My French Inspired Cheese Board!



I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in love with French Culture since I was a little girl.  It happened the first time I walked into my french language class in middle school.  From then on out, I’ve had dreams of visiting Paris, exploring the Louvre and dancing in the rain through Paris Streets!

Then, as an adult, as my love for wine and cheese began, a completely new love of France emerged, this one related to their incredible food and wine scene.  Dreams of visiting French Wine Regions dance in my head, along with amazing cuisine to pair with it.

But alas, those dreams have yet to come to fruition, however, in the meantime, at home, I can still envision and play with food and wine right at home.   And that begins with a cheese board:

With the incredible product offerings from Ile de France Cheeses, it’s so easy to create cheese boards you and your family and friends will love.  Great for holiday gatherings, a cold winter nights in, or whenever someone has a snack craving!

I know one of the first cheeses I grab whenever creating a cheese board at home is Brie, and lets be honest, the French know how to make incredible BRIE cheeses.  And, at the grocery stores, the Ile De France brand is one I rely on, and depend on with their creamy textured Bries, and of course, how delicious their cheeses are too:

See how pretty that is?  And, it comes out of the package just like that!  Add in your favorite pairings such as crackers, baguettes, salami, figs, dried apricots, jams, honey or more!  The ideas are endless… what are you thinking for your cheese board? The cheese in the back is the Saint Agur Blue Cheese, which is a perfect companion to salads, and yes, even cheese boards!

The Ile de France brand has other cheeses beyond just Brie too such as Goat Cheese (featured above on the right!) I love Goat Cheese, and am always looking for one to bring home with me.  Goat Cheese is a great pairing with a nice French Bordeaux or Beaujolais too! The Saint Andre is another soft, creamy cheese that is so delicious! and it’s a cheese that you can pretty much PAIR with any food item that is sweet or savory.  It’s the perfect companion on a cheese board loaded with crackers, nuts, and fruits!

BUT, lets be honest, with any cheese pairing, you really need a nice beverage to go along with it.  Lucky for us, we have 2 great examples of wines to have with your at home cheese boards, and these wines just happen to come from France too!

What I am recommending this time around are Easy to Drink, Affordable French Wines, and nothing says this than a wine coming from Georges DuBoeuf.  Lets be honest, the king of Beaujolais wines.  What I love about his wines are how easy they are to drink, and how affordable they are for my wallet.  Retailing anywhere from 9.99 (Pouilly Fuisse White Burgundy Wine) to 34.99 (A Red Beaujolais Wine.)

And nothing’s more pretty than drinking a glass of wine in front of the Christmas Tree this time of the year!

If you’re craving wines from the Bordeaux Region, I have you covered there, as well with these wines featured below:

The White Wine is a blend of Sauvignon and Semillion, a citrus, fruit forward white wine.  A great start to the evening wine when welcoming guests into your home.

For those that truly love Bordeaux wines, save the Red Wine for over dinner, or later in the evening, this Red Wine is a blend of beloved Bordeaux varieties of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot!  So whether you love the Left or Right Bank more, this wine has both banks covered! Also, recommended to enjoy when the lights are turned off, and its just you and your beloved Christmas Tree left in the room!

No matter what, I hope this post has inspired you to try a little bit of French Food and Wine, and to get creative while doing it!


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The Magic of Bonterra Vineyards!

Disclosure: This was a pre-excursion at the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference… but well…  you will just see the beauty.

It’s been a few weeks now since the 2017 Wine Blogger’s Conference took place in Santa Rosa, California in Sonoma County… and since then, there’s one vineyard that has swept me away!  It was just one morning walk in the rain, and this vineyard captured my heart.  Because yes, it was that magical.

Now, see for yourself in the photos below.. and if you haven’t been to pay a visit to Bonterra Vineyards in Mendocino County, it needs to be on your must visit list now! It was even a bit more magical that morning because we were greeted with raindrops..

Lets begin our walk outside the Barnyard…

First Stop: The Gardens

Be sure to look all around you… to find all thats growing.. Olives…. almost ready to be harvested.

But first, lets meet our tour guide: Bonterra Vineyards Director of Vineyards: Joseph Brinkley

Just a typical fall day in Mendocino County:


Stop and Smell the Roses…

Old Rustic Feel

Thank you Bonterra Vineyards for a Magical Day:

I now know why Bonterra Vineyards won Vineyard of the Year in 2015!  Have you been?





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Let’s Talk About Merlot with Materra Cunat Family Vineyards!

Over the summer I was invited out to Materra Cunat Family Vineyards in Napa Valley.  I was really excited about this visit BECAUSE it was about to show a different side of Napa, the Merlot side. Materra stands for “Mother Earth” in latin.

If you did not know, Napa Valley is well known for their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but for years, they have also quietly excelled in another varietal: Merlot.  For this varietal, it’s definitely had a rough few years, thanks in part, to a well known movie, Sideways, however, what I’m finding, as of late, is that there’s no reason to overlook it, instead, it’s time to explore it!

A recent spokesman from the Napa Valley Vintners even stated, the movie Sideways was probably a good thing for the Merlot Varietal, because, it only left those producers still making it with the passion for this grape varietal, and that passion is showcased in their wine in the valley.

As for myself, I’ve had a love and hate relationship with the varietal myself. In the beginning, I thought I absolutely hated the grape varietal.  It was too strong for my palette, but as my palette evolved, and I began to taste Merlots that began to blow my mind, I soon realized, that there’s a lot to offer with Merlot, and when you come across a good Merlot producer, it will show, and you will find yourself loving the varietal as well! I soon realized it wasn’t the grape varietal, but finding the right Merlot Wine for me! And I must say I was incredibly impressed with the quality of Merlots being produced at Materra Cunat Family Vineyards!

Brian Cunat overlooking his Consulting Winemaker, Michael Trujillo

For Brian Cunat, the passion for Merlot is alive and well! And the passion for agriculture, and being a farmer started from a young age. Brian and his wife, Miki, have traveled extensively, touring wineries, walking vineyards and enjoying local cuisines and flavors. Their first visit to the Napa Valley with its natural beauty and welcoming residents, along with the exceptional quality of wines produced from the region gave real inspiration to their family dream.

And from visiting the Bordeaux region of France, he and his wife always tended to veer to the Right Bank while in town, and that’s truly where his love for Merlot began.

So in 2007, when he began to get serious about making his dream of owning a vineyard a reality, he knew he wanted to find a property in Napa Valley that would excel in making good quality Merlot Wines! That’s when he came across the property location in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. He purchased this 50 acre property, and worked with an entire team of vineyard managers and winemakers to transform the property with Merlot, Petite Verdot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. This 2017 Harvest marked their official 10th Vintage!

Brian and his family are very involved in the winemaking process and vineyard management from selecting the grapes to helping to decide the final blends of the wines.  His oldest daughter Neena is also involved, residing over daily operations and PR Efforts. His younger daughter has been instrumental in helping with the label designs and collateral materials. And his brother, John, and extended family have been investors and active brand advocates! And they have 2 Consulting Winemakers that help the Cunat Family with the decisions in vineyard management and the winemaking processes: Bruce Regalia and Michael Trujillo.

Before we get to the Merlots, I just want to chime in that if white wine is your thing, they do carry  a few varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier.  The Sauvignon Blanc is a perfectly crisp, well balanced wine, that showcases the beautiful white stone fruit found throughout the Napa Valley. It is the perfect drinking companion when you’re craving white wine, or want something to enjoy on a nice, warm day.  For those that love a nice, Napa Chardonnay, they also have one available.

And now onto the beautiful Merlots.  The Materra Cunat Family Vineyards have created Merlots from the grapes that resided on the property prior to them replanting, and also Merlots from their new plantings on the property.

The 2009 Merlot ($40): This was their 3rd Vintage of their Merlot.  Upon first smell, you’ll pick up on notes of blueberry, ripe raspberry, and blackberry notes along with the earthiness of lavender and thyme. Upon first taste, those fruits will carry you into a well balanced, very drinkable wine that can easily age in the cellar for 10 years!

2010 Merlot ($42): They say it was one of their BEST vintage years.  And as Brian describes it, a “Not Wimpy” wine either. This is definitely a full bodied Merlot, but one that carries on elegance with plum characteristics and baking spices of cocoa.  Tannins are more prevalent here, a wine that would pair nicely with a fatty red meat.

2012 Materra Right Bank Merlot: ($50): Paying homage to the very area that inspired Brian to go after his love of Merlot is the 2012 Materra Right Bank Merlot.  This classic Merlot, grown with a backbone from their estate property brings up aromas of bright red fruits along with floral notes.  The perfect meal wine.  As the temperatures cool down, this wine would go with your favorite comfort food stew, or a cheese made from sheep’s milk (which we had that day: the Campo de Montalban: a mix of sheep, cow and goat’s milk). This was their first vintage with the grapes they replanted on their property!

Picture Above is the 2011 Cunat Reserve

The last and final tasting of the day was the 2012 Cunat Reserve Merlot ($110): Their Reserves are limited production wines and are only available to their Club Members (Dean’s List, named after Brian’s father!). Of course, saving the best for last, as this went down smooth and well, showcasing all the things to love about a good, quality Merlot.

It is because of winemaking styles like the above that really solidify why Merlot is such a good wine to drink, and pair with your meals.  It is also one of the better food friendly wines out there!  But for those of you that just have to have Cabernet Sauvignon while in Napa, the Materra Cunat Family Vineyards have you covered there, as well.  BUT, trust me, when I say this, you need to try their Merlots!

Be sure to call ahead to book an appointment.  They offer tastings both indoors and outside.  Also, be sure to stop by their Cellar, where yes, the Mother Earth Soil is shown below ground!  The photo above does not  do it justice!

Materra Cunat Family Vineyards

4326 Big Ranch Rd.

Napa, CA 94558

Hours: Open 10am to 4pm.  Call for current hours or visit the website.

Private Tastings and Tours available for up to 10 people.  Call for Appointment.



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