Napa Valley to Healdsburg

Where do I begin? So many wines, so little time to tell their stories. If California were a nation it would be the 4th leading wine producing country in the world — after France, Italy, and Spain in that order. So when our friends Pat and Stacey said they were going to be in the Napa Valley area for several days and wanted to know if we’d like to join them, the answer was a resounding, “Heck yes!”

Pat is the General Manager of a very popular group of restaurants in San Diego called the Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar and Miguel’s Mexican Cantina. The first Brigantine opened in San Diego in 1969 and now there are six locations throughout the county. The locals know them for San Diego-style surf and turf. From their award-winning fish tacos and freshly shucked oysters, to classic filet mignon the food is always great and the atmosphere is lively!

When you’re on a mission to meet friends, eat great food and taste fabulous wine you don’t want to hassle with places to park your RV. Easy in, hook it up and join the gang is how you want  it to roll. Napa Valley Expo RV Park satisfies all our needs. Wide concrete pads, with water, electric and sewer – all the comforts of home with a different view each time and no gardening to do!

Killer Cornbread Rutherford Grill

We’re off to meet Pat and Stacey with their friends Bill and Jill for dinner at one of our absolute favorites in the Napa Area, Rutherford Grill. I’m telling you if you are in the general vicinity you must stop for lunch or dinner. It is always packed and for a good reason. The food is consistently fantastic! I never have to think about I’m going to order. The Iron Skillet Cornbread is out of this world! what makes this cornbread stand out form the rest of the cornbread you have ever had in the past is the mix of green chili, jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese, and butter. Oh yeah, lots of butter and kernels of yellow corn. It is beyond delicious with a crusty top, sides and bottom and a soft luscious center. Killer cornbread!

Tri-tip and BNut Squash Enchilada

But wait, the cornbread is just he beginning of the culinary trail to happiness. Enter the White Cheddar Butternut Enchilada. I dream about this enchilada! It is an enchilada like no other. What will I do until I can have another….. A soft corn tortilla is filled with roasted butternut squash, Swiss chard and white cheddar cheese and then a rich, dark, smokey sauce is poured over one end of the enchilada and the other end is covered in a lighter sauce of equally satisfying flavor.The combination of ingredients is heaven and I promise you will not miss the meat in one single bite! I paired mine with tri-tip but would have been just as happy to have 2 enchiladas and skip the beef. Oh yes, it’s that good!

Cheers at Rutherford Grill

Cheers to good friends, lots of laughs, great food and wine. Did you know that if you bring in a bottle of wine from one of the Napa Valley wineries there is no corkage fee? Pretty cool! Pat did just that and we had some really great wines with our dinner.

Pat has arrived

Next day we bellied up for more food to fortify us for a day of wine tasting. It pays to be friends with someone in the industry! Pat invited us to brunch at Sutter Home Guest House.  This is a lovely Victorian with a sunlit dining room and the grounds are beautiful! It’s not somewhere that is open to the public so this was quiet a treat. They typically offer the inn to people via word of mouth through clients, vendors and locals. Pat has arrived! Let the eating begin!


Our first private tasting is scheduled for Trinchero. Trinchero Family Estates of St. Helena, CA, was awarded the Winery of the Year Trophy at the 2015 Indy International Competition. The trophy honors the Best International Brand of the entire competition.

Gina Leonardo Trinchero tasting guide

Gina Leonard guided us through a wonderful tasting and shared the Trinchero family story. An absolutely fascinating story told while sipping beautiful wines!  In 1947, brothers John and Mario Trinchero traveled to St. Helena, California, near the renowned Napa Valley growing region, and purchased Sutter Home Winery. As with most Napa Valley wineries, Sutter Home had been shut down during Prohibition. John and Mario Trinchero, immigrant brothers from New York City whose family had been active in the Italian wine business refurbished the winery. They began producing Napa Valley wines, initially scraping by making generic jug wines and wine for church ceremonies. For years they operated “mom-and-pop” style, selling to their Napa Valley neighbors, who filled their barrels and bottles at the winery’s back door. 

Sutter Home is most well known for their White Zinfandel which was created by happy accident. Eye of the Partridge (Oeil de Perdrix) is a particular specialty of the area around Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where it is made from Pinot noir grapes.

During the making of the 1975 vintage of zinfandel, the wine experienced a stuck fermentation which occurs when the yeast become dormant before the fermentation has completed and the pink, sweet style of White Zinfandel, that would go on to enjoy massive commercial success, was accidentally born. Bob Trinchero originally planned to name the new wine Oeil de Perdrix, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) demanded that Trinchero translate the name, so he added “White Zinfandel” to the label.

Great place to crush the grapes

What a view from the crush pad at Trinchero! The grounds are beautifully manicured and everything about the winery reflects the pride that goes into their wines. 194 trucks leave the winery every day!

Red wine barrels get red stripe

Barrel room where the red wines are painted with a red stripe around the barrel and the white wines are left natural. All the white wines are stored on the other side of the room.

1st Vintages made under Trinchero label

Today Trinchero Family Estates represents over 40 brands in the United States and imports from around the world, including Sutter Home, Angove Family Wines, Ménage à Trois, Napa Cellars, and Trinchero Napa Valley. The chalk board lists the first vintages made under the Trinchero family label.



With fond memories David and I hit the road for Talty Vineyards and Winery in Dry Creek/Healdsburg. In 2005 we met up with long time friends Kathy and Brandon as our wine tasting paths crossed with theirs. We were introduced to a relatively new winery, so new in fact they had barely completed their tasting room. We gathered in the small family home, tasted great wine, heard the family story while watching the USC game on TV. It doesn’t get much more personal than that! After years of having Talty wines shipped to us, we are back and excited to taste with Michael Talty once again, in the tasting room this time.

WSJ Talty

Talty Vineyards and Winery was written up in the Wall Street Journal their 2nd year in the business! They were also awarded 2011 Winery of the Year! It started as a family dream between father, mother and son. Michael began wine making out of his home in the bay area. But William Talty, Michael’s father passed away before Talty Vineyards could become a reality. The 1st  vineyard of six acres of 48-year-old vines is a tribute to William and where production his first vintage in 1997 comes from.

Talty Vineyards

Michael knew he needed to seek out additional sources of fruit in order to grow his business. He settled on the young vines of the Dwight Family Vineyard which, like the William Talty Estate, is located in the Dry Creek Valley, the heartland of Zinfandel country. Our absolute favorite wine,  Filice Connolly, is the next phase of Michael’s growth plan. Michael explains, “John Filice, one of the owners of the Filice Connolly Vineyard, came into my tasting room early on and said, “ if you can make my vineyard taste as good as your Estate Zin, I would let you do anything you want during the growing season, including making the call on crop levels, harvest, etc.” The very first vintage from the 2003 Filice Connolly Vineyard was rated the number one wine out of 500 tasted on a tour from Napa to Sonoma by the wine writers from The Wall Street Journal. That was also the very first vintage we ever had of Michael Talty’s wines. Weren’t we lucky?!

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