patio

Courtyard Oasis

There's a restaurant in New Orleans called Cafe Amelie that has the most...amazing...courtyard.  The first time I ate there, I knew that's what I wanted my own yard to feel like.  Years later, we're just about there! 

Our backyard was pretty hideous to begin, but we've slowly upgraded the permanent structures.  We removed ugly old trees, built a tall fence with modern horizontal lines and built a storage shed that seamlessly blends into the design. 

Next came the brick work.  Joey and I spent two long weekends expanding and redesigning the original brick patio.  We re-purposed old bricks for the new section, so it blends with the existing patio.  It's now centered in the yard and twice as big as it used to be!

The real show-stopper, however, were the brick planters!  I did the design and our incredible contractor Dragan executed the elaborate, overlapping brick work.  The design's soft curves contrast nicely with the geometric lines of the fence and the varying heights add another level of interest.

After practically buying out Perino's entire garden center and spending another weekend planting and installing the fountain and irrigation system, the makeover coming along nicely.  We still need to hardwire the fountain, add lighting, furniture and build a deck, but I think we have a great start!

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!