All posts by Owner

Storybook Mountain Winery: Zinfandel Lovers Pay Heed

Storybook TreeStorybook Mountain Winery  Storybook Mountain Winery sits at the northern end of the Napa Valley, about a fifty-five minute drive from The Inn On First, a premier lodging property in Napa.  Best known for Zinfandel, it has been named repeatedly as one of Wine and Spirits Magazine’s favorite wineries for Zinfandel.  Guests of the inn have also raved about this place.

Founded by two brothers named Grimm in the late 1800′s, it closed around prohibition, opened again for a short time until a fire in the 60′s cleared out the buildings.  It wasn’t until years later (70′s) that the current owners came and renamed the place with a whimsical name to reflect the winery’s past history.  They were told at the time that Zinfandel was best with the particular soil type found at the winery, and the advice they were given has proven its veracity.

Storybook View Storybook Picnic

We were given a tour of the property which, amazingly, is only tended to by four vineyard workers; they bring in no outside help.  So you can imagine how carefully the vines are tended to throughout the year.  Once up the small hillside you begin to understand the beauty of the northern Napa Valley, north of Calistoga.  Forested hillsides surround you versus the broad plain of the southern Napa Valley.

Storybook Wines Storybook Caves

Entering the caves we were led to the final tasting room under the hillside where we enjoyed a selection of their wines: the Napa Estate Zinfandel (100% Zinfandel, with cherry tones, balanced fruit and oak), Antaeus (50% Zinfandel, then blended, big fruit flavor with a bit more oak than the first, with a nice oak finish), the Napa Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (very fruit forward, light tannins, toasted wood finish), and the Napa Estate Viognier (beautiful floral, honey nose, little acidity, not buttery, not oaken, just right).

Wines range from $36 to $90.  Picnicking is allowed prior to or after your tasting in a grassy knoll surrounded by redwood trees.  Reservations are a must, and they are closed on Sundays.

Carpe Diem Restaurant: how we love you

Only a ten minute walk from The Inn On First, a Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, is the wine bar and restaurant, Carpe Diem.  Specializing in innovative, fun, and interesting small and large plates, their menu changes all the time, which means you need to eat there regularly or you might miss some spectacular dishes.

Our last visit brought some new flavors in the form of the Winter Kale salad with blood orange vinaigrette and pomegranate seeds, as well as the Butternut Squash Risotto Balls.  I would recommend both of these.  The Tamales, filled with braised pork short rib meat, were light and luscious.  The tacos, filled with pork belly and asian slaw, continue to delight us (they change the filling daily: imagine Shrimp Pad Thai, or Filet Mignon with Pomegranate Glaze, as two small samples of their changing taco of the day filling).  The last dish we ordered was the Lamb with Harissa in a clay pot with Israeli couscous, small bites of tender lamb matched perfectly with chewy and tender large couscous kernels, tomatoes, and sauce.  Of course, dessert wouldn’t be complete without the Twix Bar, with the homemade shortbread dipped in dark chocolate and sea salt, sitting atop a scoop of salted caramel ice cream with house made caramel sauce.

As a wine bar and restaurant, this place is always crowded and reservations are a must.  Expect lots of people, a great staff that is both knowledgeable and helpful with both food and wine selections.

We are asked all the time: name us your top restaurants in Napa.  This is definitely one of them.

Brix Restaurant: still delivering quality food and service

Always a pleasure to return to old favorites, and Brix Restaurant is one of those places.  Only a fifteen minute drive from The Inn On First, a romantic Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, it continues to deliver on both quality food and service.  We usually dine for lunch as we love the patio seating that overlooks the Brix Gardens and the mountains, but we went for dinner instead, to share a meal with some friends in town, Sarah and Danny.

We started with the mixed green salad, beet salad with walnut crisps and feta (loved it), and the pork belly as appetizers.  How they get the pork belly to be that delicious and tender is something I still strive for in my own cooking regimen.  The leg of lamb was so wonderful, perfectly cooked.  Not something I usually order, but it looked so delicious at another table I ordered it for myself and was glad I did.  The steelhead trout was the other special of the night, delicious in every day, grilled to perfection.  The burger, of course, a standard there, is always fun to order, and Jamie was oh so glad to have brussels sprouts with his dinner (you know I’m a hater, but can stand it if they are at the opposite end of the table).

Dessert was the weak link this visit, a caramel ice cream sandwich that didn’t quite live up to its hype.  It was tasty; just not what I expected based upon the description on the menu. For cocktail lovers, there is a full bar, and they carry a wide range of Napa wines by the glass.  For the four of us, including wine, the total bill was $325.00.  We thought it was worth every penny.

Twenty Rows Tasting Room with affordable and delicious everyday drinking wine.

A 20-minute walk or a 5-minute drive from The Inn On First, a Napa Bed and Breakfast, is a tasting room called Twenty Rows, named after one area of their vineyards that is, yes, 20 rows.  We had heard about this space from guests who had visited and made our way over there last week and met with Tim Nuss, son of the owner, and part-time winemaker.  The space itself is quite fun, with small seating areas set up for guests to lounge in small groups, or at a communal table, or even at a more traditional wine bar.  The equipment can all be seen in the tasting room and that is half the fun of going there.  It really is a multi-purpose room that also serves as winery and barrel room.  Of course, during big events, such as the Super Bowl, or The Oscars, the large screen in the room is central to a great party space to enjoy good wine, food, and entertainment.

Twenty Rows Tasting Room Twenty Rows Lounge Area

As for the wines, we enjoyed a full round of both Twenty Rows and Vinoce label wines, both produced by Twenty Rows.  Vinoce is a liberal play on words: Vino and Noce (walnut) = “wine nut”.  Of the Twenty Rows label, we tasted the Merlot (fruit forward, cherries, spice- only 100 cases made), The Grappler, a Zinfandel Blend (fruit forward, tobacco flavors, light cherry notes), and the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mt. Veeder fruit, dark red fruit flavors, black currant, with a hint of cedar or sandalwood).  We enjoyed all of them and were happy to hear the price point was only $20.00.

From the Vinoce label we tasted the Cabernet Franc Blend (red raspberries, light on the palate, with a hint of cassis) and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (blackberry notes, soft dark spices, with a beautiful nose).  These wines were both delicious and are $60 and $75 respectively.

The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  Worth a visit, if only to sit and talk to Tim about wine, his family, and wrestling.

Welcoming our latest unconventional staff member.

The Inn On First is excited to welcome their newest staff member, Maxwell Black. He is an unconventional employee, as he is a miniature schnauzer, but he is an integral part of the team and important to the service provided to guests.

Maxwell Black was an abandoned puppy, and The Inn on First adopted him in December from the Northern California Miniature Schnauzer Rescue.  Admittedly we were a bit unsure of what to expect, but we found this 1 1/2 year old dog to be lovable and a great addition to the family.  He has been welcomed as an important member of the staff and we know you will welcome him, too.  Along with Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein, The Inn on First’s other two miniature schnauzers, Maxwell Black interacts with the guests daily and is a source of pleasure for those who love dogs. Many guests who have left their own dogs behind during their trip are appreciative of the canine attention Maxwell Black can give them.

Maxwell 2013

Maxwell Black’s gentle demeanor is an invitation for those in need to find tenderness, peace and joy in their day. As a dog-friendly inn, The Inn on First believes Maxwell Black’s presence will provide great pleasure to guests and staff members alike for years to come, as well as encourage others to adopt abandoned dogs in need in their own communities.

Climate Leader Award given to The Inn On First for exceptional green practices.

We were already feeling great in 2010 when we were awarded the Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for invaluable service to the community by the office of Mike Thompson, our Congressional representative in Washington, D.C.   In 2010 we were also awarded a Certificate of Recognition by the California State Legislature for outstanding recycling efforts, and we strive to make our Inn a better place for everyone.

Now in 2014 we are excited to announce that we are one of thirteen businesses in the State of California to receive a Climate Leader Award from CoolCalifornia.org that is funded by the California Environment Protection Agency. This award recognizes California small businesses that demonstrate exceptional climate change management practices and communication.  We also received Certificates of Recognition from our State Senator, Lois Wolk, and our State Assembly Member, Mariko Yamada. It was a fun afternoon in Sacramento with the other award winners and to see that small businesses throughout the State of California can and do take steps that have significant impact upon the environment.  We may be small, but we are mighty.

With Michael Erke, Legislative Assistant for Senator Lois Wolk.
With Michael Erke, Legislative Assistant for Senator Lois Wolk.

Cool California Small Business AwardNot only are we a premier destination for romantic getaways in Napa, but our commitment to promoting green living and reduced energy consumption helps set us apart from all other lodging inn locations throughout Napa.

Fly Fishing Guide and Lessons now available!

The Inn On First, your luxury Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, is proud to be the first to offer Fly Fishing Lessons to our guests.  This is a unique experience that can enhance your stay here in the Napa Valley.

You begin your day at 7 a.m. in the parking lot of the inn where you will meet your guide, Richard Loft, who will offer you an early morning continental breakfast.

Fly FishingYou will sign all the necessary paperwork, he will hand you a map, and you will follow him for 45 minutes up into the hills beyond the Napa Valley.  When you arrive he will suit you up in your waders and boots, and explain the basics of fly fishing.  After a few lessons of casting and reeling, the real fun begins!  Wading out into the river you begin the process of catch and release.  Plan on a minimum of two to three hours in the water.  Snacks and water available as you fish.   When you are finished you can sit down to enjoy your sandwich lunch soaking up the beauty of Napa County Wilderness.  Generally you can plan on returning to the inn no later than 1 p.m. which still leaves time for wine tasting in the afternoon.  (Disclaimer: As with all fishing excursions, expect to have fun but catching of fish is not guaranteed).   $525/couple, or $325 for one person.  (50% deposit required, and there is a 72-hour cancel policy)

Fishing in the State of California requires a license which can be procured from the California website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/ols/, or you can make a visit to Sweeney’s in Napa (1537 Imola Ave West., Phone: 707 255-5544, Store Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 – 6:00, Sat 8:00 – 6:00 Sun 9:00 – 5:00).

Learn how to make Corndog Omelets at home!

The Inn On First, your favorite romantic Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa, was happy to be a part of DoNapa.com’s efforts to showcase culinary talent in the City of Napa.   As part of their chef’s series they asked to film Chef Jim Gunther prepare one of his 120 breakfast creations, the Corndog Omelet.

Don’t forget, to access local downtown Napa news and events, visit DoNapa.com.

Spelletich Family Wines: it may look corporate, but really it’s just the family.

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Only a ten minute drive from your romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Inn On First, lies a corporate park of which there are many tasting rooms and even a wine country hotel.  We were invited to come and try out the Spelletich Family Wines, SpellWine.com, by daughter and tasting room hostess, Kristen, and her co-host, Miguel. I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the wonderful greeting from Molly, the house dog.

MIguelMolly

On entering the tasting room you immediately sense how much work they put into the detail of the tasting room, providing a seating area with big, comfy chairs and a coffee table, as well as a large table with bar stools.  The colors, the layout, the wine display, have all been carefully crafted together to give you a homey and yet elegant feel to the room.  With nuts and crackers on the table we were escorted to our tasting chairs and presented with a menu of wines we were to enjoy for the day.  From a crisp and yet creamy Chardonnay, to a lovely, toasty Pinot Noir, and even a taste of their soon to be gone Zinfandel Port.

Barb and Tim Spelletich are the creators of these wines, and surprised us with a French Bordeaux they make.  Yes, I said French, not Napa Bordeaux-style.  They import the juice from France and make a Bordeaux of their own with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Wonderful berry notes with a bit of tobacco bring pleasure to the palate as you taste.  Then we were given the 3Spells Cabernet Sauvignon, a seductive wine that is soft, with a lot of fruit and very soft on the finish.

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We liked everything they poured and, even better, their price point is phenomenal: $10 Chardonnay, $35 Pinot, $22 Bordeaux, and $30 Cabernet.  You can’t beat that for these lovely, very enjoyable and drinkable wines.  Tasting fees range from $15 to $40 depending on how many and which wines you want to try.  I know we all think of vineyards and large wineries with spectacular views as part of the Napa experience, but finding great value and flavor in wine is part of that experience too.  The whole winery operation is there, it’s just not surrounded by vineyards.  Especially for those who have been to Napa before, or are looking for something new, different, and unusual, I would encourage you to seek out Spelletich Family Wine Company as part of your stay in Napa.

Anatomy of a new breakfast: Cheese Fritters.

Breakfast here at The Inn on First, a luxury bed and breakfast inn in Napa, is a big deal.  I really appreciated a recent guest review on TripAdvisor that stated that B&B really stood for “Best Breakfast”.  Thank you!  Currently I am on breakfast 121: Cheese Fritters.

It started with Fondue.  I love breakfast Fondue: yes that is one of the 121 breakfast recipes (served with quail eggs, roasted potatoes, and roasted and buttered bread cubes- homemade bread, of course).

Cheese FrittersI was thinking about fondue and remembered how my brother Andrew loved fried cheese when he was a child.  I wondered it I could create something similar, with a fritter, where the cheese would come oozing out as you cut it open and yet retain the crustiness of fried cheese that you get in a pan.  After some experimentation with eggs and flour, I found what I wanted.  I could use a small round of bread as the base, create a cheese paste mixture with gruyere, cheddar, and pepper jack cheese, egg and flour to be scooped on top, and then deep fried until everything was crusty on the outside and oozy, delicious on the inside.

 

Next came the decision about what type of egg to serve: poached, fried, scrambled.  Poached seemed like the obvious choice so that the yolk and whites could easily be mixed into the melted cheese on the plate.

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I also wanted more flavor infused into the dish and so I added basil oil.  I realized I can play with infused oils over the next few years and try a wide combination of cheese flavors with different oils.

Lastly, I wanted something to finish off the dish.  Homemade toasted bread to finish wiping up the cheese from the plate, and homemade jam to finish with any leftover toasted bread.

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Thus, Cheese Fritters with Poached Eggs, Basil Oil, homemade toasted bread with homemade jam was created.  This is going to be a delightful addition to my winter menu.