September 8, 2008

Weekend in St. Helena, California

I just spent an eventful weekend in beautiful St. Helena! It is located in the heart of the Wine Country, home to many reputable wineries such as Beaulieu Vineyards, V. Sattui, and Sutter Home.

I drove the 90 miles from my office in Redwood City to St. Helena on Friday morning and checked into the quaint, intimate Harvest Inn. The Harvest Inn is a luxurious retreat that boasts a really warm atmosphere to create a 'home away from home' for its guests. With its stunning vineyard and mountain views, lush gardens, and individual cottages, it really does make the traveler feel right at home!

One will find that most places in the Wine Country will have a 2-3 night minimum. The trick for me to go around that was to wait until the very last day to book! I had originally booked another hotel in Petaluma, but on Thursday I decided to give it one last shot and went online again to reserve a room at the Harvest Inn. To my delight, not only was I able to go around their minimum number of nights, but I was able to get a discounted rate of $308 a night for a Deluxe King Cottage! The cottage had a king size bed with the fluffiest pillows, a plasma TV with DVD and an old-fashion brick fireplace with scented candles to burn.

After a successful rehearsal at the enchanting Beaulieu Garden for Jennifer and JC's wedding, I headed back to the Harvest Inn to enjoy a complimentary wine and cheese tasting in their spacious Great Room. When scouting the area for my dinner that night, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try the sushi bar at Go Fish, just doors away from the Harvest Inn.

Turned out that Go Fish is known as a 'West Cost Fish House' and is the creation of Cindy Pawleyn. Its sister restaurants include the Mustard Grill and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, all located in the Wine Country. To add an Asian flair to her newest restaurant, Cindy brought on board Tokyo-trained sushi master Ken Tominaga to head the sushi and sake bar.

I treated myself to a nice dinner of ahi tuna poke, fresh oysters, and a variety of sushi nigiris. After all, I knew Saturday's wedding was going to be a challenging one, but one that I looked forward to seeing come together!

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up bright and early to enjoy a breath of fresh air around the estate of Harvest Inn before heading over to the rental house that my bride Jennifer was getting ready at.

It was a beautiful, charming day even though the weather was unusually hot at over 100 degrees. Jennifer, with her tall and slender figure, looked so amazing in her Vera Wang gown. Gloria Wong of Sash and Sugar was the designer for this wedding and created a "End of Summer Getaway in the French Provence" theme. The ambiance was very laid back, and relaxing for everyone. Jennifer and JC exchanged vows under a chuppah decorated with bright yellow sunflowers. En route to the cocktail hour in the Secret Garden following the ceremony, all the ladies happily changed into the flip flops that were provided for them, and also wrote out their "Recipes for a Successful Marriage" to the couple that loves to cook (and eat!).

Dinner was under an arbor with twinkle lights and iron lanterns, with guests feasting on scallops, filet mignon, and seabass by the reputable Paula Le Duc Fine Catering. After dinner, guests danced the night away under the stars with the band Anything She Wants. As a surprise to all the guests, we picked up 125 In N Out Burgers before the night was over and set it out for guests to enjoy with Boylan Cherry Sodas as a late night snack in tribute to Jennifer and JC's shared love for this famous burger joint!

It's always such fun to do Wine Country destination weddings, and for this particular one I had the greatest pleasure partnering with Gloria Wong of Sash and Sugar.

Thank you to the wonderful team that contributed to the success for this weekend's wedding!

Venue: Beaulieu Gardens
Caterer: Paula Le Duc Fine Catering
Photographers: Gertrude and Mabel
Videographer: Royal Weddings
Floral Designer: Nancy Liu Chin Designs
Ceremony Musicians: Katherine Baird String Trio
Band: Anything She Wants
Cake: Stella Pastry Cafe
Makeup Artist: Christine Craven

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