The Napa Valley in general, and St. Helena in particular, is filled with exciting, different restaurants — perhaps no more so than renowned chef Cindy Pawlcyn’s BRASSICA restaurant.
Located just south of the town of St. Helena (approximately a 5-10 minute drive from the Wine Country Inn; formerly in the “Go Fish” building), Brassica features Pawlcyn’s takes on Mediterranean-style foods. The Wine Country Inn’s Front Desk team recently visited Brassica (we go in two groups, one group one night, the other a second night), and here are our favorites:
~ Eggplant fries (so different!)
~ Fried zucchini blossoms (delightful!)
~ Seared Haloumi cheese (yes, fried cheese that DOESN’T melt…)
~ Grilled Lamb T-Bone-ettes
~ Hummus with Ful
~ Tunisian Ling Cod
Brassica offers a full bar and an extensive wine list (more than 12 pages online!). And another “different” feature we like: Brassica offers more than 20 wines available in 2 oz, 5 oz, 500 ml, or 750 ml options. The “small pours” are particularly fun, letting folks try many different wines, or pair small pours with the restaurant’s small-plate appetizers.
Pawlcyn’s other Napa Valley restaurants include Mustards Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Brassica is one of the restaurants serviced by the Wine Country Inn’s Evening Restaurant Shuttle, which is complimentary to Wine Country Inn guests.
The Napa Valley isn’t all about fine wine and high cuisine. Just up the road from The Wine Country Inn, in the tiny town of Calistoga, is Buster’s Southern BarBeQue. Buster’s features an assortment of BBQed items including Tri-tip, ribs, chicken, pork, and hot links. Buster’s serves beer and wine, and has a covered eating area.
What causes more bubbles in a champagne glass? A taller glass? An older vintage? A dirtier glass?
Answer: the more bubbles there are in your champagne, the dirtier your glass is!
In a luxurious a palace, a glass of champagne sits upon a white tablecloth, strings of tiny bubbles gently trailing up to the surface. This immaculate and perfect décor, however, hides a little secret – the bubbles in this elegant drink are associated with impurities on the surface of the glass. In fact, every string of bubbles is caused by either a defect in the glass or a piece of dust or grime stuck to its surface. These imperfections trap the air when the champagne is poured, and then act as minuscule launching pads for the bubbles.
Carbon dioxide is dissolved in champagne because it is pressurized. The dissolution depends upon the pressure, and can be described in physics using Henry’s law. When the cork is popped, the pressure decreases and the champagne becomes saturated with carbon dioxide. The 10g of CO2 dissolved in a closed 75dl champagne bottle would occupy a volume of nearly five liters at ambient pressure. So why are dust particles needed for strings of bubbles to form in the glass? Every roughness or impurity on the surface of the glass imprisons a tiny pocket of air when the champagne is poured. The CO2 still trapped in the liquid is sucked into these air pockets, where it is liberated into a gas form. The bubble grows as more gas is added to it, until eventually it detaches and rises to the surface, leaving behind a small pocket of gas on the imperfection that acts as a new nucleus, relaunching the process. Thus a string of tiny bubbles ensues from a single point. Over time as the CO2 escapes to the surface, the saturation diminishes, and thus there are fewer bubbles.
The shape of the glass has little influence on the process. The age of the vintage, however, is generally associated with the size of the bubbles. Corks are not completely airtight, and over long periods of time, some CO2 will escape. This is why older champagnes form tinier bubbles; the lower pressure doesn’t allow them to create bigger ones. Since the best champagnes are the ones stored for several years, popular wisdom has it that the small bubbles are an indication of the quality of the vintage.
Champagne enthusiasts don’t stop at just tasting their object of their passion; they also describe its bubbles. They wax eloquent about their size, the trains they form, the patterns they form on the surface. So keep this in mind the next time you serve champagne on a special occasion, and don’t worry about getting every last speck of dust out of your champagne glasses!
Source: École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (A university in Switzerland)
At the Wine Country Inn, we love directing guests to the fantastic Napa Valley restaurants located a short drive from the Inn. One of our new favorites is Solbar, located approximately 10 minutes from Wine Country Inn, just outside of the town of Calistoga.
Solbar is led by Executive Chef Brandon Sharp, whose stints include working along side of Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. Solbar has a fantastic, modern decor with fireplaces and twinkling white lights. A Michelin one-star restaurant, the dining room is divided into two parts: to the left is formal dining area ideal for dinner, while to the right is a bar/lounge area that makes a more casual spot for a pre-dinner drink, or appetizers and small plates with friends.
Solbar has a full bar, and an extensive wine list, including many wines by the glass. We particularly like their bar menu, which consists of small plates such as miso mushroom soup, maitake mushroom pizza, korean style hot wings, and shrimp lettuce wraps.
Insider’s tip: Monday nights is “locals” night, so Solbar features certain cocktails, wines by the glass, and small plates at reduced rates.
Insider’s tip: If you do want to sit in the bar area, we recommend going early (before 6:00 p.m.), as it can fill up!
Insider’s tip: Solbar also has a great outdoor patio area, perfect for a summer evening cocktail!
And a reminder, our Wine Country Inn front desk is always ready to help you with reservations, directions, and other restaurant suggestions. Cheers!
We have received NUMEROUS requests for Chef Ryan’s Coffee BBQ Sauce, so here it is!
Chef Ryan’s Coffee BBQ Sauce. Great for Ribs, chicken, pulled pork, bbq pizza, and pretty much everything else you can imagine, including as a dip for hot links!
2 tbls butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
1 cup catsup
1 cup strong coffee
¾ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Jim’s smoked tomato paste (or use 1/3 cup tomato paste and tbl. Liquid smoke-also can add 2 chipotle peppers if you like more heat)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbls chili powder
1 tbls smoked paprika
2 tbls celery salt
2 tbls honey
2 tbls molasses
1 tbls mustard
Cook onion in butter until soft. Add garlic and jalapenos and cook until fragrant. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until nice and thick. If desired, whirl in food processor for a smoother texture.
During April, the Napa Valley will focus on the elemental connection between wine and the arts, incorporating many of the artists, curators and collectors that make up The Napa Valley Collection.™ In the charming towns spread throughout the Napa Valley, wineries, galleries, studios, performing arts venues and other businesses will serve up special arts-related offers and host art-and-wine events.
Here are four reasons to visit The Wine Country Inn in April:
* We will be featuring two local artists’ works in the Inn’s Common Room (see info below).
* In addition to art…wildflowers! April is a fanstatically colorful time of year in the Napa Valley, as wildflowers bloom along the roads and trails, and the grounds at Wine Country Inn begin to come alive with color and depth.
* Easy to get around! As it’s still “off season”, restaurant reservations and winery tours are easy to come by, making your stay as enjoyable as possible.
* Nearby wineries have special art and other displays throughout the month (see below).
At Wine Country Inn
Mark Mattioli lives in the town of Napa. He is an artist and illustrator with a self-proclaimed “whimsical point-of-view” about everyday things. “I create from my imagination,” Mattioli says. At the Inn we will have several of Mattioli’s hand-painted wooden wine cases on display.
Bay Area photographer Martin Delfino teamed with body painter Tina Merry to create an interpretation of the Four Seasons using four different models…covered only with body paint! Prep time for the hair, body paint, and makeup for each model took…four hours! Come see which “season” intrigues you the most.
In addition to our new art-at-the-Inn in April, here are several wineries located very close to the Wine Country Inn that feature unique art exhibits (or, as noted, interesting architecture):
Castello di Amorosa (architecture). Where else can you tour a 13th century, 107 room, Tuscan style Castle and Winery? Here, in the Napa Valley, only minutes from Wine Country Inn! (And they make great wine, too!)
Clos Pegase (architecture and art). The Postmodern design of Clos Pegase merges modern and ancient architecture with strong allusions to ancient Mediterranean themes, especially Crete. Within the wineries walls are impressive paintings by local artists.
Darioush (architecture). The Darious winery building comes after five years in the making, and combines materials, castings, and furnishings from distant lands and exotic locations. The 22,000 square foot winery, the first in America to combine architecture, design and Persian culture, provides a unique and exhilarating experience in California’s most renowned wine destination. Reminiscent of the great noble architecture that once existed, the imagery of the Darioush building evokes Persepolis, the illustrious capital of ancient Persia.
Far Niente. The Far Niente winery is surrounded by 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, thought by many to be among the most stunning landscapes in the Napa Valley. Described as “southern” in style, with an emphasis on texture and foliage, the highlight of the Far Niente gardens is the thousands of southern azaleas that bloom every spring, carpeting the estate in brilliant hues of bright red and deep pink. It is said to be the largest single planting of this particular variety of azalea in California, and possibly throughout all of the west coast.
Hess. Located in the historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, the winery first opened to the public in 1989. It since has earned international recognition for its wine, culinary and visitor programs, and provides free public access to Donald Hess’ extensive private contemporary Art Museum.
Markham Vineyards Enjoy a photographic retrospective of Rock n’ Roll’s biggest stars and events as captured by Baron Wolman and featured on the covers of Rolling Stone.
Mumm. Experience amazing photography exhibits in a spectacular winery setting. Rotating exhibits showcase the work of renowned international and local photographers throughout the year. Striking corridors paved with terra cotta tiles lead you through two world-class photography galleries. Guests may explore the Galleries at their leisure while enjoying a glass of wine from the Visitor Center.
Quixote(architecture). Here are the design rules which create the festive atmosphere that is Quixote: No straight lines; Roofs are planted with grass and trees; Every building is capped with a golden turret to elevate man’s sense of himself; Color is king.
Robert Mondavi. As an artist herself, Margrit Biever Mondavi has a history of supporting the arts and her personal love of painting led her to establish the rotating art collection in the Vineyard Room. Along with the rotating collection, the winery has a permanent collection of paintings. The first painting Margrit acquired for the winery was painted by local artist Guli Buchanan in 1967. It currently hangs over the fireplace in the winery’s Le Marche gift shop.
Turnbull. The Reserve Room Gallery, with its beautiful barrels, antique bar, and cathedral ceiling with exposed wood beams, is the perfect setting to taste our exceptional wines and view the winery’s latest fine art photography exhibit. Turnbull Wine Cellars has one of the largest permanent photography exhibition spaces on the West Coast. Each show features 60 to 90 original, privately-owned works by Master Photographers, including such notables as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Berenice Abbott, Eugene Atget, Andre Kertesz, Edward Steichen and Yousuf Karsh.
We hope to see you in April at The Wine Country Inn!
As we’ve stated previously, we want to share our excursions out to Napa Valley restaurants, wineries, and attractions, to help you during your next stay at The Wine Country Inn.
Today we talk about (er, rave about) Bottega Restaurant. Bottega is the brainchild from Napa boy and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello. It’s approximately a 15 minute drive from Wine Country Inn, but, in our opinion, well worth it!
Bottega does it ALL well: beautiful rustic decor; exceptional service; and award-winning Italian food. Among the items we tried included:
Polenta Under Glass, with caramelized mushrooms & balsamic game sauce (one of their signature items!), and
Red Wheat Tagliarini Bolognese, with veal, pork & porcini mushroom sugo, rosemary, and parmigiano reggiano.
Dessert was a chocolate “lava” cake that, as one of the wives proclaimed, was “TDF: To Die For!”
1. At first glance, the wines-by-the-glass prices seem very high (even compared to Napa Valley standards). But the wines come in a carafe which is really one-and-a-half or even one-and-three-quarters glasses of wine, making the price very reasonable.
2. Let the Bottega team know ahead of time if you are celebrating any special occasion. We were (a birthday), and they added several nice touches that really enhanced our dining experience.
3. Chiarello has a companion retail store next door, called Napa Style. You might want to schedule your reservation early in the evening, and then arrive at least 20 minutes early to peruse first Napa Style.
4. Try the Polenta Under Glass. It’s simply of the best dishes in the entire Napa Valley, period, end of story!
ST. HELENA, Calif. March 1, 2012 – The Wine Country Inn ─ known for its central Napa Valley location, romantic atmosphere, and stunning vineyard views ─ has a new chef: Ryan Geoghegan. The Napa native replaces the Innʼs former chef, Guy Aaronson, who retired in January.
Wine Country Inn innkeeper Jim Smith said that while it is difficult to say goodbye to Aaronson, who was a guest favorite during his 10 years at the Inn, the change will be beneficial to guests. “We get many, many repeat guests, and they are always looking for something new,” Smith explains. “While Chef Ryan will keep our tried-and-true recipes, Iʼm also asking him to ‛wowʼ us with new dishes for both breakfast and our afternoon wine social.”
Geoghegan, 32, has lived his entire life in Napa. He extensive cooking experience includes a four-year stint at a Napa B&B where he elevated the food offerings. “Iʼm an ambassador for Napa Valley,” Geoghegan states. “Iʼm excited to share with guests not only some new and creative dishes, but also my suggestions for the Valleyʼs best places to eat and drink.”
In addition to a love of cooking, Geogheganʼs hobbies include barbecuing/smoking meats, making homemade sausage, gardening, traveling, and music. He and the special lady in his life, Kelli, have a two-year-old, with a second child due in late March.
About The Wine Country Inn: Celebrating 35+ years of romance
Built and operated by the Smith family since 1975, The Wine Country Inn has been transformed from the Napa Valley’s first bed and breakfast inn into a magnificent Boutique Hotel. The Inn contains 24 distinctive rooms and five luxury cottages. Each guest stay includes a full gourmet breakfast and afternoon wine tasting. Guests also can avail themselves to spa services, local winery tours (50 wineries within five miles!), and a complimentary evening shuttle service to nearby restaurants (15 within five miles!). For more information, please visit www.winecountryinn.com.
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2012 has brought several new or revamped Napa Valley restaurants. With this in mind, Wine Country Inn Innkeeper Jim and Markering Director Tim have taken it upon themselves to visit these “new” places and report back our findings to our guests. Today we begin with La Condensa, open since December 2011 at 1320 Main Street in downtown St. Helen (home to the former AKA Bistro).
La Condesa (The Countess) is the brainchild of Jesse Herman and Delfo Trombetta, who opened a La Condesa several years ago in Austin, Texas. The food is fantastic: fresh, colorful, and full of flavor. Among the many things we have tried, we are particularly impressed with:
~ the Chifa Ceviche, with yellowtail Kingfish, thai chile, apple, orange, avocado, and a yuzu-lime dressing. While more sweet than tangy, the fish is startling fresh and the textures among the apple, orange, etc. fun. (Jim wouldn’t let them take the bowl away; he wanted to sop up the dressing with his tacos. To our waitress: we’re sorry about the stab marks he left in your hand with his fork.)
~ the Pescado (fish) tacos (pictured), with cabbage, salsa rojo, pico de gallo, and a wonderful chipolte mayo.
La Condesa offers a fun tasting experience, with four seasonal salsas, four different types of guacomole, and a large menu selection of soups, tortas (sandwiches) and main dishes. It has a full bar complete with many local wines and a selection of 2-3 dozen tequilas. It also has red or white sangrias available by the glass or pitcher.
Main dishes range in price from $12-$32. To check out their web site, visit LaCondesaNapaValley.com.
La Condensa is serviced by the Wine Country Inn’s evening restaurant shuttle, available free of charge to our Inn guests so that you can “leave the driving to us.”
The Wine Country Inn is proud to be listed on this international travel web site: Karen Brown’s World of Travel.
Here is a recipe for the Wine Country Inn “Tater Babies”, as developed by our Manager, Deniese.
5 lbs Red Creamers (walnut size)
1½ cups shredded jack cheese
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1½ cups crispy bacon crumbled
½ cup chives
3 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp garlic olive oil
¼ cup dark stoneground mustard.
1 tsp Worchester sauce
Prep potatoes by cutting in half and hollowing out centers.
In bowl, mix melted butter, oil and mustard. Put all potato skins in bowl and toss in mustard mixture making sure they are well coated.
Next, place cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees, until edges are crisp. Remove from oven and cool.
In a food processor, grind cheese small, then toss with bacon bits and chives. Stuff skins with generous amount of filling and place back onto cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes until cheese is well melted. Serve hot with sour cream.
The Wine Country Inn has announced a new Seasonal Spa Special: the Chocolate Kiss Massage and Body Exfoliation.
This is a wonderfully delightful, decadent — and relaxing — treatment, followed by our pink color bath. This treatment is available in both 90-minute or 2-hour segments now through April 30, 2012. For pricing or reservations, please call our spa line directly at (707) 967-8889, or send an email to email@example.com.
A Rich Spa History
With natural volcanic hot springs, St. Helena and Calistoga became two of the first spa resort towns on the West Coast. Following in that rich tradition, The Wine Country Inn has developed a menu of soothing and invigorating massage and bath treatments that can set the mood for a truly inspiring getaway. Our wonderful Napa Valley Spa Packages include such luxuries as deep tissue massage, aroma-therapy facials, salt and herb rubs, as well as scented and detoxifying candle-lit baths.
A gift certificate from the Wine Country Inn makes an ideal holiday present for loved ones (and family members!). Gift certificates are available for lodging, merchandise at the Inn, or can be applied to a spa service or the Inn’s Inn-cursion wine tour program.
To order your gift certificate, please contact our front desk staff by phone:
toll-free at 1-888-465-4608
One of our guests’ favorite attractions during their stay at the Wine Country Inn is to visit the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) – Greystone campus. The CIA is approximately one mile south of the Wine Country Inn.
CIA attractions are many, and include:
~ Cooking classes and demonstrations
~ Fantastic gift shop
~ Antique corkscrew collection
~ Daily chocolate and olive oil tastings
~ Daily tours
As well, the CIA-Napa Valley Campus also boasts the Greystone Restaurant.
For those attending a CIA class or workshop, please consider staying at the Wine Country Inn — we are the closest lodging to the CIA, and we offer CIA workshop/class members a 15% discount off of your lodging.
We are enjoying this T-shirt available at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) located just down the road from us. Note: in addition to great cooking classes, the CIA has a fantastic gift shop.
For you last-minute lodging seekers, The Wine Country Inn offers a 20% room rate discount mid-week (Sunday-Thursday) when you book your room 10 days or less from your first night’s stay. This special is subject to availability, cannot be combined with another lodging special, and is valid now through December 30, 2012.
To check availability or to make a reservation, please call (from a cell phone) 707-963-7077 or toll-free 888-465-4608.
Celebrate a Napa Valley New Year’s Eve in style: at the Wine Country Inn!
On December 31, 2011, we’ll host our third annual Wine Country Inn New Year’s Eve dinner. This special night will include a four-course Italian meal prepared by Executive Chef Roger Gafner and served family style in the Inn’s common room (complete with roaring fire), wine from our neighbors at Jessup Cellars, and a midnight champagne toast. Cost will be $175 per couple plus tax and gratuity (includes the meal, all wine, and the champagne toast).
To view the dinner menu, please click here.
Seating will be limited to 26 people (13 couples), so contact the Inn for reservations by calling either:
1-888-465-4608 or 707-963-7077.
Many of our guests love the idea of sharing a wonderful celebration with new and old friends…and then simply walking to their room. And we DON’T mark up our room rates: you pay the same off-season room rate as posted on our web site.
Chef Roger is an award-winning chef who specializes in Italian-American cuisine east coast style, as well as traditional regional Italian cuisines. He believes that cooking is essentially a sensual and intimate experience that stimulate all of the senses: stunning presentations, wonderful aromas, and the excitement of myriad flavors that play a symphony on the palate. He currently is the contributing editor for the Culinarian magazine, and serves as Executive Chef at Teldeschi Winery (Healdsburg, CA).
UPDATED NOVEMBER 8, 2011
We’re excited to announce the following as the Wine Country Inn New Year’s Eve dinner menu to be held Saturday, December, 31, 2011. Cost for this Napa Valley New Year’s Eve dinner is only $175 per couple (plus tax and gratuity), which includes the meal, all wine, and a midnight champagne toast.
Executive Chef Roger Gafner, an award winning chef from the San Francisco Bay Area and currently executive chef at Teldeschi Winery (Healdsburg, California), will be leading the dinner. Wines for this special Italian family-style dinner in the Inn’s Common Room (complete with roaring fire!) are from our friends at Jessup Cellars.
“Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Bruschetta”
Sourdough bread slices with wild mushrooms and goat cheese, garnished with lemon zest and chives.
Jessup wine: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley)
Braised Italian beef with arugula and aioli, and parmigiano-reggiano.
Jessup wine: 2008 Manny’s Blend (Napa Valley)
“Italian Wedding Soup”
Traditional Italian soup celebrating the “perfect marriage” between the meatballs and vegetables.
Jessup wine: 2008 Manny’s Blend (Napa Valley)
“Wild Mushroom Risotto”
Carnaroli rice, roasted shallots, garlic and mushroom medley of Shiitake, Matsutake, Chanterelle, Crimini, and Porcini.
Jessup wine: 2009 Pinot Noir (Russian River)
“Blanquette di Vitello”
Veal top sirloin with glazed pearl onions and wild mushroom ragout. Served with glazed carrots and potato medley.
Jessup wine: 2010 Chardonnay (Napa Valley)
“Grand Marnier Cheesecake”
Sable crust with Orange and Grand Marnier-infused custard, topped with orange curd. Served with candied orange peel and chocolate.
Jessup wine: 2007 Zinfandel Port (Napa Valley)
Note: There will be a vegetarian option for the main course–a Vegetarian Lasagna with semolina pasta, roasted vegetables, pomodora sauce, and whole milk mozzarella, ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano. Please state your vegetarian request WHEN MAKING YOUR RESERVATION.
Come, eat, enjoy!
For reservations, please call 1-888-465-4608 or 707-963-7077.
There’s a new event about to hit Napa Valley, and it’s going to be a fun one!
One month from now, the inaugural FLAVOR! Napa Valley event will kick-off. This is a four-day food, wine and fun event with locations throughout the Napa Valley. Many celebrity chefs and winemakers will be attending, including Thomas Keller, Michael Chiarello, and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
FLAVOR! will take place November 17-20, 2011, and tickets for various events are still available. And of this writing, the Wine Country Inn still has some availability during these dates.
If you’re been looking for a great excuse (or even a so-so one), to come experience Napa Valley, here is the reason to come!
The Wine Country Inn has created a new stay-and-spa special: the Total Decadence Package. This package includes:
~ A two-night stay in our best available Suite or Luxury Cottage
~ A two-hour couple’s massage treatment
~ Breakfast in bed
~ Our evening rose petal turndown service combined with our Brownie & Port nightcap.
This special begins October 30, 2011, and runs through March 29, 2012. For additional information and pricing, please visit our website.