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Chateau de Vie
Warm Mediterranean Country Spirit in Up Valley Napa
I arrived just ahead of dusk on a warm spring evening. The inn was easily located, and coming off the road I liked its unique facing as I approached, sited on an unusual angle to the road. Character and personality were already showing. Vineyards glowed with warm, soft colors in the slowly fading sunlight as I parked my car.
Soft music wafted through the garden and into the house as I entered. I was greeted by a friendly guest sitting fireside in the spacious living room, a good start. I called up to the main house, and one of the innkeepers, Peter, was right over to welcome me to the inn and show me my appealing room. I settled in quickly, as I couldn’t resist the urge to take the walk into the vineyards which Peter had suggested. I renewed my spirit, enjoying the fading light on Mt. St. Helena and the surrounding hills as I wandered.
I returned to enjoy a glass of excellent Merlot from a local artisan winery, and went out to the hot tub. The tub sits at the side of rows of vines, private, and a spectacular sky glimmered above. Music gurgled around me with the water. After this serious relaxation, I returned to my room, recorded a few lines in the bedroom journal, and was ready to retire.
Just after dawn, I woke to warm light filtered by the trees surrounding the house. Sunlight re-intensified as it glowed on walls of toasty ginger spice. I rose and looked out my bathroom window. Vineyards, literally steps away, were filled with bright tones and sharp shadows along the rows. A worker was carefully tending to the shoots of late spring, manicuring, tying the vines even at this early hour.
Charming recycled multi-paned windows offered graceful patterns with every view, which again was dominated by the awesome proximity of Mt. St. Helena. The Chateau was built in the 1980’s but feels like it is 100 years old thanks to the use of recycled materials and a floor plan reminiscent of a similar inn I stayed in years ago in Southern France. It was specifically built to serve as a country inn, and it works so well for it.
Piping hot, rich coffee awaited me as I opened the door of my room into the expansive hallway. As I came down the stairs, savory smells of breakfast preparations filled the stairwell and the great living room, several newspaper were available. Telecommuters will be glad to know that a laptop is available for guests, along with a high-speed connection for those who carry their own, so I checked my e-mail too.
Then I stepped out onto the expansive deck, where an elegant yet comfortable table awaited me. Felipe is Chateau de Vie's proprietor, and his wonderful, caring service accompanied delicious muffins overflowing with fruit, fresh orange juice and finally the ultimate in a designed breakfast plate. A piquant, tasty omelet full of delicious flavors accompanied lovely fruit…everything was perfectly arranged. Eclectic sounds of a gurgling fountain and soft music ranging from opera to Tracy Chapman matched the tone set by the soft filtered morning light.
Offered instructions for a walking wine tasting tour, with my full stomach, I was ready. I walked through vineyards to neighboring Bennett Lane Winery, where I enjoyed some wonderful wines before I had to check out and return to reality.
Chateau de Vie is located on Highway 128, at the peaceful top end of the attractive Up Valley area, just north of Calistoga…that really makes it Up-Up Valley. What a great location, peaceful yet central to touring both the Napa and Sonoma areas. Napa wineries are all within easy reach, and Calistoga offers the best wine country nightlife in the valley, if you want it. A plethora of Northern Sonoma County wineries are merely a gorgeous 45-minute drive away. The location is ideally suited for comprehensive wine country explorations, with a warm, rich and homey feeling welcoming you every evening as you return.
This property ably represents the newest breed of Napa, the kind that I love because it goes beyond the fancy chateau replicas and into something more real. Chateau de Vie, the House of Life, feels older even though it is newer, and is hip without being pretentious. Peter and Felipe’s perfect partnership of hospitality, winemaking and contracting have transformed an already inspired vision into the perfect experience. My only warning to you: if you stay for only a night you may find yourself back for a week. Either way, your spirit will enjoy!
Article submitted by Taylor Poff
Family Friendly Fun in the Wine Country
Kid Tested Activities for Family Enjoyment – Part II
Here is another set of kid-tested activities for family enjoyment in wine country. (If you missed last month’s ideas, you can see them in the May 2004 WineCountry Lifestyle Online Newsletter.
Just east of Santa Rosa, Safari West offers “The Spirit of Africa in California Wine Country”. A new giraffe was just born in April…new babies are born or hatched frequently. A 2-1/2 hour adventure tour is led by a resident naturalist. Cruise around in an open-air safari vehicle for the first half, while the second part of the safari allows you to walk through the inner compound, where you'll encounter giraffes sticking their necks out for you, primates going ape over you, and birds in the open-air aviary winging over to see you! Advance reservations required.
From May through September, Friday and Saturday evenings only, Safari West becomes a children’s paradise, featuring games, stories, visits with exotic animals and more. These special Wild Child Nights are geared towards children ages 6-12. Programs for teenagers can also be arranged with advance notice.
An exclusive offer for overnight, tour or dinner guests, Wild Child Nights begin at 4:00pm on the lawn in front of the aviary. Dinner is served at 6:30pm, followed by a fun group activity to round out the evening. Parents are invited to join the kids, or make dinner reservations of your own and leave them in capable hands to enjoy this unique adventure on the Sonoma Serengeti.
You can get more information about Safari West by reading our January 2002 Newsletter Feature.
For more than 50 years, Charles Schulz Peanuts comic strip and its endearing characters have been a landmark in most any childhood. The Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa offers an excellent opportunity to explore and enjoy.
You can find more information about the Schulz Museum by reading our September 2002 Newsletter Feature.
The Schulz Museum is open every day except Tuesday.
The fair theme this year is “There's Magic in the Fair!”, and the famous Hall of Flowers theme will be “Gardens of Camelot”. Fair Hours are 10:00 am - 10:00 pm, the gates close at 9:00 pm. More at: www.sonomacountyfair.com
The Napa County Annual Fair will be held July 1-4, and closes with fireworks on the holiday. More information at: www.napacountyfairgrounds.com. The Napa Town and Country Fair, with a "What's Cook'n?" theme, will be August 11-15. More information at: www.napavalleyexpo.com/fair.html
The Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma is June 16-20. The fair includes a Wine Competition, Technology Fair and nightly entertainment. A one-price Fair ticket gives admission to the Fair itself, big-name entertainment AND unlimited rides on the big Carnival Midway, a great value for anyone. A classic Destruction Derby held on Sunday is not included in the regular admission, but no doubt holds special appeal with the younger set, for just a few dollars more. More information at www.sonoma-marinfair.org
Another more rambunctious idea is the Northern California Paintball Park, located adjacent to the fairgrounds in Petaluma. www.norcalpaintballpark.com (707) 939-8550.
Finally, the Windsor Waterworks, which offers water slides and cool slippery fun for all, should also be mentioned. This amusing activity is located at 8255 Conde Lane, just off the 101 freeway in the town of Windsor in northern Sonoma County, (707) 838-4195.
There is certainly a lot to keep youngsters of all ages busy in wine country. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy!
Article submitted by Taylor PoffFeatured Sponsor
Wine Country Featured Destination
The Sweetwater Spa and Inn and the Mendocino Village Inn
If you are headed to Mendocino, the Sweetwater Spa and Inn and the Mendocino Village Inn can provide the perfect place to stay to complete the sense of relaxation and renewal that a trip to this extraordinary area provides. Though both properties share one owner, they are distinctly different in character. The Mendocino Village Inn is housed in a lovely 1882 Queen Anne Victorian building. The rooms are elegant and welcoming, many with fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs. Your stay includes an abundant breakfast, afternoon tea and cookies, and evening wine and cheese. Also included are free use of the spa and discounts on massage services.
Despite these enticements, I was drawn to the eclectic charm and distinctly Mendocino character of the Sweetwater property located right next door. Though I arrived early for my reservation, I was greeted with great friendliness and shown to my cottage, the Garden Suite, which was spotlessly clean and had lovely fresh flowers on the kitchen table. There was a gas fireplace, well equipped small kitchen, and plenty of room for three. It would be ideal for a couple with a child, or a romantic weekend for two.
Because the Sweetwater Spa and Inn has such a wide variety of accommodations, it is well worth paying a visit to the Inn’s well organized web site. The choices include distinctive water tower suites, pet friendly cottages, and family style vacation rentals. There are all sorts of wonderful options. If you call the Inn their friendly staff is more than happy to help you make the right choice. I have already picked out the charming Summer Cottage for my next visit. With its own hot tub in a lovely private backyard, it is definitely a good choice for a romantic stay!
While you are at Sweetwater it would certainly be a shame not to slip on some flip flops and stroll over to the spa to use the hot tubs and sauna. From there you should certainly take time to experience the skills of the talented staff at the massage studio. The Sweetwater brochure will tell you that they maintain the premier professional massage staff of the North Coast, and I can certainly attest to that fact. The massage therapist I was lucky enough to work with was extraordinarily knowledgeable.
If you are looking for a truly relaxing, invigorating holiday, a stay at the Sweetwater Spa and Inn, and a visit to the glorious Mendocino coast make an unbeatable combination.
Article submitted by Claire Lewis
Wine Country Recipe
Vanilla Cinnamon French Toast
Serves 12Whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon until light and frothy. Dip bread slices in egg mixture and place on greased baking pan. Pour any leftover mixture over bread slices; cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day, saute bread in margarine on griddle until light brown and crispy. Slice bananas over top, sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with chopped almonds.
Wine Country Featured Events
July 3 - 4 -- 15th Annual Sonoma County Hot
Air Balloon Classic
Experience the essence of relaxation to the infinite degree with a Mud or Mineral Bath with one hour Massage at Calistoga Oasis Spa for one person. This spa specializes in giving quality spa treatments in a soothing and intimate atmosphere. They focus on exceptional massage therapists and simple relaxation. www.oasisspa.com
If that is not enough, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) will certainly delight as you take a tour of the premises and watch two different live cooking demonstrations that will include the recipe and tasting of the dish demonstrated. Then, sit down for a scrumptious gourmet meal at the Greystone Restaurant*located within the CIA.
(*some restrictions apply)
***No purchase necessary. Must be at least 21 years old to enter. Excludes alcohol & gratuity – not redeemable for cash . Calistoga Oasis Spa certificate expires 11/19/04. Only one entry per person permitted. Winner will be selected July 19, 2004 by random drawing. Winner will be notified by email. Employees of Freerun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited by law.
Click here to enter this drawing! (Please note: If you are already subscribed to the newsletter, you are automatically entered in this drawing.)
The Winner of this Drawing will be announced on The Winner's Page after July 19.
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