Wednesday, December 14, 2011


They say you're never supposed to start a blog post with an apology, but I feel I must apologize in advance for the photo heavy post.  Over 20 must be a record for me.  We had a truly amazing time in Napa, especially visiting it for the first time.  We were able to see the beauty of the region from a truly fresh set of eyes.  It's been almost three years since we took a vacation; one of the inconveniences of being your own boss, never being able to truly get away, but we settle for little trips here and there two to three times a year.  This trip to Napa was our 2nd mini trip of the year, and the first time just the two of us.  We were on a high of sorts and so took enough pictures to fill up a CF card.  We especially took a lot of pictures of just the two of us, something you seem to rarely do once you have children.  We must look like a couple of lovesick newlyweds.

Of course I'm no expert of the region, but we traveled with our good friends the Irelands, and it just so happens Sarah's sister lives in Napa and works for one of the wineries there.  Because of this we had a bit of an inside scoop on the restaurants to visit.  In addition, the whole purpose of the trip was to take the private wine tour of Matthiasson Vineyards that we won at Taylor's school auction earlier in the year.  The winemaker Steve has lived in the region for years and has consulted for some great wineries in Napa.  He was kind enough to call ahead and set up some pretty incredible tastings for us with some of his clients.  I'll list the wineries and restaurants we visited at the very end in case you're interested.  For first time visitors the places we went were a good mix of off the beaten path wineries as well as must-see tourist spots.  So now for some photos...  

Rombauer - ask for Patrick   
The Cakebread grounds were impressive and beautiful
 Steve from Matthiason using the wine thief - a great guy and even better wine 
(the only wine club we joined while there)
Steve set us up with a great tasting at Paraduxx; their grounds were perfect.  
Hidden away off the major road, we couldn't have asked for prettier scenery
 Jessup Cellars was the only tasting room we actually visited and had a great experience.  
One of the only tasting rooms I've ever been to where they actually serve crackers and cheese.
Wineries we visited:
Stag's Leap - a sad start to our trip, the men in the tasting room were not friendly at all and poured all our tastings at once and then walked away.  I would not recommend stopping here, even though their wine is a favorite of mine.

Rombauer - great atmosphere and vibe in their tasting room and our pourer Patrick was the epitome of what you'd expect; funny, helpful, talkative and engaging.  Of course their wine ain't half bad either, we've long been a fan of their Zinfandel and was excited to try their infamous Chardonnay, otherwise known as Danville crack or Cougar Juice.

Cakebread - a very impressive, extensive tour accompanies your tasting and we had a few wine snobs in our group but we had fun anyhow.  By appointment only. 

Matthiasson - a small boutique type winery but family owned and operated and I can vouch for the owner and winemaker Steve as a stand up guy.  Their White Wine was recently voted in the Top 100 wines of 2011.  We joined their wine club and I can't wait to get our first shipment.

Paraduxx - beautiful scenery and great wine.  Go there!

Jessup Cellars - fun setting in an art gallery, the gals that work there are fun and knowledgeable.

Where We Ate (coincidentally 3/4 places we ate were in Yountville):
Bottega - Michael Chiarello's restaurant, the decor, vibe and food was outstanding.  We all had a great meal

Ad HocFor those that know anything about this place, we happened to be visiting on Fried Chicken night.  Oh YES!  It was incredible, everything ever one we talked to raved about and more.  If you're not familiar with this place, they serve a single family style dish each night, so if you don't like friend chicken on Monday nights, you ain't getting anything else! 

Market -  A wonderful stop in the really quaint town of St. Helena, the best dish of the day were the huevos rancheros Aaron ordered.

Bouchon - Steve brought us in sandwiches and salads from Bouchon, as well as killer brownie bites.  A perfect lunch.

*we all agreed that we didn't make a single bad choice for our meals.  We were so glad to have planned these all in advance so we weren't scrambling both nights at 7pm for a place to eat.  It definitely pays to plan ahead, a first for me.

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