I made it back over to Artisan Wine Lounge and CafÃ© last Saturday with a big group of friends in tow. We were attending the latest event that Lena Chu had lined up at her superb destination venue in downtown Walnut Creek, CA. The event was a showcase of two artists, Katey Shockey, the artist currently showing at the lounge and Sones Cellars, a family boutique winery from Santa Cruz. Katey has had her work featured in the lounge since Beth and I first visited the relatively new wine spot, which I wrote about here. Since that first visit, Beth, myself and our friends have grown quite attached to the lounge and have been regularly visiting the wine joint. It's conveniently located near BART, as well as one of the stops on the CC Free Ride bus that runs it way through the downtown shopping districts, starting at Walnut Creek BART.
I made my first visit to the latest "castle" in Napa this past weekend, in honor of my sister Shauna's birthday. Saturday morning Beth and I made the cruise up from the East Bay and into the Valley, meeting up with everyone at my parents' house in Browns Valley. Now...when I say "castle," I don't mean some overgrown McMansion built by the latest tech wiz from San Jose, I mean a real and ginormous Italian castle! Daryl Sattui, family patriarch and proprietor of the enormously popular V. Sattui winery destination on 29 just before St. Helena proper, has spent the last 14 years and over US$30 million building an obsessively authentic Italian castle on Diamond Mountain. At 121,000 square feet, 8 stories and 109 rooms, this painstakingly-designed replica of a Tuscan medieval-era castle, while ostentatious, is so well executed that one cannot come away from visiting the grounds without a sense of awe and inspiration. Most of the stone, artifacts and other materials were imported from Italy, as were many of the artisans that worked on the building. The building is replete with a dungeon and even a torture chamber!
Let me just get this out right now...when I first saw this book I was really excited and yet filled with trepidation. I'm always excited to read about my home town of Napa, but this book was a bit different. It is essentially, a review of Napa...its people, the tourists, the Valley and of course, its wineries. I have plenty of my own opinions about the Valley, but I guess I put up a bit of an initial defensive shield about the home team, especially when I saw that they would be relating stories about some of my favorite wineries around the Valley. I should have been more open-minded! A Moveable Thirst: Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country (978-0-471-79386-1) is a true account documenting the adventures of two men who decided that they should taste at every public winery or tasting room in Napa Valley...in one year.
Beth and I had a free Wednesday evening the other week so we decided to head over to one of the newer local wine destinations in the East Bay, Artisan Wine Lounge and Cafe. The lounge sits just off the much busier Locust St in downtown Walnut Creek. The map says Stave Wine Lounge and Cafe, because the business partners that own Artisan, Lena Chu and Kevin Ng, also own Stave, situated in Napa. Lena chooses wines from small and cult California wine producers, as well as those that remind her of her years living in Spain. This is also shown in the great small plates menu that they offer. Beth and I weren't that hungry the night we were there, so we just chose a couple "Small Bites" to nibble on, the Marinated Olives and the Artisan Cheese Plate. We really liked the Manchego cheese, which went quite well with just about every wine we tried that night. The stronger blue cheese that was offered was also outstanding, but we had to leave it towards the end when we had some tastes of the dessert wine.