Holm Family Cookbook

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Cowgirl's Foodie Blog

Wine in Calaveras County? Yes!

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 12, 2012 at 10:40 PM

Wine tasting at the Brice Station Winery in Calaveras County


It has been a tradition for several of my friends and I to go to the mountains over President's Day weekend. Since everyone's kids have grown, one of the snow days has turned into a wine tasting day. We have been heading up to Calaveras County in the California Gold Country and attending the President's Wine Weekend for the past several years. This wine country continues to mature! 2012 marked the 16th Annual President's Wine Weekend with 23 participating tasting rooms.

Brice Station Map


The President's Day Wine Weekend is a two day event and we attended on Sunday, which is day two of the event. Our first stop that day was the Brice Station Winery where we picked up our glasses for $10. This was one of the few stops with glasses left. I limited my tasting as I was the designated driver. The favorite appetizer here was the seeded baguette with almond and Gorgonzola spread, broiled and topped with a fig orange peel jam. Also on the Brice Station Winery property is a blacksmith shop that offers blacksmithing classes, and Quyle Kilns. This cooperative kiln offers a variety of pottery and styles. There were various animals around the property including chickens, dogs, geese, and llamas.

Brice Station Tasting Room


We drove on down the hill to Murphys, where the main street is lined with shops, restaurants, and tasting rooms. We stopped at the Vina Moda Winery, which is in a unique building. Across the street was Tanner Vineyards where they were serving the guests out in their gardens. I tasted the Syrah, which complemented the sausages hot off the grill.

Tanner Vineyards Tasting Room


My friends really enjoyed the Zinfandels at Milliare Winery. They particularly enjoyed the Clocksprings from Amador County. In fact, they picked up a bottle for our Kale Soup dinner. It was a wonderful Zinfandel!

Frog's Tooth Winery offered a wide variety of red wines. For food they were serving meatballs in a Tempranillo cranberry sauce.

Frog's Tooth Tasting Room


There were so many tasting rooms in this area, that even though I was driving, my friends could not stop at all of them! My "must visit" wineries are Stevenot Winery and Newsome-Harlow. Chuck Hovey, the winemaker at Stevenot and Scott Klann, owner and winemaker at Newsome-Harlow are judges at the Alameda County Fair's Best of the Bay Wine Competition and Zin Challenge.  I bought a bottle of Viognier at Stevenot and a Syrah at Newsome-Harlow.

Entrance to Stevenot Tasting Room

Inside the Stevenot Tasting Room


Both the Stevenot and Newsome-Harlow tasting rooms are very friendly. The owners of Stevenot, the Oliveto family, were pouring that day. They were serving delicious sausages from the Big Trees Market in Arnold. At Newsome-Harlow, Scott Klann was pouring. His wife, Melanie, was busy with The Kitchen at Newsome-Harlow. They offered fried root vegetables from their garden, a colorful variety of treats. The Courtyard has seating, a gas fire pit, and heated tubes, offering an alternative to the busy street and tasting rooms.

Newsome-Harlow Tasting Room

The courtyard at the Newsome-Harlow Winery


The last stop of the day was the Black Sheep Winery where Jane Drummond–Mullarkey purchased the Raspberry Sparkling Wine. Her Bunco group loves it!

Should you have an opportunity to visit Calaveras wineries – do so! You won’t be disappointed.


~Susie Calhoun~


The Underdog - Livermore Wine Country's Hidden Gem

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on December 8, 2011 at 9:30 AM

As Livermore's downtown continues to grow with new wine bars, pubs, and restaurants, one of the best is hidden out in Livermore's wine country

The first few miles of Tesla Road in Livermore is blanketed with vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms. Hidden among them is the Underdog Wine Bar, which is one of my favorite places to go to unwind with friends and family or have a light leisurely lunch. The Underdog Wine Bar is adjacent to Concannon Vineyard's tasting room.

The decor at the Underdog is modern and tasteful

The wine distribution system keeps the wine at the optimal temperature

The decor in the Underdog is tasteful, modern, and leaves you with asking, "Is this really Livermore?!?" The decorator has also done a great job of incorporating grapes and vines into the decor.  One of the Underdog's assets is the outdoor patio that looks out on the Livermore hills, vineyards, and Concannon's grape arbor. The patio has heaters, so you can sit out there in all seasons and enjoy the view. There are tables, chairs, and couches for seating that can accommodate a fairly large group of people.

With views of the vineyards and Livermore Hills, the patio is one of the Underdog's assets

The wine can be ordered by glass, flight, or bottle. I usually order a flight which is three glasses on a wooden stand, with a fairly substantial pour. Ordering the flight gives me an opportunity to try a variety of wine. 

A flight of wine at the Underdog

The small plates served at the Underdog are incredible and designed by gourmet chef Barbara Llewellyn. The menu changes throughout the year and the items removed are replaced with seasonal foods. Currently on the menu is a braised short rib dish with seasonal vegetables that is out of this world. On a recent night when my sisters and I were at the Underdog, we could smell the short ribs cooking and it was a dizzying experience for the Calhoun sisters, especially since we were so hungry when we arrived. One small plate of the braised short ribs led to another . . . .

Homemade potato chips

Seasonal flat bread with walnuts, prosciuto, cheese, and grapes

There is an ahi tuna tartar tower that is always on the menu and is made with cucumber, avocado, radish, wasabi aioli, and coriander oil served with lightly salted wonton chips. Most of the people that I've been to Underdog with have ordered it and loved it (I don't do raw fish).  The desserts are not to be missed. One of the static menu items and always the best is the valrhona extra noir chocolate tart that is served with coffee bean caramel and sprinkled with grey salt. During the spring we took our cousin Becky and her daughter Kelsie to the Underdog for wine and dessert. My teen daughters and Kelsie thoroughly enjoyed the desserts especially the buttery strawberry shortcake that was on the menu at that time.

Valrhona extra noir chocolate tart with coffee bean caramel and grey salt

The seasonal straberry shortcake is made with a buttery pastry

The next time you're looking for a great place to spend some time enjoying a glass of wine, good conversation, and good eats, venture out to Livermore wine country's gem. You will be happy you did.  ~merry~

If all be true that I do think, There are five reasons we should drink:  Good wine— a friend— or being dry—Or lest we should be by and by—Or any other reason why.

~Henry Aldrich (1647–1710)

Wine Tasting at the Party Barn

Posted by holmfamilycookbook on March 31, 2011 at 2:48 AM

Wine Tasting at the Calhoun Family Party Barn

Livermore is one of the oldest wine regions in California. Spanish missionaries planted the first wine grapes in the Livermore Valley in the 1760’s. Livermore’s namesake, Robert Livermore, planted the first commercial vines in the 1840’s. Pioneer winemakers James Concannon, C.H. Wente, and Charles Wetmore founded their wineries in the early1880’s. Charles Wetmore entered his Cresta Blanca Sauterne in the 1889 Paris International Exposition bringing home a gold medal and the competition's highest award, the Grand Prix. Today the Livermore Valley is home to over 40 wineries, with Wente Vineyards being the oldest continuously family owned and operated winery in California. 

Pioneer winemaker James Concannon's great grandson, Tom Concannon and his wife Teri Tith

On Sunday we had a wine tasting and potluck at the Calhoun family party barn, so it was only natural that the majority of wines we tasted were from the wineries here in the Livermore Valley. Twenty-four bottles of wine turned up for the tasting. The majority of the 24 bottles were Cabernet Sauvingnon. Of the bottles that were not Cab, four of the bottles were white wines and four of the bottles were port.

Although the wine tasting and voting were very informal, my biggest faux pas of the day, however, was not supplying red wine glasses and spit buckets for the tasting. Here I thought I was doing great because I had upgraded from the plastic cups we normally drink out of in the party barn to wine glasses, but I was still mocked all day for my faux pas. I had to remind those mocking me that they were sitting around a ping pong table in a party barn tasting the wine, so they shouldn’t expect much. There were a couple of guests that showed up with their own red wine glasses because they had previously experienced the plastic and apparently did not want to endure it again.

Another descendent of Livermore Valley pioneers, Pete Fallon, showed up with his own red wine glass

The Livermore wineries with wines in the tasting were Nottingham, El Sol, Page Mill, Wente, Steven Kent, Fenestra, Darcie Kent, and Mitchell Katz. One very good wine from out of the Livermore area was 'Loco' Tempranillo 2007 from Four Vines of Paso Robles, California. The favorite white wine of the day was a Cupcake Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay.

There was a tie for first place, which went to El Sol’s 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvingnon and to Page Mill’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvingnon. Second place went to Steven Kent’s 2007 Cabernet Sauvingnon.  The port that seemed to be the favorite as it was gone by the end of the day, was Bon Vie port from Mitchell Katz with the grapes grown by my brother-in-law. I’m not sure it’s even available for retail sale--my husband and I usually receive a bottle of it as a Christmas gift.


Tied for first place, El Sol 2004 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Page Mill Winery's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Even though I had to hear the good natured complaints all day about the lack of red wine glasses, I had a wonderful time and am now set up with spit buckets for the next wine tasting. Not sure I’ll have those red wine glasses though.


Eat, drink, and be merry!

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