Titus: reasonably priced wines still exist in Napa.

A 40-minute drive from our Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Inn On First, is a winery called Titus.  Located in the the Rutherford Appellation, the property has been owned by the family since the 1968 and today the two sons continue the tradition of wine-making begun by their parents.

Titus WineryDanielle was our hostess for the day and made our experience perfectly delightful.  She showed us the new construction site for a new tasting room (due to open up this summer) and then invited us into the historic home on site for a full tasting of their wines.  What is important to note is that everything they make is “estate grown” with the exception of 3% of wine that is sourced out.  That is phenomenal.

We began with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc ($20) with a light fruit nose, with hints of apple and pear.  We moved onto a Merlot ($34) that was soft on the nose with a touch of strawberry and a light chocolate finish.  We  moved onto their Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) that was simply elegant on the nose with light cherry overtones and a soft leather finish.  The family’s Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve, was the most expensive bottle at $75, and was simply luscious, with soft dark chocolate and mocha notes.  I loved it.  They also make a Cabernet Franc, a Malbec, and a blended wine they call Lot 1.

Foundation Retrofit Update

The foundation work is continuing during the midweek for the rest of the month and the beginning of March.

FramingCurrently they are framing (photo 1) one side of the house with rebar.  Behind the rebar on the wall is a sheet of waterproofing (that gray white wall) on either side of the concrete.  I had never seen this before and asked for more information.    As I know so little about construction I find the details exciting – and if you don’t enjoy those kinds of details, stop reading now!

Water ProofingThe second photo shows the backside of that gray wall, a plastic coating with these little holes.  This coating collects excess water and moisture which drains down into pipes buried underneath the ground all around the foundation.  Should the plastic on the outside wear out or tear for any reason, that front side with the gray sheet, when wet, absorbs the water and then “expands” so that no more water can get through to the concrete pillars.  How cool is that?!

PipesOnto the pipes all around the base of the foundation!  These pipes (photo 3) also have holes in them to collect water.  They will be covered by a material (similar to weed control sheets used in gardens) that will permit water to flow through but hold everything else back.  That water will drain toward a sump pump and automatically be removed.   In essence it will mean our basement will stay nice and dry during winter rains.  What you don’t know is that it used to seep through all the stone and mortar and create a little stream under the house to the original sump pump.  We used to create a little bridge over that stream to reach the far side of the basement and we won’t have to do that anymore.   Exciting news indeed.  So stay tuned for next week: I can’t wait to see the pouring of the concrete.

Napa Snow- a show of Spring’s glory

Napa Snow SpringIt begins in the middle of January and continues through the beginning of March.  Here at The Inn On First, a luxury Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, we call it “Napa Snow”.  The trees bloom in spectacular glory with these white blossoms and when the wind comes the blossoms come flying off and there is “snow” everywhere.  It is stunning.  Admittedly our winters are mild compared to the East Coast and elsewhere in the world, and for this reason we live here.  Oh, we have our share of frosty mornings with an occasional powdered sugar dusting of hail or light snow on the hilltops, but nothing like the inches of white cold others experience.  It’s a great time to be in Napa, to see a different kind of beauty on the streets.

Mustard in the VinesIn the vineyards the mustard is growing up between the vineyards.  Pruning has begun which means you will see long lines of black stumps surrounded by bright green vegetation of yellow flowers.  It is our second favorite time of year here next to harvest.  Standing in the tasting rooms, looking out the windows onto the vineyards,with a large glass of luscious Cabernet Sauvignon in your hand- this is winter in Napa.

Moonlight in Napa

We spend most of our time at The Inn On First walking in the daylight, yet our February weather afforded us a most notable evening to be out and about during the full moon.

Moonlight Dog Walk Moonlight in NapaRising out of the sky over the historic downtown Napa district, the moon rose full and mighty.  I normally just take the dogs for a short play time in the yard, but the moon beckoned me further.  So I leashed them up and out we went for a moonlight stroll in the neighborhood.  I forget how beautiful it is in my own neighborhood, but nights like these bring it back into focus.  Even the dogs were more subdued, less fidgety, and willing to join me for this merry walk in the not-so-dark streets.

I suppose this is why I am grateful that we are close to the historic downtown area, so we can walk to all the restaurants, shops, and wine tasting rooms in the area.  The fact that I am out and about at all while others in the nation are hunkering down under snow and cold is a reminder to appreciate what it right before me.  Here’s to moonlight.  Here’s to walking in the dark.

Fuller Park: even in winter it’s beautiful

Fuller Park WinterJust a short ten minute walk from The Inn On First, a romantic Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is Fuller Park. It is where I walk the dogs each morning after breakfast service.  Over the course of the year it changes with the seasons and every year I think one season is better than the next.  When actually they all have their merits.  In winter the leaves are gone, the air is crisp, the sky blue, and there is winter leaf-mulch all around.  There are fewer people in the park so it makes for a lovely walk in silence and solitude.  Until those squirrels decide to play naughty and run across the paths of the dogs.  Calvin is incredibly fierce in his determination to chase, but alas he is called back to formation with the pack.

Fuller Park Dog ShadowsFor me it is the long shadows with the sun hanging low in the sky that calls me to attention.  It is romantic in its own way, creating an ideal of shadow and light that equally play together into something beautiful.  It is serious, yet playful; simple, yet full of delight.  While visiting here in Napa, at any time of year, take a walk around Fuller Park and discover some of the beauty that other than grapevines and wineries.

Renovation Update

IFront Corner Foundationt’s amazing how little impact the foundation retrofit has had on the exterior of the building.  That surprised both of us as we thought it would be much more obvious.  This photo shows the front left corner of the house.  It’s less than 12 inches high, hardly noticeable.  As they are doing this in sections in order to keep the house safe and secure (we live here, you know!), we feel fortunate they have worked hard to keep the inn looking neat and tidy.

We have called all guests who made reservations for Sunday through Thursday nights to make them aware of the oft-changing circumstances.  So far only one couple chose to stay elsewhere, all others have stayed.  Their comments: we’re up by 8 am anyway, and the historic mansion basement is far from available rooms, so the noise is negligible or at least tolerated until they go out wine tasting for the day; typically by 10 am. At the end of their day they return home to the inn and the work has been completed for the day and the grounds tidied up, and they can fully enjoy their room, the tub, a quiet night in front of the gas fireplace with a glass of wine, and a full night’s sleep.  Until today guests didn’t believe any work was actually taking place!

We want to thank the construction crew as they have not made any significant noise until around 9, sometimes later.  We should have a few more days of jackhammering to finish cleaning out the basement, and then the noise will be reduced significantly as they build the framing and eventually pour the concrete.  We are expecting more jackhammering the week following Valentine’s Day Weekend to finish the last 1/4 of the house, and then we should move quickly to completion after that.  As already stated, all historic mansion rooms are closed during the week, and we put significant discounts on the garden suite rooms for midweek stays.

Atlas Social: a fun new way to eat in downtown historic Napa

Only a ten minute walk from The Inn On First, a Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, is a new restaurant that is getting a lot of buzz for its food.  So last week when our friends, Guy and Christina DeMarco, were in town we joined in the fun. No reservations taken.  It’s a drop in and “be social” kind of place.

Lots of small plates to choose from, really a restaurant for sharing everything on the table. The Herb Leaf Fries were just yummy for a starter as was the Dungeness Crab Toasts with sweet and sour sauce.  Jamie really enjoyed the Twice Fried Brussels Sprouts (you all know I am a hater) and the Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Blood Oranges was spectacularly fun to eat with a lovely contrast of grill marks and the sweet yet slightly acidic orange.  We couldn’t pass up the “Angry” Shrimp cocktail with chilies and orange, although Guy thought they were more “Mildly Pissed Off” with regard to the “heat” factor.

We all dug into and loved the Garlic and Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab with Grilled Bread and spicy aioli.  Wowza!  Just make sure to ask for extra napkins as this is a finger feast with forks given to each person to extract the meat.  Don’t worry, they have these lovely wet towels with lemon to clean up at the end.

Also got a chance to try to the Roasted Quail with Soy Glaze, and that was just delicious.  Oh, how the menu tempted us to purchase more, but beware!, these dishes creep up on you slowly and suddenly you find you simply cannot partake of another bite.  I passed on dessert as I am currently/temporarily no dairy, and everything had dairy in it.

It just means another trip within the month to sample another 1/4 of the menu.  I still want to try the Atlas jacks (sweet and spicy cracker jacks), the Crudo with Preserved Kumquat, the Red Curry Mussels, and the Rabbit Pot Pie.  Prices range from $5 to 9$ for Snacks, $8 to $20 for small plates, and $34 to $42 for the larger platters to be shared by up to four people.  Wine bar only available, by the glass and the bottle.  Plenty of Vegetarian options, and I was unable to find out at the end how they manage Vegans or Gluten-free.

Seating tip: they have high tables in front with stool seating, but ask if there are any tables available in the back that are more like booths (not a lot of them) where it feels more restarauntish vs. clubby.

What to do when your inn gets “Renovated”?

Girder on InnCan you see it?  The girder sticking out of the lower left corner of the basement?  When the SBA encouraged us to do a foundation retrofit we weren’t sure we wanted to make that large of an investment.  But when we asked: “What is the right thing to do?”, we realized that this would ensure a long and prosperous future for everything we have built here in the last eight years.  So, it has begun, and you can see more pictures and read all about it on our Renovation News page.  We will keep you informed weekly with more pics and updates on our blog and social media sites.


A Christmas movie from The Inn On First

Here in Napa Valley The Inn On First, a Napa Bed and Breakfast Inn, Jamie Cherry works hard to prepare for the Christmas season.  Weeks before Thanksgiving he sets out all the boxes in the attic, organizing what goes out first and what can wait.  On the Friday following Thanksgiving (yes, he still holds to the “no decorating before turkey day”) he begins the process.  This movie is a little clip into what he does and how he helps guests and friends enter into the magic of the holiday season.

Holiday Cheer coming your way (w/ Cherry Family Holiday Cookie Recipe)

LR Tree ViewThe Holidays are right around the corner and we at The Inn On First are getting excited to celebrate the season with our guests.  This is Jamie’s favorite season for decorating and he does it well.     LR Shelves

All the shelves are emptied and new items are put into place.  There will be one live tree in the living room next to the piano, and then multiple non-living trees that are decorated.

Front DoorThe doorways are decked with garlands, the historic mansion stairwell filled with miniature ornaments, and in the living room you will find the Holiday Village where there is a blend of both historical (Victorian homes) to modern (sixties trailer park) items all around.

HugoThe fireplace mantle becomes a festival of lights where all of our stockings are hung. Yes, even the dogs get in on the action for the Holidays.   In the dining room the cabinet is filled with Holiday dishes, and special holiday teas and hot chocolate are available.  DR CupboardWe now have an ever-hot tank of water so there is no more waiting for the tea water to boil, and with our tea pots and mugs, as well as a wide selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, we make experiencing the Holidays around the fireplace with a warm drink easy to come by.

One of our special treats during the Holidays is to make the Cherry Family Holiday Sugar Cookie Recipe.  We roll them out, bake them off, coat them, and then decorate them into all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Mantle Fireplace

Imagine sitting in front of the fireplace, the smell of a pine tree in the air, a twinkle of lights all around, a hot cup of cocoa, with a small star-shaped cookie that has a slight hint of lemon and buttery goodness in the crust, with a sugar-frosting and colored sprinkles, and you have a good idea of what celebrating the Holidays is like for us here at The Inn On First.

The decorating starts the weekend after Thanksgiving, so if you want to come and enjoy the Holiday Wonderland, book your reservation between post-Thanksgiving Weekend and New Year’s Day.  We do close down Christmas week (Dec. 21-25) to celebrate our own holiday.  Hope to see you in the Holiday Season.  If not, enjoy this Holiday Recipe from The Cherry-Gunther Family:

Oven Temperature: 350 degrees, Yield: About 2 dozen 3″ cookies

  • 1 pound, Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1-3/4 cup, Sugar
  • 5, Eggs, Large AA
  • 6 cups, All Purpose Flour
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons, Baking Powder
  • Pinch, Kosher Salt
  • 1, Lemon, Large (Rind only, grated)
  • Juice of 1 Lemon, Large
  • 1, Egg White
  • 2 teaspoons, Water, hot
  • 1 cup, Powdered Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon, Lemon flavor
  • Colored Sugar Sprinkles, various

In a mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar until combined, and then add the eggs.  Mix until well combined.  In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir until combined.  Add to butter-egg mixture.  Add the lemon rind and lemon juice.  Mix until a smooth dough forms.  Cut into two balls and flatten with your hand into large, thick pancake shapes.  Wrap in plastic and place into the refrigerator and chill for two hours or more, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  On a floured surface roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick and cut out desired shapes.  Be sure to dip the cutter forms into flour before cutting so the dough won’t stick.  Dust off excess flour and place onto non-stick cookie sheets.  You can do all of this days ahead and freeze these shapes for future use as needed.

Place into the oven for 9 to 11 minutes, until the edges just begin to turn brown.  If you cut out larger shapes, greater than 3″ in diameter, plan on 11 to 16 minutes to bake.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment add the egg white and hot water.  Whisk until soft peaks form.  Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  Place the frosting into a wide baking dish so you can dip the cookies into them.  Set up cookie cooling racks over baking sheets, and have your sugar sprinkles ready.  When the cookies are cool, dip them face down into the frosting and allow the excess to drip off.  Place face up on the cooling rack.  After one-half dozen cookies have been dipped, decorate liberally.  Repeat with the process until all cookies are decorated.  Let the cookies dry.  Once dry store in a covered container for up to one week.