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 One of the best things about living in Reno is how easy it is to leave Reno. Within 30 minutes I can be at Lake Tahoe, within 2 hours visiting my college friends in Sacramento and Davis, and within 3 hours saddling up to a tasting room bar in Napa sipping on some wine. Usually my sole purpose for going to the Napa Valley is to drink great wine and eat amazing food. Recently though, I have the added excuse of visiting more frequently because I am helping my cousin and his fiance plan their Labor Day weekend wedding at Beringer.  

I used to plan weddings when I lived in Portland, and I love being involved in events that have such significance in people’s lives. Planning a wedding can be very overwhelming (to say the least), especially when it’s a destination wedding for 150 people on a 3 day weekend. The logistics of transportation and travel alone, can make one’s head spin. Thankfully I am extreme Type A, and I love organization (and Excel spreadsheets!). It also doesn’t hurt that I planned my own wedding in Napa two years ago, and have already worked with many of the same vendors. As a wedding planner, my trip to Napa this past weekend was to go over vendor/decor details with the bride and groom.

As a Chef and wine lover though, the purpose of my trip to Napa this past weekend was to swing by a couple wineries to do some tasting and pickup some Spring shipments where my husband and I are members. Wait a minute. Is it Spring already? The calendar says it’s March, but the 70 degree temperature and blooms on the trees say otherwise. You gotta love California weather. This time of year in Napa, it is mustard season. Everywhere you look little yellow flowers are filling the fields. It’s not just mustard though, tulips, daffodils, and magnolias have made an appearance as well. And even though the vines are still bare, the wineries are in full-swing and pouring new releases. Biale Winery, which specializes in Napa Zinfandels, just cracked open their 1st bottle of 2010 Black Chicken and we were there to taste. At Joseph Phelps we were treated to their Cabernet Insignia while sitting on their newly built deck overlooking the vineyards. It’s such an awesome experience to taste wine while looking at the exact spot where the grapes are grown.

We also treated ourselves to some of Yountville’s newest and oldest culinary delights. We had lunch at the newly opened Redd Wood restaurant attached to the North Block Hotel. This is chef Richard Reddington’s second restaurant (the 1st is Michelin star rated Redd and is just up the road in Yountville) and is a contemporary Pizzeria. The dining room is gorgeous and is filled with warm red roods, white subway tiles, and edison light bulbs. The open kitchen offers a view of the wood fire pizza oven, and the salumi meat locker. Since I was a little wined out, I had an “Unusual Negroni” (made with Hendricks gin, my favorite) which was very refreshing. And on my pizza there was prosciutto, rapini, taleggio, a farm fresh egg, and red onion. I think that is the first time I have had rapini on a pizza and it was a great combo with the prosciutto. The rapini was sweet, with a flavor similar to green peas, and had a nice crispness from the oven, while the prosciutto was soft and salty. The pizza was more than enough for lunch, but my husband and I couldn’t leave without ordering the almond toffee cannoli. We went to Sicily last year for our honeymoon, and we had to make sure that the sweet ricotta pastry was up to par. It definitely was!

If dessert at Redd Wood wasn’t enough, we also made a stop at Bouchon Bakery. Bouchon, owned by Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, has been in Yountville for over 10 years and specializes in French style pastries. My husband and I love cookies, and Bouchon’s are the best. We actually served their cookies at our wedding rather than cake. We haven’t had Bouchon in a while though since the original bakery building was destroyed in a kitchen fire last year, and they had limited hours. They have finally finished rebuilding though, and we got our fix. I am going to finish this blog entry with a photo of a TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo). Because what is a better ending than that?