October 28

Baldacci Family Vineyards Offers Red & White Vegan Wines!

Beautiful Stags Leap District!
Beautiful Stags Leap District!

Baldacci Family Vineyards is located in the gorgeous Stags Leap District in Napa Valley. The Stags Leap District is located south of Yountville Cross Road on scenic Silverado Trail. I drive up Silverado Trail every Saturday from April to September to help care for orphaned song birds before they are released back into the wild. And every time I make that drive it is a reminder of how lucky I am to live in this beautiful section of Northern California!

Wappo Indian Dwellings
Wappo Indian Dwellings

Stags Leap District borrowed its name from a legend handed down by the Wappo Indians who were native inhabitants of Napa Valley. Story has it that a strong and beautiful stag was trapped between steep cliffs and (non-vegan!) hunters. Instead of giving up, this stag soared across the chasm in the cliffs, eluded the hunters and created this wonderful legend! This legend is just the beginning of the District’s long history. In the mid-1800s even though Silverado Trail was nothing more than a quiet horse trail, this did not stop the grape growers. And by 1878 the region’s first winery was built. Many of you Cabernet lovers may already know this but the more recent history of the Stags Leap District began in 1961. Nathan Fay planted 70 acres of the region’s first Cabernet vineyards. This decision bordered on brilliant. There are now over 9,800 cabernet acres in Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District is recognized for its world-class cabernet sauvignons! And that isn’t just us bragging. In 1976 at a blind tasting held in Paris, nine French judges awarded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first place for its 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon. Ten years later the same wines were judged a second time and this time Clos Du Val’s 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon took the honors!

Baldacci Family Winery
Baldacci Family Winery

Thomas and Brenda Baldacci arrived at the site that is now Baldacci Family Winery almost 20 years ago. It includes 45 acres of Estate vineyards, an on-site winemaking facility and a unique system of wine caves below. They have also purchased 23-acres in Carneros and replanted with their Family Collection varietals which will produce Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. Many of which are vegan-friendly. And in 2013 they expanded yet again with the purchase of Stella Vineyards. This 8.5 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes is located upvalley in Calistoga at the base of Diamond Mountain.

When my husband Steve and I made the decision to move all the way across the country from Raleigh, North Carolina to Napa, California three years ago I was really nervous. I had spent the last five years living in the South and I imagined that everyone in Napa would be too busy or worse yet – not friendly! Thankfully, I was so unbelievably wrong. I have lived from Northern Michigan to Southern Florida to Eastern Virginia to Central Colorado to Eastern North Carolina and have met many wonderful people. But I have never felt as welcomed anywhere else as I have since I moved to Napa. It is such a wonderful place to live. Happy, friendly people; perfect weather and lots of wine!

Me and Matt!
                         Me and Matt!

Matt Mills is one of those special people. Through the wine industry, Steve and I met Matt very soon after we moved to Napa. We have all stayed in touch and I was excited when I learned that he is the Direct-to-Consumer Manager for Baldacci Family Winery. When I reached out to Matt to schedule our wine tasting, he discussed our vegan lifestyle with their winemaker, Rolando Herrera, and created a special wine tasting just for us!

Tasting the delicious Gewurztraminer
Tasting the delicious Gewurztraminer

We enjoyed the delicious 2012 Frederich Gewurztraminer, the 2012 Sorelle Chardonnay, the 2011 Elizabeth Pinot Noir and a not yet released Pinot Noir all grown from their Carneros Estate vineyard. They were all such amazing wines that we came home with a bottle of the Chardonnay and the Pinot! And not to start bragging about the award-winning wines produced in the Stags Leap District again but their vegan Sorelle Chardonnay was the 2014 winner of the prestigious San Francisco Wine Chronicle!

2014 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Winners!
2014 San Francisco Wine Chronicle Winners!

One concern that I have when discussing vegan wines is that many wines may be vegan-friendly one year because the winemaker chose not to fine the wine but may not be vegan the next year if the winemaker feels fining is necessary and he uses an animal product to do the fining. This is a problem we vegans do not have to worry about with Baldacci Family Winery. Matt explained that all of the wines we tried will forever be vegan because even if the winemaker decides to fine his next vintage of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer or Pinot Noir they use vegan-friendly bentonite clay for these particular wines! I also learned something really interesting from Matt for my gluten intolerant readers. Since Baldacci uses the natural cork which seals perfectly, no gluten is used in the bottling process.

Pinotandchardonnay soywaxcandles wine awards wine tasting2

Baldacci Family Winery is located at 6236 Silverado Trail in Napa and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact them at 707.944.9261 to schedule a tasting appointment with Matt! Please thank them for using a vegan-friendly fining agent in several of their wines and let them know you are vegan when you schedule your appointment. And be sure to take home one of their delicious smelling soy candles. But most of all, enjoy…Cheers!!

October 17

Enjoy a delicious meat-free meal at Hurley’s!

Welcome to Napa Valley!
Welcome to Napa Valley!

As you head upvalley from Napa, which is located in the southern end of Napa Valley, you will find something special in each of the cities you visit. Napa is undergoing a renaissance and becoming a world-class destination all on its own. You will enjoy Michelin-starred restaurants and find Iron Chef champions preparing amazing meals. You can stroll through vibrant downtown Napa and visit tasting rooms, watch a thrilling performance at the Opera House, concerts at Uptown Theatre or pedal your bicycle down the River Trail.

Stroll along the Napa riverfront!

As you head north to Oakville, you will enjoy gorgeous scenery and seemingly endless rows of grapevines. Several of the notable wineries include Folie a Deux and Opus 1. And you cannot miss the Robert Mondavi Winery with all of its beautiful gardens, art galleries and sculptures along with their Summer Concert Series in their open-air amphitheater. The last time I visited Robert Mondavi Winery I took the group tour. It is very educational and an enjoyable way to see much of the winery. If you need to refuel on your way up to Calistoga, be sure to stop into the Oakville Grocery for breads, soups and salad & made-to-order sandwiches.

Oakville
Oakville near the Robert Mondavi Winery
Oakville Grocery
Oakville Grocery

And as you head further north you will come to Rutherford famed for their Cabernets. Story is that the unique soil in the area which was once a riverbed produces wines that are tinged with an almost spicy element known as “Rutherford Dust”. And don’t miss the winding drive up Rutherford Hill Road to Auberge Du Soleil. You may not find a more breathtaking view in the entire Valley!

Beautiful Rutherford!
Welcome to Rutherford!
Rutherford vines
Beautiful!

As you drive down historic Main Street into St. Helena, you will find the most charming shops in the Valley. The downtown shops offer many one-of-a-kind items, quality art and jewelry, clothing and gifts. Though it is a part of my past, I always walk through Foot Candy. Foot Candy is a high-end women’s shoe boutique FULL of designer shoes. Now, of course, they are all leather so I only look and though I know they are made without compassion for my good friends the cows I still need to take a look! There are many dining options in those two square blocks and several of them offer vegan options. If you want to do some picnicking and wine tasting at the same time, V. Sattui is a perfect stop for that. Housed just north of St. Helena in a majestic stone building, is the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone which offers culinary education classes including vegetarian and vegan courses, a tasting bar and on-site eatery. Just to be sure you enjoy your experience, make advance reservations and mention that you are vegan!

Downtown St. Helena
The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone!
downtown St. Helena

And when you reach Calistoga you have reached the end of Napa Valley…now it is time to just relax! Calistoga is a quaint town tucked into the base of Mount St. Helena. It has the rustic feel of a small mountain town and in my opinion has the most gorgeous scenery in all of Napa Valley! One of my favorite wineries – Chateau Montelena is located in Calistoga. Chateau Montelena’s chardonnay put Napa Valley on the map by besting France’s wine at the 1976 Paris Tasting contest. And you have to enjoy the beauty of the medieval 13th century Italian Tuscan castle at Castello di Amorosa and check out the wonderful farm animals that live there! And to help rejuvenate you after all the wine tasting, soak in the Calistoga hot springs. This mineral-rich volcanic water emerges from the ground at 140-150 degrees and will leave your skin feeling soft and soul rejuvenated.

Chateau Montelena!
Chateau Montelena!

 

Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa

Now if you are familiar with Napa Valley you probably noticed that I missed a city. Though Yountville is only 8 miles north of downtown Napa, I had to save it for last. Though it is next to impossible to have a favorite destination in Napa Valley, I have to admit that Yountville just squeaks past Calistoga as my favorite destination. From my very first visit to Napa Valley in October 2011, Yountville has remained at the top of my “best places” list!

Yountville sign
Heading to downtown Yountville!

Yountville has the look of a tiny rural village but boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any other place in the entire North American continent! Wow! If you consider yourself a foodie, this is the place to dine. Now if you aren’t a full-fledged foodie, the Michelin rating was started in 1900 by (you guessed it!) the tire manufacturers Andre and Edouard Michelin. Their first edition was a guide for French motorists. Since there were so few cars on the road at the time, the brothers’ intention was to help boost the demand for cars, and thus tires. Pretty clever those two! Over the last 114 years, their star rating system has had a very dramatic effect on the success of restaurants. The rating system begins with one star which means the restaurant is “very good in its category”. Two stars denote “excellent cooking, worth a detour”. And three stars is “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.

Even without all of the amazing food in Yountville it is very cozy and will bring your heart rate down as soon as you drive, walk or cycle into the village. And if you have had enough wine, be sure to enjoy a cocktail at Lucy’s bar located at Bardessono Hotel. And set aside at least 15 minutes to enjoy their bathrooms. That is all I’m going to say. You will know what I mean when you get there!

Lucy Restaurant and Bar

I recently dined at the well-known Hurley’s Restaurant. Hurley’s is located in the center of Yountville and serves local California cuisine influenced by the Mediterranean. According to his Bio, Chef Bob Hurley “planted his roots firmly in the California Wine Country” in the summer of 1988 as the chef at Domaine Chandon. In November 2002 he opened Hurley’s and is the Executive Chef. The menus are revised three times a year and take advantage of the seasonal produce. Because seafood and wild game are such a huge part of his menu, I had never dined at Hurley’s before. But his strong belief in the use of regional, seasonal ingredients and the fact that he is always so friendly and gracious when I see him out and about, attracted me to his restaurant when I had family visiting. We dined outside on the huge patio that overlooks Washington Street. It is spacious and though it seats quite a few, it is quiet and peaceful just like the rest of Yountville. The bar offers an extensive wine list by the bottle or the glass, sparkling wine, and many specialty cocktails. There are no vegan items listed on their menu so I did need to call ahead and discuss their menu with their hostess Michelle. She was very helpful when I made the reservation and made note that two in my party were vegan. The wait staff was very friendly and knowledgeable but did have to discuss specifics with Chef Hurley. It was decided that the Moroccan Vegetarian Tagine could be prepared vegan by removing the green olive raita and the vegetable Risotto could also be prepared with olive oil instead of butter. They are also able to remove some items from several of their salads and offer them in an entrée size. Chef Hurley did offer to prepare a unique dish using the additional ingredients he had available for the nightly dinner specials. I was very appreciative but I did not want to order a “surprise” $25 entrée! Based on the recommendation from my server, I ordered the vegetable Risotto. It was absolutely delicious! At the time of my visit, Hurley’s did not offer a vegan appetizer or a vegan dessert which is really a disappointment because the desserts looked absolutely amazing. Before the meal, they served a delicious artisanal bread with olive oil instead of butter and it was especially delicious since I typically do not eat gluten. It was a wonderful evening and Hurley’s is an excellent option if you are dining with a big group that include meat eaters and vegans. If you decide to dine at Hurley’s, please be sure to thank them for preparing a vegan option so they will be happy to offer more options in the future!

Hurley's
Hurley’s

 

risotto2
Delicious Vegan Vegetable Risotto
bread
Artisanal bread and olive oil!

My goal for Napa is that every restaurant from a three star Michelin rated restaurant to the local diner, will offer at least one vegan appetizer, entrée and dessert. And the best way to accomplish this is to let our voices be heard (nicely) whenever we are fortunate enough to dine out!

October 16

Tout Suite Social Club – Episode 2 is now rescheduled!

 

Napa Valley Vegan - behind the scenes on Tout Suite Social Club!
Napa Valley Vegan – behind the scenes on Tout Suite Social Club!

 

I am excited to say that my 2nd episode on Tout Suite Social Club has been rescheduled for Thursday, October 30th at 6 p.m. PST. Not only will Matt Dominguez, Public Policy Manager for Farm Animal Protection with the Humane Society of the U.S. be joining me remotely from the east coast but local Monica Stevens, Executive Director of Jameson Rescue Ranch, will be joining me live in the studio. Jameson Rescue Ranch is a compassionate, no-kill rescue and sanctuary for homeless and rescued companion and farm animals until they ultimately find a forever home. Jameson Rescue Ranch also collaborates with and acts as a liaison for various animal rescue groups in Wine Country.

The studio is going to be full of compassion and great dialogue so I hope you can join me! Please log onto Tout Suite’s website and using your webcam and mic go interactive. I not only want to hear your great questions and comments but would love to see you too!!   

Thanks to everyone who plans to join me live or remotely for episode 2 on Tout Suite Social Club. It has come to our attention that the San Francisco Giants will be playing Game 2 of the World Series that night! I would feel terrible if my interview with Matt Dominguez of The Humane Society of the United States, overshadowed their night so we have decided to reschedule for the good of the team. As soon as the date is confirmed, I will post it for all to see!

I can’t believe that it has been a month since I was invited to host an episode about vegan cooking on the Tout Suite Social Club. I had such an amazing time and was so pleased with all of the support I received from you! The great news is that I have been invited back and will be hosting one episode a month for all of my vegan, vegan-curious and just plain curious viewers.

Just click to watch my first episode!

On Wednesday, October 22nd at 6 p.m. you can join me in person and be a part of the live studio audience. Or you can logon to Tout Suite Social Club and participate in the program. Visit Tout Suite Social Club’s website now, scroll down to “How to join the show” and watch the quick instructional video. To fully participate and go interactive all you need is an internet connection and mobile device with a webcam & mic. It is as easy as that!

There are many different reasons why vegans choose to become vegans – to lose weight, to save the planet, to save their health or to end needless suffering of other sentient beings. You don’t have to know me well to know that I fall into the latter category. I reached a point seven years ago that instead of choosing to look the other direction I stared at the factory farming industry head-on. For me, there was no going back!

Me & my dear friend Peter the Piglet

Because of this, I am extra excited about my guest, Matt Dominguez. Matt is the Public Policy Manager, Farm Animal Protection with The Humane Society of the United States. Matt was born and raised in northern California, where he spent his childhood on his family’s cattle ranch. He graduated with honors from California State University in Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Philosophy. In 2007 he moved to Portland, Oregon to attend Lewis & Clark’s Environmental Law program but quickly changed his focus and began devoting his time and energy to the Animal Law program after learning about the plight of animals. After graduating from Lewis & Clark law school, Matt joined the Farm Animal Protection Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States and works to expand the number of and scope of laws that protect farm animals from cruelty.

If you are not familiar with The Humane Society of the United States, it is the nation’s largest animal protection organization and is rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. HSUS and their affiliates rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but the primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. They are there for all animals, across America and around the world.

I have been donating monthly to HSUS for the last 7 years and have participated in their Humane Lobby Day since 2007. Animal lovers unite and join The HSUS’s lobbyist to share their support for animal protection laws with their state representatives. It is a truly empowering experience and a reminder that when we team together nothing can stop us from making real change!

Matt will be joining us remotely from the east coast to discuss his work with farm animal protection. I hope that you too will logon and go interactive. I very much look forward to your comments, questions and feedback. My philosophy is “the more the merrier!”  This will be an amazing and enlightening discussion and I look forward to seeing you there – in person or remotely!

For all of my local friends, Tout Suite Social Club is located near downtown Napa at 68 Coombs Street, Suite L5. The entrance to their studio is at the corner of Ash and Coombs. After entering the campus, you will find Building L located to your left. When you see a silver convertible with a Vegan bumper sticker and Dogma3 license plates, you have reached your destination! Come ready to participate, question and comment. Please add Wednesday, October 22nd at 6 p.m. to your calendar and I  will see you there!