Wine Travel Adventure

Bay Area & California travel blog

Tag: Yountville

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

Pictures of Goosecross Winery, Yountville

When I was young and living in Lake Tahoe, California I drank my share of Coors beer and now, many years later, I had the pleasure the other day of visiting, and drinking the wine of Goosecross, a  Napa Valley winery now owned and managed by Christi Coors Ficeli, the great great granddaughter of Adolph Coors. Below are some pictures of the winery from my visit there.—Kevin Nelson

Goosecross 1

The front door of Goosecross in Yountville.

Winemaker Bill Nancarrow draws Riesling from a wine 'egg.'

Winemaker Bill Nancarrow draws Riesling from a wine ‘egg.’

Continue reading

Greatest blueberry muffin in the world

By Kevin Nelson

The world’s greatest blueberry muffin can be found in the charming wine country hamlet of Yountville, California at the Bouchon Bakery on Washington Street. Of course, you will find lots of blueberry muffins there, not just one, for they are made seasonally virtually every day at this small and busy bakery next to the café of the same name.

World's greatest blueberry, right.

World’s greatest blueberry, right.

You will know you have reached Bouchon in Yountville when you see a light green building with a yellow awning and a line out the door. Virtually the only time there isn’t a line is when it’s closed.

Now some might quibble at designating anything, especially something so ordinary as a blueberry muffin, as “the world’s greatest,” and they probably have a solid point. Nevertheless there is nothing ordinary about a Bouchon blueberry muffin, which, for $3, is the opposite of grand larceny. I’ve had meals for 25 times that price that haven’t given as much pleasure.

More than once I have eaten pastries while sitting on a wooden bench in front of Bouchon, but until the other day for some inexplicable reason I had never had a blueberry muffin. After my first bite I thought, “This is really good.” After my second and third bites I thought, “This is really really good.” My grand plan was to save it for later in the day but it was gone as soon as I hit the road heading up Highway 29 to go to Francis Coppola’s winery in the northern wilds of Sonoma County.

You never experience food in a vacuum; it is always connected to the experience of that moment, how you are feeling, who you are with, whatever it is. In my case I was at the start of a day of free play and it was a lovely warm morning, blue skies and wispy clouds, and I had a full tank of gas and nowhere I had to be for hours. So how I was feeling surely magnified the pleasure of the muffin. Naw, it really was that good. Be sure to pop one in your bag the next time you get there. If you’re like me, it won’t stay in the bag long.



A Life of Policy

Carmen Policy at his Casa Piena vineyards. Photos by Dave Nelson

Carmen Policy at his Casa Piena vineyards. Photos by Dave Nelson

By Dave Nelson

The proprietor of Policy Vineyards pours a glass of wine for me and says:

“Up here, I have the time to actually listen to what people have to say. I never knew I was capable of that. I’ve learned more here, kicking back, than I did when I was right there in the middle of everything.”

I should clarify the geography. “Up here” refers to Yountville in the Napa Valley. The “middle of everything” is where Carmen Policy has always managed to be.

“I have always been able to understand where people are going and how they’re going to get there,” Policy continues. “That enabled me to deal with both sides of the equation. There have been times when people on my side have thought I was disloyal because I was able to articulate the other side’s position.”

Skills like that would serve well if you were, say, a county prosecutor, a defense attorney, or an NFL executive. Policy has been all those things, of course. He is most famous for his work as President of the San Francisco 49ers in the golden era of the 1980’s. He is credited as the first executive to crack the NFL’s salary cap rules, enabling the Niners to horde the football talent that carried the team to five championships. Continue reading