Dorey Cellars Petite Sirah: Big Wine, Bigger Value

For those among you with eagle eyes and an elephant’s memory, the name “Dorey Cellars” may be familiar.  For our second deal in the space of just two days (after a very long drought) we’re offering the 2008 Dorey Cellars Petite Sirah, the big brother of the ’07 Dorey Cellars Workbench Zinfandel that was the very first of 10 days of deals for our 10th anniversary in August last year.

The Workbench was a huge seller, and we expect that with a discount of more than 44%, the petite sirah on offer today will fly out da door:  We have just 18 cases available for $9.99 per bottle when you purchase six or more—down from regular retail of $17.99, our “bottle one” price.

If it is tacky marketing to discuss price before extolling the attributes of the product, then label me a knave. . .in these cost-conscious times I’m just trying to get your attention.  In truth, all it takes to rivet your senses is a splash of this juice in the nearest wine stem.

Winery Tasting Notes:  “The clay in Clarksburg is making quite a stir in one of California’s newest AVAs where petite sirah clearly thrives.  Big and bold, dark and inky, paired with a steak or even a cigar, this wine will bring your taste buds to attention.”

In the process of transcribing these notes, I made a slight mistake and wrote “Big and bold, dark and kinky”, perhaps simply a Freudian slip; more likely the lusty, sensual, provocative qualities of this wine (falling just a bit short of “sexy”) could be blamed for any cognitive slippage.  For a paltry 10 bucks, this wine kicks ass.

It has a pretty, lavender nose juxtaposed against muscular, brawny fruit in the glass.  This wine’s tannic backbone and acidic exoskeleton provide a rock solid framework for the blackberry and licorice flavors.  The finish is nice, if not epic.  After five years in the bottle, this wine is begging to be consumed right now (and in that spirit, I’m working on draining this bottle at dinner tonight).

What I found particularly interesting about this wine is the source of the grapes.  Dorey Cellars purchased fruit from the Winchester Vineyard in Clarksburg, an AVA that has produced some mammoth petite sirahs.  Most notable is Jeff Runquist’s entry, which in years past has dominated competition at the California State Fair.

As with the 2008 Inheritance Heritage Red that was brought to your attention in yesterday’s GWDW, this juice is scarce. . .a search on produces no results.  That may be because just 240 cases were produced.  Whatever, we’ve got a limited quantity to sell, and when it’s gone. . .well, that’s it!

Now all that is left for you to do is step up to your computer, dig your toes into the dirt, tap your bat on the plate and then crush the “Buy Now” button like you are smashing a hanging curveball over the left field wall.  It just feels good, doesn’t it?


“Vive La France” is Almost Like Being There

Ah, it’s spring time and there is no better season to travel to Paris. . .for lovers and foodies alike. But if you’re stuck at home—like we are—not to worry, because Chef Alexander’s next prix-fixe menu has the power to transport us across the pond. . .faster than first class in a Concorde.

“Vive La France” is a four-course gastronomic primer of classic dishes steeped in a tradition of simplicity and dependent on fresh seasonal ingredients that form the foundation of French elegance. Chef Alexander’s annual, Parisian-inspired menu taps deeply in to his training at the Culinary Institute of America and it sells out every year. So check your calendar between April 23 and 27, and make your reservations now by calling 530-823-0320, or go to As usual, there are options for each course, a vegetarian solution and the cost is $49++ per person.

Click here to see the full menu, but over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing Chef Alexander’s inspiration for dishes he will be preparing, starting with the appetizer, Classic Beef Tartare. “I’ve always wanted to feature Beef Tartare on our regular menu, but because of execution and preparation issues, it can be a challenge, he explained. “But with a prix-fixe menu, it is perfect.”

Staying in tune with seasonal ingredients “is exactly the way the French would do it,” he said. “We start with top round of Kobe beef, hand cut and diced. We keep it simple with chopped onions, cornichons (French pickles), game capers and a fresh, raw quail egg.”

Sound awesome? Make your reservations now. . .and stop drooling all over your laptop.

Show Mom the Love at Carpe Vino on May 12th

mom tattooCarpe Vino open on a Sunday for dinner? Hey, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to help our customers honor their mothers in style. Chef Alexander is still working out the details, but look for a very special menu that is sure to satisfy everyone in your clan (as long as they are 21 years of age or older).

We’ll be announcing the menu soon, but we suggest that you make reservations now by calling 530-823-0320. Watch this space for details!

Heed Jay’s Advice and “Take The Road Les Traveled”

Road Les Travelled(Note from Gary: As Care Vino continues to grow, we’ve been able to hire some very talented people; all are pros. . .like Jay Johnstone, our very first personal wine consultant. You may have encountered Jay in the restaurant or perhaps he has been in touch by phone. To help you get to know him better, we’ve asked him to share his favorite wine selections through Window on Old Town. This dude is golden, so take his advice. . .I sure do! In the months ahead you’ll be hearing from others on our staff.)

As many of you know, my career has been deep in traditional restaurant/hotel beverage management. I rose through the ranks quickly, yet after a number of years in the business I truly love, I wanted more. Over time, I had created a path that was safe, and well traversed. However, sometimes to get to your true destination, you have to take a route less traveled.

Hence, my first recommendation for you is a wine by Les Behrens, co-founder with Lisa Drinkward of Behrens Family Winery. Theirs are some of the most sought-after California cult wines: extremely low-production, allocated and most less than 350 cases made.

His signature wine is a non-vintage blend called The Road Les Traveled (get the pun here?). All of the juice that goes into making this blend is sourced from his cellar, such as the cabernet sauvignon that forms the backbone of this wine; it is the precisely the same as his flagship cab. All of the top quality grapes that make up The Road Les Traveled II, are in the other Les Behrens wines like The Heavyweight, and The Knockout.

This second edition NV wine is comprised of grapes from the 2008, 2009, and 2010 vintages. To make sure this fabulous juice found a home, Les creates a big earthy blend that is chewy, has a great balance and a palate stimulating spice that just may make this your “house red.”

I have a real connection to this wine because like it, I have taken the road less traveled, creating a new route in my career that brought me to Carpe Vino. I encourage you to take a chance, too, and try this fabulous bottle. –Jay

Winery Tasting Notes: “This is our second offering of this non-vintage wine. It is fat and lush with ripe plums and earthy, cedary notes. Flavors of black cherry and sassafras are forward in this plush, seductive and balanced wine. We like to think of this as the wine equivalent of comfort food and are excited to have this in our repertoire. This is a serious wine, but one you still can afford to open on a Tuesday night.” –Les Behrens

Blend: 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 12% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Tempranillo; 598 cases.

We have 10 cases in stock at Carpe Vino, ready to be picked up and/or shipped today. Feel free to order by calling Jay directly at 530.906.5020. Or, if you prefer, simply email your order to Also, for your convenience, you can order this online, and enter JayJ in the customer notes section.

See you in the wine bar,


What’s with the Yellow ABC Sign in the Window?

The short answer is Carpe Vino has not been sold. That’s typically the assumption when one of these yellow signs appears in an establishment’s window. . .the new proprietors have applied for a liquor license.

In our case, the posting is the result of a change in corporate ownership. Until recently, our S Corporation consisted of three principals. Drew and I completed a purchase agreement and by law are required to amend our license, which required the formal posting of a notice for 30 days, ending on April 21.

The California ABC is keenly interested in who owns the businesses to which liquor licenses are issued. Those who ignore the rigorous requirements put their licenses—and livelihoods—in peril.

So, not to worry. Drew and I aren’t going anywhere!

See you in the wine bar,


Polish Your French; Next Prix-Fixe is April 23-27

All of the smart set will be dressed to the nines for the next prix-fixe. Better make your reservations today!

All of the smart set will be dressed to the nines for the next prix-fixe. Better make your reservations today!

With lovely citrus flavors still lingering, we must shake off the reverie of Chef Alexander’s March triumph and prepare for the next prix-fixe week that will celebrate all things French—the cuisine and wine. Mark your calendar in ink for these dates: April 23 to 27 for our next four-course adventure. Same deal, $49 per person, plus tax and tip.

Last year, we put more derrières in the seats than for any prix-fixe event. So word up, make your reservations early to get the day/time you prefer. Call the shop at 530-823-0320 or make your reservations online at

Better Hurry & Confirm for “Citrus Serenade”

Better Hurry & Confirm for “Citrus Serenade”

We’re taking reservations for Chef Alexander’s next prix-fixe delight, a tribute to winter fruit of the foothills, “Citrus Serenade,” four courses, with choices for $49++. Wine is additional, of course, and our crack staff will be delighted to help you with a selection.

Click here for the full menu, but entrée choices are Roast Moroccan Chicken (with preserved Meyer lemon, green olive, dried fruit and saffron couscous); or Skuna Bay Salmon (with blood orange, rhubarb, peas sprouts, fennel-spring onion soubise); or Berkshire Pork Ribs (with Satsuma mandarin, forbidden rice, charred scallion, citrus char siu). Sounds yummy, huh!

Sacramento media has taken notice of our very popular prix-fixe series. Last month, our New Orleans menu was featured in the SacBee’s Appetizer column. And just last week, Sacramento Magazine pimped Citrus Serenade on its web site and Facebook page.

So the word is out. Don’t delay. . .make reservations at or call the restaurant at 530-823-0320. . .and pucker up!

March Wines are Boxed; Citrus Serenade on Tap

Here’s a shout out to all odd-month Wine Clubbers: Your March wines are ready to be picked up at Carpe Vino. We’ve got brilliant selections this month. . .we hope you $40/Red folks really dig the cabernet sauvignon from Canoe Ridge called “The Expedition,” a Washington wine produced as a tribute to explorers Lewis & Clark. It’s yummy with a trifling price for such a unique winner from near Walla Walla.

As usual, wine has already been charged to member credit cards and is ready to be picked up. With our membership now at about 850 total, we’d like to let everyone know how much we appreciate your participation and your support. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We recognize it is a symbiotic relationship, but we understand how crucial it is to maintain quality on every level. And that’s why we’re working on creating a mobile app for Carpe Vino with additional functionality exclusive to our Wine Club. We’ve worked hard to keep our toes over the front edge of the technology surfboard, and we aim to deliver a tool for you unprecedented for an independent wine shop and restaurant. This will likely be several months in the making, but don’t surprised if some of you will be asked to road test beta versions. Stay tuned. . .

Meyer Lemons, Blood Oranges & Mandarins, Oh My!

Time to pucker up, prix-fixe fans, because Chef Alexander has announced his menu for Citrus Serenade, our week-long tribute to foothill winter fruits. Make your reservations early for the week of March 26 to 30, starting at 5 p.m. each evening. Concept is reliably unchanged: four courses with options for $49++pp; your choice of wine is additional.

Smart foodies will light up their Smartphones right now and make reservations by calling Carpe Vino at 530-823-0320 or go online to Click here to be directed to the full menu!

An Infusion of Zinfusion Always Remedies Confusion

CastoroCellars_6pck_croppedOver the last month or so, I’ve very nearly overdosed on zinfandel. First it was a power-tasting at ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers 22nd annual event in San Francisco late in January, showcasing literally hundreds of examples of the varietal from nearly 200 producers. Then I spent four days in Paso Robles, one of the fastest growing AVAs in America and a hotbed for zinfandel. If that’s not enough, last weekend I attended a birthday party in Lodi and guess what was being served: zinfandel, of course.

Yet with all of the mind-numbing zin I have sampled and savored at the source, this week’s deal was discovered by young Drew Moffat. . .and it came in over our transom. That’s irritating to me because the 2010 Castoro Cellars Reserve Zinfandel Zinfusion is produced on Rte. 246 in Paso Robles, and I drove past the winery at least a dozen times during my recent excursion. . .without stopping to investigate; nor did I visit Castoro’s table at ZAP. The reason is because this immensely capable winery is familiar to me, and I’ve been on the prowl for new juice.

Castoro’s slogan is “Dam Fine Wine,” and I am compelled to concur with this entry. Like many zinfandels conceived in the harsh soil and blistering heat of Paso Robles, Zinfusion has a distinct familial link to the terrior. It is a lusty survivor of maltreatment that has only made this juice stronger.

The aromas draw you seductively to the glass, but the first sip confirms that this wine is no tart. . .its refined spice and powerful fruit frame a thoughtful blend of grapes from three vineyards:

Winery Description: Zinfusion is a marriage of selected vineyards that complement each other to produce a unique wine that showcases Paso Robles Zinfandel. It has become quite a coveted wine among our customers. The vineyards selected produce intense fruit due to their location and also as a result of the excellent viticulture practiced by the growers. The vineyards for this blend are the Cobble Creek, Whale Rock and Shell Creek vineyard. This is a big wine and can be enjoyed with rich pasta or meat entrees.”

This wine is going to taste even better when you know the pricing. At the winery, Zinfusion is priced at $23 per bottle, $17.25 each for Castoro Wine Club members. At Carpe Vino, our retail price is $19.99, but purchase six or more and you pay just $13.99 per vessel, a savings of almost 40%.

By the Numbers: Zinfusion is 15% alcohol; it was aged for 10 months in American and French oak; just 3,000 cases were produced by winemaker Tom Myers.

We have just 16 cases in stock, and there is no more to be had. Go to the Castoro web site ( and you’ll see the Zinfusion vintage on offer is 2011. So be among the few, the proud, the sated and lance the “Buy Now” button before it is too late. Based on recent zinfandel deals, sometimes responding immediately isn’t fast enough!

Monday Night Tasting & Deals Brings Out the Faithful

Monday night isn’t exactly date night, but that didn’t prevent more than 70 of the faithful from coming out to taste two flights of great wines at Carpe Vino on Monday night.  Jeff Pisoni, winemaker for Luli wines (plus Pisoni and Lucia brands), made the trek from Santa Rosa to pour five of his newly released wines in our Wine Mine.  And upfront at the Mary Pickford bar, our very own Jay Johnstone was offering one-ounce pours of four additional wines, all at discounted pricing.

Favorites for the evening can be determined through sales, and here are the crowd pleasers:

2010 Luli Pinot Noir $21.95/bottle — $18.99 on 6+ (Last 5 Cases Left in California)
2011 Luli Sauvignon Blanc $14.99/bottle — $12.99 on 6+ (New Release)
2010 Pruett “Lucky Lauren Red” $29/bottle – standard discounts (93 Points Wine Spectator — 8 Cases Left only 120 Produced)
2010 Terraces Petite Sirah $35/bottle — $25 on 6+ (Discount given when processed/can’t show discounted price online)

We also tasted several other wines from Luli including their 2011 Chardonnay and newly released 2011 Rose of Pinot Noir/Grenache and 2010 Syrah. All three of these wines sold very well at the event too!

If you couldn’t make it to the tasting, rejoice because all of these wines are still available and can be viewed/ordered through our online store.  Getcha some soon, though because supplies are limited and we can’t offer this tasty pricing forever!


If You Want Sum Dat Etouffee, Betta Move It!

Chef Alexander’s New Orleans menu has his fans salivating because choice seating for this week’s prix-fixe is being gobbled up faster than beignets at Café du Monde on Sunday morning.   Tuesday and Wednesday nights still have limited availability remaining; only early/late seating can be had Thursday through Sunday.

If you’d like to join us for this four-course prix-fixe with choices ($49++pp), visit or call the restaurant at 530-308-2698.  Continue to procrastinate, however, and this riverboat is going to pull away from the dock without you!

Drop By Tonight and Meet Luli’s Jeff Pisoni

Jeff Pisoni

Just a reminder for those of you who have signed up for tonight’s tasting of five wines from Luli, this Wine Club -only special event is from 6 to 8 p.m. and cost is just $10 per person. Winemaker Jeff Pisoni (and for Pisoni and Lucia brands) will be in da house, pouring his latest Luli offerings: 2011 vintages of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, Lucy Rosé, syrah and pinot noir (we’ve got just a few cases available of this one). Regular discounts apply:

Jeff will be holding court at our Mary Pickford bar, and our very own Jay Johnstone will be hunkered down in the Wine Mine pouring these wines from his personal stash, all with special pricing:

1.  2009 Wolf Family Vineyards “Phaedrus” Cabernet (Napa Valley) $40/retail discounts down to $29.99 on 6 +.

2.  2009 Turnbull Cabernet (Napa Valley) $40/retail discounts down to $27.99 on 6 +. 

3. 2010 Pruett Vineyards Lucky Lauren Red Syrah/Cab (Sierra Foothills) $29/retail discounts down to $26.10 on 6 +.

4. 2010 Terraces Petite Sirah (Napa Valley) $35/retail discounts down to $25 on 6 +.

We hope you’ll join us for this special event. . .what else do you have planned on a Monday night. Please call 530-823-0320 and let us know you’ll be coming.


Packaged Pefection: Pin-ups…Paso…Port

Cruising around the Central Coast for more than a week recently—primarily in the Paso Robles area—I encountered a disproportionate number of great wines. In fact, nearly every winery I visited produced at least one wine that I felt we could sell easily at Carpe Vino. Yet one of my favorites of the expedition and the only juice I actually trucked home was four cases from PasoPort Wine Company: the 2007 Violeta Port and the 2008 Ruby Port.

mintwineAnd since chocolate is the premier pairing with most port wines, we’ve put together a sweet offer for this rendition of Gary’s Wine Deal of the Week: Purchase the package of four bottles of PasoPort wines shown the photo, and we’ll include a box of Thin Mints to help you create an incredible after-dinner treat. Retail value is $128, but purchase the deal and pay just $100 plus tax, a savings of almost 22%.

I love port. I’m not a huge fan of sweet wine, but for some reason ports of all types appeal to me. Maybe it was because I used to smoke cigars, I don’t know, but a nice shot of port after dinner in the living room just seems so, so civilized.

My trek to PasoPort began at nearby Caliza Winery, where I was treated very kindly by Pam, the vastly knowledgeable tasting room manager (expect to see Caliza wines on our racks soon). As I was leaving, I asked her to recommend a few of her favorite wineries, and she pointed me just down the road.

Climb the hill to the tiny tasting/barrel storage room at the top and you pass by a series of road signs with the images of exquisitely rendered pin-up girls, evocative of iconic figures of the 40’s, yet exuding a unique freshness that make them oh-so appealing. Before even summiting the hill, I knew I was a buyer.

I was greeted in the tasting room by Lola Glossner, wife of winemaker Steve who 20 years ago walked away from Cornell College in Ithaca, NY, with a business degree but chucked it immediately to pursue a career in wine. After cellar rat/harvest stints in California and New Zealand, he studied enology at Fresno State and landed in Paso Robles. He was winemaker at Justin for five years (creating the blending components for the 1997 Isosceles, named to the Wine Spectator Top 100 in 2000). He moved on to help create the opening portfolio for Halter Winery before launching his own his own brand while serving as winemaker for two others in Paso Robles: Steinbeck Vineyards and Per Cazo Cellars

PasoPort RubyOkay, I was hooked on the PasoPort label art and the sultry bottle formats, but it was the substance in the bottle that make me reach for my credit card. Steve makes four beautiful ports, and I selected his Ruby Port, a salute to California-style dessert wines with petite sirah and zinfandel as a major components of the blend. The other bottle is a traditional Portuguese-style port, comprised of 100% Portuguese varietals.

Here’s what you get, all presented in 500ml bottles (typical format for most ports is 375 ml):

Winery Tasting Notes, 2008 Ruby Port: “This 2008 Ruby is brimming with blackberry and black licorice notes on the nose and following through with bright and zesty berry compote qualities in the mouth.” Blend of 52% petite sirah, 40% zinfandel and 8% syrah. 450 cases; 19% alcohol; 9% residual sugar; aged 24 months in neutral oak.

PasoPort VioletaWinery Tasting Notes, 2007 Violeta Port: “This 2008 Ruby is brimming with blackberry and black licorice notes on the nose and following through with bright and zesty berry compote qualities in the mouth.” Blend of 53% Touriga, 28% Souzão and 19% Tinta Cão. 631 cases; 19% alcohol; 8% residual sugar; aged 24 months in neutral oak.

Lola shared something with me that is worth repeating: Port isn’t just a wine to savor after dinner. In many parts of the world, people enjoy port as an aperitif, a delight to be enjoyed before a meal to help tickle your appetite. If that’s true, the four bottles you purchase today won’t last long!

To avoid fouling “Buy Now” button with chocolate, please depress firmly with your pinky finger. We have just four cases in stock, so don’t be bashful!