Category Archives: Wine

A Visit To Hall Winery

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.

Merlot grapes on the vine at Senza Hotel.


Love big, bold Cabs? And big, bold art?

Head to Hall Winery in St. Helena the next time you’re in the Napa Valley.

There, you’ll relish both in the sprawling winery estate created by Kathryn Hall and her husband Craig Hall.

Kathyrn Hall comes from a grape-growing family, as her parents owned vineyards in Mendocino. But it took awhile before she delved into it, herself. After graduating from Hastings Law School and U.C. Berkeley, she embarked on a career as an attorney; worked on Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign; joined Safeway, where she developed one of the nation’s first and largest affirmative action programs; and eventually became the U.S. ambassador to Austria (she’s fluent in French and German).

Along the way, she met and fell in love with Craig Hall, founder of Hall Financial Group, who was equally accomplished, having bought his first apartment complex at age 18 and became a millionaire by the age of 21. At one point, he was the youngest co-owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

After marrying, this power couple decided to move to the Napa Valley to make wine. And what wine it is — garnering more than 170 scores of more than 90 points by noted wine critics.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A tasting of Hall wines.

A comparison of Cabs.

A comparison of Cabs.

The Hallmark Tour ($40, an hour+ in length) is a great way to get acquainted with the winery, as I found out when I was invited as a guest on it recently.

You check in at the host stand, then are given glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc as you await the tour to start. It’s a nice way to cool off on a warm summer day in Wine Country, too.

Read more

Vinebox Brings the Tasting Room to You

A novel way to try wines.

A novel way to try wines.


In much the same way that Birchbox sends subscribers samples of new beauty products monthly to try, Vinebox does the same with wine.

But of course, you do need to be 21 to take possession of this box when it’s delivered to your door. And not every state allows shipping of alcohol.

The curated box is pretty nifty, as I found out for myself when I was invited to try a sample. Inside, snuggled tightly inside foam cutouts for protection, are three glass containers of wine that look rather like oversized test tubes with screw-tops.

Each holds a glass of wine that’s been repackaged using a patented technology that presumably doesn’t impact the wine.

Read more

Good Things Come — In Boxes

A peek inside the "Silicon Valley'' Sojourn Box.

A peek inside the “Silicon Valley” Sojourn Box.


With graduation fetes, Father’s Day, and summer birthday celebrations to come, everyone’s got gift-giving on their minds. Recently, I had a chance to check out samples of three new artisan gift box deliveries. Here’s the lowdown:

Sojourn Box

The word, “sojourn,” refers to a “temporary stay.”

And Sojourn Box aims to do something similar — to transport you briefly to another place.

The Santa Cruz-based company packs curated artisan products in boxes, each of which has a different Northern California geographic theme, such as “Monterey,” “San Francisco,” and “Santa Cruz.”

The “Silicon Valley” one was sent to me, befittingly since I reside there. I received the “taste-size” box ($38). If you like the products, you can reorder and choose the “full-sized” box ($70) with — you guessed it — full-sized versions of each product.

With the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life, this box was definitely made for unplugging and getting away from it all. It’s also a box designed more for a woman than a man, what with its Lavender Herbal Bath Soak salts from Sylvie James, and Lemongrass Tangerine Soy Candle. Hey, just saying.

There’s also a tiny sea urchin shell holding the teeniest air plant; Smoked Sugar from Whiskey Oak Seasonings; a Cantaloupe Mint Green Tea bag from Thao Tea; and Coconut, Cacao + Raisin Granola Bites, which taste much more healthy and austere than most granolas on the market.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Granola bites to enjoy.

Each product is sourced locally. Each box also includes a little printed booklet containing fun facts about each region, including the “Top Five Places to Eat,” and “Top Five Places To Shop.” There’s also a card listing the “Top 10 Songs” in the area. Who knew that Dogcatcher’s “It’s You, It’s Me,” was tops in Silicon Valley.

Good For: A favorite female in your life whom you want to pamper.


For the chocoholics in your life, there is Chococurb.

This Seattle company delivers a box of chocolates monthly — or as a one-time gift. A full-sized box of five to seven chocolate products is $35. A mini box of three chocolate products is $20. Choose a three-month or six-month subscription and the price per box goes down.

It’s also a full e-commerce site, so if you or your recipient is enamored of a particular chocolate, he or she can re-order it easily.

Chococurb's full-sized box.

Chococurb’s full-sized box.

Of the offerings included in my sample full-sized box, I especially enjoyed the Cabruca walnut and fig bar, with its unusual undulating shape and its candied fig pieces decorating the top.

Read more

Pedro Jimenez Ice Cream with Orange Zest

A sherry-laced ice cream to fall head over heels for.

A sherry-laced ice cream to fall head over heels for.


Pedro Jimenez, so glad to finally make your acquaintance. Just where have you been all my life?

It was only recently that I got to know this fabled white Spanish grape that’s typically dried in the sun to make a dark, syrupy dessert sherry wine.

A friend had gifted me a bottle of Bodega Dios Baco Pedro Jimenez and I was waiting for just the right moment to open it. When I did, I was greeted with a heavy-bodied inky wine fragrant with the scent of raisins and dates. The taste was figgy, almost sticky toffee-like, with a bit of aged balsamico on the finish.

It would be great alongside cheese, salumi and almonds. Or used in a sauce to finish duck or quail.

But what caught my eye was a recipe for “Pedro Jimenez Ice Cream with Orange Zest” in the new “The Basque Cookbook: A Love Letter in Recipes From the Kitchen of Txikito” (Ten Speed Press) by Chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero with food writer Rebecca Flint Marx of San Francisco Magazine.

Read more

« Older Entries