Folks in Sacramento know how to live well

On my way back to ATX today following my annual pilgrimage to Sacramento, in the heart of California farmland and wine country. Folks out there sure know how to live well. Here are some quick highlights…

Darrell Corti graciously treated me to a quick lunch today at One Speed after our morning meeting and before I headed out to the airport. Seafood risotto and 14-year-old Australian Sémillion from his cellar. I had never had an Australian wine that I liked until Darrell first shared some of his gems with me. This wine had gorgeous fruit and a rich mouthfeel, 11% alcohol, and acidity that Darrell aptly described as “sprightly” (Tracie B would have called it “tongue-splitting”).

Produce in Sacramento is unbelievably good: marinated artichokes, braised fennel, and roast peppers at One Speed.

The night before, I was the dinner guest of Darrel’s delightful neighbors, Joe and Deb. Deb’s tomato bisque with panzanella salsa paired superbly with Darrel’s Bert Simon 2005 single-vineyard Riesling. Deb and Joe are both superb cooks. I guess you have to be if you live next to Darrell Corti! Joe and Deb were so gracious to have me over and they throw a fantastic dinner party… Joe, a lobbyist, told a great story about meeting Ted Kennedy and how he loved to talk baseball.

2007 Nebbiolo Martinenga by Marchesi di Gresy. 2007 is going to be such a killer vintage for traditional-style Nebbiolo. Like the 07 Produttori del Barbaresco, this wine shows some serious, brawny tannin. It went great with whole chickens that Joe stuffed with cheese (I believe goat’s milk) and then grilled whole. The breast was as moist as the thigh.

This morning I gave Darrell a hand organizing wines for a tasting at his legendary store Corti Brothers. Darrell is the reason why I come back to Sacramento every year… to peruse his wondrous cabinets

It’s only been three days since I said goodbye to my lovely Tracie B. Feels like a lifetime but that ol’ Southwest Jetliner is carrying me back home where I belong tonight, not a minute too soon for this aching heart…

Ugly Beauty: more Mexican from the road

Above: It wasn’t pretty but this ugly beauty* sure tasted good… Huevos Rancheros with chile verde sauce and beef at Vallejo’s in Sacramento.

No better cure for the after-effects of an epic wine dinner than a piping-hot plate of huevos rancheros, ranch-style eggs. I had never seen the dish prepared with a chile verde or green chili sauce (typically, it is drowned in red chili sauce), nor had I seen it topped with chicken or beef (the latter option above). Vallejo’s also offers “vegetarian” huevos rancheros (I guess the qualifier vegetarian reflects an attitude that eggs do not belong to the realm of carnivory).

Above: a carnitas (roast pork) burrito from Don Carlos in La Jolla.

Whoever parked the domain name “” is a genius.

A surfboard painted like a Mexican flag at Don Carlos. The restaurant lost its license to sell beer (which is too bad) but it’s still a So Cal classic burrito joint.

* I believe that “Ugly Beauty” was Thelonious Monk’s only waltz.

Who says penguins don’t fly?

Above: this penguin flies high in friendly skies (click image for animation).

Traveling sometimes make me blue (Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?).

Those of you who know me personally know that 2007 was not a great year for me. Things have been better lately but I still have some pretty rough days (and there are more ahead).

I had a great time yesterday in Sacramento where I attended the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (look for my post tomorrow). But as I got on the plane this morning, the blues caught up with me once again.

But then… smiles and laughter were brought to everyone’s face when a penguin — I kid you not — came strolling down the aisle. He was on his way to Sea World in San Diego (I was on my way to my family’s place, not the zoo, for the record). Even when the twists and turns of life make you feel like you’re about to break into a million pieces, a close encounter with a happy little penguin somehow makes it all worthwhile again.

Above: the penguin’s mommy.

Above: this sweet lady was flying for the first time in her life and so the in-flight crew made her a “peanut crown” out of airline peanut bags.

Above: they don’t have electronic in-flight maps on Southwest Airlines so they use this one. Listen, after seeing the flying penguin, I’ll believe anything…

Above: the baggage claim at the Sacramento airport has these crazy sculptures. It takes you a minute to figure out that they’re works of art.

Look for my post tomorrow on my dinner with “national treasure” Darrell Corti and notes from Josh Greene’s excellent talk on “the state of the industry.”

Back to food and wine tomorrow, I promise… But a flying penguin? I had to blog it… An antidote to the blues, let me tell you…


So far Away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn’t help to know that you’re just time away
Long ago I reached for you, and there you stood
Holding you again could only do me good
How I wish I could, but you’re so far away

One more song about moving along the highway
Can’t say much of anything that’s new
If I could only work this life out my way
I’d rather spend it being close to you
But you’re so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn’t help to know you’re so far away
Yeah, you’re so far away

Traveling around sure gets me down and lonely
Nothing else to do but close my mind
I sure hope the road don’t come to own me
There are so many dreams I have yet to find
But you’re so far away
Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
And it doesn’t help to know you’re so far away
You’re so far away
Yeah, you’re so far away
You’re so far away

— Carol King