We had two days to spend in northern California before heading up to our departure port for a cruise to Alaska. What better way to spend it then with the vines?
Day One: We left San Fran over the Golden Gate Bridge. Still exciting no matter how many times I’ve seen it.
It’s such an awesome landmark and each time I go over it, I feel small as I look up passing under each towering red arch. We took our lunch break at an excellent roadside restaurant – Buckeye Roadhouse. The Buckeye Smoked Chicken salad was awesome – with Point Reyes blue cheese, it really hit the spot. And I tried a couple of the fries on the hubs’ plate – wow, they were delicious! Our stop was quick, as we were heading to a special appointment with some fine wine and fine folks.
We arrived at an exclusive, small production, top-notch vineyard that specializes in outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon in Calistoga. Harris Estate Vineyards. I am so lucky to have a good friend who just happens to have a very nice brother who, incidentally, owns this vineyard! The property is absolutely beautiful.
Tucked into the lush hillside, a narrow road winds past grapes growing, trees bowing, and a small waterway with sunbeams poking through to light the way. We were greeted by the owner, David, and the general manager, Colin, and their cute little winery dog who followed us and made me miss my pup. As we toured the property, with a few finely appointed guesthouses and the lovely main house, I had to keep picking up my jaw. The sunlight scampered across the pool, which I really wanted to dive right into but remembered to maintain my cool. And then we tasted the bounty of this endeavor – four incredibly luscious, velvety, rich cabs that just danced elegantly across my palate.
What a special treat. And spending time with the owners, David and Linda Jenkins, gave a glimpse into a dream. I didn’t want to intrude by taking too many pics of their beautiful home that doubles as an intimate tasting room, so I can only describe it as approachably elegant. Just like the wines!
Thank you to the beautiful couple kind enough to share their beautiful “this” with us! http://www.harrisestatevineyards.com
Our next stop was one of my wine clubs, Markham, in St. Helena. Markham wines are trusty, tasty and always good to have on hand. http://www.markhamvineyards.com. I love St. Helena. Been here several times. It’s a quaint little town surrounded by dozens of great vineyards and when I’ve stayed in town at the Harvest Inn, I’ve actually walked to many of them. I love walking. This trip was a quick one, so I decided to do it a little different since I knew we didn’t have time to stroll. Our night in Napa was at an adorably comfortable inn, 1801 First, just a few blocks from Main Street in downtown Napa.
Upon arrival, wine hour was a happening thing at the Inn. I felt like I was coming over to a friend’s house. We walked around to the patio and the innkeeper, Carrie, was chatting with the guests and welcomed us like an old friend (and a GOOD friend who greets you with a glass of wine!). Bonus points for having my favorite cheese on the cheese board – the Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove. See previous blogs about cheese. We checked into our room which was perfect. A comfy bed, a tub actually big enough for two grown ups to sit side by side – it was actually chilly that evening and the last time we felt like we needed to warm up on the east coast was probably three plus months ago!!
We decided to nix the fine dining and go for a rustic, soak-up-the-wine-carb-loaded sandwich at the Oxbow Market.
After all the wine drinking that day, we were actually too saturated to drink our bottle of champagne after dinner when we got back to the room! Champagne problems? We brought it to breakfast in the morning for mimosas!
Fresh fruit, fresh muffins, bacon and roasted potatoes, poached eggs, artfully crafted sweet red pepper romesco sauce. Not easy to leave this place! http://www.1801first.com.
Day Two: Back in downtown Napa for a little morning shopping before more wine tasting. And for me, back to the Oxbow Market! I dove into the plentiful array of aromatic spices at Whole Spice.
I really wanted all of theses spice mixtures, but settled on just a few to take with me. Stay tuned for how I cook with them!! And I tried a gin that changed my mind about gin!! Napa Valley Distillery. Very cool.
After some light shopping and a great picnic lunch from the Fatted Calf, we headed over to a beautiful winery on the Silverado Train, Clos Du Val. I’ve been a member of this wine club for about four years. They treat you great when you stop by for a tasting!! Anything on the tasting menus and anything hidden as well that they are willing to open!
We got to taste a 1995 cab that they had opened. Pretty cool!! However, I think my favorite of the day was their 2012 estate cab. So smooth and silky. I smile now thinking about it knowing that I have a bottle at home! We spent a couple hours here drinking and walking around the vineyards.
Thanks for a good time Napa! Cheers!! Now off to our Alaska cruise!! Stay tuned…