Melissa Etheridge at Mondavi

When folks think about visiting the Napa Valley, visions of great wine, informative tours, fun wine tastings, and great food immediately spring to mind. Of course, all that is valid. The Napa Valley is one of the most visited sites in California, and those thoughts should come to mind. The setting is gorgeous with a vast array of grapevines dotting the landscape. Mountains surround the valley, which is only 30 miles long and 5 miles across at the widest point. The beauty is undeniable.

But it’s good to remember that there’s also a lot of great entertainment in Napa Valley. We were recently reminded of that when we attended a Melissa Etheridge concert at the Robert Mondavi Winery, as part of the winery’s summer concert series during July. The concert series also included performances by such notables as the Wallflowers, Phillip Phillips, Lyle Lovett, and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.

On the night we attended, we enjoyed a dinner in the vineyard followed by Melissa’s concert in an open air theater accompanied by quality wine! The weather was perfect, the dinner was excellent, and the crowd was relaxed and very friendly — sharing an appreciation for both the wine and the entertainer. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and enjoy the rocking sound of Melissa, who delivered on all of her hits and sang for two hours. It was an outstanding event!

This is just one of the wonderful entertainment experiences in the valley. Great music and performances abound in the area. This weekend, Mary Chapin Carpenter is performing at the Uptown Theater. This is a small and cozy venue in downtown Napa that has wonderful acoustics. We have explored other entertainment as well with performances at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, where Garrison Keillor was on tour. These specific performances may not be your choice, yet good talent and shows are a regular occurrence in the valley. BottleRock is another example – now a recurring event and that alone is a three-day, multi performer event.

Your visit to the valley can include great entertainment when you come. Here are some venues to explore the next time you plan a trip.

Uptown Theatre in Napa
Napa Valley Conservatory Theater
Napa Valley Opera House
Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater (We also saw Lilly Tomlin here in addition to Garrison Keillor)

These are just a few of the cultural and music venues that afford you entertainment when you are visiting. There is much to keep you entertained in this beautiful valley.



Value Buy for Under $9.00!

I did my quarterly shopping at Costco yesterday. As always, I browse the wine aisles. Costco is the number one retailer of wine in the U.S. You should also know that wherever I go — grocery stores, drug stores, it doesn’t matter — if they have wine, I am there reading the labels.

While at Costco, I picked up an old favorite – they still had some 2012 Tres Picos! I also found this little ‘potential’ gem. First, you should know I have adopted a philosophy that I will taste any value wines before I recommend them. While I appreciate the critics and the reviews, I want to make sure I can support the wine before sharing it with you.

So today’s little gem is from Columbia Crest. It is a red blend from the Horse Heaven AVA out of Washington State. The price at Costco is $8.99! This is a true value when one looks at the price. Also, Horse Heaven is an excellent AVA (American Viticulture Area).

It is in these economical value blends that the real artistry of the winemaker shows through. This is where their palate and sense of flavors come into play. What percentage of which grape will give this blend the best possible expression of the vineyard and please the consumer? That is their quest, and sometimes it may take 50 different variations and tastings to land on that final blend. Upon my first investigation this wine was deep in color with moderate weight. The nose was bright blackberry and cherry. There was smokiness and mild leather as well. It had a mild tannic structure with rich fruit and plum on the palate. I say this is a great drinking wine for during the week and would make an excellent party wine. I enjoyed tasting it and do recommend it for your pleasure.

Wine Spector Review
H3 Les Chevaux Horse Heaven Hills 2012

Score: 90
Release Price $15
Country Washington
Region Washington
Issue Dec 15, 2014
Tasting Note: Plush and generous, with blackberry and plum flavors on a velvety texture, deftly balanced with refined acidity and tannins that persist on the finish. Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and others. Drink now through 2017. 80,000 cases made. –HS



Auction Napa Valley 2015

The tents are down, the confetti has been picked up, and yet the memory still lingers. Auction Napa Valley was a phenomenal event that took place over four days, yet its impact will be felt throughout the year. This event is one that funds many, many charities throughout Napa Valley. The Napa Valley Vintners contribute proceeds from Auction Napa Valley to community health and children’s education throughout Napa Valley. This is an event that not only makes a difference for days, weeks, and throughout the year, but which can also make a difference for a lifetime for many.

The Auction is an event I look forward to every year. It can include, based on the ticket purchased, a welcome dinner, barrel auction, winery dinner, live auction and farewell brunch. Need I say, it’s all accompanied with great Napa Valley wine. This year, we attended dinner at St. Supery and enjoyed the ambiance and the wine. Having conversations with the owner and head of hospitality provided some insights for me into the “interactive wine experiences” offered at St. Supery, making it a must to return with friends. Learning and education are at the heart of their offerings – oh, yes, and fun drinking wine!

The main Auction event that I get myself ready for is the barrel auction. This year, the barrel auction was hosted by HALL St. Helena, which is a beautiful property. There were 120 barrels of wine that you could taste from. Each vintner donates 10 cases (12 bottles per case) from each barrel to the highest bidders. For me, it is a bit exciting just to compete with others for a case of wine from a barrel that holds exceptional future value for me.

Truly, one cannot taste through 120 barrels and maintain any ability to discern the quality of the wine – let alone be standing up! Here is where the pre-work comes in to the pursuit. The barrel auction is attended by thousands, and you do not want to be outbid and drop off the board. My approach is to establish a taste list. These are wines that I would like to have in my cellar and cannot purchase other ways. I also look for unique blends that will not be available commercially. Many of the vintners present lots that are exclusive for the auction. This year the Napa Valley Auction went electronic, which made it easier to stay on top of the bid boards. I could always be in touch with where I was on the board and know if I was in danger of falling off. Oh yes, and I always carry my spit cup. This is the only way I can maintain some clarity on the wine I am tasting.

This year, I walked away with two great wines. The first was Outpost, which is one of my favorite wineries. They presented their 2013 Immigrant Blend, which is cabernet franc and cabernet crafted by Thomas Rivers Brown, their winemaker. This is a deep, rich, complex wine with layers upon layers of flavors. The second lot was a case from Turnbull. This is a winery that has come a long way with their cabernet over the last several years, crafting textured, big wines with excellent fruit. Their winemaker, Peter Heitz, has had a big impact; and many wines garner big scores from the critics. I purchased a case of 2013 Cabernet from the Fortuna Vineyard.

There is much more to this event and look for more from future blogs. I was even lucky enough to be the high bidder on a lunch tasting with Kale Anderson. He is the winemaker for Pahlmeyer and has started his own label called Kale. He is noted as one of the up and coming winemakers in the Valley. I can hardly wait to have lunch and learn from him.

Awesome event – think about putting it on your calendar for 2016, it will be the first weekend in June.