Time for Wine – Visit Mendoza Argentina
Argentina’s Explosion onto the International Wine Scene in Picturesque Mendoza
A Visit to Mendoza, Argentina. The Mendoza wine region in Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. Mendoza is the most significant wine region in Argentina with over two-thirds of the country’s wines coming from this area. Malbec is the most prominent varietal being produced in Mendoza, though award-winning Cabernets, Tempranillo’s and Chardonnays have quickly followed suit. This magnificent wine region of Mendoza adjoins the panoramic Andean foothills spanning over 75 miles from Mendoza City to the south into Uco Valley.
Winegrowing is not new to the Mendoza region, in fact by 1910 there were over 45,000 vines planted mostly with the French rootstock – Malbec. The vineyards and wineries near Mendoza city are more traditional with some dating back well over 100 years, such as Bodegas Lopez in Maipu, which has been producing wines since 1898.
Heading further south through Maipu, onto the region of Lujan de Cuyo, and then into the newest region of Uco Valley, you will find very modernistic wineries with high-tech production facilities. The terrain throughout the Mendoza region is high-desert like, with some of the vineyards planted in the highest elevations in the world, with average elevations of 2,000 to 3,500 feet. The higher the elevation, the more intense the sunlight.
The diversity of the Mendoza terroir spans over three major wine regions encompassing over almost 100 miles of lush vineyards. The furthest north in the Mendoza region is Maipu which is just southeast of Mendoza city. Another forty miles south is the southern part of the Lujan de Cuyo region.
Uco Valley, the newest and most revered region lays 75 miles south of Mendoza City and has received much acclaim as one of the most picturesque of the areas, producing world-renowned award-winning Malbecs as well as other popular varietals are grown in Mendoza.
Mendoza’s three distinct wine regions are much like the designated appellations of Napa Valley’s wine country, giving each of the regions their own unique offerings. The terroir varies from region to region throughout the winegrowing corridor of Mendoza. Though one characteristic that they all share is the lush blankets of emerald vineyards painted up against the scenic backdrop of the majestic snow-capped peaks of Chile’s towering Andes mountains.
In the Uco Valley, a vast selection of international wine investors has influenced the development of this sprawling Malbec producing area. These renowned international investors having had a significant impact on the region’s expansion which includes the Kendall Jackson Group, well-known California vintner Paul Hobbs, a group of Walt Disney Investors, as well as famed French Vintner Michel Roland who created the Clos de Siete group in Uco Valley. Also, other Napa wineries have impacted the expansion of the region, including Revana of Saint Helena, who opened Bodega Corazon Del Sol in 2015 in the Uco Valley.
A few years ago, the Napa Valley Wine Auction presented an Argentine theme to its attending guests. Celebrated Argentine Chef, Francis Mallmann, known for his famed cookbook Seven Fires and his famous collection of restaurants, was brought in to create an exceptional experience for the hungry bidders.
The dining event came with great applause as Mallmann’s dramatic display of his unique wood fire style presented a once in a lifetime experience. The proprietor of Quintessa, Agustin Huneeus, stated, “Our shared love for South America will shine through Francis’s food and innovative presentations.”
There are several other Napa Valley Vintners with distinct Argentine roots. Delia Viader of Viader was born and raised in Argentina, and as a young woman and pioneer in Napa Valley winemaking, against many odds, she created her thriving Howell mountain vineyard and winery. Another well-known Napa Valley vintner of Palmaz Vineyard, born in Buenos Aires, is Julio Palmaz, well known for inventing the Palmaz Coronary Stent.
Getting to the Mendoza wine region offers major two routes which you can fly in from. If you choose to fly into Buenos Aires, it is a 1 hour 55-minute flight into the Aeropuerto Mendoza, their international airport. Another option is to fly into Santiago, Chile, where the flight is just a short 55-minutes.
Or if you have extra time to explore, driving from Santiago to Mendoza is exceptional, as you will experience a breathtaking drive over the monumental Andes Mountains over the border into Argentina, well worth the 226-mile drive along Ruta Nacional 7. Most major airlines offer flights into both Buenos Aires or Santiago.
Visit Mendoza Choices:
The various Mendoza wine regions and nearby mountains present many opportunities to explore beyond wine tasting. Though it is most definitely a mecca for wine lovers and foodies, particularly carnivores, there are adventures galore to behold. The area is host to an abundance of hiking trails from novice to advanced, bicycling, river-rafting, horseback riding and fly fishing for those seeking a bit of adventure to pair along with their wines.
Horseback Riding through the Vineyards of the Uco Valley
Let’s Go Visit Mendoza
Before you hop in your car to go tasting, keep in mind that wine-tasting in Argentina is a bit different than you are used to in the Napa Valley. If you don’t utilize a hired service to take you from winery to winery, driving to each winery does take a bit of time as the region and the wineries are very spread out. Don’t try to see all three regions in one day. Split them up over 3 or 4 days, as there is a lot to experience, to taste, and to view. If this is your first time in Mendoza, definitely look into a private wine tour service.
There are many of them, and they will give you wonderful options and suggestions on where to taste, how to taste, and which wineries to eat at. Almost all of the wineries in Uco Valley and in Lujan de Cujo are by appointment only, so just popping into a winery unannounced is not a good suggestion.
If you are used to more of a Napa Valley style of wine tasting, the northern party of the Lujan de Cuyo region is approximately 20 miles from the town of Mendoza, where you will find larger production wineries and some that you can actually go to without an appointment. One of my favorite parts of wine tasting in all of the regions in Mendoza is the wineries’ specialty luncheons. The majority of the Bodegas (wineries) offer a paired lunch, usually 4-6 courses. And to our surprise and amazement, these delicious culinary presentations average around $40 per person, including wine.
The best way to set your day up is to set up a morning tasting, a paired lunch, and then an afternoon tasting. More than three per day can be a bit much, being that your luncheon experience can last three hours. Also, keep in mind, sometimes contacting the wineries to set up appointment or lunch reservations can be tedious and time-consuming. All the more reason to set up your day with a customized wine touring service or a hired car. Plus you will enjoy it more as they will be your designated driver. Mendoza Wine Camp set us up perfectly. www.mendozawinecamp.com
Wine and Food Pairings Visit Mendoza
Most of the luncheons at wineries have highly experienced in-house chefs, some with international training from world-renowned restaurants. Expect a Napa Valley quality dining experience for far less than what it would cost to dine in the Napa Valley. Each of the wineries presents beautifully designed dining areas serving guests in an inviting indoor or outdoor setting, with most overlooking the vineyards or the winery estate.
The daily menus are very diverse, utilizing only the freshest of regional ingredients. Much of the time you will find their own variations of Empanadas, No lunch would be complete without being presented freshly baked traditional Argentine Empanadas. A treat indeed!
Chimichurri Sauces and the highest grades of Argentine beef. Each course delivers a unique artistic presentation on a plate, all creating a memorable gastronomic experience paired with some of Argentina’s finest wines. Get ready for some outrageous Malbecs, after all, that’s what we came here, but then there’s so more in Mendoza to explore!
Here are a few highlights from one of the winery lunches we delighted in during our four days in Mendoza.
Ruca Malen in Lujan de Cuyo– Chef Juan Ventureyra, created some of the most innovative and spectacular dishes we experienced during our visit to Mendoza. Not surprising his creativity was off the charts and his dishes were out of this world, as he trained under 2 Michelin Star Chef Jacque Chibois at Las Bastide Sainte Antoine in France for 7 years. The menu of “seven steps” (courses) is paired with “seven tags” (wines) of the winery. All of the produce from his abundant extensive gardens are utilized in his remarkable dishes.
Several of chef’s highlights included – Beef Carpaccio with mashed beetroot, raspberries, toasted almonds and Salicornia (regional salad herb) paired with Yauquen Bonarda 2015. Egg at 145 Degrees served with pumpkin and carob bread paired with Ruca Malen Malbec 2014 (90 Points James Suckling). Milcao (potato bread) served in the “curanto-style” with gnocchi alla Romana paired with Ruca Malen Petit Verdot 2014. Filet Mignon with chili peppers, bean chimichurri and fresh tomato salad paired with Kinien Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Bronze Medal Decanter).
Other exceptional wine lunch locations we experienced around the Mendoza regions include: Susana Balbo in Lujan de Cujo; Casarena Bodega y Restaurante in Lujan de Cuyo; Gimenez Riili Bodega & Vinedos in Uco Valley; Casa Azul in Uco Valley; Piedra Infinita Cocina at Bodega Zuccardi in Uco Valley; Clos de Los Siete at Bodega Monteviejo in Uco Valley.
Lunch Ruca Malen
Where to Stay When You Visit Mendoza
When traveling in Mendoza, there are a variety of options for accommodations ranging from a 4 room B&B style inn to significant hotels within Mendoza City, luxury wine lodges offering 5-star amenities and everything else in between. If you are staying in Mendoza City, particularly during their annual renowned wine festival, “Vendimia,” which is usually held the first weekend in March, you will want to stay close to town and close to the square for the festivities.
Most of the parade and festival activities are right in front of the Park Hyatt Mendoza, which presents the optimum place to be a participant and a spectator. They have a variety of Vendimia events at the hotel or very near the hotel.
I would recommend staying in Mendoza City for at least one night as the town offers many great restaurants, places to see and things to do. Then it will be time to head a bit off of the beaten path into wine country where you will discover places you never dreamed existed.
Park Hyatt Mendoza in Mendoza City: Is set in a beautifully restored 19-century Spanish colonial castle-like building on the main square, Plaza Indepencia in the heart of Mendoza. This 5-star luxury hotel offers all of the amenities to pamper you during your stay, including a state of the art spa and a variety of dining options. You are walking distance to wine tasting bars and many amazing regional cuisine inspired restaurants.
Pod on Stilts presented By Glamping Hub – Lujan de Cuyo – A unique one-of-a-kind individual getaway amidst the vineyards is a pod built on stilts. Glampers can experience a stay like no other at this stilted pod near Mendoza. It floats in the air above the vines of the on-site winery producing exquisite Argentine Malbecs, offering a cocoon nestling guests between land and sky. There is a bathtub on the terrace with views of the Andes, and a window in the roof promising guests stargazing in the clear skies of Argentina’s west. There is also a private jacuzzi hot tub.
A queen bed provides comfort and tranquility for two, with a private bathroom ensuring seclusion.
Auberge du Vin – A Tribute Portfolio Hotel in Tupungato: Part of the Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Group – You can even use your loyalty points to stay here. This stunning Mendoza getaway is a bit off the beaten path from Mendoza City hustle and bustle. When you arrive at Auberge du Vin, you will find yourself in a sophisticated rustic oasis in Tupungato and close to many of the most famous Bodegas in the Uco Valley.
The beautifully appointed guest rooms offer views overlooking the sprawling vineyards and the snow-capped Andes. Many rooms have kitchenettes, and there is an onsite fitness center as well as a tranquil outdoor pool and lounging area. Their signature restaurant and lounge presents regional cuisine and innovative libations along with an extensive wine list.
The Vines Resort and Spa in Uco Valley: If you are planning on heading down to Uco Valley and you seek a 5-star pamper yourself experience, then look no further than The Vines Resort & Spa. The Vine’s cuisine and Restaurant, Siete Fuegos (Seven Fires – also the name of Mallmann’s award-winning cookbook) was inspired by legendary Argentine Chef, Francis Mallmann. The property was developed across 650 acres of land in 2005 by Pablo Gimenez Riili and Michael Evans, who had a vision and a dream to create and luxury oasis at the base of the Andes Mountains.
This expansive wine destination resort offers rustic elegance and with the utmost of amenities. The Vines is beyond extraordinary, it immerses you in the sheer indulgence of the senses, of beauty, tastes, sights, and sounds. The sophisticated private villas that surround the hotel property allow guests to escape while providing the ultimate retreat for food and wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It is no surprise that Conde Nast’s and Travel and Leisure have named it one of the top hotels in the world.
Gimenez Riili Posada
Gimenez Rilli – Los Sauces – The winery was founded in 1945, by Pablo Rilli – Co-founder of The Vines Resort and is located adjacent to the Vines Resort in Winemakers Village. The Casa de Huespedes is on the grounds of the Bodega Gimenez Riili and vineyards. It is a charming, intimate posada amid the vineyards with spectacular views of the Andes. This 4-room boutique inn also offers spacious rooms with luxury amenities and a cook to order breakfasts.
Dining at Gimenez Riili
Federico, the owner, and charming host provides an onsite restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating along with wine paired lunches and dinners. Our 5-course dining experience was absolutely divine. You can dine on their Argentine Asado specialties and other regional specialties while enjoying a selection of their wines. A great value too. Be sure and try the Gran Reserva Malbec. Rent horse or bicycles and watch the sunrise in the vineyards. You can reserve directly through them or book through one of the booking sites like Booking.com or TripAdvisor.
During your visit to Mendoza, Argentina – Here are a few suggested Bodegas for your Mendoza wine tasting adventures:
Lujan de Cujo
- Archaval Ferrer
- Ruca Malen
- Bodega Matervini
- Clos de Chacras
- Catena Zapata
- Susana Balbo
- Vino Cobos – Paul Hobbs
- The Vines
- Gimenez Riili
- Clos de los Siete
- Corazon del Sol
- Archaval Ferrer
- Super Uco
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
Vintners Rich with Napa Valley Roots Stake their Acclaim in the Willamette Valley
Sip, Explore and Stay
Up until 1979, which is not so long ago, the Willamette Valley and the presence of vineyards and winemaking in Oregon were somewhat of a fledgling undertaking. The tides turned shortly after Oregon vintner David Lett returned from a blind tasting in France where he was invited to submit a red wine to go up against the haughty, aristocratic French, German and Italian vintages, including the illustrious French Burgundies and similar European varietals.
This came only three short years after the California wine industry put their name on the map at a similar competition in France creating the “French Paradox” with an award-winning Chardonnay. Lett stunned the judges in the Gault-Millau French Wine Olympiades in 1979 finishing among the top 10 out of over 330 entrants. It was a mere year later that renowned French Burgundian winemaker, Robert Drouhin, stepped up and instigated a re-match. To even greater acclaim, Lett’s Pinot finished second to Drouhin’s Chambolle-Mussigny, by only two-tenths. Not a surprise that Drouhin, then himself crossed the pond to the open his Oregon Domaine Drouhin in the stunning town of Dayton in the Willamette Valley.
Thus the “Oregon Story” was created which put an impressive stake on the map for the Oregon-made French-Style Pinot Noirs. Lett had left the Napa Valley only 10 years prior, shortly after studying at UC Davis. Despite the advice against it from his viticulture colleagues, Lett left his native California to put his own stake in the terroirs of the Pacific Northwest. His hunches proved him right.
Lett’s success from the competition fueled his notoriety stemming from the accolades he gained as a result of the infamous competition with his Eyrie Vineyards South Block Pinot Noir. A short 15 years down the road from the renowned competition in France; Oregon exploded on the wine scene bringing some of his doubtful colleagues from the UC Davis and other eager winemaking pioneers, many from the Napa Valley, to jump on the bandwagon to lay their roots in the rich Oregon soils.
The richness of the valley’s soils can be attributed to the Missoula Floods from the Glacial Lake Missoula which impacted the region more than 40 times at the end of the ice age over 13,000 years ago. Floodwaters swept into the region bringing rich volcanic and glacier soil. You will find that a good majority of the wineries in the area are perched on knolls or hillside vineyards where the most optimum soils for grape growing are found.
The Willamette Valley has over two-thirds of Oregon’s Vineyards and is now home to over 700 wineries and vineyards, with many vintners who found their way there from the Napa Valley. The region known initially for their outstanding Pinot Noir production has brought in many notable varietals to great success, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and in addition, further expanding is the burgeoning sparkling wine production with the méthode champenoise. Some of the lesser produced varietals in the region are Syrah, Cabernet, and Merlot. There are 6 sub-appellations in the Willamette Valley – Chehalem Mountains, Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills, McMinnville, Ribbon Ridge, and Yamhill-Carlton.
Where to Sip:
Well-known Napa Valley Vintner creator of Etude Wines, Tony Soter, who was a 30 plus year veteran in winemaking in the Napa Valley, left the Valley in 2007. Much to the surprise of his colleagues, he took off for Oregon to go full time at the winery he owned since the mid-1990s with his wife Michelle, Soter Vineyards. He was an applauded consulting winemaker for Napa Valley well-known wineries, such as Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Shafer, Sequoia Grove, Viader, Robert Pepi, Etude, Chappellet, Spottswoode, Dalle Valle, Spring Mountain, Niebaum Coppola, and Stonegate.
Michelle and Tony working together formed a dynamic team to follow in their own philosophy to consistently produce the highest caliber of wines that treads softly on the earth utilizing his over 4-decades of expertise and dedication to allow the character of the land to resonate in wines.
Their stunning winery is in an architecturally re-crafted 1943 barn where open spaces abound, and views of the surrounding hills resonate with every turn. They also have a state-of-the-art kitchen for wine events on the property. They are located in the Yamhill-Carton AVA on a 240-acre bio-dynamic farm planted to 32 acres of vines including 30 acres of Pinot and 2 acres of Chardonnay which they use for their award-winning Brut Rose. In addition to their Mineral Springs location, they also have a second property which showcases their North Valley Vineyards Label and their Planet Oregon wines where $1 from the proceeds of every bottle sold is donated to the Oregon Environmental Council.
: Tastings by Reservation: Mineral Springs Ranch 10880 NE Mineral Springs Road, Carlton 97111 www.sotervineyards.com503-662-5600
The Moore family originally from the Napa Valley also migrated to the Yamhill Carlton AVA several decades ago. Ronald Moore was a cargo pilot and his wife, Linda was a software consultant. They were in search of a retirement venture with the mission of getting back to the land. The Willamette Valley drew them in with Its rolling hills and cool climates and the region’s notoriety for growing outstanding Pinots. Their 50-acre family farm is adjacent to the land owned by Trappist Abbey who helped the Moore’s clear their land for planting in 2000. The creation for the winery name was inspired by the actual gate entering to the Trappist Abbey estate, which was actually built to allow the monks to access the land over the years. Today sits a statue near the gateway of Saint Francis of Assisi commemorating their frequent passages across the lands.
The vineyard is dry-farmed and also sustainably farmed to ensure that it will be environmentally and economically viable for generations to come. It is a two-generation operation, as their daughter Rebecca Moore also transplanted to the family compound from the Bay area and is the overall hands-on chief for every aspect for the winery from driving the tractor to pouring in the tasting room. Of the 50 acres, twenty are planted to Pinot Noir and Riesling.
: Carlton: Tastings by appointment: Open Thursday to Monday 12-5: www.monksgate.com503-852-6521
Dr. Madaiah Revana who is the proprietor of Napa Valley’s Revana Family Vineyards in Saint Helena had a love of the great wines of Burgundy and in 2005 began a search for the ideal location for his winery in Oregon. In addition to seeking out the perfect parcel of land for his winery and vineyards, he was also in search for a premier winemaker of Burgundian-style wines in the Willamette Valley. His quest led him to Lynn Penner-Ash, who had transplanted years before to this Pinot Noir abundant region from the Napa Valley.
Both Lynn and Dr. Revana were of the same philosophy with a commitment to producing world-class wines. Lynn’s vivid descriptions of the soils, the micro-climates, and elevations that would create the ultimate growing environment, presented them with a specific focus. They came upon the perfect location in the Dundee Hills, which offered 80-acres of which coincidentally sixteen acres had already been meticulously planted to Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris and the next year the launched Alexana Winery with their first estate 2006 vintages of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Today in addition to their stunning Pinot Noir Collection, they also offer Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, a Bordeaux Blend, and a Rhone Blend. Keep an eye out for the touring helicopters which frequently bring in guests for a wine tasting experience at Alexana.
: Newberg: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.alexanawinery.com503-537-3100
Penner-Ash Wine Cellars
After getting her kick-start in the wine business at Domaine Chandon and Stags Leap in Napa, Lynn Penner-Ash decided to leave for Oregon in 1988 to work at Rex Hill Winery as one of Oregon’s first female winemakers. Thirty years later as a renowned veteran winemaker, she and her husband Ron Penner-Ash celebrate the success of their mutually collaborated Penner-Ash brand which they founded in 1998.
Lynn and Ron Penner-Ash
In 2005, they designed and built their sustainable, gravity-flow estate winery in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, though their portfolio of wines also includes varietals from 7 major AVA’s of the Willamette Valley. Their winery, tasting room, and perfectly landscaped grounds offer majestic 360-degree views from their hillside perch overlooking the stunning vineyards of surrounding Newberg area.
In addition to their award-winning Pinot Noirs, they also produce Viognier, Roseo, Riesling, and Syrah.
: Newberg: Open 7 Days 11am to 5pm: Reservations Preferred and a must for parties of 6 or more: www.pennerash.com503-554-5545
Eugenia Keegan, Estate Manager and Winemaker at Gran Moraine, part of the Jackson Family Wines, continued her wine career in the 80’s in Napa Valley after working in Burgundy for several years honing her skills in Burgundian style wines. Upon arriving back in Napa, she took on the post as Bouchaine’s business manager at their Carneros location during their start-up days, and then later being promoted to President and CEO. In the late 90’s she moved over to Vine Cliff Winery in Oakville as president. In 2003, she took the plunge and moved on to the Henry Wine Group in Oregon until 2009. Prior to taking over at Gran Moraine in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Eugenia managed her own wine brand on two different continents, Keegan Cellars in Russian River and Roussillon, France.
Gran Moraine, founded in 2014, is located in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA on 220 acres planted to the classic Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the hillsides behind the winery. Teaming up with Shane Moore – Winemaker and Ken Kupperman – Vineyard Director, they have certainly created the trifecta for success at Gran Moraine. She is indeed a grand dame of Pinot Noir the Willamette Valley and continues to be committed to sustainable practices and creating elegance and finesse in a glass.
: Yamhill: Open Daily: 11am to 5pm: www.granmoraine.com855-831-6631
Gary and Nancy Andrus founders of Napa Valley’s Pine Ridge Winery expanded their wine world and opened Archery Summit in 1993. Now owned by the Crimson Wine Group, Archery Summit now lays claim to an expanding vineyard portfolio which includes 6 vineyards across 120 estate acres in Dayton in the Dundee Hills. They are known for producing some of the most luxurious New World Pinot Noirs.
They celebrate over two decades of crafting their estate-grown pinots and have just introduced their newest estate vineyard, Archer’s Edge. Winemaker, Ian Burch, has worked harvests across Sonoma County, Barossa Valley, New Zealand, and South Africa before settling in the Willamette Valley in 2008. Many of their Pinots have received outstanding marks from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker.
: Dayton: Open Daily except Holidays: 10am to 4pm: Please call Tasting Room for Appointments or Availability: 503-714-2030: www.archerysummit.com
A visit to Domaine Drouhin is also a must to put on your list when visiting the Willamette Valley as its roots take you back to wine country in Burgundy where it all started 130 years ago when Maison Joseph Drouhin introduced their outstanding Pinot Noirs to the world. Run now by fourth-generation Drouhin’s at the helm, Veronique Boss-Drouhin, and Philippe Drouhin. Domaine Drouhin Oregon was built in 1988 for $10,000,000 in the Dundee Hills by then patriarch Robert Drouhin.
Their Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays continue the family legacy and tradition of fine winemaking in France and now in Oregon with finesse and elegance. As the saying goes, “French Soul, Oregon Soil.”
: Dayton: Open Daily 11am to 4pm: For larger groups, please call Tasting Room for Appointments and Tours: www.domainedrouhin.com: 503-864-2700
(Please note that when visiting many of the Wineries in Willamette Valley, picnicking and outside food may not be permitted)
Where to Stay
The Allison Inn and Spa
Allison Inn and Spa
Celebrating their 10thAnniversary, The Allison Inn and Spa offers guests a casually elegant and luxurious experience in the heart of the Willamette Valley. No attention to detail has been overlooked at this stunning spa resort hosting 77 luxury guest rooms and 8 suites all with gas fireplaces, a terrace or balcony, and spa-like bathrooms with outstanding views of the luscious landscape of the surrounding rolling hills and vineyards. No other place in the Willamette Valley offers this kind of unique guest experience. Whether you are taking off right from the property on a helicopter tour, a luxury private car, a hot air balloon, or even by horseback, the Allison can personalize your visit and choose from more than 200 area wineries. They will also prepare a customized picnic basket to take along with you.
Allison Inn and Spa
Upon your return from tasting some of the best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in the world, take time to chill a little in their award-winning spa offering an extensive spa menu utilizing the energies, and ecological elements stemmed from the fertile soils of the Willamette Valley.
Dining at the Jory Restaurant at the Allison provides yet another memorable sensory experience. This one is offering a journey that accentuates the native flavors of the region sourcing seasonal and farm to table products in every dish specially prepared to create your culinary memory of the Willamette Valley.
Brunch on the deck at The Allison Inn and Spa
: 2525 Allison Lane, Newberg, OR: www.theallison.com: 877-294-2525
Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards
Black Walnut Inn
If it is a luxury bed and breakfast you are in search of, then look no further than the exquisite Black Walnut Inn and Vineyards in the Dundee Hills. This majestic Inn is nestled on a knoll surrounded by rolling vineyards on their 42 acres. Each of the nine guest rooms all with private baths are uniquely adorned with their individual designer décor, many with balconies or private patios. These inviting rooms offer guests a relaxing retreat where you will enjoy spectacular evening sunsets and vistas on your patio with an afternoon glass of wine from their expansive wine cellar along with a Charcuterie and Cheeseboard.
Black Walnut Inn
You can expect your stay to be absolutely memorable as this dynamic property sets the stage for the perfect romantic getaway. Before rushing out to a full day of visiting the region’s wineries, you will indulge in Black Walnuts Inn’s signature breakfast where each dish is made to order with the freshest of local ingredients. What a perfect way to start your perfect day! Owners Rick and Erika Miller are hands-on hosts who look after your every need.
Guest Suite at the Black Walnut Inn
: 9600 NE Worden Hill Road, Dundee, OR: www.blackwalnutvineyard.com503-538-8663
Romance is in the Air Year ‘Round in the Napa Valley!
Valentines Day in Napa Valley is celebrated year around. Traditionally February is known as the month for romance with couples eager to celebrate their love and affections at an intimate romantic inn or hotel nestled in the backdrop of rolling vineyards and settling into chilly evenings by the fireside. No better romantic setting to celebrate love than the picturesque Napa Valley.
In Napa Valley, your romantic mini-vacation to the wine county is waiting for you every month and every day of the year. If February has passed you by, not to fret, you haven’t missed out on creating your own special weekend or weekday escape for cherishing your love. Why not celebrate with your Valentine in May or September?
Farm Restaurant at Carneros Resort & Spa
Most hotels and inns offer special “Love Packages” during Valentines, though they tend to be a bit pricier than other times of the year or difficult to book due to limited availability. You will find that romance getaway packages are offered all year around here in the Napa Valley with a variety of romantic options to choose from or even customize your own.
Love is always in the air in wine country and each season presents its own unique portrait for your perfect romantic rendezvous with your special someone. You may want to:
- Come in early spring when the new budding vines are blanketing the valley and its time for a rejuvenating spa day.
- Seek out the sun in the summertime when it is warmer to mix in some outdoor activities like golf, cycling, hiking or hot-air ballooning.
- Head to the Napa Valley in the Fall for the perfume of crush during harvest and the brilliantly changing colors of the vineyards.
- Get festive with the lighting of the Christmas Trees and Holiday Parades.
- You may just keep coming back because you have a passion for the amazing cuisine offered in the Napa Valley, which is deliciously hard to resist.
These spectacular romantic resorts and inns offer a variety of dine/stay/spa packages, however, they are all very unique in their own way, with diverse amenities, design, decor, and location. Whatever your personals tastes, lovers are presented with a variety of romantic get-a-way options from small intimate inns to mega-luxurious resorts, all in an intoxicating setting. Dip in the pool, shower under the stars, bathe in the full moon, whatever your hearts desire, it’s all waiting for you. One thing’s for sure, pampering is always on the menu.
Whatever your passion, your ultimate date night or lovers retreat, Napa Valley welcomes you with a big heart!
Auberge du Soleil
Auberge Bar Terrace
“The Inn of the Sun” one of Napa Valley’s most iconic luxury properties is nestled on a hillside perch in Rutherford painted with breathtaking panoramic views of rolling vineyards. Dining at Auberge du Soleil’s Michelin Star Restaurant is a must experience to indulge in the signature cuisine along with the beauty of the valley views offered from their decks.
Auberge du Soleil is a long-standing member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, the international association of outstanding boutique properties known for their excellence in hospitality and culinary arts. This Adults-Only resort is the only Forbes Five-Star Rated hotel in Napa Valley. Auberge’s guest accommodations offer 5 amazing room variations from king view rooms to private maisons. Romantic packages are always available and in addition, they also offer spa packages at their award-winning spa. There are seasonal culinary, wine and music events. Auberge maintains a commitment to sustainable practices and native landscapes.
180 Rutherford Hill Road, Saint Helena www.aubergedusoleil.com
During the month of February, Bardessono offers romantics the opportunity to rediscover the pleasure of giving and receiving with their “Crush on You” package. You will indulge in an hour-long massage topped off with bubbles in a champagne bath. After unparalleled pampering, pop open a Sommelier selected wine with a decadent dessert, prepared by Bardessono’s Michelin Pastry Chef Mindy relaxing in your stunning guest room. What a more perfect way to start off your weekend of romance. This luxurious eco-friendly “Deep Green” Inn in the heart of Yountville in the midst of its own vineyard offers privacy and graciousness. The 62 guestrooms serve as a personal sanctuary also offering in-room spa treatments.
For the truly romantic get-a-way any time of year, Bardessono has created a unique selection of Romance Packages that will create memories to last forever. For adventurous couples, take in the best views Napa Valley has to offer aloft your majestic balloon ride and breakfast for two.
Shop, dine, and wine taste – all within walking distance in this charming eco- friendly inn nestled in the hamlet of Yountville.
6526 Yountville Street, Yountville www.bardessono.com
Nestled in a hidden canyon on 157 acres of lush foliage, ancient oaks, and majestic hills are the eco-luxury resort of Calistoga Ranch. Their freestanding wood cedar shingled luxury lodges are perfect for those desirous of dreaming in unspoiled nature. This 50-room luxury retreat in the hills of Napa Valley captures the rich culture of food, wine, and nature. Calistoga Ranch is part of the Auberge Resorts Collection and true to Auberge tradition; the Ranch offers culinary experiences inspired by culture. With their “Rekindle the Romance” package you will indulge in two memorable nights in a one-bedroom lodge, two intimate 60-minute in-lodge spa treatments, daily breakfast and a romantic candlelight dinner for two. There are also acres of scenic hiking trails and an on-site vineyard with a private wine label. You will also find sustainable practices throughout the resort.
580 Lommel Road, Calistoga www.calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com
Carneros Resort and Spa
Carneros Resort Cottage
Carneros Resort and Spa is a luxury romantic escape nestled in the Carneros vineyards on 28 lush acres. The resort offers 86 cottages, 10 suites, and private homes in this country setting. These charming cottages offer many wonderful amenities such as fireplaces, indoor-outdoor showers, private hot tubs, and landscaped garden patios. This wine country retreat also presents FARM, their signature restaurant with elegant wine country dining. Spend a day relaxing at the Spa at Carneros with treatments to mend the mind and spirit.
Sample Love is in the Air Package – Contact Resort for the latest packages!
- One night stay in the cottage accommodation of your choice
- Complimentary breakfast in bed
- Welcome bottle of sparkling wine
- $100 Spa Credit towards a couple’s massage
Carneros Resort Outdoor Shower
Carneros Resort has recently premiered their specialty-dining event at Farm Restaurant, the Carneros Supper Club. Guests will join in at a welcome reception on the hilltop patio along with Sparkling wine and a raw bar of fresh from the sea tastes. Chef Aaron Meneghelli will partner with local winemakers and breweries in the region to create an evening of indulgent family style dining in an intimately elegant setting.
4048 Sonoma Hwy. Napa www.thecarnerosinn.com
Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer
You can celebrate romance in the wine country in one of Harvest Inn’s intimate and luxurious guests rooms where you will experience an unforgettable vacation of the heart in beautiful St. Helena. Sip a glass of Napa Valley sparking on your picturesque terrace overlooking the lush grounds. Indulge in a couples massage with a sensual blend of botanical essences that will surely rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit. Dine at Charlie Palmer’s wine country kitchen, the Harvest Table highlighting dishes created from a delicious array of locally sourced ingredients and the best of Napa Valley.
1 Main Street, Saint Helena www.harvestinn.com
A new Luxury Collection Hotel in the Napa Valley located next to world famous Beringer Vineyards and Estate. The Hotel offers spacious accommodations with ultra-chic décor. In addition to the 68 guest rooms overlooking vineyards and or the winery, Las Alcobas offers a state of the art 3500sf spa, The Atrio, and wellness center, onsite restaurant and event barn. It is the perfect setting for couples seeking a romantic escape. Chef Chris Cosentino’s signature restaurant, the Acacia House, offers the perfect setting for romance. They will even prepare a gourmet lunch basket for your picnic in the vineyards. The resort’s vineyard view pool and cabanas and adjacent Grandview Bar have a tranquil vineyard setting.
1915 Main Street, Saint Helena www.lasalcobasnapavalley.com
Meritage Resort and Spa
When planning your romantic get-a-way to Napa, why not change it up a bit. In addition to your romantic escape, where you will stay two nights in one their Premier Tuscan inspired luxury hotel rooms with a unique private balcony overlooking the pool, Estate Cave, and vineyards why not join in on one of their Master Winemaker Dinners. These exquisite dinners in the Estate Cave offer dinner guests and guests of the resort and unforgettable evening of food and wine. Each dinner begins with a reception featuring wine and appetizers overlooking the estate vineyards then follows a multi-course dinner with featured wines from the guest winemaker. Each event is a little different, and all will delight in this remarkable dining experience. Topping the off the evening with a splash, is the “wow factor” dessert, an unforgettable interactive presentation. The 2017 Masters Winemaker Dinner Series lineup includes Napa Valley’s Top Wineries and Cult Favorites!
875 Bordeaux Way, Napa www.meritagecollection.com
Milliken Creek Inn and Spa
Milliken Creek Inn
This charming inn on 3 secluded acres just off of Silverado Trail in Napa is rich in history and dates back to the mid-1850s when it served as a stagecoach stop for tired travelers during the Gold Rush in California. Now part of the prestigious Fours Sisters Inns luxury collection, Milliken Creek presents an intimate hideaway along the banks of the Napa Valley River. After spending a quiet, romantic evening by the fire in one of their 12-luxury spa guest rooms with plush king beds, you will wake up to delicious made-to-order breakfast brought to your room to enjoy in your room on, on your patio or deck or anywhere you would like on the beautiful grounds of this charming inn. You won’t want to miss enjoying a body treatment at their boutique spa on the property with a couples massage. Or indulge in the ultimately delicious pamper with the “wrap yourself in chocolate decadence” – a tasty treatment designed to detoxify the body and leave your skin kissably soft, after being wrapped in a cocoon of chocolate and mud and chocolate massage oil treatment. Oh so decadent!
1815 Silverado Trail, Napa www.Millikencreekinn.com
Silverado Resort and Spa
For the perfect hole in one, Silverado Resort is a golfers paradise with two 18-hole Championship Courses, a variety of fine dining options and a state of the art spa facility. For the “Golf Lover” this is the place to T-off to for an active romantic get-a-way of Dining, Spa Treatments, and Golf. The “Couples Escape” package offers a round of golf per night stay, 1 spa treatment per night stay and $50 food credit at any of the resorts food venues. Silverado is also located close to many renowned wineries to visit during your active stay in Napa, so you won’t have to miss out tasting some of your favorite vintages.
1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa www.silveradoresort.com
An Auberge Resort Collection Property located in Calistoga just off the Silverado Trail offers modern thoroughly appointed accommodations which all come with two complimentary cruiser bikes to explore. The Solage award-winning spa and mineral pool has been artfully designed and is ecologically conscious giving you the ultimate of a spa-get-away sprinkled with romance. Their distinguished renowned restaurant, the Solbar, offers an intimate dining experience and delivers new twists on California soul food recipes. They offer romantic retreats to active get-a-ways that will immerse you and your love and enhance your Napa Valley experience. Check out their Sugar and Spice package for a sultry two-night escape, which includes a massage and an intimacy kit. Along with that, you will partake in the Sol Spa’s most intimate treatment, the Couples Mudslide where you will paint your partner with mineral-enriched mud, then soak side-by-side in healing geothermal mineral waters.
755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga www.solage.aubergeresorts.com
Westin Verasa Napa
This exquisite hotel is perfectly located along the Napa River within walking distance of Oxbow, the Culinary Institute and historic eclectic downtown Napa. The Westin Verasa is part of the SPG group of hotels where not only will you make brownie points with the love of your life you will also build points towards future stays.
After a long day of wine tasting around the valley, the courtyard pool by the river presents the perfect place to chill with a refreshing beverage.
For the ultimate romantic evening, dining in the intimate Michelin Star restaurant, La Toque, named one of the “Best Restaurants In America” by Wine Spectator, is a glorious treat. Acclaimed Chef Ken Frank has created a menu of contemporary French-style cuisine with a cutting edge. An absolute must when in Napa Valley!
1314 McKinstry Street, Napa www.westinnapa.com
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?
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.
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: http://bit.ly/5IngredientItalianCookbook
Link to our hotel in Tuscany for our May tour. This is one of the top hotels in Florence: https://www.ortodeimedici.it/it
Contact Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures at:
Check out more details on their website at:
Check out their facebook page too! https://www.facebook.com/lazyitalian/
Bardessono and The Estate In Yountville – Two Brilliant Gems
Vintage House Lobby
Once upon a time, in the heart of Napa Valley, there once was a small unknown village slightly off the beaten path called Yountville, long before Michelin Star restaurants, luxury hotels, charming little shops, and boutique winery tasting rooms. The town actually began when a small 11,887-acre parcel owned by the Mexican government awarded a land grant to George C. Yount in 1836. Yount was the first Euro-American to settle in these parts and was a true pioneer in planting vineyards in the Napa Valley. In the early days, part of Yountville was actually named Sebastopol, though after George Yount’s death in 1867, Sebastopol united with Yountville in honor of Yount’s life and the two communities became one in Napa County.
The influence of the railroad coming in in 1886 brought new growth, and shortly thereafter newcomer Gottlieb Groezinger bought 20 acres and built one of the first wineries in the area with a barrel room & distillery in 1870, now known in the center of town as V Marketplace. Next, came the building of Yountville’s veterans home bringing more added life to this sleepy hamlet. In 1965, the Town of Yountville became the 4th incorporated community in the Napa Valley.
Napa Valley’s first sparkling wine producer, Domaine Chandon opened their visitor center in 1977 along with the winery and the restaurant bringing notoriety to the region and proved to be instrumental in the continued wave of growth in Yountville. The expansion and popularity eventually put this famed “Miracle Mile” on the map as one of the most sought-after destinations to visit in wine country. The metamorphosis over the last several decades has transformed George Yount’s vision into an international tourist mecca.
Often referred to as the “Culinary Heart” of the Napa Valley, Yountville is host to many renowned restaurants including Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry. A few fun facts provided by the town of Yountville:
2,933 – Yountville Population
19 – Number of Tasting Rooms
1,600 – Number of Restaurant Seats
1 – Gas Station with great wine and hot dogs
451 – Number of Hotel Rooms
$466 – Average Room Rate
$589 – Average Room Rate in October
Along the main drag in Yountville, you will find many charming get-a-ways – inns, B&B’s, Hotels and resorts to indulge and pamper you for your stay while on your visit to this magical little town. Two of the grandest luxury properties in Yountville are the Bardessono Hotel and Spa, and The Estate, which includes both the Hotel Villagio and the Vintage House.
The Bardessono comes with its own bit of history as it was built on the original home site of Yountville’s Bardessono family who relocated to the Napa Valley with their six children from the Piedmont region in Italy in 1926. John and Lucy bought the 20-acre parcel for a mere $14,000. Their extended family maintained the family compound until 1989 when part of it was sold off for residential development. There were five remaining acres in the Bardessono Brothers partnership, which is where the location of Bardessono Hotel and Spa stands today.
This “Deep Green” property situated in the core of Yountville in its own private enclave is the LEED Platinum Certified Bardessono Hotel. There are 28 LEED-certified properties in the United States, all dedicated to building a smarter more sustainable future. “Bardessono makes a commitment to provide a luxurious experience for guests within a sustainable environment.”
The developers of the hotel utilized over 10,000 square feet of salvaged wood, which they incorporated into the doors, flooring, walls of the guestrooms, spa, restaurant, and event space. Of the unique guestrooms and suites on the property, each offers its own individual space and personal sanctuary. They are described as a space for timeless indulgence, from the organic cotton bed linens to the hand-crafted bath products. Guest rooms are also equipped with leading technology including a virtual surround speaker system and media hub. Taking the pampering and first-class indulgence to new heights is their suite collection, which includes Spa-Suites, Steam-Spa Suites, Tufa Suites as well as customized ADA Suites.
Upon your arrival at the Bardessono, the essence of tranquility and beauty is immediate, as you experience a welcome peacefulness from the Zen-like surroundings transcending throughout the property. There are numerous gardens, sculptures and water features adorned throughout every enclave around this stunning hotel’s grounds. It feels so private that your experience often makes you feel like you are the only guest there. Yet there are so many wonderful amenities to offer from this unique property.
Lucy Restaurant at Bardessono
The Restaurant Lucy, named after the original proprietress of the property, Lucy Bardessono presents garden-style award-winning cuisine created by Executive Chef Nate Lindsay. Whether you are a guest at the hotel or visiting the Yountville for an evening, a stop at this stunning restaurant is a must on a to-do list. Lucy had a gift for farming and cultivated the grounds into a working farm in the 1920’s on the historic Bardessono grounds. Her passion for working the land with fresh farm produce inspired the ingredients utilized in Chef Lindsay’s stylized dishes. All the ingredients on The Lucy menus are from locally sourced purveyors and from the onsite certified organic gardens just steps from the restaurant.
Bardessono Bloody Mary’s
One of the many stand-out features of Lucy Restaurant is the specialty Bloody Mary Cart where the bar’s talented mixologist creates a customized Bloody Mary to suit your tastes. The demonstration is a visual experience and worth the journey to the cart, where the “Liquid Artists” craft this specialty beverage from Platinum 7X Vodka, fresh tomatoes and garden garnishes and a few other delicious additions.
Outdoor Bathtub and Shower at Bardessono
After your Bloody Mary, you may want to retreat back to your room for a dip in the Beer Bath Spa Treatment explicitly designed to enjoy in the privacy of your Bardessono guest room. A perfect treat for dad after a long day of sightseeing, wine tasting or golf. And of course, there is also an extensive Spa Menu for Mom as well. Their full-service spa was named top wellness spa in the US in 2017 by Organic Spa Magazine.
Centered in the middle of Yountville along a significant stretch of Washington Street is what is now known as The Estate in Yountville also known at Villagio. The expansive property extends just south of the French Laundry Gardens to the entry gateway to the south of town. Showcased along The Estate’s 22-acre compound is everything you can ask for in creating the perfect visitor experience. Nestled at each end of the expansive grounds are their two luxurious hotels, the Vintage House and the Hotel Villagio. You can also indulge in their newly renovated Spa or visit the neighboring winery tasting rooms – Silver Trident and JCB Tasting Salon. If it’s a bit of shopping that’s up your alley, a leisurely stroll through V Marketplace offers plenty of options for your Napa Valley treasures.
Open for lunch and dinner is, renowned chef and TV Host, Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Restaurant. His inspired Italian / California cuisine has earned him many culinary accolades including Zagat, Top 10 by Forbes, Top 20 by Esquire, and Top 100 Bay Area by Michael Bauer. Also throughout The Estate’s property are numerous meeting, indoor and outdoor venues and pavilions for everything from weddings, corporate retreats as well as small and large convention facilities. With the new addition of their gathering retreats and intimate garden areas, they can transition from 2700-square feet of indoor meetings to 11,000-square feet of outdoor entertaining space.
Vintage House Pool
The rebranding of the Estate began with the transformation and renovation of the Vintage House formerly the Vintage Inn where they began welcoming guests in October 2017. Bringing further luxurious updates is the welcoming of their newest additions with the Vineyard and the Pavilion, as well as a full-service bar with onsite entertainment in the newly built lounge and lobby at Hotel Villagio.
Hotel Villagio Guest Room
The spacious guest rooms at both hotels offer luxurious adornments throughout including fireplaces, outdoor balconies, complimentary daily breakfast all welcoming visiting guests in a sophisticated, inviting retreat atmosphere. The Hotel’s Winery Partner Program offers guests special perks to many of the most sought-after wineries in the Napa Valley.
Renovations to The Estate have been extensive, and no detail has been overlooked from the complete remodel including of all of the guest accommodations, the grounds, the spa, poolside cabanas, and much, much more. Everything you can imagine to make your visit to the Napa Valley memorable is at your beck and call, as The Estate has created a luxury playground along this Napa Valley promenade.
A few of the unique guest experiences offered a The Estate are:
Once Upon a Vine: A Guided vineyard tour and wine tasting at the Estate, sharing a sense of the heritage, culture and the history of Yountville
Love is in the Air: A private helicopter tour over the Napa Valley
The Art of Sabering: A lesson on the secrets of sabering a sparkling wine bottle from the masters at V Wine Cellars
That’s Amore: Indulge in a culinary experience led by Yountville’s own Celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello
Vintage House In Room Bar
This fabulous transformation of The Estate Yountville is slated as one of the most ambitious and grand renovations projects in the area. Their recent redevelopment efforts have contributed to an even more significant presence of this beautiful Napa Valley village along Yountville’s impressive Miracle Mile.
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Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli of Farm Restaurant
Farm Restaurant at Carneros Resort and Spa
We recently had the opportunity to have an intimate one-on-one with Carneros Resort and Spa’s energetic and super busy chef, Aaron Meneghelli. With Executive Chef Aaron’s role running all of the food and beverage programs at the resort, it is amazing he has time to come up for air and always with such a motivated and inspiring mantra. I have had the pleasure of watching him shine over the past several years with his growing culinary program, he is certainly a chef to keep a keen eye on.
Executive Chef Aaron Meneghelli
During our visit, we were impressed to observe and learn more about all of his epicurean accomplishments throughout the resort and his future plans for upcoming events at Farm. In addition to FARM – the resort’s signature restaurant, Chef also oversees The FARM Pavilion, Boon Fly Café; the Hilltop Dining Room, the upscale prepared food space at MARKET, the culinary organic garden, all catering and room service, and the Carneros Supper Club series.
Bubbles and Amuse-bouche at Farm Restaurant
Revered as one of Napa Valley’s top restaurants, FARM at Carneros Resort offers guests an elegant dining experience, casually luxurious with inviting indoor and outdoor seating. The glass windowed kitchen gives the dining guests the visuals of the constant creative energy flowing through FARM’s impressive kitchen. Chef Menghelli creates an ever-changing seasonal dining experience sourcing from neighboring purveyors and the resort’s culinary garden. Their deliciously diverse menu offers a seasonal five-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing and a page full of wonderful Farm-to-Table a la carte offerings as well.
By popular demand, Returning in the Fall they will re-launch their popular dinner series – the Carneros Supper Club held on the picturesque knoll at the Hilltop Dining Room blanketed with panoramic views over Napa Valley and the Carneros region vineyards. Chef Aaron partners with local winemakers for the evening dinner events. He creates special menus that pair with the wine being showcased for their special dining soiree’s, all inspired with seasonal produce and Aaron’s gift of inventing his delightful gastronomic creations.
Gardens at Carneros Resort and Spa
After having a lovely afternoon chat with Chef Aaron, we were then graciously escorted into the inviting FARM dining room to the cozy booth adjacent to the fireplace, and we were sent off on a journey through the menu for the next several hours of delighting in the various dishes presented to us to savor.
In addition to being hands-on in the kitchen, Chef Aaron likes to be hands-on with the dining guests. It is not uncommon to see him walking about the dining room visiting with the tables, chatting with patrons about their dish or just wishing a warm hello. Our evening was much like that as Aaron presented himself with each arriving dish that we were served. He took the time to describe the vision he had in creating each dish, the various local ingredients and the flavor profile all of which were paired specifically with the wine selections by FARM Sommelier Anthony Donahue.
A Chat with Chef Aaron
What was your inspiration to get into the restaurant business and train to become a chef, where did you go to culinary school? “I went to culinary school in SF at California Culinary Academy starting mid-1999 after finding college to be unfulfilling. I had cooked on and off again since I was 17, working in restaurants among other random jobs while moving a couple times between 19 and 23. I always found my days at work in the kitchen to be enjoyable and I was able to find that I was good at it. There is a competitiveness and intensity that you don’t’ see anywhere else and that has always been exciting to me. I think that accompanied with my family experience of always being around a table were my biggest inspirations to start this career. My mom and grandmother were good cooks and I enjoyed the food, but it was the time at the table at my grandparents’ house that I always think of.”
During your formal training, how did you know what direction you wanted to take with your career as a chef? Looking back at my days in culinary school I don’t think I ever really knew what direction I wanted to go with this career. My thoughts were more towards a restaurant rather than a hotel, I didn’t think I would ever work at a hotel, but I have spent almost 13 years between 2 top-notch resorts in the Napa Valley.
Tell me a little bit about your growing up in the Napa Valley The town of Napa was a good place to grow up. My dad worked with Robert Mondavi for the first 30 years of my life and my mom worked with the school district at El Centro elementary, so there was good involvement with a few areas of the town. Napa felt quiet growing up as much of the tourists that visited went up-valley and did not spend any attention on the town of Napa as they do now.
What inspires you when you are creating new menus and new dishes, where do you source all of seasonal ingredients? The season needs to be the first thing to inspire the menu. I always want to be sure that we are pulling our ideas off of the produce list and we plan our garden to be able to support this. We use a number of local growers and producers for eggs, dairy and produce. Our proteins are coming from locals as well when available, for example, we always have duck on the menu from Sonoma Poultry.
During the Napa Floods, how did your business get affected? Describe your hands-on efforts in giving back to the community during the fire crisis. When the fires occurred, we evacuated the hotel that first night around 3am and we were under mandatory evacuation for 12 days. October is usually one of the busiest months of the year for a lot of businesses in Napa and Sonoma, so this was a devastating way to end the year. We had groups cancel well into 2018 because the impression was that the entire valley burned down, so why come.
I had family and friends that were very close to the fires and displaced from their homes, some of which lost everything. Watching this happen around my hometown was hard and I felt helpless at the beginning, but that quickly turned into motivation. We had lost power for a couple days, and with 8 walk-in refrigerators on the property, I had a lot of food to deal with. So, we started to reach out to different community organizations that were involved with getting food and supplies out to those who needed it. We spent the next week delivering food to fire departments, Salvation Army, 3 different churches, police station, and a few others to get prepared and raw foods to the town. It felt good to be involved, but it was a painful time to watch some really close people to me go through something that tragic. We later held a fundraiser where we closed FARM and had a large dinner event and were able to raise $20K to donate to the Napa community fund.
What are your responsibilities as Carneros Resort & Spa? I oversee all culinary and stewarding operations on the property with a direct lead to the front of house management as well.
What do you envision with taking the culinary program at Carneros Resort & Spa to the next level We are currently going through a lot of remodeling on the property, the spa and all the rooms have been renovated and we will do some upgrades at FARM. The food will continue to change with the season and we focus on not repeating with the same dishes.
What motivates you every day? My wife and my daughter! All day… every day! I work a lot, and they support me and allow me the opportunity to be in this role and commit as much of my time as I need to make this a successful operation. I usually bounce ideas off of them for food or any changes I want to make around the property. They keep me grounded while keeping me jumping for more.
Is there a philosophy or mantra that you live by? Work hard…play harder. I don’t like to say no when I have the time to be out of work, I am usually on the go!
Where do you see yourself in ten years, 20 years? Good question…hard to say, I have a lot of ideas and this career is ever-changing, so who knows?
What are you most thankful for? I have been blessed with a great family and a lot of tradition. I have also been able to make a lot of great relationships and I value that very much. There is a blurred line between friends and family and I feel it is important to keep as many people close to you as possible.
Here is a selection of the summer dishes on Farm’s Menu:
- Truffled Burrata – spring leaves, house-made rye, fig leaf oil
- Octopus Terrine – scallion vinaigrette, daikon, potatoes, chorizo
- Chilled Pea Soup – white chocolate crème Fraiche, pickled rhubarb, English peas
- Truffle Tagliatelle – burgundy truffle, manchego, beech mushrooms
- Liberty Farms Duck – red quinoa, soubise, blackberries, ramps
- Alaskan Halibut – crushed English peas, fume, pork belly
A Tasting Menu of Cherry
- Torched Hamachi – cherry aquachile, fennel, yuzu snow paired with J.J. Prum ‘Whelener Sonnenuhr” Kabinett Riesling, Mosel 2014
- Braised Sonoma Duck Agnolotti – corn puree, cherry, duck cracklings, smoked corn foam paired with Domaine Les Cantates, Chignin-Bergeron, Savoie 2012
- Glazed Pork Belly – Carolina gold rice, tart cherry, peas paired with Artesa Estate Reserve Pinot, Carneros 2014
- California Squab – turnip, cherry glaze, braised greens, porcini mushroom paired with Selene Frediani Vineyard Merlot, Napa Valley 2013
Featured Cocktail: Cherry Whisky Smash – buffalo trace bourbon, lemon, cherry, mint leaves