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Wine Travel: The Pinot Days Festival

Where: Fort Mason Center [map], San Francisco, CA, United States
June 27, 2008 at 12:05 PM | by | ()

The fickle little fruit that became so popular thanks to a horizontal movie about failed expectations, insecurity, wine tasing and adultery has been having a major moment in the media sun. No doubt that means big crowds at Fort Mason in San Francisco this weekend for the Pinot Days festival.

The list of producers 180 strong, so if you like pinot noir, chances are you'll be a kid in a candy store. Besides lots of knobs walking around with their complimentary wine glass strung around their neck like drab-suburban bling, serious oenophiles can hear talks form some of the top Pinot producers in the world as well as meet wine makers from all over.

The one thing that caught our eye was the "Focus Tastings." You're poured 16 different wines to taste and try to determine how each differs. They call it education, we call it paying $65 to have purple teeth!

Related Stories:
· Pinot Days [Official Site]
· Wine Travel coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: greenmelinda]

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Starbucks Alternatives: The Buena Vista

Where: 2765 Hyde St. [map], San Francisco, CA, United States, 94109
June 4, 2008 at 2:00 PM | by | ()

It's a story well told, two guys sitting around, reminiscing about some killer concoction they had overseas one night. Like any good tete-a-tete, a challenge is laid forth and from it, a blessing to all mankind. In the case of The Buena Vista, on Fisherman's Warf in San Francisco, it's the Irish Coffee for your Aunt Pauline to drink without looking like an alcy.

Born in 1952, the Irish Coffee was a collaboration between owner Jack Koeppler and international travel writer Stanton Delaplane, and it's based on a drink served at Shannon Airport in Ireland. The pair toiled over getting every component just right, the crux being the float of smooth airy cream on top. Maybe if the US wasn't so inherently puritanical we'd all be sipping Irish Coffees every afternoon instead of soy half-caff jerk drinks?

The Buena Vista has yet to go chain on us and the original Irish Coffee still remains the best. Yes, it's located in one of the craziest tourist sections of the city, but it's still worth a stop to drink up some real history.

Related Stories:
· The Buena Vista [Official Site]
· Starbucks Alternatives coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: whiffer]

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Memorial Day Travel: The Weekend in Beer

May 23, 2008 at 5:00 PM | by | ()

Sure, this weekend is the unofficial start of summer. More importantly, though, it's the mega-official start of outdoor beer-drinking season. We believe it was Washington Irving who so succinctly summed it up, saying, "They who drink beer will think beer."

We've most definitely got cold beer on the brain but before we crack our first tall boy, we thought we'd put together a big list of suds festivals for ya. Enjoy.

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Commence Planning of Boozy Long Weekend in New Orleans

May 14, 2008 at 1:36 PM | by | ()

Tales of the Cocktail, the booze-focused "conference" for bartenders, restaurateurs and, uh, enthusiasts, runs July 16-20 in New Orleans. With seminars, demos, dinners and hobnobbing, it's like a giant cocktail party without the black ties and annoying co-workers.

One day passes are available for $175 and include four events and nighttime drinks. You can also just pick and choose a couple events, hanging at the festival as a smaller part of a New Orleans vacay. Tickets range from $25-$75, depending on what you're attending.

If you really wanna get serious, the Founder's Day pass gets you into everything and goes for $625. Seems steep, yes, but it's probably less than your bar tab for five days in NoLa would be.

Festival headquarters is the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, and we can tell you from experience that it's the best place to stay for the event. Aside from giving you easy access to the Carousel Bar and festival seminars, it's also got discount rooms available if you book early.

Related Stories:
· Tales of the Cocktail 2008 [Official Site]
· Jaunted in New Orleans :: Gray Line Cocktail Tour [Jaunted]
· 120-Hour Cocktail Party Coming to New Orleans [Jaunted]

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Single Malt Mancation in Speyside

March 14, 2008 at 11:30 AM | by | ()

There's a certain romance to the soft, bucolic green hills of Scotland--a romance that wouldn't normally inspire us to take a trip there with the guys. But after hearing about the whisky festival in Speyside we're changing our minds. Pack your best tweed jacket for this mancation, and come ready to quaff some of the finest single malts the island has to offer.

Speyside, an area taking its name from the river Spey, has a history of making whisky that stretches more than 150 years. Even back when distilling was a "crime against the crown," says the Guardian, it was home to more than 200 distilleries. Many of the world's most popular whiskies have emerged from the region (Johnnie Walker ring a bell?) but the more artisan single malts are Speyside's signature. Benromach, one of the smallest distilleries, has a shop in the town of Elgin that sells 750 kinds of malts.

The Spirit of Speyside whisky festival runs May 1 - 5, and includes a variety of tours, tastings, food events and (if you're still able to stand) even dancing. The festival drew about 16,000 people last year and some of the events are already fully booked. As always, classiness comes with a price--tastings run from about $10 - $40 each.

Related Stories:
· Whisky Galore at Speyside Festival [Guardian]
· Spirit of Speyside [Official Site]
· Mancations coverage [Jaunted]
· Scotland Travel coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: kyleroth]

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Liquids Ban Travel: Any Excuse for Mid-Morning Boozing

January 15, 2008 at 12:00 PM | by | ()

We didn't have much of an opinion on the vodka-loving German who pounded a liter of booze rather than surrender it to airport security officers last month. But it seems he started a quiet revolution in liquor-loving travel, spawning both TSA sympathy and solidarity among travelers.

On a recent trip, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford forgot about his 375 mL bottle of 1991 Krohn port before passing through security at Spokane International. Instead of dumping the (undoubtedly dangerous!) wine, a screener told Morford that he could quaff it before passing back through the checkpoint. Why not, right?

I took my first big swig, and proceeded to enjoy one of the stranger, warmer, fuzzier late-morning lunches I've had in awhile. It was pretty good port. At least, for 11 am on a Saturday in an airport baggage claim.

And rather than down the whole thing, he shared the rest of his bottle with another traveler. Smart, that.

Related Stories:
· How to Get Drunk at the Airport [SF Gate]
· Dreaming Vodka Dreams [Jaunted]
· Airport Security coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: desi.italy]

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Airport Security: Dreaming Vodka Dreams

December 13, 2007 at 11:30 AM | by | ()

We've gotta hand it to a guy who's so fed up with airport hell that he'll guzzle a liter of vodka to spite security screeners. But lost in the news about ridiculous liquid bans and the poor fellow's hospitalization is some good news for fans of duty-free booze.

The European Union is no longer confiscating liquids in transit from Singapore. After studying up on security measures at Changi Airport, officials say its safe to let bottles bought in Singapore onto connecting intra-Europe flights. The EU says it'd be happy to add other airports to its secure list in the future.

Unfortunately, that wouldn't have helped the 64-year-old flier who pounded his bottle of vodka in Nuremberg rather than surrender it to screeners: He was flying into the EU from Egypt.

Related Stories:
· EU Ends Confiscation of Transfer Passengers' Liquids [AFX, via Forbes]
· Man Nearly Dies Downing Vodka at Airport [AP, via Google]
· Airport Security coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: Maggiejumps]

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Shopping in Brooklyn: Beer and Wine

November 28, 2007 at 2:00 PM | by | ()

New York's special spot in booze history (birthplace of Schaefer and Rheingold, and home to more than 100,000 speakeasies during Prohibition), combined with a young population willing to spend a big chunk of their income on booze, has led to Brooklyn's vibrant and varied brew-and-spirits scene. From brewery tours to affordable wine shops, Kings County can cater to both connoisseurs and novices alike.

Brooklyn's Top Booze Shops

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Beer Travel: Hermann's Best Brewery

Where: First St. and Gutenberg St. [map], Hermann, MO, United States, 65041
November 26, 2007 at 1:05 PM | by | ()

Earlier this fall, we told you about Hermann, Missouri, the little German village in the middle of flyover country. Sure they have a wicked Oktoberfest, but what about beer drinking when festivals aren't in session? That's when Tin Mill Brewing Company has you covered.

When we stopped in, the tasting room had four brews on tap, ranging from easy drinking Maibock to serious teeth-grinding Dopplebock. All of 'em were quite good, and the sampler gets you four tastes for four bucks. If you're ready to commit, they also have beer by the half tankard, full tankard or growler.

Beyond the tasting room, you'll find a self-guided tour of the operation. Signage explains all the tanks and hoses, as well as the brewing process. On our visit, Pilsner was afoot along with another tank of Dopplebock--just in time to replenish the dent we made in the brewery's supply.

Related Stories:
· Tin Mill Brewing Company [Official Site]
· The Real Oktoberfest... In Missouri? [Jaunted]

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Upstate New York Travel: Niagara Falls Icewine

November 21, 2007 at 10:05 AM | by | ()

Our Upstate NY Travel Map will get you there.

Ice wines are to Niagara Falls what margaritas are to Mexico. Both elixirs are so tart, they mask their high alcohol content. And it doesn't look like the residents of either place mind being fooled.

Though they sound chilly, ice wines are a nice way to warm up in the tundra of Upstate New York this season. The wine is prepared by picking frozen grapes, which retain higher sugar and flavor concentrations. This practice helps wineries, er, squeeze, another season out of their vineyards during the winter months.

In January, Niagara Falls celebrates its domination of the ice wine industry by hosting the Niagara Icewine Festival. Though technically the event is on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, New Yorkers can cross the Peace or Rainbow bridges and still glimpse home across the river while touring along the waterfront Ontario wine trail.

The festival runs January 18-27, 2008. Wineries build ice bars and frozen art exhibits and roast chestnuts for the event. Sometimes gimmicks are fun and should be embraced. And in Upstate winters, we take any fun we can find.

Related Stories:
· Niagara Ice Wine Festival [Official Site]
· Upstate NY Travel Map [Jaunted]
· Niagara Falls Hotels [HotelChatter]

[Photo: vivianh]

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Tourism Board Travel: Cheap Wine In Philly

November 20, 2007 at 12:00 PM | by | ()

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. is yet again touting its ability to get you drunk on the cheap. The organization is pressing to make BYOBs (bring-your-own-bottle restaurants) as synonymous with Philadelphia as cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and Rocky, it says. [Ed note: It's working!]

The tourism board's site has introduced an interactive BYOB restaurant map that gives locations, descriptions and directions to the more than 200 restaurants in the city that allow patrons to bring along their own bottle of booze.

The map also includes the sites of liquor stores in relation to the eateries, and can be searched by restaurant name, cuisine or according to neighborhood. Click on the mini bottles of booze lining the streets to reveal a bubble of text describing the restaurant, its hours and the address of the closest liquor store. Sort of like our maps--only tipsy.

Related Stories:
· BYOB Map [Official Site]
· Tourism Board Travel coverage [Jaunted]

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Wine Travel: Soaking in Vino in Japan

November 15, 2007 at 10:45 AM | by | ()

Today's the third Thursday in November, which means the corks come out of the world's most overrated vino today. Beaujolais Nouveau has already touched down in Japan, where true wine fans aren't just drinking the stuff, their swimming in it.

The Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone is one of many hot springs-fed resorts in Kanagawa. Its aptly named wine spa is stocked with Beaujolais, and the on-duty sommelier would be happy refill your glass. (Please don't drink directly from the pool.) If you're teetotaling on your Japan trip, Yunessun also offers a coffee spa and a green tea bath.

And it seems those non-alcoholic options are a good hedge. Though Japan consumes a quarter of the world's Nouveau, taste for the seasonal wine is dwindling. In ever trendy Japan, not even a pool full of booze can't catch on for long.

Related Stories:
· Yunessun Spa Resort [Official Site]
· Japan Tepid on Pricier Beaujolais Nouveau This Year [Reuters]
· Japan Travel coverage [Jaunted]

[Photo: REUTERS/Toshi Maeda]