One good thing about living in a “world of two” (plus flexible work schedules) is that we can plan trips on a whim. Two weeks ago J proposed taking a road trip out of the blue. We were debating between Napa and Yosemite, but decided on Napa since J had always wanted to revisit the region, and I had never been.
Napa’s famous for 2 things: wine and food, so it was the perfect choice for J. For me, I just wanted to take the new car on a long distance trip.
We left LB right after work at 4PM to start the trek up north. Our pit stop was Santa Barbara. The reason for the stop was to have dinner at Bouchon, easily my favorite restaurant. The attentive service, intimate dining ambience, and fresh ingredients are top notch. The overnight stay at the Ramada Inn, not so much; but at least they had free breakfast.
Left SB early in the morning, and arrived in Napa 6 hours later. Checked in with our Airbnb host, Julia.
As I was looking to book hotels in the area I was struck by how expensive hotel accommodation is in the area. Since we’ll be spending all day out and about, all we need in a hotel is a clean room and comfortable bed. Paying anything more than $150/night is just unnecessary. Unfortunately, in Napa anything under $150 doesn’t guarantee either a clean room or comfortable bed. So I went searching on Airbnb, and found a room in a private home for the right price. This place was immaculate, and the foam memory bed with the silky Kirkland sheets rival any 5-star hotel. The 4 little dogs greeting you everyday was a bonus.
After dropping off our belongings, we drove to Yountville for dinner. Since we couldn’t get any reservations at The French Laundry, we settled for Bouchon. Yes, you’ve read it right. They have a Bouchon in Yountville as well. However, this one leaves more to be desired.
Anyone who’s familiar with culinary arts knows about The French Laundry. Even though we couldn’t dine there we still managed to check out it’s vegetable patch, which is across the street from the establishment.
The Bouchon Bistro left much to be desired, but the Bouchon Bakery was a whole different story. The breads and the cakes were fabulous, and that’s where we had breakfast before hitting the winery.
Afterwards, it was off to Kuleto for our tour and sit-down wine tasting. Unlike most wineries’ walk-in tasting rooms located off Hwy 29, Kuleto doesn’t have a walk-in tasting room, and the wine tours are by appointments only. The winery is located off the beaten path and on gated private land. The drive to the winery itself was worth the experience.
I have never been much of a fan of walking into a tasting room and plunking down money just to have a few sips of random wine. Too bar-like. The Kuleto experience was just that, an experience. We got to learn about the winery’s history, tour the beautiful grounds, and then sit down and appreciate the wine paired with some cheese.
J walked out with 2 bottles of the 2009 Danielli.
On the way to lunch at Tra Vigne we drove past Heitz Cellars‘ wine tasting room off Hwy 29, and decided that we’d check it out afterwards if we were up for it. Fortunately we were, and were pleasantly surprise by the complimentary wine tasting. Heitz is one of the few left in Napa that still offers complimentary tastings.
Recently I’ve become a port convert, and have been drinking only that. After tasting Heitz’s Ink Grade Port, I ended up getting 2 bottles.
Dinner was neapolitan pizza at Ca Momi at the Oxbow public market in downtown Napa. Average pizza and subpar service. I’ve never left 10% tip at any joint, but I did at this place, which goes to show how bad the service was.
After a 12-mile run along the Napa River Trail, we were off to Caymus vineyards, where J did some damage.
Again, this was a sit-down tasting paired with cheese, and we were given a run-down of the vineyard’s history. Unlike Kuleto, which started only in 2003, Caymus has been around since 1972.
J’s a sucker for the SS. Shortly after the tasting, he was ready to part with his hard earned money, but as he sat around a little allowing the buzz to wear off, his better judgement got a hold of him and convinced him otherwise. However, after doing some calculations and research on market pricing & availability, we went for it.
Then we were off to Sonoma, the birthplace of the California Republic.
Steeped in history, this quaint Spanish-style town plaza is a nice place for an afternoon stroll, but it’s also where we found the best Portuguese restaurant, LaSalette.
Two days in Napa was a nice break, but we were ready to head home. There was only so much wine we could imbibe, and it’s hard staying away from paradise for too long.
We lunched (Bouchon herb ciabatta, which we bought by accident, with some Sonoma Vella cheese) at the Bixby Bridge before making a pit stop at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon.
After watching the movie at the Hearst visitor center, and going on the guided tour, we were much more impressed with the architect, Julia Morgan, than we were of William Hearst himself.
All in all this was a great trip, but it’s time to detox, not so much from the wine, but from the food.