Stags Leap District: Time to Visit

Stags Leap District, as seen from Taylor Family Vineyards

Stags Leap District, at Taylor Family Vineyards

Have you been to Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District recently? A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of attending the region’s Vineyard to Vintner event, a weekend of fun opportunities to taste the appellation’s world-class wines while mingling with the winery owners and winemakers in their historic wineries (which in some cases meant we were actually visiting their homes).

Keep reading and we’ll let you know our favorite experiences of the weekend, and which wines (and wineries) we highly encourage you to taste (and visit). We found delicious Stags Leap wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Malbec and Cabernet Franc grapes.  Of course, we also found some awesome Cabernets.

Known worldwide for its Cabernet Sauvignon, the Stags Leap District produces wines critically acclaimed for their lush fruit and soft tannins with complex layers of flavor.  The appellation is bounded on the east by the towering Stags Leap Palisades, to the west by gently rolling hills and the Napa River, to the north by the Yountville Cross Road, and to the south by low-lying flatlands.

Clos Du Val Open House

Clos Du Val Open House Offerings

The 2016 Vineyard to Vintner offered attendees Winemaker Dinners, Winery Open Houses, and then a Closing Brunch which also offered a sneak peek of the upcoming vintage release of the region’s Appellation Collection.  If you weren’t one of this year’s happy participants, we encourage you to read the below for a detailed insight as to why you should attend next year.
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Mothers Day Brunch in Napa Valley 2016


Happy Mother's DayAre you looking to take Mom out for a special Mother’s Day Brunch in Napa Valley this year but aren’t sure where to go?  If so, we’ll tell you what’s going on at some of the best restaurants in Napa Valley on May 8 to help you make a decision (because wow, you’ve got over 30 places to consider). Whether you are looking for a family-style meal, an all-you-can-eat buffet, or if you just prefer to order à la carte, there’s a Mother’s Day Brunch option that’s bound to be perfect.

Many Napa Valley restaurants have wonderful menu options for Sunday Brunch throughout the year, while others are creating a special Mother’s Day Brunch for next weekend.  If you’re looking for typical brunch options such as fruit, pancakes, omelets, biscuits and gravy, corned beef hash, or even chicken and waffles, you’re going to find it.

Breakfast Pizza at Kitchen Door

Breakfast Pizza at Kitchen Door

But, since this is Napa Valley, your menu choices will also include Beignets with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, Bartlett Pear and Strawberry Salad, Green Apple and Wild Berry Pancakes, Croque Monsieur (or Madame), Breakfast Pizza with Chili Sauce and Scrambled Eggs, Petrale Sole Tacos, Achiote Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Cabernet Braised Short Ribs.

Keep reading to learn about your brunch choices this year, and we’re offering links to see the full menus.  We strongly suggest you move quickly to make any reservations, because Mom deserves that little extra piece of effort.

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2016 Chardonnay Symposium: An International Gathering on California’s Central Coast

The Chardonnay Symposium LogoAre you a fan of Chardonnay?   Is your Mom?  Is the mother of your children?  Well, whether you’re looking for a spring getaway for yourself and loved ones, or a unique Mother’s Day gift, you should know that The 2016 International Chardonnay Symposium is heading to Pismo Beach and Avila Beach between May 12 and May 14 with plenty of events open to the public.  Symposium options include guided tasting seminars, a Sparkling Wine and Oysters Gala, Winemaker Dinners and a Chardonnay-focused Grand Tasting featuring over 80 wineries.

Bodega Catena Zapata

Bodega Catena Zapata

The International Chardonnay Symposium’s primary purpose is to educate and inform top industry professionals (as well as devoted consumers) about current events and trends in Chardonnay production and culture around the world.  If you come, you’ll be able to explore and enjoy wines from top producers such as Bodega Catena Zapata, Fog Crest Vineyard, LIOCO Wine, Maison Louis Latour, Mercer EstatesRamey Wine Cellars and Wente Vineyards.

You’ll also be able to enjoy wines from winners of the Sommelier Challenge at last year’s Chardonnay Symposium when a panel of 11 world-class sommeliers handed out these accolades:

Presqu'ile WInery

Presqu’ile WInery

Keep reading and we’ll review some highlights of the 2016 International Chardonnay Symposium. When you are ready to buy tickets, please go here.

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Double Oh Soon: 2016 Lake County Wine Adventure

Lake County Wine AdventureIf you haven’t been to Lake County recently, grab your chance with the 2016 Lake County Wine Adventure between May 20-22. You (and your friends) can enjoy wine, food, music and more at a Friday night Casino Royale party and/or during the 2-day Passport Weekend event featuring over two dozen wineries surrounding Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California. The Wine Adventure weekend is a great way to discover how well they make wines in this region of high elevations and rolling hillsides next to a majestic (but happily dormant) volcano (Mt. Konocti).

Langtry Estate

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

Now in its 12th year, the Lake County Wine Adventure offers an optimal way to explore the County’s wineries in a relaxed, rural and breathtaking environment only two hours by car from either the Bay Area or the Sacramento Valley. The broad range of delicious wines here starts with wonderful Sauvignon Blancs and we especially encourage you to try ones from Langtry Estate & Vineyard, Six Sigma WineryVigilance Winery & Vineyards, and Wildhurst Vineyards. Some of our other favorite Lake County white wines have been Moscato from Brassfield Estate Winery a Grenache Blanc from Fore Family Vineyards, Riesling from Gregory Graham Wines and Pinot Grigio from Robledo Family Winery.

Gregory Graham Wines

Gregory Graham Wines

Among red wines, we have renjoyed a spectrum of varietals from Chacewater Winery (Merlot, Petite Sirah), Fore Family Vineyards (Cabernet Sauvignon), Gregory Graham Wines (Grenache), Moore Family Winery (Charbono, Malbec, Zinfandel), Robledo Family Winery (Tempranillo) and Rosa d’Oro Vineyards (Aglianico, Barbera, Refosco). We also strongly suggest you seek out local proprietary blends such as Rosa d’Oro’s Trigrammaton (Carménère, Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc) and Vigilance’s Cimarron (red blend typically including Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Several other wineries are participating in addition to the ones listed above, such as Boatique WineryFults Family Vineyards, and Steele Wines.
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bASH 2016: Proving Cabernet Pairs Well with Beef, Cheese and Berries

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes at bASH 2016

The premium wines of Appellation St. Helena (ASH) shone brightly once again at bASH 2016, the local food and wine pairing competition where attendees’ votes determined the ultimate winners. During the event, over two dozen premium wineries joined forces with a combination of local professional culinary talent as well as 18 teams of “Rising Star” students from the Culinary Institute of America. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel wines were paired up with Albondigas, Beets, Pork Belly, Roasted Lamb and multiple Steak preparations for an evening of savory delights.

Pellet Estate at bASH

Pellet Estate

Our favorite combination of the night? That would be the Pellet Estate 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes with a Mushroom Reduction and Citrus Lime Sauce served up by CIA Student Chefs Taylor Guglielmino (Los Angeles, CA) and Samuel Hamlin (San Diego, CA). This pairing ultimately came in 2nd place during the public vote.

Keep reading and we’ll tell you more about our favorite wines and dishes that evening.  To deepen your own understanding of this region’s offerings, please check out the appellation’s wineries, their wines, and some of Napa Valley’s outstanding Chefs. We’ve also got plenty of student chefs whose career progressions you may want to start tracking.
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Wine Country Destination: Walla Walla

Viognier from àMaurice Cellars

Viognier from àMaurice Cellars

If you’re looking for a new wine country travel destination, we suggest you consider the Walla Walla Valley, an AVA (American Viticultural Area) with over 2,800 acres of planted vineyards.   The region actually straddles the Washington/Oregon border and the city of Walla Walla (in Southeastern Washington) provides a great base camp for easy exploration of the area’s 6 wine regions: Downtown, Eastside, Westside, Airport, Southside and last (but not least) Oregon.

The Walla Walla Valley is already well-known for its farming, producing crops such as wheat, asparagus, strawberries and (of course) Walla Walla Sweet Onions.  Now, its wine grape production is significantly adding to that agricultural reputation. Downtown Walla Walla has been recognized as one of the best small town Main Streets in the country, where tree-lined streets offer a combination of boutiques, tasting rooms, restaurants and more.

Croque Madame

Croque Madame from Brasserie Four

The Walla Walla Valley is home to over 100 wineries including àMaurice Cellars, Cayuse Vineyards, L’Ecole Nº 41, Long Shadows Vintners and Rulo Winery.  If you keep reading we’ll tell you which wineries, restaurants and other food purveyors we’ve personally experienced and happily suggest adding to your own itinerary. We’ll also give you a heads-up on some food and wine events coming up the next few months in the Walla Walla Valley which you may want to consider framing a trip around.

The top five varieties in the Valley are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec and there are many wonderful wines made from those varietals.  However, we also found outstanding white wines made from Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Picpoul.
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Stags Leap District Beckons: 2016 Vineyard to Vintner

Malk Family Vineyards

View of Stags Leap District from Malk Family Vineyards

If you’re a fan of Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignons, you might want to venture to Napa Valley for the 2016 Vineyard to Vintner event taking place the weekend of April 30 and May 1.  You can stop by multiple Winery Open Houses (including wineries that only open to the public for this event) on Saturday and then attend a spectacular Brunch on Sunday which also provides a comprehensive peek at the upcoming 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon releases.

Pine Ridge Vineyards Chardonnay

Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay

Known worldwide for its premium wines, the Stags Leap District produces Cabernet Sauvignon wines critically acclaimed for their lush fruit and soft tannins with complex layers of flavor. However, there are also plenty of stellar non-Cabernet-Sauvignon wines in the area, and some of our favorites at last year’s Vineyard to Vintner were the Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay, Taylor Family Vineyards Hillside Chardonnay, Stags’ Leap Winery Viognier, Hartwell Estate Vineyards Estate Merlot and Robinson Family Vineyards Malbec.

Vineyard to Vintner Backstage Open Houses

Steltzner Vineyards

Steltzner Vineyards

The linchpin of the Vineyard to Vintner weekend is the “Backstage Pass,” a collection of sixteen Open Houses on April 30 offering intimate opportunities to taste this appellation’s award-winning wines between 10 am and 4 pm.  Passholders can enjoy both wines and nibbles as they meet and mingle with the winery owners and winemakers in historic wineries (which are sometimes actually at the owners’ homes).  You can find the full program here but some of the special experiences available that day include:

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