A Salute to Cupcake Wines

0ne of my favorite things to do during leisure time, especially precious time with friends, is to enjoy wine tasting in my home.

During these tastings, I like to serve assorted tapas, appetizers and little mini meals.  I like to serve with small cups of rice and beans. The rice, beans and melted cheese tend to soak up the alcohol, so that one can still enjoy multiple 5 ounce pours, if desired.

Talking with a couple of friends inspired me to revisit a favorite label of mine, Cupcake Wines, bottled here in both Livermore and Ripon, CA.  Thank you for the inspiration, friends! It was a joy to plan an evening around food, friends and tasting of specific Cupcake Whites.

Although I also enjoy Cupcake reds, I decided that early harvest time is a good time to imbibe with a flight of Cupcake Whites, quite chilled.

First, I chose, a 2013 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, a product of grapes grown and vinted in New Zealand. What a wonderful soil they must have there! This Sauvignon blanc was one of the lightest, crispest and most fragrant Sauvignon Blancs that I have tasted in years. It has a lemony, yet savory bouquet with notes of rosemary and sage. We paired this with mini breaded shrimp and it was delightful.

Our second choice was a 2012 Cupcake Central Coast Chardonnay. Although these grapes are grown on the Central coast, they are vinted and bottled in Livermore and Ripon, Calif.This wine has a moderate oak flavor surrounding a buttery, gingery and vanilla flavor. We paired it with mini tacos, rice and beans and it was an instant hit. More please!

If I were serving this as a main course wine, I think Id prefer to serve it with Maryland crab cakes or Lobster Thermidor. At about $10 a bottle, it’s an elegant wine.

Our final wine of the evening was 2012 Cupcake “Angel Food” wine, a white table wine bottled in Ripon, Calif. And not surprisingly, it has a bouquet of sweet, fresh Angel Food Cake. It is sweet and light. Although we paired it with light dessert, it would be smashing with any choice of food.  A true delight.

Until next time, enjoy the finer and sweeter things of life and exalt in the joy that you can do so, when and as you like, with frugality and fun.

A Lovely Visit With @AmeliaCeja, President of Ceja Vineyards #Wine

In the latter part of July, I was introduced on Twitter to Amelia Ceja, President of Ceja Vineyards.  Ceja Vineyards is a family operated Winery in Carneros Valley, California.

I had heard lovely things about Amelia , her Winery and Tasting room in Napa from TV correspondent Lori Moreno.

At the mere mention of my desire to visit Ceja Vineyards, Amelia issued a personal invitation to come and visit, while learning about the business , its delightful owners and the exceptional employees of this remarkable family business.

Within a week of that invitation,  Amelia called me and invited me to come visit on Saturday, August 23, 2014. I was honored and deeply grateful for this opportunity.

Amelia went on to explain to me, that this would be the last day she had available to personally allow me to ” shadow her” as she served her wine to guests at the Downtown Napa Blues and Brews festival.

After that event, I headed with Amelia to their winery in Carneros, where Amelia was hosting a benefit for a Liberian village in Africa.  This year the goal was to build a school in that village. In 5 hours, the charity raised about $ 30,000 to build that school.

At last year’s event, the same group was able to raise enough money to bring fresh water to this same village.

We started the day with lunch date , in which Amelia gave me her story. What a story it is.

At age 12, Amelia immigrated to Napa Valley to pick grapes in the vineyard alongside her parents. At that time she spoke no English, so she was placed in a special education class.
That was a common practice that many years ago. Not only did she learn English that year; she also met her future husband, Pedro, who was in the same class as Amelia.

This was the beginning of a very important socioeconomic development in California agricultural industry.   Amelia and Pedro met Cesar Chavez, Founder of United Farm Workers.  This is the man Amelia calls her Hero, and adds that he , along with her parents are her truest heroes.

Not only did Amelia learn English , she excelled in school, and went on to UC San Diego, where she graduated with 2 degrees in 1980.
During that time, she and Pedro married and started a family. In 1999, Amelia, Pedro and family members Armando and Martha , first-generation Mexican-American immigrants, founded Ceja Vineyard and Ceja Winery.

Armando is the winemaker and earned his degree in Enology at UC Davis.  Amelia is President and was also the first woman President of the California Wine Board.

In the past 15 years, they have developed and expanded the business. While doing so they have been dedicated not only to good wine , but to sustainable agriculture and a commitment to raise wages and provide excellent benefits for the employees of this company, who they view as family.

Pedro, Amelia, Armando and Martha are making excellent wines, while honoring the environment and compensating well their employees.This is their daily goal; to make the world a better place and to make the finest wines, that which Amelia calls, “Liquid Art.”

And yes, the wines are exceptional. While Amelia was serving wine in front of her tasting room to festival celebrants, she encouraged me to start tasting each of 8 wines they were pouring at their tasting room.
I started with a trio of whites. First, a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  I was enchanted.  The crisp aroma of lemon & lime yielded to a faint grapefruit scent. The palate was tart and crisp. At $22 a bottle, it’s very drinkable.

My 2nd pick was the 2011 Ceja Chardonnay. The bouquet is fragrant with hints of Apple pear and citrus. The palate is fresh, crisp and creamy. At $ 34 a bottle, a real treat.

My final white was ” dessert and apertif” wine. It is called 2008 Dulce Beso. It retails at $ 40 a bottle. Such a great aroma, with noire of white peach, tropical essences and a sweet citrusy finish which is in my opinion, an almost irresistible palate that echoes the strength of the bouquet. They currently make 650 cases a year. It is aged for 14 months in French barrels and the grapes were 94% Sauvignon bland and 6 % semillion. The high sugar content is easily tasted but it is not syrupy. Absolutely, even though I really liked the other 2 whites, Dulce Beso stole my heart and my palate.

As we moved on the benefit at the winery, we were happily fed some of the best paella I have ever eaten. And, I got to really taste the 5 dynamic reds that were being poured. First start was the 2010 Ceja Merlot. Incredibly fruity with hints of chocolate , raspberry and spice.  At $ 34 a bottle, a real treat.

The 2nd red pour was a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. The aroma of black cherry, dark chocolate, wild berry, plum and anise give way to a delicious palate, probably my personally favored red, at $50 a bottle, I agree with Amelia, ” Liquid Art.”

The final 3 I tasted were 2010 Ceja Carneros Pinot Noir, truly divine, Ceja Vino de Casa, a table red and finally the 2010 Ceja Syrah. These sell at $40 a bottle, $20 a bottle and $34 a bottle respectively.

I thoroughly enjoyed these consistently good wines, across the board.

As much as I love wine , and this wine in particular, the privilege of getting to know Amelia Ceja was my truest joy. She is an amazing business woman and their entire operation is steeped in excellence and service in paralleled.

Thank you, Amelia and Pedro. What a privilege to get to know you both. Looking forward, already, to seeing you and your enchanted wine soon.


Ed:  Fresno State University would like it on record that they had the first working commercial winery in the nation!   Beating UC Davis for that honor!


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#Wine and the Woz

What to do on another fun Saturday night while on “Staycation?” Not a tough choice for this wine lover.  One of the joys of a Staycation is getting to be spontaneous.  There is no set air travel or pricey hotels unless you want one as part of a special overnight.

So there I sat, lounging in my PJs as If I’m on vacation.   Every weekend is an awesome chance to discover a new dining and wine cafe or rediscover an older more familiar one in my community.  So, for me, most of this Staycation has been about discovery.

Last weekend was one of the 2014 Summer Staycation’s most memorable ones. I chose Tresettis Word Caffee as our dinner choice and was so happy I did. This bistro type dinner wine café has been doing well in Modesto for about 25 years now.

Additionally,  I discovered that our local Gallo Arts Center had a trio of events and speakers that night.   As I continued to read on the local arts paper I noted that Destination Graduation , a youth mentoring program, was hosting a benefit where Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak was the speaker and special guest.  Tickets we’re still available so I snatched up 2, one for my my dear friend and one for myself.
The benefit started about 7:30, so we again scored a 530 reservation, which gave us plenty of time to eat and sip our wine and relax . Tresetti’s World Cafe and wine shop was wowing us.

Our server, Kirk brought us our wine list ,menus and recommendations in a friendly and very helpful manner.  We started with the baked Brie, roasted garlic and French bread.  Out of this world,paired with a 2012 de plapa Chardonnay.  We then moved onto our luscious dinner entrees and a 2012 Lincourt Pinot Noir . This exquisite wine was sweet but not too sweet and complemented our lemon chicken, my friend Jean’s and my Kobe beef.

One extra nice thing was how great our server was.   Kirk kept great track of our time so we’d be on time to see the Woz!  A short walk on a hot evening got us to the Gallo Center to hear Mr. Wozniak   .This event significantly helped our local teenagers.

From the time “The Woz” came on stage and treated us to his wisdom, joy and humor. He had us, his audience. transfixed for the next hour and a half.   One of the things that stood out for me was how he had set 2 goals.  One was to become an electronics engineer and the other was to be a fifth grade teacher.

In the following 50 years he did both.  And built , in his garage what we now know as the very first Apple Computer. He shared on a sweet and personal level.  I look forward to seeing him again someday.

Until my next entry, drink good wine and share it with the special people in your life,

Next week:  An exciting and historical weekend in Napa!

A Tale of Two Wines ~ Pinot Noir

My Thursday night outing was a delightful journey into the magic world of Pinot Noirs.

It exceeded all I had hoped for in finding a pair of Pinot Noir wines that could be enjoyed at the same meal, with two completely different courses.

The evening began with cab ride into town. That town being Modesto, CA.

I, myself live about 20 miles southeast of town on a country acre.  My destination was
Surlas Restautant.

I knew, from previous dining and wining experience that this was the place to go.  Chef and owner, John Surla, has created a fine dining experience that is comparable to the the best in our state.

At my arrival, I was met by cheerful hostess, who I shared my plan with. I asked to be seated in the lounge where I was met by uber helpful Jeremy, resident bartender and wine steward.

Jeremy brought me the wine list immediately.i was overjoyed to find a long list of Pinots and the Pinot Noir duel commenced.

I decided on my appetizer, pork belly mini wraps stuffed with stick rice fillings.
It was plated like sushi on a long narrow dish. I chose a No.6 2011 Willamette
Valley Pinot Noir to pair it with.

I swilled my glass and detected notes of blackberries and oak. The first taste, provoked a definite yes to the wine steward.

The pork belly wraps were outstanding and generous enough to have been meal such as lunch.It was so good that I lingered over it for a good 40 minutes.

That Oregon wine held up to the rich and fragrant wraps .  This berry and oak
tasty Pinot can be purchased at about $17.00 dollars, a good price .

The main course was beet and goat cheese salad and a tomahawk pork chop.

I chose a 2013 Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Pinot Noir.  The preceding
“address” refers to the name of the Vineyard, 6 miles inland in the Santa Maria
Mountain basin.

What a contrast this wine was. It was as light and subtle as the No. 6 was bold and spicy.   With its cherry, strawberry plum taste this wine had an equally elegant bouquet, fruity, with just a tad of spice.

It worked perfectly with the salad and delicious generous pork chop. I savored this main course for nearly an hour.

This stunning Pinot retails at approximately $50.00.

I purchased with my meal for $65.00 and would have paid more.

Beyond being very drinkable, it is a versatile Pinot that could be paired well with vegetable, pork, lamb and beef.i savored this with my dinner for over an hour, drinking 3 five ounce pours.

The food was great , the crowd was friendly and the wine was exquisite. It was hard to choose a favorite but in the end, I chose the 2013 Belle Glos.

Winemaker Joseph Wagner makes an elegant Pinot Noir. The Belle Glos name is
a nod to his mother Belle Glos Wagner, cofounder of famed Camus Winery.

An evening like this would be hard to beat. I’ll do my best to do that as I make my way through California wineries and the most interesting dining venues to be found.

Lili Coffin ~ A Love Affair With #Wine ~ An Introduction

My love of affair with wine began when I was 8 years old.

My mother was a child actress on that was then known as the Little Rascals. Being raised in Hollywood, she was taught to enjoy the finer things in life and taught us children to do the same.

For my 8th birthday, she took me alone to the then renowned Brown Derby. I can remember every detail of that evening. I ate sole almondine, as did Mom, I had a Shirley Temple drink as Mom sipped her glass of white wine.

At the close of the meal, the head waiter brought out an enormous pineapple lemon cake. I blew out the candles after I was serenaded by wait staff and celebrities alike.

Everyone was charmed as the cake was distributed throughout the dining room and Mother stood and rose to toast me with that one simple glass of white wine.

I knew then that it was important to mark special events with a toast and from that day on, wine was always a part of that.

What fun it was to carry on the tradition when I was married and raisin a family.

As the wife of a newly successful businessman, I was often called upon to hostess nice dinners and wine tasting and pairing became an integral part of that.

Through this, I met some of the closest and dearest friends of my life.  Frequent trips to Napa and Sonoma valleys became the norm. It was a great time in our lives.

We even started a wine club, we jokingly called ourselves Couples on Wine, or COWS, for short.  We held monthly meetings, field trips to wineries and we did this for nine years.

This is my first blog and so will only offer one of many highlights here today.

In between COWS events, we went as a couple or with another couple to as many wineries as we could take in.

It was a private dinner in the Old Inglenook cellar.  I will give details in an upcoming blog but will tell you now that it was the experience of a lifetime.

Time marched on. I became the solo wine drinker in our home, until my husband’s death six years ago. Although he was no longer able to drink, for health and personal reasons, he always encouraged me to continue what used to be our shared interest.

The social events continued, the wine flowed and his interest never ceased.

Through his work we met many lovely people.Some of whom are well known, both as wine makers and wine industry leaders.

As a result of those dear friendships, my husband Robert was honored to do the Custom stone renovation at Concannon Winery in Livermore, CA,

Sadly, he passed away suddenly, two weeks after the completion of that project.
Happily, he was doing what he loved till he died.

In the years that have passed, my love of wine has continued to be passionate. I enjoy all aspects from how the wine grapes are grown to how the wine is made and of course, drinking it.

My particular wine of choice at this time is great for summer, a Gruner Veltliner that I purchased a case of from Darcie Kent Vineyards.

Darcie had the honor if serving her different wines for Michelle Obama, at a White House Luncheon. She is also one of the best people I have ever known.

So, that’s a little about me and my wine network.

I am an equal opportunity wine drinker and have seldom found a red or white I didn’t at least like a little.

More to come shortly. I hope you will enjoy sharing this World of Wine with me.



Introducing Our New Wine Blog

The world of California wine is vast and impressive.

Lili Coffin is Andy Kaufman’s Kavalkade Krews resident expert on wine, with vast experience that is astounding.

Lili’s mom was a childhood actor in Hollywood, and she has entre into some exclusive territory.

I will leave it to her to introduce herself here shortly with her own Curriculum Vitae.

This blog will be solely dedicated to Wine and travel through California for the time being,

We may expand beyond Caliornia shortly, time will tell.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy Lili’s take on the the extensive world of Wine in California, and tales of my own travels.


If you follow my little map I have us in San Luis Obispo already.

Wine Tour


When my family vacations on the Central Coast we do not actually go through San Luis Obispo on the way to Cambria.

I went to San Luis Obispo first, as the Madonna Inn is to cool not to talk about quickly.  And San Luis Obispo is the heart of the region.

We actually take 41 to 46 to 101/46 to the 46 cutoff and head west to Cambria.

Got that?  There will be a quiz.



Although on the north end of the Central Coast region, it’s a convenient home base.

You are 15 minutes or so away from world famous Hearst Castle, 30 minutes from San Luis Obispo and about an hour away from the great beaches at Pismo Beach.

Hearst Castle has their own wine tasting on site at Hearst Ranch Winery.

As Conrad likes European wines, and has a thing for Portugal, I would recommend the 2010 Tempranillo “Chileano”.

The Winery describes it thusly:

Our winemaker is extremely passionate about Spanish wines. Thus, Chileano was born. Our vision with Chileano was to create a Tempranillo stylistically similar to the great wines of the Ribera del Duero in central Spain. Our Tempranillo is driven by ripe cherry aromas with hints of mocha and strawberry. Tame acidity and varietal fruit flavors on the palate allow our Chileano to drink well out of the gates and for the next 2-4 years.

This is as as close to Portugal as I can get you with the Hearst offerings, Conrad.

Hearst Castle is perched above the coastal fog within sight of the ocean and offers as astonishing view.

Built by William Randolph Hearst (Hearst Publishing) the Castle was home to many legendary Hollywood parties.

Portions of the castle were disassembled around the world and shipped to the location and reassembled in place.

The Castle is home to great works of art and any astonishingly beautiful tapestries are featured in the great halls.

It is a grand castle in every sense of the word.



Cambria itself is a small beach town, and a very popular destination.

My favorite part of Cambria is The Soldier Gallery, a hobby and collectibles shop.

Once at Cambria and the Central Coast, we typically spend a week or so, ranging  up and down the coast, with Cambria as home base.

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The Heart of the California Central Coast Wine Region Is…

There is some debate about where the Heart of Rock and Roll Is.

I think Huey settled it pretty well by saying the heart is everywhere!



Yet on the matter of where the Heart of the Central Coast is I think there’s little room for debate.

It’s San Luis Obispo.

San Luis Obispo is inland, so gets occasional coastal fog, yet is solidly located within a delicious Mediterranean climate.

They have a wonderful walkable downtown featuring Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and wonderful eateries.

One of my favorite stops is the Madonna Inn.  It’s so named because Madonna lost her bustier there in 1987 on the Like A Virgin Tour.

I kid!



The Madonna Inn is an International Landmark destination and features individually themed and decorated rooms.

I remember being on a tour as a child and being surprised to see a heart shaped bed!  Oh the imagination roamed upon seeing that room!

The rooms range from kitschy to more subdued, but it’s definitely at least worth a tour if in the area, even if you don’t stay in the hotel.



And the wine is to die for.  Or perhaps you should not die, just slowly toast your liver as you enjoy your wine.  That seems the more reasonable response.

Conrad has complained that my wine blogs are short on actual wine.

So i shall discuss the seafood!  It’s fresh!  It’s delicious!  And my favorite restaurant for seafood in San Luis Obispo is The Splash Cafe.

They are well known for their delicious clam chowder in a bread bowl.

They also have  a location near the wharf in Pismo if you head south to the beach.

It’s absolutely delicious!  And a nice homey little cafe.  It’s reasonably priced as well.

Onto the wine!

I’m kinda bummed.  I was all set to talk about a great wine but my sons computer build failed.  I’ve been looking into it, but i suspect he fried the mother board.

So we will have to wait to hear about the great wines of the region until next time!

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Paso Robles Wine Country

As you approach Paso Robles there’s a sea change in atmosphere.

The cool sea breeze hits you and you can feel the very ocean!

I kid.

It’s still pretty much damn hot over there in Paso Robles.  Generally, that is.  During the summer months.

Yet the soil is perfect for many varieties of grape.

And there is apparently a raging debate about the nature of wine in the wine community.

Is Wine made in the field or in the winery?

And I come down with Conrad on this.

Although I’m not sure than just any old grape can be turned into a great wine I am sure that without any grapes you would have no wine.

I digress.

As we head into Paso Robles the choice is north or south.  Or to stay in Paso Robles, which we typically do not do.

We typically head south down 101 towards San Luis Obispo,  And honestly, Paso Robles has been more of a pit stop!



Here’s a wonderful view, apparently slightly to the west of the above picture.  The massive difference is I haven’t highlighted where we are driving!

PS:  For Eva.  See the mountains now?  LoL.



This is not meant to demean Paso Robles, as they are a wonderful pit stop (Disclaimer:  I live in Fresno. )

One of the main attractions in Paso Robles, besides the wonderful wineries is the California Mid-State Fair.

And if you are worried about being overrun by San Francisco liberals, I would advise you that the non-coastal areas of California are a bit more conservative generally.

They wear cowboy hats, and rodeo and other fun stuff as they drink their wine.

Why, the boys at Brain & Baker cooked up their plans for a winery in Yosemite camping.  That’s not typical frou frou behavior, at all.

And the seafood is fresh and to die for, Paso Terra being a great place to eat.

You can definitely be  bacchanalian in Paso Robles!

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The Heart of Wine Country ~ Paso Robles

Fresno, is located in Fresno County, otherwise knows as Agriculture Central

And grapes are the number one crop!

However Fresno County is slightly arid, and though we have rich soil we wouldn’t be farming (in the quantity we do) without the extensive irrigation that goes on.

True, many go for raisins and other food needs, but many are converted into Wine.  Unfortunately much of that is Gallo Wine, but I suppose they have their place in the market.

Our soil is perfect for everything, and conveniently enough this includes grapes.

However, we are heading to the Central Coast on our epic #Wine journey!

Central CA maps


When last seen, we had toodled past Chalome, and down towards Paso Robles.

Chalome itself looks more like the Central Valley in terms of flora and fauna, and as you approach Paso Robles, you begin to pick up the mediterranean look of the area.

Paso Robles is tucked inside the Coastal Range in a small valley, surrounded by mountains on the east and northwest.

And as you drop into the Valley over the eastern edge you get a sense of the agriculture in the area.

The following images are coutesy of Google Earth.

capture (1)



Here we approach the Tobin James Winery along Freeway 46.  Paso Robles is just visible in the north east corner of the picture, below the hills.



The area is a leader in sustainable practices, with a local organization, SIPPractices.org
offering certification.


And as Conrad is a fan of beer, I recommend BarrelHouse Brewing Company, an outdoor beer garden, located in downtown Paso Robles.


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