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What’s happening in downtown Martinez?

What’s happening in downtown Martinez?


Sleepy downtown Martinez is slowly coming into its own. Known for generations as the home of the Shell Oil and Tosco refineries, there has been a push for revitalization for a few years which is a welcome sight to many residents. Despite being the hometown of Joe DiMaggio and the birthplace of the martini, Martinez hasn’t been in the news too much. That’s going to be changing.

Photo via http://www.barrelagedbar.combarrelaged

In late 2014, the Barrel Aged restaurant closed due to water damage following a burst pipe. The damages were supposed to be fixed with construction, but the issue may either be tied up with the courts or insurance companies.

The restaurant served fanciful cocktails from a bygone era such as Negroni, Blood and Sand, Bees Knees, Sazerac, and the now hugely popular Manhattan. I only was able to partake in the cool but approachable bar and restaurant a couple of times before they closed down.

Rising from the ashes like a Griffin, Barrel Aged became Barrelista, and moved into a shop across the street from the previous iteration. Barrelista is a small coffee shop with a lot of soul. The restaurant continues to expand into a sidewalk dining area and into a back area for mimosas on Sunday and its signature cocktails. Barrelista brews Four Barrel coffee, which is roasted in San Francisco. The coffee company uses a sustainable approach to gathering beans for roast, and the coffee is always fair trade coffee, which wins the company “Green” awards year after year.


In addition, Barrelista also has just been recognized and awarded through Central Contra Costa Sanitary District for its green efforts in pollution prevention and environment sustainability. So, not only is it a delicious and fun trendy stop when shopping at the Farmers’ Market or antiquing in the many quaint shops downtown, Barrelista is also a company that demonstrates great values.


Reconstruction of an historic building downtown brought forth another new coffee shop, States Coffee & Mercantile. This hip store has been covered in the press by East Bay Times and other media outlets, and is raking in great reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor.

Photos via http://www.statescoffee.comIMG_8512.jpg

Different from your typical neighborhood store, States Coffee & Mercantile broke the mold in coffee shop design. A combination of a cool coffee shop with leather goods, States is a hybrid of the original Peet’s in the 1960’s and Venture Quality Goods in nearby Lafayette.

A purveyor of coffee in addition to American made goods, States has built a loyal following in the community in a short time. Along with the Barrelista and some other downtown shops, States Coffee & Mercantile also embodies the face of the future of Martinez, with its iconic black Ford van included.

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

Another exciting development, for me at least, is the “Coming Soon” sign at 718 Main Street (formerly part of Martinez’ first movie theater!). Nate Houston along with Cory Katz will be opening up Bar Cava, a wine bar with eats, in this location once internal construction is completed in October. I’ve met Nate a few times at Residual Sugar in Walnut Creek, and was overwhelmed by his knowledge of wines, particularly Spanish wines. He poured a couple whites for me to taste based on what I told him I look for, and he was spot on with his selections.


Bar Cava won’t be limited to only Spanish or other European wines. Cory’s love for big, juicy Napa reds will be featured also, with new finds available at least once a month.

Not limited to small plates, Bar Cava will also feature domestic and European cheeses and procured charcuterie meats. Sunday brunches will be offered at some point, and Bar Cava will be serving Mountain Grounds Coffee.

Photo: Bar Cavabarcava2

These two have big plans, and I personally can’t wait to experience this new spot as their dreams come to fruition.

Read my blog for more news on Bar Cava and other local East Bay spots. Cheers!



Wine Blogging and Social Media

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When I first came onto the wine social media scene back in late 2008/early 2009, I knew I wanted to move my writing in the direction of this tasty niche. I immersed myself into the wine bloggers’ culture on Twitter and Facebook and spent years getting to know other people in the industry.

Simultaneously, I began writing more for non-writing publications. After a short stint with a local East Bay food magazine, I took a journalism class to continue honing my craft. I learned what my “voice” read like, and pursued other freelance opportunities.

I was also finishing my B.A. and continued learning both online and offline about social media and businesses’ uses for social media.


I am fortunate to have been able to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference held 2012 in Portland, and felt a small momentum building. Again, during this time, I was working full time, going to school part time, and moving into a new home with a retired parent with medical issues, so my momentum was on a metaphysical level with myself only.

With that said, my writing again took a backseat to life in general until I attended the Wine Tourism Conference in November 2013. This conference was held in Portland also at the same host hotel as the Wine Bloggers Conference of 2012, so it was nice to be in familiar territory. I learned a great deal at the conference, and appreciated the professionalism of everyone.

Portland, Oregon

Shortly before the Wine Tourism Conference, I found a writing gig on for feature article writing for a small lifestyle magazine in the East Bay. I started cranking out some articles for the magazine and again felt a force moving me away from my current vocation towards something that allowed more creative writing.

It was only by happenstance that I saw a job listing for a freelance social media coordinator on a Facebook group in late December. I recognized the company listing the job as I’d been following the owner Janet and vice versa on Twitter since late 2008.


What a thrill! The gig was to create content and post on social media for the country’s largest trade and consumer wine event, the Boston Wine Expo, held every year in Boston. I dived right into the gig while attempting to juggle the rest of my life in addition to the freelance article writing I’d been doing.

I created Tumblr blog posts, created and scheduled content on Facebook and Twitter and engaged with anyone and everyone who wanted to discuss the event on any social media platform. Towards the end, I also created an Instagram account for the media agency owner’s use at the actual event.

The event was held in February and by the beginning of April all social media began to wind down. It was a bittersweet moment when I emailed my final invoice. I’d been vigorously looking for other social media freelance work and had confirmed Janet would give me a good recommendation.  Nothing panned out, but Janet confirmed that I’d be able to head the social media in the fall for the Boston Wine Expo. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

Which us brings us pretty much to the present. I’m doing a small freelance job for Janet right now, summer’s here, and I’m leaving this week for Buellton and the Wine Bloggers Conference.

So, my question is this: If I’m not blogging consistently, but am doing other writing, including creating social media content for wine industry purposes, can I consider myself a wine blogger? Or am I guilty of not fulfilling an unspoken belief that I must maintain a somewhat consistent presence both on my blog and in the community?  My conviction is that writing is writing and blogging is social media. Despite the fact that I’m not keeping my personal blog current doesn’t translate to I’m not active in the blogosphere or in the social media world.

And yes, I wrote this post because I’m going to the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara County this week, and want there to be a more recent post on my blog than my last one of August 2013!

In any event, I’m caring and sharing about wine as much as my life allows and that’s all we can ask from ourselves, right?



What wine goes with Gehacktes (a traditional German dish)?

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We know the dish here in the United States as Steak Tartare.  In the Middle East, it’s known as Kibbe, and in Ethiopia a heavily spiced version of the dish is known as kitfo.  In German, the dish is known as Gehacktes if using beef, Mett if using pork.

My father has asked me to make Gehacktes for him for his birthday and Father’s Day this year.  I’ve never made it before, but I am not concerned with the preparation of the dish.  My concern is that the dish that my mother made for me growing up is uncooked beef.  Yep, raw beef.  I’ve had beef twice this calendar year as I’ve tried to change my eating habits (read: I went on a strict nearly-vegan diet).  The thought of preparing this dish is a non-issue.  The thought of eating this dish is something else.

Here’s a photo care of (c) Verena N. / from the website.  This photo shows the gehacktes spread on sourdough or French break and topped with pickles and herbs.


My father’s version doesn’t include the gehacktes spread onto bread, but served in a loaf.  Here’s the recipe as he remembers it:

  • One pound (or more) of ground top sirloin ground twice
  • At least 3-4 bunches of green onions sliced finely
  • 1-2 raw egg (not sure if white included or just yolk)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Mix the meat with some of the green onions, the egg (yolk?) and salt and pepper, preferably by hand.  Form loaf on platter and cover with remaining sliced green onions.  Chill and serve with hot buttered sourdough bread.

When I thought to myself, “How am I going to eat this??”  and “I’m not letting my *son* eat this!”  I began to see something different.  First of all, I told my father that yes, I would be happy to make it but I had conditions.  “First,” I said, “all the food is going to be purchased at either Whole Foods Market or Diablo Foods — I’m not making the dish with beef from Joe’s Market.”  He happily agreed.

wi-8greatrose-608Photo courtesy of

Then it hit me:  What could I drink with it?  The meat will be very lean so while I know I would need a good acid wine, it didn’t have to be sauvignon blanc acid.  The onions on and throughout the dish are making me consider something with high acid and sweetness.   Grenache rosé?  I’m stumped, and wine/food pairing was not my forte before I told my dad I would take on this endeavor.

Truth be told, I’m happy to make the dish for him.  He’s about to turn 77 and probably doesn’t remember the last time he had the dish, so I want to make it as memorable as possible (for all the right and good reasons!).

So, what do you think??  What wine would pair best with gehacktes?


Thank you…

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It’s said that a couple has up to one year after a wedding to send out all the ‘Thank You’ notes for wedding gifts.  It hasn’t been quite a year, but I wanted to write my thank you to the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship donors before the one-year mark.

In a perfect world, I would have finished writing all my posts and this thank-you post a long time ago, but we all know that we don’t live in a perfect world.

It was always in my mind to write a specific post thanking the donors for their contributions but I received an email last night from the Zephyr Adventures that made me feel it’s necessary to write this now. 

This coming November, in Portland, Oregon, Zephyr Adventures is holding the Wine Tourism Conference, which is where the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference was held.  I’d considered attending this event after seeing Thea Dwelle’s updates and tweets during last’s years Wine Tourism Conference in Santa Rosa, but the email I received last night nearly sealed the deal.

In addition to Thea, other bloggers attended last year’s Wine Tourism Conference and felt the program was very beneficial.  See here for story.

I think what struck me the most was the statement on networking opportunities available at the Wine Tourism Conference.  I welcome the thought of finding a position outside the legal industry and would be grateful for the opportunity to build meaningful business contacts.

Coming full circle, had it not been for the donors for the Wine Bloggers Scholarship that so graciously donated funds, I would not have been able to attend last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, nor would I have seen the importance of attending future events geared towards wine blogging development.




The Tales of the Traveling Tiara (part 2)

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(this is a second installment of my experience at the Wine Bloggers Conference this past August 2012 in Portland, Oregon.  You can read my first post here.)

Thursday night was an early night to bed.  On Friday, the Wine Bloggers in Portland woke up to a clear, hot sunny day similar to the day before.

After breakfast, I went downstairs to mingle.  On Thursday, sometime during check-in, I had seen Nannette wearing a tiara.  I knew instinctively it was her birthday, and heartily wished her a happy day.  When I saw her Friday morning, I informed her that that day was my birthday, and asked if I may wear the tiara that day?


As I set the tiara on my head, and began touring the registration and tradeshow area, the day began to look much more interesting.

wbc 2 pic

(Pardon the blurred photo, I was a new iPhone user!)

The Argentine Food & Wine pairing was for the most part done well.  Some of the pairings weren’t spot on, but most of the food was delicious, and the hosts and hostesses of the event were wonderful.  A couple performing Latin tango during the lunch added visual and aural elements to the already sensory-filled brunch.


Things happened quickly on Friday, and Randall Grahms’ keynote began and ended in a whirl.

The whites and roses Live Wine Blogging was my first experience at rapid tasting (and spitting!), and since I only had my iPhone, I tweeted my impressions:

  • A memorable wine was the Alexana Pinot Gris from Dundee Hills.  The wine was bright, clean, lemony.  The winery is higher end and only available to a few states.
  • The Johan Chardonnay (Willamette) was aged for 18 months in French oak, and bottled unfiltered.  High acid and delicious, I noted it would pair well with certain cheeses and fruit.
  • Benton Lane came to Table 13 and served a Pinot Gris.  Benton Lane is known for it’s pinot noir.  The pinot gris would stand up well to salads, pear fruit, and salmon.
  • Merryhill Winery, a family owned and operated winery, poured a Rose of Sangiovese that had Best of Show in Sonoma County.  This rose screamed picnic as I envisioned cured meats and cheese on a red-and-white checked tablecloth on sunny Mt. Tamalpais.
  • An Argentine Recuerdo Torrontes had great acid.  I was thrilled to learn it was available in California.

In summary, I loved the sauvignon blancs, Pepi (origin?) and Decibel (NZ, Hawks Bay) that were crisp, not too cold, and acid bouncing off the tongue.

The tasting ended with a Gloria Ferrer Va De Vi which would be a stellar picnic wine in case rose´ wasn’t desired.

Within a half hour after the whites and roses live wine blogging, the buses in front of the hotel began to fill with passengers going to mysterious destinations.  I vacillated between going and not going, and finally jumped on Bus 8 where there were only two remaining seats left in the entire caravan.  I think I made the best decision.


We sat in heavy traffic for a short time, and then got off the freeway onto a little country highway.  We traveled for about an hour, maybe a little more, when we were stopped by a police break in the road.  What was going on?


Lo and behold, it was a planned stop by the Carlton Police.  Welcome to Carlton, Oregon!  First stop, Carlos & Julian!

(…. to be continued….)

No Longer a Wine Bloggers Conference Virgin and the Tales of the Traveling Tiara, Part I

It’s been over a month since I returned home from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland.  I had such an amazing weekend *alone* that when I finally returned to the Bay Area on Monday, I was unprepared for the denouement of the entire weekend.

I hadn’t had too much or even enough wine at the Conference, and I continued to drink wine in the evening for a couple days after I returned.  After that, I’d had my limit; I’d become burned out on wine!  I had to put the festivities of the weekend on a back burner including any writing because when I returned my fall family schedule was in full throttle —  my son had started first grade and club soccer, and I had a night class beginning at the end of the week.

This post will be a nice reminder of an amazing weekend I had for which I’ll forever be grateful.

When I arrived in Portland, the first thing I noticed was that it was HOT!  I’d arrived on Thursday August 16 mid day since I wanted to connect with friends before the frenzy of the Conference began.

Since I’d arrived before many of my friends, I settled in the room for a short time and decided to take the opportunity to explore downtown Portland.

I caught the MAX line outside the hotel and took the train across the river into the city, getting off a few stops before my destination.  Since I love music second to wine, I decided to try to find some local record/CDs stores for some hidden gems.

The first store I went into was strictly hip-hop, and the owner was offended I didn’t ask him first if I could take a picture of his store for my blog.  I left quickly and found another victim, which I found at Jackpot Records on SW 9th Avenue.  I was more comfortable with the music this store sold, jazz, blues, mostly vintage, and some vintage rock on LP, but held out on buying anything.

I finally stumbled and fumbled in the heat to Everyday Music (after a confusing trip through Powells’ Bookstore), and found two great finds:  A Hindu Love Gods CD (REM with Warren Zevon on vocals from the late 80’s/early 90’s) and an out-of-print Bonnie Raitt CD.

Happy but tired, I made my way to the MAX station I’d exited and found a seat amongst the commuters for the ride back to the hotel.  After a quick dinner of black bean hummus and vegetables with a couple glasses of my new favorite King Estate pinot gris with Doug Levy (, Jeff Weissler ( , and Luke Whittall (, the Conference began with the Welcome Reception provided by the Oregon Wine Board.

This was a fun event, but a little intimidating for me as well.  As great as it was for me to taste many different wines that night, my focus was on meeting people I’d been virtual friends with for years.  I don’t know how the conference had handled welcoming receptions in the past, but that night should have had fewer wineries to allow more mixing and mingling among the attendees, in my opinion.

The wines that stood out for me that night were pinot gris and pinot noir (my first foray into both varietals) produced by Johan, Cooper Mountain, and Evening Land.

The next day, August 17, was a truly memorable day!
……….(TO BE CONTIUED)……..

A new year, a new wine, a new romance?

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As much as I love both wine and writing, I have been remiss in posting.

Tonight I purchased a Hannah Nicole 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Contra Costa County), and was eager to try it. The last time I tried a Hannah Nicole wine was at the winery’s tasting room early 2011. I’d been out there with the public relations gal for the winery for an event, and had interviewed the operations manager about a new appellation Hannah Nicole’s owners were applying for.

Today, the last day of Christmas/New Year break, I was grocery shopping and found this wine and purchased it.

courtesy of

While I’d consumed a fair amount of wine and champagne over the holidays, I had not been writing about it, nor had I been taking any notes.  I felt this would be a good wine for me to post on.

I’d had a lovely New York steak with asparagus for dinner, and had opened and “soireed” the first glass.  I then entered the Romance Zone.

The color was a deep beautiful garnet red, with a clear rim and a deep depth.  It had a delightful nose, more floral than vegetal, albeit a hothouse flower versus a rose.  The nose was low to moderate.

The first taste was a balance of acid, tannins, mild sugars and alcohol.  As an analogy, the first taste was the confirmation of a date with a hot guy.  Definitely interesting, can’t wait to see what happens next!

The next taste, the development of the wine, is another step down Romance Road.  You’re out on the date now, he looks great [on paper] and the date is going great.  There is a wonderful balance of fruit, blackberry?  Currant?  Is that a hint of caramel?  Sweet!  You begin to think to yourself, “I can change my name this time, he may be The One…. What would we name the baby if it’s a boy?”

Then, the death blow  —  the finish taste.  The finish is not considerably less than the first taste or the development of the wine – it’s empty.  He frowns during dessert and coffee.  He confides he is having legal trouble ever since late 2008 when he was working for a large national bank that has since gone bankrupt.  “I only did what I was told to do,” he says, but now the senior loan officers he had managed are now being subpoenaed.

There is no future for this wine; if you have some in your cellar, drink it now.  The romance is over.  You carefully wipe your mouth with your napkin and excuse yourself.  You go to the back of the restaurant where you know you can exit through the kitchen door after you call a taxi.  It’s not a total loss, you tell yourself.  You had a wonderful dinner, and it’s a New Year.

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