Archive for month: February, 2013

Napa Valley Wine Tasting Round-Up

27 Feb
February 27, 2013

February 2013 “Best of the Best” Wines

In my last post, I profiled our favorites among the 22 wineries we visited earlier this month. This wine tasting round-up was equally as challenging to create because there were 125 to consider! I was not able to take extensive notes on each glass, but I did a daily retrospective to pick out those that were drinking best and whittled my list to 27.

One of the benefits of visiting Napa Valley in February is that many wineries typically release new vintages in the winter. Several were pouring 2005 and 2009+ Cabernets and it was lovely to be able to compare the two after a bit of time in the bottle. If there’s one thing I took away from this trip, it’s that I’m a sucker for 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

On this visit, we really tried for at least a 50/50 split of new and old favorite wineries to allow for more exploration and discovery. I’ve noted that when I do find something I like, I tend to drink a lot of it – so, I’m looking forward to adding several new finds to my repertoire. Cheers!

February 2013 “Best of the Best” Wines


Napa Valley Tasting Round-Up

20 Feb
February 20, 2013

February 2013 “Best of the Best” Wineries

With our first Napa Valley visit of the year now in the books, I wanted to share a quick recap on just some of the incredible wine, food and Living Napa Cabulousexperiences. We were thrilled to benefit from sunny, 70-degree temperatures, which are pretty unusual for wine country during this time of year. The stunning, mustard yellow vineyards were even more beautiful than I remember.

We stayed at the lovely Solage Calistoga resort, which allowed for much-needed relaxation. I was even able to keep up with my Spinning classes at their indoor/outdoor fitness facility and will likely never get enough of their one-of-a-kind pool area or Solbar restaurant.

During the daytime, we filled our itinerary with a great mix of new and favorite wineries.

By the Numbers

Days in Napa Valley: 6

Miles driven in the Valley: 309

Wineries visited: 22

Wines tried during tastings: 125 (not including wine ordered at dinner)

Oysters ordered: 48

Orders of bread pudding for dessert: 3

Pounds gained: TBD

Best of the Best: Wineries

We had so many great tastings, but five wineries jumped out as the “Best of the Best” this visit for their overall experience and top-to-bottom offering of solid, high-quality wine. For those considering a trip to Napa Valley, I would certainly recommend these stops:

Read more →

Is Napa Valley Changing?

20 Feb
February 20, 2013

Observations from a Longtime Visitor (and Wine Club Member)

Another Napa Valley trip has come and gone entirely too quickly. As we think about the inevitable return to the hustle and bustle of chilly Chicago, we are happily recalling all of the wonderful things we experienced this visit. Fortunately, we arrived during one of the unseasonable warm spells and were able to soak up 70+ degree temperatures and sunshine, when we usually brace for February rain. We also enjoyed some best-ever meals and had the pleasure of trying many new-to-us wines and wineries. Mixed in with all of this emotion is a tinge of a new feeling as longtime visitors: disappointment. Not in the wine, not in the serene surroundings, but in the way some wineries seem to be evolving.

My husband and I began taking quarterly trips to Napa Valley in early 2009, which was in the depth of America’s economic crisis. As newish visitors, we were floored by the terrific service and wine we had at each turn – especially since we made our first serious visit in February – a typically slow point in the year, characterized by empty tasting rooms, “bad” weather, and, at that point in our country’s history, a “we will do anything to gain new wine club members” mentality. This escape from the doldrums of our hectic, big city routine is what drew us back season after season. We got to know wine educators who would remember to ask about our jobs and families and highlight wines added to the list since our last vacation. During slower winter months, some hosts would sneak us into a cave or barrel room to give us a taste of something special. And, generally speaking, we were presented with a tasting menu that allowed for a representative sampling of all available wines. (Depending on the winery, maybe two menus.) As a result of this impeccable attention and quality wine, we joined a handful of clubs that have ranged from three to 10 in quantity at any given time. While some have maintained a consistent approach with their club members over the span of our tenure, others have taken an unfortunate nosedive. From what we can deduce over these four years, the economy must be on an upswing. We also know that the 2011 vintage was one of the most challenging, leaving wineries and tasting rooms with a limited supply to sell and taste. Both of these factors, coupled with the freakishly warm, Valentine’s Day weekend crowd, contributed to what seemed like a very different experience this time around. Read more →

10 Tips for a Healthy Napa Valley Vacation

07 Feb
February 7, 2013

A Dietitian Dishes on Ways to Avoid Wine Weight Gain

Napa Valley vacations are typically characterized by a myriad of tastings by day and multiple-course dinners at Michelin Star-rated restaurants by night. Healthy Napa Valley vacation(And, that’s absolutely how it should be!) However, by the time I enter day three of my trips, I start to feel that indulgence hangover and dread the outcome of stepping on the scale for the first time again at home.  Based on a few of my past posts, you know that I do strive to lead a fairly healthy lifestyle, even though my biggest hobby – wine –doesn’t exactly help. In preparation for my next trip and the busy Napa Valley tourist season, I decided to approach the most relevant expert on this topic to help me and future travelers come and go without adding extra “baggage.”

Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD is a wine-making dietitian based in Napa Valley and was willing to chat with me about ways people can enjoy their vacations sensibly. She works as an Adjunct Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, teaching nutrition to culinary students. In her spare time, she and her husband produce approximately 90 gallons of wine annually out of their home garage in partnership with three other families. Based on principles she follows in her own life, Sanna offers tips to adopt before, during and after a wine-centric vacation to maintain balance.

10 Tips for a Healthy Napa Valley Vacation


Before the Trip

  • Attempting to drop pounds to compensate in advance for vacation consumption is a bad move. You’re only increasing the chances of overdoing it on the trip or later.
  • Stick to your normal habits beforehand, which should include eating a daily breakfast and a mix of fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Managing Vacation Meals

  • Being mindful of your food intake while visiting this world-class wine region doesn’t mean sacrificing satisfaction. While on vacation in Napa Valley, structure meals in a way that will help you feel your best:Healthy Napa Valley vacation
    • Don’t starve yourself in anticipation of a big dinner. In addition to overdoing your meal, it’s never a good idea to taste wine on an empty stomach.
    • Plan to consume smaller portions during the day. Reach for fruit, oatmeal or eggs at the hotel breakfast buffet. Rather than eating a big lunch, visit one of the area’s beautiful farmer’s markets and buy some fruit, bread and cheese for a picnic. Read more →

Wine of the Week: Bressler 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

06 Feb
February 6, 2013

A More Special Than Usual #WineWednesday

In our house, we usually follow the mantra that wine can make a special occasion, rather than holding great wines to consume on special occasions. Today was a mix of both, being that it’s my birthday and I was granted the freedom to pick any wine I desired from our collection. I eagerly scanned the racks and opted for a big, sexy bottle – a Bressler Vineyards 2008 Cabernet – so my style…

I learned about Bressler a few years ago while on a work trip to Scottsdale, AZ. My group was out for a steak dinner and the sommelier strongly suggested we give the 2004 vintage a try. At one point in the night, the entire table stopped to comment on the complexity and quality of the wine. After our meal, I returned to my hotel room and immediately jumped online to learn more about this fantastic find.

Husband and wife duo Bob and Stacey Bressler produced their first vintage in 2000 with grapes from their St. Helena property. Since then, their vineyard has grown to include 5-acres of their flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot for blending. We had the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine with the Bresslers while visiting Napa on a subsequent trip and gained an appreciation for just how passionate they are about their craft. Since that first sip of the 2004, we have made sure to grab each release since. Read more →

Wine Blogs I Love

04 Feb
February 4, 2013

Add Stark Insider’s “Best Wine Blogs of 2013” To Your Reading List

Fellow blogger Clinton Stark’s profile on the top 10 wine blogs of the year features so many of the writers I follow, I wanted to pass along the1WineDude recommendations. (Read: “Best Wine Blogs 2013.”) Clinton surveyed the rapidly-expanding wine blogosphere and assembled his list based on criteria including: quality of content, uniqueness, domain (wine) knowledge and the writer’s point-of-view. His selections certainly run the gamut, from famed magazine editors to wineries and everyday enthusiasts – some more snarky than others.

I never thought I’d say this, but one of my personal favorite blogs is penned by’s wine writer, Joe Roberts. (Thankfully, 1WineDude stands alone from the other site and is “safe” to visit.) I am entertained by his witty and conversational style and appreciate his no-nonsense approach to wine topics and reviews. Take, for example, his recent post Wined Down: Four Wine Traditions That Need to Die.

Of course, you also can check out some other picks in my blog roll. is a must-read for anyone planning their Napa/Sonoma itineraries thanks to its detailed scoring system for area wineries.

I see a “Wine Books I Love” post in the near future…

So, tell me, which blogs are you reading?

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