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Hyatt in Birmingham Alabama, Where Modern Flare Meets Southern Hospitality & Charm

February 6, 2014 by  


The Wynfrey Hotel located in Hoover, the favored suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, is new in terms of the luxuries of the hotel itself but holds enough charm to meet the desires of southern hospitality.  Located in a growing suburb that offers jazz, civil rights museums, golf, NASCAR, and the opportunity to venture to a football game, there is plenty to indulge in around the Hyatt Regency Birmingham.

The new amenities this Hyatt Regency boasts are 329 renovated rooms, Merk’s Tavern, Shula’s world famous Steakhouse, and it is connected to Alabama’s largest indoor mall, the Riverchase Galleria.  The hotel also has the comforts many people desire when they travel including airport transportation and Internet access.

The southern hospitality comes from the classic southern food featured in their restaurants as well as a fitness center, sauna, and seasonal rooftop pool that lets you soak up the southern sun and scenery.  In addition to these comforts the hotel is also a well-known wedding venue in the south.  With ample space to house the tradition of a southern event, the hotel features almost two-dozen event rooms as well as two ballrooms, which is enough space for almost any event!


Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Website

Wine Lovers: Napa Vineyards For Your Must Visit List

July 1, 2013 by  


Below are a handful of vineyards scattered throughout Napa Valley, some on the traditional list you’d find on every map and some hidden smaller gems as well.

Elizabeth Spencer

They source fruit from a handful of dedicated growers and a dozen vineyard blocks. They make Cabernet Sauvignon from select vineyards in the Napa Valley as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, which all come from the Sonoma Coast appellation.

Chardonnay. They love intensely fruited Chardonnay from cool-climate California vineyards with lemony notes, minerality and minimal evidence of oak.

Pinot Noir. Their young Pinot Noirs has seductive aromatics, both dark and red fruits, earthiness and, sometimes, that rare and wonderful orange peel quality.

Syrah. Every year, their grapes yield a wonderfully intense blue-black color, and a wine that really has grip.

Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernet Sauvignon smells like it comes from the Napa Valley – ripe but not overly ripe, rich, fruity and full.


Alpha Omega

Alpha Omega is located in legendary Rutherford in the heart of Napa Valley and is one of Napa’s newest boutique wineries. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains, the beauty of this rustic, farm-style winery is as captivating as its wine.

Alpha Omega’s extraordinary winemakers, along with historic vineyards, combine to create wines that express the essence of this famous wine region. Talented winemaker, Jean Hoefliger, has teamed up with one of the world’s finest palates, Michel Rolland, to create wines that express their passion for excellence as well as the unique terroir that is Napa Valley. By procuring prized grapes from the many appellations of Napa Valley, our winemakers blend the essence of exceptional terroir ranging from valley floor, hillside, mountain and coast. Using natural techniques, they handcraft finesse-driven, complex and balanced wines, which express the aromatic profile of the best Napa Valley has to offer.

Hoefliger and Rolland’s combined award-winning winemaking techniques create elegant, approachable and perfectly balanced wines of the highest quality through blending the best of Old World and New World wine styles. A gifted young winemaker and a master winemaker are discovering together the excitement of creating world-class wine from world-class grapes in world-class terroir for Alpha Omega.

Rutherford Hill

Founded in 1972, Rutherford Hill Winery is a pioneer in the development of California Merlot. The grape growers who founded Rutherford Hill carefully studied the geography of the region and capitalized on climate and soil conditions that resembled those of Pomerol, the small but distinctive Merlot-growing region of Bordeaux. What a promising discovery that was – one that has borne plenty of fruit – specifically, the lush, purple-black grapes that have contributed so much to Rutherford Hill’s success. Today, Merlot remains the flagship wine of the company with 75 percent of Rutherford Hill’s production dedicated to this varietal, one of the leading Merlots of Napa Valley.

When the Terlato family of the Terlato Wine Group (TWG), Lake Bluff, Illinois, purchased the winery in 1996, they immediately began to apply their guiding principle: Quality is a way of life. The pursuit of excellence began with a comprehensive review of all aspects of the facility that resulted in significant enhancements.

TWG Chairman Anthony Terlato works with Rutherford Hill winemakers to tackle the challenges of consistently improving the wine, vintage after vintage. The philosophy that the Terlatos apply to all their ventures was evident at Rutherford Hill from the start. Their first step was to reduce production by 14,000 cases. This eliminated inferior lots from the final blend, and met the demanding new quality standard they had set.


In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley. The vineyard was planted with Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which he sold to neighboring wineries. Louis worked to create a family gathering place at the ranch, for his children and grandchildren, while he dreamed of the day he could retire from his San Francisco advertising agency and make wine from his vineyard.

Louis passed away before he could realize his dream, leaving the estate to his family. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, his family produced a few hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard’s old tractor barn. After the wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, the family decided to increase production, and Honig Vineyard & Winery was born.

In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis’ grandson, Michael Honig, took over management of the vineyard and winery. In 1989 the family began producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. As the business grew, family members Regina Weinstein, Steven Honig, Stephanie Honig, and Jonathan Honig joined Michael in the winery.

What began as a small “garage” winery has today become a successful family enterprise, with everyone working collaboratively to run an inspiring and socially responsible business. The Honig family donates wine to charitable organizations around the country; hosts political and community events at their vineyard; and are leaders in sustainability, both in the vineyard and the winery.

Winemaker Kristin Belair focuses production solely on Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Honig wines can be found on the wine lists of hundreds of fine restaurants. Louis Honig’s vision of bringing his family together to share in the beauty and bounty of Napa Valley, while producing outstanding wines, has become a reality.


The love of farming and a passion for wine brought Tony Peju to the Napa Valley. A series of ideas – starting in his birthplace on the Caspian Sea, then France, England and eventually, Los Angeles — created the Peju’s Napa Valley winery. In 1982, Tony and his wife Herta purchased 30 acres of land in the Napa Valley with the magic ingredient – location. Neighboring vineyards in Rutherford included Robert Mondavi, Inglenook and Beaulieu. Situated between Highway 29 and the Napa River, the acreage included a 1900-era house and rambling vineyards, some 60 or more years old. Looking to the future, Tony and Herta have introduced their two daughters, Lisa and Ariana, to the workings of the wine business.


In 1971 Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son Charles J. (Chuck) Wagner, who had just graduated from high school, if he would be interested in joining them in starting up a winery. If Chuck declined the offer, Charlie and Lorna were planning to sell out of their ranch in Napa Valley and move to Australia. Chuck accepted his parents’ offer to launch the winery, Caymus Vineyards.

The Wagners produced their first vintage in 1972, consisting of 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then, Caymus has focused their efforts in the production of quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Today’s production is 65,000 cases.

Caymus Vineyards remains 100% family-owned by the Wagners. Charlie, Lorna Belle, and Chuck worked together as a remarkable team for over 30 years building Caymus Cabernet. Today, Chuck, his two sons, Charlie and Joe, and one daughter, Jenny, have joined the family team. Farming grapes remain the priority with the family farming about 350 acres of choice Napa Valley land.


The Cakebread family, owners of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford founded it in 1973, and since then, the winery has developed a reputation for producing fabulous wines. Its success is built on quality, consistency and continuity, characteristics which apply equally to the grapes, the wines, the people and the operation of the winery.

Over 39 years ago, Jack Cakebread came to photograph the Napa Valley for a book and while here, he casually mentioned his interest in one day owning a vineyard to some family friends who had a ranch in Rutherford. When he returned home that afternoon, the phone rang and it was the family friends offering to sell their property. He headed back up to the valley that same afternoon to make his best offer, and Cakebread Cellars was born.

As the Cakebread family reflects upon the many profound changes in the wine industry over the last 38 years, such as innovative farming techniques and new methods of reaching out to consumers, they note that their key values have remained the same. Dedication to making the highest quality wines and a commitment to family has followed a continuum as their first small vineyard has grown into a thriving internationally distributed wine company.

Their first vintage–157 cases of 1973 Chardonnay–was sold to Phil Faight of Groezinger’s Wine Shop in Yountville. He in turn sold to a small audience of premium wine drinkers who primarily drove up from the Bay Area on weekends to visit the country. “Two or three cars an hour would be on the road and we would all stop and look to see who was coming,” said Jack as he thought of his original neighbors who became some of the “legends of the wine industry – Mondavi, Martini, Heitz, BV’s Tchelistcheff and Christian Brothers “Brother Tim.” Today, traffic is about 30 cars-a-minute as the world comes to visit the Napa Valley wine country.

Grgich Hills Estate

Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen Mike’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.

The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became our signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.

Their pride and joy is our Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavors and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, they also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honor of Mike’s daughter, Violet.

Now 89 years old, and still sporting his signature blue beret, Mike was inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame in 2008 in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch.

Jericho Canyon

Following the contours of the land, the founders planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc throughout the vineyard, which sweeps across the hills on terraces ranging from eight to twenty feet apart. Endless hours are spent on each plant over the course of the growing season – pruning, shoot positioning, thinning, suckering, and leaf removal – to achieve the proper sun exposure. Summer daytime temperatures in Jericho Canyon frequently reach 100 degrees but can drop to 50 degrees at night. These temperature swings, along with the volcanic Boomer gravelly clay loam soils, ensure production of small quantities of rich, full-flavored fruit.

Their wine is made in the Bordeaux style: hand-crafted in small lots, the juice is blended to create a full-bodied, complex wine with well balanced tannins. Because of their hillside location in the canyon, the grapes typically ripen later than those from the valley floor. This means they often let the fruit hang into late October or early November.

Phifer  Pavitt

The wines were handcrafted by our renowned Napa Valley winemakers, Ted Osborne and Gary Warburton. This is the story of city boy meets country girl. Shane, who grew up in the town of postage stamp lots, Manhattan Beach, CA moved to the country to breathe some fresh air and slow down with Suzanne. And alas, the future of Phifer Pavitt was born.

Photo credit: blog.purentonline.com.

Rise High at the QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning

June 3, 2013 by  


 The largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America takes flight July 26-27-28, 2013 at Solberg Airport in Readington, New Jersey — halfway between New York and Philadelphia.

The 31st annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, it is named one of the Top 100 Events in North America for the sixth time in 2013.

The Festival attracts upwards of 165,000 people and features the awe-inspiring spectacle of more than 100 sport and special shaped hot air balloons from around the world taking flight twice each day.

There will also be a live concert series featuring some of the biggest names in music including Grammy Award winning artists; fireworks; a nighttime hot air balloon glow; the Running with the Balloons 5K race; death-defying aerial acts; and 39 hours of affordable family entertainment plus hundreds of arts and crafts and food vendors.


Canada’s Best Blues, Barbecue, and Beverage Gardens

June 2, 2013 by  


Winnipeg BBQ and Blues Festival will be taking over Red River Exhibition Park this August for three days.  It will be featuring the best in local, national, and international blues performers along with a Pit Masters BBQ competition.

This event is boasting quite the lineup for music as well as unbeatable prizes for the barbeque competition.  A few of the artists will be David Wilcox, Wide Mouth Mason, and Ana Popovic.  The winner of the BBQ competition, on the other hand, will be awarded a $10,000 purse and invitation to show off their barbeque cookin’  at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue Competition as well as the World Food Championship.

As if being filled with delicious barbeque while your ears are jammin’ to some blues; there will also be “Big Rigs” around as a part of the House of Chrome Show and Shine.

Sri Lanka’s Sacred Esala Perahera Festival

May 18, 2013 by  


According to Buddhist culture, the Sacred Tooth Relic (Dalada) of the Buddha is the most valued object of worship.  Currently the sacred tooth relic is in the Temple of the Tooth Relic (Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy, Sri Lanka.  As a result of this being the home of the object, Kandy is considered the foremost sacred place of worship in the Buddhist world.


As a part of Buddhist culture, there is a festival that takes place annually in Sri Lanka that is dedicated to this tooth.  Kandy Esala Perahera takes place over a ten-day period in July and/or August, during which the Sacred Tooth of Lord Buddha is adored with a series of great processions.  As a part of these sacred processions, temple chieftains, hundreds of drummers, dancers, torchbearers, and elephants walk through the streets each evening.


While the festival is deep rooted in Buddhist beliefs and culture, a lot of Kandy Esala Perahera sounds like the scene of a carnival with acrobats and festivities galore.  However, what sets this event apart even more is the elegantly decorated elephants that are part of the processions.  Richly decorated, they stride amongst the musicians, fire jugglers and torchbearers carrying gold and jewels.


This unique symbol of Sri Lanka is rich with a great deal of culture and is guaranteed not to disappoint the travel minded.

Oahu & Maui: Hawaii Food and Wine Festival in September

May 17, 2013 by  


This September, the third Annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival will be taking place for over a week.  Held on Oahu as well as Maui the festival strives to bring the Hawaiian Islands to life.  The festival is boasting internationally acclaimed master chefs, sommeliers, and mixoligists.  Along side the international winemakers, there will also be local Hawaiian winemakers to quench your thirst.

This year’s Festival is set to highlight agriculture as well as the culinary evolution of the Hawaiian Islands.  This inspirational festival in an unforgettable location will feature more than 70 of the world’s best-known chefs.  As if their cooking skills are not enough, they will also be using the freshest island ingredients.

Whether you venture to Hawaii for the event in particular, or plan on seeking some delicious food in Hawaii from September 1-9th, this festival can meet your needs.

They are working to offer five signature evening events as well as educational culinary experiences during the day.  If you are less interested in the food piece, both Oahu and Maui will be offering wine seminars as well.  So, whether your goal is to enjoy, educate, or experience the festival will no doubt leave you more than satisfied.

The proceeds of this mouth watering event support the sustainability, cultural, and educational efforts of the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation, the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, Leeward Community College Culinary Program, Paepae o Heeia, Papahana Kuaola, Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation, Maui Culinary Academy, and Maui County Farm Bureau.


Photo Credit: hawaiifoodandwinefestival.com

Schedule, Share and Discover Lifestyle Businesses via Kuyam

May 15, 2013 by  



If you have ever wanted Yelp and OpenTable to merge then you will be happy to hear about Kuyam.

Kuyam is a new innovative online scheduling platform.  Essentially it allows busy people to find and have lifestyle appointments booked in just a few clicks.  Discovering anything from spa and hair salons, to health and exercise classes.  There is even options to discovering tutoring and babysitting for the kidos.

Becoming a user is free, and after that you narrow down the service you want, what time you are available and how you plan on paying for it; then Kuyam does the rest.  Rather than you making calls and discussing availabilities.  Once your appoint is set it appears on a calendar on the Kuyam site.  Appointments are easy to change, adjust, or cancel as needed.

A mobile app is on the horizon for Kuyam as well which will truly expedite the efficiency of a busy person’s day.  Kuyam is working to make the connecting and discovering of local businesses easier than ever.


Photo Credit: Kuyam.com

Festival Telik Jailolo Spices Things Up In Indonesia With Island Treasures

May 15, 2013 by  


East Indonesian culture is being celebrated this May 16th-18th via Festival Telik Jailolo.  This annual cultural festival is on its 5th year and takes place in Jailolo, West Halmahera, and its purpose is to allow people to witness the richness of East Indonesia’s culture.

The festival is put on by the Tourism Department of West Halmahera.  The purpose behind sharing the culture annual is to promote the local scene on a bigger scale.  With everything from tourism, natural resources, culture, and of course local business in the area of Jailolo included.

The festival will allow those with an interest to explore deep into West Halmahera’s beauty, natural habitat, and culture.  Indulging in their world of spices is one aspect of their culture, and events such as the spice parade, spice expo, and strolling through spice gardens will be encouraged.  Appreciating the areas natural beauty will be enjoyed via a fishing contest, swimming contest, rowing contest, fun diving, replanting corrals, and witnessing sea rituals.


And certainly last but not least, there will be a cultural party along the beach to feast on traditional cuisine with locals and grilling 10 tons of fishes!


Teluk Jailolo Festival 2013’s theme is The Treasure of Golden Spice Islands and will be embraced with an art performance at the festival.


Photo Credit: festivaltelukjailolo2013.com

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