Thursday, May 29, 2014

20th Anniversary Adventure: Napa Valley

From the wilds of Yosemite, we traveled northwest to the serene civility of Napa Valley.  We encamped at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Hennessey House.

We stayed in an hidden upstairs room away from the hustle and bustle.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Our first day we signed up with Platypus Tours, a quirky company that visits off-the-beaten-path wineries.  Our driver/guide was named Chris Largent, and he was awesome.  There's a great pic of our whole group on the Platypus FB page... 

Anyway, there were four very different places on our tour.  We started at Honig Winery.

It's a small, lovely place.  Our host was great, telling us about about the family history and each wine we sampled.  (I say "we"... though I only actually tasted a bit of the philosopher's tastings!)

 This is not an uncommon scene - vineyards stretching in every direction!

Our next stop took us to Benessere Vineyards up the valley in St. Helena, where we got a very different feel.
Instead of sitting around a table and tasting, the host encouraged us to wander about on the grounds and come back in when we wanted the next sample.

The host was very generous with his pours, so it's a VERY good thing we also stopped here for our picnic lunch!

Favorite Picture from the Entire Week (well, at least from Napa!)

After lunch we shook off the sleepies and headed yet further north, to the Calistoga area, and to Tedeschi Winery.
Talk about small, family-owned!  Our host (who also helps with the winemaking) liked to say "each year we store fewer barrels of wine than some wineries spill!"

 (That's Chris, our Platypus guide, telling us a bit about the family!)

We got a full tour, from a talk about the grapes and how they're espaliered to a look at the de-stemmer and wine press.  (I won't bore you with pictures of everything... you'll have to come see my scrapbook when it's done!)

From there we headed to our last stop, and the largest winery on our list, Ballentine Vineyards.

Another absolutely lovely spot!  

Chris actually gave us the full tour, taking us into the barrel room and "behind the scenes".

 Then we got to the tasting.  We were all pretty tired - and totally happy - by this time.  ::heh::  But here is where I finally found a wine I adored. Their 2013 Malvasia Bianca Frizzante.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I bought two bottles...  ::sheepish grin::  ...the only double-up we did all day!

We ended the evening at a lovely Italian restaurant called Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa, and crashed for a long nights' sleep.

We spent the first part of the day at Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.  We had lunch at the Oxbow Cheese and Wine Market, and had a cheese sampler with a flight and pairing.  Yum.  We visited the spice market and bought fenugreek, and hit up the honey stand too.  We *really* wanted to grab some fresh strawberries and cherries, but how the heck do you pack those in a carry-on?

After all that we staggered back to the B&B, rested a bit, and then it fell to me to drive to our afternoon destination: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

This is what the philosopher has been waiting for.

Unless you're a wine fan, you probably don't know the story of the Judgment of Paris.  In brief, in 1973 a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap, in a relatively unknown-at-the-time Napa Valley, took on France's best Bordeaux wines and won in a blind tasting.  That win, plus another Napa win in chardonnays during the same event, is what put Napa Valley on the map.  Of *course* the philosopher was looking forward to this!

It's another beautiful place.

(That's stag's leap promotory there in the background)

  This is where we went big.  We'd made reservations for the tour and estate tasting, and it was worth it.  We got to go through their caves, which immediately called to mind Gimli's exultation of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond!  (And as obvious it is that the philosopher was looking forward to this tour, of *course* I have to come up with a Tolkien reference!!)

(He didn't drink them all, just the four in front of him, and... well... most of mine, too!)

We finished the tour with an estate tasting, which basically means we tasted their best wines.  And according to my resident expert, they were indeed excellent.  We tasted a chardonnay and three cabs, and it's a good thing we didn't have unlimited funds for this trip, because this place could have blown our budget. We did end up with four bottles of Artemis, and plan to lay them down for several years.

We capped off our last night in Napa with dinner at Brix Restaurant.

The food was magnificent.

And so was the view of their gardens!

This endeth our stay in Napa.  I've already promised the philosopher than when he scores a tenure-track position, we'll come back again, take another Platypus Tour (or two), and I'll buy him a bottle of Cask 23 at Stag's Leap!


Abigail said...

Such a lovely, lovely trip! Congrats on 20 years :)

Chris Largent said...

It was great meeting you both and spending the day with you! I look forward to seeing you again next time you visit Napa! Chris