Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Leisurely Wine Tasting Vacation

We have been on some wine tasting trips where we have visited as many as five wineries a day, usually only tasting the red wines. Our rationalization for not tasting the whites is that we won't get as overloaded with sensory experiences when we are trying to pack that many tastings into a day.

On this trip, we tried to plan for quality rather than quantity. For instance, we started Monday and Tuesday with quilt stores (we don't want to scare quilters by showing up with purple teeth!, so first thing in the morning is best), then visited one winery, had lunch, and then went to one or two more wineries. Wednesday, we pretty much did the same thing, only without a quilt store to start.

We also had very good meals. Asking local people for recommendations and using Open Table to secure reservations, our experiences were memorable: Sunday night, dinner at Bouchon in Yountville; Monday lunch, Brix in Yountille; Monday dinner at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville; Tuesday lunch, Cafe Citti in Sonoma; Tuesday dinner, Cafe La Haye in Sonoma, just off the Sonoma square; Wednesday lunch, Farmstead in St. Helena; Wednesday dinner, Barndiva in Healdsburg. Every single meal was a major hit! If I didn't gain ten pounds, it will be a major miracle!

Here are a couple of the wineries we went to on Tuesday:

We thought the grounds at Chateau St. Jean were really pretty -- the wine was excellent, too!

...but Duckhorn scored major points with us for a lot of reasons.

I definitely wouldn't recommend this everywhere, but we arrived five minutes before tasting hours were over and were welcomed warmly and led out to the patio where there were glasses all set up for the library tasting that we had asked for. Library tastings usually include reserve wines and older wines that are not in the standard tasting menu. These are the kinds of wines that Dan seeks out and collects; fortunately, when the wine ages to its "time" I eventually get to plan and cook meals around these special bottles, so it's a lot of fun for both of us!

Ten glasses were lined up in rows so that five different wines could be poured for both of us. Between the rows of glasses were winery labels for each wine with descriptions and other information to help us understand and appreciate the wines.

Here's a closer look at the label/glassware setup....

On Wednesday morning, we called Pride Mountain Vineyards, a winery that can be visited by appointment only. One of the cool facts about this winery is that some of the grape growing acreage is in Sonoma County and some is in Napa County. They have two separate wine making facilities because each county has its own regulations and such governing wine making, so the grapes grown on Sonoma soil are processed in the Sonoma facility and the grapes grown in Napa get it!

This is the line defining one county from the other. Dan chose to put a foot in each county, where I decided to stay in both at once. Boy, was it windy -- look at my hair!

Pride Mountain has a beautiful tasting room! There's Dan, waiting for the wine we bought....

A closeup of some of the award winning bottles...

All in all, we had a great trip -- we found some memorable wines that are going home with us, we had some amazing food, and I did a bit of shopping. Bought three cookbooks and prowled through some "foodie" shops, such as Dean & Deluca and brought home goodies from those. I don't think Dan will want to go into another food prep shop for months!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Broadway Quilts -- Sonoma CA

Our plan for yesterday was to spend the whole day in the Sonoma area, first visiting the quilt shop and then tasting in Sonoma county wineries. Didn't quite work out that way, but.....we did go to Broadway Quilts first!

The scale of this store redefines "BIG"! The building that houses the shop was once a mechanics garage used for car repairs, so the ceilings are high and the rooms are very large. The area above, just to the right of the entrance, is what I am calling the "baby room". Lots of baby quilts and fabrics are displayed in this space.

Broadway Quilts appeals to garment makers as well with notions and buttons.....

....trims and zippers for clothing construction needs.

I thought the tea cups panel and coordinates were adorable -- I've seem similar ones pieced into quilts, but these would also be cute appliqued on tea towels, place mats and/or maybe an apron?

This shot toward the back left corner of the store gives you an idea of how big it is and how much fabric and goodies are here....
Owner Geri Rosemurgy, ready to cut fabric....

I really liked this star quilt and meant to ask Gery about the pattern for it; I'll have to call her...or maybe that's just an excuse to go back and visit this great store again?

This little art quilt showed off the whole idea of Sonoma at its best!

Here's the classroom, waiting for students to arrive....

...and a work in progress -- love the applique over the pieced background.

Chatted with Kathy Martin for a bit; she has her own room here and was busy working her longarm magic on a customer's quilt.

What I bought: I fell in love with a pink, brown and white baby quilt in the window. There wasn't a kit, but Gery's cutting the fabric and mailing it to me along with the pattern. I also bought a couple of yards of a fuschia batik with small gold spirals. Just what I needed -- more PINK fabric!

If you are up here wine tasting or just enjoying the beautiful countryside and great weather, this shop is definitely worth a visit. Broadway Quilts is located at 20525 Broadway, Sonoma CA 95476 (phone: 707-938-7312). To go to the website, click here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quiltmaker -- Napa CA

One of the things I love to do on vacation -- besides eat, shop and find new wines! -- is to go into quilt shops and see what is new and different about them. I believe that quilt shops express the personality of the owner(s) and that is why no two shops are alike.

My first thoughts when entering Quiltmaker were that the profusion of color and pattern showed exuberance as well as a love of fabric and the fun that can be had playing with it....

One of the first quilts I saw was this colorful strip quilt made from Bali Pops -- simple, bright and fun to keep or give as a gift.

In more muted colors, yet no less eyecatching, there was a kit available for this quilt. Looks like a pretty simple block; how they're set is what gives this quilt its magic.

Lots of quilts on the walls for inspiration....

...and many bolts of fabric to make it all happen!

Really liked this star quilt -- it's Nancy's Block of the Month Stars; looks like a lot of techniques would be learned in the year spent making this quilt.

Every year I make a couple of baby quilts for gifts -- I thought this quilt would be absolutely adorable for a little girl! A pattern was pinned to it, called "All Wrapped Up" (if I'm remembering the name correctly). I browsed around the pattern section of the store, but couldn't find the pattern for purchase anywhere. The owner was busy helping customers choose fabric and Dan and I wanted to get on with our wine tasting day, so I made a note to look for this pattern later.

One thing that I was very happy to see: Even though today's Monday, not what I would consider a "hot" business day, there were several customers in the shop. The owner was busy helping other customers, so I didn't really get a chance to talk to her beyond the initial greeting and her permission for me to take pictures for the blog. Quiltmaker is very well merchandised and I did have the opportunity to chat with a customer who was visiting from the East coast and was thrilled to find the variety of beautiful nontraditional fabrics that she couldn't get at home.

There is a large classroom at Quiltmaker that could probably hold 15-18 students for a class as well as the longarm room where someone was hard at work. She graciously allowed me to take the picture above. I think I would enjoy working in a room with all of those beautiful quilts!

Quiltmaker is located at 1275 Napa Town Center in Napa, California (phone: 707-252-6793). To go to their website, click here.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back in the Northern California Wine Country

Napa and Sonoma counties, the northern California wine country, is an area that we come back to again and again. The first time Dan and I visited here as a couple was in 1989, we spent part of our honeymoon in Napa and have been here several times since, the last time in fall of 2007. So we were eager to come back to "our" Doubletree hotel in Rohnert Park, Sonoma county, and find some wineries and restaurants new to us.

I used Open Table to find dinner reservations for the four nights we are here; it is unbelievably easy to see open times for restaurants you are considering as well as the dress code (if any), type of food and links to the menus. Then if you find what you want, one click gets you that reservation....

We left Palmdale about 11:00 this morning and drove up the 5, not a scenic route, but pretty fast; we had a 5:45 reservation at Bouchon, Thomas Keller's more relaxed restaurant (compared to his flagship French Laundry). Since he has consistently ranked among America's top chefs, I definitely wanted to eat at one of his restaurants.

We made great time, about 6 hours portal to portal, so were about 1/2 hour early for dinner. We wandered around Washington Street in Yountville, looking to see what had changed since we had been here last and taking a sneak peak at the menu posted outside Bistro Jeanty, right down the street from Bouchon, where we are eating dinner tomorrow night.

The beautiful flowers are in front of the Villagio, which is a huge complex of buildings on Washington Street -- I'm not sure if it is a hotel or condominiums.....

...but the grounds are beautiful! Love the combo of bright yellow and orange tulips with the blue and white to cool down the color scheme a bit....

Back to dinner: We started with bibb and butter lettuce salads with a vinaigrette dressing, the leaves piled artistically on the plate rather than being torn up and tossed. Then Dan had a sirloin steak and I had arctic char, which I had heard was a lot like salmon but had never tried, garnished with lobster pieces, leeks and other yummy things. For dessert, Dan went with the two kinds of sorbet, strawberry and mango, while I went straight for the calorie bomb: petite brownies with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, a foam that tasted like whipped cream but lighter, and some sort of coffee ingredient.

Yes, we bought the cookbook!

It's about an hour drive from the restaurant to our hotel and the sky was spectacular with an interesting cloud formation that seemed to split the sky in two. Earlier there were sunset colors mixed in with this formation, but I just couldn't seem to get a picture!

We have several wineries and a quilt shop in Napa that we are planning to visit tomorrow (as well as another great dinner); on Tuesday, we'll most likely concentrate on Sonoma and then the Healdsburg area on Wednesday. We're pretty flexible, so we'll know, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that......

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Today's Project

The border is all marked, which took most of a day, and I'm ready to do the free motion. Usually I do the border last, but since I want to bind this in the car tomorrow, I did all the straight stitching to stabilize the borders and am doing this part of the free motion first.

You've seen this stencil on my blog several times in different sizes. I love the graceful curves and use this design a lot; it's from The Stencil Company, #SCO-183-7.5. The 7.5 refers to the width, in inches, of the design.

The bobbin thread is Mettler 100% cotton silk finish thread in color #515, which is a gold-ish tan color; the top thread is Sulky rayon #1025, Mine Gold. Looks like I have my work cut out for me today! Tomorrow we have about a 6-1/2 hour drive up to the California Napa/Sonoma wine country. I was able to snag a reservation at Bouchon in Yountville for 5:45, so we'll have dinner first and then check into our hotel in Rohnert Park. We've stayed there before and it's a good base for all of our running around to the wineries and restaurants we want to visit. Looking at my restaurant reservations for the next four days -- Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, Cafe La Haye and Barndiva -- not to mention wine tasting and good breakfasts and lunches, it's a good thing I hit my goal weight this week! Bet it's not the same next week when I weigh in!
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