San Francisco World Spirits Competition Celebrates 14 Years, Biggest in History

Michael Hepworth



San Francisco World Spirits Competition Celebrates Biggest Event in 14 Year History
Spirited event showcases 1,474 entries from 64 countries

SAN FRANCISCO, California,(Spiritsman) 4/3/14/– – The San Francisco World Spirits Competition hosted its 14th annual competition on March 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th at the elegant Hotel Nikko in downtown San Francisco. Continuing its tradition of record-breaking entries annually, this year the number of submissions totaled 1,474 from 41 states,  64 countries covering 89 classifications. Many categories of spirits experienced a marked increase this year most notably American Craft Whiskey, Gin and Single Malt Scotch. Also of note this year was the increased entries of the Chinese spirit, Baijiu. Often a harbinger of trends in the marketplace, the competition is considered to be the rite of passage for top quality spirits as it has 39 of the world’s top professional palates serving as judges.

Anthony Dias Blue, Executive Director of the competition states, “Every year with this event we see the emerging trends in the spirits category, often our event is a launchpad for a burgeoning trend to be taken seriously. Prior to our event, smaller categories such as Pisco, Calvados, Cachaça and Mezcal were little known in this country, now bartenders and journalists worldwide turn their attention to our results to gauge the marketplace. Of particular note this year were the growing number of American distilled products, I’m particularly excited about the rise in quality American Whiskey,” stated Blue.

Top Awards
Best in Show Awards, which are the top five awards of the event, went to WAQAR Pisco ($36) from Pisquera Tulahuen in Chile, Best in Show Un-Aged White Spirit out of a 577 submissions.  Best in Show Aged White Spirit went to Bounty Over Proof (58% ABV) Rum ($47) from Lautoka, Fiji out of 179 submissions.  Best in Show Whisky went to Glencadam Highland Single Malt Aged 21 Years ($120) from Angus Dundee Distillers in the Highlands of Scotland out of 245 whisky submissions.  Best in Show Brandy was awarded to LeCompte 25 Year Old Calvados ($279) from the Calvados LeCompte Pays d’Auge in France out of 123 brandy submissions and finally Best in Show Liqueur went to Grand Marnier’s Cuvee du Centennaire, 100th Anniversary Liqueur ($200) out of 170 entries. Of special note this year was a first time category, specialty cocktail mixers, which was won by Ballast Point Mai Tai Mix ($6) for Best Cocktail Mixer.

Awarded annually, this year’s Tasting Panel Magazine Distillery of the Year went to Midleton Distillery of Ireland with both their Midleton Irish Whiskey and Redbreast Irish Whiskey receiving a total of 3 Double Gold Medals and 3 Gold Medals including Best Irish Whiskey for their Redbreast 15 Year Old.  Importer of the Year went to Pernod Ricard USA of New York, NY for the 2nd year in a row, and the Director’s Award of excellence went to Campari America, headquartered in San Francisco for its excellent portfolio of spirits.

A complete list of awards categorically will be posted to the San Francisco World Spirits Competition website on April 9th, please visit at that time for more information.

Thirty-nine international judges gathered this year with five new judges joining including: Erik Adkins, Beverage Director Slanted Door Group, San Francisco; Brian Bowden, VP Spirits, Beer, Tobacco, Beverages for BevMo!; Sean Bucalo Craft Spirits Specialist, Young’s Market Co; Tony Devencenzi, Director Beverage Academy, Bourbon & Branch, San Francisco; and Max Solano, Mixologist and Beverage Manager Emeril’s Restaurants, Las Vegas. Tony Abou-Ganim, aka the Modern Mixologist has directed the judging now for his 5th year and says of the event, “I’m flattered and humbled to be a part of a competition with some of the best palates in the world. I look forward to it all year and it is a great way for an established or unknown spirit to gain credibility in this business. The winners feel the impact of the competition’s results in significant ways and use the results to help build both their sales and reputations globally.”  For more information about the judges, please visit

About the Competition
Founded in the new millennium year of 2000 by noted wine & spirits critic and competition director Anthony Dias Blue, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition has gained a reputation as the leading gauge for spirits trends and top quality products in the country. Noted journalists, distillers, beverage directors, mixologists, restaurateurs, Master Sommeliers, hoteliers, consultants, educators comprise the august body of judges. The continued double-digit growth of entries annually points to an undeniable love affair with distillate products in the United States.

For interviews, images and media information, please contact Kimberly Charles at Charles Communications Associates at or 415|701-9463. Please also Like our page at San Francisco World Spirits Competition on Facebook, and follow the competition on Twitter at #SFWSC.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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The Victor-EE

Michael Hepworth

Victor Drai’s New West Hollywood Steakhouse Elevates the Bar & Lounge Experience with Sophisticated Design, DJ, Indoor/Outdoor Seating and the City’s Best Cocktails

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA.(Spiritsman)35/14/– – Feb. 2014 – Victor Drai’s new restaurant, Rare by Drai’s on Sunset Plaza, has quickly set a sexy, sophisticated tone for the new steakhouse by offering not only the best cuts of steak with sublime service, but also by re-imagining the entire experience, starting with the distinctive bar and lounge. The bar at Rare is a dynamic indoor/outdoor space led by acclaimed mixologist Chris Hewes. Unlike other steakhouses, the bar and lounge at Rare is not merely a waiting space before dinner; it is designed to be the social gathering spot on Sunset Blvd. with its 33 seats, DJ and access to the Rare patio.

Interview with the Vampire


Black Dahlia

Lifting the bar to new heights, Hewes (formerly of the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt), has created a cocktail menu that flows from savory to spicy to refreshing – blending the freshest ingredients with Hewes’ eclectic and artistic viewpoint. Hewes has earned a reputation as one of the most passionate and creative mixologists in the city, and he proves it again at Rare with a seasonally evolving menu that currently features: Interview with the Vampire (Akvinta Vodka, Arbol Chili-Infused St. Germain, Berries and Jalapeno); Black Dahlia (Black Mission Fig-Infused Pisco, Arugula and Ginger Beer) and The Victor-EE (Rambutan & Lychee-Infused Vodka Martini). 

Beyond his signature drinks, Hewes is focused on creating distinct infusions, fashioning cocktails and beverages that can only be found at Rare’s bar. “At Rare we have fig-infused Pisco, strawberry vodkas, Arbol chili-infused St. Germain and Mandarin Napoleon liqueur, persimmon-infused gins, chamomile-infused Jameson and pineapple-infused tequila with Creme de Violette,” explains Hewes.  “I love making infusions; they allow me to experiment with different flavors and find new and interesting ingredients that work well together.”


Following in the footsteps of his famous bartending father Jim, Hewes brings a knowledge and point-of-view that sets him apart in the world of crafting cocktails. “I learned the trade from my dad so I have a great understanding of the classics, but also bring my own spin to the bar with new concepts and modern interpretations of traditional drinks,” explains Hewes. “It’s been fun to create this program in a steakhouse setting.”


Rare by Drai’s is located at: 8720 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069. Rare by Drai’s hours: Monday – Wednesday: 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday: 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. For reservations and private events, call: 310-360-1525 or book at To follow online: visit, on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: Rare by Drai’s is a partnership between Victor Drai and international restaurant and hospitality group ESquared Hospitality.


With his history of pouring the most interesting cocktails in Los Angeles, Hewes answers a few questions

on his concepts for Rare by Drai’s


Explain the single cube concept in your signature cocktails. Some of the drinks you created for Rare use herb-infused cubes? 

The one ice cube is to chill the cocktail without diluting it. It allows you to really enjoy the flavors of the cocktail. My goal is to have different flavors of ice cubes and infused ice cubes to change the cocktail as it is being consumed. I want the flavors of the drink to blend with the ice cube. Instead of just having a vodka and cranberry, why not have a Cranberry Liqueur, pomm juice and fresh cranberry cube combined with great vodka? We want to put fun twists on the standard drinks.


You don’t use simple syrup in any of your Rare drinks; what is your sweetening process? How does this enhance the drink?


I’m always looking for alternatives to the common “simple syrup.” Different honeys, agave nectar, stevia, rice nectars and other natural sweeteners are what I like to use in all of my drinks. I find the cocktails to be much more balanced when using these alternatives to “simple syrup.” Nobody wants a really ‘sugary’ cocktail.


What items used in your Rare cocktail menu are your own signature concoctions?


I would say that my infusions are the most distinctive drinks on the menu. I enjoy finding the right balance and mixture of fresh fruits and spices, and mashing them up with liqueurs and different alcohols. Most people haven’t had the combination of ingredients that I use in my infusions… from pineapple to jalapeno to persimmons mixed with tequilas, gins and vodkas. There is always an element of surprise and intrigue.


All the Rare cocktails seem to balance heat with sweet. Is that good for food pairing?


I feel as though each cocktail pairs well with at least two items on the food menu. I wanted to compliment the amazing food with properly made and well-balanced drinks. The spicy cocktails are perfect with steaks and the seafood; they put a little pep in your step and really get you thinking about food. When creating spicy cocktails the goal should not be to burn someone’s palate or shock them with too much heat. The goal is to have the heat as one aspect of the drink and to have other flavors come in to relax that spice. Each drink should have layers and take you on a trip from the first sip to the last.


Which of your Rare cocktails is your favorite?


To be honest I love all the drinks with respect to each of their alcohols. But the KGB and the Rare Manhattan are probably my two favorites to drink. Although it’s always hard to pick, I like these two because they feature a twist on well-known classics. For instance, the KGB stands out because of the chamomile-infused Jameson. It’s recognizable, yet feels new and bold.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth




New wine brand makes limited production gems with distinctive origins from around the world an accessible luxury for less than $20. 















Los Angeles, CA( Spiritsman) 2/27/14/–– Fine wine is often seen as a luxury only fully understood by experts, leaving the average consumer feeling lost and overwhelmed. Porter & Plot aims to bring clarity to the perplexing wine world through their line of limited-production wines, launching on February 26, 2014. Their product portfolio will feature a diverse collection of small-lot wines, each typically 1,000 cases or less, that showcase the distinct land on which they originate. Smaller AVA wines are currently hard to find for most wine consumers and are rarely available for under $20 – something Porter & Plot aims to change.









The name Porter & Plot embodies the brand’s mission to be a reliable and consistent purveyor of small lot wines, historically the domain of high-end shops and importers. The porter, or gatekeeper, guides consumers through plots, or unique regions, helping them to understand the diversity and distinct expression of land that each wine reflects. The brand will feature numerous wines with the aim to continually bring consumers new regions and varietals each vintage, as opposed to attempting to replicate a popular wine the next year.

Porter & Plot’s philosophy is all about discovery and attention to details – not just what type of wine it is, but also its origin. Their first selections—which include a 2013 Columbia Valley Pinot Gris, 2012 Edna Valley Single Vineyard Pinot Noir and a 2013 Costières de Nîmes – are drinking experiences that are refined and complex, yet priced to be enjoyed everyday for less than $20. The offering proves that wine drinkers, whether new or experienced, never have to settle for less knowing they have a great porter.

Porter & Plot will introduce their first three varietals through interactive tastings in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles where tastemakers, experts, and wine drinkers eager to learn more will get the first taste. Each event will walk tasters through a journey that exposes them to a full sensory experience, guiding them through a whole new way to enjoy wine.

Initially at launch, Porter & Plot will be sold online through, Club W (, and via, in addition to select restaurants.

 Guests were treated to a journey through the different regions of the Porter & Plot Wine – each guest received a “flight ticket” to get them through the below stations. Each station embodied a different aspect of the wine experience and delivered a full experience with the accompaniment food pairings

About Porter & Plot 

Porter & Plot creates wines of exceptional quality from lesser known varietals and unique appellations with a distinctive story. With a focus on the details, winemakers create limited-production artisan wines to bring drinkers first time access to micro-production bottles with the same ease of availability you would experience from a macro-producer. Through simple, balanced and approachable wines, their goal is to make it easy to explore the undiscovered world of wine and enjoy the journey.


Aroma Adventure:

2013 Columbia Valley Pinot Gris

Jars of pineapple, sage, rosemary, apples, pears, green grass, honey, vanilla extract and green peppers were some of the scents that were experienced at this station. Food that was paired with this wine was the ‘Roasted Red Pepper with Balsamic and Basil’ and ‘Burata with Cumquat, Celery and Walnut Pesto’

Texture Trek:

2012 Edna Valley Single Vineyard Pinot Noir

Guests went through a variation of textures that translate to different wines – the textures consisted of wool, silk , satin, felt, sandpaper and burlap. Food paired at this station was the ‘5 Spice braised pork belly with quince-grazed turnips’ and ‘roasted pumpkin skewers with lemon & mint’

Locavore Voyage:

2013 Costieres de Nimes

Guests were treated to local produce and cheese that complimented this wine. Food paired at this station was ‘Pomegranate glazed lamb loin’ and ‘Crab salad on endive with apple saffron vinaigrette’

Brian Smith Sommelier /Wine Maker





Pallavi Patil Brand Manager, Brian Smith Sommelier /Wine Maker, Sydney Munteau Marketing













Jen Betts

President | Pivotal Public Relations

544 S. San Vicente Blvd | Los Angeles | CA 90048

P 323.933.4646 ext 4002 | F 323.305.7696 | T @pivotalpr

160 W. 24th Street | Suite 11-O | New York | NY 10011

P. 917.477.4117


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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NATIONAL MARGARITA DAY 2014 Award Winning ORTEGA 120 Cocktails

Michael Hepworth


 120 House Margarita*

Montezuma Tequila, Patron Citronge, Triple Sec, 120 Citrus Sour

 HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)2/22/14/–You can also order this margarita by the pitcher, accompanied by the “Shut Up Carafe”.  When the pitcher was initially offered, customers kept complaining they couldn’t taste the tequila because Demi Steven’s secret 120 citrus sour House mix tastes so good.  To remedy the problem, servers are now sent the table with a  pitcher of the mixed ingredients and a separate carafe FULL of tequila. So the next time a patron commented that there wasn’t enough tequila the server would then show the tequila carafe and pour in the pitcher to “shut them up”


1966 Classic Impala
Giro silver, 1966 Impala mix (secret recipe of fresh lime and 100% Organic Agave Nectar)













Marigold Margarit
Sauza Blue, Elderflower Liqueur, 1966 Impala mix, edible marigold pedals












120 Pomegranate Ginger Margarita
Sauza Blue, 120 citrus sour House mix, Fee Brother’s pomegranate, Elixir G ginger accents











LeAnn Muy
Don Benito Reposado, Triple Sec, 1966 Impala mix, Mango, Li hing mui powder on rim of glass



















Carl Larsen: Photography


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth


Michael Mina 1842 Pub MGM Grand Las Vegas

LasVegas,NV(Spiritsman)2/17/14/–This upscale version of a gastro pub at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas is the Michael Mina version that opened in the summer of 2013 replacing his Seablue restaurant in the same spot. What you have is a spacious and relaxing area that serves gargantuan portions of well prepared food at fair moderate to high prices. The standard classic rock style music plays the background, and there is a large craft beer list and a fairly comprehensive cocktail selection all priced at $13. The wine list is compact enough with about thirty to Choose from, where bottles are uniformly priced at $65, and there are only five wines to choose from by the glass, plus one dessert wine from Portugal.











 There is also an extensive beer menu with some hard to find English beers to choose from, and this is the celebrity chef’s take on a British pub, and he loves the concept. It is also working, and on a good night I have heard that up to 900 people walk through the doors.

 The menu is also carefully constructed and just about the right size with eight snacks and bites, seven appetizers and six salads to choose from. Burgers and sandwiches have five choices, steaks that are wood fired include skirt, rib eye, New York and Filet. There are also ribs and barbecue including St.Louis style either half-rack or full, but the main entrees are rather limited in scope

 Mina has assembled a lively team to run the place led by manager Patricia Murtaugh, And although his visits are infrequent, I understand he was fairly hands on in setting everything up and running. Service is brisk and very smooth, and thee is also a chef middleman who ensures that everything leaving the kitchen is exactly as it should be.









 The 1842 Nachos ($16) is a dish that is more than enough for three people and a good option to kick off a meal here. Heritage Pork Chili, cheddar, black bean & jicama relish & pickled fresno peppers spice up this version just right. Ahi Tuna Poke ($18) comes with avocado shrimp crackers and butter lettuce and unfortunately did not last on the plate long enough to give it justice..

 One of the specialties of the house is the Michael Mina Tomato Bisque Soup ($18) with lobster grilled cheese and is considered a bit of a signature dish from the high profile chef.

 Also tried the 1842 Burger ($19) with caramelized onions, mushrooms and truffle Aioli, and the all natural American beef used makes this a stand out. Pretty much a meal in itself, and the quality of the meat really shines through.

 The fish tacos ($24) come three on a plate and of course are a substantial meal by themselves. Included are sweet & sour cabbage, chipotle aioli and pico de galla. The fish was as fresh as you could get, and I believe it was cod, and like the burger is pretty much a meal in itself.

 I did go in on a quiet Monday lunchtime, so cocktail consumption was limited even though I was not driving. I had the Iceberg Slim reasonably priced at $13, Plymouth Gin, fresh lemon, velvet falernum and basil. All the carbonated drinks are created in house and ice-cube infused with hibiscus.

 The wine list contains about 30 wines to choose from and they all cost the same $65. Best bets would appear to be the 2010 Pinot Noir from MoMo Vineyards in Marlborough in New Zealand or the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from J.Christopher in Willamette Valley in Oregon.

 However if you have had a good day in the casino you might want to splurge a bit on some wine from the secret cellar with prices from $92 up to $311. That includes champagne Eglu-Ouriet ($211) and Jean Vesselle ($139) from France.






 Michael Mina Pub 1842-3799 Las Vegas Blvd South.


Hours :Monday-Thursday   11.30 am-10 pm

            Friday                       11.30 am-Midnite

            Saturday                   10.00 am-Midnite

            Sunday                      10.00 am-10 pm        


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Kobe Steakhouse & Lounge, sushi bar, table dining, open grills and LIVE music

Michael Hepworth






By Chef Peter

Seal Beach, CA(Hollywood Today)2/3/14/–As we go throughout our day we are surrounded by great music options.  I was meeting with an old friend enjoying some sushi at Kobe steakhouse and lounge located in Seal Beach.   The restaurant is very nice, open, clean and the staff was very accommodating.  They have a sushi bar, table dining and open grills.  Average per person will be between $20 and $30 dollars.  Both food and service was excellent.  The bar was small and is attached to the lounge.  While dining, I noticed Boxcar 7 was gearing up to play in the lounge.  Last week I was at the NAMM show in Anaheim and this band was playing at the Hilton on Saturday night.  And if anyone has been to NAMM show Saturday is quite the music experience.

Catch one of Kobe’s favorite bands on the greatest night of the year! Single tickets are available for purchase or, for a discounted rate, Kobe is also offering dinner and ticket packages for two.

Boxcar 7







The lead singer, Scott has the perfect voice for this style of music.  It has that deep, throaty resonance reminding me of the original Motown artists.  I asked Scott how he was able to sing so well and he stated that when he was younger his band had no PA, so he had the wail out the music and it became his style.  Well it works and these guys put out a fantastic performance.  Stay to the end of the show and watch the drummers solo.  It was impressive.  They can be contacted via their website  until next time – Enjoy food and music and the bond it brings –

Boxcar 7 is a seven-piece show band from Southern California. Our passion is the blues, soul, old school R&B, classic rock, swing and a taste of funk. Setlists of inspirational blues music include B.B. King, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Blues Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, and more. Whether you choose to dance or listen to us, you’re sure to have great night out.

If you would like us to guarantee you a seat in the lounge during these dinner performances, please follow the links under each performer to make your reservations. The charge for reservations is $10 per seat on Fridays and Saturdays and $5.00 per seat on Thursdays and Sundays (unless otherwise noted), but walk-ins are free as long as there is room available.

Kobe Steakhouse & LoungeKobe has become one of the hottest spots in LA and OC for live music, drinks and Japanese-fusion dining from steaks and seafood to sushi and teppan-style cooking! Come by to create new memories and meet new friends!

Served with Onion Soup, Green Salad, Steamed Rice, Hibachi Vegetables Assorted fresh

vegetables and gently seasoned fried tofu
Fresh tender chicken breast Large cut of grilled and seasoned calamari Tender, succulent

seasoned fresh shrimp Fresh tender swordfish seasoned and grilled to perfection Thinly

sliced USDA Choice New York steak Fresh, tender scallops grilled with garlic butter and

lemon juice USDA Choice New York steak Well-aged angus beef tenderloin grilled to

request Two fresh Maine lobster tails
Garlic butter fried rice with mixed vegetables and eggs
For each instance of a guest sharing a meal, a “plate sharing charge” will automatically be

applied to your bill. With this charge you will receive an additional onion soup, green salad and steamed rice.
Served with Steamed Rice, Hibachi Vegetables and a choice of Onion Soup or Side Salad
Fresh tender chicken breast Tender, succulent seasoned fresh shrimp USDA Choice New York steak
Served with Onion Soup, Green Salad, Steamed Rice, Hibachi Vegetables
Tender hibachi chicken and fresh hibachi shrimp USDA Choice NY steak and tender

hibachi chicken Fresh ocean scallops and hibachi shrimp USDA Choice NY steak and hibachi shrimp USDA Choice NY steak and ocean scallops
Grilled filet mignon and ocean scallops
A combination of hibachi shrimp, scallops and swordfish
USDA Choice NY steak and fresh Maine lobster tail
A seafood lover’s combination of ocean scallops, lobster tail and calamari
A perfect combination of ocean scallops, lobster tail and NY steak
A premier combination of fresh Maine lobster tail, ocean scallops, and tender filet mignon
Choice of vanilla, green tea or red bean ice cream
Battered and deep fried vanilla or green tea ice cream
Chocolate cake base surrounded by a decadent chocolate mousse dusted with cocoa powder Smooth and rich N.Y. Cheesecake.

Tempura-fried strawberries rolled around in cinnamon and sugar and served with cre?me anglaise and chocolate
Rice cake filled with green tea or strawberry ice cream
Frozen zambione cream center covered in chocolate gelato with caramelized hazelnuts
Mango sorbet served in its natural shell
Hibachi Chicken / NY Steak / Hibachi Shrimp (Your choice of two)
Hibachi Chicken Hibachi Shrimp Ocean Scallop New York Steak Filet Mignon
Hibachi Chicken + Ocean Scallops Hibachi Chicken + Swordfish New York Steak + Ocean

Scallops New York Steak + Calamari
New York Steak + Swordfish Swordfish + Hibachi Shrimp Swordfish + Ocean Scallops

Ocean Scallops + Hibachi Shrimp
Hibachi Chicken Hibachi Shrimp New York Steak

Address: 3001 Old Ranch Pkwy, Seal Beach, CA 90740
Phone:(562) 596-9969



 Monday 11:30 am – 2:00 pm, 4:30 – 9:30 pm


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Oxnard Beach with the Channel Islands in the background…


Michael Hepworth


Oxnard,CA(Spiritsman)1/29/14/–What is the perception of Oxnard, a seaside town about 70 miles from Los Angeles and on the way to Ventura and Santa Barbara. Those two places are still very fashionable and Oxnard has always struggled a bit as a poor relation, but the gap is shortening and a recent all too brief early New Year visit confirmed that fact to me.

It is also becoming the place to be for world class boxers, and is the training camp for world middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and the star of the future in the humble opinion of this ex boxing writer, unbeaten featherweight champ Mikey Garcia.

Oxnard palm Lined Beach with Bike Lane

It is also the training camp for the Dallas Cowboys in July/August at the River Ridge Playing Fields, and frankly considering how ideal conditions are it is surprising that the team is not doing so well lately. Maybe Oxnard treats them too good.

Herzog Wine Cellars – Wine Tasting in Oxnard Beach











Food is now one of the up and coming scenes in Oxnard, and we can start with the Tierra Sur Kosher restaurant situated in the Herzog Wine Cellars in the industrial section of Oxnard. Fine dining indeed with some outstanding sea bass and lamb on the menu. Zagat rate this place as probably the best restaurant in Oxnard.

Tierra Sur Restaurant (inside Herzog Wine Cellars)











Head winemaker at the Herzog Winery is Joe Hurliman and the legacy of wine making in the family goes back nine generations. The winery tasting room is adjacent to the restaurant.

Moqueca is the only South American restaurant in Oxnard and since Brazil is the hot destination this year with the World Cup in the summer and the Olympics in 2016, business is good. The modern looking spot with plenty of parking specializes in the Mocqeca, a South American version of gumbo served for two people with rice in a clay pot. The seafood and vegetables are cooked without water, and include onions, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, olive oil and urucum.

Herzog Wine Gift Store










The “urucum” is a Brazilian prickly red fruit, and the seeds are used to make powder used for cooling and seasoning. It also gives this particular dish its bright orange color and the rich taste. Live music and a great atmosphere makes this a place to visit when in Oxnard.

Aerial shot of Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort











Also keep an eye out for the Salsa Festival that takes place every July, and the Tamale Festival every December. Talking of tamales, we discovered this long standing and really old fashioned Mexican restaurant called Parels located adjacent to Heritage Square. In the square you will find a well established farm to table Italian restaurant called La Dolce Vita in a two story Victorian mansion, and a wine tasting room, Rancho Ventavo Wine Cellars .. Also sticking with the food festivals, the annual Strawberry Festival always takes place the third weekend in May, and this has now been running for thirty years.

Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort


The place to stay is the EMBASSY SUITES in Mandalay Bay, where the beach is just a stroll away. We are not talking here about crowded beaches either, but if you prefer the pool or the Jacuzzi then you will be well served as the pool here is one of the biggest around. There are two whirlpools that are open till late night, spa and exercise facilities, and bike rentals are also available. A buffet style breakfast is included in the room rates, and runs till about 10.30 pm on weekends and a bit earlier during the week. Advance bookings are strongly advised especially during the summer months

Channel Islands Maritime Museum, Channel Islands Harbor










The hotel is close to Marine Emporium Landing where you can participate in harbor Cruises, sport fishing, whale watching and kayaking.

Inside of Channel Islands Maritime Museum











For those of you into movies And nostalgia, long before Malibu became the place to be, Hollywood Beach in Oxnard was the place. Clark Gable used to live there as well as many other Hollywood stars,  and Rudolph Valentino filmed “The Sheikh” on the beach. Recent films where segments have been shot include “Back to The Future,” “Sideways” and “Bridesmaids.

Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard


Embassy Suites     805-984-2500

Moqueca    805-204-0970

Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars      805-983-1560

Maritime Museum-3900 Bluefin Circle   805-984-6260


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth

HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)1/23/14/–A new Italian restaurant does not really create a major buzz because there are always a never endless supply ready to take on the challenge, and especially on the West side of Los Angeles. However in the case of Il Piccolo Verde in trendy Brentwood, new owners have taken over the spot formerly occupied by San Gennaro, and the overall package is impressive. It has everything the locals seem to go for-extensive menu of traditional and signature dishes, large portions, excellent service, relaxed atmosphere, open kitchen and two owners who really seem to care.

 Partner and manager is Oscar Morel who spent the past 25 years running Spumoni in Santa Monica, and the focus here is gluten free grains, organic and fresh vegetables and organic unrefined cold pressed oils.

 Lets focus on some of the dishes you can expect at Il Piccolo Verde and that I tried and enjoyed. Burrata is an appetizer that you cannot go wrong with, and this version at $13 is no exception garnished with olive oil and oregano.

 The free range organic chicken which is baked and then grilled is probably their signature dish, and you should also try the New York Steak with mushroom sauce.

Also outstanding here was the Cioppino ($21), a mixture of clams, mussels, calamari, Shrimp, fresh fish and crostini, but I decided to combine it with the angel hair pasta for probably the best dish of the night bar the free range chicken.

 Pizza lovers have a choice of New York style to choose from priced between $17.95 through $21.95, or they can select from ten Pizza Napoletana 12 inch versions that are cooked for just one minute in temperatures of 800 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The oven at Il Piccolo was handmade by the Marra family out of Naples using sand and ash from Mt.Vesuvio.

 The wine list is fairly extensive and the corkage fee if preferred is $15. I just tried the Zardetto Prosecco from Venice at $13 a glass, but there is a large selection of Italian and California wines to choose from, with an encouraging amount of seventeen to choose from by the glass if you don’t want to splurge on a bottle which tend to be on the high price. The most inexpensive are a few at $35 like the Barbera d’Alba from the excellent Batasiolo portfolio or the California Merlot from Benziger in Sonoma. If you want to show off,  then go for the outstanding Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir sparkling wine from the excellent Schramsberg Winery in Napa ($83).

 There are all kinds of special deals and promotions listed on the paper menu that are designed to bring in business especially the repeat kind. Although it doesn’t really hurt in the short term for a new restaurant, this place is decent enough to dispense with this hit and miss approach once it becomes established.

 Il Piccolo Verde-140 S.Barrington Place, Los Angeles, CA 90049


Open 7 days   11 am  to  10 pm.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Golden Globes 2014: V Wine Room Selected for GBK’s Exclusive Pre-Golden Globes 2014 Gift Lounge

Michael Hepworth


Local West Hollywood and Los Angeles’ Only Wine Tasting Room, V Wine Room Selected for GBK’s Exclusive Pre-Golden Globes 2014 Gift Lounge

Beverly Hills, CA(Spiritsman)1/14/14/–On January 10th and 11th, V Wine Room will be pouring wines for the GBK Productions exclusive pre-Golden Globes 2014 Gift Lounge held on the rooftop of the L’Ermitage Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.  The event will recognize and honor nominees and presenters for the 2014 Golden Globes.  V Wine Room is the only dedicated tasting room in Los Angeles; proudly pouring limited production boutique California wines not found anywhere else in Los Angeles.  First time and repeat visitors rave about the 1930’s inspired library, almost speakeasy setting, where people can gather for a relaxed and conversational atmosphere.


V was chosen as the exclusive wine provider because of the unique nature of its Napa style tasting room.  V will pour a Sauvignon Blanc made by Tara Gomez of Kita Wines.  Gomez is the only Native American winemaker in the country and her crisp, citrusy Sauvignon Blanc is not to be missed.  Joining Gomez’s Sauvignon Blanc is an artful blend of Sangiovese and Syrah crafted by Tessa Marie wines, Tessa Parker being the granddaughter of Fess Parker the noble actor and vintner.  Other featured wines include floral Viogniers from both Four Brix and Sol Rouge and an earthy Pinot Noir from CNagy wines.  Proprietor Mikey Consbruck exclaims, “I’m proud to operate a unique and local business promoting boutique California wines and their vintners.  Our regulars rave about the wines and I’m sure the presenters and nominees will agree.”  V’s gift to the nominees is a yearlong membership to V’s wine club.  “The wine club allows people to enjoy our wines and participate in exclusive events together while expanding their palates.”  Mikey invites everyone interested in the wine club to come in and sample some great wines, sure to be enjoyed by Hollywood elite, and learn about membership benefits.

About V:
The concept for V was envisioned as a true tasting room and vinoteca such as those found in California wine country or European wine bars.  Twenty-two limited production California wineries are featured in the tasting room, presented by the highly trained staff.  V was opened in February 2013 and in 10 short months was selected by RundownLA as one of the top 5 bars in all of Los Angeles naming it the best place for after dinner drinks and conversation.  V is located in a historic building at 903 Westbourne Drive in West Hollywood which once housed Charlie Chaplain’s actors studios, then later a library.  V is dominated by its amazing wine selections, the large live Fig tree in the center of the “V” shaped marble bar and the library theme throughout.

For more information please contact
Michael “Mikey” Consbruck, Owner



Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Media ListOur mailing address is:V Wine Room903 Westbourne DriveWest Hollywood, CA 90069
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The Calling Wine Company puts out some pretty good wines judging, Sportcaster Knows His Wines

Michael Hepworth


HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)1/14/14/– The Calling Wine Company puts out some pretty good wines judging by our recent tasting experience of three of their wines, the 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, 2011 Rio Lago Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Alexander Valley Our Tribute.

However a bit of history is called for if you are unfamiliar with the winery which is based in Sonoma. The company is headed by CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, the man who has called the NFL, PGA and then NCAA basketball championships. Along with winemaker Marco DiGiulio and Peter Deutsch of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. Nantz’s philosophy is quite simple, “I live on the road. My passion is finding great restaurants and great wines. I don’t want people to drink these wines because the guy behind it calls the Masters. These wines reflect what I like to drink. I’m very proud of them.”

The Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch Chardonnay retails for $30 and spends 11 months in the oak barrels. Dutton Ranch consists of 1,100 acres of vineyards and fruit is located from three locations. Gail Ann Vineyard provides the tropical flavor, Mill Station Vineyard provides the minerality and structural body of the wine, and Dutton Hill is inn the cooler parts of the valley providing additional complexity.

The wine itself is rich and smooth with subtle tastes of oak, lemon, melon and nectarine. The year of 2012 was considered one of the best growing seasons in recent years because of the consistently moderate climate.

The 2011 Rio Lago Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) from the Alexander Valley actually spends 20 months in oak barrels which are 80% French, 10% American and 10% Eastern European. This is a deep and full bodied wine and the cool temperatures that season produced a wine where the fruit elements developed at a much slower pace than normal.

After the primary fermentation, the wine went through an extended fermentation period in order to soften the tannins, and then after the 20 months was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Star of the show might be the 2009 Alexander Valley Our Tribute ($60) and is a blend of four classic Bordeaux varietals. Aging time is 30 months, and prior to that the wine went through an extensive maceration period which softens the tannins. The Alexander Valley has 15,000 acres of planted top quality grapes, and has a variety of mini climates and a gravelly loam that is ideal for a range of grapes including Merlot and Rhone.

Lots of flavor with this wine such as toasted nutmeg, cocoa powder, black cherry, ripe raspberry and currant.


The Calling’s six wines include two Russian River Valley Chardonnays, two Alexander Valley reds and two Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs – one from Dutton Ranch and one from Fox Den Vineyards. They come from some of the most prestigious vineyards in Sonoma. The wines reflect the quality and character of these vineyards, exhibiting elegance and complexity from the first aroma to the lingering finish.

Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Rio Lago Vineyard

The Calling Alexander Valley, Rio Lago Cabernet SauvignonDeep burgundy in color and full-bodied, this impressive Cabernet Sauvignon presents black cherry, currant and vanilla spice aromas. Soft, well-integrated tannins and a velvety texture combine with delicious flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry, and a hint of clove for a powerful palate and a lingering finish. Balanced acidity makes this wine a perfect match with your favorite recipe or seasonal dish.

Experience the Rio Lago Cabernet Sauvignon

Russian River Chardonnay, Dutton Ranch Vineyards

The Calling Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch ChardonnayA classic Chardonnay, this 2012 vintage was blended from select Dutton Ranch vineyards in the prestigious Russian River Valley appellation. Barrel fermentation and sur lie aging have created a rich and smooth wine with subtle hints of oak and crisp flavors of Meyer lemon, honeydew melon and juicy white nectarine. Food-friendly, it’s bright and refreshing with an elegantly full-bodied finish.

Experience the Dutton Ranch Chardonnay

Russian River Pinot Noir, Dutton Ranch Vineyards

The Calling Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch Pinot NoirThis Pinot Noir’s classic flavors of fresh cherries, mushrooms, and spice are framed by rich acidity, delicate texture and powdery tannins. A classic cool-climate Pinot Noir from select Dutton Ranch vineyards in the prestigious Russian River Valley appellation.

Experience the Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir


‘Our Tribute’ Red Wine, Alexander Valley

The Calling Alexander Valley ‘Our Tribute’ Red WineThis complex and structured wine is a blend of four classic Bordeaux varietals. The intense edge of Cabernet Sauvignon combines with Malbec’s blackberry flavors, Merlot’s roundness and finesse, and Petit Verdot’s firm structure for a wine with layer upon layer of nuanced flavors and depth. Aromas of toasted nutmeg and cocoa powder accent the dark fruit flavors of black cherry, ripe raspberry and currant. Well-structured tannins round out this vintage with a smooth, rich finish.

Experience ‘Our Tribute’ Red Wine

Russian River Chardonnay, Jewell Vineyard

The Calling Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch, Jewell Vineyard ChardonnayThis Reserve Chardonnay perfectly reflects the world-class terroir of the cool-climate Russian River Valley. Capturing both sophistication and depth, it presents an array of flavors. Notes of lemon tart, fresh pear and a hint of crème brûlée combine with an elegant and subtle minerality. The rich mouthfeel is complex and evolving and the beautiful acidity contributes to a wine that is precisely balanced with nice aging potential.

Experience the Jewell Vineyard Chardonnay

Russian River Pinot Noir, Fox Den Vineyard

The Calling Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch, Jewell Vineyard ChardonnayThe wine is layered with floral, fruit and earth flavors, luxuriously decadent in texture, balanced by its rich acidity, and with seemingly unending length. This wine is age worthy and will evolve and delight for 5-10 years.

Experience the Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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The Story Behind RE:FIND handcrafted spirits Gin and Vodka










Michael Hepworth

HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)12/28/13/–The Refind Distillery that produces Refind Gin and Vodka is located in Paso Robles, an area much better known for its wine. Proprietor Alex Villicana has been producing wines for twenty years, but now his attention has been focusing on spirits. The vodka retails for $35 and has a premium base of ripe, red wine grapes which makes the vodka special due to the compound glycerol which is producedduring the fermentation of red wine grapes.










Alex is also is keen on infusing his vodka with organic delights such as ripe cucumbers, such is the enthusiasm he has for his latest passion. Technically it is really a neutral brandy, but for marketing purposes it also passes as a vodka. It has a long, spicy finish and has hints of blueberries and vanilla.

The juice which is known as saignee, is usually removed to improve wine quality before fermentation and mainly thrown away is distilled three times to produce the Vodka and Gin.In the future they envisage bottling Refind Bourbon and Rum, and business is so brisk that they have installed a second still, which I believe is German in origin. They have also released a Limoncello which you can also try for free at the Tasting Room which has been described by other scribes as either quaint or rustic.








The Gin which retails for $38 actually uses Refind Vodka as its base, and then they add a blend of botanicals such as juniper berry, coriander, orris root, lemon and orange peel, grains of paradise and lavender, all mostly sourced from farms in the Central Coast of California. This gives the gin a soft, sweet and lingering finish, and although it is called gin, it can also be referred as ‘botanical brandy’ due to the fact that it uses raw grape juice as opposed to grape seeds, pulp and skins. There is also a trace of black pepper on the tongue when you drink it straight or on the rocks.

The winery opened in 1993 and the Distillery in 2011 and in the very first year he turned a thousand gallons of surplus saignee into 200 cases of spirits, and sold out almost immediately. In year two he persuaded some of his competitive wineries to sell him their waste resulting in ten thousand gallons and presumably about 2000 cases.

The winery consists of 13 acres with an elevation up to 1,600 feet,and they specialize in Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, but have also produced Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Viognier, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.







Call ahead if you are interested in a personal tour.

Refind Distillery    805-239-9456

Tasting Room Hours-Saturday & Sunday 11.00 am-5.00 pm

2725 Adelaide Rd, Pasa Robles


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Prosecco from Voga Italia their first sparkling wine

Michael Hepworth



















HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)12/28/13/–Priced at only $13.99 the new Prosecco from Voga Italia comes from the town of Coneglio, and is yet another player in the rapidly expanding portfolio of Prosecco’s to choose from. This particular version is produced with an extended Charnat method in order to improve its perlage. This is the first Prosecco from Voga Italia which isknown primarily for the wines of Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Moscato and Dolce Rosso.

At that price this Prosecco is not only competitively priced but also an attractive looking bottle, which is exactly what you would expect from the sharp marketing folks over at Voga. The drink itself is perfectly acceptable, and fits right in with the other wines in their portfolio. Although Prosecco cannot be compared to champagne, it is certainly a sparkling wine that has been coming into its own a lot in the last couple of years.











Dolce Rosso is a sweet red relatively new to their collection that retails for $10.99, great value for such an enjoyable wine. The wine is a super blend of Italian Syrah and Merlot with their flavors of plum and cherry to spice up the palate with a delightful lingering taste. This is a wine that goes just as well in the daytime as at night, and the packaging is cool as well with the cylindrical bottle and resealable cap.

The Moscato is also a fairly recent addition to the collection and is also priced at $10.99. This wine hails from the Provincia di Pavia province in the Lombardy region and has a sweet and bubbly taste. The essence of good Moscato is to capture the fruity flavor of the grape, and that is done by quickly crushing and pressing the grape. Fermentation captures the carbon dioxide giving the wine its frizzante character, although the process is stopped prematurely to give the Moscato the sugar and flavor intensity it needs.

Food pairings with this Moscato will be light hors d’oeuvres or desserts. Packaging is important to the brand which apparently can be found in over seventy countries and in a lot of the hip and trendiest bars in these countries.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth

HOLLYWOOD(Spirtisman)12/19/13/–At one time before prohibition there were about 8,000 small distilleries across the United States. Just a couple of years ago there were no more than a couple of Hundred, but recently there has been an upsurge, although it will never reach

The numbers of the old days. One if those leading the charge in California in Santa Barbara is Ascendant Spirits who have just released their Caviar Lime Star Vodka, which is a natural follow on to their Star Vodka, both retailing for $38.99.











They also produce Breaker Bourbon ($48.99) and Silver Lightning Moonshine ($27.99). The Caviar Lime Vodka is distilled from locally grown California caviar limes from a base of 100% sweet corn. Green in color as you would imagine the lime taste is very prevalent, although these type of limes are less acidic than the regular version. They also carry essential oils in their skin not found in any other citrus fruit. The vodka is distilled six times, and the overall taste is somewhat unusual.

The American Star Vodka is distilled five times with a silky sweet peppery finish. Bit of an acquired taste just like the Caviar Lime version, and also distilled from sweet corn, the vodka goes through a rather rigorous filtration process. It makes a lot of sense to have a distilling operation in the Santa Barbara region because of the warm days and cool nights and the abundance fruits, grains and herbs in the local area.

That is exactly what founder and Master Distiller Stephen Gertman thought when he started the company with his Breaker Bourbon Whisky ($48.99) which is twice distilled in a copper still and uses a base of corn, rye and malted barley. The fact that it is the first whisky to be produced in California since the prohibition was quite a surprise to me, and surely others cannot be far behind. Not bad for a former television producer who tired of the whims and unrealistic demands of television executives.

Moonshine produced in California seems a bit of a reach for me as opposed to that coming out of Tennessee, but the Ascendant version called Silver Lightning Moonshine ($27.99) did win a big award at the Taste of the Cocktail show in New Orleans this year.

Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Villains Tavern warehouse district of Los Angeles, Handcrafted cocktails, impressive Beer menu, special Hamburgers & Live Music




Michael Hepworth

Los Angeles, CA(Spiritsman)12/12/13/–Most people I know have visited Villains Tavern in the warehouse district of Los Angeles some time or other, but if you have not, make your way down there as it is a different animal as they say. I remember going for the grand opening in the Summer a couple of years ago and the place was packed, but a return visit on a bitter cold Tuesday night had a different feel altogether.









The country band playing that evening soldiered on with their Johnny Cash inspired material, but even they were having difficulty with the guitar strings on such a cold night. I had no such trouble with the Villains Hamburger, created by the new chef/consultant Vartan Abgaryan of the Cliffs Edge, a fairly well known restaurant co-owned by the Villains owner, Dana Hollister. This particular burger that I had without the Mezzo Secco jack cheese is topped with tomato, avocado and jalapeno aioli. His menu updates include Salted Caramel Corn featuring bacon & bourbon, caramel, sea salt and black pepper. He has also added Grilled Cheese, Kentucky Shrimp,, No Kill Burger, a Bacon Dog and tempura Green Beans with a chili aoli. Abgaryan does not actually hang out at Villains, but stays in touch with the kitchen to see that everything runs smoothly

However creative cocktails are the game here, and they have actually added cocktails on tap. First one is the Rum Back w/Plantation Barbados Rum, Ginger-apple cider shrub, Angostura and Club Soda. The other one on tap is Aperol Spritz w/Aperol, Prosecco, Club Soda and an Orange Wheel. Both of these are priced at $11, but instead I tried the Stan Lee ($12), Hibiscus and Jasmin Tea infused gin, lemongrass, citrus, egg whites and orange bitters.








Handcrafted cocktails are still big news at Villains stating with the Wild Vine w/Jameson Whisky, Luxardo Bitter Liquor, Red Grapes, Lemon, Cane Syrup and served with a grape and orange slice or the Myrrha w/tomato infused vodka, Amaro Nonino, Luxardo Bitter Liquor, Celery Bitters and served with a cucumber wheel. They also do shots of the Spirits, and have some pretty unusual selections to choose from especially in the range of vodka with Beluga, Reyka Small Batch, Green Mack and 360 Vodka.

The beer menu is also pretty impressive with a large draft selection, and some with pretty exotic names. These would include Monks Café Sour Ale, Weihenstephaer Oktoberfest, Dudes Pecan Brown and Golden Road Wolf Among Weeds.

Villains Tavern-1356 Palmetto, Los Angeles

Monday – Sunday 5:30pm – 2AM
1356 Palmetto Street Los Angeles CA

For all Info or Group Reservations

Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Fair Trade is a global movement to alleviate poverty in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.


Michael Hepworth

HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)12/6/13/The people from FAIR VODKA have only recently redesigned the bottle and the label to give the Vodka a better profile in the competitive vodka market. With the pace of new launches apparently not slowing down at all, the thinking is to promote Fair as an artisan craft, purity of product and a dedication to sustainability.

To be perfectly honest, the label which was designed in Paris by Piaton et Associates looks fairly plain, but according to Jack Bays who is responsible for the production, sales and marketing of the drink, “The goal of the new label and packaging is to maintain the integrity of  FAIR’s prize-winning product while moving to a greener profile that reflects the brand’s dedication to sustainability.”

The carbon footprint has been reduced due to the fact that the glass weight has been reduced to 600 grams from 800 and the material for the label has been changed from multi-component to regular paper.

Wonderful words indeed, but what Jack does not mention (and frankly why should he) is the fact that the incredible demand for the quinoa seed (4,000 % increase in last 12 years) has produced a bunch of problems in Bolivia. Main one is that the rush to produce more quinoa has created a danger to the fragile eco-system in the area. Seeds were planted in fields where llamas grazed and natural manure helped the crop. Now fields are not being rotated, and the soils overall health is being compromised. There are also land wars in the area between rival farmers desperate for more land, and an increase in violence has been reported with the use of grenades.

In reality it is a pretty clean decent tasting vodka and a little different from the norm, more bitter than most due to the fact that it is the only spirit in the world that is distilled from quinoa. This particular quinoa used in the drink is grown by a collective of 1200 small farmers in the Bolivian Altiplano. The FairTradeUSA group pays higher margins for this crop which enables the farmers to live better in what sounds like a fairly poor region of the country.

Retailing for $29.99, the vodka is available currently in Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wyoming with Florida, Georgia and Washington on the way.


Awards already in the book are Gold Medal-San Francisco Spirits Competition 2011, Chicago BTI 2010-Gold Medal and New York Spirits Awards 2009, Best Vodka.


 We are a spirits company, dedicated to high quality products that are sourced ethically and sustainably.





Our company believes in treating all people fairly. Our vision has taken us all over the world to source the best ingredients for our high quality spirits. We believe that all the people involved, in every stage of the process, should be treated equally.




First we spend a great deal of time sourcing the finest Fair Trade ingredients for our spirits:

Organic quinoa from the 3000 m high Altiplano plateau of Bolivia and organic sugar cane grown in the Belizean sun.

Then we carefully ship everything to the famous region of Cognac in France, where our Master Brewer / Distiller, Philip Laclie, with generations of French ‘savoir faire’, has perfected his techniques to make our incredible line of spirits.



Fair Trade has rigorous standards for farming practices, which ensures our quinoa and sugar are all of an exceptional quality.




FAIR is the world’s first and unique Fair Trade Certified line of spirits. We respect about 200 rules to make sure that we pay the farmers at a fair price. It enables them to cover their production costs, live from farming, educate their children and build schools.

We’re happy, the famers are happy, and we’re sure you’ll be happy with our FAIR Spirits.



Fair Trade is a global movement to alleviate poverty in ways that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.





Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Badmaash Indian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles Going All The Way









Michael Hepworth

Los Angeles, CA(Spiritsman)12/1/13/–Badmaash Indian restaurant in downtown Los Angeles is a place I had heard some good things about, and I am placed to report that this small yet comfortable eatery is doing a few things different with Indian food. Billed as an Indian gastro-pub and only serving beer and wine, the liquor menu is as compact as the food choices, but everything we tried was spot on. The place is owned and operated by two brothers with Toronto roots and they wanted to bring their vision of Indian food to the streets of Los Angeles, and can it be long before other branches pop up. They have done their research with visits to all the hot and trendy places in London where the best Indian food can be found, and after an 18 month build out process they have been open since early summer.


The place is quite small although there are an additional fifteen or so seats upstairs. Downstairs the tables are spaced very close together, so if you have a hot date and want to engage in some intimate conversation this might not be the perfect venue. Indian art adorns the walls and a Bollywood movie is projected on to the wall, and the service is prompt and efficient.




When it comes to the beer, at Badmaash you really can’t go to wrong by ordering The Kingfisher Indian Beer ($6) which goes perfect with this kind of food, but there are some good alternatives such as the popular Stone IPA from Stone Brewing and the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Strong Ale from the same brewer. However if you are into the Belgian stuff, then there are a couple of choices including the sublime Lips of Faith Coconut Curry Hef ($24 for a 22oz flagon).











The wine list is much smaller which is perfectly acceptable for a restaurant like this with six reds including a couple of malbecs, two pinot noirs, a cabernet and a Spanish Tempranillo from Zamora, and seven whites which thankfully include a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Riesling (always a good option w/spicy food) from Columbia Valley, Washington. Bottle prices range from $27 up to $48.

However it is the food that you go to Badmaash for, and top of the list has to be the old standby Chicken Tikka Masala ($13) that is one of the best I have tried. Start out with an order of the Punjabi Samosas, especially good here. I tried all three on the menu plus a special thanksgiving version that was featured on Bon Appetit, and enjoyed the Butter Chicken ($7) version best, deep fried heaven.

The Sliced Mango Pork Belly ($15) is a must selection, slow cooked in its own juice and all kind of aromatic spices and seared with spiced mango chutney. Good words also about the Lamb Burger ($13) although I did not try it this time around that is ground and spiced inhouse w/spiced mayo, onion, lettuce, tomato on a brioche bun.





Badmaash-108 West Second Street, Los Angeles,CA 90012


Valet and Street Parking

Average cost for dinner for two w/drink  $70


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth


HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)11/21/13/–The Moonshine renaissance continues in the liquor world with the launch of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Lemon Drop and Strawberry versions. The company has already the Apple pie, peach and blackberry on the market, so the new versions are a natural extension to the range of products available.

In the south, lemonade has always been a thirst quencher served in a mason jar with lots of ice and maybe even mint. These drinks are 40 proof and come packaged in the traditional 750ml mason jars, but frankly would advise you to have a jar opener available, as I found them difficult to open. I ordered an electric one thanks to Ole Smokey that will also help with those difficult jars of Kosher pickles.

By all accounts Americans eat twice as many strawberries as they did ten years ago, hence the reasoning behind the Strawberry release. Used extensively for jams and pies by Southerners, it has also been fairly common in moonshine as well. This particular drink is sweet enough with just a trace of tartness, and can be drunk straight from the jar, on the rocks or mixed w/lemonade.

Ole Smokey’s distillery is based in Gatlinburg and is America’s most visited distillery and is also affectionately known as The Holler. The recently concluded New York International Spirits Competition awarded the distillery two awards in different Categories. It was voted Tennessee Distillery of the Year, an also won a silver medal in the whiskey category for their original moonshine.There were over 400 entries from seventeen different countries.

Distillery tours are conducted by Matt Stillwell, and the 2014 dates have already been announced so if you go on the web site you can reserve your spot.






Selected Recipes :

Shine ‘N’ Seven

Ole Smokey Blackberry Moonshine

Lemon Lime Soda

Mix w/ice and stir

Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth


HOLLYWOOD(Spiritsman)11/15/13/–It is no secret that white wines from New Zealand are always top of our list at Spiritsman, so it gives me great pleasure to tell you about yet another one of merit, Villa Maria Estate wines from the Marlborough region.

Lets start with the Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 where the fruits were sourced from the specific regions of the Wairau and Awatere valleys which have range of different micro-climates. This is a crisp and clean wine thanks to the warm spring rains that were followed by an autumn that was cool and dry, which produces a long and extended ripening period. Whatever happened with the weather must have worked, because the five week ripening period produced high quality grapes with a variance of flavors that were fermented at 54-57 degrees to maintain flavor and aroma retention. This wine has hints of gooseberry, citrus and melon and pairs well with grilled vegetables, seafood and chicken.

The Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2012 utilized canopy management such as shoot thinning and leaf plucking along with vine health management. The grapes were also harvested in the dead of night, and cool fermentation methods were used in the extended ripening process. Acidity at 7.5gl is slightly higher than the Private Bin version and it also has a slight grapefruit taste, which is why I liked this one so much. Try it with scallops.

Chardonnay fans will like the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay Marlborough 2011. The grapes benefited from warm spring rains and a cool and dry Autumn just like the 2012 vintages, and after fermentation the wines remained on yeast lees for several months to enhance the mouth feel. Much less acidity with this one at 6.7gl and the ripe fruits hinted with this one are grapefruit, passion fruit, blackcurrant, gooseberry and guava. Food pairings are grilled fish, tomato, green bean and feta cheese salad.

Moving on the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010, this is a red where small parcels of Pinot Noir clones were hand harvested, destemmed and hand soaked for up to ten days. To gain the maximum flavor of the fruit, fermentation reached temperatures of 90 degrees and that was followed by malactic fermentation in the spring.

This medium bodied wine pairs well with lamb, duck and game and has hints of berries, dark cherries and spice notes. This is also a good wine to leave in the cellar for up to eight years.

All these wines are priced to move and if you do some searching around, averages out at about $15.00 to 25.00 dollars each.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth

HOLLYWODD(Spirtisman)11/8/13–Cruzan Rum, the very popular brand from St.Croix have launched the Distillers Collection, a series of three rums, all super premium and blended aged rums.

Latest release and one I have enjoyed is the Cruzan Estate Diamond Light Rum, which is charcoal filtered containing vanilla and oak cask flavors. Each rum is aged between five and 12 years and is made from tropical rainwater, high quality molasses and is distilled to perfection. It is a lovely smooth rum that we can certainly endorse with enthusiasm.

With a retail price of just $19.99 this new light rum should fly out the door in the upcoming holiday season. Pale and golden in color and 80 proof, Cruzan was founded by the Nelthropp family, and the distillers collection was created by Hardy Nelthropp, master distiller from 1959-2007. The man in charge now of the Cruzan legacy is Gary Nelthropp, and to put it in his own words, “We take great pride in the craftsmanship of our aged rums, and the Cruzan Distiller’s Collection offers consumers the opportunity to enjoy some of my family’s favorite expressions.”

The method of distilling used by Cruzan produces clean rums because of the low level of fusel oils used which are a bye product of the entire distillation process. If they are not removed entirely, they can taint the smell and taste of the rum being distilled.

The Estate Diamond Dark Rum also retails for $19.99 is dark amber in color and has a taste of  light buttery and sweet bakery notes with a dash of caramel and is also 80 proof. The third rum inn the collection s the Single Barrel Rum, and uses rims that have been aged for twelve years and bottled one cask at a time. This rum is slightly darker than the Diamond Dark Rum, and has a retail price of $29.99.


Recipe of choice:

Cruzan Winter Break.

2 parts Cruzan Estate Diamond Light Rum

1 part Pineapple Juice

Muscavado Syrup 1/4 part-2 parts sugar, 1 part water.

5 parts Hot Peppermint Tea

Combine rum, pineapple juice and syrup in a toddy glass and stir. Slowly add tea to the glass and garnish with fresh grated cinnamon and stick.


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Michael Hepworth


Beverly Hills, CA(Spiritsman)11/4/13/–La Dolce Vita Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills has been around since 1966, and a major effort has just been concluded to update the entire operation both in the kitchen and in the look and feel of the restaurant. However when you sit in one of the booths inside the restaurant, you may just as well be back in the sixties expecting the rat pack to walk in for their favorite pasta dishes.

The fact that I did sit in the booth that was frequented by Frank Sinatra did help that feeling however, and I knew that because there is actually a brass plaque right there. Apparently the restaurant does still get its share of celebrities today, but attempts to get the names of some regulars came up short as the owners do not wish to push that angle at all, preferring to live in the past.

There is also a new chef in charge in the form of Matthew Underwood who popped out briefly during the meal, although I got the feeling that he was more comfortable in the kitchen rather than chatting with some food writer. He has updated and revamped some of the classic dishes such as Milanese di Vitello ($35), Spaghetti Veal Meatballs ($24) and Steak Sinatra ($44), a prime filet mignon w/sautéed peppers and a rich Chianti sauce. Newer items being worked on include Tagliatelle, Aragosta Garganelli and Shrimp Fra Diavlo ($25), which is shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce served over fresh linguini.

Only got to try the fried calamari($14) and the Caprese ($16) for appetizer, the latter of course being the always popular Heirloom tomatoes w/fresh buffalo mozzarella, served w/basil and extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. On my next visit I will try the Antipasto ($20), which is good for two people or the Polpette Di Vitello ($14), slow cooked meat balls in a marinara sauce topped w/Parmesan cheese.

Tried the special Risotto of the Day and since I never really know what to expect until it arrives, this version was very satisfying, not too thick and very well seasoned. Other La Dolce Vita Classics are Sand Dabs w/lemon caper sauce ($26), Lasagna Bolognese ($24) and Cannelloni Di Vitello ($25), crepes filled w/veal and topped w/Bolognese and béchamel sauce.

Of Course with a place like this cocktails are almost as important as the food, and a few signature items  adorn the liquor menu such as ‘The Spanish Ambassador.’ This consisted of Casadorez Reposado Tequila, Frangelico, Lemon Juice, Cinnamon and Angostura Bitters. The Gin Lane which I almost selected surprisingly goes with Fords Gin, Spiced Grenadine and Lemon Juice and the more traditional LDV Mule uses Grey Goose, St.Germaine, Lime Juice and Ginger Beer.

Service is very organized with smartly dressed waiters, many of whom have likely been at the restaurant for some time, although I did not choose to ask how much Sinatra tipped.

As you can probably gather, the chef here is not changing the game with wildly innovative and experimental Italian food, but is staying very traditional with a few twists, which is frankly is exactly what his client base in this part of town wants.

La Dolce Vita-9785 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills.


Street Parking and City Lots


Michael Hepworth

287 S.Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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