The Wine Country: Shaken Not Disturbed

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Charlotte and I took off for the Wine Country a few weeks back with some of our best friends. We make the grape escape as soon as my liver dries out from the last one every couple of years. 

Each time we go, we see something different. Discover wines we never heard of. And enjoy a respite from the hellish summer weather of our beloved Texas (I'm a native Texan, so I can call it hellish. It's printed right there on my birth certificate). 

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The Wine Country's gotten kind of a bad rap recently due to the Aug. 24th 6.0 earthquake that caused something north of $50 million in damage. The good news is that in spite of the loss, the people are friendly (we single out a couple below who definitely aren't) and they welcome our support of their industry.

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If you're planning a trip to the left coast any time soon, here are some recommendations in the Russian River Valley (Healdsburg, CA).


 If the sun's out, you'll probably find them asleep on the front porch.

WOW! 

Poggio (Sausilito)

If you're driving up from San Francisco, stop for lunch or dinner at Poggio, just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. This classic Italian trattorria overlooks San Francisco Bay and it's ranked in the Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay Area.

Gustafson Tasting Room Guru's Gabriel Froymovich and Vanessa Ramirez with your charming host 
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Gustafson Family Vineyards

We came across this tiny tasting room about three blocks from the town square in downtown Healdsburg. The vibe is all hey-dude friendly and the competitively-priced wines are amazing. TIP: If you're really nice to Gabriel or Vanessa they may hook you up with a taste of their dessert wine (but you didn't hear that from me).

J Sign-600.jpgJ Vineyards

J Vineyards is the sister winery to Jordan (below). If you're into sparkling wines, this has to be a stop on your trip. The tasting room at the winery is like a gorgeous, comfortable living room and the people are knowledgeable and accommodating. TIP: Have a tasting along with a food pairing. The selections are (almost) as wonderful as the wine.

Arista patriarch Al McWilliams (far left) and son Mark (beside Charlotte)

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Arista

The McWilliams family from Texarkana, TX owns this beautiful hilltop winery. Al and Janis (dad and mom) bought the place in 2004 and have been making some of the best Pinot Noir's in California ever since. Sons Mark and Ben and their families keep the operation humming along. Keep an eye out for the two winery dogs - Lucy the Maltese and Coco the Lab. If the sun's out, you'll probably find them asleep on the front porch. TIP: Make this winery your lunch stop. The outdoor picnic area makes you feel like you're in a botanical garden.

I asked the Jordan tour guide if I could tap one of these barrels...she smiled and called security

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Jordan

You'll find Jordan on the wine list of the best restaurants in the country. That may make you think it's pretentious and stuffy - and you couldn't be more wrong. The wines are delicious and the guides are easy going (no wine snobs here). TIP: Book a tasting that includes a trip behind the secret door in the library. You won't see Colonel Mustard, but you'll love the clubby cloak-and-dagger environment.

Lambert Bridge Winemaker Jennifer Higgins and daughter (who was going to have a sleepover at the winery - lucky girl!)

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Lambert Bridge

Lambert Bridge Winemaker Jennifer Higgins makes some of the best wines in California - not just the Russian River Valley. I'm a fan of her Cabernet Sauvignon (big, bold and plenty of spice) and Zinfandel, but everything that comes from Lambert Bridge is exceptional. TIP: Spend some time in the Lambert Bridge Tasting Room. It's a beautiful space filled with rack upon rack of wine aging in oak barrels.    

Eh...

Bella

Bella makes some wonderful wines - especially Zinfandel. That's the good news. The BAD news is that the place is so crowded it's impossible to appreciate the beauty and vintages they have to offer. If you like fighting the crowds in Times Square you'll love this place. Otherwise, skip it. 

Ferrari-Carano

Let me say first that I love Ferrari-Carano wines. We celebrated Cole's new job with some of its great Cabernet Sauvignon. What I DON'T love is the bitchy, wine snob attitude at their tasting room and winery. If you want to be treated like you're one of the "little people" undeserving of their attention, then pay 'em a visit. If you want a wonderful wine country experience, choose anyplace else. 

Can't Miss

We also recommend Pure Luxury Transportation for Wine Country Tours. We don't drink and drive and you shouldn't either. These guys and gals know every back road and boutique tasting room this area has to offer and they'll get you back to your hotel safe, sound (and probably a little tipsy). 

If you're staying in Yountville, there's no place better than the Hotel Yountville. Our go-to getaway on this trip was the fabulous (and incredibly convenient) Hotel Healdsburg. 

Related

Tips for Taking Napa

The Grape Escape

It Happened in St. Helena 

Arista Entry - 600.jpgArista Tasting - 400.jpgJordan Tasting - 600.jpgJordan-600.jpgWine Barrels-600.jpg

Guest Room: Perfect Any Season Buttermilk Pie

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By Paula Haney, owner of Chicago's Hoosier Mama Pie Company and author of The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie My mother used to drink buttermilk by the glass. While I wouldn't go that far, I do love this pie. It's... ...Read More

In the Mirror: 13 Eye-Opening Treatments Under $100

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Your eyes never lie. But with the right help, they might at least stretch the truth when it comes to revealing your age.

So it's important to pamper your peepers with smart pick-me-ups like these. They do a number on dark circles, wrinkles, thinning lashes and everything in-between. Besides costing under $100, they all tackle several top eye concerns at once. Some are for sensitive types, others are all natural and some are as close as your nearest drugstore

01 satinsmootheyecream 99.jpgSatin Smooth Skin Care Brightening Lift Eye Cream

Part of the Conair beauty family, this anti-aging eye therapy blends an exclusive peptide called Axp33TM and antioxidant-packed vitamin C to help reduce fine lines as well as under-eye bags and dark circles. Caffeine refreshes skin while Shea butter, apricot oil and geranium oil hydrate and nourish. Papaya and cucumber extracts plus ultra-moisturizing hyaluronic acid also help smooth, soothe and brighten the under-eye area.

You can use this talented cream morning and night by itself or before applying other serums or moisturizers. I like that it goes on light, doesn't feel greasy and includes both skin-brightening and repairing vitamin C and caffeine, which I've heard is a natural remedy for fluid build-up under your eyes. A bargain at under $15, this dermatologist-tested choice is also friendly to sensitive skin. ($13.75 for 0.5 ounces at StyleSource.com)

Satin Smooth eye cream includes skin-brightening and repairing vitamin C.

Burt's Bees Eye Creams

If you're looking for a budget stretcher, Burt's Bees has several 99% natural options that target specific eye issues. Two to try:

02 Sensitive_Eye_Cream 99.jpgSensitive Eye Cream - Helps reduce under-eye puffiness without risking redness or irritation. This super-gentle salve includes cotton extract to soften and protect skin from aggravation. Antioxidant rich, it moisturizes, calms and improves skin texture with white genepi extract, eyebright, rice extract, olive fruit oil and aloe.

Even extra-sensitive types can relax about using this fragrance-free find morning and night every day. In addition to being hypoallergenic, it's dermatologist, ophthalmologist and allergy tested and clinically proven not to cause ugly reactions. It hydrates my dry, temperamental skin without feeling heavy or oily, soaks right in and so far, so good ... no nasty surprises.

Just take care when opening the tube. Since it's sealed to stay fresh, you have to cut off the end and squeeze gently to get things flowing. Apply too much pressure (guilty!) and you'll end up with a mess not to mention wasting some of this precious potion. Woops! ($18 for 0.5 ounces)

Burt's Bees Sensitive Eye Cream helps reduce under-eye bags with no worry of irritation.

Radiance Eye Cream - Gives the under-eye area a youthful glow while minimizing the look of fine lines and wrinkles. This dermatologist-tested formula gets much of its clout from vitamin-rich Royal Jelly, one of nature's most nourishing substances. It also features skin-soothing chamomile and cucumber (Ahhhh!) plus light-diffusing natural mica to blur lines.03 Radiance 415.jpg

This eye essential provides a youthful glow while blurring fine lines and wrinkles.

Although you can use it both morning and evening, I really enjoy patting on this essential cream before bed when my skin cries for attention and on days when I'm too rushed for full makeup. It smells nice, absorbs easily, and leaves skin looking fresh and healthy. Plus, you just need a smidge. ($18 for 0.5 ounces)

You can find Burt's Bees products at BurtsBees.com as well as many drugstores, grocery stores and other retailers across the country.

Avon ANEW Clinical Dark Circle Corrector

One04 Avon Anew 99.jpg of Avon's latest innovations, ANEW Clinical Dark Circle Corrector instantly brightens your under-eye area so shadows aren't so noticeable and helps fade them over time. It combines kudzu root extract, fennel fruit extract and other potent ingredients that smooth uneven texture and automatically adjust to match your skin tone.

Since dark circles are my #1 eye complaint, I was thrilled to see Avon take aim at them by launching this clever product in July. The tube has a twist-open applicator and a flexible tip that helps you glide this treatment directly under your eyes. You can forget dipping your finger in a jar or squeezing a little on your hand first as I normally do. (No wonder the top of my left hand looks better than the rest of my body!)

You can use this rich cream in the morning after cleansing as well as before bed. It soaks in with a little blending and gives your under-eye area a glow that makes it easier for concealer to do its job. With consistent use, this eye saver is also said to lighten dark circles by one grade in two to four weeks. In fact, 93% of women surveyed said their dark circles were dramatically reduced. ($34 for 0.5 ounces through Avon Representatives. To find one, call 1-800-FOR-AVON or visit  Avon.com.)

Avon's latest eye treatment brightens skin and helps fade dark circles over time.

The Jojoba Company Cucumber & Guava Firming Eye Balm

06 Jojoba Eye Cream 99.jpgThis cool, calming balm from The Jojoba Company Australia helps smooth fine lines, lessen puffiness and hydrate the area around your most expressive feature. You can feel good about patting on this gentle cream because it contains healthy vitamins and botanicals.

Cucumber, green tea (I'm addicted!) and vitamin C-packed guava soothe skin and fight puffiness. Horsetail extract stimulates collagen production. Pomegranate helps increase skin elasticity. And Australian-grown jojoba provides deep-penetrating hydration while nourishing with antioxidants and vitamins A, D and E.

Used after cleansing morning and night, this eye-pampering potion goes on light and absorbs quickly. Although suitable for all skin types, it's a great moisture boost for those on the dry side like me. It helps make fine lines less noticeable and keeps concealer from flaking. ($42.95 for 0.8 ounces at Stpwellness.com)

This soothing balm blends healthy vitamins and botanicals to smooth lines, shrink under-eye bags and hydrate skin.

Korres Quercetin & Oak Anti-Aging & Anti-Wrinkle Eye Cream

Another natural-based winner, Korres Quercetin & Oak eye treatment fights wrinkles, dark under-eye shadows and puffiness. It's powered by quercetin, 07 Q&O_eyecream_wBOX new packaging 300.jpgan antioxidant derived from oak bark. Studies have shown this natural alternative to retinol helps skin act younger so it becomes softer, smoother, firmer, more radiant and better able to resist stresses.

This top-rated multitasking formula also includes healing botanical extracts. Myrtle extract works as an anti-aging booster and helps improve skin's elasticity. Mourera fluviatilis extract helps lock in moisture and rhodiola rosea extract minimizes dark circles and bags.

Korres Quercetin & Oak eye treatment is powered by a natural alternative to retinol that helps skin think younger.

Dabbing this thin cream under my eyes morning and night is a pleasure. A little goes a long way, spreading easily and soaking in with minor rubbing. This dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested pick hydrates and brightens without irritating my sometimes sensitive skin. No breakouts or redness! Plus, it includes no harmful chemicals and in clinical trials 72% or more of women reported firmer skin, reduced eye puffiness, and less visible wrinkles and dark circles. ($45 for 0.51 ounces at Sephora.com and Sephora stores)

Lierac Paris Magnificence Precision Eye Care

Designed to beautify the entire eye contour area, this new Lierac treatment helps correct and erase wrinkles, under-eye bags and discoloration while firming and brightening skin. It focuses on the circle that goes from the inner corner of your eye to the outer corner under your brow, working below your eye as well as up to your brow bone. Bonus!

This anti-ager contains a high concentration of patented D-Glyox complex, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins C and E. It's also enriched with red vine to improve its ability to correct under-eye puffiness and shadows.

To use this fragrance-free formula, you twist the bottom of the tube several times to release product into the applicator brush. That makes it a cinch to swish serum around the eye contour area without squandering a drop. Afterwards, you get a slight sensation as it soaks into your skin, which says it's working.08 Lierac Precision Eye Care 436.jpg

Lierac's innovative applicator brush makes it easy to swish on serum without squandering a drop.

You can treat your eyes in the morning, at night or both. But I prefer putting on this smooth, creamy salve before bed. I tried it under makeup but my current concealer tends to look clumpy on top of it. Whatever your choice, Lierac's Precision Eye Care helps your peepers look more rested immediately and the benefits improve with time. In fact, more than 85% of users reported both dark circles and puffiness were less visible after seven days. ($49 for 0.14 ounces at Lierac-USA.com, Duane Reade and Walgreens)

09 Eye Authority 125.jpgHydroPeptide Eye Authority

Also made to refresh the full eye contour area, HydroPeptide Eye Authority brightens dark circles while diminishing the look of expression lines, wrinkles and puffiness. This award-winning formula features 13 multitasking peptides, crushed pearls and hyaluronic acid.

Besides fighting under-eye bags and shadows, the peptides provide wrinkle-relaxing, skin-lifting, illumination and a slew of other benefits to help turn back the clock. Crushed pearls, rich in minerals and amino acids, are like a dose of sunshine. They light up your eye area instantly and diffuse discolorations and other imperfections while nourishing skin. Hyaluronic acid delivers lasting hydration that's a relief to dry skin.

To get the most from this luxe, anti-aging hero, use it a.m. and p.m. daily. At $74 a bottle, it might seem pricy but a pea-size drop treats both eyes. The handy pump dispenser doles out the appropriate amount so there's no waste and one bottle can last and last.

This luxe, award winner brightens shadows while diminishing the look of expression lines, wrinkles and puffiness.

Although very moisturizing, Eye Authority has an airy feeling, doesn't sting my eyes and soaks right in, giving me a nice canvas for eye makeup and preventing any concealer or shadow creasing. It's free of gluten, artificial fragrances, parabens and other harmful substances. Plus, 91% of women surveyed agreed the fine lines around their eyes were less visible in just two weeks. ($74 for 0.5 ounces at HydroPeptide.com, Dermstore.com, NordstromSpa.com, Skinstore.com and fine spas and dermatological clinics)

10 Murad_Renewing Eye Cream_HR 110.jpgMurad Eye Therapy

Since hydration is essential to a youthful look, Murad offers two uber-moisturizing formulas designed to revive the delicate skin around your eyes:

Resurgence Renewing Eye Cream - Reduces the appearance of wrinkles near your brow bone as well as below your eyes while helping diminish under-eye puffiness and dark circles. It also improves elasticity and helps smooth skin while brightening the eye area.

Thanks to a recent makeover, this bestseller has a new formula that's even more moisturizing than before. Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 and retinol help stimulate collagen production and reduce medium to deep wrinkles. Phytoestrogens, like wild yam extract, soybean sterols and iris root extract, increase firmness, elasticity and hydration. Eye brightening complex shrinks dark shadows and under-eye bags while lighting the eye area.

Murad's Renewing Eye Cream instantly soothes parched skin while fighting shadows, puffiness and other signs of aging.

This multitasker instantly soothes my parched skin and gives my brow bone and under-eye area a subtle glow. Talk about a nice way to keep your makeup looking I-just-put-it-on fresh! ($75 for 0.5 ounces)

Age 11 Murad_Intensive Wrinkle Reducer Eyes_HR 110.jpgReform Intensive Wrinkle Reducer - Ups the anti-aging war with a formula proven to visibly reduce the appearance of crow's feet. It instantly firms, tightens and brightens the eye area working to smooth current worries while preventing future damage.

One of Murad's most advanced age fighters, this concentrated cream features Durian Cell Reform technology to help speed cell turnover and improve penetration for maximum benefits. Hyaluronic microspheres decrease wrinkle depth while ensuring long-lasting hydration. Green tea extract and Aliantoin soothe and protect skin from free radicals.

I adore dabbing this lightweight serum on my brow bone and under my eyes. Although mega hydrating, it leaves my skin feeling toned and looking healthy without a trace of oil. Even better, it's been shown to reduce fine lines and crow's feet by 33% in 4 weeks as well as to improve skin firmness by 55% in 12 weeks. ($95 for 0.5 ounces)

This anti-aging powerhouse instantly firms, tightens and brightens skin while working to smooth lines and wrinkles.

Whether you go for Murad's Renewing Eye Cream or Intensive Wrinkle Reducer, these eye-kind creams are most effective when used a.m. and p.m. daily. You only need a small, pearl-size drop to do the job. And they come in smart, pump-style containers that help measure the perfect amount so you can get a lot of mileage from one little bottle.

They're available at Murad.com, the Murad Inclusive Health Spa, Sephora, Ulta, Massage Envy Spas and leading salon and spa locations nationwide

12 Lierac Eye Make Up Remover 110.jpgLierac Paris Eye Makeup Remover

Lierac's new triple-action eye makeup remover lets you wipe off cosmetics, moisturize your eye contour area and encourage eyelash growth in one simple step. Now, that's a first!

This gentle must try combines coconut-oil-based cleansers, hydrating panthenol, and calming cornflower and chamomile waters. It also features vitamin B and an innovative lash-growth peptide to strengthen lashes, stimulate growth and reduce hair loss.

I'm wild about the idea of protecting and nurturing my lashes while cleansing my eyes, especially after losing my fringe to chemotherapy several years ago and having to wait what seems like EONS for it to grow back. So trying this multitasking formula was a no-brainer.

In addition to removing cosmetics like a champ, Lierac's new eye makeup remover moisturizes skin and encourages eyelash growth. 

Sprayed on a cotton pad, it dissolves my everyday makeup without a lot of rubbing or tugging. Waterproof mascara didn't come off as easily but that's no big deal since I only wear it occasionally. Afterwards, my eye area feels soft and smooth.

With 15 days of use, this fragrance-free workhorse promises diminished lash loss as well as hairs that are three times longer, thicker and more voluminous. Tested under ophthalmological control, it's suitable for sensitive eyes and contact-lens wearers. ($24 for 3.4 ounces at Lierac-usa.com, CVS and Duane Reade)

Mary Kay Lash & Brow Building Serum

13 mary-kay-lash-and-brow-building-serum-h 117.pngLonging for thicker, stronger lashes? Mary Kay's Lash and Brow Building Serum is another must-try. Designed to reduce lash loss, it helps both eyelashes and brows look fuller and healthier in just 30 days.

The lash- and brow-boosting formula combines a matrix-supporting peptide with amino acids to fortify your eye fringe. You apply this clear serum on your top lids at night after cleansing just as you would liquid eyeliner. You can also brush it on thin areas in your brows.

Besides taking only seconds to put on, this eye opener doesn't sting my eyes or dry out my lids like some other lash enhancers I've tried. Plus, it costs almost 70% less and works on BOTH lashes and brows. In the past, I've had to buy two separate products. Ouch!

Ophthalmologist-tested, Mary Kay's strengthening serum won't discolor your lids or eyes and is safe for contact-lens wearers as well as those with sensitive eyes. After using it every day for a month, 7 out of 10 women said their lashes looked longer, stronger and fuller. That's all good news for my baby blues! ($36 for 0.15 ounces from Mary Kay consultants; visit MaryKay.com to locate one in your area)

Mary Kay's Lash and Brow Building Serum helps both eyelashes and brows look fuller and healthier in just 30 days.

Patchology Energizing Eye Patches

If your eyes scream "I'm tired," Patchology's rejuvenating eye patches could be just the wake-up call you need. They use patented micro-current technology to penetrate the under-eye area with skin-transforming ingredients.

Hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps skin, helping it retain elasticity and firmness. Okra plant peptide tightens and smoothes. Calming cucumber extract helps relieve puffiness. Vitamin C lightens dark circles. And vitamins B3 and B5 protect against free radicals which can accelerate signs of aging.

Recommended as a deep-moisture treatment, these rejuvenating stick-ons come in a kit that includes everything you need for 12 sessions.

The Patchology kit includes an activating gel, easy-stick patches and cleansing wipes for 12 treatments.

14 Patchology Kit and components 600.jpgAfter cleansing and drying your under-eye area, you just roll the included activating gel on two of the wing-shaped patches and put a patch under each eye. They stay put easily, giving husbands lots of material for bad jokes (that Bob!). There's no discomfort but you might have a cooling and tightening sensation as they begin work.

Then relax, answer emails or do some chores for at least 20 minutes. If your skin is really worn out and dehydrated, make that an hour. Or, for a major jolt of refreshment, you can wear the patches up to 12 hours.

When done, slowly peel them off your skin and return them to their re-sealable pouch because each patch can be used up to four times. Then clean under your eyes with one of the included botanical extract-infused wipes to get rid of any leftover gel.

One 20-minute spin with these winged wonders left my skin soft, smooth and nicely hydrated. Used weekly, they're said to reduce fine lines, crow's feet, wrinkles and under-eye bags. ($75 for a kit including everything needed for 12 treatments at Patchology.com, Neimanmarcus.com and Bergdorfgoodman.com)

 


We'd like to shout out a big "Thank You" to all the brands in this post for providing free samples for review and testing.

 

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Comfort Corner: Pecan-Topped Peach and Blueberry Crisp

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Things have been pretty peachy in Colleywood lately. Regular trips to the farmer's market have kept our fridge full of some of the most flavorful Texas beauties ever! We've also picked up some wonderful fresh blueberries there. So last week, I decided to combine these two faves in a delicious new dessert.

The filling for this soul-satisfying sweet includes peaches, blueberries, lemon juice and a little bit of sugar.

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