Tag Archives: wine

Napa Valley Wine Tasting


My husband and I love everything about Napa, especially the wine, and try to get down there a couple of times each year.  I constantly get emails from family, friends and friends of friends asking where to go wine tasting so I thought a post about some especially good – not to miss spots – would be great!

There are wineries that take reservations and others that don’t.  Personally I prefer the ones that are reservation only simply because it means there will be no tour buses, less people, and more one on one time most likely with the owner or wine maker.  What’s not to love about that?!  One of the downsides to reservation only wineries is that sometimes that means there’s an expensive tasting fee.  At the end of the day I think you need to figure out what your goal is.  Are you looking to just have the experience of wine tasting without buying?  Are you wanting the convenience of just popping into a place off of Highway 29?  Are you interested in buying hard to find wine not accessible to the general public?  Whatever your answer is, I’ve got plenty of places for everyone.  Below I have them categorized to help you narrow down your selection.

*I highly encourage anyone and everyone to hire a car service for their day of wine tasting.  It might make your day a little more expensive but it’s a lot less cheaper than a DUI and will make the day safer and more relaxing I promise.  Just remember, “You booze, you cruise, you lose!”

Napa Valley Tours & Transportation

Appointment only:

Fleury – $35 tasting fee.  This is hands down one of our favorite wineries!  The winery itself isn’t anything to write home about.  It’s a warehouse with tasting tents set up inside however the wine is the true star here.  Go here if you’re looking for some great wine to purchase.  Our favorites are the Passionne, The “F” in Red, Le Fleur 29 and Rocket Juice.  Yum…makes me want some now!

Schramsberg $45 tasting fee.  If bubbles are your weakness, then this is your place!  I typically recommend people start their day here since drinking champagne is a little easier to do earlier in the day in comparison to red wine:)  You’ll definitely get your $45 worth of champagne, they serve generous pours and you’ll learn a lot about the history of champagne as well as the winery itself.

Quintessa $65 tasting fee.  One of the most expensive tasting fee I’ve ever paid at a winery but the architecture and winery itself are stunning.  By visiting this winery you’ll get a full tour of how the grapes are grown, harvested, sorted and processed into wine.  It’s a beautiful set up and the wine is really delicious.  Just a heads up if you do end up buying – we suggest cellaring their wine for a good 5 years.  It tends to taste a bit young before letting it age a little longer.

HALL Rutherford  – My husband and I had our rehearsal dinner in the gorgeous wine cave here.  Situated up in the hills, HALL Rutherford has stunning views and is overall a lovely wine tasting experience.  From whites to reds, their wines are delicious.  The “Bergfeld St. Helena” is a favorite in our house.

CADE $35-$60 tasting fee.  Located atop Howell Mountain with breath-taking panoramic views of Napa Valley, this winery is a bit of a trek but worth it!  I happen to love their Sauvignon Blanc but I also never say no to a Cabernet Sauvignon:)

Gabrielle – This is such a special winery and not one to be rushed.  I believe I spent about an hour and a half here and probably could have been there all day had it not been for my other appointments.  Gabrielle takes you on a walking tour of her beautiful property and then brings you to a charming table set by the pond and under the trees for some wine tasting, as well as her salts, herbs, honey, etc if you’re interested.  The Silver Stallion is incredible as well as the Cask 321.

Caldwell Limited appointments each month.  Another winery set high in the mountains, this too is a very special place with the most charming owner (John).  This is probably one of the most exclusive wineries I’ve ever visited and they don’t offer many tastings a month so call ahead if you want to go.  All of John’s wines are stunning but something that also stood out was the wine his workers sell as their own.  John has been nice enough to gift them land on his property to make their own wine which is a pretty incredible opportunity for anyone let alone a very generous and thoughtful gift if you ask me.

Pride Mountain $20-$75 tasting fee.  Set up one of their tastings or tours for you and up to six to twelve other guests and enjoy the view and stunning wines.  I personally love their Merlots.  2010 was a phenomenal year for them which is unfortunately sold out at this point but I’m enjoying their current release now and it’s delicious!

Merus – Since visiting Merus, I now see on their website that it says, “Because our production is so restricted, the winery and its tasting salon are closed to the general public and may only be visited by invitation”.  I would check with your hotel concierge to see if they can get you in because it’s well worth it.  Their wine is outstanding!

Open to the public:

Robert Sinskey


Freemark Abbey

Sequoia Grove

Frank Family

Silver Oak

Castello di Amorosa

There were so many highlights for me today. I felt like I totally dorked out when it came to getting photos with chefs but that’s okay…I’m not embarrassed:). It all started when I spotted Fabio Viviani…I LOVED him from Top Chef Season 5. He was so cute with his Italian accent and man-crush on Stefan!

Next I laid eyes on Ming Tsai and Michael Chiarello who were nice enough to pose with me for a photo. After that I had a cookbook signed by Bobby Flay and got a photo with him and Michael Symon. Both were so nice and personable! After that I spotted Ed Lee from the most recent season of Top Chef. I wish he had made it further in the show but I have no doubt he’ll do well.

We went to 3 seminars today…all which were great! First was Jose Andres…so full of energy and it’s clear he loves what he does. I wish I could have a private meal with him. He seems so interesting and I’d love to pick his brain. And I can’t forget to mention that we sat right next to Nobu and had a really nice conversation with him! (we’re going to his restaurant tonight and are really looking forward to it!). Next was Paul Qui – the Top Chef Season 9 winner! He’s new to his “famous chef status” but was so authentic and seems so appreciative of everything he’s been given since. Last but not least was Bobby Flay. He’s just classic when it comes to the food scene. He’s been a part of the Aspen Food & Wine Festival for 14 years…that’s crazy! But he’s clearly deserved it and seems like a great guy.

Can’t wait for tomorrow!!!


I have no idea who the woman is getting her picture with Giada is but I had to get a picture of Giada:) She’s gorgeous! And so tiny:)








I’m not sure where to start really…this place is amazing! I’ve wanted to go to this event for YEARS but haven’t been able to until this year. We got into Denver last night around 4:45pm and made the 3.5-4 hr drive to Aspen which was gorgeous. Once we got here it was just past sunset and we checked into the beautiful St. Regis where I immediately spotted Top Chef winner Paul Qui outside:). So fun! After a wonderful and relaxing dinner at Brexi across the street, we made our way to the SKY bar to meet up with fellow Seattleites Cormac Mahoney and Zoi Antonitsas of Madison Park Conservatory (Cormac is here featured as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs!). A few drinks later we stumbled home and woke up this morning a little later than planned.

We started the day at Limelight for the Brunello di Montalcino: Tuscany’s Greatest Reds tasting. 10am? Why not?! Perfect time of day to throw back some of the finest wine:). At the end of it I realized I really do love the Altesino “Montosoli” that we’ve been drinking! That and the Il Palazzone and Antinori “Pian delle Vigne” are definitely on our “to buy list”.

Next we were off to the Private Grand Tasting located conveniently across the street:). There we enjoyed food and wine without the big crowds. Although we probably should have branched out, we couldn’t help but visit some of our favorites…Duckhorn, Freemark Abbey, Étude and then some newbies that we really liked…Monte Real, Barrymore (yes…it’s Drew Barrymore’s and it’s great!) and some Greeks…Mantinia and Ktima Papaioannou…delicious!!!

After a nice little break in the room we headed downstairs to see Mario Batali only to be told that we were too late (boo!) but that we could sit in on Emeril’s demo. Not bad…he is a classic after all:)

Next was Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons for the Top Chef: Salty & Sweet. Who doesn’t love those two?! Together they used the same ingredients to make a savory and sweet dish…looked great!

Tonight we’re headed to Steakhouse No. 316 for a tasty steak and then home to get rested and hungry for tomorrow!!







Bar del Corso – Seattle, WA

If I lived in Beacon Hill I’d probably frequent this spot more than I’d like to admit.  It’s got that laid back neighborhood feel while serving food that proves why it earned the title as one of the best new restaurants in Seattle.  Jerry Corso uses his impressive pizza oven to fire Neapolitan style pizzas with seasonal ingredients that will have you not wanting to share.  It’s a popular spot and because they don’t take reservations, don’t be surprised if there’s a wait but just get a glass of wine and be patient…it’s worth it!

I love octopus and tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu.  This version was well done except I felt the peperonata overwhelmed the dish, not letting the octopus stand out.  But…it was still a great dish and sopping up the leftover sauce with bread was amazing!  Our salad was perfect…there was a great balance of sweet and acidity that made all the ingredients work together.  And the pizza!!!  SO good!  I’d love to go back and try all the others but I have a feeling I would probably want to get the fungi again it was so good:)

Grilled Octopus - with heirloom peperonata

Arugula & roasted sunchokes - Pink Lady apples, pecorino, agro di mosto & extra virgin olive oil

Funghi pizza - crimini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, housemade sausage, pecorino & fontina

I feel lucky to have the Pike Place Market so close to my house.  Does that mean I go there as often as I should?  No.  My excuse?  I’d probably default to the lack of parking but at the same time there are lots you can pay for so that’s not good enough.  The truth is I have no excuses and should go there more often.  It’s not just a tourist’s destination.  It’s a local market full of farm fresh produce, seafood, affordable fresh flowers…it’s our local farmers that we should be supporting more.  Not to mention all the ready-to-eat food.  Where do I start?!  I’m a sucker for Beecher’sDeLaurenti Specialty Food & WineThe Crumpet ShopPiroshky-PiroshkyLowell’sLa Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods…the list could go on and on.  My advice is to go in the late morning and eat your way through for lunch:)  Go with a friend and share so you’re not stuffing your face but so you can try enough different things without feeling like your pants are going to pop.

La Buona Tavola Truffle Cafe and Specialty Foods – go for some great wine tasting and tastes of truffle goods…yum!

Mr. D’s Greek Deli – great gyro’s here!

Beecher’s Cheese – there’s a viewing window to show you how and where the cheese is made not to mention plenty of delicious foods to buy.  The “World’s Best” Mac & Cheese is pretty amazing…the name says it all.

Piroshky – Piroshky – Does it get much better than a beef and onion piroshky?  Nope:)

Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro – Santa Barbara, CA

We were recently in Santa Barbara for my good high school friend Hana’s (of Wak in Closet) wedding. We went a few days early and had some time to explore on the beach cruisers we borrowed from our hotel. Cruising up and down State St. we came upon Pierre Lafond Wine Bistro for some afternoon wine which then turned into a mid-afternoon treat. Boy was that a good decision. I, being the one with the sweet tooth that day, decided on the Salted Caramel Chocolate Tart. Accompanying it was Chantilly Cream and Caramel Oreo Popcorn. The popcorn was like crack! Seriously…once you tried one piece you were doomed. If you’re ever in SB I high recommend this place if for nothing else the dessert!


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