September 3

Mason Cellars vegan wine

Jon at Mason Cellars
Jon at Mason Cellars

I’ve lived in Napa, CA for almost three years and have to admit that before this magical city became my home I didn’t really have much of an appreciation for wine. When I was younger, I loved my beer and as I got older I always preferred a red apple vodka martini or two. It didn’t help that I chose my grocery store wine based on how much I liked the label! That’s how everyone chooses a good wine, right?! Wrong! Just ask any of the 4.5 million people who visit our over 500 wineries in Napa Valley annually!

As I began to visit different wineries and enjoy tasting the many different varietals – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc being my favorites, I really began to have a much greater appreciation for wine and finally understood what the big deal was all about! As I became more interested in wine tasting, it became very important to me to be sure that what I was drinking was vegan. Turns out that many of the wines I loved were not animal friendly at all. Part of the winemaking process includes a  “fining” process. To a lay person like you and me basically a fining agent is added to the wine and it attracts grape particles, dead yeast cells and can even remove some tannins to make the wine more drinkable. All of that seemed reasonable enough to me until I found out that many of the fining agents used include blood powder, casein (milk protein), egg whites, isinglass (fish bladders) and gelatin. But do not despair, the great news is that there are vegan fining agents available for winemakers to use – carbon, bentonite clay, limestone, kaolin clay, silica gel and plant casein are all good alternatives.

As part of my promise to you to eat, drink and shop my way through Napa Valley, I recently visited Mason Cellars and tasted their incredibly tasty vegan wines. Mason Cellars tasting room is located at 714 First Street near Oxbow Public Market. Their delightfully fruity releases include the citrusy Mason Sauvignon Blanc, the intense grapefruit Pomelo Sauvignon Blanc, the crisp apple Three Pears Pinot Grigio, seasonal berry 60 North Merlot and the earthy Mason Cabernet Sauvignon. Just delicious!

Mason Cellars Merlot

Instead of using animal proteins, the winemaker Randy Mason uses bentonite clay to fine his wines. His goal is to create the finest wine possible, make it consumer friendly (we vegans thank him for that!) and price it fairly so everyone can enjoy his passion. With wine ranging from only $10 – $24 a bottle, Randy has made his wine accessible to almost everyone! If you stop by between 11 and 5:30 Thursday – Monday you can also enjoy complimentary wine tastings.

You will also have the pleasure of meeting Jon who is in charge of the tastings. His knowledge of the wines is exceptional and he is very friendly! The tasting room is also very dog friendly.  In fact, if you come in with your four legged family, Jon is going to be sure that you all feel welcome! I also had the opportunity to meet their much loved office dog Cabo. She was rescued by Laura, the office manager and gets to spend her days hanging out at the Mason tasting room.

My favorite work of art!
My favorite work of art!

Randy’s wife Megan is in charge of the design and set-up of the delightful tasting room. Come in and take a look at the local artists showcased while you are sipping wine. I enjoyed all of the pieces but I did have my favorite!

It was really hard to choose a favorite wine but I settled on a bottle of the Merlot and Pinot Grigio to enjoy at home. And I will definitely be back for more!

To enjoy at home!
To enjoy at home!

On Tuesday, September 16th at 6 p.m. PST I invite you to join me on Tout Suite’s live program. Napa Valley Vegan will be featured on this episode. I will be discussing my vegan adventures through Napa Valley and will be preparing Butler’s BBQ soy curls and pairing it with Mason Cellars vegan wines. If you would like to be a part of the live audience or join us from the comfort of your own computer click this link to register! I would love to see you there!

 http://toutsuite.com/events/living-vegan-napa-valley

August 28

Napa Farmers Market – Vegan style!

Napa Humane Mobile Adoption Unit
Napa Humane Mobile Adoption Unit

Napa Humane is a local non-profit that offers humane education, low cost spay/neutering, a weekly vaccination clinic and the Mobile Adoption Unit for our Napa Valley dogs, cats and bunnies. The Mobile Adoption Unit debuted in May 2005 and has been partnering with local animal welfare groups including the Napa County Animal Shelter ever since! I have been volunteering for Napa Humane since their first annual Walk for Animals in 2012. if you have been to any of their exciting fundraisers, you have probably seen me there too. I do always love a good party. And you can always find me on Fridays at the vaccination clinic holding puppies and kissing dogs. I got to spend my morning Tuesday in the Mobile Adoption Unit with Wendi Piscia, Program Administrator of Napa Humane, Emily the Chihuahua mix and four adorable bunny rabbits at the Napa Farmers Market. You can find the Mobile Adoption Unit on the first and last Tuesdays and second Saturday each month through October from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. When it was time for a snack, I wandered around the Market and chatted with some really friendly and helpful people. I was really excited by the many vegan options available!

You can't miss this fresh and delicious granola!
You can’t miss this fresh and delicious granola!

 

My first stop was The Handmade Pantry. Jane Bell creates the freshest, most delicious granola I have every tasted. Almost all of the granola is vegan ( a couple flavors contain honey), and there are gluten and wheat-free options as well as nut-free options. There is a granola flavor that will satisfy everyone! Jane offers generous samples of each of her granola masterpieces. I brought home a bag of the gingerbread granola and I sprinkle it on everything!

 

FM Granola

 

 

Stop by Duck Duck Goose Farms!
Stop by Duck Duck Goose Farms!

My next stop was Duck Duck Goose Farms a pesticide-free, biodynamic farm with crops in Napa. They offer premade salads so you can keep your energy up while shopping the Market. They always offer a vegan option on their menu!

 

Duck Duck Goose Farms' menu board!
Duck Duck Goose Farms’ menu board!

 

Love the Field Blend vegan salad!
Love the Field Blend vegan salad!

 

There are also several farms that offer pesticide free and organic fruits and vegetables including Rodriguez Farms, The Patch, J&M Ibarra Farm and Long Meadow Ranch. Be sure to stop by and thank them for choosing to go organic!

 

Long Meadow Ranch organic produce
Long Meadow Ranch organic produce

 

Rodriguez Farms organic strawberries!
Rodriguez Farms organic strawberries!

 

More organic produce!
More organic produce!

 

And finally after finding all of this amazing produce and vegan food… I found the chocolate!

Desmond with Wine Country Chocolates
Desmond with Wine Country Chocolates

 

Many of these delicious chocolates are dairy-free! Desmond offered me many samples and they were all so good I couldn’t decide on my favorite. I guess I will just have to keep visiting Wine Country Chocolates and tasting the chocolate to make up my mind!

 

 

 

Dark Chocolate! Yum...
Dark Chocolate! Yum…

 

 

Wine Country Chocolates' non-dairy artisan sweet
Wine Country Chocolates’ non-dairy artisan sweets

 

I would have to say for such a meat and cheese centric city I had incredible success finding delicious and varied vegan options at the Napa Farmers Market. Be sure to come by every Tuesday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. through October and support the vendors that provide vegan options! I hope to see you there soon!

 

Links:

http://www.napafarmersmarket.com/

http://www.napahumane.org

http://ddgfarms.com

http://www.winecountrychocolates.com

http://www.longmeadowranch.com

http://www.rodriguezfarms.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 26

Small World Cafe & Restaurant in Downtown Napa

Thanks to everyone for being patient. I have been busy eating, drinking and being merry gathering material to share with you. It is an amazing job and I’m happy to do it! I also wanted to thank Small World for being open for dining just 24 hours after the earthquake that damaged much of downtown Napa!

928 Coombs Street, Downtown Napa
928 Coombs Street, Downtown Napa

Small World offers delicious Middle Eastern food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer six Vegetarian Pitas – Original Falafel, Hummus, Baba Gunnooch, Grilled Mushroom, Grilled Zucchini and Grilled Eggplant – all of which are vegan! They also offer two vegan platters – Falafel and Hummus. The platter meals are very large and can easily feed 2 or leave you with enough leftovers for another meal. They also offer 6 tasty fruit smoothies that can be made vegan if you ask!

I enjoyed the Falafel Platter today and it was absolutely delicious. It is even gluten-free if you skip the pita bread! Check out the photo below. That is a lot of food for $11 and includes mixed salad, falafel balls, hummus, tahini dressing and pita bread. I’ve eaten here several times and this platter is definitely my favorite!

Falafel Platter
Falafel Platter

Small World is located at 928 Coombs Street, Downtown Napa. They are open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. They serve breakfast until 11:30 but the only option for us vegans are the smoothies. They also offer juice, tea, lemonade, chai tea, beer on tap and wine by the glass. It is a very casual atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating and the staff is really friendly. You can place your order online and have it delivered! Head to downtown Napa and thank Small World for offering so many delicious vegan options.

Sidewalk seating available!
Sidewalk seating available!

Visit their website at – http://worldcafenapa.com/