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Kellie Duckhorn
June 30, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Hike Napa Valley

Mount St. Helena, CA


I love to run, but my favorite end of the week exercise is my Sunday hike. It’s my time to slow down, feel the week fall behind me and re-energize for the next week. It’s about seeing a place for the first time, even if it’s my favorite trail that I have traveled hundreds of times…it’s the awareness of the seasons, the subtle changes in light and foliage and flowers…it’s about hugging my favorite redwood tree and giving thanks.

For those of you who are new or who are veterans of the Napa Valley, the best way to plan a Sunday hike is to gauge your energy level on Sunday morning! Do you want to stroll or break a sweat? Picnic or just water? View or solitude? All things are possible!


For a picnic hike, pop into Cal-Mart and grab a fantastic sandwich, drink and other snacks. Table Rock is the best place for a view and a place to eat. It is a bit of a climb and you will have earned your picnic, but fortunately, it’s not too far. In the spring there are plenty of wild flowers and there is an area where people have put rocks into creative formations which seem surprisingly natural and almost unearthly. Go early as parking is limited and since the trail is western facing, you will be in the sun. No dogs are allowed.

Mount St. Helena is a longer hike, but has the sense of accomplishment…that flat topped peak at the north end of the Valley that has been in your sites will now take on a different dimension. The trail is actually a fire road, so very easy to navigate with a steady uphill grade for about five miles. There is an old wooden platform at the base of the cell phone towers to sit back on, and enjoy the view. On clear days most of the San Francisco Bay Area is visible, to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Sierra’s to the East and the top of Mt. Shasta, 192 miles to the north. This hike has been a family Thanksgiving tradition for over 20 years and it is how we all earn our extra helping of pumpkin pie! No dogs allowed.

St. Helena

One of the best state parks is Napa Bothe. This little gem is tucked up into Ritchey Canyon and the rich forest belies our more arid Valley floor climate. It is so unexpected to find beautiful redwood trees, ferns and seasonal flowers. This is also an excellent park for weekend camping! Even if you are a local, it’s nice to break out the car camping gear and spend the night under the stars without the grind of a long drive. There are many different trails and my favorite is Coyote Peak for the view and the solitude as you follow Ritchey Creek up to the summit. If you have young children, this is one of the best “intro to car camping” parks around as it is often overlooked for sites on the Coast or the Sierra’s, thus making it a quiet and peaceful nature escape that is close to home.

Ritchey Canyon to Coyote Peak Trail Lake Hennessey


Lake Hennessey is my go to Sunday stroll. Follow old Howell Mountain Road to Conn Valley Road and keep driving until you cross a small bridge over Conn Creek. If you hit Greenfield Road, you’ve gone too far. The parking turn out is just before the bridge, on the east side of the road. Directly across the parking area is a gate to access the dirt road which follows Lake Hennessey along the west side. It’s about two miles to the dam with an easy, level grade until just before the settling ponds. The short climb up the slight incline brings you to the top of the dam. This walk is a bird watcher’s paradise! Pack a picnic from Sunshine Market and bring your binoculars. It is so easy to pass a few hours sitting on the bank of the lake soaking in the sunshine with the sounds of water and wildlife to gently lull you into a nap.


Without having to plan too much in advance, Napa offers two small parks for a quick hike. Choose from either Alston Park or Westwood Hills Park as a remedy for the Sunday hang-over when it’s necessary to have some exercise, without being too serious. Both have benches perfectly placed for a rest and a view and both are active with locals and their dogs. These parks can also be best enjoyed with a pastry from Alexis Baking Company or Sweetie Pies and a hot cup of coffee!

If you want something a bit more strenuous, Skyline Wilderness Park is part of the greater Bay Area Ridge Trail system. The hike up to Lake Marie is steep but gorgeous. It’s a true trail that can be narrow and rocky, but given that you are minutes from downtown Napa, it provides nearby adventure and an escape from the world.

Skyline Wilderness Park, Lake Marie and Buckeye Trail


Finally, for those of you who love to backpack, I highly recommend the Lost Coast. It is as remote as the literature describes and the variation in terrain is fantastic! Redwoods, open scrub brush, coastal wild flowers, lush ferns which grow along the creeks, grassland and more…this area is still wild and we saw whales, a bear and a multitude of birds. The trail is often a goat scramble, but the final reward is a campsite on the beach at Little Jackass Creek. Pure backpacking bliss!


Matt Mills
June 23, 2015 | Matt Mills

The Sport of Kings, Soldiers and Vintners


While the Roman Empire was expanding their political and military reach from Italy to the Atlantic, they propagated two additional components of their everyday life that we as Napa Valley vintners are proud to carry on in the modern era: winemaking and bocce. Influencing every region they conquered the Romans brought a rich history of viticulture and winemaking practices out of the Italian peninsula including the first recorded instances of glass blown containers. This disbursal helped set the foundation for what we generically call “The Old World” of wine across the European region.


Bocce, stemming originally from the Latin word “bottica” (meaning “ball”), developed simply enough as an organized game soldiers played in their downtime throwing larger stones at a smaller “leader” stone, with whomever getting closest to hitting the leader would win the point. The first records of this game show up over 6,000 years ago in Egypt, then in Greece and witnessed an explosion under the Romans. To this day historians claim ancient bocce as the Godfather to the modern era’s most physically and athletically demanding sports such as bowling, curling and tetherball.


As the sport spread in popularity so did follow its prohibition. Numerous instances in European history point to Kings as well as the Catholic Church banning the game as it presented a clear distraction to more necessary daily pursuits and a more pious life. Upon being notified during a game of bocce that the feared Spanish Armada was about to attack the English, Sir Francis Drake remarked “First, we finish the game; then we have time for the invincible armada.” Even the new colonies of America considered protecting the commoner’s right to bocce as a fundamental and unalienable right deserving of its own constitutional amendment, but a lack of bipartisan support stopped the bill from progressing.

Nowadays the dimensions of the field of play vary but it’s usually a long stretch of level crushed stone or oyster shell (replacing the customary Roman practice of the crushed bones of your vanquished foes). A target ball - the pallino - is tossed down the field of play and two teams battle bowling larger balls to get closest to the pallino and hereby scoring points. And in homage to our Roman forefathers, we here in the Valley prefer to bowl with one hand while holding a glass of wine with the other.



Starting my career in the illicit and lucrative underground bocce scene in Oakland, I was drafted three years ago as a pro into the highly competitive St Helena Bocce Sunday Night League with fellow bocce enthusiast, Michael Baldacci (a.k.a Michael “Bal-bacci”). A good night of competition often ends in elation, tears, an iced shoulder or two and usually celebratory (or consoling) cocktails. We look forward to continued American domination this season against the highly touted New Zealand, French and Finnish squads, as well as a much needed All-Star break.


Michael Baldacci
June 18, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

A Championship Effort


As a DIE HARD sports fan I have cheered on my teams (Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors) for as long as I can remember. I have wanted to experience a championship season SOOO BADLY. Each of the teams have had their ups and downs but recently each team has had a year that gives me hope. Believing that this this will be the year but only to fall short and sadly breaking my heart. After so many let downs I began to question is all of this excitement and anticipation only to be let down worth it? Will a championship season mend all those wounds? I am here to tell you YES it will! Experiencing your team win a championship is truly the mountaintop of fandom.



On Tuesday night the Golden State Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years, and the first for any of my teams that I was of age to fully appreciate. I didn’t know how to react other than to scream at the top of my lungs, hug everyone around me and dance the night away. I had followed the team through all of the ups and downs, and when others doubted I stayed strong. This year that all paid off.  The Golden State Warriors are, and forever will be the 2014-2015 NBA Champions.


Winemaker, Rolando Herrera  The Baldacci Team Vticulturist, Garrett Buckland


Championship teams do not always materialize on the court or the field. Here at Baldacci Family Vineyards we have our own championship team.  Wine takes a total team effort: it starts in the vineyard, to the production team, and finally the sales and marketing team. Each part of the team works together, but separate, we need each piece of the team to do their job to the best of their ability, and together we put out a great product. Our team starts in the vineyards with Garrett Buckland our viticulturist. Each year he puts together a game plan for the vineyards and things to keep an eye on as the growing season evolves. More leaves when it is hot, more water at the right times, as well as proper oversight to maintain the health of the vines through all weather. From there Rolando Herrera takes the ball. Rolando has been the head of our winemaking team for the last 12 years and each year he creates wines that are a true reflection of all the hard work done in the vineyard. Once Rolando is finished crafting a wine that reflects the vineyards and the vintage it is passed on to the Sales and Marketing team to tell the complete story of that wine. Sharing the team effort it took for that wine to get to their glass.

As a member of the Baldacci Family I am proud to say that we have a championship team. We may not be given a championship trophy each year but being able to look at each bottle of wine and be proud about the hard work put in by everyone involved is just as rewarding and exciting.


Elizabeth Burchard
June 9, 2015 | Elizabeth Burchard

Refuse to Lose


I have always enjoyed sporting events whether I am participating in them or just being a spectator. My most memorable sporting events are the ones that I spend with my sisters. I am one of four girls with only a two-year gap between each of us. Being so close in age, my parents always encouraged us to participate in similar activities, including sports.  Quite honestly I think it was more convenient for them to only have to drive us in one direction, but regardless the activities ended up being more enjoyable when we did them together.  



I recall us working our way through the various sports from swimming, karate, soccer, to softball, cheerleading, water polo and cross country.  Swimming had special memories for me, as I think it was probably the perfect family experience.  Hanging around the pool deck, goofing around with my sisters and friends, and finally when it became so unbearably hot…. it was time to (dive) jump into the pool for my next event.  Now that I’m a bit older and no longer the athlete I once was, I find myself more in the role of a spectator of sport enjoying competition through the play of others. 



Having gone to a big time (Pac 12) college at the University of Arizona where sports was a huge part of my college experience, I eventually learned the “fine art” of being a super fan.  Whether it was enjoying a great tailgate before watching our UofA football beat down another opponent, to rocking the McHale Center with loud chanting as we worked the fans into a frenzy while our basketball team played its way into March Madness tournament again.  Now that I’m back home in the bay area, I’ve re-established a connection and love for some of our great local franchises (namely the 49ers, Giants, A’s and Warriors).  One thing I’ve learned to be true, and that is there’s no better way to enjoy a great sporting event than to do so with a fine glass of (Baldacci Vineyards) wine in hand.  Of course, that’s why being a spectator of sport is so much fun, you can do so while surrounding yourself with all your “creature” comforts (aka: fine wine and food amongst the company of your friends and family). 



Mike Knox
June 4, 2015 | Mike Knox

Swimmers Take Your Mark


The days of my participation in competitive sports are behind me these days but that does not mean I can’t find a way to be involved.  With my daughter taking a big interest in competitive swimming I have experienced a whole new realm of participation; that of a swim dad.  Addy belongs to a club team here in the Napa Valley (St. Helena Waves) and she swims year round with the team.  My participation comes during her meets with lots of time spent timing.  I have learned to love the timing aspect of the meets because I get to be right at the water’s edge with the best view of the races.  When my daughter is on the blocks I can watch her entire race and cheer for her even though I might be timing another swimmer.



Then there are the home meets.  It is all hands on deck to set things up and run the meet so there is usually a bigger role to play for the parents on our team.  I decided to take on a bigger role as head timer and wow was that a whole different level of participation.  I thought the head timer just held a stop watch and walked around looking official but that turns out not to be the case.  I learned quickly that I was in charge of making sure there were enough timers in every lane from all the different teams and that I had to start my watch for each and every race to have ready for handing off to any of the other parents that were not able to coordinate pressing a button at the flash of the starting light.  There were a lot of hand offs…All through the two days of the meet!  Yeah my daughter raced but did I get a chance to see?  Sort of… I got to see some of her starts and a few finishes.  More importantly I got to be involved in making the meet run smoothly so that my daughter could do what she does best which is swim fast and have a lot of fun with her friends.  I also love it because my daughter loves swimming and I am so thrilled to share that with her.

So where does the wine part come in with these ramblings of being a competitive swim dad?  Hot tub time of course! What better way to relax sore timing fingers than the warm waters of the tub and some soft, smooth, velvety, cab.


Kellie Duckhorn
May 27, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Endless Summer

Our family has a tradition of spending one summer week together. This was started by my mom, when all of the grandkids became of an age where table manners were stabilized, sleeping habits were consistent and diaper bags were replaced with proper luggage! 

The first of several gatherings took place at the Gros Ventre River Ranch, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. First stop is at Dornan's to stock up on wine. Next stop for a bite at the Snake River Grill before heading into the Gros Ventre Wilderness...

Margaret Duckhorn and her grandchildren
Gros Ventre River Ranch

Our other favorite summer hang out is Lake Tahoe. Since I was a small child, our family has spent countless summers and winters in this extraordinarily beautiful place. It's a place filled with generations of families who have found a quiet place to reconnect with each other and to continue the storytelling of first downhill runs at Squaw Valley or Homewood, 6:30a water skiing on a lake of glass, or brunch at Sunnyside with a cocktail for the adults and a shirley temple for the kids...

  Finally, there is the tradition of having a completely spontaneous moment that is often orchestrated by my brother, David. Chester, CA is a sleepy town outside of Lake Almanor. Every year, Chester hosts a no-nonsense Fourth of July Parade. Without preamble, David enrolled our family in the parade! After a quick consult with everyone, we towed our vintage jeep up to the rental cabin, converted the trailer into a float, loaded up on beer (Chester is blazing hot) and were awarded First Place in the Group Division! Cheers to summer fun...

Chester Fourth of July Parade



Matt Mills
May 19, 2015 | Matt Mills

The Day Before Thanksgiving


Like most family traditions our own began pretty organically, which to say they evolved from arguments between my older sister and I. For about as long as I can remember both Beth and I did our best to protect the normal Thanksgiving meal (with the exception of watching football). This resulted in a number of cultural adjustments our mother eventually relented to such as the famous Hamburger and Fires Thanksgiving of 2002. In a short time thereafter as Beth and I got a little older – but clearly not more mature – we inadvertently triggered one of our favorite family traditions.

Thanksgiving means certain things: big family gatherings, dinner at 2:00 in the afternoon, turkey, cranberry, spurning the Cowboys and still sitting at the kids table when you’re 30. These predictable components of the day, while tolerable, were not the direction we wanted to continue in a family meal. So the pre-Thanksgiving meal was born. The night before Thanksgiving we decided to enjoy the things we want in a family meal on a much more decadent scale…and we all get to sit at the adult table. 



The first of these meals was celebrated with filet mignon, lobster tail and Cristal, the preferred Champagne of rappers and royalty alike. I’ll forgo my normal tirade on why Cristal is worthy of the price point until next time. The next year we substituted the gold cellophane wrapper for the more classic Dom Perignon, and if memory serves we dined on King Crab that year. In subsequent years the practice has been applied to Christmas Eve meals as well, most recently featuring Johnnie Walker “Blue Label” at home, an amazing Pine Ridge Cabernet at Club 33 Disneyland and the “Amalia” Chardonnay from Palmaz Vineyards and Reynolds Family Winery’s “Persistence” while vacationing in Seattle.

The secret seems to be out, however, as these little family meals are starting to grow in popularity. Maybe we’ll have to start a new tradition or be forced to get along with the rest of the family…

New tradition it is then. 


Michael Baldacci
May 14, 2015 | Michael Baldacci

Family Traditions


Traditions for me always start with family, coming from a family of 6, we had many traditions that we cherished over the years. As you can imagine a lot of them included wine, but to most people's surprise there are plenty that did not include wine.

There are two traditions that stick out to me that as I reflect I think embody exactly who we are as a family.

1st: Annual Christmas morning Nerf Gun Battle. This tradition started 10 years ago when my dad surprised us all with a brand new Nerf guns. I have to say I had not picked up or seen a Nerf gun in at least 5 years, I had seen the commercials and thought “wow how far the guns have come…” but never did I see myself wielding one of those in an imaginary battle anytime soon. My dad felt the same way, and made out to change that, for the last ten years our Christmas mornings end with the new latest and greatest version of the Nerf Gun, and a battle amongst ALL. Every year was a different form of weaponry, from little pistols and axes that called for skilled hand-to-hand combat or short range firing, all the way to rifles that only worked with scouting and long-range surprise attacks on your enemy.  Competition amongst each other creates some of the most fun moments I can remember. While there are heated times on the battlefield, it always seems to end with big hugs, lots of laughs, and ALWAYS a cold bottle of bubbles at the end of the road, typically my favorite, Schramesburg Blanc de Blanc.  



2nd: Mom’s birthday. My brothers, my dad and I all recognize how special my mother is in our lives. She keeps us in line, is ALWAYS there for us, and is the world’s best listener… oh yeah and she has no problem talking sports with the best of them, especially Warriors basketball!!

With all of the amazing things she does for us, we know there is NO way to repay her, but we had to try. Three years ago my dad came up with the idea of doing "girly things" with her guys on her birthday. It was a great idea, having all boys did not allow for some of the spa days, or getting your nails done type of days. So every year the weekend of my mom's birthday is marked on the calendars, and we venture up to a hotel in Calistoga, and a "spa day" turns into all of us lounging and reading tabloid filled magazines together with a bottle of sparkles.  It is a great moment to celebrate my mom and all of the things she does for us, and gives the 6 of us a chance to all relax with each other.

Having a family business can blur the lines of family and business, which makes it so much fun. While I think we have done a great job as a family to try and keep them separate, it is these types of traditions that always remind us what it is to be a family first. The company and conversation we share is usually coupled by a great bottle of wine. Some of my favorite wines were made that much better by the people that shared in the tradition. As we grow older it is these traditions that continue to remind us how blessed we are, and to cherish these moments.


Brenda Baldacci
May 7, 2015 | Brenda Baldacci

The Playlist of our Lives


Growing up in Marin, my friends and I spent weekends traveling around searching for the rock and rollers of our time...Sammy Hagar, Pablo Cruise, Huey Lewis and the News, etc...many of them lived locally in the hills of Marin County making for creative searches. Local concerts came later and the enjoyment and memories of their music have endured the test of time and I am proud to say I have passed on a love of music to my children.

Preschool, Elementary School, High School, Baseball, Basketball, Wrestling, Rugby, Track, Soccer, Football, Swimming and everything in between kept us on the road quite a lot. In between chit chats and recaps of the day, music was always our friendly backdrop in the car. I introduced the boys to some great female musicians...Faith Hill, Shania Twain and later Taylor Swift~ they came back with Jock Jams volumes 1-12! Over the years, our musical tastes grew~ especially a love for country music with the introduction of Nashville in Napa at our winery in 2009. This wonderful non-profit organization raises the awareness of the similarities between winemakers and songwriters. 



Traditions within families come in many shapes and forms~ Music within our family has evolved from entertainment during long car rides to the enjoyment of nice tunes during backyard dinners with a nice bottle of wine. While our family playlist over the years could include volumes 1-12, we will share just one. Each one of us included 2 songs that just seem to bring us back! 

 A Throwback Baldacci Family Playlist

          1. "These are my People" Rodney Adkins

          2. "I'm Alive" Jackson Browne

          3. "Centerfield" John Fogarty

          4. "Brown Eyed Girl" Van Morrison

          5. "Run Around" Blues Travelers

          6. "Born In the USA" Bruce Springsteen

          7. "Friends in Low Places" Garth Brooks

          8.  "Little Bitty" Alan Jackson

          9. "Baba O'Reilly(Teenage Wasteland)" The Who

          10. "I Go Back" Kenny Chesney

          11. "Honey I'm Home" Shania Twain

          12. "You Shook Me All Night Long" AC/DC   


Kellie Duckhorn
April 22, 2015 | Kellie Duckhorn

Where will the grape take you?

My life has been blessed by the wine grape. Without it, I would never have experienced the world! Where to begin? …perhaps 1973 is a good place to start. My father chased the wine grape to St. Helena and the family tagged along. My brothers and I had an amazing childhood…all of the things that come with distracted parents and plenty of open space…babysitting for us was an inflated tractor tire tube, a PB&J sandwich wrapped in wax paper, and a float down the Napa River between Lodi Lane and Zinfandel. Between snags, lizards and pure fun, my parents were guaranteed at least 3 uninterrupted hours of work!
Zinfandel Lane Bridge

My first harvest was in 1978, and that’s when I really started to understand what family business means…hard work, laughter and a sense of accomplishment at the end of a long day. As the years passed, I participated in all aspects of the business and with each harvest, I could better feel the rhythm of our industry…agriculture has a particular energy, a unique ability to connect us to the planet at odd hours of the day. My favorite moments were, and still are, pre-dawn when the world begins its slow yawn and awakens, one layer at a time.


Duckhorn Vineyards, 1978  Downtown Ludon-Medoc, France

The wine grape has taken me to France, on numerous occasions. The Nadalié family has been supplying barrels to generations of wine producers and I have beautiful memories of stacking barrel staves, late night moped escapades and even a harvest at Château Palmer. The Médoc is my other Napa Valley, a place that is also time arrested with traditions and family meals mixed together with the city vibe of Bordeaux.

Because of the wine grape I have hosted visitors from afar, opening up my home as others have opened theirs to me, and my sons and I have had young interns from France and Spain share their lives with us, creating bonds and stories to pass on to their children. Our friends are also largely in the business as this industry has a very blurred line between the private and the professional life…we are kindred souls, those of us who chase the wine grape, and as such, our lives like vines, intertwine and twist together throughout the years. Through these connections, my son, Peter, has crushed grapes in Portugal, at Quinta do Tedo, while my son Ian was rescued from Amsterdam, without question, by a dear friend from Decanter magazine.
Quinta do Tedo, Portugal (Peter on the far right)   

Wine Education Seminar, Via Pacifica Selections Shanghai, China

China has been a huge part of my wine inspired travel…my brother David has spent the past 7 years creating a following for fine California wine in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Chengdu with his company, Via Pacifica Selections. The wine grape has introduced me to a culture and created friendships with this amazing country that is so big, so energetic, so interested in our western ways.

Finally, like a boomerang, I have returned to the Napa Valley. I am deeply grateful to be part of the Baldacci Family winery and all that they represent. The team here is so committed to the best of our industry…the agricultural heritage, the shared meals, the never ending overlap of personal and professional life…come visit us and let the wine grape lead you to your next adventure! 
Classic Wine Tasting, Baldacci Family Vineyards
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