Posts Tagged ‘wine’

Napa: The Game Changer?

July 13th, 2011 | Rachel

The whole idea behind this blog is my belief that my destiny lies (at least in part) in running my own bed and breakfast somewhere in the French countryside surrounded by vineyards.  This belief was further cemented into my brain (and heart) after my boyfriend and I took a two-week road trip around France and spent three days touring wineries outside of Bordeaux.

Its not that I don’t love New York City.  I think this is one of the greatest cities in the world, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to live here.  Still, I am drawn to a culture focused more on quality of life than on one’s bank account balance or job title.  I love sunshine and fresh air and good food.  Throw in a great bottle of wine, and I am in heaven.

This past weekend I went on a trip to California with my mom.  We flew into San Francisco and then drove up to Napa where we spent our first two nights.  We then spent two nights in Sonoma and one night in San Francisco before returning to the east coast.  During the day, we toured a dozen or so wineries and drove around the countryside.  In the evening, we ate at three amazing restaurants in Napa and Sonoma: Bottega, the girl & the fig, and El Dorado Kitchen.

Downtown Sonoma at Dusk

View from the Napa Valley Wine Train

Accepting the challenge of eating an unripe grape

I had never spent any time in California before this trip, and yet I’ve always wondered if I would like living on the west coast.  Now that I have had the chance to see it for myself, I know the answer is yes.

The people definitely have a laid back attitude you don’t see too often in native East Coasters.  As someone whose only work criticism has been that I am too laid back, I think I might have found my kindred spirits.

I talked to owners of both of our bed and breakfasts at length — one has been in business for 21 years and the other 15 — and now a storm of new ideas is brewing in my head.

Hillview Inn in Napa

Sonoma Chalet in Sonoma

Cute kitchen at the Sonoma Chalet

In my element at the Sonoma Chalet

Don’t worry… this isn’t the end of the France dream.  It might be a practical stepping stone on my way to France or perhaps an opportunity to take my obsession with French culture and create something unique here in the United States.

Stay tuned.

The Wines of Saint Émilion

July 7th, 2011 | Rachel

In honor of an upcoming trip to California wine country with my mom, here’s a few notes on one of my favorite French wine regions.

I’m no expert on the wine side of things (for a more detailed assessment, you could start here), but I can testify to the fact that the town of St. Émilion and its surrounding countryside are gorgeous, and the wines are DELICIOUS (albeit a little on the expensive side).

St. Émilion

Two of many wine stores in St. Émilion

Steve and me in St. Émilion

 St. Émilion is the name of both the town and the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for wines originating in the surrounding region, which is located about thirty minutes west of Bordeaux.  The wines are predominantly made from Merlot grapes as the base with varying proportions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

The wineries in this region take great pride in the classifications that are unique to the region and are reevaluated approximately every ten years.  These classifications are the Premiers Grands Crus Classés and the Grands Crus Classés.

Upon the recommendation of our innkeeper at Chateau De La Moune (more on it later), Steve and I spent a delightful afternoon at Chateau Fonplégade, a St. Émilion winery.  [As a reminder, you can click on the photos to view them larger.]

Chateau Fonplégade

This winery was purchased in 2004 by American billionaires Denise and Stephen Adams.  It is currently classified as Grands Crus Classé, but they are trying to achieve the higher classification of Premiers Grands Crus Classé.  The Adamses spent $7 million renovating the facilities and installing state of the art wine-making equipment.  They also have switched to organic farming methods.

The facilities at Chateau Fonplégade

Whatever they are doing, they doing it right because the wines were so delicious that Steve and I joined their wine club (a concept the French we spoke to had never heard of).  With the exception of their rosé (also a relatively new concept for that region), many St. Émilion wines have to age ten or more years before they reach their true potential.  We hid the bottles we brought home with us and are trying to forget about them for the next eight or so years so we don’t accidentally drink them prematurely.

We tried to visit Chateau La France, pictured at the top of this post with the giant metal chicken, but sadly it was closed that day.

What about you?  Any favorite St. Émilion wines we should know about?


On The (French) Road… Again

June 3rd, 2011 | Rachel

Just a quick update on what we’ve been doing.

After our tour of northwest France, we headed south to spend some time amongst the grape vines.  We spent the first night in the city of Bordeaux.

Somehow I ended up on a date with Justin Bieber.

I learned that the French put butter on their oysters… and have bars with automatic wine dispensers.

The next day we went to a large flea market in the middle of the city.  We found the honey badger, but he doesn’t care.

The main event, of course, was the wine.  We spend two days driving around St. Emilion and Medoc, touring wineries, and drinking wine.

As a special treat, May 30 was Steve’s birthday.  We celebrated by visiting two wineries and eating lunch and dinner at two particularly delicious restaurants.

Stay tuned for more!