Back Trackin’ – Fall in Napa Valley

Thursday, October 27th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', California, Wine

Late November will make three years since Husband J and I went to Napa Valley, but we STILL talk about our trip there…a lot. It’s such a beautiful place with so much great food and even better wines, which essentially means that we were in total heaven. We were there a week after Thanksgiving, and it wasn’t particularly cold (As someone who hates the cold, you know you can trust me on this one). It was actually nice, nippy fall weather with sun pretty much every day we were there. I believe that Napa really is an all-year destination. Don’t feel like you need to go there in spring or summer to enjoy yourself.

I am sure that it must be enchanting to see the vineyards bursting with grapes, but I loved the fact that so much of the greenery and vineyards seemed to say fall. 🙂

On the grounds at Duckhorn Vineyards

Husband J on the grounds of Frog’s Leap

The view from our balcony at the Wine Country Inn
What I liked most about being in Napa in the “off season” was the fact that no one else was really around. Most visitors aren’t coming to Napa in late November/early December. We got to really hang with and talk to all of the folks at the wineries as if we were shooting the breeze like old friends. They weren’t rushed, so neither were we. I think we really got to ask all of our questions and learn more about the folks that work at the wineries and how they got involved in the wine industry. A big shout out to the folks at Arger-Martucci and Cakebread Cellars for being especially nice.
Are you a fan of off-season travel? Where was your most enjoyable off-season trip?


Touring Turkey – Some Things You Might Not Know about Turkey

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 | Posted under Shopping, Turkey, Wine

I know that I’ve shown you a lot about Turkey’s food, landscape and history, but there are probably some things that you might not know about the country.

Cappadocia is a wine-making region.
I didn’t know Turkey was a wine producing country, but it is. The wine is pretty darn tasty wine at that. Apparently, Cappadocia is know for its white wines, but Husband J and I enjoyed the reds much more. My personal favorite Turkish wine was from Kocabag, a winery right outside of Uchisar. We didn’t make it there, but we did get a chance to visit Turasan, another popular local winery.

We grabbed a bottle for later in the evening, and it was quite nice. 🙂 I’m still a major fan of Kocabag though. I also find it ironic that Turkey is a wine producing country where many people actually don’t drink wine (the Koran discourages the consumption of alcohol).
Turkey makes some awesome carpets.

Turkey also has its own style of handwoven carpets. If you’re a tourist, you’ll definitely encounter someone trying to sell you a carpet at some point during your trip. We’d avoided even looking at carpets until we got to Cappadocia. I actually brought a very small one home from my trip to Morocco, but was interested in seeing the differences between those and the types of carpets from Turkey.
The main difference is in the technique. Unlike Moroccan or Indian carpets, Turkish ones are double knotted as a way to ensure that they are extra sturdy.
We went to Bazaar 54, a local weaving cooperative where local women learn and hone the craft of carpet weaving so that they can have a valuable, marketable skill.
Getting some instruction!

It’s a lot harderd than it looks!

Here’s a sample of a traditional Ottoman wool handmade carpet (this is a 15th century design):

In Cappadocia, sometimes you’ll see the darndest thing floating by your hotel window….. 🙂
More on the balloons another time….

Contrary to some claims, the original Star Wars movies were not made in Cappadocia.
It looks like Anakin Skywalker’s home, doesn’t it? Much of the filming of those scenes was done in Tunisia. Is it bad that I’d totally forgotten about this aspect of Star Wars? I wouldn’t have even thought of that unless our guide, Ibrahim, mentioned it.

Have you ever learned something new and unexpected about a place that you’ve visited?

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Back Trackin’, Rhode Island Edition – Rhode Island’s “Wine Country”

Monday, February 14th, 2011 | Posted under Back Trackin', Rhode Island, Wine

Parts of this post were originally published on my wedding blog, Chic…Personal…Fun, and

While Husband J and I spent a lot of time on boats and on the water during our first couple of days of our mini-post-wedding getaway in Newport, Rhode Island, Newport has other places to experience that don’t require a lifevest or cause seasickness.
One thing that I failed to mention before was that my sister-in-law and brother-in-law were kind enough to give us a little basket of mini-moon cheer for our time in Newport. In addition to the sail boat trip we had (and other cute gift basket items), they also gave us a gift certificate for a tour and tasting at Newport Vineyards. Yes, that’s right. While it’s not Napa, Rhode Island has got its own little wine making area right next to Newport in neighboring Middletown and Portsmouth, Rhode Island. In addition to Newport Vineyards, Greenvale Vineyard is just a short drive from the heart of downtown Newport.
One of the winemakers checking on some Cabernet
Being the foodie that I am, it would be awfully whack of me not to make some wine suggestions. Personally, we liked the whites the best, particularly the Great White, In the Buff (cool name ;)), and the Riesling. Newport Vineyards also makes this great, crisp Rhody Coyote Hard Cider.
After the vineyard trip, we had a nice lunch at the Castle Hill Inn. The Inn has a great lawn right on the water where you can relax with a drink and a nearby patio and eat their fabulous lunch and dinner options. We recommend the chowder, the lobster roll and the Cobb Salad.
Pretty view, huh?

We could sit and watch the boats go by while sipping some cocktails.

Happy Valentine’s Day from us!
Have you been to a winery in an area not known as a major wine-making region?


Back Trackin’, Cali Edition – A Castle or Winery? Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010 | Posted under Back Trackin', California, Wine

Aaahhh…Napa Valley, I miss you. I am going to find a way to get back, but in the meantime, I will reminisce with all of you about our trip there. I remember tasting (okay fine, drinking) lots of exceptional wine and overcoming my distaste for red wine. What I learned is that I do like red wine; I just had not been able to drink GOOD red wine. Our trip consisted of three or four full days (I forget which) of driving through pretty country roads, visiting wineries and eating perfectly cooked meals. I can safely say that I did NOT have a bad meal anywhere in the valley. Of course at that point, I never thought I would blog about food so no stories of my food outings, but perhaps I’ll share with you where I went some other time. For this post though, we’ll focus on the wine.

One of the more memorable wineries we visited was Castello di Amorosa. Would you forget a structure that looks like a medieval castle right in Napa Valley? I don’t think so.

You seriously feel like you are in medieval Italy, and you haven’t even gotten inside yet! I think I was ready to storm the castle (Princess Bride reference…I couldn’t resist).

I think Husband J and were still trying to get over the whole grandiose/over-the-top feel of our surroundings for the first fifteen minutes. Most wineries in Napa are rather small and understated or very modern conference center-like structures that can handle crowds. The castello was something altogether different.

We took some time to explore the nooks and crannies of the castle including this little lookout point.

The castle was not just a facade with modern buildings either but rather a real life castle complete with all of the rooms that you could imagine a castle having.

A great room with wall to wall murals and complete with Christmas tree (we were there right after Thanksgiving but before Christmas)

The Inner courtyard

A chapel on premise. Many medieval castles actually had one. For modern folks like us, this is usually used for wedding ceremonies.

At that point, I’d almost forgotten that they sell wine there. Well, not really. 🙂 I think this is one of the Chardonnay barrels. I have to admit that I tend not to like oaky tasting Chardonnay.

The Castello’s wine tasting area

As for the wines, they were not my favorite that I tried. I tend to like fruity red wines or those with a bold, spicy flavor. Most of the Castello’s wines had more of a bitter, tannic taste. Not my thing, really. That being said, I had fun just being there, and I applaud the Castello’s owner for being bold enough to build a structure like this in the middle of the bastion of American wine making that is Napa Valley.

Who says wineries are boring? 🙂


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