We just got back from our annual trip to Napa Valley. Even though I came down with one of the worst colds of my life (tissues were worth their weight in gold), we still had an amazing time with good food and good wine. The Seattle rain today really has me missing the warm weather – good thing we have a case of wine shipping up here to last us the rest of winter. This year, we stayed in Yountville, just north of the city of Napa. Here’s what we loved about Napa this time around…and what we’ll definitely pass on next time.
Bouchon/Bouchon Bakery: For those of us who can’t (or frankly would never choose to) afford Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, Bouchon is a more than adequate alternative, especially for lunch. The steak frites with truffle fries is my favorite Napa meal, while the scallops are the best my husband has ever had. It’s an expensive lunch, but that steak fills me up so much that I skip dinner. Bouchon Bakery next door ALWAYS has a line, but it’s worth the wait. When you walk in, prepare to ‘oo’ and ‘ahh’ at the display case. Oh, you thought you already knew what you wanted? Fugettaboutit! The “Oh-noyoudidn’t” is a chocolate dipped macaron. Enough said.
Ma(i)sonry: Located in in one of the oldest buildings in Yountville, this winery collective and contemporary art gallery looked like the kind of place I’d be intimidated by with its expensive modern art and hipster employees. But our extremely positive experience shattered that expectation! Each host was very friendly (it didn’t hurt that they’re native Marylanders, like us). The tasting experience is unique in that 1) it usually takes place in their sunny sculpture garden surrounded by interesting art, and 2) instead of a set tasting menu, your personal host will bring wines for you to try based on your palette preferences. With wines that range from $12/bottle to $250/bottle, there really is wine for every palette in every price range, and remember, these are wines you really can’t purchase anywhere else – these boutique wineries don’t even have tasting rooms. The icing on the cake – shipping to Seattle was only $11!
The Vintage Inn: Out of all my travels, this might be my favorite hotel – no kidding. Even though I was pretty sick this whole trip, this Yountville hotel was extremely comfortable. It’s perfectly located, and even if it wasn’t, the grounds of the hotel are beautiful enough, with fountains, flowers, and lux pool, that it’s hard to leave. The second floor rooms have spacious balconies and wood-burning fireplaces that come with Duraflame logs and a bottle of wine. On top of all of that, the complimentary breakfast cannot be beat with mimosas and bloody marys, an omelette bar (the omelette guy is a serious pro), waffle bar, and so many other pastries and traditional breakfast foods. We had a wonderful stay and will definitely be back.
Bottega: Celebrity-chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant was crazy loud – so loud my husband and I didn’t speak most of dinner because we couldn’t hear one another from across the table! It’s one of those menus where they encourage you to get an appetizer, a “primi” pasta dish and “secondi” main course. You would think the dishes would get better and better with each course, but it was just the opposite. A beautiful, fresh antipasta app, a simple but tasty pasta carbonara, and the just ‘meh’ spare ribs. With so many courses, we were too full, and too put off by the noise, we couldn’t make it to dessert.
Mumm Napa: Mumm is one of our go-to sparkling wines when we stop at Bev-Mo so we thought hey, let’s visit the source. Their tasting room is in a gorgeous location in a valley of grape vines and they have a photography gallery on-site featuring an impressive Ansel Adams collection. Unfortunately, the service was as dry as the wine. Our host did not show any enthusiasm for the wine, or for us. “Take a look at the tasting menu and when I come back, I want to see some ID.” I wonder if he was a police officer or a high school teacher in his previous career? He dropped off the tasting bill without a word. Needless to say, the closest we’ll be to Mumm again will be at our local Bev-Mo where the service is always great!
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars: Also known for the “million dollar apostrophe.” I know, I know, this is a Napa Valley legend, but honestly, I was not wowed by the wine or the tasting room experience. I have a feeling this winery is always packed, and our visit was no exception. We were luckily able to get a space standing at the tasting bar with a nice gentleman to pour our wine. For all the hype, the wines just didn’t stick with me the way I thought they would for the cost. Checking it off the Napa Valley bucket list and moving on.
All and all, another great trip to Mecca…I mean, Napa Valley. Now if only I can get rid of this cold, sinus infection, plague, whatever. Looking forward to planning another trip for next year…with less cold medication!