2014 Was a Year to Celebrate and Savor

2014-year-in-review.092356Even after almost 13 years in business, this train called “Carpe Vino” keeps rumbling down the express tracks under a full head of steam.  We’re being propelled into 2015 after an incredibly productive year on all fronts: national recognition of the restaurant; record revenues; another Wine Club milestone; and expansion into a new business and facility.

What is truly important is how we stack up compared to our peers in the very competitive Sacramento restaurant scene.  In his year-end dining wrap up, here’s what the Sacramento Bee’s critic, Blair Anthony Robertson, said in his column on December 28:  “Among my favorite dining experiences this year were the Grange downtown at the Citizen Hotel and Carpe Vino in Auburn.  Both places serve excellent food sourced from local farms.  In Auburn, Chef Alexander grows much of his own produce.”

That’s remarkable when you understand the outstanding dining choices that abound in our region. . .from The Kitchen to Hawks to Ella’s.

Here’s a quick overview of what happened in our world this year:

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Wrapping Up 2014 with a Menu and Retrospective

It’s been quite a journey in 2014, and now we have finally arrived at the end with the year’s final email (thank the good Lord for that!) featuring an overview of Chef Alexander’s New Year’s Eve menu and a Carpe Vino retrospective.

A Prix-Fixe Celebration to Usher In 2015

new-years-eve-1907-times-square1.092138Carpe Vino irregulars know that many years ago we jettisoned the party favors and silenced the noisemakers on New Year’s Eve in the Friendly Confines in Old Town Auburn.  Our simplified approach is to focus on producing a fabulous prix-fixe dinner experience and make sure our customers and employees have an opportunity to get home safely rather than risk sharing the roads with amateurs.

Chef Alexander has toiled relentlessly to source the finest ingredients and foodstuffs for New Year’s Eve 2014, four courses, with choices for $105 per person ++.  If you would like to join us, you must call the restaurant at 530-823-0320 because we’ve disabled our OpenTable reservation access for the evening.

I sat down with Chef Alexander to learn about what we’ll be serving on New Year’s Eve:

First Course (choice of one)

Hawaiian Tuna Tartare (with yuzu, avocado, radish and white soy):  The chef sources #1 grade Ahi tuna from Hawaii, which is cubed raw and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, jalapeno and yuzu zest.  Yuzu is an unusual Japanese citrus fruit grown for Carpe Vino by Eric Hansen of Pine Hill Orchard in Loomis.  The tuna sits atop a cushion of pureed avocado, surrounded by “ponzu,” a Japanese sauce made from yuzu juice and white soy; finished with shaved radish and cilantro sprouts.

Seared Dayboat Scallop (with cauliflower puree, crisp fingerling potato and black truffle jus):  Large, tender scallops are seared and then placed on top of a cauliflower-and-cream puree.  Fingerling potatoes are sliced thinly lengthwise and fried until crispy.  Finished with a sauce prepared from reduced chicken stock and black truffle butter.

Croquette of Duck Confit (with Medjool dates, tangerine, frisee and hazelnut aillade):  This is a remarkably complex dish that starts with duck legs house-cured in salt and seasonings before being slow cooked in duck fat until meat is tender enough to be picked from the bones.  The meat is combined with Dijon mustard, orange zest, shallots, garlic and herbs and then formed into croquette portions.  These are coated with breadcrumbs, deep-fried and then place atop a salad of frisee (tiny greens) dates and tangerine.  Finished with a puree of toasted hazelnuts and hazelnut oil.

Second Course

Maine Lobster Bisque (with sunchoke cream and fines herbs):  A New Year’s Eve classic dish, Chef Alexander has raised the bar again with this stellar bisque made with lobster bodies, tomato and brandy.  Sunchoke puree is combined with whipped cream to create a mousse, a dollop of which is the bisque centerpiece.  Accented with a French-style herb mix of tarragon, parsley, chervil and chives.

Main Course (choice of one)

Filet of Niman Ranch Beef (with marble potato, Maitake mushroom, charred broccoli, shortrib jam):  First a beautifully tender cut of Niman Ranch’s finest beef prepared perfectly medium rare.  Served with a rainbow of baby potatoes, roasted and glazed in butter; Japanese Maitake mushrooms; and lightly charred fresh broccoli.  Accompanied with a shortrib jam made from meat picked from braised shortribs combined with a red wine and vegetable braising liquid.

Roasted Passmore Ranch Sturgeon (with beet variations, green apple, dill, Tsar Nicolai Caviar):  Michael Passmore’s farm-raised sturgeon has catapulted him to cult status among fine dining restaurants in the Sacramento area.  Chef Alexander will pan roast this delicate, flavorful fish and serve it with a medley of three types of beets:  puree of red beets, glazed golden beets and shavings of white and pink candy striped beets.  Served with green apple, dill and an amazing taste of Tsar Nicolai Caviar. . .making this dish fit for royalty.

Dessert Course (choice of one)

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake (with fleur de sel ganache, mandarin confit and crème fraiche):  Here’s a meal-ender from Pastry Chef Courtney McDonald for those who are ready to overdose on chocolate:  Dark chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate shortbread crust, glazed with ganache—chocolate and cream combined and drizzled on top.  Served with mandarins cooked in simple syrup and whipped crème fraiche.

Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (with dried blueberry marmaletta and lavender shortbread crumble):  This is a mousse put in a mold and frozen. . .but because there is so much air in the mix, it is “semi-frozen” and flavored with Meyer lemon from Courtney and Eric’s “Four Tines Farm”.  Served with a marmaletta made from dried blueberries with Meyer lemon cooked in port.  Crumbled on top (so that you get a taste and crunch with every bite) is house-made lavender shortbread cookie.

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Just Thanks

Gary and Drew2014 has been a stellar year
in every respect and
all we can say is “Thank You!”

 

Drew, Gary & the Carpe Vino Staff

Special Hours in Effect Next Week

Because of the holiday, we’ve got an amended opening schedule for next week.  Please take note:

Monday, 12/22:  Noon to 5 p.m. (normally closed, but open for wine sales)
Christmas Eve, 12/24:  Noon to 4 p.m. for wine sales only
Christmas Day, 12/25:  Closed
Friday, 12/26:  Regular business hours and dinner service resume

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Phone Ressies Only for New Year’s Eve at CV

If you dial up OpenTable to make reservations for New Year’s Eve at Carpe Vino, you may be left with the impression that we’re sold out for the evening.  Ain’t even close.  The issue is, because of the complexity of managing New Year’s Eve reservations, were doing it entirely in-house this year. . .our standard practice.

Long ago we exited the world of New Year’s Eve parties at Carpe Vino and opted instead to simply do a prix-fixe dinner and call it good.  No paper hats, no noisemakers and, especially, no chance of anyone overindulging.  Our goal is to engender a safe, enjoyable evening that enables all of our patrons (and staff!) to arrive home safely well before the stoke of midnight.

So if you’d like to join us on New Year’s Eve, just call 530-823-0320 and Ada will get you in.  We’ll be serving dinner on our regular schedule, from 5 to 10 p.m.  We’ve got a prix-fixe menu with choices for $105 per person ++.  Click here to inspect the full menu.

Next week, I’ll sit down with Chef Alexander and prepare a dish-by-dish review of the menu preparation.

Unprecedented: OpenTable Taps Carpe Vino Again for Best Restaurant, Best Wine Lists in America

opentable.145053This is crazy, but it has happened again:  OpenTable, the nationwide reservation service for fine dining establishments, has named Carpe Vino to two of its most prestigious “Diners’ Choice” lists for the fourth year in a row. We’re checking to see how many other restaurants have been similarly honored, but we’re certain it’s going to be a very, very short list.

Carpe Vino was named to the Diner’s Choice Top 100 Best Restaurants in America on December 17, along with five other northern California establishments:  the Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena), Saison (S.F.), Red Hill Station (S.F.), St. Francis Winery & Vineyards (Santa Rosa) and Boulevard Bistro (Elk Grove).

On October 15, Carpe Vino was named to OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Top 100 Wine Lists in America (again for the fourth year in a row).  Only one other restaurant, Fearrington House in Pittsboro, North Carolina, was also named to both lists in 2014.

What’s remarkable about this recognition is there are more than 20,000 restaurants in the OpenTable network that encompasses all 50 states.  Selections to “Best of Lists” are based on more than five million reviews submitted by diners after they have fulfilled a reservation.

Look at his clinically, and you have to wonder how a joint like Carpe Vino has been recognized so routinely for both its restaurant and wine deliverables.  Actually, it’s simply a matter of fielding our best team every day and seeking to always do our very best.  Drew and I take it very personally because the Moffat name is synonymous with our business.  We’ve invested heavily on every level, and, in the final analysis, our customers recognize the effort of everyone who works in the round corner saloon in Old Town.

It’s a high level of consistency that counts, reflected in the enormous talents of Chef Eric Alexander who has been with us since we opened the restaurant almost nine years ago.  And to other key colleagues who have been in this with us over the long haul:  Courtney McDonald, our former co-executive chef and now pastry chef; Ada Campos, who has led our front-of-the-house crew for nearly eight years; Paul Roosen, our crack server who has been with us since Day One; and Jana Kosmata, our manager who herds the 1,181 cats in the Carpe Vino Wine Club.

As the fading patron of this group, I am only too happy to credit Drew, my son and general manager of Carpe Vino, for not only driving the business, but for his creativity in adding new dimensions that help set us apart.  His vision for our new Century Club and for our own wine brand, Shiner, are remarkable additions to our marketing arsenal.

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the faithful. . .the thousands of people who love what we do and come back again and again.  To our legion of customers and our rabidly loyal peeps in the Wine Club, all we can say is “thank you”.   –gary

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Gift Card Redux Saves 20 percent Cash Money

Gary.070129Hey, it’s not over until Santa Gary says it’s over.

So, here’s one more opportunity to save big on gift cards. . .the ultimate stocking stuffer or for you to use at your leisure.  Purchase a $50 gift card and pay just $40.  Limit of four cards–$200 worth for $160 (or for your convenience, load it all on a single card).

Head’s up on this deal:  It cannot be combined with any other offers in the 7 Holiday Wine Deals presented this week.  All of the wines offered are already significantly discounted, and we cannot offer what amounts to another 20% reduction in price.

A couple of other caveats regarding this deal:  First, only four cards per person please ($160 gets you $200 worth of gift cards.).   You can use the cards for any purchase in Carpe Vino, but you may only use one $50-card per table, per visit in the restaurant.  No limitations when it comes to wine purchases (except 7 Holiday Wine Deals).

_DSC8077.183224Since this truly is the last deal, why not go all Neanderthal and smash the Buy Now button with a club. . .you’ll feel great!

 

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The formerly fat man has sung. . .that’s it!

Cheers,

Santa Gary

***Remember, Gift Cards purchased with this offer cannot be used to purchase wines offered in the 7 Holiday Wine Deals!!***

This Deal is Valid Today Only, December 22, Until 11:59 p.m. California Time

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Grab a Holiday Six Pac for Barely a Benjamin

Gary.070129It’s Sunday, which should be Santa Gary’s day of rest. . .but nooooo. . .there is no slowing down for the formerly fat man.  Santa Gary didn’t jettison 60 pounds by sitting on the couch watching the 49ers and Bears lose again.  There’s still work to be done and wine to ship!

Today’s sixth and final deal is a six-pack of all five wines featured this week, with two bottles of the NV Grande Violette.  You get the six-bottle pricing for each wine, totaling just just $112.90 plus tax (and shipping if requested).

 

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Here’s the line up, and there’s a link to more information about each wine:

1.  2012 NV Grande Violette: retail price is $18; purchase six or more and the price is $12.99 each.  This is a brand new label from Naggiar Vineyards that will not be available at the winery.  ($25.98 for two bottles on this offer.)
2.  2012 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:  winery priced at $54 per bottle, just $29.99 per bottle when you purchase six or more.  This is the lowest price we’ve seen on this wine.
3. 2012 Elizabeth Spencer Mendocino Chardonnay: $25 at the winery, $19.99 CV retail or $13.99 each when you purchase six or more.
4. 2010 ZaZin: everyday priced at $17.99 per bottle or just $13.99 each when you purchase six or more. . .a discount of 22%.
5.  2011 Wm. Harrison “Simpatico” Red Blend: a Bordeaux blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon and a perennial favorite at Carpe Vino.  Retail priced at $32 per bottle, pay just $24.95 when your purchase six or more.

If you followed all of the deals this week, you know Santa Gary did his very best to make everything sound terrific (that’s his job).  So here’s a great opportunity to taste all of these great wines without having to purchase six of each.  It’s a good deal for you and for Santa Gary.

No doubt you are wearing down thanks to weeks of holiday shopping, so last more time, drag yourself over to the “Buy Now” button and give it a poke.

 

 

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That was easy, wasn’t it?

We hope you enjoyed this year’s Seven Holiday Wine Deals promotion.  Hold your family and children close and enjoy all that the season has to offer.  We’ll look forward to seeing you soon at Carpe Vino.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Cheers,

Santa Gary

All deals are valid through December 24, 2013 or as long as supplies last.

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Simpatico is an Amazing Bordeaux Blend for 25 Bucks

Gary.070129Santa Gary waits all year for Christmas to arrive, and then all of the sudden it is here.  Already, we’re down to just a few more deals to share, and today we’ve got our last red wine to present:  the 2011 Wm. Harrison “Simpatico” Red Blend (Rutherford), everyday priced at $32 per bottle or just $24.95 each when you purchase six or more. . .a discount just south of 22%.

 

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sympatico_sm.160309We’ve brought you Wm. Harrison wines many times over the years, starting with Santa Gary’s personal favorite, the 1997 Cabernet Franc that we sold when we first opened the shop in 2002.  And we’ve always appreciated the very tasty Rutherford Red—but when the ’09 Simpatico Red Wine was released, we found a new favorite.  Simpatico is a great name because the two grapes blend herewith—cabernet sauvignon and merlot—are a wondrous estate, Bordeaux match.

Owner Bill Harrison released his first wine in 1993.  These days, winemaking is the responsibility of Jim McMahon a CalPoly grad who worked at Kenwood and Luna before eventually being handed the ball as Wm. Harrison’s winemaker in 2009, after three years as assistant.

The Simpatico is not available at the winery, and it is made in such a miniscule quantity, we’re able to get just 10 cases. . .so first come, first served!

Winery Tasting Notes:  Very brief and to the point! “Rich full-bodied wine that flashes brilliantly with lots of blackberry and blueberry fruit and new French oak.”

Alcohol Level: 14.3%
Cases Produced: 375
Blend:  Estate cabernet sauvignon and merlot
Winemaker: Jim McMahon

If this wine appeals to you, it comes in at just under $150 for six bottles plus tax (and applicable shipping).  You can treat yourself to your own Christmas present by tapping the “Buy Now” button and filling in the blanks.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

Cheers,

Santa Gary

All deals are valid through December 24, 2013 or as long as supplies last.

 

7 Holiday Wine Deals You May Have Missed:

1.  2012 NV Grande Violette: retail price is $18; purchase six or more and the price is $12.99 each.  This is a brand new label from Naggiar Vineyards that will not be available at the winery.

2.  2012 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:  winery priced at $54 per bottle, just $29.99 per bottle when you purchase six or more.  This is the lowest price we’ve seen on this wine.

3. 20% off Carpe Vino gift cards.  Sorry, that deal is ooohva!

4. 2012 Elizabeth Spencer Mendocino Chardonnay $25 at the winery, $19.99 CV retail or $13.99 each when you purchase six or more.

5. 2010 ZaZin everyday priced at $17.99 per bottle or just $13.99 each when you purchase six or more. . .a discount of 22%

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Chew on this Heritage Lodi Zin for Peanuts

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Though we love the copious amount of rainfall in recent weeks, Santa Gary would love to see Old Town covered in snow again for Christmas. Photo courtesy of the the Placer County Visitors Bureau.

Gary.070129When Drew assembles a list of wines for our holiday wine sales program, you can be assured of one thing. . .at some point during the week, we’re gonna present a killer zinfandel for your consideration.  And here it is: the 2010 ZaZin, everyday priced at $17.99 per bottle or just $13.99 each when you purchase six or more. . .a discount of 22%.  Okay, that’s a decent savings—perhaps not monumental, but when you understand that this vintage of ZaZin is nearly sold out, you’d better getcha some before it’s history!

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At Carpe Vino, we’re suckers for oddball, one-of-a-kind, break-the-mold style of winemakers and winemaking. . .and we’ve come up big time on all levels with the 2010 ZaZin.  First, it’s a monstrous motha. . .immense on every level. . .from ginormus Lodi “heritage” fruit—mouth puckering, tongue staining and ever-lasting on the palate.  Second, it’s hard to find the stuff—I was unacquainted until Drew brought it for our 7 Holiday Deals.  And third, it’s nearly free when you step up and snag a six-pack.

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ZaZin is from Tierra Divina Vineyards, a virtual operation that produces wine from just two regions:  Lodi, as noted, and. . .wait for this. . .Mendoza, Argentina.  Has to be the only winemaking operation focused on such far-flung vineyard locations.

And as you would expect, the entire crew is free-spirited.  Winemaker and owner Patrick Campbell previously owned vineyards in Sonoma; his daughter handles national sales from San Francisco; and he has an “economic consultant” in New England.

What Santa Gary really appreciates, however, is Campbell’s philosophy on seeking fruit.  He goes after what he calls “heritage” vineyards, or in marketing-speak, “old vine”.  He’s on the hunt for vineyard operators who have resisted fads and simply stuck with what they’ve always done.  And the result is vineyards with character, producing concentrated flavors in reduced quantities.  The result is juice like you get in ZaZin.

Alcohol Level:  14.9%
Cases Produced:  1,200
Blend:  90% zinfandel; 10% petit sirah
Winemaker:   Patrick Campbell and Ray Kaufman

Just thinking about this zinfandel makes me want to pucker up.  If you are struck with the same sensation, plant a big kiss on the “Buy Now” button and order up six bottles for the holidays and beyond!

 

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Cheers,

Santa Gary

All deals are valid through December 24, 2013 or as long as supplies last.

7 Holiday Wine Deals You May Have Missed:

1.  2012 NV Grande Violette: retail price is $18; purchase six or more and the price is $12.99 each.  This is a brand new label from Naggiar Vineyards that will not be available at the winery.

2.  2012 Pine Ridge Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:  winery priced at $54 per bottle, just $29.99 per bottle when you purchase six or more.  This is the lowest price we’ve seen on this wine.

3. 20% off Carpe Vino gift cards.  Sorry, that deal is ooohva!

4. 2012 Elizabeth Spencer Mendocino Chardonnay, $25 at the winery, $19.99 CV retail or $13.99 each when you purchase six or more.

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.