Wonderful Wine-Induced Thanksgiving & 30th Birthday

I got quite the (early) 30th birthday weekend over Thanksgiving weekend, whew! My family and Beth, especially, truly went out of their way to make my 3rd decade start off with a wonderful wine-soaked bang.

We had a very special start to the weekend with Thanksgiving night at my sister’s condo in Napa, where she provided a cozy and well-appreciated dinner aided by my mom and Beth.

The next day my family and I went tasting around the Napa Valley, starting at Cartlidge & Browne, one of the best value producers in the world of wine. My family first learned about C&B when they owned Ehlers Estate in St. Helena. I grew up going to many a tasty picnic at that winery. They’ve since sold off that label and winery and are now are based in their large warehouse in American Canyon. We tasted a few wines there, where I liked their Sauv Blanc and Stratford label Cab’s. Please use the links below to read my reviews log notes for the wines I mention in this post!

We then headed across the Southern part of the Valley into the Carneros region where we tasted at Folio (Michael Mondavi’s new negociant-style venture & winery) in the old Carneros Creek winery location and Artesa. The real fun and excitement of the weekend took place after this lovely day.

Beth instructed me to be ready as soon as she got back up to my sister’s, where she then whisked me off to a surpise birthday weekend alone with her at the Kenwood Inn and Spa! I was practically speechless when she suddenly turned left off Sonoma Highway towards the gorgeous lobby of the Inn. The grounds are just beautiful, done in a Tuscan style and all grown up and in around the beautiful architecture. We got settled in our suite overlooking the main pool and the spa and then headed over to the little wine bar and restaurant that are in the square of the main building and private to the guests. They had a compact but very well thought out wine list, which we proceeded to plunder during the rest of the trip.

The next day, however, the fun surprises continued with a town car ready to take us anywhere we wanted for the rest of the day! We did our best, hitting numerous wineries including Twomey Cellars (in the old Roshambo Winery building), Hop Kiln Winery, Armida Winery, Longboard Vineyards, Christopher Creek Winery and finishing with Pellegrini Family Vineyards.

Twomey had made few changes to the Roshambo building and it was there that I was reminded that they are the Merlot house for Silver Oak, something that I had forgotten. They also have the main tasting room and winery in Calistoga. Hop Kiln was very busy and we really enjoyed their Thousand Flowers white blend. Armida, a Zinfandel specialist, was a bastion of young hipsters and while they make a lot of great wine, including the well-recognized Poizin, we were turned off by the overwhelming marketing push in the winery for that wine.

Longboard was a winery that I was anxiously anticipating and it did not disappoint, being tied with our favorite for the weekend. Founded by surfer and former J Winery winemaker, Oded Shakked, it is found in a converted warehouse on the outskirts of Healdsburg. The tasting room is filled with surf memorabelia from the longboard heyday and even has a plasma television showing surf documentaries to the side of the tasting bar. All of Oded’s wines were fantastic, with my favorites being the two Syrah’s (his speciality) and the Dakine Vineyard Merlot.

Next we headed to one of my favorites (I’ve been a wine club member), Christopher Creek. They make a wide array of wines, while specializing in one of my favorite varietals, Petite Sirah. They are a no-nonsense, here’s some great wine in a former barn-kinda place. I love it. I bought a bottle of their 1999 Russian River Valley back vintage Petite Sirah. Yum (I’m pretty sure…we haven’t had it yet!).

Our great driver, Turk, finished the day for us by taking us to Pellegrini on the way home to Kenwood. I enjoyed their wines, but honestly, we were so wiped that we didn’t stay long. Tasting is hard work! We settled down to (even more) wine at the wine bar and then another beautiful meal at the restaurant.

What a fantastic weekend. I have to send such a heart-felt thank you to my thoughtful and beautiful wife. It was a birthday I will never forget, even if I had to turn 30 to experience it! You can search for all of the wines below by using the tag “30thW”. Enjoy!

2006 Cartlidge & Browne Dancing Crow Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc

2004 Twomey Cellars Napa Valley Merlot

2006 Hop Kiln Thousand Flowers California White Wine

2004 Longboard Vineyards Russian River Valley Syrah

2004 Longboard Vineyards Dakine Vineyard Syrah

2005 Longboard Vineyards Dakine Vineyard Merlot

1999 Christopher Creek Russian River Valley Estate Petite Sirah

2005 Pellegini Family Vineyards Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo

View posts by Vinopanion: Ward Kadel - @drXeNo
Ward Kadel - @drXeNo is the founder of Vinopanion wine blog, former West Coast Ambassador & Staff Blogger for WineLog.net and former Le Wine Buff for Bordeaux.com (CIVB). He will try any and all wines and tends to write about the parts of his life that include wine...like virtually all of it! He and his wife grew up in Napa and Sonoma and they still live in the Napa Valley. Check out the wines he's recommended with his WKBadges. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Like #Vinopanion on Facebook. Contact him: "Ward at WineLog.net". Ward happily accepts samples but does not guarantee a review, positive or negative.


  1. John Masters
    December 11, 2007

    Everett Ridge is usually a favorite stop in healdsburg.. We usually don’t do the Napa trips.. We have found going north from Napa to Sonoma or Mendocino counties has some great wineries. I think we like la crema also..

  2. Ward
    December 11, 2007

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the heads up! I’ve been enjoying Pinot’s from La Crema for many years, but Everett Ridge is new to me. Beth and I need to visit that winery the next time we’re up there. Take care.

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