Wine Travel Adventure

A tasty wine, food and travel blog

How a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is like a song by Doris Day

DecoyWhen you go to a wine tasting, typically they start you out with something light and refreshing, like a Sauvignon Blanc. It is the welcoming drink, the one that primes you (and your palate) for the sips of other whites and big reds to come.

Doris Day

Doris Day.

       With summer nearing an end (the kids soon to go back to school!) and the dance of the 2016 harvest about to begin or already beginning in some areas, we thought we’d try something light, refreshing and welcoming. This 2015 Decoy Sauvignon Blanc (under $20) fits the bill on all three of those counts, in our view. Light but not weightless and bland, with the flavor of a nectarine or to my taste, even a hint of orange. Refreshing and vivacious, with some nice tang to it but no harsh bite. And welcoming, like the smile of a pretty woman in a summer dress who greets you at the front door inviting you into a party.

            Duckhorn Vineyards, which makes Decoy wines, describes it as “the every day wine for the well-informed,” which is fair. It’s accessible without pandering, a product of the fruit of various Sonoma County vineyards. Two of us were tasting on this occasion, and as we were doing so Betty Carter was weighing in on the ballad, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most,” in her smoky and rich, cigarette-stained voice. But this 2015 Decoy is no Betty Carter; it’s more of a Doris Day, and if you think that’s a come-down in any way, you need to call up Doris on Spotify or somewhere else and give her a listen. Many people (if they know her at all) may think of her mainly as a bright and perky blonde actress who co-starred with Rock Hudson in “Pillow Talk” and other light romantic comedies of the 1950s and early ‘60s (also when Betty Carter started recording). Her signature moment in film was in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” when she sings “Que Sera Sera,” a song that became a huge hit for her and that won an Oscar for best song.

But before she became a movie star Doris Day was a big band singer, and she made a number of top-selling albums while starring in Hollywood. She has a bright, light and welcoming voice that can express the pain of loss too. For a taste of what she can deliver, try “People Will Say We’re in Love” or “I Love Paris,” and a beautifully evocative and moving “Nobody’s Heart,” with Andre Previn on piano. —KEVIN NELSON. Photo of Doris Day courtesy of     

6 superstar athletes (and a coach!) who make wine


Owning a vineyard and making your own wine is a dream shared by people in all walks of life, including professional athletes and coaches.

Here are six sports superstars and one coach—a Formula One world driving champion, Heisman Trophy-winning Pro Bowl NFL cornerback, four-time NASCAR Cup champion, Hall of Fame pitcher who led the New York Mets to their first World Series title, a Rose Bowl and Super Bowl-winning coach, another race car driver and an elite PGA golfer once ranked No. 1 in the world—that have turned their dreams into a reality by establishing wineries or wine brands.

Despite their varied backgrounds, all share one thing in common: a love of wine. Known mainly for their sports achievements, they would also like to be known as the makers of excellent Cabernets, Chardonnays or Pinot Noirs.

Mario Andretti


Mario Andretti looks every inch the consummate winemaker: hale, hearty, in robust good health. If you did not know better you would not suspect he was one of the fastest men to ever drive a racing car, the winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Formula One world racing crown, among many other titles. Long retired from racing, the 76-year-old oversees a Napa Valley winery that goes by his name. Andretti Winery’s Montona Reserve wines are named after the area in Italy where he was born and raised before immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. Continue reading

Tasting: 2014 Bogle Chardonnay

Besides its obvious capacity to instill pleasure among those who partake in it, wine can teach you things too. So it was with a 2014 Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay we tasted the other night, in an exploration of value white wines (under $12). The back label explained that Bogle was located in Clarksburg, California, which drew a complete blank with me.

18544Having lived most of my life in California and explored most every corner of it, I feel like I could hold my own in a “Jeopardy” game show contest on the state’s geography. But Clarksburg? Alex Trebec would’ve stumped me on that one. Continue reading

Discover a little piece of Italy at Napa Valley Olive Oil

Olive OilTravelers are forever in search of the authentic, and if that describes you, you must seek out the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company in St. Helena. It’s as authentic as it gets.

It’s on Charter Avenue just as you come into town, which is where Michelin 3-star Chef Christopher Kostow is opening his new restaurant, Charter Oak, at the site of the old Tra Vigne. Turn right off the highway and go to the end of Charter and there it will be, a little piece of Italy in Napa Valley. Continue reading

Wine industry veteran shares the secrets of his success

Wine drinkers and wine lovers can learn a lot from the story of Peter M.F. Sichel, whose ancestral family winemaking roots stretch back to Germany in the 1850s, who lived and worked in the wine industry in Bordeaux for many years, and who created one of the first and most successful international wine brands, Blue Nun, which sold millions of cases in the United States and around the world during its heyday in the 1970s.

Sichel is also an international wine authority who has judged many wine competitions and has an insider’s grasp of the wine business, which he first became involved in as a young man in 1930s Germany and France. “My early youth,” he recalls with some poignancy, “was spent living in the world of wine.”

Peter Sichel    His vinous youth, however, came to an abrupt end due to the calamitous world events of that time. A Jew, he fled Europe to escape Nazi persecution. Finding sanctuary in this country, he joined the American military and became an intelligence officer for the OSS and CIA, working to defeat Hitler’s Germany and then against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. All of these stories he tells in a personal anecdotal fashion in his memoir, The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy, which was published earlier this year. Continue reading

Five top Napa Valley winemakers tell what inspired them to make wine

When you go to a winery tasting it is only rarely that you see the winemaker, the creative talent behind the red. pink and white liquids you have come to sample. But what stirs these men and women to make wine? What inspires them to do what they hope will inspire you?

It probably will not come as a great surprise to learn that what inspires winemakers is, well, wine. Here are five leading Napa Valley winemakers and the “epiphany” moments that started them on their calling:

Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock Winery


For her it was the taste of a 1970 Mouton Rothschild that made her think about wine in a new way. “For me that was it,” she said. “One wine, one moment. That was when I realized that wine was more than a beverage; it’s poetry, it’s art. There’s a tale behind every wine.” Chimney Rock is on the Silverado Trail in the Stags Leap District AVA. Continue reading

Chic and tasty dining at Solbar in Calistoga


Even before you enter the lovely dining room of Solbar, the surrounding Solage Resort has begun to work its magic. Comfortable outdoor seating and contemporary fountains—some with flames rising from the water—set the casual, upscale tone.

Michelin-starred Solbar is a hotel restaurant, but looks like a chic bistro, and the superb service and food live up to expectations.

Solbar 1

We started lunch with a beet salad ($15). The beautifully prepared beets were prepared four different ways, including in chip form, and served on watercress. An unusual green goddess dressing had a strong cinnamon note.

Solbar 2

Spicy shrimp lettuce wraps ($17) are highly recommended. Tamarind-sauced rice noodles and shredded carrots nestle on avocado slices, and a traditional nam pla sauce spikes up the simply prepared shrimp. Continue reading

Dining and tasting delights in Carmel Valley

The risotto at Roux in Carmel Valley.

The risotto bursting with flavor at Roux in Carmel Valley.


Carmel Valley Road is surprisingly long, stretching from Highway 1 in the Monterey Peninsula deep into the Santa Lucia Mountains, east of the Los Padres National Forest. Visitors to the area typically stay on Highway 1, past Monterey and Carmel, crossing over scenic bridges and past spectacular coastline views to Big Sur and beyond. If they need to get south fast, they stay on inland Highway 101 heading south. Continue reading

Carmel Valley getaway ranch has wine, old Hollywood glamor and a million dollar view


Nick Elliott, proprietor of Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley, calls it “the million dollar view,” and he may be underselling it.

Nick Elliott, right, and a guest with the Santa Lucia Mountains behind them.

Nick Elliott, right, and a guest with the Santa Lucia Mountains behind them.

It is a beyond-doubt spectacularly gorgeous view of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a coastal range in the Monterey Peninsula and central California. Stretching out for miles and miles are green ridges and mountains covered by live oak trees. Above is a pale blue sky with nary a cloud in sight.

“Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, Vincent Price, June Allyson, all these great old Hollywood stars used to love coming to Holman Ranch,” said Elliott. “It’s always been a place to put up your feet and get away.” Continue reading

Adventures in California and Canada—and another on the way

By Kevin Nelson

My editors at reminded me the other day that I had been writing for the site for two years, and during that time I’ve met some wonderful people and gone on some extraordinary adventures. Here are a few of those adventures, all recommended:

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

A bagpipes player at the start of the Rockies trip.

Rocky Mountaineer train trip across the Canadian Rockies. Starting in the wonderful British Columbia city of Vancouver and ending in the spectacular mountain village of Banff, this was a two-day ride through ridiculously beautiful scenery with tasty food and wine included. Those Canadians are nice people, too. Continue reading

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