Laughter Flows Like Wine…

It’s too bad that there aren’t a lot of more laughs in the world of wine. Outside of the razor sharp wit of the Hosemaster, it’s a pretty dry bunch. Instead of the tired cliché of drink what you like when you begin to get into wine, I’d tell people to not take it so darn serious and laugh a lot more, good advice for the people that have been in it for a long time as well.

Example.  A guest asked Todd Burleson our guide through the barrel cellars of Piazza Del Dotto, Napa location, what instrument he was using to dip into the barrels and fill our glasses was called. “It’s called a barrel thief.”  I chimed in, “What a perfect name for an instrument used by a guy named Todd.”


Todd and I almost fell on the floor laughing our heads off and the others in the group tour looked at us in bewilderment.  When I recovered I gasped, “Last time we were here we had a huge laugh about how every time there’s a creep or psycho in a TV series or movie, he’s inevitably called Todd,” which brought a whole bunch of laughs from the rest of the tour group. 

To back up, it was mildly disappointing when my web gal and I found that our fav chef in Napa, Josh Schwartz, wasn’t on the grill that afternoon. But we were happy when we found our fav wine guide, Todd was on and just coming off his lunch break. And when we returned he was there to greet us in the nicely designed lobby. “I understand you’re looking for me,” he began, before breaking into a wide mouth grin.  “Hey, I remember you two. It’s great to see you.”

Cabernet Sauvignon

My web gal began babbling about how he had all these positive reviews and he was pleasantly surprised. “I never look at that stuff.”  Todd was happy to tack us on to a barrel tasting tour that was about to begin and ended with Piazza’s excellent thin crust pizza, salumi and more wine pairings to go with it.

Out of the barrel tasting the web gal really like Del Dotto’s 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc and I liked the 2017 St. Helena Mountain Alain Fouquet Carved & Grooved American Oak Block 2 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

For a highly recommended experience and to taste some great wines, food and fun, book a cave tour. Since Todd had been a perfect host and not a psycho,  thought it’d be fun to get him do the NSI quiz. Enjoy.

Cabernet Franc

What was last night’s dinner? Country comfort food.  BBQ chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, Mac n Cheese, and collard greens.  Paired with a to-die-for Metzger Family Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  Mama would be proud.

Favorite drink? Although I still find it impossible to answer when someone asks me my favorite wine, I’ve always leaned towards a luscious, velvety mountain-side Cabernet Franc.  Though a cold Yoo-Hoo is good too.

Favorite dining spot in Napa? Bistro Jeanty.

Favorite music? Blues.

Favorite thing about living and working in Napa? Driving home from work down Silverado Trail and watching the amber sunset light bathe the vineyards between the shadows.  Though a cold Yoo-Hoo is good too.

Any brush with celebrity? Lots.  But I signed an NDA so use your imagination.  I will say that if I age a tenth as well as Michelle Pfeifer, I’ll be a happy, beautiful old man.  Also Jon Hamm literally made me recoil with how shockingly handsome he is.  So much for that NDA I guess.

What makes a great winery? The same thing that makes every great business great.  Consistency in delivery.  Anyone can luck out with a great vintage.  To make your mark on a sophisticated Napa/Sonoma winery clientele, one must be able to shock and awe every year.  We’re here to provide the best wine on the planet.  There is no room for mediocrity in product or hospitality.

Any wine, meal or place to visit on your bucket list? Positano, Italy.  Then Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  I would also love to try a Tokaj Essencia.


Final thoughts? Living and working in Napa Valley is easily the greatest achievement and blessing of my life thus far.  I moved here about 6 years ago from a small country town on the East Coast.  If you are here and enjoying the fruits of this Valley, always take a moment every day to stop, look around you and breathe in.  Life is too fleeting to not relish what you’ve been able to accomplish simply by being here.  Also drink more Cabernet Franc, it’s friggin awesome.