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Pack Your Bags: Napa  
Raise Your Glass
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Simply Scrumptious Leg of Lamb 

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Pack Your Bags: Napa

Dining at Auberge du Soleil

There are few places that
I have willingly visited as
often as Napa. If you’re
seeking a long weekend or
vacation of pure pleasure,
book your trip now with our recommendations in mind. I
was able to squeeze in a two
and a half day experience in
early August, and even though
I’ve been there many times before,
it was fantastic to return.



This trip I had the pleasure of staying in a condo at the Vino Bello Resort located on the Meritage Hotel property. The brand new, one-bedroom condo was roomy and beautifully appointed. The pool was enjoyable, although we had to hide our champagne flutes every time the cabana boy walked through to take drink orders, as no glass was allowed in the pool area. The brand new, one-bedroom condo was roomy and beautifully appointed. The pool was enjoyable, although we had to hide our champagne flutes every time the cabana boy walked through to take drink orders, as no glass was allowed in the pool area. Definitely skip Spa Terra and the on-site restaurant. With a kitchen in your room, a gourmet market about a mile away, and an abundance of renowned dining and spas in the area, an on-site restaurant or spa isn’t a worry. The resort is located at the very southern tip of Napa, making it easy to take in both the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. We loved the fact that we had a lot of space to stretch out and relax before and after wine tastings.

No matter how long or short your trip, plan to lunch at two places: Auberge Soleil and Etoile on Chandon Winery’s property. Reservations are recommended at both. At Auberge, you’ll enjoy amazing views as you dine al fresco under a canopy. Servings are petite, but divine. We especially enjoyed the tuna tartar. At Chandon, we arrived at the tail end of lunch, and it served us well! We bought a bottle of vintage bubbly and our waiter poured generous glasses of other vintages to finish off the bottles opened and awaiting the by-the-glass lunch crowd. There were three of us dining, and everything was fabulous. Don’t be scared away when you have to walk through the boisterous mass of people in the wine tasting room. You’ll dine tucked away under a canopy of trees, complete with a babbling brook and serene gardens.

For dinner, we opted to dine in on our first evening so we could unwind at the spa and pool. We feasted on cold Alaskan king crab and prawns, expertly recommended by the seafood pro at the nearby gourmet grocer. The next day, we enjoyed an affordable, prixe fixed meal at Ad Hoc, owned by the French Laundry’s founder, Thomas Keller. Yes, it’s amazing but true: I can honestly use affordable and French Laundry in the same sentence! For $45 we enjoyed a four course meal which changes daily. The wine list by the glass was disappointing, so plan on purchasing a bottle. The wait staff was very professional…we think blue eyes and honey smiles are pre-requisites for the mostly-male staff (not that we’re complaining!). We discovered Illy coffee and the fun of a French press at Ad Hoc. Indulgent doesn’t even begin to describe the brownie phenomenon they served for dessert.

Oh, and the wine! Of course! Another amazing visit to Joseph Phelps. You must make an appointment to taste their wines, and I recommend you sign up for one of the seminars. My girlfriend, Stacy, and I were thrilled to be the only ones in the Le Nez class! Geraldine Seltzer, our guide, treated us well. She was incredibly knowledgeable and chatty. Hats off to Stacy for correctly identifying all of the scents during the aroma challenge! I joined the club and can’t wait for my Insignia to arrive in late October. If you love big, complex reds, Joseph Phelps is for you!

At Peju with our pal, Robert Sherman

We discovered a new favorite, thanks to neighbor Mike’s tip the night prior to my flight to California. Peju is a beautiful, chateau on Highway 29 just south of St. Helena. Our pourer, Robert Sherman, was fantastic!

And Miner is another fun one that we had to stop and sample. Their pourers are always down to earth and they have some amazing reds.

We took a break from tasting wine to sample some olive oils (and honey, and balsamic vinegars and more) at the St. Helena Olive Oil Company. We learned a lot (like you’re not supposed to cook with extra virgin olive oil because it is made with a cold press and the heat of cooking changes the flavor. Opt for another oil, like grapeseed, for cooking). Definitely a fun stop!

While this August’s trip to Napa was all too brief, we definitely hit some of the best wineries and sampled some heavenly wine and food. If you decide to visit, get ready to entice your taste buds and relax your soul.

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“Wine makes everyone hopeful.”

— Aristotle

We’ve enjoyed some really great red wines this past month. Here are a few of our favorites.

Legaris Ribera Del Duero Crianza 2003

Region: Spain
Rating: 90 points by Wine Spectator
Release price: $16.00 (we found it for $13.99 at Sam’s)

Two Blondes' Two Cents:
The first sip, my mouth said mmmmm! Then I saw the price and couldn’t believe it! Buy this gem by the case! Silky texture, lots of flavor, with a lip-smacking finish. What’s not to love? This wine won our hearts for delivering amazing taste at a value price.





Water Wheel Bendigo Shiraz 2005

Region: Australia
Rating: 90 points by Wine Spectator
Release price: $18

Two Blondes' Two Cents: If you like a hefty red wine, this Shiraz won’t disappoint you. It has a lot of flavor and holds its own with zesty baby back ribs.


 


Kaiken Malbec Ultra 2004

Region: Argentina
Rating: 89 points by Wine Spectator
Release price: $25

Two Blondes' Two Cents: If you took our advice (April 2007 issue) and tried the Kaiken Malbec, you know that this winery is big on bold taste. And it’s fair to say that the Ultra version is Kaiken on steroids. Prepare your taste buds before you take a sip of this intense red. It pairs beautifully with a big juicy steak. If you didn’t notice, the theme here is BIG!

 



O’Reilly’s 2005 Pinot Noir

Region: Oregon
Rating: 87 points by Robert Parker
Release Price: $15

Two Blondes' Two Cents: Let me start by saying this deserves a higher rating than 87! It’s juicy and simply delicious! After visiting Oregon last year, I came away with an appreciation of a great pinot under $30. They were sparse, making this bottle all the more special….that and it has a sketch of an attentive dog on the label. The wine maker also makes highly rated (and more expensive) Owen Roe wines. O’Reilly is mostly a local Oregon wine, but you can buy the 2006 vintage at www.northwest-wine.com/oreillys-winery.html.


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Simply Scrumptious Leg of Lamb

If you’re ever looking for an alternative to beef to do your favorite bottle of red justice, we urge you to try our simple recipe. The amazing aroma of the lamb roasting will tantalize your dinner guests long before you sit down to the table and they will think that you spent hours preparing the meal. It’s that good! And the great thing is that you can prepare it and have it roasting long before any guests arrive. We enjoyed our most recent lamb dinner with an expensive but extraordinary bottle of Archery Summit Pinot Noir. The combination was heavenly!

  • One boneless leg of lamb
  • Six fresh rosemary sprigs (plus more for garnishing your platter)
  • Four cloves of garlic (slivered)
  • ½ bottle of Bittersweet Herb Farm Lemon Garlic Finishing Sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon (sliced for garnish)

If you want to make the flavor extra bold, marinate overnight. If you forget, don’t sweat it. We promise it will still taste fabulous.

Place the leg of lamb in a large roasting pan.
Untie the meat and open it. If the leg isn’t rolled, simply stuff the slit)
Brush the interior with the finishing sauce.
Generously sprinkle with half of the garlic.
Place a few of the rosemary sprigs side by side
Salt and pepper

Re-tie the leg of lamb
Make several slits throughout the meat and stuff with remaining garlic.
Generously salt and pepper the top, bottom and sides of the meat
Pour the finishing sauce over the leg of lamb.

Cover the pan with foil or plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place lamb (uncovered) into the oven
Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook a total of 18 minutes per pound for medium-rare.
Warm a serving platter.
Remove the lamb and place on the warmed platter. Use foil to tent the lamb and let it rest for 15 minutes. Slice meat onto platter, pouring the juices on top. Garnish with sprigs of rosemary and lemon slices. Voila!

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Past issues of Two Blondes are available for your reading pleasure.

April 2007
Vintage Charts
Kaiken Malbec
Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Z'IVO 2003 Pinot Noir
Chateau Giscours Margaux 2000
Get Back Baby Back Ribs

December 2006
Best gifts for wine lovers
Our favorite Top 100 Wines of the Year
Don Melchor Concha y Toro Cab
Kim Crawford Sav. Blanc
Duval-Leroy Champagne
Argyle Pinot
Greg Norman Estates Cab-Merlot
Recipe: Primed to Please Prime Rib


November 2006
Pack your bags: Willamette Valley
2004 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir Belles Soeurs
NV Argyle Sparkling Wine NV
2005 Whitehall Lane Chairman's Selection Cabernet Sauvignon
2004 Barnard Griffin Merlot
Smoked salmon appetizers recipe
Traditional turkey dressing recipe

November 2005
Nouveau: Get it While it Lasts
Let’s Talk Turkey (wine pairing)
NV Gloria Ferrar Brut
Foxen 2001 Foothills Reserve
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cab
Pannaroz 2004
Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc 2004
Hot Clams on the Half Shell Recipe
Say Cheese: A Wine Perfect Assortment

Summer 2005
Pack your bags: Alsace
Dopff and Irion Les Murailles Riesling
Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc
Miner Sauvignon Blanc
Ferrari Carano Fumé Blanc 2004
Spicy shrimp skewers recipe
Tantalizing tuna tartar recipe

Spring 2005
Understanding wine ratings
Kim Crawford 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Sebastiani 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley
Goat cheese Florentine appetizer recipe
Bacon wrapped dates recipe

Holiday Issue 2004
Hosting a holiday dinner
Argyle 2003 Pinot Noir
Chandon Blanc de Noirs NV
Roasted leg of lamb recipe

Autumn 2004
How it all began/the inaugural issue
Ordering wine in a restaurant
Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2002
Little Neck Clams in Spicy Broth Recipe

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