Emerson Sunglasses—Quality at a Reasonable Price

Quality-at a-reasonable price seems to be in right now with sunglasses. Maybe inflation has pushed popular brands like RayBans or Persols to price points that just seem unreasonable—especially for an item that many people loose with regularity. Whatever the reason, I am seeing more and more people opting for value-oriented brands—albeit polarized and well constructed—like Goodr or Knockaround over the fancier brands.

 

If you like the functionality and fit of a brand like Goodr, but with a bit more sophistication in style, Emerson Sunglasses might be for you. Emerson effortlessly combines these essential elements, making them an excellent choice for anyone seeking both fashion-forward eyewear and reliable eye protection. With a commitment to superior craftsmanship and a keen eye for design, Emerson has established itself as a leading brand in the world of sunglasses. Here are 5 reasons I like the brand.

 

Style

Emerson sunglasses are renowned for their exceptional style and timeless designs. The brand offers a wide range of frame shapes and colors to suit various face shapes and personal preferences. Whether you’re looking for a classic aviator style, a trendy cat-eye shape, or a sporty wraparound design, Emerson has you covered. Their sunglasses effortlessly blend modern aesthetics with a touch of sophistication, ensuring you always look fashionable while shielding your eyes from the sun.

 

Durability

Investing in high-quality sunglasses is essential for long-term eye protection and comfort, and Emerson understands this well. Each pair of Emerson sunglasses is crafted using top-notch materials, such as durable acetate, lightweight metals, and scratch-resistant lenses. These sunglasses are built to withstand daily wear and tear, making them a reliable companion for any adventure. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, exploring the outdoors, or simply running errands, you can trust that Emerson sunglasses will remain resilient and provide optimal performance.

 

Real Eye Protection

Emerson sunglasses not only elevate your style but also prioritize the health and safety of your eyes. The lenses used in their sunglasses offer 100% UV protection, shielding your eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to various eye conditions, including cataracts and macular degeneration. With Emerson sunglasses, you can enjoy outdoor activities with peace of mind, knowing that your eyes are well-protected from the sun’s harmful effects.

 

Enhanced Vision and Comfort

Emerson understands that sunglasses should not only protect your eyes but also optimize your visual experience. Their lenses are designed to minimize glare and improve clarity, ensuring you see the world around you with exceptional sharpness. Moreover, the brand pays great attention to the comfort of their sunglasses. With features like adjustable nose pads, lightweight frames, and ergonomic designs, Emerson sunglasses provide a snug and comfortable fit, allowing you to wear them for extended periods without discomfort.

 

Customer Satisfaction

Emerson takes pride in its commitment to customer satisfaction. The brand offers excellent customer service and stands behind the quality of its products. Should you encounter any issues or have questions regarding your sunglasses, Emerson’s dedicated support team is readily available to assist you. This level of care and attention to customer needs further enhances the overall value of Emerson sunglasses.

 

When it comes to finding the perfect blend of style, functionality, and quality in sunglasses, Emerson stands out as a remarkable choice. Their commitment to superior craftsmanship, attention to detail, and focus on protecting your eyes make Emerson sunglasses a great purchase.

Nomad Hotel Library Bar

Best Library Bars

Ah, the library bar. An urban oasis steeped in history (quite literally). Vintage, deep-seated armchairs, mahogany shelves and leather bound books ease the soul, while a single malt scotch calms the nerves after a long day of work. Ron Burgundy’s kind of place. My kind of place. Continue reading

Ram’s Gate Winery: A Perfect Day Trip from San Francisco

The wine tasting scene in Napa and Sonoma has evolved significantly since I first frequented these picturesque “twin valleys,” dotted with vineyards and beautifully framed by the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges, many years ago.

 

Gone are the days of hopping from one tasting room to another, savoring the array of wines for a mere $10 to $20—often with a complimentary tasting upon purchase of a bottle. The transformation is attributed to a combination of the evolving wine culture, influenced by changing times, and the lasting impact of the Covid pandemic. Today, the wine-tasting experience has taken on a more comprehensive and upscale character. It’s now customary for visitors to focus their attention on a single winery, yet one that offers a more holistic experience. Ideally this would include a winery with an extensive selection of wines and a beautiful setting—both inside and outside—to enjoy your tasting experience. It might also include gastronomic options and other customized experiences.

 

Unfortunately, discovering a winery that seamlessly combines all these desired attributes can be a challenging quest. Many high-end wineries boast stunning settings and may even feature gourmet dining options, yet they often specialize in only a limited selection of varietals, such as Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. Meanwhile, the larger, more value-oriented wineries often provide an extensive range of wines (various red and white varietals), however, they tend to offer a somewhat standardized experience that mirrors what it was a decade ago, albeit with advance reservations required. Finding that elusive gem of a winery that offers the best of both worlds—diverse wine offerings, a picturesque estate, bespoke services like a thoughtfully curated lunch to complement your wine tasting—is a rare find.

 

Perched on a hill in the southern tip of the Carneros AVA, Ram’s Gate Winery offers such an experience. With a diverse selection of wines—they produce 24 different wines, though tastings usually focus on 5 or 6 styles—exquisite food options and a breathtaking setting, there is no need to go anywhere else to satiate your wine country thirst. Perhaps the most amazing feature? It’s only a 45 minute drive from San Francisco!

 

Here are some of the most alluring elements of Ram’s Gate Winery that make it an ideal “day trip” from San Francisco for wine and food lovers.

 

Proximity to San Francisco

 

Ram’s Gate Winery is conveniently situated in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, making it easily accessible from San Francisco. Located less than an hour’s drive from the city, this winery allows visitors to escape the urban environment and immerse themselves in the stunning natural beauty of wine country in no time.

 

The scenic drive to Ram’s Gate takes you through picturesque landscapes, with breathtaking views of rolling hills and vineyards, while saving you an additonal hour of dricing compared to “up-valley” destinations in places like St. Helena or Calistoga. Visitors can maximize their time at the winery without spending hours in the car.

 

Array of Wines

 

One of the most significant attractions of Ram’s Gate Winery is its wide array of wines. Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, the winery offers something to suit every palate.

 

Known for its cooler-climate wines, Ram’s Gate provides a great foray into the various micro climates within Sonoma Valley. Their wine portfolio currently includes 24 different wines. Varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and a Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine—great for celabratory occasions!

 

 

Ram’s Gate doesn’t offer your run-of-the-mill tastings; they provide a portfolio of six extraordinary experiences that cater to every palate and passion: the regal Seated Wine Tasting, the divine Seasonal Wine and Food Experience, the tantalizing Wine and Bites Experience, the exclusive Caviar Experience (paired with some of their finest white wines), the opulent Luxury Picnic, and the lively Group Tastings.

 

If the “experiences” are more than you were bargaining for, the winery also offers a more standard tasting, which can be enjoyed inside or outside, at the main tasting bar or various tables throughout the winery. While they run a tight operation at Ram’s Gate, the hospitality crew and tasting room staff are also flexible and will work with you on offering the ideal experience.

 

 

A Beautiful Compound

Outdoor sitting area (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designed by Howard Backen, Ram’s Gate is a stunning architectural masterpiece that beautifully blends the elements of nature with modern design.

 

At first glance, the winery captivates visitors with its understated elegance and organic charm. Howard Backen, renowned for his commitment to creating spaces that honor their surroundings, seamlessly integrates the winery into the rolling hills and vineyards that define the region. The design approach is characterized by simplicity, natural materials, and a deep appreciation for the site’s unique topography.

 

The entrance to the winery is marked by a long, meandering driveway that gradually reveals the beauty of the estate. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a stunning main building that serves as the focal point of the winery. The structure combines elements of traditional agricultural buildings with contemporary touches, resulting in a design that exudes both rustic charm and modern sophistication.

 

Front of winery (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main building of Ram’s Gate Winery immediately captivates with its low-slung profile and extensive use of glass, allowing for breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards and hills. Backen’s design seamlessly integrates the indoor and outdoor spaces, blurring the boundaries between the two. This connection is further emphasized by the use of natural materials such as weathered wood siding, which adds warmth and texture to the building’s exterior.

 

Inside, the winery exudes an inviting atmosphere with its open-plan layout and a focus on natural materials. Reclaimed wood, stone, and metal elements create a sense of authenticity and timelessness. The design allows for effortless transitions between different areas, including the tasting rooms, barrel storage, and production facilities, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

 

One of the standout features of Ram’s Gate Winery is its expansive outdoor terrace. This beautifully designed space overlooks the vineyards, providing a serene and picturesque setting for guests to savor their wine. The use of natural stone, wood, and comfortable seating creates a relaxing ambiance that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding landscape.

 

Courtyard (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In line with Backen’s commitment to sustainability, the design of Ram’s Gate Winery incorporates environmentally friendly features and practices. From the use of reclaimed materials to the implementation of passive design strategies, the winery minimizes its ecological footprint while maintaining a high level of comfort and functionality.

 

Commitment to Sustainability

Joe Nielsen, the Winemaker and General Manager of Ram’s Gate’s estate vineyard, has taken remarkable strides in enhancing the vineyard’s sustainable farming practices. His innovative methods, such as utilizing soil diagrams and pressure bombs to assess the vineyard’s water requirements, have led to a significant reduction in water consumption by 33%.

 

Estate Vineyards (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe is now steering the estate vineyard and winery towards an even more eco-friendly future, with the ambitious target of achieving organic certification by 2024. Embracing the philosophy that Mother Nature provides the best tools for nurturing a thriving vineyard, Joe and his team have implemented various natural solutions.

To control weeds and enrich biodiversity, they employ a flock of sheep for winter mowing, allowing them to naturally fertilize the vineyard. For the challenge of birds and rodents damaging the vineyard, Joe introduced owl boxes and perches to attract natural predators, while also collaborating with a local falconer for additional pest control during the growing season. Even when confronted with an increase in deer that defied fencing, a pack of coyotes naturally traversed the vineyard, highlighting the team’s commitment to harnessing nature’s own mechanisms to maintain balance in their estate farming practices.

 

Culinary Delights

Beyond its impressive wines, Ram’s Gate Winery also offers a culinary experience that elevates the visit to a whole new level. The winery’s commitment to farm-to-table cuisine ensures that visitors can indulge in delectable food options that perfectly complement their wines.

 

 

The Ram’s Gate Winery’s culinary team sources fresh ingredients from local farms and purveyors to create a seasonal menu that reflects the flavors of the region. From artisanal cheese platters to flavorful charcuterie boards, the food offerings are thoughtfully curated to enhance the tasting experience.

 

For those seeking a more substantial meal, the winery has a fully equipped kitchen and offers a delightful dining experience, compliments of Executive Chef Ruby Oliveros. The menu, inspired by the bounty of Sonoma Valley, showcases dishes with a focus on locally sourced foods, that pair harmoniously with their wines. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely lunch while taking in panoramic views of the vineyards and surrounding landscapes, immersing themselves in the quintessential wine country ambiance.

 

winepairing_menu_0823

 

Unique Experiences

Ram’s Gate Winery goes above and beyond to provide unique experiences that engage visitors and deepen their understanding of wine culture. The winery hosts educational seminars, blending workshops, and wine-pairing classes, allowing enthusiasts to expand their knowledge and appreciation of wine.

 

For those seeking a more immersive experience, Ram’s Gate Winery offers private tours that provide an insider’s perspective on the winemaking process. These tours offer the opportunity to explore the vineyards, witness the winemakers in action, and gain insights into the complexities of crafting exceptional wines.

 

Moreover, the winery frequently hosts special events, including wine release parties, winemaker dinners, and live music performances, creating an atmosphere of celebration and camaraderie. These events present an excellent opportunity to engage with fellow wine lovers and connect with the vibrant wine community.

 

Private dining and tasting room (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ram’s Gate Winery is a hidden gem that offers a remarkable day trip experience from San Francisco. Its proximity to the city allows visitors to escape the urban environment and immerse themselves in the beauty of Sonoma Valley without spending excessive time on the road trekking through Sonoma or Napa Valley—which can be dangerous if you over-indulge, or expensive if you require an Uber. With its diverse selection of wines, ranging from elegant Chardonnays to robust Cabernet Sauvignons, the winery caters to wine enthusiasts of all preferences. The exceptional culinary offerings, which highlight the region’s flavors, perfectly complement the wines and elevate the overall experience.

 

(Top Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

What is a Michelin “Green” Star and Which Restaurants in the US Have One?

Since GLR launched in 2010, we have pledged to dedicate a certain amount of our coverage to the eco-friendly lifestyle niche—from hotels, to restaurants, to products you can buy on Amazon.  In particular, we love to cover businesses in the hospitality arena whose products and services are enhanced—not compromised—by their environmental stewardship. In fine dining, for example, the attenion to sustainability by sourcing produce, meats and other ingredients from local farmers and fine food purveyers, actually leads to fresher, tastier and more wholesome dishes. When these restaurants and chefs are already among the best in the world, the results are both delicious and good for the planet.

It is no wonder then that the world’s best known independent restaurant guide, The Micheline Guide, has launched a new “Green Star” award to highlight restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices. According to The Michelin Guide a Michelin Green Star is awarded (annually) to restaurants that “offer dining experiences that combine culinary excellence with outstanding eco-friendly commitments and are a source of inspiration both for keen foodies and the hospitality industry as a whole.”

 

What Kind of Things Do Michelin Green Star Restaurants Do?

According to Michelin, all Green Star recipients are different in unique ways but they all make a quantifiable difference and act as role models.

This includes, working directly with growers, farmers, fishermen and foragers; including those that use “regenerative methods such as no-dig vegetable gardens and successional cover crop growing.”

Many of these suppliers go beyond environmental considerations to also address “issues related to ethics and wellbeing, as well as contributing to local, national or global charitable and educational projects.”

 

Does the Michelin Guide Have Any Specific Criteria?

In terms of specific criteria, Michelin does not give a lot of information on what the inspectors are looking for, noting, “there is no specific formula for awarding a Michelin Green Star, as every restaurant and its surrounding region has a unique set of conditions.”

While the guide does give some insight into common “green” practices that these restaurants follow to produce delicious food with a small carbon footprint there is also the issue of the restaurant itself and its carbon footprint. The guide is somewhat vague on these practices.

Having covered this area quite a bit over the past 12 years, however, we can make an educated guess as to what sort of sustainability practices these restaurants incorporate.

Examples might include:  Menus printed on recycled paper; tables made from reclaimed wood; reusing and recycling flatware; composting vegetable waste; incorporating solar power; reusing LED, halogen or fluorescent bulbs (or using low energy light bulbs); reducing water usage with low flow spray valves; rain water reclamation systems.

 

Who Are the Leaders in Green Fine Dining?

To date The Michelin Guide has awared 359 restaurants around the world with Green Stars. So which countries are leading the green, fine dining movement? Not surprisingly, France has the most green stars with 87, followed by Germany with 67, Italy with 30, UK and Spain with 27 each and Japan with 23. Perhaps a bit surprising, the US—despite having 1366 restaurants with at least 1 Michelin star—has only 11 Green Stars, leaving us with plenty of room for improvement in the green, fine dining space.

 

Here Are The 11 US Recipients of a Michelin Green Star

Blue Hill at Stone Barns—Tarrytown, NY

Photo: Yelp

 

The Inn at Little Washington—Washington, DC

Photo: Inn at Little Washington

 

Osteria Mozza—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Osteria Mozza

 

Chi Spacca—Los Angeles, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Quince—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Quince

 

Bar Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Atelier Crenn—San Francisco, CA

Photo: Atelier Crenn

 

The French Laundry—Yountville, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

SingleThread—Healdsburg, CA

Photo: SingleThread

 

Chez Pannise—Berkley, CA

Photo: Yelp

 

Harbour House—Elk (Mendicino), CA

Photo: Yelp

4 Italian Whites and a Red to Drink this Summer

During the summertime, it’s tempting to stick to the familiar choices of Sancerre and Rose due to their refreshing and reliable flavors. However, exploring Italy’s diverse selection of white varietals can lead to delightful, refreshing and perhaps more interesting choices that perfectly complement the season’s abundance of fresh foods. Italy also offers some light-bodied red varietals that beautifully harmonize with the bolder flavors of summer, particularly grilled dishes. This summer, I highly recommend trying out these 5 delightful whites and a red from Italy that are sure to enhance your dining experiences:

 

ALOIS LAGEDER “PORER” VIGNETI DELLE DOLOMITIIGT

Porer is pure Pinot Grigio, but it is far from a simple wine. This is a winemaker’s wine, all about the joy of experimenting and bringing different techniques together to produce a fascinatingly complex product. Some of the grapes were pressed immediately after harvest to keep the fresh flavors and aromas. Others were kept on the skins for 15 hours while yet a third parcel was in contact with stems and skins for about one year, absorbing color, some tannin, and other rich flavor components.

 

GAROFOLI “PODIUM” VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DIJESI CLASSICO SUPERIORE DOC

A great example of Verdicchio, from the best-known wine area of Marche, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC.

On the nose, the wine offers an enticing bouquet of ripe yellow apple, lemon zest, and hints of tropical fruits. There is a delicate floral character, with notes of white flowers and a touch of honey. These aromas come together to create a fresh and inviting olfactory experience.

The palate is vibrant and well-balanced showcasing the characteristic Verdicchio acidity, which provides a lively and refreshing mouthfeel dominated by green apple, lemon, grapefruit and  mineral undertones as well as a pleasant saline quality that adds complexity to the wine.

 

INAMA “VIN SOAVE” SOAVE DOC CLASSICO

Vin Soave is the main production for the estate, an entry-level wine that nevertheless comes from vineyards farmed the same way as for Inama’s reserve wines—“.” The wine is made from 100% Garganega in stainless-steel tanks to stress the importance of freshness and Garganega’s floral notes. Along with the enhanced minerality from the vineyards’ volcanic soil, the result is a wine with great versatility in combination with food.

On the nose, this Soave immediately captivates with its aromatic profile revealing a beautiful bouquet of white flowers, peach, pear and lemon peel. The aromas are fresh, inviting, and well-balanced. This Soave has great structure with a combination of ripe fruit and vibrant acidity with the peach and pear aromas following through on the palate. It finishes  smooth and silky, balanced by ample acidity and lingering ripe fruit and subtle minerality.

 

MARCO FELLUGA “MONGRIS” PINOT GRIGIO COLLIODOC

Collio’s hilly terrain is well known for producing excellent white wines. The Mongris Pinot Grigio benefits from the mineral-rich but poor soils, producing a complex, well-structured example of this ubiquitous grape variety from northeastern Italy. The name Mongris comes from the contraction of“ Mono-variety Gris,” referring to Pinot Grigio aka Pinot Gris.

Similar to the Imana Soave, the Marco Felluga “Mongris” offers an enticing bouquet of ripe orchard fruits, including juicy pear, white peach, and hints of tropical pineapple. Delicate floral notes and a touch of citrus zest add to its inviting and vibrant aromatic profile. On the palate, the wine strikes a delightful balance between fruitiness and crispness, with ripe pear and white peach flavors taking center stage. Vibrant acidity brings freshness, while a subtle mineral undertone adds complexity.

 

VIETTI “PERBACCO” LANGHE NEBBIOLO DOC

Fondly known to many as a “baby Barolo,” Perbacco is always 100% Nebbiolo sourced from some of the fifteen different Grand Cru vineyards in Barolo. Recently the winery started using a small portion of grapes from its vineyards in Barbaresco as part of the blend as well.  An incredible value, Perbacco is essentially a Barolo without the official Barolo desgination—thus a highly rediuced price tag.

The wine exhibits a medium-deep ruby hue. Its aromatic profile is dominated by a generous burst of red berries, complemented by delightful floral and spicy undertones. On the palate, it presents as a medium-bodied wine, striking a fine balance between intensity and a gracefully mid-weight style. The well-integrated tannins blend seamlessly with the wine’s fruit structure. The finish lingers with impressive persistence, accentuated by a pleasant touch of freshness that leaves a lasting impression.

The Iconic Clarke Cooke House is a Must Visit Restaurant in Newport, RI

Situated in the heart of Newport, Rhode Island, the Clarke Cooke House stands as a revered establishment that intertwines history, elegance, and superb dining experiences. With its rich heritage and stunning waterfront location, this iconic venue has been an integral part of Newport’s social fabric for over a century. From its founding as a private residence to its transformation into a legendary dining destination, the Clarke Cooke House continues to captivate locals and visitors alike with its blend of timeless charm and culinary excellence.

History

The Clarke Cooke House, located on Bannister’s Wharf, traces its origins back to the early 18th century. Built as a private residence for Captain Clarke, a prosperous shipowner, the house later became a center for maritime trade during Newport’s golden age. Its prime location along the bustling waterfront added to its allure, attracting notable figures of the time, including Captain James Cook, who dined there during his voyages.

 

Culinary Excellence and Preservation

In the 1970s, the Clarke Cooke House underwent a transformation under the visionary guidance of the Cooke family. With meticulous attention to preserving the building’s historic charm, they converted it into an elegant restaurant, maintaining its classic architecture and adding nautical elements that pay homage to its maritime heritage. Today, the venue houses multiple dining spaces, each with its own distinct ambiance, including The Candy Store, The Porch, The Skybar, and The Boom Boom Room.

 

 

Renowned for its culinary prowess, the Clarke Cooke House offers a diverse menu that showcases the best of New England’s coastal cuisine. With a commitment to using locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant presents a wide array of fresh seafood dishes, from succulent lobster rolls to pan-seared Atlantic salmon. For meat lovers, there are mouthwatering steaks and chops, while vegetarians can delight in creative vegetarian and vegan options.

 

 

 

In addition to its exceptional cuisine, the Clarke Cooke House boasts an extensive wine list, featuring an impressive selection of vintages from around the world. The knowledgeable staff provides expert guidance in pairing the perfect wine with each dish, elevating the dining experience to new heights.

 

Service and Atmosphere

One of the key elements that sets the Clarke Cooke House apart is its unwavering commitment to providing exemplary service. The staff exudes professionalism and warmth, ensuring that guests feel welcomed and attended to throughout their visit. The restaurant’s timeless decor, featuring classic maritime accents, evokes a sense of elegance and relaxation, creating an atmosphere that is both refined and inviting.

Beyond the exquisite dining experience, the Clarke Cooke House also hosts an array of lively events, from live music performances to themed parties, ensuring that there is always something exciting happening within its walls. It has become a hub of social activity, attracting locals, tourists, and even celebrities, who seek to savor the combination of Newport’s vibrant spirit and the Clarke Cooke House’s unique charm.

 

The Many Rooms

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Cooke House is the many rooms and, levels and “nooks and crannies” within. The Candy Store is a bustling main dining room that features a delightful blend of nautical-themed decor, including vintage maritime artifacts and colorful artwork adorning the walls. The Porch provides a relaxed outdoor setting with charming wicker furniture, hanging plants and wonderful views of Newport Harbor. Perched on the third floor, The Skybar offers contemporary decor, with a sleek bar, plush seating and panoramic views of Newport Harbor . Finally, the The Boom Boom Room, located on the lower level, is a lively venue for live music and dancing.

 

 

 

With its great service, exceptional cuisine, and breathtaking waterfront location, this historic establishment continues to leave an indelible mark on all who have the pleasure of dining within its hallowed walls. Whether you’re a Newport resident or a curious traveler, a visit to the Clarke Cooke House promises an enchanting journey through time, taste, and tradition.

6 Easy Rooftop Bars in NYC

Like any good idea in New York City, once it’s out, everyone wants in. The proliferation of rooftop bars and restaurants in NYC has been a great thing, as many hotels, restaurants and building owners have realized just how valuable their rooftops really are. Continue reading

The Other Red Pinot

Spring and fall is a perfect time to try new wine varietals. While the hot summer months can lull us into a strict diet of rose and Sancerre and the colder months beg for bigger reds to pair with our winter comfort foods, the shoulder season lends itself to virtually anything. If you have been wanting to expand your wine horizons and try new varietals, now is the time to do so.

 

I recently tried a varietal that I have only had a few times—Pinot Meunier. If you haven’t heard of this varietal—a cousin to Pinot Noir—don’t fret. Not many people have. Pinot Meunier can taste very similar to Pinot Noir, with classic strawberries on the nose, medium body and earthiness, however it typically has higher acid levels and can be a bit meatier.

 

Pinot Meunier enjoys the same cool microclimates that Pinot Noir does, thriving in the fog and limited sunshine that make areas like Burgundy and Carneros so ideal. If done right, Pinot Meunier has layers of bright red fruits, spice and an earthy elegance, yet with more savory notes than Pinot Noir.

 

Similar toGamay, Pinot Meunier is often overlooked by consumers. Most wine lovers are probably not even aware of the varietal, yet sommeliers are well aware of it and its versatility with food. While it has plenty of fruit, it also has savory mushroom notes that can work well with rustic chicken dishes and richer pasta dishes.

 

Pairs with many foods

I recently tried the Bouchaine Pinot Meunier from Carneros at a restaurant in New York with “Gnocchi di Semolino alla Romana”—a classic, simple Gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce dish—and it paired beautifully. While Pinot Meunier does not have quite the tannins that Pinot Noir does, it has just as much, if not more acidity, making it a great choice for higher fat content dishes. If you like your reds with plenty of acidity but do not always yearn for a Cabernet of Bordeaux style wine, try Pinot Meunier and you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

 

 

 

Tasting Notes:

Bouchaine’s 100-acre estate vineyard lies on the southern border of Napa Valley’s Carneros district, overlooking the San Francisco Bay with the city visible in the distance on clear days. Fog, wind, and the cold night time temperatures of this unique geographical area lend a distinctive regional identity to this Pinot Meunier.

 

According to Bouchaine, The 2019 growing season was a “Goldilocks” vintage—not too cold, not too hot. Late rains in May and some storms threatened the vines, however sunshine eventually won that battle resulting in a very consistent growing season.

 

Bright red fruits—strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and even pomegranate—waft out of the glass, leading to more earthy and savory notes of mushrooms, roasted meats and leather. Light tannins and ample acidity on the palate result in a very approachable wine that can pair with many foods. The Bouchaine Pinot Meunier—with it’s bright fruit and ample acidity—will go very nicely with a rich pasta dish (cream sauce over red sauce) or a classic French Roast Chicken Jus.

 

Why ResortPass is a Great Service and the Company They Should Partner with to Be Even Better

Have you ever stayed at an impressive resort that, while teeming with the promise of pristine pools and soothing hot tubs, seems to be a bit lacking in any actual partakers? The offerings, sure, are plentiful, but the sauna and steam room in their world-class spa? Empty. This may sound problematic for their business, but in the efficiency-driven, “as-a-Service” economy we live in today, it also presents a smart opportunity for mutually beneficial partnership. Enter ResortPass, a service poised to connect locals and day trippers seeking relaxation with access to a partnering property’s all too available amenities.

 

Some might say the company has taken a page out of the Airbnb book by leveraging the under-utilized assets at resorts and selling them as an experience, for a fee. Well, the model is certainly working out for both parties. Launched in 2016—with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and “The Point’s Guy,” Brian Kelly, as early investors—ResortPass is starting to hit their stride this year. Not only have they grown their network significantly, but they also closed a $26 million “B” round this past November. They now partner with over 900 hotels and resorts around the world, all allowing users to enjoy luxury experiences on a day pass basis.

 

The price, you might be musing, is surely where the catch lies. Not necessarily, as it is more so reflective of the level of service and amenities offered, as well as the brand. The Four Seasons, for example, will likely cost you more than a Marriot. The range might be from $25-100 per day for a standard pass—more for daybeds and cabanas. The cost for children is less, if not free, depending on age.

 

Carneros Resort—Napa Valley, CA

 

It’s early days yet and hard to forecast the level of overall demand there will be for ResortPass, but I do have one prediction. The “stickiness” of this service will ultimately reside more with travelers than locals. According to Michael Wolf, CEO of ResortPass, the early data disagrees. So far, the majority of ResortPass’s users are locals who want to experience the amenities of hotels in their own or nearby cities. A staycation, or even “day”cation, as they say.

 

“Our local users never had the opportunity to access the hospitality industry locally,” says Wolf. “They thought they had to get on a plane to enjoy those sorts of amenities.”

 

Miramar Resort—Santa Barabra, CA

 

 

To be fair, ResortPass does acknowledge all types of users, from locals to cruise ship passengers alike, and I’m sure they are targeting all sorts of people in various situations where the service would be compelling. Whether the local demographic remains their top revenue source is anyone’s guess, but I would wager that the true value of this service lies with a certain type of traveler staying at a certain type of place.

 

For example, guests staying at a boutique hotel—one that offers a terrific experience but without resort-level amenities—would seem to be likely customers. Vacationers staying with friends are another plausible group to appeal to, as they might still want a bit of pampering and that vacation vibe while they’re out of town. And then there is their ultimate customer, the ones where the value of ResortPass truly becomes apparent—and for me, it’s full circle back to Airbnb and its guests.

 

I love Airbnb. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate the service. They created a whole new segment of lodging at price-points that are generally more attractive than hotels, especially if you require multiple bedrooms. What Airbnb sorely lacks, however, is amenities. Sure, you can get a great pad with a pool, large kitchen and epic view of the ocean or mountains, but you cannot get the kind of facilities and social intangibles that luxury hotels and resorts offer. There is no way to spell a bustling hotel lobby, or expansive pools surrounded by chaises and cabanas, with dining and cocktail service at your fingertips.

 

Williamsburg Hotel—Brooklyn, NY

 

Ritz Carlton Bal Harbor—Miami, FL

 

And therein lies the true value of ResortPass. The best products and services are the ones that fill a void. It’s fine to build a better mouse trap and plenty of companies have made a living doing this. Even the most innovative companies in the world owe a lot of their success to products and services that already existed which they simply improved upon. Apple didn’t invent the smart phone; they just made it better. A lot better. But filling a void is the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs. See Uber, Venmo and yes, Airbnb.

 

I think Airbnb would be wise to partner with—or dare I say, even purchase—ResortPass. It may start out as just an incremental supplement to their service, as it’s only useful if there is a qualifying resort nearby. Nonetheless, it would be a natural fit that could yield larger, more impactful results in the future. The Batman and Robin of travel disruptors, if you will.

 

ResortPass gets the GLR stamp of approval as a rising star in the resort space. Mark my words, they’re going places—and not just for the day.

 

6 Sneaky Cool Features of the Rivian R1

The Gear Tunnel

I would not be surprised if most Rivian owners name the gear tunnel as their favorite feature. It’s a simple yet brilliant utility. Exactly like it sounds, the gear tunnel is an 11.6 cubic foot storage area that runs right through the middle of the truck, between the cab and bed, accessible through small doors on both sides of the truck’s exterior. You can also access the Gear Tunnel through an opening between the rear seats.

 

 

The uses for the gear tunnel are endless. As the name suggests, it is obviously great for storing gear—fishing rods, skis, golf clubs, camping gear…whatever your jam is. The tunnel’s doors also double as seats or as a foot stool to reach the truck’s roof. And since the engineers at Rivian don’t like any wasted space, the doors also have small cubbies for additional storage. But Rivian did not stop there. Realizing that this space has so many applications, they thoughtfully outfitted a few custom products—designed specifically for this space—that slide in and out of the tunnel.  The coolest one by far is the…

 

Portable “Camp Kitchen”

 

 

While an expensive option, there is no denying how cool this custom feature is. The camp kitchen includes a countertop, a two-burner electric stove, a 4-gallon water tank for the sink, and a 30-piece dish-ware set that includes plates, utensils, carving knives, and more. All of this folds up like a transformer into a unit that slides into the gear tunnel, like a glove, so you’ll never hear it bouncing around. Of course, if you are not planning on camping anytime soon, then simply take it out and leave it in your garage until it’s needed and use the storage space for something else.

 

 

Onboard air compressor

 

 

The obvious use for an air compressor would seem to be if you got a flat tire or had a slow leak and needed some quick air in a tire in order to make it to a mechanic. And having an onboard air compressor is certainly a comforting accessory should this scenario present itself. But the Rivian was built for rugged terrain and sometimes—whether it be driving on a beach or over rocks on a mountain road—deflating your tires can be prudent.  The integrated compressor—seamlessly built into the side of the bed—comes with a kit that includes a 20-foot hose that extends to all four wheels, for inflating your tires after airing down for rough terrain. It also includes a quick-connect nozzle and adapters to fill up myriad other gear including your bike tires, an air mattresses, raft, or even just a basketball. Just set the pressure and hit a button, and voila, you have air whenever you need it.

 

Portable Blue-tooth Speaker

 

 

The built-in (but portable) Bluetooth speaker weighs only 5 pounds and docks seamlessly within the truck’s center console for easy storage when not in use. It charges when docked or can be plugged into an external USB Type-C port when docking isn’t an option.

 

The flashlight with its own integrated door pocket

 

 

Powered by a single cell from Rivian’s battery pack, the flashlight fits—James Bond-style—right into a cylindrical opening on the side of the door (when the door is open). Assuming you always pop it back into place, it will always be fully charged. To access the flashlight you simply press inward on the end of the device (almost like pressing a button) and it pops out. Taking up virtually no space, who wouldn’t want this?

 

LED lights built into sideview mirrors

 

 

The Rivian is the ideal vehicle to go camping with. The folks at Rivian know this and added a lot of simple features that do not add any bulk to its overall form factor. The LEDs built into the side-view mirrors—which can light up a campsite or tailgate—is a perfect example. While they are not as bright as the headlights, they add additional lighting from different angles to your camp site or beach BBQ. Don’t like them? Don’t use them. They blend in seamlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Versatile Wines to Pair With Your Thanksgiving Feast

“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—not as easy of a task as one might think.

 

I definitely favor white wines over red wines for this once-a-year meal, but the type of white wine you choose is key. The amount of oak is always something I wrestle with. On the one hand, the wine needs to be “big” enough to stand up to the richer aspects of the meal. Dark meat turkey, gravy and even a green bean caserole all call for bigger style whites. This usually means white wines with ample oak that have gone through some malolactic fermentation. As such, California Chardonnays can be a wonderful pairing for this meal, however I lean towards the less oaky ones with ample acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meal. For 2022, I have two Chardonnays listed (both from California).

 

Versatility and minerality are equally if not more important. Thanksgiving is a motley group of foods with a lot of different dishes serving as supporting cast to the main actor, turkey with gravy. This means you need a wine that can go with myriad flavors (sweet, salty, savory), with plenty of minerality and acidity to pair with the fattier apsects of the meal.

 

Alas, here are my 2022 “Thanksgiving Wines” selections, with a variety of price points (ordered by least – most expensive) from a variety of regions.

 

Chapoutier ‘Bila-Haut’ Cotes du Roussillon Blanc 2020 (SRP $15)

 

 

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Macabeu, Vermentino and Marsanne, this Cotes du Roussillon Blanc from world-class Rhone Valley producer M. Chapoutier, is round and rich, yet balanced with good minerality, ample acidity and tons of bright flavors. Alluring white peach, quince and lemon zest give way to saline and limestone notes on the finish.

 

A versatile wine for food pairing, you can serve this with your Thanksgiving meal or with hors d’oeuvres before. With an average SRP of $15 (even lower at some discount stores) this is also a wine you should consider buying a case of for Thanksgiving and the Holiday season.

 

 2021 Garofoli Supèra Verdicchio Di Matelica DOC (SRP $16)

 

 

Dating back to 1871, Garofoli is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region of Italy. While Garofoli may be an old winery, the Supèra is relatively new and the winery’s first foray into Verdicchio di Matelica.

 

The grapes for this Verdicchio are from the higher elevation Matelica Valley where the Garofoli family is working with a young and innovative grape grower. Referred to as a “mountain wine” by Garofoli, this Verdicchio teams bright and tangy notes of lemon peel and tangerine with mellower notes of pine nuts and bread pudding.

 

 2021 La Valentina Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT (SRP $18)

 

Established in 1990, La Valentina is a good example of the modern winemaking renaissance happening in Abruzzo, a region long undervalued for its quality wine production. A true believer in sustainability, the winery avoids the use of artificial or chemical products and estate vineyards are farmed organically (or in transition towards organic).

 

The Pecorino grape thrives in the rocky slopes and maritime climate of Abruzzo—the areas clay, limestone, and gravel soils and microclimates a great mix for a grape that is known for being difficult. but more than worth the effort.

 

The light hue of this wine (very pale yellow) is misleading. Citrus, stone fruits, minerals and acidity literally explode out of the glass, with very little oak presence—which I love. Like the ‘Bila-Haut,’ this is a versatile wine that will match with your smorgasbord of Thanksgiving spoils, but can also be served as a cocktail wine beforehand.

 

2020 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec (SRP $20)

 

I have always liked Malbec as a plush, soft tannin, mellow alternative to bigger Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I have always felt there was a ceiling to its quality. That is before I met Germán di Cesare, chief winemaker at Bodega Trivento—one of Argentina’s top Malbec producers, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Both of the reserve Malbecs I tried were extrememly approachable, complex and paired beautifully with our lunch at mid-town Manhattan’s L’ Amico restaurant.

 

Their Eolo Malbec is the best Malbec I have ever tried, but at $100 it is very expensive for a Malbec—especially for Americans who typically think of Malbec as a relative value. At $20 though, their “Golden Reserve” is VERY good and a great value. This wine reminds me of a Napa Valley Boardeaux-style blend, with dark red fruits, anise, tobacco and spice box wafting out of the glass. This wine is very structured for a Malbec, with soft, yet prevalent tannins and complex flavors shaping it the whole way through.

 

2020 Inama “Carbonare” Soave DOC Classico (SRP $30)

Inama’s vineyards cover 70 acres throughout Soave Classico, mainly on and around the dormant Monte Foscarino volcano.

 

The region’s soil owes its characteristic to a stream of water that flows underground in the region. According to Inama, “the basalt, which characterizes the ground in most of the Soave Classico area, has great chromatic complexity…the strong character of the vineyard is evident in the grapes.”

 

Aromas of citrus and fresh cut flowers greet you with this Soave, followed by effervescent acidity, strong minerality and a little bit of limestone salinity on the finish—which I love! This Soave can easily stand up to your turkey and gravy while also complimenting your sides, from sweet potatoes to green bean casserole.

 

2021 Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $40)

 

I’ve written about Frank Family wines before and for good reason—they are very good, VERY consistent and generally available Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices.

 

The grapes for this wine were sourced from some very reputable vineyards—primarily their estate Lewis Vineyard as well as neighboring Beckstoffer Vineyards (Napa-Carneros) and Sangiacomo Vineyards (Sonoma-Carneros).

 

This wine has a rich bouquet of baking spices, apple pie and Meyer lemon upfront. While only seeing partial malolactic fermentation, this prototypical Carneros chardonnay is full bodied, with pineapple, peach, and brioche bread notes upfront. Plenty of bright acidity and subtle hints of oak are revealed on the long finish. Frank Family’s “Lewis Vineyard” Chardonnay is also worth seeking out if you can find it and don’t mind the higher price point. Pineapple, pear, tangerine and vanilla custard notes are shaped by impeccable structure, ample acidity and a super long finish.  This is one of the better California Chardonnays I have tried but you might need to order it directly from the winery.

 

 Fiddlehead “Oldsville” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (SRP $54)

 

 

Founded in 1989 by winemaker Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars stands out as one of California’s pioneering producers dedicated to terror-driven and age-worthy wines tied to great vineyard sites. Running the winery 30-plus years, Kathy is one of Santa Barbara County’s first leading female winemakers to own both her own winery and vineyard, with a hands-on role in the farming, winemaking, and other aspects of the business.

 

While Fiddlehead is famous for their Santa Barbra County wines, they have also been producing outstanding Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley for nearly 30 years. Their Oldsville Pinot Noir is indicative of Kathy’s attention to making wines that are an expression of their vineyard sites—in this case terrior driven, Burgundian-style Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

 

This classic Willamette Valley Pinot is packed full of blueberries and pomegranates with undercurrents of strawberries and lavender and complimented by earth, leather and smoked meat notes. The wine finishes with tobacco, spice box and just a hint of vanilla oak—with great structure and a long, lingering finish. This Pinot Noir is a perfect match for lamb chops but will also work well with your Thanksgiving feast.

 

Lynmar 2018 Quail Hill Vineyard Chardonnay (SRP $63)

 

 

At the heart of Lynmar Estate is its original site, the 47-acre Quail Hill Vineyard, one of the foremost vineyard sites within the Russian River Valley. Planted in 1974, proprietor Lynn Fritz acquired the site in 1980 as a rural retreat from running an international corporation in San Francisco. Upon tasting some of the original wines sourced from Quail Hill, made by Merry Edwards at Matanzas Creek and Tony Soter at Étude, Lynn began to fully understand the site’s rare qualities. Today it remains one of the top vineyards in Russian River for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

 

This wine is quintessential, top-tier, Russian River Chardonnay. Tropical and citrus fruits give way to peach, pear and crème brulee, with bright acidity and limestone minerality on the finish.

Where To Stay, Play, and Eat Gourmet In Charleston: America’s Top City

Move over, New York. Step aside, Chicago. Not you, Los Angeles. In the opinion of Travel + Leisure magazine, the top city in America for 6 years running does not have a major sports team, a thriving economy, or even a handful of famous people that call it home. But somehow, Charleston, SC, the city of approximately 135,000 people on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina has earned the top spot in the U.S. for the 6th year in a row and 8th year in row respectively by popular travel magazines Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. It was also named the #1 city in the WORLD back in 2016 by Travel+Leisure. So what makes this famous Civil War port town so great? I recently took a trip to Charleston to see what all the hype was about.

History

Founded in 1670 as Charles Town, in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston is known for its rich history (the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumptner), well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, and mannerly people. It is also a popular tourist destination, receiving a large number of accolades over the past decade. In addition to “Best City in the US” it was also named “America’s Most Friendly City” by both Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler and “Most Polite and Hospitable City in America” by Southern Living.

The southern charm, mysterious history, and world-class dining generally top the list of those who boast about this city. But like any trendy locale that receives critical acclaim from travel magazines and lifestyle aficionados, you need to spend a few days there—minimum—before deciding for yourself. And there really is no better time to do it than mid to late fall, when those balmy southern temperatures are beckoning to northerners bidding adieu to their Indian summer. With that said, here are a few recommendations from my own jaunt of where to stay and dine, visit and unwind in Charleston.

Hotels

Belmond Charleston Place exudes southern charm. From the bronze fountain out front to the lobby with its Georgian open-arm staircase, Italian marble floors and glistening chandelier, the hotel is glitzy yet elegant with authentic southern class. If location matters, and it usually should when visiting a city for the first time, then Belmond won’t disappoint. It is in the middle of everything you want to see, including shops, restaurants, bars and cultural sites. Belmond is also home to Charleston Grill—considered one of the best restaurants in Charleston—as well as The Thoroughbred Club, a uniquely small and classy sports bar that is both unexpected and much appreciated (bless its heart).

Belmond Charleston Place
 

Vendue, which T+L ranks the #1 hotel in Charleston and #9 in the country, was renovated and “reborn” in 2014 to create Charleston’s first and only hotel dedicated to the arts. In addition to a rotating art exhibition, daily art tours with a specially appointed Art Docent, and a working art studio, the hotel is equipped with over 300 pieces of original art for guests to enjoy. Even the stylish boutique guestrooms accent antique furnishings with bright bursts of contemporary art.

Vendue
 

Continue your aesthetic experience at The Drawing Room, Vendue’s popular upscale eatery. Executive Chef Forrest Parker employs his own inspired vision to create seasonal and locally-sourced dishes that are as eye catching as they are delicious. And if you’re flying down from the Northeast, you can even extend your al fresco season just a tad longer at/on The Rooftop, where the views alone will make your trip worthwhile. Oh, and Vendue’s pièce de résistance? Milk and cookies are out for the taking each and every evening. Yes ma’am.

 

See Also: 

The Miami Beach EDITION—Five Things I Loved and Two I Did Not

The Carneros Resort in Napa Typifies What Younger Travelers Want in a 5-Star Hotel

 

Across the bridge

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina is the new kid on the block. Across the harbor in Mt. Pleasant, The Beach Club opened its doors in 2016 and has received rave reviews, both from the travel press and quasi travel press (i.e. Trip Advisor). Pairing good ole hospitality and luxury amenities, The Beach Club is part of the Leading Hotels of the World collection and is located just over the bridge and minutes away from Charleston’s historic district. Each guestroom features elegant décor and stunning views of Charleston’s waterfront. While relaxing in your room and enjoying the view might be your first order of business (it was for me), there is no shortage of options at the Beach Club to keep you busy.

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina
 

From the 30,000-square-foot Tropical Pool and Deck, to the Tranquility Pool with Whirlpool, to Private Poolside Cabanas, the pool scene is on par with even the grandest big city hotspots. Those not in the mood for lounging can indulge in a bit of seaside competition on the private bocce court or some lighthearted fun on a life-sized chessboard. Once you’re ready to explore, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary trolley service and bikes to see the city. Alternatively, the Water Taxi, while a small fee, is the best ride into downtown Charleston. At night, head back to the hotel to enjoy a sumptuous seafood dinner at the Fish House, one of Charleston Living Magazine’s “Top 25 Restaurants in Charleston.”

 

Thanks in part to its sheer size, The Beach Club is also able to offer custom experiences that few hotels in Charleston can match. Its staff has teamed up with Suzanne Pollak, Dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, to offer guests an insider’s view of America’s favorite city. Through cooking classes, hosting how to’s, wedding planning, cocktail party etiquette and even an exclusive intimate hands-on southern entertaining lesson, Pollak will teach y’all the true meaning of southern hospitality.


Charleston Hotels:
Belmond Charleston Place ($325-$750)
Vendue ($179-$419)
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor & Marina ($167-$567)


 

Dining

At FIG you’ll find elevated takes on Southern classics with seasonal ingredients served in an upscale-bistro setting. The restaurant prioritizes (if not exclusively uses) only locally grown & harvested goods to prepare an array of innovative menu items. Indulge in their smaller yet decadent plates, like sautéed mushrooms, fish tartar with whipped avocado, or their famous chicken liver pâté, or go big (but don’t go home just yet) with the ricotta gnocchi topped with lamb Bolognese or Suckling Pig. The options abound and the “Food Is Good” at FIG.

FIG
 

It’s not often you see a restaurant whose two locations are in Charleston and Nantucket but that’s the case at 167 Raw. And if you’re dealing with super fresh seafood it’s understandable why they chose these two locations. Take a seat on one of the bar stools for a feast of Atlantic coast seafood, from fresh oysters to yellowfin tuna tacos to voluminous lobster rolls, dense with claw meat and light on mayo—bringing some Nantucket magic to the Lowcountry. Of course scoring a seat at this tiny, subway-tiled bar is half the battle, so don’t go at peak hours and expect a short wait. Reservations are unfortunately not an option, so employ some nice southern manners and be patient.

Raw 167
 

 

When you walk in and are immediately welcomed by none other than the owner and proprietor, Ken Hall, you know there is something a little different—in a good way— about Halls Chophouse. This family steakhouse restaurant located in the Upper King District of Charleston has quite a following. Great hospitality, great American cuisine and a dining experience that is second to none in Charleston make Halls a true must visit if you’re willing to splurge a bit. Favorites? The New York strip steak was as good as any I have had in NYC, while the ribeye was out of this world, with all the flavor you expect yet a perfect texture and almost filet-like meatiness.

Halls Chop House
 
For more casual eats and drinks…

Red’s Ice House and Fleet Landing have you covered. Red’s, across the harbor in Mt. Pleasant, is perfect if you’re looking for a friendly spot to enjoy a cold beer & fresh local seafood in a laid back setting. Located on historic Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, the original Red’s is the perfect spot for taking in Lowcountry wildlife and scenic Charleston sunsets. The food is not the draw here—rather cold beers and people watching is—but step out onto the deck overlooking Shem Creek and you’ll understand why it’s such a popular spot. Fleet Landing, is also all about the scenery, but the food sure isn’t shabby either (try the crabcakes). Offering unobstructed views of the harbor from a 1940s retired naval building, Fleet combines a commitment to quality food and sustainable practices with a delightful nod to the area’s maritime heritage.


Charleston Restaurants:
Red’s Ice House ($$)
Fleet Landing ($$)
FIG ($$$)  
Raw 167 ($$$)
Hall’s Chop House ($$$$) 


Oaring and Touring

One of the best ways to relax and explore the Lowcountry is from the seat of a kayak. Paddling through the calm saltwater creeks nestled behind the aforementioned Folly Beach, you will discover the natural wonders and wildlife that call this area home. You can also  get up close and personal with wading birds, oyster beds, barrier islands, wild dolphins and more.

Coastal Expeditions, whose slogan is, “You Haven’t Seen Charleston, Till You’ve Seen It From The Water” (some truth there) is one of the top outfitters in the area. Their three hour outings are the most popular, taking you into the saltwater estuaries to see dolphins, pelicans, ospreys and maybe even a sea turtle or manatee.

Coastal Expeditions
 

For a more practical jaunt around the city, there is always just good ole walking. And if you like history—and Charleston has plenty of it—there is no better way to get around the city than on foot. After all, downtown Charleston—also known as “the peninsula”—is only about 4 to 5 square miles. But in this area you can find at least 100 buildings from before 1776 and 1,000 from before 1861—state buildings, churches, mansions, and townhouses—almost all of which come with historic plaques explaining exactly what their function was roughly 200 years ago.

Charleston Strolls
 

While the resources on your iPhone should be enough to steer you in the right direction, there is nothing wrong with leaving your walkabout to the professionals. Charleston Strolls—recommended by both the NY Times and Southern Living—will take you on a historic walking tour of Charleston (where carriages and motorcoaches are not allowed) that highlights both Charleston’s rich history and colorful past.

Beaches

You can’t enjoy the complete Charleston experience if you don’t pay a visit to one of its beautiful beaches while in town. While there are 3 public beaches within a few minutes drive from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is by far the most revered. Though the water will be a bit cool for swimming by November (though peak temps are actually reached in September), the beaches in Charleston are some of the prettiest in the country and there is never a bad time to visit. Water lovers can also enjoy kayaking, paddle-boarding, boating and fishing, while thrill seekers will enjoy the 72 suspended obstacles at Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park.

Folly Beach Pier (Photo: Shutterstock/Dave Allen Photography)
 

Perhaps known a little more for its golf courses, Kiawah Island is also a beach haven—rated the second “Most Romantic Beach in America” by National Geographic Traveler. Kiawah Island is unique among the barrier islands because—unlike Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach—commercial development is virtually non-existent here. This island was meticulously planned to be environmentally sound and very relaxing. A semi-tropical climate hosts alligators (often seen basking in the sun on the banks of Kiawah’s many lagoons), sea turtles, bobcats and some very friendly dolphins. Along with over 40 miles of bike trails, there are five world-class golf courses, several tennis courts, and 10 miles of the most beautiful beach on the Atlantic coast. Kiawah is a gated community with restricted public access, but absolutely a site to look into if you’re making the trip.

Kiawah Island Real Estate
 
Golf

Kiawah’s beaches are world-renowned and so are its golf courses. Named the #1 golf resort in the world by Travel + Leisure, Kiawah Island Resort is home to nine elite courses. Among the nine is the Ocean Course—home to the 1991 Ryder Cup matches (known as the “War by the Shore”), the 2012 PGA Championship (won by Rory McElroy) and will be host to the 2021 PGA Championship.

Where should I stay on Kiawah you ask? Because so many people have second homes on Kiawah that lay vacant much of the year, there are plenty of options to choose from on Airbnb at very reasonable prices—especially considering what you get. If you really want to splurge though, you can’t go wrong with the world renowned The Sanctuary. The exquisitely designed oceanfront hotel, just 21 miles from downtown Charleston, captures the spirit, history and charm of the beautiful south while still offering 255 spacious rooms and suites. Their king rooms are among the largest on the East Coast with the smallest measuring 520 square feet.

Ocean Course – Kiawah Island Golf Resort
 
Holidays

Maybe it’s the way the historic homes are grandly decorated for Christmas, or the unique view of Palmetto trees adorned in twinkling holiday lights. Pick your own reasons, but it’s hard to deny that Charleston is a near perfect blend of intimate historical ambiance and the luxuries and activities of a metropolitan city.

Photo: Shutterstock/Tymonko Galyna
 

Some seasonal favorites among locals and visitors include The Nutcracker, performed by the Charleston Ballet, the Holiday Walking Tour—a must for out-of-towners looking to see the city—and the Annual Progressive Dinner at Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion, one of the city’s grandest venues. Also held at Circa 1886, in it’s 15th year, is the Dickens Dinner. A night at Circa 1886 is always an indulgence, but on the night of the Dickens Dinner (Thursday, December 8th) guests will enjoy a live retelling of the classic Charles Dickens’ Christmas Story along with their meal. The annual dinner—while notably festive—is just as much about the food, with a lavish four-course holiday menu influenced by the tale itself.

Well, what are you waiting for? Temperatures are dropping, wanderlust is rising and Charleston is ready and waiting to charm you.

—Chelsey Pieretti contributed to this article.

Derby de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo—the Mexican holiday to commemorate their victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862—and the Kentucky Derby—the most famous horse race of the year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY—are always in the same week. In case you are not aware, Cinco de Mayo is always on May 5th, while the Kentucky Derby is always on the first Saturday of May.
Continue reading

Best Hotels for Active Travelers

While relaxing vacations certainly have their virtues—think pina coladas on a white sand beach, or a deep tissue massage at a desert spa—many people prefer a daily dose of action and adventure on their vacations. No, I’m not talking about golf, or tennis or long walks on the beach. I’m talking about real activities and adventure—perhaps even a little danger.

Continue reading

6 Sneaky Cool Features of the New Rivian R1

The Gear Tunnel

I would not be surprised if most Rivian owners name the gear tunnel as their favorite feature. It’s simple yet brilliant utility. Exactly like it sounds, the gear tunnel is an 11.6 cubic foot storage area that runs right through the middle of the truck, between the cab and bed, accessible through small doors on both sides of the truck’s exterior. You can also access the Gear Tunnel through an opening between the rear seats.

 

 

The uses for the gear tunnel are endless. As the name suggests, it is obviously great for storing gear—fishing rods, skis, golf clubs, camping gear…whatever your jam is. The tunnel’s doors also double as seats or as a foot stool to reach the truck’s roof. And since the engineers at Rivian don’t like any wasted space, the doors also have small cubbies for additional storage. But Rivian did not stop there. Realizing that this space has so many applications, they thoughtfully outfitted a few custom products—designed specifically for this space—that slide in and out of tunnel.  The coolest one by far is the…

 

Portable “Camp Kitchen”

 

 

While an expensive option, there is no denying how cool this custom feature is. The camp kitchen includes a countertop, a two-burner electric stove, a 4-gallon water tank for the sink, and a 30-piece dish-ware set that includes plates, utensils, carving knifes, and more. All of this folds up like a transformer into a unit that slides into the gear tunnel like a glove so you’ll never hear it bouncing around. Of course, if you are not planning on camping anytime soon, then simply take it out and leave it in your garage until it’s needed and use the storage space for something else.

 

 

Onboard air compressor

 

 

The obvious use for an air compressor would seem to be if you got a flat tire or had a slow leak and needed some quick air in a tire in order to make it to a mechanic. And having an onboard air compressor is certainly a comforting accessory should this scenario present itself. But the Rivian was built for rugged terrain and sometimes—whether it be driving on a beach or over rocks on a mountain road—deflating your tires can be prudent.  The integrated compressor—seamlessly built into the side of the bed—comes with a kit that includes a 20-foot hose that extends to all four wheels, for inflating your tires after airing down for rough terrain. It also includes a quick-connect nozzle and adapters to fill up myriad other gear including your bike tires, an air mattresses, raft, or even just a basketball. Just set the pressure and hit a button, and voila, you have air whenever you need it.

 

Portable Blue-tooth Speaker

 

 

The built-in (but portable) Bluetooth speaker weighs only 5 pounds and docks seamlessly within the truck’s center console for easy storage when not in use. It charges when docked or can be plugged into an external USB Type-C port when docking isn’t an option.

 

The flashlight with its own integrated door pocket

 

 

Powered by a single cell from Rivian’s battery pack, the flashlight fits—James Bond-style—right into a cylindrical opening on the side of the door (when the door is open). Assuming you always pop it back into place, it will always be fully charged. To access the flashlight you simply press inward on the end of the device (almost like pressing a button) and it pops out. Taking up virtually no space, who wouldn’t want this?

 

LED lights built into sideview mirrors

 

 

The Rivian is the ideal vehicle to go camping with. The folks at Rivian know this and added a lot of simple features that do not add any bulk to its overall form factor. The LEDs built into the side-view mirrors—which can light up a campsite or tailgate—is a perfect example. While they are not as bright as the headlights, they add additional lighting to your camp site or beach BBQ. Don’t like them? Don’t use them. They blend in seamlessly.

 

 

Best Hotel Bars In Miami

Miami is known for its hotels—dating back to the 60’s when Sinatra, Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack frequented town. Not much has changed as many of the choice bars in town still remain inside Miami’s posh hotels. While caribbean themed bars may emanate throughout other parts of the sunshine state, Miami’s bar scene is much more sophisticated. Continue reading

5 Thanksgiving Wines From Carneros (Or Close)

“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—and informing my readers of my choices—because, quite frankly, not many wines do. This Cabernet will go perfect with some turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole…said, no one.

 

Of course, big reds like Cabernet would not be the varietals I would look to in this situation, but even some subtler reds or whites can be a difficult task for this once-a-year feast.

 

I tend to favor American Chardonnay because Thanksgiving is an American holiday and while Chardonnay may not be a match made in heaven for this cuisine, it works about as well anything else. And since I don’t think Chardonnay pairs all that well with much, why not use it in this instance. The key is to find a Chardonnay that has good minerality with little oak and only a small percentage of malolactic fermentation. There is no reason to have a fruity, oaky, butter ball wine with your marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. It’s too much. And favor soil (terrior) over fruit. The more Burgundian your chardonnay is, the better.

 

I also enjoy some white Rhone varietals with this meal as well as Sauvignon Blanc, but I would advise the same as with Chardonnay—look for minerality and acidity, over round, oaky, buttery wines.

 

If you go with a red, Pinot Noir from California or Oregon (again, we are going domestic on this holiday) is always a safe bet. Syrah and Zinfandel, which have lighter tannins, can also work provided they are cooler climate ones. Warmer climate reds from places like Paso Robles, for example, can run very high in alcohol and brix (sugar) levels which can put you to sleep on your father-in-law’s couch a little sooner than you anticipated.

 

So with that in mind, for this 2021 iteration I am focusing on the cool climate, under-appreciated Carneros region of California (with one wine from nearby in Napa Valley). I love the range and variety of wines that come out of the Carneros region. Situated on the southern border of both Napa and Sonoma and just north of the San Pablo Bay it has a sort of “goldy locks” climate with hotter temps to the north in Sonoma and Napa and cool air coming off the bay to the south. While most of the region is known for cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there are micro climates in Carneros that allow for the growing of myriad varietals—Syrah, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and even Riesling.

 

Ok, enough of the foreplay. Here are my 2021 Thanksgiving wines:

 

 

2018 Bouchaine Las Brisas Vineyard Riesling ($38)

As I mentioned, Carneros has a wide range of varietals that can grow in the region. One of these is Rielsing—a varietal that thrives in southern Germany and Alsace, France and is beloved by many somelliers for its complexity and food friendliness. But Carneros has cool enough sites for this grape and the Las Brisas Vineyard is one of the most suitable in all of California due to the fact that the region is often covered in fog until mid-day. The Las Brisas Riesling from Bouchaine showcases beautiful floral notes, white peach and tangy apple notes with just enough acidity to compliment your turkey with gravy as well as your sweet potato pie.

 

2019 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc ($22)

More and more Napa Valley wineries are experimenting with non-Bordeaux varietals and I love that. While not quite as many micro climates as Sonoma there are still plenty of micros and soil types in Napa to allow for all sorts of varietals, including most of the Rhone varietals.

 

The Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc comes from the Somerston Estate in the Napa Valley, a 1,682-acre property with 244 acres of hillside vines, located in the east of Pritchard Hill. When done correctly, white Rhone wines have a lovely bouquet of stone fruits (particularly peach) and white pepper with floral notes and minerality that I love. This Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc is no exception, with intriguing floral aromatics, ample acidity, and flavors of peach, apple tart and Crème Brûlée on the finish.

 

2018 Etude Grace Benoist Ranch Estate Carneros Pinot Gris ($24)

I consider Etude to be one of the forefathers of the Carneros region. Established in 1982, the winery has been a top Pinot Noir producer for decades. And while Pinot Noir still dominates Etude’s varietal lineup, the winery actually produces quite a few different varietals and blends including Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Rose and even a sparkling wine—and they’re all good.

 

Etude’s Pinot Gris— grown at their Estate “Grace Benoist Ranch” vineyard—has actually become quite popular (a staple on many menus in Northern California) as it’s extremely consistent, food friendly and varietally correct. This classic Pinot Gris offers solid acidity with aromas of pear, apple, stone fruit and white flowers on the nose. Delicate notes of spice, citrus and peach dance on the mid palate while classic Carneros minerality lingers on the long finish.

 

Ram’s Gate Estate Pinot Noir ($85) 

Located at the epicenter of three of Sonoma’s greatest AVAs, Ram’s Gate’s estate vineyard borders the Sonoma Valley to the north, the Sonoma Coast to the west and Carneros to the east, and is the proverbial “Compass Rose” of Sonoma. Like most of the region, the signature morning Carneros fog rolls in off the San Pablo Bay and the wind-rich location creates a “temperature controlled” impact on the estate that is ideal for Pinot Noir.

 

This wine erupts with a bouquet of cherry, tobacco and clove on the nose. Subtler, classic Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, anise and holiday spices come through on the palate. This wine should work with anyone’s version of a Thanksgiving feast, whether you fancy white or dark meat; sweet potato pie or classic mashed potato with butter; peas or a green bean casserole.

 

2018 DuMol “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay ($75 – $90)

If you read my “Talking Turkey—With Wine” article from last year I covered another “Hyde Vineyard” Chardonnay. If it seems redundant for me to cover another one this year, that’s fair. But the truth is, Carneros is currently making arguably the best Chardonnay in California (Aubert, Donum, Tor and Hyde de Villaine all make world-class Chardonnay here) and the superstar Hyde vineyard is probably the best of the best, turning out high quality Chardonnays on the most consistent basis. So why not touch on it back-to-back years.

 

DuMol’s “Hyde Vineyard” Carneros Chardonnay has lots of pineapple (tropical fruits are indicative of this vineyard) elegant floral notes, and lemon zest on the nose with wonderful acidity and limestone minerality on the long, long finish. The wine is extremely complex with integrated acidity and flavors that unfold fluidly. It should go wonderfully with your Thanksgiving meal but can also be relished afterward while you settle into a football game or talk politics with family and friends.  Your only issue with this wine will be finding a bottle of it, but if you do, it’s worth the price.

 

Enjoy your Turkey Day and be safe!

 

 

 

 

 

A Magnificent Merlot

After being one of the most popular kids at the party in the 90’s, Napa Valley Merlot took a hit to its reputation in the 2000’s. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the reason as the quality did not suffer. If anything it got better.

 

The 2004 movie Sideways certainly did not help. In perhaps its most famous scene, the main character Miles, who adores Pinot Noir and seemingly loathes Merlot declares before a double date evening with his best friend Jack, “I’m not drinking any f—ing Merlot.” After that Pinot Noir sales went up and Merlot went down in the US and that remained the trend for many years. Yet in reality Merlot was already stumbling. I know because I spent many a Saturday or Sunday in Napa during this time and could see with my own eyes that the interest in Merlot among the wine tasting crowd was waning.

 

Some will point to the fact that California Merlots used to be too one dimensional, intended for blending or for making a very quaffable wine that appealed to a wide range of people albeit in a simplistic if not monolithic fashion. My personal theory is that Merlot took a back seat to Cabernet from a perception standpoint during the late 90’s and early 2000’s—a unique period in US history when a lot of money was being made (and later lost) and people based their opinions more on what they read or heard versus what they actually experienced or tasted. From expensive technology stocks to expensive wine, perception played a big role during these hifalutin times. Commanding higher prices and receiving higher scores from the critics (namely Robert Parker and Wine Spectator), Cabernet was king in California.

 

This superficial period also happened to conveniently coincide with some stellar Cabernet vintages coming out of Napa and Sonoma, thanks in part to favorable weather and a mini winemaking renaissance of sorts which further helped solidify Napa Valley on the worldwide stage—along with its most high profile varietal—Cabernet. Combine these factors with the advent of the Internet—which allowed wine geeks like me to keep tabs on exactly which wines were getting the top scores—and it’s no surprise that Napa Cabernet, the most expensive and highest scoring in California, took off in popularity.

 

But Napa Valley Merlot—which has been thriving in the valley for as long as Cabernet—never faltered in quality during this time. In fact, while not a lot of people were paying attention it just better. And people are starting to take notice. At least I am.

 

I recently tried a Merlot from Sullivan Winery in Rutherford (Napa) and it blew me away. I can easily say it is one of the best wines I have had from Napa, of any varietal. It’s important to also point out that I tried this wine without knowing the price. No matter how unbiased a wine writer or critic attempts to be, it is inherently impossible not to have the knowledge of price effect our thinking or judging. In this case I was not surprised to find out after I had relished in a glass for twenty minutes that it commanded a hefty price. It’s justified in my humble opinion.

 

2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot ($250)

 

Consisting of 80% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Petit Verdot, the 2018 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot is actually more of a “right bank” Bordeaux style than a straight up merlot. And I love that. Aromatically, this wine has distinguished earthy qualities rooted in the typical notes synonymous with “Rutherford Dust” leading with notes of graphite, tobacco leaf and cocoa, along with an unforgettable fruitful essence that emerges from the glass. On the palate, the seriousness of the wine becomes apparent. Broad, structured and coating, the wine maintains an old-world finesse, with freshness and bright acidity. Layered, nuanced and complex, flavors of raspberries, rhubarb, crushed herbs and wet stone minerality meld together seamlessly, leaving a prolonged and satisfying finish. The polished, yet complex tannin structure gives the wine an invitation to cellar.