Guide to Napa Valley

June 21, 2010

My Napa Valley friend (the one I have been posting about for a week now) was kind enough to let me post her “Visiting the Napa Valley” list.  There are so many wonderful places in Napa that it can be overwhelming, so it is nice to have a little starting point.  I have been to most of the places with her over the years and they are all wonderful.  Thank you so much Boo.




Bouchon Bakery – THE best place for coffee and pastries in the morning.  Or if you’re ‘fooded out’ they have a nice light lunch too.

Bouchon – The most fun and lively restaurant in the Valley. Part of the Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry) collection.  The pomme frites are all-world.  Try the the steak, or  Croque Madame.

Auberge du Soleil –It has the best view in the Valley.  Perfect for a drink on the deck

Ad Hoc – This Thomas Keller restaurant is a test kitchen.  It is prix fixe with one set menu each night, so call ahead to find out what they’re serving.

Press – Owned by Leslie Rudd of the Dean & Deluca food group, this spot serves a fantastic cocktail and their bar menu is terrific.

Mustard’s Grill – Nothing fancy, but always delicious.

Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s) – beat burger and fries around.  I talked about it at length in the Napa Style post, so I won’t go all into it again.



Calistoga Ranch – It’s casual, elegant, has a wonderful sense of place, and the service is extraordinary. (If you’re staying at Auberge you’ll be able to eat here since it’s an Auberge property.)

Solage – Located in Calistoga, this new resort is owned by Auberge and is young, fun and hip.  Each room has bicycles so you can bike into town, the pool is a total scene (think L.A. meets Napa), and the food at the restaurant is quite good.  Oh, and if you have kids they are GRRRREAT about accommodating them.



Frog’s Leap – Always a favorite – A wonderful spot with a new tasting facility that is unpretentious and fun.

Roud Pond – Located right in Rutherford, their view of the Valley is exquisite.  The winery is beautiful, the wines are great and the staff is knowledgeable.  Round Pond offers many different tastings, even an olive oil tasting with lunch, and all are fun and beautifully done.

Cliff Lede –  The space is beautiful and if you’re in that neck of the woods (Yountville) it would be worth a stop.

Boeschen – A small, family owned winery that recently opened.

Quintessa – Another Rutherford  favorite, but this winery has extensive caves and is a real architectural treat.

Revana – A selection of wines are made at this relatively new winery. . .and each wine is made by an outstanding wine-maker.  They feature big (pricey) Cabernets.



The Prisoner/Papillon – The wine is sumptuous.

75/ The Sum –of course, my friend’s wine

Acme Fine Wines – If you’re serious about wine, this is the place for serious fun.  A wine store in St. Helena that specializes in small production wines

Wine Labels

June 18, 2010

I mentioned in my previous post my friend and her husband run an amazing wine business with multiple different brands ranging from the high high end to more reasonably priced wines.  The crazy thing is even the reasonable prices wines are out of this world delicious.  Her husband, Tuck, is truly an expert at this stuff and it shows in every aspect of their work.  Being a designer and photographer I was absolutely taken aback by the wine labels themselves.  They are each so unique and beautiful and the design truly correlates to each particular wine.  He let me take a few home to put up on my inspiration board.

They are must more impressive in person.  With all the embossing, foil leafing and detail, you just want to touch them.


The Sun – Seventy Five Wine Co.

The Sum label is a thermography print and the design comes from a charcoal drawing inspired by the cork of their 75 label.  This one is so affordable and probably my favorite.


Hogwash – such simple label….such great name!



The Semper label is inspired by traditional Bordeaux label.  There is so much detail in this design and I love the history behind it.  Between the gold leaf, thermography and letterpressing this label is quite sophisticated.  Perfect for this high end Pinot Nior



Another beautiful, but simple label, Mockingbird may be my favsies.  The way the leaves form the bird is just beautiful and the numerous different printing processes that go into this label are just astounding.  The green elements are foil leafing and the black are letterpressed.  I just love it.



The Amulet label is a thermography print with a little gold leafing (again, the photograph does not do this justice).  Is is just too cool.  Tuck’s, coffee table made from wine bottle holders also ups the cool factor by about a million.  Wait, this one is may favorite…

Napa Style

June 16, 2010

While I was out in California a few weeks ago for my friend Alexandra’s wedding, I also made a point to swing up to St. Helena in the Napa Valley where another one of my close friends now lives.  She and her darling family pretty much live the bucolic, Napa, country lifestyle complete with Montessori school spring musicals (we got to see a stirring performance of 3-5 year olds sing songs to the theme of “Down on the Farm”)  raising their own chickens (we had fresh eggs for breakfast each morning), and running a successful wine business that now includes about 7 different wine labels (We served the 75 Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon at our wedding).  If I didn’t love her so much I would hate her.:)

Here is a brief photo journal of our two day trip.


After driving in from San Francisco we headed straight for Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s).  Perhaps it is the California sun or the fresh Napa air that makes their food so delicious, but I always make a point to grab a burger there each time I visit my friend.  On top of that they will wrap your burger in lettuce instead of a bun upon request, something this wheat and gluten intolerant girl much appreciates. I washed is all down with a vanilla milkshake of course.

Their slogan is “Tray Gourmet.”  Isn’t that just beyond great?


Cliff Lede Vineyards

My friend also surprised Steve and I with a few prearranged winery visits!  The girl is a rock star.  Not only does she have two little ones, she is pregnant with her third and still manages to win hostess of the year award.

Our first stop was a private tour and tasting at Cliff Lede Vineyards.  The vineyard Vice President and General Manager, Jack Bittner, is a close friend of my friend and also happens have grown up in Stow, MA just minuets from my husband’s home town of Mayanrd, MA.  The two Massachusetts boys loved catching up about all things New England.  What a small world and fun surprise!  Jack was wonderful and gave us a tour of their impecable facilities and then had a beautiful wine tasting prepared for us.  Talk about VIP treatment.  I was overwhelmed.


This is where the wine gets to live after being pressed, complete with a gorgeous oil painting and barrel cave for storing and aging.  They must have little elves that live here and clean every night.  The place was spotless.  I want to live here.

Can’t you just picture the villain in a James Bond movie, running across the catwalk?  I can almost hear the clink, clink, clink of his shoes as he tries to escape.


The tasting and mixing table laid out for us to sample three different wines.


Beautifully printed cards explained the history and mix of each wine.  My favorite was the 2006 Poetry – Stags Leap District.  It was absolutely amazing…and of course, the most expensive (oh well).


More fabulous art around the property.


Round Pond Estate

We then made a visit to Round Pond Estate for more wine tasting and vineyard relaxation.  The tasting room and and patio area had amazing views of the entire valley.


It is easy to see why the Napa Valley is such a perfect climate and location for growing grapes.  The sun drenched days and cool nights are perfect for growing just about anything.

Baby grapes

Rows and rows


And flowers galore!  The whole valley was just blooming.


Down on the Farm





Of course no farm would be complete without horses.


And on top of all that fun and beauty we got to enjoy some fabulous wine!  Our 48 hours there felt like a mini honeymoon.  It was wonderful.  I will leave you with a few photos I snapped from our San Fransisco hotel room.  The bright lights and buildings are such a contrast to the Napa countryside.


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