Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Guide to Napa Valley

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To steal a line from the New York Times, the array of sensory indulgences in Napa Valley can make you dizzy before you have even had your first glass of local wine.  Napa Valley is known not only for the hundreds of vineyards and wineries that rival the best of Burgundy or Bordeaux, but also for its charming small towns with world-class shopping and food and miles and miles of stunning scenery.  Napa Valley also has wonderful art galleries and, for the adventurous early-riser types, hot air ballooning.  The website is a great resource for all things Napa Valley.  But let’s face it, the vineyards and wineries are the main attraction. 

Lay of the Land

There are essentially two major roads that run North/South through Napa Valley:  US 29 (or St. Helena Highway) and the Silverado Trail.  Both roads are aligned throughout the valley with wineries and vineyards.  Calistoga, where the wedding is taking place, is at the North end of Napa Valley.  Downtown Napa (the city of Napa) is at the South end and although it does not contain many wineries and vineyards, it has over 20 tasting rooms and tasting bars where you can sample the local wine.  It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive from Calistoga to downtown Napa (without traffic).  In between, traveling north to Calistoga are the towns of Yountville, Rutherford, and St. Helena.  Yountville is for foodies and contains some of the best dining in Napa Valley.  The main street of St. Helena (US 29) is full of little boutiques and shopping.  In between St. Helena and Calistoga, to the left and right of US 29 and the Silverado Trail are Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain where small wineries reside that produce excellent wines and even better views of the entire valley.

Wineries of Napa Valley

Now that you are oriented, let’s get to the good stuff:  the wineries.  There are hundreds of wineries in the area and range from small and informal to vast and remote to popular and commercial.  Many of the wineries do not require appointments for tastings but some do.  Although some wineries offer free tastings, most charge a tasting fee and that fee can range from $10 to $75 per person depending on the location, size, character and reputation of the winery and the experience.  (In general, the wineries that require appointments tend to charge a little more).  There are basically four ways to see the wineries:  (1) drive yourself, (2) bike, (3) hire a driver/tour or (4) take the “wine train” (which we have not done).

There are so many amazing and little known wineries in the area that deciding which ones to visit can be a daunting and confusing task.  For the same reasons, providing a short list of recommended wineries is difficult; there are so many wonderful options and they vary greatly in terms of experience and taste.  We have found that the easiest way to think about wineries for purposes of selecting which ones to visit is by location.

The enclosed winery map should help you get oriented and the Preiser Key to Napa Valley that is also enclosed in your welcome box contains detailed maps and information about all of the Napa Valley wineries and restaurants. 

In addition, below is a list of wineries we have tried and recommend to all of you (these are only the ones we have actually visited; there are so many more we still want to try but haven’t had the chance).  The list is first broken into three sections:  the first section lists wineries North of Calistoga; the second section lists wineries South of Calistoga and along the Silverado Trail; the third section lists wineries South of Calistoga and along US 29.  Each section is arranged by location of the wineries starting from Calistoga in the North and traveling south towards downtown Napa.  (Trust us, when you look at the map, this will all make sense.)  (***Asterisks indicate where we have either purchased wines or became members of the wine club…because they were that delicious).

The websites for the wineries provide information about hours of operation (usually 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily but can vary among wineries), tasting fees, special tasting experiences and how to book appointments, if necessary.  There are several gourmet groceries in the area where you can pick up supplies for a picnic lunch at a winery.

Section I:  NORTH of Calistoga

***Chateau Montelena  (this is the winery that essentially put Napa Valley on the map; it has a great history, was the subject of a fairly recent movie Bottle Shock and is well worth the visit for the scenery and wines)
1429 Tubbs Lane 
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-5105

Vincent Arroyo (by appointment)
2361 Greenwood Avenue
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-6995

Section II:  Silverado Trail (heading SOUTH from Calistoga)

Sterling Vineyards (touristy but the draw here is the tram that takes you up to the mountains for aerial views of the entire valley)
1111 Dunaweal Lane 
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 942-3344

Twomey Cellars (sister winery of Silver Oak)
1183 Dunaweal Lane
Calistoga, CA 94515
(800) 505-4850

Rombauer Vineyards
3522 Silverado Trail
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-5170

Duckhorn Vineyards
1000 Lodi Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574
(888) 354-8885

Joseph Phelps Vineyards (by appointment)
200 Taplin Road
St Helena ,CA 94574
(707) 963-2745

***Quintessa (by appointment)
1601 Silverado Trail 
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-1601

***Caymus Vineyards (by appointment)
8700 Conn Creek Road 
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-4204

Robert Sinskey (by appointment)
6320 Silverado Trail 
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 944-9090

***Regusci Winery
5584 Silverado Trail 
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 254-0403

Section III:  US 29 (St. Helena Highway) (heading SOUTH from Calistoga)


Pride Mountain Vineyards (off of Highway 29 and way up in Spring Mountain; by appointment)
4026 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-4949

***Barnett Vineyards (off of Highway 29 and way up in Spring Mountain; by appointment)
4070 Spring Mountain Road
St. Helena, CA, 94574
Tel: 707-963-7075

***Heitz Cellar (free tastings)
436 St. Helena Highway
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-3542

***Grigch Hills
1829 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-2784

Inglenook (changed recently from Rubicon Estate; one of the oldest wineries with a massive estate and grounds; bistro setting for tasting)
1991 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 968-1100

St. Supery
8440 St. Helena Highway
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-4507

***Trefethen Family Vineyards
1160 Oak Knoll Avenue 
Napa, CA 94558
(866) 895-7696

Restaurants and Dining

Sure, Napa Valley has great wineries.  It has great restaurants too.  Most restaurants put a huge emphasis on farm fresh local ingredients.  Unsurprisingly, they also have excellent wine lists populated with selections from local vineyards.  Calistoga, the town in which the Solage resort is located, has a few excellent places to dine.  Yountville, which is a small town about 25 minutes south of Calistoga, is a foodie mecca and well worth a visit.

We have put together a list of our recommendations for restaurants in the Napa Valley area, starting from Calistoga and then heading south on US 29 to Yountville.  If you have time to dine on your own (and are not saving yourself for the excellent food we will be providing), we strongly recommend trying out some of the world-class cuisine in Napa Valley.  This list does not include restaurants located south of Yountville in downtown Napa and beyond.   Please keep in mind that it will be high season for the Napa Valley so you try to get reservations if you are dining for dinner.  (Phone numbers and addresses can be found in the Preiser Key to Napa Valley magazine.)

Solbar: Located at the Solage in Calistoga, Solbar is an amazing Michelin star rated restaurant.  We love it, but we may be a bit biased.     

Brannan's Grill:  Located in Calistoga, Brannan’s is a great casual dining option with good food. We stopped in and had a light brunch on one of our trips, and we really enjoyed it. We hope to get back, but there are so many dining options…

JoLe (Farm to Table):  Located in Calistoga, JoLe is in the Mount View Hotel and is a fun option for adventurous eaters.   JoLe serves Contemporary American food and specializes in small eclectic plates (so you can create your own tasting menu).

Tra Vigne:  Located in the heart of St. Helena, Tra Vigne is a great spot if you want to stroll the cute main street of St. Helena.  It serves Italian cuisine and has a pizzeria next door.

Brix:  Located in St. Helena, Brix is a wonderful upscale casual dining choice serving French inspired California cuisine.  It has beautiful views of the mountains and a small vineyard that is located in the back of the property.

Mustards’ Grill:  Located in St. Helena, Mustard’s Grill serves heaping plates of American cuisine and has been a staple in the area for 27 years.  It is an excellent choice for lunch or a casual dinner with a large and varied menu.  Even the pickiest of eaters can find something good to eat here.

Rutherford Grill:  Located in Rutherford, Rutherford Grill has a very accessible menu and is a favorite among locals.

Bottega:  Located in the heart of Yountville, Bottega is known for its celebrity chef, Michael Chiarello, and delicious Italian fare.  Chef Chiarello is the Emmy-winning host of the Food Network's Easy Entertaining and a “big deal” in and long time resident of the Napa Valley.  In our opinion, Bottega has certainly earned its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Napa Valley (reservations should be made well in advance).

Bouchon:  Located across from Bottega in Yountville, Bouchon is the acclaimed French bistro of Chef Thomas Keller.  Thomas Keller is behind Per Se in New York and has three restaurants in the Napa Valley including French Laundry.  Yountville is home to the original Bouchon and there are now locations in Las Vegas and Beverly Hills.

Bouchon  Located in Yountville next door to Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery is modeled after the bakeries of Paris and has achieved fame for its amazing macaroons, croissants, tarts, fresh breads and chocolate confections.    
Redd:  Located in Yountville, Redd is one of our absolute favorites; big thumbs up from us.   

Ad Hoc:  Located in Yountville, Ad Hoc is the third restaurant in the area of Thomas Keller and the most casual.  The restaurant has communal tables and a set dinner menu per night that changes nightly.

Bistro Jeanty:  Located next to Ad Hoc in Yountville, Bistro Jeanty is a casual and fun French bistro.  The food is hearty but delicious.  (This may not be the best choice for anyone trying to fit in a tight dress for the wedding reception.)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Where are you going this summer?

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Many customers are asking where they can go this summer with kids.
Here is a sample list of various destinations that Family Travel Concierge customers are planning to go to with kids ages ranging from 8 months to 17 year old. Some of these families have 1 child, others 2 or 3 children.

Personally I would skip  Caribbean and Mexico (besides Aruba) because of possible hurricanes.

1. Dublin-Barcelona-Disney cruise-Athens-Germany - we are taking our 3 kids on this amazing adventure
2. Madrid - Barcelona
3. London
4. London-Paris
5. San Francisco - Yosemite National Park -  Sequoya National Park
6. Los Angeles - Disney Land - San Diego
7. Cape Cod
8. Poconos
9. Lake George
10. Dominican Republic
11. Mexico
12. Bahamas
13. Rome -  Florence - Venice
14. Vienna - Salzburg
15. Germany (all country)
16. Frankfurt - Lucerne - Geneva
17. Various Mediterranean sea cruises
18. Various Baltic sea cruises
19. Jamaica
20. Croatia
21. Disney World
22. Various places in Florida
23. Myrtle Beach
24. Cruise to Alaska
25. Aruba

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My trip to Montreal

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Written by Daniella Medvedovski

Other than the awful weather which was rain and coldness, my recent trip to wasn't that bad!

The cafe where we had breakfast every day - Le Cartet - had some of the best food I'd had in a long time. In fact, every time we went, I got the same breakfast - 2 French baguettes, a croissant, and some fruit. DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!

A place where we had lunch was Famous Delly Boys. It was a restaurant good for Jews and/or Russians, so if you are one (or both) of those I highly recommend this restaurant.

My family and I visited two museums. They were the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and the Archeological Museum. Personally, I don't like museums, and I wasn't a huge fan of these, but at least my mom and I had some good laughs at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. There was a room that had a white mattress, white pillows, white tissues, etc. My mom made a joke that someone was sleeping there and forgot all their stuff. We were laughing SO HARD!!!!!!!!

We also visited Biodome which is a place where the Olympics were held long ago. Now it is a place with four different sections having nothing to do with sports. It is a different temperature in each one, with different animals depending on the temperature. Really cool!

There was also a planetarium called the astrodome. It had a kids section with coloring, puzzles, and fun games too, and there was a show good for kids as well.

Finally, my favorite place we visited was the Underground City. It's like a mall underground - there are stores, cafes, and even nail salons! We went there three times, we liked it so much. The trip to Montreal was pretty good.