OnLine Newsletter
Lodi Travel Itinerary
Pleasant Days Spent Amidst the Delta Breeze
Culinary Tourism
Bring Food Know-How Home to Pair with Wine
Wine Country Recipe
New Waldorf Salad
Wine Country Featured Event
San Joaquin County Fair Drawing
Newsletter Trivia Contest—Enter and Win!*
Vino con Brio Pinotage

Pinotage is a cross between the Burgundian varietal Pinot Noir and the Rhone Cinsault, and is very popular in South Africa.  The Vino con Brio 2001 Pinotage ($19.99) displays the elegance of the first and the richness of the latter.  The bottle opens with a slightly spicy flavor, which softens to somewhat sweeter fruit after exposure to a bit of air.  Its balanced use of French and American oak, old and new, highlights its light fruity nose.  Flavors of blueberry, cranberry and raspberry are matched with a slightly smoky flavor and sturdy mouthfeel.  Light in alcohol at 13%, it is an outstanding food wine; we enjoyed it with grilled garlic lamb and eggplant. 

Napa River Inn

Napa River InnThe Napa River Inn, downtown Napa's only upscale boutique hotel, anchors the historic Napa Mill. We proudly offer a tradition of comfort, convenience, and personal service to business and leisure travelers visiting the Napa Valley. We host weddings, meetings, and specials events and are the only upscale boutique hotel in all of Downtown Napa.

Our great downtown Napa location makes this historic hotel the number one choice for visitors to the Napa Valley region. The location is a visitor's paradise as we are connected to the Historic Napa Mill, the famous Napa shopping, dining and entertainment complex. Originally built in 1884 it boasts two restaurants, gourmet food and gift market, European day spa, jazz club, art gallery and frame shop, gourmet candy shop, on-site bakery and outdoor performance plaza.

Visit our website for more information and to make a reservation at
500 Main Street Napa, Ca. 94559 (877) 251.8500 or (707) 251.8500

FogCatcher Inn

FogCatcher InnLocated just footsteps from Cambria's beautiful Moonstone Beach, the FogCatcher Inn has an Old English feel with contemporary conveniences. With its rounded thatched-style roof, flower lined brick paths and fireplace in every room, FogCatcher Inn is the perfect romantic getaway.

Many of the rooms have fabulous ocean views; whether the surf is crashing or calm and serene, the ocean sets the mood for this unique and memorable hideaway. All of our rooms at the FogCatcher Inn on the Central Coast feature a romantic fireplace, microwave, coffee maker and hair dryer. A heated pool and spa await you for swimming or sunning.

A complimentary deluxe continental breakfast is offered in the gathering room each morning the perfect way to start your day of exploring. Email address:

Viansa Winery & Italian Marketplace

Viansa Winery & Italian MarketplaceViansa's romantic Tuscan Villa sits on a hilltop surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, overlooking Viansa's 90-acre waterfowl preserve. Outfitted with hand-painted murals, massive beams and Italian marble, the Villa exudes Tuscan charm.

Step inside our marketplace and explore the wide array of wines, specialty foods and unique gift items. Savor delicious Cal-Ital fare for picnics on our hilltop terrace and join us on the weekends to enjoy live music, Tuscan barbecue and Italian wines for a memorable afternoon reminiscent of Italy's countryside.

A third generation winemaker fascinated with his Italian heritage, Sam Sebastiani has brought Italian vines, winemaking knowledge and technology to Sonoma while creating Italian wines in California. Viansa grows an array of Italian grapes - Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Aleatico, Fresia, Pinot Grigio and Arneis - unmatched by any winery here or in Italy. Viansa also offers an award-winning array of California varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Visit us at our Tuscan inspired Villa in Sonoma. Open daily 10am-5pm. (707) 935.4700

Napa Valley Symphony
"Allegro con Brio"

Napa Valley SymphonyLegendary pianist André Watts performs with the Napa Valley Symphony at the final concerts of the subscription season on Sunday, May 22, 2005 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, May 24, 2005 at 8:00 p.m. From 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, The Napa Valley Symphony is also pleased to offer a sampling of the Napa Valley's finest wine and food at "Allegro con Brio" - the season ending celebration of the Symphony's return home to the newly refurbished Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Napa Valley. This special event is complimentary for all ticket holders of the May 22 André Watts concert.

For tickets and more information, please contact the Symphony at 707-226-8742 or log onto


Bring Food Know-How Home to Pair with Wine

When you visit Wine Country, focus on collecting a terrific set of wines— ones you plan to enjoy and ponder at home.  You probably will have discovered and explored wines that clearly are meant to compliment food, and aren’t necessarily great sips on their own.  What will you do with these wines once you return home? Will you be prepared with perfect food and wine-pairings, like those you enjoyed while dining during your visit?  

You’ll surely want to be ready to serve compatible foods, as you share the fruits of your vacation’s labor with friends and family.  It so happens that the culinary wizards of Wine Country have devised a diverse set of programs to help you achieve these wonderful matches in your own kitchen.  With their help, you can accomplish touristic enjoyment and expand your culinary skills, all at the same time!

In the end, you will walk away not only with unique recipes and wine-pairings, but more importantly with insight and the fine points of preparation that only experience can deliver.  We searched for the best casual culinary programs in Napa and Sonoma Wine Country to share with you.  Whether you choose a simple demonstration, a more involved hands-on training, or an innovative demonstration-dining event, you will enjoy as you learn.

The most casual option is to merely take a break from your Napa area wine tasting to attend a demonstration class at the world’s premiere culinary college, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena.  Without embarking on a new career, you too can enjoy training at one of the most renowned culinary training facilities in the world.  One-hour demonstrations, offered Friday-Monday, are one of the best values in the area at only $12.50 per person, including recipes and a tasting. 

Ramekins Sonoma Valley Culinary School offers a wide variety of more in-depth choices at their pleasant downtown location, just four blocks from Sonoma’s Historic Plaza.  The facility even houses six bed and breakfast rooms, making Ramekins a complete food and wine visitation experience.  Private cooking classes for gift-giving, a birthday present or team-building reward add to the interesting enjoyment opportunities here.

Housed in a unique, modern rammed-earth building, Ramekins features two teaching kitchens.  One is a fully equipped, 36-seat demonstration kitchen-theater with mirrors and television monitors for easy viewing; the other is a complete restaurant kitchen used for full-participation, hands-on classes. Complimentary refreshments, generous tasting samples (or a full meal after class), and copies of the recipes are included.

Use the Ramekins On-line Custom Cooking Class Catalog to select which cooking class suits you best.  This wonderful online tool allows you to view the calendar by month, and click through to full class descriptions.  You can also search by food ingredients, styles, cultures and topics

We heard good things from friends about The Relish Culinary School in Healdsburg, so we decided to take a class.  Relish offers perhaps the ultimate experience, combining stunning Wine Country settings with fascinating menus including food and wine pairings.  A stylish presentation of the delectable meal is served upon completion of your demonstration.  Chefs who are passionate about exploring the foods and wines that define Sonoma County started Relish.  Founder Donna del Rey and her staff offer one-of-a-kind events, reflecting the best of everything this culinary region has to offer.

Our wonderful evening of Contemporary Mexican Cuisine, led by Augustín Gaytán, was packed full of revelations in a food area that we understand fairly well.  An authentic practitioner and true master of cultural integration, Augustín dished up secrets learned from his mother and honed by his experience refining the recipes while working at several fine restaurants.  A true master of cultural integration, We walked away from Augustin's class empowered, not intimidated.  If his talent is an indicator of the quality and originality of presentation, then Relish truly belongs on your next itinerary.

We were presented with a complete menu folio, along with useful information including details on how to shop, present, find workarounds for items we might not obtain readily, and how to stage our own preparations so we might be social with our guests and present everything a tiempo.  The Mariscos en Pipian (Seafood in a Serrano Chile-Pumpkin Seed Sauce) was sensational…making us think that Pipian could be the next Mole sauce (currently a resounding favorite in Healdsburg culinary circles), again for both its food and wine pairing potential.

While we observed and learned, Donna and her friendly crew were busy preparing the same meal, which was graciously served to us upon completion of the demonstration.

The staff and picturesque facility of Lambert Bridge Winery in the Dry Creek Valley hosted the evening.  The integration of their wines with the meal, and the participation of winery staff that knew them deeply, was at once instructive and enjoyable. 

Donna explained to us after the class that the trend in such classes is towards hands-on cooking, also offered by Relish in the expanded summer schedule.  Relish offers a kid’s series too.

We were happy with our choice to observe, relax, take copious notes in the lovely folio of recipes, and then finally enjoy a meal like no other in Wine Country.  This was a meal whose mechanics we understood, and to whose soul we had bonded by the finish.  All for an ultimate experience, dinner!

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WineCountry Online Newsletter Editor: Carolyn Lewis

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