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What comes to mind when I say speed dating?

I will wait for a moment while you conjure up your thoughts!

I bet you are picturing a row of tables, in a dimly lit room, all lined with desperate people quickly throwing out their best pitch?  Perhaps nervously tugging at their hair?  Twitching their glasses or rhythmically tapping their feet on the ground under the table?  A little sweat seeping out from beneath their brow perhaps, or more likely, from under their pits?

Am I right?

Us too…until we went to the Old Sugar Mill for an excursion during the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento this Summer.


Think wine tasting meets speed dating.  This is the good stuff!

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Instead of desperate suitors, the dates were knowledgable winemakers that gave a 10-minute low-down on their wine, their style and their passion for the business, all as we were sitting at an intimate table with a handful of other conference attendees, pairing each of their wine selections with an amazing food taste (which was craftfully done by Jackson Catering).  Then the bell rang for the next winemaker to come to our table…

You must also envision the room.

A large, high-ceiling space with concrete floors and historical structure, re-purposed from an old beet sugar mill production plant into a space that romantically encapsulates a feeling of celebration, good taste and friends.


As our celebration came to a close though, and the others piled back onto the bus, Tom and I stayed behind (because we drove, this time).

Since the winemakers were gracious enough to come to us during lunch, it was our turn to go to them; we decided to check out their wine tasting rooms.  Needless to say, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Old Sugar Mill and signed up for four wine clubs (whoopsie…).

The Old Sugar Mill is owned by Clarksburg Wine, a sponsor of the IFBC this year.  When we made it past the owners of “Muddy Boot” (a guest winery without a tasting room that has a great story and impressive wine), and moved on from the tasting rooms of Elevation Ten, followed by Due Vigne, we came to Clarksburg’s space.  It was big fun.  I started to feel like we were visiting the set of “Sweet Home Alabama”, minus the hound dog and the drama (we did buy a dog bed though), before even anteing up to the bar!

Lucky for us, we found a friend.  His name was “D” (literally).  As a proud wine maker himself, he was happy to share knowledge about each glass we drank and beyond to the place from which it came.  We learned a lot from D, who harkened from TN (instead of AL) and made his way to CA thanks to the US military.  Thank you!

As a wedding event started to infiltrate the halls, we knew it was time to visit one last tasting room, Three Winery (also a sponsor of the IFBC event), before freshening up back at the room to attend the “Taste of Sacramento” and walk through the “gift suite”!!!  Wow, what a great showing of all Sacramento has to offer!  Who knew?

Cheers!!!…and join us next year?  Please.

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Wine Country Cheese & Charcuterie Plate with House-Marinated Vegetables, Sopprasseta, Coppa, Proscuitto, Salami (and local + premium) Cheeses, Fresh Fruit & Parmesan Crostinis

Caprese Salad (the sweetest and most succulent) Heirloom Tomatoes, (creamy, fresh) Burrata & Buffalo Mozzarella, (freshly made) Basil Pesto with drizzles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Fresh-Cracked Pepper

(Juicy, rare) Carved New York Loin with Creamy Horseradish

Citrus Achiote Marinated + Grilled (tender) Chicken with (local, ripe) Summer Fruit Salsa 



Elevation Ten Winery:  

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Poured at the wine tasting event but see below for a few others we tried in the tasting room.

Brut Sparkling Wine, methods champenoise ($31, Heldsburg, CA) This is a lovely sparkly to kick-off a Sunday brunch, to open for a celebration or to open, just because…!  Tom and I like the refreshing rose color, soft palette and drinkable texture.  Today, as I write this, it will be paired with my waffles + a side of bacon and nectarines.  We will definitely be ordering more.  It was delicious and substantial.

Festivo ($24, Placerville, CA) – The name comes from sangria, as in, this is good to use in making sangria.  I think it would make fine sangria but to us, it is best drank as is, next to a table full of tapas or enjoyed alongside a good burger!  Bight, drinkable and deep… it will lighten any mood.  Petite Sirah and Black Muscat tango nicely within.

Muddy Boot Wine:

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There’s a story about this winery that won us over.  Three friends (two are twins) read the rest here.

2015 Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg, CA) – Not typically a fan of this grape, Tom and I were both sold at its complex richness of peach and melon, not overly sweet and very drinkable on a hot day (or any day, really). Pair this with a grilled fish, an antipasto of roasted peppers, procuitto and figs or a spicy meal inspired from Thailand or India.

2013 Red Wine (Clarksburg, CA) – This is jammy!  We like Jam.  You can absolutely taste the oak in this and it is 100% barrel aged.  We are loving it with our fresh-off-the-grill ribs.

Three Wine Company:

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This winery comes from the Cline family.

2011 Carignane ($32, Contra Costa County, CA) – This is a particularly beautiful blend of  87% Carignane, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Mataro. Rich fruit, ripe tannins with low sugar make this a wine that pairs well with red meat but is also drinkable on its’ own.

2012 Old Vines Rosé ($18, Contra Costa County, CA) – With flavors of cherry and pomegranate, this complex blend is made from Zinfandel, Mataro and Carignane grapes. Enjoy it year-round with grilled salmon, cherry-glazed pork loin, a simple cheese plate or in a picnic basket.

Due Vigne Winery:

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A classy tasting room with staff who believe in the product; we believe too!  Thanks, Richard.

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Join the Club!

2014 Barbera ($50, wine club members only – La Collina II5, El Dorado County, CA) – Bright fruit and soft tannins make this a perfect pairing for authentic pasta; long-cooked and tangily simmered –  bolognese per chance?

2013 Dolcetta ($26, El Dorado County) – If you aren’t a wine club member, you can drink this with that bolognese!  It is well structured with deep red fruits such as cherries and cranberries.  Big in the mouth but soft on the finish.

Clarksburg Wine Co.:

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Our man D, who really knows his wine!


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2012 Chenin Blanc Viognier ($18, Clarksburg, CA) – This is a complex white, tropical and passionate; perhaps on the beach under a coconut tree at sunset? The mineral quality is light but finishes creamy and bright with a citrus tone.  Thanks D, for selling us your last two bottles!

2014 Delta Rouge ($20, Clarksburg, CA) – A propietal blend of Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot, this luscious, berry forward wine is unpretentious and fun.  Think party, picnic or hay ride.  Its’ firm structure holds up well and does not require food (although food is always recommended!)


Don’t worry Christine, I’ll be at class on Friday…maybe!

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Mom and Dad went to California but at least they brought us back a bed instead of t-shirts!