Anniversary Dinner ~ Wine Country Style

For our anniversary dinner, we hoped to get a table at a well-known restaurant in the area, however due to our lazy day driving, we got back late to secure a reservation. Despite missing out on a hot seat at a fancy restaurant, we found Bacchus Restuarant & Wine Bar in Roehert Park. We especially wanted to dine over wine country cuisine and we certainly got a wonderful & romantic meal at Bacchus.

To start, we had a fresh sourdough loaf with olives & an olive oil balsamic vinegar dipping oil.For appetizers, we had fresh dungeness crab cakes with balsamic strawberries & micro watercress…And also seared scallops with a creamy basil cucumber tomato salad.
For entrees, we had a New York strip steak au poivre with a hollandaise sauce over buttered mashed yukon gold potatos and sauteed spinach…
And Moroccan lamb kabobs with a citrus sauce over lemon couscous and sauteed spinach.
For a sweet ending, our waiter presented us with a decadent chocolate fudge cake with raspberry coulis and whipped marscapone.

Here’s to our one year anniversary with many more loving & happy years to follow!

Glen Ellen Goodies!

As we countinued to drive through wine country, we found our way to Glen Ellen, California. It’s a quaint area with lots of hidden gems.

One of these gems include Wine Country Chocolates. Wine Country Chocolates specializes in exquisite wine truffles made with a rich, creamy, wine-infused ganache (not just a generic liquid wine filling). Their wine truffles are hand-dipped and made with only the finest ingredients. They contain no preservatives, waxes, artificial colors or flavors. You can really taste the difference! We were fortunate enough to try their wine truffles featuring the wines of Sonoma & Napa Valleys – Cabernet Sauvignon truffles, Zinfandel truffles, Merlot truffles and Port truffles. Here are some pics of a chocolatier at work: Right next door is a catering company called Olive & Vine. They had a cute cafe so we decided to stay a bit and have lunch there. We ordered…
Roasted bbq pork sandwich with caramelized onions & a shrimp white bean citrus salad:
Southwestern chicken burger with fresh fruit salad:

Sonoma Rise & Shine

As we started the second day of our getaway, we opted for a light breakfast after the late meal we had the night before. So we stumbled upon Sonoma Valley Bagels. Here we got our much needed coffee and a lightly toasted bagel with cream cheese & local Sonoma strawberry preserves. It was absolutely wonderful… the preserves had a freshness about them and the strawberries were quite plump. Californians are so spoiled with such great fruits and vegetables that always accessible!

Mexican Fiesta…Ole!

To finish our food filled first day, we found a late night restaurant with lots of action. Walking in at 11pm, we were greeted with a friendly staff and the fun sounds of a mariachi band. Thank goodness for El Puente, Cocina Mexicana Restaurant & Cantina in Santa Rosa, California. We both wanted to order their most popular dishes and with that, we had their steak fajitas & pork carnitas.

The steak fajitas were grilled to perfection and the homemade house salsa offered just the perfect kick of spice & heat. As you can see, my hubby loved the house salsa!

The pork carnitas were just as I liked them… moist, flavorful with a slight crispness that was tucked away in my soft corn tortilla.

COPIA ~ Mecca for Foodies

COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, is a non-profit discovery center whose mission is to explore, celebrate and share the many pleasures and benefits of wine, its relationship to food and its significance to our culture. Located in the heart of Napa Valley, COPIA is the premier wine country destination—offering visitors exceptional wine and food tasting programs, art exhibitions, organic edible gardens, films, concerts, fine and casual dining, shopping and more!

Whether you’re a home cook or gourmet chef, a wine novice or a connoisseur, a windowsill gardener or a proven green thumb, we invite you to come to COPIA to experience a world of insights and connections to people, learning and ideas.

I loved the exhibits at COPIA and how food, wine and the arts are appreciated together. Food is definitely treated as an art with such high respect. Its much more than just daily sustenance, but rather folks live to eat, rather than eat to live. My trip to the wine country has certainly given me a greater appreciation for food – from how it was cultivated to the effort given for a meal to grace a table. Food is such a wonderful thing.

CIA…’tis only a dream

If you have a passion for food and a craving to learn, you’ve come to the right place. The Culinary Institute of America is the resource for cooking, baking, wine, and entertaining. As the world’s premier culinary college, the CIA offers an unparalleled gastronomic experience for food enthusiasts, including cooking classes at both their New York and California schools, daily campus tours, student-run restaurants, career discovery opportunities, award-winning cookbooks, state-of-the-art training materials, and superbly crafted culinary essentials for the home. The CIA is the ultimate destination for all food-lovers… and after visiting there, I was in awe of all the foodstuff to be learned. We were able to spend a few minutes at their gift shop just in time before it closed. I picked up some great postcards that I will be creating a framed collage with to hang in my kitchen for inspiration.

Here are pics of the large wine barrels that lined the walkway towards the gift shop:

Refreshed By Taylor’s Refresher

After a whole lot of driving, swirling, sipping and smiling, it was time to get some food… and the best place in Napa along Hwy 29 is Taylor’s Refresher. Taylor’s Refresher is an old-fashioned American drive-in with a California twist. Located in St. Helena in the heart of wine country, they sell wine by the glass to sip with their signature burgers and garlic fries.

We decided to order mini corn dogs over their garlic fries (amazing!!), onion rings, a soda & a root beer float:

Picnicking in the Plaza

In Sonoma, the Sonoma Plaza is the focal point of this busy little wine country town. A walk around the Plaza will take visitors to many historic sites and to fabulous shopping and dining. There are plenty of things to do for the entire family. You can shop, dine, taste wine, and explore the historic sights. We decided to have a picnic lunch at the Plaza for a break from the wineries, as well as a chance to visit the local shops & take some pics.

For our picnic lunch, we feasted on: sopressata, asiago cheese, roasted garlic bread, goat cheese & herb chips, fresh fruit salad, cobb salad & kiwi strawberry water. It was a light and fresh lunch, perfect for such a beautiful day in Sonoma!

Let Thy Cup Runneth…

This post is dedicated to all the wineries we were able to visit during our trip to wine country – Sonoma & Napa. There was so much to learn about wine, we could have easily spent a week just absorbing all the information on wine from vine to table. As a result of all the new knowledge I’ve gained from my visits to some wineries, I have been inspired to create a new “Wine & Dine” series to my Chicago Cooking/Baking Club. The new series I’m rolling out will start at the end of June where the focus will be on specific wines & food pairings. Stay tuned to the Chicago Cookers & Bakers events, especially if you are in Chicago! Here are some pics of wineries where we visited, along with specific information on each winery:

Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards

Family owned and operated, Kunde Estate Winery & Vineyards produces ultra-premium, estate-grown and handcrafted wines in the finest traditions of the renowned Sonoma Valley. They currently oversee an operation comprised of their state-of-the-art winemaking facility and 2,000 contiguous acres, of which 700 acres are planted to more than twenty different varieties of wine grapes.

Imagery Estate Winery & Arts

Joe Benziger has been the winemaking artist behind the Imagery Artist Collection Wines since their inception in 1985. Together with original artist/curator Bob Nugent, Joe has taken an idea that married his special wines with the art world’s most renowned contemporary artists and turned that vision into one of the most unique and respected ultra-premium wine collections produced.

Arrowood Vineyards & Winery

The winemaking philosophy at Arrowood is simple: Produce classic varietal wines using grapes exclusively from Sonoma County’s diverse viticultural areas such as Russian River Valley, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys or Sonoma-Carneros. This approach has not changed since the winery was founded in 1986 by Richard Arrowood and his wife and partner, Alis Demers Arrowood. Richard has been making wine for more than four decades. Before founding Arrowood, he was winemaker and the first employee at Chateau St. Jean. There he produced the winery’s first releases: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and a wine that may have very well put Chateau St. Jean on the map – a Select Late Harvest Riesling. Arrowood Winery opened while Richard was still the winemaker at Chateau St. Jean, and for the first three years Alis ran the winery while Richard fulfilled his obligations at Chateau St. Jean. She dragged hoses in the cellar, topped barrels and ran the bottling line. She spent weekends entertaining, giving tours and hosting wine tastings. The first Arrowood wines were released in 1988.

B.R. Cohn Winery

Bruce Cohn, founder and proprietor of B.R. Cohn Winery, has embraced a lifelong passion for Northern California’s wine country and its bounty. An equally strong passion for music led to a parallel career in the music industry as the manager for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s perennially favorite American bands, The Doobie Brothers. His down-to-earth attitude, focus and dedication have made both careers flourishing successes to this day. Since its founding in 1990, the B.R. Cohn Olive Oil Company has greatly contributed to the emergence of California olive oil as a global competitor. One of the first olive oils produced in Sonoma County in nearly a century, B.R. Cohn’s Sonoma Estate Picholine Extra Virgin Olive Oil has ranked consistently as a top California offering, winning numerous local and international awards as well as accolades from the gourmet world. Because the tiny Picholine olives produce an extremely limited amount of oil, the Sonoma Estate olive oil is only available through the tasting room of the B.R. Cohn Winery.

The Valley of the Moon Winery

The Valley of the Moon Winery and Vineyards is distinguished by the marriage of its rich history with a state-of-the-art wine production facility. Embracing the traditions of Sonoma County, one of the world’s most famous wine growing areas, the creation of Valley of the Moon wine begins with hand selecting the absolute highest quality fruit available – from our estate vineyards and those of a few select growers in Sonoma County. Our estate vineyards are planted in the well-drained, rocky, red volcanic soil, characteristic of the southern Sonoma Valley. They enjoy a banana belt-type micro climate, producing traditional varietals which include old-vine Zinfandel, Syrah, and Sangiovese grapes with intense colors and flavors.

Domaine Carneros

The Domaine Carneros château is a landmark of the Carneros region. Completed in 1989, the classic 18th century château-style building was architecturally inspired by the historic Château de la Marquetterie owned by principal founder, Champagne Taittinger. The Pinot Noir Facility sits just behind the main chateau and was styled after a French carriage house. Built in 2003, this state-of-the-art facility houses one of the largest photovoltaic systems on any winery in the world.

Luna Vineyards

Luna Vineyards, long-known as the benchmark producer of Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, is gaining recognition for its exotic white wine blend Freakout, and critically-acclaimed red varietals such as Howell Mountain Merlot, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Clos du Val Wine Company

In 1970, American businessman John Goelet sent French-born winemaker Bernard Portet off with a passport and a mission to find new territory with the potential to produce world-class wines. Two years and five continents later, Portet landed in California. Portet got a sense of Napa Valley’s microclimates by driving through the area with his arm out the car window. Struck by the cool evenings and idyllic terrain of the then-undiscovered Stags Leap District, he proposed the area to Goelet. Convinced, Goelet purchased 150 acres of land and founded Clos Du Val, a “small estate of a small valley,” in 1972. Soon thereafter Clos Du Val became one of the first wineries to stake a claim on some of the finest hillside land in the cool-climate region of Carneros, purchasing 180 acres in 1973.

Stag’s Leap Winery

The Stag’s Leap Winery’s 90-acre vineyard is divided into 23 separate blocks based upon soil types and exposure to the sun (see map below). Within individual blocks, each varietal is matched to the ideal rootstock and trellising system. The primary varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Syrah. Small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Syrah are planted throughout the property to add depth and complexity to the final bottlings.

Cosentino Winery

Mitch Cosentino began making wine in small lots in 1980 in Modesto, California. Ten years later he moved his operation to the Napa Valley. Here, he continues a hands-on, old world approach to winemaking. The use of punched cap fermentation, a labor-intensive, hand-crafted method of winemaking, sets Cosentino apart. Cosentino’s passion for winemaking and respect for traditional methods has resulted in a somewhat untraditional approach. Today, more than 30 ultra-premium, limited production wines are produced with more than 15 varietals.

Robert Mondavi Winery

The Robert Mondavi family believes that great wine is a reflection of its origin. The wines made at the Robert Mondavi Winery express the terroir of the three vineyard properties that comprise the company’s Napa Valley vineyard holdings. The winery is situated on its historic 550-acre to Kalon Vineyard in the Oakville region. The other vineyard is our 400-acre Wappo Hill Vineyard in the Stag’s Leap region which supplies much of our Merlot and the Sauvignon Blanc for our Napa Valley Fume(with accent) Blanc.

Sequoia Grove

Sequoia Grove takes its name from the giant Sequoia trees that dominate our estate on the Rutherford bench in Napa Valley, California. Family-founded in 1980, we quickly gained a reputation for crafting award winning, Bordeaux style wines that emphasize finesse and balance. Today we are still a boutique winery, producing a limited quantity of ultra-premium wines and specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon. Boasting the first underground cellar in the valley our pioneering spirit continues today with our cutting-edge equipment and winemaking process under the leadership of our winemaker, Mike Trujillo.

Cakebread Cellars

The Cakebread family, owners of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford, is among the most creative and successful winery families in California’s famed Napa Valley. Since its founding in 1973, the winery has developed a reputation for producing world-class wines. Its success is built on quality, consistency and continuity, characteristics which apply equally to the grapes, the wines, the people and the operation of the winery.

V. Sattui

V. Sattui is a family-owned winery established in 1885 and located in St. Helena, the very heart of California’s famous Napa Valley. Their award-winning wines are sold exclusively at the Winery, by mail order, and online direct to their customers and they have no outside distribution. V. Sattui produces more than seventy percent of the grapes needed for our wine production, a high ratio for any winery. But also contract with private growers who tend their vineyards, however small, with the care and concern we require to make their wines distinctive.

Sutter Home Winery

Sutter Home Winery was founded in the late 1800’s and has always produced quality wines at reasonable prices. The Trinchero family purchased the winery in 1947 and has pioneered many industry innovations over the past half century. Continuing the tradition of producing good wines at a fair price, Sutter Home Winery offers a full selection of red, white and blush varietals.

Beringer Vineyards

Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley and the first to offer public tours, continues its commitment to offer guests original and inspiring wine country experiences. Beringer’s focus on excellence is illustrated in its commitment to sustainable practices, and our wines express this attention to the environment. Each Beringer vineyard, with its own distinctive soil, climate and terrain, lends itself to particular grape varietals. These vineyards have become recognized as the primary sources of Beringer wines.

Charles Krug Winery

The Charles Krug Winery, first in the Napa Valley and established in 1861, is owned and operated by the Peter Mondavi Family. Since 1943, three generations of the Peter Mondavi Family have been pioneers and innovators in the Napa Valley wine industry. Today the family continues their stewardship of 850 acres of estate land with organic and sustainable farming practices and state-of-the art winemaking techniques.

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, produces big, bold, full-bodied wines that deliver on flavor. Each wine is produced from 100% hand-picked Sonoma County fruit and is a direct expression of our winemaking philosophy of “maximum extraction, minimal intervention.” St. Francis Winery was established and christened after St. Francis of Assisi, in recognition of the Saint’s role as a protector of the natural world and as acknowledgement of the Franciscan order, believed to have been the first to bring European grape cultivation to the new world.

Blackstone Winery

Blackstone Winery was founded in 1990 with the goal of producing approachable, full-bodied, well-balanced wines. For the Blackstone winemaking team, it’s all about quality and value. Their Winemaker Select wines are fruit-forward, easy to drink, and food-friendly – perfect for everyday celebrations. The cornerstone of this portfolio is Blackstone’s California Merlot, the number-one-selling domestic red wine in the United States at any price.

Wine Country Pleasures…

Well today we started our wonderful wine country getaway. It was a beautiful and relaxing trip. I’m fortunate that my husband loves to drive so we were able to go to so many places and find some great spots along the way. I hope you enjoy the many posts to follow on our trip and I encourage everyone to visit wine country and the Bay when you get the chance!
The Napa Valley is a beautiful Countryside located in Northern California. As one of the most successful wine growing regions in the world it offers temperate weather and rolling hills filled with lush vineyards and black oak trees reminiscent of the French countryside. There are many famous wineries ranging from the largest estates like Domain Chandone and wine caves to mid-size and smaller family owned wineries such as Mondavi. When you visit the Wine Country you will find many relaxing activities and chances to see both the natural history of cities such as the original library building on main street in downtown Napa, to the original wineries from the first days located in the town of Oakville. Wine tasting tours and event are held regularly throughout the season and there are a range of wines and wineries to tour as well as shopping activities and excursions to the countryside.
Every vacation should include the beautiful Sonoma Valley. The Sonoma countryside is filled with lush rolling hills much like the Napa Valley and the seasons bring a colorful array of flowers in spring and fall arrangements. Known for the arts and wine Sonoma includes such attractions as it’s unique downtown square and Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, The Mission Adobe, as well as some of the most prominent Wineries in the region.