Recently in Writers Category

Wine Country Insider: Art Walking Tours

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

When it comes to inspiration, wine country is about as alluring as it gets.  And so it is that wine country art - especially the kind you can meander amongst, on walking tours - takes on especially vivid expression. Whether it's made or just displayed in this lovely setting, it's more than worth a gander. Please allow us to steer you towards some rewarding walks.  

Napa: West End
Encompassing an approximately 6-block area in this once sleepy wine country seat, Napa's West End is a neighborhood offering arts of various intriguing sorts. From traditional art galleries - First Street's Quent Cordair comes to mind with its substantial collection of romantic realistic works - to tasting room installations to a fully restored, circa-1937 Art Deco theater, the Uptown, Napa's West End offers much to see on a stroll. Chris Isaak and Rusted Root are among the top-notch performances that can be seen at the Uptown, along with its colorful (original!) neon marquee. Or, come Saturday night, stop into Ceja Vineyards' tasting room for a rotating selection of artworks in addition to pours, then dance the night away via the spot's free salsa lessons.  

Need some mementos? Pick these up at the West End Napa gift store inside the contemporary Avia Hotel building. It's also where the neighborhood "living room" can be found, natch. The area is couched in the western portion of downtown Napa, approximately from School to Randolph streets and from First to Third streets.

napaArtWalk.jpgNapa ARTwalk Momentum: Art that Moves (Us)
Arts Council Napa Valley (ACNV) and the Napa Community Redevelopment Agency have announced the return of the Napa ARTwalk interactive public sculpture exhibition and tour in downtown Napa. The second ARTwalk, titled "Momentum: Art that Moves (Us)," launched on October 19th 2011 and will be on exhibition through April, 2013 in downtown Napa. 

Art works - which hew to a new theme each exhibition - are selected with the help of CaFE (callforentry.org) and a panel of local art administrators, artists, and city officials.  The cost is free, and exhibits can be accessed throughout the day, 365 days a year, at visitors' leisure.  Download a map here, and for more information, call 707-257-2117.

Sonoma Spotlight: Dry Creek Valley

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

DryCreekValley_VineyardinSonomaCounty.jpgOrganic farms and Rhône varieties and lots of cycling, oh my! Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley - encompassing 16 miles north-south in Sonoma's bucolic northwestern corner - is a quieter part of the county that beckons with gracious vineyards, welcoming wineries and a rustic agrarian atmosphere that's downright soothing.  Come along as we take a closer look.

Getting There
Dry Creek is easily reached from adjacent Healdsburg and also makes a reasonable day trip from other parts of the county.  Coming from the south, exit 101 at Dry Creek Road and head northwest. Coming from Mendocino and the north, exit 101 at Dutcher Creek Road to tackle the valley from the northern end, heading south. From Healdsburg, access the valley via Dry Creek Road or start at the far southern end of the valley - via Westside Road - if you have time for a longer drive.    

Weather, What to Expect
Dry Creek Valley is one of Sonoma's numerous excellent wine-producing valleys.  Though it is one of those more closely situated to the ocean (it's just about 20 miles inland from the Pacific), Dry Creek experiences significantly warm temperatures during summer months.  During this time, heat necessitates smart warm weather preparation such as taking plenty of water with you, stopping to rest if pursuing cycling or other physically activities, and avoiding excessive sun exposure during peak sunshine periods. Evening temperatures are cool year-round, and winter is cool and wet during the rainy season. Spring and fall offer the mellowest conditions for traveling, and fog can be found in the morning year-round.  

Sonoma International Film Festival, April 11-15

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
SIFF_2012_logo.jpgby Courtney Cochran

In its impressive 15th iteration, the Sonoma International Film Festival (né Sonoma Valley Film Festival) brings some 120 independent films to wine country, plus a diverting mix of pre- and après-film activities.  Here's the scoop:

Film Highlights

This year, a diverse lineup of films allows for exploration of topics as varied as romance, politics, pop culture, the environment and sci-fi.  Some of this festival's anticipated films:

In the romance category and featuring actor Jackson Rathbone of Twilight fame, feature-length Girlfriend explores a romance between a boy with Down's Syndrome and a small-town single mom (Shannon Woodward). 

SIFF_2012_hamburger.jpgTeenagers push the envelope of blind tasting by attacking the topic of burgers -- and teenage obsessions like video games, natch - in the short film The Great Hamburg Challenge (just 12 minutes). 

On the more serious side of things, director Luc Besson tells the story of celebrated leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she becomes the core of Burma's democracy movement in the feature film The Lady, while the documentary Nothing Like Chocolate explores an American entrepreneur's efforts to build a sustainable chocolate operation in Grenada. 

Napa Valley Arts in April

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

The month of April is not only a harbinger of warmer weather: it's a cue for wine country's most creative to kick off their annual arts calendars.  From photography exhibits to live theater and concerts, arts events offered this April boast plenty of variety - and some diverting new acts. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Art Film Series: Under the Tuscan Sun
Downtown St. Helena's charmingly restored Cameo Theater lights up the valley with its star wattage-fueled screenings and special film events.  April will see the theater play host to Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes.  A screening of the film will be followed by a Q&A and book signing of Mayes' latest cook book, all accompanied by Italian bites from Knickerbocker's Catering and wine from Benessere Winery. Gelato from Sogni di Dolci and homemade limoncello will top off this anticipated arts event.
4/1 12pm * 1340 Main St., St. Helena * Tickets: (707) 963-3946

VeloVino.jpgThe Art of the Cycle @ Velo Vino
Avid bicyclist-vintners Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford present this exhibition featuring the paintings of New York artist Tahiah Lempert, whose work focuses on bicycles.  Described as "energetic," Lempert's work brings a creative focus to movement and gesture derived from this classic mode of transport.  The winery notes that visitors participating in the "Arts For April" program will receive a complimentary "Peloton" tasting which includes a sampling of all of current release wines, a 10% discount on purchases and a complimentary Clif Bar.
4/9 10am-6pm * Clif Family Winery @ Velo Vino, 709 Main St., St. Helena
msWordClipArt_MovieRoll.jpgby Courtney Cochran

Temperatures may be cooling in the Napa Valley come November, but two dynamic events could make your visit the hottest in memory.  Both in their debut year, the Napa Valley Film Festival (Nov. 9-13) and Flavor! Napa Valley (Nov. 16-22) bring with them a host of diverting events that are rewriting the month's reputation - from a sleepier time to one that's buzzing with eclectic food-and-wine-fueled attractions.

Napa Valley Film Festival ~ 11/9- 11/13

Flavor! Napa Valley ~ 11/16-11/22

Flavor! Napa Valley 2011

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

Silverado Resort & Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

flavorLogo.jpgA four-day gustatory tour de force highlighting farm-to-table cuisine, Flavor! Napa Valley brings together some of the valley's most accomplished food and wine personalities for a powerhouse lineup of events November 16-22nd. 

The highlight of the weekend should be The Appellation Trail: Tasting Napa Valley, a mega tasting of more than 120 wineries' best pours and 30 restaurants' best bites in a festive walk-around format at the Culinary Institute on Friday night. With more big-name purveyors on hand than you'll find in any other place - think Silver Oak Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery, Stags' Leap Winery, Staglin Family Vineyard and Morimoto Napa, Ad Hoc, La Toque and The Restaurant at Meadowood to name just a few - plus live demos by the likes of chef Tyler Florence, the Appellation Trail should be a phenomenal way to experience the best of the valley in just one night.

Come daytime, attending an intimate workshop with one of the valley's foremost culinary players affords rare insights into the philosophies and methods of these larger-than-life luminaries. Oenobuffs and new wine fans alike should enjoy "The Noblest of Grapes: A Celebration of Cabernet Sauvignon," a seminar hosted by the inimitable Karen MacNeil (authoress of The Wine Bible) and Fred Dame, a charismatic Master Sommelier and one of the nation's foremost wine educators. Sushi fans won't want to miss Iron Chef America star Masaharu Morimoto's "Sushi & Sashimi 101" demonstration, where the reliably entertaining maestro will guide guests through the nuances of this Japanese delicacy. 

For more on the weekend's full lineup, lodging packages and ticketing info, visit FlavorNapaValley.com.

Napa Valley Film Festival 2011

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

nvFilmFestival.jpgSelect venues throughout the Napa Valley

Founded by Bay Area locals and Bottle Shock producers Brenda and Marc Lohrmer, the first-ever Napa Valley Film Festival promises a chockablock schedule of feature, documentary and short film screenings, sneak previews, gala events, and conversations with film industry insiders over five days. 

Highly anticipated festivities will take place in venues from Carneros to Calistoga, with a gala kick-off reception going down at Robert Mondavi Winery on Thursday, November 10.  Thirsty film-goers will be able to sample pours from a diverse lineup of local vintners at wine pavilions, pre-screening pourings and winery open houses throughout the valley as well as at "Festival Front Porches," unique venues offering check-in rewards, live music and social media interactivity. Access Hollywood fans, take note: host Billy Bush will emcee the festival's Tribute Night program on Saturday in Yountville. 

Sweet Whites: A Napa Valley Itinerary

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
girlsDrinkingWhiteWineOutside.jpgby Courtney Cochran

If you enjoy a crisp, off dry Muscat (aka "sweet wines") on a warm afternoon or kicking back with girlfriends, this itinerary's for you. Come along as we visit three Napa Valley wineries offering pours of sweeter whites, and learn about shopping excursions and nightlife options, too. Here's to enjoying a sweet day in wine country!


Photo courtesy of Hotel Yountville
By Deirdre Bourdet

The Altamura family has invested some serious time and energy in coaxing the contemporary Hotel Yountville out of the 50-room, country-chic Yountville Inn.  The construction of several new buildings, conference center, restaurant, spa, swimming pool, and outdoor lounging areas is almost complete, though, and the place has shaped up rather spectacularly into one of Yountville's sexiest resorts.

Designed by the same team that transformed Milliken Creek Inn, the remodeled Hotel Yountville blends sleek modern design with luxurious comfort. Subtle details and rich textures create an inviting environment full of plush seating and contemporary comforts.  When I was invited to tour the property in early February, it was all I could do not to sink into every seat we passed. Fortunately, I had been invited to sit down for breakfast at the guests-only Hopper Creek Kitchen, which has been making waves since the soft opening in December 2010.

The Grape Leaf Inn: Not Your Grandmother's B&B

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
By Deirdre Bourdet

grapeLeafInn.jpgI am not a B&B person. Victorian frills, lacey linens, antique bathtubs, old-fashioned plumbing and electrical systems, and sterile grandmotherly ambiance do not feature prominently in my ideal vision for romantic or restorative weekends.  And yet, B&Bs across America seem cast in that same Victorian mold, irrespective of price or location. When I accepted an invitation from Richard and Kae Rosenberg to stay the night in their Healdsburg bed and breakfast, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of what was in store.  Being proven dead wrong has never felt so good.

Richard and Kae acquired the Inn in late 1998, when they "retired" to Healdsburg after successful careers in LA and Colorado.  Not ones to kick back and relax during retirement, they completely overhauled and redecorated the three dormer Queen Anne structure, and added five new bedrooms, a dining room, state of the art kitchen, lobby area, and a "secret" underground wine cellar concealed behind a bookcase in the dining room. Richard's grandfather ran a real speakeasy during Prohibition, and evidently the apple didn't fall far from the tree.  

Where to Watch the World Series

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
By Deirdre Bourdet

giantsBaseball.jpgNAPA VALLEY, CA - The Giants are in the World Series! Join fellow fan-atics at these wine country spots to cheer on San Francisco's own orange and black.


Calistoga Inn & Brewery. Beer and baseball are a classic pairing, and this downtown Calistoga bar/restaurant/inn also boasts an award-winning microbrewery, which sells 100% of its beers on the premises. Crispy calamari and buffalo wings rub shoulders with steamed mussels, oysters, shrimp cocktail and Dungeness crab cakes on the appetizer menu, and bring a taste of the bay to northern Napa Valley.

With a pint of local brew and bowl full of seafood, you will be more than set for game time. 1250 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga.

Napa Valley Film Festival Launching at Last

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
By Deirdre Bourdet

nvFilmFestival.jpgThis November heralds the launch of a new signature event for Napa Valley: The Napa Valley Film Festival.  After more than five years of dreaming, festival co-chairs Brenda and Marc Lhormer announced that the Napa Valley Film Festival will debut in November 2011 with a five-day, four town extended weekend of cinematic celebration.  But since 2011 is still a long way off, a three-day Launch Celebration this November gives attendees a taste of the great things in store.

Co-directors Marc and Brenda Lhormer are no strangers to the film industry, or the grueling work of planning film festivals. The couple produced and distributed the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, inspired by the 1976 Paris Tasting, and ran the Sonoma Valley Film Festival for seven years.  Marc Lhormer was kind enough to chat with me about the couple's latest venture and the imminent launch party, which he refers to as the "amuse-bouche" for the main event next year.

The Napa Valley Film Festival has three core principles: (1) celebrating the human-scale of human existence by presenting relatable real people with real issues, and the hope that inspires us; (2) exploring multicultural differences of perspective, as well as the commonalities across cultural divides both within the U.S. and internationally; and (3) bringing the artists and the audience together for conversations about the films.  Every film being screened will be represented by the directors, the cast, or both, and Q&A sessions will be the norm, not the exception. Local food and wine will feature prominently in the parties surrounding the films, of course, but this is by no means a festival of food and wine-themed movies.  

There's More To Do Than Just Drink

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
calistogaBalloons.jpgAlcohol-Free Activities In Calistoga
by Deirdre Bourdet

Whether you're a tippler, a toddler, or a teetotaler, everyone needs to do things other than drink wine on a trip to wine country.  These non-alcoholic activities are also some of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time in the Calistoga area.

Take to the Air
What better way to experience the beauty and distinctive landmarks of the northern Napa Valley than to fly above them? Whether you fantasize about lazy balloon rides through early morning air, or World War II-era biplane missions, or swift and exciting modern glider plane trips, Calistoga has got you covered.  Calistoga Balloons offers one of the Napa Valley's best hot-air balloon experiences, thanks to the incomparable scenery of the northern valley.  You will cruise over Castello di Amorosa, the Palisade Cliffs, Mt. St. Helena, Château Montelena, Old Faithful Geyser, and the Petrified Forest, and then enjoy a complimentary champagne brunch at Hydro Grill.  Balloon rides are $225 per person, all inclusive, but only $199 if booked online. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance. 

crazyCreekGliders.jpgIf floating at the speed of the wind isn't fast enough for you, head slightly out of town to Crazy Creek Air Adventures in Middletown, which offers scenic trips in sleek gliders and restored historic bi-planes, as well as flying lessons to those who yearn to rule the skies. Book your flight directly online where rates range from $149 to $330 for the ultimate glider ride!


Oregon: Applegate Valley's "Eye Openingly Good" Wines

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
applegatevalley.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

I was utterly charmed by Rhône-inspired pours from southern Oregon's new Cowhorn Wine at a Biodynamic® tasting in San Francisco earlier this year.  I reviewed all of my favs from the event here for Wine Country, though I must say that Cowhorn stuck out for its gorgeous packaging and branding (checking out the website is a must!) that - along with the winery's excellent pours - set the spot apart as one positioned to put not only über green wines but also the Applegate region itself on the vinous map.

Napa's New Lease On Nightlife

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
By Deirdre Bourdet

nightlife.jpgWhen I moved to Napa from San Francisco a few years ago, everyone warned me I was entering a nightlife dead zone. Everything shuts down at 9:00pm.  While that may have been true in the past, a slew of newcomers and new ventures by long-time residents has kicked things up a notch around here.

After nearly a decade of tortuously slow renovation, the Uptown Theatre re-opened its doors this May to reveal its newly restored deco-fabulous style. Fresh faced and fully equipped with all the modern amenities, the Uptown offers an unbeatable combination of historical charm and contemporary sophistication. 

The restored original ceiling murals and light fixtures custom built to replicate the originals radiate classic 1930s style, but the sound system and the seats are 100% modern--21-23 inches wide, as compared to the original theatre's 16-17 inch seats, and staggered to ensure there's not a bad seat in the house.  Even the nosebleed seats have perfect unobstructed views of the stage and perfect acoustics. A full bar offers patrons their choice of libations, including local wines and bubbly by the glass. 

Yountville: Stay In Style

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
By Courtney Cochran

Call Yountville what you like - gourmet mecca, Wine Country paradise, vinous nirvana - just don't miss a stay in this bucolic hamlet superbly situated in the heart of Napa Valley. Herein, tips on where to rest your head when you touch down in this oenological utopia.

Yountville, CA: Tomatoville Touches Down

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

With a nod to Jimmy Buffet's catchy vaca anthem, Margaritaville, Yountville's Bardessono and Hill Family Estate will bring Wine Country visitors the three-day Tomatoville celebration September 10, 11 and 12.  Billing the tomato "Mother Nature's finest fruit (since the grape)," the event's sponsors promise a juicy lineup of activities; highlights include:

Activities In St. Helena

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
A 1337 shop in St. Helena

Image by ohkaterina via Flickr

There's More To Do Than Just Drink

By Deirdre Bourdet

ST. HELENA, CA - Whether you're a tippler, a toddler, or a teetotaler, everyone needs to do things other than drink wine on a trip to wine country. Fortunately, there are plenty of non-alcoholic activities to entertain you in just about every sub-region of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. This series of articles will point you to some of the less obvious ways to have fun in the land of wine.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Golf in Napa and Sonoma

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
(4/365) :: Golf Thursdays

Image by chispita_666 via Flickr

By Robert P. Farmer

Spring has sprung and the grass is green and getting greener. Time to hit the greens--and fairways, and the 19th holes. This is one of my favorite times of year. When days stretch longer and temperatures reach higher. Plenty of time and favorable weather to grind out a few holes of golf from among your daily grind. Napa and Sonoma valleys, while known for their obvious Viticultural attributes, are perhaps lesser appreciated for their golf courses. But the valleys are excellent places to pursue your golf passion. And there's always time to enjoy the world class wines as you count up your score.

Napa Golf Guide
Sonoma Golf Guide
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Napa Golf Guide

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
*updated March 2012

by Robert P. Farmer

golfIstock.jpgNAPA, CA - Whether you're after the country club afternoon, the relaxation of a resort, or the challenge of one of the toughest public course in the region, Napa Valley offers a golf experience to suit all tastes - and skill levels for that matter. The valley known for its vineyards is also home to an assortment of golf courses on par with its assortment of wines. Public, private, and semi-private, all the courses take advantage of their eye-catching natural surroundings - rolling oak-studded hillsides, lakes and creeks, mountain views and valley vistas. Napa golf has it all. If they could put it in a bottle, they would.

Sonoma Golf Guide

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
by Robert P. Farmer

golfBagIstock1.jpgSONOMA COUNTY, CA - Sonoma County offers a wide-ranging mix of golf courses, both public and private. The moderate climate and proximity to the California coastline means conditions are near-ideal from Spring to Fall. Course types vary throughout the length of the valley, from windswept links-style tracks to hilly, verdant testers. Whatever your preference, the most difficult part of the round may be trying to select a course. Here are some Sonoma favorites.

Earth Day At Iron Horse April 18

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
EarthDay2010-Invitation.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

You'll be hard pressed to find a more fitting place in Wine Country to fête Earth Day than Green Valley.  Here, at bubbly hot spot Iron Horse Vineyards, a handful of eco-abiding Russian River wineries will turn their enviro-consciousness westward come April 18 as they highlight ocean conservation. To wit, this year's event, dubbed Green Valley Goes Blue, promises a sweet lineup of ocean-inspired fare and fanfare, from Hog Island oysters to a fish taco truck to a speaker who's logged time as a National Geographic underwater explorer.
SFVintners.header_Blue.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Another smart wine event is coming your way this weekend in the San Francisco Vintners Market, a wine-tasting-and-shopping event modeled on farmers' markets.  Offering wines from some 200 "local" wineries (think Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Russian River Valley, as well as select imports), the tasting is being touted as the first-ever of its kind in that attendees will be able to purchase any wine they like on the spot.
ebayvintner.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Ever wonder what wines made just near the San Francisco Bay taste like?  If you have, your chance to find out is here:  the East Bay Vintners' Alliance - a group of 20 wineries who call San Francisco's East Bay home - will open their doors this Saturday, April 10 for the third annual "Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail" event.  Taking place in seven locations in Emeryville, Oakland and Alameda, the event promises to give attendees a broad sampling of wines made locally, and features some locations not open to the public any other time during the year.

I Do: Wine Country Wedding Guide: Sonoma

| | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

sonomaCountryWedding.jpgLast month we brought you some of our top picks for wedding spots and services in Napa Valley. And given that our Wine County beat has as much to do with Sonoma as it does that region's fair neighbor, we thought it only appropriate to canvass them as well too, for sweet locales and insider tips every bride-to-be planning a wine country wedding ought to know.  Because when it comes to keeping nuptials-inclined couples informed, we absolutely do take our job seriously. 



Best Elopement Package
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
Sometimes a quickie wedding is just what the doctor ordered - and at critically acclaimed Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, low-drama romance is always on the menu. In collaboration with Russian River's Iron Horse Vineyards, the luxe Inn offers an all-in package that includes a photographer, the services of a non-denominational minister, a meal with Master Sommelier-selected wine pairings, couples massages and three nights' lodging. In all, it's an easy alternative to the traditional wedding - with wine country flair.

macarthurWeddings.jpgBest Situated Wine Country Wedding Spot
MacArthur Place, Sonoma
Located just off the plaza in historic downtown Sonoma, elegantly appointed MacArthur Place is just a stone's throw from San Francisco (45 minutes) as well as nearby Napa (15 minutes).  And with 35 individually styled guest rooms on-site, your guests can stay right there with you or in any one of dozens of nearby hotels - most of which are walking distance to downtown's vibrant restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. PS: Don't miss the spot's dynamic sculpture garden and award-winning spa.
 

Attn Pinotphiles: La Paulée If You Please! (I Do)

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
lepaulee3.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

For Pinot fans who aren't sufficiently "off" the variety as a result of the slew of recent "Pinotgate" allegations, there is an upcoming tasting in the Bay Area sure to satisfy your every Pinot fantasy.  Enter La Paulée de San Francisco, a now-annual wine and food bacchanal inspired by the namesake grand feast held each year in Burgundy at the conclusion of the harvest.  With a bevy of the best names in French Pinot and Chardonnay - not to mention a stellar lineup of star chefs and sommeliers - on the docket, this year's event looks to be something you won't want to miss.

Sonoma Weddings: Viansa Winery & Vineyards

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
by Courtney Cochran

Anyone who's seen the sun slip coolly beneath the horizon while its last remaining rays bathe nearby Sonoma Mountain in their quicksilver glow knows first-hand the beauty of Sonoma Valley. Situated just north of the historic town of the same name, the valley beckons would-be wedding parties with its moderate climate, verdant pastures and vineyards, olive and oak groves and decidedly dialed-back pace of life. With its winning location, easy access, amenities and ambiance, could this pastoral paradise be wine country's newest wedding wunderkind?

weddings.jpgSonoma Weddings Spotlight:

Viansa Winery & Vineyards:
Enabling Innovation In "I Do"

Couples who book Viansa Winery & Vineyards for their nuptials snag much more than just a spectacular site on a hill overlooking Sonoma Valley: they also gain access to extensive, all-inclusive planning assistance and the perks of getting hitched on a full-service property.

These details are happily matched by a myriad of lovely festivity sites set against the backdrop of a stunning Tuscan-style villa at Viansa. Awash in Mediterranean ambiance, the winery - founded, natch, by folks of Italian heritage - brings together the best in Sonoma-style hospitality with phenomenal flexibility. Indeed, Special Event Coordinator Laura Johnson Fraize seems equally excited about the winery's extensive nuptials experience (they host some 75-100 a year), and the innovative ways couples have made the site their own over the years.

Santa Barbara: Mini Guide to Santa Ynez

| | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)
Lincourt Winery - Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Image by dcshoesboy via Flickr

by Robert P. Farmer

Not too long ago, Santa Barbara County was home to a handful of Hollywood celebrities trying to exist outside the limelight, and to a handful of winemakers trying to make their way outside the glare of Napa-Sonoma.The region was also for a time home to a scattering of upstart wineries who each developed their own niche and subsequent cult following.Today, that cult following has developed into full-fledged fame.

Contemporary Santa Barbara County is home to more than 21,000 vineyard-planted acres, grown and tended by dozens of wineries. But happily, the majority of these wineries remain small in stature--family owned-and-operated concerns with small-batch production and a handcrafted aesthetic. The wineries are primarily situated in the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys, about 35 miles north of Santa Barbara. Rich with history and shot-through with breathtaking coastal scenery, the area's AVAs produce remarkable Pinot Noirs (as fans of the movie Sideways will no doubt recall). However the region is also responsible for several excellent Chardonnays and Cabernets. There are more varietals on offer from Santa Barbara in smaller quantities, including Merlots and select Malbecs and Viogniers.

Santa Barbara's Wine Country gained notoriety some years back with the release of the movie Sideways, and the region indeed capitalized on the fame. Thankfully, Santa Barbara has managed to retain its mellow, unpretentious appeal. The relaxed pace and easy-going charm actually translated well on screen, and visitors can easily take advantage of it with a well-planned weekend. The region's four main towns-- Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez, and Ballard -- each have a distinct character. Also worthy of attention is the town of Buellton to the north. Whether exploring the quaint Danish-transplant town of Solvang or discovering one of the many great restaurants in the valley towns, the intrepid traveler will find Santa Barbara County every bit as appealing as California's more famous wine country to the north.

Here are my recommendations for the town of Santa Ynez:

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Ma(i)sonry Adds to Its Art Ensemble

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
iwolk.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Michael Polenske, the Bay Area native who brought us "a life aesthetic" with Yountville's gorgeous Ma(i)sonry - which marries limited-production wines with expertly curated art and furnishings in a stylishly restored 1904 stone building - has added to his art ensemble with the purchase of I. Wolk Galleries.  The acquisition brings I. Wolk's three galleries (St. Helena, Auberge du Soleil, Mac Arthur Place) into partnership with Ma(i)sonry, further articulating the multi-faceted aesthetic vision that art and antiques-loving Polenske has pledged to bring to life in Wine Country.

The Vines Romantic - February is Great in Glen Ellen

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
By Robert P. Farmer

There really isn't a bad time to visit Wine Country. But as you've probably noticed if you have checked in on this space from time to time, I have my personal favorites times of the year to venture among the vines. Being the hopeless romantic type, one of those times is the late winter, when the air is still chilled to a nice wine-storage-like mid-50 degrees, and the vines are hunkered down in dormancy. The mustard is in bloom, covering the fields and vineyards in a dusty yellow that blends perfectly with the winter white sky.

I Do: Wine Country Wedding Guide: Napa Valley

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
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!

Winter Wonderland

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Top Reasons to Make Wine Country Your Holiday Getaway
By Robert P. Farmer

FestivalofLights.jpgNAPA VALLEY & SONOMA COUNTY - You can tell by the sheer amount of cars on the road - and the difficulty that you'll no doubt encounter when trying to book a room - that summer is the most popular of seasons in Wine Country. It has the reputation for good reason. But for my money, the holiday season is the best time to visit.

Yes it's colder and yes it can often be rainy and windy. But mostly the weather is abundantly cooperative - a brisk chill in the air, and days bracketed by morning fog and wildly colorful sunsets. The vines are asleep for the winter, having offered up the fruit of their summerlong labor. And while the landscape is less lush and green than during summer time, it has its own unique beauty, one characterized by tangled leafless branches set against a white midday sky.

Barren bucolic beauty aside, the best thing about Wine Country during the winter holiday season is that the place is just so darned festive. Few things are likely to get you more into the spirit than a winery bedecked with twinkling lights and offering Yuletide-themed pairing of their wines. Or, if that's not sufficient, there are entire towns that get into the act with festivals and events infused with enough good cheer to thaw even the most Grinch-y of winter traveler. Rooms are in greater supply, restaurants easier to get into, and crowds are pleasingly thinner and, dare I say, in better spirits. Sure, summer's great, but Wine Country from beneath a coat and warm hat is my idea of a holiday.

Here are few highlights worth exploring this season.

Top 3 Holiday Things To Do
Top 3 Holiday Places to Eat


Top 3 Holiday Places to Eat

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Napa Valley & Sonoma County

by Robert Farmer


FARM.jpg1. Farm at the Carneros Inn
During winter months the grounds of the Carneros Inn resort, situated at the southern end of the Napa Valley, is slower paced, more sparsely populated, and graciously beautiful. It's the kind of place where the family can decamp for a few days and retreat from the hustle and bustle of citified holiday madness. The property's signature restaurant, Farm, is the ideal spot for a festive holiday repast. The expansive dining room and adjacent large covered patio centered by a huge fire pit, are the sort of environments that seem to invite spirited social gathering. The mood is casual, unfussy, but nevertheless very chic. And it doesn't hurt that there are simply no misses on the seasonal farm-driven menu of American Wine Country dishes. Throw in a wine list that solidly reminds one of the location, and the makings of a great winter evening are all in place.

*Open for dinner 5:30-10pm Wed-Sun

FARM at Carneros Inn
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa
(707) 299.4880
www.thecarnerosinn.com

2. Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg
Just because it seems like everybody knows each other at this always-jammed, always buzzing Wine Country outpost from chef Charlie Palmer, doesn't necessarily mean they do. But the neighborhood feel and congeniality of the staff have a tendency to make every guest feel like a regular. My guess is that one visit won't be enough for you anyway. Because this is the place to be in Healdsburg, and its gravitational pull only increases during the holidays. Whether you visit during one of the planned special Winter Winemaker Dinner series in December, or you make your stop a special event of your own, it's hard to beat Palmer's inventiveness and eagerness to please. The dining room offers many large-group options as well as intimate tables for two--all with views to the open kitchen and action at the bar up front. Tables outside are available, too, and the winter chill can be easily offset with the right vintage.

*Open for lunch
Fri-Sun noon-2:30pm;

Dinner
Sun-Thurs 5:30-9:30pm,
Fri-Sat 5:30- 10pm

Hotel Healdsburg

317 Healdsburg Ave., 
Healdsburg
707-431-0330
www.hotelhealdsburg.com

3. EDK at the El Dorado Hotel
Anchoring one corner of Sonoma Plaza, this lively, friendly Sonoma spot quickly became one of my Wine Country favorites after its opening a few years ago. The large sophisticated-looking room is typically buzzing with visitors and locals alike, who stream in for executive chef Justin Everett's "farm driven" menu. My wife and I, however, returned again and again simply for the amazing black truffle-dusted French fries.  There are of course several other tempting treats on the seasonally changing menu. But the food is just part of the story. The dining room--in terms of both location and atmosphere--is the perfect spot for a festive holiday celebration. With indoor and outdoor seating options and an exhibition kitchen, it's the sort of place where there always seems to be some kind of party taking place, no matter the season. And if you and 20 of your best friends can secure the 21-foot-long wood table in the center of the room, yours will no doubt soon be the party everyone wants to join.


EDK at the El Dorado Hotel
405 First Street West, Sonoma
707-996-3030
www.eldoradosonoma.com
lux4.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Visitors to Oregon will note right away that things are done differently here. Shop clerks linger and chat while packaging up your goods, traffic moves more slowly and the pace of life seems firmly dialed to the "enjoy the journey" station. This enticingly mellow pace of life, coupled with Oregon's outstanding natural beauty and prolific food and wine culture, make it an ideal destination for foodies, outdoor adventurers and anyone looking to take things down a few notches. Read on for some of our top picks for activities to indulge in chez Portland and beyond, in the storied haunts of the Willamette.

Oregon Itinerary: Willamette North Valley

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
pinotbarrels.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Stop 1: Adelsheim Vineyard

A Willamette tour wouldn't be complete without a visit to well-known Adelsheim Vineyard, which boasts stellar views of the Chehalem Mountains from its newly refurbished tasting room just outside Newberg. Founded in 1971, the winery is run by the affable David Adelsheim, a Willamette wine pioneer whose passion for the area and its world-class Pinots runs deep. It's worth going just to taste the winery's nuanced single-vineyard Pinots - the Ribbon Springs Vineyard ($68) is a standout - though Adelsheim's Willamette Valley-classified bottling ($32) is easier on the wallet and does a better job capturing the full scope of the region's signature aromas, flavors and silky texture.

Tasting Room: 16800 NE Calkins Lane, Newberg, OR 97132. Open daily 11am-4pm (tel) (503) 538-3652
Tasting Fee: $15 for 6 wines
Watch My Video of David Adelsheim at the winery

Tip: Take a picnic lunch and enjoy it on Adelsheim's spacious outdoor patio (bottle purchase will be appreciated as a courtesy for using the space). There are no other lunch options in the immediate area, and you'll want to make sure to refuel in the midst of a full day of tasting.

Wine Country Itinerary: Willamette South Valley

| | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0)
ribbonRidge.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Visitors to Oregon's wonderfully Pinot-centric Willamette Valley will do well to split their tasting excursion into at least two days, as the area's wide open spaces create not only lovely panoramic views but also drives of some distance between wineries. Thus, this itinerary starts in the centrally situated Dundee Hills and meanders from there to the nearby towns of Carlton and McMinnville. Along the way, you'll visit one of the region's best-known (not to mention physically striking) wineries in Domaine Drouhin Oregon, a start-up venture in Scott Paul Wines and the birthplace of Willamette wine in The Eyrie Vineyards. In all, it's a fabulously diverse lineup where Oregon winemaking is concerned - and one just waiting for you to savor.

For more on wineries further north, check out our North Valley itinerary.

Oregon Odyssey

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
oregon_wine_country.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Oregon's famed Willamette Valley - a wonderfully bucolic spot an hour's easy drive from Portland - may just be the anti-Napa Valley. You won't find any medieval castles or Persian Palaces here, though you WILL find no shortage of ridiculously good wine, an incredibly warm people and a far slower pace of life than that in bustling California. So slow down (literally, the police ticket a lot around these parts), take your time and prepare to be awed by the natural beauty of your surroundings, the superb quality of the wines and the kindness of the people serving them. It's not exactly wine country in slow motion, but it's not far off.

And given the hectic pace of our lives these days, this can be a very good thing.

See, Taste, Eat and Sleep!
Portland & Willamette Valley To Do List

Wine Tasting & Itineraries
Top 10 Willamette Wines
Willamette Itinerary: North Valley
Willamette Itinerary: South Valley




New In Napa: August 09

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
EstateCave1_LargeWeb.JPGBy Courtney Cochran

Home to some 300 wineries, Napa Valley is the engine that drives California's booming wine industry. It's also a place where history, art, hospitality and a search for perfection collide to produce some of the most compelling products and experiences Wine Country has to offer. Read on for new developments in this "land of plenty" in our own backyard.

Pure Mendo, Pure Fun

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
Watermelon-Salad.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Oenophiles looking for an excuse to experience the bounty Mendocino has to offer need wait no longer. The weekend of August 29 and 30, 2009 will see luminaries from the spot known as the greenest wine region in the country open their doors and uncork outstanding wines in support of Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County.  The event is called Pure Mendocino, and it's shaping up to be purely fantastic.
taste_nation2.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

This August 17, Napa's A-list in the culinary and vinous worlds (think celebrity chefs! vintners!) will gather to support Share Our Strength's Taste of the Nation, a golf and gustatory-themed benefit being billed as the nation's premier culinary event. Festivities at the day-long event - which will take place that the tony Silverado Resort - kick off with a golf tourney and lunch and continue into the evening at the luxe grand tasting and live and silent auctions, which begin at 5pm.

Coupon Culture

| | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
By Robert Farmer

I grew up in a coupon-clipping house. My mom was the best at taking advantage of the "free money" that came every Sunday in the paper in the form of page after page of discount offers on everything from laundry detergent to cat food. Though I was young, it seemed to me at the time like a lot of effort to save ten bucks. Now that I am older and wiser and with a family of my own, I am all about finding ways to save money everywhere I spend it.

Turns out, it's pretty easy to do with a little applied effort and a computer. Too bad my mom didn't have the Internet back in the day--would have been a boon for her cost-saving ways. Because as I've discovered, pretty much anything you are in the market for has a coupon available. Just Google "your product here" + coupon. At the very least, you'll turn up an offer for free shipping. At most, perhaps a two for one?

Categories

Archives