Napa Valley, CA: Eco-Travel, Organic Farming, & Wine Tasting

This just in from my cronies in Northern Cali! An itinerary from Napa and Yountville to the Carmel Valley for a new LEED-certified hotel and several eco-travel ideas, complete with haute cuisine, antiques, wine tasting, and a visit to an all-organic farm.
The Bardessono (debuted February, 2009). Every element of this LEED-Platinum aspiring hotel, restaurant and spa is wrapped in an earth-friendly blanket of luxury. Secluded on five acres of gardens and vineyards, the 62-room hotel boasts a “green spa,” heated and cooled by an underground geothermal system, smart guestrooms in buildings crafted from hand-milled, reclaimed wood and steel and 93-seat restaurant headed by Executive Chef Sean O’Toole, former group operations chef for Michael Mina. If approved, Bardessono would be the second U.S. hospitality entity to receive platinum certification and the first in California.

Bottega – December, 2008 marked the return of Food Network’s Michael Chiarello to the kitchen with the debut of Bottega. Chef de Cuisine Nick Ritchie will drive the culinary team in what Chiarello calls the “craftsman’s workshop” – or “bottega” set against a palette of rustic yet refined warm textures in olive greens, chocolate and deep red. The 184-seat Italian restaurant is located in the historic Groezinger Winery (1870), a two-story brick structure that crowns V Marketplace.

Ma(i)sonry – Set in the former Burgundy House, a 1904 stone masonry stunner listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this new venture was opened by visionary, Michael Polenske, in October, 2008. The setting is reminiscent of a home or a private club, framing a highly edited collection of furnishings and artwork. The furnishings, ranging from 16th century to mid-twentieth century, are paired with contemporary works crafted by today’s top designers. This “living gallery” atmosphere serves as a stylized backdrop for the appreciation of limited production boutique wines including Blackbird Vineyards’ portfolio of Pomerol-inspired blends crafted by Sarah Gott.

Vita – Laura Cunningham steps up with a new Italian eatery in the heart of Yountville called Vita, after her grandmother, Vita Morrell. The concept is a Sicilian southern Italian restaurant with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group managing its day to day operations. The 130-seat restaurant set in the former PJ Steak restaurant is due to debut in Fall, 2009.

Hotel Luca – The minds behind L’Auberge Carmel have broken ground on a 20-room luxury hotel fronting Washington Street on the north end of Yountville. The modern-style property perched on over an acre of prime real estate will include a 90-seat restaurant modeled after the successful Cantinetta Luca in Carmel, California. Expect rustic, informal Italian dining with authentic European-style hospitality – the perfect meritage of Italy and Napa Valley. Fall/2009 opening.

Girard Winery – The 1800 sq. ft. tasting room opened May/2008 featuring super Cabs backed with an elegant décor of antique reclaimed barn wood ceilings, cedar floors and grand mosaic glass tile wall and floor treatments. Hand-crafted polished concrete tasting bar, custom lighting, state-of-the-art walk-in glass-enclosed wine cellar and top-flight private food and wine pairing in the Club Room ($40) round out the experience. Crafted by Marco DiGiulio, (“one of Napa’s top wine consultants,” Wine Spectator 2007) these wines have placed Girard firmly in the “Top 100 Wineries of the World” (Wine and Spirits magazine, 2006).

Villagio Inn & Spa – Debuted a new 13,000 sq. ft. spa in April, 2008. Set in true Mediterranean style on the resort’s 23 acres, the spa is one of Napa Valley’s largest featuring 16 treatment rooms including five sumptuous spa suites, outdoor terraces, fireplaces and a tight mix of high tech+indigenous wellness treatments.

Earthbound Farms – Get downright dirty with all things squirmy via a Bug Walk or mix it up with a local chef or florist at Earthbound Farm, the nation’s largest producer of organic greens. When Drew and Myra Goodman came to California’s Carmel Valley in 1984, they were determined young transplants from Manhattan, drawn to the natural beauty and richness of the land. Even before they turned over their first shovels full of soil, they believed strongly in doing the right thing.

They settled on a 2.5-acre raspberry farm and decided that doing the right thing meant committing to farming this land organically, producing food they would want to eat themselves and would feel good about serving their families, friends, and neighbors. Undaunted by those who said it couldn’t be done, in 1986 they became the first company to successfully launch prewashed, packaged salad for retail sale. When they introduced their mixed baby greens or “spring mix” to restaurants and supermarket produce aisles, they started a salad revolution. Today, gourmet salad greens and packaged salads have become staples of grocery baskets everywhere. Flowers, herbs and vegetables steal the show on 30 sun-drenched acres in Carmel Valley. Saturdays are a true beehive of activity; morning tours start at 11:00 a.m. (May – September). $5.00/child.

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