Happy Belated New Year. I’m still trying to recover from the holidays and vacation and get back on east coast time. I’m really looking forward to what this year has to hold, but must admit, I’m feeling the post vacation blues a little. How could I not? Napa Valley is amazing! I will definitely be going back someday. In fact, I would like to go back in every season. It was so beautiful, even with no grapes or leaves on the vine. I can just imagine it in bloom with the mustard color flowers, and full of plump grapes and green leaves.
We rang in the New Year in a low-key way knowing we had to be out the door the New Year’s day at 5:30 am. So we had an early dinner at our most frequented restaurant of 2013: Cooper’s Hawk. I ordered the chopped pesto caesar salad and the filet and lobster, and 2 truffles for dessert:
We watched the ball drop from the comfort of home then promptly hit the hay.
Early morning flight:
January 1st was a long day of travel, with a layover in Phoenix where we split a lovely plate of the Southwest for brunch, Huevos Rancheros:
We flew into San Fransisco and checked into a hotel there so we could spend the evening with my best friend from high school! I have not seen her in almost 8 years!!! Way too long. We met for an early dinner at Rocco’s Cafe which was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. We had the calamari, and I ordered a shrimp pasta which was very good, but I found myself doing a lot more talking than eating:
We spent the rest of the evening at Shannon’s place reminiscing. My beautiful friend has not aged a bit! Must be all that pilates. She owns a pilates studio, so if you are in the Bay area, check it out: Shannon Brown Pilates Studio
After a good night’s sleep, we checked out of the hotel and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to do a little San Francisco sight-seeing. I really wanted to see the famous sea lions of Pier 39 which my girl Shannon does an uncanny vocal impression of 🙂
We also saw Alcatraz, grabbed lunch at In and Out Burger, and bought a loaf of sourdough bread:
After lunch we headed north to Napa Valley and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge:
After we checked into the hotel in Napa Valley, we didn’t waste much time, we headed straight to our first winery stop, Artesa Winery. We found this one and several others through this Winery and tasting Pass finder App. They offer 2 for one tasting on many wineries.
Artesa Winery was beautiful, built into a mountain!
Next stop, Micheal Mondavi Winery. Michael is the son of the famous Robert Mondavi. The winery is much smaller than the now corporate owned Robert Mondavi, and we got personalized service and a great host to pour their wines and tell us some family and winery history. We bought 2 bottles of wine here.
Final tasting of the day was at Ceja Vineyards, which was a little tasting room in downtown Napa. We got some dinner recommendations and chatted with our tasting neighbors.
Dinner was at ZuZu’s, a tapas restaurant. We were not crazy about it to be honest, we had paella, stuffed squid, shrimp, and fish spread, just meh:
We were in bed EARLY!
The next morning we decided to grab a cup of coffee at Oxbow Market. A cute little conglomeration of restaurants, and shops.
And we grabbed some breakfast at Model Bakery which I have been wanting to try since I saw their English Muffins described on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, and they lived up to the hype, we came back every single day for breakfast.
After breakfast, we headed up to the Northern part of Napa Valley to Calistoga. What drew us to the area was a Winter Winery Passport they were promoting. Basically, for $75 you get tastings at 14 wineries as well as discounts for lodging and restaurants. Considering each tasting can range from $10 to $20, we thought this was quite a bargain. And we were able to just buy one and split most of the tastings, which was a perfect way to try more wines and not get too tipsy. There were a couple of exceptions, Sterling Winery and Castello di Amorosa both charge an entrance fee which includes a tasting, so we went ahead and purchased an additional one at those 2 wineries.
First stop of the day was Sterling Vineyards and Winery. A big winery with breathtaking views, an interesting self guided tour, and a scary gondola ride:
Just up the road was Twomey Cellars:
After lunch we stopped at a few tasting rooms downtown. First was W.H. Smith:
Then August Briggs Winery where we bought a good bottle of Pinot Noir:
I kept seeing these grape vines used in decor and I love them. I want one!
And finally, my favorite winery of the day, Madrigal Family Winery. Great service here and a personal tour:
And check out this awesome picture I snapped from sitting inside the winery, I love the soft colors:
A beautiful sunset:
We snacked our way through dinner with an arepa at Pica Pica Bar at the Oxbow Market (also on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive ins and Dives)
A couple of chocolates at Anette’s Chocolates:
Then an olive oil and vinegar tasting at Lucero Olive Oil:
Finally a meze platter at Tarla Mediterranean Grill:
Another early night to bed 🙂
The next morning was a repeat breakfast at Model Bakery and then back to Calistoga for more winery visits:
First stop Castillo di Amorosa:
Next, we discovered our hands down favorite winery and wine of the trip, T Vine Cellars. This is where I have had the best wine of my life thus far. The 2010 Zinfandel rocked my world, and I’m so sad I only got 1 bottle. And I love, love, love, the potted grapevine. Must get one!
Next stop Lava Vine Winery. I think what I like most about winery hopping in Napa Valley is that each winery is so unique and stepping into each one is like entering a new little world. Lava Vines was very laid back:
Zahtila Vineyards was literally like sitting at Laura and Micheal’s (the owner’s) house and hanging out with them. They had the cutest black lab named Rocki who met us in the parking lot and led us to the tasting room.
We were more than ready for lunch at this point, so we headed to Buster’s Southern BBQ for an amazing tri tip sandwich:
This hit the spot and soaked up enough alcohol to continue our adventure.
Chateau Montelena Winery was next:
Then Bennett Lane Winery:
One final stop at Sutter Home Winery (free tasting) before we snagged a pizza and wings to eat in the hotel room. We had definitely reached our limit at this point. So another early night to bed for us.
The next morning started pretty much the same. I have no idea how I escaped a headache or hangover this whole trip, but luckily I did. At this point Matt probably would have been happy with or without anymore winery visits. I on the other hand, could spend the rest of my days happily winery hopping 🙂
After another Model Bakery English muffin breakfast sandwich, we stopped at Beaulieu Vinyards (BV).
Then to Frog’s Leap Vineyards. I really enjoyed this seated tasting. We sat out on the back porch, and the gentleman poured all 4 wines at once, which was nice that we could enjoy them at our own pace, in privacy. He also brought us a little snack plate with delicious cheese, crackers,dried fruits, and nuts.
The weather was beautiful! In fact, the whole trip was unseasonably warm and dry. Not a bit of rain, and chilly mornings, but highs in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. We sat outside, sipped, talked, nibbled, enjoyed the view and got a little silly:
We were able to stroll around the property and the vineyards. Although there are no grapes on the vines, it still is beautiful! I lied, we found a couple of shriveled up grapes and I ate them 🙂 They were just fresh picked raisins.
Next stop Heitz Cellar, where the tastings are always free 🙂
Next it was time for lunch and our favorite meal of the trip at Mustard’s Grill. It was featured on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” where Bobby Flay raved about the Mongolian pork chops, so that is what I ordered. It was quite amazing as was Matt’s lamb burger. And the T Vine 2010 Grenache rocked my world again. I’m seriously considering signing up for their wine club:
After lunch we went to Hagafen Winery:
And finally, our last winery of the trip was Black Stallion Winery Estate. I must have been done at this point too, because I didn’t get a picture 😦
After 21 wineries in 3 and a half days, it was time to go home.
Chinese food take out and another early night to bed for us:
The next morning, we were off to San Francisco airport. Then a long layover in Houston. Dinner in the airport was bruschetta and salad, I was more than ready for some vegetables.
And now we are home trying to adjust back into our routines and focus on our goals for the year. What a way to start the year!