Healthy looking vines


Healthy looking vines in St. Helena

For our wine country photograph of the day we choose a photo of a St. Helena vineyard. The vines look very healthy with the shoots reaching for sunlight and forming a lovely canopy. This is a spectacular time to be in wine country.

Advice for wine country travelers

Young Inglewood Vineyards – Napa Valley Boutique Winery

Young Inglewood off the beaten path in St. Helena

Jim Young Vintner

Owner Jim Young talks about harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon very soon

For those who enjoy visiting Napa Valley boutique and hidden gems, is one to add to your list of must explore wineries.  The winery produces only 600 cases of wine and the location is hidden near the end of Inglewood Avenue. Inglewood Avenue branches off Highway 29 in St. Helena. Young Inglewood Vineyards is run by Jim and Jacky Young. Jacky and son Scott are the co-winemakers. The name of the winery comes from Jim and Jacky’s affection for Burgundy and Bordeaux. In most cases the wineries in France have the family name and the village name connected with the name of the winery, thus Young Inglewood. Young Inglewood is a certified Napa Green winery. I was surprised to learn from Jim Young that among the hundreds of wineries in the Napa Valley only 40 are certified green. It’s a vigorous test to meet these standards and perhaps that is why so few wineries in the Napa Valley can meet the requirements.  Young Inglewood has 17.6 acres planted to the Bordeaux grapes with most of that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Their Chardonnay is sourced from vineyards in the Oak Knoll AVA of the Napa Valley. Also in the vineyard mix is a small plot of Aligoté vineyards.  What, you never heard of the Aligoté grape?  It is likely that this is the only plot of Aligoté grown in the Napa Valley and perhaps all of California. The Aligoté grape is Burgundy’s second white wine grape. It is tasty crisp white wine and less expensive than the Chardonnay wines produced in Burgundy. The vines at Young Inglewood are only two years old so we will have to wait for what will certainly be a very small production wine.

Aligote vines

2 year old Aligote vines

The 17.6 acres of vineyards planted at Young Inglewood sit on the middle of an alluvial fan of a gravely loam soil. This according to Jim Young is some of the best soil in the entire Napa Valley. The roots grow deeply in search of water. Jim states that they irrigate established vines only four times per year.  In the red varieties the ideal is to strive for an earlier harvest than most. Harvesting earlier than normal means more acidity and less sugar in the grapes. This results in a balanced wine that is very food friendly wine as in the style of Bordeaux. The red wines spend anywhere from 18 to 20 months in French oak barrels, 50% which are new.

tasting at Young Inglewood

The sit down tasting room

Visiting Young Inglewood Vineyards

Visitors to Young Inglewood are all done by appointment. The tasting and touring fee is $40 per person and last from one to one and half hours. We tasted four wines ranging in price from $27 for a delicious Rosé to $90 for an amazing and stunning 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. We were impressed by the quality of the wines and more so by the passion and care that go into making the wines. A very cool wine label sums it all up. The tightrope walker on the label signifies balance. It is a constant reminder to all those at the winery that everything done at the winery must lead to a balance. I think it is great philosophy for all of us. balanced-wine


A snipet from Vintner Jim Young on his winery

Additional Napa Valley travel tips

Napa Valley Rain Water

napa valley rain water

Captured rain water in the Napa Valley

The Napa Valley needs water! California needs water! This is a welcome sight in the Napa Valley wine country. Recent rains have dumped several inches of water on Napa Valley vineyards and elsewhere in California. Some of this vital rainwater is captured and directed into wells for use later in the vineyard growing season. Later this week another big storm is predicted to hit the area. The big question remains: Will the year 2015 bring us back to normal or above normal rainfall? This photo was taken near the Ballentine Vineyards in the St.Helena area of the Napa Valley. Water is directed into a large drainage ditch that runs the length of the vineyards. What a beautiful time of the year in the Napa Valley!

St. Helena Wine Route - wineries near St. Helean on Highway 29

Napa Valley Cabernet in November

Napa Valley Cabernet November

The remnants of the 2014 harvest in the Napa Valley

Napa Valley Cabernet in November

This is the same St. Helena vineyard I have been photographing since May. Napa Valley Cabernet in November is entering its dormant stage. The vines will now sleep until the warmth of the Spring days beckons the vines to once again do their magic and produce grapes for wine. Not much work is done in the vineyards in November. Pruning is usually done in the late Winter. In this particular vineyard, the vineyard management team is getting ready for what they hope will be a rainy winter. Trenches are being dug to direct the water to accumulate for well water. Now is a good time to visit the wine country for two reasons. The Fall colors are dramatic. There are far fewer tourists in the Napa Valley at this time of the year. The exception is the Thanksgiving Weekend, which marks the last hurrah for the tourist season in wine country.

Additional Information on the St. Helena area of the Napa Valley

Grandview Hotel in St. Helena


Historic Acacia House built in 1907 will become the Grandview Hotel

About the Grandview Hotel in St. Helena

This is the old Acacia House that was built in 1907. It sits up on a hill directly opposite Pratt Road in St. Helena. It is also next door to the beautiful, historic Beringer Vineyards. The old Acacia House is being remodeled and restored and will become the Grandview Hotel, a 57-room luxury hotel. Completion date for the Grandview is set for the Spring of 2016. The hotel will also house an upscale restaurant, a spa, meeting rooms, and have a large grassy area for various events . This hotel development comes on top of two other hotel projects to the north. The Freemark Abbey Winery is set to break ground on a hotel and wedding center that will have some 90 rooms. Over on the Silverado Trail, and across from the Solage Resort, the Silver Rose Resort construction is just about to begin. The Silver Rose Resort will have 84 rooms and include a restaurant, a winery, and 20 private homes. In downtown Napa, the Archer Hotel is set to begin construction in the Fall of this year. Read more about the the Napa Valley developments in this article,  the Napa Valley is Booming,

It is rather amazing to see all these hotel developments taking place at once. What will the result be in terms of traffic congestion and the impact on existing hotels, B&B’s and motels in the area between St. Helena and Calistoga? Traffic in downtown St. Helena crawls on weekends and the same can be said for afternoons on weekdays. Will our economy continue to grow and attract more and more visitors to the Napa Valley? These are big companies that are developing these hotels, and I am sure they have done enough research and studies to indicate a successful investment in these projects.

Additional information on St. Helena hotels and restaurants

Napa Valley Cabernet in June

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon on June 11, 2014 - Revana Vineyards

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon on June 11, 2014 – Revana Vineyards

Napa Valley Cabernet in June

This photo of Napa Valley Cabernet was taken on June 11, 2014, in the St. Helena AVA. The photo shows the current development of Cabernet Sauvignon on the Valley floor. The leaves and berries look very healthy and Napa Valley Cabernet appears to be in line for a great harvest year. This vineyard is owned by the Revana Family Vineyards in St. Helena. Revana Family Vineyards is a small family-owned winery that specializes in high-end Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard is sustainably farmed. On this day the vineyard was in morning fog with the sun breaking through around 10:30 a.m. The afternoon was warm and a cooling breeze swept the vineyard in the late afternoon and early evening.

Important Napa Valley resources

Napa Valley Wine Trails
St. Helena Lodging
St. Helena Restaurants
Winery Finder and Trip Planner – Napa Valley

Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen without Cindy

We took a very quick overnight trip to the Napa Valley to view a house that a family relative is considering purchasing. On the way, we stopped in St. Helena for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Several weeks ago we read in the S.F. Chronicle that Cindy Pawlcyn had been in a car accident. The newspaper report indicated that Cindy suffered minor injuries. We asked our server how she was doing. She stated that Cindy’s injuries were extensive. She spent several weeks in the hospital and will not return to her kitchen for perhaps as long as 4 months. Our meal was excellent, but we felt something was amiss at the restaurant. Cindy is obviously missed by all. We wish Cindy a speedy recovery.

piquillo peppers stuffed

Stuffed piquillo peppers

A Visit to V. Sattui

Sign in tasting room

Sign in tasting room

I am always amazed at the number of folks who visit this winery and buy wine in huge amounts. I wonder, as probably winery owners in the Valley do, how it is that Dario Sattui is able sell all his wine out of his tasting room. None of the Sattui wine is distributed. The tasting room is a bevy of activity. Our server was efficient and knowledgeable. He knew each Sattui wine like the back of his hand. Impressive, to say the least. By the way, visitors can try one complimentary taste of wine, otherwise it is $15 to taste a lineup of several wines. We had previously tasted the Sattui wines as well as the wines from Castello di Amorosa, Dario’s newer winery located near Calistoga. The overall quality of the wines is very high. Winemaker Brooks Painter is the winemaker for both wineries. The St. Helena tasting room has a cheese and deli shop where visitors can purchase food items and head outside for a picnic lunch. No outside wine is allowed (understandable) and no outside food. I think that is a bit stiff on the food control, but it seems to work because the expansive picnic area is very busy. I need to do more digging into the tremendous success of Dario Sattui and his wines.

Calistoga Tidbits

In the late afternoon we walked along Lincoln Avenue, the business area of Calistoga. Since our last visit, there are a couple of new tasting rooms in town and one new restaurant. Do you remember Wappo, a restaurant with an eclectic menu? It closed down several years ago, but recently reopened as 1226 Washington. The menu looks great and, at the W.H. Smith Tasting Room, our server highly recommended it. We will give it a try the next time to Calistoga.

At the W.H. Smith tasting room, we shared a tasting of 6 wines for $15. The wines were all delicious but expensive. The Sauvignon Blanc was $28. The lineup of Pinot Noir wines was fantastic, but again expensive. Our favorite from the Sonoma Coast was above $50.

Solbar Restaurant at Solage

This is the top restaurant in Calistoga. The restaurant is situated in the beautiful and luxurious Solage resort. We had a lovely dinner outside in the warm evening air. The food, wine and atmosphere were excellent. Surprisingly, we found the service lacking. Slow, slow, and slower was our experience. For example, our party ordered a second bottle of wine and it took 10 minutes to arrive. The check including tip came to $390 for four.

The Solbar restaurant at Solage Resort

The Solbar restaurant at Solage Resort

Calistoga Cab Hopper

I would like to recommend this little taxi company that serves the Calistoga area. They are pricy at $5 a mile, but Calistoga is a small area. As it states in the brochure, taking the Hopper is more fun than spending a night in jail. We called the Hopper from the Solbar, and within ten minutes they were there to take us to our destination. I previously posted an article about the presence of Uber in the Napa Valley. However, they are not as yet servicing the Calistoga area of the Napa Valley.

Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena – The Sauvignon Blanc is outstanding

Amid the rain and wind this past Wednesday, we managed to squeeze in a tour and tasting at the Whitehall Lane Winery in St. Helena. Tom Leonardini and Family have owned the Whitehall Lane winery since 1993. Whitehall Lane is one of the Napa Valley’s earliest wineries with a start date of 1979. The winery is one our favorites, and we’d selected the winery for our Boutique Wine Trail back in 2003.

This was our first visit since the winery did a remodel and an addition a couple of years ago. Although the building structure has changed, the personnel remains very much the same, anchored by winemaker Dean Sylvester now in his eighteenth year at Whitehall. Our tour leader was Mike McLoughlin, the General Manger who joined the winery shortly after the Leonardini Family purchased the winery. Consistency is good in this case; the Whitehall Lane wines have been highly regarded throughout its history, highlighted many times by the Wine Spectator for its reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dean Sylvester the winemaker at Whitehall Lane

Dean Sylvester is his lab checks the Sauvignon Blanc blend

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Inside Yountville

The main wine towns of the Napa Valley are Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Inside Yountville is the first of a series of short videos designed to give the tourist a quick view of the major attractions of these localities: where to stay, dine, shop, and enjoy other very fun wine country activities. In this video, you will quickly see why tourists love Yountville.

Inside Yountville

Follow these links to view our recommendations for lodging, restaurants, wineries, and other attractions in the Napa Valley.

Yountville is very popular on weekends and during the week in the Summer and Fall months. Be sure to plan ahead to book your lodging and reserve a restaurant table.

Don’t miss:

A tour and tasting at Domaine Chandon
A pastry and coffee at Bouchon Bakery
A walk or jog along the vineyard-lined Yount Mill Road
A visit to Michael Chiarello’s Napa Style boutique shop at V Marketplace
An early morning walk to watch the launch of colorful balloons taking off
A quiet stroll through the Veterans’ Cemetery

Domain Chandon tasting and tour

Domain Chandon Tasting Room