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July 2011
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October 2011

Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa is new and improved

Northern California Riches in Napa Valley by Barbara L. Steinberg

Culinary Garden Marriott Napa Valley Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2011 I shot an arrow into the air, it fell into a California wine country I know not where.  From any direction in California — north, south, east, or west— you can’t fall down without falling into wine country.  While the various wine regions have unique and wonderful offerings, world-wide if you mention “California wine country” the response is almost always: Napa Valley.

Napa Valley.  Where lovers of great food and wine, nature vistas, small towns, and luxury and hometown comforts can all agree.  The list of distractions is long.  How to decide?  The best response is to say that you really can’t go wrong.  It's a weekend retreat to Napa Valley!  Drive the back roads, enjoy some extra scenic views along the way, and set your landing gear at the front door of the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa.

The two-story, low-rise hotel has undergone a stunning transformation.  The interior is definitely
21st –century cool.  Great public spaces include large modular lounging sofas and sliding doors that face a covered terrace and pool area. You'll love the open-air feeling of the lobby and extended restaurant area where dining alfreOlives App Evening Reception Marriott Napa Valley Hotel Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2011sco is always an option.  Don't miss the evening lobby reception where you'll be treated to local wines and lovely plates of house-made starters.  Flat bread with goat cheese and fresh figs, fresh olives, chickpea fries -- do I have your attention? Oh, yes, full bar includes Garden Cocktails made with fresh herbs from the hotel's culinary garden. Fantastic on a warm summer evening.  You might want to pace yourself; dinner is definitely a consideration!

The reception offerings are a clear indication of things to come at the recently opened VINeleven. The heart and soul of Chef Brian Whitmer oozes out of every menu item. With a focus on farm fresh and locally-sourced, the small plate menu is a thing of joy.  Really, the plates may be small, but not the meals.  You won't go away hungry!  The recommendations are many, but definitely try the Little Gems salad and (yes!) Ricotta Cheesecake with strawberries is one for the memory banks.  Breakfasts are equally special, but watch for the Chef's special granola. Yum!

Hotel rooms are restful and well-appointed.  Those lovely pillow-top mattresses, down comforters, and lots of fluffy pillows are hard to resist.  A nice work space, flat-screen TV, and a cozy armchair to sit and contemplate your next move.  Wireless, of course, but there's a small fee.  Otherwise, it's free in public spaces and there are computers in the lobby for guest use.  Rooms include the convenience of small fridge, wine glasses and wine opener for those special vintages acquired during forays into the Valley. 

Did we mention the conciP1120320erge? Marriott's concierge staff is excellent and provides great guidance to first-timers or otherwise. If you're looking for ideas of things to do or need reservations they are there to please. In fact, all of the staff is welcoming and professional. And on the electronic side of service, there's a 42-inch reader board in the lobby to help direct guests to all the best Napa attractions, food, and wine.

There's a pool and Jacuzzi if you can find time away from all of Napa's other great distractions. AND a spa which includes steam room and Jacuzzi in the women's lounge.

While Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa is the ideal romantic retreat or friend’s getaway, it's also nice for families. Saw more than a few kids soaking up the Napa lifestyle. Don't let the location deter you. While it's not downtown, it's close to all that's right in Napa including the Silverado Trail and just down the road from Yountville. Just for starters.

I wish there were some other category between moderate and pricey. While it may be pricey by some people's standards, it's Napa moderate considering all they provide. Plus, weekdays you can find some real bargain rates at this property.

BTW - their website is new and improved, too!

Change of Greenery Napa Valley  Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2011 Napa Valley! Food and wine! They are clearly joined at the lip. Endless selections. How do you choose? An easy solution is in the hotel parking lot. Engage Change of Greenery an electric bicycle rental and tour company. People- or battery-powered, these bikes are gentle on the Earth and a great way to enjoy nearby wineries, restaurants, and retail without breaking a sweat. The owner, Carolyn, provides a variety of well-appointed maps and discounts at partner venues such as Judd's Hill. And best of all, she will pick-up wine purchases and deliver them back to the hotel. Judd’s Hill tastings are by appointment only. This is a small family winery and you most often find family and friends behind the pour. Small and intimate...its reminiscent of bygone days.

Artessa food and wine pairing Credit Barbara L Steinberg 2011 You can also bike to the spectacular views and tasting room at Artessa Vineyards & Winery, a hilltop jewel. Food and wine pairings are worth the pedaling to the top.  However, driving is always an option. The Marriott has a Town Car available on a first-come basis. Especially nice if you decide to indulge in lunch or dinner at Domain Chandon's étoile, the only fine-dining restaurant located in a winery. Reservations are recommended.

I could say more, but those two words -- Napa + Valley pretty much say it all.

Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve Labor Day Weekend

Looking for Something Completely New this Labor Day Weekend? by Barbara L. Steinberg

Mare Many of you know Mare Island is located in Vallejo. You probably don't know much more -- well, maybe about the naval base, boats and stuff. Nothing too exciting; or so you think.  What you don't know about are all the amazing attractions hidden there. The Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve is (truly) a WABAC (way-back) machine. The abandoned Victorian homes are frozen in time -- a ghost town. You can almost hear the voices of naval families who once occupied this once island paradise. That's only the beginning.

Some of the oldest structures on Mare Island's southern tip, historic naval cemetery, hiking trails, gardens, wildlife, and breathtaking vistas are yours for the asking. You need to experience the preserve to really understand its special personality. It was locked away from public view for many years. But under the stewardship of Myrna Hayes and tireless volunteers, this California gem is open to the public every weekend, Friday- Sunday, 10 a.m. to sunset. For the coming Labor Day weekend, the preserve will also be open on Monday.

Throughout the year interpretive hikes, displays, festivals, and full-moon walks are scheduled. Donations are accepted and desperately needed to preserve this California gem and provide public access. Visit the past on the Mare Island Shoreline Preserve.