[ON LOCATION] Anything can happen on any given day, but for some reason it’s all good once you’ve arrived in California’s Wine County, suddenly life seems to slow down to a soothing and relaxing pace. Welcome to quiet luxury, beautifully romantic and tranquil surroundings filled with trees and flowers, extraordinary vineyards offering world class wines and legendary hospitality. There is a draw to Napa Valley and Sonoma County that seems to seep into the body and soul, soothing, restoring and simply put, allowing us to forget anything other than…the here and now. We arrived at the exquisite Vintage Inn, nestled among the rolling vineyards of the Napa Valley wine region. Vintage Inn is a AAA Four Diamond award-winning Napa Valley Hotel on a 23-acre Vintage Estate, just steps from the dining tables of America’s most celebrated chefs in the legendary epicurean walking town of Yountville. The 80 spacious and airy guestrooms and cozy cottage-style villas are plush in accommodations and amenities providing an ideal setting for a relaxing vacation getaway or romantic respite. Take a leisurely walk through the gardens and discover the quiet romance of lavender and lilies swaying in the gentle breeze and the splendor of waterways flowing through lush green gardens. During your stay, why not experience the Spa Villagio, with soothing fountains, cascading waterfalls and serene reflecting pools that lead to Napa Valley fieldstone and hewn wood interior spaces. Guests staying at the Vintage Inn are welcome to use this fabulous facility. Envelop yourself in an atmosphere of quietude and creature comfort from the moment of entry into the central reception atrium. Spa Villagio features five intimate Spa Suites. Guests can spend precious time alone or cherished time together in an exclusive personal space where a customized spa experience is crafted with your choice of scents, sound, and spa refreshments for treatments and therapies. Elegantly appointed with fireplaces, oversized sunken jetted soaking tubs, steam showers, wet bars, sound systems and private terraces. You won’t want to leave. (www.vintageinn.com)
Part of what I love about wine is the art of pairing it with the right food, and at Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s restaurant in Napa, they nail it down to a science. Chiarello’s roots are firmly planted on Napa ground. This is his home, the place he has raised his family and cultivated his grapes and clientele. At Bottega guest can expect award winning food with bold flavors and refined techniques the perfect “centerpiece” to share a glass of the latest vintages of Chiarello Family Vineyard wine. We enjoyed a perfect evening at Bottega, starting with Wood Grilled Octopus, with olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion & salsa verde. Polenta Under Glass with caramilized mushrooms & balsamic game sauce. Rigatoni with tomato braised Sonoma rabbit sugo, caramelized mushrooms and housemade ricotta. Smoked & Braised Natural Short Ribs with whole grain mustard spaetzle, Sicilian pickles, apple passata & smokey horseradish jus. Every bite scrumsious! and perfectly paired with Chiarello Family Vineyard “Eileen” 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. (www.botteganapavalley.com)
When the sun rises, wake up and step out into the cool lovely Napa Valley morning, were the days have so much to offer! Start your day at Bouchon Bakery, set in the heart of of the small town’s main street. Enjoy a warm croissant or any of Bouchon’s extraordinary creations like their macaroons, delicious tarts and or any of their exquisite chocolate confections coupled with a hot cup of coffee . Don’t forget to take a freshly baked baguette along for your day at the vineyards. (www.bouchonbakery.com).
We began our wine tour at Freemark Abbey, a century-old winery, with rich and distinct history beginning with Josephine Tychson, the first woman to own and operate a winery in the Valley. Freemark Abbey features several Cabernets including a Napa Valley Cabernet and the vineyard-designated Bosche and Sycamore Cabernets, there is also a new mountain Cabernet from Mt. Veeder Peak. Along with Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier, Freemark Abbey makes limited amounts of Petite Syrah, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc. We favored the 2007 Cabernet Bosche, Cabernet Sauvignon. A blend of 87.5% Cab and 12.5% Merlot. Aged 26+ months in 60 gallon French Oak Barrels, 47% New Wood. At $75.00 a bottle this wine is a must “bring home”! Enjoy it now or hold 20 to 30 years in a proper cellar. One can order on line at (www.freemarkabbey.com) or call 707-302-3721.
Co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, Duckhorn Vineyards has spent more than 30 years establishing itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Bordeaux varietal wines. From its modest inaugural vintage of 800 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and 800 cases of Merlot in 1978, to its addition of Sauvignon Blanc in 1982, Duckhorn Vineyards has crafted a tradition of quality and excellence that continues today. Our pick was the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, at $75.00 it has excellent structure and balance, with layers of cassis and mulberry come through beautifully. Notes of herbs and dried fruit with robust character and deep color. Enjoy now or hold for long-term cellaring. A True Find at this vineyard was the Paraduxx Z Blend Napa Valley 2009 : Formerly known as Paraduxx Napa Red Wine, the Paraduxx Z Blend Napa Valley Red Wine is the evolution of the series. Fusing the robust flavors of California’s native Zinfandel with the grandeur of Cabernet Sauvignon, Paraduxx has both core varietals to produce a world class blend with a decidedly Californian personality. 62% Zinfandel, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, resulting in a rich, full fruit flavor, with soft elegant tannins, making it a natural compliment to a wide array of foods. Tremendous quality and amazing value at $48.00. (www.duckhorn.com)
HALL Rutherford is Craig and Kathryn Hall’s winery amid the Sacrashes vineyard. Completed in March of 2005, it has been carefully designed for the production of a small lot red wine. The winery’s 14,000 sq. ft. of caves were designed and built- by- hand by Friedrich Gruber of Gutenstein Austria. The caves are finished with handmade Austrian brick recovered from sites in and around Vienna and showcases select works from the Halls’ art collection. Deep inside the caves resides a dazzling reception are for private tastings and entertaining. The room’s spectacular chandelier, designed by Donald Lipski and Jonquil LeMaster, is a masterpiece dressed in hundreds of Swarovski crystals. www.hallwines.com.
Although wine and food are most definitely highlights of the wine country, there is so much more to this magnificent destination! Ask and you shall receive is a pretty good description , and so we head to the Pacific Coast, our next stop Sonoma County, and “It’s More Than Just Grapes Here”! Sonoma Countys’ cities, towns and enclaves are densely rich in beauty, history , agriculture and farming. To truly appreciate all that Sonoma County has to offer, one first has to visit the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau for information on all that is happening around the towns. Enjoy a beautiful day out on a walking or driving tour to discover and experience the history that lives around every bend. Some tips on what you won’t want to miss is a visit to Rohnert Park/Cotati. Created from a single seed farm property in the early 1960’s. After many years Cotati still maintains the character it enjoyed as a Mexican land grant rancho site. Santa Rosa, home to such notables as Luther Burbank, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and Ripley of Believe it or Not. It is the largest city in Sonoma County. Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, Sebastopol, In the 1850’s it served as the breadbasket for San Francisco’s growing population. Stop by the Petaluma Creamery where you can sample Spring Hill Cheese. Bodega Bay/Sonoma Coast where the first European settlers, a group of Russians created the coastal fur trade. Visit the Lighthouse in Point Arena and the Museum. The Russian River Towns with their magnificent redwood groves. Winsor, Sonoma County’s newest city surrounded by world-class wineries. It’s modern downtown with buildings inspired by the architecture of the late 1880s. Cloverdale a very charming city at the northern end of Sonoma County, known as the place where the vineyards meet the fascinating redwoods.
And that’s not all! Explore Sonoma and Marin County’s cheese trail, touring the heart of artesian cheesemaking, referred to as the Normandy of Northern California. About 9,000 acres of land in Marin and Sonoma are used for farmstead cheesemaking and are protected by agricultural conservation easements. There are 27 cheesemakers in the Marin and Sonoma Counties, but make sure to pick up a map at the Visitors Bureau and check which ones are open to the public and when, then take a drive, taste, taste, taste…buy , buy, buy!
In Marin County the tour starts at the Marin French Cheese Company right outside Novato. Taste their award-winning Rouge et Noir brie. Nicasio Valley Cheese Company produces fantastic farmstead cheeses in the artisanal tradition of the Swiss-Italian cousins in Switzerland. Head to Tomales Bay Foods, also known as Cowgirl Creamery. In Sonoma County, the tour begins at Spring Hill Cheese. Stop by Vella Cheese Company, known for their aged dry Jack. Drop by Epicurean Connection for flavors of fresh and soft cheeses and more local fare. Enjoy the beautiful agricultural landscapes and working ranches. If you decide to visit Sebastopol, visit the Matos Cheese Factory and sample their St. George, a buttery semi-hard cheese made in the style of the Azores. Tip: The best way to store cheese is to wrap it in wax or butcher paper, then put it in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. To learn more about other California cheeses and the people who make them, visit www.cacheeseguild.org.
Experience towns and villages, Point Reyes National Seashore and the nearby oyster operations. If wine is what you want, explore the numerous world renowned wineries of Sonoma County. There is so much to Sonoma County you won’t want to miss! Quaint towns, cafes, galleries, farmers markets and restaurants that will definitely delight everyone, from the casual diner to epicurean alike.
For more information on Sonoma County visit: www.SonomaCounty.com