well not really! but twice now I have gotten emails from fodors that trip reviews I posted on their online forum are being featured in new travel guides!

email number one –

Congratulations! You were quoted in Fodor’s Toronto 2011 along with other travelers like you as a part of the guide’s “Word of Mouth” feature.

Each title in the Fodor’s Gold Guide series includes “Word of Mouth”—suggestions and tips from travelers on the Fodors.com forums and member reviews sections. We believe that the first-hand experiences of our members are a valuable addition to our guides. These stories and recommendations are a part of what makes Fodor’s guides unique.

Your quote appears in chapter Side Trips from Toronto


email number two –

Congratulations! You were quoted in Fodor’s San Francisco 2012 along with other travelers like you as a part of the guide’s “Word of Mouth” feature.

Each title in the Fodor’s Gold Guide series includes “Word of Mouth”—suggestions and tips from travelers on the Fodors.com forums and member reviews sections. We believe that the first-hand experiences of our members are a valuable addition to our guides. These stories and recommendations are a part of what makes Fodor’s guides unique.

Your quote appears in chapter On the Waterfront.

as a reward I get two free fodors travel guides of my choosing! too bad I have no where to go and no trips planned!



Provincetown and the Outer Cape

in May 2010 – we spent a week at our cape house, just so I could be a tourist instead of trying to blend in all summer as local! got to go and see some towns and places I always wanted to visit finally!

Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod
Route 6A, North Truro
Chris and I went in for a tasting. as we were driving through on our way to PTown. they have a cute gift shop. the tasting was outside which was nice since it was gorgeous out. it was a seated tasting and the lady came by to pour your selections. it’s $8 for 5 tastes and a glass to take home. there are 10 wines on the tasting sheet. so we did all ten sharing each one as we went. we wound up buying the cranberry red (red wine with cranberry), very cape cod, in a lighthouse shaped bottle, thought it wouldn’t be good but it was really good. also bought the triumph, which is a red blend. everything else was pretty good too but those stood out. they had something else in a lighthouse bottle called diamond white, it was crisp and refreshing like eating a grape.

Karoo Kafe
338 Commercial St, Provincetown
stopped in here for a quick lunch. great outdoor seating. awesome staff. had the veggie combo app. 2 kibbe balls, 2 falafel balls, 2 grape leaves and 2 veg samosas. came with their chutney and lemon tahini. it was very good! I especially liked the kibbe balls (veg pumpkin)and the samosas. they chutney was really really good. Chris had the wings app with their peri peri sauce. nice spice! but not hot. also two of the ribs with the monkey gland sauce. also tasty. would love to go back for dinner and try some of the entrees

Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum
High Pole Hill Rd, Provincetown
definitely a worthwhile stop. $7 fee gets you in the tower and in the museum. the museum is cute with various pilgrim info and also other cape related stuff. little gift shop area too. the bathrooms are super nice. the tower climb isn’t too bad. the massive stone keeps it cool. not a lot of stairs, mostly ramps. on the way up you can see names of MA towns etched into the stone. the view from the top is great. wish there weren’t so many grates and bars on the windows though. it was a clear day so you could really see pretty far. nice to sit on the benches at the top. what was really a plus was the parking lot. it was free, and we wound up leaving our car there all day without issue. no signs or anything saying you couldn’t. maybe cause it’s off season?

Dune Shacks Trail
Snail Road at Route 6, Provincetown
OK so this was crazy. I had no idea what we were in for. I read in a bunch of books about the dune shacks. I had no idea how hard the trek out to them would be. Basically you pull onto snail road off of route 6 and park along the road. there is room for about 3 cars at the “entrance” to the opening but there were cars parked across 6 along snail road too. you then hike up a huge steep dune, then many many crests/dunes of sand until you finally make it to see some shacks and the water. the beach is basically deserted. it felt like I was in the desert walking to that beach. it was strenuous, but in a good way. so much sand. beautiful views though, and such a sense of openness and sereneness. but do you know how difficult it is to hike up a huge pile of sand?! with the sun blaring down, barefoot, feet being sucked down, like treading water for what seemed like an eternity! the beach was gorgeous though. and there was a bunch of areas for the pipers roped off as it was nesting season. passed about 5 dune shacks (there are supposed to be 17 in that area). saw some people living in them too. amazing. the beach was full of flies though. which was annoying. you wouldn’t see them. then you would lay down for a while and feel them all over you. the water was freezing!!!!!!! so cold couldn’t go in. I have no idea what the name of this beach was. I did however see a seal!!!!! it was bobbing up and down in the water swimming quite close to shore. I was able to watch it for a while before I lost sight of it. apparently I have now learned that you can also reach the shacks by walking east from Race Point Beach. (according to an explorer’s guide cape cod by Kim Grant). that might be an easier route!

the long walk!

Twist’d Sisters
293 Commercial St, Provincetown
stopped in for some ice cream while strolling commerical street. wound up getting a milkshake and Chris got a frappe. very good. the woman working the ice cream counter was super nice. the pizza looked tasty.

The Squealing Pig
335 Commercial St, Provincetown
stopped in here for a quick drink before dinner. sat at the bar. bartender was great! had some beer and then left. the food looked really good and it was busy. nice mixed crowd

Lobster Pot
321 Commercial St, Provincetown
nice view. had the Portugese soup to start. Chris had the chowder (as part of his clambake) both were really good. then came the salad, they give you 5 dressings they make in house. a bleu cheese, a garlic ranch, and lemon and a sesame something or other. they recommend mixing the garlic with the sesame, which we did and it was really tasty. I am sure it was also the most fattening salad dressing I’ve consumed in some time. I think the lemon dressing was also really good, clean and fresh. Chris enjoyed his lobster, came with a potato (which he couldn’t eat), corn and mussels. the mussels had a tomato like sauce on them which was tasty. I had grilled salmon with lemon caper butter and orzo. it was just OK. I think I am so used to eating wild coho and sockeye salmon at home and I suspect this was Atlantic salmon, as it was very light pink and not as flavorful. the lemon caper butter was great. the orzo was just OK. it had some random veggies in it, but not much flavor. Our waiter was super nice, and cracked jokes all the time, but was funny not annoying.

on a separate trip – summer 2008?
Beachcomber of Wellfleet
1120 Cahoon Hollow Rd, Wellfleet
really great spot for a show. saw my loved state radio here on a nice summer night. great space. really felt like a party than a concert. bar was great, well run. attentive. love that it is right on the beach too. looking forward to seeing more bands play here.

Martha’s Vineyard

in May 2010 – we spent a week at our cape house, just so I could be a tourist instead of trying to blend in all summer as local! got to go and see some towns and places I always wanted to visit finally!

Steamship Authority
parking was at the palmer lot. which is the closest but yet still felt like a long shuttle bus ride to the dock. ticket office was well run. as soon as we got off the bus and the line filled up they immediately opened a second cashier. but seriously $12 for parking seems a bit much considering you only need to pay $15 for your ferry ticket, which is a great deal, considering all the more expensive alternatives. this really is the best deal still. I love how they have tables, booths, individuals comfy seats, etc. lots of places and different set ups to choose for seating. the bathrooms were clean too. the boat ran a bit behind though, about 15 – 20 minutes late to dock at oak bluffs. but return trip was on time. plus the shuttle buses were waiting as soon as we got off.

Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority
seriously this system is lacking!!! we didn’t want the hassle of bringing the car over on the ferry or renting one. big mistake. sure it would have cost more, but we would have been able to do more, and not have wasted so much time waiting. we did still manage to take a lot of buses. went from OB to VH to Mensemsha to Aquinnah, back to VH to OB and then back to VH again. but it was painful. my husband and I joked that it was WORSE than Italy, but at least in Italy, it’s understood and accepted, it’s just part of life. and the people are nicer.

here are some positive points.
1. nice ladies at the main oak bluffs stop and vineyard haven stop to sell you tickets, give you a map and let you know what bus to take.
2. $7 for an all day pass is pretty good
3. some of the drivers are nice, asked where you wanted to go, let you know where to get off, when your next bus was coming, etc.
4. being able to pay cash on the bus for one ride or buy a pass.

now for the bad stuff.
1. for such a tiny place – they could do this way more efficiently. don’t they want visitors to be able to get around in a better way, and therefore spend their time more effectively (spend more money?!?! do more things?!?!). it looks like a 3 year old took different color crayons and scribbled on a map of Martha’s Vineyard. then someone said hey lets just use that as our bus map and routes! seriously it made no sense! 13 different bus routes for one tiny place. I overheard a girl who said she goes to the vineyard every summer, on the bus talking to a local, saying she loves how great the buses are and that she was recently in NYC and was so overwhelmed with the trains! what!!!!??? at least the trains in NYC make sense! any one can clearly look at a map and get where they need to go in a efficient matter. plus these buses just never synced up. you would get to where you needed to transfer to the next line and it wasn’t coming for at least another 40 minutes. major sites of connections should run closer in time. and they should all just make more sense. you do not need 13 lines, maybe just about half and make the routes make more sense!

2. some of the drivers were just rude. not offering info, not being helpful, not announcing stops and things, etc. one started driving just as a lady holding a baby and a carriage was getting on and trying to walk to a seat. couldn’t they wait until the lady got to her seat. she almost fell over, with a tiny baby.

Ocean Park
this is the heart of Oak Bluffs. First place you see getting off the Ferry and where you wait for the bus. A great expense of green, with a gazebo and beautiful views all around, whether you are looking at the water or the gorgeous houses that surround you.

The Bite
29 Basin Rd
Menemsha, MA
this place rocks! you walk up. check out the menu. order at the screen door and then you pick it up when they call your name. can choose from small, medium or large paper containers. we got a small fried clams, small fried squid and a small fried zucchini. service was super quick. it was pretty busy and it is just May! I can’t imagine what it is like a the height of the summer. they have some picnic tables to eat at, or just down the block is the beach. everything was super tasty and cooked well. wish I could’ve tried everything. the people are super nice too. I gave them my SIGG bottle and they filled it up with water., no questions asked. they are some machines there to buy soda, etc but they don’t sell drinks otherwise.

we hung out at Menemsha Harbor for a while after eating!

Aquinnah Cliffs
this is the at the far end of Martha’s Vineyard. You need to take the #5 bus to get there. you have to take another bus from VH or OB just to get to the #5, so it isn’t a quick trip. There are a few shops selling touristy stuff right before you get to the overlook point and some places to get some food. the bathroom is 50 cents to use. you really don’t need to spend a huge amount of time here, unless you are also going out to the Lighthouse. We were able to get off the bus and then return to the bus to leave 10 minutes later. which is a good plan otherwise you get stuck waiting for the next bus which in our case was over an hour. so it was 10 minutes there or over an hour waiting there for a bus. so 10 minutes it was and that was perfect. enough time to stand and admire the beauty of the cliffs and take some pictures of the cliffs and the lighthouse. definitely worth making the trip for. a gorgeous site for sure.

some background info from the Wampanoag Tribe –
THE AQUINNAH CLIFFS are composed of one hundred and fifty feet of sediment from six glaciers – including red and white clays, green sands, white quartz, black organic soil, and lignite. They tell the story of the past hundred million years one colorful layer at a time. The streaks of red in the Cliff are from the blood of whales that Moshup would drag onto the Cliffs to cook. The discarded remains from his table are now fossilized deep in the clay. To the Wampanoag, the Aquinnah Cliffs are a sacred spot for the very reason that Moshup chose this special place as his home – they are a watchful place of great bounties.

Before there was even a paved road, the Aquinnah Cliffs were a destination for tourists traveling by land or sea. From far and wide people came to see the colored cliffs and the famous lighthouse with its Fresnel Lens. In the late 1800s, visitors came into Aquinnah (then Gay Head) by ship and then were driven in ox carts to see the lighthouse or dine in one of the many restaurants offering lobster dinners. The allure of the area is no less today than it was then (though the trip is less arduous since the roads were paved in the 1920s!) One hundred years later, visitors are still coming from faraway places to see the unmatched beauty of the Aquinnah Cliffs. All businesses located on the Cliffs are owned by tribal members and continue to serve visitors and provide for their needs from April to November.

Offshore Ale Co
30 Kennebec Ave
Oak Bluffs, MA
grab some peanuts when you walk in. had the veggie quesadilla, made in the wood fire oven. really tasty and huge! Chris had the burger with cheese and grilled onions, he loved it. but the beer really is good! I had the harvest ale and the hop goddess. I so love my hops, and the hop goddess really fit the bill. it was outstanding. Chris had their belgian and their barley wine. both really good. He really raved about the belgian. Waitress was really nice. The pizzas looked really good too!!

Mad Martha’s Ice Cream
20 Union St
Vineyard Haven, MA
some many yummy sounding flavors. I had the reeses cream. basically just vanilla-ish ice cream with crushed reeses peanut butter cups mixed in. was really yummy. I do love my resses PB cups so much. Chris liked what he had too. definitely and essential stop on any trip to MV.

march 2010 – maple sugaring in Vermont

Seems people around here harvest the sap from the “sugarbushes” and make the maple syrup right out in the open in front of you. They open the doors to their farms and invite you to come watch. Plus they do insane things like have huge pancake breakfasts and something called sugar on snow!! what is just so crazy is that each tap will yield an average of 10 gallons of sap per season, producing about one quart of maple syrup. Or, to put it another way, it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. amazing! here are some other facts about maple syrup

Sugar on Snow info –

great website listing Sugar Houses participating in the open house for Vermont

where we stayed – Green Mountain Inn – 18 Main Street, Stowe, Vermont
we had a gorgeous luxury room. huge king size canopy bed. huge jacuzzi right near the bed. fireplace. large bathroom with large shower. very clean. nicely decorated. desk area. large closet. fridge. everything you could need. a bit far from the highway. but easy to get to. staff was friendly. never used housekeeping or any of their other amenities. the restaurant – the whip – is supposed to be good. it was $189 per night plus a ridiculous amount of taxes/fees. loved it. perfect for a new england long weekend. would love to stay again but for this kind of trip and where we went would have been better to stay closer to an entrance for 89, and/or in burlington.

Friday March 26, 2010

Maple Sugar & Vermont Spice – 43 US Route 4, Mendon, Vermont
restaurant and sugarhouse, yummy pumpkin pancakes and omelet with maple sausage and vermont cheddar! good coffee. friendly servers. cute little shop downstairs. our first stop for maple syrup. would love to go back and try all the different pancakes!

Morse Farm Sugar Works – 1168 County Road, Montpelier
went into the sugar house saw the machine in action. some cute displays with info about sugaring. cute little shop as well. taste testing. maple trail looked nice but we were too cold for a walk!

Bragg Farm – 1005 Vt Route 14 South, East Montpelier
this is where we had our first ever Sugar on Snow. cute little shop. taste testing. nice ice cream parlor/sit down area.

Cabot Annex Store – 2657 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center
free samples of all the cabot cheeses, like a million different kinds. some cheese spreads, salsas and other items. tasting for $6 at the Snow Farm Winery tasting corner. Lake Champlain Chocolates is also in the same complex. some yummy chocolate samples.

Magic Hat Brewery – 5 Bartlett Bay Road, South Burlington. free tour and tasting of most of their beers. standard beer tour. great beers! had most of them before. lucky kat is a fav. the vinyl and notion are newer and awesome.

Drink – 135 St Paul St, Burlington
we stopped in here waiting for our table at flatbread. had a cosmo, cause it was the special and discounted $4. it was standard. it was early in the night. bet the place livens up a bit after.

American Flatbread – 115 Saint Paul Street, Burlington. pizza with pulled lamb shoulder, vermont cheddar and bacon bbq sauce. yum! had some great beers too. long wait for a table on a friday night!

Saturday March 27, 2010

Vermont Trade Winds Farm – 1639 Route 74, Shoreham
we went here and had their pancake breakfast. really tiny place in comparison to other sugarhouses we visited. it was really a small family operation. super nice people. a little in the middle of no where. so it took us a bit to get there. the syrup was great. as well as the pancakes! but the maple sausage was the best thing. like how the use wood, already on hand, that would be used for other purposes, to burn for the syrup machine. (rather that the ton of oil other places use). the had samples of their maple walnuts, candy, donuts and other things. everything tasted great!

Robert Frost Interpretive Trail – From Middlebury, travel south on Route 7 to where it intersects with Route 125. Travel east on Route 125 for 5.8 miles. The parking area is on the right. we finally found it, started walking and just a few minutes in found out the trail is closed! and has been closed since aug 2008 when there was a huge flood. still hasn’t been repaired. we tried to go past the fence where it was closed off but had to stop because there was water and a bridge and the bridge did not look safe to cross. too bad! I love Robert Frost and was looking forward to reading excerpts while walking.

otter creek – 793 Exchange Street, Middlebury
stopped in to the tasting bar at otter creek. tasted a good amount of their beers. totally free. loved the oatmeal stout and spring ale. love the wolavers organic line as well. they’ve been brewing organic for like forever. which is awesome.

Shelburne Farms – 1611 Harbor Rd, Shelburne. huge place. great activities. watched a tree tapping. large sugar house for viewing boiling. farm animals! the baby lambs had recently been born. they said there was about 100 of them. also chickens roaming near the barn, I got to hold one. some goats and llamas were around too. really liked this place. they have family events all the time. would love to stay at their Inn at some point. their store had lots of cheeses and things to sample. loved the 3 year cheddar, bought the tractor cheddar home!

Ben & Jerry’s – 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury. we stopped in but the tour ($3) was sold out and we couldn’t wait 30+ minutes for the next one. the ice cream line was super long, so we skipped that too. we can get B&J’s at home so we figured it was OK to skip this. we did browse the info in the long hallway which was a good self guided tour in itself.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill, 3600 Waterbury-Stowe Road, (Route 100), Waterbury Center. stopped by for some cider donuts, featured in Gourmet Magazine as one of the top four donuts in the country. 50 cents each. yummy! free apple cider samples, also yummy. cute shop with lots of different maple and apple items, as well as jams, jellies, sauces, etc.

Rock Art Brewery – 254 Wilkins Street, Morrisville
Tasting with purchase of a $3 souvenir glass with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity. tasted a good amount of their beers. nice people. small brewery. had out some great locally made jalapeno chips for munching.

Trattoria Delia – 152 Saint Paul Street, Burlington. calamari, antipasti misti, gnocchi with braised wild boar and gnocchi with sweet sausage and cream. yummy!!!!!!! awesome meal. great place. we went on Fri hoping to eat, but they were totally packed. so we made reservations for the following night. sat at the wine bar to eat. which was nice.

Nectars – 188 Main Street, Burlington
we went to nectars just to see the place, since this is where phish got its start. had a few beers. oddly enough their was a country band playing. not so fun.

Sunday March 28, 2010
Dakin Farm – 5797 Route 7, Ferrisburgh
we went here for their pancake breakfast. bigger place but super packed! great huge pancakes, sausage (links and patties), bacon and fruit. coffee too. delicious! so many locals where there. almost everyone in line seemed like they had been there before. samples of syrup, smoked meats, cheese, jams/jellies, etc. large store.

Sugarbush Farm – 591 Sugarbush Farm Road, Woodstock
this place was a bit in the middle of no where. down a long unpaved drive. sloshy with mud. felt like I was driving in snow! beautiful sleigh horses out back. interesting sugar house. great guy working in there, willing to talk and really educate you. inside the store they gave you samples of the different grades of syrup & maple products, 15 kinds of cheese. Maple trail to walk. cute Farmhouse store. we bought some aged cheddar. my one grip is for such a farm like place, with all homemade things, we bought two sodas in glass bottles with a sugarbush label on it thinking if was made there and not full of nasty stuff. well when we got to the car and read the label we realized it was imported from somewhere else and was full of high fructose corn syrup. disappointing.

King Arthur Flour – 135 US Route 5 South, Norwich. awesome store! bought semolina and buttermilk pancake mix. so many different baking items, ingredients and flours. walked around looking at everything. they have cooking classes too. glad this is very south in vermont near NH so I can definitely make a trip again soon! I wanted everything.

in case you want to go maple sugaring in other states:

for New Hampshire
Parker’s Maple Barn – Mason, NH

for Western Mass
Hay Bale cafe – Westhampton, MA
Davenport’s – MA

November 2009 – San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma – pics coming soon!!

Saturday November 14th, 2009

-We flew United from Boston to San Francisco. It’s a long flight! Plus we were tired, having been up for over 24 hours! But we survived and made it! SFO is a nice airport. We arrived, got our bags, made it on the Air Train to the terminal where rental cars are picked up. Went to Dollar and got our car. I think it was a Kia. Was a pretty great car. $200. Then we set off for Napa! Driving to Napa was easy. Luckily Chris had just got the droid which has GPS. We took the Bay Bridge. Not a beautiful bridge but it was fine!

-checked in to the hotel- Best Western Elm House Inn, 800 California Blvd, Napa $430 including taxes/fees for 3 nights. Wow this place is great! Friendly staff. Small B&B feel. Very clean. Easy parking. Great downtown Napa location. Gorgeous fireplace in the main room. Breakfast was awesome. Nice fresh items, homemade muffins and breads, fruit and yogurt parfaits. They make waffles for you that are delicious! Also hot apple cider and fresh baked treats in the evening. Our room was large, with a nice king size bed. Everything we needed, including a fridge. The TV in our room was in an awkward place, really my only complaint which is not a big deal, unless you plan on watching a lot of TV. Got a great deal through their website. Can’t imagine spending double to stay in a different hotel in the same area, totally not worth it! This place was perfect for being on a budget but not settling for less than the best.

– wandered around the oxbow public market, 610 1st St, Napa
great little stands and shops with local food and unique items. really wanted Kara’s cupcakes and three twins ice cream! browsed at the oxbow wine merchant. ate at pica pica.

– lunch – pica pica maize kitchen at oxbow, 610 1st St, Napa
different and delicious, Venezuelan food. First you chose a corn bread and then a filling. I had a cachapa, a sweet corn pancake, filled with pernil (pulled pork, tomatoes, avocado and aioli), it was really good! Chris had the maize’wich, sweet corn bread with pelu’a (skirt steak and cheddar cheese(. also tasty. would have loved to go back and try some of the other items. especially the yucca fries or sweet plantains. we sat at a large table near their bar, and the other people eating had the fries and they looked and smelled amazing!

Artesa, 1345 Henry Rd, Napa
tasting $10.
I am unfortunately blanking on what was tasted. I do recall loving the Chardonnay, which is odd, as I am not a fan of white wine. I remember it being very different, buttery and rich. Beautiful grounds, breathtaking views. Large tasting room/bar. Lovely terrace off the main room to sit, drink and admire the view. Private room for members to taste. Cute gift shop.

Chimney Rock, 5350 Silverado Trail, Napa
tasting $25 we tasted:
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Elevage
2006 Elevage
our pourer was a lovely older woman. very friendly, knowledgeable and gave great descriptions of the wines. I loved the Elevage so much, that in the end she let me get an extra taste of the different year. Would have bought it if it wasn’t so expensive ($76) and if it was towards the end of our trip. the grounds were lovely. the building itself quite picturesque, and different/unexpected.

Uncorked at Oxbow, 605 First St, Napa
Bruce Ahnfeldt and Celeste Carducci
purchased – 2006 Provocative Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $22
our tasting was free, and we tasted almost everything they had to offer. we tasted:
2004 Ahnfeldt Cabernet Sauvignon White label $59.00
2006 Provocative Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $22.00
2005 Quid Pro Quo $49.00
2005 Ahnfeldt Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $39.00
2005 Ahnfeldt Napa Valley Merlot $34.00
2005 Ahnfeldt Napa Valley Syrah $25.00
2006 Ahnfeldt Napa Valley Cabernet Franc $34.00
2006 Ahnfeldt Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc $14.50
it’s a little wine shop/tasting room across from oxbow public market. They must have newly opened. Watched a slide show of the renovations of the house we were in. They really did a lot of work! Very friendly people and a great little business! Bruce and Celeste were down to earth and made every person that came in feel comfortable, never intimidating. They had out delicious dark chocolate with cherries in it that tasted amazing with the wine. Wish I remembered where the chocolate was from, it was local. Was the perfect way to start our first night in Napa.

-dinner – Tra Vigne, 1050 Charter Oak Ave, St Helena
Made reservations in advance via open table. Shared the arugula and fig pizza as an appetizer, it was huge and delicious! I had the butternut squash ravioli, which was decadent. Chris had fettuccine with lamb ragu, which he loved. I think we had two glasses of wine as well. total $78. it was very busy. our server was always attentive. service was actually quite quick. unfortunately we were sitting next to a table of the loudest, rudest, most obnoxious people. so that took away from the experience.

Sunday November 15th, 2009

frank family, 1091 Larkmead Ln, Calistoga
tasting $10 and you had to pay it before even walking in the door. we tasted:
champagne blanc de blanc
champagne rouge
2007 chardonnay napa valley
2007 zinfandel
2007 reserve zinfandel
2006 napa valley cabernet sauvignon
there was a sparkling wine tasting at the entrance. then on to the back room for the still wines. the pourer was talkative but not about the wines so much. he kept talking to an older couple about their kids at school. boring. the champagne rouge was pinot noir based which was different and delicious. the zinfandel’s were good but pricey compared to how they tasted.

rombauer, 3522 Silverado Trail, Saint Helena
purchased – 2007 Rombauer Zinfandel $28
tasting free? or not charged because of our purchase? we tasted:
2008 carneros chardonnay $32
2006 carneros merlot $32
2005 Napa valley cabernet sauvignon $42
2007 rombauer zinfandel $28
I really liked Rombauer. the pourer was an older woman, very friendly. the zinfandel was outstanding, one of my favorites from the whole trip! it was busy here, but there were two bars to taste at (same wines) so that helped. also Irma Rombauer that wrote the Joy of Cooking is related and they sell copies of the cookbook there. Lots of pictures of sports figures and some celebs. Grounds were gorgeous and beautifully decorated for fall. Great view from the terrace.

freemark abbey, 3022 St. Helena Highway North, St. Helena
classic tasting $10 with choice of 4 wines of their current releases.
I think we tasted the Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
I recall really wanting to buy one of the wines. However they only refunded your tasting fee if you bought 2 wines. We really only wanted one and were limited on how many to buy since we had to get them home. Chris asked if we could get 1/2 a credit for just buying one and they said no. Which really is just bad business. Ridiculous that everyone in Napa charges $10 or more per tasting to begin with, but if they are willing to credit $10 back for buying 2 wines, why not credit $5 for buying one? so even though we really liked the wine, we didn’t buy it out of principal!

V. Sattui, 1111 White Lane, St. Helena
purchased a case – $300 including taxes/fees/shipping, 2 – off dry riesling ($15.94), 4 – 2007 Sattui Family Red ($13.39), 6 – 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($27.20)
we had passes for 2 free tastings, but the tasting is only $5 I think. we tasted:
2007 off dry johannisberg riesling
gamay rouge
sattui family red
sattui family cabernet
napa valley cabernet
bar 49 zinfandel
Had a great pourer named Dave, who was hilarious. Tasted almost all of the reds they had. this place is huge. has a great deli shop. so many cheeses! and other great food items. sure it’s a larger scale operation, but the wines were still good, and awesome for the price.

-lunch @V. Sattui, got some items from the shop and ate outside on the grounds at a picnic table. Chris had a grilled meatball panini. We shared arancini. I had a huge sausage stuffed portabella mushroom, and a nice mix of olives on the side. Everything was divine! they sell little prepackaged sets of plates, napkins, cups and silverware for two people. total $30

Del Dotto, 1055 Atlas Peak Road, Napa
We reserved the cave barrel tasting in advance for $40 each. well worth the price!
we tasted:
2005 Cave Blend $49 at tasting bar before the cave tour
2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese – fall 2009 release $49
2006 Rebound Red Cabernet Sauvignon $35
2007 Lot B2 Cabernet Sauvignon – bottled end of November 2009 $85
2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc futures release April 2010 $69
2007 Lot ST Limousin Cabernet Sauvignon – end of November 2009 release $85
barrel comparison:
2007 Rutherford Estate Missouri U-Stave Cabernet Sauvignon – fall 2009 release $125
2007 Rutherford Estate Centre Sylvain Cabernet Sauvignon – fall 2009 release $125
after the cave tour cheese, salami, chocolate truffles and zinfandel port $75
This was by far the coolest and most unique wine tasting we have done. Tasting right out of the barrels was different. The wines were all so delicious. It was especially great to taste cabernet from american oak and french oak alongside each other to compare. the Rebound Red was one of my favorites as well as the zinfandel port.

downtown joe’s, 902 Main Street, Napa
we were only there for a short time. God forbid we miss football on a Sunday even on vacation. there were actually a few other Patriots fans there to watch the game too. only stayed until half time. had the spinach and artichoke dip, which was standard but quite good. Beers were great. Nice change from drinking wine all day!

-had reservations at Bottega, 6525 Washington Street, Yountville, but we were so full and tired from the day that we canceled. too bad because the menu sounded delicious!

Monday November 16th, 2009

Goosecross, 1119 State Lane, Yountville
tasting $10. we tasted:
2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet
2006 Napa Valley Syrah
2006 Napa Valley AmerItal VI
2006 Napa Valley Cabernet
lovely little vineyard. friendly staff. small production. beautiful grounds. unique wine gifts, etched bottles and chocolate dipped bottles. really enjoyed the Amerital.

peju province, 8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford
purchased – 2008 Provence $22, 2006 Zinfandel Napa Valley $28
tasting $10 complimentary if buying wine.
it was certainly a plentiful tasting, I think we tried the majority of their wines! the pouring never ended. we had the place pretty much to ourselves as well which was nice! very generous pours. everything was really good. I wanted to join the wine club, but sadly didn’t. the provence was unique, a red white blend that was surprisingly really good! the zinfandel was one of my most favorites of the trip, and I so love the zin!!!! the grounds were gorgeous. I loved the sculptures and fountains outside. Even the outside of the building was beautiful.

st supery, 8440 St Helena Hwy, Rutherford
Tasting $15, we tasted:
2008 Sauvingon Blanc
2003 Merlot
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
2005 Elu
2008 Moscato
great free self guided tour. especially loved the smell stations! was great to really see how things worked. the artwork adorning the walls was amazing. outside at the demonstration vineyards you could see the various different ways the vines are grown and trained and why. the bottle labels are also beautiful and interesting. Especially liked the Elu wine and the Moscato was tasty too.

-lunch @taylors refresher, 933 Main Street, St Helena
we had the Wisconsin Sourdough 9.99, Western Bacon Burger 9.99, and Garlic Fries 3.99. everything was so delicious. one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. tons of garlic in the fries, so yummy! was going to pass the place up based on reading it was “touristy”. so glad we went. I still think about it and want another burger!!!

-2:30 pm – Frog’s Leap Tour & Tasting, 8815 Conn Creek Road, Rutherford
bought – 2006 Merlot $34
the tasting and tour was free. which I didn’t know. I would have paid it was such a great and comprehensive tour. we were able to try all of their wines. we reserved in advance through their website. Our guide was a young girl but very knowledgeable. Loved sitting in the beautiful house, hearing the history and tasting the first wine. Then the small group followed our guide throughout the grounds. They have amazing organic gardens. Even got to try a pomegranate picked right from the tree. At little stops a long the way we’d get another wine to try. The gorgeous barn was the last stop and the most impressive, where they keep their tanks and some barrels. The original wood was all there, they took each piece down at one time and reinforced it slat by slat. The view from the barn and ambiance inside were truly amazing. I wish I could spend time and work at this lovely hard working, responsible vineyard. They even have solar panels.

st helena olive oil company, 8576 St Helena Hwy, Napa
loved browsing in this gorgeous shop. lots of olive oils to taste with great flavors added. beautiful vintage items for sale. had my eye on one of the old antique looking mini gates. nice soaps and lotions too.

oakville grocery, 7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville
had planned on stopping here to eat, but never got around to it. did stop in to browse though. cute little shop with many wines, cheeses and gourmet items to choose.

-dinner @Mustards, 7399 St. Helena Highway, Yountville
made reservations via open table. waiter was awesome. helped me pick out my meal and was spot on! We had the polenta side dish as an appetizer which was phenomenal. I had the garlic lemon chicken which was tender, juicy and seasoned perfectly. Chris had the pork chop which he loved but he didn’t care for the side dish that came with it.

Tuesday November 17th, 2009

drove from Napa to San Francisco, took the Bay Bridge again. bit crowded, but fine.

-Returned the car @ Dollar

-checked into Hotel Abri in union square. 127 Ellis Street.
this place was pretty great. cable car turn around is literally right down the street. also a quick walk to market where there is the BART, F line and buses. great area to walk around. tons of shops. really great place to be for access to public transportation, etc. hotel itself was nice. two computers in the lobby for internet access (no charge). nice fireplace and sitting area in the lobby too. our room was on the smallish side. biggest drawback was no desk. Chris was there on business and it was kind of annoying to set up the laptop on the bed. there wasn ‘t a lot of table space or places to put stuff down on. the bed was comfy. TV was well situated. nice comfy chair for lounging. bathroom was pretty big compared to the room! I of course liked all of the L’Occitane toiletries.

-lunch – dim sum @ city view, 662 Commercial St (between Kearny St & Montgomery St) we got there around 1pm. we walked in and were seated right away. got water and a pot of tea. then came all the goodies!!! it was fun to wait for the cart to come by and ask what everything was and pick and choose what we wanted. the carts came by about every 5 – 8 minutes or so. everything was fresh and tasty. we had vegetable egg rolls, shanghai dumplings, pot stickers, spinach dumplings, mushroom dumplings, a big plate of shrimp, some kid of fried rice, and rice noodles wrapped around beef. I think that’s all of it. we were stuffed. it was great that most of the girls let you know what was on the cart and explained it. if they didn’t I asked and they were happy to explain. I thought it worked out well for us, as we were dim sum newbies! total was $41

walked around Chinatown. stopped in at the golden gate fortune cookie factory. as soon as we walked in, they gave us flat fortune cookies to taste. then I paid to take a picture with the lady working the fortune cookie machine. it was only 50 cents but we gave her a dollar. which led to the little old man giving us more cookies. the cookies were really yummy. I happen to love fortune cookies and think these were the best ones I’ve ever had. the shop is really tiny. luckily there weren’t very many people there so I was able to walk right in and get up close. we browsed the streets of Chinatown for a while, stopping in little shops here and there. I got a cute pair of reusable chop sticks to take home. stopped and saw the Chinese Gate at the entrance to Chinatown.

-dinner in North Beach – Ristorante Ideale, 1315 Grant Avenue
Chris had one of the specials – homemade ravioli made with fresh porcini mushrooms, and it was excellent. the mushrooms were the star, and so fresh! I had the pasta with spicy broccoli rabe and pecornio (orecchiette alla pugliese) which I thought was outstanding, the pasta was homemade and cooked perfectly, and I love broccoli rabe so very much. the service was great, the bread was just OK. the waiters spoke Italian. I felt I got my North Beach experience, just to see what it was like and compare it to Boston, NYC and Italy.

Wednesday November 18th, 2009

-walked to Market and took the F line to the ferry building
I really liked the ferry building. I got there so early though that not much was open yet. still I hung out and walked around and waited for more stuff to open up. Had a latte from bluebottle coffee company. not sure I get the hype. it was just OK. I mean it was good but nothing that I would actively search out to have again or miss if I couldn’t have it. maybe I got the wrong thing? someone else in line did get a breakfast sandwich that was huge and absolutely delicious looking. loved the farm fresh to you market. so jealous. wish I had that at home. loved the cowgirl creamery. they gave me a few tastes. I wanted something small and soft. One of the guys recommended their fromage blanc. I got a tiny little container of it for $1.17. Then I went to the acme bread company, where I wanted everything!!! But since it was just me, I got something small. an olive roll. I then ate out on one of the piers along the embaracedo. The cheese was so good! soft, creamy and so tasty. The olive roll was great, really fresh and a perfect compliment to the cheese.

-walked the embaracedo, strolling the piers

-walked to North Beach. visited washington square park and Saints Peter and Paul Church

-walked up telegraph hill, that was a hike, but well worth it.

-went to coit tower. amazing view! took the elevator up for $5. elevator is old and rickety! even more amazing views at the top.

-lunch @marios bohemian cigar store, 566 Columbus Avenue(between Green St & Stockton St)
I had a delicious foccacia sandwich with grilled eggplant, $6. nice that you can choose to only get half a sandwich. I seriously could have eaten there everyday, that one taste I had was so good. Staff was nice too. I was alone, so I sat at the bar. Sad Chris never got to eat there as he would have loved it.

-took the bus across from Mario’s to Fisherman’s Wharf

-visited pier 39 and the sea lions. pier 39 in just a place of souvenir shops and games for kids and what not. I loved the sea lions. I stood there for about an hour watching them! First I went to the upstairs area, then later to the downstairs area. I read all the info along the pier about the sea lions. found them so fascinating!

-visit the boudin sourdough bakery, paid for the tour and museum $3. it was an interesting way to kill some time and get free samples of bread! But I think standing outside at the window is better (and free!)

-walked around fishermans wharf. went to the big sign. lots of shops in the area. mostly souvenir/touristy shops.

-visited fishermans alley, saw crabs and all the little stands making food.

-went to buena vista cafe, 2765 Hyde Street(between Beach St & North Point St)
Had their famous irish coffee, $7.25. sat at the bar. I had no idea irish coffee had alcohol in it! silly me. the girl asked for my ID. I thought it was odd but gave it to her. Then came the coffee. The creamy foam on top was cool and delicious. Then I tasted the coffee and was in heaven. Oh boy did that taste really good! and strong too. Chatted with the bartender and an older couple at the bar. Not gonna lie it made me a little tipsy! guy at the bar wanted to buy me another, but I decided to leave, it had been a long day!

-walked around briefly by Ghirardelli square. it was nice enough. didn’t go in. don’t understand the hype. Maybe I needed to go in and get something chocolate? but I’ve had Ghirardelli before.

-waited in line to ride the powell hyde cable car at the turn around by the wharf. didn’t wait long. it was dinner time. was interesting to watch the men literally turn the car around. I got the best seat right up front! rode all the way to the end of the line where my hotel is. the sun was setting along the ride and the views at the top of some the hills were amazing. definitely a great first time ride and experience. it was almost magical in a way for some reason.

-dinner @ R&G Lounge, 631 Kearny Street (between Clay St & Commercial St)
I had read that salt & pepper fried crab and the R&G special beef were the things to get. Chris and I sat down and ordered the two things and the waiter seemed confused. Then we realized why when the food came! Oh man that was a huge crab!!!!!! I don’t really eat crab, but I tried some and it was really good. Chris loved it of course. The special beef was pretty good, but I’ve had better. Wish the beef actually came with something other than just beef, like some veggies would’ve been nice.

Thursday November 19th, 2009

-spent the day with Lisa. we met in union square and walked to North Beach.

-brunch @ Mama’s, 1701 Stockton St (at Filbert St)
Lisa and I both had eggs bene, I had the vegetable one, she had the florentine. both excellent. great place, breakfast all day, but they have lunch food too. definitely a must go to in North Beach, though not Italian! I didn’t get coffee, but wish I did, it smelled fantastic. cash only, and you have to wait to order in line, pay, then wait for a table to sit at. there is a tiny tiny bathroom outside in the back. I had seen a huge line here the day before, but this time it wasn’t so bad. we got right in and things went pretty quick! Wish I could’ve eaten there again, I wanted to try so many other things!!!

-walked up Lombard St. whew that was a hike! kept hearing this weird noise. sounded like a goat. Lisa and I couldn’t figure out what it was! then finally at the top, standing there looking down. I noticed a tree to my left near a house. the squawking was coming from there. definitely wasn’t a goat. the tree was full of parrots. I had read about the parrots, and expected to see them when I was at Coit tower, but I didn’t and here they were!

-walked to Union St and browsed in the shops. was just OK. not that many of the shops caught my interest. really couldn’t shop or buy anything!

-walked to Alamo Square and saw “post card row”. was interesting to see, but skippable. took the bus back to union square.

-went to westfield shopping center on market and browsed. had wanted a pedicure at nordstroms spa. my feet were killing me and a friend had told me to check it out. sadly there weren’t any more appointments for that day or the next day either that would work. said good bye to Lisa and went back to the hotel to meet up with Chris

-took the BART to mission and 24th. the BART was fine. easy to navigate. ticket buying thing was weird though. still not sure if I bought the right ticket!

-dinner @ La Corneta, 2731 mission st
I had chicken mole enchiladas. Chris had a steak and prawn quesadilla. chips and salsa too. shared a churro. total $20. great Mexican food. large portions. we were stuffed! I’ve had better mole in NYC but this one was pretty close. Cafeteria style. was easy to find. short walk from BART.

Friday November 20th, 2009

-Chris and I took the bus to haight ashbury. walked around for a bit and saw the grateful dead house. It was raining pretty bad. went back on the bus!

-rode the powell mason cable car to fishermans wharf

-took Chris around fishermans wharf and to see the sea lions! we sat for about an hour watching them

-lunch – fried clams from fishermans alley for Chris. sourdough pizza at Boudin for me. Pizza was OK, wish I had gotten the tomato soup in the bread bowl instead!

-4:20 – Alcatraz Night Tour, $33 each, purchased in advance.
This was awesome!!!!!! I am sad the boat made me feel so sick on the way out. I really wanted to stand up and look at everything as we circled the island and take pictures, but couldn’t. Once on land, we were broken up into groups. Our guide told us a lot of great info. We then entered Alcatraz and got our audio guide equipment. It was really a great information tour. So spooky to be walking around Alcatraz at night. There a was a gorgeous night time view of San Francisco. After the audio tour, there were special areas open at certain times to explore. We went up to the hospital area, which was really interesting. Then they had different talks given by the guides. One about the inmates that tried to escape which was interesting. I really liked at the end the demonstrations of the cells being locked and opened over and over again, and the noise it made. chilling. the boat ride back was better on my belly thank goodness!!

-dinner @Plouf, 40 Belden Place
had made a reservation in advance via open table. cute little alley with restaurants. reminded me of Italy. we sat outside. which was really nice! they had heaters out there. decided on the prix fixe menu, $25. I had the tomato basil soup to start and Chris had the salad. We each got mussels and pomme frites. One with the poulette sauce and one with the provencale sauce. Both were excellent. They give you a lot of mussels! for dessert we each had a vanilla bean creme brulee, yum.

Saturday November 21st, 2009

checked out of SF hotel

-picked up the car @Dollar, not our first choice, a white PT Cruiser. $130. what awful gas mileage compared to our beloved hybrid

-drove over the Golden Gate Bridge! stopped at the lookout point and took some pics. amazing

-visited Muir Woods, $5 entrance fee
this place is amazing. after parking and getting out of the car, we saw a huge deer! found the entrance, paid our fess, and started to walk. didn’t follow a guide or a map or anything. spent about 2 hours walking and stopping to look up every 5 seconds and the amazing enormity of the trees. it was breathtaking and magical! the trails are really nice to walk, a little bumpy in some areas but nothing strenuous at all. it was quite cool in the woods. wish I had brought a heavier sweater in with me. wish we had planned to spend more time there. could easily have spent a whole day. We loved those trees so much!

drove to Sonoma

viansa, 25200 Arnold Drive, Sonoma
bought – 2006 Prindelo $35, 2005 Piccolo Sangiovese $25
25% off for becoming wine club members
we also bought sandwiches – portabello e capra, panini caprese (total $15) and sat out on the gorgeous terrace to eat and admire the view.
for the tasting – kind of lost track here because we started tasting and then became wine club members and then tasted almost everything after that!!! my notes were a bit spotty and I only put stars or the word good next to names of each wine. not sure now how to interrupt them! we have since gotten a wine club shipment. we get 2 bottles of red every 3 months I think. came with great recipes cards and ideas. haven’t tried those bottles yet! I think we started with the Italian Flight ($5) and the Sonoma Flight ($5) and shared, you could select 4 from each list, each included a mix of reds and whites, in the end we tried all of the Reds I believe
Italian Flight
Athena Dolcetto Sonoma County 2007 – good
Piccolo Sangiovese Sonoma County 2005 – really good
Farneta Primitivo Carneros 2006 – really good
La Nebbia Nebbiolo Sonoma County 2005 – good
Pindelo Red Wine Sonoma County 2006 – really good
Sonoma Flight
Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain 2007 – good
Syrah Sonoma County 2006 – good
Zinfandel Sonom County 2006 – good
Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2004 – good
Cabernet Franc Sonoma County 2004
I think we also wound up tasting the following from the “cellar selections” tasting menu
Augusto Barbera Sonoma Valley 2005 – good
Thalia Sangioveses Sonoma Valley 2005 – really good
Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2005 – really good
Samuele Cabernet Franc Sonoma County 2005 – really good
V Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 – really god
and then on to dessert wine
Late Harvest Primitivo Sonoma Valley 2005 – really good

Cline, 24737 Arnold Drive, Sonoma
tasting free but $1 for each reserve wine. We tasted: almost everything
we had to visit Cline because it is one of our favorites that we can actually get here in Massachusetts. we had already tasted most of the wines they make at home. however not the reserves they have as most are only available at Cline or in California, since they are a smaller production. enjoyed the small tasting bar. I can’t recall specifically what we tasted. it was a bit crazy there as there was a passport tasting weekend event going on in Carneros and Cline was participating. so there were way too many people there. they grounds were beautiful with lovely fountains.

Gundlach Bundschu, 2000 Denmark St., Sonoma
bought – 2005 Cuvee $24
$5 tasting fee for 4 wines, we each got 4 different ones. We tasted:
2008 gewurztraminer, estate vineyard $22.50
2007 pinot noir, estate vineyard $34
2006 tempranillo, estate vineyard $35
2005 mountain cuvee, rhinefarm vineyard $24
2007 zinfandel, estate vineyard $38
2007 syrah, estate vineyard $36
2006 cabernet franc $38
2006 cabernet sauvignon, estate vineyard $32
2006 cabernet sauvignon, mountain terraces $40
another beautiful winery! gorgeous tasting room. dark but with lots of space. knowledgeable pourer. solid wines.

-checked into hotel – Best Western Dry Creek Inn, 198 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg
$507 total. We got a great deal booking through their website. stayed in the newer Tuscan building. felt like we were the only people at the hotel. really quiet and felt secluded. awesome large room with a king bed, jacuzzi tub, fireplace, internet access. great pillows. I even googled them and bought them from amazon. very clean. free breakfast included at the restaurant Adel’s which is in the parking lot. You got to choose items off a menu list and they brought them to you. standard – scrambled eggs, cereal, bacon, toast, pancakes, etc. we did upgrade one day and ordered off the regular menu, and you get $6 per person off the bill. I think an omelet was around $8 so a pretty fair trade in! is the hotel lobby they have cookies in the afternoon. located in a good area for access to the highway and to get around to near by towns.

-dinner @the Girl & the Fig, 110 West Spain Street, Sonoma
made reservations in advance via opentable. great idea! it was super busy. still had to wait a little bit. had fun browsing all of their lotions and body products. dinner was superb. started out with the cheese/salami plate, I forget what cheeses we chose, but they were all delicious. Also had their signature grilled fig and arugula salad, which was delicious. I had the turkey tartine and Chris had the wild boar shoulder. total was $70. all in all a great meal, and wish I could go back again!

Sunday November 22nd, 2009

Foppiano, 12707 Old Redwood Hwy, Healdsburg
tasting free? (I cant remember). we tasted:
2006 pinot noir, estate, russian river valley $20
lot 96, bin 002, proprietary blend $12 – liked
2005 petite sirah, estate, russian river valley $20
2001 petite sirah, estate reserve, russian river valley $30 – liked
we got here really early in the morning first thing. they had recently opened. we were the only ones there. a nice older gentleman poured for us. small tasting bar.

Matanzas, 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa
bought – 2007 Pinot Noir, bennett valley $29 and the Lavender Sampler $16
tasting free. We tasted:
2007 sauvignon blanc, sonoma county $24
2007 chardonnay, sonoma valley $29
2007 pinot noir bennett valley $35
2003 proprietor’s blend $39
2006 merlot, bennett valley $35
2005 syrah, sonoma county $25
2006 cabernet sauvignon $35
loved this one. gorgeous grounds. wished the lavender fields were in full bloom. bet it’s an amazing sight. super nice people. best prices on wine skins that we needed for the wine we put in our suitcase to take home. lots of lavender products to sample and buy.

Chautea St Jean, 8555 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood
tasting $10. we tasted:
2007 pinot blanc robert young vineyard
2007 chardonnay durell vineyard
2007 pinot noir sonoma county
2006 cabernet sauvignon sonoma county
2006 syrah benoist ranch
beautiful grounds. friendly staff. Average tasting experience. Nothing unique about it.  Still a great place to go for a good tasting and good wines.

DeLoach, 1791 Olivet Rd, Santa Rosa
bought – 2006 Syrah ($18) $12 at their Stellar Cellar Sale
tasting free. We tasted: almost everything
we walked up and thought it was closed! but it wasn’t! they had just opened and as an added bonus they were having a cellar sale. so there were multiple tables for tasting of their wines that were on sale. plus we did the tasting at the bar as well. great friendly older women doing the pouring. they gave us yummy dark chocolate during the tasting. we basically had the place to ourselves which is always nice!

-lunch @third street ale works, 610 3rd St, Santa Rosa.
Smokey Burger $11, Sourdough Burger $11 (both with garlic fries) beer sampler $12, Bodega Head IPA pint $4.50. tasted 11 different beers. all really great! wish they bottled, we would have taken some home. tasted annadel pale ale, bodega head ipa, american wheat ale, blarney sisters dry irish stout, oktoberfest marzen, stonefly oatmeal stout, jekylls best bitter, sleeper wave wee heavy, marionberry noir, black cat porter ad prost pilsner. the nurgers and garlic fries were amazing!!!!!

-dinner –@Bovolo, 106 Matheson St (inside Cooperfields books) Healdsburg
bovolo is a little place in a bookstore, so good, they make their own bacon, creative pizzas, etc. we had the pasta bolognese and pizza with house made bacon & butternut squash – $26. really delicious. great quick service. we took it back to our hotel room, but there was a small seating are there too.

Monday November 23rd, 2009

Bella, 9711 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg
bought 2007 zinfandel. tasting $5. we tasted: all of their wines. mostly zins.
loved this little winery. gorgeous grounds. middle of no where! lovely cave that you went inside for tasting. super friendly servers. amazing zin’s. my kind of place!

Ridge @Lytton Spring, 650 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg
tasting $5. We tasted:
2007 zinfandel pagani ranch $35
2006 santa cruz mountains estate cabernet $40
2007 carignane buchignani ranch $28
2005 zinfandel buchignani ranch $30
ridge zinfandel nervo vineyard $30
2007 zinfandel lytton springs $35
the grounds at ridge are gorgeous. took tons of pictures!

Seghesio, 14730 Grove St, Healdsburg
totally blanking!!!!!!

Rochioli, 6192 Westside Rd, Healdsburg
tasting free. We tasted: their chardonnay
we went there for their famous pinot noir. Sadly it was all sold out. The pourer was such a super nice friendly lady. She talked with us for a while and gave us ideas of where to go to for a good pinot noir since they were all out. I loved how she talked about other wineries as if they were her partners, not competition. Hope to one day get one of these pinot’s! the chardonnay was quite delicious!  Gorgeous view from the terrace.

hop kiln, 6050 Westside Road Healdsburg
tasting $5 for 5 tastes.
I think we tasted: Thousand Flowers, Rushin’ River, Big Red and some others.
We went here simply because it was next door to Rochioli, otherwise we hadn’t planned on it. But I am glad we did. Beautiful old, historic site actually.

gary farrell, 10701 Westside Road, Healdsburg
bought – 2007 Hallberg Pinot Noir $50, most expensive bottle that we actually bought but so worth it.
tasting $15 – all Pinot Noir
Really really liked this one. Pourer was so nice, and extremely knowledgeable about pinots. She set us up with a great side by side comparison tasting. Amazing how different one pinot can be from another.  I wanted to buy them all. Great open tasting room, with gorgeous views.

rosenblum, 250 Center Street, Healdsburg
bought – 2007 Rockpile Road Zinfandel $35
tasting $5, but applied to purchase. We tasted: almost all of their zins.
Great tasting room, right in the center of healdsburg. Amazing zins. So many different kinds. Great laid back tasting room.

-light lunch @oakville grocery, 124 Matheson Street, Healdsburg
stopped in for just a light lunch/snack. just some wine, salami and cheese. great shop. much larger than the location in oakville. little wine bar area for ordering a glass. large selection of cheeses, meats, etc. great little picnic table out front to eat at with a fireplace going. so it’s cozy!

-dinner @Dry Creek Kitchen, 317 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg
$125 was our splurge and sooooo worth it! divine.
Chris had steak. I should have remembered and wrote down exactly what it was called. But it came with a side of short ribs! Steak + short ribs. He was in heaven of course. I got the Sonoma neighbor menu selection that night. Again wish I wrote down more about it. It was so delicious. It started with a salad with pomegranate and permissions. I had never had a permission before and fell so much in love with it. Perfect salad. Made me instantly think of where I was at. So Healdsburg. Then I had steak too. Very thin pieces with an amazing sauce. The chef actually came over to talk to us. He made rounds around the dining room. For wine, we got a bottle. Something local. Again I’ve forgotten! But it was great. The sommelier serves your wine in a special way, that I can not recall the name of. Basically the way it is prepared is because of the pockets of air that can be founf in crystal glasses. He took the wine, poured it into the decanter. Then poured some into a glass. Swirled it all around the glass so every inch was covered in wine at some point. It clings to the sides. Then he put that wine into another glass to sit. Repeated the process with a second glass. So now you have 2 glsses that have essentially been coated with wine on the inside. Then the wine gets poured from the decanter into your coated glass for drinking. The third glass filled with the small amount of wine that was used to clean/coat the drinking glasses remains on the table, but you don’t drink it.

Tuesday November 24th, 2009

checked out

drove to San Francisco

returned car

flight home :0(

Helpful Planning Websites:
map from the Sonoma county website
California wine guide
trip advisor Napa forum
Maryland girl’s blog
bowl of berries blog
wanderlust travelers blog

November 2009 – SF things to do

Things to do:
Union Square – DONE
Explore the Ferry Building and the Embarcadero waterfront
Fisherman’s Wharf – Pier 39 and and the sea lions – DONE
Ghirardelli Square – DONE
Painted Lady Victorian homes – DONE
Ride the cable cars (Buy a Muni pass)
Check out the shops on Union, Filmore and Chestnut Streets. – DONE
Haight-Ashbury (Greatful Dead house is there) – DONE
Lombard Street – DONE
walking tour of Chinatown – DONE
dim sum lunch – DONE
walking tour of North Beach “Little Italy” area – DONE
barbary coast trail – DONE (some of it!)

not done
Explore the Castro
Check out Pacific Heights (beautiful old homes)
Take a ferry over to Sausalito and explore there.
walk the Golden Gate
Bridge (drove it!)
Cable Car Museum
Japanese Tea Gardens

Asian Art Museum

lands end trail
Golden Gate Park
double decker open air bus tour
a great place to stop and see the Golden Gate Bridge – get off at the last exit before the bridge, a perfect unobstructed view of the bridge and the city at the Sausalito exit (only got off at the viewpoint right after crossing)
Italian American Museum

helpful websites/info:

October 17 – 20, 2009 – Atlanta, GA

I went to Atlanta for a few days for the annual ASRM conference.
I took a class on Sunday and then attended the conference on Monday & Tuesday.

where I stayed
The Westin @ Peachtree
I can’t say enough good stuff about the Westin. Stayed on the 54th floor. It was beautiful. the staff was super friendly and helpful. The room was clean and nicely decorated. I loved the floor to ceiling windows, amazing view and their “heavenly” bed & bath. Seriously the bed was the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever had. The dual shower head was pretty cool too. I went for a run at the gym on their treadmills which were fancy treadmills, with every bell and whistle you could ever want plus TV. I especially loved and appreciated the fact that you could decline housekeeping daily (I am a green girl after all) and in return they gave you $5 to spend at the hotel, since there was a starbucks in the lobby, that worked out rather nicely for me!!! the hotel was in close proximity to the Olympic Park, Peachtree Center Mall and the Georgia World Congress Center (location of my conference) as well as the Aquarium, CNN Headquarters, etc. I also took a short walk down to CVS to stock up on some water and snacks. My only gripe about the place was the fact that the construction scaffolding that transported an elevator full of men up and down the side of the building was attached to my window and ever window above and below me. They only used the elevator during the day, and they always rode with their backs to the room but still it blocked my gorgeous view a tiny bit and it was a little noisy when it was in operation. Also the Sundial restaurant and view area was closed because of the construction and I really wanted to check that out. The rate I got through the conference was great.

Sunrise and afternoon views from my Room

the super cool double shower head

walked by Olympic Park everyday and this fountain

view of the Westin coming from the Congress Center

where I ate
Kammel’s in the Peachtree Center Food Court – I stopped here for a quick bite to eat for lunch, starving from the plane ride and it was down the block from my hotel!! I got the falafel wrap with couscous and veggies on the side. the guy was nice asking me where I was from, etc. the wrap was good. not the best falafel I’ve had, it was different, but still good. it was a lot of food and I was stuffed all for $5.99

One Midtown Kitchen – yummy!! this dinner was courtesy of one of the pharmacy’s I use for my patients. it was a set menu – I choose the salmon which had mushrooms and thick pieces of bacon. it was pretty good, I don’t see it listed on their regular menu though. for apps there was wood oven pizza, which was excellent, “small plates” of beets, butternut squash, leek and onion tartlets (my fav), bacon wrapped shrimp and salad. the dessert was their version of a kit kat, it was so rich, almost too rich to eat, but I managed :-)

Stats – this dinner was courtesy of one of the pharmacy’s I use for my patients. Loved the roof top deck with fire pits and beer taps you could serve yourself from! gorgeous view! we had a buffet of Mexican layer dip, nondescript pasta, shrimp that I skipped and cheeseburger sliders. the sliders were really good! everything else was just OK.

Room – more yummy!!! this dinner was courtesy of one of the pharmacy’s I use for my patients. it was a set menu – I choose calamari for the appetizer and it was really good with spicy peppers and a delicate light breading. for the main course I had their hanger steak which was cooked perfectly. it came with a tiny pitcher of red wine sauce which was a great addition to the steak. for dessert a little warm chocolate cake topped with marshmallow fluff.

pics from the conference

October 11-12, 2009 – Portsmouth, NH

We went to Portsmouth, NH after Stacey & Dave’s wedding ceremony at a Greek Church in Peabody, MA as their reception was at Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, NH. Decided to spend the night and check out the town! the wedding was awesome! Wentworth by the Sea is a gorgeous place! I had no idea Portsmouth and Kittery were so close and easy to get to! will definitely be going back soon for a day trip!

Fairfield Inn – Portsmouth Seacoast – check in was smooth, everyone was really friendly! we were in a rush to get to our room to watch the end of the very disappointing 3rd ALDS Red Sox game though. coffee and tea in the lobby at all times. the room was nice and clean. very cold when we walked in though, the AC was on! nice king bed, comfy, nicely decorated. navy blue, lime green, black and white photos. bathroom was on the smallish side, shower was nice though, great water pressure! fridge, microwave and coffee maker in the room. pantene shampoo and conditioner mini’s. free breakfast, basic continental, but expanded a bit, they even had organic stonyfield yogurt and some microwave sausage, egg and cheeses sandwiches. we skipped breakfast however. there was a computer for communal use but we took advantage of the free wi fi in our room with our laptop. easy drive to downtown Portsmouth. the rate on this room was $169 but we stayed for free with credit card points, yippee!

The Friendly Toast for breakfast. very short wait at the door, which we really lucked out on. the line grew long later. main gripe is that we waited 1 hour for our food to come, and everyone around us seemed to get theirs. we were starving but waited patiently, even the waiter came over and commented that he didn’t know why it was taking so long and that he would comp or drinks. I had an iced coffee and Chris has chocolate milk. the menu was extensive and EVERYTHING sounded so good! it was hard to choose. I got the greek scramble, which was scrambled eggs with feta, kalamata olives, spinach and sun dried tomatoes. AMAZING! Chris go the new hampshires finest which was scrambled eggs with local goat cheese, scallions, bacon (thin canadian), and asparagus (Chris got mushrooms instead though) it was also OUTSTANDING! both came with the most delicious homefries (the onions in them were so tasty!) and huge thick slices of homemade andama bread. our waistlines are seriously thankful that we do not live near this place, though there is one in Cambridge, that we may need to make a visit too really really soon!

popovers on the square for a very late lunch around 4pm. loved this place. right in the heart of the square. you order at the counter and then seat yourself. Chris had clam chowder served in a popover, he loved it and definitely wants to go back again and again! I had the Tinios Greek Salad with Salami which according to their website had Romaine, fresh tomatoes, red onion, imported Feta, Genoa salami, olive tapenade with lemon parsley dressing. it came with a mini popover cut in half. one half had the olive tapenade the other had a tomato confit. the dressing was so good, it was simple parsley pesto like spread. hard to describe but superb! the list of latte’s, teas and other coffee drinks, plus the bakery dessert case all were calling my name but we had to rush out of there to make it back to MA by 5pm. hope to get back again!

Kittery Maine Outlets – we went to Ann Taylor (of course!), Calphalon, Coach, Aldo, Cuddledown and Crate & Barrel!

RedHook Ale Brewery – Monday tour @2 pm, 135 Corporate Drive, Portsmouth, NH
the tour was interesting. it only cost $1 but we had a coupon for 2 free tours! the tour included a look at their facilities and tanks as well as souvenir tasting glasses and 4 beer samples. we had their ESB, IPA, light beer “slim chance” and a new coffee porter made with Kona coffee. I loved the porter! But in general all were pretty good. after the tour I had a taste at the bar of their Belgian Tripel and Chris had a whole glass of it for only $5, what a steal. the Tripel was really really good! there is a restaurant as well, that looked pretty good, and was pretty packed with lunchtime eaters.

where my grandma is from…

maybe I’ll get there one day?!
Lipari, Italy
a tiny island off to the left of the foot part of the “boot”

from italy world club: “Lipari (Roman Lipara, ancient Greek Meligunis) with its 37.6 square km is the largest of the seven Aeolian Islands (Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Alicudi, Filicudi, Vulcano, Stromboli) in the Tyrrhenian Sea, 24 miles off the north coast of Sicily, and also the island’s main town. During the tourist season (May-September) its population reaches up to 200,000.

Besides the main town, most of the year the population resides in one of the four main villages: Pianoconte, west across the island, Quattropani in the northwest, Acquacalda along the northern coast, and Canneto on the eastern shore north of the main town, Lipari, which is located on an inlet along the southern coast. The island is included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites.”

View Larger Map

May 2009 – Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Canada

Our Trip to Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake, Canada

brief trip description:
We drove up from Boston to Niagara Falls, Canada on Thursday, May 21, 2009, it took about 7 hours. Spent Thursday and Friday night in Niagara Falls and very leisurely we were able to do the main Falls activities. Saturday morning we headed over to Niagara on the Lake, Canada stopping at the Butterfly Conservatory first before proceeding to 10 out of the 21 wineries participating in wine and herb, the next 11 were visited on Sunday. We managed to see the wineries between the hours of 12 – 3 and we took our time tasting at each. Spent Sat and Sun night in Niagara on the Lake. Headed back to Boston on Monday May 25, 2009. We budgeted for this trip and planned to stay under $1500 USD total for everything and did!!

NIAGARA FALLS – Thursday May 21, 2009 and Friday May 22, 2009

Where we stayed:
Embassy Suites
the 2 night Package we went with included (some descriptive info from their website):
-Complimentary buffet breakfast with cooked-to-order omelet station
breakfast was good. the lines were long. omelets were fresh and the best choice, lots of additions to choose from. sausage was just OK, bacon was good, homefries nice and crispy. assortment of cereals, breakfast pastries, yogurts and some fruit.
-$40 discount at The Keg Steakhouse & Bar overlooking Niagara Falls
-Manager’s Reception with 2 Complimentary Alcoholic Beverages and snack buffet
this was great. not a lot of drink choices, just basic. nice snack buffet with veggies, dip, chips, snack mix, pretzels, etc.
-Casino Falls & Attraction Shuttle passes for 2 for use throughout stay
the shuttle was OK. it went a really long backwards way to get places though. we went on it once to just go down the hill to the falls and it took 20 minutes, which can be walked in a quicker amount of time! it stopped at the base of the falls, the casinos, and a couple of other hotels.
-Junior Presidential 2 Room Suite – large 2-Room Suite with a spectacular view of both the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls. 1 King bed and a large 2 person Whirlpool and Fireplace. The second room is a large living room with sofa bed and dining area.
the room was great. amazing view on the 30th floor. nice to sit in the chairs and look out on the falls. especially on the night of the fireworks. we had a great front row view of the show! bed was very comfortable. whirlpool tub was nice! the second room in the suite was really not used by us and was very separate from the rest of the room. really a waste and not needed but we weren’t able to get a king bed with a view without choosing the suite. always very nice and clean, with a very comfortable bed. fridge and sink/mini bar area.
-the parking is the main gripe. when you pull up they offer you $20 or $30 valet service. the $20 one (which we went with) meant if you wanted your car between the hours of 7am – 1 pm you needed to take a shuttle bus to get it. we never took our car out of parking while we were there until we went to check out. they really should get your car for you when you check out. plus we thought it was $20 total, but it was $20 per night. such a rip off. there was cheaper parking within walking distance.
-the people at the front desk aren’t the most helpful. I called and simply asked where the shuttle bus went, they told me the stops. then I asked how I could get to the American side of the falls and they replied take a cab!!! of course I didn’t, I took out my map, took their shuttle bus to the closest stop to rainbow bridge and walked over. they didn’t seem very willing to offer any advice other than what was convenient for them “take a cab”.
-all in all the view alone made the price worth it, plus the breakfast, dinner credit, and manager’s reception were nice touches. also the starbucks in the lobby!!


early morning views from our room

the jacuzzi tub

What we did:
Thursday May 23, 2009
we walked over the Rainbow Bridge (you need to pay 50 cents US or Canadian to go through the turnstiles to leave Canada, but not to come back) to the American Falls park area to find out the Cave of the Winds was already closed. Strolled around a bit on to Goat Island and the Falls lookout points and then headed back to Canada. Checked out the Clifton Hill area a little bit. It was a pretty long day of driving, so we weren’t up for much!



Friday May 22, 2009
in order, all in one day:

Canadian Falls Activities
started with the Embassy Shuttle down to Table Rock Point
bought the Great Gorge adventure pass which included transportation on the PeopleMover and the 4 activities listed below plus $5 per person admission to the butterfly conservatory (for Saturday AM).

Journey Behind the Falls – this was pretty cool. walking through the tunnels and looking behind the cascade of water.

Niagara’s Fury – we only did this because it was included in the pass, and we were there after journey! it was cute, geared more towards kids, reminded me of a disney world type of attraction

Maid of the Mist – amazing of course. wow you really do get close to the falls, and into the Mist. definitely a must do.

White Water Walk – this was nice. it was bit up from the rest of the attractions. basically a boardwalk along the class 6 rapids. nice calming place for a stroll! across was the Buddhist temple that I really wanted to check out but the people mover came and we were on a time frame!!

American Falls Activities
we walked over the Rainbow Bridge from Canada into the American Falls State Park. You need to pay 50 cents either Canadian or American to get through the turnstiles! Then right over to Goat Island. There is an area to look down and on to the American Falls. Then further down at Terrapin Point there is a good spot to see a close up view of the Canadian falls. Walked over from there to the end point and to the 3 sisters islands. Gorgeous state park! there is a trolley but really it is so walkable to stroll along and stop at all the different look out points.

On Goat Island is the main attraction:
Cave of the Winds – loved loved loved this. by far the best, most unique way to see the falls. it is a winding stairway down and up, and you end up at one point on what is called the hurricane deck. no kidding!! walking up the stairs approaching the American Falls pouring down on you, it is hard to climb the stairs or even breathe with the sheer force of water coming at you. it was amazing, exhilarating and terrifying!! it was awesome, this can not be missed and is the best way to really see (read: be in!) the falls. they give you cute little shoes to wear that you then can donate to charity which I thought was so awesome as well. we had some great ice cream right outside the exit. yummy!!!!

we we really lucky, we barely waited in line for any of the activities, no more than about 5 minutes. I think this was because it was still early in the season and it was a Friday.

fireworks at 10 pm – viewed from our room. amazing view. great fireworks show.

nightly illuminations – this was pretty cool. the American Falls are way better lighted then the Canadian Horseshoe Falls were though.

Where we ate:
Lunch Thursday May 21, 2009
-the flying saucer, 6768 Lundy’s Lane
drive in, diner, burgers, fried food, lunch, affordable, reviews
we had some yummy bacon cheeseburgers with great crispy fries after our long drive. super cheap too, about $19 CAD

Dinner Friday May 22, 2009
-The Keg, 9th floor of the Embassy
The Keg was great. I had an applewood smoked bacon wrapped filet mignon with a blue cheese topping. the steak was cooked perfect but the blue cheese topping was too much, very strong and piled on high. would have been nicer tasting if there was less. served with a great twice baked potato. my husband had a special of steak with crab meat topping, which he loved. our waiter was very nice. even with the $40 credit we still spent $100 CAD including two glasses of wine. we made reservations but still had to wait in order to get a table near the window.

Dinner Saturday May 23, 2009
sandstone grillhouse, 5467 Victoria Avenue
This place was great. just a short walk from near the bird aviary and rainbow bridge on the Canadian side. I had the linguine florentine. which had amazing portabella mushrooms, delicious artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, spinach, garlic and oil. my husband had their spinach gnocchi, which were huge and so light like little plump pillows. our waitress was not so great. pretty bad service.
We decided right after ordering our entrees to order an appetizer but she was no where to be found, so we never got one. then she said she was bringing water when our meals were dropped off, it didn’t come until 15 minutes later. But the meal definitely made up for it. And the other waitress near by seemed great to the tables near us.

helpful planning info:
really cute area map
Great map showing all falls view hotel locations in relation to the falls!
here it is in aerial view
Niagara USA side
Niagara Canada side
another website for Canada side
niagara restaurant guide

NIAGARA ON THE LAKE – Saturday May 23 and Sunday May 24, 2009

where we stayed:
Britaly B&B – review we posted on Trip Advisor – Stayed for 2 nights in the Canadiana Room. Lovely room, comfortable bed, bathroom right across the hall. Everything was very clean and beautifully decorated. Little fridge in the hall with water was great! As well as coffee out in the hall each morning, ready for when you woke up. The sitting room and gardens were lovely to spend time in. Breakfast was fabulous! Granola, muffins, fresh fruit and yogurt plus one morning an egg, spinach, mushroom, ricotta puff pastry and the other german apple pancakes. Graham & Aldo are absolutely wonderful hosts. So friendly and so easy to talk to and spend time with. Aldo was very helpful with restaurant recommendations, and the ones he suggested were perfect for us. Would love to visit again and stay at Britaly!!

where we ate:
Kurtz Orchards, 16006 niagara pkwy, NOTL – great food market, lots of gourmet jellies, jams, dips, spreads, cheeses, etc. Bought a great onion dip mix to take home. Tons of samples to try.

the merchant ale house, 98 st paul st, st catherines – we went here to try out some local beer. we had drunken monkey, old time hockey ale and blueberry ale. they were great! wish we could’ve brought some home but they only serve on premises and do not bottle. food looked good, too!

dinner Saturday May 23, 2009
Old Winery Restaurant, 2228 Niagara Stone Road
really cute place. nice red walls. great chairs. good service. bread with oil when seated. we had the Parmesan crusted calamari with roasted garlic dipping sauce – a little on the chewier side, but still really tasty. also the Jimi Hendrix Pizza – proscuitto, arugula, buffalo mozzarella, and white truffle oil – really really good!! loved that they played tapes of how to speak Italian lessons in the bathrooms! affordable prices. would definitely eat there again.

dinner Sunday May 24, 2009
Ginger, 390 Mary Street
attentive service. the water glasses were super tiny, but they were very good about continually keeping them filled. I was a little upset that a dish I saw on the menu that day online wasn’t available, but they have since removed it from the menu. We started with the spring rolls which were very good. I had the Thai coconut curry chicken with rice and Chris had the Teriyaki Grilled Shrimp with veggies and rice. Both dishes were well made and tasted great. We are used to great Asian and Thai food and this held up to our expectations.

what we did:
Butterfly Conservatory – by far one of the most unique and amazing attractions. I’ve been to butterfly conservatories before in various places, one being the Bronx Zoo in NY. None compare to this. From the second you walk in your are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of butterflies! They are EVERYWHERE!!! You can really get up close and personal to them. One even landed on Chris’ head for a while. It was amazing to see all the different kinds and how they moved around. They had a very interesting are set up with actual butterflies and cocoons undergoing various stages of metamorphosis. Fascinating!! I could have spent hours just sitting and watching! They were also many different species of plants/flowers growing. One hot pink plant called Chenille was so beautiful and like nothing I had ever seen before, it looked even more amazing with butterflies on it!

Lake Ontario waterfront – there are a few areas along Lake Ontario where you can stroll or sit. One being a park right down the street from the main area in NOTL. really gorgeous sight.

multiple trips up and down Queen Street, shops of note that we stopped at:
#5 apothecary – never got to go in, was closed!
#14 maple leaf fudge – tons of fudge!
#35 greaves jam – amazing amounts of different varieties, reasonable prices
#38 Kurtz Culinary Creations – amazing little shop, smaller version of the farm stand we also went to. they had some items that were prduced by other manufacturers/farms too though.
#66 niagara bakery – amazing smells!
#70 Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – beautiful creations. we got the marshmallow sticks, stacks of marshmallow, covered in chocolate and toppings (we got m&m’s). delicious!!
plus a couple of tea related shops that I can’t recall the name/location of!
the only disappointing thing was that around 8pm everything was closed.

flowers on Queen Street

we took advantage of The Wine & Herb Festival
info – a weekend touring the 21 Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake where each will feature a different herb-themed food pairing matched to a premium VQA wine selected to highlight the flavour and aroma of the herb. Advance Ticket Price $30 CAN (until April 24), $35 as of April 25 (plus applicable taxes).

Day 1 – Saturday May 23,2009 – we went to 10 wineries

Day 2 – Sunday May 24, 2009 – we went to 11 wineries

in no particular order…..

hillebrand estates winery, 1249 niagara stone rd
featured herb – parsley, Phelan Spring Asparagus Veloute with Sour Cream Gribiche, with the Artist Series Limited Edition Gewürztraminer 2007.
review – very large facility, modern, friendly.

inniskillin, 1499 Line #3 at the Niagara Parkway
featured herb – Rosemary – mini cheddar and cornmeal muffin, with Cabernet Sauvignon butter with 2006 Winemaker’s Series, Klose Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
review – yummy muffins!

Lailey Vineyard, 15940 Niagara Parkway
featured herb – Fennel with 2008 Vidal
review – tasted and bought their 2006 zweigelt.

peller estates winery, 290 john st east
featured herb – Chervil and Black Pepper Ice Cream with Horseradish and Apricot Preserve, all served in tiny ice cream cones with the Andrew Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée
review – very interesting!! beautiful facility. most creative pairing. very busy. tasted a few wines as well, reasonable fees

Konzelmann Estate Winery, 1096 Lakeshore Road, RR#3
featured herb – mixed bean oregano salsa, infused with Sambal Oelek sauce with 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
review – probably our favorite place. loved the snack, paired nicely. loved the wine. one of the best we tasted/bought in NOTL. the people were very friendly. the wine pourer was so personable and energetic and great to chat with.

Joseph’s Estate Winery, 1811 Niagara Stone Road (Hwy 55) R R #3
featured herb – Biscuits with French Sorrel, Carmelized Onions and 7 Year Old Cheddar Cheese with 2006 Chenin Blanc VQA
review – this place was great! the pairing was nice. the tasting bar was the most affordable around – 3 tastes for $1. we got their chancellor merlot. the staff was very friendly

stratus, 2059 niagara stone rd
featured herb – Bergamot Crème Brulée with 2007 Riesling Icewine
review – amazing creme brulee, nice pairing, modern elegant facility, they even had a spot reserved for hybrid fuel cars, my kind of place!!! beautiful outdoor area

Maleta Estate Winery, 450 Queenston Road
featured herb – Olson artisanal baguette with Le Douanier cheese,
drizzled with warm savory-infused honey, paired with our 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir.
review – loved loved loved this tiny place. very attentive and informative staff. delicious pairing, one of the best. we also tasted and purchased their 2001 meritage.

Reif Estate Winery,15608 Niagara Parkway
featured herb – Sweet Pea Mint Soup with 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
review -mmm I really liked the soup!

Pillitteri Estates Winery
,1696 Niagara Stone Road
featured herb – Cranberry Lavender Upside-Down Cake with 2007 Merlot Bianco
review – tasted a lovely 2004 cab franc ice wine, that we later bought at the duty free shop. very reasonable fees for samples.

Stonechurch Vineyards, 1242 Irvine Road, RR #5
featured herb – ‘Thyme Rolls On’ with 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay
review- our first stop! beautiful grounds.

Southbrook Vineyards
, 581 Niagara Stone Road, RR4
featured herb – Arugula Pesto Pizza Goat Cheese, Baked Potato, Tomato on Vinifera & Whole Wheat Crust with 2008 Cabernet Rose
review – loved this place! organic, biodynamic, gorgeous modern, clean lines and elegant facility. pizza was amazing. we even went back at the end of the day to sit out on the patio, near the vines to have a pizza made! it was cabernet and sausage pizza, delicious paired with their Cabernet.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, 2145 Regional Road 55, NOTL
featured herb – Basil & Asiago Biscotti with 2007 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve White Meritage
review – beautiful tasting rooms

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery
, 1425 Lakeshore Road, R. R. # 3
featured herb – Tarragon Walnut Biscotti with Bosc Pear Wine
review – adorable small winery. amazing fruit wines. almost every kind you can imagine. nice pairing.

strewn winery, 1339 lakeshore rd
featured herb – Sage – gnocchi with lemon zest and goat cheese, finished with sage butter with Strewn’s Semi-Dry Riesling
review – another gorgeous winery. it was nice that a chef from the cooking show was cooking the gnocchi to an audience. delicious gnocchi.

Château des Charmes,1025 York Road, NotL
featured herb -Artisan Lemon Basil and Chevre Cracker with Lemon Basil Aligoté Jelly with 2007 Aligoté, Estate Bottled
review-beautiful facility! great pairing. also sampled their 2006 pinot noir, very good.

Coyote’s Run,485 Concession 5 Rd.
featured herb artisanal cheese and chive tart with pears with 2008 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc
review – really interesting that they have their red paw and black paw wines. sampled their 2006 red paw cab franc, which was really nice. there weren’t any black paw varieties yet for tasting. would have been nice to compare the two. the red and black referred to the soil, which they also had on display which was really cool.

Marynissen Estates Winery, 1208 Concession 1
featured herb Hearty Fireside Beef Stew with a Syrah Reduction over Egg Noodles with 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir
review – also tasted their 2006 gamay noir, which was quite good. reasonable samples.

Cattail Creek Estate Winery, 1156 Concession 6
featured herb – Roasted Red Pepper and Cilantro Pesto topped with Shrimp and served on a Crostini with 2007 Off-Dry Riesling
review – least favorite. at the tasting bar, we ordered two samples. then the guy said “you have to try this” and without letting me answer poured a glass of their catastrophe ice wine. while it was really good, I didn’t want it. He then said OK that’s $5 really it was only $4 total ($1 for each regular sample, $2 for the ice wine) but I was so pissed that he poured it without my asking or agreeing to it and then charged me for it, that we paid and walked out. none of the other 20 wineries we went to had the audacity to do something like that. If they offered something to you to taste they didn’t charge you. oh and they let you say yes before pouring it!!! It was a lovely little winery with great wines, however my experience was so clouded by this one particular server.

Niagara College Teaching Winery, 135 Taylor Road
featured herb – Thai Curry Shrimp with Aioli Dip with 2006 Rosé and Curry
review – amazing place. I talked with the girl for a while about the college and the programs it offered, so interesting. we had one of their dean’s list cab franc ice wines (offerred for free) and it was by far the best ice wine we tasted the whole trip. it was $55 however and a little out of our budget, so we didn’t wind up purchasing it, and regret it!

Palatine Hills Estate Winery, 911 Lakeshore Road
featured herb – Honey-Coriander Dressing Served over Cold Rice Noodle Salad with Dried Apricots with 2006 Gewürztraminer
review – delicious herb dish and pairing!!!

Helpful sites for planning:
NOTL website
list of restaurants
NOTL Wineries list
wines of ontario


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