September 6th, 2010

“What is the definition of a good wine? It should start and end with a smile.”

~William Sokolin Bell

What goes with great wine?

Great music of course!

One of the items on my wish list was to attend the ‘Nashville in Napa’ charity event. While researching the Napa/Sonoma area and the different things going on, I came across the site and, because I love music, thought it would be an awesome thing to do. Luckily, our timing was perfect. This once a year charity event to promote childrens music education was happening the second night we there.

I showed it to GW who thought it might be fun and we put it on the wish list. I knew P loved music also (you should see his music and video collection!) so he and his wife, T, agreed to go. A and D had already made plans to be back in San Francisco that night to attend an art showing of the artist, Storm Thorgerson, who was responsible for all of Pink Floyd’s album cover art so they headed back to the city to the art gallery.

First of all, Debi Calli, the General Manager of the Baldacci Vineyards was a hoot to talk to. She was so funny and informative and the night ended up being everything she promised. Songwriters, winemakers and chefs joined together for a night of music, wine, and food to support the arts.

We arrived at the vineyards where everything but the entertainment was held under the stars. Waiters serving heavy hor dourves wound their way through the crowd serving things like these delicious veggie shooters. A piece of mozzarella cheese and a cherry tomato in some kind of liquid that was quite tasty. I honestly couldn’t decide if the liquid contained any alcohol or not, but didn’t really care. Would love that recipe, though. Different tables of wine were set up for tasting and we made the rounds. I am discovering that I favor the sweet white wine.

Soon, it was time for the show and we entered a cave that is carved out of the hillside. Cool air and soft lighting set the ambiance as we were treated to an hour of music from songwriters like Don Sampson (Waitin on a Woman, Achey Breaky Heart to name just a few), Joe “Moose’ Brown (Five O’clock Somewhere) and Tony Lane (I Need You, Letters from Home).

After the performance, we went back outside and had a meal of roast pig, lobster, and tons of trimmings and, of course, more wine. There was some kind of a salad/slaw that was awesome. It was a ‘stand up’ meal, which means tall bar type tables were scattered around which ended up being a lot of fun so we stood and ate and drank and mingled and got to meet some really neat people including one guy and his fiance. He was an editor (or was it publisher?) of a wine magazine and being from the area, was able to share some stories and make a few suggestions while we were there.

After the meal, we went back into the cave for the second hour of performance, this time by three different singer/songwriters. This time we were treated to music by Jon Randall (Wiskey Lullaby, Up on the Ridge) his wife Jessi Alexander (The Climb) and Brett Jones.

It was one of those magical nights where all in the world is well. Good food, good wine, good friends.

To be continued…


August 24th, 2010

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized..”

~Andre Simon

…After the Franciscan winery, we headed to our appointment at the Darioush winery located in Napa Valley. A reservation is required for the tastings at this prestigious winery so we didn’t want to be late.

Upon arriving, the opulence was outstanding!
To quote their website: ‘Reminiscent of the great noble architecture that once existed, the imagery of the Darioush building evokes Persepolis, the illustrious capital of ancient Persia.’

Check these pictures out:

We were ushered into a small sitting area next to the fireplace and served their speciality wines which we ended up buying a bottle of their chardonnay and one of their cabernet.

Me thinks we soon will need a bigger wine refrigerator.

Next came the Beringer winery. On the way, we decided we were getting a bit hungry, so we stopped at a local general store and bought sandwiches, fruit, and goat cheese and bread. On the courtyard of the winery, they had small tables and benches where you could relax and enjoy the atmosphere under the pristine sky. Although we were now shedding jackets, it was an ideal place and and perfect weather for our picnic. We ended up too full to try any of their wines so we walked around the area and just enjoyed the scenery.

…to be continued.


August 22nd, 2010

“Life is too short to drink bad wine.”


…the next day we woke to gray skies with no promise of rain. And, as predicted, by the time we finished breakfast, the weather turned absolutely beautiful. Blue skies, golden sun, crisp air, green vineyards. Wow!

The first on the itinerary was an appointment we had at Sullivan Wines. Some wineries require an appointment and some do not. Some give you a choice.

Sullivan holds a special meaning to P and T that date back many years. And they share something in common, so this particular winery was close to P’s heart and on his wishlist.

As we were to discover before our trip was over, each winery has a history. A story that is as unique as the wines they produce.

Located in Rutherford in the Napa Valley, Sullivan Winery was started back in the early 1970′s. Jim Sullivan, a graphic designer who had worked on projects for the rock bands in the 60′s which included the Monkees, Dick Clark Productions, and Clymer Books, arrived in Napa Valley and fell in love with the area and with wine making. Jim used his graphic designer experience to create the Sullivan label and the home he and his sons built The same home on the land they still make the wine and where his widow still lives.

Upon arriving, Mrs. Sullivan met us as we made our way to the terrace and when she learned we were from North Texas, was excited and asked us if we still had Central Markets here. Evidently, on her trips to our area several years ago, she shopped at one and was impressed.

Soon, we were ushered to a quaint table and under the trees in the garden, with the perfect weather, we experienced the Sullivan Wines. One of the Sullivan sons arrived and came over and introduced himself and soon the CEO came and sat with us for awhile, both entertaining us with stories until called away to business.

We bought several bottles of the Sullivan Chardonnay 2007 wine, One red wine was pretty interesting, though, as the longer it sat opened to breathe, the more the taste changed.

Sullivan Winery will always be remembered by us as definitely an intimate experience they make certain the customers not only are treated to great wine, but leave feeling as if they are part of the family.

Next on the list, was the Franciscan winery just down the road. There we tried their wines and learned more about wine making.

Note: any mistakes in my posts I take full credit for. I tried to write down as much as possible, but may have missed something.

There are several aspects to a bottle of wine.

Vintage: what year the grapes are picked. (that’s the year you will see on the bottle).

Winemaker: who the winemaker is in charge at the time the wine is made.

Aroma: what you smell (are supposed to smell) when you breathe in the bouquet of the wine. People who can do this definitely have a special gift and talent. I have a long way to go to attain this level.

Flavor: the different tastes, both subtle and not so subtle, of the wine as you roll it around your tongue. Again, I have a long way to go. I only know if I like it or not.

Appellation: the area the grapes were grown and the wine made such as Napa or Sonoma valley.

Time in Oak: mostly for just red wines. White wines are not aged in oak

Type of oak: very important.

Alcohol: how much alcohol the wine contains

How many cases produced: some wineries only make enough for their wine club and not for general distribution.

At Franciscans, we bought a bottle of the 2008 Fountain court white wine.

More on the day’s activities to be continued…


August 21st, 2010

“Wine is bottled poetry.”

~Robert Louis Stevenson

…began at the Kent Rathbun dinner. If you missed that post, you can read it here.

While having dinner accompanied by some incredible wine, someone brought up the idea of how great it would be to visit the California wine country. One thing led to another and soon plane tickets were purchased and reservations were booked.

Since there were six of us going, we decided to make the most of our visit by everyone making a ‘wish list’. What appealed to each one of us and where or what we wished to experience on the trip.

We each did our research and submitted our list and an itinerary was born.

We landed in San Francisco midmorning and the first thing we noticed was that it was – COLD! Everyone was wearing jackets and after leaving 100 plus degree Texas heat, it was definitely a welcomed change. I was glad I brought my new blue jean jacket as it was a must have each morning and each night.

Baggage claimed (I always have a fear my luggage won’t take the same vacation as me) and rental car picked up, we headed north. We stopped in the quaint town of Sausilito for a quick lunch and then headed to the first winery on the list.

First a quick over view:

The fourth largest producer of wine in the world, behind France, Italy, and Spain, the California wine region produces 90% of all wine in the United States. The Wine Country heartland consists of the Sonoma and Napa counties and has over 7,000 square miles and, according to Spotlights’ Wine Country Guide, ‘it is home to literally hundreds of wineries that are open for tasting, scores of lodging accommodations, dozens of fine dining restaurants, and a myriad of one-of-a-kind shops.’

And the beauty is indescribable.

Domaine Carneros Winery located in the heart of Carneros is considered a regional landmark. We were ushered inside the main chatteau but opted to sit out on the terrace in view of the beautiful vineyard covered hills. D and A had arrived on an earlier flight and opted to hike the Muir Woods before joining P and T and GW and I at Domaine Carneros. I opted for the white wine tasting and GW decided on the red so we could share and experience both. Domaine Carneros provided laminted cards with each wine listed along with a description of each.

I really loved the Vintage Brut Rose Taittinger and GW liked the Estate Pinot Noir so we bought two of each.

Since it was after 4:30 by then and most of the wineries close between 5:00 and 6:00, we stopped at the Ty Caton Vineyard. It was a smaller and newer winery and was met by the owner himself who is shown here signing the dessert wine and chocolates we purchased.

By then it was off to the town of Santa Rosa to check into our hotel, and drive into the town itself for dinner at the Russian River Brewing Company. The town itself was neat although the restaurant didn’t rate very high on our awesome meter.

By then we were all fading a bit. California is two hours behind us and we’d started early in Texas so we called it a day. But already the magic of the country had taken hold and we couldn’t wait until morning.

To be continued…


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