The weekend before Thanksgiving I found myself in Napa to celebrate my girlfriends 50th birthday. While it wasn’t the best time to travel I couldn’t pass it up!

What do 6 girlfriends do in a short period of time for a celebration?  Plan our time and seek out new experiences. We are luck as Denise did all the planning and did a fantastic job. The pressure was on, since we were planning it for the meeting planner.


As you can see, we were not short on wine

Accommodations were first. Something that had to accommodate 6 ladies and centrally located. came through with a nice house in St. Helena on Main Street. ( To bad we didn’t have time to take advantage of the hot tub. The pool was just a bit to chilly.

Our first stop of the day was at White Hall Lane Winery for cooking school. Chef made us Chicken Saltimbocca, Lemon Risotto and Cabernet Chocolate Cake with Ganache.

A few take-aways from cooking school.

  • Slice chicken lengthwise then pound thin.
  • Cut basil on a slant and it won’t turn black as fast.
  • Carnaroli rice expands 12X (what was used in the recipe)
  • Arborio rice expnds 4X
  • Vialone Nano rice is what is used in rice salads
  • When baking, make sure your eggs are at room temperature before adding them to the mix
Then it was off to Goose & Gander for dinner. The atmosphere was great!  I had the Berkshire Pork T-Bone with Curried Spaetzle, Cauliflower, Fuji Apples, Candied Garlic, and Bacon Lardons. Delicious! Others had the cream of mushroom soup as an appetizer, that was amazing and I’m not a mushroom person.
Of course you can’t go to Napa and not go wine tasting.  We had set up two appointments on Saturday and a party at the Napa Valley Bistro on Sunday.
Wine tasting begins early and at 10:30 we were at Venge Vineyards whre they produce 6,500 cases annually. They have 30 acres planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Merlot.
The winery began in 1976 when Nils purchased a 17 acre vineyard in Oakville. Nils’ son Kirk caught the winemaking bug at and early age and in 2008 Kirk acquired full ownership of Venge Vineyards from his family.  Shortly after that he purchased a 12.5 acre vineyard in the foothills of hte Palisades Mountains in Calistoga, Bone Ash Vineyards.  This is where our tasting was held.
The three wines I liked the best were 
  • Venge 2013 Juliana Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.  Aged 6 months in neutral French oak, this wine had nice citrus and tangerine notes with a hint of spice on the finish SRP $37
  • Venge 2012 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon – This is a drink now Cabernet.  Red and black fruit, a little herbaceous with reduced tannins. SRP $50
  • Venge 2012 Bone Ash Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – This wine is produced from the vines right in front of the tasting room, unfined and unfiltered.  Nice vanilla and clove notes with a palate full of black fruit with a hint of minerality. This is a wine you will want to cellar for at least 5 years.  SRP $85
Next we picked up our lunch at Soda Canyon Deli which was at the base of the mountain we were about to climb to get to V12 Vineyards
The view from V12
V12 Vineyards is owned by Jimmy Vasser the Indy race car driver.  What does V12 stand for?  
  • V for Vasser Family
  • 12 was Jimmy’s racing number
  • V12 is the ultimate race car engine that gives power and a distinctive sound
  • 12 represents the 4 blocks of 4 clones planted on 4 different rootstocks on the estate
The wines I like here were
  • V12 2012 Carneros Chardonnay. Nice acidity with subtle hints of oak and tropical fruits. SRP $45
  • V12 2010 Reserve Cabernet. Of course I like the most expensive wine of the trip.  This is a wine to lay down for a few years.  Nice tannins and beautiful black fruit. SRP $175
After V12 we made a stop at Reynolds Family Vineyards so Diane could pick up her wine club shipment.  I was here back in March. What was different this time is that we got to barrel sample the Steadfast wine.  This wine selection is their best Cabernet and will be released in 2015.  You can only purchase it by the case for $2,000.  Currently there is a waiting list.  I will say the packaging is quite nice.

This pretty much took up most of our day.  I then got to meet up with Charlotte aka The Wine Key at Orin Swift in St. Helena while my friends went shopping.  It was great to meet up with a fellow wine blogger, educator and social media consultant.

As you can see, I had a day of wine tasting behind me with those purple teeth.

On Sunday we had a birthday party for the birthday girl at the Napa Valley Bistro.

It was a short weekend, but I loved every minute of hanging with my Cali girlfriends!