Culinary Adventures through the Vineyards of Italy’s Picturesque Countyside

Culinary Adventures through the Vineyards of Italy’s Picturesque Countyside

Your Host Francesca Montillo takes you on a Delicious Adventure to Dreamy Italian Destinations with Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

You are a big fan of “Under the Tuscan Sun” and have watched it at least two dozen times. You have drooled over the food and every time you watch it you confess that you will be planning a trip there soon, fulfilling your lifelong dream of venturing off on a culinary tour through Tuscany. But wait, that movie came out 15 years ago, and you still have not gone. The wait is over, look no further, your wish is granted.

Everything you have been looking for is right here, and you don’t have to do a thing except contact Francesca’s Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures and everything you have dreamed about for the last 15 years is right here. She has beautifully customized a variety of tours throughout the year to a variety of stunning Italian Destinations. This year she has 3 different itineraries all ready for you to book to Tuscany, Puglia or Sicily with a small adventurous group, all anxious just like you to venture off to the rolling vineyards of Italy’s stunning countryside.

Or if those dates or destinations don’t fit your schedule, she also has “Italy by Design” where she customizes your own personalized adventure. If you are not into “group travel, they offer full service and customized vacation planning, leave the time to research to the experts to customize a trip created especially for you with all of the bells and whistles. Your vacation to Italy can be accompanied by a local driver/guide on your tour around the region or follow your customized tour and venture off on your own. As they say at the Lazy Italian tours, “This is your week, after all, not ours!”

Here are the highlights of the Tuscany tour which is May 1st to May 8th.
• Four Star accommodations in a centrally located hotel
• Two Private Culinary Classes with Meals Following
• Welcome Dinner
• Private English-Speaking City Tour Led by a Licensed Guide
• Private Wine Tastings and a day trip to Chianti with Lunch at the Winery and Plenty of Wine
• Private Culinary City Tour Visiting World Famous Shops
• Private Day Trip to Pisa and Lucca
• Private Day Trip to Sienna
• Visit Mercato Centrale
• Farewell Dinner
• Leisure time on Your Own


The week in Tuscany kicks off with check-in at our four-star accommodations. Centrally located, Hotel Orto de Medici will be our home for the week, so unpack and make yourself at home. Perhaps visit their famous gardens and take in some of the Tuscan air. During the week, we will experience the scenic views of Tuscany and sample wines in the wine regions of Chianti with a memorable lunch on the winery. The week will also take us to the world-famous cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Siena for what are sure to be plenty of photo opportunities. We will also take part in two private cooking lessons and pick up a few culinary tips from our native Tuscan instructors. Our walking city tour in Florence will allow us to get to know our host city while our culinary walking tour will give us the opportunity to sample some of Tuscany’s most traditional products.

What will our Experience be like during the week and where will we go?

Culinary Dinner

Arrival & Welcome Dinner
Arrive and settle in your four-star accommodations in the early afternoon. Our home for the week will be the highly regarded Hotel Orto de Medici. Unpack and make yourself at home knowing you will not need to repack until your departure. Enjoy the nearby sights of our home for the week, stretch your legs in the nearby shops or grab your first gelato.

In the evening, we will meet for our first group activity. We will enjoy a welcome dinner with our fellow travelers and get our first taste of the regional cuisine and wine that we will be enjoying throughout the week.

Day 2 – Private Cooking Class & Walking Tour
After breakfast at the hotel, we will head towards San Lorenzo Market where our cooking experience begins. Under the guidance of our chef instructor, we will select fresh and healthy ingredients needed for our cooking lesson. Following the market visit in the morning, we will proceed to the school where we will learn how to prepare typical Italian Tuscan dishes. Grab an apron and be prepared to cook up a delicious Tuscan lunch to be enjoyed by all in the group.

In the afternoon, we will walk off our lunch calories with a private city tour from our English speaking, certified city guide. Walk the streets of the Medici, Donatello, and Dante as well as the lesser known side streets of the city. We will visit major churches, such as the Santa Maria Novella and if the lines permit, enter the Duomo, among other high-profile attractions.

Spend the evening on your own at your leisure. Walk about the city, grab a gelato and people-watch the way locals do.

Day 3 – Day Trip to Chianti
After breakfast at the hotel, our private driver will pick us up, and we will make our way to Chianti where we will visit two highly praised wineries. We will visit the Southern part of Tuscany, undoubtedly the most beautiful countryside the region has to offer. Discover the wines of the area and learn the aging process. Enjoy the landscape, olive groves and of course, the many vineyards.
Lunch may include typical items such as antipasti Toscani, Ribollita, pasta with meat or mushroom sauce or lasagna.

Evening on your own to spend at your leisure.

Day 4 – Walking Foodie Tour & Cooking Lesson
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, but be sure to leave room for our many tastings from our culinary walking tour. We will enjoy local specialties at family-owned shops and savor Florence’s “street food” of cured meats, cheeses, olive oil, baked goods, custom made breads, chocolates, and artisan gelato.

Enjoy some time on your own in the afternoon, but don’t indulge, we’re in for a treat this evening!

In the evening, we will head back to our culinary studio for our second private dinner cooking lesson. Be prepared to work for your multi-course dinner tonight as we prepare antipasti, a first and second course and of course, dinner would not be incomplete without dessert. A truly memorable dining experience is expected tonight!

Day 5 – Day Trip to Lucca & Pisa
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before heading west of Tuscany today on our day trip to Lucca and Pisa. Lucca is a most beloved city in Tuscany and all of Italy, and we will have time to walk the streets filled with shops, cafes and old-school buildings. Known as the city of 100 churches, Lucca is filled with historical architecture, and a can’t miss city while in this region. Lunch will be in a trattoria in Lucca.

Get your camera ready for what will be a memorable afternoon. After lunch, we make our way to the world-famous city of Pisa and the famous Miracle Square. Admire the Leaning Tower, Baptistery and Cathedral. Pick up a few gifts to take back, snap lots of pictures and take it all in.

We will return to Florence around 5:00PM, and you can enjoy the evening on your own.

Day 6 – Day Trip to Siena
Today we head to another major attraction and perhaps Italy’s loveliest city, Siena! Located on top of three hills, Siena can easily be called Italy’s ultimate hill town. Today, we will visit the Siena Cathedral, probably the most precious of Tuscan churches, the Campo Square, famous for the Palio, the annual historic horse-race, the Town Hall, Palazzo Salimbeni and San Domenico Church. Pedestrian friendly, as only residents and cabbies are permitted, Siena is sure to leave an impression. We can walk about the narrow streets, enjoy the adorned balconies and relax with a gelato along the way.

Day 7 – Farwell Dinner
Our time in Tuscany is sadly winding down. Today you can enjoy the day on your own to walk about the city with freedom. Visit a museum we didn’t get a chance to see, we highly recommend the Uffizi Gallery, return to a place where we’ve been that left an impression, pick up a few foodie gifts for your friends or simply enjoy Italy’s “Il Dolce Far Niente” – literally, the sweetness of doing nothing!!

A farewell dinner is planned for our last evening in Florence. Enjoy a delicious meal with wine, exchange stories, and e-mail addresses with your traveling companions and toast to our wonderful week.

Where Will You be Staying

Our home for the week will be the top rated and highly praised Hotel Orto de Medici. Located on Via San Gallo, one of the oldest streets in Florence, we will be in the city center, within a few minutes walking distance to the city’s main attractions, yet in a quiet location. Our rooms are ample in size by Italian standards at almost 200 square feet. Before we head out for the day, fuel up at their exquisite breakfast. Need something from the mini bar? No worries, we will cover it for you. Looking for some relaxing time after our excursions and day trips? Sit in their historic garden and be inspired. After all, it is in this exact location that Lorenzo De Medici met the young Michelangelo.

Some of the amenities of Orto de Medici include a large selection of breakfast options, Wi-Fi throughout, a historic terrace for relaxing, a bar to enjoy a spritz, 24hr reception, and the ideal location! Staying in this hotel is a vacation in itself.

Francesca Montillo

Your Host – Francesca Montillo
Your Host and Experienced Guide for the Week is Italian Cookbook Author of The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook: 101 Regional Classics Made Simple, native Italian, and culinary instructor, Francesca Montillo. She will amaze you as she guides you through Italy’s most beloved region. She is fluent in Italian, well-traveled and passionate about showing her guests around her native land.

What Francesca says about her tours and your experience:

The tours are culinary and wine in theme. When I started my business, I wanted it to focus on what I know best about Italy, which is its food. My dad was a greengrocer while I was growing up in Italy, so I grew up in a foodie family. My mom always prepared delicious meals, and I believe they left an impression on me, hence my wanting to start this business.

When I travel with a group to Italy, I want them to feel like they are coming to my home, because, in a way, they are. I like to ‘show-off’ Italy in the best way that I can. It means the world to me when my clients have a wonderful time. Many have said that my trips are “once in lifetime experiences” (I certainly hope not!) and that traveling with me is not like traveling with a tour leader, but a friend. These are the best compliments I can receive.

As a native, I think travelers are reassured that I can properly lead the way, there’s a certain level of added trust in going outside the country with a native. I am fluent in Italian, but that’s not so impressive, really, but I understand the culture, the people and their mentality. I work with collaborators all over Italy and only work with natives that I have fully vetted, and whenever possible, have met in person.

On the tours, we do a mix of activities, namely, we take cooking classes with the locals, we visit honey and cheese farms, we have lunch on wineries, we visit producers of Parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, or prosciutto. We go to olive oil mills, make fresh pasta and always do a walking foodie tour, stopping at all the local shops to try some local off our calories, for sure.

What former guests are saying about their experiences Francesca’s tours! 

I have just returned from a week-long cooking trip to Italy coordinated by Francesca Montillo. Francesca was responsible for our itinerary, transportation, visits to wineries, restaurants, and our accommodations, as well as providing the ingredients and tools for our cooking classes. All went smoothly and was worry free. She arranged for special requests from members of the group, such as no dairy, gluten-free, or vegetarian at the restaurants we visited with along and within the cooking classes themselves. Not only were our arrangements flawless, thanks to Francesca, but she is also very knowledgeable about Italy, Italian food and wine and is quite a good cook in her own right. She also speaks Italian fluently. She is pleasant and was always cheery, even early in the morning. I highly recommend Francesca if you want a wonderful experience of Italy’s food and wine. Jennifer Fisk

I met Francesca a few years ago and knew that when the time came to go to Italy, she would be our best contact. Being a native Italian, I trusted her to build a custom itinerary to Sardinia last year. She planned a wonderful week for myself and my husband. No stone left unturned on our trip from transportation, to beach excursions, to cooking classes and all arrangements were handled perfectly. We will be contacting her again in a few years. Melinda & John Williams.

What a wonderful trip! Everything so well planned for us and everything went off beautifully. Great congenial group and hoping to keep in touch with everyone. Thanks for all you did in the planning that went off without a hitch. There has not been a day that I haven’t thought about our wonderful trip. Thank you again for all you did. Rita Caputo, Emilia Romangna 2018

• Airfare / Flights
• Hotel incidentals such as phone calls, room service (minibar will be included!)
• Meals and wine not stated above
• Airport / Train transfers on first and last day of the tour
• Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is HIGHLY recommended in order to protect your investment.
• Hotel City Tax of 4.50 Euros per person / per night, to be paid directly to the hotel by the guest

Link to purchase Francesca’s cookbook on Amazon:

Link to our hotel in Tuscany for our May tour. This is one of the top hotels in Florence:

Contact Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures at:
[email protected]

Check out more details on their website at:

Check out their facebook page too!

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen

A Polished Gem in the Heart of the Napa Valley

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen – Amazing dining in the Napa Valley. With all of the amazing restaurants that are scattered throughout the Napa Valley and new ones popping up every day, it can sometimes be compelling selecting a dining spot for a special lunch or dinner out. This one is a spot to definitely put on your culinary radar. Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, though only opened two years ago in 2016, has already proven to be a refreshing renaissance serving many familiar flavors at this Napa Valley dining establishment.  A bevy of loyal patrons frequent the tables and have followed this loyal culinary entourage since their days at Tra Vigne. In fact, 85% of the current Brasswood team migrated over after the closing of Bill Harlan’s iconic St. Helena dining landmark Tra Vigne which served their well-known Italian dishes to dedicated valley patrons and visitors for many years in the historic Saint Helena old stone edifice.

Brasswood Chef David Nuno

At Brasswood, it is not uncommon at any time during the day to see signature Napa Valley winemakers and winery owners sitting at their favorite table breaking bread and sipping their favorite varietals over casual conversation. On the table to the right you may see KR of Rombauer, or over to the left Chuck Wagner of Caymus enjoying their favorite dishes, or Elias from Shafter and many more. They love to frequent Brasswood Bar + Kitchen for the distinct and familiar flavors of Chef David’s diverse menu in this relaxing, casual setting where they will always find a friendly face visiting their table. It is truly a “Vintners Village” again.

It was Stacia Dowdell, the proprietor and winemaker for Brasswood who approached Marcus Marquez, who is now the Vineyard Winery Estate General Manager, to spearhead the growth and development of the Brasswood Estate and is co-creator along with Stacia on it’s growing success and popular following. The timing for the creation of Brasswood Bar + Kitchen could not have been synergized more perfectly. Marcus met with the former Tra Vigne general manager Jennifer Bohr and Chef David Nuno to entice them to transition over to Brasswood’s upcoming restaurant. The segue was seamless, and they did not miss a beat, bringing along their dedicated team of restaurant professionals to complete the initial foundation of the troupe who have not only have they worked in tandem for many years, they are some of the very best in the industry.

Chef David Nuno has been creating and preparing his signature dishes in the Napa Valley for over 30 years and is known to many for his inspired cuisine. Though many of his popular dishes have transitioned over to Brasswood, they have taken on a new twist giving them their own new presence with a slightly different and renewed presentation. Chef David professes to only use the best and the freshest of Napa Valley ingredients.

Included in the extensive resume of Chef David’s epicurean experience in the Napa Valley are his many years at the helm at Tra Vigne as well as being mentored as a young chef by Philippe Jeanty for 17 years. However, his inspiration on his quest to create was instilled and inspired by the aromas and flavors of his mother’s food and ultimately led him to his path with cooking.

Signature Mozzarella Dish “Mozza”

One of the signature dishes which David Nuno brought along with him to the Brasswood tables is his notable mozzarella dish, nicknamed “Mozza.” Though you won’t see it in print on the daily menu, it is always available. Be sure to ask for it. Many have it has a side dish and or see it as their “go-to lunch” along with a simple salad at the bar, and it is definitely a local’s favorite. A few of the other dishes that are signature to David’s creations that are found on the Brasswood menu are Kale Salad; Sweet White Corn Soup; Crispy Arancini; Four Cheese Risotto and Confit of Sonoma Duck Leg; and the Dry Aged Porter House (for two). The menu does vary seasonally to coincide with the freshest of ingredients available, though his signature creations are a constant anchor on the Brasswood menu.

A few of the notable dishes that we had the delicious opportunity to taste are the Roasted Beet Salad with roasted beets, mandarins, radish, shaved ricotta salata, fennel, pistachios with orange vinaigrette dressing. (See recipe attached)

The Warm Brussel Sprout Salad proved a seasonal treat and is like breakfast for dinner. Prepared with shaved Brussels, smoked bacon, caramelized onion, salt pepper, olive oil, lemon juice topped with a sunny-side up egg and sprinkled Parmesan. The Herb Infused Pappardelle & Short Rib Sugo along with braised radicchio, aged balsamic, thyme and arugula paired with the Brasswood “Top Brass” Cab 2012 made it a memorable winner. Another brainchild of Chef David is the Pan Seared Halibut with homemade gnocchi, spring caponata, basil aioli, and fish brodo and is a not to miss dish.

When in season, be sure to ask for the Padron Peppers which he is well known for.

And the topper, of course, is their desserts, a perfect way to finish a perfect meal. They have just added to their top-notch team their first pastry chef, Mia Nguyen, formerly of Morimoto and Bouchon.

If a quick stop for an afternoon beverage is on your agenda, their inviting bar offers up an opportunity to catch up with friends over one of their signature House Cocktails, created by Assistant General Manager and Innovative Mixologist, Luke Christian. He creates all of the delightful concoctions offered at the Brasswood Bar. Several of these infused libations poured for your enjoyment is the “Herbs on Fire” – a blend of tru lemon vodka, fresh citrus, pomegranate, basil, rosemary, mint, llanllyr source fiery ginger beer or the “Sweet and Caliente” – Cimarron tequila, giffard cassis, lime, grapefruit, cilantro and jalapeno.

The Brasswood Bar + Kitchen’s atmosphere is warm and inviting in a barn-like intimate setting with big cozy booths and long tables under gleaming brass light fixtures for larger parties. The restaurants interior is accessorized with reclaimed wood and brass fixtures throughout, thus the inspiration for the name. Marcus wanted a name that brought you to a place that was a fantasy of food, wine, and relaxation. Their inviting covered outdoor seating is spread across a lovely deck overlooking the wineries beautifully landscaped courtyard. Many special events are hosted at the Brasswood Estate.

The common thread with the energy and philosophy of the Brasswood team is they always pride themselves on making it a personal experience. It is a dining and congregating experience not to be missed!

Brasswood Bar + Kitchen: 3111 St. Helena Hwy. N., St. Helena, CA 94574



Heidi Barrett – The Diva of Cult Wine

Heidi Barrett – The Diva of Cult Wine

An Afternoon Spent Sharing and Tasting Heidi’s Personal Treasures – Vineyard to Bottle

Heidi Barrett

Heidi Barrett is virtually a household name in the Napa Valley wine industry and a mega-respected icon in the select field of esteemed women winemakers. She was destined to become an artistic winemaker growing up in the vineyards of her renowned winemaker father, esteemed wine pioneer, Dick Peterson and her artist mother, Diane. She worked side by side with her father in a variety of vineyards from pruning to lab tech to cellar rat and everything in between while growing up in the Napa Valley. It was naturally her legacy to continue the path that led her to UC Davis with a degree in Fermentation. This ultimately led to her “500 Point Journey” and the elevated success, notoriety, and enormous industry respect that continues to come her way.

It was a chilly afternoon in the Napa Valley, a perfect day to join in with 100 other Heidi Barrett fans and fellow wine lovers at the Culinary Institute Demonstration Theater for an intimate afternoon with Heidi and her wines. Featuring – Barrett and Barrett, Fantesca, Kenzo Estate, Lamborn Family Vineyards, La Sirena and Paradigm. We might as well have been sitting right in her living room with her, she is witty, inspiring, charismatic, precise, brilliant, passionate about what she does, and loves her diversions such as flying helicopters or scuba diving to name a few. The afternoon’s commentator, Leslie Sbrocco, of KQED’s “Check, Please!” regards Heidi as “One of the most heralded winemakers in the world.” It is Heidi’s mission “to take something from the earth to something elevated we all can enjoy.”

Heidi Barrett often referred to as the 500-Point Woman, is the only female winemaker to achieve five 100-point scores from Robert Parker. As Leslie commented, “in the early-mid ‘90’s this was a really, really big deal.” And it continues to be a tremendous honor and accolade, in fact TIME magazine crowned her “The Wine Diva of Napa Valley.” In 1992 she began winemaking for the infamous cult wine, Screaming Eagle, of which her ’92 and ’97 vintages were awarded perfect 100 score by Parker and set a world record for the highest price paid for a single bottle of wine at 2000 Napa Valley Wine Auction with a winning bid of $500,000! She again soared on the 100 point journey to the top of the charts with the ’92 and the ’93 Dalle Valle Maya, and the ’95 Grace Family!

The Barrett tasting began with a Kenzo Estate Sauvignon Blanc “Asatsuyu” (which means Morning Dew in Japanese). The winery is located up Monticello Road on Mount George at 1500 feet and has 45 planted acres on it 3,800-acre estate property. Heidi sometimes flies her helicopter to the vineyard estate, which cuts her more than an hour drive to a 15-minute flight to what she refers to as a crater at the top of the mountain. She describes this wine as layers of pear, melon, honeysuckle and is more in the Chardonnay style which has a little bit of wood on it, making it rounder and a little fatter, with a textural component, balance, and the “yum factor.”

The 5 Cabernets wines selected to be tasted queued from the oldest first to the 2013’s last. The first of the five tastings presented a 2005 Paradigm Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. Heidi became winemaker for Paradigm in 1991 and is her longest standing client. Paradigm produces between 5,000 and 6,000 cases with 4 different wines.  It is her mission for people to be wowed, drinkable and delicious when the wines are released; however she said it is up to you on how long you want to age a bottle of wine.  She described characteristics that make a wine age as a very, very slow oxidation. Over time, some things improve and some things decline. She looks at wine as a time capsule. What you get that day you open it, is different each time.  She explained it is like live theatre; it is always a little bit different.

Heidi expressed that she is not actually a big fan of decanting. In lieu of decanters, when drinking cabs, she favors really fine stemware created specifically for Cabernet. Heidi recommends taste before you decant, pour and enjoy the show, it is going to bloom in the glass – she says it allows you permission to slow down! She recommended with regard to decanting, “Just be careful before putting wine in a decanter!”

Wine # 3, the second of the Cabernets she meticulously creates was the 2012 Fantesca, owned by Susan and Duane Hoff, innovators of the well-known chain Best Buy. In 2004 the Hoff’s purchased a 53-acre property, and 10-acre vineyard and thus Fantesca Estate was born. Heidi became winemaker at their Spring Mountain location Fantesca in 2008. In addition to their estate Cabernet, Heidi crafts their Chardonnay and the All Great Things Red Blend with a total of 3,000 cases annually. 99% of the wines offered are direct to consumer. In Fantesca tradition they put a different proverb or a quote on the corks of their wines, calling them “Fortune Corkies.” They love to make it a contest, so be sure to come up with your favorite quote to send off to them. Yours could very well end up on one of their next corks.

Wine #4 presented a 2013 Cabernet from Lamborn Family Vineyards with 3 generations offering exquisite handcrafted Howell Mountain wines magnificently created by winemaker Heidi Barrett since 1997. The Lamborn vineyards are at 2,200 feet elevation offering abundant volcanic soil with perfect mountain climates throughout their 8-acre vineyard (4 acres of Zinfandel and 4 acres of Cabernet). These select vintages are available from their website only or to their exclusive members or in limited restaurants and boutique wine shops. Her mantra on these wines is she does not take the traditional path and does not want to force the product to market too early.

Wine #5, Heidi Barrett’s own label La Sirena (meaning the mermaid) was created on almost a fluke 20 years ago. As an avid scuba diver and a love of the sea, the name came to her and her husband Bo while playing the Mexican card game Loteria. It was a magical symbol and a perfect segue to combine both of her great passions wine and the ocean. La Sirena began in 1994 with only 200 cases of Sangiovese, as she wanted to create a wine that draws you in. Most all of the wines come from their Calistoga estate vineyards with a small amount from Pritchard Hill fruit. Now they produce over 2,000 cases with 6 different wines every year: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pirate TreasuRed, Le Barrettage, Grenache, Art Bus and Moscato Azul. She emphasized the 2013 La Sirena Cab reflects her devotion to balance, elegance, winemaking tradition and classic varietal styling. Plus it is her favorite varietal to make and absolutely what she is known best for.

The #6 and final wine, being tasted for the day: Barrett and Barrett is the winemaking collaboration of Heidi Barrett and her husband Bo Barrett for his winery Chateau Montelena famed for their success at the “Judgment of Paris” in 1973. Heidi and Bo are often described as two renowned winemakers working together. Their Barrett and Barrett Cabernet is a fusion of their two styles. Heidi tends to focus more on the production side, where Bo focuses on the farming. Bo tends to want to pick before Heidi, she likes the silk and finesse and he likes the rustic edge and somewhat tannic.

Heidi and Bo Barrett

Their 2013 Barrett and Barrett Cabernet presents a selection of the very best grapes, and like 2012 Napa Valley vintages, Heidi described 2013 as the perfect growing season. Her tasting notes describe this wine as “an absolutely gorgeous example of powerful Napa Valley fruit. Extremely concentrated, voluptuous, and certain to be a great bottle for your cellar for years to come. Don’t Miss it!”

The magnetic synergy between Heidi and Bo is their connection with Land, Sea, and Sky, with both being extremely active and adventurous as mutual pilots, avid skiers, and scuba divers. The Land, Sea and Sky is their symbol on the back of the Barrett and Barrett bottle. As winemakers they work intimately with the land, the sea and the sky, it is their mantra to bring them together as one.

“The land is the soils of our distinctive vineyards, the sea is the water that nurtures the vines, and the sky is the weather that changes every year.”










The Great Rose Pairing at CIA Copia

The Great Rose Pairing at CIA Copia

Experience Rose at CIA – Copia


Summer wine and food events are abundant around the Napa Valley during the summer months. One of the more unique and refreshing events which took place at the CIA at Copia this summer was The Great Rosé Pairing held this summer at CIA at Copia. Rosé and other pink wines have accelerated in popularity over the past several years with many wineries adding a Rosé style to their wine portfolios. Pink Wines from all over the US and the globe were represented at this lively, colorful event.

Experience Rosé: The Competition Director, Debra Del Fiorentino, describes the growing passion for Rosé: “Right now, we are in what I call “The Rosé Revolution” here in the US. We’ve finally learned what Italy and France have known for ages and we’re jumping on the Rosé bandwagon. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of this year’s event. This competition had all the right elements in play and took off at an astronomical pace in terms of entries and interests. The timing was just right.”

Rosé is a type of wine that extrapolates its pink color from limited contact with grape skins and is one of the oldest known types of wine. The pink color can range from a pale “onion-skin” orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the varietals used and winemaking techniques. There are three major ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact, saignée, and blending. Rosé wines can be made still, semi-sparkling or sparkling and with a wide range of sweetness levels from highly dry Provençal rosé to sweet White Zinfandels and blushes. Rosé wines are made from many different grape varietals and can be found all around the globe, as was represented at the event at The Great Rosé Pairing event.

The event in its fifth year, formerly known as Rosé Today also showcased paired tasty bites created by various teams of CIA student chefs, offering cuisine from six major Rosé producing regions: France, Spain, Italy, as well as Northern, Central and Southern California.

The Six Culinary teams from around the region and the world participated in the paired cuisine:

  1. Team Spain – Pulpo de Maria alla Coggiola
  2. Team Italy – Pesce Marinato and Negroni Macaron
  3. Team France – Ratatouille and Lemon Mascarpone French Crêpes
  4. Team Northern California – Mt. St. Tomato (Sundried tomato crackers with Humboldt Fog and Ricotta mousse topped with jellied consommé cube and a sundried basil and chili infused olive oil snow)
  5. Team Southern California – Southern California Fusion Fish Tacos
  6. Team Central California – Burrata with Nectarine Compote on a Garlic Rubbed Crostini and Burnt Honey and Tarragon Ricotta on a Lemon Herb Cracker and Nectarine Compote

The winning culinary team: Team Spain with “Pulpo de Maria alla Coggiola”

The rosé cocktails and refreshers that were prepared featured the Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka:

  1. Team 1:  Spritzer — Stop and Smell Rosé / Cocktail — Peach of My Heart
  2. Team 2:  Spritzer — The Golden State / Cocktail — Summer Mule

Winning Refresher:  Stop and Smell the Rosé (Team #1)

Winning Cocktail:  Summer Mule (Team #2)

The Great Rose Pairing offered 25 wineries pouring their Rose varietals during the event at CIA at Copia, including:

  • DRAXTON WINES, 2017 Draxton Pinot Meunier (Best in Show) 
  • LAZY CREEK VINEYARDS, 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Double Gold)
  • SIMPLE LIFE, 2017 Rosé (Double Gold)
  • DOMAINE LAURIER, NV Brut Rosé (Gold, Best of Class)
  • FLEUR DE MER, 2017 Cotes de Provence Rosé (Gold, Best of Class)
  • NICHELINI FAMILY WINERY, 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (Gold, Best of Class)
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards, 2017 Dry Rosé of Sangiovese (Gold)
  • Blue Sky Vineyard, 2017 Rosé (Gold)
  • Domaine Anderson, 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Gold)
  • Ferrari-Carano 2017 Dry Rosé of Sangiovese (Gold)
  • Fillmore West Vineyards, 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Gold)
  • Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery, NV Chambourcin Rosé (Gold)
  • Handley Cellars, 2017 Pinot Noir Rosé (Gold)
  • Illinois Sparkling Co., 2016 Brut Rosé de Saignée (Gold)
  • J Vineyards, NV Brut Rosé (Gold)
  • Kokomo, 2017 Grenache Rosé (Gold)
  • Le Grand Courtage, NV Brut Rosé (Gold)
  • Marilyn Wines, 2017 Marilyn Monroe Rosé (Gold)
  • Mathis Wine, 2017 Rosé de Grenache (Gold)
  • Moshin Vineyards, 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Gold)
  • Muscardini Cellars, 2017 Rosato de Sangiovese (Gold)
  • Red Car, 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Gold)
  • Twelve Oaks Vineyard (Gold)
  • Wilson of Dry Creek, 2017 Dorothy’s Rosé (Gold)

Below is the recipe for the winning cocktail of the day (voted on by attendees) – the Summer Mule. It featured the Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka.


(created by Kenny Belgard and Parker James, students from The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s Wine and Beverage program)

  • 2 parts ginger beer
  • 1 part Hangar 1 Rosé Vodka
  • 1 part Rosé wine
  • Mint for muddling
  • .25 parts lime juice (We had our limes pre-juiced because of time, but it would be better if fresh limes were used. Use 1/4 lime per drink)
  • .25 parts Perfect PureeRed Raspberry (local Napa product – may not need .25 parts – we did to taste)
  • Garnish with raspberry halve and lime segment

Muddle the lime and mint together. Strain the mint/lime juice mixture into a mixing glass. Add vodka, rose, and raspberry puree. Mix. Pour into iced glass and top with ginger beer. Mix again and garnish.



Wine Country Holiday Gift Ideas

Wine Country Holiday Gift Ideas

Unique Holiday Gift Ideas Created in the Napa Valley

Go Anywhere with GoVino

By Dynie Sanderson

Here are a few really special Holiday gift ideas to take away with you from the Wine Country. Whether it is a gift for under the tree or a gift for a special occasion or gift to yourself, these will surely put a smile on your face. As a matter of fact, these gifts will pair perfect with the wines you bought on your last trip to Napa Valley.

Wouldn’t it be fun to pack up that case of the wine you just bought in Napa and put it in a suitcase custom-made to take your most special vintages with you to your next travel destination or to have a glass when you get home and not wait for a shipment? Absolutely! It used to be that you could travel with a 6-pack carry on as a souvenir from your visit. Though that luxury is long gone, the good news is you can still take it with you!

FlyWithWine is the ultimate wine travel suitcase which was designed exclusively for safely transporting wine. Put your favorite vintages comfortably in this indestructible check-in bag and pick it up with confidence at baggage claim knowing your 2005 Estate Cab is safely intact. And fully loaded with a case of wine it still weighs less than 50 pounds. You can also customize your wine luggage too, as they have a variety of inserts for fit your various bottle sizes and even your special Riedel Wine Glasses.

Though if you want to use all of the space in your customized suitcase for wine, there is an option. Grab a box of your favorite GoVino shatter proof drinkware and put it in your backpack or carry-on and you will be ready-set-go to enjoy a glass or two of the one of your Napa Valley wines as soon as you land in your next destination. These innovative sommelier-approved wine glasses can go with you anywhere and were established in the Napa Valley in 2008 by Joseph T. Perulli.

Go Vino Picnic

The GoVino glasses have quickly been adopted by some of the world’s most renowned wine estates and it is the first shatterproof wine glass of its kind to be accepted by the industry. GoVino offers design driven glassware options for wine, beer, champagne and cocktails and they even have a decanter as well. These are perfect when proper stemware isn’t available or in settings where breakable glass in prohibited. May your Holidays be Smashing … Not Your Glassware!

You just packed your FlyWithWine suitcase with a selection of wines from Hestan Vineyards and while there, you had the opportunity to go to The Hestan Barn for an amazing cooking demonstration by Hestan Chef Philip Tessier. He was using an amazing line of cookware, the Nanobond. Hestan just debuted the Hestan Cue: A Connected, Smart Cooking System which redefines the home kitchen. What an amazing culinary innovation. Now that you have Chef Philip’s new book “Chasing Bocuse – America’s Journey to the Culinary World Stage”, The Hestan Cue is a must have in your kitchen.

Hestan Cue is a video-guided cooking system that automatically controls temperature and time, every step of the recipe. Their smart cookware, induction burner and recipe app all communicate with each other using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors – automatically adjusting the cooking temperature and time as you proceed through each recipe. Cue doesn’t cook it for you – it helps you cook better food, more often. And the best part…you are learning to cook beautiful meals from chefs like Philip Tessier.

The Hestan Cue Team includes acclaimed chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, pioneering software developers and meticulous designers dedicated to tirelessly reinventing the cooking experience.

You can find the Hestan Cue at William Sonoma and Amazon or at








Wine and Food Pairing at B Cellars Vineyard and Winery

Wine and Food Pairing at B Cellars Vineyard and Winery

This is the Place to “Be” – An Innovative Wine and Food Pairing Experience

B Cellars Wine Portfolio

B Cellars truly stands out in the sea of majestic wineries that blanket legendary Napa Valley. What makes them soar and pillar above the crowd is their unique presentation of wine tastings along with inspired food pairings created by their on-premise chef de cuisine, Derick Kuntz. This stunning winery is actually the only winery in Napa Valley that houses a full-service open demonstration kitchen, which is featured center stage within their stunning state-of-the-art tasting hospitality building.

B Cellars Chef Derick

B Cellar’s full-time culinary team is spearheaded by the direction and creation of Chef Kuntz. On your visit to the winery expect to be wined and dined small plate style during your two-hour tasting and multi-course pairing with your culinary extravaganza experience. As you can imagine with the detailed prep of the daily cuisine presented to guests, don’t expect to just pop in at the winery, as all tastings are by appointment only. So be sure to call in advance, as the seating is limited.

Amuse Bouche – Cast Iron Shrimp

Chef spends a great deal of time tasting the wines to create specific dishes that go best with each wine offered at the winery during your tasting. Chef has the run of the kitchen and gets to do what he wants with the small bites he creates and plates for the guests. All of these “B Bites” are designed around the available meats and produce from locally sourced purveyors and he only utilizes the freshest ingredients as well as the seasonal bounty grown in the abundant and lush B Cellars gardens.

Pairing Plate B Cellars

B Cellars offers a variety of tasting and food pairings and they will even customize your experience with advance notice for larger groups. The tastings range from a lighter paring “The Sojourn,” which starts around $45 for sixty minutes with a selection of wines from their Flagship Portfolio paired with locally sourced cheeses and chocolates.

Cheese Pairing Platter B Cellars

They also offer a variety of other options such as the “Oakville Trek” where you will be presented with an introductory food bite and wine pairing before taking an informative tour of the grounds, the cave, and the winery. Then you will head back into the Hospitality House for a culinary pairing of “B-Bites” and their Flagship and Limited Production wines, which will last about 90 minutes in total.

Winter Flatbread

Another option is a private tasting created for the discerning wine collector in mind. The “Heritage Excursion” is hosted in the Beckstoffer room in their impressive wine cave. On warm sunny days, you may want to indulge in the “Chef’s Garden Pairing”, a 2-hour culinary journey at their outdoor garden table. And as a member of their B Society, you will receive a select number of complimentary tasting invitations as well as winery events and release tastings.

B Cellars Wine and Food Pairings

Here is a delicious sample of the “B Bites” and B Cellars Wines that we had the opportunity explore. Just to get your taste buds going:

  • 2014 Blend 23 Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc/Viognier – Cast Iron Shrimp, Pear Salsa, and Espellette Butter
  • 2014 Maldonado Chardonnay – Winter Flatbread with smoked bacon, Grilled Apple, Parmesan Cream
  • 2014 Blend 24 Sangiovese/Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon – Portabella Slider with Tomato Jam, Parmesan Cheese on a Brioche Bun
  • 2014 Kick Ranch Syrah – Smoked Duck Agnolotto with Pickled Beet Puree and Fava Leaf Pesto
  • 2014 Ehrlich Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Beef Meatball with Cipollini Onion, Candied Garlic and Crispy Kale

Beef Meatball with Crispy Kale B Cellars

B Cellars opened their doors to their Oakville winery location in 2014, envisioning their dream of creating a food-centric winery. Partners, Jim Borsack and Duffy Keys were no strangers in wine production in the Napa Valley; they actually launched their B Cellars brand in 2003, operating originally out of their business office in Orange County. Duffy and Jim actually met at a July 4th Barbecue many years ago and realized they both had a similar passion and dream to make wine out of the Napa Valley. It was two years after their happenstance meeting on that warm July afternoon when B Cellars came in to fruition and they haven’t stopped since.

Sculptures Around B Cellars Grounds

Duffy and Jim are like-minded individuals who share a mutual vision and have successfully succeeded as a dynamic duo with a very hands-on approach in the development of their brand. Since their inception, they have spent extensive amounts of time doing their due diligence with numerous trips from their original Orange County headquarters to the Napa Valley in an effort to engage with select growers that have the perfect fruit they seek for their spectacular award-winning varietals.

Shortly after creating B Cellars, they added a third component to the team, adding Kirk Venge as their winemaker who has been a part of the synergy of their success since the inception. Kirk, son of well-known winemaker Nils Venge, who has also been involved in the development of B Cellars, followed in his father’s footsteps in the Napa Valley. Kirk was named “one of the 20 Top New Winemakers in the World” by Food and Wine Magazine in 2005.

The winery and hospitality building located in Oakville is spread throughout their gorgeous grounds on a knoll overlooking the valley. The majority of the vineyards used in creating their amazing blends are sourced from over 18 different vineyards around the Napa Valley keeping with their mission to utilize only grapes from the best of the best with the highest quality possible fruit available. “Quality is of the utmost importance in our wines and we are not going to blend anything that doesn’t meet our strict standards.”

Adding to the artistic and wine ambiance surrounding B Cellars, you will find nestled throughout the spectacular landscape of the grounds and magnificent buildings a variety of life-sized human sculptures depicting everyday life. Greeting you at the cave entrance will be the working Gardner on his knees planting flowers or the man relaxing on the grass as just as you enter the hospitality building. You will find these charming animated sculptures created by artist Seward Johnson, welcoming you throughout your walk around the impressive grounds. Another perfect addition to your amazing experience.

Your visit to B Cellars will surely be an impressive and memorable journey and delicious too!!! Visit B Cellars at