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Napa & Sonoma Escapes

Join M Wine Education Fall 2017 on a small-group tour of wine country! M is planning the ultimate insider getaways to Napa and Sonoma.
Sonoma dates: arrive Thursday, October 19 and depart Sunday, October 22
Napa dates: arrive Thursday, October 26 and depart Sunday, October 29
Thursday 'Welcome Dinner’ to get acquainted with your fellow wine enthusiasts.

Friday and Saturday you will enjoy a fun and informative day of touring, tasting and dining. You’ll visit three to four wineries each day that are rich in charm and history. M is very fond of the smaller, family "boutique" wineries, but there are no strict rules. Guests can expect to tour a winery, take in some exceptional views, stroll through the vines, learn about wine making, and discover the stories, history and people behind the wine. 

Lunch could be a multicourse wine and food pairing event where you will enjoy stunning vineyard views and a fine dining presentation at a shared table. Dinner may be a casual, laid-back meal of small-plates, “some wildly inventive and others comfortingly familiar”, paired with local wines. 
Sunday free time or morning and luch tour and tasting prior to departure.
This intimate grape escape, limited to six adventurous oenophiles, will be touring wine country by SUV. Morning pick-up will be 9:00 a.m. with a return time of 5:00 p.m. If your accommodation is within the wine region you'd like to tour, M will likely be able to pick you up and drop you off. Otherwise, she will meet you at a pre-arranged public place with ample parking. The same applies to dinner service to-and-from accommodation. These excursions are ideal for individual travelers, couples or a small group.
M can also provide you with a grape escape that is custom designed to your specifications. Why settle for a trip that is merely the “closest match” to what you want to do?
Sample Friday & Saturday Sonoma Itinerary
Friday - Russian River Valley
Pick up from your Sonoma accommodation at 9:00 a.m. by M and driven to your 10:00 Iron Horse Tour & Bubbly Tasting in Green Valley. From Iron Horse you will make your way to Sebastopol for an 11:30 Lynmar Estate Wine & Food Pairing Lunch on the patio overlooking their stunning gardens. Lunch is followed by two more tastings: 1:00 Merry Edwards Tasting, 3:00 MacRostie Estate House Tasting. After a full day of touring and tastings you’ll be driven back to your accommodation by 5:00 to freshen up. At 7:00 you will be picked up and head to Healdsburg for  a 7:30 dinner reservation that may be a Relish Culinary Adventure or a fine dining experience at Baci Cafe & Wine Bar.
Saturday - Alexander Valley & Chalk Hill
Enjoy a leisurely morning at your accommodation before proceeding to your 10:00 tasting at Vérité’s beautiful estate on Chalk Hill Road, located in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. From Vérité you will take a short drive to Stonestreet for a 12:00 seated tasting experience featuring their current release and single vineyard wines. After spending a fun and informative 90 minutes at Stonestreet you’ll need lunch so M will have arranged the ultimate culinary experience at Skipstone Ranch where you will enjoy a selection of their wines paired with local and seasonal fare prepared by their Estate Chef. This experience will last 2-2.5 hours and you will leave satiated! Dinner will be a little later so that you can recover and will be tapas-style dining at Bravas or at Willi's where they feature international small plates in a casual environment.
Contact M for info and to reserve your escape to Wine Country!


Cellar Tour

Fun times with ‘M’ Wine this week!  Michele took her Study/Tasting group on a field trip to Escondido to see the renowned private wine cellar of John and Shirley Gerardy. If you are a subscriber to Wine Spectator you can view the article that was written about their cellar in the Nov 30, 2010 issue “Collectors at Home, Wine Cellars Across America, Modest To Grand”.

The night started off with John giving us a tour of his underground, custom built 4,000 bottle capacity cellar.  He then educated the group on proper wine storage, cellar management and wine buying.  The focus of the night’s tasting was Napa Cab.  We started off with a vertical of the 2002, 2005, 2007 Heitz Cellar "Trailside Vineyard" Rutherford, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was a good exercise showing the consistency of the producer and the impact of a vintage on wine.  The 2005 was the top pick by all in attendance. We then finished off the night with an assorted trio: Sherwin Family Vineyards  2006, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Sebastiani 2004, Cherryblock, Sonoma Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon for some regional contrast; Paul Hobbs 2005 Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  This last lineup was a good way to gain a better understanding of why the same grape variety, grown in different regions, will have similar characteristics yet achieve its own unique “personality” in the finished wine.  An exceptional tasting experience!  See facebook for photos and see Napa Valley Vintners for more info on the region and its wines -Cheers!

Tuscany, Italy 2014

Our group descended on Tuscany this past May/June to not only enjoy the simple yet wonderful cuisine and wine but to explore its landscape, medieval villages and prominent cities.  The more we came to know the region, the more extraordinary Tuscany appeared.  We had planned on having a somewhat “relaxing” vacation but it ended up being more of an “active” holiday. 

In the following three posts I’ll provide you with information on where we stayed, some wine related highlights, dining choices and informative travel links, in the event that any of you are considering a trip to the region and might find something useful or be inspired.  There is a lot to see and do in Tuscany; the difficulty is really where to start.  Here are two websites I found to be particularly helpful and

We flew in to Pisa International airport and made our way to our accommodation - about a 30 minute drive northwest of Pisa.  For five nights we stayed at the wonderful guest house, Locanda al Colle, a recently restored ancient farmhouse situated on a small hill overlooking Camaiore.  Without question, we all would stay here again.  The website does a great job of conveying its charm and amenities but the reality is so much better.  The service we received from Riccardo and his team - from booking to departure - was exemplary.   Evenings with chef Gianluca are not to be missed!

We stayed at Locanda al Colle for its proximity to the beach towns of  Viareggio, Lido di Camaiore and Forte dei Marmi  (10 min. drive) and Pietrasanta (10 min. drive), Pisa (30 min drive), Lucca (30 min drive) and the Cinque Terre (45-60 min drive depending if you go to La Spezia or Portovenere to catch the ferry to the “five lands”).  PortovenereWe ended up driving the windy road to Portovenere and we were glad we did as it gave us more time to enjoy this incredibly picturesque village situated on the west coast of Italy.  For info on the region and how to get there see and

A few dining highlights other than our experience at Locanda al Colle.


Locanda del Gusto - see link to review on Trip Advisor

Ristorante Filippo - see link to review on Trip Advisor

Capezzano Pianore

La Dogana (walking distance from Locanda) - see link to review on Trip Advisor or website


Ristorante Giglio - see link to review on Trip Advisor or website 

Best Wine Shop

While in Lucca for the day we decided to stop by Enoteca Vanni.  We had read that below the unassuming storefront is an ancient cellar with a vast selection of wines.  We were not disappointed.  This subterranean maze of passageways and rooms was filled with all sorts of unexpected finds.  Definitely worth the stop!


Stay tuned for Tuscany, Italy Part 2 of 3: our stay in the heart of the Chianti Classico!


Sonoma Wine Trip Itinerary

Thinking of planning a trip to Wine Country? ‘M’ just returned from a 3 night excursion to Sonoma, CA.  This “escape” covered an assortment of wineries from north to south and an array of grape varieties and wine styles from Chardonnay to Zinfandel. When planning this trip Michele wanted diversity. She came up with an itinerary that included tours and tastings focused on food and wine pairing, sparkling wine production, vineyard practices (e.g.biodynamics), no-frills tastings and more formal seated affairs.

Here is the November 2013 M Wine Gals Sonoma Wine Trip Itinerary. Maybe this will give you a few ideas for your next visit to the region. (See map link for winery locations.) See facebook to view photo album


Caught a 9:30 a.m. flight from San Diego direct to Santa Rosa in Sonoma, CA. Arrived in to sonoma county airport at approx 11:20, picked up our rental car and headed to Sebastopol for our 12:00 Lynmar Estate Wine Tasting Picnic Lunch From there we drove north for our 2:00 J Vineyards J Legacy Sparkling Wine Tasting Then it was off to Big John’s market to get some supplies before checking in to our VRBO in Geyserville. Dinner was spent at our VRBO.


We were picked up at 9:00 a.m. by and driven in a Cadillac Escalade SUV to our 10:00 Iron Horse Tour & Bubbly Tasting in Green Valley. From Iron Horse we made our way to Sebastopol for our 11:30 K&L Bistro Lunch Lunch was followed by two more tastings: 1:00 Merry Edwards Tasting, 3:00 Copain Wines Farm to Table Tasting paired with Cheese After a full day of touring and tastings we arrived back at our VRBO at 5:00 and elected to spend another night in enjoying our days wine purchases and food prepared by our own culinary geniuses.


We enjoyed a leisurely morning at our VRBO before proceeding to our 11:00a.m. Jordan Winery Tour & Library Tasting in Alexander Valley. From Jordan we drove to Dry Creek for our 1:00 Quivira Biodynamic Vineyard Tour and Tasting After spending a relaxing 2 hours at Quivira we stopped at the Dry Creek General store to get a quick bite to eat (sandwiches, potato chips…) before going in to Healdsburg. The remainder of the afternoon was spent checking out the various retail shops and tasting rooms before finally making our way to dinner at


Checked out of our VRBO at 10:00 a.m. and set off to St. Francis Winery in Santa Rosa for our 11:00 a.m. multicourse Wine & Food Pairing Lunch  We followed this outstanding experience at St. Francis with a 2:00 tasting appointment at Siduri in Santa Rosa. After this comprehensive tasting we hit the road to the airport for our 4:40 return flight to San Diego.  * Alaska Airlines allows 1 case of wine per person to be checked free of charge.

An unforgettable experience!

In September 2014 ‘M’ will be taking a study group to Napa to take the CSW exam . They will then spend 3 nights exploring all that Napa has to offer. The CSW study group will be starting in Jan 2014. Details TBA.

Wine Tour 2011

Burgundy, Rhone, Loire, Provence...?

As some of you may know, I like to plan an annual wine excursion to keep up with what's going on in the world's various wine regions. In 2009 it was France and Spain; in 2010 it was two weeks in Sonoma; and for 2011 'M's annual wine tour will be taking us back to France.

Yes, 'M' will be enjoying a brief sojourn in Burgundy. This will be my third experience and I will be working extra hard with my acclaimed Burgundy guide in two ways: first, to get a premium experience, and second, to work with my contacts and friends to keep the cost down and the fun up!

This may end up being 'M's third time through The Rhone and second to Provence. Provence was such a magical experience that I'm not sure if a return trip can top the memory. Traveling with family and friends made the 2009 trip one I'll never forget. It didn't hurt that we toured with our own personal chef (my brother Sean) and two other industry professionals, so the wine and food were always guaranteed to please. Even better, we struck gold with the vacation rental we booked on-line - a perfect fit for 6 adults who wanted some R&R time after an intense week of wine tasting and travel throughout Burgundy.

I appreciate the vast majority of wine but I do have a particular affinity for Chenin and Sauvignon Blanc. I believe it's time I spent some time in the Loire Valley tasting and touring through Vouvray, Savennières, Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, so we may end up making a slight diversion.

As you can see, the plans have only just begun..

Regarding destinations for 'M's up and coming wine tours, I am leaning towards Napa, Portugal and Spain for 2012. If you are interested in any of these, or if there is any other wine region(s) in the world that you would like me to put on the list, please let me know.

Note that 'M' likes to include free time on all wine trips to explore on your own. We will discover the culture of the land, the people, and of course, enjoying the best of wine, food and all the wonderful things we can while guests in another's country.


Michele (center), Rudi (far-right, owner) and friends

Cellar Tasting Château de Montfaucon, S. Rhone, France 2009

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