Wine Travel Adventure

Bay Area & California travel blog

Category: People (page 1 of 3)

How well do you know Julia Child? Take this quiz and find out

An American in Paris, a woman succeeding in a man’s world, author of a paradigm-shifting cookbook, the ebullient and eccentric star of a hit television cooking program that also shifted paradigms, and a woman in love—in so many ways Julia Child embodied the food and cooking branch of the Great American Dream.

Julia, in a photo from “The French Chef,” her 1960s-era cooking show

But how well do you know her and her legacy? Take this quiz and find out. Answers are at bottom. Continue reading

Thomas Keller’s Yountville

            Thomas Keller did not grow up eating in restaurants like The French Laundry, his world-famous Michelin 3-star restaurant in Yountville. As a boy he ate Dinty Moore stew out of a can. “I’ve liked stew since I was a boy,” he confided, “even when it was Dinty Moore out of a can, which it often was in a household of five kids and a working mother.”

Goodies at the Bouchon Bakery, one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants in Yountville.

Born at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, Keller is the son of a Marine Corps drill instructor. But his father abandoned the family when the children were very young, leaving Betty, his auburn-haired mother, to raise the boys on her own. She headed off to Florida to start their lives anew. There she found work as the manager of the Palm Beach Yacht Club, the starting point for her son’s glittering culinary career. This was where he entered the restaurant business, finding work as a pearl diver—old school lingo for a dishwasher—before gradually moving up to cook.

Thomas Keller.

“I wonder if I love the communal act of eating so much because throughout my childhood with four older brothers and a mom in the restaurant business, I spent a lot of time fending for myself, eating alone—and I recognized how eating together made all the difference,” he recalled. “The best meals are the ones you eat with the people you care about.” Continue reading

All things wine: Ken Frank, Etude rosé, Winesong tribute, top U.S. wine sales

Once upon a time in Napa Valley, people had to go up valley to Yountville or St. Helena for fine dining. Those days, thankfully, are long behind us.

One of the top restaurants in Napa Valley—indeed, in all the Bay Area—is La Toque, which is inside the Westin Verasa Hotel in downtown Napa, on the same street as the Oxbow Public Market. Known for its creative and oft-inspired pairings of wine and food, it is a Michelin one-star restaurant and has been for more than a decade.

Ken Frank in action. Photo courtesy of La Toque.

Late last year Jennifer Kaiser and I had an exemplary meal at La Toque and sat down beforehand for a talk with its executive chef and owner, Ken Frank, who noted that his favorite word appeared between “delicatessen” and “delight” in the dictionary.

“Delicious is my favorite word,” he said in our interview, which was published in the current issue of The Preiser Key magazine. “Food has to look good. It has to be interesting. And at the end of the day it needs to be flat-out delicious.” Continue reading

How Keith Richards boosted the Tequila Sunrise, and other good cocktail stories

When Keith Richards was in his hard-partying prime in the 1970s, he and his fellow band mates on the Rolling Stones showed up one night at the Trident, a watering hole in Sausalito on the edge of San Francisco Bay, looking for some alcoholic refreshments. Richards ordered a margarita and the bartender, a creative mixmaster named Bobby Lozoff, served him something different instead: a then mostly unknown drink of tequila, orange juice and grenadine.

Richards loved the Tequila Sunrise, as it was called, and it rapidly became his go-to party drink. His fame, and the fame of the Stones, helped spread the fame of their favorite cocktail, and the Tequila Sunrise became not just a mere drink but a cultural touchstone for that era of rock ‘n roll. The Eagles’ hit song “Just Another Tequila Sunrise” added to the popularity of Lozoff’s invention.

This story—and the accompanying recipe—is only one of the many nice treats in Beach Cocktails: Favorite Surfside Sips and Bar Snacks (Oxmoor House, $25), a new book by the editors of Coastal Living Magazine that contains the recipes for 125 cocktails. Generously illustrated with photographs of tropical sand and surf scenes, the theme here is that of the beach—light, refreshing cocktails that you might enjoy in your leisure on the beach, or on your backyard patio, in those lazy hazy days of summer.

Keith Richards.

The cocktail that Lozoff did not serve Richards that day, the margarita, is of course here. As are The Drunken Sailor, Caribbean Rum Swizzle, Sex on the Beach, Key Lime Gimlet, the Bahama Hurricane, Missionary’s Downfall, Singapore Sling, and other delightfully named and often quite delicious concoctions that Richards in his prime probably also imbibed.
A good cocktail, like a good book or movie, has a good story attached to it. Beach Cocktails has many such stories, such as: Continue reading

Francis Ford Coppola’s favorite drink has a rummy history

By Kevin Nelson

Some time ago I was having a glass of pinot and a pizza at the bar of Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, and I asked the bartender what Coppola himself liked to drink. Coppola, the well-known filmmaker, owns the place.

The great man himself.

The bartender grabbed a menu and pointed to the top where a box with a picture answered my question. His “favorite tropical drink,” it said, is “Navy Grog” and its ingredients are “fresh lime juice, grapefruit, soda, honey, Puerto Rican rum, dark Jamaican rum, Demerara rum, Angostura bitters, crushed ice cone.” No details on the proportions.

Continue reading

5 things you must do at Domaine Carneros winery in Napa

BY KEVIN NELSON

Many Napa Valley travelers begin their day with a stop at Domaine Carneros winery in Napa. Many travelers also end their day there. One reason for this is the winery’s strategic location almost equidistant between the twin capitals of northern California wine country—four miles from Napa and five miles from Sonoma.

There are, of course, many other reasons to stop at this lovely hillside winery built in the style of an ancient French chateau. Only the state’s second-smallest volume producer of champagne, Domaine Carneros nonetheless has a giant reputation in the world of quality sparkling wines, winning many awards for its products. For those who love Marilyn Monroe’s favorite drink, here are five things you must do when you visit Domaine Carneros:

The hilltop chateau of Domaine Carneros.

The hilltop chateau of Domaine Carneros.

Continue reading

Tribute to Margrit Mondavi at blessing of the grapes

 

Robert and Margrit Mondavi.

Robert and Margrit Mondavi.

They held the annual blessing of the grapes at Robert Mondavi Winery Wednesday, and it turned into a tribute in words and song to Margrit Mondavi, who died in early September at age 91.

Margrit was the wife of Robert Mondavi, the late founder of the landmark Napa Valley winery, an artist, and a cultural and artistic ambassador for Mondavi wines and Napa Valley for decades. Her passing added a special poignancy to the formal ceremony that marks the beginning of harvest.

Employees at the Oakville winery, the media and others gathered in the To Kalon Cellar as Mondavi’s General Manager Glenn Workman began the ceremony with a toast to her, noting how this was the first harvest in nearly a half-century in which Margrit did not participate.

“While it does bring sadness that she’s not here, we know how she loved to celebrate,” he said as he and the 75 other people who were there raised glasses in her memory. Small tastes of Fumé Blanc, Mondavi’s trademark version of Sauvignon Blanc, were handed out to celebrants as they arrived for the ceremony. Continue reading

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

BY KEVIN NELSON

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

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

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

Vianna

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

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

BY KEVIN NELSON

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

Eat chocolate and save the world

Chocolate 2“Eat more,” bestselling food writer Simran Sethi told the Wall Street Journal. “Eat better chocolate. This is the path to saving the planet.”

In the interests of saving the planet, or at least having a really good time, we recently sampled an assortment of tinyB Chocolates, which are handmade by a Brazilian chocolatier named Renata. The box they came in was an attractive turquoise, similar to a Tiffany box, and when we popped the lid we found 15 chocolate “brigadeiros,” as they are called. The six flavors were spicy dark chocolate, milk chocolate, almond, pistachio, coconut and cream, and passion fruit with white chocolate curls. Continue reading

Francis Ford Coppola Winery: A cool resort-style scene for wine and movie buffs

By Kevin Nelson

Being a fan of wine and the movies, I headed with great anticipation up Highway 101 north into Sonoma past Santa Rosa and Healdsburg into the Alexander Valley. Just before the funky little wine country town of Geyserville, I turned off the highway and found what I was looking for: the gates leading me into the Francis Ford Coppola Winery.

Coppola gate

Coppola is, of course, a big name for film fans and increasingly for wine and travel devotees as well. He is the five-time Academy Award director of such landmark films as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. He is also a winery owner and winemaker and the owner of resorts in Argentina, Belize, Guatemala and Italy. Home base for him is California and one of his holdings is the historic Inglenook Winery in Napa Valley, where he lives. The Geyserville winery is about an hour and a half north of San Francisco.

Parking in a dirt lot with olive trees, I climbed a flight of steps up into the main buildings and saw something I can’t recall seeing in any other Sonoma or Napa Valley winery: a spectacular resort-style swimming pool that could fit in just fine with the best of Miami or Las Vegas.

Coppola pool

Continue reading

Older posts