Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.




  • pinitbutton Artesa Vineyards & Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir   Wine of the Week
artesa 2012 estate reserve pinot noir Artesa Vineyards & Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir   Wine of the Week

Artesa Vineyards & Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir

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  • pinitbutton Gemstone 2009 Estate Red   Wine of the Week Review
2009 gemstone estate red wine1 99x300 Gemstone 2009 Estate Red   Wine of the Week Review

Gemstone 2009 Estate Red Wine

Price: $80

Rating: 14.5/20

Region: Napa Valley (Yountville), California

Varietals: 71 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 21 percent Merlot, 4 percent Petit Verdot, 4 percent Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 15.4 percent

Tasting Notes: Gemstone, a small, family-owned vineyard, concentrates on making red wines from Bordeaux varietals. The winemaker, Philippe Melka, consults on many estate wineries including Vineyard 29 in addition to running Melka Wines (makers of Métisse and CJ Cabernet Sauvignon) with his wife Cherie. The fruit for this red blend was grown on six small estate blocks on the sixteen-acre Gemstone vineyard along the Silverado Trail near the town of Yountville in Napa Continue reading “Gemstone 2009 Estate Red – Wine of the Week Review” »



  • pinitbutton Acclaimed Chef Jennifer Puccio
chef jennifer puccio Acclaimed Chef Jennifer Puccio

Chef Jennifer Puccio (Photo credit: Tubay Yabut Photography)

Have Quail, Will Travel

by Anneli Rufus

Jennifer Puccio, executive chef/partner of San Francisco’s Marlowe and Park Tavern restaurants, was recently the guest chef at La Toque restaurant in The Westin Verasa. La Toque’s world-famous chef Ken Frank kept to the sidelines as Puccio prepared a gala feast which was part of the Somm Sisters Soirée, an International Women’s Day celebration organized by the hotel and Women of the Vine, a Napa-based winery selling only the products of female vintners.

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  • pinitbutton Auction Napa Valley 2013
meadowood tents 500x333 Auction Napa Valley 2013

Tents await lunch and bidding at Auction Napa Valley 2013 at the Meadowood resort

The American Wine Classic – 33rd Annual Wine Auction

2013: The Marvels & Miracles

Event Chairs: Garen and Shari Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyard

Beneficiaries: Programs benefiting healthcare and child development in Napa County

***   Raised: $16.9 million   ***


-  Saturday May 26, 2013: E-Auction

Opens for online bids on 170 lots. Raised $430,000.

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  • pinitbutton The Northern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue
sophie gayot joel ridell 281x300 The Northern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue

Radio Host Joel Riddell at the Spring Mountain Vineyard with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot

After discussing the Southern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue with chef Jamie Gwen on her radio show, I got to do the same with Joel Riddell for the northern part of the Golden State.

I was lucky to meet the energetic Riddell during the S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition in Napa Valley where I was a judge. Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Riddell, who is based in San Francisco, discusses his culinary, wine and travel findings on Talk 910 AM KKSF during his show Dining Around.

After we spoke about and what I like to eat, Riddell got our insights on the Northern California restaurants that won a place in the GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue. They include restaurants from chef Thomas Keller, the recipient of the title “Best Restaurateur in the U.S.

Continue reading “The Northern California Winners of GAYOT 2013 Restaurant Issue” »

  • pinitbutton S.Pellegrino 2013 Almost Famous Chef Competition Winners
kristen thibeault sophie gayot 300x242 S.Pellegrino 2013 Almost Famous Chef Competition Winners

2013 Almost Famous Chef competition winner Kristen Thibeault with Sophie Gayot

by Sophie Gayot

The winners of the 11th S.Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition, held at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, Calif., have just been announced.

During two challenges, The Mystery Basket yesterday, and The Signature Dish today, ten competitors had to prove to the judges that they can cook. The chef judges were Rick Moonen, Tony Mantuano, Jean Joho (2012 Best Restaurateur in the US), Michel Richard, Susur Lee, and Mark McEwan; the media judges Dana Cowin, Mitchell Davis, Jacob Richler, Betsy Andrews, and me.

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  • pinitbutton 2013 Napa Truffle Festival Recap
fresh black truffles 300x199 2013 Napa Truffle Festival Recap

Fresh black truffles

by Barb Rybicki

While Napa Valley farmers can earn $5,000 a ton or more for wine grapes, there’s another crop that puts that figure to shame. Truffles can fetch a whopping $1,200 dollars per pound which is the equivalent of $2.4 million per ton. It’s the most expensive crop in the world, even though truffles are actually 83 per cent water.

The 3rd annual Napa Truffle Festival took place recently to celebrate the revered fungus – specifically the prized Périgord black winter truffle – through a series of ethereal meals and fascinating educational seminars. Ground zero was Napa’s Westin Verasa and its La Toque restaurant – though actual ground played a role as well during truffle orchard and wild mushroom forays.

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  • pinitbutton North Block Hotel Wine Explorer Package   Travel Special
guestroom2 300x172 North Block Hotel Wine Explorer Package   Travel Special

A guest room at North Block Hotel in Yountville, CA

Explore Northern California Wine Country at the North Block Hotel

A stylish boutique hotel in the charming Napa Valley town of Yountville, North Block Hotel invites lovers of the good life to savor its new Wine Explorer package.

Your Wine Explorer escape will begin with tasting visits to a trio of boutique and well-known wineries. Escorted by a private driver, you will visit each winery and then enjoy a wine country gourmet picnic for two overlooking the panoramic Napa Valley. The next morning, linger over breakfast before indulging in a treatment at the pampering North Block Spa.

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  • pinitbutton Mt. Brave Wines   Wine News
P1270363 1 300x235 Mt. Brave Wines   Wine News

Mt. Brave wines

A Brave New Wine

Native Americans and early settlers hunted animals with bows and arrows so they could feed themselves and their families. But a lucky few wielding those old-school weapons were able to enjoy a gourmet wild game meal on Sunday, washed down by fine Napa Valley red wines, no matter how badly they aimed.

The occasion was the exclusive launch party for the new Mt. Brave wine label at the Houdini Estate in Los Angeles, where three wines and a mini-archery range magically appeared. Mt. Brave winemaker Chris Carpenter, who has worked on other top Kendall-Jackson Napa mountain vineyards such as Lokoya and Cardinale, introduced the inaugural 2008 vintage, which includes 1,000 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon ($75), 100 cases of Merlot ($60) and 100 cases of Malbec ($60).

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  • pinitbutton 2012 Top 40 US Restaurants

by Sophie Gayot

Thomas Keller is the only chef to have two restaurants on’s list of Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S.: The French Laundry in Napa Valley in the city of Yountville, CA; and Per Se in New York City. Congratulations! Watch my exclusive video with one of America’s top chefs, filmed at the temple of gastronomy that is The French Laundry, and find out how he does it.

Yesterday, we just published the 2012 list of the Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S., along with

Top 10 New Restaurants in the U.S. – great places that opened recently
5 Rising Chefs – American chefs 30 and under who are making their mark
Top 10 Steakhouses in the U.S. – which chefs serve the best steak?
Top 10 Romantic Restaurants in the U.S. – appearing in the Restaurant Issue for the very first time
Top 10 Insider Picks in the U.S. – reveals where to dine for a taste of local flavor, good food and good times
and the U.S. Best Restaurateur of the Year.

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