Ed and I recently spent a week in a guesthouse in the Chianti region of Tuscany. We were finally able to take advantage of the guesthouse for which we bid and won at a V Foundation silent auction. The week at the guesthouse was donated by cancer researcher Dr.Olja Finn (at the University of Pittsburgh) and her husband Professor Emeritus Dr. Seth Finn at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. They restored the all-stone guesthouse, originally a farmhouse attached to a (deconsecrated) Catholic church with a bell tower. Such a charming home away from home!
We spent the week cooking pasta with Seth in his kitchen or ours (unfortunately Olja was back in Pittsburgh), eating at some great restaurants like Antinori-owned Osteria del Passignano and Ristoro del Lamole, reached from a very winding road with a great view of Chianti.
Of course we visited wineries to experience Chianti Classico wines, like Ca di Pesa, near our guesthouse in San Martino and owned by Jonathan Auerbach, Chief Strategy Officer at Pay Pal in NYC. Our favorite winery experience, however, was at the amazing new Antinori in Bargino, which has English-language tours and a restaurant. Upon arrival, we walked up a dramatic winding staircase to see the very contemporary buildings and vineyards. Little did we know that both the vineyards and buildings were situated over the winery, which is built into the mountain 16 floors below. The cellar structure was conceived to allow the grapes to move with the flow of gravity from the top floor down to the fermentation tanks, eliminating the need for mechanical pumping (protecting the grapes) and the need for refridgeration, as the grapes and wine are cooled naturally by the soil surrounding the cave. The beautiful winery was designed by Archea Assocati Studio, enginering by Hydea, and took seven years.
We began our tour with a film about the Antinori family and winery. Marquese Piero Antinori, the current proprietor of the winery, can trace his family history back six centuries to 1385, when his ancestor Giavanni di Piero Antinori enrolled in the Wine Guild of Florence. (We actually met Piero at a Napa Vintners Association Auction, when we sat at the same table with him.) This time, we were lucky to have his wife, Marquesa Franchesca Antinori sit with us at the film and then accompany us on our tour of the winery.
We tasted some delicious Villa Antinori Chianti Classico, Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva and Vinsanto del Chianti Classico, and learned as we did at other wineries in Chianti that the Sangiovese grapes are rarely blended with other varietals in order to capture the uniqueness and freshness of the region.
After Ed and I attended a wedding in the Mt. Hood area outside of Portland, we made a wine tasting tour of the Willamette Valley, mostly around the town of Newberg. Some of our favorite wines we discovered were Ken Wright Cellars 2012 Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir; Dobbes Pinot Noir; Chehalem Pinot Noir and Chehalem Ian Chardonnay. This Chardonnay was all the more special since it has the name of our almost- three-year-old grandson Ian. We stayed at the lovely Allison Inn and Spa in Newberg.
We also managed to do some hiking and exploring in Oregon and got to see the beautiful Multnomah Falls when we weren't wine tasting--other healthy alternatives to red wine!
Ed and I attended the Sundance Film Festival again this year, which ran from January 22 to February 1. We attended many films, and the favorite for both of us was the documentary The Best of Enemies about the explosive series of 10 televised debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William Buckley. Both of these men were brilliant and witty, and delivered a no-holds-barred dialog about poliltics, religion and sex. Apart from this film and of the films that we saw at Sundance, we concluded that the Napa Valley Film Festival screened more uplifting and entertaining films.
An extremely interesting panel I attended called Power of Story: Serious Ladies at 2015 Sundance Film Festival, consisted of Lena Dunham (Girls), Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project, The Office), Jenji Kohan (Orange is the New Black, Weeds), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids, Saturday Night Live) and New Yorker critic Emily Nussbaum. It was quite hilarious to hear them explore the stereotypes of women in film and television. Kristin Wiig (picture) was especially funny. I had actually sat in back of her during the screening of Diary of a Teenage Girl, in which she played the immature mother of the teenage girl, earlier that same day at Sundance.
Ed and I celebrated part of the year-end holidays in Mendoza, in the heart of Argentina's wine-producing region, doing some serious wine tasting when we weren't hiking in the Andes. We stayed at the beautiful Cavas Wine Lodge, overlooknig 35 acres of vines at the foot of the magnificent, snow-capped Andes. At Cavas we had a wonderful Christmas eve dinner with the gracious owners of Cavas, Cecilia Diaz Chuit and Martin Rigal.
Our favorite wineries we visited were Vino Cabos, of which Sonoma winemaker Paul Hobbs is part owner, and Catena Zapata, which is housed in an amazing replica of a Mayan pyramid (picture). Our favorite wine at Catena was the 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay.
Hiking the Andes was surely an experience with our guide Francisco. We had a picnic lunch in the middle of a clearing with horses looking on.
Ed and I recently returned from Boston, Massachusettes, where we not only visited the extremely interesting and beautiful JFK library and walked the Freedom Trail, but also ate at Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge. The food there was worthy of its name, as we were served the freshest of farm-to-table ingrediants. Our favorite dish was an amazing and moist venison paired with the best wine we drank in Boston-- a 2009 Peter Michael Ma Danseuse Pinot Noir. It was so fitting to eat at the terrific Harvest, while back home in Napa Valley, we had just completed our own terrific harvest of our 2014 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon.
We ate at other restaurants too, but couldn't resist the lobster roll (of course, not the only lobster we ate in Boston) at the restaurant called Mooo, in our hotel XV Beacon -- a great, award-winning boutique hotel, right across the street from the Boston Commons.
David Gelb, the director of the super successful documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi (for which Ed was an Executive Producer), just sold a docu-series about other famous chefs to Netflix. Jiro, about an 85-year-old sushi chef, whose three-Michelin-starred restaurant in a Tokyo subway, was 30-year-old Gelb's first feature. The terrific film was about Jiro's striving for perfection and about his 50-year-old sushi chef son wondering when his father would retire so he could take over the restaurant. (The younger son, knowing he would never take over, opens his own sushi restaurant in another part of Tokyo.) It was also the restaurant to which Prime Minister Abe of Japan took President Obama right off of Airforce One upon Obama's arrival in Japan.
Ed and I are looking forward to seeing Gelb's other documentaries about talented chefs and their stories creating mouth-watering food in exotic locations. Bon appetit!
Ed and I very recently returned from a Danube River cruise, which started out in Budapest. There, we tasted the best wines of our whole trip (which surprisingly included Paris, which we visited after the cruise).
At the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, in Budapest, we had our personal favorite-- a dry white wine called MAD-- made from a grape varietal called furmint. Furmint is a grape varietal most famously associated with Hungary's famous, sweet Tokaji wines. The Tokaji region and its wine are held in such esteem in Hungary that the Hungarian national anthem thanks God that Tokaj szőlővesszein nektárt csepegtettél (‘into the vineyards of Tokaj you dripped sweet nectar’).
We also took a wine tasting tour of the Etyek wine region, just outside of Budapest. We visited three wineries: Hernyak Estate (Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc); Zarandok Pince (Chardonnay, Pinot Gris); and Gyula Oroz (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc); where we also had dinner. Our favorite from that area was a Pinot Gris called Bernadette, which we tasted in its cave. That's Bernadette and me in the photo.
After boarding our cruise, we arranged a wine tasting dinner with fellow cruisers/wine lovers, to which we contributed our very own 2010 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon--everyone's favorite.
My husband Ed is one of the executive producers of the wonderful 2011 documentary feature film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which was directed by David Gelb. It is about the almost 90-year old sushi chef, Jiro Ono, his search for perfection in the making of sushi, and his relationship with his two sons. In fact, Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, uses this film as a mangement tool to motivate his staff. Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which was screened at the 2011 Napa Valley Film Festival, is the film of which Ed is the most proud to have been a part.
On April 23, 2014, within 90 minutes of landing in Tokyo to meet with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Abe took President Obama to eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the only sushi restaurant in the world to be rated with three stars by the Michelin Guide. There are only about 100 restaurants in the world with three Michelin stars and, I'm sure, it took a prime minister to score the reservation there. It is located in a Tokyo subway, has only ten seats, and is extremely popular. There is no menu, one eats what chef/owner Jiro Ono puts in front of him or her, and the meal costs about $300 per person.
Although director David Gelb started out to make a movie about several sushi restaurants in Japan, after meeting chef Jiro Ono, felt compelled to do the film about him and his fabulous restaurant. You may stream the film on Amazon Prime Instant Video or on Netflix.
At the end of the meal, President Obama told Prime Minister Abe that, even though he had eaten alot of sushi as he came from Hawaii, it was the best sushi he had ever eaten. If you are driven to make a reservation to fly to Tokyo, just know that, it could take at least 3 months to get into Sukiyabashi Jiro, if ever. You may have better luck with the French Laundry!
Ed and I were in Las Vegas recently for a leads generation conference and had to try Michael Mina’s Nob Hill Tavern. We had been to Michael Mina’s restaurants in San Francisco and also in Las Vegas before, but none with the name Nob Hill, so had to try it. Mina hasn’t missed a beat with his menu and wine list. We had a delicious appetizer of paper-thin eggplant and zucchini slices – think delicate potato chips – paired with tzatziki (a Greek yogurt, cucumber and garlic dip), and a melt-in-your mouth wood-fired filet mignon and butter-poached Maine lobster – all paired with great Patz and Hall pinot. We topped off the yummy dinner with a crunchy, yet smooth, crème brulee. Michael Mina’s restaurants are never a gamble.