Paul Hobbs Winery (Sebastopol) – Maybe not the most convenient place to visit, but, WOW. Great wines, great facility, and a great meal. On Tuesdays and Thursdays only at 1 pm, they offer a 3 course food and wine pairing with reservations for up to 8 people. I believe they charge $75 per person, but that included 2 generous wine pours paired with each course and the food (prepared by chef Anne Sibbaluca) was phenomenal! Our menu included: Seared Day Boat Scallops with Uni Chardonnay Emulsion, Braised Berkshire Pork Cheek with Fried Goat Cheese Polenta, Grilled Leak and Pinot Noir Reduction, and Akaushi Sired Filet Mignon with Maitake Mushroom Risotto, Baby Carrots, and Oregon White Truffle Sauce (which was a thoughtful touch given that we are from Oregon, which she knew). Highly recommended!
Bouchon – Given that we did not know how hungry we would be after lunch at Paul Hobbs, we did not have any dinner reservations and opted to wing it. We ended up at Bouchon in Yountville. We had well-made cocktails and shared the olives (of which there are a ton!) and an asparagus salad, which were both good. For our mains, we had the roasted chicken (really good) and the open-faced sandwich of the day (steak, grilled onions, Roquefort cheese) served with a pile of excellent fries. The sandwich was only fair, at best. We ended up going back on a couple of different evenings after dinner to sit at the bar and have a drink. Fun atmosphere with friendly conversations with others at the bar.
Bouchon Bakery – We shared a sandwich prior to our afternoon bike ride. This place is always worth a stop for a pastry or sandwich. We pretty much went at least once/day.
Saddleback Winery – Our bike ride was a loop out of Yountville and the bike shop arranged our winery stops (although they did ask for input when we got there and I got the impression that if we had voiced strong opinions in advance, they would have tried to accommodate them). The first stop was Saddleback, which had a nice outdoor table are to taste their wines ($20 fee, I think). The wines, themselves, though were nothing special.
PlumpJack Winery – This was the second stop on our bike ride (don’t worry, there were only 2!). They have some really nice wines. Tasting fee about $20. They even threw in a taste of one of their $300 Cabs, which was delicious!
Redd – We did the tasting menu at Redd, which is 5 courses for $80; $125 total if you add the wine pairing. This interesting thing about the tasting menu is that we did not receive the same dishes. This allows for double the tastes if you share, but if you don’t then you can’t really have a conversation about how each person feels about the dish. I suppose you might be able to specifically request the same dishes but we didn’t try that. You can also order a la carte. The menu seems a bit Asian-inspired in terms of some of the dishes. We generally enjoyed everything we had but I can’t remember the dishes (didn’t photograph the menu). We would go back.
Oakville Grocery – Decided to rent bikes and do the same bike loop we had done the previous day, but on our own. Road to Oakville Grocery on Hwy 29. Great place to stop for wine country type products, picnic items, lunch. We split a sandwich and salad and sat out back to eat it. Our choices were decent, but not as good as we would have hoped.
Cliff Lede Winery – Another lesser known, but good quality winery. Tasting fee was around $20-25 (waived if you purchase at least $200 worth of wine). Since we live in the Willamette Valley (where we get plenty of Pinot Noir), we were mostly focused this trip on more full-bodied wines. They have some excellent Cab.
The Restaurant at Meadowood – We were really looking forward to this one – had sort of decided not to try for TFL and do this instead, but I think we made the wrong choice. We opted for the regular tasting menu, which consists of 10-12 ish courses (hard to tell with all the amuses). They have full wine pairing options or a “half tasting” which I opted for because I wanted to try a cocktail, too. Very enthusiastic bartender and creative options. The night we were there, he would come out to the table to discuss your likes and help craft a cocktail for you or recommend one off the menu. The food was just not as exciting as we thought it would be. Some of the dishes were just outstanding, but others not so much. One of our main protein dishes was a pork shoulder which was very fatty (I realize that is how is comes, but braise it and render most of it out please) and lacked in flavor. The accompaniments (some compressed peach slices) were very good, but neither of us finished the dish. This was noticed by the staff and we told them our opinions. Regarding the service, it was generally very good, but a bit spotty in terms of completeness/consistency in describing the components of each dish. For example, we would receive a dish with description, then realize there was something on the dish they hadn’t mentioned. At the next table over, they would then include that item in the description. Sort of a minor thing except that it happened with several dishes. Not sure we would go back, but this opinion is based solely on our food experience, not any of the other minor gripes.
Dean & Deluca – One of our favorite stops when we are in the area to pick up meats, cheeses, etc. for a picnic at a winery. Got some goodies here and drove to Rombauer to picnic.
Rombauer Winery – Up north a bit off the Silverado Trail. A truly great place to picnic. They don’t sell food, so you can bring whatever you want. Obviously, they don’t allow outside wine to be consumed there. They are best known for their Chardonnay and Zinfandel. We did both their regular tasting ($20) and their reserve tasting ($30). We bought 2 bottles to take home and one to drink with our picnic and they waived the tasting fees, although I do not know if that is always their policy. Beautiful setting with a view of the valley and plenty of shade. The picnic tables are separated from each other and reasonably private.
Goose & Gander (St. Helena) – Met some friends for dinner here. It is located in the old Martini House location and is known both for its farm-to-table approach and cocktails (seeing a theme here?). I really appreciate both and this was a great experience. The food was great; everyone enjoyed their selections. Some of their cocktails are served over a large piece of ice (a “rock”), which I was happy to see was relatively clear ice, which is 1) hard to do and 2) really makes a difference in the appearance of the drink. (Even at Meadowood, the ice was not clear). Rarely encountered in most restaurants/bars and great to experience if you tend to geek out on the crafting of cocktails, as I do. We would definitely go back for both the food and drink experience.
Family obligations morning and lunch.
Morimoto (Napa) – Since we were staying in Yountville, we decided to venture into Napa proper for our last dinner. We had reservations and opted for a seat at the sushi counter when we arrived, which I think may be first come, first served. Anyway, you can see all the fish in the display cases and the people working behind the glass, but you can’t really see their hands, so not as much to see as I would have hoped. We still liked the counter experience, though. We opted for the regular omakase and really enjoyed the food. The dessert was unexpectedly delicious. As an added bonus, Mr. Morimoto himself made a few passes through the restaurant, posing for many photos with customers. Very gracious.
So ends our journey. We mostly chose well and had a great time. Until next time…