Category Archives: jim and jamie

I’m a Vegan-Cheater

As a chef it is a funny thing to state you are eating vegan.  People look at me strangely, wonder if I am okay, and when invited over to their homes are wondering if I will be satisfied without a piece of meat on my plate.  That’s okay.  This was my reaction to most vegans who came into my life.

Over the course of the past ten years I have worked with many vegans here at the inn, all of whom have given me ideas and assistance on what could and would make a nourishing breakfast without eggs or meat or cheese (some of the mainstay building blocks of breakfast).  Their education has opened my eyes and palate to try new things that are all plant-based, and I have fallen in love with most if not all of what I have made.  Many have shared recipes, tips and tricks with cooking and keeping things in balance, and over that time I have come to appreciate the challenge of vegan cuisine at breakfast.  Generally I can say I have been fairly successful and am still growing in presenting new and exciting breakfast items for vegans.

Then, as some of you know,  five years ago I had a fight with a bad piece of cheese and, Hi-Ho the dairy-oh, the cheese stands alone- I lost the battle.  Since then I have been unable to eat pork, beef, or dairy.  Did you know that beef and pork share the same protein structure?  There is something in that protein structure that doesn’t agree with my body today.  It is never immediate but takes hours for the pain to become uncomfortable

Okay, so I made adjustments, found a great source of Vegan Cheese called “Follow Your Heart” and even Jamie loves it (it melts, cooks well into product, and goes well with crackers).  I am a cheese-a-holic, need a piece every day to feel whole and satisfied as a human being.  Chocolate?  Could leave it behind.  I know, I know.  For some of you those words are anathema.  Yet for me it is everything.  Leave cheese behind?  Never!

Recently a guest, William Brown, came through the house, a doctor who had recently moved to vegan and shared a bit of his story with me, how going vegan has been proven to reverse heart disease.  What?  Reverse it?  Oh my, yes.  I did my research, read some more and decided to give it a try.  Oh, I’m not perfect by any means.  I still eat eggs.  I simply cannot give up that deliciousness. Also, they call for a reduction or elimination of refined flour products (ugh, what, no bread?) and sugar (give up sugar?  have you tasted my chocolate chunk cookies?).  I suppose you could call me a Vegan-Cheater.

I tell people that I am 99% vegan.  The one percent is for when I don’t want to be vegan as something so delicious is sitting in front of me I must take a bite, or ten.  Like homemade flour tortillas.  I will let you know how I progress.  Yes, I will still incorporate eggs, dairy, and meat into breakfast as I want to play with a full deck of ingredients as I continue to work toward my goal of 250 breakfast recipes.  150 down.  100 to go!

Death reminds us to celebrate in the NOW

I know our blog should be about all the great things that are happening right now, but sometimes we need to stop and acknowledge that there is a hard part of our lives as well.  We had a lot of grief in our lives these past few weeks at The Inn On First. Jim’s friend of 38 years, Teresa Bulone East Dominic; Jim’s spiritual mentor, co-author, and dear friend, Juanita Meller; and today Jamie Cherry’s oldest sister, Mary Beth, who had been actively dying from cancer this past year. These are all people who have helped form and shape who we are in our lives today, and we give thanks to them and the growth they inspired within us.

It’s not that our grief paralyzes us.  As a friend of mine said recently: “It is hard until it isn’t.”  And some days it isn’t hard at all, and those are the days we celebrate these magnificent lives that have impacted us over the years.  Our grief turns to gratitude as we remember them.  Our service to our guests continues to deepen, and our love for our guests and each other continues to grow because of those who have loved us well, especially these individuals who have been important anchors in our lives.  Thanks to all the wonderful guests who have been so supportive of us during this time of surrender.  Our call is clear: celebrate the NOW for tomorrow we may not be here.

What is going on with tasting fees at wineries? Will they be waived if I purchase?

I have a dream: every guest of The Inn On First can walk into a tasting room and say: “I’m from The Inn On First in Napa” and the Wine Educator would say: “Oh, you mean that fabulous romantic Bed and Breakfast Inn in Napa….well, then, I’ll waive your tasting fee!”  Ah, to dream.

Tasting fees in Napa can range from $10 on up to $60 or more per person at wineries and at the end of the day that can be pretty expensive.  Yet, when you consider that you typically get to taste 6 to 8 wines for $10 or $15 and don’t have to commit to a whole bottle, that is not so bad.  Or when you pay $60 to taste a selection of high-end wines you would only dream about because the price point of $150 to $250 per bottle or more is a serious commitment, it can minimize the impact or it can scare you away!  (Big smile here)  Wineries love to sell wine but you should never feel obligated to purchase, especially when you’ve paid a tasting fee, and should feel free to say: “no thanks”.  In a real sense, tasting fees give you a freedom you might otherwise experience around purchasing (or not) wine.

Luckily for Napkins (local Napa folk) most wineries share in the Good Neighbor program that provides free tasting when you show your local address on your driver’s license.  For all others, though, there is no rule in Napa about how tasting fees are set, and they do add up quickly.  Here are some general guidelines on what to expect:

If there are significant caves for you to view and walk through, expect to pay more in tasting fees.  I say significant because some wineries have built small caves that you can walk in and out of in three minutes or less.  Others have caves up to 10,000 square feet and include tours of the whole operation from crushing to the barrel room.  These tasting-tours can cost $40 to $50 per person.

If there are other things for you to see such as art galleries, car collections, stunning views, historical buildings, and/or tours through the vineyards, expect to pay more in tasting fees, anywhere in the $25 to $50 per person range.

If the wines at the winery are in the mid to high range ($100 on up), expect to pay more in tasting fees to cover the costs of the wines they are opening for you to try.  These could be in the $30 to $60 range.

Most tasting rooms, especially in larger wineries with walk-up bars, will charge in the lower range of $10 to $20 per person.  Some clearly post signs: “No tasting fee charged if you purchase a single bottle of wine.”

We’re fortunate with some of our business partners that we have 2 for 1 tasting cards, and in rare circumstances today, free tasting cards.  This can help alleviate the concerns for the budget-minded traveler, but it also severely limits where you can go and what you taste.  There is a big difference between the presenting wine that is offered for a free tasting at a winery versus the reserve wines you pay extra to taste, or the smaller production wines at small family owned wineries, or the highly specialized blended wines of upscale wineries.  For those who want an introduction to Napa only, the tasting passes work well.  For those who want to taste the best variety of wines Napa has to offer then paying the tasting fee is certainly worth it.

Will the fees be waived if you purchase?  No guarantee.  I’ve asked around and many wineries state that if a single person purchases two bottles or more, they will waive that individual’s tasting fee.  Others told me it would take a case of wine to waive the fee.  Still others charge the tasting fee whether or not you purchase.  A few admitted that if they like the people, had a good time, and enjoyed the guests’ company, they would waive the fee no matter what.  So what is the answer?

Our philosophy is simple: only purchase what we like to drink.  Expect to pay the tasting fee with no discounts.

Also- most importantly- ask!- with no expectation.

Ask about any case discounts?  Any club member discounts?  Are tasting room fees waived upon purchase?  Many wineries offer you that information, or will put the information on price sheets for you as well.  There is no shame in asking  And yes, always mention that Jim and Jamie sent you from The Inn On First.  If you’re lucky and they love us, they might offer you a discount.  If so, let me know! Maybe my dream is becoming reality!!