Napa Wine Label Quiz: How Many Snippets Can You Identify?

The idea for this wine quiz struck me as I was rummaging through my wine locker today. I have a modest amount of wine in storage, but when as many boxes are crammed into one space as possible, there’s limited room to maneuver, especially towards the back of the locker. In many cases, I could only see the very bottom portion of many of my wine labels (being that the bottles themselves are stored upside down). And so, in that same spirit, I’ve compiled 25 label snippets below, each one representing a Napa Valley winery. For many of the people who work here in the wine industry — as I once did — this quiz will probably be a breeze. I’d expect many of my Napa friends to score 20 or better, and a good local sommelier would likely miss only one or two at the most.

If you [… read more …]

Tale of Two Chilaquiles: Boonfly Cafe, Napa Carneros & Miguel's Restaurant, Calistoga

The Chilaquiles @ Miguel's Restaurant, Calistoga (minus the sour cream)

I was first introduced to chilaquiles while I was living in Los Angeles. Back then, I was working a prep cook at Houston’s Santa Monica, trying to get some real-world kitchen experience before heading off to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Since I was working mostly mornings at that time, the “family meal” at Houston’s was often chilaquiles, which I would best describe as breakfast nachos, for lack of better terminology. These meals would assume varying forms from day to day, based upon whatever was available in the kitchen at the time. That said, there are a couple fundamental rules as to what can be considered chilaquiles and what cannot. As the foundation of the dish, the tortilla chips themselves are inherently fundamental to chilaquiles, and proper chilaquiles should also feature eggs (since it [… read more …]

Napa's Top 25 Wine Tours

Outside Quixote (left) and outside Schramsberg (right).

These types of lists are always debatable — if not questionable — because you have to wonder about the author’s credentials. Who really comes up with these lists, and much do they know about anything? It’s a fair question. Lots of travel writers have come to the Napa Valley and covered the wine scene, and there are plenty of opinions about all kinds of wineries.

My own perspective is uniquely local. I’ve lived in Napa for over 10 years and have spent most of that time as a professional chef (at the moment, I work as a chef-instructor at a local cooking school). Over the years, I have taken breaks from restaurant life to work as a wine educator. I spent a year at Grgich Hills pouring wine, and I spent three years at Nickel & Nickel hosting tours and tastings.

[… read more …]