Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stunning Winery Overlooking the Napa Valley

Hall Wines has had a winery and tasting room in St. Helena since 2003. In 2005, they opened a small winery and tasting room near Rutherford that overlooks the Valley. This facility is designed to produce small lots of red wines and is used to make Hall's reserve wines, including the Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon

Touring and tasting at the Rutherford site is by appointment, so you will need to call before visiting. When you arrive at the winery, you will immediately notice the interesting art that surrounds the tasting room as well as the spectacular view from the veranda. Your visit will include a tour of the winery and the spectacular wine caves. These caves cover over 14,000 square feet and are finished with handmade Austrian bricks that were recovered from in and around Vienna.

If you are a Cabernet fan and/or enjoy interesting architecture, I highly recommend a visit to Hall Winery - Rutherford. Currently tours and tastings are offered at 10:00 a.m., noon, 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. There is a $30 fee. Call (707) 967-0700 to make an appointment to visit this spectacular winery. Better yet, let Blue Heron Custom Tours make the arrangements for you. We can include a visit to Hall Winery - Rutherford on your private Napa tour. To book a tour, please phone me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday Season in Wine Country

If you are planning to visit Wine Country this month, I recommend you call ahead to the wineries you are planning to visit. Many have special events early in the month to celebrate the holidays. You can also visit two websites that have good listings of events occurring in wine country: and Both websites include events in Napa, Sonoma, and other parts of Wine Country throughout the state and country. When you visit, be sure to vote for "Rick's Wine Country Journal" as one of your favorite blogs.

Another reason to call in advance is to find out the wineries' holiday schedules. Most wineries close early on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. A few close for one or both of these days. All wineries are closed on Christmas. Most, but not all, wineries are closed on New Year's Day.

December is a nice time in Wine Country. It's quieter than in the summer and fall, so tasting room staff have more time to spend with you. The hills start to turn green, so you will see the beauty of dormant vines surrounded by vibrant hills.

If you would like to take a private Wine Country tour, feel free to call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pinot Noir in the Dry Creek Valley

"The Dry Creek Valley is too hot to grow Pinot," you say. You are right. But you can buy grapes from other wine regions with the cooler climate that Pinot needs and still locate your winery in Dry Creek.

This is what Papapietro Perry Winery has done. Founded by longtime friends Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry, this small winery produces acclaimed Pinot Noir and a small amount of Zinfandel. "Wine Spectator" recently included a feature on California Pinot Noir that rated all of the Papapietro Perry Pinot Noirs they tasted 90 points or above.

When you visit Papietro Perry, you are likely to find Bruce Perry or his wife, Renae, pouring for you. Ben is there less frequently but during harvest look through the open garage door and you are likely to see him working with the grapes. You should be able to taste a few Pinots and one or two Zinfandels. However, production is small and the winery frequently sells out of its various releases.

The tasting room is located at 4791 Dry Creek Road in what might be called a winery park. Adjacent to the same parking lot are Amphora and Peterson wineries, as well as the tasting room for Family Wineries of the Dry Creek Valley. Papapietro Perry is open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. When you visit Dry Creek, take a break from the Valleys excellent Zinfandels and Cabernets to taste some excellent Pinot Noir. Better yet, let Blue Heron Custom Tours take you on a private wine country tour that includes a visit to the Dry Creek Valley and Papapietro Perry. You can schedule a tour by calling me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or sending me an e-mail message by clicking here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Artisan Cheese in Sonoma

Not only is the Bay Area home to terrific wine, but it is also the home of many artisan cheesemakers. One of the oldest is Vella Cheese Company, located at 315 2nd Street East, just 2 blocks from the Sonoma Plaza. Founded in 1931 by Tom Vella, today the company is run by his son, Ig (short for Ignazio).

Vella is best known for its dry Monterey Jack Cheese, but also makes a Mezzo Secco and Jacks with more moisture, both flavored and regular. I also enjoy Vella's Italian Table Cheese as well as its Asiago. There are other Italian-style cheeses available and two types of Cheddar.

When you visit Sonoma, take a walk over to Vella Cheese and taste some of their wonderful offerings. You can pick up some cheese for a picnic on the Sonoma Square. Vella is open from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. You may also purchase cheese on on-line or by calling (800) 848-0505.

If you want to take a Sonoma private tour that includes a stop on Sonoma Plaza so you may visit Vella, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nice, Small Cafe in Healdsburg

I recently ran into a concierge friend on the plaza in Healdsburg who had just lunched at the nearby Palette Art Cafe. My friend said she had had a nice meal at this small cafe, which I had never seen. So I decided to check out.

Turns out this pleasant cafe and gallery is in the back of the building at 235 Healdsburg Avenue, just south of the plaza. The La Crema tasting room is in the front of the building facing the street.

The menu contains a nice array of salads, sandwiches, small plates, and fondues. It's a perfect spot for a quality lunch, with no fuss. They also have some nice wines. So if you want a light dinner with a glass of wine, the Palette Art Cafe might be the spot for you.

The gallery displays the works of local artists. You can see works in both the cafe and in the gallery space on the other side of the courtyard. Works may also be viewed at the gallery's website:

The cafe is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. On weekends, they open at 8:00 a.m. and close at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday and 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. If you are thinking of heading there on the late side, call first -- (707) 433-2788 -- to make sure they didn't close early.

If you would like to take a private wine country tour that includes a stop at the Palette Art Cafe for lunch, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.