Archive for the ‘food and wine trips’ Category

Truffle Hunting, Wine Tasting, and Bike Riding in Piedmont!

That's a truffle. Don't get any funny ideas.

That’s a truffle. Don’t get any funny ideas.

A Truffle huntin’ we will go, a truffle huntin’ we will go!

Who wants to wine taste, bike ride AND hunt for truffles? Who wouldn’t?

Ciclismo Classico, a leading outfitter of cycling vacations around the globe, is offering a food and wine focused Italy cycling tour in which guests stay in family-run luxury hotels, dine at the best local restaurants, and pedal through the vineyards and villages of Piedmont.



The most important vineyard centers of Gavi, Acqui Terme, Alba, lower Monferrato and Turin serve as the focal points of this eight-day tour. On exclusive winery visits, local experts discuss the tradition of winemaking and the nuances of the area’s many microclimates that give the wine its prized sophistication. Who wouldn’t want to learn about wines in Italy too? With great wine comes cuisine that includes a blend of Northern Italian and French influences, with the truffle and mushrooms as seasonal key players. Other highlights include: hunting truffles with local truffle hunter, biking emerald valleys & vineyard-laden hillsides, exclusive wine tastings and sumptuous dinners.

Riding through vineyards

Riding through vineyards

This tour happens Oct 12 – 19, 2013 and starts at $4,395 so it’s not too late to get on it!

This intermediate Piedmont bike tour covers 250 total miles and averages 40 miles per day. The trip starts with a ride from Gavi to Acqui Terme, passing Castles of Monferrato, a hilly area where each village is protected by a castle. The vineyards of Dolcetto, Cortese, and Moscato are the landmarks of this area. Fantastic food, fine wine, and a daily workout really makes this an ideal Italy holiday.

Guests cruise the vineyards of Barolo and Monforte, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Langhe Area. Along the way, Carlosa local truffle hunter will give a special demonstration with his loyal dogLara. The months of October and November see the frenzy and competition of truffle season as both hunters and buyers compete to find the wonderful fungi. Alba is the truffle capital of Italy and throughout each weekend of both months, it hosts truffle mayhem with the White Truffle World Auction and the Truffle of the Year. The International Truffle Fair is happening Oct 12 – Nov 17, 2013.

Ah, Piedmont...

Ah, Piedmont…

The landscape offers a patchwork series of vineyards as well as fruit and nut tree farms. Guests continue riding north, entering the round hills area of Monferrato. On the final day, riders head west toward Turin, capital city of Piedmont. Along the way, the route offers a rollercoaster ride up and down the lower hills of Monferrato. The last climb approaches Superga, an important monument in the hearth of all the “turineis.” From here a magnificent panorama of the 2006 Olympic site appears.

For more information check out: Italy cycling tours or visit

What’s New in Napa 2013

Calistoga Spa & Hot Springs

Relax in the Pools at the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs

Napa Valley’s upcoming grape harvest will bring with it a crop of new restaurants, lounges, organic-focused spas, major hotel renovations, and festivals.


  • Chanric Inn, Calistoga
    The Chanric Inn re-opens after a renovation by new innkeepers Joel Haddad and Jim Dollard. The owners’ backgrounds as designers, art curators, and leaders in hospitality are reflected in the property’s makeover, which features modern platform wooden beds, an outdoor pool surrounded by Provencal-style gardens, spa services, and a gourmet brunch prepared by the owners.
  • Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Calistoga

The focal point of the 18-month, property-wide renovation is the four geothermal- heated mineral pools that draw water from Calistoga’s natural springs. The guest rooms were redesigned with Italian porcelain tile showers and kitchenettes.

Harvest Inn, St. Helena

The Bucolic Harvest Inn, St. Helena

  • Harvest InnSt. Helena
    The new “Healthy Living in Napa Valley” package offers guests the best of Napa Valley’s outdoor adventures, food, wine, and relaxation. Included is a cycling excursion with Clif Family Winery at Velo Vin  followed by a post-ride wine tasting.  A 60-minute rejuvenating massage, $100 gift certificate to Cindy Pawlcyn’s Wood Grill and Wine Bar, and complimentary breakfast are also included. Available for travel now through November 15, 2013. Rates start at $575 per night.


The recently opened Spa at Napa River Inn is the only downtown Napa spa to exclusively offer organic, wild-harvested, hand-milled, and local spa products – including the inn’s custom-created Napa Valley Organics product line. All treatments are signature and exclusive to The Spa at Napa River Inn.

Napa River Inn

Take in the Views at the Napa River Inn


A celebration of film, food and wine, the Napa Valley Film Festival shows over 100 new independent films at 12 venues across the Valley. Over 300 visiting filmmakers will be present at screenings and intimate events.  For more information or to buy passes year-round, visit or call 707-226-7500.  


  • Mercantile Terrace, AndazNapa
    Downtown Napa’s new hideaway lounge features a sprawling California-style living area with comfy seating, communal tables, and outdoor crackling fire pits. A selection of artisanal wines, craft beers, cocktails, and small plates are on offer.
  • Napkins (website coming soon), Napa

Opening in September, Napkins will be downtown Napa’s newest destination for grabbing a late night dinner or cocktail. The restaurant will feature American cuisine with a global twist with menu items like, sandwiches, chops and pastas.

  • Flavor! Napa Valley (Nov 20-24)
    The third annual star-powered Flavor! Napa Valley wine and food festival will return November 20-24, 2013. This year, the five-day festival is adding new chefs, new sommeliers, new seminars, and more hands-on workshops. As always, participating chefs must have a restaurant in the Napa Valley or be graduates of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the beneficiary of the festival.

For more information visit

Sonoma’s Latest on the Restaurant Scene: zazu kitchen + farm

Duskie & Johnzazu… a charming but cramped diner housed in a (purportedly) former chicken coop, with a kitchen barely big enough to cook in.  Located in Sonoma County wine country, it’s the life-work of Next Iron Chef contestant Duskie Estes and husband, salumi artisan John Stewart.  Yes, you read that correctly… salumi artisan. Despite the challenges inherent in the original zazu, Duskie and John have earned tons of awards and recognition for their food and their food ethics (King and Queen of Pork at Aspen, multiple appearances on The Next Iron Chef, named a Michelin good value spot).
Well, now the couple has a new restaurant on the way, zazu kitchen + farm in the town of Sebastopol, and we see this culinary couple and their evolution as one that thinking eaters will embrace. Their new digs will be located at The Barlow, an old apple cannery in Sebastopol now being revived as the first business community in the U.S. to connect people with not only the finest Sonoma County products and the inspired people who make them, but also directly with the act of food production itself, all in one place. In Duskie’s words, The Barlow will be a sanctuary for “makers” including brewers, wineries, a coffee roaster, butcher and baker, a craft distiller, cheesemakers, farmers, and fishmongers.  Handmade soaps and candles will be crafted onsite, and bocce ball courts and fire pits will invite the community to gather to share food, wine, art, and time together.
One of the coolest parts about the new zazu?  Diners interested in the farm-to-table experience are invited to pick some of their own organic ingredients before dinner, in what Duskie calls “U-PICK”. Duskie’s and John’s farm-to-table ethos will play out as families and friends play a starring role in the creation of their own meal.
Duskie Estes
zazu kitchen + farm will feature Duskie’s dream kitchen, where she and John can both work in the same place at the same time, making zazu’s farm-to-table plates and John’s Black Pig bacon and salumi, plus their famous gelati.  The new restaurant will also feature a full bar offering farm-artisan cocktails and signature snacks like chicharrone peanut butter cups and black pig bacon caramel corn. They had me at bacon and caramel.
Another positive thing to note?
Duskie and John are chefs and ethical butchers, who champion the humane treatment of the animals they butcher and the meat they serve in their restaurant, insisting on using the whole animal “snout to tail,” including the cheaper cuts which nevertheless emerge from their kitchen as authentically gourmet. Duskie and John are as fun and playful as they are passionate about food, family and farming.

A Romantic Weekend in Upstate New York

hudson river hotels

Recently, we’ve become a bit obsessed with the Hudson River Valley. We’ll admit that this obsession is, in part, due to a trip upstate to visit a friend in Rhinebeck and another friend who moved to Hudson to get out of the city grind. So these days, when looking for a quick romantic weekend outside of New York City, the Hudson River Valley is the place for us.

One place we’re keen to check out is the Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa. An eco-chic retreat owned by Robert Pollock, the founder of Soho’s Great Jones Spa. With a view overlooking the Hudson, you can take in the crisp clean breezes in an Adirondack chair on the grounds while sipping an equally crisp glass of white in a setting that was originally a trading post in the 17th century.

hudson river valley

Insert: You sittin on the banks of the Hudson River 


With only ten rooms and seven carriage houses, each has wooden floors and fireplaces. Add to that, awesome nature hikes, complimentary breakfast in the main house’s enclosed sun-drenched porch or on the adjacent patio overlooking the river. There’s also a solar-powered spa’s sauna, steam room and 40-foot indoor pool with scenic floor-to-ceiling glass panels while you swim.


A quaint little room at the Buttermilk Inn 

A day pass is $35 (couple $50), if you don’t want to stay the night. Choose from  seven types of massage ($60-$155), exotic body wraps ($155-$175) and organic facials ($100-$140). Nearby is also the 70-acre Millstone Farm where you can check out achickens, alpacas and llamas. For those like us who like some great vino: Try Stoutridge Vineyard and Benmarl Winery, both just 15 minutes by car.

Rates start at $250.

Hint: Mention TONY to receive 30% off Mon–Thu and Sun through May 31, plus 10% off spa services and meals at Henry’s Farm to Table on the property where you can sample a selection of cheeses ($11) from the area, including nearby Coach Farm, or try the duck breast ($25), which comes from La Belle Farm, located an hour from the restaurant.


Silk Roads, Wine, and a Black Sea Tour of Georgia (The Country, Fellas)

A view of Georgia

A view of Georgia

Apparently, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Georgia is little known as a tourist mecca, but that’s what makes it all the more unique. Known for it’s wine and lush clear mountains, she’s a country nestled between Russia and Turkey in the Caucasus. A rich blend of Eurasian architecture, beautiful Black Sea coast, and enticing wine regions, arguably the oldest in the world, this makes it an absolutely essential part of your next itinerary. And thanks to Silk Road Treasure Tours, travel specialists in destinations along the ancient Silk Routes, you can spend 8 days uncovering 8,000 years of wine-making traditions on its new “Wine and Black Sea Tour of Georgia.” We do love our wine…

A vineyard in Georgia awaits...

A vineyard in Georgia awaits…

Whether it’s the vintage wines of Georgia’s five renowned growing regions or the architectural marvels that strike your fancy, you’ll be able to visit the traditional wineries of farmers in Kakheti and Kartli (sounds like the characters from Game of Thrones) to learn about wine production, or eight thousand year old storage methods invoking hand-crafted “Qvevri” (clay jars), and taste various wines in the vineyards of an American artist (Pheasant’s Tears), the modern winery of a German industrialist (Shuchmann Wines) and the cool cellars of Georgia’s ancient Alaverdi monastery. If your fancy runs to ancient myth, you will fall in love with Kutasi, the town of the legendary Golden Fleece, and Adjara, a small town along the Black Sea that’s home to the Gonio fortress, also linked to the tale of Jason and the Argonauts. Or you can simply breathe in the beauty of the UNESCO-famed Jvari and Svetitskhoveli cathedrals and admire the multicolored balconies of Tbilisi, while wandering the narrow streets of Georgia’s capital, which will earn you ample relaxation time in the sulfur baths known to have made an unforgettable impression on the likes of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Dumas.

Small group tours are offered with seven departure dates from August 18, 2012 to July 2013, starting at just $3,400 per person and we think that’s swell enough to swig.

Eco-Friendly Vacations in Upstate New York

The View from Saratoga Springs Farmstead B&B

The View from Saratoga Springs Farmstead B&B


I have family in upstate New York so when I came across some information about Saratoga, I wanted to spread the word. A great place to be green, the city has bike rentals like Blue Sky Bicycles and Elevate Cycles, as well as natural mineral springs to take a therapeutic dip at Saratoga Spa State Park, a 2,000 acre oasis. Accommodations include quaint B&B’s to well-known chains. We love the quaint B&B’s ourselves so take a look at the link below for some great suggestions and start planning your trip!

Eco-Friendly Vacations in Upstate New York

The Eco-Awesome Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery

Pomar Junction

Pomar Junction

All aboard the green train…
Check this piece of eco-fun out! We heard about Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery back in April when they hosted the Earth Day Food & Wine Festival. This beautiful eco-friendly vineyard is in the heart of California’s Central Coast Wine Country with a history that harkens back to Templeton at the turn of the century, when the El Pomar District was known for almond and fruit orchards, along with a few wine grapes.
The View of the Vineyards

The View of the Vineyards

The story goes something like this. With coastal railway lines the eventually built the town, the Southern Pacific Railroad reached Templeton. It was here that Marsha Merrill’s grandfather, George Grigg, was a longtime Southern Pacific Engineer. To honor their heritage, the Merrills, have relocated a boxcar and cupola Caboose adjacent to the tasting room. History meets sustainability with their added commitment to the earth. The history of the winery is tightly intertwined with that of the Central Coast Vineyard Team (CCVT), of which Owner Dana Merrill is a charter member. Their mission? To identify and promote the most environmentally safe, viticulturally and economically sustainable farming methods, while maintaining or improving quality and flavor of wine grapes. We adore.
How beautiful is this place??

How beautiful is this place??

Pomar Junction is also one of the first vineyards to be SIP-certified (Sustainability In Practice), a program whose standards include: habitat conservation, energy efficiency, pest management, water conservation, economic stability, and social responsibility. What’s more, Dana Merrill was critical to the development of the SIP Certification standards, which looks at the farm in its entirety: the worker, soil fertility, cover crops, wildlife, native plants, irrigation, and more. All of this comes to life during Pomar Junction’s agricultural wine tours (where you can even live up some fun on a tractor-pulled gondola ride throughout the vineyard, hosted by Dana Merrill himself). With picturesque vistas of sustainably-farmed vines as far as the eye can see, an olive grove and ancient oak trees over an large central lawn, and sustainably-produced wine…can you really ask for more?
Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery
Tasting Room Open Daily 11:00-5:00PM
5036 S. El Pomar Road
Templeton, CA 93465
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