Napa + Sonoma + Burgundy + Beyond

Today broke like any other. Alarm, bird song, coffee. A rush to dress and gas and nudge onto Hwy 17 towards San Francisco for a day of tastings and bubbles  studies.

No time to check social media. Until the first ping.

“Are you ok?” Ping  “?” Ping. “Fire in Sonoma.” Ping. “Fire in Napa.” “Are you ok?!”

Ping. Ping. Ping.  Scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram brings a bombardment of incomprehensible images  –  images of trees, homes, wineries in flames. Wineries I recognize. Homes of people I know. Trees that once shaded memorable drives through remarkable Wine Country.

Napa and Sonoma burning.

And then reality intrudes. My reality. My wine writer life. Car parked, roster checked, spit cup and wine glass presented, and wine tasting begins.

Wines presented by importer+distributor Veritas Wine at High Treason for Becky Wasserman & Co., a bespoke Burgundian wine agency representing an elite portfolio of artisan domaines. Expect more on this bedrock of Burgundian wine culture in future posts.

But not today. Today thoughts and prayers go out to Napa + Sonoma.

You can find out more about how to help by following the Napa Register.

Learn more about Becky Wasserman & Co. here.

Learn more about Becky Wasserman in this interview on I’ll Drink to That here.

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes. All Rights Reserved


The Hedonistic Taster | № 28 | Artesa Winery | Napa Valley

The Hedonistic Taster |  № 28 | Artesa Winery – Napa Valley

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster*, an intimate showcase of artisan winemaker trade samples.

These tasting notes compliment  binNotes | Affordable Burgundy and beyond.“Beyond” includes existing and emerging producers of Pinot Noir worldwide.

Artesa Pinot Noir – Napa, CA.

Today’s Tasting: Artesa Winery – Napa Valley, CA.

Quick – which Napa Valley boasts over four centuries of winemaking?

Answer:  Artesa Winery.  Their labels sums up it up succinctly:  “Est. Barcelona 1151, Napa 1991.”

A new world scion of Spain’s prominent Codorníu family’s cava empire, Artesa Winery estate comprises 350 acres in Carneros, replete with a sleek guest facility designed by Barcelona architect Domingo Triay that sprawls hillside like an exotic odalisque, ornamented with a world-class art collection and recently revamped Tasting Salon. But Artesa’s wines emerge the real treasure in this haven to artistry.

‘Artesa’ means “hand-crafted’ in Catalan, and Portuguese-born Director of Winemaking Ana Diogo Draper imbues both still and sparkling wines with old world soul and new world attitude. My samples represent their 2015 pinot noir production, and a bonus sample of the Codorníu Cuvée Clasico cava from Barcelona as a textural/cultural contrast.

About the 2015 Napa Harvest: A fourth consecutive year of drought yielded small quantities but high quality fruit throughout Napa.

Artesa Winery 2015 Estate Pinot Noir, Los Carneros, Napa Valley, CA.

Wine: Artesa Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir | Los Carneros – Napa Valley

Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.6%

Suggested Retail:  $45



Robe:  Clear, deep garnet hue.

Nose:  Pomegranate, graphite, floral notes.

Palate: Cranberry, red cherry, wild berry bouche. Light/medium body, acids, tannins, finish. Surprisingly soft-spoken, elegant, deeply satisfying wine that belies its alcohol level. Excellent quality.

Suggested Pairings:  Personally paired this with marinated wild Alaskan salmon and a late summer salad made from local farmer’s market organic little gems, purple cabbage, radishes, and scallions.

Rating: 93

Artesa 2015 Los Carneros Pinot Noir, Napa Valley.

Wine: Vintage: 2015

Alcohol:  14.2%

Suggested Retail:  $25



Robe:  Opaque garnet robe.

Nose:  Cranberry, mulberry, herbaceous backnote.

Palate: Dark and red fruits predominate – blueberry, plum, cherry. Light body, acids, refined tannins.

Suggested Pairings:  An approachable wine suitable for casual, soulful fare such as ratitouille or cassoulet.

Rating: 89.5

Codorníu N/V Cuvée Clasico Cava – Barcelona, ES.

Wine: Codorníu Cuvée Clasico Cava Brut

Vintage: N/V

Alcohol:  11.5%

Suggested Retail:  $15



Robe:  Clear, pale gold hue.

Nose:  Yellow apple, stone fruit.

Palate: Diffuse mousse, perlage; bright acids, green apple bouche.

Suggested Pairings:  Personally paired with paella – the acids well complimented the briny seafood and saffron.

Rating: 88. Excellent quality/value.

Learn more about Artesa Winery here.

Artesa Winery | 1345 Henry Road, Napa CA 94559

More of The Hedonistic Taster here.


I want to hear from you. Please leave your comments below, and join the conversation on social media – cheers!

*Author’s Note: The title “Hedonistic Taster” derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.


Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes. All Rights Reserved.

Ackerman Family Vineyard + Ackerman Heritage House | BKWine Magazine

Dear Readers:

As I prepare to attend the International Pinot Noir Celebration later this week, I wanted to alert you of the recent publication of my interview with Lauren Ackerman of Ackerman Family Vineyards and Ackerman Heritage House in Paris-based BKWine Magazine.

You can find the link here.

It’s also available in Swedish here.

Also…please look for a new format and focus to binNotes in 4th Q 2017…More on those changes after summer break.

In the meantime, enjoy these final dog days of  summer. Cheers!

I want to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Psstt…And please do follow me on Instagram, Facebook and other social media – you can find the icons above on the left-hand side of this site.


Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThread™. All Rights Reserved

The Hedonistic Taster | № 3 | Grgich Hills Estate – Napa, CA.

The Hedonistic Taster | № 3 | Grgich Hills Estate – Napa, CA.

The Hedonistic Taster |  № 3

Grgich Hills Estate

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster, a binNotes |redThread™  trade sampling of artisan wine published every other Sunday each month.

The title derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.

The Hedonistic Taster allows me the opportunity to introduce you to some gorgeous pours through this intimate tasting format.


Today’s Tasting:

Grgich Hills Estate | Napa, CA.

To appreciate Grgich Hills Estate wines, you need to understand the wine maker. In order to understand the wine maker, you have to appreciate his struggle.

For wine maker Miljenko “Mike” Grgrich, struggle defines his existence. Like his vines, he has had to dig deep to bear the rich fruit that crafts the sweet wine of his life.

Rejecting life in former communistic Yugoslavia, eventually garnering praise as an esteemed Napa artisan winemaker instrumental in Chateau Montelena’s historic Judgement of Paris award-winning chardonnay – Grgich embodies the character so evident in his wines.

In 1995, Grgich broke ground on another winery in his native Croatia,  Grgich Vina.

Farmed organically, Grgich wines exude a soulful, old world freshness and immediacy, sans pretension.

Alone or with food, these wines welcome your palate, like an old friend.

Grgich CH

Wine: Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay 

Vintage: 2012

Alcohol:    13.5 %

Suggested Retail: $45.00



Robe: Pale golden.

Nose: Golden apple, almond blossom, green melon.

Palate: Muskmelon, Honey Crisp apple, supple hint of toasted nut. Lack of malolactic fermentation plus bio-dynamic farming reveals a stunning girl-next-door who needs no makeup to invite her to dinner.

Suggested Pairings: Local seafood, roasted chicken, grilled pork, creamy cheeses.

Grgich Fume Blanc

Wine:  Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fume Blanc (aka Sauvignon Blanc.)

Vintage: 2013

Alcohol:    14.1 %

Suggested Retail: $30.00



Robe: Pale lemon.

Nose: Lime flower, tropical fruits.

Palate: Pineapple, lemongrass, stone fruits. A pristinely piquant picnic pleaser that you won’t want to kick off the blanket.

Suggested Pairings: Grilled shrimp, goat cheese salad, spicy Mexican or Asian cuisine.
Grgich Merlot

Wine: Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Merlot

Vintage: 2012

Alcohol:    14.9 %

Suggested Retail: $43.00



Robe: Medium opaque cherry.

Nose: Dark cherry, blue plum.

Palate:  A plush, balanced sideswipe to any Sideways naysayers. @#$% yeah, Merlot!

Suggested Pairings: Beef tenderloin, rack of lamb, duck, barbecued pork.

Grgich Cab Cav

Wine: Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage: 2012

Alcohol:    14.7 %

Suggested Retail: $75.00



Robe: Medium opaque raspberry robe.

Nose: Dark berry, violets.

Palate:  Restrained violet and blackberry notes nuzzle up against masculine tannery back notes, melding into one harmonious, malingering mouthful.

Suggested Pairings: Grilled steak, rack of lamb, roasted duck.

Grgich Plavic Mail

Wine: Grgich Vina Plavac Mali (cultivar related to Zinfandel.)

Vintage: 2008

Alcohol:    15.4 %

Suggested Retail: $38.00



Robe: Medium opaque dark cherry.

Nose: Herbaceous bramble and black cherry.

Palate: Don’t let the high alcohol and robust tannins fool you. This easy quaffer clasps you by the shoulder and heads you out back to the BBQ to join family and friends for the festivities.

Suggested Pairings: Grilled or cured meats, hard cheeses, pizza.

NOTE:  In August 2015, fire decimated Grgich Vina, including its inventory. Thanks to my friends at Bunjohn Wines for sharing this 2008 jewel.

More of The Hedonistic Taster here.


Disclosure: All wines reviewed here are trade samples provided by wineries, media and PR representatives.

Winemakers, media and PR representatives:

Please contact for shipping details.


Copyrighted 2016 by binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

The Hedonistic Taster | № 1| Shafer Vineyards

The Hedonistic Taster | № 1| Shafer Vineyards

The Hedonistic Taster |  № 1

Shafer Vineyards

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML


“Wine should not be regarded simply as a beverage, but as an art of living, a pleasure.” – Henri Jayer

Welcome to The Hedonistic Taster, a binNotes | redThread™ review of artisan wines.

The title derives from the term ‘hedonistic tasting,’ coined by legendary Burgundian vigneron Henri Jayer.

The Hedonistic Taster allows me the opportunity to introduce you to some gorgeous pours through this intimate tasting format.


Today’s Tasting:

Shafer Vineyards | Napa, CA.

Wine: 2011 Hillside Select® Napa Valley | Stags Leap District

Varietal(s):  100 % Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol:  15.5 %  

Suggested Retail: $225



Robe:  Inky, darkness-before the dawn-like purple.

Nose: Exotic hints of cedar box, capsicum, white pepper.

Palate: Millefeuille layers of raspberry, black truffle, spice; languorous tannins, generous finish.

Suggested Pairings: Grilled or roast viands like lamb, duck, beef and game; aged, full flavored cheeses.

Wine: 2013 Merlot | Napa Valley

Varietal(s): 84% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Malbec

Alcohol:  15.3%  

Suggested Retail: $55



Robe: Opaque garnet.

Nose: Dried violet, hawthorne, dark red fruits.

Palate:  Modelo cherry, red currant, dark chocolate, velvet study in equipoise, lingering finish.

Suggested Pairings: Poultry and meat dishes with fruit accents suck as cherry-merlot sauce or savories like roasted garlic or mushrooms.

Wine: 2012 Relentless® Napa Valley

Varietal(s):  89% Syrah, 11% Petite Sirah

Alcohol:  15.8%  

Suggested Retail: $85



Robe: Impregnable porphyry.

Nose: Sumptuous cassis, eucalyptus, black fruit.

Palate:  Plush blackberry, plum, white pepper: luxurious tannins, relentless finish, just like its namesake, winemaker Elias Fernandez.

Suggested Pairings: Roast duck or game, aged sheep cheese like manchego or Abbaye de Belloc.


 Want to learn more about Shafer Vineyards? Link to Red Thread™’s exclusive interview with Doug Shafer here.


All wines reviewed here are trade samples provided by wineries.

Winemakers, media and PR:

Please contact for samples shipping details.


Copyrighted 2016 by binNotes | redThread™.  All Rights Reserved.



Red Thread™ Artisan Wine Maker Series|Kevin Morrisey – Ehler’s Estate | Napa

Red Thread™ Artisan Wine Maker Series|Kevin Morrisey – Ehler’s Estate | Napa

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Kevin Morissey | Ehlers Estate | Napa

Kevin Morrisey’s life reads like a movie script – not surprising, given his former profession.  The storyline reads something like this: Cinematographer turns wine maker. Wine maker lands gigs with legends like Jean-Claude Berrouet of Bordeaux’s Château Pétrus before settling in at Old-World inspired Ehlers Estate in Napa.

Today, the Red Thread™ talks to Kevin Morrisey about his unconventional career path, incredible good fortune, and the fine art of wine making.

r/T ™:  What made you leave cinematography for wine making? Any similarities between the two ‘art’ forms?

KM: I loved working with cameras and lighting, working on productions, and shooting in visually amazing locales with all sorts of talented artists. It was great. But as a line of work it was very “fast lane” and felt more suited to young single people, and I wasn’t planning on being a young single person all my life.

I was always an international spirit. In college I hung out with an international crowd, and we were into wine, cooking, talking, and staying at the table for hours and hours enjoying bottles and bottles. I’d take trips to wine country, actually many wine regions, and so I made a conscious decision to change careers, or rather re-invent myself. That meant going back to grad school at Davis full-time – a huge commitment, but I’ve never looked back. I’ve been very lucky.

There are many similarities between filmmaking and winemaking. When you approach your work as an artist, it’s the same. You have ingredients, script, actors, vineyards, terroir, weather; you have a vision, you have a crew, you need organization, you have a lot of expensive equipment and need to employ and manage a lot of specialized technical help.

You need to master the technical and scientific aspects so that you can free up the artistic and creative process. You have editing, you have blending. And in the end, you have a finished product which will be appreciated, discussed, and critiqued by others. And then you start on a new production or vintage and apply what you learned from the last one. For me it’s all the same, and the organizational experience I’d had in the film world made it very easy for me to take over an intense winemaking facility.

r/T ™:   Do you consider wine making more of an art, or a science? Which part of wine making do you enjoy most?

KM: Winemaking is a natural process. And it’s high stakes. I get to make wine from grapes once a year, so yes, I better have a solid understanding of the science that I’m dealing with. Thinking scientifically gets me through the fermentation process and into barrels, with clean, sound, balanced dry wines that have been maximally protected from any premature deterioration, be it microbial or oxidative. That’s the science of capturing the best that the fruit has to offer. But as far as the big picture’s concerned, it’s a creative process all the way. Science has always been inextricably connected to the creative. I love the whole journey every year. I even love bottling. It’s when we get to sign and frame the art we’ve created.

r/T ™:  You have an enviable list of mentors spanning both Old and New worlds, including Jean-Claude Berrouet at Château Pétrus in Bordeaux, and Robert Brittan of Stags’ Leap Winery in Napa. How has each mentor influenced you as a wine maker? Any ‘voice’ haunt you more than the others while you’re in the vineyard or cellar?

KM:  I’ve been very fortunate. And don’t forget Tony Soter of Etude. I was with him for two years, and he was extremely generous with his knowledge and experience. And Bob Bolan, a brilliant winemaker, who is now at Bremmer. It takes a long time to make a bottle of wine, and learning to taste and blend and manage the production from Brittan and all those others we mentioned is a debt I hope to someday repay. The yogis say that when you’re ready to listen everyone is your teacher. I hear the voices of all my mentors and teachers all the time in the cellars and in the vineyard—except when I’m blending, then I close the door, blast the rock and roll music and go it alone!

r/T ™:   You have dual French/American citizenship. How, if at all, does this duality inform your philosophy/approach to wine making?

KM:   It’s not so much the French / American aspect. We got the French nationality formalized so our daughters would have options and opportunities to live, work, or go to school in Europe. But it’s true that I’m not really a California boy either. I’m international in my approach to everything. Making wines with a sense of place is easier when you’ve experienced life in a lot of other places.

r/T ™:  Ehlers Estates vineyards are certified organic. Why is farming organically so important to you as a wine maker?

KM:  Let’s just say that making wine or preparing food for people is a very intimate act. I’m making something that I am then asking you to take inside your body. That’s quite personal, and it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. So yes, all organic. I like to eat that way at home and I’m glad that we do that at work. Also it’s more fun to spread manure and compost than bags of chemicals. The big thing is also synthetic chemical pesticides. I just don’t want any living thing exposed to that stuff.

r/T ™: Talk about the terroir of Ehlers Estate. It’s a contiguous estate vineyard, painstakingly assembled by owners Jean and Sylviane Leducq with the assistance of legendary enologist Jacques Boissenot. Briefly touch on how the terroir(s) within the five (5) major blocks differ, and how these differences, in conjunction with the vineyard’s unique microclimate, influence varietals/flavor profiles? Do you have a favorite site?

KM:  Basically, the land at the base of the hills that run the western side of the Napa Valley is comprised of cobbly, rocky, super well-drained loamy soils. It’s referred to as the bench. Nothing like “valley floor,” which is heavier soil with a lot more clay. Below St. Helena you have Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville; all that benchland on the west side of the valley is pretty golden cabernet soil. North of St. Helena, the bench continues, and there are a bunch of great properties sitting here on that very same benchland. The highest ground at Ehlers Estate is on a soil type called Perkins Loam, and most of the rest of the estate is on Bale Loam. These are winemakers’ dream soils. We also have a little hill out back that is much older volcanics, called Aikens Loam, which makes for a very complex and spicy Cabernet. Aikens Loam is what you find on Howell Mountain. All of our land is stellar. It’s pretty warm up here, and quite breezy too. We’re at the narrowest point of the valley, what we call the pinch. The winds are stronger and that cools us down quiet nicely on the hot summer afternoons. The signature of our terroir, for me, is the tannin quality. Great vineyards are considered great because of the tannins, and if there is one common theme among all of the wines from this estate, all varieties, all vintages, it’s the tannin structure. Powerful wines that are at once chewy and velvety smooth, soft, well structured, with a long finish. You can’t achieve that with winemaking tricks, that’s the land. The “1886” Cabernet is a blend of the Perkins parcels and the little hill.

r/T ™: As a wine maker, anything in particular about Napa Valley and/or St. Helena that inspires you most, compared to other wine regions? Any vintage for which you’re especially proud? Any challenging vintage(s)?

KM: Well 2011 was a challenging vintage, cold and rainy, very non-Californian. We made very good wines that year, but I’m sure glad that wasn’t my first vintage as a winemaker or it might have been a disaster! I love making wine here in Napa Valley, and I love this estate. There are so many great wines being made from so many different regions around the world and when you drink those wines its like taking a trip to their origins. One of the things I appreciate here is that all of our wines are top-tier, all 100% estate, so all of our wines taste like handmade wines that come from our forty acres. The Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, “1886” all taste like part of a family; siblings with common traits and individual charms and personalities.

r/T ™: Anything else you care to share about Ehlers Estate?

KM:  I should mention that we’re one of those historic California Wineries, established in 1886. We receive the guests for tastings in the old stone winery building. All of our vineyards are right here. We’ll show the visitors anything they want to see. We’re definitely worth a visit. I love to make the rounds of the tasting room whenever I can to greet customers and answer questions. It’s a pretty special place.

r/T ™: Finally, if your experience as a winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

KM:   …that in the end, it’s just wine.


All proceeds from the sale of Ehlers Estate wines funds international cardiovascular research through the philanthropic Leducq Foundation

The etched heart logo on each bottle of  Ehlers Estate wine reflects this.

Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc. | Image: Ehlers Estate.
Ehlers Estate Sauvignon Blanc. | Image: Ehlers Estate.

Thank you:

Sam Dependahl 

Kevin Morrisey 

Colby Smith | CANVAS

Copyrighted 2016 binNotes | RedThread™.  All Rights Reserved.

red Thread™ Taste Maker Series | Charlie Palmer | Harvest Inn – Napa

red Thread™ Taste Maker Series | Charlie Palmer | Harvest Inn – Napa

Welcome to binNotes | redThread™

Inspired stories about artisan wine and taste makers.

by L.M. Archer FWS, Bourgogne ML

Today’s Exclusive:

  Charlie Palmer | Napa |  Harvest Inn 

Charlie Palmer | Napa | Harvest Inn 

by L.M. Archer | FWS, Bourgogne ML  

It all started in a home economics class back in upstate New York.

Today Charlie Palmer helms an award-winning array of restaurants and luxury resorts stretching from New York to Napa.

Here the Red Thread™ catches up with the peripatetic restaurateur and unabashed Pinot Noir lover to talk about his acquisition of the historic Harvest Inn in St. Helena, CA.


r/T ™:   Your hospitality empire spans two coasts, from New York, Washington, DC and Las Vegas, to San Francisco, Healdsburg, and now Napa. What lured you into adding Harvest Inn to the Charlie Palmer Group portfolio?

CP:  I’ve lived in Healdsburg for about twelve years now with my family, and as much as I’m partial to Sonoma County, I share the same feelings for the valley over the hill. 

I’ve been looking for restaurant and / or hotel opportunities in Napa for many years and when my partners and I found out about the potential for the Harvest Inn, we jumped on taking over the property. 

It’s incredible with it’s eight acres, vineyard fronting land, gardens, and now, of course, our new restaurant, Harvest Table.  There isn’t anywhere else like it in wine country.

r/T ™:  Talk about Pinot. Though New York born-and-bred, you headed to Healdsburg over a dozen years ago with your family, driven by your passion for Pinot Noir, a varietal some call ‘the diva of grapes,’ thin-skinned, temperamental, and high-maintenance. Any memorable pour that turned your head, and heart towards Pinot? Any remarkable Pinots that still haunt you? Any you still hope to try?

CP:   I’ve always been a big fan of Pinots.  They’re my favorite red and while they certainly are often described as fickle (or any of the descriptions you mention above), there is something that’s really dynamic about Pinot, but most of all, just so drinkable. 

Every glass of Pinot you drink tastes different and is impacted not only by the grapes and winemaking process, but by the environment you’re drinking it in, and by the food you’re potentially pairing it with. 

I think my favorite Pinot is Tom Rochioli’s.  He and his family have been in the Pinot grape growing and winemaking game for so long and their Pinots just hit all the right notes.

r/T ™:  When tackling a new project like the Harvest Inn, what best describes your style of management – maintaining a hand in all aspects of the project from start to finish, handling a specific portion, such as culinary, or do you prefer to lay out your ‘vision’ and hand-off the implementation to a team of experts’?

CP:  I’m a hands on guy – always have been.  I spend pretty much every weekday and every weeknight in one of our restaurants, whether here in St. Helena, in Healdsburg or in New York or Vegas.  But, I also have great teams in place who are very good at their jobs that I can trust to see a project through. 

I do work with our chefs, like Levi here at the Harvest, to taste dishes and talk about what works for this property in this particular season, but I let him really take the reins on developing the dishes and the menu. 

r/T ™:  What about the Bay Area, Sonoma and Napa appeals to you so much that you’ve invested so much of your time and treasure in the region?

CP:   I’m from upstate New York and so is my wife.  We met in New York City and both lived there for a long time (and still do about 50% of the time). 

Sonoma and Napa have the farm town qualities of upstate New York, but with far better weather!  It should come as no surprise that I love food and wine, and as we explored the west coast and moving out here with our family, we kept coming back to Healdsburg.

r/T ™:  Talk about the design of Harvest Inn. What led you to come up with the unique ‘neighborhood’ layout, add the lofts, include a sculpture garden, and install working culinary gardens? What exactly does your ‘culinary horticulturist’ Laura McNiff do?

CP:   When we bought the Harvest Inn in 2014, the possibilities for further developing the property seemed endless.  The neighborhoods already existed, but we just renamed one of them (from Rose to The Grove). 

The property is pretty big and the neighborhoods are small clusters of little cottages grouped together, but more than anything, they directionally help to guide people around the property.  With the Harvest Lofts, we decided to take advantage of in incredibly (and overly) large office space and turn that into new guest rooms right above the new restaurant, hence the name loft. 

Regarding the gardens, again, the property is eight acres and one of our main goals was restoring the landscapes here to the great glory they once were.  We were interviewing Laura to be our head gardener and she and I came up with the idea of the five culinary gardens.  We were all instantly (including Levi) enthralled with the idea and it’s just so fitting for our culinary team to be able to grow so much of what goes on the menu here.

r/T ™:  Any defining moment when you knew you wanted to become a chef? Do you consider yourself a chef first, or an entrepreneur who just happened to get into the food and wine business? Any mentors or peers instrumental in helping you on your climb up?

CP:  It was in my home economics class in high school.  My teacher, Sharon Crane, is really the one that inspired me to thinking about cooking as a real potential career. 

I’d say I’m a chef first, but I’ve always been entrepreneurial by nature.  As an entrepreneur, I always like to tackle things with a hospitality perspective.  My chef mentors are Leon Danon, Jean Jacque Rachout and then of course Buzzy O’Keefe from my time at the River Café.

r/T ™:   Among your many accomplishments, you’ve been inducted into the American Academy of Chef’s Culinary Hall of Fame, named a James Beard Foundation ‘Best Chef’ New York Award winner, and earned many a Michelin star for Aureole New York and Las Vegas.  Anything you’d still like to accomplish?

CP:  I’d like to win a top hotel award!   I think I’ve been really lucky and fortunate in my life and I like to say I’m a living proof of the American dream. 

I just want to keep building successful restaurants and hotels and developing great chefs and managers.  But, my big dreams now are for my four kids and what they’re going to do next.

r/T ™:  Since moving to Healdsburg you’ve also expanded your culinary and luxury lodging holdings, contributed to a number of culinary and charitable organizations, and authored your sixth cookbook. How are you able to manage it all, and still have time to ‘smell the vineyard?”

CP:   As I mentioned earlier, I am in the restaurants and hotels during the week, but the weekends are for family time and I really try to stick to that, no matter what.  It’s important to me and it’s important to them.

I also think priorities have shifted a lot over the years and I try and make time for other things in my day, like a run in the morning and cooking dinner at home for my kids when I can.

r/T ™:   Any words of wisdom to the many hospitality industry professionals reading this interview who are just starting out, or conversely, perhaps suffering burn-out?

CP:   This industry is ever-evolving.  There is no easy way, you’ve just got to keep your head down and continue to keep learning and keep trying new things. 

Don’t look backwards and try and fix a mistake from the past, you can only move forward.  And don’t ever make the same mistake twice!

r/T ™:   Finally, if your experience building a culinary empire has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

CP:   Hospitality is king.  We want people to feel at home in our restaurants.  We want to identify their wants and needs before they have to ask for them.  We want you to open the door to the bar at Harvest Table and have your drink waiting for you. 

1 of 3-Part Series on Charlie Palmer

Part 2: Charlie Palmer | Sonoma

Part 3: Charlie Palmer | San Francisco


Thank you:

Chef Charlie Palmer 

Christa Weaving | Charlie Palmer Group | Director of PR & Marketing

Shelby Nelson |  Harvest Inn | Director of Guest Services

Colby Smith | CANVAS (Concierge Alliance of Napa Valley & Sonoma) | Executive Director, Founder


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