Archive for the Category »WIne «

  Hotels of the Week: Those to Watch in 2012

There are so many hotels opening in 2012 – good news for travelers. More rooms = more destinations to explore, & lower prices if there are more rooms than demand.

What are your new year’s resolutions? If to travel fully and transport yourself so completely is one of them, you’ll want to see these special places. Bon Voyage my friends – wake up your passion.

Here are some intriguing hotels that either just opened … or will open in 2012.


On the “off the radar” Turkish Riviera is the new Amanruya. Part of the exclusive Aman Resorts, this hotel on the Aegean Coast is romantic experience.

Amanruya, Turkish Riviera

It is a collection of five-star cottages – each with a pool, private garden, outdoor shower, and lounging pergola. Let it roll off your tongue “I am retreating to my lounging pergola…”

Inside, the design is smashing and classic.

The hotel is on the Bodrum Peninsula…and has a small beach.


Speaking of beautiful beaches, what also comes to mind is the Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam – a country on my must see list.

This is the first five start resort on these Vietnamese islands – remote, but accessible – just take a 45  minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City.

There are 50 villas on this property – each with it’s own infinity pool… ranging in size from single level to duplex, and one bedroom to four.

Six Sense Con Dao offers water sports, snorkeling, diving, cooking classes, and trips to remote beaches. This will work for Valentine’s Day.


Heading to the country…. we’ve got Castello di Casole in Tuscany. This dramatic 4200 acre estate will open in 2012.

Castello di Casole entices those who would love to vacation among enchanting vineyards and olive groves. The estate has more than 100 acres of organic vineyards dotting its gorgeous landscape.

In addition to vineyard tours, wine tastings, winemaker dinners and events on property with the winemaking team, the resort offers Italian winery tours at some of Italy’s most prestigious wineries.

One can also expand his or her wine cellar, manage a collection and experience the world’s fine wines through the resort’s partnership with specialty wine retailers.

A little bit of luxury in the Italian countryside… and there are residencies too for those looking to spend even more time there.


The British Virgin Islands are near and dear to me… I shot a few shows there and always want to return. Scrub Island Resort would be a good reason!

Ocean view rooms… secluded, crystal clear beaches with seriously turquoise waters.. Can’t ya just feel the gentle breeze? The resort is right ona marina, so for those of you with yachts, ahem,  you are welcome. Water sports abound here, and the resort also hosts weddings.

Scrub Island

The rooms are tasteful and tropical.It is officially an island resort with one of those beautiful ceiling fans.


If you are craving city life, you will get your fill of London this year since this world class city is host to the 2012 Olympics. One new hotel opening is the BVLGARI – classy, but hopefully not too stuffy.

BVLGARI Hotel, London

It is a joint venture between Italian jeweller BVLGARI and Marriott International, located in the Knightsbridge area. The BVLGARI stamp doesn’t mean bling comes with the room, and by the looks of the brand’s design, it is not too flashy. This photo is of a room at the Bvlgari in Milan, since the London hotel is not open yet.

BVLGARI in Milan

As always, happy travels and have a great weekend.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: The Buzz about Packing Liquids in Your Luggage

The TSA’s air travel moniker 3-1-1 has been in place to regulate liquids in carry on bags for about 5 years now. It says you can’t pack a liquid, gel, or aerosol  that is larger than 3.4 ounces, and each traveler is allowed 1 Ziploc bag full of their 3.4 oz sized products.(that Ziploc bag can’t be larger than 1 quart.)

The reason the TSA wants you to put it all in one clear bag is so the line moves faster, and luggage doesn’t have to be searched.

Yet, I still see so many large tubes of toothpaste being confiscated! Are people forgetting.. or still confused? Gels and aerosols may not be an obvious part of the rule to some travelers.

I have been in California’s wine country the past couple of weekends, and another murky area dawned on me… It is a gorgeous time to be in wine country – harvest in full bloom.

Thus, this is a popular time to visit. But how can you bring the wine home from some of those boutique wineries you love that aren’t in major wine emporiums?

The TSA DOES allow you to pack wine in your checked bags – that scares me a bit because I’ve seen how “careful” some of those baggage handlers are. Then we are also limited in just how many bottles we can bring back by how many will fit in our suitcase.

Coming home from Napa and Sonoma, I saw some smart travel solutions. There are some durable bags made especially for transporting wine home. Of course, with airlines charging for extra bags, you should see if it is cheaper to ship wine home. But first check out the interstate shipping laws – your state may not allow it, or limit how much you can ship. You should also check with your airline to see if there is a limit.

So – if packing the wine sounds good to you – and let’s face it, it is fun to bring home the wine yourself, right after you’ve had a great time tasting – here are some helpful packing solutions.

This wine carrier called the winecruzer is available through

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This aluminum one ensures safe delivery and is available through – around $300.

If you don’t want to bring home more than  a bottle or two, then stowing them in your checked bag may be your best bet – but nothing worse than wine-stained clothes… so I’d recommend these for your precious goods:

The Wine Mummy – a padded bag for packing, available through …. and check out the vinni bag on

If you have any other questions regarding TSA air travel regulations, go to

Cheers to happy and safe travels.

  Check out THE Hot New Winery in Sonoma…

I haven’t been this excited by something in the travel industry in a long time. Ram’s Gate Winery, which just opened a few weeks ago in Sonoma, is bound to cause some buzz…It is unlike any other winery I have ever visited  in the world.

You don’t have to love wine to automatically feel like you are somewhere special… there is plenty to admire in the architecture, design, and food.

One can’t help but be drawn into the Ram’s Gate experience by the sheer design – contemporary decor in a country setting – a dramatic Calacatta marble slab bar for tasting… cozy furniture for mingling… eclectic and interesting pairings of furnishings in a 22,000 sq foot barn setting.

The  massive floor-to-ceiling glass “walls” that open to sweeping vineyard and bay views bring the outdoors very much indoors. Designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy – brilliant.

The winery is open 10-6PM… but cozy up to the fireplace..

or lounge in the private library… and there is no reason you can’t stay all day and hang out with friends. You can even request a picnic lunch to take down to the nearby lake…. but there is a fantastic tasting menu if you stay at the winery.

On the tasting menu, each wine is listed with appropriate foods.  I had a private dinner there recently, and got to experience the exquisitely paired food and wine – the 2009 Zinfandel with the dark chocolate olive oil and goat cheese cake with orange zest (and I dislike chocolate with orange) was insane.

Oenophiles, who may be more into the wine than the design and food, take note: the wine offerings are darn good too. There are mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir… from single and estate vineyard (Some from Durell Vineyard – I’m a fan.) You can try a flight if you like.

The wines, priced from $25-$75/bottle, will be sold exclusively at the winery and via the winery website and wine membership.

Guests can experience the winery in a multitude of ways, and the staff is there to create tailored experiences for its visitors – drop in for an impromptu tasting, reserve the private wine parlor for a wine and food pairing, or celebrate an occasion over a wine dinner with friends. The open kitchen will offer guests the opportunity to learn about how Ram’s Gate wines pair with food, even getting the chance to cook alongside the chef.

Now… Since they host private parties for 6 people to 600, I am looking for an excuse to have a soiree there. Anyone else game? I am SO there. You should be too. - just 35 minutes from San Francisco.

  Hotel of the Week: Hip in Healdsburg, Wine Country

Last post in a week long look at wine travel in light of CA harvest season

When I lived in the Bay Area 10 years ago, I always thought there were never enough hotels in nearby wine country…the usual players, yes – Auberge du Soleil, Meadowood, SIlverado, and of course many B&Bs that weren’t always my style.

Now I am happy to say, there are many more options for every type of traveler.

h2 which just opened in Healdsburg this summer, is a good option for a less expensive alternative. It is geared toward a younger traveler in my opinion – more style over luxurious substance.

But that style goes far – it is a funky blend of eco-friendly touches – bamboo floors, LEED certified building, organic linens – and hip design.

The things I like:

Every room or suite comes with a balcony or patio…

Free WiFI (that will always get on my good side.)…

Free three hour bike rentals to tool around town…

Prices for rooms start at $210 a night.

And how’s this for nutty? In the winter the hotel will open a hand fan museum, displaying more than 500 fans from around the world. A little culture beyond the yeast in your wine.

Healsdburg is a charming town, home to a number of well-regarded wineries like Ferrari-Carano, Jordan, and Rodney Strong.

On the city’s website, Healdsburg  is described as a place with “an eclectic offering of the finest things in life…” h2, with it’s break out style, should be a good fit.

Have a great weekend…and hopefully I’ve inspired you to uncork your passion – travel or wine.

  Wine Tasting Abroad and with Kids

Continuing my week long look at wine travel in light of harvest season…

Both sound like a hassle, right? Finding your way around a foreign country looking for wineries..and bringing kids??

Like I’ve always said, no pain no gain. And the reward could be worth it to you. It was to me.

Winetasting in Chateauneuf du Pape, France

Two summers ago I spent almost five weeks in France with my family. One of those weeks was in Provence – and I jumped at the chance to go wine tasting there. I did have my three kids with me, but here’s a tip: Bring wine loving grandparents on the trip if you can. My husband didn’t care to go, so we left the two older kids with him, and my mom, stepfather, and I brought my youngest, knowing that one out of the three of us could entertain him in between glasses. We also brought toy cars – the best portable entertainment for boys of toddler age, and that did the trick.

Chateauneuf du Pape

So off to Chateaunueuf du Pape in the Cote du Rhone we went. Chateauneuf du Pape used to be the summer home of the pope when the papacy was in Avignon. It is a region known for it’s nice red wines.

We had tasted at a few wineries as we drove around Provence that week, but this time we decided to try a “Cave Cooperative” – Cave du Verger des Papes is a great one. It is a small cave-like operation where one can taste wines from various vintners in Chateauneuf du Pape, with an expert in the region guiding your choices.

Winetasting at Cave du Verger des Papes, France

I would recommend this route – especially if you have kids along. The less you have to cart them around from winery to winery the better. Also, it is safer than driving from winery to winery, and you can sit and enjoy the tasting a little bit longer because there are so many to taste and compare.

Having said that, however, you should get to at least some of the wineries to see the real deal, and interact with the owners or winemakers at each establishment. One winery we visited treated us so nicely, they sent us back to our house in St. Remy with a bottle of their apricot nectar they also produced from their orchard.

Hunter Valley, Australia

I am grateful to have tasted in other regions of the world also – in the Hunter Valley in Australia, about two hours out of Sydney… in Tuscany…and in Alsace, France, where there’s a heavy German influence since it is near the border. Here are some tips I have learned along the way:

1) Wineries in other countries are a little more serious than those in California – some require reservations so call ahead for an appointment if needed. On the other hand, I visited some precious wineries in Italy where there was no signage, and we were literally tasting out of what seemed like someone’s garage! (You will run into olive oil tastings there also, which was interesting.)

Winetasting in the Hunter Valley was very casual

2) Unlike California, many foreign wineries don’t charge to taste – but they do expect you to buy something. You can feel it as you taste and then turn to walk away.. yikes…those Germans!

3) If you want to bring back some bottles so you can reminisce months later with that same bottle of wine from Montepulciano, don’t assume you can ship it back to the U.S. Research your home state’s laws. It is also more expensive to ship home, so see how many you can bring on the flight home with you and if you have to pay a duty…or look for a local distributor near your home town. (Not as romantic, but you still get the wine!)

4) Take advantage of winery spitting buckets – I found them more common overseas. If you are driving your way from winery to winery, you can still taste the wine without feeling the effects. (Or look into a private tour on the internet and don’t worry about it.)

5) Do your research before you go so your experience will mean something to you – know what grapes the region is really known for, and try to learn some key words like “fruity” or “dry” in the language of where you are visiting, that way you can make your requests.

There are plenty of websites that offer private tours – and websites that give you maps of wine countries to help navigate your trip. So get to work!

Salute, Cherio, and Cin Cin!

  Trip crush:

New term referring to the trip you admire from afar….especially pertinent when involving viniculture at harvest time.

Me at the Langtry Estate at Guenoc Winery..years ago!

Today is the day  that most vineyards in Northern California’s wine country will begin harvesting their grapes. Yes, some vineyard managers have started a little earlier, but as a whole, most in the wine industry will start now.

Traditionally the blessing of the grapes comes Labor Day. But this year, there’s a late harvest due to a cool summer, with little heat to produce sugar and ripen the grapes. The season will be compressed because they need to start picking the grapes before rain hits and ruins the crop.

So what does that mean for travelers to Napa or Sonoma? According to Price Family Vineyards General Manager Steve Hill there are about 5 more weeks of activity…harvesting the grapes and the crush – always a fun and beautiful time to visit the wine country. So, I will be spending this week talking about wine vacations….

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