As part of our California vacation, we knew that we had to visit the wine country. We are by no means wine conniosseurs, but we would not say no to a good bottle of full bodied red wine of the shiraz, syrah, cabernet, or zinfandel variety. Wine is just one of those things that is very subjective. Anyone professing to be an expert in all varietals would be lying but it doesn't stop people from exploring and trying different types. That's the best part about wine is that just when you think you know what you like, you'll come across a bottle that will just open your eyes (and your taste buds) to a whole new sensation. Needless to say, I will have a wine cellar in my house in the future!
Napa Valley is also a beautiful place. As we drove through the country side, we encountered winery after winery. The summer meant that there had been very little rain, resulting in a landscape that was quite dry. Aside from the trees which provided the much needed green, you could tell that the grass had its better days. The drive was only a little over 2 hours from San Francisco as we stayed in the town of Calistoga, a short drive up north from St. Helena. Our accommodations could not have been better. Our choice was the Pink Mansion (literally pink on the outside). Don't let the color confuse you however, this bed and breakfast boast plenty of character and delivered some fantastic breakfasts. The interior was beautiful and classically done. All in all, it was a great stay and we would recommend this place to anyone. We were very glad that we chose to stay here instead of in the town of Napa to be honest with you!
W I N E R I E S
Anyway, back to the red stuff. There are just so many to consider when you go into the Napa Valley / Sonoma Valley region. If you are like us, you will have some trouble figuring out which ones to go to in the amount of time that you had. I can't help you with that decision since everyone's taste for wine differs but here are some of the ones that we visited:
/ Alpha Omega: Probably the location of our favorite red. This is not a brand that I had heard of before coming here but based on a recommendation from our host, we decided to give it a go. At first I thought the recommendation was a bit biased because she said she had a friend work here but boy are we glad we took that recommendation. Great service by the staff as they comped our wine tasting but we ended up buying a $88 bottle anyway (I don't usually buy anything over $50 so that should say something). They do not distribute the vast majority of their wines so you have to go to the winery to get a tasting. Simply put - come here!
/ Duck Horn: A beautiful location, this winery would be easy to miss if you didn't know where the turnoff was. The house was very... how would you say... homey? It has a bit of a large beach cottage feel to it with a fantastic patio. Even in the 30 degree heat, you could sit comfortably in the patio with the shade and the breeze blowing through. The red's are very bold, forward and aggressive. Very old world in its preparation, the merlots and cabernet's were really quite good. Each bottle here is at least $75 and up though so be prepared to fork up a bit if you like the wine.
/ Paraduxx: The sister winery to Duck Horn, we decided to give this a try as they specialized in red blends. We really enjoyed our tasting here, not only because of the service but because of the wine itself too. Served with some great cows milk cheese and some salty crackers, we sat down and enjoyed their cabernet, merlot and zinfandel blends. Smooth and complex, their wines were fantastic. We ended up buying a couple of bottles from here.
/ Sterling: Not much to say about this one. Come here for the view, not the wine.
/ V Sattui: We didn't get a chance to try the wine as we were rushing to get to our Duck Horn reservation but we did enjoy our BBQ picnic on the grounds!
Overall we had a great time visiting the wineries here. Still though, there were so many that we did not have time to see. Oh well, that's our reason for coming again!
F O O D
What would be a trip to Napa without a visit to Bouchon Bakery? Located in the town of Yountville, this place had quite the line up outside. The macarons were enormous and quite good. Is it as good as those in Paris? Probably not but in North America, I would say that these are right up there at the top.
That same day we also had a chance to eat at Ad Hoc. The menu is small and changes frequently. This is not one of those fancy schmancy restaurants where you have to worry about impressions. For all the talk and hype, this place has a very casual atmosphere and the food is low key but huge on flavor.
O V E R A L L
We had such a great time in wine country. We spent about 4 days here which was ample time. We just needed some time away from the city and Napa provided some quiet time for the both of us.