Flew into Sacramento – somebody got creative at the airport and made a sculptured collage out of old suitcases.
Enroute to Napa we drove through the fruit and veggie fields where these trailers of tomatoes were waiting to be shipped – how do those tomatoes not break apart!
In Napa we chose to visit wineries in the Calistoga region – so we stayed at the Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort property.
Calistoga Ranch has it’s own vineyards right out the front door and you are greeted with a glass of their house made wine while checking in, and a chilled bottle of their wine awaits you in your cabin.
The units at Calistoga Ranch wind along a golf cart only path, up into a valley that is heavily treed.
Unit #141 – the highest most unit in the development. Very quiet and serene.
Unfortunately being up high doesn’t allow you an unobstructed view of the valley below. But I’m sure its a beautiful sight as the leaves start to change color.
A comfy sitting area with a gas fireplace right outside our front entrance.
An outside shower in our unit is 100% private and my husband loved the refreshing start to each day.
Calistoga Ranch wine cellar where they not only store their wines, but also hold events inside this very ‘cool’ cave.
Wishing somebody would stop by and offer up another bottle of Calistoga Ranch wine to take back to the room.
The view from the ‘Lakehouse’ at Calistoga Ranch which is where we had breakfast and dinner one night.
Wild King Salmon served on a bed of fresh corn polenta, hen of the woods mushrooms, calabria chili and pea tendrils at the Lakehouse at Calistoga Ranch
Sonoma duckbreast served with toasted faro, caramelized figs, spiced shallot, padron peppers and arugula
Artisan cheese plate for dessert after enjoying a white corn soup, heirloom tomato risotto and spiced local lamb and a Paine Farm Squab for dinner.
Our lighted walkway up to our ‘treehouse’ – or house in the trees – at Calistoga Ranch. Very challenging in heels and after several glasses of wine!
Time to kick back with a glass of port and warm out tootsies by the fire.
Our first winery – Chateau Montelena. Looks like it has been there for four centuries not four decades.
The grounds at Chateau Montelena are a sight to behold – lush, colorful romantic, full of life.
Another angle of the grounds at Chateau Montelena – need to leave more time on our next visit so we can fully walk the grounds.
An old time grape press sits outside next to new grape boxes.
I’m guessing the owner(s) are Irish!
The front entrance to the wine tasting bars.
Chateau Montelena was the sleeper chardonnay wine that flipped the wine world on it’s ear when in a blind tasting it was judged, by mainly French judges, to be the premier chardonnay of 1976.
A note indicating the change to the once unknown Napa Valley to the rest of the wine world until Chateau Montelena created an amazing Chardonnay under Jim Barrett.
Tasting bar #1 at Chateau Montelena
Group tasting table and tasting bar #2 at Chateau Montelena
Tasting bar #3 at Chateau Montelena
Some wine making apparatus of old and the ‘golden shovel’ awarded to the Barrett’s of Chateau Montelena
Walking around like he owns the place, posing like he’s a star – this lobster relative and family seem to have taken over the Chateau Montelena grounds
On to our next winery – Fantesca Estate and Winery owned by a couple from Minnesota who worked for Best Buy for decades and put their marketing and creativity into making a very special winery
Standing on a deck overlooking the flowing fields of the Fantesca Winery
The Fantesca vineyards built on a rolling landscape
A reserver collection Fantesca wine called “King Richard” to honor the father of Fantesca wine maker Heidi Barrett
Bright new French Oak barrels recently filled with Fantesca wine
Private tasting room at Fantesca Winery – where we were treated to a one-on-one presentation of Fantesca wines
Hope all those glasses aren’t for our tasting – or we may be sleeping here for the night!
Shadow boxes showcasing the metal bands used to imprint the multiple sayings used on the Fantesca corks
Up close and personal with all the winning entries for one-liners imprinted on Fantesca corks
This is Jack – apparently no one knows why he is name Jack, but he is there to greet you in the wine room
One table showcasing some of the Fantesca wines
Small private wine cellar for specialty Fantesca wines. Fantesca named for the only female character in an old Italian comedy troupe that inspired cirque du soleil. Fantesca was described as “Sexy, smart and Unpretentious!” – the goal for Fantesca wines!
Three of five themed bottles that the owners chose to use on a specialty label of their wines – the one of the far right depicts their wedding picture. All pictures are etched into the glass of the bottle.
Another display showcasing Heidi Barrett’s own label of wine – Barrett & Barrett
And yes another display showcasing yet another award winning label of wines that Heidi Barret also created – Amuse Bouche – which also etches artwork into the bottles, some artwork by well know painters such as LeRoy Neiman
A close up of one of the beautifully etched glass bottles of Amuse Bouche
The etched argyle pattern on the Fantesca bottles comes from the owners idea to use a carnival theme based on the cirque du soleil theme
After a morning of wine tasting it was time to get some sustenence
Lunch for two at Solbar at Solage Calistoga Resort – Lucky Pig – slow roasted shoulder of pork served with black sesame crepes and butter lettuce and all the fixins’
The locals affectionately call Castello di Amorosa (The castle of love) “the castle” – and understandably why
Each building on the property is built from stone brought in from Europe built in the old world style
The entrance to the “castle”
The grand stairway leading up to the entrance of the “castle”
If the enemy a/k/a competing wineries make it across the moat, they’ll have to contend with getting by this pointed heavy duty steel barrier
A view of one of the many courtyards from one of the many turrets at Castello di Amorosa
One of the larger courtyards at the castle used for an outdoor cafe for it’s patrons
One of the many long roof lines at the castle bookended by yet another turret
A view of Sterling Winery which boasts some of the valleys most amazing 360 degree views, as seen from a turret at Castello di Amorosa
If you look closely you will notice a gondola used to transport people up to the Sterling Winery
Napa Valley: Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga. A beautiful view of the valley below the castle and it’s own vineyards flowing out in every direction
A great example of the 13th century stone architecture used in building this castle, and the heavy duty wrought iron chandeliers to light it’s way
Hand-cut and hand-hewn stairway put together in the style of 13th century architecture
My husband ready at the wheel to raise the drawbridge to keep the excess wine drinkers at bay
Yet another beautiful courtyard at the castle as seen from one of the turrets
Ah, now that is my kind of signage!
A colorfully hand-painted mural behind the altar at the castle chapel
One of the many old time grape presses found at the castle that now serve as a cool accent piece
Showcasing some of the 13th century architectural work done at the castle with the multiple archways and stone wall
Brick lined groined ceilings line this long exterior hallway at the castle
Large courtyard at the castle used to entertain large member groups
Longggg hand-made wooden table, with a large fireplace at one end, and murals lining the walls telling a story of life as it was in the 13th century
One of the few sights at the castle that let you know you aren’t in 13th century Italy – a high tech modern wine vat capable of holding 12 tons of wine.
An old style double grape press standing guard in the hallway leading to the lower reaches of the castle
One of many sealed small wine cellars to story recently bottled Castello Di Amorosa wines
A long brick-lined tunnel leading to the dungeons at the castle
Unique lighting in one of the small sealed wine cellars in the dungeons at the castle to help stabilize the effect of time on these old bottles of wine
A grated well found in the bowels of the castle where I’m sure some of that great artesian water those vineyards love lies in wait
Either some mighty large jewelry or weaponry from 13th Century Europe adorns the dungeon walls at the castle
True to 13th century needs, a farmyard full of farm animals sits at the backside of the castle
The back entrance to the castle for servants or deliveries
A beautiful view of the castle from across the moat to the northeast of the property
Even the outbuildings at the castle are built in the same 13th century style architecture
Hard to believe this castle isn’t somewhere in Italy and isn’t several centuries old – Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga, Napa Valley
On to San Francisco and a view of the Coit Tower from our 32nd floor at the Westin Hotel.
The Coit Tower with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop and the heart of San Francisco laid out at it’s feet
San Francisco Bay full of ocean liners waiting to be piled sky high with cargo containers to ship off to world destinations
A Westin flag flying high above Union Square at the Westin Sir Francis Drake hotel
Glass blower Randy Strong uses the cement floor for his design rendering of the glass bowl he is making us
World renowned glass blower, Randy Strong, demonstrates how to create a hand-blown piece of glass artistry…
…rolling the hot ball of glass in blue powder crystals to add color to the bowl…
…then heats the ball so the color crystals back into the glass…
…rolling the hot ball of glass on a heat resistant table to give it a twist…
…rolling the hot ball in a heat resistant water soaked rag to begin to form it…
…Randy broke a few ribs prior to our demonstration and needs the help of a fellow glass blower to add air to the hot glass ball and begin the process of creating a bowl…
…now there is air in the ball…
…a specialized tool helps to create an opening…
…another hot ball of glass is added to create a base for the bowl…
…the glass is heated several times during creation to both set the previous step but to keep it pliable for the next step…
…another glass ball has been used to add a colorful lip to the bowl…
…another specialized tool is used to really open up with mouth of the bowl…
…and walla – a beautifully tulip shaped bowl is created – the edges flare out by Randy twirling the steel rod it is attached too at a very high speed and a professionally added shake at the right time to get the fluted corners.
Some of Randy Strong’s masterpieces for sale at the demonstration.
One of his most well-known creations are these glass bouquets of flowers that you can interchange different color of flowers.