San Francisco

San Fran Pink Ladies

What does one do when traveling to San Francisco for the first time? Tour Alcatraz? Check. See the Painted Ladies? Check. Head to wine country and indulge in all things good? Check. Buy vinyl and whiskey? Absolutely! Besides eating and drinking our way through what quickly became one of my favorite cities and regions, I had two musts on the list and one was to visit at least one local record shop and the other was to stop in to Cask, the curators of our Whiskey Explorer’s Club.

I decided to turn to social media for a recommendation on which record store to visit, because there were a handful in the city (mostly in the Haight, of course) and I was trying to not completely monopolize our time. Who better to turn to than my Instagram connection, GrooveNarrative, who happens to be an SF based vinyl enthusiast? He gladly offered up a number of suggestions, and while I can’t wait to check out the rest of the shops on his list during a future visit, I opted to go for one of his first mentions, Rooky Ricardo’s – plus, I just dug the name.

San Fran RookieIt turned out that the shop was in the midst of making a move to a location down the block, but most of the vinyl was still in this original location, along with a handful of listening stations set up, which the owner encouraged us to use while he bounced back and forth between the locations. I appreciated the trust to leave us alone in the store, and while I realize we don’t exactly look shady, I suspect vinyl folks tend to be generally trustworthy. I mean, what kind of jackass would try to steal vinyl?

A few minutes after digging through the stacks I didn’t even feel the need to use a listening station, at least not for the purposesSan Fran Records of checking out the condition, because this vinyl was so clean. It was obvious that the owner cared about what he was offering up in the shop. The hardest part was deciding what to take with me, given that whatever it was would need to make it’s way back on the plane with me.  After forcing myself to limit the haul to 6 spontaneously selected albums, we said our goodbyes and headed back out to make the steep uphill trek towards some of the best whiskey cocktails we had in the city. We had worked up quite a thirst by then, those hills are no joke! If you find yourself in the Haight, stop by the Alembic, you won’t be sorry.San Fran Alembic

Our final day in San Francisco left me feeling like there was still so much that we hadn’t experienced, and as much as I wanted to hit Groove Merchant and Amoeba Music, I decided those would need to wait for the next trip and instead we made our way to Cask in the Rincon Center. To paraphrase an Instagram follower, if there was ever a zombie apocalypse, this is where I’d like to hide out. The gentleman operating that store that day introduced himself as Greg and asked if we were San Fran Casklooking for anything in particular. When I told him that I was a member of their Whiskey Explorer’s club, he immediately set off to see if he had anything special in the back, and brought out a couple of bottles that neither of us had come across before – Parker’s Heritage and Elmer T. Lee. Sold. Also sold on the Cask Exclusive Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila single malt – which might be the smartest purchase I made while in the city. One taste and I was in heaven, so it’s a good thing that my husband isn’t as much of a scotch fan as I am because I’ll be hanging on to this one for as long as possible. I also suspect that these beauties will make their way into a Whiskey Vinyl Vibe one of these days.

San Fran Whiskey

We had a couple of slots left in the niftiest wine shipper that I’ve ever seen, called the Wine Check. It’s a wine shipping box inside of a bag designed to check on the plane, and it was brilliant! No one said we had to only fill it with wine, so the last spots went to these glorious bottles – and our San Francisco haul was complete.

San Fran Carrier

I could go on and on about the food, wine, and the cocktails that we experienced during our trip, but more than anything it was the people that made this so special. San Francisco and the Napa Valley region are filled with friendly folks, from my social media contacts who were so helpful, to the best bartenders and servers, the most gracious Air BnB hosts, and everyone in between – thank you for making our trip a memorable one. We will definitely be back.

A quick list of some of our other favorites:

Best Lunch:  Yank Sing (Come hungry!)

Best Dinner: Quince (A very special evening out to celebrate our 10-year anniversary)

Best Tiki Bar: Pagan Idol (The best bartenders around!)

Best Winery Tour while in the Napa valley: This is a tough one, but I’d go with the Chateau Montelena estate tour, followed closely by the cave tour and tasting at Schramsberg

For the best Air BnB experience in St. Helena – shoot me a message and I’ll gladly share!



My Favorite Bourbons Under $30

Bourbon und $30 2

Well, I know there are innumerable lists like this out there, so I don’t expect to be blazing any trails here. Hopefully, you’ll find something here that you haven’t tried before and give it a shot. If nothing else, let this simply be a reminder that you don’t need to be a Rockefeller in order to enjoy a world-class bourbon.

My list, in no particular order:

Weller Antique

  • W.L. Weller Antique – I’m honestly surprised I don’t see this on more of these type of lists. It can be a bit tricky to find, but I managed to score a couple of bottles again this year, without too much work. In my area, this is still a ~$25 bottle, even given the ridiculous surge in popularity for all things Weller/Van Winkle. It has wonderful notes of cherry, cinnamon, brown sugar and barrel. The palate is much the same – pepper, orange, cinnamon and smoke. It’s a wonderful bourbon, if you can find it, and would be worthy of double the price tag.

Evan Williams Single

  • Evan Williams Single Barrel – 10 year old bourbon for sub-$25? Sign me up! This year’s bottle (2006 vintage) is just as deserving as the previous years. It’s got lots of fruit (orange and pineapple), plus honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Another example of a wonderfully complex whiskey at a bargain price. Challenging enough for seasoned tasters, but approachable enough for novices.

Elijah 3

  • Elijah Craig – What’s better than a 10 year old bourbon? Well, a 12 year old one, of course! Thankfully this bottle is still easy to find, unlike it’s older brother the 18yr. The nose on this bourbon is STRONG, much bigger than you’d expect from 94 proof. If you allow it to settle you’ll get great honey and vanilla, however. The alcohol is always up front, but the heavy, buttery mouthfeel is great and leads you to lovely citrus and rum butter flavors. The syrupy finish is in a class of its own. This one is probably not the best choice for beginners.

Four Roses Small Batch

  • Four Roses Small Batch – I like this bourbon more than it deserves, probably. Four Roses was one of my very first forays into anything that wasn’t Maker’s or Jim Beam. This bottle is a wonderful bourbon, IMO. Lots of caramel and rye spice with a little bit of floral note at the end of the nose. Caramel and rye dominate the palate, as well, but are accompanied by some very nice pepper, nutmeg and oak. It finishes long with flavors of toffee and caramel. You could drink this whiskey all night and keep picking up different things in the nose and palate. A very underrated bourbon, IMO.

Pure Kentucky

  • Pure Kentucky – I bought a bottle of this at the suggestion of my “bourbon guy” at my local liquor store. I was not disappointed, to say the least. This one has everything you have come to expect from a good bourbon – rye spice, oak and toffee are the major players and this whiskey is incredibly smooth in spite of the 107proof. The finish is long, sweet and slightly floral.


  • Woodford Reserve – OK, so not exactly out on a limb with this one. It’s just so good! Oak and rye on the nose, with unexpected notes of green apple and pear. The palate is all spice and fruit with a light finish that doesn’t linger. This is a great bourbon to use as an introduction for folks trying bourbon for the first time.


Well, kids, there it is. Far from earth shattering, but hopefully there’s something in there that you haven’t had, or haven’t had in a while. Maybe this little post will spur you to try one of the above for the first time, or again.

Feel free to add your thoughts below.


Whiskey Explorer

Even though my other half is technically the whiskey guy, I certainly have my own fondness for the spirit. While planning our upcoming trip to San Francisco for our 10th anniversary, I started digging into must-visit whiskey spots as it’s no secret that we plan to eat and drink our way through our week-long stay. A handful of “Best Whiskey Bars in SF” articles later and I came across Rickhouse,  which subsequently led me to the Cask Store.  After spending some time browsing through their impressive online selection of spirits, I stumbled upon their Whiskey Explorer’s Club. Now, I’m sure that there are other whiskey clubs in existence, but the whole “on a whim” thing kicked in and I signed up. One bottle arrives every quarter and two shipments in, I’m far from disappointed.

Yesterday’s Shipment: WhistlePig 10yr Rye – 112 Proof

Needless to say, my guy was pretty happy to see me when I came home bearing this gift yesterday. I’m certain you’ll get to hear all about this new addition to his collection soon, and who knows what vinyl selection might end up as an accompaniment.


Get ’em before they’re gone…

A friend of mine knows that I just started collecting whiskey, mostly bourbon, and evidently decided to become an enabler. Up until a couple of months ago, I was more of a buy a bottle, drink that bottle, then maybe try something else kind of guy.

He was kind enough to send me this link – I was grateful and afraid at the same time.

I have since added 3 of the bottles from that page to the collection (Wild Turkey Master’s Keep, Jim Beam Signature Craft Quarter Cask and Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 2015: 1838 Style White Corn). I ordered a bottle of the Orphan Barrel Rhetoric for that friend as a birthday gift, as well.

There are some short tasting notes at the link provided. I will say that I am far from disappointed with any of the three bottles that I’ve purchased. The Jim Beam is especially impressive at <$35 bottle where I live.

Like the article says, when these are all sold, that’s it, so keep an eye out. I’m waffling on a bottle of the Old Forester 2015 Birthday Bourbon, too. It appears to be going for about $250 a bottle right now. I’m on the fence about jumping that far into the pool just yet, thus far the Master’s Keep is my priciest bottle (and completely worth it).