Ilona Thompson

Member Since:
Feb 2015

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography. She is a contributor to Wine Behind the Label book (now in its 10th edition) and has written for 7x7, Artful Living, Drink Me, Glass of Bubbly, Snooth, and several other wine, food and travel publications. Post her successful stints in the fine art and wine business, she pursued her passion for writing. She splits her time between visiting wine regions worldwide, attending trade and consumer tastings, taking professional development courses and judging at wine competitions. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America, (CIA) and holds a California Wine Appellation Specialist certification (CWAS). Her recent international destinations include multiple regions in France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand as well as the Cayman Islands and Tahiti. Stateside, she has spent the last several years extensively covering Napa, Sonoma and Anderson Valley, Central Coast, Paso Robles, Lodi and Livermore wine regions. Ilona is a wine and spirits judge and a speaker. She covered a multitude of notable wine and food consumer events, such as Auction Napa Valley, Aspen Classic, Harvest Summit, Naples Winter Wine Festival, New York City Food & Wine, Pebble Beach Food & Wine, Sonoma Harvest Weekend, Sun Valley Wine Auction and several others. She has interviewed countless celebrity chefs, vintners, winemakers, and several other food and wine influencers. She earned a “Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blogger Award” from Exel Wines, was chosen as a Finalist in both Wine Blogger Awards and in Wine Reporting category by Millesima Wine Writing Awards, is an expert digital communicator and avid photographer. Ilona is ranked in the top 1% of all social media influencers, according to Klear Analytics, and has a score of 948 on Kred. 

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Published Articles (86)

Take Your Palate On Holiday at Holiday Inn

I first met Chef Kriztian Karkus at the Meritage Resort several years ago. His food got my immediate attention: top-notch ingredients, deep, rich flavors, great aesthetics. I was sad to […]

Up County – Down to Earth…Calistoga, California

Some statistics suggest that more people visit Napa Valley every year than Disneyland. That’s great news, though most wind up in the Napa area, perhaps venturing out to Yountville, Rutherford […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Chuck McKahn

Chuck McKahn has been Winemaker at Wm. Harrison since January of 2016. He was raised in the sleepy almond farming community of Ripon, CA and a keen interest in winemaking […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Lisa Strid

Lisa Strid, a Wyoming native who fell in love with wine while working alongside her uncle on his small vineyard and winery in the wilds of western Washington.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Steve Tonella

Steve Tonella was born in Napa Valley and grew up living in Sonoma and Rutherford. From an early age he worked in the vineyards with his father and grandfather. Enjoying […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Rob Davis

Rob Davis holds the rare distinction in California of serving as winemaker at one winery for more than 40 years. His tremendous technical background, empirical wisdom, desire for discovery, and […]

Walnut Creek Takes Its Place on the Bay Area Culinary Map

As the exodus from San Francisco’s soaring cost of living continues, talented restaurant staff and the Millennials and others who like to eat their food are increasingly decamping to the […]

An Inside Guide to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

Wine country conjures an immediate inference: azure skies, lush vineyards and clinking crystal. Just an hour from San Francisco lies a hedonist’s paradise, a place primed for seeking out well-appointed […]

Tuesdays With Tastemakers – Daryl Muromoto

It comes as little surprise that Daryl Muromoto, the Executive Chef at Beringer Vineyards, is both a practitioner of meditation and energy healing, as well as a major NASCAR fan. […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Steve Matthiasson

Steve Matthiasson dreamt of farming his entire life. He became an obsessed gardener and cook while studying philosophy in college.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – David Tate

David Tate, a native of British Columbia, Canada, is the Proprietor and Winemaker of TATE. For nearly 20 years, he has worked all over the world in many facets of […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Chris Russi

Chris Russi has always had an affinity for science and the outdoors.

Larger Than Life — Vino Visionary, Gérard Bertrand

Gérard Bertrand is Languedoc-Roussillon’s most esteemed vigneron. Having set out on a quest to reveal Languedoc-Roussillon’s terroir—its character and soul—not his own stylistic preferences, Bertrand has built an empire from […]

Great American Escapes – Fredericksburg and Texas Hill Country

I don’t know Texas very well. Having only visited three cities, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. However, I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, […]

Great American Escapes: Sun Valley and Boise, Idaho

Once upon a time, this adventurer set out to discover Idaho and Sun Valley, where the famous Sun Valley Auction takes place.

Goodwill Hunting at Premiere Napa Valley

In its 21st year, Premiere Napa Valley is a trade-only futures auction that attracts hundreds of wine retailers from around the world. 217 lots were sold, 172 live, plus 45 […]

Does Color Matter in Pinot Noir?

I’ve read some of the wine chat board postings which, you can guess, is a dangerous thing for a winemaker to do (read, that is), but there you have it.

Inside the Inn at Newport Ranch

The Inn at Newport Ranch is much more than a place, it’s a revelation.

Why Wine? An Open Love Letter

Unlike other beverages, wine has transformative powers. It is chameleonic, often changing the ordinary into an extraordinary.

Pondering Prosecco

Prosecco is a place of spectacular natural beauty. It’s close to world-renown Venice and the gorgeous city of Verona.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Dustin Valette

In this week’s Tuesdays with Tastemakers, Chef Dustin Valette of his namesake restaurant talks about why he became a chef, his family, and more!

Rome Reckoning

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day. So is visiting it, apparently.

From Russia with Wine

When one thinks about the ways émigrés from Russia influenced western culture, wine certainly doesn’t come to mind. Yet one Russian immigrant changed that.

Wine Writers in Glass Houses

It’s time for wine writers to stop demonizing others, and focus on improving and honing their own skills.

Pondering Prosecco

Prosecco is a place of spectacular natural beauty. It’s close to world-renown Venice and the gorgeous city of Verona.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Jeff Hansen

An interview with Jeff Hansen of Lula Cellars.

Sleepless in Sicily

The reality of Sicily is pointed in an entirely different direction. It is one of those places that draws you in for all the unexpected reasons.

Walnut Creek Takes Its Place on the Bay Area Culinary Map

Walnut Creek has lately been nudging its way onto the Bay Area culinary map with a host of new restaurants.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Aaron Pott

An interview with Aaron Pott of his namesake brand, Pott Wines.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith of Hourglass Wines talks about his dreams of being a rock star, Budweiser, using the “F” word, General George Patton and more!

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Cary Gott

For more than 40 years, Cary Gott has mastered his winemaking skills, producing world class vintages for some of California’s most acclaimed wineries.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – José Andrés

Gregarious, with an infinite sense of humor, José is as well-known for his warm, radiant spirit and infectious laughter as for his gastronomic prowess.

Small Maremma. Large Dilemma.

Maremma is only a two-hour drive southwest of Florence. Once the land of outlaws, cowboys and sheep farmers, it is now a significant wine producing region.

Lugana’s Laid-back Luminosity

Lugana DOC, a small region with just over one-hundred producers and around a hectare of vines, was established in 1967.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Tina Mitchell

As with most winemakers, Tina Mitchell’s interest in wine developed early, while she was attending the University of California, Davis, as a premed student.

Sonoma’s Fifty Shades of Great – Sonoma County Barrel Auction 2016

Occasionally, my wine goblet runneths over. Starting with two Sonoma tasting events, then attending the Sonoma County Barrel Auction—all culminating with a La Paulée dinner, one could not have envisioned […]

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Charles Smith

Charles Smith is the winemaker and general factotum for Smith-Madrone Vineyards & Winery.

Wine Review Series #2 — Roussillon Collection

A few tasting notes on wines hailing from Roussillon, France.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Tom Gamble

Tom Gamble’s boyhood days often began before sunrise; herding cattle, working irrigation lines and emulating older ranchers and farmers from the back of the pack.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Dario De Conti

Dario De Conti was raised on his family’s farm in Veneto, Italy, where he funded his winemaking studies by making pizza at the local pizzeria.

Restaurant Review Series #5 — La Mar

If you happen to be in San Francisco’s waterfront district, missing out on the extraordinary La Mar is a culinary sin.

Bardolino’s Bold Move

Bardolino is a charming coastal village located on the eastern side of Lake Garda, in the province of Verona.

The Many Faces of Lago di Garda

Lago di Garda is shared by Lombardy and Veneto regions with a tiny bit of Trentino-Alto Adige at its northern tip.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Rob Campbell

Rob Campbell is a 4th generation San Franciscan. After growing up in San Francisco and nearby Daly City, Rob decided to travel a great distance for college.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Rick Moonen

Chef Rick Moonen has devoted his career to being the country’s top culinary advocate for sustainable seafood.

Restaurant Review Series #4 — S&P Brasserie

S&P Brasserie offers fantastic cocktail concoctions, but falls short of delivering memorable meals.

Restaurant Review Series #3 — Sante

Sante is as upscale and high-class as Sonoma itself!

Wine Review Series #1 — Champagne & Sparkling Wine

Champagne & sparkling wine reviews.

Restaurant Review Series #2 — Dirty Water

San Francisco’s Dirty Water offers an outstanding combination of upscale drinks and innovative food.

Restaurant Review Series #1 — Roka Akor

Roka Akor, located in San Francisco, serves up incredible Japanese contemporary cuisine.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Ben Cane

An interview with Westwood’s Ben Cane.

Premiere Napa Valley – A Powerful Preview of 2014 Vintage

Premiere Napa Valley offers unprecedented opportunities for the trade and media to access and acquire some of the most coveted wines in the oeno-verse.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Brooks Painter

Brooks Painter has been called “the winemaker’s winemaker” because of his extensive expertise and prominence as a wine industry leader among his peers.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Roman Petry

An interview with Roman Petry of Roka Akor.

Top 10 Festivals No Wine and Food Lover Should Miss

Mark these wine and food events on your calendar right away—you can’t afford to miss them!

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Philippe Melka

An interview with Philippe Melka, proprietor of Melka Wines.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Tracey Hawkins

An interview with Tracey Hawkins of Hawk and Horse Vineyards.

Tuesdays with Tastemakers – Fabio Viviani

Charismatic and unstoppable, Chef Fabio Viviani is everyone’s favorite—he can charm anyone, from a casual foodie to the toughest of Top Chef judges.

Top Advances in Wine Technology and What They Mean to Us

The truth is—great wines are made with great technology. Or without.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Richie Allen

Though he grew up near one of the most famous wine regions of Australia, it was an afternoon spent tasting wine in California that provided Richie Allen’s “aha” moment…

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Elizabeth Vianna

An interview with Chimney Rock Wines’ Elizabeth Vianna.

Anatomy of a Barrel Tasting

Most wine lovers have heard the term “barrel tasting.” Yet, some wonder how does it really work, and what does it represent in the wine evolution process?

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Garrett Busch

An interview with Trinitas Cellars’ Garrett Busch.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Jesse Katz

An interview with Devil Proof’s Jesse Katz.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Alcohol

Alcohol. A colorless, odorless, tasteless substance that, in the last decade, became the subject of a major controversy in the wine industry.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Alejandro Llamas

Alex Llamas grew up in the vineyards…sort of.

Next Gen Napa Vintners & Winemakers

There is a new generation of winemakers in Napa, and they just might surprise you.

Top Ten Lame Lexicon Terms – Lessons in Wine Language

A an insightful, satirical piece, highlighting overused wine terms.

A Wine Tasting Host with the Most

Wine Tasting Tips for any level of involvement in the world of wine.

The Judgement of Houston – Rodeo Uncorked

Recap of my wine judging experience at the third largest wine competition

48 Hours in Beverly Triangle – Bevy of Beverly Hills Wine Bonanza

Beverly Hills has been right under my nose all these years. I never thought that I would have such a fun time there.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Regina Martinelli

An interview with Regina Martinelli of Martinelli Winery.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Remi Cohen

An interview with Cliff Lede’s Remi Cohen.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Molly Hill

An interview with Sequoia Grove’s Molly Hill.

Lodi Mother Lode

Lodi, a vast region located in the midst of San Francisco Bay and Sierra Nevada Mountains, is only an hour and a half away from San Francisco.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Gavin Chanin

An interview with Gavin Chanin of Chanin Wines.

Top Ten Wineries of Howell Mountain

Howell Mountain Appellation, with its rolling hills, picturesque views and unique setting offers outstanding options to anyone willing to veer slightly off-the-beaten-path.

Wednesdays with Winemakers – Becky George

An interview with Becky George of Kelly Fleming Wines.

Dry Creek Valley Decadence

The Dry Creek Valley (DCV) stretches over sixteen miles of breathtaking vistas. It’s merely two miles wide, yet hosts over 9,000 acres planted to a wide range of grape varietals.

Top Fifteen Wineries of Paso Robles

Paso Robles is an easy three hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area and is a must visit for any wine lover.

Top 10 Wineries Of Russian River Valley

Villa Maria Masterful Moments

Four Cs Of Cayman Cookout

Top Ten West Sonoma Coast Wineries

Gérard Bertrand – The Man and The Brand

If you don’t know Gérard Bertrand, you don’t know the South of France.

Breitling Ballet

Some experiences are profound, life-changing and mind-altering. Flying as a passenger in a Breitling Jet Team plane was such a moment. It will forever be etched in my memory as […]