Website in transition, thanks for your patience

We are in the process of moving this blog and website to its new name and site, Wine Travel Adventure. If things seem a little up in the air and confusing, it is because they are. Give us a few days and everything will be on track again. Thank you for your understanding and patience.—Kevin Nelson

Best breakfast place in Napa

Eggs BenedictMy vote for the best breakfast place in Napa goes to Alexis Baking Company and Café. And no less an eminence than actor and bon vivant Kyle MacLachlan shares this sentiment with me.

The handsome leading man MacLachlan is best known for his role as Special Agent Dale Cooper in the long ago David Lynch TV series “Twin Peaks” (a role he is reprising next year when Showtime brings it back to the air with new episodes), as well as such shows as “Portlandia, “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex and the City.” He also owns a winery in his native Washington and knows Napa Valley like a local.

Last year he hosted an episode of “The Getaway,” an Esquire TV series, that was set in Napa Valley. One of the places he went to and recommended was the ABC Café, as it is also known. Continue reading

Wine, wine and more wine: Pinot tour, Valentine’s Day chocolate and the Baron returns

Del Dotto Vineyards in Napa, home of the Valentine's Day bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon dipped in chocolate.

Del Dotto Vineyards in Napa.

Let’s start with a wine quiz: What Geyserville winery produced the top-selling wine for Whole Foods Markets nationally for the just-concluded holiday season? Hint: It involves a famous modern Renaissance Man. Answer at bottom.

It’s a good news-bad news thing on the notorious Christmas Day French Laundry wine heist.

TFL's Instagram photo of the break-in.

TFL’s Instagram photo of the break-in.

First, the good news. They found much of the wine stashed away in a North Carolina warehouse. Authorities are not saying how they found it, or how much precisely was recovered, as they continue to investigate the Wine Robbery Heard ‘Round the World. The thief or thieves who broke into the famed Yountville restaurant got away with 76 bottles mostly of Domaine de la Romanee Conti and Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which leads to the possible bad news. If, as one observer has pointed out, the crooks drove their getaway vehicle across the deserts of the American West, all that rare and fabulous wine may be toast.

Meanwhile Thomas Keller seems to be taking it all in stride, overseeing a kitchen remodel at the French Laundry while hatching a new temporary pop-up restaurant, Ad Lib, at the Royal Oak in the Silverado Resort in Napa. Continue reading

A taste of Napa Valley in San Francisco’s Union Square

Many San Franciscans travel to Napa Valley to visit wineries and drink wine. But in a reverse of the usual pattern, an esteemed Napa Valley winery has established a tasting room in the city’s Union Square shopping district.

The winery is Chateau Montelena, and the tasting room is at the Westin St. Francis, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most elegant luxury hotels. It is, as tasting room manager Michael Mighetto Hoefling says, a little bit of Napa Valley in the heart of the city.

“For the most part we have the same tasting menu that the winery does in Calistoga,” he said in an email. “Prices are the same, and we sell our bottles. And last year I started to use the Coravin for a new and secondary tasting experience that includes a vertical of old Montelena Estate Cabernet wines.”

Michael Mighetto Hoefling.

Michael Mighetto Hoefling.

Considering that the St. Francis is only steps away from Union Square and the Powell Street cable car line, it is no surprise that the tasting room draws lots of tourists and business travelers and groups. And yet, many people, including many San Franciscans, have yet to discover it.

“People come in surprised that Montelena is even here, and they leave very satisfied,” he said. “The tasting room is very small, I usually have a couple of people at a time, and the experience is very intimate and personal.” The room also hosts business gatherings of up to 20 people at a time. Continue reading

10 pictures of Snoopy and a story about Charles Schulz

The big news from the Charles M. Schulz Museum is that a new feature-length animated movie about Charlie Brown and the gang, “The Peanuts Movie,” is coming to theaters this fall. Produced by Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, its opening is scheduled to coincide with the 65th anniversary of the first “Peanuts” strip by Charles Schulz to appear in newspapers.

Another piece of big news from the Santa Rosa museum is that no, Charlie Brown still hasn’t kicked the football. Lucy keeps pulling it away.

Nevertheless Charlie, Lucy, Linus and all the characters are all over this bright and lively two-story facility, as is Charlie’s faithful (and sometimes not so faithful) companion, Snoopy. Except for Charlie himself, there may be more images of Snoopy around the building than any other figure. A sculpture of him sleeping on top of his doghouse greets you outside the front door—

Snoopy 1

There is also a very clever labyrinth outside that is both a sculpture in the form of Snoopy’s head—his ear is a bench, his nose is a rock—as well as an entertaining play area for children. Then step into the front lobby and he is holding his dish ready for a meal— Continue reading

B.R. Cohn announces new site and name for popular fall music festival


Dan Cohn at the amphitheatre at B.R. Cohn Winery, former site of the festival.

Dan Cohn at the amphitheatre at B.R. Cohn Winery.

The B.R. Cohn Charity Fall Music Festival, one of the most popular music festivals in wine country, is changing its name and moving to downtown Sonoma.

The newly renamed Sonoma Music Festival will be held October 2-4 in the Field of Dreams park on First Street West not far from Sonoma’s downtown plaza.

For nearly 30 years the festival has been held in the amphitheatre at the B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen, attracting thousands of fans to the weekend concerts to hear such performers as the Doobie Brothers, Melissa Etheridge, Willie Nelson and Bonnie Rait. But Dan Cohn, the winery’s president and CEO, said the event had gotten too big for its traditional location. “It became clear to us that we had outgrown the B.R. Cohn Winery,” he was quoted as saying. “We are excited about the move to downtown Sonoma.” Continue reading

French Laundry thieves nab same Screaming Eagle vintage that sold for $500,000 in auction

Screaming Eagle labelBy Kevin Nelson

The wines stolen in the sensational Christmas Day robbery at the French Laundry in Yountville included some of the most expensive in the world, including a 1992 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, the same vintage that sold at a Napa Valley auction 15 years ago for the record-setting sum of $500,000.

The Napa County Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate the crime, which has drawn worldwide attention partly because of the fame of the French Laundry—widely acclaimed as one of the world’s best restaurants—and partly because of the outstanding quality of the wines that were stolen.

“These are the Faberge eggs, the Bugattis [of wine],” Napa wine importer Stefan Blicker told KPIX News. “It’s very much like an art heist.” Continue reading

Investigators looking for answers in $300,000 French Laundry wine theft

French Laundry

Thieves in the celebrated French Laundry case broke into the restaurant through a back door. Photo by Kevin Nelson

Early next month the tiny hamlet of Yountville in Napa Valley will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its incorporation as a town. But everyone there—indeed, food and wine lovers all around the country—are talking about a civic event of a far different sort: the theft of $300,000 in fine wines from the town’s most famous restaurant, the French Laundry.

The French Laundry, regarded as one of the world’s best restaurants, suffered a Christmas Day break-in in which thieves stole 76 bottles from its wine cellar, but these were not just any 76 bottles. They included bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, a Burgundy wine referred to as “DRC” by wine cognoscenti and valued as high as $15,000 apiece. Continue reading

Napa Valley and Sonoma wines in the news

A Beringer vineyard in the Lake Ellen area of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. Photo by Kevin Nelson

A Beringer vineyard in the Lake Ellen area of Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. Photo by Kevin Nelson

With the holidays over and the beginning of a new year, many people resolve to go on diets, exercise more and perhaps even cut back on their drinking. This tradition—usually forgotten, in most cases, by mid-January—has not stopped Napa Valley and Sonoma wines and wineries from making news around the country during this time. Some highlights: Continue reading

Looking back: Napa Valley’s top ten travel stories 2014

Grape stomping sign

Grape stomping sign at Grgich Hills Estate. Below, Castello di Amorosa and a summer concert at Robert Mondavi Winery. Photos by Kevin Nelson.

By Kevin Nelson

From a Robert Mondavi concert to superstar athletes who run wineries, from the best New Year’s Eve parties in Napa Valley to stomping grapes at harvest, here are the top ten most popular travel articles that appeared in my column in 2014.

These rankings are based on Google analytics, Facebook and Twitter shares, tweets and likes, Contently social media evaluation and subscriber feedback. Please note these are only my pieces and do not include my travel writing for other sites. Also, please note that I wrote dozens of articles for the site this year, and many popular pieces just missed making the cut. Starting with No. 10, here are the top ten articles of the year: Continue reading

Napa Valley’s best clam chowder

Clam chowder

Let’s face it: People do not go to Napa Valley to eat clam chowder. If chowder is your thing you’ve probably got your GPS set for the New England seacoast or the classic Grand Central Oyster Bar in Manhattan. Or in California, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

Nevertheless, wine country does have a first-rate place for chowderheads: Hog Island Oyster Bar in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market just across the First Street Bridge on the east side of the river. After a hard day’s work of imbibing wine at wineries—which is, after all, why most people do go to Napa Valley—a tasty bowl of Manila chowder may be just the thing for you. Continue reading

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