Friday, December 26, 2014



In the mid-1970’s, due to a normal teenage interest in alcoholic beverages, my family allowed me to make some wine from the family vineyard and beer at home (under adult supervision, of course). This led to a UC Davis degree as well as concurrent work at a local winery doing the dirtiest and most menial jobs imaginable. In the mid-1980’s good friends at Duxoup Wine Works (think Marx Brothers for the pronunciation) inspired me to try my hand at my own label so I negotiated cellar space in lieu of a raise by my then-current employer, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley (I got a raise anyway). Greenwood Ridge was supportive of my project and decided to have some Scherrer Zinfandel produced for their label as well. Unfortunately, I had a poor business plan and during the first year I realized I was not yet ready for this project. Greenwood Ridge continues to make a small amount of Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel to this day.

Enter Dehlinger Winery in the late 1980’s. Tom Dehlinger was very supportive of my long-term plans and challenged me to develop a solid business plan, facilitating an important entry into my own project. In return, his winery received my heart and soul for a decade. The final key element in our getting started was from my parents. They allowed me to delay paying them for their fine grapes until we began getting cash flow from our wine sales. By 1997, we were ready to make the move to a facility of our own. In anticipation of this, we were able to add Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to supplement the Zinfandel we were producing, all from my father’s vineyard in Alexander Valley. Tom Dehlinger supported this transition of my focus, allowing me to produce these additional wines in his facility and we parted very amicably after that vintage.

And so after the harvest of 1997, I moved our operation to a corner of an apple packing shed-turned-winery, finally leasing the entire building. During this period, our production grew from just the three varietals from Scherrer Vineyard, to now typically a dozen wines, about half of which are Pinot Noir. Total production is now 4000 to 5000 cases. My good friend, Don Bliss helped me whenever I needed a hand (or a finger to dial 911 in the unlikely event of a forklift mistake) throughout this period until he sold his fine vineyard and moved back to his native Texas in 2006. Since then, I have been able to impose on a handful of friends and local customers when I have needed help, but still continue to work at the winery pretty much alone most of the year. Judi, my wife, has handled administrative and compliance for the winery since 2002, keeping me out of trouble with bureaucrats and making sure we are able to conform with the complex and changing world of direct shipping and wholesaling laws, reports and fees.



Living in Southern California is not cheap and the new economic reality has left many people facing the choice between food & groceries or paying for rent and other life necessities on a regular basis”, says Bill.  To add to the burden, the lack of public transportation makes it very difficult for those in need to connect to those organizations that can help them.  I have seen friends lose their jobs over the past few years and have witnessed the impact it has had on their families, says Bill, the emotional struggle alone is often times more than some people can overcome.

In contemplating how to best help those in need, one of the main obstacles that Bill kept running into is the lack of mass transportation in Southern California.  While the face of those in need has changed over time, public transportation in Southern California has not.  Unlike other major metropolitan areas Southern California does not benefit from a subway, “L” or other large mass transportation systems for those without a car or can afford the outlandish price of gasoline today.  Bill’s original plan was to build a restaurant modeling the success of Jon Bon Jovi’s “Soul Kitchen” in Red Bank New Jersey.  However without the ease of mass transportation Bill has decided to bring the restaurant to them.

With that in mind Bracken’s Kitchen will jump on the growing popularity of food trucks as a means to help those in need.  With a mobile kitchen / restaurant Bill will bring the food to those who need it most.  By networking with churches and other nonprofit agencies that provide for those in need, Bracken’s Kitchen will be able to announce when and where they will be feeding.

The goal of Bracken’s Kitchen is to provide high quality and healthy meals on a regular basis to those who need it most.  Our hope is that by providing meals on a regular basis we can lessen the financial burden of those in need and their precious few dollars can be spent on housing and other important life necessities.

While the goal of the food truck will be to feed, it is also our goal to eventually become self-supporting by selling food on those days that we are not feeding.   One of our newest plans is the possibility of branding our trucks with the companies & individuals that have supported us.  With the right branding we feel that the food truck can be even more successful in raising capital on the selling days.  To further expand the impact that Bracken’s Kitchen hopes to have in our community it is our goal to partner with various organizations to help employ those individuals who need a job most.

While we intend to start very modestly with just one truck our goal is to have a larger impact by growing the fleet.  There is much more need just in Orange County than 1 truck can handle not to mention other areas of Southern California.  The ability to expand to those areas is our end goal.  Imagine a day where Bracken’s Kitchen food trucks dot the landscape of Southern California and beyond.

It was October of 2009 and I had just been blessed with the birth of my youngest son, Lukas.  It was a wonderful time in our lives and we were truly ecstatic.  Welcoming him home were my two older kids, Jacob and Jessica.

Shortly thereafter my wife, Molly, made the difficult but exciting decision to stay home to raise Luke.   Molly had a successful career in hospitality, was moving up the corporate ladder and was well compensated for her work.  The loss of her income put a big dent in our personal budget but we knew it was the right thing to do.  While we were not wealthy we were able to manage this financially, as I have had a successful career as a chef and have always been very conservative with my money.

It was during this time that we started having our weekly Starbucks date with Luke in tow.  I was never a big coffee drinker but I developed a taste for lattes with all the syrup and soy milk to make it taste good.  Luke always looked forward to those mornings when he would get a donut while mom and dad spent a little time together before dad went off to a long day of work.  Luke loved to sit on the stools at the end of the counter and just wait for someone to order a Clover so he could watch the fancy reverse French press.  It was a fun time in our lives that gave us a lot of happy memories.

It was during one of these weekly visits to our local Starbucks that I first spotted him.  He was a good looking well-dressed man with golden blonde hair.  He was always well groomed and always sat in the corner alone with his laptop.  Something seemed out of place.  Being the overly observant person that I was, I soon realized that it was his drink.  He always had a glass of water, never coffee.  Why in the world did this business professional not drink coffee?  Didn’t everyone drink coffee?  Even I had started drinking it.  Maybe he didn’t like it, but then why come to Starbucks.  Time would reveal the answer to this and so many other questions that surfaced.

As time passed and our dates continued I noticed the subtle changes that occurred with Randy.  His grooming was slipping with hair not as neatly combed as it had been.  I realized that he was wearing the same clothes a lot and his suit was not as crisp and shiny as before.  He was suddenly in need of a haircut and shave.  His posture, once perfect and upright was faltering as he hunched over his laptop.  I soon realized that I was witnessing the decline from “proud and successful” to “beaten and hopeless.

Sometime later I found Randy at the local Ralphs asleep on the bench with his shopping cart next to him.   I watched as the store manager came out, woke him and chatted with him.   I was able to talk to the store manager who shared Randy’s store with me.   It turned out that months earlier when I first noticed Randy, he had just lost his job.  With their free wifi, Starbucks was the perfect place for him to conduct his job search.  Coffee was a luxury he could not afford so water it was.  The obvious deterioration that I witnessed over time was when Randy lost his home and started sleeping in his car.  The really big change came when he lost his car and moved all of his possessions into a shopping cart.  I was shocked to actually know what I had been seeing over the days, weeks and months that we went to Starbucks.  The one thing that stuck with me after that conversation at Ralphs was how proud and caring Randy was.  He was too proud for handouts and would never accept them.  He did not want to be a bother or burden to anyone.

As we fast forward to a year later it was late 2011 and I was 48 years old.  In December I found myself thrust into the lines of unemployment.  It came so quickly that I was not prepared for it but ready or not my worst fears were realized and I was unemployed.  I have had a blessed career and have never been let go from a job in my life. I suddenly was very aware of what that felt like.  The best and worst part about was that we were ok.  Being financially conservative and, unlike Randy, with the benefits of a really good severance package I had lots of options.

What happened to Randy, I don’t know.  I have never seen him since that late afternoon at Ralph’s.  But it is Randy and many others just like him who has inspired me to “Do Something”.  I could tell you countless other stories of people whom I have encountered, such as the  attractive young woman and her daughter at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa but will not.    Let’s just say that Randy planted the seed that has grown into Bracken’s Kitchen.

I have thought about Randy often over the last 2 years and wonder what happened to him. To watch a man literally deteriorate a little bit every day is a very sad thing.
If Bracken's Kitchen can provide a healthy and wholesome meal in a dignified and fun environment to those in need just a couple of days a week maybe we can help people like Randy get through some difficult times.


Friday, December 19, 2014



Karisma Hotels & Resorts is a collection of award-winning luxury hotel collection with properties throughout the Riviera Maya, Mexico and Negril, Jamaica.

If it’s true that the first bite is with the eyes, Le Chique at Azul Sensatori is a feast in every sense. From the moment you arrive, the seductive décor offers a visceral taste of what’s to come – an experiential, multi-sensory dining adventure that will challenge any notions of how fine cuisine should look, feel and taste. To call Le Chique part restaurant, part house of mirrors isn’t far fetched. This is modernist cuisine, where nothing is as it seems. Foods are deconstructed then reconstructed to resemble something else. Spheres are cocktails. Entrées masquerade as dessert. In fact, everything on Le Chique’s seasonal tasting menu was designed to puzzle, amuse and amaze you. Cuisine this inventive deserves to be put on a pedestal, which is precisely how it’s served – atop a pedestal, within a hollowed-out book, resting on a sling. All this by impresario waiters who seem to enjoy the spectacle as much as you do. Behind this pageantry is Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna and his talented culinary team, who’ve mastered the art and science of cooking to achieve astounding new flavors, textures and shapes. Add a focus on regional ingredients, sustainable growing practices and available wine pairings, and you have a dining experience that’s both a visual feast and culinary triumph.


Chef Jonatán Gómez Luna is an award-winning chef who has forged his culinary talents at globally acclaimed restaurants. As Executive Chef of Le Chique, Chef Jonatán blends cutting-edge modernist techniques with sheer showmanship to transform food into unforgettable sensory experiences for his clientele. “We go to great lengths to create a memorable experience for our guests through bold, fun, cutting-edge cuisine using the most innovative cooking techniques and fresh and authentic Mexican ingredients.”


You might say Petrus Coenders was born to be a sommelier. With a name synonymous with some of the most revered Bordeaux wines in the world, and a father whose wine collection would command attention and admiration from virtually any wine aficionado, his awareness and appreciation for fine wine came at an early age. Fast-forward through the years and you’d find Petrus working tirelessly in the hospitality industry. It is these restaurants and bars that would ultimately lead him to the Hospitality and Gastronomic Management School at Leeuwarden. Here, in the northernmost reaches of the Netherlands, his knowledge and love of wine flourished, and the young boy who could barely reach the top shelf would soon be extolling the virtues of some of the world’s finest vintages. Today, three years after joining the team at Le Chique, this Certified Sommelier of the Court of Master Sommelier continues to dazzle Le Chique guests nightkAy with a resplendent marriage of food and wine. At the same time, Petrus Coenders travels the world to acquire remarkable vintages designed to complement Chef Jonatan Gomez Luna’s revered modernist cuisine. Cheers!


Friday, December 12, 2014



– After an extensive transformation, Hotel Irvine opens as the newest and only lifestyle hotel of its kind to hit the hospitality scene in Orange County, California, revealing a sleek and vibrant modern look, a reinvented personality and service experience, unique and compelling new value propositions, unsurpassed technological enhancements, as well as an interactive social hub and authentic collection of independently minded culinary offerings for locals and guests alike.

We are close to Orange County’s airport business center, famed recreation and world-class entertainment. From natural outdoor escapes to every indoor indulgence, it’s all right here. Postcard-perfect beaches, world-class golf, famed shopping, trendy bars and restaurants – we take our play seriously. And no one taps you into the area’s best spot like we do.

17900 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614


Hotel Irvine has a new 16,000 square foot dining and entertainment hub, which just happens to be at Hotel Irvine. There’s a restaurant called EATS Kitchen & Bar, a bar/lounge called Red Bar and a Marketplace.

Eats Kitchen & Bar
The pub concept just got remade and remixed. Eats brings in guests and neighbors alike with its eclectic rustic décor. The Eats Kitchen & Bar menu has a simple range of American classics with a comfort food/gastro pub approach to each dish, created by Orange County’s locally known Chef Jason Montelibano.  The restaurant feels like what you would expect of your favorite comfortable, neighborhood joint serving updated versions of old pub favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including killer burgers, craft beers, wine flights and shared plates in a gastro pub style at an affordable

The circular bar is the perfect spot to savor a bevy – from craft beers and select wines to signature cocktails. Lots of indoor and outdoor space, including a cozy fire pit, make lounging a must. Now, on to the menu. Think comfort food with a creative culinary twist. Killer burgers, regional faves with our own distinctive flair, shared plates to be enjoyed by all (or one). It’s all affordably priced and very regulars-friendly.

Red Bar & Lounge
Everything goes well with Red. Treat yourself to a whole new concoction. Take one part modern, contemporary design and add in a retro flair. Throw in some comfy furnishings and chill spots, then mix in a hideaway room with a gigantic TV and intimate lounge area. Top it off with an appealing, effortless vibe and you’ll be experiencing the sweetest happy hour the OC has ever seen. But what’s a party without the right nosh? Don’t worry, your stomach growling will be held to a minimum with plenty of taste pleasing plates to share or gobble down all by yourself. Oh, and our super skilled bartenders and mixologists will happily hook you up with the perfect drink for any mood. Welcome to today’s lounge. Sleek, modern, bold and worthy of your night out. Join us for artisan crafted cocktails, fine local and international brews, and a tempting menu of tasty bites. Mingle with fun-minded locals and fellow guests during our themed happy hours. Partake in a mixology class. Our ample lounge areas and possibilities for good times are wide open.

Welcome to the ultimate spot to grab a bite, multitask or get something fresh to go. It’s one part farmer’s market, one part street café and one part workstation. Dig into fresh pizzas from Crust, hand-tossed salads from Tossed, amazing street tacos, Thai curry chicken, freshly prepared coffee, espresso and mucho more delights. Pick up locally sourced hand-crafted goods like local honey Backyard Bees or BBQ sauce from Costa Mesa hotspot Memphis Café, along with all your fave name brand picks. Feast on your finds in our wifi-equipped bistro setting, get them to go for your next meeting, or have them delivered to your room. They’re perfect for meetings as well. And it’s open 24 hours. All good, all the time.


JD will cover the repositioning of the hotel as a lifestyle concept, while focusing on the three independent concepts of Eats Kitchen & Bar, Red Bar and Marketplace.

Norm will talk about aspects of the beverage program at the property.

Friday, December 5, 2014



The history of Aril wines is a love story. A love story about a beautiful little vineyard perched above the Napa Valley. And a love story about a wine that changed their lives.

Joanne and Harmon met in Telluride, Colorado, where he was running a popular restaurant, and she was heavily involved in the Telluride Foundation. They began to talk of food and wine, and then of many other things. What started as a romance grew into a strong partnership and a dream. Harmon had run a winery in Napa, and Joanne had always loved the classic Syrahs of the Rhone Valley and Provence…wines enjoyed by connoisseurs and French Kings.

The dream grew into reality via a small property in the hills above the Napa Valley with just a tiny block of the finest Syrah vines. As a symbol for the winery, Joanne selected the pomegranate tree that they planted there in the garden. Aril is the deeply red cover of the seeds of the pomegranate, a color that Joanne finds in the heart of their Syrahs.

The wines are not products, but journeys from the vine to the bottle, and each journey is a unique experience to be enjoyed with friends and loved ones. Aril is our passion, and we are pleased to share it with the world.

Eric Stiefeling is the Managing Director for Aril wines. Born in New York City, he developed a love for wine after moving to California in the mid-1980s. He is a past president of the Golden Gate Wine Society, and the wine director for the Pine Creek Sporting Club in Okeechobee, Florida. Making frequent trips to Napa Valley, Eric soon became a fixture at commercial wine tastings.

Prior to his pursuits in the wine industry, Eric worked in the securities industry at Chapdelaine and Company, a municipal bond brokerage firm in New York, before joining Rauscher, Pierce, Refsnes Inc. in San Francisco. At the age of 26, Eric’s entrepreneurial spirit gave him his first taste of the food and drink world when he purchased The Attic. He turned that small restaurant in New York into a thriving business.

In addition to his work at Aril, Eric remains active in the Napa Valley’s wine culture. He served as Chairman of the Beverage Committee for Auction Napa Valley in 2010 and co-chaired the organization’s Barrel Auction for Auction in 2014.



Our focus is crafting small production vineyard designate wines from distinctive growing sites.
As custodians of the earth, we respect Mother Nature and farm our estate vineyards sustainably to produce wines that reflect a sense of place. The idea is that when visitors walk among our vines they can feel the fog, catch the scent of the soil, touch the tiny berries and taste in the finished wine a connection with these elements.

Meticulous vineyard management followed by minimally-invasive winemaking techniques allows us to produce wines that express their vineyard origins with finesse, complexity and authenticity. Paul Hobbs wines are fermented with native yeasts, aged in French oak, and bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Megan Baccitich, director of winemaking at Paul Hobbs Winery and CrossBarn Winery, works alongside renowned winemaker Paul Hobbs to produce chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon from some of Napa and Sonoma’s most esteemed vineyards.

Growing up in Healdsburg in Sonoma County, Megan was surrounded by wine from a young age. A lifelong lover of science and nature, she planned to study biology in college until a part-time high school job at a wine-focused restaurant inspired her to pursue winemaking. Megan went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Science, Enology degree from Fresno State University. She interned at Ferrari-Carano where she completed her first vintage, followed by a second internship in Dry Creek Valley in 2002. After completing her internships, Megan accepted a full-time position as assistant winemaker at Taft Street.

In 2006, Megan joined Paul Hobbs Winery as assistant winemaker. Megan quickly rose from assistant winemaker to winemaker and in 2013 she was named director of winemaking for both Paul Hobbs Winery and CrossBarn Winery. Megan works alongside Paul Hobbs to ensure a seamless metamorphosis from vineyard to bottle, making wines that showcase the vineyard site and are allowed to form themselves in the winery.

“Paul’s farmer mentality has shaped my winemaking style and the entire company culture,” says Megan. “We take a back-to-the land approach and we view great sites with a genuine child-like enthusiasm and curiosity. This passion keeps my job interesting.”

Megan lives on a 100-acre vineyard estate in the Russian River Valley with her partner Ben, their dog, Rio and three barn cats. In her free time, she spends her time outdoors, snowboarding and hiking.