only healthy but sustainable as well.

Giovani and Alex Stratta both have a passion to use high quality traditional foods that are produced through partnerships with farmers, fishers and breeders that are sustainable in today's world . This is a movement that forces us to focus on sustenance and promotes the revival of eating and protecting vegetables, grains and animal breeds that are at risk of disappearing. For more information about Slow Foods you can go to

VINO LAS VEGAS supports the 20th Taste of the Nation at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Vino Las Vegas had the great pleasure of
supporting a very worth wine organization .
Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation is in
its 2oth year of helping to end childhood hunger. Applauded as the first-ever culinary benefit in the nation and a model for successful fundraisers throughout the country, Taste of the Nation has raised more than $70 million over the last 20 years, and united thousands of chefs from across the United States and Canada in the fight against childhood hunger.

David Burke, one of the pioneers of American cuisine and this year’s national spokesperson prepared tastings for guests at Taste of the Nation Las Vegas and at Taste of the Nation Chicago .
Elaine spoke with Chef David Burke
at the Las Vegas event held at the
Hard Rock Hotel inside "The Joint"
His dedication to this organization is
to be commended. Chef Burke really takes his job as national spokesman to heart.

The guests were treated with a Red Carpet
walk and Champagne upon their entrance
into the famous venue of " The Joint"
Live music filled the air as we sampled food from such Las Vegas culinary
landmarks as Border Grill, Rosemary's , RM Seafood , Andres and Emerils Delmonico Steak House.

As we walked through this event it seemed surreal at times as we enjoyed great food and wine surrounded by Rock n Roll memorabilia which the Hard Rock is renowned for.

Guests also had the opportunity to bid on items in a live and silent auction that featured trips , dining and almost anything you could imagine.

Share Our Strength raised a significant amount of money this night for a wonderful cause. If Taste of the Nation is coming to your town, this is a great way to sample world class food and help end childhood hunger.

Bledsoe Family Winery Opens Its Walla Walla Winery At The Box Factory Location.

Not long-ago Drew Bledsoe was throwing touchdowns in the NFL. Shortly after his retirement in 2007,  they planted their first vineyard. ...

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