But it should be! Thanks Lisa Vanderpump for the perfect Housewives tagline to describe our first day in Napa! We had two full days to spend in Napa, and I have to admit, this was the part of the vacation that I was looking forward to the most. (Hello, drinking wine all day!)
We started off our morning with some fresh coffee and scones from Bouchon Bakery, Thomas Keller’s bakery in Yountville. The line was seriously out the door as soon as we arrived, but it was worth the wait. Chris got a chocolate cherry scone and I got a bacon cheddar scone, although everything else that they had available looked delicious. We also decided to grab some macarons for later (which of course were wonderful).
After breakfast, we were ready to begin our winery tours (yes we started drinking wine at around 10 in the morning, but hey, when in Napa right?). Our first stop was just across the highway in Yountville at Domaine Chandon, a sparkling winery (only sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France can be called Champagne). We did the étoile prestige tour and tasting, which runs daily at 10:30 each morning. With the tour we got a behind the scenes tour of the making of Chandon’s sparking wine as well as a tasting of their étoile sparkling wines.
I’ve never been the biggest sparkling wine drinker, but after this tour, I know that it’s only because I’ve never had a decent sparkling wine. Chandon wine was absolutely divine, and I have to admit the hubs and I will buy a bottle of Chandon’s brute or rosé and drink it on the regular (we didn’t realize that we could find all levels of Chandon in Texas so we ended up buying a couple of bottles here). Overall, we really enjoyed the tour and especially enjoyed the tasting. I would definitely recommend stopping here, mainly because there just aren’t that many sparkling wineries in Napa, and it’s something different to try.
After we finished our tasting and a little exploring at Chandon, we made our way north towards St. Helena to V Sattui. V Sattui is known for having a deli with all sorts of sandwiches, meats and cheeses, and other picnic items (they also serve BBQ on the weekends), so it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch and a glass of wine (of course!) before doing a tasting or heading on to another tour. When we arrived, it was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as I though that it would be, AKA we were able to find a parking spot without any issues. We made our way to the deli and split a sandwich and some pasta salad outside so we could enjoy the beautiful California weather. There were a ton of picnic tables and benches, and we didn’t have any issues finding somewhere to sit.
After lunch, we headed inside to their tasting room to do their standard tasting. The tasting room was way more chaotic than the deli or the picnic area, and we had a little bit of issue finding a spot at the bar to stand. With V Sattui’s tasting you can choose any 6 wines that you would like to taste, so Chris and I each tried 6 different wines so that we ended up tasting a total of 12 wines. The wine was very good, but we opted to not buy any. V Sattui’s wine is only available at the winery in Napa, so if you fall in love with their wine, buy it before you leave.
Chris obviously really loves the action shots.
We finished lunch and our tasting at V Sattui faster than we had originally anticipated, so we had about 2 hours to kill before our next scheduled tasting at Sterling. Some of our friends that had visited Napa a year ago recommended that we try out Grgich Hills because it’s the winery that is known for putting Napa on the map. In a blind tasting in 1976, French judges selected the chardonnay that Mike Grgich had made as the overall winner of the tasting, beating out the most prestigious of French wines.
Grgich Hills was very close to V Sattui so we headed over there for a quick tasting. Grgich had an indoor tasting room as well as an outdoor patio, and we opted for the basic tasting on the patio. The weather was beautiful, and we really enjoyed relaxing on the patio and with a glass of wine. (FYI, if you decide to do the Napa Valley Wine Train, there is a stop here and you can do a tour and/or tasting). After we finished our tasting we walked around the grounds a little bit and took some pictures before heading to our last stop of the day. Overall, Grgich Hills was a nice, relaxing, surprise stop at one of Napa’s more historical wineries.
Our last and final stop on our winery tour for the day was at Sterling Vineyards, so we headed north to Calistoga for our last tour and tasting of the day. (Fun Fact of the Day: The further north you get in Napa Valley the warmer it gets. I know it’s completely opposite of what you would think! Apparently, the Napa Valley is exactly like a chimney and all of the warm air gets funneled to the north. This is one of the reasons why the Napa Valley can grow so many types of grapes too, I think.)
Anyways, Sterling is one of the biggest producers of wine from the Napa Valley, which is probably why Sterling is one of the most visited wineries in the area. One of the things that Sterling is known for is the Tram ride up to the winery that gives you the most spectacular views of the Napa Valley. We opted for the Sterling Silver Experience, which gives you the tram ride to the top, the basic tour and tasting, and then another tasting of some of their reserve wines.
I think that our favorite part about this winery was the amazing views from the top of Napa Valley. Overall the tour was ok, but because it was self-guided, I don’t think we enjoyed it as much as we enjoyed the Chandon tour from the morning. Of course the wine was delicious, but we didn’t buy any bottles because, you can most likely buy a bottle at home from your local grocery store.
Our favorite views were of Castella di Amorosa “The Castle.” I’ll talk about our visit there in the next post.
I loved this cute little house in the middle of the vineyard.
A view of the tram.
After our last tour of the day, we were very much in need of some food! Napa Valley is known for having some of the most amazing restaurants in the country, and I can’t tell you how much research I did to try and find the perfect places for dinner without completely breaking the bank (AKA going to probably the most delicious, and most expensive, dinner of our lives at the French Laundry). After lots of researching on Pinterest, I found out that Morimoto had a restaurant in Napa, and I knew that’s where I wanted to go. The hubby and I are big fans of sushi, both traditional and “contemporary”, so I knew that this would be a real treat to have sushi at an Iron Chef’s restaurant.
With dinner I had a glass of sparkling rosé (because we had learned from our tour at Chandon that morning that rose pairs perfectly with sushi) while the hubby opted for sake. For dinner, we ordered the chef’s selection of sushi as our main course, and believe me, we were not disappointed in the least. We ate every last piece of that sushi, and it was some of freshest, most delicious sushi we’d ever had.
After we finished eating our weight in sushi, we pretty much rolled out of the restaurant and headed back to the hotel. We had an amazing, and very busy, first day in Napa, and we needed some much needed rest before we started on Day 2.
Other Napa Posts:
Just kidding! We didn’t really visit Jurassic Park, but it sure it felt like it. We arrived in San Francisco on a Friday afternoon, and we had planned on stopping at the Muir Woods on our way to Napa.
Side Note: One of my favorite things to ask people when we find out that they’ve been to a place that we’re about to visit is where they ate. I love to try out restaurants that are unique to the area. I can eat Chipotle when I’m in Houston, so I want to make sure that I try something different. (Although I have to admit that we did eat Chipotle while we were in San Francisco one day and it was fantastic!)
Anyways, while we were waiting for our rental car at the airport, I thought that it would be a good idea to ask the rental car person what a good restaurant was to eat at in San Francisco. She proceeded to tell us about this amazing restaurant that had bottomless steak fries… AKA Red Robin. Needless to say, Chris and I did not visit Red Robin, but we always talk about the most amazing restaurant that has the best steak fries in San Francisco.
So, after we picked up the rental car at the airport we made our way across the bridge to Sausalito to have lunch (it was around 1:00 California time, which is around 3:00 Texas time, which pretty much means that I was STARVING!). I found a restaurant online called Fish that we were going to try out. It was right on the pier and it was known for serving fresh fish that they had caught in the bay that day. When we walked up to the restaurant the line was out the door, so we knew that we had chosen a good restaurant. I ended up getting the fish tacos and Chris got a fish poboy and both were absolutely fabulous! We sat out on the patio and had a great lunch before heading off to the Muir Woods. (One thing to note is that the restaurant is cash only, so make sure that you’re carrying around $40, especially if you could use an adult beverage with your meal).
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the Muir Woods and it was absolutely amazing! It felt like you were entering another world as soon as you walked into the park, and because some of these trees have been around for hundreds of years we really were entering another world. Plus I have to admit that with all of the trees and everything, I felt like we were entering Jurassic Park and almost expected a velociraptor to pop out (hence the title of this post)!
Towards the end of our visit we noticed a few people stopped on the path ahead of us, and they looked like they were staring at something. When we got up there we saw that they were staring at a mommy deer and her to babies. They were so beautiful, and not afraid of all the crazy humans staring at them and taking pictures. It truly was an amazing moment.
Once we had finished up at the Muir Woods we headed to Napa where we would be staying for the next couple of days. The drive was about an hour and a half long, definitely not bad at all even with the traffic getting out of the city on a Friday. We ended up not staying in the actual city of Napa, but in American Canyon instead. American Canyon is a city that’s about 10 to 15 minutes south of Napa, so getting to the different wineries was pretty easy.
After we checked into the hotel we drove to Yountville for dinner at Redd Wood. Redd Wood is chef Richard Reddington’s more casual restaurant and serves a variety of items. Chris and I ended up getting a meat and cheese tray to start. They actually cure their own meats at the restaurant, and let me tell you it was fantastic and the perfect way to start our meal! After that we shared the meat and cheese tray we split a pizza that is cooked in their wood-fired pizza. I don’t think that we had a bad meal on our trip, and I would definitely recommend everywhere that we ate.
All in all, we had a very full first day in California, and after flying in from Texas that morning we were ready to head back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep before our full day of wine tasting the next day. Stay tuned to hear about our adventures in Napa!
Every year, the husband and I try to go on one big trip that truly gets us away for about a week.
- In 2010 we visited Saint Maarten for our honeymoon.
- We were saving money in 2011 so we didn’t go on a big trip.
- In 2012 we went on a cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, and then we went to NYC during Christmas. (We were probably trying to make up for not going on a trip in 2011.)
- Last year, 2013, we had a “big kids” trip to Disney World and Universal Studios.
- And this year, we did a semi-roatripping vacation to Northern California. We flew to San Francisco, and then proceeded to drive to Napa, Lake Tahoe, back to San Francisco, and then we did a day trip to Big Sur.
The reason that we chose to go to Northern California this year was probably because I really wanted to visit San Francisco with the hubby. During my internship in college, the company I was interning for sent all the interns to San Francisco for a week of training. A few of us coordinated and managed to book flights that arrived about a half day early and left a half day late, so we were able to get a little bit of sight seeing in. We visited in January, and we happened to visit during one of the random weeks during the year when the Bay City wasn’t completely covered in a layer of fog. When we walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on our last day, we had the most perfect, clear weather! It was amazing, and I instantly fell in love with the city.
Another reason we chose Northern California was because of how close everything is up there. Napa is only an hour and a half from San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe and Big Sur were both was around 3.5 hours from San Francisco. Living in Texas, a 3.5 hour drive really isn’t that bad at all. We make trips to Dallas and the hill country that are longer than that for weekend trips, and honestly we kind of like road tripping.
We spent a little over a week in Northern California (7 full days and 2 travel days), and had a blast. If I had a few more vacation days, I would have spent another 2 days visiting Yosemite, but that just means that we have another reason to visit NoCal in the future! We had the following timeline while we were in NoCal and I think that we had a good amount of time in each place. We might have needed an additional day to see Big Sur or to stay in Carmel by the Sea, but overall we got to see a lot of each place.
- Friday: landed in San Francisco and saw the Muir Woods on our way to Napa (See post here)
- Saturday-Sunday: Napa Valley (See posts here, here, and here)
- Monday-Tuesday: Lake Tahoe (See post here)
- Wednesday-Saturday: San Francisco, with a road trip to Big Sur on Friday (See San Fran posts here, here, and here, and Big Sur here)