3.03.2015

Napa Valley in the spring

field of mustard just south of Calistoga, (c) 2015 by David Ourisman

Back from a week in Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California. I've posted my full site inspection report here, and I will be writing articles on some of the individual hotels over the next few weeks.

Springtime mid-week is a great time to be seeing Wine Country. There are not nearly as many tourists clogging the roads, restaurant reservations are easy to get (I have a couple of outstanding places that I'll be recommending), and the weather in late February was, well, gorgeous... with apologies to the Midwest and Northeast.

While the grape vines are not yet covered with leaves, there's still something impressive about seeing parallel rows of pruned branches across the fields and over hills... not to mention the occasional field of yellow mustard flowers, such as pictured above in a field just south of Calistoga, California in the Napa Valley.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

2.23.2015

The Napa Valley Reserve



This is decanted Napa Valley Reserve 2008, the remainder of a bottle we had already tasted ... and it's a truly incredible cabernet. Essentially the same wine as Harlan Estate cabernet that sells from $250 - $500 per bottle, Napa Valley Reserve is available exclusively to members of The Napa Valley Reserve for only about $100 the bottle.

A one of a kind private wine club for truly serious oenophiles, The Napa Valley Reserve has an invitation-only membership; I am personal friends with the Director and am happy to make an introduction for you.  This club is not for everyone - there is a one-time membership fee of $175,000 which also gets you your own exclusive row of grapes if you want to be hands-on in growing and harvesting your own grapes. Annual dues, including the purchase of a minimum six cases of wine per year (72 bottles), total about $10,000. At the end of your 30 year membership, your membership fee is returned to you. But enough about the commercial aspects of membership fees.

The Napa Valley Reserve is a private club for people truly serious about great food and wine. With 36,000 square feet of event space, members can have their events hosted at the Club (and catered by Meadowood). There is a schedule of events taking place all year round, and members stay right next door at Meadowood Napa Valley. But the whole point is that only Members have access to this incredible cabernet. You even have the privilege of developing your own custom blend and label. There is a minimum commitment of six cases per year (and you can split your purchase between cabernet and sauvignon blanc).

vines at The Napa Valley Reserve

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. As affiliates of Brownell Travel, we can provide our clients with Virtuoso amenities and amenities from other Brownell preferred hotel partners including Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, and more. All rights reserved. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website. For more info about the Reserve, contact Frank Ashmore, fashmore@thanapavalleyreserve.com

2.20.2015

Le Bristol Paris | drinks, dinner, and breakfast



Though 990€ sounds like a lot of money, there's a lot of value in this special. It includes:
  • a Deluxe room for the night (upgraded from Superior)
  • full breakfast for two in the morning
  • two cocktails at the bar
  • dinner for two at one of Paris's best restaurants, the Michelin-starred Brasserie 114 Faubourg
Given the normal room rate (950€), you're essentially getting dinner for two at 20€ per person!

One of sixteen Virtuoso five star hotels in Paris (click here), Le Bristol is ideally located if you've come to Paris to shop till you drop! Every room has been lovingly and individually decorated by the hotel's owner and features beautiful French fabrics and exquisite furnishings. Some rooms face the hotel's garden, and some of the rooms in the new addition even have a view of the Eiffel Tower. And don't miss the hotel's indoor pool on the top floor with a commanding view of Paris.

You can even prepay to lock in current exchange rates. This amazing offer is valid until May 15.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

2.19.2015

visiting the California Wine Country


Next week will take me to Napa County and Solano County, just north of San Francisco, for a site inspection trip to nine upscale inns and resorts in Wine Country.

This was supposed to have been a trip to Dubai, taking advantage of an incredible Ethiad Airways fare for travel consultants ... but, alas, it had to be ticked through Ethiad's New York ticket office and they would neither answer their phone (before it switched back over to the international agents) or answer their email. So instead of traveling 16 hours, I'll be going 45 minutes away from home in Berkeley.

A popular weekend and summer destination for oenophiles and gourmands, we will be staying at three different properties and visiting six others over our five days in Wine Country. We will be visiting three different Virtuoso member properties — Calistoga Ranch, Meadowood, and Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn (a fourth, Carneros Inn, won't have any rooms to show because of being fully booked).

I'll also be doing inspections of six luxury resorts that are not Virtuoso — Hotel les Mars, Hotel Healdsburg, The Farmhouse, Kenwood Inn, Auberge de Soleil, and Bardessono. Hopefully most or all of these will make it onto my google map of Ourisman Travel's Preferred Hotels in Wine Country!

Be watching this space for my impressions of our trip to Napa and Sonoma next week.


copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

2.12.2015

a chance to visit Norway as a photojournalist



Visit Norway has produced the video shown above, offering the chance to "land your dreamjob in Norway." Sounds like a great opportunity for a two-week trip to the most photogenic place I've ever visited! Here's the link to the job application site. The chosen photojournalist will receive roundtrip economy air from the US to Norway with Norwegian Airlines as well as accommodations and activities in the Oslo and Fjord regions. Sounds like the perfect dream job for the right traveler.

I visited Norway in 2010 on an incredible educational trip planned by The Travel Designer, the Virtuoso onsite for Norway and Scandinavia. If incredible scenery is your passion, I totally recommend the destination! Here's a slideshow of my pictures from that trip.



copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

2.04.2015

Amangiri | gateway to the desert southwest

photo by Robert Maynard, used by permission, all rights reserved

Amangiri is on my bucket list, and this picture sent by a client seals the deal. (He's given permission to show it on my blog.) Here's the story behind this amazing photo:
These pictures were taken in the Antelope Slot Canyons on the Navajo reservation a few minutes outside of Page, AZ. The Amangiri staff arranged for a local guide to pick us up in a 4 wheel drive SUV. The slot canyons are about a 30 minute drive from Amangiri. We spent two hours walking through three different slot canyons, all within a 5 minute drive from each other. 
Also within driving distance of Amangiri is the Grand Canyon where this beautiful scene of a bird in flight was captured.

photo by Robert Maynard, used by permission, all rights reserved

Virtuoso amenities add more value to your stay. You will receive the following perks when you book through your Virtuoso luxury travel consultant.
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests
  • Toiletry kit with Amangiri's signature sage shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body wash 
  • Choice of 30 minute scalp massage or neck/shoulder massage
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

2.03.2015

falling euro? time for European luxury travel!



With the Euro currently equal to $1.15, and the pound likewise devalued against the U. S. dollar,  this a great opportunity for luxury travel to Europe. The Euro has been close to $1.40 in recent months, meaning that you're getting a 17% discount on your European vacation if you travel today.

Here's how to save even more at the top luxury hotels of Europe. Our Preferred Partner hotel relationships translate into deals for you that are better than anything you're likely to find on an internet website.

Want proof? Here's a sample deal at Le Meurice, my personal favorite hotel in Paris with the perfect location right in the heart of the city. I chose a 3 night stay, 25APR-28APR, to take advantage of an amazing $1007 round-trip business class airfare from EWR to London (which you would follow with a short flight onto Paris).

Guaranteed upgrade! I can get you a guaranteed upgrade into a Deluxe Room (pictured above) for 860€ per night, inclusive of free full breakfast each day for two guests (including breakfast by room service), free premium internet for unlimited devices, and a 100€ hotel credit that comes right off your final bill. With the credit, your effective rate is 827€ per night = $949, including taxes and surcharges.

What about internet rates? Expedia is currently selling the same Deluxe room for $1,069.40 per night including taxes and surcharges ... and this is room only — no breakfast, no free internet, no hotel credit.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.