Fitness, Food, Wine & Travel


Fantastic Memories at the Meritage Resort and Spa

I am still daydreaming about the party I attended with RB and my media/journalist friends a few weeks ago. It was the Re-Grand Opening Celebration at the Meritage Resort and Spa.

I can only describe my experience there as “living the dream”. I know it’s cliche, but I truly felt like royalty that evening. The Meritage Resort and Spa cut no corners on the evening, as guests were treated to champagne and caviar, salami and cheese trays, grilled foie gras, pork sliders, and an entire room full of desserts ranging from cakes and pastries to tall jars of M&Ms.

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I was so impressed with the expansion and all the new amenities at The Meritage, that I asked RB if he would bring me back there for my birthday a few weeks later. And he did. 🙂 We spent my 35th birthday at my favorite place in the world, the Napa Valley. We stayed in one of the new rooms at the Meritage, and the next day I worked out in the expanded fitness studio. The view from my treadmill looked out onto their private vineyards. The fitness studio also has Wieland doors that open and close with the season.

Reasons to stay at The Meritage:

  • 322 guestrooms and suites, including nine suites, plus access to 180 vacation rental rooms at the adjacent Vino Bello Resort for a total of 502 guestrooms and suites
  • Guestrooms and suites are designed to be a “home away from home” with high ceilings, open spaces and sumptuous bathrooms
  • Tuscan inspired décor with rich woods, comfortable seating, premium bedding, Gilchrist and Soames amenities, and many rooms with private balconies or patios
  • Wireless and wired high-speed Internet access, executive work desks, local calls and voicemail, complimentary morning newspapers and in-room safes
  • 32-inch plasma screen televisions, DVD and CD players, with access to the hotel’s library of DVDs and complimentary premium channels and iPod-charging clock radios
  • Spacious baths with marble-topped vanities, extendable magnifying mirrors and en-bath telephones
  • Plush bathrobes and designer toiletries
  • Mini refrigerators and bars, complimentary bottled water, coffee/tea makers with a selection of premium coffees and teas, ice buckets and corkscrews

Meeting and Event Space:

  • More than 50,000 square feet of indoor and covered outdoor meeting and event space, the largest meeting venue north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento
  • The two largest ballrooms in the Napa Valley both divisible up to 10 salons
  • Meritage Ballroom: 10,490 square feet, with two pre-function foyers totaling 4,300 square feet. Carneros Ballroom: 7,358 square feet, plus 1,564 square feet pre-function
  • Each ballroom opens up to a four-season covered terrace perfect for meals and receptions for up to 250
  • Luxurious entertainment Estate Cave: 3,992 square feet for events up to 200
  • Two boardrooms with fixed tables and two meeting rooms ranging from 250 square feet to 461 square feet
  • Multiple outdoor courtyards and piazzas for weddings, receptions and dining
  • Our Lady of Grapes Chapel for wedding ceremonies of up to 60 🙂
  • Member of Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), a worldwide portfolio of distinctive meeting hotels and resorts

More Goodies:

  • Siena: Gourmet restaurant with Napa Terroir-influenced menu sourcing the best local, seasonal meats, fish and produce designed by award-winning executive chef to complement area wines
  • Crush Ultra Lounge: Sports themed entertainment space and bar with six luxury bowling lanes, a pool table, shuffle board, fireplace and dining
  • Blend: Café and bistro with gourmet coffees, à la carte breakfast and lunch offerings, pastries, gelato, retail with indoor and al fresco seating
  • Lobby Bar: Featuring some of Napa’s finest wines by the glass, unique cocktails and appetizers
  • Spa Terra: A unique underground luxury spa experience situated in the Estate Cave, Spa Terra offers a variety of treatments in 12 treatment rooms and features tranquil walls of water, whirlpools, steam grottos and a relaxation lounge to unwind and rejuvenate
  • Trinitas Cellars Tasting Room: Enjoy wine tasting in the Estate Cave with Trinitas Cellars’ award winning wines. Tastings include latest releases and multiple varietals. Wine-centric gifts and mementoes are also available in the tasting room or sign up for the Trinitas Wine Society
  • Two swimming pools and three hot tubs, with cabanas, fountains and outdoor fire places for mingling and enjoying beautiful Napa weather
  • Recreational amenities include a new 1,650 square foot fitness studio, bocce ball court, croquet lawn and hiking trails through the nine acres of hillside vineyards
  • Business center, high-speed wireless Internet access throughout public spaces, meeting rooms, full service AV, presentation and production management, conference and banquet rooms, concierge
  • Evening 28-passenger shuttle delivers guests to Downtown Napa’s restaurants, tasting rooms and theaters and the Napa Outlets
  • 525 parking spaces including some designated for hybrid vehicles and a Level II electric vehicle charging station
When it was time to leave The Meritage Resort and Spa, I almost cried. Being in the Napa Valley always makes me feel so happy and rejuvenated. I enjoy staying at The Meritage because it is only a little over an hour away from my home. So, if you’re in Sacramento like me, it’s a perfect little getaway. Stay tuned for more posts from that weekend, including a piece on Nichelini Winery and Falcor Winery. Two labels who make great wines, but have completely different histories.
You can find the Meritage on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

Napa Day Two Continued: Frank Family Vineyards

Frank Family Vineyards (first constructed as Larkmead Winery in 1884) was not really on my planned list of wineries, but they happen to make one of my favorite wines (2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay). During our tasting at Duckhorn, we found out that we were minutes away from Frank Family–and we had some extra time before heading back to dinner at Hurley’s–so we decided to stop in.

Once we were ushered into one of their tasting rooms, I saw this really cool tapestry on the wall of all the area appellations. I wish I had one in my house!

We chose the premium wine tasting for $30, and it began with a 2010 Carneros Napa Valley Chardonnay ($32.50/btl) This is hands down one of my favorite wines. It’s a perfect balance of fruit and oak. It’s my old standby on a menu if I want to just go with something I really like.

Here’s my BF and our host, Rick. He was very knowledgeable and guided us through the tasting. Also on our list was a 2009 Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir, a 2009 Napa Valley Zinfandel, and a 2008 Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

I am a huge fan of social media, and when I arrived at Frank Family I “checked in” on both Facebook and Foursquare. Then I got a message from one of my twitter friends, David Cole (who also happens to make great wine). He told me to ask our host if we could taste the Winston Hill (it was a wine for sale on our list but not for a regular tasting). The Winston Hill is a Cabernet blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvginon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot. Rick kindly allowed my request and brought out the bottle. It was a nice treat because a bottle of this wine is $150.00 (yes, per bottle, and you have to be a wine club member to get it).

The BF bought some wine at Frank Family as well and just last week we opened the second bottle of some Chardonnay he bought. We had it with some fish he made (excellent, by the way) and some rainbow chard sauté and roasted eggplant dip that I made. Most of the produce I used to prepare dinner came from my It’s Organic Delivery box.

And I end this post where I began. With a taste of the Frank Family Chardonnay. Cheers!

You can find Frank Family on Facebook here and follow them on twitter here. For more information on the winery, you can call them at (707) 942-0859 or visit their website here.

Napa Trip Day Two: Hurley’s Restaurant in Yountville

The next chapter in our Napa trip was a stop at Hurley’s Restaurant. To give you an idea of what Hurley’s looks like during the day I have posted the picture above. It’s the ivy covered building you can see from Highway 29 on the right just before the Yountville exit. If you love food that was made to pair with wine and a wine list that was selected around the food, I recommend taking the Yountville exit and getting a table. (Note: Reservations are highly recommended.)
Here’s a picture of the front of the restaurant at night, right before we went inside. Yountville of course has a great reputation for fine dining, and Hurley’s Restaurant is no exception. The restaurant was opened in November 2002, by head chef Bob Hurley. Before opening Hurley’s, Chef Hurley had previously served as a chef Domaine Chandon and then later as head chef at Napa Valley Grille. If there is any particular focus on a cuisine, I would say it is Mediterranean inspired with a focus of seasonal and local use of ingredients. 
Pop quiz: What do you do when you are at dinner and one of you wants white wine and the other wants red? Well, you either get 2 bottles of wine, or you pick a fantastic compromise: ZD Pinot Noir. If you prefer white wine and want to branch out, this is a great wine to try. I am partial to Chardonnays, especially in Napa, but the BF wanted to drink red for our meal because of what he planned to order. We get into this pickle often, but this time I let him choose because I chose the wine the night before. 😉 It turned out to be a great payoff.
Now I am going to tell you about the best appetizer I have ever eaten. It was from the special Wild Game menu that Chef Hurley devises a few times a year. I will never forget this dish because it was so clever and because of how much flavor was packed into it. It was a pancetta wrapped quail brochette, and here’s a photo of it that does not do it justice at all. 
I will be replicating this dish at home for sure!

Next, I ordered this shrimp salad, and it didn’t even need dressing. The shrimp were plump and fresh delicately tucked into the crisp lettuce. It might have been 100 calories at most and so I splurged a little on my appetizer and main entrée (which you will see below).

One thing I really like about Hurley’s is that they have a regular menu and a menu that is completely gluten-free. These menus are a step that all restaurants should take, because so many people are gluten sensitive, or are like me and choose not to eat gluten or grains at all for vanity reasons. 😉

The BF ordered the wild boar ribs with sweet potato fries and coleslaw. The meat was cooked perfectly and it was very tender. More importantly, it was not overly sauced and the flavor of the meat really stood out!

And instead of an entrée, I opted for a cheese plate. I especially loved the hard cheeses in this ensemble, which included a smoked gouda (I liked best) and some almonds with truffled honey. 

The staff, hard at work. 
Dining area shot from my table in the corner. By the way, there’s a stone fireplace in the room that makes for a very romantic setting!

What are you doing NewYears Eve? Hurley’s is celebrating with a special four course prix fixe celebration dinner.

The menu is located here and it looks pretty amazing… 🙂

The dinner is $85 per person and each guest will receive a complimentary glass of Domaine Chandon, Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine.

For a link to other events on Hurley’s calendar (including a Robert Burns dinner on January 25th–how cool is that?!), click here.

You can find Hurley’s on Facebook here.

Napa Trip Day Two: Napa Valley Marriott: Wowed by the Transformation!

After wine tasting in the Silverado area at Duckhorn and Frank Family, my BF and I headed back towards true Napa Valley to check into the Napa Valley Marriott.
It had been a few years since my last stay there. Since then, the hotel has undergone a $7 million facelift that was completed in April of this year. I was completely happy with my stay last time, so when I walked into the hotel, I was shocked at the transformation from quaint and comfortable to modern and fabulous!

The remodel project was completed in two phases over 15 months. At the end of it all, 275 rooms, the spa, meeting space, fitness center and the hotel lobby were redone.

Here’s a little rundown of the many new and updated features of the Napa Valley Marriott:

• a heated outdoor pool and whirlpool

• a fitness center

• 275 guest rooms, featuring Marriott’s Revive bedding

• VINeleven Restaurant and Bar

• 20,000 square feet of event space

• a complimentary daily wine and cheese tasting

What I can’t get over is that it was such a nice place to stay before the remodel (not to mention now), and so what I can honestly say is this: For the ambiance of the hotel and the quality of the room versus the price (rates begin at about $159 per night), it’s the best hotel deal Napa Valley has to offer. Also, here’s a list of their current package deals, combining a stay at the Napa Valley Marriott with such activities as the Napa Valley Wine Train, a golf outing, or a hot air balloon adventure.

For more photos of the property please check out their photo gallery here.

Here’s a picture of the new dining area (VINeleven Restaurant and Bar). We were on our way to dinner at Hurley’s (post to come) when I took this shot of one of the handsome bar tables (there are three or four large ones in the room.)

I was not aware the Napa Valley Marriott had the updated restaurant with such a desirable menu (hello Artisanal Cheese Plate!!), or I would have considered eating dinner right in the hotel that night! Extra tip: My buddy Rick Bakas recommends the chickpea fries. I guess they really are “Crazy Good” as the menu states.

In the morning if you wish, you can enjoy breakfast (served buffet style) on the patio. The set up is completely gorgeous and the food looked fantastic.

Who goes to Napa to workout? I DO, OK?! 😉 Here’s a photo of the gym (located right next door to the hotel), equipped with treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, and free weights. There’s also a little towel refrigerator which was a nice added touch.

Below is a picture of the room we stayed in. The patio door opens up to a little seating area outside. We had coffee outside the next day and listened to all the activity on the patio during breakfast. 🙂

In front of the full length closet mirror (an amenity I appreciate),
before heading to dinner at Hurley’s in Yountville.

There’s a great laid back and positive vibe going on in the lobby both in the morning and at night. I witnessed the staff and how they are happy to be there in their behavior towards other guests (not just me). In turn, the guests all seemed to be enjoying themselves and their surroundings.

During the evening, there is a complimentary daily wine and cheese tasting, featuring various area wineries.

Here’s a picture of their outdoor patio and firepit. It was a little chilly that evening, but I can only imagine the fun outside once things heat up!

Speaking of fun, what are you doing New Years Eve? I want to let you know about the party Napa Valley Marriott is throwing on December 31st:

Ring in the New Year in the Napa Valley! This year the Napa Valley Marriott is taking you back in time to an era of afros and bellbottoms. Event includes: Live Disco Music from San Francisco Band


Hosted Hors d’oeurves stations from Executive Chef Brian Whitmer: Action stations to include prepared-to-order VINeleven’s specialties:
Chicken-Cashew Lettuce Cups, Porcini Ravioli, Crispy Fried Asparagus with Meyer Lemon Aioli and much more. Local oysters opened to order. 
Starbucks ‘Viennese-style Coffee Bar with Biscotti and Freshly Baked Pastries
Balloon Drop at Midnight
Party favors
Midnight Toast sponsored by Domaine Chandon
Disco attire suggested and awards for Best Dressed Male and Female
Photo booth on-hand with free, unlimited photo prints of you and your friends
2012 Fortune Teller
Raffle and Silent Auction to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Napa Valley featuring hotel stays, spa treatments, trips, wine and more!
Tickets to the party are $75.00 per person + taxes/fees. You can click here to order!

Or if you are interested in staying overnight, the NVM has a package that includes all of the above plus:
Overnight accommodations for 2
2 tickets to the Napa Boogie Bash
A New Year’s Day Recovery Breakfast for 2: featuring our “KC Barbecue Bloody Mary’s”, Breakfast Chorizo Burger “Sliders” and big screen football games
Late check out of 1pm on Sunday, January 1st

$299.00 + tax per couple.

You can click here to purchase the package.

You can find the Napa Valley Marriott on Facebook here, and follow them on twitter here.

Morning view from our patio. Thank you, Napa Valley Marriott. 🙂

Napa Day Two: Duckhorn Vineyards. I WILL drink Merlot!

Back to Napa, or more specifically, the Silverado Trail and a winery called Duckhorn Vineyards. They specialize in guess what? Bordeaux varietals! My favorite. Sometimes I like to just be safe with wine and choose the ones I know I am already going to like love.

This particular winery was founded in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn and since 2007, Bill Nancarrow has been the executive winemaker.

In the early 1990s, Duckhorn purchased vineyard properties in certain Napa Valley areas so they could consistently obtain at least 70 percent of their grapes from the land they bought. The Napa Valley Estate Vineyard portfolio is now comprised of seven different properties, and the grapes that emerge from them are wonderfully different as a result of variations of viticultural factors such as soil, microclimate, and slight elevation changes.

Marlee’s Vineyard was the first estate planted by Duckhorn in 1976 and is the home vineyard. The others are Patzimaro Vineyard (15 acres), Monitor Ledge Vineyard (43 acres), Rector Creek (39 acres), Candlestick Ridge (28 acres), Stout (36 acres), and Cork Tree (20 acres).

Duckhorn produces other labels which include Paraduxx, Goldeneye, Migration, and Decoy. Each of these have developed their own branding and identity, though they are clearly within the Duckhorn family.

When you visit, you can schedule ahead of time online, and choose your own adventure with a Limited Tasting or a Portfolio Tasting. There’s also a Tour and Tasting and a Food for Thought tasting available here.

We started our tour of the Duckhorn portfolio in the lobby with a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (75% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Sémillon). Then we were led to a heated outdoor patio with a view of the backyard and all the colors of fall as you can see below:

Not a bad place to sit while drinking some of the best 
wine in the country with a handsome guy. 🙂
Next we tasted the 2008 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot (86% Merlot, 9.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc). Our host for the tasting was the very knowledgeable Jim Shook.

Next it was this little show-stealer, the 2008 Three Palms Merlot (93% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon 2% Petit Verdot). It’s quite possibly one of the best merlots I have ever tried. If you can get your hands on some of it, do it. Here’s the link to buy it.

Paraduxx has always been a favorite wine of mine, and was also one of the wines we were able to try. This wine is made by David Marchesi, and comprised of 68% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Each vintage, Paraduxx features a label with a different artist’s signature medium and style interpreted through a pair of ducks. The 2008 label was an acrylic painting done by Tiburon artist Barbara Banthien.
Tasting three different Cabs… 🙂

We walked away with the 2005 Three Palms Merlot and the 2008 Three Palms Merlot as well as the 2008 Merlot, a 2008 Cabernet and a 2007 Paraduxx.

The BF says the Duckhorn Three Palms is “hands down, the best Merlot I’ve ever tasted”. Hmmm, high praise from someone who has been drinking wine for over four times longer than I have. Well played, Duckhorn, well played. 😉

You can visit Duckhorn Vineyards from Monday–Sunday from 10:00am-5:00pm. They have a Facebook page here and you can follow them on twitter here. For more information, you can also call the winery at (707) 963-7108.

Napa Valley Destination: The Meritage Resort and Spa and Siena Restaurant

We were in a great mood after our visit to Domaine Carneros (I am in a great mood right NOW just thinking and writing about it), and according to the itinerary I had carefully planned out a few weeks earlier, it was time to check into our first of two hotels during the trip, The Meritage Resort and Spa.
As I walked in, I was welcomed by a grand fireplace and then by the attendant at the front desk.
The lobby is majestic with gorgeous interior design, and the colors are reflective
of the Napa Valley region at harvest time.

The elegant guestrooms feature oversized terraces, granite counters, plasma TVs, tile floors, Internet access, and refrigerators. I am a huge fan of refrigerators in my room, because I like to have fresh fruit and vegetables on hand at all times. 🙂

The Meritage also has an Estate Wine Cave containing Spa Terra (a full service luxury spa), and the Trinitas Tasting Room, where you can sample Trinitas Cellars’ latest releases by the glass or purchase a bottle to enjoy in your room.
There is also a private wedding chapel, Our Lady of the Grapes, onsite at the Meritage. This wood-beamed ceiling chapel is one of the only ones of its kind in Napa Valley.
Our room overlooked the patio had a grand view of the heated pool, fire pit, and bocce ball court.
After we settled into our room, we headed down to Siena Restaurant for
dinner on the first floor of the resort.
BTW, currently if you check in at Siena on Foursquare,

you’ll receive a complimentary glass of Prosecco!

We looked over the wine list and after some deliberation, chose the Trinitas Chardonnay.
The BF and I usually share a bottle with dinner, and he almost always tries to accommodate my love for white wine. Especially Chardonnay. What a guy! 😉
Oh, so a little about the wine. I was a little hesitant to order it and was going to go with something on the list that was tried and true, but our server kindly let me try the Trinitas and won me over. It leans towards the buttery/oaky side of chardonnays, but it has a nice fruit balance. The grapes are from the Carneros region (as explored a little earlier in the day).
Here’s the bread presentation, so pretty, but I passed on it of course! 😉
I ordered the Mustard Crusted Ahi Tuna served with Roasted Cauliflower,
Crab and Fava Bean Salad, Green Olive Pesto. I am very particular about keeping my meals completely gluten and grain free, and I was assured there was no flour or corn in the crust. Awesome.
The BF ordered the Seared Sea Bass and Sautéed Rock Shrimp with Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Broccoli Rabe and Cherry Tomatoes, and a Lobster-Curry-Coconut Sauce.
The manager heard about my fondness for cheese (the only non-Paleo thing I eat) and so this was my dinner/dessert combo. There was a dill variety of cheese in there that was my favorite. The plate also had Humboldt Fog, Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Brie as well as some quince paste and grapes. It was a perfect end to a great meal.

After dinner, we headed to the hot tub for a while, followed by spending some time near the firepit. Here’s the picture I took from there, looking back up to the room.

OK Room 225, time to rest up for another day of magic in Napa Valley. 🙂

If you are considering a trip to The Meritage, check out their events for New Years Eve and through the holidays. You can find The Meritage Resort and Spa on Facebook here or follow them on twitter here for exclusive deals and contests.

The Tour at Domaine Carneros

After our stop at Whitehall Lane, we were off to Domaine Carneros. The tasting room and production facility is located in an enormous château modeled after the Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France.

In the late 1970’s, Claude Taittinger, the president of Champagne Taittinger, wanted to find a site to produce wines in America in the same style as his winery in Champagne, France. The search for land was on, and in 1987 Champagne Taittinger (led by Claude Taittinger), along with partner Kobrand Corporation, selected a 138 acre land parcel in Carneros to form Domaine Carneros. For a little more (and pretty interesting family background), you can go here and read about the Taittingers.

Since Domaine Carneros was founded, the lead winemaker has been Eileen Crane (selected by Claude Taittinger), and she is still in charge of operations and overseeing the winemaking and exactly when the wines are ready to be bottled.

Domaine Carneros is known for their remarkable sparkling wines, especially their Brut Vintage and ultra-bubbly cuvée Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.

In the winery’s beginning, they sold their Pinot Noir fruit to other area wine makers for many years. Since the wines being produced from these grapes were top-notch, by 1992, Domaine Carneros decided to begin making their own Pinot Noir.

All of the Domaine Carneros wines are from the Carneros Appellation, and 95% of the grapes are estate grown. All of Domaine Carneros estate vineyards have been has been certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers organization since April 2008.

We opted to take the “Art of Sparkling Wine” Tour (which is $25 per person plus tax) and offered daily at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. This is the winery’s signature tour and demystifies the creation of sparkling wine in the traditional method. The tour took us from the vines and then into the Chateau, while we were poured three different sparkling wines, and given a background on each. 

As I mentioned, the tour begins in the vineyard. Our knowledgeable tour guide was Al. He knows pretty much everything there is to know about Domaine Carneros, but that’s because it’s not his first day on the job. Al has been with the company numerous years.

We all gathered in the first room for a tasting of their Brut Cuvée Sparkling Wine.
The Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay and vintage dated each year. All of the grapes are Carneros, and the wine is aged in the bottle for three years before release. 

These cages are used to gradually get the yeast down into the neck of the bottle so that it can be removed. This process is called riddling. This used to be done manually, by rotating the bottles on a riddler like the one pictured below.
The second sparkling wine we tried was the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs.
The term Le Rêve translates to “the dream” in English.
This cuvee was was fashioned from Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, and it is a white wine made from white grapes, also known as a Blanc de Blancs.
The Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs is generally 100% Chardonnay and is aged 6 years prior to release. We were amazed at the amount of bubbles in one glass! It was magnificent on the palette.
Here’s another shot of the production line.

The last sparkling wine we tasted (not pictured) is my favorite: the The Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour.  It has so many favorable qualities: elegant, crisp, festive, and the antique pink color!

It was made to celebrate Madame de Pompadour (the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV) who first introduced sparkling wine to the court at Versailles, and who is quoted as saying, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”

This Rosé is a balance of 58% pinot noir and 42% chardonnay. Domaine Carneros obtains their Rosé’s color and flavor using two methods: first, by allowing part of the pinot juice to spend several days in contact with the grape skins. (This is how many other non-sparkling rosés are made.) Secondly, a small amount of pinot noir is added back to adjust color and flavor.

Although it is pink in color, this Brut Rosé is not sweet. It pairs very nicely with salmon, duck, brunch foods like quiche, brie en croute, and even fresh berries.

At the end of the tour, we were introduced to Domaine Carneros’ portfolio of red wines. I liked them, too, but I was really there for the bubbly. I think it’s my favorite because it’s so festive. Now, my BF likes the Domaine Carneros the Pinots even better than the sparkling wines, and so a hefty purchase was made. One good thing about the tour is that you get 15% off per case when you buy.
The view from the stairs right after our tour.

We were strays from the tour and Al even helped us load up the car. I was trying to get him to sing (to no avail), which he told us he is banned from doing while working. 😉

If you visit Domaine Carneros, the main château and terrace are open from 10:00am to 6:00pm daily.  The last service of the day is at 5:45 p.m. If you do a tour, call ahead of time and make a reservation. I know it is hard to do when you are in Napa and sticking to a schedule is the last thing you’d probably want to do, but this tour is really worth it!

Their facebook page is located here, and you can follow them on twitter here.

And so it was off to The Meritage and dinner at Siena!

Napa Trip Day One, Part One: Whitehall Lane

If it seems like I have a love thing with Napa Valley, you’re right. You’ve seen several posts by now about my visits there and know my specific fondness for downtown Napa. Actually, that’s why I moved to Sacramento instead of any other city in California. Because of the close proximity to Napa Valley and several other wine regions within driving distance.

Last weekend, I returned to Napa, and this time got to share my trip with someone very special. 🙂

Our first stop was Whitehall Lane. Whitehall Lane is a small, family owned winery in the heart of Napa Valley. The Leonardi Family of St. Helena owns the winery and six strategic vineyards that form the foundation for their award winning wines.

Picture of the Whitehall Lane tasting room’s unique and beautiful facade.

Our kind host was a gentleman named Frederik Soegaard. He guided us through a tasting of several wines from their portfolio.

I have to give props to Whitehall Lane. The first reason is because they had my favorite band, Train, playing on their sound system in the tasting room. Before I had even a sip of wine, I felt like I was in heaven. They had great tunes playing and I had my biggest crush in the world standing next to me. 🙂

We began our tasting with the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley (Blend of 91% Sauvignon Blanc and 9% Semillon). I am a huge lover of sauvignon blanc and this is my prosciutto and melon wine all the way.

Their 2009 Chardonnay is big and buttery. I would say the word butterscotch is a good descriptor–although it is not sweet. I actually like both styles of chardonnay that are being done right now. The butter and oak bombs, and the cleaner stainless variety. It really all just depends on what I am eating or what kind of mood I am in.

The next highlight of our tasting was the 2007 Merlot, Napa Valley, a blend of 81% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Syrah. The 2007 grapes came from five separate Merlot vineyards, two Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and one Syrah vineyard. The wine was aged in a combination of French and American oak barrels for approximately 17 months. Did you know that Merlot comes from the French word for “young blackbird”? Merlot has been given a pretty bad rap lately, but take a sip of this one, and you’ll forget all about that…. movie...

Mr. Soegaard also allowed us to taste three or four different cabernets, but my favorites were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Merlot. 
We wrapped up our tasting soon after that, but before we left, we were honored to meet the Director of Events at Whitehall Lane, Katie Leonardini (daughter of the proprietor). Special thanks to Doug FitzGibbon for coordinating our visit.

Whitehall Lane’s facebook page is located here and you can follow them on twitter here. Text napawine to 55411 for tasting discounts.

Next, we were off to Domaine Carneros in the Citroën… 🙂