January 25

Ground Boots Wines – For The Love of Dog!

gypsy canyon logo

Though I have strayed a time or two, the goal of my blog is to eat, drink and shop my way through Napa Valley and share those experiences with you. But when I learned about winemaker Deborah Hall and Ground Boots wines, I knew her story needed to be shared. Deborah’s winery Gypsy Canyon Winery is located in Central California’s Santa Barbara County and I became aware of Deborah because of the amazing powers of social media. And very loosely paraphrasing a philosophy by Mercedes Ruehl’s character Anne in the early ‘90s movie The Fisher King (one of the best movies EVER!), I fully believe that positive energy finds positive energy no matter how far apart it may be!

the fisher king

In her own words, Deborah is a winemaker, designer, tree hugger and Mom living on the vineyard. She is also the founder and principle of Gypsy Canyon Winery – a tiny historic vineyard and boutique winery that focuses on estate grown Pinot Noir and Mission grapes. Deborah studied viticulture and enology at U.C. Davis and has become a recognized expert in the field of grape growing, winemaking and package design. In 1999, she began her passion for growing grapes and making wines while tending the vines in the healthy and vibrant soils of Santa Barbara County.

Deborah Hall and her family!
Deborah Hall & Gregg Tully, Managing Director of Soi Dog. Deborah brought the front dog, Ting, home with her from Thailand!

Though she was doing what she loved, running a successful business and embracing her life in the country, Deborah felt a little empty. I know this is something I relate to and understand. Sometimes in the midst of what many people call “success”, there is a feeling that time is slipping past and maybe a little more can be done. In fact, I gave up my career in real estate three years ago so that I could explore that same nagging hunger that Deborah was feeling. Now I get to write about my passion for being vegan, volunteer for several animal welfare organizations in Napa Valley, I get to be a full time Mom to my 3 dogs and cat and a full time support system to my husband Steve! What I have sacrificed (and I do use that word very lightly) in material objects has more than been made up for with joy and fulfillment. And I have truly never been happier! About a year ago, Deborah also began reflecting on her life and thinking…”what next?” She remembered her love for animals and our environment. As a child, she had dreamed of becoming a veterinarian but as so often happens her life took her a different direction. It was then, she began to contemplate and consider what she could do now to make a difference.

Back to the wonders of social media…while Deborah was on Facebook she came across Soi Dog Foundation. Soi Dog Foundation is a not-for-profit, charitable organization based and registered in Thailand and registered in the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, France and Holland. The mission statement of Soi Dog is to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Thailand which in turn improves the lives of both the animal and human communities. To end animal cruelty and to ultimately create a society without homeless animals. In addition to helping the homeless, neglected and abused cats and dogs of Thailand and responding to animal welfare disasters and emergencies, Soi Dog works tirelessly throughout the Region to end the ghastly dog meat trade. And in the midst of all of this hard work, they have also spayed and neutered over 77,000 cats and dogs across the Region!

soi dog logo

What caught Deborah’s eye about this non-profit, is the fact that they show the successes created by their hard work and compassion for all living things. She was literally able to see the before and after of a rescue! This gave her a huge dose of inspiration and after a couple days of brain storming she had her “ah ha” moment! Using her years of experience and vast resources in the wine industry, she decided to bottle some wine, sell it and donate the proceeds to Soi Dog. Being driven by purpose, her ideas continued to flow until she had created a whole new brand for Soi Dog and Ground Boots was born! Ground Boots is the very first wine dedicating 100% of the profits to make our world a better and more loving place.

Tai Chi before!
Tai Chi before!
Tai Chi After
Tai Chi After

Deborah teamed up with famed artist Donald Roller Wilson to design a label for Ground Boots. He then generously donated one of the images for the label. And using her vast resources in the business, she sourced some top quality wine that is often declassified and sold off as bulk. This is often done merely because the wine does not “fit the program” or the marketing plan. She chose the finest barrels to bottle and it became Ground Boots. She has now also created a new title for Ground Boots which is Charitable Negociant.

Label

Now that she is experiencing the magic that being driven by purpose creates, she has decided to dream really big. This is not a one-time charitable donation for Deborah and Ground Boots. Her goal is to work hard and to grow her love for animals into the “Tom’s” of the wine world! In fact, Deborah has taken her altruism even a step further. She flew to Thailand to personally vet Soi Dog Foundation. Over the course of two weeks, she journeyed into small villages and assisted in the set-up of mobile spay and neuter clinics. This allowed the local “dog catchers” to visit the local temples and to bring stray and injured dogs and cats in for treatment. She also went through the heartbreak of visiting Wat Saun Kaew in Bangkok. This shelter is known as the worst dog shelter in the world. Deborah met and spent time with the founders of Soi Dog – John and Gill Dalley. They poured over maps of the northeastern districts of Thailand and educated her on the vicious underbelly of the dog meat industry. Seeing what an incredible group this was and what radical changes they were making, she made Soi Dog Foundation her first non-profit partner!

The hardworking Soi Dog Foundation team!
The hardworking Soi Dog Foundation team!

But it gets even better! Deborah will be returning to Thailand this summer with a journalist and videographer. She will not only be presenting Soi Dog with the funds she raised but she will head back into the trenches and will be working hand and hand with Soi Dog. She will once again return to the Wat Saun Kaew shelter in Bangkok. She will also journey to the Buriram District of Thailand to spend time with the rescued dogs and she will be a part of the undercover investigations of the northeastern Thailand dog meat trade. Her mission is to share all of this live via social media and Livestream! What an amazing woman helping others do amazing good!

Now onto the important stuff…the wine! The first bottling was a 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, using earth friendly bottles. 100 cases were bottled and are available for just $70.00 a bottle. Click this link now to reserve your wine today! This will be the most loving and fulfilling wine, you have ever purchased!

Ground Boots bottling team!
Ground Boots bottling team!

Thank you for letting me share this amazing story and Deborah’s beautiful journey to help the voiceless dogs and cats of Thailand. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

****To all of my vegan friends, I have not confirmed that the wine is considered vegan-friendly.

January 17

Mini Mango Becomes Mango on Main!

Mango on Main
                      Mango on Main

I have loved the food at Mini Mango since my first visit three years ago. The food is always excellent and the service is always friendly. This week is the first time I realized that it is also the most vegan-friendly restaurant in Napa! They recently moved their location from a quiet, out of the way spot tucked away on Clay Street to a highly visible local in the midst of historic downtown on Main Street. In honor of the new location, they also have a new moniker – Mango on Main by mini mango Thai bistro. The name & address have changed, the dining room space has increased, the décor has improved but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the delicious food. The Restaurant Manager, Mee Peng, is also another wonderful reason to return again and again. He is always friendly, chatty and no matter how much time has passed in between visits he always remembers that I am vegan and have a weakness for their delicious tofu Peanut Bomb!

Tofu Peanut Bomb!
Tofu Peanut Bomb with a side of Indochine Corn Fritters!

Though I have ordered take-out, this week was my first opportunity to dine-in since they moved locations. The space is larger than the last location but still has a very intimate feel. The lighting is soft and the music soothing and energetic at the same time. Though there are only 10 or 12 tables, when it is full it is a bit loud and has a great energy. Steve and I shared an appetizer and a dessert along with our entrees so we were there for a while and once the restaurant cleared out it became very quiet.

The Buddha watching over you as you dine!
The Buddha watching over you as you dine!

Since Mee and his wife Anchalee Chitamnuayothin (she is also the Executive Chef) are Buddhist, the décor includes a lovely Thai Buddha statue as well as a quote from the Dalai Lama in the Ladies’ Room. They have also been very creative showcasing beautiful umbrellas hung upside down from the high ceiling.

Beautiful décor
                   Beautiful décor

The night we were there Mee was in charge and had three more staff that all work as a team. They all take orders, deliver food, fill water, bus tables and seat quests. I think each of the staff came to our table at least once throughout our meal. It seems like it would be disorganized but they have a system figured out and it works well.

The most exciting thing about their menu is that it is all made to order so besides a few grilled meat/seafood dishes, virtually anything on the menu can be made vegan. According to Mee, they have a very large market of guests that request vegan food and are more than happy to accommodate their dining needs. They have a good wine list that includes many local wineries. For Napa, their pours are certainly on the “heavy” side and the prices for wine by the glass on the low side. That always makes me smile! I mentioned earlier my near obsession with their tofu Peanut Bomb. I have to admit that I order it virtually every time I eat at Mango on Main. It is delicious and will satisfy anyone who loves peanut butter. But when Mee mentioned that they are willing and able to “veganize” virtually anything on their menu, I decided it was time to explore some new options.

We started our meal with the sweetly amazing Indochine Corn Fritters drizzled with plum reduction. They came to the table in a sweet and crispy little pyramid. We enjoyed one each and shared the third.

Indochine Corn Fritters
            Indochine Corn Fritters

Though we often share one entrée when we dine out in Napa Valley – this saves calories and money plus there is sometimes only one vegan entrée available so we have never seen the point in ordering two of the same thing. Because of the fact that Mango on Main has so many vegan-friendly options, we decided to splurge and each order our own entrée. Steve ordered the Tofu Massaman which has a mildly spicy cardamom-citrus sauce, onions, potatoes and braised tofu curry. I love curry & coconut milk with a capital “L” so I ordered the Kari Curry with tofu, potatoes, carrots and coconut milk. I typically have to order my curry mild but in this case it had just the perfect amount of spice for me. To that we added brown rice for two and commenced to whole-heartedly enjoying our meal!

entrees

Kari Curry with tofu
          Kari Curry with tofu
Tofu Massaman
                Tofu Massaman

Their current menu does not offer any vegan desserts but the night we were there they offered a special dessert that included hot, sweet sticky rice and a scoop of mango sorbet made with coconut milk that was vegan. It was one of the most delicious desserts that we have ever shared. The hot rice topped with the ice cold sorbet was not only an amazing combination of flavors but the combination of hot and cold was a delightful shock to my taste buds.

Vegan sticky rice with mango sorbet.
    Vegan sticky rice with mango sorbet.

The new location now offers a large lunch menu that includes Potstickers, satay skewers, Bangkok bites of the day, Thai Wraps, Noodles on Main, salads and much more. And just like dinner, almost all lunch menu options can be made vegan using vegetables or tofu.

Mango on Main is located in historic downtown Napa at 1142 Main Street near the corner of Pearl Street and Main. To make a reservation for parties of 6 or more, they can be reached at 707.253.8880. They serve lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dinner is served Tuesday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday they are open all day from Noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday is open for dinner only from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This is a dining experience that you will not want to miss! Many of these delicious recipes have been passed down through the generations and were shared with Chef Anchalee by her Mother. Chef Anchalee then decided to attend culinary school so she could take her family recipes and add a decidedly and delicious California spin to them!

dalailamaquote

Please be sure to thank them for offering so many delicious vegan options. And as always…eat, drink and be vegan!

January 14

Napa Valley Vegan Receives Our First Award!

Find the perfect vacation home!

I am thrilled to share with my readers that after blogging for just five months, Napa Valley Vegan has received its first award from Flipkey.com. I have been recognized as one of the top 12 Bloggers in Napa Valley for 2015! I was really blown away that they chose to honor my fledgling blog and I plan to work harder than ever to fill my blog with vegan-friendly restaurants and wineries. I want visitors to Napa Valley to be able to eat, drink…and be vegan while they are here and leave loving our beautiful Valley as much as I do!

Largest Travel Site in the World!
Largest Travel Site in the World!

For those of you who are new to Flipkey, they are a TripAdvisor company – TripAdvisor is the largest travel site in the world. Flipkey features 300,000 vacation homes located in over 11,000 cities worldwide. To make it easy, safe and fun, they also verify each homeowner to ensure that you are dealing with nice and trustworthy people. If you are like me and you love photos, they also feature the largest collection of authentic guest reviews and photos in the vacation rental industry. And to make it even more exciting, they offer over 5,000 special deals daily! Flipkey has been named the “Top Vacation Rental Site” by Travel + Leisure and has millions of travelers visit their site every month.

If you are looking for compassionate wine to drink and loving food to eat, you have come to the right place. If you are looking for an amazing vacation rental home, check out Flipkey by TripAdvisor!

A big thanks to you from me for following me while I eat, drink & shop my way through Napa Valley – vegan style…and blog about my adventures!