Wednesday, August 24th
Another companion pass-inspired trip. We took the late flights out of Nola, connecting through Denver. We had an open middle seat on the flight to Denver, which is always very nice. We will both go to great lengths to discourage someone from taking the middle seat between us. We certainly never tell anyone that the seat is taken or unavailable, but certain activities ward people off pretty well. The first rule is zero eye contact with people walking down the aisle – no exceptions. Far and away, the most deterring activity is eating, because no one wants to sit next to a stranger eating on the plane. Lindsay ususally brings a salad or sandwich, but the worst people bring McDonald’s or some other fast food. That is the absolute worst.
We lucked out with the hotel booking. My friend Cameron worked for Hilton at the time, so we got our hotel room for only $99/night (well below the average of $250/night in Napa during harvest).
Thursday, August 25th
August weather in Napa was a welcome change, going from 98 degrees and muggy in New Orleans to a dry 75 degrees Northern California. We met Peterson for lunch in Napa at Grace’s Table, and it was very good. Lindsay coordinated two tastings for that afternoon, at Opus One and Duckhorn Vineyards. Both are located on the valley floor and very easy to get to. Opus One felt like visiting a Roman palace. The wine is very good, but extraordinarily expensive – even for Napa standards. The most recent vintage, a 2014 Cabernet, was selling for $265 per bottle.
Duckhorn Vineyards is in St Helena, just north of Napa. The drive between the two places is very pretty, and takes about 25 minutes without traffic. The wine at Duckhorn was very good, and the outdoor porch area for the tastings had a nice view of the vineyard.
We met Peterson for dinner at sushi restaurant, which was very good.
Friday, August 26th
Friday was our busy tastings day. We had four on the schedule. In the interest of fully enjoying the tastings, we hired a driver for the day. Our driver was Karl, a lifelong Napa resident with plenty of information about vineyards throughout the Napa area. (Send us an email for Karl’s information for your next trip.)
Our first stop was Palmaz Vineyards, which is just outside downtown Napa. Palmaz was built by the doctor who invented the heart stint. In our two trips and probably 15 vineyards that we have visited in California, this was by far the most impressive that Lindsay and I have seen. They use gravity instead of pumps throughout their winemaking process, which makes them very unique. They accomplished this by building everything into the side of the mountain, literally.
The second stop was HDV Vineyard, located in Napa. The winemaking facility is separate from the actual vineyard. They are known for their Chardonnay from Los Carneros AVA.
At a friends recommendation, we headed north for lunch at the Michelin rated Auberge de Soleil. The view from the restaurant was surreal. Perched on the mountainside overlooking the Napa Valley, the views were amazing.
After lunch, we headed up into the mountains for a tasting at Viader Vineyard. They practice dry farming up on the mountain, which meant no irrigation. The wine and views from their tasting porch were both very good.
We made one last stop at Louis Martini, located on the valley floor. The size of their wine production was 15-20 times the amount any of the previous 3 vineyards we visited that day. The only reason we knew about their wine is because it can be found in almost every grocery store. They produce over 500,000 cases per year. For frame of reference, the previous three vineyards that day produced from 6,000 to 20,000 cases per year – quite a difference. The price and quality of the wine was noticeable for the cheaper wines at Louis Martini, but the higher end wines offered there were actually very good.
Traffic around 5pm in Napa is bad, considering the size of the actual city. The usual 25 minute drive from St Helena to Napa turns into a 45-60 minute drive around 5 o’clock. It was much better with Karl driving of course.
That night we went to dinner with Peterson again, to an overpriced place called The Corner. The food was tasty, but the prices were outrageous for the portion size.
Saturday, August 27th
Sonoma was on tap for Saturday. Neither of us had been to that area, and Peterson strongly suggested we try out a few places on our last day. We started off with a delicious breakfast at The Fremont Diner. Our friends Sam and Tally, who had moved to San Francisco the week before (and also inspired us to visit the area again after attending their wedding in Napa the previous October), joined us for breakfast and two tastings.
Our first tasting was at a very old vineyard called Buena Vista Winery. We decided to buy bottle of Rose and enjoy the sunshine and outdoor seating area instead of doing the wine flights and tour option.
The last stop of the day was at Hanzell Vineyard. It is situated on a mountain top just north of Sonoma, with gorgeous views facing west. The vineyard is well known for their white wines and pinot noir. The tasting area was a very low key area on the second floor of the main house, with an open porch facing the valley below.
For dinner that night, Lindsay and I decided to go to In n Out because it was an easy walk from our hotel. I find it comical how some people from out west talk about In n Out with such a glean in there eye. Don’t get me wrong, its much better than typical fast food, but it is certainly still fast food.
Sunday August 28th
We stopped in San Francisco for brunch with our friends Louise and Mike before catching our direct flight home from Oakland.