Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Napa Valley, Day 3

On our last day in Napa, we knew we had to take it easy, but we also had at least 2 more places that were on our must-see list. The first of those was Cade Estate.

From looking at their website, we knew we'd need a reservation, but they were completely booked. So, we took a chance and drove up there anyway, even if it meant we'd only get to see the property.

Make no mistake, this winery is tucked away at the top of the mountain, and isn't quick or easy to get to, but let me tell you this: GO HERE. STOP EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING AND GO HERE.

So, not only did we NOT have a reservation, but we showed up at their door at 10:15am, only to find out that they didn't even open until 11:00am. DUH.

However, the wonderful man working (I am so mad I can't remember his name) gave us a tasting anyway because we had driven all the way up. Even though he was busy setting up for the day, he took his time to explain the wines to us and answered questions. This is going above and beyond and just added to the experience.

I mean seriously, is this real???

My husband taking creeper photos of me.

We scooped up a bottle of their Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon because it almost made me cry it was so good. I can't wait to pop that baby open some day (hopefully soon) and relive this experience again. But trust me: I WILL be going back to Cade. It's not if, it's when.

From Cade, we headed down the Silverado Trail just to look at all of the beautiful vineyards on that side of the valley.

Since it was nearby, we decided to go to Cade's sister winery, Plumpjack Cellars, because we had had a great experience with a sister winery the day before at Twomey.

Our hostess, Michelle, was AWESOME. I wanted her to be my sister. The surfer vibe at Plumpjack was just laid back and cool. The wines were pretty good. Not as good as Cade, but it was definitely refreshing to be in an informal setting.

By then it was time for lunch. We wanted something quick and easy, since we had reservations for dinner, so per Michelle's suggestion we headed a mile over the Oakville Grocery.

This place was really cool. Their deli was better than V Sattui's, which is saying alot. I didn't take a picture of my food because it didn't last long enough, but it was gooooooood.

From there, we made our way to Joseph Phelps Vineyards for our tasting reservation.

This is another Cabernet that I LOVE, but I had never tried their signature wine, Insignia, which was in Wine Spectator's List of Best Cabernets.

Their facility is actually undergoing a renovation right now, so our tasting was on their temporary terrace. This was no big deal though, because the view was still beautiful and the wine was incredible.

Fun fact: They had a small stack of these boxes in the corner of the tasting room that they were giving away for free! We are hoping to have a mini wine-cellar type thing in our basement, so we swooped this box right up and Jon carried it on with him on the plane. He literally did that. 


We stayed at Joseph Phelps for awhile, then went to both St. Helena and Yountville to do some shopping. The charming little area of St. Helena has about two blocks of quaint little shops, but for two 30-somethings, this area was pretty dull. The best way to describe it is "shops to take your grandma to." We had fun though and bought a few souvenirs. My favorite place was the St. Helena Oil Olive Company, where I bought a tiny jar of phenomenal garlic sea salt that I've been putting on everything I cook lately.

The V Marketplace in Yountville was pretty similar in terms of targeted shopper demographic (which must be women over 60) but the Wine Cellar shop was AWESOME. We bought several things from this place, and honestly, I could have spent an hour in there looking at all of the different types of wine and wine accessories.

From there, we went to Tra Vigne for (shocker) a glass of wine while we waited for our dinner reservation. We were bummed that our trip was almost over, but when you have two prizes waiting for you at home (our daughters), the end of vacation isn't too sad.

You know, it's so hard to rate what my favorite meal in Napa was, because we had so many different things and different types of cuisine that you really can't compare them. But if I had to choose a favorite, it might be Tra Vigne, and here's why:

1. The Mozzarella "Al Minuto" which is hand-made at the moment it's ordered and comes out to you in less than a minute, so it is the freshest and most decadent cheese you'll ever experience.

2. Our server. I *think* his name was Neal. He was just awesome. So informative, good sense of humor, and completely customized our meals for us just because he could.

3. The Pasta. I don't think I can ever go to an Olive Garden again after sampling their Asparagus and Ricotta Ravioli, the Maltagliadi Verde, or their Rigatoni Carbonara. I can't remember if I had a favorite because they were all divine.

4. The Molten Lava Cake. The end.

With our bellies full and our hearts content, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and head to bed early, because we had to leave for the airport at the beautiful hour of 3:30am. 

What more can I say about this trip? It was perfect from start to finish. The weather, the wine, and the company especially. The "goal" I had for this trip was well-achieved. I relaxed, reflected and ate a TON of food with my best friend and celebrated the best 5 of the past 30 years of my life. 

I can't wait to go back to Napa, and I know there will be many more trips to this perfect area in our future. But the memories of this first trip will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

Thanks for reading! After this month-long recap of our time in Northern California, it's ironic that I'm leaving for Southern California tomorrow for a conference. And three fine ladies are joining me too! You might recognize this one. Keep up with me on Instagram (audra5909) for pictures of what I do best - eat! ;-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Napa Valley, Day 2

To kick off our second full day in the Valley, we headed up North to Castello di Amorosa. Designed to an authentic representation of a 13th century Tuscan castle, I was very much looking forward to checking this place out. I mean, I love Tuscan wines (read our engagement story to see why) so how could I not love this place???

We didn't do the full tour, but we did do a tasting here. 

The wines were fine, but definitely nothing to write home about. This was probably my least favorite tasting experience (partially due to the wines and partially because of the pushy salesman serving us) but the view alone made the trip well worth it. 

Feeling ever so slightly disheartened and ready to try some real (non-touristy) wines, we decided to swing over to Twomey Cellars, the sister store of our favorite place from the day before, Silver Oak.

The wine tasting room is nothing fancy, but it was quiet clean and the staff were so friendly.

The best part? We tried their 2009 Merlot and instantly fell in love. We went to Napa to find the perfect Cabernet and ended up walking out the door with a Merlot. That's how good it was. I will definitely go back there again.

After two tastings, we were ready for lunch, so decided to try and get in at another famous Napa restaurant, the Rutherford Grill.

They were on a little bit of a wait, so we popped next door to BV Vineyards for a quick tasting. We drink their wine alot at home, so we knew it would be a good tasting experience. By this point in the day, I was feeling fantastic and very quickly made best friends with Victor, who let me take a picture with him and a giant wine bottle. Don't question it.

Thankfully, it was then time to eat, and I ordered an incredibly simple and DELICIOUS cheeseburger. It was seriously so good, and exactly what I needed to, ahem, sober up and enjoy the rest of the day.

Next up? Opus One.

I always see Opus One listed under the Carbernet sections at restuarants, but I never order because, oh, I don't know, it's $350 a bottle typically and that doesn't pair well with the $15 burger I'm usually housing down. But when in Napa, do as the Napians (?) do??

The tasting experience here was simply wonderful. It was quiet and peaceful, and my GOODNESS that wine. Oh that wine. So good. Just so good. I think about it in my dreams. 

Love him.

The view here was also spectacular and if you're a Cabernet fan, this is an absolute must-stop.

Feeling like I had just had a glass of the world's most perfect wine, we went over to Inglenook.

The grounds here were also stunning, but when it came down to it, we were both a little too buzzed to taste more wine at that moment, so we just walked around.

I will say though, Inglenook wins the prize for "Coolest Gift Shop" that we saw. So many cool things, I wanted to take everything home.

After touring around for awhile, we decided to squeeze in one more visit after a recommendation from our friend Victor at BV.

We only intended to get one glass of wine here to split, but imagine our surprise when we walked in and the entire tasting was free. I mean, if it's free, I'm not gonna NOT try it, right?

So, we enjoyed our free tasting with our feet up by the cool fountain and the light breeze. I actually preferred their whites to their reds, but all were good.

We thought about going for another nice dinner, but after such a full day, I knew Gott's Roadside had to happen again. I got the chicken fingers, which burnt my mouth because I refused to let them cool before I had to gobble them down, but it was well worth it.

As you can see, another successful day in Napa Valley was in the books! 

post signature