Monthly Archives: July 2012

El Colibri Boutique Hotel & Spa: An Escape of Uncommon Allure

We at Parker Sanpei & Associates recently had the opportunity to stay at El Colibri Boutique Hotel & Spa in the quaint hamlet of Cambria, California.  Against the dramatic backdrop of Moonstone State Beach, El Colibri Boutique Hotel & Spa offers an escape of uncommon allure.  Just a short drive from Paso Robles wine country and a peaceful walk from the beach, El Colibri’s sophisticated solace is an antidote to the frenetic pace of everyday life.

El Colibri debuted in 2010 with the purpose of inviting each guest to replenish, regroup and relax in a setting where urban sensibility meets casual luxury.  From the moment we left our car in the complimentary subterranean parking garage to the moment we checked out of our oversized guestrooms, El Colibri surrounded us in tranquil panache.

The property’s 34 smoke-free rooms are furnished in a modern lux Mediterranean style, setting the standard for elegance and amenities in the cozy beach town of Cambria, on California’s Central Coast. Reflecting the natural beauty of their surroundings, each guestroom offers a jade pebble enclosed thermostat-controlled gas fireplace and deep soaking tub, along with granite countertops and marble floors in each bathroom.  Pillow-top beds, flat screen HD LCD satellite televisions, eco-friendly bath amenities and large open-air picture windows add to the comfort and serenity of a night spent at El Colibri.

Each morning at El Colibri includes a complimentary continental breakfast featuring fresh-out-of-the-oven pastries and breads, just-squeezed juices, teas, and gourmet coffee.  In the evening, enjoy the finest local wine paired with fresh tapas in the polished, intimate ambience of the Colibri Wine Bar. Whether by the ounce, by the glass, or by the bottle, wine from the Colibri Wine Bar brings any visit into the context of wine country, with special tastings poured by local winemakers to the sounds of live music on Saturday evenings.

Tucked away in a private corner of the hotel’s top floor, the petite full-service spa with covered outdoor Jacuzzi whirlpool tub and steam rooms presents just one more invitation to unplug, unwind, and relax.  Skilled professional therapists are available to indulge guests with as assortment of massage treatments, each unique and individualized to personal preferences and comfort level.

In addition to high-speed complimentary wireless internet service available throughout the hotel, El Colibri offers a state-of-the-art intimate board room for meetings of up to 12 people.  With productivity and comfort in mind, the board room is outfitted with acoustic paneling, indirect lighting, telephones, a flat-screen television, and cutting edge audio-visual equipment that will transform the typical business function into an unforgettably meaningful experience.

For a stylish destination wedding, El Colibri provides space for everything from the rehearsal dinner to the wedding brunch, with space for up to 50 guests.  A popular option is for bridal couples to share their wedding vows on the gorgeous windswept sands of Moonstone Beach, followed by a warm wedding reception beside the fire in the Colibri Wine Bar.

Whether the goal is rest, celebration, or efficiency, El Colibri Boutique Hotel & Spa is the ideal setting, unlike any other on the Central Coast.  We highly recommend it!



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Terroir Matters

The growing conditions at Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery make all the difference to Pinot Noir

With over 600 acres of rolling hills under vines, an encyclopedic variety of soils, and a view of the Pacific Ocean, Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery possesses the sort of terroir that many Pinot Noir producers dream about.

In 1982, the hills that run alongside Highway 101 attracted French viticulturists to explore the possibility of planting vines for sparkling wine. Their suspicions were confirmed: the climate, topography and soils would be ideal for plantings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a small portion of Pinot Blanc. The vineyard was established and the Maison Deutz winery was born.

But it wasn’t until several years later, when the property was sold and renamed Laetitia Estate Vineyard & Winery, that the true potential for varietal Pinot Noir would be discovered. Today, the vineyard is planted to 57 blocks of Pinot Noir, each of them bearing a completely different personality than the next, due to clonal selection, position, soil makeup and microclimate.

“We are right on the edge of where Pinot Noir can be grown,” said Vice President of Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano. “We get warm winters which result in early bud-break. Our springs and summers are very cool, giving us ‘cool sunshine,’ which exposes each grape cluster to heavy sunlight for intense color and skin tannins. And our falls are warm with classic Indian Summer conditions that allow us to fully ripen the fruit.  It’s the long growing season – February to October – that ‘slow ripen’ the berries for that classic Laetitia style.”

On the winemaking end of the spectrum, Winemaker Eric Hickey adds that the diversity across the property creates a huge “spice rack” that is particularly helpful when he blends the wines. “What chef doesn’t like to have a lot of spices to choose from?” he asks.

This diversity is especially apparent in Laetitia’s three vineyard-designate Pinot Noir wines: La Colline, Les Galets, and La Coupelle.

La Colline , “The Hill,” is the vineyard that greets visitors to the winery at its entrance just off Hwy 101 northbound.  Planted to highly reflective Chamise shaly loam which sends heat back into the leaf canopy, La Colline’s hillside has a nearly perpendicular aspect to the sun during the growing season. These conditions conspire to make La Colline Pinot Noir one of the jammiest from vintage to vintage, typically with ripe cherry flavors and a complexity that hints back to the older age of the vines.

Les Galets, “The Stones,” is aptly named for its position on a volcanic hill abundant with Diablo clay soil. “This is one of our rockiest sites,” said Bozzano. “Planted at seven-hundred feet with direct influence from onshore ocean winds and low-fertility soils, the vines have to work extremely hard to produce anything. The result is small, intense clusters, which make for a full-bodied, powerful Pinot.”

La Coupelle, ‘The Cup,” is the newest single-vineyard Pinot Noir offered at Laetitia. Planted on sun-absorbing heavy clay soils and protected from ocean winds, La Coupelle is one of the estate’s warmest sites for Pinot Noir.  As a result, wines show more dark fruit notes, earth, cola, and powerful tannins.

In terms of the clonal selections’ influence on each single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Hickey explained, “We have always noted that these three locations are areas where the site’s influence dominates both the clone’s influence and any vintage influence.  In other words, site is everything to these wines.”

So much so, in fact, that Hickey and Bozzano can pick a Laetitia Pinot out of a crowd. “I was recently at a blind tasting with fifty other Pinot Noirs,” said Bozzano, “and I was able to pick out the Laetitia.  It’s the fruit profile and the texture of the wine that tips me off – bright acidity and a focused palate.”

“For me, it’s that mysterious spice note entwined in the fruit profile,” said Hickey.  “I like to call it the ‘Laetitia spice.’”

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Protecting Against the Unexpected

New product is a game-changer for the food and beverage industry

For those of us who have worked in food service, learning how to carry a tray full of drinks is a rite of passage, and no one gets by without at least one massive spill.  But this month, a revolutionary product will be released that virtually eliminates the hassle (and expense) of stemware breakage and spillage.

Designed and invented by veteran restaurateur, Leonard Cohen, the Stem Locks™ system is comprised of no-slip clips that lock on to most popular non-stick  service trays and hold stemware firmly in place, preventing against unexpected mishaps between the kitchen or bar and a diner’s table.

Cohen was raised in the restaurant industry, currently owns two popular fine dining establishments on California’s Central Coast, and has owned wineries in the past. His idea for Stem Locks™ was born on New Year’s Eve at his downtown San Luis Obispo establishment, Ciopinot.

“We were serving one-hundred and fifty flutes of Champagne to our guests, and the entire wait staff was buzzing around the dining room,” he recalls. “Someone shoved a chair out in front of a server, who attempted to steady one flute on her tray and ended up spilling everything onto the ground. As we mopped up the mess, I thought, ‘Someone should invent something to prevent situations like this.’”

Cohen began researching existing products that might help prevent such headaches, but failed to find anything sufficiently cost-effective or flexible to implement in his businesses. Estimating that each tray in his restaurants cost him around $200 per year in stemware breakage alone, he started dreaming up a device of his own. The result is a kit of five sturdy plastic clips, a strap to affix to the underside of a tray (allowing the server to tip the tray any direction without toppling stemware), two adhesive anchors to hold the strap, and a spacing tool for strap placement.

“I was fortunate to have a restaurant where I could test prototypes,” says Cohen. “My two lead servers used prototypes for six months, which we tweaked considerably along the way.”

In the end, Cohen says that the device exceeded the expectations of wait staff, as well as his own. “We found that the Stem Locks™ went completely unnoticed by customers, and that bussing tables was especially efficient.”

Stem Locks™ are extremely affordable to adopt, as each clip is universally adaptable to most serving trays.  Furthermore, Stem Locks™ can potentially save businesses thousands of dollars in stemware, as well as other expenses like wine spillage, dry cleaning, complimentary dishes for guests, and the potential liability of broken glass.

Leonard Cohen

Cohen is proud that Stem Locks™ is made in California, produced from recycled plastics, and distributed through Sysco, the global leader in food distribution to the service and hospitality industries. Wholesale distribution is coordinated through Sysco’s private supplies and equipment provider, Supplies on the Fly. For access to Stem Locks™, buyers should contact their local Sysco sales representative or go directly to  Additionally, Stem Locks™ are available to consumers via Instawares.

“I think of Stem Locks™ as a seat belt,” Cohen says.  “No matter how experienced a driver you are, you need a seat belt to prevent against the unexpected. When I show veteran servers how the Stem Locks™ work, they usually roll their eyes and say, ‘Hmmm, where were these when I worked in the industry. These sure would have save a lot of spilled drinks, broken glass and unhappy customers?!?’”

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Gnarled Beauties and Their Next Generation

Zaca Mesa Winery celebrates the Central Coast’s oldest vines on their own rootstock

This spring, our friends at Zaca Mesa Vineyard & Winery will plant cuttings from their own-rooted Syrah vines – cuttings which harken back to Chapoutier in the Hermitage region of the Northern Rhône – 34 years after its original planting to what is now known as the Estrella Clone. Thought to be Central Coast’s oldest Syrah vineyard, the three-and-one-half-acre revered Black Bear Block is the granddaddy of Zaca Mesa’s Syrah. These original plantings comprise a portion of the new section called Mesa C.

Mesa C parallels Mesa H, known as Black Bear Block. A 3.05 acre sub-block of Mesa C was planted to cuttings on its own rootstock from the Black Bear Block in 6 x 4 spacing with low-to-the-ground 20″ trellis wire. By contrast, Black Bear Block was planted with 12 x 7 spacing and conventional 36″ trellis wire. This 3.05 section is strategically situated directly beside the original plantings. Of the 18.1 acres of that comprise Mesa C, a total of 7.43 acres of artisanal clones were planted on their own root stock.

Brook Williams

“Farming own-rooted vines has quite an impact on the way we make our wine,” said Zaca Mesa President, Brook Williams.“Ungrafted vines produce nearly half as many tons per acre of fruit as grafted vines, so intensity of color and flavor is exceptional.”

For the balance of the plantings, Zaca Mesa Winemaker Eric Mohseni selected clone/rootstock combos based on what he is seeing from the Chapel G plantings, as well as tastings with other local producers who have worked with them.

Eric Mohseni

“Trying different combos is extremely important to create diversity in the vineyard.  I’ve also chosen to plant five and a half acres with a twenty-inch trellis wire – low to the ground – which hasn’t ever been done on our estate,” said Mohseni.

The Zaca Mesa team anticipates seeing fruit in 2014, but 2015 will most likely be the first bottled harvest from Mesa C. “I believe that this block will be the pinnacle for Zaca Mesa, and will produce some of the best Syrah in the Santa Ynez Valley,” said Mohseni.

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