Kitchens in the Vineyards

19th Annual Home and Garden Tour – April 30, 2016

I waited all year for this event to come ‘round again. Napa calls my soul out to play every year around this time with its rolling green velvet hills and vineyards, so reminiscent of Umbria and Tuscany. My only regret is that “no photography” was allowed inside the homes.  But being the shutterbug I am, I found plenty of beauty to click on.  This year, there appeared to be an even larger display of roses everywhere with the white signature rose of Napa especially prevalent.


PinkRoseBushCroppedIn wine regions around the world, roses are frequently planted at the perimeter of vineyards. Roses typically require the same type of soil and sun requirements as grapevines and traditionally, rose hedges were planted as an early warning system to protect the health of the grapevines. Early detection of disease or stress on the roses alerted winemakers to take the necessary precautions to protect vines from similar damage. Roses also add beauty to the vineyard landscape, provide food for bees and offer habitat for beneficial insects preying on undesirable insects that can damage the grape crop.

The roses and vineyards were not the only views to hold your attention on the drive through the valley. More and more hillsides are blanketed with grapevines, and the views from the home sites on the tour were spectacular.UphillVineyard2AcrossValley3IMG_0513

Our first stop on the Kitchens in the Vineyards Tour was the Ackerman Heritage House, owned by Lauren Ackerman, a 20-year resident of Napa, and the sixth owner of this historic gem in the heart of town.   The impetus to restore this 1888 Queen Anne Victorian to its era of opulence and grandeur was not a selfish one. “This is a community asset,” Lauren emphasizes. “The house will be used for private, political, and/or non-profit events.” The property will be further enhanced with a soon to be built tasting room to showcase the wines from Coombsville’s Ackerman Winery.

The 4000-square-foot home includes 14 original stained glass windows, and elaborate woodwork throughout. The interior features period-correct furniture, lighting, extravagant antiques and library. The home was originally designed by Luther Turton and owned by Sarah Hayman who bought the property for 10-dollars in gold coins and built the house in 90-days. “It took me five years to renovate the house,” Ackerman said.

Each of the homes on the tour was tended by guides, each armed with nothing less than a training manual of detail about the showcase homes. Each home is styled by noted designers and florists and enhanced with springtime table settings.

At the Ackerman House, I was taken by some of the original restorations such as the push button lite switches, historic photographs of women’s suffrage in Wyoming Territory and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Bazaar print of 1875 showing ladies and children’s spring suits. Everyone ogled the domed bathroom ceiling in the master bedroom and all the furniture from that period.

Attention to design and detail was everywhere. Whether it was adding pocket doors or unique chandeliers or buying special tools to recreate some of the woodwork, she traveled the world looking for the perfect period correct pieces and artwork for each room. Lauren described an antique she had picked up in London – an 1837 official portrait of Queen Victoria at age 17, with a piece of the fabric from the shawl she wore in the portrait attached to the frame.

Ken Frank, the chef from Napa’s LaToque restaurant, was in the kitchen popping out scores of Gougères (cheese puff hors d’oeuvres) sans Champagne.


Our second stop had historic roots in the 1920’s as a dairy farm and cheese barn and stable. Volcanic rock from the property built much of the restored structure situated on what is left of the 123 former acres in Coombsville owned by the Kreuzer family in 1876.KeeverVineyardView

Now owned by Caldwell Vineyard, the acreage grows 10 grape varietals.

The guest house was remodeled by the current owner in 1975, with a deck around the exterior.  I was taken by the enormous outcropping of a pricky pear cactus variety and its flowers.PPearCloseupDeckView

Along the way, there was no lack of premier dwellings and sites to see, including Opus One Vineyards.WhiteHouseItalianVillaOpusOne

Speaking of premier dwellings, our next stop was SPLENDID MEDITERRANEAN, in Yountville, up the hill past the Veteran’s Home, featuring a grand interior with coffered ceilings and vast arch windows. The exterior is surrounded by Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards and boasts a winery, pool, guest home, and spectacular views.House FrontFrontViewOutjpgGuest House

Strawberry Shortcake served compliments of Hurley’s Restaurant, where Bob Hurley, 30-year professional and Executive Chef describes his menu as local California cuisine high in flavor and influenced by the Mediterranean with The “Wine Country” theme to allow for plenty of diversity.StrawberryShortcakeAcrossValley


This contemporary ranch-style home, originally built in 1985, was renovated in 2014. A serene blend of traditional elements and Asian antiques, its warm neutrals focus on transitional indoor/outdoor living.   The grounds include a full kitchen, bar, gas fireplace, lounge area, pool, 280 Cabernet Sauvignon vines (1-2 barrels of wine) and 16 olive trees (producing 15 gallons of oil). What caught my eye was the full garden and orchard.

raised beds BestpoolRoseGardenBestTostaritas

Tostaritas were served on the patio by Napkins Bar and Grill, a “Modern American Bistro” in downtown Napa, featuring open mic on Thursdays 9:30-12:30 a.m.   The menu was designed with local seasonal farm fresh ingredients and flavors to pair with your favorite wines.  The hors d’oeuvre served at the Ranch Renovation was built on a fried corn tortilla chip, spicy quacamole, pickled red cabbage and queso fresco. Behind me a woman remarked, “quacamole should be a food group!”

We almost went to Napkins for dinner ourselves, but instead chose another bistro in Napa, Napa Valley Bistro.  My Chinese Salad with Ahi was built on Napa Cabbage, Romaine, Bell Pepper, Ginger, Almond, Sesame Soy Dressing. Bruce selected Niman Ranch St. Louis Style Ribs with Tamarind BBQ Sauce, Coleslaw and Sweet Potato Fries.

AhiChineseSaladBistro Ribs

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