As I have mentioned in the past, I fly American Airlines and when I go to Napa, I take their Sunday morning flight, No. 2356 that leaves Chicago O’Hare at 10:30 a.m. and arrives in San Francisco at 1:30 p.m. It is a long flight at 4 hours and 35 minutes. However, taking that flight gets me into Napa between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., giving me plenty of time for evening activities.
Again on this trip I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn, located at 3585 Solano Avenue, right off Highway 29 in Napa. I can’t say enough good things about this hotel. The price is right and its location provides great access to downtown Napa, which is an eight to ten minute drive and to the rest of the Valley via Highway 29, and for me it is about six blocks to my good friend Didier Loustau’s home and his wine cellar. As we say in the real estate business: location, location, location.
The rooms are comfortable and the staff is outstanding. If you belong to the Hilton Honors program, you get free internet service. It doesn’t cost anything to belong and it will save you a couple bucks if you want internet service while you’re at the hotel. There are a couple easy ways to reserve a room: Call the hotel direct at 707-252-0444, go to its website, or you can contact Krystal Johnson, Guest Assistant Supervisor. She can be reached at the hotel number or can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. I suggest emailing Krystal for any help you might need.
The last couple of trips have started with Sunday dinner at my friend Didier’s home and this trip was no exception. Didier manned the grill and prepared a very large and quite delicious seafood paella. And, as you would expect in Napa, there was a large assortment of wine to go along with the food. White wines were prevalent, but there was no shortage of reds either.
It was a great gathering of wine folks. Winemaker Sean Larkin of Larkin Wines, Brian Nuss and his wife Lori of Vinoce Wines, Somerston Wine’s Vice President of Sales Jack Edwards and his wife Lucy, and finally our host and wine expert Didier Loustau and his friend Susan Quinn. It was an enjoyable evening…quite warm and the sun was shining. For a guy who left snowy Chicago earlier in the day, the sun and warmth was a pleasure.
Monday morning brought the blending of our 2012 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, with winemaker Brian Nuss. The 2012 Cabernet is a blend of 75% Cabernet, 23% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc with an alcohol content running a little lower in this vintage at 13.5%. We will produce about six pallets (336 cases) of wine. This is the biggest bottling to date for our Glenwood Cellars Cabernet.
After an intensive morning of blending our wine, we headed for one of my favorite Napa lunch spots, the Angèle Restaurant and its wonderful patio. See my blog post Angèle Restaurant Offers Napa Bistro Fare for more details on this restaurant.
Brian, Lori and their son Tim Nuss and I enjoyed a few bottles of wine and some great food and conversation. The balance of Monday was spent at the ToutSuite Studio with Didier Loustau and Susan Quinn, getting an update on their activities and new equipment and software that they have installed.
Monday night’s dinner was a special treat as it was with winemakers Bruce Devlin, the winemaker at Ballentine Vineyards and his wife Danielle Cyrot-Devlin, winemaker at Cade’s Estate Winery. The dinner was at another great Napa restaurant Cole’s Chop House. In addition to their day jobs, they also have their own label, Three Clicks Wines, from which they produce an excellent Petit Sirah along with several other very fine wines. Check out their website, or see my blog post on the 2010 Three Clicks Petite Sirah.
It was a delightful evening with plenty of wine conversation and some great and welcome advice to the rookie vintner (me).
This was one of the “wow” days…very long and very interesting. It started with a tour and a tasting at Kelly Fleming Wines in Calistoga. A special thanks to Lili Shariati for the tour and tasting. I will do an in-depth article on this tour and tasting in the future.
I rushed from Kelly Fleming to Ballentine Vineyards to grab Bruce Devlin for lunch, prior to my visit with Mr. and Mrs. Ballentine and a tour of their Winery. We lunched at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena. I had never eaten there and it was an enjoyable lunch.
After a very pleasant conversation with Betty and Van Ballentine about the winery and its operation and a winery tour with Bruce, I conclude the tour by doing some tastings of barrel samples of future Ballentine vintages. I have planned a future article on Ballentine Vineyards so stay tuned for that.
After my meeting at Ballentine, I headed to a meeting with Dena & Deluca’s wine director Kerrin Laz in her office in St. Helena. The meeting with Kerrin was especially fun as I have been associated with her for a number of years. I am a member of the Dena & Deluca private client wine list, which Kerrin manages. Because of that, we have emailed and chatted by phone about wines for a long time, so to finally get to meet her was a treat. I have planned a future article on Kerrin and all of her many interesting wine activities.
After the meeting, I rushed back to my hotel to freshen up and head to dinner with Susan and Didier at one of the hottest new restaurants in Napa: TORC. It has only been open for six months and is packed most of the time so you’ll need to call ahead for reservations if you want to dine there. I met chef and proprietor Sean O’Toole (I will do an in-depth article on the restaurant soon). If you’re in Napa, believe me you don’t want to miss dinner at this restaurant. The food is exceptional and there is a nice wine list..
Wednesday was another wine-making day, with a 60-minute drive to Santa Rosa to meet our newest winemaker: Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent Wine Cellars.
With Kent’s guidance we are blending and producing the 2013 Glenwood Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, the second bottling of our newly released 2012 Glenwood Cellars Chardonnay and a new wine under our Glenwood Cellars label: a 2012 Pinot Noir. We expect to bottle the Pinot Noir at the end of May with a late fall 2014 release. All of the wine is sourced from the Sonoma Coast area. I will have an article coming on Eric Kent wines and our latest wines produced with Kent Humphrey. Watch for it in the weeks ahead.
Dinner on Wednesday evening was with Didier, Susan, Brian and Lori at a local Italian restaurant called Uva. Good food, wine and friendship completed the evening.
Thursday, the last day of my spring trip to Napa, started with lunch at the Rutherford Grill in St. Helena with Christine Pasadis and Robin Riedel from Tapp Label, our label producer. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss new label designs and printing efficiencies.
In the afternoon I was back at Vinoce Winery for a final meeting with winemaker Brian Nuss over the bottling schedule for our 2012 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet.
Thursday evening was a treat as this was the first time I would be in Napa on an evening when the ToutSuite Social Club would have a live broadcast. This evening’s show was an interview by show host Sean Quinn of winemaker Steven Kent Mirassou, owner and winemaker at The Steven Kent Winery located in the Livermore Valley area. During the show the audience got the opportunity to taste the same wines being presented on the show from the winery. I would highly recommend the White Bordeaux-style blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion named Lola. It was outstanding. You can easily check out their wine and others on the winery website.
Shortly after the end of the program we enjoyed some excellent food prepared by Steven and Didier. Then it was off to the hotel to pack in preparation for a very early departure on American Airlines Flight No. 1494 departing San Francisco at 5:55 a.m. As I have noted in the past, I put myself through this crazy early morning routine in order to be back in Chicago at midday, leaving plenty of time for afternoon and evening activities (if I can stay awake).
I was on the road to the airport at about 3:00 a.m. The traffic was light, getting me to San Francisco International with time to spare. As we all know, statistics tell us that airline travel is very safe. However every now and then there can be an issue. Such was the case with our return flight to Chicago.
About 25 minutes out from our Chicago landing, the pilot came on the plane’s PA system and announced that we had a maintenance issue with the plane. It seemed that the plane’s flaps were not working. This is something I was not thrilled to hear at 30,000 feet and in preparation for landing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with planes, the flaps are moveable pieces of the wings, located on the back ledge of the wings, which are lowered during landings to slow the plane down on the runway.
The pilot told us not to worry, (famous last words) that we had been diverted to the longest runway at O’Hare International as an emergency precaution and that regulations required that our landing be declared an emergency. Not to worry? We would notice emergency vehicles along the runway as we landed (good thing) as a precaution.
The flight crew acted very professionally and went about the task of preparing us for the “not to worry emergency landing” very efficiently although this type of landing isn’t characteristically dangerous.
I did check with my friend and pilot Dave Pixey about this and he confirmed that although it can sound terrifying it isn’t really a big deal. There are some landings where the flaps are hardly used. We circled O’Hare lining up for our landing on the longer runway. Because the captain couldn’t use the flaps, he needed to land the plane at a faster speed, and at a different angle. This was why we needed the longer runway.
As we landed, you could see all the emergency vehicles on the move with their lights flashing. The captain did a great job of getting us on the ground and to a complete stop, (pilots do train for this type of landing) at which time there was a lot of applause and cheering. The emergency teams surrounded the plane for a conversation with the pilot and a visual inspection, and shortly after we were allowed to taxi to the gate for deplaning. Needless to say, in short order I was headed to downtown Chicago for a late afternoon relaxing lunch and glass of wine with Mrs. Tiedemann and the conclusion to another successful trip to Napa Valley.
Mrs. Tiedemann and I finished the weekend with two wine presentations: one at Benny’s Chop House, where we had a conversation with Sommelier Charles Schneider, and one at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, where we met with Taylor Tatro, manager. These are both good restaurants and worth eating at when you are in the Windy City.
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Until next week,