Grapevines to Be Replaced by Bowling Boutiques

antialcoholism antialcoholBased on the success of the Crush Ultra Lounge and its six luxury bowling lanes at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, California, a developer has announced plans to build a series of “boutique” bowling centers adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Highway 29.

Although traditional bowling centers have been closing over an extended number of years because of ever-increasing land values and long-term land leases expiring, a new type of bowling-based business known as a “bowling boutique” has seen substantial growth in the past decade.

“These smaller centers, which place as much emphasis on high-quality food and beverage service as on bowling, have been very successful across the country,” said a spokesperson for the development company. “They are protected from rising land prices, to a large degree, because they are able to charge higher prices than traditional bowling centers.”

Since the city of Napa already has so-called “luxury lanes” at the Meritage Resort, Napa will not initially be included in the chain of new bowling boutiques. Running from south to north, the boutiques will be built on the outskirts of Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga.

According to plans announced by the developer, each bowling boutique will include eight lanes, featuring the latest high-tech equipment; a full-service restaurant, each with a unique menu; and a wine list consisting exclusively of bottlings from Napa Valley, with an emphasis on even more specific sub-appellations that match the respective boutique locations.

“For instance, at our bowling boutique in Rutherford, we plan to stock as many Rutherford District wines as we can,” the development company spokesperson said. “To add to the atmosphere, just like some barbecue restaurants spread sawdust across their floors, we plan to spread Rutherford dust on the floor of the restaurant area.”

A heavy-duty air filtration system will keep the dust from finding its way onto the approaches of the bowling lanes.

The spokesperson added that only a limited number of grapevines would need to be uprooted to make room for each bowling boutique, and noted that those vines would be used for decorations to help maintain the wine county ambience inside the centers.

Vine removal is expected to begin in early May, and construction of the five bowling boutiques is slated to commence in early June. Grand openings are planned to coincide with the Napa Valley harvest season, each center hosting a grape stomp with participants using bowling rental shoes.

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Posted in Editor's Journal

V Marketplace: A Vintage Experience in Napa Valley

vmarketIf you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley sometime this year, try to free up a few hours for a visit to the V Marketplace.

A festival-style center once known as “Vintage 1870,” V Marketplace offers upscale specialty shops, galleries and restaurants, a wine tasting cellar, and Napa Valley’s original hot air balloon company, all housed within and around the historic Groezinger Winery complex.

Meandering cobblestone walkways, scenic views and lush picnic gardens surround the property. Special events and entertainment are scheduled year-round.

The V Marketplace complex was originally built in 1870 by German-born vintner Gottlieb Groezinger. One of the largest winemaking facilities of its day, the Groezinger Winery and family home occupied more than half of the 23-acre family estate. It included a massive brick winery, a brandy distillery, a steam power plant, creamery, brick stables and barns, and a two-story estate mansion to the north of the property. The property was sold by the Groezinger family in 1889, but remained an operating winery under successive owners until 1955.

Hosting a handful of specialty shops and two small cafes, the buildings were reopened in 1968 as the Vintage 1870 specialty shop complex. Over the past decades, and under subsequent ownership, the buildings have undergone continuing restoration to carefully blend the character and charm of yesteryear with the richness of the present day.

The center now welcomes more than half a million visitors from around the globe through its doors each year.

  • Located at 6525 Washington St. in Yountville, V Marketplace is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log

A Wine Dinner in a Most Unexpected Place

steakhousecircusMost people who visit Reno go for the gambling. Some describe northern Nevada’s gaming mecca as “the way Las Vegas used to be.”

The downtown area is home to three mega-resorts that are connected by an interior walkway: Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus.

Like its Las Vegas cousin, Circus Circus targets not only gamblers, but also families. It’s known as Reno’s kid-friendly resort.

In summary, Circus Circus is a family-friendly destination in a city known primarily for adults-only gaming.

Which makes the idea that it’s also home to some of Reno’s best wine dinners all the more incongruous.

But that’s a fact, Jack — as well as Queen, King and Ace — and the next wine dinner is just one week away at the Steakhouse at Circus. Monday, April 13 is the date, 6 o’clock is the starting time, and the featured estate will be Steele Winery.

Here is a description of the meal from a Circus Circus press release:

  • The first course dishes up Chardonnay-poached crabmeat and a scallop tower on spaghetti squash with a saffron veloute and fresh papaya, paired with the 2013 Steele Durell Vineyard Chardonnay.
  • In the second course, the chefs are serving bone marrow Meyer lemon jam with lobster and crab sushi bites, complemented by the 2012 Shooting Star Aligote.
  • The deliciousness continues with the third course of fig-braised Muscovy duck on a sweet potato-mascarpone pancake with a poached farm egg and sage Hollandaise sauce, served with the 2010 Steele Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir.
  • In the fourth course, the Steakhouse is plating up pan-fried sea bass with a blackberry foam sauce, kabocha puree, select mushrooms and shishito roasted peppers, paired with the 2013 Steele Old Vine Zinfandel from the Pacini Vineyard.
  • The fifth course introduces pork belly apple pie on fresh phyllo with walnuts and a sweet corn relish, complemented by the 2010 Stymie Founders Reserve Merlot.
  • Save room for dessert because you will not want to miss this. The berry crisp is topped with torched meringue and served alongside Shooting Star Black Bubble Syrah Sparkling Wine.

Whew! If you’re thinking about going to this dinner, I’d suggest booking a room at Circus Circus, because you’ll need to be rolled back to it. And with mid-week rates, you’ll pay far less for the room than for the worth-every-penny wine dinner, which is priced at $90, plus tax and gratuity.

To reserve a seat for what promises to be a memorable wine dinner in a most unexpected place, call 775-329-0711.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Wine Cruises Along the Beautiful Danube

Melk1In yesterday’s blog, we told you about two wine-themed cruises in France. Today, we shift gears (or should that be rudders?) and explore a pair of Avalon Waterways excursions on the gorgeous Danube River…

  • The Legendary Danube Wine River Cruise (11 days from Prague to Budapest, departing October 24) — From the splendor of Prague to the gypsy violins of Budapest, you’ll treasure every moment of this memorable Danube River cruise.

Enjoy three nights in Prague with guided sightseeing, as well as time to explore the city on your own. Discover the Hradcany Castle grounds, wander through Prague’s Jewish Quarter, shop for hand-cut crystal, savor authentic Czech dumplings, stand in the square where protestors demonstrated against Communism, or visit one of the many churches.

Then drive to Nuremberg and set sail for medieval Regensburg, Passau, Vienna and Budapest, with guided sightseeing in each city. Sail through the fascinating Main Danube Canal and witness the scenic beauty as you cruise past quaint towns. Attend a beer tasting, tour Melk’s splendid Benedictine Abbey, and experience the music, art, culture and historical sites in romantic Vienna.

  • The Blue Danube Discovery Wine River Cruise (13 days from Budapest to Prague, departing November 1) — The delightful Danube sets the stage for this incredible journey as you sail through beautiful scenery and quaint towns.

Begin in Budapest, Hungary, with two overnights and guided sightseeing. Enjoy Hungarian cuisine, explore its famous produce market (Central Market Hall), wander around the former royal palace grounds, explore its famous churches, or visit one of the many museums.

Melk2Then, board your river cruise vessel and sail westward, with guided sightseeing in magical Vienna, Passau and medieval Regensburg. Also take a guided walk in the charming town of Durnstein and see the baroque Stiftskirche, and visit the awe-inspiring Benedictine Abbey in Melk. Enjoy wine tasting in Melk and beer tasting in fascinating Regensburg.

Disembark your ship and travel to the “Golden City” of Prague for a final three overnights, guided sightseeing, and plenty of free time to discover the Hradcany Castle grounds, wander through Prague’s Jewish Quarter, shop for hand-cut crystal, savor authentic Czech dumplings, stand in the square where protestors demonstrated against Communism, or visit one of the many churches.

To learn more about Avalon river cruises, visit:

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Cruising Europe in Search of Wine

SeineRiverViking River Cruises, Emerald Waterways and Uniworld are among the cruise lines offering wine-themed river cruises, and all are worth checking out if you’d like to experience European wine regions at a nice, slow, casual pace.

Yet another option is Avalon Waterways, which has cruise ships featuring an array of facilities and conveniences. You can tap into the complimentary Wi-Fi to keep in touch with family and friends back home, stay perfectly in style with a visit to the hair salon, and keep up with daily workouts at the fitness center. In short, Avalon ships are built with an impressive collection of amenities to enhance one’s journey all along the way.

Here’s a look at two of Avalon’s wine-themed river cruises in 2015…

  • Grand France Wine River Cruise (16 days from Paris to Cote d’Azur, departing October 20) — This vacation showcases France’s scenery, history and culture as you sail along its beautiful rivers.

Embark in Paris and head northwest along the Seine River into the picturesque Normandy region. Dock at Conflans and choose between a guided excursion to Vincent van Gogh’s Auvers-sur-Oise or Napoleon and Josephine’s elegant Chateau de Malmaison. Next up: your choice of a guided visit to Claude Monet’s stunning gardens at Giverny or remarkable Bizy Castle. Then it’s on to Joan of Arc’s historic Rouen, where you choose between an included excursion to the poignant Normandy landing beaches or a fascinating “Taste of Normandy.”

Continue to Les Andelys — home of Chateau Gaillard, built by England’s King Richard the Lionheart in 1196 — and enjoy free time to explore this medieval town on your own. Return to Paris, where you’ll disembark and travel south to fascinating Beaune for a wine tasting.

In Chalon-sur-Saone, board your second cruise ship and sail on to medieval Tournus, Macon, the twin cities of Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage, Viviers, Avignon, and Arles, as well as France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, where you have time to explore this fascinating city. Your vacation ends with an overnight in the stunning Cote d’Azur on the French Riviera.

  • Burgundy and Provence Wine River Cruise (11 days from Cote d’Azur to Paris, October 29) — Opportunities abound on this grand vacation to learn about France and to taste its sumptuous wines and cuisine.

Your adventure begins with two overnights and guided sightseeing in Paris, the “City of Light.” Travel south to fascinating Beaune for a Burgundy wine tasting, then board your ship in quaint Chalon-sur-Saone and set sail for lovely Tournus, Macon, France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, as well as medieval Tournon, charming Viviers, Avignon and Arles. Before disembarking your ship in Arles, sail through the peaceful Camargue area.

Your vacation ends with an overnight on the French Riviera, also known as the Cote d’Azur. This cruise vacation has it all — historic sites, charming towns, spectacular cuisine and more.

Tomorrow: Two wine cruising options on the legendary Danube.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

Keeping a Vineyard Pest in Check

MealybugHonig Vineyard & Winery in the Napa Valley town of Rutherford is known far and wide for its “green” practices — including the use of sniffer dogs.

Imagine a nose that is thousands of times more powerful than a human’s when it comes to detecting subtle odors. Put that nose on a golden retriever, give it some extensive hands-on training, and you have the latest weapon in the winegrape growers’ war on the vine mealybug.

In 2005, Michael Honig worked with Dr. Bonnie Bergin, founder of Assistance Dog Institute (now known as Bergin University) in Santa Rosa, to help train some special golden retrievers. Referred to as “sniffer dogs” by grape growers in Napa and Sonoma counties, they could detect the female mealybug pheromone. Early detection of the bug allows the grower to treat or remove a vine or two, alleviating any broad use of pesticides.

Vine mealybugs are difficult to detect, being nearly invisible to the naked eye, and hide under bark and roots. Dozens can fit inside of a one-inch square. They attack vineyards by feeding on the tender vines and leaving a heavy excretion of honeydew that promotes the growth of black, sooty mold.

The vine mealybug has been held in check on the North Coast to date, and area growers are being proactive in their efforts to make sure it doesn’t get established.

For that, they have, in large part, Michael Honig to thank.

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Posted in Wine and the Environment

A ‘Capitol’ Idea for Wine Tasting

iStock_000008957470LargeA question that came in last week reminded us of a very unusual wine tasting facility in California’s capital city…

QUESTION: We’re going to be spending some time in Sacramento, visiting the state capitol, the California State Railroad Museum and Sutter’s Fort. Are there any interesting places to go wine tasting in the city?

ANSWER Yes! Check out Old Rail Bridge Cellars, which has a tasting room on the 14th floor of the Elks Tower at 921 11th Street.

The location is significant because the tracks that cross the I Street bridge once linked Sacramento to the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma. Today, Old Rail Bridge Cellars brings top-quality winegrapes to Sacramento and transforms them into wine at a facility a few blocks away on 16th Street.

But be advised that you can’t just drop in. To make a wine-tasting appointment at the tasting room on 11th Street, known as the Penthouse Lounge, go to

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Posted in Wine FAQ

Both Las Vegas and San Francisco Want You!

uncorkdTwo of America’s greatest cities are Las Vegas and San Francisco, and on the last weekend of April, they have conspired to present a vinous conundrum for wine lovers.

On that weekend, each city will host a very tempting wine event. The main difference between the two is their scope.

In Vegas, everything is larger than life, and so it is with an event called Vegas Uncork’d. In San Francisco, all types of ethnic cuisine can be found, so the City by the Bay is a logical choice to host the TAPAS Grand Wine Tasting, focusing on the varieties of just two countries: Spain and Portugal.

Bon Appetit magazine conducts a number of wine festivals each year, but none is more anticipated than Vegas Uncork’d, which in 2015 will be held April 23-26.

Venues include the Aria, Bellagio, Caesars Palace and MGM Grand resorts, and among the scheduled events are “Decadent Delights: Wine and Chocolate Pairing,” “Premier Pairings With Krug Champagne and Guy Savoy,” and “Creative Cantonese and Wine at Hakkasan.”

You can get further information here:

The TAPAS (that’s short for Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) Grand Wine Tasting will take place on the afternoon of Sunday, April 26 at the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio.

It features a consumer tasting of varietals such as Tempranillo, Albarino, Garnacha, Touriga Nacional, etc. from 2 to 5 p.m., preceded by a blind tasting of four American-made Tempranillos and four Spanish versions from 12 noon until 1:30.

The events are separately ticketed, and ticket information is available here:

Las Vegas or San Francisco? A long weekend of vinous decadence, or a more focused, education-oriented, single-day event? The choice is yours.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

A Dish That Pairs With White Wine and Red Wine

Meatballs with fresh fish“Red Wine With Fish” was a best-selling book that helped erase the myth that one should serve only a white wine when the main course was a fish dish.

The pairing spotlighted in the book was salmon and Pinot Noir.

Ever since, creative chefs have tossed out the old cookbooks and taken an “anything goes” approach to food preparation. And sommeliers have joined them in recommending complementary, often under-the-radar wines — regardless of their hue.

With that in mind, here’s a recipe for a dish that pairs well with either white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc) or red wine (Sangiovese). This recipe yields 4 servings.



  • 2 cans (160g) tuna in olive oil, drained (reserve a little oil)
  • Small handful of pine nuts
  • Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Small handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 400g spaghetti
  • 500g jar pasta sauce


  1. Flake the tuna into a bowl, then tip in the pine nuts, lemon zest, parsley, breadcrumbs and egg. Season and mix together with your hands until completely combined.
  1. Roll the mix into 12 walnut-size balls.
  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, then cook the spaghetti according to package instructions.
  1. Heat a little of the tuna oil in a large non-stick frying pan, then fry the tuna balls for 5 minutes, turning every minute or so until completely golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
  1. Heat the tomato sauce, then toss together with the pasta and tuna balls.
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Posted in Wine Buzz

Add a Little Spice to Your (Wine) Life

paprika dolceIn New Mexico, St. Clair Winery takes fire-roasted Hatch green chiles, cold-soaks them in white wine, and produces a wine that’s semi-sweet, slightly spicy and quite smooth, especially when served chilled.

A chile pepper in wine? That is perhaps the most extreme example of vinous spiciness. Other spice impressions are far more subtle, lending nuance and complexity to a wine, rather than a dominant flavor.

Spice — defined as a dried seed, fruit, root, bark or vegetable substance — usually is used to enhance the flavor of food, to elevate the color of a dish, or, in some cases, to mask other flavors. In a wine, it can add another aroma and/or flavor element to complement the natural fruit flavors.

“Spiciness” in wine does not imply that a burning sensation has been created, nor that a specific spice has been added to the cuvee. Rather, the spiciness occurs either naturally, via the flavors of the grapes, or through human involvement, via the type of oak barrels selected for aging.

In some cases, a specific spice comes to mind when one smells and/or tastes a specific wine. Examples include anise in Sangiovese, pepper and clove in Syrah, white pepper in Grenache and Gruner Veltliner, basil and tarragon in the wines of Provence and Italy, cinnamon in Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurztraminer, and mint in New World reds (particularly Napa Valley Cabernet).

An impression of fennel is found in many red and white wines, and clove can often be detected in wines aged in well-toasted barrels.

Oak is used like a “seasoning” by vintners who wish to add flavor and palate appeal to a wine, or perhaps “fill in” a flavor or aroma “hole.”

On the nose, the primary influence of oak is to underscore aromas that center on the spice rack — clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

In many cases, however, a distinct aroma or flavor won’t jump out of the glass, even though there’s a definite impression of spiciness. That’s when the catch-all descriptor — spicy — typically is used.

Whether occurring naturally in the wine or imparted by oak barrel aging — or even by adding a green chile pepper to the cuvee — spice is another factor that makes drinking wine so enjoyable and so interesting.

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Posted in Wine Buzz
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