Napa Valley Rocks! – So Come Enjoy It (and Support its Recovery)!

Napa Valley Rocks! LogoFans of Napa Valley are invited to join the local community between September 25 and 28 at Napa Valley Rocks! Weekend, four days that will celebrate and showcase what Napa Valley has to offer.   A coalition of chefs, vintners, business owners and residents have joined forces to support earthquake relief efforts and offer an attractive collection of activities to raise awareness that Napa Valley is ready and open for business.  So come sip Napa Valley wines, savor local delicacies, shop at the Valley’s diverse stores, and shake your booty at your choice of many musical performances.

For exercise, your options include everything from casually strolling while shopping to running a half-marathon.  Food and wine opportunities range from peak-of-the-season fruits and vegetables at the Napa Farmers Market to an elaborate wine and food dinner featuring dishes from nine different restaurants including La Toque, Morimoto Napa, and Zuzu.  Musical performances include indoor concerts and outdoor concerts at venues both big and small.

Grapes at HarvestSo please come visit the Napa Valley and help bring its economic engine back into high gear.  Either part or all of the proceeds from the paid events will be contributed to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Disaster Relief Fund.  To learn more about the Fund and/or to make a separate donation, please go here.

Keep reading and we’ll share highlights of the main events over the Napa Valley Rocks! weekend including paid events, free events and community events as well as advice for exploring Napa Valley on your own schedule.
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Mount Veeder Wines After The Quake

Mount Veeder Appellation Wine TastingLast weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the 15th annual Mount Veeder Appellation Wine Tasting, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Mount Veeder AVA.  The host venue, The Hess Collection, was one of the wineries hit hardest by the recent Napa Earthquake (two 20,000 gallon tanks ruptured, over 14,000 cases of 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon lost) and yet they pulled off their hosting duties with grace and class.

Mount Veeder grapes are crafted into some of our favorite Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa Valley and our experience this year just reinforced that opinion.  We were also impressed by a Zinfandel, a Syrah, a Rhône White blend and a Rosé at the Tasting.  This appellation has been producing worthy wines since the 1860s and Mt. Veeder is the only hillside appellation in Napa Valley that adjoins the cool bayside Los Carneros region, benefiting from the cooling influence of San Pablo Bay.

Smoked Chicken Bruschetta

Smoked Chicken Bruschetta

If you weren’t at this year’s Mount Veeder Appellation Wine Tasting, we strongly suggest you consider going next year for an afternoon of wine, food, and music. In addition to the wine, attendees enjoyed small nibbles such as Caprese Skewers, Smoked Chicken Bruschetta and Grilled Figs by Hess Collection Executive Chef Chad Hendrickson as well as Charcuterie, Nuts, and Cheeses (including Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed and Bellwether Farms’ Carmody).  Eventgoers also had the pleasure of listening to live music from The Hummingbirdz as they bid on Silent Auction items.

Keep reading, and we’ll tell you exactly which wines we enjoyed the most at this year’s event and recommend you seek out.  If you want to go wine tasting to explore these wines (and the rest of the wineries’ portfolios) we’ve included the street addresses for the wineries’ tasting rooms that are open to the public (and also noted if you need to have an appointment).
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Say Goodbye to Summer in SLO: Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast

unset SAVOR the Central Coast logoA spectacularly fun way to say goodbye to the Summer of 2014 would be to indulge in the wine, food, and music of the Central California Coast at the action-packed Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast. Between September 25 and 28, this winner of the 2014 FAME Award for Best Epicurean Event offers four days of culinary immersion highlighting the beauty of the Central Coast locations and its active outdoor, farm-to-table lifestyle. Whether you have attended Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast before or not, this year’s program has plenty of activities to keep everyone interested, entertained and satiated.

Events at night include a Sunset Dinner at Hearst Castle, a concert by Brian Wilson and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys, and Winemaker Dinners featuring local and celebrity chefs. Daytime activities include tours led by Sunset experts on outings such as a foodie tour through Arroyo Grande, a hayride with Clydesdales, and advice on how to create your own spa products.

Daou Vineyards & Winery

Daou Vineyards & Winery, one of the wineries at Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast’s Main Event

The central attraction of the Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast weekend is The Main Event, a two-day extravaganza of food, wine, beer and music all gathered at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch where you can enjoy samples from Central Coast wineries such as Chamisal VineyardsDaou Vineyards & Winery and Talley Vineyards. Come to the Main Event on Saturday, Sunday, or both days to enjoy unlimited food and wine tasting, savor microbrews as you listen to local musical performers, observe celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, or attend a wine seminar.

Keep reading and we’ll give you an overview of what you could be doing at the end of September in the Central Coast. But then, please move quickly to buy your tickets before they start to sell out.

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Wines (and Wineries) We’re Recommending in the Napa Valley Right Now

Napa Valley VineyardsDo you need some Napa wine?  Over the last few weeks we’ve had the pleasure of attending the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Wine Tastingthe Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival, and the Family Winemakers of California Tastingand we found many wines reinforcing Napa Valley’s world-class reputation for winemaking that are tasting particularly well right now.  In the wake of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake centered near the city of Napa on Sunday morning, we thought we’d recommend our favorite Napa Valley wines from these recent events and encourage you to buy the wines and/or visit the wineries yourself (to help the local community return to normalcy and re-start the revenue engine).

Since we’re talking about Napa Valley wines, you won’t be surprised to hear that we found outstanding Sparkling Wines, Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernet Sauvignons. But, we also found delicious Viognier, Albariño, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Roussanne, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, and a few Rosés to recommend.

Napa Earthquake Impact Matthiasson Wines

Earthquake Impact as tweeted out by Matthiasson Wines

Please seek out these Napa wines at restaurants, stores, or through the wineries themselves. Or, to make a stronger contribution to the local economy, please feel free to drive on over for wine tasting and then you can enjoy the fabulous restaurants in the area as well.  If it helps, please note that while most of the 20+ wineries we recommend below will arrange for a winery tasting by appointment, nine of them don’t require an advance reservation at all and you can just drop into their tasting room (as long as your party is less than six people): Ceja Vineyards (Napa)Clos Du Val (Napa)Grgich Hills Estate (Rutherford)Heitz Wine Cellars (St. Helena)Monticello Vineyards (Napa)Mumm Napa (Rutherford)Robert Sinskey Vineyards (Napa)The Hess Collection (Napa) and ZD Wines (Napa).

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Excellent Wines from the Sonoma Coast: Favorites from the West of West Festival

2012 de Coelo Quintus Pinot Noir

Benziger Family Vineyards’ de Coelo Quintus Pinot Noir, from grapes grown just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean

Earlier this month we discovered a number of excellent wines from the West Sonoma Coast at the West of West Grand Tasting, part of the fourth annual West of West Wine Festival. The wines poured were made from grapes grown in areas such as Annapolis, Fort Ross/Seaview, Occidental, Freestone, Green Valley and the Sebastopol Hills. Sunday’s Grand Tasting (the WOW Festival holds two) was well orchestrated, which made it easy to access and enjoy the wines poured by the 40 participating wineries.

The West Sonoma Coast is ideal for producing grapes that are able to be crafted into wines with balance, integrity, character, and nuance. While the area may be best known for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, we also found a few Rosés and a Syrah that impressed us as well.

Marimar Estate's Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir

Marimar Estate’s Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir

In case you aren’t personally familiar with wines from this area, we thought we’d share what our favorites were at the Grand Tasting event so you can explore the region on your own. You can look for these wines at local restaurants and stores, purchase them online, and/or follow the links below to the wineries’ websites to learn more about visiting and tasting room options. Or, there is a similar tasting event coming to Southern California in November if that would work for you.

The white wines and rosés we enjoyed the most at the West of West Wine Festival Grand Tasting were:
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Recent Favorites from Lake County: Sauvignon Blancs and More

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies from Rosa d’Oro Vineyards at the Lake County Wine Adventure

We had the pleasure of attending the Lake County Wine Adventure two weeks ago, a passport-type food and wine event spread out around Clear Lake, the largest national freshwater lake in California. We always enjoy food and wine events where the participating wineries aren’t too spread out and the event hours provide enough time to relax and enjoy yourself. This year’s Adventure gave us premium wines, delicious food, and hot-summer-by-the-lake weather.

Over the weekend, we particularly enjoyed Sauvignon Blancs (from five different wineries) and other white wines made from varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Moscato and Pinot Grigio.  Our favorite red wines included Aglianico, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel (as well as several intriguing red wine blends).

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

Langtry Estate & Vineyards

No, we didn’t make it to all 28 of the wineries participating in the Wine Adventure but we did find plenty of wines (and wineries) worth recommending if you’d like to explore Lake County’s offerings on your own.  We encourage you to visit the area and/or seek out these wines and wineries at your local wine stores and/or restaurants.
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Fiesta del Vino en Los Carneros: The Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival

Mexican-American Harvest Festival PostcardTo try some wines you’ve probably never had before, you should consider attending the upcoming Mexican-American Vintners Association Harvest Festival.   On Saturday, August 16, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm you can enjoy a walk-around Wine Tasting at Renteria Wines’ Brown Ranch Vineyard (4254 Old Sonoma Road, Napa) in the Los Carneros Region enjoying samples from over a dozen wineries such as Ceja Vineyards, Mario Bazán Cellars, and Mi Sueño Winery.

The 2014 Harvest Festival features Mexican-American member wineries pouring their wines next to food pairings from Winery Chefs. Some of the dishes available that day will be:

  • Baja Fish Tacos (with Chili Lime Aioli and Cabbage)
  • Roasted Pork Tortas Sliders (with Mashed Avocado and Pico de Gallo)
  • Grilled Cumin and Coriander Marinated Skirt Steak and Chicken Skewers (with Salsa Verde)
Ceja Vineyards

Ceja Vineyards Tasting Room in Downtown Napa

The idea of an association of Mexican-American wine producers grew from a discussion in 2010 when vintners from Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley gathered to pour their wines at the Michoacán State Fair in Mexico. This year marks the 4th annual Harvest Festival for the Napa Sonoma Mexican-American Vintners Association (NSMAVA) and the Festival will also include live entertainment from Trio Soleá and a Silent Auction.

Advance tickets are $100 per person, but tickets at the door will be $125 each so it would probably make more sense to just go here now and order your tickets. For more information on the wineries that will be at the event, and the families behind those wineries, please keep reading.

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