San Francisco Gay Capital of the World ? Interview with Paul Frentsos

San Francisco Gay Capital of the World ? Interview with Paul Frentsos  |  San Francisco, California  |  Many consider or proclaim San Francisco to be if not the Gay Mecca or Gay Capital of the World, at least one of the pioneers. After spending a whole week, exploring the city, it many attractions, museums and certainly the excellent gourmet offer, I interviewed with Paul Frentsos from the San Francisco Travel Association. Paul is out and open, and has for the last few years worked as the Executive Vice President & COO for the San Francisco Travel Association. Previous to that he was part of Joie de Vivre Hotels, a California based group of Boutique Hotels. He shares with us the latest news on mainstream and gay travel to the city, upcoming events and his own personal expert recommendations and Must SEE & Do while in San Francisco. CM

> Featured Links: San Francisco LGBT / San Francisco Arts & Culture / San Francisco by Carlos Melia

(*) Special Thanks to Angela Jackson – Director Media Relations International, and City Pass San Francisco for assisting us moving around and about the city, landmarks and attractions.

(**) Follow all my BeenThereDoneThat Video Interviews. Check them out at CarlosMeliaBlog or CarlosMelia.com

Napa, Sonoma and Alexander Valley my favorite Wineries

Napa, Sonoma and Alexander Valley my favorite Wineries |  Napa and Sonoma Valley, California |  Haven for those who love and enjoy fantastic Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Gris During my first visit to the wine country in the United States, thanks to the expert help and guidance of Linda Viviani and her staff, I managed to visit some of the most amazing wineries and vineyards in the Valley of Napa and Sonoma. This pre/post a fantastic time and stay in San Francisco. I have done wine routes and countries all over the world, from Argentina and Chile to Iran, but I have to say that I was very impressed by the generosity of the wineries we visited and the welcoming even at those small boutique private venues where their own owner greeted us for lunch or drinks. Of course nothing would have been the same without Linda Viviani, expert in the area and member of the Virtuoso Network. Some of my favorites were: DAY 01/ Honig Vineyard and Winery + Round Pond Estate + Sabina + Del Dotto VineyardDAY 02/ Lancaster + Chalk Hill Estate.
Honig Vineyard and Winery. Located in the area of Rutherford. Their tastings feature four wines: Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. (open by appointment only, 10:00 am to 4:30 pm). The cost is $10.00/person. Sustainability is a holistic way of looking at their entire business. A way to do well while doing good. Michael Honig helped to write the Code of Sustainable Practices for the Wine Institute and was instrumental in developing the first sustainable certification for California wineries. Honig in German, means Honey. Honey is surprisingly like wine, and like wine, honey’s flavor is a reflection of the plants where the pollen originated. (www.honigwine.com)
Round Post Estate. Located in the acclaimed Rutherford region of Napa Valley, California, Round Pond is a family-owned and operated estate designed around our world-class vineyards, gardens, and orchards. In an area renowned for the depth and complexity of its wines, the extraordinary artisan gourmet olive oils, vinegars, and limited-production Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced from their family estate reflecting their family’s dedication to crafting the finest specialty food items while working to preserve the natural integrity of this esteemed property. We did the AL FRESCO Lunch/Tasting and between the wines, food and views… was an experience to be shared and recommended. All lunches are by appointment only and available at 12:30pm Monday-Saturday, May-October. Please allow 2 hours for this experience.  $55 per club member, $65 per non-club member.  (www.roundpond.com)
Sabina Vineyards. Located in St. Helena .Sabina Vineyards produces two Cabernet Sauvignons from two different sub-appellations within the Napa Valley. Each wine is crafted to reflect its distinctly different origins. The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on slopes surrounding the Sabina Winery located in St. Helena and the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend from two expressive vineyards – one from the mountains and the other from a 25-year old valley floor vineyard – located in the Oakville region. We spent a lovely lunch with Susan Sabin – owner where she not only introduced us to Alejandro the winemaker, the winery and art spread all over the vineyard, but also shared the intimacy of her own house. Private tours on a very limited basis, by appointment only. (www.sabinavineyards.com)

Del Dotto Vineyards. The new Del Dotto Estate Winery and Caves on our Estate in St. Helena. The new Caves are lined with Italian marble and ancient tiles. The Venetian chandeliers and mosaic marble floors will bring us back full circle to our family’s origin of Venice, Italy. A must is to do the CAVE Experience, USD 60 per person including a Barrel Experience. An important note, have a car waiting for you at the exit. We tried an average of 17 wines during our visit. I have done a more extensive post on my visit to Del Dotto Vineyard which you can read at (www.carlosmeliablog.com/2011/04/03/del-dotto-vineyard/).
Lancaster Estate. I have to say that the next two vineyards were my absolute favorites. When I was on the car driving for almost and hour and a half, I was thinking to myself, what are we doing, I came to see NAPA and now you are taking me almost back to San Francisco to Alexander Valley. Well Carlos just SHUT UP. !!!!! I was way wrong. Thank you Linda Viviani. Winery construction was completed in 2001 with the excavation of more than 9,000 square feet of caves. Carved deep into the heart of No Name hill, cellar operations and aging take place under naturally regulated temperatures and humidity. A niche was carved out of the cave’s northern wall to create an underground tasting room, with access reserved for members of the Lancaster Estate Wine Guild. Situated on the narrow and less-traveled roads of southern Alexander Valley, Lancaster Estate recalls the bucolic essence of wine country’s past. The lush composition of our agrarian setting, the harmony between our winery and its surroundings, and the sanctuary of our caves all have to be experienced first hand. We were lucky to have our own Wine and Cheese Private Pairing class hosted by one of their Member and Guest Experience team, you will enjoy local artisan cheeses selected by their winemaker to highlight their four current releases wines. USD 35 per person. (www.lancaster-estate.com)

Chalk Hill  Estate. Chalk Hill is a ruggedly beautiful 1,477 acre estate. Surrounded by heritage oak woodlands and natural riparian streams, a scant 350 vineyard acres meander— a patchwork of 60 different small vineyards, each dedicated to producing distinctive wines of elegance and power. They offer a variety of ways to experience Chalk Hill Estate, but we took the Estate Luncheon Tour, 2 1/2 hours, USD 175 per person. Enjoy a luncheon with friends and family at Chalk Hill Estate. Your experience will begin with a driving tour around the estate. You will then arrive at the Pavilion – a magnificent conservatory offering panoramic views of the Chalk Hill valley. There you will enjoy a decadent meal expertly paired with Chalk Hill wines along with many fresh foods from the culinary garden, prepared by Executive Chef, Didier Ageorges. This is a delightful wine country experience. Available by appointment Monday through Friday. (www.chalkhill.com)

> For those interested there will be a OUT IN THE VINEYARD Gay Wine Weekend in celebration of the Pride Month, to benefit the Face to Face Sonoma County AIDS Network. (June 17th/19th 2011). Contact me for more information. CM

(*) For more information or to book a private tour of the Wineries and Vineyards with full access to them like I did, by the expert hand of Linda Viviani please or call me at Cel. 646.460.6045 | Tel. 212.399.6161 | email @ carlos@carlosmelia.com | You may also follow me on FACEBOOK or TWITTER

Del Dotto Vineyard aka Del Blotto

Del Dotto Vineyard aka Del Blotto |  Napa Valley, California |  How to describe Del Dotto hmmmmm OVER THE TOP. If you though that finding a Venetian/Versacce style palace in the middle of Napa Valley was impossible, well Dave del Dotto made it happen. Del Dotto Vineyards is a small, family owned winery located in beautiful Rutherford Estate,  Napa Valley that has been making small production premium wines for over 10 years. We visited on our first date in Napa, and I have to say that I have never been to a vineyard so particular and generous on their tastings such as Del Dotto, reason for the nickname by the locals of Del Blotto.
The Del Dotto’s have acquired vineyards located in some of the best spots for growing grapes: Rutherford Bench (the one we visited), St. Helena Appellation, Howell Mountain and Sonoma Coast. They currently make Cabernet Sauvignon (the signature grape of this part of the world), Merlot, Cabernet Franc (my favorite during our extensive degustation), Sangiovese (my personal choice for red wines) along with Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast and Chardonnay as well.
It took 18 years to find the ideal sites for the selected clones to maximize the terroir flavors in the wine. Each vineyard is organically farmed. This includes weeding by hand, no sprays or chemical fertilizers. The plants are meticulously tended by professional vineyard workers with love.  The Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves, their new winery and caves renew their family’s Venetian roots from 1150 A. D. and Tuscan traditions from 1450 A. D. from where the Del Dotto name originates. When they studied the lives and times of their Italian relatives, they thought about what life might have been like for them. The Venetians eye for details in architecture, with layered design upon layered design, truly reflected a desire to live in a beautiful world. Following in these steps, they used natural marble handcrafted into ornate, graceful designs, to express an uplifted spirit, an air of grandeur and a feeling of well being. This is the atmosphere they thought would be fitting for the new Del Dotto wines of Napa Valley.
Visit and experience when fine wine, spectacular architecture, moving music, and delicious food all come together. Their goal is to create a wine experience not just a wine tasting. The new Del Dotto winery “Cathedral” and caves, with its elegant ambience, will take you back in time and teach you the history of wine while you taste out of the finest French and American oak barrels. It will prove to be the ultimate wine tasting in the world!
We went over, if I did not loose count, seventeen types of wines… and yes we tried them all. They had the wine spit buckets, but who in the world wants to spit fine wines ranging from USD 150 the bottle and on.? Right.!!! Thank God that Dave del Dotto himself had a table of cheese and breads waiting for us at the end, which saved me for dropping dead ha ha ha.
This is what they call a Wine Thief. A glass or food-grade plastic pipette used in the process of wine making. It may be anywhere from 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 centimetres) in length and may have a bend near one end. The wine thief is used to remove a small amount of wine for testing and/or tasting.
Thank you Linda Viviani from Viviani Touring Destination Management for introducing us to one of The Best Experience for Wine Collectors in the World!! For more information about wine tasting and visiting please do not hesitate to contact me at carlos@carlosmelia.com, Cel. 646.460.6045 or Tel. 212.399.6161. Cave Experience with tasting from USD 50. Small groups and reservations are recommended. One last TIP, do not expect to drive after visiting Del Dotto Vineyard, so I can help you making arrangements for a private tour or transfer. CM

Gay Napa & Sonoma Gateways

Gay Napa & Sonoma Gateways |  Napa Valley, California | by Charles Kimball I want to personally thank Charles – Gay Napa & Sonoma Gateways and Linda Viviani Viviani Touring Destination Management. for creating such an amazing experience and visit to both Napa and Sonoma. Not only both fantastic host with deep knowledge and experience in the area, but from now on CM by Carlos Melia destination experts and friends.
Linda Viviani with long proven success and experience servicing not only the areas of Napa and Sonoma, but also San Francisco among other wine regions of the United States. She is the inside contact to access to all that Napa has to offer and not many can be part of. The synergy with Charles Kimball, meets the best of both worlds offering excellent moments with the gay flavor that we all enjoy.
Linda Viviani + Charles Kimball + Carlos Melia your dream team when planning your next trip to Napa and Sonoma. Picture taken during our tour and lunch at SABINA Vineyard.
Linda Viviani + Carlos Melia at Lancaster Vineyard in Alexander Valley, Sonoma. Wine and Cheese Tasting and Pairing class at the VIP Room of the vineyard. Linda Viviani’s Touring Destination Management is a member of the VIRTUOSO Network same as I am. She embraces my concept of …” My native language is Gay, but I am fluent in Straight…” welcoming all type of clients to enjoy and learn about the region and the culture of fine wine.
Charles Kimball + Carlos Melia. During our visit to Chalk Hill Vineyards in Alexander Valley, Sonoma. Both active members of the IGLTA – International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.

Bardessono Hotel & Spa

Bardessono Hotel & Spa |  Yountville, Napa Valley, California |  a member of MTM Hotels. Proud to be California’s first and only LEED Platinum Hotel and #1 hotel in the US and #5 in the World for TripAdvisor’s “Best relaxation and Spa” Hotel in their 2011 Travelers’ Choice Awards. Located in the lovely little town of Yountville with which I have fallen in love, walking distance from the most fantastic and world renown restaurants such as Bouchon, French Laundry, Bottega, Ad Hoc, REDD only to name a few. Bardessono Hotel & Spa is the perfect destination for a week of relaxation, a summer gateway from the city, a romantic escape or to plan your wedding.

Sustainable design is at the heart of Bardessono’s vision of luxury hospitality, but the experience is all about you. Each guestroom is a sanctuary of timeless indulgence, from the organic cotton bed linens to the hand-crafted bath products. Amenities by Il Fiore. (Video above is a Spa Suite). Available with one King bed or one King and one Queen bed, the Spa-Suite provides all the elements of comfort derived from an essential design. Each guest room offers open living space and generous amounts of natural light with a luxurious bathroom, gas fireplace and private furnished courtyard or balcony. The custom bathroom, designed to double as a private spa, features a concealed massage table, a soaking tub, separate shower, and double vanity. Personalized spa treatments should be enjoyed in the special seclusion of each room.

I got the Tufa Suite which offers ultimate comfort and the benefits of spacious design. Each 780 square foot light-filled living space includes a luxurious bathroom and a see-through gas fireplace dividing sitting and bedroom areas. Located on the ground level, Tufa Suites offer one king bed dressed with organic linens, two flat screen televisions, an expanded private courtyard and an upgraded bathroom featuring indoor dual shower-steam rooms and an outdoor shower. Designed to double as a private spa, the Tufa Suite custom bathroom also feature’s a concealed massage table, a soaking tub and double vanity. Personalized spa treatments should be enjoyed in the special seclusion of each room.
My only concern with the rooms, and do not get me wrong I was very happy with my suite, FYI same where Julia Roberts spent the day during the press junket of Eat Pray Love, is that (1). The style and design is too cold for my taste. Coming to a Spa I expect to feel cozy and welcome into my room. Here although there is a fire place in each room, to me it was not quite inviting to stay in. The cement floors are also my choice over carpets, but this time I felt they need to add some rugs to give a warmer feeling, work more on the concept of the bathroom, which are huge and comfortable, but not luxurious as advertised. The shower heads in the fantastic indoor/outdoor showers are too small and the only reason I can let that pass is due to water conservation, but again does not make much sense when you have a huge whirlpool bathtub next to it.  (2). The Motion-controlled Exterior Shuttering System and the lightning system…. mmmm it took me a whole hour to figure out how to work it out, and still each night would take a few extra minutes becoming very frustrating in the end. I think this are just a few minor details to be improved to bring this fantastic property to the level they deserve. One more thing to mention on their favor for those like me that love animals, Bardessono is a pet friendly hotel. $125 cleaning fee per stay per room. Once again as I always say, this is my own point of view and experience, and What I Like or Dislike, you might think different.

At Bardessono they create environments that celebrate natural beauty. The Spa at Bardessono, where nature guides the nourishment of both your body and spirit. Each treatment is designed around the needs of the season. Enhance your immune system and circulation in winter. Purify and renew your vitality in spring. Refresh, cool, and soothe during the warmth of summer. In autumn, relieve stress and restore balance of mind and body. Some to highlight are Vinotherapie Massage, and the Spa Butler program, a special Bardessono experience for hotel guests only. Slip into your robe, relax, and enjoy as your personal Spa Butler prepares your pre-treatment ritual or creates a private spa experience just for you in the unhurried luxury of your room.
Fantastic all year outdoor rooftop pool area and jacuzzi with wide cabanas. FYI the rumors say that every year around the summer season, there is a Gay Pool Party that takes place at this pool, so stay tuned San Francisco and Californian boys.
Now the Restaurant is a different experience, that they really need to step up and work with. Not at all at the level of the rest of the hotel. Very reduced Menu especially in the mornings for breakfast, without any options inspired neither on the concept of spa nor health. Our own experience was that both mornings, during our brief stay, we order a particular dish with turkey, BTW one of the only 5 o 6 in the menu. Either days we were told the hotel was out of turkey. If you have a guest staying for two nights, you know the following morning he is, most sure, going to ask for the exact same thing… do you need to disappoint him two times? Fortunately Yountville is full of world-class renown restaurants just steps away from Bardessono, which in a way justifies the lack of a great restaurant in property. Anyhow I don’t know about you, but for me, breakfast is sacred and in the morning I do not want to walk or drive pass the lobby of my hotel.

What does it mean to be a LEED Hotel, “green hotel” and the building’s design and construction followed guidelines of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). You can see that on the energy solar panel on the roofs of each building, or the small shower heard in the rooms to preserve water, their own self-sustaintable organic farm, etc.
Bicycles for touring the town of Yountville or to take your own tour through the Vineyards. Always remember do not drink and bike. The hotel does not have its own Fitness Center, but guests have access to Yountville Fitness Center, located 1 block from the hotel.
Summarizing, if you come to Napa Valley or Sonoma… my personal choice would be to stay over at Yountville. And there Bardessono Hotel and Spa would be your top choice. CM

(*) Book Bardessono Hotel & Spa by filling out the form below and do not hesitate to contact me for further information carlos@carlosmelia.com | 646.460.6045 | Toll Free US. 800.729.7472 ext 205

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