Monday, November 19, 2018

Life is Sweet in Napa Valley with Hestan Vineyards

Life is Sweet in Napa Valley with Hestan Vineyards

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny

“God is in the details.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe


HESTAN VINEYARDS
Our first sipping adventure of the day was Hestan Vineyards, at their tasting room in Yountville.  Hestan Vineyards is a family-owned estate on the eastern slopes of the Napa Valley.  Their carefully-tended 110 acres are blanketed with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec producing 5,500 cases per year. 

At the door we were met by Michelle, an Australian expat getting her wine ya ya's out in the Valley and Grant, a self proclaimed “Cork Dork.”  Hestan Vineyards was born from the culinary passion of Stanley Cheng and his wife, Helen. Hestan is an amalgamation of Helen and Stan’s names (like Brangelina, but with the marriage intact..).  Stanley pioneered hard-anodized cookware in the 1970s.  The Meyer Corporation produces high-end, heavy-duty, customizable appliance from breakfast to back-of-house to the backyard.  “If you see him, please thank him for me,” pipped Kelly.

Taken together, Meyer affiliate factories comprise the world’s second largest cookware manufacturing operation, producing over 100 cookware lines distributed in over 30 countries.  The factories employ more than 6,400 people, manufacturing more than 42 million pans per year on average.  Retail partners include William Sonoma and Rachel Ray while the commercial side includes the cooktop grills at French Laundry and Bouchon.

For Hestan, their wine labels are a side hustle passion project.  Winemakers Jeff Gaffner and Thomas Rivers Brown translate these varietals into award-winning, limited-release wines for the Hestan, Meyer, and Stephanie labels.  Each has different techniques: Thomas Rivers Brown (whose name sounds like a country music jam band) who creates the Hestan and Meyer lines, is a purist who does believe in any blending.  In the past 15 years Brown has made more than 25 wines that have received perfect scores from Robert Parker Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. (He’s not sure of the exact number, which seems in character for this laid-back Southerner..).  Winemaker Jeff Gaffner fully embraces the art of mixing varietals crafting the two labels named after Stan and Helen’s children: Stephanie (their only daughter) and Vincent Christopher (named after their two boys).. 

As Grant pointed out, wine is the opposite of food, the grapes don’t lie.  They can’t be covered over with spices.  Most crucial decision is how to pick in that 48 hour window.  And the person in charge of that decision and everything else is Angel Camarena, who has overseen the viticulture at Hestan Vineyards since planting the first vines in 1996.  Since then he has personally overseen every aspect of vineyard development and maintenance, in addition to managing the balance of the estate's 237-acre ranch property.


Angel is appropriately named!  Living on the property since the vines were planted, last year he fought the Napa/Sonoma wildfires like a captain going down with the ship.  Three times the cops came to remove Angel from the Hestan property for his safety and all three times he hid from in the vines he’d known for over twenty years ago.  Angel saved the Hestan Vineyards (and neighbor’s property) that night.  This year when his daughter got into an Ivy League school, Stan reciprocated by telling him not to worry about paying the bill!

Some of our favorite moments at Hestan included the wines:

  • Hestan Chardonnay (2011)  Citrusy lightly oaked Chardonnay brought straight from the mouth of San Francisco Bay.  Clean and crisp, this wine is a tightrope of buttery and bright.  It’s plaid J. Crew shorts and a white yacht club sail.  Perfect late September picnic vibes.  Oh, and it’s been served at the White House 3 times now!
  • Vincent Christopher Pinot Noir (2015) Valentine’s Day in a glass!  Hestan’s only non-estate wine grown on the Sonoma Coast at a 1200 foot elevation.  It’s a Pinot that drinks like a Cab.  This wine walks into a room quietly and soon becomes the most desired talked about guest.  This wine sits and speaks with you; knowing your secrets in a most tender beautiful way.
  • Hestan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (2014) This is a November campfire wine, a “opulent and Hedonist” drink.  Hestan’s Flagship Cab., it received 96 points by Robert Parker Wine Advocate.  With triple black fruit flavors, it’s Edgar Allen Poe in a bottle, full of dark velvet and echoing beauty.  
Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com


 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Life is Sweet in Napa Valley - Intimate Micro-Experiences in the World of Wine, Food, and the Art of Relaxation

Life is Sweet in Napa Valley - Intimate Micro-Experiences in the World of Wine, Food, and the Art of Relaxation (PART ONE)

By Kat Thomas, Edible Skinny

“God is in the details.”
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

NAPA!  One single word and some many images come to mind.  A kaleidoscope of intimate micro experiences in the world of wine, food, and the art of relaxation.  “The most delectable wine I ever tried was in a tasting room in Napa at...:”  “The best meal of my life was this one night at French Laundry…”  “I went there for a weekend of wine tasting and never left the Valley...”  These are stories you hear from each individual person you encounter along the Silverado Trail...

About of a month ago my ES partner in crime Kelly Grace Thomas and I drove up to the Valley to celebrate her impending nuptials, hunting for those micro experiences.  The immersive wine and food stories that inspired the Thomas Gals to become a food writers in the first place! 

And with 400 wineries with tasting rooms in the Napa Valley (600+ if you include Sonoma) you can definitely get lost in the details....  Kelly and I chose (guided by the AMAZING Beau Wine Tours) locally petite experiences (no parking lots with tour buses for us).  These experiences were as cherished as you get, every winery adventure we encountered produced 10,000 cases or less. 

Intimate experiences are the heart and soul of the Valley (these people are essentially simple farmers... in some of the most expensive real estate in the world).  And to focus on their stories properly, this tale is split into multiple posts.  It’s just that big of a tale for the Thomas Gals!

So here’s to life being delicious, all your stories being postcard worthy, and “the most delectable wine I ever tried was in a tasting room in Napa at...:”

BEAU WINE TOURS
Our morning began by meeting our driver, Titus, from Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service in front of the Mount View Hotel in Calistoga (but more on that in the next article...).  Our tasting adventures were also curated by Beau, who provides private Napa and Sonoma wine tasting tour experiences that are unique to each client’s taste and wine preferences for the past two decades. 

Beau Wine Tours & Limousine Service long-lasting relationships with vintners and winemakers in this region are the key to unlocking exclusive access to the road less traveled.  Whether a wine novice, or an experienced collector, Beau Wine Tours custom tailors the right tour for their guest (and they did a FAB job as you’ll see throughout this article).  It’s ABSOLUTELY these personal experiences and one-on-one connection that sets them apart!

As their guest, Beau Wine Tours pampered us with their signature chauffeur services.  Because a driver is a necessary part of experiencing Napa when imbibing glass upon glass of Chardonnay to Cabernet! ;-)

Gliding up and down the Silverado Trail from the boutique wineries of Yountville to the silky smooth Cabernets of Stags Leap District to the jammy fruit flavors of Calistoga we got to know the Valley inside and out!

Kat Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Edible Skinny, a site dedicated to making your life postcard worthy. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures. You can find more about both brands at http://www.thiswayadventures.com

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cannabis and Cabernet - The Marriage of Weed and Wine in Napa Valley

Cannabis and Cabernet - The Marriage of Weed and Wine in Napa Valley

By Kat Thomas, The Green Light District


Welcome to Art of Relaxation!  Napa Valley is famed for its dedication to leisure through its 400 wineries with tasting rooms in the Valley (600+ if you include Sonoma), 50 restaurants, 125 lodging properties, outdoor activities, events, and art galleries.  And in the last few months, Napa has expanded its enjoyment wheelhouse to include the ability to get cannabis delivered right to your door. 

There are no marijuana dispensaries in Napa County, but starting in August, the delivery only dispensary, Napa Valley Fumé, teamed up with Eaze, an online platform that lets people order marijuana products, allowing for cannabis within minutes of ordering.  Eaze was launched in 2014, but since it relies on local dispensaries to distribute and deliver products, it hadn’t served the main wine growing region of the United States of America (and one of the major wine regions of the world) till this partnership started.

Napa Valley has a fabled legacy of international renown, yet it is one of the smallest wine growing regions in the world; they produce just four percent of California’s wine grape harvest.  But that doesn’t stop the 3.5 million visitors per year from embracing Napa’s slow down lifestyle.  And now they’re able to slow down on another level with pre-rolls, vape cartridges, and edibles delivered right to their door.  

“There’s no actual dispensaries in Napa County,” notes Sheena Shiravi, Director of Consumer Communications at Eaze.  “Before Eaze started deliveries to Napa, Valley visitors and residents had to drive an hour to the closest dispensary.”  But now, cannabis can be headed to any private residence and hotel rooms (but not wineries) with just a few clicks on the app.

Elissa Hagopian Hambrecht, the COO of Napa Valley Fumé, couldn’t be happier.  “We really feel like the stars have aligned.  Both myself and Eric Sklar, Napa Valley Fumé CEO are recovered Vintners.  We bring 30-40 years experience of wine and hospitality to the world of Napa cannabis.  And we’re thoroughly happy to be ensconced in this new industry.”

Hambrecht has had two wine industry leadership roles: she was co-CEO of Belvedere Winery and later she was a VP at TastingRoom.com, leading the winery partnerships program.  She has over twenty five years of experience launching and operating both proprietary businesses and partnerships.  “Napa Valley Fumé is all about the world of top end Napa cannabis.”

“20% of Californians shop the black market for cannabis,” states Shiravi.  “So for everyone trying to push the legalization of cannabis, having Eaze come to wine country is one step closer to normalizing the marriage of weed and wine.”  “There’s a fun and educational path in front of consumers with a huge learning curve ahead,” notes Hambrecht.  “I’m a serial startup girl so getting rid of black market is what we’re all about.”

Napa Valley Fumé has a delivery only dispensary license (versus the license that allows for a brick and mortar building) located in Lake County approximately 40 minutes North of Calistoga.  They then use Eaze as a partner to distribute to their product to Napa Valley.  Eaze is not allowed to deliver to federal government building, schools, youth oriented addresses, but anyone else is open game!  “That’s the magic of Eaze as your delivery service,” chimes in Hambrecht.

And very soon cannabis, won’t just be delivered to Napa, it’s been grown there too!  “Napa is the premier agricultural region in the country,” notes Hambrecht, “we have better terroir than anyone one else there.”  And according to Hambrecht this includes the famed Humboldt county.  “Humboldt is great for hiding cannabis, not growing it.”  And Napa’s cannabis growing future is terroir dependent as the powers that be are pushing forward an ordinance that only allows for only the outdoor growing of cannabis in Napa Valley (no indoor grow rooms for this wine region). 

But how do psychologically marry weed and wine?  How do appease the fears of 400 wineries with tasting rooms in the Valley (600+ if you include Sonoma), that cannabis is going to kick wine to the curb?  Well one way is to get a bunch of people in the wine industry involved! Hambrecht is also a board member of the Napa Valley Cannabis Association, a 501c3, similar in concept to the Napa Valley Vintners Association  “It’s a who’s who of well established vintners on the board: Stephanie Honig is the CEO, Robert Mondavi is member too.  Everyone is very excited to cultivate here in Napa Valley!”

And there’s potential for everyone as the footprint for growing cannabis is much smaller than that of grapes.  That being said, the Napa Valley Cannabis Association is “Very Anti” to the concept of pulling grapes out of the ground to plant marijuana.  “We’re additive, not subtractive,” continues Hambrecht.  Plus cannabis test restrictions block the two plants from growing right next to each other.  “You can’t plant cannabis near the grapes because of drafting of sulfite sprays.  If you were to grow marijuana near the grapes you wouldn’t pass the state required lab testing.”

But what about a future where you can pull out your vape pen at a winery?  Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon as California does not allow cannabis and wine on the same premise.  But in these early days of the marriage of weed and wine, Eaze and Fumé will help shoulder the ability to embrace cannabis in Napa Valley and beyond.  Eaze recently expanded their wine region delivery area to include Sonoma County as well.  And with that in mind, they encourage you to indulge, both with both cannabis and Cabernet. 

Kat Thomas is the Co-Owner of The Green Light District, a Las Vegas/Los Angeles Cannabis entertainment company. She is also the CEO of the creative media company This Way Adventures.