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Category Archives: Just For Fun

Technology: Blessing or Curse?

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Well, for my last blog of 2011, I’m gonna rant a little (ok, I guess a lot). I’m not gonna chat about wine – sorry, if you’re looking for words of wisdom for what to drink on New Years, you should have that figured out already.

What I’ve reflected on lately is the curse of modern technology; specifically, laptops/iphones that everyone carries.  True, these new wonders have sped up our lives, made us more efficient, and quite frankly, reduced a lot of excess use of natural resources (trees/paper for one).  What this technology has also done, unfortunately, is made us forget common manners, and reduced our opportunities for experiencing new things and meeting new people.

Let me share with you some experiences and examples:

Flying.  We can open laptops, watch movies, flip through 50 channels on our own personal in-flight screens, and even play video games.  I’ve now become more accustomed to channel surfing than chatting with the people around me on airplanes.  True, I’ve met some odd people;  but I’ve also met some very interesting people over shared stories on a long flight.   Not any more!  We now sit side-by-side for 5 hours completely tuned in to our own personal environment/entertainment system.  This also goes for buses – I rode Muni in San Francisco for years and have seen a lot of strange things on the bus.  I have also met some great people on the bus, and am happy that two of them have been among my closest friends for 10+ years.

Holidays.  A few Thanksgivings ago, a group of friends gathered for the big feast.  As we sat down, two people continued to take pics on their phone to send to their friends that weren’t at the table.  Their texting continued as we started eating. Finally (and thankfully) the rest of us chastized the texters to put down their phones and enjoy the moment with their friends of the here and now.  I grew up without this as my mother would never allow us to either: (a) be on the phone during meal times or (b) have the tv on.  These great rules helped keep the family values of meal time sacred.  So when did texting become acceptable during dinnertime?

I’ve seen this behavior all-too-often at restaurants, during movies, among passengers in my car.  People are missing the opportunity to be present and enjoy those around them!

Alright, you get my point. New technology is great. We are far more efficient; the world moves faster around us; we can multitask.  I have this technology, but I try to be a responsible user.  And you know what?  This technology didn’t exist 20 years ago but the younger generations can’t imagine life without it.  My parents didn’t have all this technology and access to everything at every moment, and they were wonderful people and great parents.  And their parents barely had access to television!  I’m sure that about 80% of the world’s population lives without all this extra stuff.  So, to better appreciate all that is going on around me, I have occasionally gone out for dinner and intentionally left my phone at home.  It is one of the most invigorating feelings of independence!  I encourage you to try it.  But most of all, if you’re going to spend time surfing aimlessly on the web, take a moment to look up what Miss Manners says about proper etiquette when it comes to ichat/games/etc in a social environment.

Happy New Year to all, and be sure to take some time to enjoy and appreciate the living, breathing people around you!


Time to Impulse Buy

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For those of you on my Christmas shopping list, a word to the wise: resist my constant requests to give me your Christmas wish list.  If you give me your list, you’ll get something predictable.  But if you don’t, you’ll stress me out and I’ll keep thinking about an ideal gift, wait until the last few shopping days and buy something beyond my budget just to get it over with.

So yes, I’ve just finished my holiday shopping, and those who procrastinated with sending me their wish list are the true benefactors of a highly expensive gift.  Will they like it? Hard to say.  The tough thing for me is, most of my friends love Montelena, but that’s too easy of a gift from me.  That’s the low hanging fruit of shopping: too easy, too predictable. They’d love it, sure; but they also know I didn’t put a lot of effort into shopping beyond the workplace!

And you’d think that all of us working here at the Chateau are tired of the good juices. Well, we had our holiday luncheon last week with the (in)famous White Elephant gift exchange. Who would’ve thought it would be all the good boozy stuff that people kept stealing….  Nothing warms the soul more than the gift of booze, unless it was stolen from your co-workers.

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all…eat well, drink well; then we’ll all think about a good New Year’s resolution after we indulge.

Virgin America Video

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Fliers on Virgin America in December and January will see this 2:00 minute video inviting them to visit us.  It is actually footage we shot some years back and “re-purposed” for the airline, which did all of the copy.  It was fun to revisit it.  Back in those days, Bo had a mustache.  Take a look.

Tis the Season; Really?

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Is it me, or has this holiday season crept up with a vengeance?  I usually have more time to mentally prepare for it, but before I knew it, Thanksgiving was here.  Now, it’s nearly Christmas.  I’m trying to wrap myself around it; all indications and not so subtle hints have been here. It’s cold…very cold.  Retail commercials started I think, like around November1st.  Christmas music is playing at every gas station, but I just don’t feel Christmasy yet!  I think part of it is how late the harvest/season here went.  We were literally going right up to the week before Thanksgiving.  Another part is getting old and watching time fly by, but that’s for another blog category.

So here we are; two weeks before Christmas, and three before New Year’s Day. And really 18 days until 2012!  I’m still thinking the y2k scare was just last year.  What I do appreciate in the year 2011, however, is I can do my shopping online!  Yes, I can shop at 3am, and have it here in two days.  I don’t have to fight crowds in lines, traffic jams in parking lots, and the constant music!!!  But wait, perhaps that’s why I’m missing the Christmas spirit?  You really only get that with other company.

Alright, so in writing this blog, I’ve figured out why I don’t have the “spirit” yet….So, here I go, expensive fuel costs, parking, screaming kids, crowds…now I feel Christmasy!




Back from Vacation

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I just spent a week on vacation after finishing another high season here at the Chateau and it was just what the doctor ordered; Thanksgiving in Boise, Idaho with some of my closest friends.  I often get a funny reaction when I tell people I’m going to Boise for vacation.  The consistent reaction I get is, “Why!?”  My answer is always the same, “Have you ever been to Boise?”  And the answer from all those who ask is always, “No.”

My friends have lived there for 20 years now, have built a beautiful home, have started a business, and know just about everyone you need to know in town.   Boise is a city with a small town feel: it’s comfortable, easy to navigate and has great food and shopping.  Did I mention the great food?

For breakfast, Goldie’s is a must: corned beef hash, farm fresh eggs – ohhh sooo good.  Lunch/dinner: Fork was a standout; I went there twice in one week.  I was there once for a burger (they use fresh brisket in their meat) and the other time for perhaps the best BLT (with egg on top) I’ve ever had.  We were tempted to go back a third time! The only downfall there?  No Chateau Montelena :( …  Keep going back; we’ll get them to carry it!

For wine shopping, the Co-Op is as good a wine shop as I’ve seen in the best Urban cities.   The selection from country to country, price point –  all great. And, yes, they do carry CM!

Moral of this story: Before you poopoo a city you’ve never visited, give it a shot!  Sometimes you just have to get out of your vacation comfort zones (i.e. New York, Hawaii, San Francisco) and head for a small town for true Americana.


A Dose of Thanks

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As George noted last week, Thanksgiving is finally here!  And I can hardly believe it – feels like it was NYE 2011 just the other day!  Regardless, it’s great for me because Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday.  Any day that I can eat delicious food to my heart’s content, spend time with my favorite people and drink amazing wines is a great day by me.  This year, I’ll be attending two Thanksgiving feasts which is pretty much double the fun.  I’ll really have to pace myself, that’s for sure.

This year, I’m really looking forward to dessert (which probably comes as no surprise to those who know me).  I’ve found a scrumptious Paula Deen recipe laden with cream cheese, pumpkin and sugar that I’m hoping will take top prize in the annual dessert competition.  As a bonus, it’s an homage to one of my best friends (and college roommate) who used to bake a traditional St. Louis-style gooey butter cake every time she went home for the holidays – and brought back the ooey, gooey, goodness when she returned to school each January.  Needless to say, that cake was always devoured within about an hour after her arrival back on campus…it’s just THAT good.  Now I’m trying my baking hand at it with the addition of pumpkin.  I fully expect that to tip this dessert off the charts.  Wish me luck in the competition.

As for the wine?  Guess it’s time to raid the cellar and pick out a few special bottles.  It’s always a treat to open those bottles that I’ve been saving for a special occasion – what better occasion than a fantastic feast with family and friends?

So this year, this Thanksgiving, I’m incredibly thankful for the people that make me laugh and smile each and every day and an opportunity to have them all together at one dinner table.  Of course, I’m also thankful for great wine and the occasion to break out those special bottles and for Paula Deen and her indulgent sweets!  I can barely wait for Thursday.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones.  Open that special bottle and enjoy!


Thanksgiving is Here?

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It just doesn’t feel right that Thanksgiving is next week.  We’re just not in the holiday mode yet (despite the fact that the weather, tv commercials and retail stores are already getting Christmas into our heads).  I remember back in the days when it used to be after Thanksgiving that we saw the holiday transformation happen.

Now is a good time to reflect on what to serve with your meals.  I’m seeing more and more households move away from turkey, but whatever you choose to serve, be the hero and make a good wine pairing.  A lot of us get caught into that ” I don’t want to bring great wine to be wasted on my aunt, who would just throw an ice cube in it anyways.”  For me, being in the industry, I’m expected to bring good stuff, so I work to uphold my reputation.  I’ve turned a lot of wine cooler/boxed wine people into budding wine snobs – they hate and love me at the same time…they can never go back to the bad stuff.

So, I encourage you to bring something good to the table.  Educate; spread the wealth.  If, after pouring Aunt Mary a great Zin or Chard and she tastes it then STILL reaches for the ice cubes…well, then she just gets jug wines from now on.



A Whole Lotta Nothin’

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So that’s my topic for this blog post – no theme, just random thoughts and maybe a little tribute to the late Andy Rooney…”ever wonder why…”.

I’ve been awol for a couple weeks.  In my line of work, I take days off when I can; it just so happened that the last 2 weeks that day off fell on Tuesday which is my blog day.   Yes, I guess I could’ve blogged Wednesday, but I’m a creature of habit.  By Wednesday, blogging is deprogrammed from my mind.

I think Fall just blew right by us.  Summer wasn’t all that great, but what happened to the transitional season?  It’s been in the 30′s here at night…just when this growing season is mercifully over.

So did this harvest crash and burn?  Not exactly.  Maybe we didn’t bring in as much fruit as previous years, but the quality is good!  Take it from the writers’ mouth: I’ve tasted the 2011 juice and it is darn good.

Just finished the CSW test yesterday (Certified Specialist of Wine). After 6 months of study sessions with my peers and two weeks of intense studying (and cramming), I quickly remembered why I swore off college after graduation…tests really suck!  While the subject matter is interesting (and my profession), getting graded on it raises that stress level just a bit…just like I was in back in college.  I’m just glad it’s over; pass or fail.  Now I can go back to watching mindless tv and bad sports without guilt.

I am gonna miss the vegetable garden fun.  My body will, too.  I’m having thoughts of a winter garden, but trudging around out there in cold and wet just isn’t as motivating to get a few heads of garlic.  I’ll probably pass and wait till the Spring.

For those on the West, stay warm.  For those gloating in the Midwest (that you’re warmer than us right now…), remember you still have December, January, February, March…let’s talk then.



Save The Date: November 17th

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Save the date, Bay Area friends!  On November 17th we’ll be at  San Francisco hot-spot ZeroZero (826 Folsom) for a special Happy Hour appearance.  Featuring some classic Montelena wines, and a few special surprises, it’s an event not-to-be-missed.  Join us for some sips of your favorite Montelena wine or a new-to-you Montelena wine and stay for a scrumptious pizza hot out of the oven and cap off the evening with a sweet treat of soft-serve.  It’s the best of both worlds: pizza and wine.  We’ll be there from 6:00 to 9:00 – stop by and see us!

Where To Stay for House Party 2012

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If you don’t have plans yet for the last weekend in January 2012, make some – quickly – and join us for House Party 2012.  If you love wine, you can rest assured that we’ll be pulling out some incredible bottles from our cellar: current release wines, winery-only-wines (those that you can find only here at the winery) and even some special, older bottles that we’ve been saving for a special occasion.  We’ll also have slow-roasted meats and the musical talents of the Bay Area’s own beloved Wonderbread 5 (if you know this band, you know we’re going to have a blast!).  So I hope I’ve given you enough information to make it an easy decision that you need to get tickets and come party with us, but I understand you may be undecided about whether or not to stay here in Calistoga for the weekend or head back to the city.  To make the decision a little easier, we’ve partnered with a few local hotels so you can not only enjoy our party, but you can enjoy all of Calistoga, too.  Mention the “Chateau Montelena House Party” when you call to make reservations at either Stevenson Manor or Solage Calistoga.

So get your tickets, mark your calendar and come to party with us on January 28th.  Then stay and take advantage of all that Calistoga has to offer – great food, mudbaths and spa treatments, fantastic wine and a down-home vibe that makes everyone feel right at home.

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About Our Authors

George Blanckensee

An expert event planner and an avid basketball and sports fan, George can tell you about all the best off-the-beaten path eateries.

Kali Clark

A Napa Valley native, Kali returned to the area after a stint on the East Coast and can be found documenting the latest happenings at the Chateau. When not behind the camera, she likes to experiment in the kitchen, travel, and enjoy the outdoors

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