Show 428, June 5, 2021: Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery, Spring Mountain, Napa Valley

Stuart Smith of Smith Madrone Winery

Brothers Stuart and Charles Smith are the vineyard managers and winemakers of Smith-Madrone Winery located on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. Smith-Madrone celebrated their 50th Anniversary on May 14th. The name for the winery came as a tribute to the Smith brothers who pursued their dream and to the Madrone trees which distinguish the property.”

“In May 1971, with a partnership of family and friends, Stuart Smith bought the ‘terroir’ which today is Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery. He was 22 years old and had just received his B.A. in Economics from UC Berkeley and was taking classes towards his Master’s in Viticulture at UC Davis. In trying to find land to plant vineyard in the Napa Valley, through a family friend he explored a forest on the remotest and highest part of Spring Mountain and discovered that the land had been a vineyard in the 1880s and in fact had been part of the wagon trail route between Napa and Santa Rosa.”

Charles Smith (Stuart’s brother) joined the Winery in 1972 as Winemaker. Stuart’s son, Sam, became part of the leadership team in 2010 as Assistant Winemaker.

“Smith-Madrone’s current releases are the 2017 Chardonnay, 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2017 Riesling, 2016 Cook’s Flat Reserve and in very limited availability, magnums of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cook’s Flat Reserve.”

“As part of Smith-Madrone’s anniversary festivities they are inaugurating on Saturday, June 19th a regular series of informative and entertaining Zoom tastings and discussions with the winemakers. Stuart, his brother, Winemaker Charles Smith, and Stuart’s son, Sam, the Assistant Winemaker, will open older vintages and taste and discuss them with the Zoom attendees.” Sign-up via the Smith-Madrone website.

Founder Stuart Smith is our guest to gently pull the cork on Smith-Madrone for us.

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Show 427, May 29, 2021: Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 50th Anniversary Part One

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman of Summit Lake Vineyards

“2021 marks Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery’s 50th year (located on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley) and it is still family owned and operated. Founders Bob and Sue Brakesman’s three children, Heather, Brian, and Danny were all raised at Summit Lake and have worked hard to continue their parent’s legacy. Sue passed away in 2003 but you can still find Bob working hard repairing equipment and tending the vineyards. Brian has taken over the winemaking, Heather is the general manager and Danny caretakes the property.”

“In addition to Zinfandel, Summit Lake Vineyards produces estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Port, Petite Sirah, a red blend and rosé. All are named for Bob and Sue’s granddaughters; Emily Kestrel, Clair Riley, Sophia Lynn, and Blythe Susan and grandsons Ben and Shane.”

A day of festivities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summit Lake is set for Saturday, August 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Summit Lake website.

“The story of Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery began some 50 years ago when Bob and Sue Brakesman, the original owners and operators, met at Jordan Junior High in Palo Alto, CA. In college Bob began brewing his own beer when a neighbor suggested he try “brewing” wine. After liberating some grapes from the surrounding areas and crushing fruit in open-top fermenters (new plastic garbage cans), their winemaking days had begun.”

“Post college Bob began to question if he wanted to be an engineer or to explore his growing passion for wine and winemaking. On Nov. 12, 1971 Bob put a deed to a property in Sue’s birthday card. It described 28 acres of land, eight planted in pre-Prohibition Zinfandel (their favorite varietal), fruit trees in the orchard, a chicken house, garage, redwood barn, and a house built in the 1880’s. Sue thought she was getting paradise!”

“On Christmas Eve, Bob and Sue packed up their lives and travelled to the new ranch. As they entered the gate and drove down the driveway, her heart sank. The deed had failed to mention the property had been abandoned for over 30 years, was completely overgrown and in disrepair. The next morning, they awoke to a fresh coat of snow which had transformed the place into a beautiful wonderland. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work on top of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.”

“The gradual transformation and revitalization of Summit Lake couldn’t have taken place without the help of family, friends, and neighbors who rallied to help with planting, harvest, bottling and finally coming together to build a new winery in 1985.”

“In 1978 Summit Lake Vineyard’s first commercial release won the coveted double gold medal at the California State Fair. It sold out in just eight days. Summit Lake has 18 acres planted from which it now produces about 2,000 cases a year.”

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman join us to pull the cork on Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery.

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Show 427, May 29, 2021: Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 50th Anniversary Part Two

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman of Summit Lake Vineyards

“2021 marks Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery’s 50th year (located on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley) and it is still family owned and operated. Founders Bob and Sue Brakesman’s three children, Heather, Brian, and Danny were all raised at Summit Lake and have worked hard to continue their parent’s legacy. Sue passed away in 2003 but you can still find Bob working hard repairing equipment and tending the vineyards. Brian has taken over the winemaking, Heather is the general manager and Danny caretakes the property.”

“In addition to Zinfandel, Summit Lake Vineyards produces estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel Port, Petite Sirah, a red blend and rosé. All are named for Bob and Sue’s granddaughters; Emily Kestrel, Clair Riley, Sophia Lynn, and Blythe Susan and grandsons Ben and Shane.”

A day of festivities to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Summit Lake is set for Saturday, August 7th from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Summit Lake website.

“The story of Summit Lake Vineyards & Winery began some 50 years ago when Bob and Sue Brakesman, the original owners and operators, met at Jordan Junior High in Palo Alto, CA. In college Bob began brewing his own beer when a neighbor suggested he try “brewing” wine. After liberating some grapes from the surrounding areas and crushing fruit in open-top fermenters (new plastic garbage cans), their winemaking days had begun.”

“Post college Bob began to question if he wanted to be an engineer or to explore his growing passion for wine and winemaking. On Nov. 12, 1971 Bob put a deed to a property in Sue’s birthday card. It described 28 acres of land, eight planted in pre-Prohibition Zinfandel (their favorite varietal), fruit trees in the orchard, a chicken house, garage, redwood barn, and a house built in the 1880’s. Sue thought she was getting paradise!”

“On Christmas Eve, Bob and Sue packed up their lives and travelled to the new ranch. As they entered the gate and drove down the driveway, her heart sank. The deed had failed to mention the property had been abandoned for over 30 years, was completely overgrown and in disrepair. The next morning, they awoke to a fresh coat of snow which had transformed the place into a beautiful wonderland. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work on top of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.”

“The gradual transformation and revitalization of Summit Lake couldn’t have taken place without the help of family, friends, and neighbors who rallied to help with planting, harvest, bottling and finally coming together to build a new winery in 1985.”

“In 1978 Summit Lake Vineyard’s first commercial release won the coveted double gold medal at the California State Fair. It sold out in just eight days. Summit Lake has 18 acres planted from which it now produces about 2,000 cases a year.”

Heather Griffin and Brian Brakesman pour a glass of their 2016 Zinfandel and continue with us.

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Show 317, March 30, 2019: Border Grill’s and Socalo’s Executive Chef / Co-Founder Susan Feniger

Susan Feniger of Socalo and Border GrillCelebrity Chef Susan Feniger (Border Grill & the upcoming Socalo) is the co-chair of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Simply diVine annual benefit on Saturday, April 27th at Hollywood Forever. It’s also the 50th Anniversary of The Center.

“We couldn’t be more excited to showcase the best food, wine, beers, and spirits Los Angeles has to offer, especially when the Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary,” said event co-chair and celebrity chef Susan Feniger. “This year, we will be opening a new culinary arts training program at the Center’s new Anita May Rosenstein Campus, where LGBTQ youth can learn a truly marketable skill to help propel them to success in the professional world. In addition, the new kitchen will produce fresh meals for youth and senior residents as well as drop-in clients impacted by homelessness. Cheers to the Center—and to you—for building a world where LGBT people thrive! I want everyone to come out and support Simply diVine!”

FOODIE tickets may be purchased now for $150 which includes general admission entry to the main event from 6 to 9 p.m.

Chef Susan has the rundown for us for this celebration of delicious food, wine, spirits, craft beers, and more!

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Show 283, July 28, 2018: Tommy Martin, Guest Ambassador, Five Crowns, 50 Years of Service

Tommy MartinBrit Tommy Martin started as a Bartender at Corona del Mar’s Five Crowns back in 1968. 50 years later Tommy is the longest serving, active co-worker at Five Crowns. Earlier this Summer he was recognized with a very special honor.

“In 1968, our favorite Brit, Tommy Martin, moved to Orange County from the East Coast. Seeing Five Crowns’ Tudor architecture and red English phone booth, he quickly applied for a job, sensing he and the restaurant would be a perfect fit. Lucky for us he was right. Little did we know that half a century later, after working as bartender, wine captain and now as our Guest Ambassador, Tommy would be Lawry’s longest serving active co-worker.”

“His energetic, positive attitude and genuine desire to make every moment memorable have endeared him to two generations of guests. For many, a night at Five Crowns without a visit tableside from him doesn’t quite seem the same. For first-timers, meeting such a colorful and charming character, English accent and all, has been a wonderful introduction to the restaurant, its hospitality and its history.”

When you see Tommy at Five Crowns ask him about the night Elizabeth Taylor came in and had a special request…

Five Crown’s Guest Ambassador, Tommy Martin is our guest.

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Show 245, October 21, 2017: Lloyd Weinstein, Proprietor, Benjies N.Y. Deli, Restaurant & Avenue K Bar, Santa Ana

Lloyd WeinsteinBenjies New York Deli, Restaurant & Avenue K Bar in Santa Ana has been operating as a two-generation family owned New York-style deli originated by Stan Weinstein in 1967 and still operated today by Stan’s son and daughter-in-law, Lloyd & Noriko Weinstein. On October 6th they celebrated their 50th anniversary of continuous service.

The Weinstein’s strive to maintain the family-oriented-style, quality restaurant created by Stan, while keeping up with modern trends in dining. Benjies offers the truly New York style deli experience in Orange County, California—large portions, fresh products and an extensive array of menu items—mouth-watering pastrami on rye, and soul-warming Matzo Ball soup to absolutely decadent desserts. Their signature Reuben Sandwich was a past 1st place winner at the O.C. Fair.

Added in the last 18 months is the Avenue K Bar with a modern stylish atmosphere. On the menu are a broad selection of ice cold craft beers on tap and specialty cocktails. Also available in Avenue K is Benjies’ full menu along with a standout Happy Hour appetizer (think Reuben fritters) and cocktail Menu served from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. With multiple HD, wall-mounted large-screen televisions placed strategically around the room it’s a great spot to enjoy college and pro football as well as Anaheim Ducks Hockey.

2nd generation deli-maven Lloyd Weinstein is our guest.

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Show 233, July 22, 2017: Ahmed Labbate, VACA Group, Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner at Vaca

Ahmed LabatteOn Thursday evening, August 10th Chef Amar Santana’s Vaca in Costa Mesa is hosting a sumptuous, 7-course, premium wine-paired dinner with an abundance of passed hors d’oeuvre as a festive Friends of James Beard Foundation Benefit to celebrate South Coast Plaza’s 50th Anniversary. Chef Amar is also well-known locally for Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna beach and as the runner-up from lucky Season 13 of Bravo’s “Top Chef” in what the judges noted was the tightest final competition of the series’ long history!

Santana and partner Ahmed Labbate, whose roots together at South Coast Plaza go back to 2008 when they opened Charlie Palmer, will welcome 100 discriminating guests with a love of food and wine to the Beard dinner. Santana is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

The festivities on August 10 will include a small silent auction during an al fresco reception. While enjoying the signature Vaca Tonic and hors d’oeuvres, guests may peruse deluxe offerings, which will include a LVMH luxury Champagne experience for 16 guests; packages from South Coast Plaza, the Montage Laguna Beach and Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, unique dining experiences, luxury travel destinations, and high-end wines.

Seats are $350 and $300 for members of the James Beard Foundation, all inclusive. If you’re celebrating something very special this is the over-the-top culinary evening experience you’ll want to be a part of!

For reservations to the Friends of James Beard Dinner at Vaca, please register online here. For more information, please contact VACA GM Ghali Benhima at 714.463.6060. A credit card will be requested to secure the reservation.

VACA Group Partner & CEO Ahmed Labbate provides the tempting preview.

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Show 214, March 11, 2017: Anne Marie Panoringan, Food & Libation Journalist

Anne Marie PanoringanOur irregular ace field correspondent, Anne Marie Panoringan, (a regular contributor to OC Weekly) has previewed the 50th Anniversary Dining Specials (March only) at South Coast Plaza in a marathon eating tour. We’ll hear about all the delicious morsels being showcased.

Anne Marie managed six courses in one evening’s ample dining excursion. Course Four was an intriguing Lima Bean Soup from zCafe. It’s a tribute to the farmland that was the past of the land South Coast Plaza now occupies. The “farm” was planted in lima beans. They still grow a few lima beans on Segerstrom property, and the Lima Beans used in the anniversary soup are actually sourced from this property!

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Show 214, March 11, 2017: Chef Brian Huskey, Tackle Box, South Coast Plaza’s 50th Birthday

Brian HuskeyIt’s the 50th Anniversary of Costa Mesa’s celebrated South Coast Plaza. Most of the restaurants there are doing something special to celebrate during the month of March.

Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 11 alum, Chef Brian Huskey of Tackle Box (on the sand in Costa Mesa), has created the Camarena Tequila chipotle-braised carnitas taco entrée for Wahoo’s Fish Taco in South Coast Plaza.

It’s available exclusively for $5.50 at Wahoo’s SCP (2nd level of the Crate and Barrel / Macy’s Home Store Wing) for the month of March, only.

Wahoo’s 30th Anniversary will be next year in 2018!

We’ve reeled in Chef Brian to provide the lip-smacking details.

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Show 185, August 20, 2016: Brock Radke, Managing Editor, Las Vegas Weekly Part One

Brock Radke of Las Vegas WeeklyJournalist Brock Radke is our well-connected Las Vegas insider. He’s the Managing Editor of Las Vegas Weekly and has been reporting on the dynamic Las Vegas scene for 15 years. He’s back with his regular dining update.

We’ll get updated on Downtown Las Vegas restaurant happenings, celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Caesars Palace, and talk about the late Chef Michel Richard’s restaurant there, Central Michel Richard.

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