Category Archives: Wine

NAPA VALLEY Stroll. Explore. Prost.

My love affair with this place started when I saw Carrie Bradshaw talking to Mr. Big regarding his move from New York to Napa Valley.

“Well when you’re tired you take a nap-a you don’t move to Napa.”

From then on, it made me wonder, what kind of place will you exchange for New York? When I was planning my itinerary for San Francisco, my eyes caught a glimpse of the small letters “Napa” on the map and asked? Is this The Napa Valley? Yes, an hour away from the city. My heart pounded and like so many things in my life … Serendipity stepped in…. A pleasant surprise.

The Famous Napa Landmark

The Famous Napa Landmark

Napa Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area ( a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury) located in Napa County, California, United States.

Napa Valley is considered one of the premier wine regions in the world but production of commercial wine started in the 19th century only.

The combination of Mediterranean climategeography and geology of the region are conducive to growing quality wine grapes. John Patchett established the Napa Valley’s first commercial vineyard in 1858. In 1861 Charles Krug established another of Napa Valley’s first commercial wineries in St. Helena. Viticulture in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera, the institution of Prohibition, and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine – equal to that of Old World wine regions. Napa Valley is now a major enotourism (refers to tourism whose purpose is or includes the tasting, consumption or purchase of wine, often at or near the source. Where other types of tourism are often passive in nature, enotourism can consist of visits to wineries, tasting wines, vineyard walks, or even taking an active part in the harvest) destination. – Wikipedia

I was discouraged so many times to visit because of the massive valley fire that hit Napa during the time that I was there. But my heart can’t allow something that is within my reach to go unfulfilled. Like a love that you had to let go because circumstances aren’t right. But still you take it head-on … Life is short for what-might-have-beens.

And Lo! And behold. I felt my heart skipped a beat when I saw the rolling vineyards slowly unfolded as we traversed the valley. With all the drama, I told myself … Mr. Big have every reason to move here … I would have.

The Vineyard

The Vineyard

So many wineries … so little time.

Peju – Tony Peju purchased the 30 acre land because of love for farming and passion for wine. Inside Peju, you can have wine tasting, buy wine and merchandise. They are famous for handcrafted Peju ceramics and custom logo Peju apparel. There is also an access to the wine cellar for visitors. This is also one of the winery featured at the Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


Peju Cellar


Grapes in the Vineyard

Grapes in the Vineyard

Castello di Amorosa – located at St. Helena, Calistoga. It is a 13th century inspired Tuscan castle in a 170 beautiful acres of forest, hill, lake and stream. All the metal in the castle was hand-forged over the open flame by the one of the last remaining blacksmiths in Umbria, Italy. Activities: guided tour and tasting (25 USD), wine and cheese pairing and royal food and wine pairing.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Wine Tasting with our wine guy, Vincenzo Coppola

Wine Tasting with our wine guy, Vincenzo Coppola

V. Sattui Winery – it stands today as the result of hard work, dedication, and the extraordinary vision of two men who happen to be related.  Vittorio Sattui started the business in 1885 after emigrating from Genoa, Italy.  But it was Dario, the grandson who resurrected the business in Napa. This winery has a deli unlike the others. You can buy food and have a picnic outside the lawn.

Entrance of V. Sattui

Entrance of V. Sattui

Robert Mondavi Winery – with a legacy of more than 40 years of winemaking, it is a shining symbol of Napa. The architecture of Cliff May reflects the missions of early California history.

Façade of Mondavi Winery

Façade of Mondavi Winery

Afternoon Solace by the Garden

Afternoon Solace by the Garden

Here is the list of additional wineries in Napa recommended:


Hagafen Cellars                                                                      Domaine Chandon

Artesa                                                                                      Beringer

Rutherford Hill Winery                                                           Duckhorn Vineyards

Domaine Carneros                                                                 Etude Winery

Paraduxx Winery


Did you know?

  • Wine is fat-free and contains no cholesterol
  • A six ounce glass of wine contains approximately 130 calories
  • California produces approximately 77% of the US wine grape crop
  • Although red wine can only be produced from red grapes, white wine can be produced from both red and white grapes. – Wine Country


3 Simple Steps to Wine Tasting

  1. Swirl – swirl the wine vigorously in the glass. As the wine coats the sides of the glass, it releases its aroma of bouquet.
  2. Sniff – Insert your nose into the glass and inhale by taking quick, full sniffs. The aromas can be quite different depending on how far into the glass your nose goes. At the top of the glass, they are more floral and fruity; deeper in the glass, they are richer. Try to detect the full range of scents from berry to floral to spicy to woody … and so on.
  3. Taste – Sip a small amount of wine and move it over your entire tongue so that all your taste buds come in contact with it. Taste for sweetness or dryness. Or is it flat and flabby? Tannins (used in red wines to keep them from spoiling) will feel sort of prickly on your tongue. The ideal touch is a mellow softness – a velvety feeling in your mouth. – Wine Country

Trip Tips

  • Start the trip in the morning. Wineries close at 5pm
  • Wear cotton and your sunnies. It can be very hot during fall.
  • Coffee Break at Dean and Deluca.
  • Have a designated driver who won’t drink. DUI isn’t cool.

Napa Valley will always be a place close to my heart. It will always hold a special memory in my psyche each time I take a sip of wine.  It will always be a place that I will remember with fondness and love. In life, there will be people in your life that will come and wander far … you will tend to forget … like wine kept in a cellar for long.  When it is the perfect time, they will come back, a little older, a little wiser but the essence will remain and this time they might stay. Just like aged wine, it will be at its best, at its finest when it finally touched your lips. Prost!

There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand. – Charles Morgan





This gallery contains 29 photos.

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Wine and Cheese Pairing

My work in progress … my search for the best pair … my journey into the world of unfamiliar aromas and taste  … my brave feat into the unknown … finding my perfect match …. join me in this travel 🙂


MERLOT is a “drink now” wine as most American Merlots do not benefit much from bottle aging. The tannin level is lower than that of the Cab.  Tannin contributes to the two characteristics of red wine : astringency and bitterness. Since it is lower in tannin, it is low in acidity and softness. For someone who is new in wine, this is a safe choice.  Descriptions of this wine are plum, cocoa/chocolate and black cherry/ berry.

SALUTE! This is versatile when it comes to food pairing: poultry, red meat, pork , pastas, salads. 

ADIEU!  Not to be paired with spicy food because the capsaicins (burning sensation produced by chili) can heighten the alcohol in this wine making it more tannic and bitter. Not for blue-veined cheeses because it can overpower the fruit flavour of Merlot.

GOUDA – this is a semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk which was 1st introduced to me even before I came to study and love cheese by Dr. Levy Jasul with a cheese slicer from Europe. This was named after a city in Netherlands.  There is nothing salty about this cheese. This is mild and creamy. This develops sweetness as it age.

 THE PAIRING: Merlot and Gouda goes well together simply because the cheese does not change its taste even if paired with this wine. It is still distinctly Gouda. The wine does not produce any change in its taste because the cheese is mild and not spicy. The mildness of the cheese does not overcome the taste of Merlot. This pair is subdued, safe and shy without shouting to the world they are a pair but in their quiet confidence knows that they are meant to be consummated now without waiting for ages.

Merlot and Gouda

Note: I experimented with Gouda and had with Slow-Roasted Tomato and Garlic Jam.  This is a good pairing as well with the wine.  This gives the ummphh in the cheese … propelling it to greater heights.

Gouda and Slow-Roasted Tomato and Garlic Jam by Artiste


RIESLING – most versatile in pairing . This is the “go-to” when it comes to white wine.  One of the top 3 wines sharing with Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc . This is a fruity and aromatic wine with the aromas of citrus fruits, apples, honey and peach.  This is known for its balance of acidity and sugar. This particular variety from Australia isn’t as sweet as the Sweet Riesling from Germany.


SALUTE: Can be paired with any blue cheese and Monterey Jack . This can also be paired with spicy foodlike Thai or Carribean or Tex-Mex or Chinese because this refreshes the palate.  This can also be paired with roasted pork, goose and salad with vinaigrette. Slightly sweet wine but have faily high levels of acidity that makes one salivate thus creating a cooling effect on the mouth.

ROQUEFORT – blue sheep’s milk from South of France. This white, tangy and slightly moist.  The French Blue that melts in your mouth. I am a lover of  blue cheese – an acquired taste for many .

Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort. – Wikipedia

When you are looking for something else … you might stumble upon something that you like. This is destiny.  It has been written in the stars and just waiting for that right moment to appear.  When it is there … you’d know it.

As the song goes … ” A thousand stars came into my system. I never knew how much I had missed them. Slap on the map of my heart you landed. I didn’t know I was looking for love until I found you.”  This is how my love affair with Roquefort aptly started.



Riesling and Roquefort – This white wine being the most versatile of all , one can never go wrong .  I’ve got a very spicy and adventurous taste in food … and I would love to make more moments with this wine.  Combined with Roquefort – this is a match made in heaven – the cheese is so tangy and crumbly and wine is citrusy and sweet.  Nothing would melt the Roquefort in my mouth better than with a Riesling.

Riesling and Roquefort



This is one very sweet wine , my sister’s fave but not mine.  I cringe at too much sweetness . This is dubbed as the “transitionary wine” … from white to red. It has 10% alcohol content which means that the wine fermentation stopped before the natural sugar of the fruit (grape) was able to convert it to alcohol … meaning it has a higher level of sugar. Levels to look out for 8-12%  and anything higher than that is not as sweet.

SALUTE: This can be enjoyed as an aperitif or with light pasta. Good also  with Crème Fraiche and Marscopone but for me best with a bleu.

Sweet Red Wine


Goes with the name Danablu in Denmark . This was the 1st bleu cheese that I came to love after I’ve known Roquefort … but is always a pleasure to go back to your 1st love … this is uncovering the core of what made you who you are and the feeling that made you happy the most .  You’d always find another love … a better one … but the soul and the palate never forgets. This is characterized by the blue veins and white to yellowish edible and moist rind .  Cow’s milk aged from 10 to 12 weeks .

Danish Bleu Cheese

THE PAIRING: Sweet Red Wine & Danish Bleu  – simply a very good pairing.  The sweet red wine’s red berry flavor which too saccharine for me is being dampen by the salty and sharp taste of the Bleu.  This is one perfect combination but let me warn you though , the love for this type of cheese is an acquired taste.



This is the world’s favorite white wine … the well-loved, the most popular.  This is rich and buttery , fresh and fruity . Originally, this came from the Burgudy Region of France and is also the most important component of the sparkling wine, Champagne.

SALUTE: This can be paired with roasted chicken, turket, seafood salad, mixed fish, white meat on rice and tender chicken breast. Other cheeses for a Chardonnay: Provolone, Brie, goat cheese, Gouda, Parmesan and  Gruyere .



This originated from Normandy, France.  This is a soft and creamy cow’s milk cheese.  This is left to ripen for 3 weeks as a small round cheese and mostly sold in thin wooden containers. This literally melts in your mouth.  The taste is subtle and with my taste buds that love bleu cheese … this is too subtle for me like cream cheese.


THE PAIRING: Chardonnay & Camembert : Elegant Subtlety .  This is nothing explosive about this tandem … but you know it is right.  This is stability without highs and lows … just pure unadulterated pair. 

Chardonnay & Camembert


Mostra Red Wine
Photo from Greek Wines & Beers

I found my RED WINE … in Greece.

Bright red color with red-violet streaks. Spicy notes prevail in the nose, clove, cinnamon. Soft in the mouth with good duration and balance. Sweet vanilla and cherry notes. – Tsilili

This is not tannic and acerbic … not too sweet as well . Just right for my palate.

FETA Cheese

Tangy , crumbly, salty but ranging from mild to sharp.


It had to be of the same origin … it is a marriage of 2 souls of the same lineage.  Nothing complicated … not much adjustment to do … it is stable, easy and just right.