Calistoga and Saint Helena: Sun, local food and wine at your fingertips

VGS Chateau Potelle.
The starting lineup at VGS Chateau Potelle.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

After more than five months in the City, I’m starting to finally feel like I have a handle of the neighborhoods, my commute and my watering holes. But like any other restless traveler, I’m constantly looking elsewhere to explore. After my first trip to Napa Valley a couple months ago, I was long overdue for some wine tasting, farm-to-table eating and legit wine country sun. Thankfully a trip to Calistoga was just what the doctor ordered.

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Valette's Scallops en Croute.

Valette owner + chef show off the food, wine + passion of Sonoma in Healdsburg restaurant

Inside Healdsburg's newest restaurant, Valette.
Inside Healdsburg’s newest restaurant, Valette.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I always get a little giddy when I’m one of the first people to experience a new boutique hotel, taste a vintage wine straight out of the barrel, or get a sneak peek at a music festival’s lineup. But nothing gets me going more than dining at a new restaurant in town and meeting all of the wonderful people behind a soon-to-be burgeoning business. I had the absolute pleasure of dining at Valette, Healdsburg’s newest restaurant, which opened in March 2015. These guys are definitely going to make waves in the neighborhood.

Envisioned by brothers, locals Dustin Valette and Aaron Garzini, the duo wanted to create a restaurant inspired by Sonoma County’s food, wine and deeply-rooted passion. Executive Chef Dustin is at the helm of the beautiful, open kitchen while Aaron mans the front of the house while offering wonderful service. (We’re talking hugs and kisses to frequent guests, asking where diners are visiting from and treating everyone like family. You rarely see this kind of service in the City, that’s for sure.) The service is authentic and every server, runner and person on the dining room floor will go out of their way to take care of you, yet stay out of your way when necessary. It’s a beautiful culinary dance to be a part of if you’re lucky enough to find it. Read more


Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival Highlights the best of rosés in Broomfield, CO June 11

by Andrea Verdin

Summer is coming. That means barbecues, beach bonfires, and camping with friends. That means camping and roasting corn on the cob over an open fire, and yummy, chilled wine to enjoy as you lounge by the pool during the day.

IRWF_Drink_Pink_Vino_LogoTo honor the tradition of drinking delicious chilled wine, Wine Country Network, Inc., publisher of Wine Country International® Magazine and producer of the Denver International Wine Festival, has announced the first-ever Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival.

The Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival will be held on Thursday, June 11, 2015 at the Omni Interlocken Resort’s Outdoor Pavilion in Broomfield, Colorado.

Far from being a small company with limited food and wine expertise, the Wine Country Network, Inc. publishes Wine Country International®Magazine, hosts a radio show at, and throughout the year organizes several professional beverage competitions, as well as the Denver International Wine Festival and the Pairsine Chefs Food and Beverage Pairing Competitions.

900-wine-bottlesWith all of these credentials, Wine Country International® Magazine’s Co-Founder and Editor, Christopher J. Davies is able to explain why rosés are fit to be featured at their own festival.

“Rosés are typically seen as a summer wine because they are lighter,” explained Davies. “They have a great pair-ability, and this festival was timely. We find that some restaurants keep rosés on their wine lists year-round because they are gaining popularity.”

Far from being a diluted red, rosés are produced from the same grapes as more full-bodied reds, but the juice is only allowed to ferment with the grape skins for a few days, giving rosés their delicate pink color, explained Davies. Winemakers from all over are coming so that you can sample their wares, and you can determine what type of rosé strikes your fancy.

In recent years, rosé wine consumption in the U.S. is growing by double digits. More and more producers are releasing their versions of incredibly food-friendly rosés. The Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival offers wine enthusiasts the chance to sample over sixty new releases right before the summer Rosé drinking season.

Chef Hosea Rosenberg
Chef Hosea Rosenberg

To add to the experience at the Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival, Davies said that wandering French Jazz musicians will perform, and wonderful food will be available from local restaurants, including Blackbelly, The Oceanaire Seafood Room and Big Mac and Little Lu’s. This is a perfect way to learn how to pair your new favorite pink drink with food from Top Chef Season 5 Winner Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly Market and Restaurant, Madeleine de Jean (a/k/a Madame Champagne) and Barrie Lynn, The Cheese Impresario.

In addition to the food and drink, the  Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival will be holding a special silent auction containing large-format bottles of Rosé and wine-related items. 100% of all proceeds will benefit There With Care, which provides a wide range of thoughtful and fundamental services to children and families during the critical phase of a medical crisis.

The 2015 venue is the luxurious Omni Interlocken Resort, which will offer a limited number of rooms at a special festival rate of $119/night. Call 303-438-6600 for reservations. Tickets for the Drink Pink Vino International Rosé Wine Festival are now on sale. For more information, visit www.DrinkPinkVino.Com. For further information, visit or call 303-664-5700.

Downtown Las Vegas: Where to stay and play

Downtown Vegas
Get off the Strip and check out all that Downtown Vegas has to offer.

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

Las Vegas and I have a solid understanding: We’re good with seeing each other only once every few years. From the squashed streets, gambling that I never knew how much I loved and “inventive” ways to spend my time and money, I thought I reached max Vegas capacity in my late 20s. However, after a recent visit to Downtown Las Vegas, my interest in Sin City has since blossomed into a full blown love affair.

The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas.
The pool at Oasis in Downtown Las Vegas. Photo credit: Emily Wilson

My last trip to Vegas was more than three or four years ago and I was craving the desert heat since moving to San Francisco. I knew that I wanted a weekend in Vegas with excitement, bright lights, music and a young crowd so Downtown won me over. The Oasis at Gold Spike , Downtown’s newest boutique hotel, graciously invited me to check out their digs. Read more


IgNight Fire Flow Conference brings Light, Fire and Dance to Joshua Tree

by Andrea Verdin


The wilderness of the desert brings life to many, especially if they’re looking to improve themselves. There’s just something about the quiet and beauty of the great outdoors. That’s why IgNight Fire Flow Conference is such an amazing experience. Each person attending will develop their abilities in aerial acrobatics classes, archery, astronomy, and yoga.

Of course, you can’t have a conference called IgNight without having elements of flow tools, like lit wicks, flow tools like hoops, poi, fans, staves, torches, wands and swords. The conference features lectures with spiritual teachers from all over the world. The event began today at noon, and will end at 5p.m. Sunday, more than 160 classes will go on during the daytime. A nightly spin jam session allows students to practice and develop their muscle memory.

night-fieldAccording to Michael Engel, lead organizer for IgNight and fire performer with almost 10 years in the flow arts community, the great event truly gets started on Saturday night. Once all of the conferences and classes have finished, the attendees join together into a dance circle and put all that they have learned from the two days into practice. Together, they play music, and dance until sunrise.

In addition to having a great time, the conference goers  take care of the nature they enjoy. IgNight’s leadership works closely alongside The San Bernardino Fire Department to make this, the safest event possible. All participants must attend a mandatory fire safety workshop, which grants them access to the fire spinning area.

In a letter to the IgNight team, San Bernardino County Fire Marshal Curtis Markloff  wrote, “You guys always amaze me on how safe you all are at your event. Thank you for organizing and putting on this event.  I hope that you keep coming back year after year.”

Since IgNight’s inception in 2012, the event has sold out and it is still the only event of its kind and size in southern California. Each time, the rapidly growing contingent of local flow artists transforms it into an epicenter of growth, play and magic.
fire-blow “It’s for everyone to come and learn,” said Engel. “Ultimately, it’s an exercise in community building and community building is always a positive thing.”

IgNight’s location is the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, the oldest and largest center of its kind in the country. The buildings were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, meaning that they are beautiful elements to the backdrop.

The retreat center’s elegant spaces house luxurious amenities: air-conditioned classrooms, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi and shaded meditation nooks to relax and reflect. However, most participants will sleep under the stars in the property’s ample camping space.

The vast, clear desert skies are ideal for stargazing and the Black Rock Observatory will be giving nightly lectures and telescope demonstrations.

With all of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences occurring in one weekend, it’s easy to have a life-changing transformation. These types of arts allow for a better understanding of who you are, and what you are capable of doing.

The IgNight Fire Flow Conference brings an educational celebration of fire, yoga and flow arts to Joshua Tree, CA on May 8-10. Admission is $150.00 and covers all three days of camping, workshops, shenanigans, and music from Friday at noon to Sunday at 5pm. For more information about IgNight, go to, call (310) 497-4775, or check out their Facebook Page.