Gina Dallara: December 2008 Archives

How Green Was My Homestead

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Bardessono.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Come February, Napa may be the proud owner of America's greenest luxury hotel. Management for the Bardessono - a 62-room hotel featuring state-of-the-art eco-friendly amenities, spa and 92-seat restaurant and bar - is currently seeking Platinum LEED certification for the facility, reports the PR machine behind the project. This is a welcome development in the ongoing greening of wine country, not to mention another ace in the hole for Yountville, fast becoming Napa's most popular destination thanks to attractions like Thomas Keller's enormously popular eateries Bouchon bistro and The French Laundry.

Romancing the Stone

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maisonry.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Ma(i)sonry, Yountville's new antique-boutique-meets-collective-tasting-room, has all the makings of a hit wine country destination: historic building, stylishly edited surroundings, and world class wine. The newest project from financial exec-cum wine entrepreneur Michael Polenske, Ma(i)sonry artfully marries several of its founder's chief passions - art, home furnishings and wine - in a manner altogether a cut above that of most wine country destinations.

Rural and Slow Paced: Mendocino

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Mendocino is a county of rural communities, miles of scenic coastline, and intense natural beauty. When you visit Mendocino it is unusual to do so in a hurry. The winding highways, whether wrapping along the coast or between redwood forests and vineyards, are certain to slow you down. But the attitude of the historic little towns and even the larger community centers is one that is measured more by the pace of the earth and less by the watch on the wrist.

Making Your Way to Fort Bragg

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Fort Bragg, CA is a Great Last Minute Getaway Town

Getting to Fort Bragg is part of the pleasure. There are several routes that will take you through dense redwood forests, world-class wine growing regions, or spectacular ocean-side routes. Coming and going to Fort Bragg, either way gives you opportunities to reflect on the majesty of the environment, as well as spend some serious car time with friends and family.

If you are heading north from San Francisco, there are a couple of routes that you may want to consider. While you can travel Highway 1 completely up the coast, depending upon your time frame and your brakes you may want to wait until hitting Santa Rosa on Highway 101 before heading westward.

Chillin' on the Coast

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There's nothing like a last minute getaway. It's a snap decision - you look around, grab your overnight bag, and hit the road.

High tourist season and holiday weekends aside, finding last minute accommodations on the road can either be surprisingly easy, or an opportunity to accidentally end up camping in your car. There's a couple of wine country communities that you can almost always bet will provide you quick and easy lodging - anything from the basic room and board to lovely bed and breakfast's that just happen to have an opening waiting for you.

Monterey: Getaways for the More Adventurous

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The days of scheduling a vacation to just hibernate are over. As we strive for longer, healthier lives our recreation takes on greater importance. While we should still make time for sitting back and knocking off a book or two, getting out, getting fresh air, and stretching those muscles does more than make us feel good - it makes us look good.

The Monterey peninsula has everything a good getaway needs. Perfect scenery, history, amazing miles of coast - some for playing, some just for looking at, wine country and recreation of just about any kind.

courtney_015.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Having spent time in Rome, Puglia and Milan during my ten-day Italian sojourn, I still hadn't made up my mind as to which was my favorite destination by the next-to-last day of my trip.  Rome - the first spot I'd visited - had been fantastic, but also crowded, loud and at times more than a little overwhelming.  Puglia - in the sunny heel of the boot - was a wonderfully welcoming region boasting charming small towns, incredibly fresh seafood and the best olive oil I'd ever tasted.  And Milan had been glamorous, sophisticated, worldly and chic - qualities I'd been certain pushed it to the fore of my preferences among the places I'd visited.

But, as my boyfriend and I headed from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport back into the city for one final night before flying home, I felt an unexpected sense of familiarity come over me.  The undulating Roman countryside, with its hills topped with graceful pine trees and centuries-old mansions, at once struck me as soothing and like something I had seen countless times before.  And the brisk traffic whipping by on both sides of the taxi seemed more charming than frightening on the second visit, and before I knew it I caught myself musing fondly, "those crazy Roman drivers!"

Italy Wine Country - Milanese Moment

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dagiacomo.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Occasionally you find yourself dining in an establishment you can just tell is rather famous. Such was the case at da Giacomo in Milan, where we had dinner our final night in the northern Italian city. With its cozy-elegant d├ęcor, bevy of stylish patrons (which included an exotic-looking model at the next table), and delicious fare focused on seafood, the spot oozed the kind of atmosphere you seek out in big city dining, but don't always find.

Italy Wine Country - An Ideal Lunch

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atgallo.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Though hard-core travelers may protest, I simply cannot hide this truth:  my favorite thing to do while traveling is to partake in unapologetically long lunches.  And so when in sunny Puglia in Italy's south, rather than spending our days zipping between typical tourist haunts such as churches, ancient villages and other points of interest, my boyfriend and I spent more hours than I care to recount lingering over exceedingly long lunches. 

Italy Wine Country - The Art of Aperitivo

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aperitivopeeps.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Italians have a habit I sorely wish we Americans would adopt.  It's called Aperitivo, and it absolutely rocks.  Here's how it works:  every evening, bars in Italian cities - especially the big cities, such as Rome and Milan - put out an array of snacks that patrons can tuck into for free so long as they purchase a drink.  The drink is called aperitivo (literally, pre-dinner drink), but the word is often applied to the whole experience of drinking, eating and socializing.  Which is why when an Italian says to you "Facciamoci un aperitivo" ("Let's have an aperitivo"), what he really means is, "let's go get our drink/eat/chat on, presto!"

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