Sean appeared bemused and satisfied as he surveyed us from our bed. We zipped up our suitcases. He proceeded to giggle. Sweet boy, I could stay in this moment forever with you…..
Napa calls! With exaggerated, delicious one-year old goodbyes, we were off.
Those golden hills were our constant escort from LA on Labor Day. Scorched nut trees and grapevines marched north. Fruit trees, cotton and cows challenged the dustbowl. The aqueduct snaked near the 5 freeway teasingly. It’s a trip we’ve made a dozen times with the kids. This time a wine country escape found us on our own.
#1 Jo’s wine tour at Grgich Hills in Rutherford topped our list. Her inside scoop on actual vs. theatrical events portrayed in the movie “Bottle Shock” surrounding the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 in which the chardonnay by winemaker Michael Grgich won 1st place honors in a blind tasting of international wines among stunned judges and connoisseurs was revealing.
#2 at a modernistic hilltop fortress in the Los Carneros region, known for pinots and chardonnay, is Artesa Winery. This winery was beautiful, views and artwork stunning. We left with a half case of Chardonnay, Pinot and Cab Sauv.
#3 the Trinitas tasting room is set in a cave (although the Meritage Resort is smack in a corporate park in Napa). Michael from Oregon poured and we happily joined their Cardinal Club (for reds). We found the Zins and Mysterium meritage blends grand.
#4 Boon Fly Cafe in Carneros: yummy artisan sourdough with fried egg in the middle, and applewood-smoked bacon breakfast.
#5 Avia Kitchen in Napa: yes, for delectable roasted plaintain buttermilk pancakes featured in the LA Times Travel section a few weeks ago!
#6 Celadon in downtown Napa: Manhattans (Bulleit, Punt e Mes, and port-soaked cherries) and lamb shank, dynamite couscous.
#7 Hog Island Oyster Company, Oxbow Market east of the river in Napa: grilled oysters, chunky clam chowder, steamers (Manila clams, Spanish chorizo, bitter greens, HIOC rosemary, Calabrian chiles, white wine, butter), ridiculous grilled cheese ( Fromage Blanc, Vella Mezzo Secco and Cave-age Gruyere), pink house pickles, Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.
#8 Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company, in St Helena, has been producing olive oil for eighty years. Not much had changed since our last visit thirty years ago.
#9 Greystone/ CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in the former Christian Brothers estate houses the cooking school, restaurant, classes and shop for unique utensils, plus the largest collection of corkscrews ever, and all volumes of Julia Childs’ “The Joy of Cooking.” A vast change from our visit in the 80s. We have history here….
#10 Bela Fleck, banjo virtuoso, with the Marcus Roberts Trio, put on a great show at the Napa Valley Opera House. Jim loved this.
The Silverado Trail, which parallels 29, was a leisurely way to navigate Napa Valley. The region has boomed. There are now 400 wineries, we were told. A fine three days. I just love being away together…