Monthly Archives: January 2012

GET OUT: Festival Mozaic’s next WinterMezzo

Coming up in just a few weeks, one of our favorite arts organizations, Festival Mozaic, will be holding their next WinterMezzo concert series over the course of a weekend.  While the 12-day summer music festival is the backbone of Festival Mozaic’s offerings, they keep the spirit alive throughout the year with a couple of mini-festival weekends called WinterMezzos that feature New York-based Artistic Director, Scott Yoo, conducting a host of internationally-renowned musicians who descend on San Luis Obispo County to perform their finest.

This WinterMezzo will take place February 10-12, and the theme is “Heartthrobs” in homage to the many great composers inspired by love to write seminal works that live on centuries later.  Featured pieces include:

  • Ludwig Van Beethoven –  Romance  for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 in F major, Op. 50
  • Beethoven  – Romance for Violin and Orchestra No. 1 in G major, Op. 40
  • Alexander  Borodin – String Quartet No. 2 in D major
  • Robert Schumann – String Quartet in F, op. 41/2

Here’s how the WinterMezzo weekends work.  On Friday night (February 10) at 6pm, Maestro Yoo and the musicians will meet at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art to discuss the meaning of “romantic” music, and how composers find inspiration to pull at the heart-strings.  Upon arrival, guests receive a glass of wine to sit and relax with while excerpts from the weekend’s featured pieces are performed.

Ventana Grill

On Saturday night (February 11) at 6pm, guests will sit down with those same musicians for dinner at the Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach.  After enjoying the 180-degree ocean views at sunset and a sumptuous dinner, the evening will conclude with a further exploration of the music.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon (February 12) at 3pm, the WinterMezzo musicians will be led in full performances of the featured pieces under the direction of Scott Yoo at the United Methodist Church in San Luis Obispo, known for its crystal-clear acoustics and stunning mountain views.

We at Parker Sanpei & Associates know a good thing when we see it: We’ll be at all three events!  Hope to see you there.  For tickets, visit


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Prepare to be ZAPped – Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival 2012

In just two weeks, Parker Sanpei & Associate’s resident Zin-ophile, Jamie, will be driving up to San Francisco to attend the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival.  Though the Zinfandel varietal is thought to have originated in Croatia thousands of years ago, California considers Zin its heritage grape, so there are sure to be some amazing flavors and styles out there.  We’ve asked Jamie to tell us why she’s so excited to attend:

“ZAP is unlike any other wine festival. Instead of focusing on a region or different varietals, ZAP is focused on only one thing: Zinfandel.  Every January, thousands of Zin fans gather together to celebrate this amazing grape in one unforgettable weekend.  Last year I had the opportunity to join the festivities and was blown away by quality of the wines and the number of Zin fans that lined up to taste the latest releases from more than 200 producers. If you like Zinfandel, ZAP is definitely the event for you. It will be on my calendar for many years to come.”

Here’s a preview of the festival’s major events:

  • EPICURIAFood and Zin pairings, Thursday, January 26 at The Concourse (8th & Brannan)
    An informal dine-around experience featuring pairings of 50 top Zins with complementary bites from master chefs.
  • FLIGHTSForums of Flavors, Friday, January 27 at The Westin St. Francis Hotel (Union Square)
    An exclusive seminar-style tasting given by Zin experts focusing on themed Zin flights.
  • WINEMAKER DINNER – Viva Las Vegas!, Friday, January 27 at The Westin St. Francis Hotel
    A glamorous reception and dinner showcasing private selections poured by premier winemaker hosts.  Proceeds from the rare and one-of-a-kind lifestyle silent auction benefit ZAP programming, education and Heritage Projects.
  • GRAND TASTINGFrom A to Zin, Saturday, January 28 at The Concourse
    This is the world’s largest single varietal tasting, including hundreds of barrel samples, new releases and premier, hard-to-find Zins.  Winemakers from each unique Zinfandel growing region will guide guests through the dimensions of this truly American varietal.

For more information or tickets, check out And happy ZAPping!

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TREND: Tree house hotels

Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted was a cozy aerie from which to lob water balloons at your friends?  Or perhaps it was a “girls only” or “boys only” club house nestled into the limbs of a sprawling backyard tree.  Whatever the function, a tree house still appeals to our sense of play, privacy, and escape, even as adults.  So it’s no wonder that one of the hottest trends in hospitality these days is tree house hotels.  Here are a few of our favorites.

Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses, Kaikoura, New Zealand

According to their website, the Hapuku tree houses are perched 30 feet above the ground in the canopy of a native Manuka (tea tree) grove.  Built in 2006 by a family of architects and builders, each luxury tree house has spectacular views of Kaikoura’s dramatic mountains and Pacific coastline.  Attention to detail at the Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses is over-the-top, with most furniture having been designed and handcrafted by the family and local wood-working friends.  According to the website, the custom-designed beds are considered “the most comfortable beds in the South Island.”

The property features on-site dining in a restaurant that focuses on serving the best local ingredients possible, from shellfish harvested in Kaikoura Bay to vegetables raised on the lodge’s private farm.

The Aviary at Wheatleigh, Lenox, Massachussetts

The Main House at Wheatleigh

Utterly stunning in execution, this 16th century Florentine-style palazzo in the Berkshire mountains features a restored off-ground aviary which now acts as a sort of getaway suite.  With views of the surrounding parklands designed by landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (famous for designing NYC’s Central Park), The Aviary is a pitch-perfect blend of early American antiques and 21st century luxury. 

Interior of Aviary Tree House

In Hip Hotels USA (2003), Herbert Ypma writes:

This could well be the best hotel in the United States. The building is a magnificent Italianate mansion, the location is the picturesque Berkshires, one of the prettiest parts of New England, the town is Lenox – famous for its gentility, its classical music scene and its former resident Edith Wharton. The interiors are the most immaculate example of New York-based design and architecture duo Tsao & McKown’s work, the food is easily the best in Massachusetts, if not New England and the service beats any city hotel I know.

Tranquil Resort Plantation Hideaway, Kerala, India


Perched amid the rainforest of a 400-acre coffee and vanilla plantation, the “Tranquilitree” hideaway is a wonder of bungalow living, with a bedroom, bathroom and large veranda.  Accommodations are plush, the grounds are well-manicured, and the amenities are extensive.  Hosts Victor and Ranjini Dey offer Ayurvedic massage, tours of the plantation estate or nature trails, as well as a gorgeous robin’s egg blue swimming pool. 

Several reviews of the Tranquility resort describe it as possessing “the efficiency of a resort combined with the intimacy of a homestay.”  Home-cooked meals are served family-style at a communal table in the lodge (reportedly the best food in Kerala), and eco-tourism is encouraged throughout the rainforest setting.


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12.5 hours in Wine Country

We at Parker Sanpei & Associates recently toured the north end of San Luis Obispo County and fell in love with the Central Coast of California all over again.  Interested in our itinerary?  Here it is – feel free to steal!  Just be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart or for those watching their waistline…

8am – Coffee and Croissants at Back Porch Bakery, San Luis Obispo

Oh, how we love Dan and his Back Porch Bakery.  A formidable artist by trade, Dan Berkeland somehow finds the time to whip up batches of light-as-air, decadently delicious pastries and breads every morning from his home.  The best part is how he disseminates them: by alerting followers on Facebook to the day’s offerings, putting a flag up outside his back porch, and allowing folks to walk up and grab a bagel or croissant for a donation.  It is one of the true joys of life to run into city officials, stay-at-home moms with kids in tow, and foodies of all stripes on Dan’s back porch.  To get in on the action, “like” the Back Porch Bakery on Facebook.

10:30am – Tour of Hearst Castle, San Simeon

What’s that you say?  You’ve NEVER been to Hearst Castle?  Join the club: two of our staffers hadn’t either.  So they were in for a real treat when San Simeon dished up one of its stunningly clear days for a tour of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s palatial home on the hill.  The entire encounter reminded us why this is the Central Coast’s premier tourist attraction: jaw-dropping vistas, art that predates the Ten Commandments, splendid Spanish Revival architecture, and knowledgable staff to lead us through the labyrinthine corridors of the house.

12:00pm – Lunch at Sebastian Brothers’ General Store and Hearst Ranch Wine Tasting, San Simeon

We firmly believe that if everyone in the world could sit together on the patio of the historic Sebastian Brothers’ General Store on a sunny day, there would be no more war.  Rustic soups and sandwiches meld with spectacular wines from Hearts Ranch Winery for an experience that fills the belly and warms the heart.  Try the French dip sandwich with a glass of Three Sisters Cuvée for a meal to remember.

1:30pm – Tasting at Epoch Estate Wines, Paso Robles

What do you get when you combine the tried-and-true terroir of the Paderewski Vineyard, the winemaking talents of Justin Smith, and a modern, easygoing tasting room that belies the seriousness of the wines it pours?  Epoch Estate Wines, in the tiny York Mountain AVA on Paso Robles’ West Side.  From the outset, it was clear we were in for something spectacular.  The quality and soul of Epoch’s Rhône-varietal, Zinfandel and Temperanillo wines were reinforced by the well-versed staff behind the counter.  Really, it was more like drinking in a friend’s living room than tasting at a cellar door.

3:00pm – Tasting at Daou Vineyards, Paso Robles

Daou Vineyards is one of Paso Robles’ newest players, and has created quite a lot of buzz.  Now we know why!  “Tasting room” is a grossly understated description of Daou’s facility – it’s more like a tasting palace.  Obviously, a lot of care and passion have gone into creating an ambiance of polished Mediterranean elegance at Daou, and the wines are no exception.  We know for certain that Daou is doing something right because their wines are sold in all but a handful of states – no mean feat for a fledgling brand.

4:30pm – Tasting at Thacher Winery, Paso Robles

We had no idea what to expect as we drove toward Adelaida (“Let’s stop at the cemetery and see the lady in white!!”) to visit Thacher Winery.  All we knew was that their wines won awards and had a loyal following…a following which now includes Parker Sanpei & Associates.  The tasting room is in a rustic barn (complete with roaming winery dogs) where friendly staff pour the kind of stuff that made this region famous: Rhône-based wines and Zinfandel.  We loved the crisp, aromatic, and perfectly-balanced 2009 Viognier…but really, it’s too hard to choose just one favorite.

6pm – Dinner at The Range, Santa Margarita

Picture if you will: Paris meets Bakersfield.  Edith Piaf meets Merle Haggard.  Bistro meets barbecue.  We can’t think of a better way to describe this dearly beloved restaurant in sweet Santa Margarita.  Housed in what appears to be either an old cafe or a filling station, The Range’s spare-yet-rustic aesthetic is the perfect complement to expertly-crafted dishes like coffee-crusted rib-eye in whiskey pan sauce and The Man Salad, a classic iceberg wedge with bleu cheese – served with a steak knife, of course.  The local-based wine list includes “White Wines” and “Real Wines,” and the beer list includes mini-editorial on the brands offered.  (We’ll save you the suspense: Pabst Blue Ribbon is called the “Headache Beer.”)  Our long, delicious day ended properly with cups of decaf and a bit of Loretta Lynn over the speakers.  Perfection.

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