It’s About the Restaurant, Stupid!

The Sacramento dining scene, in my opinion, is in a dysfunctional funk induced by the endless distraction of restaurant closings and the seemingly relentless media deification of the hottest new “chef” to sizzle in Midtown.  Thanks to the continuous network stream of televised reality programs pitting pimply-faced, tattooed, spiky-headed men and women against each other in pointless cooking competitions, the essence of restaurant greatness is being shamefully eclipsed by chef celebrity.

This is no doubt a national phenomenon, but the Sacramento region has been bludgeoned with a parade of chefs who open or join a joint (always with moneyed backers), only to fail, move to the next place or retreat to San Francisco to “stage” at a Michelin-starred restaurant (translation: they work for free while they plot their comebacks).

The searing truth is that a career as a chef is infrequently the path to stardom or riches.  It is one of the most physically demanding and risky jobs imaginable: incredibly long hours standing; working in Hades-like heat; suffering painful scarring from grease spatters and self-inflicted knife wounds; enduring the night-after-night, crushing stress of the height of dinner service; dealing with often-on-edge service staff and distraught co-workers whose stations are in the weeds.  And, oh yeah, you get to work nights and every weekend.

Perhaps the most unfortunate and inequitable part is only those chefs at the top of their games are compensated in line with what they deliver.  The sad fact is that back-of-the-house staffers are typically anonymous and modestly compensated.  There is only one chef, so those hoping to someday fill the top spot have few opportunities to achieve their career aspirations.

No matter, the result of chefs being placed on a pedestal is becoming the principal driver for many consumers in how they decide where they will dine tonight.  In fact, this is sadly flawed reasoning.


Get Your Jay’s Saturday Tasting Combo Pack Today!

Last Saturday, Wine Club Members had an opportunity to taste through 5 unique and distinctly different wines. Based on your fellow Wine Clubbers feedback, there were 3 that stood out above the rest: the 2011 Luke Donald Chardonnay, the 2010 Collide Red Blend, and the 2010 Bacchanal Cabernet Sauvignon.  As a result, we have two exclusive offers for you that you surely won’t want to pass up. Take home a 3-Pack, (1ea of the Top 3) and get them at a 10% discount, or, take home a 6-Pack (2ea of the Top 3), and receive a 20% discount!  If you would like to take advantage of either of these stellar offers, click any of the BUY NOW links below, respond to this email, or call me directly at 530.906.5020.



Jay’s 3-Pack Combo $97.12 (10% Savings)

1 Bottle of the 2011 Luke Donald Chardonnay (Carneros) @ $25.46/bottle (15% Savings)
1 Bottle of the 2010 Collide Red Blend (California) @ $28.50/bottle  (5% Savings)
1 Bottle of the 2010 Bacchanal Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford) @ $43.16/bottle (10% Savings)








jays6Jay’s 6-Pack Combo $169.78 (20% Savings)

2 Bottles of 2011 Luke Donald Chardonnay (Carneros) @ $19.95/bottle (33% Savings)
2 Bottles of 2010 Collide Red Blend (California) @ $26.99/bottle  (10% Savings)
2 Bottles of 2010 Bacchanal Cabernet Sauvgnon (Rutherford) @ $37.95/bottle  (20% Savings)







Runquist 8pk

Jeff Runquist 8-Pack Still Available (15% Savings)

If you missed Jay’s Deal last week, you can still take advantage of it today!

2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Z” Zinfandel (Amador) @ deep discount of $20.40/bottle
2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Damir Ranch” Petit Verdot (Stanislaus) @ deep discount of $20.40/bottle

2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Salman Vineyard” Petite Sirah (Clarksburg) @ deep discount of $23.80/bottle
2 Bottles of 2012 Runquist “Cooper Vineyard” Barbera (Amador) @ deep discount of $24.65/bottle

ALL FOR JUST $178.50 (before tax/shipping)


Get The Ultimate Jeff Ruquist 8-Pack…A Must See!

Last weekend, Carpe Vino Wine Club Members had an opportunity to taste through four Jeff Runquist Wines.  The wines tasted were the 2011 Runquist “Z” Zinfandel, 2011 Runquist Petite Sirah, 2011 Runquist Petit Verdot, and 2012 Runquist “Cooper Vineyard” Barbera.  All of which, had tremendous discounts, and all of which were equally popular.  Today, we have an exclusive offer for you to get all of these wines that you surely cannot pass up!  Take home 2 bottles of each wine, (at their deep discounted price), for the Ultimate Jeff Runquist 8 Pack!  If you would like to take advantage of this stellar offer, click the BUY NOW link below, respond to this email, or call me directly at 530.906.5020.


Runquist 8pk


2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Z” Zinfandel (Amador) @ deep discount of $20.40/bottle
2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Damir Ranch” Petit Verdot (Stanislaus) @ deep discount of $20.40/bottle
2 Bottles of 2011 Runquist “Salman Vineyard” Petite Sirah (Clarksburg) @ deep discount of 23.80/bottle
2 Bottles of 2012 Runquist “Cooper Vineyard” Barbera (Amador) @ deep discount of $24.65/bottle

ALL FOR JUST $178.50 (before tax/shipping)


1,218 Words About Our “Alpine Cuisine” Menu

I can’t wait for our next prix-fixe dinner—Chef Alexander’s interpretation of “Alpine Cuisine”—to be over because since we started planning for this week-long event, February 18 to 23, the same image has been trapped in my brain:  a man standing in the Swiss Alps dressed in lederhosen blowing into an impossibly long horn, intoning. . .”Ricccooollaaaa!”

These prix-fixe concepts don’t simply appear out of the mist; a lot of thought goes into the germ of an idea, and once that is settled, Chef Alexander is on his own to flesh out the menu.  He taps into his own experience, of course, but he also consults his library of literally hundreds of cookbooks to find inspiration.

For this month’s Alpine Cuisine theme, I automatically assumed his motivation was to dovetail with the Winter Olympics.  Quite the contrary; though he is a skier, it was simply the promise of snow and proximity to our own Sierra that clicked in his head.  The menu he designed carefully reflects the types of seasonally available foods.  As he said, “When you think Alpine, you don’t think tomatoes and zucchini.

Prepare to salivate because here’s a course-by-course overview of Alpine Cuisine:

First Course (choice of one):

Melted Raclette Cheese:  “Raclette” is not only the name of this dish, it is also the name of the cheese being showcased, according to Chef Alexander. “Traditionally, large chunks of raclette were stored near open hearths because when it gets warm it doesn’t get runny,” the Chef explained.  The French word, “racler,” translates “to scrape,” and that’s exactly what mountain peasants would do:  scrape off portions of the warm cheese and serve on potatoes with pickles and ham and slices of French country bread.

Chef has chosen heirloom potatoes (whatever happened to plain, old regular vegetables?) that he’ll cover with a “perfect cow’s milk cheese” and place in the oven in a small cast iron skillet called a “cocotte,” until it melts into “gooey deliciousness” (a direct quote).  Served alongside are rosemary sliced ham, sliced pickles and Dijon mustard (but not Grey Poupon!).

Bündnerfleisch:  Don’t you just love the two dots over the “u”. . .what’s that about?  Punctuation aside, this hearty mountain fare is a Swiss-style dish that starts with a beef eye of round that has been cured for more than a month in salt and spices (Chef has sourced this product. . .full disclosure), sliced thinly like Carpaccio.  It is arranged on a plate with Tete de Moine cheese and mixed winter fruits (pears, pomegranates and dried fruit).

Wild Game Dumpling:  This course is inspired by a dish Chef Alexander was introduced to when he worked at Montagna, a restaurant specializing in Alpine cuisine at the five-star, five-diamond Little Nell Hotel in Aspen Colorado in 2000.  It starts with ground wild board and venison combined with a selection of herbs and spices.  This mixture is then stuffed in pasta and poached in mushroom consommé. . .think “porcini”.  Served with pumpkin chunks, savoy cabbage and a unique pine needle oil.   “The goal is to bring to the table a taste of the forest and the aromas of the mountains,” Chef explained.

Second Course (choice of one):

Roasted Chestnut and Apple Soup:  If anything on this menu conjures up the sensation of winter, it is this dish, a staple of Valle d’Aosta in the northern reaches of Italy near the Alps where chestnuts abound.  An amazing puree of roasted chestnuts, celery root and apple, this soup will warm your soul and sweeten your disposition with a garnish of sage and candied chestnuts glazed in sugar, honey and butter.  Oh my!

Winter Greens Salad “Savoyarde”:  You want salad in the Alps, we’ve got it.  “Savoyarde” means “in the style of Savoie,” a region of the French Alps near Chamonix and Mount Blanc (the highest mountain the range).  It is a very rustic, satisfying cuisine.  The Chef sticks to the classic preparation:  winter greens, smoked bacon, Gruyere, fingerling potatoes and house-made walnut vinaigrette.  Hmmmm. . .to do, to do.

Main Course (choice of one):

Roasted Arctic Char:  Arctic char is a freshwater fish related to both salmon and trout that breeds in fresh water and can then survive landlocked or migrate into the sea.  Native to the arctic, no other fish survives so far north, but it is also common in the Alps, in lakes as high as 8,500 feet.  Farming of this fish is common, and the Arctic char the Chef has selected is sustainably raised in the Cascades.

Roasting the fish is a simple matter compared to making the Rye Knodel that is part of this dish.  This is a European dumpling—akin to a stuffing—made from diced rye bread combined with seasonings then moistened with stock and eggs; then it is packed in a cheesecloth bundle and poached in broth.  Finally, it is sliced and sautéed in butter, served with winter veggies—beets and Brussels sprouts—and christened with shaved fresh horseradish.

Beef Cheek Goulash:  Perhaps no other food conjures both images of wintry days and Alpine lifestyle more than beef goulash. . .and in Chef Alexander’s concept, the beef is beef cheek, one of his signature dishes.  This meat stew is flavored with paprika and vegetables like onion, carrots and celery, then paired with creamy polenta instead of noodles.  Served with a dollop of crème fraiche and a bouquet of herbs to help tame the richness.

Venison Loin “Au Poivre” ($10 Supplement):  High-altitude game is a classic part of the Swiss diet, and this dish celebrates the tradition.  “Au Poivre” is the process of encrusting the venison in peppercorns before roasting.  It is served with elderberry-braised red cabbage to create the sweet and sour flavors associated with the region (note:  we can’t get native elderberries so Chef is substituting elderberry syrup).  This is served with a classic potato dish, “parsnip rösti,” grated potato and parsnips formed into cakes and sautéed until crispy.  Tradition demands a pairing with chocolate, so the plate is treated to a swoosh (think Nike) of the best bittersweet chocolate we can source.

Dessert Course (choice of one):  The Hobson’s Choice with this course is to take both or nothing at all.  How could anyone make a rational decision to do otherwise?  Desserts are created by Chef Courtney McDonald.

Warm Apple Strudel:  This dish is on virtually every Alpine restaurant menu, so it’s on ours!  Chef prepares apple compote and wraps in crispy pastry sheets. . .like a burrito. . .drizzled with vanilla brown butter and paired with house-made ginger ice cream (basic custard base flavored with dried and fresh ginger).  Served warm and yummy.

Black Forest Cake Parfait:  What’s more decadent than black forest cake? How about Chef McDonald’s deconstruction of perfect layers of chocolate cake chunks, chocolate mousse, cherry compote and whipped cream made with Kirschwasser, a cherry-flavored schnapps?  We’re checking to determine if we need a special license to serve this because it should be illegal.

So here’s the deal:

TiVo the Winter Olympics and come join us for Alpine Cusine, still just $49++ per person for four courses.  Vegetarian options available, but no split plates or substitutions.  For reservations, call 530-823-0320 or go to

Four Jeff Runquist Wines Open This Saturday Only

Greetings from Carpe Vino!  Introducing a new and improved format to the Saturday Tastings!  Once a month, we are going to feature a “Winery of the Month.”  This weekend, stop by Carpe Vino to taste a lineup by heralded Amador Vintner, Jeff Runquist!  We have been big supporters of these wines for years, and this years vintages are sure to please.  As you know by now, Saturday tastings are limited to first come first served basis. (Please remember two person maximum per wine club membership.) You all know the drill by now, so here is what we are pouring:

Jeff Runquist “Z” Zinfandel 2011 (Amador)

RunZin.103415$24/bottle or $20.40/bottle on 6+

Winery Tasting Notes: “The hues are bright garnet. The aroma is loaded with black raspberry, dark cherry and plum. Seventeen months in small barrels has contributed a bouquet of cocoa, hazelnut and dark chocolate. The flavors are soft and luscious, and feature succulent red currants and raspberry. The rich velvety texture, along with mature, well integrated tannins, is the reason I often refer to the ‘Z’ Zinfandel as my Pinot Noir of Zinfandels. This marriage of fruit, oak and soft round tannins produces a deeply flavored, yet imminently enjoyable Zinfandel.”

Jay’s Take: “One of the best Zinfandel’s from Amador.  Hands Down!  Gold Medal Winner at Amador County Fair; Bronze Medal Winner at California State Fair; Gold Medal Winner at New World International Wine Competition.”





Jeff Runquist “Damir Ranch” Petit Verdot 2011 (Stanislaus)

run petit$24/bottle or $20.40/bottle on 6+

Winery Tasting Notes: “The 2011 Petit Verdot has a deep, almost inky, purple color.  The hues are bright with a carmine edge.  Aromatically this wine delivers exactly what I come to expect from Petit Verdot; black currants with the depth and density of cassis.  There are notes of dust, flint, and blackberry.  The bouquet offers hints of mocha and dark chocolate.  On the pallet, juicy succulent flavors of fully ripened blue and black fruits transition seamlessly to a long finish full of deeply toasted oak flavors that linger.  The tannins are soft, mature, and well integrated and contribute to the wine’s creamy silky texture.”

Jay’s Take: “Another fantastic edition to the Runquist lineup!  The Damir Ranch Vineyard is an ideal location to grow Petit Verdot.  Silver Medal at California State Fair, Double Gold at El Dorado County Fair, Riverside International, Best of Class, Gold Medal.”




Jeff Runquist “Salman Vineyard” Petite Sirah 2011 (Clarksburg)

$28/bottle or $23.80/bottle on 6+RunPS.105234

Winery Tasting Notes:  “The 2011 vintage has a deep purple color accompanied by bright garnet hues. The aromas feature ripe concentrated dark fruits; black currant, boysenberry and black raspberry. The bouquet is dominated by a sweet, creamy oak that has nuances of caramel, milk chocolate and vanilla. On the palate, round rich flavors of red and black fruits flow into those of mocha, chocolate and oak. The texture of the 2011 vintage is rich and creamy. We have gone to great lengths to keep the tannins in check and the result is a full satisfying finish. This is a Petite Sirah with a succulent and savory aftertaste which is one of its most defining features.”

Jay’s Take: “Considered to be one of the finest Petite Sirah’s in California.  Eventhough the 2011 vintage was a tough year, Runquist still managed to make this PV a true gem.  California State Fair Best of Class Silver Medal; Calaveras County Fair Double Gold Medal, New World International Wine Competition Gold Medal.”




Jeff Runquist “Cooper Vineyard” Barbera 2012 (Amador)

RunBar.105650$29/bottle or $24.65/bottle on 6+

Winery Tasting Notes: “The 2012 Cooper Barbera has a purple color of moderate depth. The characteristically high acidity keeps the hues bright and youthful with a carmine edge. Aromatically this wine provides the briary raspberry and red currant scents we associate with Barbera. Just over a year in barrels provides a smoky hazelnut bouquet that carries with it a hint of caramel. The flavors are both rich and succulent. Juicy Barbera fruit; black cherry and blackberry, are married with a toasted oak creaminess transition to a lingering satisfying finish.”

Jay’s Take:  “One of the most highly sought after wines of the Jeff Runquist Family of Wines.  Cooper Vineyard Barbera continues to amaze, and this vintage continues the tradition.”




This Saturday’s bonus wine will be sure to please.  A marvelous cabernet from star winemaker Aaron Pott, and renown vineyard manager, David Abreu. Not to mention it has a $15 per bottle discount! If you have any questions…feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience by replying to this email or calling me at 530-823-0320 x105.

Also, if you can’t make Saturday’s tasting but want to purchase some of these wines…feel free to use our online order site and enter “JayJ” in the Order Notes Section to make sure you receive the best discounts available.  Hope to see you here!



Let’s Be Honest…Sometimes You Buy For The Label

Sofa King

$18.99 on 6+ Bottles

We know you are a fan of our Best-Selling “IF YOU SEE KAY” Red Wine (you were on our list of purchasers) and even though the wine tastes fantastic, we know you are a huge fan of the label as well.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s what is in the bottle that really matters but a great label can help seal the deal!  So that said, I have a fun little new wine out of Paso Robles of which there were only TWO pallets for Northern California available for purchase of which we secured 35 cases!  What’s the wine?

2012 Chronic Cellars “Sofa King Bueno” Red Wine (Paso Robles) $22/bottle or $18.99/bottle on 6+





Chronic Cellars was the brainchild of Paso Robles natives Josh and Jake Beckett.  The term “The Chronic” was something the brothers used casually to describe likeable objects and after time the name stuck for this purpose and the thought of wine and a casual lifestyle.

After a 10 year stint at Peachy Canyon winery and immersing themselves in every aspect of the business, the Beckett brothers released their first vintage of Chronic Cellars in 2008.  Today, they produce over 12 different wines including their best-selling “Sofa King Bueno” Red Wine.  Read it out loud, now again.  Get it?

This wine good…very good and for all Paso Robles fruit and limited production you be hard pressed to find something as bueno for the dinero!  The “Sofa King” is 43% Syrah, 32% Petite Sirah, 11% Mourvedre, 8% Grenache & 6% Tannat.  As the Beckett Boys say “The Rhone King! We take the best of the best, carefully blend them together – and you get Sofa King Bueno.”

The wine itself is inky dark, almost black with a bounty of blustering red fruits exploding from you r glass.  Savory, yet alive with full, rich tannins to finish it off!

This wine is sure to run out, but like I said we have 420 bottles so get yours today!






Winter Olympics Inspires “Alpine” Prix-Fixe Week

The opening ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi tonight prompted Chef Alexander to think “Alpine” for Carpe Vino’s next prix-fixe theme week.  He conjured dishes featuring high-altitude cheeses and with exotic names like “Bünderfleisch”.  This is the first ever rendition of this theme in the more than three years since the series launched.

Plan now to join us for “Alpine Cuisine,” set for February 18 to 23, the last full week of the Winter Olympic games.  Click here to view the full menu and preparations for this four-course (with choices and vegetarian options) tour of the Alps, right from the Carpe Vino dining room.  In next week’s email, Chef Alexander will describe each course in detail.

Cost is still a very friendly $49++ per person.  To make reservations, call the restaurant at 530-823-0320 or online at

(Here’s a tasty preview:  for desert, choose either Warm Apple Strudel or Black Forest Cake Parfait.)


This Year, Valentine’s is More than Just One Day

If there is one day of the year when there is huge pressure for restaurant reservations, it’s Valentine’s Day.  This year is no exception; V-Day falls on a Friday and we’re booked solid, though we have opened a wait-list.

Chef Alexander has a created a very special menu for lovers, and because so many folks are unable to get out for dinner on Friday or would prefer a more relaxed experience over the weekend, we’ve extended his four-course prix-fixe menu through Sunday.  The cost is $90++ per person on Friday and Saturday; join us on Sunday and it is $80++ per person.

As noted, Friday is wait listed at this point and Saturday is filling up quickly.  Choice seating times are still available on Sunday.  For reservations, call Carpe Vino at 530-823-0320 or make mobile reservations at (except for Friday night; call only).

Seriously, don’t take the chance of waiting until next week to attempt to make a Valentine’s reservations anywhere.  Get off your butt and start punching digits or you’ll have “some esplaining to do!”

From the desk of: Jay

tart.142654Cherry Pie, one of our best selling pinots over $50/bottle, has recently released a new label at a price that you will find hard to beat.  While we were closed we received 10 cases (that’s all we could purchase at one time) and now I want to offer it to you first. From Cherry Pie and winemaker Jason Woodbridge, I am excited to introduce to you Cherry Tart.“  Woodbridge specializes in small production fine wines, but also recognizes the need for that under $20/bottle wine too.  His first example of this was our best selling wine of 2012…”If You See Kay” a red blend from Italy, and now we hope to  follow up that success with Cherry Tart Pinot Noir.

2012 Cherry Tart (by Cherry Pie) Pinot Noir
(California) $19.99/bottle…
CV discount is $16.99/bottle on six+

Winery Tasting Notes:
Cherry Tart Pinot Noir exhibits notes reminiscent of cherry pie, plums, cranberries and a hint of wild strawberries. This beautifully rich, pure Pinot Noir offers abundant aromas of cloves, sweet apple skins and Rainier cherries. Full bodied, a rich texture with fresh flavors of Bing cherry and red plum lead to a long finish. Vanilla oak and lively acidity round it out and leave you wanting more.”




I cracked this pinot open over the weekend, and was floored!  Cherry Tart has bright acidity and is rich, lush and great juicy fruit. It is sure to please any pinot noir fanatics palate, and you would be hard pressed to find a pinot noir of this character, especially for under 20 Bucks!


More information
Carpe Vino (Find Us) 1568 Lincoln Way Auburn, CA 95603
Phone Number: 530-823-0320
Get Directions to Carpe Vino
Retail/Wine Bar Hours Tuesday - Saturday
Noon - 10:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Dining Hours Tuesday - Saturday
5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Make A Reservation Guests must be 21 years of age or older.
Reservations are suggested for preferred seating, especially on weekends.