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I Do: Wine Country Wedding Guide: Napa Valley

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nvWeddings.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

A wedding in wine country promises everything you've always wanted: Romantic photo ops among the vines, world-class food and wine, and access to some of the best hospitality perks you'll find anywhere (reception in a wine cave, anyone?). 

But as every time-pressed bride-to-be also knows, sorting through the thousands of potential wine country wedding locations, packages and service providers is a task that's likely to dampen even the most sturdy bridal spirits.

Fortunately, we appealed to one of Northern California's foremost experts on wedding planning, Jan Brenner of Here Comes The Guide to share her insights on some of the best-kept secrets in wine country weddings. So read on for the inside scoop on the topic - because we wouldn't have anything dampen your anticipation of such a singularly special day!
green_practices.jpgNapa/Sonoma, CA - August 26, 2009  Northern California's largest transportation company, California Wine Tours is now a Bay Area Green Business. Joining the ranks of other leaders in sustainability, California Wine Tours becomes the first transportation company in the Bay Area to reach the requirements for businesses which moves from a traditional business model to a model of sustainability

Through their many business entities, California Wine Tours moves over 460,000 passengers each year throughout the Bay Area which equates to taking thousands of individual cars off the road. These passengers include wine tours in Napa and Sonoma, corporate guests attending company meetings, children attending school field trips, people going to/from the area's airports or guests attending a sporting event, concert or wedding. With this much operation around the Bay Area it was important to California Wine Tours owner, Mike Marino that his company was looking at its carbon footprint and creating programs to reduce its impact. "The goal of our company is to fill the transportation needs of our guests and community as green as possible," comments Marino. "We plan on meeting this goal through a constant track of improvements to find alternative fuel sources, reduce pollution and make our business dedicated to sustainability," states Marino.

So you're going to the chapel to get married? There are few places in the country you can plan a wedding year-round and the Tri-Valley is one of them.  Whether it is winter, spring, summer or fall you can be sure your special day will be picture perfect.

The Tri-Valley hosts thousands of weddings a year and whether it be in the brightly colored fall, warm summer, colorful spring or crisp winter the Tri-Valley offers event venues, attractions and entertainment for all. Wineries, estates, churches, museums, galleries and golf course are a sampling of the more than 100 event facilities available to couples and their guests.

Napa Valley Festival Del Sole

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festivalDelSole.jpgPress Release

Napa Valley Festival del Sole, one of the world's most distinctive summer festivals, announces its fourth season in California's beautiful wine country, July 17-25, 2009.
 
With performances every day, music is the centerpiece of a festival hailed by The New York Times as a "feast for the senses," featuring the finest cuisine, wine and hospitality the Napa Valley has to offer. The weeklong schedule includes world-class concerts, exclusive receptions, lunches and dinners, wine tastings, art exhibitions, free community concerts showcasing talented young performers, and more.

Some of the world's most renowned artists travel to Napa Valley each year to perform at Festival del Sole, and to wine, dine and celebrate the "art of life" with Festival guests.

Yountville

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The little town that's big on talent and taste

By Michaela Jarvis

As Seen in Napa Sonoma Magazine

Yountville has often been compared to a European village because of its charm and because everything in town is within walking distance. That may be an apt description, yet, in how many European villages will you find yourself within a short stroll of half a dozen of the best restaurants in the country?

Heck, this is no European village. This is Disneyland, with a favorite attraction for everyone-whether that's a wild ride through Thomas Keller's culinary imagination at The French Laundry, a chance to shake hands with Food Network star Michael Chiarello at his new Bottega restaurant, or an experience of the magical hot stone massage at Villagio's 13,000-square-foot spa.

To Read More, Click Here.

Read other articles on the town of Yountville:

Wine Country Itinerary: Yountville

Things Are Afoot in Yountville

Bardessono: The New Mecca for Wine Country Luxury

Romancing the Stone

The Bocce Boom

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Toss 'em forward while you toss it back

By Bonnie Wach

As seen in Napa Sonoma Magazine

The game of darts has Guinness, horse racing has bourbon, and here in Northern California, white wine accompanies everything from croquet to baseball. But ask any Wine Country sports fan what goes best with red, and you're likely to get a quick, certain answer: bocce.

In Napa and Sonoma these days, it's hard to hoist a glass of Zinfandel without hitting a pallino (the small target ball in bocce). The two counties boast more than two dozen courts, many nestled next to wine-tasting rooms and on the grounds of upscale inns and resorts.

To Read More, Click Here.

Summer in Santa Barbara

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It's hard not to want to pack up and move to a place that has some 300-plus days of sun each year--and not blistering hot sun, but typically 70-75 degree weather throughout the spring, summer and fall. Ah, Santa Barbara. No wonder the freeways can get so packed.

Located just up the road from its nearest big city, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is an ocean-side nirvana, where days rarely heat up past "comfortable in shirtsleeves" or cool down past "grab a jacket, just in case." And though there can be a few anomalous days--especially the quirky weather in June, when foggy mornings linger a bit--weather is mostly well, perfect.

Green Gets Gold

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One Napa Hotel Walks the Environmental Walk

by Robert P. Farmer

The sustainability conversation has long been on the table in Wine Country. Wineries and restaurants have led the earth-friendly charge here, with the results easily seen (and tasted) in bottles and on tables throughout the region. But the subtext here has always been the greater need to live sustainably not just in vineyards and at the Farmer's market, but everywhere and at all time.

"Green" High Fashion Hits the Mark

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Ethical apparel abounds at Arboretum

by Courtney Cochran

It's a dilemma perfectly fit for the new millennium: Two adventurous young ladies find themselves living in wine country with a hankering for high-end duds made in an environmentally responsible fashion. Problem is, finding so-called "green" high fashion in rural Northern California is like trying to track down a Michelin three-star in Bakersfield.

So, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Business partners and responsible fashionistas Kate Morison and Andrea Barrett launched Arboretum Apparel in April, 2007 just north of the plaza in downtown Healdsburg. To head through the door of the smartly renovated space is enter a place where, according to Morison and Barrett, "fashion meets compassion and ethical apparel abounds."

strawbale_1.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Trends in so-called flexible design are revolutionizing the way we live, often with unexpected benefits. To wit, pre-fab homes now available from the likes of Method Homes combine sophisticated design, environmental efficiency and affordability into sleek ready-to-go housing models that can be installed just about anywhere, anytime. And now, at a time when the idea of building a new home and winery in wine country may seem as outsized as our nation's budget deficit, a pioneer in pre-fab is bringing flexibility and affordability to wine country living.
corkscrewed.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

When American journalist Robert Camuto moved to the south of France with his family several years ago (I know, I know, cue the Peter Mayle comparisons), it was in search of adventure unlike any the seasoned writer had experienced thus far. Indeed, it wasn't long before the New York native found himself squarely in the land of the vine, where - surprise! - the erstwhile political reporter began an adventure decidedly different from anything he'd known before.

February to May in Mendocino

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As winter's squalls turn to gentle raindrops, the Mendocino coast begins to come alive with wildflowers and native grasses. Perhaps one of the most beautiful times to visit, springtime is a fickle season that transforms from grey mornings as fog rolls in, to brilliantly sunny afternoons perfect for coaxing out tiny buds.

Inland areas tend to be similarly rainy, though a bit warmer. Even so, this time of year throughout the county tends to be a slow season, with most travelers waiting to escape to the cool coast when things get stifling elsewhere (June to October). You'll find fewer crowds right now (though February and March are whale season, and attract wildlife enthusiasts). Some tasting rooms and restaurants close up altogether or have limited hours until the crowds start returning in May, so check ahead. The good news is that you may be able to get an easy reservation at your favorite inn or hard-to-book restaurant during this slow season.

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.

mammothdining.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Attention, outdoors-loving oenophiles:  Gone are the days of scarfing sub-par sandwiches and downing cheap brews between downhill ski runs. Well, at least for those of us lucky enough to hit the slopes in Southern California, that is.  There, ├╝ber chef Joachim Splichal of LA's venerable Patina Restaurant Group (think Patina, Pinot Bistro, and Vegas's popular Pinot Brasserie) was recently appointed to oversee all food-service operations on Southern California's Mammoth Mountain, which means that visitors to the state's most popular year-round resort can now enjoy the fruits of the group's signature French-Cal cuisine between runs.
innonfirst.jpgThe Inn On First of Napa, California was selected as a "Best of the West" winner in the annual Best of BedandBreakfast.com Awards, 2008-2009.

The Best of BedandBreakfast.com Awards are based upon a qualitative and quantitative review of the nearly 50,000 independent reviews submitted to BedandBreakfast.com, the leading online B&B directory and reservation network worldwide.

Napa Gets Some Suds

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napasmithbeer.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

First came a world-class burger (Taylor's Automatic Refresher), then nationally-acclaimed vegetarian fare (Ubuntu Napa ), and now Napa can add its very own master-brewed beer to the list of latest and greatest wine-and-food additions the bustling waterfront city is acquiring.

The readers of Conde Nast Traveler have named the Kenwood Inn and Spa (www.kenwoodinn.com) the Top Resort in Mainland USA in the magazine's 21st Annual Readers' Choice Awards. The awards are derived from the Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Survey, the largest independent poll of consumers' preferences. Over 32,000 readers voted this year.

Luna Takes Tasting to the Next Level

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luna_vineyards.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Napa Valley's Luna Vineyards is over the t-shirt and ball cap concept. Rather than the routine merchandise for sale at so many wine country destinations, the Silverado Trail winery's recently revamped tasting room features high-end wine accessories available for purchase (think pewter wine funnels and bespoke cheese knives) inside elegantly lit, "Tiffany-like" display cases. Luna's fancy new merch is a far cry from the generic goods for sale elsewhere on the tasting trail, and - if you ask me - evidence of a welcome new direction for winery wares.

Tri-Valley, CA - A Unique Destination

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livermore_Vineyard.jpgSubmitted by Tri-Valley CVB

The Tri-Valley, California region is a triangle-shaped area situated on the east side of San Francisco Bay about 18 miles southeast of Oakland and 33 miles from San Francisco. The Tri-Valley is comprised of three adjacent valleys - Amador, Livermore, and San Ramon - and is comprised of five communities that are members of the Tri-Valley CVB:  Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon, and Danville. The Tri-Valley California area spans two California counties:  Alameda and Contra Costa.

TGI Charbay

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CharbayVodkaFamily.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Ah, Napa. If you look hard enough, you can find just about everything you want in this serene stretch of Northern California countryside. Including spirits.

That's right - in the heart of Napa Valley you'll find Charbay distillery and its associate stable of spirits, liqueurs and wines - a novel fact given that more than 300 wineries dot the landscape around Napa, yet Charbay is the only distillery to call the valley home.

And Now, From Mat to Canvas

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paintingwkshp.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

When new Napa standout Ubuntu broke onto the scene last year with its highly acclaimed yoga studio/organic restaurant concept, it seemed things couldn't get much better for R&R seekers in wine country. Until now, that is. In a welcome move, Ubuntu just announced a new series of yoga and painting workshops that rightly take relaxation to a whole new level.

Biodynamic Experience

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auberge_room_dining.jpgBy Robert Farmer
You are no doubt aware that the biodynamic revolution in the wine industry is in full bloom. Evidence of this phenomenon is everywhere you look. It can be experienced as simply as by enjoying the contents of a bottle of biodynamically produced wine, or as elaborately as by spending a weekend at Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley's Rutherford region.

Yes, if you've got three grand burning a whole in your pocket, and your biodynamic curiosity is otherwise insatiable, the beautiful Wine Country resort has a package for you.

Wine Country Itinerary: Geyserville

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By Robert P. Farmer

With the many so-called "destinations" in California's Wine Country, it's easy for visitors to miss the forest for the trees. Traveling from one big-name spot to another, the itinerant wine taster regularly passes blissfully by unearthed gems that could make them richer for the experience.

One such gem is Geyserville, a small, unassumingly quiet town settled on the banks of the Russian River and shoehorned between the Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. That it happens to exist in one of the great American appellations (Alexander Valley) is a bonus not just for the winemakers who populate the area, but also for the wine aficionado who prefers a more relaxed pace with his world-class tasting experience.

Geyserville is still a small town, the kind of place that would make Andy Griffith feel right at home. But it is emerging as well, and with the recent acquisition and transformation of a local winery by Francis Ford Coppola (Rosso & Bianco, and the Francis Coppola Winery, formerly Chateau Souverain), the klieg lights on the town will only brighten. Yet a homespun appeal still prevails. And the wineries that flank Hwy 128 in the heart of the appellation continue to welcome guests with a familiar embrace and a selection of wines that rivals the best from anywhere.

Atrium, at Greenock Creek

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The_Atrium_-_Barossa.jpgBy Robert Farmer

If you happen to find yourself in Southern Australia--which I root for you to do--let me know what you think of the new vineyard residences called Atrium, at Greenock Creek, at the renowned resort and spa, The Louise, in the hot hot wine region of Barossa.  Because everything I've heard about them makes it sound like a place I can't wait to check in to.

The reality of that scenario is probably a few months away, though the timing of that would make it perfectly in sync with summer.

Beer Steps Aside for Colorado Wine

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boulderfwfest.jpgBy Robert Farmer

Boulder, Colorado: If you're like me, the beverage you equate most with the Rockies is beer - one particular type of beer, more likely. For as long as anyone can remember, the taste of the Rocky Mountains was a hops-and-barley taste. Beer in Colorado is king. That is, until now.


Like each of its 49 neighbor states, Colorado, too, has an emerging wine industry. And now that industry is starting to inch into the territory of its dominant sister beverage. While it will certainly be some time before beer is replaced on the throne, wine in Colorado is proving to be a worthy prince.

Go Go Camp Mendo

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By Robert Farmer

Those familiar with this space know that I am a fan of "immersion learning." Especially when it comes to wine appreciation, there's no better way to "go deep" into it than to live it for a few solid days. Wine camps are a great way to do it. And increasingly, regions are offering innovative, educational, and above all fun, opportunities to experience wine like you never have.

Mendocino gets into the act with Wine Camp 2008, a three-day, three-night immersion into Northern California wine and all of its various nuances and tendencies. I like this Wine Camp because it takes place in one of California's lesser-known regions and provides "insider info" to the intrepid camp-goer about one of Northern California's under-discovered gems. And, with each camp limited to just eight campers, it promises to be an intimate excursion, with ample opportunity to get one-on-one contact with winemakers and other participants.

Things are Afoot in Yountville

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villagio.jpgBy Robert Farmer

One of the best things about Yountville - the little berg that could in the heart of California Wine Country - is that is wonderfully self-contained. One might argue that the best thing about it is that it is home to French Laundry, the vaunted and impossible-to-get-into restaurant helmed by Thomas Keller. While that's certainly a big draw, the truly beautiful thing about Yountville, all two miles wide of it, is that indeed it is so compact that it is one of the few destinations of its caliber that can be easily accessed entirely by foot.

Wente Looking Great for 125

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By Robert Farmerwente.jpg

Especially in America, even twenty-five years is a good stretch for a winery. So special congratulations are definitely in order to Wente Vineyards as it celebrates more than a hundred years longer than that. The 125th anniversary celebration is taking place throughout 2008, but in May things really heat up. Numerous events are slated to commemorate Wente's status as the country's oldest continuously operated family-owned winery.

Sustainable Silverado

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By Robert Farmer

silverado.jpegIt can sometimes be tough to figure out with all the talk of "green" and "eco-friendly" trends bandied about these days, who is just talking and who is actually doing. There's no other way to be green than to do, and so I think it's important to give a "shout out" to those who are actually trying to make a difference. In Napa, the list of the former is large and growing all the time. And at the Silverado Resort (one of my personal favorites, thanks to the perfect melding of excellent wine, food, and golf), is now upping the sustainability ante with their recently implemented practice of comprehensive recycling.

Genuine Wine Flights

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By Robert Farmer

And now for some news about air travel that doesn't involve bankruptcy, flight cancellations or fare increases. In fact, this bit of air travel news is decidedly good - that is if you're a wine fan, and by reading this space I'm guessing you've got at least a passing interest in the topic.


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