Sunday, February 27, 2011

Napa Wine Tasting Guide

Of course it is pretty hard to go wrong in Napa these days. There is so much to see and so many great wineries to visit. If your budget is unlimited and you know what kind of wine you like then just go for it. Drive down the 29 through Rutherford, Healdsburg and St. Helena and stop wherever your heart desires. Most of the wine will be great. But if you want to narrow it down a little bit, these are just a few of the places that we like to visit on a regular basis. They all seem to have something a little bit out of the ordinary.

Please note: these are in no particular order! The cave tastings have to be pre-scheduled and take about 1 1/2 - 2 hrs. so your best bet is to pick up a local winery map - they have them at all the wineries and shops, or look at this one on-line: before you go and pick your destinations according to your scheduled tour times and  how many days you have to enjoy the Napa Valley.

Schramsberg - Charming and full of grand history, this is one of our favorite spots. Schramsberg sparkling wine has been served at many presidential dinners and it is great to see the commemorative photos and invitations on the wall to prove it. Great cave tour, fab sparkling wines, very educational and great people. You'll leave feeling like a personal friend of the winery.

1400 Schramsberg Road
Calistoga, CA 94515
707-942-4558 for reservations (tell Lisa that Wendy & April from Zengari sent you!)

Mumm Napa - perfect patio and fabulous tasting portions. This is a good place to just chill for a little while, especially if the sun is shining through the clouds over the beautiful Napa Valley. This is one of my favorite views of the valley with the mountains across the way. Love it! They have an art gallery you can enjoy with a glass of champagne. Culture, stunning views and delicious sparkling wines...also a great gift shop.

8445 Silverado Trail,                                         
Rutherford, California
800-686-6272 - no reservation required

Del Dotto - cave tour and tasting. The Rutherford winery is very Italian & full of marble with opulent caves that have barrel tasting and venetian chandeliers. Great wines, fun guides and snacks when you are done. We haven't been to the Historic Winery yet, but maybe we will go this week! We hear it is even more authentic as the caves were some of the first in the Napa Valley dug by Chinese laborers in 1885.

Historic Winery & Tasting Room                     Del Dotto Estate Winery
1055 Atlas Peak Road                                    1445 St. Helena Hwy South
Napa, CA 94558                                            St. Helena, CA 94574
707-963-2134                                                707-963-2134

Brix - beautiful views, great garden, cozy bar with fireplace, intimate velvet couch seating for dinner. Perfect happy hour! This is our normal stop after a hard days work.

7377 St. Helena Highway,
Napa, CA 94558


Coppola - Rubicon Estate - historic mansion, beautiful surroundings, deli, fountains, and nice wine & gift shop.

1991 St. Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94573

Rombauer - THE stop for a nice oakey chardonnay. Small and intimate with a cult like following.

3522 Silverado Trail North


Must have: THE HOMEMADE BUFFALO MOZZARELLA. Don't be surprised if it doesn't come with tomatoes when they are not in season, you actually don't even need them. The bread is garlic rubbed and crunchy and the cheese is to die for.

1050 Charter Oak Ave.
St. Helena, CA 94574

Castello di Amorosa - worth the visit to see the Italian replicated castle and the gift shop. Great for exploring and taking photos. The gift shop has lots of pretty glasses, tablesettings and candles.

4045 North Saint Helena Highway
Calistoga, CA 94515

Mustards - delicious, seasonal, local fresh foods. Cindy Pawlcyn opened here 27 years ago with the organic garden supplying great fresh flavor combos and of course a huge local wine selection.

7399 St. Helena Highway      
Yountville, CA 94558

Oxbow Public Market - fun because it has it all;
food, wine, coffee, tea, dessert. We like the oyster bar only $1 oysters during happy hour.

610 & 644 First Street
Napa, California 94559

Silver Oak - "Life is a Cabernet" great tagline and they make a great Cabernet!

915 Oakville Crossroad
Oakville, CA 94562

Frank Family Winery - Down to earth wine experts who tell great stories, low key atmosphere, always a fun place to hang out. Great wine too & one of the best Chardonnays.
1091 Larkmead Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515

Burgess Cellars - a personal favorite as it is family owned by our old college friend Steve Burgess, his father Tom and his brother Jim. A little bit off of the Silverado Trail, but worth a visit for vintage cabernet and a great, authentic &  friendly tasting experience. Tell Steve we sent you, enjoy the views and make an appointement for tasting.

1108 Deer Park Road
St. Helena, California 94576

Dean & DeLuca - perfect for picking up snacks for the road. also has some nice home shopping items

607 South St. Helena Hwy
St. Helena, CA 94574


Harvest Inn - beautiful gardens, cozy & quaint. Request a King Vineyard room and enjoy the rustic charm with a fireplace and jacuzzi tub overlooking the vineyard. Blissful!

One Main Street
St. Helena, California 94574


Indian Springs - A trip to Indian Springs is not complete without experiencing our Olympic-sized mineral pool. The pool is the heart and soul of Indian Springs. Built in 1913, the Mission Revival-style pool replaced the original 19th century "plunge."

The view from the pool is of the nearby mountains and steam rising from Indian Springs' geysers. The 230-degree geysers keep the mineral pool at 102 degrees in the winter and 92 degrees in the summer. The water's warmth adds a healing element to the bathing experience...soak, rest and then soak some more.

1712 Lincoln Avenue
Calistoga, California 94515

On the Sonoma side:

Kenwood Inn and Spa - perfection . . . there is nothing else to say.

10400 Sonoma Highway
Kenwood, CA 95452

There are many gorgeous wineries in the Sonoma area as well; Viansa, Gloria Ferrer, Kunde, Ledson, St. Francis, Chateau St. Jean, Imagery, etc., etc. Lots of wineries here with a great country feel.

Send us your faves & we will continue the blog of THE most enjoyable places in the Napa/Sonoma Valley :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our New Favorite Wine

Amarone . . . Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a typically rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina (40.0% – 70.0%), Rondinella (20.0% – 40.0%) and Molinara (5.0% – 25.0%) varieties.     - Wikipedia definition

As you know, we love all things Italian! So it should come as no surprise that we love wine. Our wine bottle candles have allowed us to spend a lot of time in the Napa Valley where our palates have become very sophisticated. We have even been classified by certain wine experts as professional wine tasters! So in preparation for our next Italy trip we have been attempting to educate ourselves on Italian wines beyond the obvious house prosecco or chianti.

Our professional wine tasting friend Cindy found the beautiful Amarone during her recent working trip in Germany. We thank her for sharing her find and we are now seeking this wine out whenever possible. We have had a few great bottles at Via Veneto and Perbacco in San Francisco.

Via Veneto
2244 Fillmore St
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 346-9211

230 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
415.955.0663 (Phone) reservations recommended

 Here is the Amarone that started it all. We highly recommend: Masi Costasera Classico Amarone because not only is it delicious, but it makes a perfect recycled wine bottle candle when you are done! You can find this Amarone for about $50 at select wine stores, but if you don't want to pay that much the Masi Campofiorin Rosso Del Veronese is only about $15 and it's really quite nice too.

So apparently Brad and Angelina had the right idea . . . Amarone is the star of the Valpolicella region, delicious and off dry. A dense, concentrated wine with a velvety texture, it is at once lavishly fruity with a refreshing acidity. Highly aromatic, notes could include all forms of cherry (dried cherry, cooked cherry, maraschino cherry), coffee, almonds or leather. The winemaking process is a unique and fascinating ancient Roman tradition in Valpolicella, called "Appassimento". It entails the drying of grapes bunches after harvest for up to 4 months (or shorter if fans are used in the drying room), allowing them to shrivel like raisins before pressing, vinifying and aging. - borrowed from

Top Valpolicella (and Amarone) producers include:
  • Allegrini
  • Bertani
  • Cesari
  • Corte Sant'Alda
  • Dal Forno Romano
  • Le Salette
  • Masi
  • Meroni
  • Quintarelli
  • Serègo Alighieri
  • Tedeschi
  • Tommaso Bussola
  • Villa Monteleone
  • Zenato

We would love to get your Italian wine recommendations! Be sure to leave a comment below and we will let you know when have a chance to try your suggestion.  Cin cin!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spotlight on Spirit Series: Places - SEDONA, AZ

In this series we will explore SACRED SPIRITUAL SITES around the world that we hope to visit someday soon. But let's start with a few places that are close to home . . .

We first visited Sedona, AZ about ten years ago. We lived in Southern California at the time, so it was a quick plane ride to Phoenix and then a short rental car drive to get there.

We noticed a different sort of energy in the air as soon as we stepped out of the car. I remember making a stop at the grocery store (yes we might have been buying wine for the room!) and feeling a little bit dizzy (before the wine) as we were walking in to the store.

Not only is Sedona a gorgeous place to visit, it is a well know SPIRITUAL VORTEX area. There are several vortex sites in Sedona. As described at There are four main energy vortexes in Sedona. The subtle energy that exists at these locations interacts with who a person is inside. The energy resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person that comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it. This resonance happens because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person. If you are at all a sensitive person, it is easy to feel the energy at these vortexes.

We experienced and loved all of the four main vortexes; Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Airport Vortex and Boynton Canyon. They are each unique and special in their own way.

  1. Bell Rock: Great for easy rock climbing/hiking. Lots of twisted Juniper trees (said to be influenced by the swirling energy centers) & beautiful views. Bell Rock is said to represent both the masculine and feminine energy creating a balanced energy field at the site.
  2. Airport Vortex: For us this vortex was the most powerful and recognizable energy force. It actually made me a little dizzy and gave me a headache the first time I went there. Again great views and easy hiking. Known for its masculine energy. Airport vortex is where we took our Dad on one of our later trips to Sedona. He is our known skeptic and even he could not deny the energy he felt at this spot!
  3. Cathedral Rock: This vortex is said to strengthen feminine energy. We accessed this area by walking along the Oak Creek trail. We didn't actually hike the rocks here, but the creek was amazing and peaceful - sort of otherworldly with hundreds of rock stacks built by previous seekers. Great calming energy.
  4. Boynton Canyon: Unexpectedly powerful. This is where we stayed on our first trip to Sedona; The Enchantment Resort located in Boynton Canyon - I think before we went we had heard some sort of scary stories about the energy of the canyon; strange experiences that people had there. But since this is where the best and most luxurious spa and resort was located, this is where we stayed. It was amazing and beautiful and healing. We had a good time laying out blankets and star gazing from our balcony! I won't name any names, but some people were scared silly with all the open wilderness surrounding us there.

We hiked all around the resort. There is lots of wild area for short evening hikes to enjoy the sunset and the bats! Bats are said to be symbolic of spiritual enlightenment and there was certainly a lot of them around. Then there are also the longer day hikes where you can find and go into Indian caves and ruins - amazing!

We sat on the edge of the cave dwelling and meditated for quite awhile. I tried to find our pictures but this was before digital!

        This is also where we had our first full spa day: Our mom was with us on this trip, so the three of us each had 2 or 3 spa treatments scheduled. We did a yoga class, had lunch, lounged by the pool enjoying the red rock views and hung out in the tranquil meditation room. Simply AMAZING. We tried the Stones Massage, Reading of the Moment session, Simply Shirodhara and Aromatherapy Massage. All of them were sublime.

We have visited Sedona 3 or four times now and every time has held new adventures and discoveries. There are obviously a lot of psychics and healers available. We recommend you do some research before you go and try to find someone with a lot of experience who meets your needs. Some are definitely more powerful and enlightened than others.

Lots of good restaurants, fun shopping and even karaoke! A couple of recommendations:
Dahl & DiLuca Italian Restaurant -
2321 W. Hwy 89A. • Sedona, AZ 86336 • (928) 282-5219 
Cucina Rustica -
7000 Hwy. 179, NW, Suite 126 A. • Sedona, AZ 86351 • (928) 284-3010     
Same owners as Dahl & DiLuca, but located in the village of Oak Creek.

Tlaquepaque Arts & Craft Village -
Really cool looking, this place was originally conceived as an artist community. Lots of great galleries, food and shopping!
Indian Ruins: Ancient Ruins of Palatki -
                    Montezuma Castle -

Want to add to our ideas of things to do in Sedona? Any great experiences you had there? Favorite restaurants, stores or psychics? Leave a comment below and help us grow our list.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011