Winding Down in Wine Country

Chandelier hanging in tree at Viansa Winery Summer is finally over and Joe and I just returned from our last trip of the year to sunny California.  We visited family in Sacramento and fêted our dear friends Mike and Maggie in Sonoma.  Living in New Orleans, we don't get many chances to go wine tasting, so we packed as many stops as possible into a sliver of free time!

Our wine country tour focused around the Carneros Region of Sonoma Valley.  The area is just south of the town of Sonoma, off Highway 121, and makes some of the most delicious sparkling wines you've tasted.  We began our day early at Viansa, where for $10 a person, we sampled their reserve offerings and for $45, brought home a bottle of Cabernet.  The winery is impeccably landscaped and offers sweeping views from the rustic terrace dotted with tables, chairs, strings of lights and chandeliers in the trees.  We sipped, shopped, relaxed and strolled through the vineyards before moving on.

10 minutes up the road you'll find Gloria Ferrer- an expansive estate of the famed Ferrer family, who's been wine-making in Spain since the 16th century!  You may be familiar with their largest brand, Freixenet.  Much like the family she married into, Gloria has a knack for sparkling wine.  Her Pinot Noir-based bubbly, Blanc de Noirs is their most award-winning variety and offered a tasty start to our tour of the facility.  The $20 per person tour lasted roughly an hour and explored different varieties of sparkling wine as well as the wine-making process.

Last, but certainly not least, we made our way to Cornerstone Winery for Mike and Maggie's wedding.  It was a drastic departure from our previous stops.  In lieu of Tuscan architecture, Cornerstone boasts modern art and labyrinth-like gardens.  Everywhere you look there's a sculpture or art installation, intricately woven between shrub-lined walkways.  The ceremony overlooked a modern lily pond, dinner took place inside a tent filled with farm tables, and dancing spilled out of the barn and into windmills on the large lawn.

By the time Joe and I stumbled back to our hotel room, our heads were spinning from all the excitement of the fabulous day... and maybe all that wine as well!

Ditch the Vase and Get Creative

Teapot filled with fresh daisies Earlier this week, I brought home a bouquet of inexpensive daisies to brighten up our guest bedroom while my mom's in town.  Instead of using a boring vase, I pulled out our teapot and used that to arrange the blooms instead.

It was such a fun alternative, I thought I'd share some other ideas.  The next time you pick up a bouquet, don't be afraid to ditch the vase and get creative!

La Provence: Fine Dining on the Farm

There are few things I enjoy in life more than a delicious meal on the town... except maybe a delicious meal on the farm!  I'd been dying to check out famous New Orleans chef John Besh's restaurant "La Provence."  However, it's about an hour outside of town, so Joe's birthday was the perfect excuse to finally make it happen!

I splurged and borrowed a Rolls Royce from a VERY generous neighbor and hired a driver to take us there!  We felt like royalty sipping champagne on the drive across Lake Pontchartrain and were blissfully blown away by the magical setting once we arrived.  Tucked away behind the quaint building is a small farm with an herb garden, chickens, pigs and geese (which you'll find on the restaurant's Christmas menu)!  I kicked off my heels as we strolled through the grass, took pictures under the live oaks draped in Spanish moss and made friends with all the animals.  Then, we headed inside to eat...

If you're expecting a formal affair at La Provence, turn right around.  The ambiance transports you into a comfortable and rustic, French chateau.  We noshed on the most amazing pate and crostini, sipped a farm version of the classic French 75 cocktail (complete with sprigs of fresh lavender) and ordered the surprisingly affordable 3-course "market menu."  The wait staff was fabulous, the food was delicious and as we stepped back into our luxurious ride, I couldn't think of a more perfect way to celebrate my amazing husband.

Talk About a Green Thumb! Check Out This Massive French Quarter Rose Bush

  Massive French Quarter Rose Bush

There are rose bushes and then there are rose bushes that have grown so big, so beautiful and so out of control, they can really only be described as a tree.  This is one such bush.  I was walking through the French Quarter with Joe and Beau when I stumbled upon this beauty.

Having a very brown thumb myself, I can only imagine the love and care that went into growing it.  Maybe one day I'll have a massive rose tree.  In the meantime, I'll just admire this one!

Garden District Curb Appeal: Simple Design, Big Impact

  Simple Design

There's a Garden District home I was lucky enough to visit on the PRC Home Tour with the most stunning landscaping out front!

The owners just updated all of the soft and hardscape... and the impact is amazing.  Set against their bright white home, the pure green hues pop.  They've incorporated a few rustic containers, with the urns flanking the door and my favorite, the oversized planter that's just overflowing with lush ivy.

It's a clean and simple design, and that's what makes it so effective.