Posts Tagged ‘Napa’

Day 3 Tahoe Food and Wine Report via Sonoma and Napa

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Courtesy of Mark Johnson who recently toured Sonoma, Napa and Lake Tahoe with his wife Kathie for a food and wine vacation.

Here’s Day 3 for your reading enjoyment :-)


We packed up early and hit the road to Tahoe, but of course we had to do a brief detour to Napa along the way. The Sonoma area fog gave way to a beautiful, blue sky morning in Napa Valley. We stopped first at the Mondavi’s new project called Folio . They were pouring several of their brands (Oberon, Spellbound, Medusa, Emblem) ranging in price form $20 -$70. They were just OK — at best. Not worth the stop. Next we went to Robert Biale Now we’re talking! We had 4 great Zins, a big Syrah and a fantastic extended barrel age Petite Sirah. They do it right. A short hop away we stopped at Darioush so we could nibble on their imported Persian pistachios while tasting. What a beautiful tasting room and an extremely profession tasting staff. We tried the 2007 Chardonnay (very good), the 2008 Viognier (tasty but too sweet for us), a 2006 Merlot (not bad), and the 2006 Cabernet (excellent). After a bit of schmoozing I got him to open the 2006 Cabernet Franc (very nice). So we bought some wine and pistachios to go. Great stuff, plus he waived the $25 tasting fee. We decided it was then time to finish on a high note and hit the long road to Tahoe.

Dinner tonight was at Kalani’s, a Pacific rim/Asian fusion restaurant. We have had some great meals here and some disappointing ones. Tonight fell flat. Other than a tasty appetizer of tempura crusted ahi bits with a teriyaki and eel sauce, all other items were uninspired, not even worth writing about. Thank God we brought a great wine, the 2006 Ramey “Ritchie” Chardonnay Big, viscous, buttery and like the Benovia, enough acid to keep it all in balance.

Check out day 4 tomorrow!

Day 2 Sonoma Food and Wine Report

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

This Sonoma Food & Wine Report is courtesy of my dear friend Mark Johnson, who took is lovely wife, Kathie Johnson on a food and wine vacation through Sonoma and Lake Tahoe.  Following is Mark’s review of the restaurants and wines they sampled on Day 2…


The next morning we went back to Carneros Bistro for breakfast. Great coffee! They are really into the Locavore thing so most of the meats and produce are sourced locally. The house-made pico de gallo was great as was the thick cut bacon. The local sausage though was very blah. Fortified, we headed off to our first wine tasting appointment at Sojourn, just off the square in Sonoma. It’s a nice set up, you sit down at a table in a small living room and they poured 4 different 2008 Pinots and 3 Cabernets. 3 of the pinots were excellent, but we liked only one of the Cabs. Still, much better odds than most wineries. Definitely visit if you get the chance.

Our next appointment was with Kamen, a very small producer of premium Cabernet and Syrah. This turned out to be a great tasting! At first he said we could open one wine and perhaps barrel taste one. However, after a bit of chatting while sipping their 2006 Cabernet ($75 and it will beat most Napa Cabs at twice the price) he also opened their very small production Syrah (80 cases, $70) and it was fantastic. We also tasted multiple barrel samples of future Cabs, Cab cuvees, and Syrah.

All other tastings were downhill from there:

Tin Barn boring

Anaba OK, but simple and basic

Schug watery and just bad

Charles Creek forgettable

Roessler surprisingly blah – and expensive

Eric James yuuuuk!

So we stopped tasting and did a bit of shopping. Just off the Square I came across this tiny food shop, maybe 200 square feet, called La Bodega It is an unusual little spot but the proprietor Rick Vargas is absolutely passionate about freshly foraged wild mushrooms and hand-made ravioli. We discussed for a while his different ravioli options, mail-order shipping, etc. As we were getting ready to leave he asked if we could stay a just moment and he would make us each a special ravioli. A few minutes later he presented us with a personally made wild mushroom (Black trumpet) ravioli drizzled with imported olive oil. It was sublime. I will definitely be contacting Rick in preparation for my next dinner party.

Finally we went back to our cozy cottage to relax, and I made Margaritas to “facilitate” the moment. Using blanco Tequila, fresh squeezed Meyer lemons (instead of lime juice), agave syrup, and a hint of Tuaca I made perhaps my best ever Margarita – perfecto!

We had reservations that night at Meritage Restaurant, in Sonoma, but over the cocktails we kept reminiscing about our great meal the night before, so we cancelled Meritage and booked a table back at Carneros Bistro — and once again we were not disappointed. First we opened a bottle of Ramey 2006 “Annum” Cabernet . This is their “best barrels” blend, and it is very good. Big, robust, and marvelous complexity. As for appetizers we succumbed to the siren call of the seductive crab dip again (YUM), and we tried something new: risotto fritters with a panko crust and truffle aioli. It was pretty good, but overall not that exciting.

Food service tonight from our friendly waitress was lightning speed compared to the previous evening and our entrees arrived quickly. Kathie had Sonoma duck confit & housemade duck sausage cassoulet. It was outstanding! Crispy skin duck, savory sausage, and tender beans all covered in a porcini and breadcrumb crust. I had the evenings special: a kobe/wagyu beef filet and a braised boneless short rib. The short rib was falling apart and had a red wine or port sauce (?), it was very good. The kobe was not as tender as I had expected, but it was quite flavorful, especially when dipped in the savory dark amber French onion “soup” mousse that came with the dish. We returned to our cottage quite sated.

Napa 8/23/08

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Day 2 of wine trip excursion.  We left Sac early Sat morning to meet Laura and Diane at White Oak in Healdsburg.  It was a nice drive through the wine country and there are quite a few smaller wineries in the area.  They gave us a tour of the facilities and had a very nice tasting room.  The wines were good.  Nothing to brag home about.  They had an essence bar where you could smell the oils that you should be picking up in the wine.  But we didn’t buy anything.  Laura and Diane left for Yountville Inn to relax and we headed back to Taylor’s for some food.  Everyone should go to Taylor’s.

After lunch we stopped at Prager’s Portworks.  This is definitely somewhere to stop if you like desert wines.  For $10 we got 5 tastings of 1 Petite Syrah and 4 ports.  The Petite Syrah was good.  Had that port smell to it but we were excited to get on to the port.  Michele liked the next one which was from Portugese decent (Tomas something).  Michele’s notes: smooth and chocolate. wasn’t too sweet, refreshing, nice color and tones.  We had a 2nd red port and a white port but the final port was a white port called the Aria.  Michele says it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.  The golden ticket.  It’s that good.  We walked away with 3 bottles at $52 a pop.  Rare white chardonnay port that had a strong hazelnut flavor.  It was just like eating a chocolate covered hazelnut.  So good.  Definitely a stop for those wanting something different.  Also, the tasting room is covered by $1 bills that visitors leave and sign.  Michele:  “I’ve never experienced a flavor that changes in my mouth. It’s like multi-faceted wine that changes in your mouth and tastes like a heath bar.”

Next stop Cakebread.  Well we stopped at Peju first but just to pick up some Sauv Blanc for Susie.  We’ve stopped at Peju everytime we visit Napa so we passed on the tasting but it’s a favorite place.  Nice grounds and tasting rooms.  Cakebread.  We didn’t have an appt but that didn’t stop the Tompkins sisters.  Parking attendant:  “Do you have an appt?” Beth “Yes, under Tompkins, T-O-M-P”.  Attendant:  “What time was it for?” Beth: quickly looking at the clock-2:51pm “3pm”.  Attendant:  “Ok drive around and they’ll direct you in the back.”  Hmmm ok that worked.  Now they have to actually check in to the appt.  Beth waits at the counter.  Same story “T-O-M-P-K-I-N-S”.  “What time?”  “3pm… why are we late, because we’re usually late…”  “Another group that is lost in the computer.  Let me talk to my manager we can probably squeeze you in”.  So we get to get the Cakebread treatment.  $10 gets you 5-6 tastings.  William was our guide.  Very knowledgeable and energetic.  Walked us through the rooms where they process the wine and then to a large table where we sat with another family and did our tastings.  A Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay and reserve Chardonnay.  The reserve was pretty good.  William described it as a “butter bomb” which is what it tasted like.  Michele liked it but I think she just likes to say “butter bomb”.  Then we did the Merlot, Cab Sauv and Syrah.  All were enjoyable.  They Syrah was the best in my opinion.  Pretty smooth and flavorful.  We didn’t linger long as we were meeting Laura and Diane at Rubicon at 4pm.

Rubicon is a beautiful estate.  We did our tasting in the backroom. Started off with the only white they were serving Blancaneux.  It was excellent.  50% Rousanne, 32% Marsanne and the rest Viognier.  A really nice light blend.  Then we had the Merlot.  While it was good we decided of the 4 we got to try it was the least favorite.  Following the Merlot was the 2005 CASK Cabernet.  This was my favorite.  Very smooth with a bold flavor.  They followed that up with the 2005 Rubicon which is a blend.  This was most everyone’s favorite.  I just didn’t prefer the finish.  Kind of dry.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d drink it if someone put it in front of me I’d just pick the Cask over the Rubicon.  They served the red wine with sourdough bread and aged monterey jack cheese.  Pretty nice.  The grounds were beautiful and there is definitely a lot of stuff to look at inside.  I was glad we got to go.

Nap time now.  Tomorrow is CA Family Winemakers event in SF.  we haven’t even come up with a plan of attack for that but I’m sure we will.