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Drinks

We spent this past 4th of July weekend in Napa Valley. H and I had been before, but it was the first time our daughter (almost four). We also met with friends that also have a son (three yrs old). So we had to keep that in mind when choosing the hotel, restaurants and wineries to visit.

Napa Valley airport

We decided to fly to Santa Rosa for a few reasons:

  • It’s the closest airport (mileage wise). Oakland is a bit farther (60m iles), but it’s an easier drive, which makes it fairly comparable in terms of travel time in the car
  • It is small airport. It takes only 20-30 mins to go from landing to being in a rental car
  • You can checkin a box of wine for free!

 

Napa Valley hotels

We decided to stay in Yountville. It’s right in the middle of the valley, it has phenomenal places to eat, and we found a great hotel there. We stayed at the North Block. We wanted something that was kids friendly (or at least not kids unfriendly). The hotel has a great pool, great facilities, and it is walking distance from most restaurants. Overall we were super happy.

A quick tip. If you go with friends (with kids) make sure you get rooms across from each others (or adjacent). We were able to put the kids asleep in the rooms and meet up in the courtyard with our friends being able to keep an eye in the rooms.

 

Wineries

Being with kids we knew that some of the fancy wineries would be out of reach. But there are plenty that are kids friendly and are still great places to visit (both for the wine and the winery).

We had received lots of suggestions from friends. We ended up visiting Paraduxx, Robert Sinskey, and Sterling. Paraduxx was my favorite. Sinskey was good and a worthy stop. Sterling was the least favorite (and would not recommend to others).

 

Paraduxx

The Paraduxx winery is awesome and their blends are excellent. It’s $25 for a tasting. The opening rose was complementary. The main flight had two of their popular blends and two of their estate wines. My favorite was their Howell Cab and Zinfandel blend

Tip: they gave us 10% off on the wine purchase for a checkin on Facebook.

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Robert Sinskey

The flight at the Robert Sinskey winery came with food tasting. I believe it was about $30/person. I actually liked their white blend (riesling, pinot grigio, and sauvignon). It has a summery fun factor to it. Ideal for a casual summer night dinner with friends. Our friends liked the Pinot.

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Sterling

The waitress at French Blue suggested to go to the Sterling vineyard because of the tram and the views. In theory the idea to take the tram for the kids was great, in practice the kids didn’t care that much and it ended up being a big overhead to taste some average wines. Below couple of pix of the view from the winery.

 

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Napa Valley restaurants

As mentioned above our hotel was  walking distance from many great places (French Laundry, Bouchon, Bottega, and others).  Although not all kids friendly we did find some great places.

 

Redd Wood

Redd Wood is the casual and pizza restaurant owned by Richard Reddington.   To us was mostly the “hotel restaurant”.  We had lunch there, grabbed drinks, and a late night pizza.   Pizza was good (say between a 7 and 7.5 out of 10).  Salads were very good.  Overall it was very fairly priced and drinks were surprisingly well priced ($4 for a beer, $10 for a cocktail).

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Bistro Jeanty

Overall bistro Jeanty was great.  Unfortunately my dinner picks were a bit underwhelming, but everything else my friends ordered was great.  So just make sure that you stay away from the rabbit and the artichoke terrine! 🙂

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French blue

Sunday morning we decided to venture up to St Helena.  We had couple of breakfast spots, but only one was opened at 9am.  It happened to be one of the top 10 most beautifully designed restaurant in 2013 according to Architecture Digest.  Indeed the place is great, it’s open, lots of light, perfectly french-ly decorated.  Most importantly food (farm-to-table) is excellent.  Menu has a few choices, but all great.

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Ad-Hoc

Ad-Hoc is the latest Thomas Keller restaurant.  You can read the story here.   I loved it.  Loved the concept, loved the atmosphere (relaxed and friendly), and of course the food (fresh, simple and delicious).   They adapted the menu for H (replaced the pork with salmon), brought a nice extra dessert for my daughter (who loved her pasta dish).  I highly recommend Ad-Hoc.

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credits to jurek_durczak

This past weekend I was talking about Bourbon vs Ryes with a few friends (we were in a house in the Pacific Coast for razor clamming…and bourbon in the evening was a nice complement).

In somewhat a timely coincidence the guys at seriouseats just posted a fantastic primer about Bourbon. You can find it here.

So What is bourbon?

In brief, bourbon is a whiskey, made predominantly from corn and aged in charred oak barrels

or in more legal speaks:

Made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn. (Other grains in the mix may include wheat, rye, malted rye, and malted barley, in any combination.)
Aged in new charred-oak barrels.
Distilled to no more than 160 proof, or 80% alcohol by volume (ABV). In practice, most bourbon is distilled out at a lower proof than this.
Entered into the barrel for aging at a proof no higher than 125 (62.5% ABV).
Bottled at no less than 80 proof (40% ABV).

Where is bourbon made?
The other interesting thing is that you might assume that Bourbon is from Kentucky… well, not necessarily. Although the number one producing state is Kentucky (given the abundance of corn and iron-less water) it is also made in other states. There seems to be a distillery even in Washington State (Woodinville Whiskey).

Interesting factoid.
One final interesting fact that the article covers is the fact that most of the bourbons are made with GMO corn. One of the two distillery that do not use GMO corn is Wild Turkey – which happens to be owned by the Campari Group.

Anyway, head over to the seriouseats post to learn more good stuff!

btw… this is what we were drinking in Seabrook.

credits to sidereal

If you are in the market for a bourbon… here’re some ideas.

all: bourbon

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Last Sunday I was at a bbq. A friend and I were chatting about “negroni”. I mentioned to him that I often drink it with some brut champagne. He said that I was doing something close to a “negroni sbagliato”. I actually never heard of it and he explained to me that is just a negroni which has champagne instead of the gin.

I went back home and gave it a shot. It is pretty good and definitely easier than the original version.

Negroni:

1/3 Campari
1/3 Gin
1/3 red vermouth (I use Martini & Rossi)
Negroni “sbagliato”:

1/3 Campari
1/3 Champagne Brut
1/3 red vermouth
Random Factoid: Campari has been the world’s higher selling bitter for 70 years! wow!