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Wine Country

Primal Napa: This Weekend, Fire it Up

If your lust for knives and blood-thirst wasn't quenched last Saturday, then this weekend, head up to Chase Cellars for Primal Napa where "fire cooking, meat and the art of butchering" will be celebrated. Not only will there be good food, but the guest chefs and butchers will be participating in a "group-butcher demonstration": breaking down a pig, goat, cow, and lamb in front of an audience. While the rest of the world apparently is riveted by Ultimate Fighting, the foodies gather around with their beer to watch live butcher demos.

On the chef roster?

The usual salumi suspects:

Darkening Skies: '09 Harvest Drawing to a Violent Close

California winemakers have always prided themselves—often arrogantly—on the fact that they can harvest whenever they want to. That is, unlike the wine regions of continental northern Europe, which have real seasons and are subject to the cold and rain that September often brings, California enjoys a long, warm, dry Indian summer lasting usually through to the end of October. Thus, European winemakers often find their (crucial) picking decisions dictated to them by rain storms, while California winemakers can choose to harvest their grapes whenever they please.

Valley High: A Quick Tour of What's New in the Wine Country

St. Helena

Love him or hate him, wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. has made and broken many a winemaker. On Oct. 22, feel the power as he leads a tasting of the 2007 Châteuneuf-du-Pape at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. A sparkling wine reception follows (as it should when you’re shelling out $750). 2555 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-2305, ciachef.edu

Grape Stomp: A Napa Harvest Experience

Anyone who knows I Love Lucy remembers the episode where Lucy wanders off to a vineyard and is ordered by forceful Italian women to crush grapes with her feet in a wine vat. Well, the clever, fun-loving family behind Schweiger Vineyards has recreated the side-splitting scene with this year's harvest experience. Sure, Crushpad may offer their version of a city crush camp, but we say go where the grapes grow for a truly authentic escapade. Make the trek up to the mountaintop vineyard and winery in St. Helena for a day of sampling, sugar testing, handpicking, de-stemming and good, old-fashioned stomping.

Napa Wine Auction 2009: Did It Beat Naples?

Well, that depends on how you measure it. This article in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the actual auction--the glitzy live one over dinner--only raised $4.3 million, not even half the $10.3 mill of last year. It was also just short of the $5.06 million raised by the Naples (FLA) Winter Wine Festival, Napa's upstart rival in the glamorous, luxury-wine-auction-for-charity business.

Auction Napa Valley 2009: Not As Glitzy This Year, But It's No Hoedown

Auction Napa Valley, the premier party of the year in California’s glitziest, most glamorous wine region, is set to take place this Saturday at Meadowood. I always love it when a Napa Valley winery owner refers to himself as a “farmer,” because ACN is a lot of things, but a hoedown is not one of them.

A Girls' Weekend in St. Helena (Sans Wine)

When you're pregnant and a wine aficionado, a weekend in Napa may sound like torture. But during a recent girls’ weekend to St. Helena, I discovered that wine country can be equally indulgent and relaxing when you’re expecting. With its renowned spa treatments, shopping and gourmet culinary offerings, Napa makes for an ideal escape, with or without a drink.

The New Yountville Getaway: Bardessono + Bottega

Spent the weekend up doing the Yountville shuffle. Here's my blog brief.

Yountville might feel like a planned community (of restaurants and resorts) rather than real place where real people live and dine (and get spa treatments). But it doesn't seem to detract from its ability to continue to be the big destination in the Napa Valley. (Thanks, French Laundry.)

It’s Got Legs: Beringer’s Rhine House

As more once-great institutions appear to teeter on the brink of oblivion, a Wine Country landmark is back in vogue. And thriving.

On a recent rainy night, card-carrying members of the SF and Napa Valley Swell set convened to celebrate the return of Beringer Winery’s historic Rhine House in St. Helena with a glamorous black-tie dinner.

Beringer was founded in 1897 and, though recently purchased by the Australian Foster’s Beer empire, it reigns as the oldest continuous winemaking facility in the Napa Valley.

Copia Closed

While it's tempting to think that the closing of Copia, Napa's ambitious wine and cultural center, is a sign of the times, the fact is that the organization has been troubled since its inception. Robert Mondavi raised and donated much of the money for its construction, despite the fact that there was little indication of how Copia would sustain itself. It has had trouble drawing crowds and has never become that first stop on the Napa wine trail that its creators hoped it might be.

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