My wife and I just got back from our eighth trip to Napa (We got married in Napa and go back for our anniversary every year). Here’s a recap:
Note – We went the week after Labor Day, so it was not really busy anywhere we went, which was great. Additionally, the weather was unseasonable cool (upper 70’s every day, rather than they typical 90’s-100), which was also perfect.
Arrived at SFO around 10:00 on Tuesday the 7th and were in Rutherford by Noon – Just in time for lunch. My wife has to have Mexican food at least once a week, so following the recommendations of fellow Chow Hounds, we went to La Luna Market (just across from BV tasting room) for some VERY authentic tacos. We both had one each of the Carne Asada and Chicken Tacos. Both were very good. Next time I’ll have to try the carnitas. We also bought some fresh chips and salsa (very good and very spicy) and 2 beers. The entire lunch cost less than $15.
Following lunch we wanted to relax with a little sparkling wine, so we went to Mumm. It may not be the most glamorous place, but they make a solid bubbly, and have a wonderful outdoor patio where you can enjoy a great view of the valley. My wife had a flight of 3 different sparkling wines, and I got a class of reserve that was poured from a Magnum. Once the person serving us heard it was our anniversary, she poured a couple other varieties to try. In all, a very nice time relaxing.
After Mumm, we decided to check out Honig. We had never been there before and we had a great time. The guy helping us was very fun - sarcastic and snarky. They only make Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon and everything we tasted was very good.
That was enough tasting for the day, so we headed up to Calistoga to check in to our hotel. We stayed at Carlin Cottages for the third time. It’s basically like an old motor lodge. The people who work there are very nice, they have a natural spring-fed pool and hot tub, and every room has a small kitchen. It’s also very affordable by wine country standards ($105 a night during the week).
That evening we went to Solbar for dinner and shared some small plates: Cheese fritters, Shrimp Lettuce Wraps and a Pizza along with a glass of wine each. Everything was very good, but we felt a little uncomfortable because our entire bill was probably less than what one person normally spends there (considering their cheapest room is $450 a night). It felt like our server wanted us out of there ASAP so she could turn her table again.
Wednesday: Lunch at Rutherford grill. We each had a small salad and split the Prime Rib French Dip. The sandwich is sooooo good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The accompanying fries were the shoestring variety and were super crisp and tasty.
We has a 1:00 tasting at Chappellet - another new place for us. There were only six of us on the tour and it was very fun. We walked around the property and heard the history of the winery while enjoying some very good wine. The tour concludes at a table in the barrel room. Two young ladies on the tour were very fun and shared our enthusiasm for wine and food, so we all went to Darioush afterward. Yet another new place for us. The person who owns it is Iranian, and he built a palace for his wine. Kind of touristy, but overall quite nice. The wines are fine, but we won’t be rushing back.
Our new friends came back to the hotel with us and opened a bottle of Sparkling Red they had bought at Domain Chandon. We sat at a picnic table and had that along with some cheese, crackers, nuts and other snacks we had. After that, we all went to the Culinary Institute for Hogs Island Oysters (and more bubbly). YUM! Note - The guy from Hogs Island is there only on Wednesdays. Our new friends had to hit the road, so my Wife and I went to Press to have a couple more apps at the bar. Two words – Bacon Sampler! Yes, seven different types of bacon on one plate, including Duck bacon, and wild boar. OM NOM NOM. We also had some delicious Truffled macaroni and cheese and a half bottle of Duckhorn Sav Blanc. They have a Blue Plate special every wed. for $10, but they were sold out by the time we got there. The restaurant is quite elegant, and I would have felt under-dressed in my jeans if we weren’t sitting at the bar. The regular menu looks quite good, but fairly pricy.
Thursday: 10:30 tasting at Schramsburg. If you don’t know anything about how sparkling wine is produced, this is the place to go. They have the second oldest caves in the valley (dug in the 1800’s). The tour is ~90 minutes long and the bubbly is very good. Their higher-end stuff is $100 / bottle, and in my opinion is just as good as Dom Perignon. We also found out they make a Bordeaux style red still wine. It was so good we bought a bottle to bring home.
For lunch we went to Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. I had one of the best Burgers I’ve ever tasted. A half pound of freshly ground beef that was really moist, with bacon and fries. My wife had a very nice salad and some of my burger (which she was lucky to pry away form me). Service was very good.
Dinner at Ad Hoc. Our first experience at Ad Hoc last year was amazing, so we had to go back. If you’re not familiar with Ad Hoc, it’s a Thomas Keller restaurant with a four course prix fixe menu for $49. Thursdays are “Steakhouse” nights, and this one did not disappoint. First course was a wonderful salad of baby lettuces, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes picked from The French Laundry gardens that morning along with torn croutons and a lovely lemon vinaigrette. The main course was a perfectly cooked New York Strip with marble potatoes, pancetta and sautéed greens. It was the most tender NY Strip I’ve ever eaten. I think it has been sous-vide first, then quickly broiled just before serving to put a nice crust on the outside. The cheese course was a nice firm cow’s milk cheese served with mixed nuts and wildflower honey. Dessert was chocolate panna cotta with house-made cinnamon-sugar shortbread cookies. Needless to say, we were stuffed and VERY satisfied. We weren’t able to finish the entire cheese course so we asked for the rest to go, and they vacuum-sealed it for us - just another really nice touch. The service was also perfect.
Friday – 11:00 tasting at Cain on Spring Mountain. This was the fourth time we visited Cain, and as usual, we had a great time. Holly, the person who conducts the tasting is an absolute hoot. She reminds us of Jane Lynch. The wine is always very good. Our tasting lingered on well past its scheduled time and a good time was had by all. If you ever go, ask about their “fight club” wine – that’s all I can say about it, or I’ll get in trouble.
We had lunch at Gillwoods Café in St Helena. It’s a favorite place of ours and we go there every time we are in Napa. We each had a cup of wonderful black-bean soup. My wife also had a very tasty chicken sandwich, and I had some biscuits & gravy. Overall, it’s good, homemade food that hit the spot.
On our way out of town we made a quick stop at Alpha Omega winery, and I really wish we hadn’t. I’d have had just as much fun throwing $20 out the window of the car. The guy helping us (and everyone else there) needed to pull the sticks out of their rears. The wines are so-so, and very over priced. I would not recommend this place to anyone.
Anyway, sorry to be so long-winded, but I wanted to share our overall wonderful experience. We’ve now been to well over 100 wineries in Napa/Sonoma and many great restaurants, so if anyone has questions about any other places, feel free to ask.
The French Laundry
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599
6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
3218 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
1320 Napa Town Ctr, Napa, CA 94559