Sutter Creek Engagement Session | Morgan + Vittawat

Morgan and Vittawat met in high school.  Yes.  That still happens.  Flash forward ten years and they are both in advanced academia, living apart and engaged.  This summer, Morgan was working and studying in Sacramento while Vittawat was still in their hometown in Reno.  When we started talking about possibilities for portrait locations, I was quick to suggest a Sutter Creek engagement session.  I had been following them on instagram for awhile and knew that they both loved wine, the outdoors and exploring as much as I did.  It was also equal distance between all of us, which made it convenient for Vittawat to get to as a weekend getaway with Morgan. 

It was partially a selfish request – I LOVE Sutter Creek.  I had been eyeing it as a portrait location forever.  My best friend’s parents live in the nearby town of Plymouth and some of my favorite clients ever (ahem, Jack and Kyle, as well as, Kerri and David) were wed there.  It’s my home away from home and one of the places in the world I feel most comfortable.  Wine, country and golden light – what’s not to love?  

Sutter Creek Engagement Session

There are more of my favorite images from Morgan and Vittawat’s Sutter Creek engagement session after the jump.  Here are some travel suggestions if you would like to visit the area yourself.  

STAY:  While the area has no limit to the kitchy bed and breakfasts’ available for the traveler that loves doilies and gardens, there are quite a few adorable boutique hotels here now as well.  

  • The Hanford House Inn is my personal favorite for staying directly in the downtown of Sutter Creek.  Downtown is a relative term: there’s one adorably quaint and walkable mainstreet.  Don’t let the tiny town fool you though – what it lacks in size, it makes up for in friendliness and charm and it has everything you would need within your reach: wine tasting rooms, a gourmet cheese shop, and a provisional general store.  Hanford House delivers warm fresh scones to your front door every morning and offers free wine tasting in the lobby every evening.  
  • Is there anything more adorable than a boutique hotel named Rest?  The answer is no.  Obviously.  Rest is only 20 minutes away from Sutter Creek in Plymouth, CA and it happens to be located within walking distance to my favorite restaurant, Taste, in the area.  
  • The Union Pub and Inn in nearby Volcano only offers four rooms over an exceptional restaurant, which happens to be owned by the same owners as Taste.  It’s been a longtime dream of mine to get a crew of people together to rent out the entire lodge one weekend for a getaway.  

EAT: it’s a sad state of affairs when you think the food in the foothills is better than the food at home, but it’s true.  I would drive two hours to eat at any of these restaurants! 

  • Taste has been awarded up and down every list imaginable that involves food and wine and for good reason.  I jump at any chance to eat there.  I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve been served and more often than not the meals come with a surprise delightful twist.  I’m a huge fan of their Monday Night Supper menu, which offers a first, main, and dessert course at a pre-fixe price along with wine pairings.  
  • You can’t suggest the Union Pub and Inn without including them on the eat recommendation list as well.  Their inventive seasonal menu changes frequently and it’s incredibly charming to sit on the patio and wine and dine on a warm summer night. 
  • Element is housed in the lobby of the Hanford House Inn and it’s my go-to brunch spot in the area.  Their daily egg specials always make your menu decisions incredibly difficult.  

DRINK:

  • Yorba offers small lot, premium bold wines from the Amador area.  Their tasting room is directly next door to the Hanford House Inn and their Shake Ridge Red is not to be missed.
  • Terre Rouge and Easton offers a wide selection of variety of everything Plymouth has to offer.  Their tasting room is unpresumptuous and their selection outstanding.  I love everything they offer (which is why I’m a wine club member) but their barbaras and zins really stand out for me.  
  • Helwig Winery is worth a stop for a picnic lunch just for the incredible view of their beautiful grounds, as well as a bottle of their bubbly rose.  
  • I love C.G. Di Arie for their inventiveness and spunk.  I became enamored with them after meeting the owner, Chaim Gur-Arieh, a few years back.  It helps that they are NPR under-writers also.  Chaim was born in Istanbul, Turkey but immigrated to Israel as a teenager.  He has a PHD in food science and spent a number of years working to engineer the flavors and consistency behind some of America’s most beloved products (Hidden Valley Ranch!  Captain Crunch!).  His energy, enthusiasm and quirkiness won me over and this bleeds into his wines.  Their gallery collections offer something unique to the area: inventive heavy blends using grapes like the touriga.  

 

Sutter Creek Engagement Session Sutter Creek Engagement Session Sutter Creek Engagement Session

Walking in a vineyard

Wineries of Fairplay | Cedarville Winery

Cedarville Vineyard is one of my favorite wineries of Fairplay.  Cedarville, owned by the amazing husband and wife duo of Jonathan Lachs and Susan Marks, is sustainably and organically farmed.  They have amazing underground caves they designed to store wine, feature owl boxes to assist with pest control, and use rotating grasses, weeds and other crops under the vines to help keep soil healthy and pests to a minimum.  Jonathan and Susan were looking for a slew of marketing photos to have at their disposal for the vineyard.  It didn’t take much convincing (or any at all) to get me and some of my favorite people to the vineyard for a tour, a wine tasting, a picnic spread and some wandering among the vines.

Cedarville Vineyard is located in Somerset, CA and welcomes visitors for tours, tasting, and sales by appointment only. You can either email or call 530-620-9463 to set up an appointment.  You won’t regret it and tell them I sent you!

Wineries of Fairplay Wineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of FairplayWineries of Fairplay

Amador Portrait Photographer

Amador Portrait Photographer Sneak Peek

After a whirlwind summer of weddings (34 y’all, 34!), I was desperately ready for some R&R around Thanksgiving.  With the first big Tahoe snowstorm still on it’s way after the holiday, I found respite in the Amador Wine Country, a favorite haunt of mine due to it’s proximity to the Tahoe area.  A short hour and a half drive, and I’m in wine lovers heaven.  Here’s a sneak peak of my Amador Portrait Session with Anne.  More to come – but now that ski season is under way – it may be a few days….

Until then, here’s Anne.

Amador Portrait Photographer

Napa Girls Weekend

Sonoma Vacation Photographer | Published at Gent & Beauty

I was so happy to wake up Wednesday morning to see that the Evalyn Ivy, ran a travel inspiration post featuring my photos as a Sonoma Vacation Photographer.  Evalyn Ivy was formerly known as Gent & Beauty and is a prestigious online Skandinavian Style Magazine run by a very fashionable man and wife duo.  They provide readers with an “eclectic range of inspiration with all the things [they] love housed under one roof.”   I am feeling pretty honored with my inclusion among the beautiful work and photos you’ll find on their website.

Someone recently asked me what my favorite job this year was and this day was it!  I had such a wonderful time following these smart fun Texas women around Sonoma as their vacation photographer that I want to do it all over again.  I still have a few bottles of wine hanging out in my wine fridge from William Selyem that are just waiting for the right occasion to be consumed!

Big thanks to Evalyn Ivy for sharing my work.  You can check out Gent and Beauty’s Travel Inspiration Post featuring my photos via this link.  You can also follow them on Instagram.

Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer | Sonoma | Published at TrueBlu

This was the best job ever.

I had so much fun with these ladies.

How about more people hire me to photograph their day wine tasting?   Please and thank you.

Big thanks to Trueblu who agrees that these girls know how to vacation properly.  You can also follow Trueblue on Facebook, Pinterst, Instagram and Twitter.

Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer | Sonoma | Russian River | A Sonoma Girls Weekend

When five girls from Texas emailed me to find out if I’d be interested in following them around wine tasting for a day as their Napa Vacation Photographer, of course I said yes.  They were smart, bright, gorgeous, and hilarious women.  Let me tell you, these women know how to do vacation right and they put me to shame: they rented an amazing house with a cabana and a pool, overlooking vineyards in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County; they hired a driver; brought us picnics; hired ME to be their vacation photographer; and filled the air with laughter everywhere we went.  You want an amazing Girls’ Wine Weekend, hire these girls to plan it!

Want your own Napa Valley Girls Weekend?

STAY:

  • The girls rented this amazing 3 bedroom home in Glen Ellen, Sonoma, on Airbnb.  It has 5 beds, 3 bedrooms and an additional private cottage.  It’s on a quiet road, snuggled up next to surrounding wineries that you can walk to in the afternoon if you have extra time.
  • VRBO also offers a slew of wonderful properties for large group rentals in the area.  This secluded wine country retreat in Sonoma sleeps 7 and has a pool and hot tub.

PLAY:

  • The Vichy Springs are a little under a 2 hour drive from Sonoma and offer day use of their mineral baths and pools.  The Calistoga Hot Springs are just under an hour drive from Sonoma and a great way to spend the evening: after 7 p.m. the entrance fee is only $10 so bring a picnic dinner and some wine to enjoy poolside.
  • Local Osmosis Day Spa offers a Japanese influenced spa experience for 2.5 hours that starts in your own private tea garden and is followed up by a Cedar Enzyme Bath and a 75 minute Swedish-Esalen massage for $219!

EAT:

  • The Girl and the Fig offers “country food with a French passion.”  The menu changes daily depending on ingredient availability from local farms.
  • The Harvest Moon Cafe also features daily changing menus based on supply availability from local farms.

DRINK:

  • Stay Safe.  Denise with Da Vine Wine Tours will come to your house or hotel, pick you up, and drive you around every day.  She knows all the vineyards and wine makers.  She’ll set out an unbelievable picnic for you, complete with a table cloth, make appointments for you, and keep you on schedule, all with a smile.  She is awesome and I can’t imagine every doing a Napa, Sonoma or Russian River Vacation without her assistance!
  • Iron Horse Vineyards are rustic and elegant, with grand sweeping views of the Sonoma countryside, exceptional pinots, chardonnays and sparkling wines.  I purchased a bottle of the 2010 Rued Clone Chardonnay while there – it’s delightfully crisp, clean and refreshing.  In short, a porch wine.
  • Lynmar Estate offers great wines and an unbeatable garden.  Their patio is lush, colorful and filled with veggies.  The estate is breathtaking and intimate.  Here you trade vast expanses of rolling hills filled with grapevines for tight narrow pathways overgrown with exceptionally green plants.
  • William Selyem produces award winning knock out pinot noir and I had to buy one, but only one because that’s all I could afford.   The grounds are spectacular, the building awe inspiring and the tasting includes a tour.  Tastings and tours are by appointment only and for wine list members only.  You need at least two weeks head time to make a reservation.  Go here to join the mailing list and make a reservation.
Napa Girls Weekend

Napa Vacation Photographer Sneak Peek | Napa Girls Weekend | Sonoma

When a group of Texas girls emailed me and invited me to be their Napa vacation photographer for a day of wine tasting in the Sonoma, Napa and Russian River area, I did backflips.  They like wine; I like wine.  They’re from Texas; I’m from Texas.  They need a photographer; I am a photographer.  Match made in heaven?  I think so.

Here’s a sneak peek from our unbelievably awesome day visiting wineries.  I can’t wait to share more photos and stories from their Napa Girls’ Weekend: these girls know how to do vacation right.

Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Wine

Wine Tasting in Tahoe South

Whether I’m in the need of an after work respite for happy hour or on vacation, a glass of wine always makes me sublimely happy.   Luckily, Tahoe South has plenty of options for those seeking an afternoon wine tasting, any day of the week!

Jimmy’s at The Landing

Recently opened Jimmy’s Restaurant is one of my favorite new Tahoe South dining locations.  Thanks to their staff’s exceptional attention to detail, their inventive California inspired menu from Chef Maria Elia featuring locally sourced fresh ingredients, and an extensive wine list, I am already a frequent diner.  Now that Jimmy’s is offering a complimentary nightly wine tasting every day of the week from 4:30-5:30, you may be able to find me here every night!

Show up to the bar at Jimmy’s and be led by their staff through a daily discovery of wines from their extensive and impressive hand selected cellar of more than 2,000 bottles from over 250 producers.  Then, stay and order one of Maria Elia’s delectable small plates.  My personal favorites are the Wood Grilled Octopus, the Roasted Beet and Apple Salad, and the Kataifi Wrapped Feta.

 

968 Park Hotel

968 Park Hotel offers guests and locals complimentary wine tasting, hosted by local Sierra Nevada foothill wineries every Friday night in the Coffeepub.  Upcoming participating vineyards include Madrona Vineyards, Lava Cap WineryBumgarner Winery, and more!  The wine tastings are accompanied by live music every Friday night from 5:30-7:30 PM.

Picchetti Winery

The Picchetti Winery Tasting Room is conveniently located in Al Tahoe, in the center of Tahoe South on the corner of San Jose and Hwy 50.  The tasting room offers complimentary wine tasting to Picchetti Wine Club Members or $10 sample flights for non-members.  If the weather is pleasant, the tasting room offers a quaint and idyllic backyard to relax in.  Bring a picnic and purchase a bottle of your favorite wine sample to enjoy with your lunch in their gorgeous lawn.   The tasting room is open daily from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM.

Tahoe Ridge Winery and Marketplace

The Tahoe Ridge Winery and Marketplace is located just over the pass in picturesque town of Minden, NV, Tahoe Ridge Winery offers the perfect combination of high desert scenery and wine tasting!  Join them on May 17th for live music, great wine and fun at their Grape Stomp and Deck Opening Party or stop into the winery tasting room Tuesday through Sunday starting at 11:00 AM.  The winery is closed on Mondays and closes at 3:00 PM on Sundays.

Red Poets and Skyhawk Lane Tasting Room

Located in the Heavenly Village features fine wines and gourmet foods in a relaxed atmosphere.  You can order wine by the taste, flight, glass or bottle.  The Tasting Room is conveniently located near the Heavenly Village Cinemas and some of Tahoe’s best shopping, so stop in while perusing the racks or before catching a flick with your friends!

 

Destination Wedding | A Bachelorette Party in Temecula

I know I don’t have to tell you that one of my favorite things in the world is wine.

I’ll tell you again.

I love wine.

So, when I received the amazingly cute invitation for my best mate Haley’s Bachelorette Day in Temecula Wine Country, you know I was excited.  Haley’s Maid of Honor did an abfab job of planning a day for all of the women: a limo tour of wine country, complete with tastings at four vineyards, a delicious lunch at The Pinnacle at Falkner Winery, and just when we thought it couldn’t get better, dinner at Public House on Main Street in Old Town Temecula.

Haley

Our first stop on the tour was Briar Rose Winery, a vineyard with a very interesting story: in the 1970′s, a Disney employee responsible for the construction of Disneyland’s Fantasyland and Toon Town, Beldon Fields purchased land in Temecula and built replicas of Snow White’s cottage for his wife.  Flash forward to the 1990′s.  Les and Dorian Linkogle purchase the estate from the Fields, promising not to change the Snow White Cottages.  Today, the family grows Viognier, Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling grapes and make wine.  Dorian, who is an absolute delight, greeted us personally at our limo door, ushered us inside and gave Haley a beautiful story about marriage, what will make it work and how a simple rose will help her get through the tough times.  It was a wonderfully memorable experience.

Our next stop was Falkner Winery, which sits atop a 1500 foot hill that offers unparalleled views of the grapevine filled valley below.  I really enjoyed their Viognier, one of my favorite grapes, which was done in a style a bit more similar to the dryer versions I am used to here in El Dorado County .  We also ate lunch at Falkner in their on site restaurant, The Pinnacle (menu here).  The reviews on Yelp are a bit all over the place, but I can say with confidence that I enjoyed my meal.  I would recommend the Apple and Walnut Baked Brie and the Seafood Portofino.

Our next stop was my favorite from the day: Leoness Cellars.  The wine was stunning and the service was spectacular.  They ushered us into a private tasting room where Dawn explained everything from how certain wines are made, how long they age, what the names of ridiculously large bottles are, how we should eat port and chocolates, to the history of the vineyard and it’s grapes.  We loved it and of all the wineries I visited this day, Leoness is the one I recommend the most.  My favorites included the Viognier, the Melange de Reves, the Meritage, the Syrah, and finally, to be consumed with truffles, the Cinsaut Desert Wine.

Our last stop on the winery tour was Wilson Creek Winery which won extra bonus points for having the owner’s dog wandering around.  Their list of wines is as extensive as their property and choosing just four to taste was difficult.

Last but certainly not least of the day was our dinner at Public House, whose menu was so extensive and amazing sounding that we all ordered WAY too much food.  Their mac’n’cheese changes EVERY DAY.  EVERY DAY.   They have MF’ing grilled romaine.  And they made me a real margarita.  Also, they have a kobe beef burger on the menu and it explicitly says that the chef will not cook it well done, so don’t ask.  Legit.

Want your own Temecula Wine Tasting Day?

RIDE:

  • There are plenty of limo and tour countries in Temecula.  For $105 a person, tastings included, 8 of us cruised around in style for 10 full hours thanks to Sunset Limo Wine Tours.  Our day included a complimentary bottle of champagne to get our morning started right and souvenir wine glasses.

EAT:

  • Holy gastro-pub Batman, I would travel to Temecula to eat at Public House.  Not kidding.  Their outdoor patio was perfectly comfortable and inviting, the beer and wine list inventive and local and their menu overwhelming in its awesomeness.
  • Falkner Winery’s Pinnacle Restaurant is a wise choice if you are spending all day tasting. I enjoyed both the meal and the view and while it’s no Public House, it’s an enjoyable place to eat.

DRINK:

  • Our day included tastings at Briar Rose Winery, Falkner, Leoness Cellars and Wilson Creek Vineyards, but you can incorporate any of the Temecula Valley Wine Growers Association Vineyards and Wineries into your choices for the day.  It’s almost like you get to choose your own adventure.  No, wait, it’s exactly like you get to choose your own adventure.