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Mustard Festival Photo Finish
The Napa Valley Mustard Festival is an annual event dedicated to raise awareness and promote the region during the non-peak season, when mustard is abundant and the valley is a beautiful yellow. Throughout the months of January, February and March the Mustard Festival is packed with events and celebrations bringing in tourists and locals alike. The final event of the Mustard Festival is the Photo Finish, which was held at Mumm Cuvee Napa Valley. Wineries and restaurants throughout the valley showcased their fabulous treats while onlookers took in the remarkable photos submitted by amateurs as well as professional photographers.
"The ninth annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival Photography Contest celebrates mustard in bloom, Napa Valley's star attraction in late winter/early spring. Wild mustard blooms, depending upon the whim of Mother Nature, from about mid-January through March each year. Brilliant seas of gold blanket hillsides, valleys, and vineyards during this sensational season. Dormant grapevines punctuate the gilded froth in rows and patterns, creating spectacular scenes and attracting artists from far and wide."
The Photo Finish is truly a glamorous party to wrap-up the Mustard Season. With jazz throughout the galleries, delicious food and wine, and stunning artwork all around, the evening ends perfectly with gift prizes and dancing under the stars.
If you are looking to plan your next Wine Country experience during the beautiful Mustard Season, be sure to stay throughout the Photo Finish, where you might be able to take a little of the Wine Country home with you.
Visit the Mustard Festival: www.mustardfestival.com
April in Carneros
The Land and the Wine Between Napa and Sonoma
While planning your next spring vacation, consider doing what one group of touring cyclists from Orlando, Florida did - bicycle your way through "April in Carneros!" "April in Carneros" is a spring celebration of wine, food and entertainment where proceeds benefit Vine Village; an organization dedicated to providing for the special needs of people with developmental disabilities.
The Carneros Appellation is the land between Napa and Sonoma which provides a specific microclimate and was the first American Vinticultural appellation to be defined according to climate rather than along political lines. The Carneros region "is characterized by a long, moderately cool growing season tempered by the maritime breezes and lingering fog off the San Pablo Bay just to the south."
Throughout the weekend, fifteen wineries and one distillery showcased some of their most treasured vintages, including new and rare releases. In addition, all of the participants created their own signature event, which included music, picnics, fine catering and art displays.
Also available for the $10 fee, which included a commemorative logo glass, was a fabulous barrel tasting and specialized tour throughout the vineyards and wineries. A few of the
wineries that made it onto the WineCountry.com favorite list were, Bouchaine Vineyards, Buena Vista Carneros Estate, and Cline Cellars. The weather for this event was a perfect spring day - making
it great for a bicycle tour or simply a causal drive. (Source: Domaine Carneros www.domaine.com)
Battle of the Appellations Winners
Congratulations to Silver Mountain Vineyards and Lake Sonoma Winery
Our latest Battle of the Appellations contest was held at Mixx, a chef-owned restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. The chef, Dan Berman, prepared two incredible dishes for our tasting panel. To be paired with white wine was Alaskan halibut with English pea puree, leeks, baby carrots and crispy potatoes; and garnished with basil oil and red and green sweet pepper oils. The red wine pairing was Liberty duck breast with morel mushrooms, red and green lentils, roasted chippolini onions, Applewood smoked bacon and red wine foie gras butter sauce.
The true essence of the Battle of the Appellations contest is to take a fabulous tasting wine and pair it with delicious food to truly test the complexities of the wine and its ability to pair with various flavors and textures. The atmosphere and ambiance at Mixx was the perfect setting for this contest.
The red wine winner was the Silver Mountain Vineyards 1997 Alloy. This is a Central Coast, Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cab Franc, which sells for about $20 a bottle. The BOA tasting panel appreciated the fragrant nose, spicy flavor and full body of the wine. This Alloy was delicious on its own, but truly shined when paired with the variety of the flavors in the duck breast dish. This Alloy worked well because it did not overpower the flavors of the food, but rather enhanced the mix of textures and zest of the dish, and finished smoothly.
The white wine winner was the Lake Sonoma 2000 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, which sells for about $15.00. "Four separate vineyards contributed to the final blend of this wine; Westside Farms and K-1 Vineyard, both on the banks of the Russian River, Bertozzi Vineyard on the Russian River in Redwood Valley of Mendocino County and the Laughlin Vineyard north of Guernville. The K-1 and Westside Farms vineyards are representative of Russian River Chardonnay; big tropical fruit flavors with notes of apple and citrus. The warmer conditions of the Bertozzi Vineyard adds richness while the Laughlin Vineyard adds a floral spicy note to the mix." The BOA panel valued the fruity nose that was reminiscent of apple, pear, and lemon. The flavor was complex and lively and when tasted independently of the food stood strong. Paired with the halibut the wine worked well with the various flavors of the dish and a mutual enhancement of both the wine and food was present.
Thank you to all the participants:
Visit Silver Mountain Vineyards: www.silvermountainvineyards.com
Visit Lake Sonoma Winery at: www.lakesonomawinery.net
It Doesn't Get Much Better Than Lunch at Piccolino's
What could be better than a beautiful spring day in downtown Napa? Lunch at Piccolino's Italian Café! We chose this restaurant as a dining recommendation because it is truly one of our favorite places to eat in Napa. We love the wonderful ambiance, the warm and beautiful decor, friendly service, entertainment and great Italian food. You feel as if you are stepping into Italy!
For starters our server brought us some delicious warm rosemary bread with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar; this with a great Italian wine served by the glass, a Stella Pinot Grigio, gave us a good start to peruse the tantalizing menu. (Visit their menu online at: http://piccolinoscafe.com/ )
With so many choices we decided to try a couple of appetizers; calamari, deep fried and served with cocktail sauce and caper aioli, and a wonderful mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette blended with the perfect amount of gorgonzola cheese. The homemade clam chowder sounded too good to pass up, so we sampled a bowl, which was delicious with the rosemary bread.
For an entrée, we had Piccolino's Famous Lasagna. This is prepared with a
For desert, last but not least a Tiramisu. This creamy marscarpone cheese blended with amaretto and espresso, sandwiched in rum-soaked ladyfingers was wonderful.
Both inside and outside seating is available. On this breezy afternoon we chose a table inside by a window to enjoy the décor and to people watch as locals scurried about.
Food isn't the only thing that sizzles at Piccolino's Italian Cafe! Check them out on a Friday and Saturday night! Coming soon is Frederick NightHawk with his gifted and wonderfully expressive voice. NightHawk accompanies himself with keyboard and has a sound somewhere between Doctor John and Van Morrison. Enjoy his contemporary renditions and his own compositions.
Also amongst the regulars are:
Or if you are looking for a good ravioli on a Wednesday night check out Piccolino's Wednesday Night Ravioli Festival. Give yourself a treat after shopping! Featuring four kinds of
Ravioli (even Duck) and live music.
Visit Picolino's at: www.piccolinoscafe.com
Tasting Room Recommendation
Ravenswood - So Much More Than Zin
Although famous for their meal-friendly California Zinfandel, Ravenswood offers complex and delicious wines, specifically Zinfandels, from very specialized areas and vineyards. "Wine production at Ravenswood is presently in the 400,000 case range, most of which is red and robust. Zinfandel, Ravenswood's most renowned variety, comprises 70% of total production. The remaining 30% consists of blended and unblended variations on the traditional Bordeaux varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc), as well as their own experiments with Gewurztraminer (early and late harvests), Petite Sirah, and Muscat. Ravenswood also produces small quantities of Chardonnay."
"Ravenswood's hand-crafted releases possess a unique vintage and vineyard identity in addition to an intense and powerful character with which the winery has come to be associated. These attributes arise from what can only be called stubborn and impractical Old World enological practices." Ravenswood wines ferment in small wooden tanks, and rely upon wild, natural yeasts. Grape stems are occasionally added for structure, and the "cap" of skins is punched mechanically or by hand three to five times per day. They age the wine in small French oak barrels, fine it gently with egg whites, and eschew filters and centrifuges as much as possible because they believe it tends to diminish flavor.
The resulting wines -- rich, complex, and fully varietal -- are well suited to aging. "They will generally reach their peak in seven to ten years, though most - particularly the Zinfandels - are consumed young and greedily by people who love big, gutsy, unapologetic wines."
Recently a WineCountry.com staff member had the pleasure of visiting the Sonoma winery and experienced the beautiful property that is completely picnic ready and afternoon lounging compatible. The tasting room offers a large spectrum of wines allowing each visitor to be introduced to their specialty Zinfandels, as well as experience the winery's diversity with Merlot, Cabernet and Gewurztaminer.
Be sure to make Ravenswood your next stop while in Sonoma!
Visit Ravenswood at www.ravenswood-wine.com
The Gaige House Inn is the perfect place to escape the ordinary and find yourself in serenity. The owner and mastermind behind the Gaige House Inn, Ken Burnet, chose to use Asian inspired influences in his design because of the serene feeling it exudes.
Upon entering the Gaige House Inn you will find beautiful picture books, orchids and fine art by Kizito Rwanza. The stage is set for relaxation and comfortable tranquility. Once in the guestroom you will find bedtime story mini-books, lush linens on a four-poster bed and a fireplace. If you are looking for relaxation in the fresh air, a hammock on the creek-side deck with a fountain and palm plants nearby is certainly the place to find it.
Samutra coffee, teas and juice are served in the morning. In the evening you
will be met with wine and hors d'oeuvres. The chef at the Gaige House Inn is truly an artist and takes great consideration of the seasons for his daily inspiration. The dining room is adjacent
to the kitchen allowing guests to see the chef and staff bustling at work. A WineCountry.com staff member found it an absolute joy to sit and chat with a couple from Chicago while they planned
out their vacation in the Wine Country. When asked how the couple found the Gaige House Inn, the couple replied that they researched the Inn on the Internet and were thrilled to find it to be
every bit of what they expected and more - absolutely wonderful.
Events for May
May 19 -- Husch Vineyards Open House
May 12 -- Mother's Day Brunch
May 18 -- Spring Winemakers' Dinner at Chateau Julien Wine Estates
May 12 -- Celebration of Chocolate & Wine
May 11 -- Grand Opening Celebration of the New Stonegate Winery
May 17 -- Merlot in May
May 18 - 19 -- California Strawberry Festival
Year 'Round -- Guided Hikes at Bacara Resort
May 11 -- Bonfante Gardens Opening Day
May 24 -- Boardwalk Summer Season Opening Day
May 11 -- White Sale at Valley of the Moon Winery
May 18 -- Mardi Gras- Wine Country Style!
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Photography © courtesy of Nicholas Elias