Thursday, August 24, 2006

Second Annual Trip to Napa Wine Country

Earlier this month was the second annual "girls-gone-wild" trip to Napa. Me and three of my girlfriends drove up to Napa Valley, about an hour east of San Francisco, stayed at B&B and did some intense wine tasting. Before I launch into the rest of this post, it's very important to note that I am a lightweight. A quarter glass of wine gets me tipsy. My friends note that this is a shame because I have a "good palate." I know very little about wine, but seem to be able to taste all the flavors everyone talks about during wine tastings (I once described an "earthy" wine as "licheny" since everyone agreed that "mossy" wasn't a good description; they agreed that my observations were spot on). My tolerance was even lower than usual this year because my usual drinking buddy moved to Southern California.

Accomodations: Internet pictures of an unfamiliar bed and breakfast can be very deceiving. Sure you can see the rooms, but you can't see the fact that there's a layer of dust on the furniture. There's a great view, but there's tons of the innkeeper's crap everywhere else and the innkeeper will gladly watch your dog, but that doesn't stop her 4 year old granddaughter from coming into your room unannounced

Silverado Trail is overall the best place to concentrate if this is not your first trip to Napa and you're visiting Napa on the weekend in the Summer. The main road, Hwy 29, was like a parking lot.

Friday Night Highlights: Dinner. At. Martini House. Without a doubt, this is one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in. Keep in mind I haven't traveled much, but the food here was truly amazing. Located in St. Helena, this is an upscale restaurant with great atmosphere. I ordered Cream of Mushroom soup (unbelievable) and Flatiron Steak in Cabernet sauce (Jesus Christ!!). My friends had lamb (excellent), halibut with crab raviolis (yummy) and duck. I don't like eating duck at all, but the duck was knock-you-flat-on-your-ass fantastic. We drank a lot of champagne, wine and port. I lost track of which ones we had, but they were all great.

Saturday Highlights: We hit the following wineries Cuvaison, Mumm, Merryvale and Rutherford Hill. Cuvaison was nice and small. Pretty good wine.

Mumm was overall the most fun. Depending on what you pay for your tastings, you can get between 4-7 glasses of sparkling wine (what people incorrectly call champagne). You sit on the patio at your own table with an umbrella. It's a beautiful day. You drink your sparkling wine. Things get rosy and tipsy. Really fun.

Merryvale is located just off of Hwy 29. Good wine. I limited my tastings to two glasses instead of the usual five which my friends had. They had this stunning long table for special events. It reminded me of something out of Harry Potter (see below).

We spent quite a bit of time trying to get into some other wineries for tasting, but it seems that many of them are requiring reservations. Our last winery of the day was Rutherford Hill. Really good wine. I'd been to this winery years ago on my honeymoon and it's a great tour. I highly recommend it so you can see the caves. We didn't do the tour this time. Rutherford Hill is also a wonderful place to have a picnic. There's a nice view of Napa.

For pre-dinner drinks (!) we stopped next door at the bar at Auberge du Soleil. Auberge is legendary for its luxury. We had pizza, french fries and oysters. The oysters were glorious. Whew! I was pretty much tanked by the time we were sitting on the balcony overlooking Napa (see below) so I had an Irish coffee. That sort of perked me up before dinner. Sort of.

Dinner that night was at Press, also in St. Helena, located next door to Dean and Deluca. Dinner was great although I can't for the life of me remember what I had. My friend had a filet mignon which melted in my mouth when I had a taste. More wine, champagne and port. Good thing we hired a driver that night. Dean and Deluca is a great, upscale grocery store. Wonderful for picnic supplies if you don't mind spending money.

Sunday Highlights: Amazingly enough I was the only person who wasn't hung over. Sunday's tastings were decidely more upscale. We had to make reservations for each of wineries we went to: Quintessa, Joseph Phelps and Duckhorn.

Quintessa was the most upscale and most expensive. $25 for two tastings. We also got a sliver of brie, a tiny slice of blue cheese and two buttons of quince paste. My girlfriends insisted that the Cab we tried was the best overall wine of the weekend. They know all about wine. Knock your socks off. I liked it just fine, but found myself enjoying wines at other places more. Plus it was $120 a bottle.

Joseph Phelps was a wonderful tasting experience. You take your glass to two wine stations and then sit on the patio. It was another gorgeous day. The view was lovely as you can see from the picture below. My brother had requested a fruity, but not sweet Merlot so I bought him a bottle of the 2002 Merlot. It's quite good. Fruity, spicy.

We saved best for last. The glorious Duckhorn estate boasted not only the best wines overall, but a great tasting experience. You pay your $10 (3 glasses) or $15 (5 glasses) and wait for someone to call you. When you get into the tasting room, you get your own table, your own person to explain what the wines are and your own little bottle of water. Each wine has a little card explaining things like what the weather was like that year, what types of varietals are blended into the wine, etc. I bought my brother another 2002 Merlot which just kicks ass (we've already drank it). I also bought a 2005 Sauvignon Blanc which is fruity, fresh and perfect on a hot summer day. I almost never drink white wine and it takes a lot to impress me, but this shit is fantastic. The farmhouse-on-steriods architecture is beautiful (see below). You can't see it here, but there's a huge, wide wraparound porch on the house. Yes, that's my box of wine in the lower right corner. I'm thinking of joining their wine club.

Lunch was in Yountville at Bistro Jeanty. The food was good, but the service was lousy (they almost triple charged me). Their Tomato Soup in Puff Pastery was wonderful though. I had no idea tomato soup could taste like that.

We made it home safely and have already started planning next year's trip (probably to Santa Barbara for a "Sideways" experience).

1 comment:

anne said...

MT, this sounds like such a fun weekend! I did a very short tour of 3 wineries in Oregon in September with a girlfriend 18 years ago (!!!) and it was a wonderful way to spend the day. I am longing to go back even more now!

I am also glad to know that this was the adventure to which you were referring on the choka several weeks ago. By your comments, I was worried you had done some sort of drinking binge on your own...