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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It’s Crabtastic! The 2017 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival

Dungeness Crab, ready to goGreat news!  There’s still time to join in on the 2017 Mendocino County Crab, Wine & Beer Festival, a countywide celebration between January 20 and 29.  You’ll find family-style crab and cioppino feeds, gourmet winemaker dinners, food and wine tasting opportunities, craft breweries, a crabcake competition, and fishing and whale watching adventures in this rural county of striking natural beauty just 90 miles north of San Francisco and 145 miles west of Sacramento.

Throughout the ten-day Festival, you’ll find fresh cracked crab on the menu at Little River Inn (in Little River), or you can create your own party with freshly caught (and cooked) crab from Noyo Fish Company (in Fort Bragg) or the Fish Peddler (in Ukiah).  If you’re looking for something to pair with your crab, Mendocino County abounds with premium wineries specializing in sparkling wines, Alsatian white wines, Pinot Noirs, Italian red wines, and plenty of stellar blends.  Or, you can explore the beer offerings at Anderson Valley Brewing Company (Boonville), Mendocino Brewing Company (Ukiah) and North Coast Brewing Company (Fort Bragg).

Mendocino Skunk Train

Mendocino County Skunk Train

For adventure, your choices include crab fishing or whale watching trips with Telstar Charters, kayaking with Liquid Fusion Kayaking, horseback riding at Ricochet Ridge Ranch, canoe or bike rentals from Catch a Canoe and Bicycles, Too!, Land Rover tours around endangered hoof stock animals at B. Bryan Preserve, an exploration of the tallest lighthouse on the Pacific Coast at the Point Arena Lighthouse, or a ride on the restored rail cars of the historic Skunk Train.

We’ll offer highlights of the Crab, Wine & Beer Festival and the County’s offerings below (including information about the awesome Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition on January 28) but you can also follow this link to the extensive Festival Brochure.
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Get Out Of The House: Winter WINEland 25th Anniversary

2017 Winter WinelandAre you stuck inside, yearning to be outside (and better yet, drinking wine at the same time)?  If so, maybe you should spend this weekend planning next weekend.  A wonderful Sonoma County wine event, Winter WINEland, welcomes you to over 100 wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys on January 14 and 15 between 11 am and 4 pm each day.  You and your friends can try limited production wines, embark on winery tours, and perhaps meet the actual winemakers.

This year is Winter WINEland’s 25th Anniversary, and participating wineries include Davis Family Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Fritz Underground Winery, Hawley Winery, Kokomo Winery, La Crema Winery, Martorana Family Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, West Wines and Zichichi Family Vineyard.

Lancaster Estate

Lancaster Estate

Winter WINEland attendees can enjoy wine tasting at all of the participating wineries that weekend, and advance ticket prices are just $45 per person for both days or $35 for Sunday January 15 only (plus tax and a small service charge).  Designated Driver tickets are $5 for either one or both days. To purchase advance tickets (before the end of Monday) and/or to see the complete list of participating wineries, please go here. If you miss the advance purchase window, prices during the weekend itself will increase to $60 for both days, or $45 for Sunday only (and Designated Driver tickets will be $10).

The 2017 Winter WINEland, sponsored by the Wine Road, offers over 100 premium Sonoma County wineries to choose from and each of the participating wineries will highlight a particular vintage, varietal, or vertical tasting during the event. The bad news is now you have to choose which ones to visit (but if you keep reading we’ll try to help with that).
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An Offer You Can’t Refuse: The 2016 Napa Valley Film Festival

2016-nvff-programThe official program for the 2016 Napa Valley Film Festival was recently released and if you’re a fan of film festivals you should definitely think about attending.  If you’ve never gone to a film festival before, this is a great venue to introduce yourself to the concept. What makes a film festival more than just “going to the movies” is the live participation of writers, directors, actors and producers in Q&A sessions following practically every screening. And, if you’re a fan of excellent films, great wine, and outstanding food, then you absolutely need to make your way to the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) between November 9-13, 2016.  Keep reading and we’ll try to convince you to grab that credit card and start typing right now.

Reason #1 to attend the NVFF: Excellent films, including several that are already receiving Oscar buzz. The Napa Valley Film Festival will include showings of 20th Century Women (starring Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning), Lion (Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman), and Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart and Katey Sagal). You’ll also be able to see Captain Fantastic (Viggo Mortensen), Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy), Elle (Isabelle Huppert) and Miss Sloane (Jessica Chastain).

political-animals-posterThe Film Festival will have about 120 narrative, documentary and short films from around the world culled out of the over 1,000 films submitted for consideration.  The 2016 NVFF Artistic Director and Program Manager were generally looking for three things: films with a sense of hope or uplifting motivations, films that focus on the power of the individual, and films that plumb the intricacies of relationships. That’s while you’ll find narrative films such as 11:55, The Book of Love, and Sticky Notes as well as documentaries Farewell Ferris Wheel and Political Animals at the Festival.

Reason #2 to attend the NVFF: The parties! If you move quickly, you may be able to get tickets for Celebrity Tributes (honoring artists such as Lee Daniels and Kurt Russell), the Festival Gala (featuring wines and delicacies from Napa Valley’s wineries and chefs), the Festival Awards Ceremony (where both juried and audience awards are announced), or attendee favorites such as a Friday Night Bash at the interior design gallery space Martin Showroom, or an opening night Pool Party with a thermal water mineral pool at Indian Springs.  And then, there are always the official (and unofficial) After Parties each night.
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Time to Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel-by-the-SeaIsn’t it time you visited (or revisited) Carmel-by-the-Sea, the charming European-style village where pretty much everything is within walking distance including shops, restaurants and the Pacific Ocean?  This romantic and pet-friendly city is home to over 100 art galleries and antique shops, the white sand Carmel Beach, and is currently celebrating its Centennial with events leading to a parade on Saturday, October 29 led by former mayor Clint Eastwood (yes, THAT Clint Eastwood). Unless you’ve been here lately you may not realize how much Carmel-by-the-Sea has to offer as a wine country destination for you and your friends.

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea actually has 15 wine tasting rooms to visit and enjoy, or there is a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Passport for $65 which entitles you to a $10 flight at nine tasting rooms. The Passport doesn’t expire so you can spread your tasting visits over days or months if you prefer. You’ll also find restaurants with locally focused wine lists, liquor stores with wonderful selections, and several worthwhile Happy Hour destinations all in town.

Talbott Vineyards

Talbott Vineyards

Complimenting the tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea are the over 20 wineries and tasting rooms of nearby Carmel Valley, just a short drive away through gently rolling hills, majestic oak groves, acclaimed golf courses and renowned hotel and spa properties.  Carmel Valley wineries can be visited individually or with a Cellar Pass for $50 offering the ability to enjoy a standard flight at eight wineries (and the Passholder has up to 12 months to do that).

Keep reading and we’ll tell you about our personal favorites in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Carmel Valley for wineries, restaurants, and other treats.  We’ll also point out celebrations and activities coming up this fall you may want to factor into your travel plans (including Taste of Carmel events later this week).

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