Monday, March 21, 2011


I was so excited for last week to end because I was going to Napa for the weekend with a group of close friends.  Unfortunately, our fun little vacation got dumped on the whole time.  Well, Rain, we had an amazing trip regardless of your numerous attempts to drag us down.  Could I have taken more beautiful pictures on our winery tours?  Yeah.  Could my hair have held its curl and not have turned into a soggy mop?  Definitely.  But since we were there to wine and dine, the rain became only a minor hindrance.
View from the plane = sad face
Highlights from our trip:

The tour here was super impressive and the only winery I’ve toured thus far that makes their wine using the gravity-flow method. We were told that not once, in the complete winemaking process at Palmaz Vineyards, does the wine come in contact with a pump.  It's this extraordinarily gentle handling that gives Palmaz wines their unique “handmade” quality and rare elegance. The height of the wine cave (where they make their wine) is 18 stories high, providing the vertical range needed for true gravity-flow winemaking.  Thus, the wine is never subjected to the violent agitation of pumping, which can change the wine’s intra-molecular structure.  This gentle treatment allows the finest nuances of flavor to develop naturally.  The result is a complex, elegant wine.  This process is very labor intensive as well as time consuming, but offers many advantages over the crush and pump method, which almost all large commercial wineries use.

The fermentation dome is the world’s largest underground reinforced structure. It is 72’ in diameter and 54’ high (this picture doesn't do it any justice). Temperature stays constant at 60 degrees and humidity at 75%, the perfect atmosphere for aging wine.  These fermentation tanks rotate on a custom-designed carousel.
All of the wines at Palmaz were so delicious, everyone bought at least a case.  My favorite was their 2008 Louise Riesling.  

And the plate of hors d'oeuvres went sooooooo well with the wine.

Another highlight:

Many of you have seen Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello, on the Food Network.
He has his own cookbook, to add to his long list of impressive accomplishments. 
When I googled him, I learned that he also hosts NapaStyle on the Fine Living Network, owns a winery, Chiarello Family Vineyards, owns Bottega Ristorante in Napa Valley, and NapaStyle, a purveyor of food, cookware, and furniture.  That’s it, you ask?!

We were able to get a reservation at Bottega, so we had lunch here...and were so glad we did.

Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, CA
 I’ll just say that every single dish we ordered was prepared to perfection, encompassing the heartiness of rustic Italian cuisine, but also adding sexiness and flare to each dish.  Whether it was:
Green Eggs and Ham - Olive oil poached Delta asparagus, crispy soft-boiled eggs, prosciutto bits and Cambozola crema
Fluffy cloud-like Ricotta Gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro della Nonna, pecorino

Bruschetta Trio
forno roasted pepperonata
California asparagus, salsa rossa & pecorino
carrot & eggplant caponata with goat cheese

Wood Grilled Octopus - Olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion & salsa verde
Shaved Artichoke Salad Two Ways - lemon olive oil braised and roman fried, shaved parmigiano reggiano

Grilled "angry" Gulf Prawns, crispy garlic, basil, orange & Calabrian chili dressing & heirloom Toscanelli white beans

Red Wheat Linguine Bolognese - veal, pork & porcini mushroom sugo, rosemary, parmigiano reggiano

Black Pepper Bucatini alla Carbonara with soft cooked local duck egg, parmigiano crema, shaved asparagus and guanciale

Adriatic Seafood Brodetto - monkfish, mussels, rock cod & fresh Monterey calamari, forno-confit tomato broth, olive oil crouton, paprika-saffron rouille

The different textures and marriage of flavors we experienced in every bite made it easy to ignore our bus driver when he came to let us know we were already an hour late to our next winery tour.  The tour could wait.

The only hiccup on our trip, apart from the stupid rain; The far from pleasant woman (the director of wine tours, surprisingly) at Quintessa Vineyards that greeted us with a “You’re 2 hours late!  We closed an hour ago! You’re going to be charged as a no show!”  made me never ever want to buy or drink a bottle of their wine.  If you’re in the hospitality industry, good God, don’t be a Bitter Betty!  I feel it is my duty to make sure everyone knows about our wonderful experience, so they are either A.) on time to their scheduled tour of Quintessa Vineyards, or B.) sure to book a tour elsewhere. 

Dessert highlight of the trip:
Blueberry Cheesecake at Press Restaurant was probably one of the top 3 cheesecakes I’ve ever had.  Sorry Cheesecake Factory, you don’t make the cut!
And the last great spot I wanted to share was the pit stop we made at the Oakville Grocery Store en route to the airport. 
It had such old fashioned charm.

They had the most delicious sandwiches, deli meats, cheeses and prepared salads.  Not to mention an impressive inventory of local wines, as well as imported.  They also sold plates that had a built in wine glass holder.  Genius for cocktail parties!

On my next trip to Napa, I definitely want to stop for lunch at Ad Hoc since Thomas Keller is one of my idols.  And I want to thank everyone on the trip for making it the best time ever!!!


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