It's been nearly two years since my husband and I vacationed in Italy. We left the day after Christmas in 2016 and spent ten full days wining and dining in Milan, Genoa and Alba. As a wine and food lover—as well as an Italian—spending that much time in Italy was a dream come true for me. Today, as I think back on our trip, one thing I miss most are the incredible red table wines offered at such affordable prices.
At any trattoria in Italy, you can order a full carafe (equivalent to a bottle of wine) of the house red for about $10, and the wine will be amazing. When I recently opened the Stella Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and paired it with a classic spaghetti and meatballs dinner at home, I was taken back to our trattoria experiences in Italy.
Like many of Italy's red table wines, this Montepulciano is clean, crisp, fresh and full of fruit. Dried cherry aromas give way to crisp red fruit on the palate: strawberry, cherry and cranberry. Orange zest and a touch of a touch of kirsch add some complexity. This light-bodied wine has bright acidity and great flavor. It's downright delicious and tastes great with tomatoes. Coupled up with spaghetti and meatballs, this food-friendly, easy-drinking wine brought me back to Italy for the evening.
Stewart Cellars, located in Napa Valley's posh yet quaint town of Yountville, offers a welcoming setting in which to taste wine. Multiple spaces provide different tasting experiences—from the rustic u-shaped tasting bar to the lodge-style private library space to the comfortable outdoor patio, there is a setting to suit all desires. On site as well, is the Southside Café, which offers rather affordable breakfast and lunch options in an informal, yet upscale space. Much like their "tasting home," as the Stewart family refers to their location, the Stewart Cellars wine collection offers approachable elegance.
As winter lingers on in Northern California wine country, I have found myself reaching for hardy reds. It just so happens that I had stashed away some Stewart Cellars fall releases, and their 2013 Merlot and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon were perfect to enjoy on a chilly February night by the fireside.
Merlot is a varietal that often gets pushed to the side when poured next to its Cabernet Sauvignon counterpart, but in the case of Stewart Cellars, you'd be remiss to not give their Merlot a chance. One of my favorite Napa Valley Merlots, the Stewart Cellars 2013 Merlot is a steal of a deal at $50. It’s a single vineyard bottling from Brokenrock Ranch (all Clone 181), whole-berry fermented in stainless steel and aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak—the latter of which lends itself well to the smooth body and voluptuous nature. This seductive Merlot exudes aromas of dried rose petals and cocoa, with plum and raspberry flavors at the forefront on the palate. Soft and silky, though with a solid backbone of acidity and complexity, this Merlot is ready to impress even the most Merlot-skeptical of wine lovers.
It's no secret that Stewart Cellars makes a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon (and not to mention their exclusive Bordeaux blends, which in my opinion rival some of the best in France). A combination of 85% Max Vineyard and 15% Crystal Springs Vineyard, the grapes for this 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon are whole-berry fermented in stainless steel (just like the Merlot) and then aged for 22 months in 65% new French oak. Although the case production is roughly double that of the Merlot, it's still very small at 1,436 cases. This 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon definitely has the complexity to age gracefully, but don't let that stop you from buying a few bottles and enjoying one now, because it's already palate-pleasing with classic aromas and flavors of cassis and blackberry fruit, with baking spice and subtle background notes of vanilla. Full in body but not over the top, it has a luscious texture, compelling mouthfeel and alluring complexity.
I thought for sure my baby boy was going to be born before his due date. My family has a history of birthing before 39 weeks, so I assumed I would, too. But alas, yesterday was my due date and this little guy is still tucked inside, as content as ever. With a super blue blood moon just a day away, and my husband's birthday the day after that, it feels inevitable that the baby will be here by the end of the week. But for the last week, I've done just about everything I can to try and coax him out. And, because I know my solo-time is limited, I've enjoyed a few days of pampering and relaxing—this has been one piece of advice I've heard time and time again from other moms, in addition to enjoying my sleep while I still can.
At 40 weeks pregnant, I feel like a rock-star foodie, because eating is one thing I can still do really well. Second to eating has been walking; it’s been really good for me to stay active and I'm proud to still be able to do it in such an uncomfortable state! Third is relaxing, in any way that feels right at this stage in the game—for me, that's mostly been mani/pedis, sleep and Netflix while laying on my left side (for ideal baby positioning prior to labor). So, I took it upon myself to get out of the house on different days and enjoy some lunches out, in addition to some girly pampering—that is, when I wasn't sleeping or watching Netflix.
Here are a few of my Sonoma County recommendations for ways to get in your eating, walking and pampering at the end of pregnancy!
Get outside and enjoy the trails of Ragle Park in Sebastopol. The trails are just the right length for pregnant women and very easygoing—and by that I mean no hills! Just be sure to pee before you arrive, because their portapotties are not friendly.
If you're looking for a full-body prenatal massage, Me Spa in Montgomery Village (Santa Rosa) is at the top of the list. This is a full-on spa experience, complete with a comfy robe, hot tea and a foot soak before going in for your treatment. They do an excellent job at accommodating pregnancy, propping you up on your side like a queen with a half dozen pillows to keep you comfortable during your prenatal massage. You'll walk away feeling totally rejuvenated!
And last but not least, when you are getting to the point where you can no longer take being pregnant—like once you pass your due date like me—you can always turn to natural ways to help activate labor. The Intimate Skin Spa on 4th Street in Santa Rosa offers a 30-minute Reflexology Foot Massage that women in the area swear by! Reflexology is said to help activate labor by working with pressure points in your feet that are connected to your uterus. I had this relaxing massage done this morning, so now it's time to wait and see what happens!
At 39 weeks pregnant, there's only so much you can do on a day to day basis. Relaxing is at the top of the list, followed by walking to help stimulate labor and eating right to stay nourished for the big day.
To say my husband and I have done a lot of baby preparation is an understatement. We've been together almost 12 years and have wanted to start a family for quite some time. So when we got pregnant, we couldn't help ourselves but to start the baby preparations early.
Now, as we wind down to very the end of pregnancy, everything is in its right place. We are ready, and while there's been a lot of serious discussions lately about the kind parents we will be, how to keep the temperature steady for the baby in our old home and just the overall emotionality of transitioning into new parenthood, there's been a few other "less serious" things on my mind as well.
Take for instance the restrictions that are placed on pregnant women. I have to admit that as we near my due date, I've started to daydream about all the things I've gone without for 9+ months: sleeping on my back or belly, jogging, sushi and of course… wine! (And beer, too—I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to finely crafted fermented beverages.)
Before I was pregnant, I was gifted a bottle of 2000 Chateau Clerc Millon Grand Cru from my former boss, Lisa Perrotti-Brown, when I left my position at Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Although at the time I didn't intend on saving it for almost a year, I knew I was going to want to open it for a special occasion. After not opening it for a couple months and then learning I was pregnant, I immediately logged this bottle in my mind as the wine that I would open after the baby was born.
So with lightheartedness and an eagerness to enjoy some of the things I've gone without for 9+ months—granted I know there will be restrictions and a learning curve with enjoying wine and beer here and there, given that I've chosen to breastfeed—here's my top 5 wine and food must-haves that I am looking forward to enjoying once our baby boy has arrived!
Welcome to the new mvfooddrink.com. With the upcoming transition into parenthood—our first son is set to be born at the end of January—it seemed only fitting that I would take my current wine and food blog and add parenting to the mix! The result is Sonoma Momma—a blog that will detail my life in Sonoma County wine country, including tasting wine and fine dining, as well as the ins and outs of new parenthood. I hope you enjoy this re-envisioning of mvfooddrink.com!
This is a blog about being a wine lover, foodie and momma.