For many years, coworker Smiley Anders has bragged about his “well-deserved” vacations, so I decided to take a page from his playbook since not much happened when I took one of my own the third week of June.
Husband Jim, friends Melanie and André Uzee and I again headed to California wine country, specifically Napa and Sonoma counties. Hey, no offense, it’s much better than Back Brusly or Bunkie.
Not to rub it in too much, but the temperature was in the low 70s in the day and mid-40s at night all four days. Our first stop was Couvaison Winery’s Carnarous tasting room, where we relaxed on the deck in the middle of the vineyards.
At B Cellars, we reunited with Christina Machamer, whom we met last spring at Artesa Winery. I struck up a conversation with her, and she gave us her B Cellars card and invited us to drop by. We did and fell in love with the wines – all blends. Trouble was, we lost the business card and couldn’t remember her name for anything, but when we walked into the winery this trip, Melanie and I immediately recognized her, and she remembered us.
I’m not sure who picked up the brochure as we left B Cellars after another amazing tasting, but as one of the Uzees was reading it in the car we discovered our buddy “Chef C-Mac” didn’t just work in the tasting room. Noooo, she’s also the winery’s chef and winner of season four of “Hell’s Kitchen,” the fiery reality show hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Did you know that Nascar great Jeff Gordon has his own wine label? Well, he does, and his wine is made and bottled by the gang at August Briggs Winery, which was another of our stops. The staff was quite busy since Jeff was in town for Nascar’s Sonoma 2012, but Matt took good care of us.
We thought we were going to Rombauer Vineyards simply to taste the great wines, but we ended up getting a private tour of the lush, bursting-with-blooms garden with chief horticulturist Xavier Corral after he overheard me say I didn’t remember the winery having so many flowers. He also took us to his still-in-the-works secret garden and on a trek through the winery’s caves. It made us a few minutes late for our tasting, but we didn’t mind at all.
Of course, we had to go visit our friends at Swanson Vineyards, Schramsberg and Prager Portworks. It just wouldn’t be Napa without stops there.
Over in Sonoma, we popped in at Francis Ford Coppola’s wine resort and wrapped up the day with an amazing experience at Jordan Winery. Speaking of experiences, we had a true dining experience at the Culinary Institute of America at Graystone, which is located in St. Helena in Napa Valley.
A little closer to home, Ruffino’s Restaurant has been named one of Urbanspoon’s top 250 fine dining restaurants in America — a dining experience right here in our own backyard. Congratulations to co-owners Ruffin Rodrigue and chef Peter Sclafani!!
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