Mardi Gras May Be Over but Our Party is Just Starting

Officially, the two-week run up to Mardi Gras culminated on February 12, with nine spectacular krewes parading across New Orleans. The party is far from over, however. . .in fact we’re just getting started with Chef Alexander’s culinary celebration of The Big Easy, from February 26 to March 3. This is our second prix-fixe event of 2013, and if you’d like to join us, you need to make reservations now by calling 530-823-0320. Seating from Thursday to Saturday is nearly sold out, but you can still make choice reservations for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Click here for full menu details and check out these classics:  Crispy Pork Boudin, Mock Turtle Soup (no terrapins will sacrifice their lives for your pleasure), Creole Jambalaya, Crawfish and Shrimp Etouffee. . .and what’s this. . .Oysters “Josephine”?  Sounds like Chef has named a dish after his own progeny. . .little Josephine who just turned two last month, has her name in lights.

For dessert, no beignets from Café Du Monde, but here’s a Cajun classic to finish:  Gâteau de Sirop, literally “syrup cake,” made with Steen’s Syrup, 100% pure cane syrup, family-made since 1910 in Abbeville, LA.  Not adventurous?  Then go with a familiar favorite, “Bananas Foster” with Banana Ice Cream and Rum Carmel.

This prix-fixe menu is four courses with choices and vegetarians will be accommodated. Cost is $49 per person ++, and you can make reservations now by calling 530-823-0320 or go online at  Keep in mind that when the restaurant is full, our ability to serve this menu at the bar may be suspended.

Luli’s Jeff Pisoni is in Da House Pouring on February 25th

Jeff Pisoni

Jeff Pisoni is winemaker for the Luli, Lucia and Pisoni labels, will be pouring at Carpe Vino on February 25th.

All Wine Club members are invited to join us February 25th from 6 to 8 p.m. to taste a selection of new releases from Santa Lucia Highlands-based Luli wines.

Owned by the Pisoni family, this is one of our favorite producers in all of California, and we’ll sample the 2011 vintages of Luli Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé and Syrah.  Although they have already been released and are in limited supply, we’ll also taste the 2011 Luli Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

If you know pinot, then you know the Pisonis—Gary (patriarch), Mark (viticulturist) and Jeff (winemaker)—produce some of the finest juice in the Golden State.  The Pisoni label is legendary; the Lucia brand is acknowledged for high quality; and the Luli line represents incredible price/value.

Young Jeff will be joining us for the evening.  He’ll be pouring and answering your questions from 6 to 8 p.m.  Our Jay Johnstone, personal wine consultant, will be pouring a selection of his picks.  We’ll be offering special pricing for all wines on the list, and the cost is just $10 per person.  Participation is limited to 75 people, so call 530-823-0320 to make your reservations.


He’s Baaaacccck. . .Gary Returns from 12-day Road Trip

Niner Tasting Room

This is the new tasting for Niner Wine Estates, one of the fabulous new wineries in Paso Robles, owned by a venture capitalist from Connecticut.

It’s great to get out into wine country on the prowl for new wines to bring into Carpe Vino. After nearly two weeks of sleeping in my 15-foot trailer with faithful companion, Moose, however, it was an immense comfort to once again sleep in my own bed.

I was down in Los Angeles for the first few days and then headed up the coast seeking out new juice, starting in Lampoc where I was a guest at Clos Pepe Vineyards for two nights. We parked the trailer inside a open-front utility shed, so it was nice and cozy. . .until the vineyard crew showed up a 7 a.m. and started blasting Mariachi music. I sought out the total winery experience. . .and I got it!

Since we were overnighting on Monday and Tuesday during the winter, there wasn’t much going on in Lompoc. In fact, I suspect there isn’t much going on there ever, though the town does have a Starbucks, so I thankfully I had access to the Internet. For nearly the entire time I was in wine country, though, it was sans cell service, Internet and DirecTV! I survived thanks to my Kindle, and, I have to admit it was a refreshing break from being totally wired.

The good new is I encountered a ton of great wineries in Paso Robles, where I spent three nights parked at Opolo on Vineyard Drive, one of the most picturesque roadways in America. This region has undergone an incredible growth spurt in recent years that is still in full bloom. Big money is investing heavily here, and the new ventures are huge—names such as Niner, Calcareous and Dauo. Yet, the backbone of the AVA remains small, family-owned enterprises.

We’ll be bringing many new Paso Robles wines soon—heavy on the Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, with some interesting surprises, beginning with my Gary’s Deal of the Week on Thursday. I was impressed with Paso on all levels: quality, value, variety and presentation. Perhaps what was most apparent, though, is the stunning level of competition in this maturing AVA.

The highlight of the trip for me (other than spending a great four days with my beloved, Ellen in L.A.) was a random occurrence as I drove home from dinner in Paso Robles on a pitch-black Vineyard Drive. It was about 8 p.m. and I was intent on scanning the roadway for deer when a bright flash of light exploded on my left. It was a crystal clear evening and for just a few seconds I caught sight of a bright orb plummeting to earth.

It was huge, and it seemed very, very close. There was no sound, just a ball of fire trailed by a stubby tail that disappeared below the tree line. My first impression was it was some idiot shooting off fireworks, but I quickly decided correctly that it was a meteor blazing toward the earth.

The next morning I read online that a meteor had appeared near San Francisco at exactly the same time, and it was observed as far south as Gilroy. While I was much further away, I have no doubt it was the same phenomenon. A truly impressive sight!