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Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in California, Tasting Rooms and Wineries, USA, Wine Travel | 23 comments

An Abandoned Chateau In Napa Valley Gets New Life

An Abandoned Chateau In Napa Valley Gets New Life

In the sunny courtyard of a nineteenth century French chateau, our host guided us through a classic tasting while the Stones, Fleetwood Mac, and other 70s music icons played in the background. Though it was fall, it felt like a perfect spring day, clear and crisp, with no humidity. The company was congenial, the wine was superb and I couldn’t have imagined a more magical day. It was the kind of day that I’m certain has been the cause of many impetuous declarations regarding an immediate move to Napa Valley. My certainty arises because I said it myself. Unlike most winemakers in Napa Valley, Jamie Whetstone owner and winemaker at Whetstone Wine Cellars, is not growing Bordeaux varietals. A free spirit, Jamie has made a name for himself growing Rhone varietals and Pinot Noir (most vineyards located in the Russian River Valley), and producing exceptional wines. Jamie arrived in Napa in 2002 with the idea of staying for a year, then returning to his home in South Carolina to...

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2016 in California, Tasting Rooms and Wineries, USA | 6 comments

The Wine Abides: m2 Wines, Lodi

The Wine Abides: m2 Wines, Lodi

“I figured Lodi didn’t need another replica of a Tuscan villa. In fact, I don’t think the world needs another Tuscan villa,” explained Layne Montgomery, as we (a carload of wine bloggers) approached the new tasting room for m2 Wines. I’d heard the new structure resembled an airplane hangar, and I believe that is a perfect description. Nothing could have been further from a Tuscan villa. Modern corrugated metal sliding doors allowed the vineyards and tasting room to merge. In the cool evening air with the warm California light filtering through, it was a stunning experience – and a highlight of my weekend in Lodi at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Now, lest you think that m2 Wines is only a beautiful winery and tasting room, let me give you some backstory on Layne Montgomery and the award-winning wines of m2. But first, a brief recap of how I ended up at m2 and why. The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference (this year held in Lodi) organized several different excursions with...

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Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 in California, Destinations, Featured SLider, Food and Drink, Tasting Rooms and Wineries, USA, Wine Travel | 20 comments

72 Hours In Sonoma County, California

72 Hours In Sonoma County, California

Just an hour from San Francisco and west of Napa Valley, Sonoma is a California wine country destination that feels undiscovered, yet sophisticated. Go now, because with feature stories in National Geographic and the Smithsonian Magazine, Sonoma is definitely not a secret anymore. Sonoma is not only for wine and food lovers (although if that’s what you crave, you couldn’t choose a better place). Outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers can find their happy place among the ancient redwood trees, kayaking and camping along the Russian River, hiking the Sonoma Coast, or biking the wine trails. If you prefer a more leisurely weekend, you’ll find spas, swanky boutiques, and no surprise, lots of wine tasting rooms. 72 Hours in Sonoma County Depending on what you want to do, you can choose to stay in one thirty picturesque towns. Santa Rosa is the largest city in the county, and offers a good location just 55 minutes from San Francisco. There are several neighborhoods of cultural interest, and as is the norm...

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Posted by on May 23, 2016 in California, Destinations, Featured SLider, Tasting Rooms and Wineries, Wine Travel | 2 comments

The Tasting Rooms Of The Urban Wine Trail, Santa Barbara

The Tasting Rooms Of The Urban Wine Trail, Santa Barbara

In 2004, the movie Sideways brought notoriety to Santa Barbara county wine country, but locals and those in the know have been drinking the grape juice from the area for decades. The title of the movie refers to the unique traverse geography of the area –  the valleys run east to west instead of north to south. There are two mountain ranges, the coastal Santa Ynez Mountains and the more interior San Rafael range.  This geographic anomaly creates many micro-climates which make it possible to grow a wide variety of grapes including more delicate cool climate grapes like pinot noir. According to acclaimed wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. , “No viticultural region in America has demonstrated as much progress in quality and potential for greatness as the Santa Barbara region, where the Burgundian varietals chardonnay and pinot noir are planted in its cooler climates.” Where can you taste these great wines? The first tasting room in Santa Barbara opened in 1962. For forty years, Santa Barbara Winery was the only tasting room in...

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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in California, Cultural Exploration, Destinations, Food and Drink, Tasting Rooms and Wineries | 6 comments

How To Spend A Day In Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

How To Spend A Day In Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone

  Located just two blocks from the beach, between Cabrillo Blvd. and Highway 101, is Santa Barbara’s unusually hip neighborhood. Known as The Funk Zone, it was originally an industrial area taken over by artists who have turned the abandoned warehouses into studios. In addition to artist galleries you’ll find wineries, tasting rooms, farm-to-table restaurants, unique shops, a micro brewery and Santa Barbara’s first distillery. Wildly popular with tourists on holidays and weekends, locals love it too. I have no trouble getting my Santa Barbara friends to spend a day with me in the Funk Zone. I’ve been traveling to Santa Barbara for over fifteen years, and though it is undeniably beautiful it can be very quiet. The Funk Zone definitely adds to Santa Barbara’s fun factor. Read more about the Funk Zone.     How To Spend A Day in the Funk Zone In addition to wine tasting, one of my favorite things to do in the Funk Zone is to simply walk around and look at the...

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