Top of the Mark Holiday Drinks

Hopkins Hotel Lobby

After attending the unveiling of the Gingerbread House at The Fairmont, I visited the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.  My best friend Wendy and I were advised by friends to stop by their penthouse restaurant aptly named Top of the Mark.

Candy Mansion 01

Located directly across the street from the Fairmont in Nob Hill, The Mark Hopkins hotel is named for one of the founders of the Central Pacific Railroad.  In 1875, Mr. Hopkins built his wife Mary her dream house: a lofty Victorian mansion complete with turrets, gingerbread trim, and a built-in pipe organ.  Created by visual merchandising students from The Academy of Art San Francisco, is a quarter-scale model of the famed mansion completely made out of candy.

Candy Mansion 02

Sadly, Mark Hopkins would never see the elaborate abode.   He passed away shortly before the home was completed in 1878.  His widow, Mary, moved into the  forty room mansion residing there for three years, then relocating to Massachusetts.  She developed a close relationship with her mansion’s interior decorator, Edward Searles.   The two were married in 1887.  This created a scandal of the era as Edward was much younger than Mary – twenty years younger.  After Mary’s passing in 1891, Edward donated the Hopkins Mansion to the San Francisco Art Association.

Candy Mansion 04

The Hopkins Mansion had a grand, but brief life.  In 1893, it became the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art, its vast rooms now being used as galleries, classrooms and studios.  It stayed a creative conservatory until 1906, when it’s demise came about in a fire resulting from the infamous earthquake of that same year.  Less than a year later, a temporary structure was erected in its place by the Art Association.  It was also discovered that an enormous water reservoir was directly underneath the house.

Candy Mansion 03

In 1910, hotel investor and engineer George D. Smith purchased the land.  He tore down the temporary structure and begin creating a luxury hotel, The Mark Hopkins, which was completed in 1926.  In 1939, Mr. Smith decided to convert the eleven-room penthouse in a skyline lounge called Top of the Mark.   Situated on the 19th floor, the restaurant boasts spectacular views of the city and amazing martinis.

Mark View 02

The view above is right outside the elevators on the 19th floor.

Mark View 03

This was the view right next to our table.   Just exactly how is The Mark Hopkins an example of good feng shui?  First off, we have the spectacular views from every window.  Peaceful landscapes are some of the best examples of feng shui art, and here we have aristocratic cityscapes as far as the eye can see, with hills in the distance.  Simply breathtaking.  Next there is the flow of architecture.  In cities with good macro feng shui, most of the buildings rise and diminish in size gradually, thus supporting a natural, calm flow of energy over and around the structures.  San Francisco does this for the most part.  While the Mark Hopkins does stand out from the crowd (pun intended), there are enough tall buildings situated close enough that the energy flow is beneficial and auspicious, not jarring and uncomfortable as in other highrises.

Top of the Mark Cocktails

Our table was near the half-moon bar on the far side of the lounge.  Of the extremely vast list of martinis offered, we chose to be festive and stick with their holiday options:  The Twelve Days of Christmas.   Wendy went with the Ten Lords a-Leaping, a mixture of cranberry juice, vanilla vodka, Chambord and fresh raspberries.  Sensational and sophisticated.  I opted for the Four Calling Birds.  Comprised of Beefeater Gin, creme de banana, and Galliano, this drink was heavy on another ingredient – grapefruit juice.  I’m not a fan of grapefruit, but I thought it worked in this libation.  Refreshing and tropical.  On a separate visit, my friend Amy tried their Nine Ladies Dancing, which she said was amazing.   These drinks are available through January 1st.

Mark View 01

For more information on Top of the Mark, and a complete list of hours and holiday events, please visit their virtual advent calendar here:

And to all of my readers out there, I wish each and every one of you a wonderful and highly auspicious New Year.  2014 holds some great things in store for all of us!

Kittens on Snowy Wall

Tercero Wines Tasting Room

Tasting Room – Photo courtesy of Tercero Wines.

When I was in high school, science and math were not my strong suits – so much so that I put off taking biology class until senior year.  Which, in retrospect, was a good thing.  (I got to be the cool senior in a room full of sophomores).  On my recent wine tasting excursion in Los Olivos, I was instantly transported back to Mr. O’geene’s bio class when I entered the Tercero Wines Tasting Room., which has a distinctive scientific vibe.

My friends and I actually stumbled upon Tercero by accident – we were looking for a place to access wi-fi in Los Olivos, and the coffeehouse we’d been directed to was closed.  The friendly proprietor of Tercero, Larry Schaffer, invited us over to use his wi-fi and take in another tasting.  After a day of hopping from one vineyard to another, Tercero was the last stop, and the wines offered were delicious.  Larry and his wife, Christie, founded Tercero about 5 years ago, and their labs have been creating some amazing libations.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • 2010 Grenache Blanc – A crisp white wine with hints of pear.  Although I am more of a red fan, this was pretty tasty.
  • 2007 Watch Hill Grenache – A rich and bold red with deep berry flavors.  Unlike most grenaches, which are a blend of grenache and other grape varieties, this is %100 grenache grape.   For the discerning connoisseur of wine.
  • 2007 Thompson Vyd Syrah – A savory Rhone red.  The only word I can come up with is Superb.
  • 2007  Cuvee Christie – An enticing blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre grapes.  Very flavorful.  I wonder if he named this after his wife?
  • 2007 The Climb – Without a doubt my favorite of all the wines here.  A sophisticated blend of syrah and petite syrah.  I could drink this ambrosial wine all day!   I restrained myself and only brought one bottle home.

Tercero is tucked away in a gray vintage-inspired building shared with a few other businesses.  Although the address is Alamo Pintado, the entrance is actually around the corner on San Marcos (there’s a sign, and it’s easy to spot)  Chrome metal stools, chalkboard walls (pictured above) ,chrome shelving and beakers filled with colorful concoctions help to achieve the laboratory feeling.  The swanky metal shelving is the Grundtal Towel Shelf from Ikea.

Numbers also play a major part in Feng Shui.  The word Tercero in Spanish means Third.  This number is highly significant to Larry and Christie.  Growing up, they were each the third child in their families.  They were married on the third, and they have three children together.  The address of the tasting room is also connected to the number 3.  815 times 3 is 2445.   Also 2 + 4 + 4 + 5 = 15,  divided by 5 makes 3.   The number three in Feng Shui signifies family, health and community cultivation – all of which can be connected easily to the production of wine, and the creation of this establishment itself by a husband and wife team.  The continued use of this number can add up to nothing but further success for Tercero.

Landscapes are an excellent feng shui choice for artwork, especially when there is an amount of depth to the picture.  Try to choose a landscape that is serene and peaceful,  such as sunset, forest path, or winery setting.  Avoid landscapes that are dark and destructive.  The photography of Tom Ives is an excellent choice for almost any environment.  His calming art captures all of the elements with his color choices and subject selection.  Three of this paintings for sale hang in the tasting room, and you can see more of his incredible work at

I liked Tercero so much that I joined their wine club, and plan on visiting them in Los Olivos a few times a year. I think I may have to open my bottle of The Climb tonight…

Tercero Wines

2445 Alamo Pintado Avenue, Suite 104 (the entrance is off of San Marcos)

Los Olivos, CA 93441

805  245-9584

Hours:  Friday – Monday Afternoons, 12:00 to 5:00.  Other days and times are available by appointment.