Blaze a Trail: Signature Sonoma Valley

Signature Sonoma ValleyIf you’re looking to attend one of the newest premium wine events, the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley takes place in two weeks and there are still tickets available.  This is your invitation to explore the vineyards and cellars of some of California’s most iconic winemakers and multi-generational winegrowers. There are three events to select from on April 7 and 8, or you can mix and match to create the experience you want.

This exclusive, two-day immersion into the lovely wines and welcoming community of Sonoma Valley features wineries such as Buena Vista Winery, Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, Kistler Vineyards, Pangloss Cellars, Ram’s Gate Winery, Ravenswood Winery, Schug Carneros Estate Winery, Sojourn Cellars, The Donum Estate and Three Sticks Wines.

Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley

In southeastern Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley is the home of five different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): Bennett Valley, Los Carneros, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Mountain and Sonoma Valley. Vintners here craft premium wines ranging from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel thanks to the geographical diversity of steep mountains, rolling benchlands and fertile plains combined with local variations in climate.  Grapes were first planted in Sonoma Valley back in 1824 and there are now approximately 13,000 vineyard acres in the Valley.

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Pinot Noir Recommendations: Favorites from the 2017 World of Pinot Noir

World of Pinot Noir Glass If you’re looking for Pinot Noir recommendations, or winery suggestions for your next wine tasting trip, we spent a few days tasting wines from over 200 wineries earlier this month at the World of Pinot Noir and we’re eager to share our favorites. So, whether you’re looking to buy some wine to go with your next meal or for your wine cellar at home, please see below.  We’ve sorted our preferences geographically in case that helps as well.

Are you familiar with World of Pinot Noir?  It’s a spectacular celebration of this varietal and the 2017 event on March 3rd and 4th saw the largest turnout of attendees (almost 3000) and winery participants (over 200) since its inception in 2001.  In addition to two separate Grand Tastings, the marquee events at this year’s celebration included Kosta Browne’s 20th Anniversary Dinner, a Maison Louis Latour Dinner and Seminar, and a “Rock Star” Dinner honoring Merry Edwards.

Stephen Ross Wine Cellars Pinot Noir

Stephen Ross Wine Cellars

We found plenty of excellent wines to recommend at the event, which isn’t surprising considering participating wineries included Alma Rosa, Au Bon Climat, Deovlet WinesFiddlehead Cellars, Freeman WineryGoldeneye, Hirsch Vineyards, Merry Edwards WineryPenner-Ash, Stephen Ross Wine CellarsSanford Winery, Talley Vineyards and Wayfarer.  In addition to delightful still wines, we also found two excellent sparkling wines: a Blanc de Noir from Domaine Carneros and the 2012 Sea Spray from Sea Smoke Estate Vineyards.

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Awesome Combinations Ahead: bASH 2017

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes

Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes at bASH 2016

If you’re a fan of awesome wine and food pairings then you should clear your calendar for bASH 2017, coming to St. Helena on April 1 between 6 pm and 8:30 pmWhat is bASH? More than just a wine tasting event, it’s a showcase for this northern Napa Valley community when 25 premium wineries that are part of the Appellation St. Helena organization join forces with local culinary talent to compete for your favor. That’s right: if you attend the event, you get to eat, drink AND judge.

Taplin Cellars

Taplin Cellars

bASH 2017 will feature tastes of wines from wineries such as Anomaly Vineyards, Benessere Vineyards, Del Dotto Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, Melka Wines, Parry Cellars, Pellet Estate, Robert Biale Vineyards, St. Helena Winery and Taplin Cellars served alongside delicious food offerings from participants such as Acacia House, Goose & Gander, PRESS and Woodhouse BBQ.

However, most of the food pairings at bASH will actually come from “Rising Star” students at the Culinary Institute of America who will be creating dishes from scratch specifically designed to complement the wine that they have been matched with.  This makes your evening of wine sipping and food tasting a challenge as you keep trying to figure out which combination (and team) deserves your vote(s) the most.

Pellet EstateIn fact, our favorite combination at last year’s bASH started with a dish prepared by CIA Student Chefs Taylor Guglielmino and Samuel Hamlin: a serving of Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes with a Mushroom Reduction and Citrus Lime Sauce which was paired with a delightful 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pellet Estate.  Three other excellent dishes from CIA Student Chefs last year were Oxtail Agnolotti, a Lamb Tartine with Smokey Goat Cheese Spread and Pistachio Picata and a Triple Berry Vol au Vent with Fig Balsamic Glaze.

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Springtime In Napa: Flavor! Napa Valley

Flavor Napa Valley logoIf you’re ready to celebrate the coming of Spring and revel in Napa Valley’s food and wine attractions, then we’ve got a suggestion for you: Flavor! Napa Valley. This five-day festival benefits the Culinary Institute of America and has over 20 events bringing out the best flavors of the valley between March 22 and 26, 2017. So, grab your credit card and start planning for wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, and/or walk-around food and wine events that meet your personal preferences (and help you forget about all that winter weather we’ve been having).

You can even sign up for 18 holes of golf at the beautiful Silverado Resort, bookended with a welcoming continental breakfast and a post-tournament reception with over 20 food and wine purveyors.  Redesigned by PGA Hall of Famer Johnny Miller, the courses feature dozens of water crossings, elevation changes and routing through historic oak trees.  If you don’t know, Silverado was the most recent, and will be the next, host for the Safeway Open stop on the PGA Tour.

Sam's Social Club

Sam’s Social Club

Flavor! Napa Valley offers cooking demonstrations from Chefs Tyler Florence, Richard Blais, Chris Cosentino and others while chefs at special dinners include Ken Frank, Matthew Accarrino and Curtis di Fede.  Restaurants participating at various events include 1313 MainAngèle, Basalt, Harvest TableKitchen Door, Sam’s Social ClubTarla Mediterranean Bar & Grill, and Torc.

Wineries from all over Napa Valley will be pouring wines at events as well including Cakebread Cellars, Chappellet, Charles Krug Winery, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Schramsberg, Truchard VineyardsY. Rousseau Wines and ZD Wines. Or, maybe you’d prefer to mix things up with the Napa Valley Distillery tour and whiskey barrel tasting.

Keep reading while we discuss some of the major events taking place at the 2017 Flavor! Napa Valley, then go here to get your tickets (and see the entire list of event options) and start planning that travel wardrobe.

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Celebrate and Explore: The CIA at Copia Grand Opening

CIA at CopiaAt long last, Copia is back when Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia has its Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19, officially debuting the ultimate Napa Valley destination for exploring, experiencing and enjoying the world of food and wine.  Discover what CIA at Copia has to offer between noon and 5 pm each day with both adult activities (wine tasting!) and family-fun activities (cookie decorating!).  The weekend’s other attractions include chef demonstrations, olive oil and vinegar tastings, and a workshop on cocktails.

The CIA at Copia is located in the heart of Napa’s Oxbow district at 500 1st Street in Napa.  The official ribbon-cutting ceremony is between 2:30 and 3 pm on February 18 featuring CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan and local officials Mayor Jill Techel, Mayor John Dunbar, Mayor Alan Galbraith, Supervisor Diane Dillon and Congressman Mike Thompson.

Store at CIA Copia

Store at CIA Copia

Explore the property by checking out classes at the Napa Valley Vintners Theater, book signings with CIA alumni in the Store at CIA Copia, food-related film shorts in the Copia Theater, and wine tastings in the Copia Atrium.  If event planning is in your future, come assess in person how well this venue can host your upcoming wedding, party, or business function.  For instant gratification, the Grand Opening is also an excellent opportunity to explore the Restaurant at CIA Copia offering lunch, dinner, and/or drinks at the bar.
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Ba Ba Land: The 2017 World of Pinot Noir

World of Pinot NoirSanta Barbara turns into the City of (Pinot Noir) Stars on March 3rd and 4th when Pinot Noir producers and lovers from around the world converge at the 2017 World of Pinot Noir (WOPN) at Bacara Resort & Spa on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, GoldeneyeHirsch Vineyards, Maison Louis Latour and Merry Edwards Winery will lead the crowd of nearly 200 wineries participating in Tasting Seminars, Grand Tastings, and Gourmet Lunches and Dinners.

Two of our favorite parts of the World of Pinot Noir are its separate Grand Tastings with about 100 different producers at each session. This is a comprehensive chance to “get current” on the latest wines made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in places such as Anderson Valley, Los Carneros, Russian River Valley, Santa Maria, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez, Sonoma Coast, and the Willamette Valley. On the international front, the WOPN Grand Tastings will also include wineries from Australia (Yering Station) and Spain (Alta Pavina) in addition to representatives from New Zealand Winegrowers.

Cheese Offerings from Fromagerie Sophie

Fromagerie Sophie

If you attend the Grand Tasting events you will also enjoy small bites between sips. Dishes we’ve enjoyed in the past from the Bacara kitchen included Mixed Grilled Vegetables, Roasted Beet and Herbed Goat Cheese Tart, Santa Barbara Prawns with Avocado Relish, and Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Chimichurri. There will also be friendly and knowledgeable staff from Santa Barbara’s C’est Cheese and San Luis Obispo’s Fromagerie Sophie offering samples from around the world such as Camembert Fermier, Campo de Montalban and Fourme d’Ambert (to pair with your Pinot Noirs from around the world).

World of Pinot Noir is a premier wine event and if you keep reading we’ll describe highlights of the main activities and their associated costs or you can find full details here. Tickets are available here but you should move quickly before activities (or combination passes) sell out.
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Time To Go Out: Napa Valley Restaurant Week

Basalt Restaurant in NapaIf all of the rain has kept you at home, and your attitude has changed from “good, we need it” to “jeez, enough already,” then we’ve got a great motivator to get out exploring again: Napa Valley Restaurant Week. From January 22 to 29, over two dozen restaurants are offering multi-course prix-fixe menus for lunch (usually for just $20 per person) and dinner (typically $36 or $46 per person), so you can explore the latest culinary hot-spots or visit your old favorites yet again.  Whether you’re a first-time visitor, a Bay Area native, or a long-term Valley resident, this week-long promotion includes plenty of discounted temptations.



Have you been to Galpão Gaucho yet – the Brazilian steakhouse that moved into the old Marie Callender’s location on Trower Avenue?  This is a great week to check them out because they’re offering their “Full Experience Dinner,” an unlimited menu of a gourmet salad bar (with over 40 items) and 17 different cuts of meat (including beef, pork, chicken, lamb and fish) for just $46 (discounted from the usual $57.50 rate).  You might even want to use those savings to try out Brazil’s national cocktail, a Caipirinha (made with cachaça, sugar and lime).   

Dungeness Crab on PierDepending on where you go during Napa Valley Restaurant Week, your specially priced meal may include Foie Gras with Toast, Roast Fennel and Potato Soup, Sashimi, Cioppino, Bacon Pork Tenderloin, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Warm Pear Galette with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, or a Huckleberry and Blueberry Linzer Tart. Compadres Rio Grille is offering specials with Dungeness Crab dishes including Crab Bisque, Crab Louie, and/or Crab Enchiladas. You may even find that a glass of wine is included in your prix-fixe meal (Grille 29, Tarla Mediterranean Bar + Grill).

In addition to the lunch and dinner specials, consider swinging by Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch this week for breakfast where you can visit their Café (open at 7 am) for a Panini and Coffee Beverage for just $8. Keep reading and we’ll offer more details on the 2017 Napa Valley Restaurant Week below.

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