Valentine’s Weekend – Part 1

It is a family tradition to extend one-day holidays into Festivals. These festivals normally run through the end of the following weekend, so if your birthday is on a Monday (for example) you win big. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday, it was only natural to extend it through Sunday. Equally natural? Include good food and wine, of course!

We started our Saturday edition of the Valentine’s Festival with a brunch at Faz. The Faz restaurant is adjacent to the Sheraton Hotel in Pleasanton, and has been a landmark for years. We heard that new management had revitalized their brunch, so we gave it a try.

The brunch is structured as a buffet. Full disclosure: I am not a fan of buffets, especially for breakfast. Eggs can get pretty awful in a steam tray, so I entered with some trepidation. Balancing that, our $18.95 included a glass of champagne! Okay, now you’re talking my language. These were magical champagne glasses, too. Every time the glass was almost out of champagne, some friendly waiter would breeze by and correct the problem! Wow!

The buffet line was equally impressive. Being a Eggs Benedict snob, I couldn’t believe that the buffet line included Eggs Benedict. To my happy surprise, the steam table had six servings, so that our entire party could help themselves. The eggs were perfectly cooked, holding their shape until popped, then runny over the Canadian bacon and English muffin. The hollandaise sauce was nice, too! A real credit to the chef’s skill in managing a buffet line.

We sampled the other offerings as well, and found everything to our liking. Lots of proteins, platters of fresh fruit, and those magical champagne glasses. We will definitely be back!

Following our gluttony at Faz, we headed out to the el Sol winery. We are big fans of el Sol, as well as club members. We look forward to attending a release party, but in over a year of trying, every party has conflicted with a trip to Southern California. Hopefully the spring party will be our first!

We tasted our way through the unique el Sol wines, including the Sauvignon Blanc with its vanilla notes, the Grenache Rose that always reminds us of Jolly Ranchers, and the Syrah Rose with the fascinating raisin color.  The 2008 Contra Costa Sangiovese is always a favorite of our group, with notes of allspice and a spicy finish that pairs well with anything we put on our BBQ.

Another group favorite was the 2010 Carignane. This wine is tricky to pronounce but very easy to drink. Nice notes of plum and elderberry, this is another good wine for BBQ afternoons.

We finished our visit with the always-popular trip to the barrel room. This time, we sampled a 2009 Livermore Syrah and a 2009 Contra Costa Sangiovese. Although the Syrah had good flavor and portents of good things to come, we fell in love with the Sangiovese. Ever the bargain hunters, we decided to purchase a half case of futures. The $7.00 per bottle savings will make the Sangiovese even more delicious!

From el Sol, we ventured onwards to the Eckert Estate winery. We love the Eckert wines and try to drop by as often as we can, but this weekend was even more interesting because they were previewing their new distilled spirits. The state has not yet approved their labels, so sales are not yet possible, but they were completely ready for tasting. Mike Eckert was tasting his first brandy and a grape vodka.

Producing distilled spirits is quite different from wine making, but Mike is clearly up to the task. With his amazing copper multiple-port distilling column and a lot of experimentation, he has mastered this new art. We tasted both the brandy and vodka and can’t wait for California’s red tape to unsnarl so that we can take some home!

The sun was setting as we drove home, already planning our Sunday edition of Valentine’s festival. Stay tuned!


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