Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Kat Thomas
Edible Skinny 

Life is Sweet in Napa Valley - Intimate Micro-Experiences in the World of Wine, Food, & the Art of Relaxation (PART TWO)

Sip sip hooray!!! Part Two of our FAB trip through Napa Valley (and a big shout out to Beau Wine Tours for helping plan out all these AMAZING winery adventures!!!)

 

December 9, 2018

Kat Thomas and Kelly Grace Thomas, at the Calistoga Winery

Yesterday I wanted wine.

Today I'm drinking wine.

Follow your dreams...And drink up bitches!!!

So here's to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and Cabernet all day, everyday in Napa Valley!!!

SILVER TRIDENT WINERY Returning to the hustle and bustle of Yountville (or what Napa Valley calls hustle and bustle...), we were greeted at Silver Trident Winery by the glowing Mallory. Intimate and inviting, Silver Trident Winery has appointment only wine tastings in their beautifully warm Tuscan-style stone building. Their "Tasting Home" consists of a living room, dining room and library, all furnished with Ralph Lauren Home. There's no tasting bar, no standing on your feet, no rush, at all. Crafting small production wines (2-3k cases per year) created in the heart of the Napa Valley, Silver Trident Winery has the catchphrase of: "Big Personality, Small Production. Endless Passion."

Along with working at Silver Trident Winery, Mallory runs Vine Living blog, so she give us the skinny on it all! She explained to Kelly and I that Silver Trident Winery is the passion project of Bob Binder, cofounder of Oceania Cruises. Binder helped make this luxury cruise line's food and beverage program one of the finest at sea, collaborating along the way with such food luminaries as Jacques Pépin, Bon Appétit, and Wine Spectator. Binder resides in Napa with his partner Walter Jost. Mallory gushed, "they are the nicest sweetest men." In 2009 Binder and Jost decided to made 100 cases Cabernet. The next year they added 100 cases of Pinot Noir.

They opened their "Tasting Home" in 2012, with a whole new approach to wine pairing: great wines with the world-class home decor of Ralph Lauren. In the past, the iconic fashion company had crafted Ralph Lauren Home-furnished suites on two of Oceanic largest ships. These 2,500-square-foot suites, with their ebony baby grand pianos and mahogany and quartzite bars, were specifically decorated to "capture the feeling of Ralph Lauren's passions for sailing, adventure, and travel." While working with Ralph Lauren Home, Binder learned the company was looking for an opportunity to open a northern California showroom. That got him to thinking about the possibility of offering wine tasting in a home setting.

Wine tasting in the town of Yountville is a unique experience because the Yountville Town Council requires wine tasting rooms in town to use at least 25% of their floor space for retail sales of items other than wine. You will find wine tasting rooms in town that also include wine accessories, artwork, antiques, and even cookware (shoutout to our friends at Hestan!). So when it came to the decorating of Silver Trident's "Tasting Home," Binder and Jost decided to utilize the luxury home master once again! ;-)

To continue the concept of the "Tasting Home," Silver Trident collaborated with chef Sarah Scott to create food pairings for each of their five wines (since homes traditionally serve food...). Sarah has been cooking in the Napa Valley since the early 1980s and has developed a talent for food and wine pairings. She is the co-author of a cookbook with Connie Green titled The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food. Noshes we sampled at Silver Trident include: Herbed Labneh and Goat Cheese, Mushroom Duxelle, and Piquillo Pimento Cheese Spread. Yummm (with 3Ms!!!)!

Some wine favorites from our time at Silver Trident Winery include:

Apollo's Folly Rosé (2017) Complex, yet ready to play! Ripe red raspberry and watermelon make this "Paris, in the 1920s, in a glass." Sipping this Rosé was the perfect compliment to the black and white photography of Tunbridge Gallery throughout the Silver Trident's "Tasting Home." Classically clean, it knows what it wants.

Benevolent Dictator Pinot Noir (2015) Classic Russian River Pinot Noir with flavorings of cherry, cola, and pomegranate. All aged in French Oak, 40% of it new. A great fireside wine with a calico cat in your lap!

Playing With Fire (2015) A red that changes every year... because Silver Trident is a small winery they consider this their take some chances, break some rules, and play with fire. Remember how your parents always told you never to play with fire? And remember how that just made it a little bit more exciting? Silver Trident chooses a variety of berries, a variety of barrel toasts, and experiments with fermentation temperatures. Playing with fire can spark some deliciously thrilling results (and create my favorite wine at their "Tasting Home.)"

MADRIGAL FAMILY WINERY

Our last planned sipping experience of the day (there was still more to come courtesy of JACK Winery) was the third generation run Madrigal Family Winery. Located on Highway 29, between Calistoga and St. Helena, this winery is situated on 40 acres of estate vineyards, from the highway to the treeline. Madrigal Family Winery is boutique, producing about 6,000 cases of wine a year. Cabernet Sauvignon is the primary varietal you'll find at the winery, but Madrigal also ventures out into Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, focusing on small lots of a single vineyard.

The Madrigals first started farming some of Napa Valley's finest vineyards in the 1930's. The family left Mexico in the late 1930's and arrived in the Napa Valley where they began farming apples, pears, walnuts and grapes. They were one of the first, if not the first, Mexican family in upper Napa Valley. Early on Jess, who fathered 12 children, chose to focus on wine agriculture and started the family's vineyard management business. After working for Napa icons like Duckhorn, in the 1990's they decided to get in on the fun of making wine. In 1995, Madrigal Family Winery produced its first vintage of 500 cases of Petite Sirah. Today, that company manages over 800 acres. Looks like grape juice suits them! ;-)

The Madrigal family history is a constant source of inspiration, and guides them in their winemaking now. They value the long relationship they've had with the land and the people of the upper Valley, believing that the combined wisdom of the folks who've been here for generations and a deep appreciation of these vineyards can be tasted in their wine. Today, the company is run by Chris Madrigal, the founder's grandson, and vintner of Madrigal Family Winery.

Chris, who has 3 kids of his own, ultimately attributes the family's success to a strong work ethic and luck. "I always say sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. I like being good and a lot of the things that have happened in our life has been a result of working hard, but if there wasn't luck involved with it, or if we weren't at the right place at the right time, our story could be drastically different. Be it luck or hard work, the Madrigal dream is alive and well."

Not that it makes it easy. "There is not a lot of family vineyards left in Napa Valley, but this is our life." Madrigal Family Winery is a portfolio company of Bacchus Capital Management, an investment firm providing strategic capital and making equity investments in United States family owned wineries and wine businesses. And Chris is not afraid to talk numbers with the guests. He explained the cost per acre to create a wine is $44,000. Any wine selling for under $30 in Napa is not making any money for the winery. So Madrigal Family Winery combats the daunting numbers with a constant dedication to their supporters. "We do 6 parties a year for our wine club, most wineries do one or two. We do a crab boil with no utensils, everything you eat is with your hands. And the results are astounding: the average retention rate of a wine club is 18 months. Madrigal's is 6 years!"

Madrigal Family Winery also has a tasting room in Sausalito, but the best way to experience their wines is by visiting where their roots lie in Napa surrounded by the grapes.

Some wine favorites from our time at Madrigal Family Wine include:

Gewurztraminer Mendocino (2016) - Storytelling white wine!!! Pales straw in color with peach and rose petal aromas. The stone fruit flavorings and crisp finish allow for even the tallest of tales to have a great ending!

Petite Sirah Estate (2014) - This sophisticated wine is also the biggest varietal made in Calistoga. With notes of vanilla, blue fruits, and plums, this would be perfectly paired with a really nice BLT on sourdough with thick sliced bacon. It screams: JUICY.

Las Vinas del Senor Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) - This wine was first crafted when Dad Jess turned 80. It's a showstopper with elegance, sophistication, and a velvet finish to celebrate a nuanced lifetime! Vanilla, cherry, and cedar showcase the richness of the wine, and eighty years of experience!

CALISTOGA

After all our imbibing (and there was A LOT of imbibing), Titus of Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service chauffeured us to Calistoga, depositing us at the Mount View Hotel to start embracing the art of relaxation!

Calistoga is located on the north end of Napa Valley (75 miles north of San Francisco). This small town is famous for its hot springs, hotel and spas, world-class restaurants, and whimsical wineries, including Castello di Amorosa, a 13th century Tuscan castle. Earlier this year, Amy Poehler shot a portion of her new Netflix film comedy, Wine Country, in this picture perfect hamlet.

Calistoga has a population of just 5,330 people while maintaining 46 lodging properties, 23 restaurants/cafés/bars, and 18 spas. The latter's most famous is Indian Springs. which dates back to 1860 when California's first millionaire Sam Brannon envisioned a world-class resort based on the area's steamy mineral waters. 3 million years ago a volcano erupted and created a petrified forest and these watery healing grounds used by the Wappo Indians from the 1700s on.

Brannon coined the name "Calistoga," a combination of California and Saratoga, a resort in Upstate New York he admired. From then on Calistoga becomes noted for its natural mineral water and elegant hot springs resort. Two ingredients that make Calistoga's spas so unique are the volcanic ash and the geothermal mineral water. And the results are more than popular as more than half of the spas in Calistoga offer hot springs or mineral pools. Another famous natural landmark of the town is Old Faithful Geyser of California, a small geyser set against the backdrop of palm trees and mountains that historically erupts every 45 minutes.

Calistoga is designated as its own distinct AVA with an area of seven square miles and over 60 different wineries. Other than the Madrigal Family Winery, landmark wineries in the area include include Frank Family Winery (the third oldest winery in Napa Valley), Twomey, Sterling Vineyards, Dutch Henry Winery and Chateau Montelena Winery, which is housed in a jaw-dropping, ivy-covered castle with landscaped gardens. In 2019, Napa Valley's first Four Seasons will open in Calistoga with 85 guest rooms, 20 villas, and its own vineyard and winery.

MOUNT VIEW HOTEL & SPA

Time to wine down... Kelly and I checked in at the iconic Mount View Hotel & Spa, which sits centrally on Calistoga's Lincoln Avenue and has been a beacon for enthusiastic travelers searching out the region's abundant amenities and mineral-rich waters for over a century. Designed with relaxation in mind, Mount View Hotel & Spa has been a favorite since 1919. It's the detailing that sets this place apart, upon our arrival Matthew, one of the hotel's managers, gave us a bottle of One Hope Sparkling to celebrate Kelly's impending nuptials!

At the Mount View Hotel each of the 33 guest rooms, suites and private cottages have been furnished with it's original art deco architect in mind, mixed with contemporary accents to give a relaxed and trendy vibe. Mount View Hotel & Spa was recognized in 1981 on the National Register of Historic Places, and with due reason. The Mount View Hotel & Spa has had a handful of colorful proprietors who have left a lasting impact on the grandeur seen and felt today. While staying there Kelly and I stayed in the "Twin Bedroom" (something right out of a 1940s screwball comedy..), the tub and sink were classic clawfoot (perfect for rogue champagne bottles) something the in-room Illy Coffee counterbalanced the next day! ;-)

Mount View's beautiful backyard includes an outdoor heated pool, natural mineral whirlpool (gotta get your healing waters in...), cabanas, private grounds patio that allows you to relax in comfort and style with a glass of wine. The hotel has dining on the property, with two on-site restaurants: boasting contemporary American eats at Johnny's Calistoga and French-inspired fare at Veraison, as well as the newly opened Indie Blue Lounge, where guests can enjoy an artisanal coffee experience and wine tasting.

Inspired by One Hope Wines and the first of its kind in Calistoga, the Mount View Hotel has adopted "cause integration" hospitality in the Napa Valley. Mount View Hotel donates 50 percent of its profits to charity from environmental causes to children's needs (that's right you read that correct: 50 percent!!!). Oh, and the hotel is also a certified Green Hotel. The Mount View Hotel's vision is to create exceptional experiences that inspires people to indulge while doing good. Talk about the perfect reason to take an overnight to Calistoga! ;-)

VERAISON

Everything happens for a Riesling! Kelly and I were both famished from our day of day drinking so we decided to was time for (another) nosh! Thus we headed over to Veraison, the French-inspired, farm-to-table restaurant located within the Mount View Hotel! There we celebrated Kelly's weekend in style: dining on oysters, macaroni cheese, and one of the best by-the-glass wine lists in Napa Valley...

Veraison is named after the stage of berry when midway through its development it changes from hard to soft and its color goes from green to its harvesting colour. It was the perfect place to savor a recap of our travels throughout the MAGICAL valley of Napa!

JACK WINERY

LOVE the wine you're with... After a scrumptious dinner at Veraison, we headed back to Mount View Hotel & Spa to drink some AWESOME wine in the natural mineral whirlpool (gotta get your healing waters in...). So we opened a bottle of JACK Proprietary Red Wine and talked about the future of life underneath the stars of Calistoga! Kelly and I were lucky enough that a few bottles of red were left for us at the hotel's front desk by our friends at JACK Winery. Accompanied by a handwritten note stating: "We invite you to enjoy JACK wines with good friends and family because we believe the simple joy of conversation is one of life's greatest gifts."

With a philosophy of, "Friends and family. We'll drink to that," JACK Winery was created by former Major League teammates Chris Iannetta and Vernon Wells in 2012.

Despite both of their careers overlapping for a very short time while playing for the Los Angeles Angels they became friends through a mutual interest in wine and rehabbing together from injuries suffered during the 2011/2012 baseball season. For three months of the season both were on the disabled list.

Chris and Vernon would often visit fine dining restaurants with teammates. When it came to choosing the wines for the meal, their teammates would often defer to Chris or Vernon to make the choices. During one such meal they both talked about their passion for wines, interest in the Napa Valley and pondered starting their own wine label. For Chris and Vernon, the thrill of creating something from the ground up and being able to share it with friends, family, and wine lovers near and far is the satisfying result of a fruitful collaboration.

Taking the initials of Jayce, Ashlyn, Christian and Kylie, JACK Winery was born. The name stands as a tribute to their shared passion for family

Some wine favorites that we sampled under the stars from JACK Winery included:

Proprietary Red Wine (2015) This wine is a flavor bomb! A blend of Merlot and Cabernet blend, its aged for 22 months in French Oak before bottling. Crimson in color with flavors of wild berries, currants, and cherries, it's the perfect complement to a discussion under a star filled sky. Oh, and it got a 92 from Robert Parker Wine Advocate.

Pinot Noir (2016) - A ruby red painted lady! With a limited production of only 32 cases, this was the inaugural vintage of the JACK Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Berries, plum, and hints of rose petals make you want to discover what this lady of the night has to offer. And let's just say it's a long decadent finish... ;-)

YO EL REY ROASTING ORGANIC COFFEE

The next day we rose with the sun to experience all that Calistoga had to offer... but first our JAVA FIX at Yo el Rey Roasting Organic Coffee!!! A SUPER COOL space right in the middle of Calistoga, Yo el Rey Roasting Organic Coffee is a small coffee spot filled with colorful art, kitschy vintage furniture, and handwritten poetry all over the walls. This is perfect caffeine cove to clear your mind of all that Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir or to wind down after an afternoon of window shopping in Calistoga.

Kelly and I deemed it an extremely solid java spot! Yo el Rey Roasting Organic Coffee was voted best cafe/coffeehouse in Napa County and best Wifi Hotspot in the Valley as a whole (a very important aspect after a day of places with no service...). Their commitment to superior quality, organically farmed coffee has allowed them to become organic, California-Green Certified, and Napa County-Green Certified.

Drink Coffee, Buy Art at the Calistoga Winery

Focusing on espresso and pour over drinks, their coffee blend is a nice medium roast of beans chosen by and roasted by the owner personally right in the middle of the floor using a chromed out Diedrich Roaster. Be sure to get the honey vanilla latte, it's the signature drink of the place: rich, satisfyingly and not too sweet! ;-)

So here's to life being delicious, all your moments being postcard worthy, and follow your dreams...and drink up bitches!!!

Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com

 

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