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Experience Wine Country

Updated: 2017-11-25T07:26:27Z


Celebrate with these Sparkling Wines for the Holidays


We’re sharing our top picks for celebrating incadescently from Thanksgiving to New Years. Plus, we’ve put together a quick sparkling wine guide to sharpen your bubbly IQ.While we’re fans of sparkling wine any time of year, there’s no question that the holiday season is the time to break out the bubbly. From spirited cocktail parties to elaborate dinners with family and friends, the holiday season is all about special occasions, and we love to celebrate with bubbles in hand. And who can blame us? There’s just something festive about sparkling wine, not to mention that it’s a great choice for pairing with all your favorite holiday foods. To help you head into the holiday season like a pro, we’re sharing our top sparkling wine picks, organized by holiday for easy reference. Need a refresher before your jump in? We’ve included a brief guide to Boost Your Sparkling Wine IQ at the end of this article. SPARKLING WINE FOR THE HOLIDAYS THANKSGIVING Thanksgiving tends to be a problematic holiday for finding the perfect wine pairing, and for good reason. Between the turkey, gravy and cranberry sauce, there’s a lot going on flavor-wise. Luckily, when it comes to bubbles, you can’t go wrong. Lambrusco is a fun choice, while Brut rosé is another versatile option to balance the flavors of the meal. Wines to try: J Vineyards Brut Rosé ($40-45) This popular sparkling wine from Healdsburg, Sonoma is made of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with just a touch of Pinot Meunier. Showcasing luscious notes of strawberries, cream and toasted hazelnuts, its lively yet decadent texture will surely leave a lasting impression. Medici Ermete Concerto Lambrusco ($20-30) Fresh with bright red fruit aromas, this intensely-colored and lightly fizzy wine is rounded out by flavors of black cherry and a dry, lingering finish. CHRISTMAS Traditionally, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey and Christmas is for ham. But throw bold flavors like gingerbread into the mix and what’s a food and wine lover to do? We like to reach for Champagne or Franciacorta, which pair well with creamy dishes like scalloped potatoes as well as salty foods like ham. Another great wine choice is Cava, with its notes of ginger and baking spices. Wines to try: Majolini ‘1981 Brut’ Franciacorta ($25-35) Named for the year the Maiolini family’s sons relaunched the winery, this Italian wine showcases notes of yeast and vanilla with a dry and persistent mouthfeel. Made of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, this Champagne alternative displays lovely personality and energy. Champagne Gratiot-Pilliere Brut Tradition ($40-45) Aged on the lees for 30 months, this rather affordable bottle is made up of all three traditional grapes, but predominantly Pinot Meunier—some of which comes from vines over 50 years old! Notes of white flowers and pear dominate the nose, leading to a crisp and mineral-driven finish. HANUKKAH With eight nights of festivities, of course Hanukkah comes with lots and lots of food. Traditional items include fried foods like potato latkes and doughnuts, and a bottle of American sparkling wine is the perfect choice to cut through some of that salt and fat. Wines to try: Mumm Cuvee Napa Brut Prestige ($20-25) This Napa Valley wine is loaded with vibrant apple and citrus flavors, complemented by complex notes of spice, vanilla and toasty oak. Balanced by fine acidity and nice structure, it’s a versatile bottle that delivers for the price. The Hilt Sparkling Wine ($55) This California sparkling wine, made in the Méthode Traditionelle, is a blend of equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grown in the cool coastal site of Santa Barbara County’s famed Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Lively and pure, it has a rich mouthfeel with fine, persistent bubbles. NEW YEAR’S EVE New Year’s Eve is all about the cocktail parties. Luckily, spar[...]

20 Boozy Beverages for The Holiday Season


While Wine Country may be partial to a certain grape-centric beverage, ‘tis the season to be merry and bright, and we have 20 delicious reasons to mix up your cocktail (and wine) game care of Pinterest.Meditating over a bottle of bubbly from our friends at J Vineyards, inspiration struck: sparkling punch for the holidays! But we didn’t stop there. Here are 20 delicious reasons to mix up your cocktail (and wine) game. Plus, we made our very own pinterest board with even more scrumptious concoctions. 1. Sparkling Rosé Punch with Cranberry and Persimmon A Cozy Kitchen Don’t fret — there will be no flashbacks to junior high dances with this punch. Blending a spritely rosé with spicy, fresh ginger, sweet elderflower liqueur, and the seasonal fruit flavors of persimmon and cranberry, this sweet punch adds sparkle to any holiday get together from A Cozy Kitchen. 2. Winter Sangria Bakeaholic Mama While sangria typically comes out for picnics and warm-weather days, we’re not complaining about this winter-worthy version from Bakeaholic Mama. A garnish of fresh rosemary adds holiday spirit to fresh apples, clementines, pomegranate, and cranberries soaked in sweet red wine. 3. Cidertini Mantitlement Shake up your typical martini and add a fall twist with Mantitlement’s Cidertini. Chilled cider gets a spiked upgrade by adding caramel-flavored vodka, apple liqueur, and enough cinnamon to warm up any chilly night. 4. Smoke Signals For those wanting to take their cocktail-making skills to a whole another level, Epicurious shares their recipe for a Smoke Signal. Add on a few hours to craft this show-stopping cocktail as you’ll be leveraging the flavor of wood chips to craft smoked ice chunks. And, if that wasn’t enough, a homemade pecan syrup is also on the list of tasks. While this libation may be more than just shaken or stirred, sherry, whiskey, and the artisanal add ons will have your tastebuds flying high. 5. Candy Cane Cocktail Boulder Locavore Candy cane infused vodka is the star of this holiday musical for your mouth, and while you will need to infuse the vodka yourself, it is as easy as pie (and makes great holiday gifts too!) A little bit naughty and definitely nice, Creme de Cacao and Bitters are the costars to this future seasonal favorite from Boulder Locavore. 6. Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Chocolate Serious Eats Talk about a trio made in heaven, the Bacon, Bourbon, and Hazelnut Hot Cocoa from Serious Eats is bound to add a bit of sparkle to the eyes of any bacon, bourbon, hazelnut/chocolate fans And, this recipe is not messing around. Full slices of hearty bacon mingle with milk and bittersweet chocolates, biting bourbon, and Frangelico. Sweet and meaty, we won’t judge if this cocktail ends up as part of your holiday brunch plans. 7. Pumpkin Spice White Russian Move over PSL, because you have some major pumpkin-spice competition. A small step can add big flavor to this cold-weather favorite. A sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice is all Nutmeg Nanny suggests to upgrade the dessert-like White Russian cocktail. 8. The Roast and Toast Cocktail GastroNom Mix and mingle your morning Joe with the big flavors of bourbon, Amaro, and orange juice. Add a blow-torched marshmallow accoutrement and you have the Roast and Toast Cocktail from GastroNom. 9. Cranberry and Cinnamon Whiskey Sour Baker by Nature Baker by Nature mixed up a little somethin’ special with a traditional Whiskey Sour. Cranberries, the obvious choice for any winter bevvy, are cooked down with sugar and water to create a delightfully decadent simple syrup. Add citrus, alcohol, and shake vigorously to burn off some holiday calories before you sip. 10. Old Fashioned Salted Plains After a long winter’s day, why not mix yourself up an Old Fashioned — you[...]

A-Listers Who Also Make the Wine List (Part 1)


More and more celebs are joining the biz with their very own wineries and labels. Check out our first installment of wine list A-listers below to learn who’s who in the world of celebrity wine.Each November, Hollywood comes to Wine Country for the annual Napa Valley Film Festival. With 100+ film screenings over 5 days, there is some serious star power on display. Past guests include Matthew McConaughey, Kurt Russell, Katie Holmes, Dev Patel, Viggo Mortensen, we can go on… But that’s not the only way stars are making their names in Wine Country. More and more celebs are joining the biz with their very own wineries and labels. Check out our first installment of wine list A-listers below to learn who’s who in the world of celebrity wine. Francis Ford Coppola seamless="seamless" style="width: 100%; border: none; display: block; max-width: 595px; height: 460px;" src=""> Francis Ford Coppola Winery Sonoma County, California One of the most well known names in film, Francis Ford Coppola, delved into the world of wine over 35 years ago when he and his family were living in San Francisco. They first restored the Niebaum-Coppola Estate in Napa — 30 years in the making — and now the family has turned their focus to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery near Geyserville, California. In their words, “a wine wonderland.” It boasts a wide selection of estate grown varietals as well as a bocce court, swimming pools and sweeping lawns. Movie buffs take note: they host a collection of movie memorabilia and even have a few of Coppola’s own Oscars. Tastings like the Bottling Ballet Mecanique give you a chance to learn the personal significance behind some of their most prestigious wines. And here’s an offer you can’t refuse: make sure to grab a photo in front of Vito Corleone’s desk from The Godfather while you’re there. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie seamless="seamless" style="width: 100%; border: none; display: block; max-width: 595px; height: 460px;" src=""> Château Miraval Provence, France While the Jolie-Pitt family might be a thing of the past, the winery they purchased together in 2011 for $60 million is still going strong. Château Miraval in France produces a lovely variety of white and rosé wines as well as sustainably farmed olive oil. And they have three new wines coming soon: a Provence red, a Mourvèdre, and a Cabernet Franc. And why wouldn’t they? Their first 6,000 bottles of Rosé sold out in all of five hours. The large estate has been standing for hundred of years, with notable visits from Saint Thomas Aquinas in 1252 as well as the Prince of Naples years later. It’s notable history and beautiful grounds have been designated as a Noble House of France, which seems appropriate for the former King and Queen of American cinema. Drew Barrymore seamless="seamless" style="width: 100%; border: none; display: block; max-width: 595px; height: 460px;" src=""> Barrymore by Carmel Road Monterey, California The ultimate child star, rising to fame when she was seven in the 1980’s smash hit, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Drew Barrymore has been a staple among Hollywood royalty for pretty much her entire life. Being in the spotlight hasn’t always been easy, this self-proclaimed flower child has gracefully found a life which is equally full on screen and off. While acting, directing, and becoming a NY Times bestselling author, she also became enamored by Pinot Grigio while spending time in Italy. Looking to create her own wine, she found her wine soulmate right here in California and now makes Barrymore Wines: a unique partnership with Carmel Road in Soledad, California, part of the Jackson [...]

Temecula Valley: Tasting La Dolce Vita in Southern California


We had wine expert Alyssa Rapp do some (tough) research for you, tasting 60 Temecula wines and rounding up her six favorites to try on your next visit. There’s nothing sweeter than exploring wine in the undulating hills of Tuscany, dotted with family-owned wineries and soaring Cyprus trees. But what if you could have a taste of Tuscany’s la dolce vita — in Southern California? With its own vineyard-covered, undulating hills at the foot of the Santa Ana, Temecula Valley echoes the sweet lifestyle and gorgeous scenery of Tuscany. And if you spend time at its family-owned wineries, tasty local restaurants, and decadent resorts, you’ll understand why it’s a rising star among America’s wine regions. More than 2.7 million folks already visit Temecula year to year. They come to explore its award-winning wines, flourishing foodie scene, and boundless activities, all while enjoying perfect weather and a laid back, sunny vibe that is distinct to Southern California. Only 60 minutes from San Diego and 90 minutes from Los Angeles, Temecula is an easy day trip from the nearby cities and an ideal hub for Southern California travelers. 6 Incredible Wines to Try in Temecula Marked by a Mediterranean climate with long, sunny days, tempered by ocean breezes (that flow in through a gap in the coastal mountain range) and crisp, cool nights, Temecula Valley is perfectly situated for growing high-quality grapes and producing premium wines. We had Alyssa do some (tough) research for you, rounding up her six favorite wines to try on your next visit. Alyssa’s Picks After tasting around sixty local wines total, the rising quality coming out of the region was undeniable. And while I was intrigued by many of the wines tasted, here are my top picks: SPARKLING South Coast Winery South Coast Winery Winemaker’s Signature Selection Sparkling Pinot Grigio NV South Coast Winery Resort & Spa is situated on 38 lush acres of rolling vineyards drenched in California sunshine. Their sparkling Pinot Grigio offers notes of pear and Golden Delicious apples, crisp acidity, and is a playful, easy-drinking alternative to Prosecco. Since almost everyone loves a thirst-quenching Pinot Grigio, I love that South Coast Winery finishes theirs as a “brut.” I anticipate more sparkling wines from Temecula Valley in the years to come. 34843 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591, Tel (951) 587-9463 WHITE Doffo Winery Doffo Winery 2016 Viognier With Italian winemaking ancestry, it’s not surprising that owner Marcelo Doffo and his son Damian are making wines in the Temecula Valley. I’ve long been a fan of the floral and aromatic overtones of Viognier from almost anywhere in the world. And Doffo’s is no exception. If you’re lucky, you can taste it with the father-son duo while they talk not only about wine, but their love of vintage motorcycle racing. How equally Italian… 36083 Summitville Street, Temecula, CA 92592, Tel (951) 676-6989 Lorenzi Estate Lorenzi Estate 2015 Varietal Collection Chardonnay Dijon Clone 76 Don Lorenzi clonal’s study of Chardonnay delivers classic notes of Meyer lemon, vanilla, oak, butter and apple pie. Making only several hundred cases per vintage, you best buy before each vintage stocks out. 36095 Monte De Oro Road, Temecula, CA 92592, Tel (951) 506-1300 RED Fazeli Cellars Fazeli Cellars 2012 Phel Phel BJ Fazeli had a lifelong dream to build a winery to reflect his Persian heritage. He achieved that dream in 2006 with Fazeli Cellars. An ultra-contemporary winery, popular wedding destination, and meeting location, Fazeli Cellars is reminiscent of Napa’s Darioush. While I’m a big fan of their Nooroz (65% Viognier, 35% Muscat Canelli), Fazeli’s Phel Phel red is equally tasty and storied. It is comprised of 95% [...]

Valette’s Peppercorn Crusted New York Steak


For our first ever video recipe, we tapped into one of Healdsburg’s newest kids on the block: Valette Restaurant, opened in 2015. For our first ever video recipe, we tapped into one of Healdsburg’s newest kids on the block: Valette Restaurant, opened in 2015. Chef Dustin Valette, alum of Michelin-starred Aqua in San Francisco and Napa Valley’s Bouchon, gave us a killer recipe which truly represents fall in Sonoma Wine Country. We were extra excited when we tried it. Not only does it look and taste incredible, it’s totally doable for even the most remedial cook. That’s right, no special cooking skills needed, and you’ll come out looking like a rock star. We pared down the recipe to make it perfect for two. Because this is one to turn to when you want to wow your S.O., your best friend, or heck, maybe even your mom. If you aren’t roaming an organic farm in Sonoma on a daily basis, all the ingredients are available in San Francisco. We found everything we needed at the Ferry Building: wild mushrooms, aged NY steak, Padrón peppers, even bone marrow (which you are free to leave out if you aren’t feeling that hip). One other tip – we highly recommend a cast iron pan for searing your steak and looking extra swank while you cook. We bought a Lodge 10 ¼” skillet for $16 bucks on Amazon, and it’s been a love fest. You also need the handle holder so you don’t burn those beautiful hands. Oh, and a word of warning if you’re new to Padrón peppers. Most are mild, but every now and then you might get one which is super spicy. Enjoy the surprise. SUBSCRIBE TO VIDEOS width="500" height="281" src="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen> — More WineCountry Recipes — Peppercorn Crusted New York Steak with wild mushroom fondue, roasted bone marrow, and Padrón peppers I suggest pairing with an Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. The tannins match the caramelization of the steak and the richness of the bone marrow perfectly. ~ Dustin INGREDIENTS 2 each 12 ounce Prime New York steak (dry aged Wagu is the best) 1 pound wild mushrooms or King Trumpets if wild are out of season 3 ounces Cabernet Sauvignon 2x 8” long bone barrow, ask your butcher to cut length wise 1/4 pound marble potatoes, dry farmed 1/4 pound Padrón peppers 1/2 cup baby wild arugula (optional) unsalted butter kosher salt fresh black pepper, crushed PREPARATION Prepping the Steak Start with the highest quality steak you can find. I use a Prime, 21 day dry aged Wagu beef, though trust your butcher and ask for the best. Season the steak with kosher salt and crushed black pepper. Allow to rest at room temperature. Mushroom Fondue Clean all dirt from mushrooms with a brush. Lightly rinse in warm water. Cut mushrooms into medium size chunks, discarding the gills. In a large pan, sear the mushrooms until golden brown, add 1 oz of butter and red wine then cook until creamy. Readjust the seasoning and keep warm until plated. Potatoes, Bone Marrow and Padrón Peppers Cut the potatoes in half. Toss the Padróns with olive oil and sea salt. Place on a pan and roast together in an oven at 400 degrees until the potatoes are half cooked, about 6 minutes. While the potatoes and peppers roast, season the bone marrow with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then add the marrow to the pan and put back in the oven to finish roasting. The marrow is finished when it’s golden brown and hot throughout. Cooking the Steak In a large cast iron or thick bottom pan, sear the steak over high heat. Leave in the pan long enough for the steak to take on a dark color and thick crust, add 1 1/2 ounces of butter and cook to the desired temperature. Cook both sides. Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Pla[...]

What Is Crush? We’ll Tell You


We’re entering that time of year in wine country where “crush” gets thrown around. Not a word one typically uses after they leave high school. But in the land of wine it signals the beginning of one of the best times of year. We’re entering that time of year in wine country where “crush” gets thrown around. Not a word one typically uses after they leave high school. But in the land of wine it signals the beginning of one of the best times of year. But outside of the I Love Lucy images of the old world tradition of crushing with your bare feet, there are much more modern practices happening during harvest season. We thought we’d give you a rundown of what crush means in wine country! Bountiful Harvest Definitions of crush vary from winemaker to winemaker. Some loosely refer to crush as the entire harvest from picking the grapes in August through November to the time when the wine is in the bottle. But it’s more typically defined as picking and crushing the grapes, which is more complicated than many realize. The grapes start to change colors during middle to late summer, usually in July and August. Unlike other types of farmers, grape growers want their vines to hold less grapes because the grapes ripen more and be higher quality. Fewer leaves on the vines is also desirable so the fruit gets more sun exposure. As the grapes ripen, the amount of sugar in the fruit increases and those sugars will ferment into alcohol eventually. Winemakers will closely monitor the grapes to determine when the grapes have ready to be picked and might even taste them or test them in a lab for sugar and pH levels. Pick Me, Pick Me The weather also has a huge effect on when the grapes are picked and the date can easily vary every year. No one wants a severe storm to wipe out the vineyards. Grapes for sparkling wines are usually picked first with grapes for dessert wines are typically the final ones picked. For high-quality and/or small-production wines, grapes are still usually picked by hand which requires a lot of labor. For most mass-production wines, the grapes are harvested by machine for the sake of time. The biggest downside to harvesting by machine is that the grapes have to be sorted for quality and ripeness and to remove debris after they are picked. We’ve Got A Crush Stainless-steel machines await the arrival of the grapes and once the highest quality grapes have been sorted, the crush can officially begin. Crushing the grapes and letting the juice come out allows the yeast to start fermenting, which is a key part of the winemaking process. For many white and sparkling wines, the grape juice cannot be exposed to the grape skins but for most other types of wines, mixing the juices and the skin during fermentation is very important. Pressing grapes instead of crushing them can help prevent the juices from mixing with the skins. Instead of using bare feet to crush the grapes, most wineries now use crusher-destemmer machines to crush and remove the stems from the grapes. The grapes are funneled from containers into the machine, destemmed and then crushed. Then the grapes move into containers for fermentation. The crush is over and the grape juice is on its way to becoming wine. Discover how Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon is made via Napa Valley Vintners. We’ve selected a couple of fun events where you can experience crush first-hand: Sonoma Valley CRUSH , Sonoma County: September 2017 Join 13 wineries in Sonoma Valley this September for an unforgettable harvest experience. Get involved, hands-on. Meet the Winemakers, learn about harvest and taste amazing wines. Wineries will be Grape Sampling in the vineyards, offering Crush Pad tours, sampling Fresh Pressed Juice and grapes picked fresh off the vine. You may even have an opportunity to taste a wine while it’s fermenting and learn how to read a [...]

Hands on Winemaking with Holman Cellars


Husband and wife duo, Jason and Helen Holman, lead the charge at Napa’s Holman Cellars along with cousin John. Their 3000 square foot winery is in an unlikely location and calls a south Napa industrial park home.Husband and wife duo, Jason and Helen Holman, lead the charge at Napa’s Holman Cellars along with cousin John. Their 3000 square foot winery is in an unlikely location and calls a south Napa industrial park home. Founded officially in 2010, the couple met in law school and with a combined passion for winemaking (and a familiar one for Helen), began the journey of producing small lots of unique wines using unusual varietals with their flagship brand, Uncharted Wines. While the winery’s location is an uncommon one, Holman Cellars hosts a highly personalized experience for guests who make the trek off the beaten, Napa Valley, wine-tasting path. They’re focused on producing the highest in quality wines and ensuring guests have the most engaging visit through sampling their wares in bottle and barrel, and for the most curious of visitors, a behind-the-scenes and hands on winemaking adventure with Wine Country Experiences. Hands on Winemaking Holman Cellars 190 Camino Oruga, #9 Napa, CA 94558 Experience available year-round, Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 2pm $125 You never know what you’ll be walking into when you book this very special experience. That is what they’re most excited about! This is a working winery and there are jobs and to-dos to be done that are of a very seasonal nature. Whether you’re sitting in on a blending session between Jason and John, climbing in and cleaning out tanks or bottling wine there isn’t a more indepth Napa Valley experience. In their most recent offering, guests were able to pull up a chair and sit across from Napa Valley winemaker Jason Holman as he walked through the process of blending wine. On the surface there doesn’t seem to be much to blending wines. One would assume(correctly) you take one wine and stir it with another, and the result is a wine that tastes a little like both. But as Jason and John will show you, it is more than simply stirring. Bottles are uncorked, wine glasses set out and paper at ready for note taking. There is a masterful side to blending that not only requires an understanding of its mechanics but also requires a palate with some finesse and an ability to envision a flavorful outcome. Jason guides you through the process as you take in the smells and sips of three varietals. Then the blending begins. Back and forth you go until you arrive at the perfect mixture. On the whole, blending to improve wines is more like an art than a science. Their small lots of one to four barrels make it possible to create new and exciting wines that mystify even the biggest wine connoisseur. The Holman’s use unusual varietals, secluded vineyards, and unconventional production techniques, in order to provide the consumer with an unforgettable experience. You will enjoy tasting Jason’s uncommon wine varietals, along with cheese and charcuterie, during this one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll leave with a better understanding of wine and winemaking, but no promises that you’ll leave with clean hands. Book your own Hands on Winemaking experience through, and explore the full list of current offerings. [...]

Best Things to Do in Napa Valley


Wine loving newbies and established experts flock to Napa Valley year round to taste the food and wine wares from one of the most well known and delicious wine destinations around the world.Wine loving newbies and established experts flock to Napa Valley year round to taste the food and wine wares from one of the most well known and delicious wine destinations around the world. Napa Valley may be small in physical size, only three miles wide and 30 miles long, but with over 400 wineries and tasting rooms to visit, killer views, and enough Michelin stars and illustrious culinary spots to shake a fist at, there’s ample savoring and amazing things to do in Napa Valley. — Wine Country Experiences Take the guess work out of booking compelling activities in Napa Valley and visit Wine Country Experiences for a one-stop destination of must-do wine and food adventures. Experiences offered range from couple hour jaunts to multi-day excursions, and include culinary explorations, arresting views, and of course, our favorite Napa Valley liquid libation, ample amounts of wine. Guests to the site can explore diverse offerings, read itineraries and tips, and book directly through one website visit with ease. Insider Tip: The next three Napa Valley activities are offered through Wine Country Experiences. Click through to the Marketplace and effortlessly book one (or all three), and explore other available packages. Cruise and Wine Taste On The Napa River The Napa Wine Yacht Napa Yacht Club, 100 Riverside Road, Napa, CA 94559 See Napa Valley from a fresh perspective. Relax on a 50-foot Catamaran Yacht as you enjoy a 4-course meal by Tarla Grill and CIA graduate Chef Kadiye. The owner and winemaker of AUM Cellars will be aboard to pair his wines with each course of dinner. You will enjoy a delicious dinner and a personal tasting with a charming winemaker while taking in the beautiful views of Napa. Aum Cellars makes interesting blends that you probably haven’t tasted before, but you will be delighted when you do. As you cruise along the Napa River, you’ll have distinct views of the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges as the spectacular back drop for you tasting excursion. The Wine Yacht is a 50’ power catamaran built in New Zealand for shallow draft and stability. It’s luxuriously designed for entertaining and hosting events and wine tastings in the romantic setting of wine country. Built and designed by one of New Zealand’s most prolific catamaran designer/engineers, Alan Wright and Angelo Lavronos of New Zealand. The hull was designed for 3’ to 5’ seas to provide efficiency and enhanced platform stability for the 1999 and 2003 New Zealand America’s Cup Series. This vessel carried the Gyro-cameras for the Louis Vuitton series and AC finals providing excellent efficiency, speed, decreased roll and stability. It now lives in Napa. Insider Tip: There are no other businesses like the Wine Yacht that provide the views you’ll get of the Napa River. This is truly a one of a kind WineCountry Experience! Estate Ranch Tour and Exclusive Tasting Tamber Bey 1251 Tubbs Lane Calistoga, CA 94515 Trip Advisor: 4.5 stars; 176 reviews A visit to Tamber Bey Winery is truly an out of the ordinary experience in Napa Valley. The winery is located at Sundance Ranch, a working equestrian facility where winery owners, Barry and Jennifer Waitte, actively train their endurance race horses. The ranch’s 22-acre property is as picturesque as it is functional with unbelievable views of the surrounding Palisade Mountains and well-known Mount St. Helena, and the remodeled, state-of-the-art winemaking facility. Let vintner and owner Barry Waitte lead you through a private tour of this spectacular and unique facility. The tour begins with an insi[...]

Cheese Lover’s Tour with West Marin Food & Farm Tours


West Marin chef, gardener, and teacher, Elizabeth Ann Hill, holds an ingrained bond with the California region she calls home. It’s a familiar relationship, one that has gone back multiple generations, when her family used to travel by way of ferry and horse-drawn carriage from Berkeley to West Marin’s beautiful Tomales Bay to enjoy the summer months.West Marin chef, gardener, and teacher, Elizabeth Ann Hill, holds an ingrained bond with the California region she calls home. It’s a familiar relationship, one that has gone back multiple generations, when her family used to travel by way of ferry and horse-drawn carriage from Berkeley to West Marin’s beautiful Tomales Bay to enjoy the summer months. The region is chock full of artisan food and organic farming, a larger animal population than human, and views that are out of this world. Elizabeth has a passion for the land, the people, and the products that are crafted here, and through this interest, an idea was born. West Marin Food & Farm tours, which began in 2012, are packed with flavor, and really the only way you can fully understand is to experience one yourself. The dairy delightful Cheese Lover’s Tour is one of two available through Wine Country Experiences and we wanted to shed light on each delicious element. Boasting visits to three established West Marin creameries, Elizabeth gives exclusive access to private farms and a behind-the-scenes taste of the region’s artisan cheesemaking. Cheese Lover’s Tour Available Year-round, Wednesday through Friday, and Sunday 10:30am – 3:30pm $195 Cowgirl Creamery at Tomales Bay Foods The adventure begins in Point Reyes Station, where you’ll meet Elizabeth and new, cheese lovin’ friends (typically there’s between 4-7 people in a group) at the famed Cowgirl Creamery. The creamery was founded in 1994 by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, two women who had been intertwined in the food scene for some years, as a bonus to the opening of Tomales Bay Foods in a renovated barn in this quaint, Marin town. The structure housed a small cheese-making room and cheese dreams were pursued. Over the course of the last 20+ years, Cowgirl Creamery has grown from a modest room and a bit of curiosity, to a heavily awarded creamery with four retail stores, two production locations, and sales being made in over 500 additional retailers. While this location only produces their pundgent, triple cream variety, Red Hawk, visitors on West Marin Food & Farm Tours can get an inside look (and taste!) of all their renowned cheeses. As you enter the building, windows welcome viewers to take a peek into the original facility and watch as each step of the process is completed. The tour official begins with munching cheese-centric, baked delights care of Bovine Bakery and a lesson in past and present farming and food production in Marin from Elizabeth. As soon as the last crumb is nabbed, Elizabeth gets into the good stuff (the cheese, of course) and the group can try the full bounty of regularly produced aged and fresh cheeses, and a taste of their seasonal creation. Insider Tip: Plan on arriving at Tomales Bay Foods early to explore the market and the many goods for sale. The company continues to stay true to their ethos of supporting the community and artisan cheesemaking, and offers over 200 additional cheeses from around the globe alongside their own. Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery Elizabeth will take the wheel as the whole gang hops into the West Marin Food & Farm Tours’ van for a picturesque drive through West Marin. Head up the eastern coast of Tomales Bay, where salty, steady waters host oyster farms and unbelievable views of rolling hills and the tree lined Point Reyes National Seashore park. After winding up the coast and heading[...]

Sonoma County Restaurants You Can’t Miss


While Sonoma County has put itself on the map as a bastion of celebrated wine, the restaurant and food scene are in a league all their own. With the farm-to-table movement having started in Northern CaliforniaWhile Sonoma County has put itself on the map as a bastion of celebrated wine, the restaurant and food scene are in a league all their own. With the farm-to-table movement having started in Northern California, Sonoma County eateries truly embody the agricultural region and the diversity of the people who call this area home. From Latin cuisine and noodle houses, to hip local joints that serve food grown on their own farms, Sonoma County restaurants boast some of the best food in the world. Mix It Up spoonbar 291 Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg, CA 95448 (707) 433-7222 TripAdvisor: 4 stars; 327 reviews Located in downtown Healdsburg, spoonbar serves up locally sourced meats and farm-to-table produce in an airy, contemporary setting. When the “walls” are removed, you are opened up to the sidewalks of Healdsburg to people watch and enjoy the sublime Northern California weather. If you thought the food was local though, give the cocktails a try. Their talented mixologists behind the bar can pour you a glass of local wine or they can create an experimental union of local herbs, mixers, and spirits that is bound to knock your socks off. Insider Tip: Head in on a Sunday for their prix-fixe, four-course, homemade pasta night where they showcase different regional styles along with seasonal ingredients. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, pair our pasta with a beverage from their Experimental section of their cocktail menu. Latin Spice Mateo’s Cocina Latina 214 Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg, CA 95448 (707) 433-1520 TripAdvisor: 4 stars; 208 reviews Mateo’s Cocina Latina is not your traditional Mexican food joint. With roots in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Chef Mateo Granados pairs his country’s cuisine with the local agriculture of Sonoma County. He’s blended the two cultures in a culinary explosion of delicious creativity. When the weather is nice, enjoy sitting on the outdoor patio or pop inside to enjoy the tequila bar and it’s creative libations. Insider Tip: Two words. Taco Cones. Think ice cream cones, only better, and involving gratuitous guacamole. Farm-to-table Fusion SingleThread 131 North Street Healdsburg, CA 95448 (707) 723-4646 TripAdvisor: 5 stars; 21 reviews SingleThread can be summed up in one word — experience. This is not your typical Sonoma County restaurant, but instead the culmination of years of preparation, thought, and passion to create a one-of-a-kind dining experience in the heart of Healdsburg. With an eleven course tasting menu catered to all dietary restrictions and needs, SingleThread creates a journey from their own farm, located in the Russian River Valley, to their meticulously set tables. A reservation is considered a “ticket” to this culinary experience that fuses Japanese influence with Sonoma County agricultural bounty. Insider Tip: SingleThread has placed itself in the highest region of Northern California‘s fine dining echelon. Be prepared to purchase tickets for a minimum of $294 per person, not including alcohol. But it’s worth every delicious penny. Sebastapol Spice and Sake Ramen Gaijin 6948 Sebastopol Ave Sebastopol, CA 95472 (707) 827-3629 TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars; 51 reviews The town of Sebastopol has adopted a hippie vibe that it can’t quite shake (nor does it want to). But that “hippie” sensibility to live from the land and harvest its bounty is seen in Ramen Gaijin, a “uniquely Sonoma County noodle shop”. Ramen Gaijin puts out an extensive and fresh menu of regional ramen styles paying homage to the culture that created the dish [...]