Taste of Howell Mountain: Wines, Auctions and More

2017 Taste of Howell Mountain PostcardCelebrate the end of Spring at the delightful Taste of Howell Mountain, a Wine Tasting and Auction event in upper Napa Valley on Saturday, June 17th. This is one party you should definitely RSVP for because the festivities include premium wines from the Howell Mountain appellation along with gourmet food pairings, live entertainment, and both Silent and Live Auctions. We’re talking about wineries such as Aloft Wine, Arkenstone, Davis Estates, Dunn Vineyards, Lamborn Family Vineyards, Robert Craig Winery and Round Two Wines all pouring tastes in one location, at Charles Krug Winery (2800 Main Street, St. Helena).

Between noon and 3 pm at the 2017 Taste of Howell Mountain you’ll enjoy a Walk-Around Wine Tasting, Food Pairings, Prizes, a Silent Auction and Live Music from The Hummingbirdz. Then, from 3 pm to 5 pm you can sit and enjoy even more Howell Mountain wine and Dark Chocolate Brownies as you watch (and hopefully participate in) an active and festive Live Auction.

Robert Craig Winery

Vintner Bob Craig and Winemaker Stephen Tebb from Robert Craig Winery

Howell Mountain is well known for its incredible Cabernet Sauvignon and you’ll find many wines crafted from that varietal. But, there’s more to Howell Mountain than just Cabernet and in prior years we’ve particularly enjoyed the Arkenstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Notre Vin Rosé, O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery Merlot, Bravante Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Howell Mountain Vineyards Petit Verdot, Robert Craig Winery Zinfandel, and Retro Cellars Petite Sirah as well.

Tickets for this year’s event are $150 per person or $1750 for a table for ten. Proceeds from the event will help benefit the Howell Mountain Education Foundation. Last year, the Howell Mountain Vintners and Growers Association (HMVGA) and Taste of Howell Mountain donated over $70,000 to the Foundation. But, please move quickly because this event will definitely sell out so just click here.
–> please click here to continue reading –>

Lake County Wine Adventure: Pirates, Pigs & Premium Wines

Lake County, home of the 2017 Lake County Wine AdventureThere are a lot of things happening the weekend of May 20-21 but if you’re not committed yet, we suggest attending the 2017 Lake County Wine Adventure.  On both Saturday and Sunday, between 11 am and 5 pm, you can enjoy award-winning wine, delicious food, music and more.  There are 27 wineries participating this year and the weather should be gorgeous (high 70’s).  If you get a little warm, the good news is you’re right next to Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in California.

Lake County Wine Adventure tickets are only $55 for two days of fun (or $40 for Sunday-only) if you purchase them online by May 19. When you do, you’ll have your choice of places located all around the county to check in at (Clearlake Oaks, Kelseyville, Middletown and Upper Lake).  Those locations also provide early bird check-in on Friday if you prefer, including up until 8 pm that night (Lake County Wine Studio) or midnight (Twin Pine Casino & Hotel).  If you’re not already familiar with the area, then this map may help you get your bearings.

2017 Lake County Wine Adventure logoLake County wineries strongly believe in responsible celebrations so they also offer $15 Designated Driver Tickets for the Wine Adventure (DDs are invited to enjoy non-alcoholic drinks, food and entertainment at the wineries). You will actually be able to purchase tickets during the event weekend if you need to, but ticket prices will be $10 more at the door on Saturday (for the two-day pass), or $5 more on Sunday (for the one-day pass) so maybe you should just go here now.

Sangiovese from Rosa d'Oro Vineyards

Sangiovese from Rosa d’Oro Vineyards

You can find a wide spectrum of delicious wines during the Lake County Wine Adventure. The wines made here are crafted from the more commonly found varietals in California (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel) as well as less frequently found ones (Aglianico, Barbera, Charbono, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Sangiovese, Tempranillo).  We also strongly suggest you seek out local proprietary blends such as Rosa d’Oro’s “Trigrammaton” (Carménère, Tinta Roriz, Cabernet Franc) and Shannon Ridge’s “Cimarron” (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre).

Keep reading and we’ll tell you what kind of adventures you can expect during the weekend and some of the participating wineries’ most recent accolades.  Lake County wines have performed well at recent competitions, receiving Gold Medal ratings (based on the judges’ collective rating), Double Gold ratings (where each of the judges’ personal ratings equaled a gold medal), and even higher recognitions such as Best of Class, Best of Lake County and Best of California.
–> please click here to continue reading –>

Travel Advice: The Carneros Region

View of Carneros

View of Carneros from Truchard Vineyards

Appellation Name: Carneros, or Los Carneros

Where: Napa and Sonoma Counties in California

Officially Established:  September 19, 1983

Location: In southern Sonoma and Napa counties, along Highway 121, from slightly west of Arnold Drive in Sonoma to slightly east of Highway 29 in Napa. For an exact, 27-step description of the official boundaries, please go here. To see a map of the area, please go here.

"Love Me" by Richard Hudson

“Love Me” by Richard Hudson at Donum Estate

Background: The Carneros region was the first California American Viticultural Area (AVA) to span two counties, and the first California wine region to be defined by the characteristics of its climate rather than political boundaries. Vineyards were first planted in the 1830‘s, with the first winery established in the early 1870’s. Carneros achieved official AVA status in 1983 and a technical amendment from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTTB) in 2006 made it clear that both “Carneros” and “Los Carneros” may be used as the name for the area.  “Carneros” is Spanish for “Sheep.”

Wines/Varietals known for: Due to its cool climate, Carneros is best known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and sparkling wines made from those grapes. Other varietals that do well here include Albariño, Roussanne, Pinot Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Recommended Wineries and Wines in Carneros

Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir from Schug

Pinot Noir from Schug

Two Guys From Napa recommend Artesa, Bouchaine Vineyards, Ceja Vineyards, Cuvaison, Domaine Carneros, Donum Estate, Etude Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Liana Estates, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards and Winery, Saintsbury, Schug Carneros Estate, and Truchard Vineyards

For details on the wineries, contact information, and our favorite wines, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through either Favorites in Napa County or Favorites in Sonoma County to the Carneros Region link.   Or, you can just click here.


–> please click here to continue reading –>

Bacon, Bao and Brisket: Best of bASH 2017

Nana's Brisket Sandwich from Del Dotto Vineyards

Nana’s Brisket Sandwich

The premium wines of Appellation St. Helena (ASH) shone brightly once again at bASH 2017, the local wine and food pairing competition where attendees’ votes determined the ultimate winners. During the event, over thirty premium wineries joined forces with local professional culinary talent as well as 31 teams of “Rising Star” students from the Culinary Institute of America.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Zinfandel wines made from grapes grown in the St. Helena appellation were paired up with dishes created using Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Celery Root, Eggplant, Escarole, Chicharrones, Duck Breast, Chicken Liver, Beef Brisket, Pork Belly and Roasted Lamb (and more) for an evening of savory delights.

Deconstructed Wellington

Deconstructed Wellington

At the end of the night, the final winners were couplings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Beef.  The audience favorite for the wine and food combination was the Pellet Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Deconstructed Wellington (Beef Tenderloin, Foie Gras Mousse, Prosciutto di Parma, Duxelles, Crispy Leeks, Perigord Black Truffle on Puff Pastry with a Cabernet Reduction) from Jessica Haryanto (Indonesia) and Chase Evans (Lake Sherwood, CA).

On the professional Chef competition side, the winner was Executive Chef Joshua Schwartz from Del Dotto Vineyards with his Nana’s Brisket Sandwich (served with Crispy Shallots and Thyme Aioli).  The winery actually offered two different wines to enjoy this with: their 2014 Vineyard 887 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2014 St. Helena Mountain American Oak Carved & Grooved Cabernet Sauvignon.

–> please click here to continue reading –>

Indulge in Stags Leap District: 2017 Vineyard to Vintner

Stags Leap District, as seen from Taylor Family VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon fans take heed because the Stags Leap District’s annual celebration, the 2017 Vineyard to Vintner (V2V), is all set for April 28-30.  It’s not too late to buy a passport to Winery Open Houses on Saturday or a Buffet Lunch on Sunday which includes a comprehensive peek at upcoming 2014 releases.  There are also a few tickets left to an exclusive Library Wine Dinner on Friday night to help start your weekend right.

From 10 am to 4 pm on April 29 you can enjoy Open Houses at fifteen wineries including historic properties such as Chimney Rock Winery, Clos Du Val, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Shafer Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards and Stags’ Leap Winery.  This is also a rare chance to visit wineries only open to the public once a year (during V2V) such as Ilsley Vineyards, Lindstrom Wines and Malk Family Vineyards.

Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay at Vineyard to Vintner

Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay

The internationally famous 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.  Some of our favorites at last year’s Vineyard to Vintner were the Malk Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Taylor Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Pine Ridge Vineyards Le Petit Clos Chardonnay, Chimney Rock Winery Cabernet Franc, Clos Du Val Cabernet Franc and Steltzner Vineyards Malbec.

This District-wide event offers everyone a chance to explore winery caves, savor special barrel tastings, and enjoy food and wine pairings not available to the general public.  Keep reading and we’ll give you some more details about this fun and enjoyable weekend.
–> please click here to continue reading –>

Easter in Napa Valley: Hop This Way…

Easter basket and bunnyAre you trying to find a special activity for Easter in Napa Valley this year?   Say, maybe a photo with the Easter Bunny? Or an Easter Egg Hunt that works well for your children’s age groups or your child’s special needs?  Are you interested in dying some eggs but don’t want the mess in your own kitchen?  Or, are you just trying to find a uniquely “Easter in Napa Valley” event for your friends and family?  Keep reading and we’ll tell you about all sorts of things going on this year, including several Brunches.

Easter Sunday is on April 16 this year and there are plenty of places to go for Easter Egg Hunts, Easter Bunny sightings, and Easter Brunch.  But, we’ve also found several Easter activities happening before then. So, you may be able to find something for your schedule no matter how hectic it is.

Before Easter in Napa Valley

Easter Egg Hunt and More, April 9 – CIA at Copia, 500 First Street, Napa  (707) 967-2500

CIA at Copia

CIA at Copia

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Copia is having their first-ever Easter Egg Hunt at 10 am on April 9, one week before Easter.  You should bring your own basket to put the eggs in but the Hunt itself is free to participate in.  But, you will need to register online in advance (go here) and then check in that morning in front of the restaurant starting at 9:30 am.  If you’re hungry, they’ll be selling coffee and pastries from a food truck both before and during the hunt.

After the Easter Egg Hunt, adults can enjoy a Sparkling Wine Tasting in the CIA at Copia Atrium ($4 per tasting, or $15 for 4 tastes), or take advantage of The Restaurant at CIA Copia which will have a Mimosa Bar.  Or, if you feel like shopping the Store at CIA Copia will be open as well.
–> please click here to continue reading –>

New Discoveries in Santa Barbara


Bree’osh Cinnamon Raisin Roll

We made some new discoveries in Santa Barbara on a recent trip and felt compelled to share. They may not be new to you, but they were to us and we enjoyed them so much we can’t wait to return to the area and indulge again. If you haven’t experienced them yourself we highly suggest you do and hopefully soon (and often). No matter what time of the day it is, at least one of them would probably be a perfect place to visit.

Bree’osh (1150 Coast Villlage Road, Montecito, 805-570-9151)

First of all, let’s discuss the awesome visual and flavor delights to be found at Bree’Osh.  This French artisan bakery and café in Montecito specializes in both sweet and savory brioche bread.  And, it’s genuinely French; husband and wife owners Pierre and Nelly Henry are actually from France.  They’re closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but you can come here for breakfast, brunch and/or lunch the other days of the week.

Bree'osh Croque Monsieur

Croque Monsieur

The menu here is focused on pastries, eggs, and sandwiches, and you’re bound to find something appealing to you.  Brioches, Croissants, Breakfast Sandwiches, Quiches, Omelets and Croque Monsieur (and Madame) are all on the menu (some of which also come with a side salad).  Bree’osh even has high quality beverages: coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters and tea from Smith Teamaker.
–> please click here to continue reading –>