The next leg of our West Coast adventure took us to picturesque Napa Valley.
Now, in preparation for our visit, I googled a lot about Napa and wine tasting and found a few blogs that all raved about Napa Valley but started out saying “We don’t drink but…” or “We don’t really like wine but…” Well let me lay it out now: WE LOVE WINE. Probably a little too much, but that’s an issue for another time. Make no mistake, Napa is absolutely gorgeous. But we were DEFINITELY there for the wine.
We rented a car in San Francisco on a Sunday morning and headed up Route 80. It was a pretty quick ride (an hour or so) and we soon found ourselves surrounded by fields and fields of grapes, with mountains rising above in the background. The weather was fabulous too — mid 70s and sunshine.
Our first stop of the day was Domaine Chandon, the American sister of the French Moet & Chandon. I read that you really don’t want to start off your day (before noon, especially) with a full-bodied red. I concurred and so we began with some sparkling wine. The place wasn’t very crowded at that time so we hung out at the bar and split two samplers while enjoying the views. We got to keep the glasses as souvenirs and amazingly, I was able to keep them in one piece for the next two weeks. They rolled around the back floor of our rental car from Napa to LA to Vegas to Arizona. Then they were stuffed into a backpack for another week and lugged to Phoenix, then Tucson, then Phoenix again before dragging them onto my flight back to Jacksonville.
We headed a little farther down the road to Robert Mondavi in Oakville. We usually drink his Woodbridge wine, so we decided to hit up this winery. The place was gorgeous (a common thread in Napa). We each got a glass of red to take outside and sip while relaxing on the patio.
While driving down St. Helena Highway, the views were amazing. Each winery was green and gorgeous. I got out the camera and snapped way.
Our last stop of the day was a smaller winery that I had read good reviews of online. Hall Wines was a little farther north in St. Helena. On a whim, I figured what the hell — I’ll book a tour there. Definitely one of my finer moments, because the tour turned out amazing. First, we were the only people on it. Second, the property is beautiful, complete with a historic building from the 1800s and a state-of-the-art, not-even-a-year-old modern building. Third, red wines are their thing. Red wines are also mine and Joel’s thing. Fourth (yes, there is a fourth point), all over the property there are these amazing pieces of art.
Our guide, Alberto, was awesome. He endured our many questions (former journalist + current journalist = many, many questions). He endured our silliness (erin & joel + lots of wine = incredible silliness). And between all of that, he managed to tell us the history of the winery, the buildings, the Halls (Kathryn and Craig) themselves, the art, etc. The old 1800s building was a definite highlight, complete with original redwood floors on the second floor and a drain in the middle of the room where the wine used to run down!
The property was gorgeous. Tell me you can look at the picture below and not BE IN LOVE.
The art was everywhere and each piece had an interesting story. There was “Camel Contemplating a Needle” (a Biblical reference, apparently), huts made of branches and perhaps the most famous of all, Little Bunny Foo Foo, the not-so-little metal sculpture that sits at the front of the property, welcoming visitors.
And, of course, there was the wine. If you want to know how good it was, just know that we joined their wine club before the day was over. After our tasting, I was riding a major high — an “I love life. I love Napa. I love the West Coast. I love wine. I LOVE EVERYTHING.” kind of high. I think the wine plus the lack of sleep from adjusting to Pacific time were catching up with me.
We headed into Downtown Napa after that to check into our inn (Blackbird Inn, very cute and best breakfast ever. I wasn’t sure what I was eating but it was mind-blowing) and get ready for our dinner reservation at Celadon. On the recommendation of our Hall Wines guide Alberto, a Napa native, we walked over early and checked out the Downtown area. Very cute. Although sadly during our walk we saw a number of building and houses that were cordoned off because of damage from the earthquake only a few weeks before.
We capped the evening off with an amazing meal at Celadon — highly recommended! We stuffed ourselves silly with cheese and calamari and bread and lots of cocktails and a little creme brulee and whiskey to sweeten the end of the night.
We sauntered back to our hotel, enjoying the cool air, and then I slept for like 10 hours straight. Good thing too, because we had a busy day ahead of us in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pebble Beach and Monterey.
Note: Many of these photos were taken by Joel Addington.