Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Picnicking in the Dry Creek Valley

My favorite spot for picnicking in wine country is the terrace at Passalacqua Winery in the Dry Creek Valley. This small, family owned winery produces about 4,000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The terrace overlooks Passalacqua's neighbor's vineyards as well as the hills above the valley. Life doesn't get much better than enjoying a nice lunch with a good bottle of Passalacqua wine while gazing out over the lush vines on a warm, sunny day.

Before you start your lunch, be sure to taste Passalacqua's wines so you can purchase a glass or bottle to accompany your meal. The friendly staff will guide you through the full range of available wines.

Passalacqua is located at 3805 Lambert Bridge Road. The tasting room is open daily from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. You can pick up picnic supplies at the Oakville Grocery in nearby Healdsburg or at the Dry Creek Store, at the corner of Lambert Bridge and Dry Creek Roads, a half mile from the winery. As at all winery picnic areas, you may only consume wine purchased at the winery.

If you would like to take a custom wine tour that includes a visit to Passalacqua, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wine Shipping Update

Much has changed in the past year since the Supreme Court overturned New York's and Michigan's laws prohibiting out-of-state wineries to ship wine directly to consumers. Many states including New York, Ohio, Florida, and Massachusetts have liberalized their laws. Thus, more visitors to wine country will be able to have the wineries ship their purchases directly to their home or office.

But not all visitors can ship their wine home. Some states, e.g. Utah and Maryland, still prohibit direct to consumer shipments. Others allow such shipments, but require wineries to register with the State and collect taxes. For some small wineries these extra requirements are too burdensome.

A good, but not perfect, resource for learing if wineries can ship to you is the
Wine Institute. Its website contains maps for direct shipping for buyers who are making their purchases while visiting the winery or from their home. If you want to be certain that a winery can ship to you, contact the winery.

Keep in mind that wines that are distributed usually cost less when purchased at your local wine shop. This is because wineries will not undercut their distributors.

When you have wine shipped, you will have to pay a shipping fee but may not have to pay sales tax. Most wineries usually offer a discount on case (12 bottles) purchases. Some offer discounts when purchasing six bottles.

You can also arrange to have your wine shipped to most States (including some that the wineries can not ship to) through independent shipping companies in San Francisco, Napa, and Healdsburg. I can recommend shippers to you if the need arises while you are touring with me.

Lastly, a person over the age of 21 must be physically present to sign for your wine shipment when it arrives. Thus, you sometimes get acheaper rate if you ship your wine to your office.

If you want to take a private, custom tour of Napa and/or Sonoma Wine Country and buy some wine to ship home, please contact me by calling (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or by e-mailing me by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Best Place for Lunch in the Napa Valley

Our rainy season has finally ended. The sun is shining and the days are warming up. Now is the perfect time to dine al fresco when visiting the Napa Valley. The best place to lunch outside is Auberge du Soleil. This restaurant and inn is located on a hill near Rutherford. When you make a reservation -- a must in the Spring, Summer, and Fall -- ask for outside dining. You will sit on the terrace overlooking the Valley. Not only will you have a spectacular view of the Valley, you will also dine in one of the finest restaurants around.

This is not a place to rush through lunch. You'll want to relax and slowly make your way through the courses. The food is California cuisine at its best. The wine list is the size of a telephone book. I have eaten at Auberge about a half-dozen times and each meal has been superb.

Life doesn't get much better than sitting outside on a warm, sunny day; gazing over the Napa Valley vineyards; and enjoying fine food and wine.

If you cannot get a reservation or decide to visit Auberge on the spur of the moment, you can always lunch at the more casual bar, which has a few outdoor tables.

Call (800) 348-5406 to make a reservation at the restaurant or inn. If you want to include lunch at Auberge du Soleil on a tour of the Napa Valley, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.