One of the (many) reasons I wanted to move to the San Francisco Bay Area was its proximity to the wine countries of Napa and Sonoma – and many others that will soon start to make an appearance on this blog. One of my very first trips after I moved here was to Calistoga, the northernmost town of Napa. I had never been to this neat little town known for its hot springs. It seemed like a throwback to the “old” Napa, from before Downtown Napa exploded and became trendy. I had actually noticed the last time I had been in southern Napa that people were starting to dress up more for the more scene-y restaurants. And I hadn’t even packed one pair of heels! As I wrote in Huffington Post, during my years living in Las Vegas, I always enjoyed my getaways to wine country, which I turned into my little escape, where I could be outside and learn about farming before heading back to to the bright lights of the Strip. It’s strange how a lot of people think Napa and such are so “fancy” – but it really is all about the land! In fact, I just wrote about Sonoma’s Benziger and the pictured Phifer Pavitt, in Calistoga, in a piece for Los Angeles Confidential about how eco-friendly wine country has become. Continue Reading »»
My most recent trip to wine country turned out to be life-changing… but more on that later. (That’s a pretty evil way to begin, I know.) Our first stop: Robert Mondavi, one of the wineries in Napa I had long wanted to go to. I have always admired the guts and smarts it takes to be a pioneer, and that’s what Mondavi was. He brought world-wide recognition to Napa, then a fledgling little slice of wine country, before he died in Yountville in 2008 at the age of 94. (He had been forced to sell his beloved winery to Constellation Brands four years prior, after a public offering led to financial strain and then the takeover.) Mondavi is most well known for creating the Fume Blanc style of Sauvignon Blanc and his partnership with Baron Philippe de Rothschild, which led to the famous Opus One. But he also brought higher-density plantings (to make the vines work harder, producing heartier grapes) and French oak barrels to Napa, among many other technical improvements. He is considered by many to be the single-most influential winemaker in Napa’s history.