Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Getting Your Wine Home

I last wrote about getting your wine home from wine country in 2006.  Since that time, more states have changed their laws and permit wineries and businesses to directly ship wine to consumers.  Nevertheless, there are still states that make it difficult for their residents to get wines directly from the winery.  One of the best lists can be found on the Wine Institute's website

For those of you living in the states that make it difficult for wineries to ship your wine home, there are ways.  The cheapest and fastest way to get your wine home is to buy a shipping container (usually made of Styrofoam or egg-carton material) from a winery or a shipping company and then check the box as luggage.  The boxes are durable and breakage is extremely rare.  The cost is $10 for the box, which comes in a variety of sizes, plus the 2nd bag fee of your airline.  The total is usually less than $40; cheaper than the $45 - $90/case for shipping wine.  Plus you have your wine with you and don't need to worry about it traveling through hot or freezing weather.

If you prefer to send your wine home, there are shippers in both Napa and Sonoma Counties that can help you.  I have found that at least one shipper ships to every state.  So, if you live in a really restrictive state, such as Utah, Pennsylvania, or Massachusetts, be sure to call the shipper before taking your wine there.  If the first shipper can't help you, try another.

In the Napa Valley, I have had guests ship wine from Buffalo's Shipping Post and Stagecoach Express in the city of Napa and St. Helena Shipping Company in the northern end of the Valley.  If you are in the Alexander, Dry Creek, or Russian River Valley, you can visit Fitch Mountain Packaging, (707) 433-1247, or the UPS Store in Healdsburg.  If you are visiting Sonoma Valley, try Sonoma Shipping or the UPS Store in the town of Sonoma.  Before heading to any of these places, call to make sure they ship to your state and to check their hours.  Only Buffalo's is open on Sundays and some have limited hours on Saturdays.  

Some of these shippers will pick up your wine directly from the winery or your hotel.  Once you establish a relationship with a shipper, you can order wine from a winery, have the winery hold it for the shipper to pick up, and then have the shipper get your wine and send it to you. Even if you are not visiting wine country but want to get wine from a winery that cannot ship to your state, contact one of the shippers to see if they can help you.

Be sure to send your wine to an address where someone age 21 or over will be there to sign for the package.  UPS and FedEx cannot just leave the wine or have you sign a slip and leave it for them.  An adult must be physically present at the time of delivery.  Shipping rates are sometimes cheaper if you send your wine to a business address.

Hopefully, more states will make it easier for consumers to get wines directly from the wineries.  If you reside in a restrictive state and are interested in "freeing the grapes," contact the Wine Institute and your state legislators.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taylor's Automatic Refresher is now Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet

A popular lunch spot in St. Helena is Taylor's Automated Refresher.  This is not your typical, fast-food, hamburger and fries joint.  High quality beef is used; the fries are fresh, and there's even a wine list.  And, as of today, it has a new name Gott's Roadside "Tray Gourmet." 

There's more than burgers and fries at Gott's Roadside.  You can also find shakes made with real ice cream, ahi tuna burgers, fresh salads, fish tacos, and monthly specials.  Gott's is a great place to lunch on a sunny day as all of the tables are outdoors.  However, during the summer and early fall, the wait to order can be as long as 30 minutes.  Branches are also located in Oxbow Public Market in Napa and the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

If you would like to take a private tour of the Napa Valley that includes lunch at Gott's Roadside, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lunch in the Russian River Valley

If you want to spend your entire day tasting in the Russian River Valley, there are few options for lunch without heading to the towns of Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, or Sebastopol. However, in the heart of the Russian River Valley sits the small town of Graton. Here you can lunch at Willow Wood Market or Underwood Bar and Bistro.

The similarly named restaurants have the same owners but the food and ambience are different.  Willow Wood, which is my favorite, serves a variety of salads, hot sandwiches, and polentas.  At one time, the restaurant was a small part of a larger market, but today the restaurant and carry-out bar occupy the entire space.  You can also dine outside in the small garden behind the restaurant.  Willow Wood is open for lunch from 11:30 - 5:00, Monday - Saturday.  Brunch is served on Sunday from 11:00 - 3:00.

Underwood is larger with bar in the front.  The lunch menu consists of tapas and small plates.  Lunch is served between 11:30 and 2:30, Tuesday - Sunday.  A similar menu is offered at the bar from 2:30 - 5:00.

If you are a Pinot Noir or Chardonnay fan, you'll definitely want to spend some time in the Russian River Valley.  Stop in Graton for lunch and you won't be disappointed.  If you would like to include a private tour of the Russian River Valley, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Something Different in the Dry Creek Valley

The Dry Creek Valley in Northern Sonoma County is best known for Zinfandel and many wineries produce at least one wine from this grape.  However, one winery -- Michel Schlumberger -- has gone down a different path.  The winery built its reputation on Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  No Zinfandel was to be found.  Today the winery has expanded its offerings to include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Syrah, and Pinot Blanc.  But still no Zinfandel.

If you're heading to the Dry Creek Valley and want to taste some Bordeaux style wines in pleasant surroundings be sure to head to Michel-Schlumberger but make an appointment first.  The winery offers tours and tastings daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.  For $15/person, you'll get to walk through their lovely vineyards, gardens, and winery.  You'll see how their wines are made and then will be able to taste their current releases either in the winery's gourmet kitchen, living room, or courtyard.  Other touring and tasting options are available so check out the winery's website for options.

Better yet, take a private tour of the Dry Creek Valley that includes a visit to Michel-Sclumberger.  For more information contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or at Rick@BlueHeronTours.com