It's always a kick to hit the road and see and of course taste what's happening up north. We're guilty of saving Wine Country outings for "special occasions" ranging from big birthday celebrations to visits from childhood pals and family. No more -- there's a lot to do, and it's an easy and fun way to unwind. This marks the first Wine Country Report, chock full of the juiciest food & wine happenings. Do like the pros and use that spit bucket and please send tips our way via firstname.lastname@example.org. Ready, set, go!
What: Just off Highway 29 in St. Helena, Hall Wines from art collectors Craig and Kathryn Hall just debuted a spacious and rather pretty new LEED-certified green visitor center, complete with a "makes sense" demo kitchen because where good food goes, wine surely follows.
Why visit now: Check out an outdoor modern art installation made from willow branches that calls to mind a story element from the just wrapped and rather hot True Detective show on HBO. There are a total of 40 sculptures and paintings including works from John Baldessari, Jaume Plensa, Peter Wegner, Nick Cave, and Jim Campbell throughout the property, making for a fuller experience with multiculti touches. With that glass of award winning cab, indulge in some history while taking in the main building, commissioned in 1885 by Captain William Peterson, a Clipper ship master mariner from Massachusetts, who sailed 19 voyages around the world via the Thatcher Magoun ship.
Where: Hall Wines, 401 St. Helena Hwy. South, St. Helena, (707) 967-2626
Cost: Membership has its benefits: tastings are covered for wine club members. For the general public, fees for sampling wines cover various options: with or without art and / or food. Costs range from $30 to $75. Reservations recommended.
Matthew Tinder Rejoins Meadowood
What: Pastry whiz Matthew Tinder is back at The Restaurant at Meadowood, which is a Michelin-starred restaurant that rakes in culinary kudos galore. The kitchen is run by Chef Christopher Kostow and Tinder brings his own cred as Food & Wine's "People's Best New Pastry Chef' and Star Chef's '2013 Rising Star Pastry Chef.' As Pastry Chef of The Restaurant at Meadowood, Tinder is the first to hold this title in three years after the departure of Boris Portnoy. This is a return home of sorts for Tinder, having worked Meadowood's pastry station from 2009 to 2010.
Why visit now: Tinder creates some of the most intriguing treats around: Who can forget his smoldering from the coals meringue and frozen-lime marshmallow at last year's Star Chefs shindig overlooking PacBell Park? That single dish that definitely stood out in a sea of offerings. Tinder's creativity does not distract from the purpose of serving tempting and tantalizing creations and he remains one to watch. The Kauai native has worked at Coi, Saison and Campton Place and grew up making tofu and soy milk with his mother.
Where: The Restaurant at Meadowood, 900 Meadowood Ln., St. Helena, (877) 963-3646. Reservations recommended.
Cost: Drinks and snacks with cocktails at the bar start at $20 per person and include a sweet treat that may be petit fours, made by Tinder. There are only five bar seats in the restaurant so plan accordingly.
A three course bar tasting menu costs $90 and includes a dessert. Or opt for a 9-10 course tasting menu at $225 in the restaurant; there's also a $500 20-course tasting menu available at the kitchen counter (right near the chef action) or in the dining room. Wine and gratuity are separate for the tasting menu options.