Short-End Wines Abound at Carpe Vino

When you move as much wine as we do at Carpe Vino, what routinely occurs is that we end up with odd lots of wine, especially when we hold big sales—such as Wine Thing in February—or when we buy a pallet of an awesome value and move on to the next big thing before it sells out.  There is a term for this eventuality that was co-opted from the movie business for a wine called “Short Ends”; it is slang for the un-shot 35mm film remaining on reels.  Short Ends is a Napa blend made from awesome wine that did not make the cut for the winery’s premiere label.

So, I’m borrowing the term, Short Ends, as shorthand for the collection of wines we’d like to bring to your attention.  The short list below comprises hot-selling wines that you may have purchased in the past few months.  Best pricing and remaining stock are shown with each wine, so we invite you to order online or give Jay Johnstone a call (530-823-0320) to snag your favorites.  This is what we have remaining on hand; in some cases, we may be able to reorder.

GruettGrandRose10.1818532012 JellyRoll Syrah (Rim Rock Vineyard, SLO), $34.95 ($24.95 on 6), 4 cases

2013 Pezzi King Chardonnay (Sonoma), $22 ($14.99 on 6), 3 cases (1 of 2012)

NV Gruet Brut Rosé (New Mexico), $16.99 ($14.99 on 6) 5 cases

NV Gruet Blanc de Noir (New Mexico), $16.99 ($14.99 on 6) 5 cases

2013 Chasing Venus Sauvignon Blanc (RRV), $15.99, 8 bottles

2012 Betz Besoliel Red Blend (Washington), $49.95, 2 cases

2012 Double Eagle Red Blend (Napa), $75, 22 bottles

If none of these wines ring your chimes, there is always the option of visiting the Friendly Confines in Old Town and finding something in our racks and stacks.  We’ll look forward to seeing you soon.



Citrus Celebration Prix-Fixe Starts Tonight

Last Saturday’s Farmers’ Market in Auburn was the scene for a preview of this month’s prix-fixe event, “A Tangy-Sweet Citrus Celebration,” when Sous Chef Ben Durham wowed the crowd with a cooking demo of the beet dish you’ll read about below.  It was a perfect debut because Chef Eric Alexander purchased more than 200 pounds of citrus from local farmers to produce this menu.

Citrus Celebration starts tonight (February 24) at 5 p.m. and runs through March 1.  Same proposition as always—four courses with choices (including vegetarian option) for $59.95 plus tax and tip.  Best to make reservations by calling 530-823-0320 or go to

I sat down with the Chef for 45 minutes to get insight into his thinking about this menu and its preparations:

First Course (choice of one)

Smoked Black Cod (pomelo, wekiwa orange, castelfranco radicchio, avocado):  Okay, so this fish isn’t local. . .it’s fresh Alaskan sable, never frozen, that Chef brines and then smokes at “super-low temperature” (his words).  Then it is “flaked” and served chilled as a salad with pomelo, from the grapefruit family; wekiwa orange, low-acid with flavor similar to guava; castelfranco radicchio, Italian red and yellow speckled, crispy with a slight bite; plated with creamy avocado.

Goat Cheese Agnolotti (dried orange, wild fennel, citrus-cured castelvetrano olive):  start with fresh, house-made pasta pillows seasoned with fresh herbs and orange zest that are filled with goat cheese.  Then toss in a sauce made with dried orange and wild fennel.  Served with citrus-cured, Sicilian castelvetrano olives.

Mandarin-Glazed Kurobota Pork Short Rib (kumquat kimchi, lettuce cups, toasted peanut):  This dish is Korean inspired, but the Kurobota pork short ribs are sourced from Snake River Farms in Idaho which adheres strictly to 100% purebred Berkshire hogs as mandated by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture.  This ain’t local either, but you’ll never encounter a higher grade of pork.  The bones are cut short from the meatiest part of the rib—according to Chef—then slow-roasted covered for more than two hours till tender before uncovering and glazed with a combination of mandarin juice (from Chef’s Four Tines Farm), fish sauce, sugar, ginger and garlic.  The idea is to fill the lettuce cups with the meat and house-made kimchi (made with kumquats, Korean chili powder, sugar, fish sauce, garlic, scallions and ginger).  Garnished with toasted peanuts and mint cilantro.

Second Course (choice of one)

Carrot-Tangelo Soup (ginger, cilantro shoots, coconut emulsion):  Tangelos for this dish are sourced from Pilz Produce in Penryn.  A very straight-forward preparation, Chef purées sweet carrots, fresh ginger, onions and vegetable stock with tangelo juice and zest.  Garnished with whipped coconut cream and cilantro shoots.

Citrus Salt Roasted Beets (Farmers Market citrus, arugula, pistachio butter):  This is the dish Sous Chef Ben Durham demonstrated at the Farmers’ Market last week (Veronica Blake won the $100 gift card drawing, BTW).  First the beets are encrusted in egg white and salt with fresh thyme and citrus zest (packed in a light layer).  Roasted in the oven, the beets steam inside the salt crust creating a perfume of seasonings and citrus.  The beets are peeled, sliced and served salad style, resting on pistachio butter that has been puréed till creamy.  Served with arugula from Hillview Farm (located in North Auburn) and an array of citrus wedges, also purchased locally or at the Farmers’ Market.

Main Course (choice of one)

Australian Barramundi (grapefruit, sunchoke, fennel, pink peppercorn):  This is a sustainably farmed white fish shipped to the U.S. fresh (business class).  Chef roasts in pan—forming a nice crust—and then it is served on top of a purée of sunchoke (a root vegetable a.k.a. Jerusalem artichoke, it is native to North America and seen frequently on the Carpe Vino menu) with braised fennel, grapefruit and a sauce made from grapefruit and pink peppercorns.

Crispy Duck Confit (mandarinquat, red quinoa, fava greens, foie gras sauce):  Muscovy duck legs (from Grimaud Farms in Stockton) are lightly cured with garlic, thyme, orange, clove and salt. . .then slow-cooked in duck fat until tender.  Finally, crisped in the oven and served with a mix of red quinoa, fava greens (the leaves of a fava bean plant—totally edible and delicious—sourced from Eric and Courtney’s farm).  Served with poach mandarinquat (a cross between mandarin and cumquat) and sauce of puréed trimmings from foie gras and chicken stock.

Niman Ranch Lamb Loin (braised lamb stuffed piquillo pepper, Meyer lemon relish, black olive oil):  This dish is going to be very popular with the carnivores at Carpe Vino. . .a duo of lamb:  first the simple part, lamb loin roasted and sliced.  The second part has a lot going on. . .a piquillo pepper (think Spain) is stuffed with a combination of couscous, braised and pulled lamb shoulder, herbs and pine nuts.  Served on black olive oil and with Chef Alexander’s Meyer lemon relish, made from shallots, sugar, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, chili flakes and whole, diced lemon.

Dessert Course (choice of one). . . prepared by Pastry Chef Courtney McDonald

Tangelo-Olive Oil Pound Cake (tangelo mascarpone, citrus-mint salad):  This is a classic pound cake made with tangelo juice and zest; extra virgin olive oil is substituted for much of the butter normally used. Served with a rich and creamy tangelo mascarpone, citrus segments and mint.

Orange Flower Panna Cotta (orange blossom honey, pine nut “sandies”):  This is an eggless custard set with gelatin and made with cream, sugar and orange flower water; orange blossom honey is drizzled on top and serve with pine nut “sandies” (cookies).

After writing this, I’m literally exhausted and starving.  Plan on seeing me in the restaurant this week!



The Real Deal of Sourcing From Local Farms

I really wince when I hear restaurants promote themselves as “farm-to-fork”.  And the seemingly non-stop self-aggrandizement of Sacramento as the so-called “Farm-to-Fork Capital of America” pushes my gag reflex into overdrive.  At Carpe Vino, our crew has always sourced as much locally grown produce as possible, and they do it as a matter of course.  We’re smack dab in the middle of year-round vegetal abundance, and Chef Eric Alexander has taken advantage of our proximity since we launched the restaurant nearly nine years ago.  Indeed, we support local agriculture, but the more you travel around the country or read about the food industry, you’ll understand that there are localvore movements in just about every state.

We walk the walk at Carpe Vino. . .as you can see by reading the email that was sent out yesterday by the Foothill Farmers’ Market promoting a Carpe Vino cooking demonstration tomorrow morning from 10 to 11:30 at the Auburn market.  Our Sous Chef Ben Durham will be previewing a dish from our prix-fixe menu next week, sharing some of his knife skills and cooking tips in the process.  At the same time, Chef Alexander will be on his regular Saturday morning tour, seeking the best of the market.

And, oh yeah, our Pastry Chef Courtney McDonald just happens to also be the General Manager of the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association.  On top of this, Eric and Courtney operate their own farm outside of Auburn, and you only get one chance to guess who their biggest customer is.

You’re invited to the demo, and read below about how to register for a chance to win a $100 gift card from Carpe Vino.  I’ll be there, along with half our staff. . .and we look forward to saying “hello”.

Our Sous Chef Ben Durham drew an SRO crowd last time he did a cooking demo at the Saturday Auburn Farmers' Market. Join us this week when he presents again from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Our Sous Chef Ben Durham drew an SRO crowd last time he did a cooking demo at the Saturday Auburn Farmers’ Market. Join us this week when he presents again from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Carpe Vino Chef Demo, Sampling and Raffle!

Carpe Vino’s Sous Chef Ben Durham returns to the market this Saturday to show you how to turn beautiful locally-grown produce into restaurant-quality home cooking!  Ben will be demonstrating a dish from Carpe Vino’s upcoming all-citrus prix-fixe dinner menu: “Beets Roasted in Citrus Salt with Farmers’ Market Citrus, Arugula and Goat Cheese.”  Learn a few tricks of the trade from a Sacramento Bee 4-star restaurant, including how to salt-roast beets and segment citrus! Samples of the recipe will be served after the demonstration.  Get the recipe for the soup, ingredients to make it at home, and meet the chefs in person! Carpe Vino’s Executive Chef Eric Alexander will also be at the market shopping for his menu ingredients and answering your questions, so feel free to pick his brain on cooking with farm-fresh ingredients. Don’t miss it! Buy ingredients for the salad at the market and mention this email to the folks at the PlacerGROWN market booth to enter a raffle for a $100 gift card to Carpe Vino Restaurant and Wine Shop!


Visit our 2 year-round farmers’ markets:foothillFarmersLogo.154502

SATURDAY Auburn: Old Town Courthouse Parking Lot Auburn-Folsom Rd at Lincoln Way OPEN YEAR ROUND, 8 am – 12 noon

TUESDAY Roseville: Whole Foods Market at the Fountains Galleria Blvd. & East Roseville Parkway OPEN YEAR ROUND, 8:30am – 1pm Remember, our farmers are your neighbors! Sincerely, Courtney McDonald Foothill Farmers’ Market Association General Manager

Carpe Vino Featured in SacBee Supplement

On Monday, the Sacramento Bee ran a special supplement titled “A Guide to Sacramento’s Best Restaurants and Dishes”.  It was basically a compilation of reviews of the region’s best restaurants penned during 2014 by critic Blair Anthony Robertson.

It was a pretty cool section, with the full, original reports on the finest joints in Sacramento and beyond.  You can read about Ella’s, The Grange, Mother and of course, Carpe Vino (reviewed last April, click here).  It also featured our friends in Downtown Auburn, Tre Pazzi Trattoria, which earned 3 ½ stars from Robertson.

We just loved the redundancy of seeing our review in print for a second time!


Ready to Pucker? “Citrus Celebration” is Coming

While we’re still clinging to the last breath of Placer County’s mandarin season, citrus of all colors, varieties and sizes remains abundant in the market, and Chef Eric Alexander is exploiting this bounty with our next prix-fixe:  “A Tangy-Sweet Citrus Celebration”.  Chef will take you for a piquant tour of pomello, orange, tangelo, grapefruit, Meyer lemon. . .if it’s tart and tasty, you’ll trip over it next week, from February 24 to March 1.  Cost is $59.95 per person, vegetarian options are available (duh) and you should call now for reservations at 530-823-0320 or through

How about starting with Mandarin-Glazed Kurobota Pork Short Rib as an appetizer?  Chef’s tangelo-carrot soup is gonna kill, so enjoy that while you’re trying to decide on one of three main course offerings:  Australian Barramundi, Crispy Duck Confit or Niman Ranch Lamb Loin, all with a citrus surprise inside.  Our Empress of Desserts, Courtney McDonald, is knocking it out of the kitchen with Tangelo Olive Oil Pound Cake and Orange Flower Panna Cotta.  Best to get one of each!

For the full menu, click here.  I’m sitting down with the Chef later this week to get the full skinny on the menu, which will be dutifully reported next time.


Wine Tour of Provence Sells Out in a Week

Wine Tour of Provence Sells Out in a Week

Lavendar.152125If you thought about joining our group to Provence in October, well, that tour pulled out of town. . .or more precisely, the trip sold out with a few days of our announcing it to our full email list.  Prior to that, we gave our initial tour participants (Spain) and Wine Club members first crack, and when we went to the full list, the remaining eight seats sold out in three days.

Guess people like the idea!

“Pilgrimage to Provence” is scheduled for early October, and I suspect that we may have some people have to pull out for unforeseen reasons. . .so if you would like to get on our waiting list, call our Earthbound Expeditions partners at 1-800-723-8454.  You can view the tour information by clicking here.

Preview “Citrus Celebration” at Farmers’ Market

Our Sous Chef Ben Durham drew an SRO crowd last time he did a cooking demo at the Saturday Auburn Farmers' Market. Join us this week when he presents again from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Our Sous Chef Ben Durham drew an SRO crowd last time he did a cooking demo at the Saturday Auburn Farmers’ Market. Join us this week when he presents again from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

If you’d like to get an advance taste of next week’s prix-fixe extravaganza, hustle over to the Auburn Farmers’ Market at the Juror’s Parking Lot on Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m.  That’s when Carpe Vino Sous Chef Ben Durham will be conducting a cooking demonstration of “Citrus Salt-Roasted Beets,” one of the appetizer courses we’ll be serving in the Friendly Confines all next week.

Ben, in his second appearance at the market, will walk you through the dish, step-by-step.  You’ll get the recipe to take home, plus a taste of the dish (as long as it lasts!).  All ingredients are sourced at the market:  Beets, Farmers’ Market citrus, arugula and goat cheese.

Here’s a potential bonus: When you purchase ingredients on Saturday, you are eligible to enter a drawing at the Placer GROWN market booth to win a $100 Carpe Vino gift card.  Just mention this email and good luck. . .we’ll see you there!

New & Casual Menu Rolls Out at Wine Bar


Peel & Eat White Mexican Wild Shrimp is one of the tasty
new items on the Carpe Vino Wine Bar Menu. You get a half
pound cooked in PBR. . .and you can purchase a can with the
shrimp for just a buck!

So, you want something fast and tasty, and you just want to chill in the Wine Bar?  We hear you, and we’re responding with a host of pocketbook-friendly menu items that will be rolled out over the next few weeks (at the bar exclusively).  This new approach dovetails nicely with our recently unveiled “10 Wines Under $10” program, also at the wine bar only.

The genesis of this approach stems from our introduction of Carpe Vino’s Waygu Beef Burger on Wednesday and Thursday evening only at the Wine Bar.  The faithful have raved about these succulent and juicy treats served on house-made buns and served with hand-cut fries ($14, a buck extra when you demand cheese).

Next on the menu, Chef added the House Smoked Pastrami on Toasted Artisan Rye with Whole Grain Mustard and Pickles ($14).  Coming soon, look for these new items and more; the menu will be complete by March 10 (we always take our time to get it right!):

• The Grilled Panini Sandwich of the Day with choice of side ($12).

• Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Caramelized Cauliflower and Fried Onions ($10).

• Buttermilk Fried Chicken Breast with Mashed Potatoes and “Something Green” ($15).

• Peel & Eat White Mexican Wild Shrimp ($18).  You get a full, half-found of the good stuff—enough for two people to share.  Cooked in Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Old Bay seasoning; served with lime and house-made cocktail sauce.

Come on in and check it out when you pick up your Wine Club shipment.  Black Bear Diner, better watch your back!

Our Gruet Offer: the Perfect Bubbly for Valentine’s Day

The Deal & Saturday Tasting:

This weekend presents a perfect storm: Valentine’s Day—the king of manufactured “holidays”—falls on a Saturday, so every restaurant in America will be booked to capacity (as is Carpe Vino, but there is still room for our prix-fixe on Friday and Sunday evenings). Essential for creating a perfect evening is the perfect bottle of bubbly to pair with the romance, and we’ve got some amorous solutions. What you will find most remarkable is all of this juice is sourced from the unlikeliest of places: Gruet Winery in Albuquerque, NM, launched 25 years ago by a family of French champagne makers. (Note: all tasting notes in quotes below are provided by Gruet.)

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The Gruet Rosé is one of the best values among sparkling wines at just $16.99 per bottle, or $14.99 on six.

2007 Gilbert Gruet Grande Reserve Vintage Sparkling Wine, $40.  This is Gruet’s premium sparkler, and just 250 cases were produced (normally sold only at the winery and through its wine club).  An homage to a family pioneering winemaker, this sparkling wine is 90% chardonnay and 10% pinot noir, fermented in oak barrels and kept “en tirage” for five years (refers to time a sparkling wine has rested in the bottle in contact with the yeast sediment from the secondary fermentation).  “Rich and creamy; toasty almond notes and a lemon cream middle body.  A long, lingering finish is highlighted by bright mineral acidity.”






2010 Gruet Grand Rosé Sparkling Wine, $33.  Same program as the wine above, but even though it is “salmon pink” in color, it is equally dry and just 250 cases were produced.  “The taste is brilliant—complex with a wonderful, rich pinot noir nose—and at the same time buttery elegant chardonnay texture.  The dominating aromas are cherries and apple peel; the taste is soft and creamy.”





NV Gruet Blanc de Noirs, $16.99; $14.99 on six or more.  This is Gruet’s basic dry sparkler, and at this price, you can enjoy whenever you wish (40,000 cases produced annually).  “Aged for two years minimum.  Amazing berry aromas and creamy texture; aggressive mousse and a lovely palate give this wine plenty of immediate charm and tasty aromas.”





NV Gruet Rosé Brut, $16.99; $14.99 on six or more. Roughly 10,000 cases of this entry-level rosé were produced, and it’s a winner! “This beautiful garnet-colored wine has a delicate, fine mousse and rich, fruity flavors. Floral and berry aromas with hints of cherry, raspberry and lots of wild strawberry on the palate; bright flavors, lingering finish.”





2010 Gruet Pinot Noir, $21.50.  This wine was a total surprise, though it shouldn’t have been. . .because who would be better equipped to vint an outstanding pinot than a French winemaker?  This one is definitely Burgundian in style. . .a lighter color than the fruit bombs produced in California. . .more subtle, greater minerality, elegant and profoundly drinkable.  Just a few hundred case made and great pricing, too!  From Gruet:  “Ripe and complete with focused notes framed by light oak.  Finishes with a pretty berry and mineral edge; combines ripe, supple polished plum, black cherry and berry flavors for a wonderful, lingering aftertaste.”  This is now one of my favorite pinots in the Friendly Confines.




The Back Story:

Laurent Gruet

Laurent Gruet and his wines. . .I tasted all of these
sparklers and more when I visited Gruet in January.
Laurent took me for a tour of his extensive winemaking
facilities. . .one of the early urban wineries in America.

We’ve sold the NV Gruet sparklers for a number of years, and visiting there has been a back-burner ambition for me since my first taste.  Besides satisfying my curiosity about how such wonderful wine could be produced in New Mexico. . .in Albuquerque no less. . .I had an ulterior motive:  up until a couple of weeks ago, there were only two states I had not visited—Alaska and New Mexico.  Now I just need to check the Alaska box, perhaps next year.

My BFF was out of town for nearly a month, so rather than sit at home and bay at the moon, I organized a 12-day, 3,000-mile, independent road rally across California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  During my only full day in Las Vegas—my first stop—I did a “History Channel tour”, visiting the shooting locations for three TV shows:  Pawn Stars, American Restoration and Counting Cars.

Then it was off to a box-checking excursion at the Grand Canyon, where I stayed two nights at the El Tovar Hotel (little brother of the Yosemite’s Awani) and did an eight-mile hike of the canyon rim (frickin’ amazing!).  From there, it was off to Albuquerque, where I did a customized, seven-stop Breaking Bad tour (ask me about it next time you see me).  Then two nights in Santa Fe at the Four Kachinas Bed & Breakfast (Walt and Wayne are awesome), Georgia O’Keefe and a nasty snow “event”.

Before turning home via Phoenix (where I spent three nights with a former co-worker and checked another box—visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West) I stopped for a couple of hours at Gruet Winery in Albuquerque (the spelling of which I am now fully confident) and chatted with owner Laurent Gruet.

The Winery

Though this appears to be a bucolic setting in the middle of wine country, Gruet is located on an entrance ramp to I-25 in Albuquerque, sandwiched between a Tuff Shed dealer and an RV sales center. But the wine is fabulous!

The Winery:

The best way to access the Gruet Winery and Tasting Room—which is located on the north side of the city—is from an onramp to I-25.  From the accompanying photo, you get the impression of a prototypical winery structure set in the middle of a vineyard in wine country anywhere.  What you don’t see is the winery fronts an interstate freeway sandwiched in between a Tuff Shed sales office on one side and Aloha RV on the other.  Very odd, indeed, but this is actually a prime example of an early urban winery.   Gruet owns it own vineyards near Truth or Consequences, about 170 miles south of the winery (water has to be pumped up to the site).

Five years ago, the New York Times did an excellent feature on the winery and family, which you can read by clicking here (which I just discovered shares my Tuff Shed observation). The short story is, however, the Gruets first started making champagne in France in 1952, and unable to expand there, sought new vineyard sites in the United States.  In 1984, Laurent and his sister, Nathalie, after researching locations to establish a winery, selected T or C because of its affordability and familiar terroir.

Now, more than 25 years after producing their first vintage, the Gruets have built a formidable wine business with a reputation for making wonderful and affordable sparklers.  Production is about 125,000 cases a year, with cash cows of entry-level NV rosé, brut and blanc de noirs.  They also produce reserve sparkling wines in very limited quantities, as well as a range of white and red still wines, the 2010 Gruet Pinot Noir being my preferred of the lot.

Regina Wilson, who has managed the Gruet tasting room for a decade, poured through all of the wines for me (I spit, of course) before hooking me up with Laurent for a tour of the facility.   I’ve visited a hundred+ wineries in my career, but this one is different.  There are three million bottles resting in huge racks as part of the lengthy méthode champenoise process to make sparking wine (and Champagne, of course).  There are 20 people employed by Gruet, a seemingly tiny number based on the fact that they can bottle up to 1,000 cases per day.

Time to Stock Up:

Gruet distributes its products primarily to restaurants and retail wine shops, but its entry wines are more readily available.  The Gilbert Gruet Grande Reserve and the Gruet Grand Rosé (no typos here with “grand and grande”), as mentioned, are only available directly through the winery, so this is a grand opportunity to acquire these limited wines.

Just click on the Buy Now buttons above to stock up or come on into Carpe Vino. . .that special person in your life will certainly show you some reciprocal love!

Wine Clubbers: Gruet Tasting is Saturday

This Saturday’s Wine Club tasting is going to be something special:  we’re featuring all of the Gruet wines highlighted in this email.  They’ll all be open for tasting, and we’ll have a representative from the winery’s broker on hand to answer any of your really tough questions.

I’ll be in da house too, so I’ll look forward to seeing everyone from noon to 3 p.m.  If you need a special bottle for Valentine’s Day, your search is over.  Are you feeling the love?





More information
Carpe Vino (Find Us) 1568 Lincoln Way Auburn, CA 95603
Phone Number: 530-823-0320
Get Directions to Carpe Vino
Bar & Restaurant Hours Tuesday - Saturday
4:00pm - 10:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
Dining Room 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.