If you haven’t already set up your Fare Alerts for a trip to Cali after last week’s post, you will today! We’re going to cruise north towards our final destination, Napa Valley. After a jam-packed city adventure in San Francisco, we were ready to relax. I’d done a lot of research on where to stay in Napa Valley. Luckily, Joe (yes, my boss!) suggested I look north towards St. Helena and Calistoga where the terrain gets more interesting and hikers flock. I found a fabulous independent property – The Bergson in downtown Calistoga where we booked our three night getaway. I’ll tell you more about that later – first… WINE!
Our first day in Napa we were attending the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour & Tasting Event. HOW COOL. It was perfect for me and only happened one day of the year – the day we were there! On
our way to that, we made a few pitstops to kick off the wine tasting extravaganza. First stop, breakfast (of course!!). We had a recommendation to visit Boon Fly Cafe and I was glad we went. The vibe of the place was super fun and whenever given the chance, TJ and I always opt for community tables. We ordered the famous donuts as an appetizer, because appetizers at breakfast are the best, and followed up with fantastic eggs. The Bloody Maries looked to die for, but we needed to pace ourselves.
After breakfast we headed to our first wine stop, Domaine Carneros. If you haven’t been, DC makes sparkling wine and has a large chateau overlooking the valley. It was a popular place to sip bubbly, that’s for sure. It was pretty good, but doesn’t beat my favorite Napa sparkling. (We’ll get there!).
Next, we went for something smaller and checked out Monticello Vineyards – Corley Family (They only produce 15,000 cases a year of their Estate Grown Chardonnay!). Things were a bit more casual here. We had a wonderful tasteur, Dave, who walked us through the tasting menu at a bar while looking out over Monticello – a 1/3 replica of the Virginia home.
For our third and final stop before the big holiday inn tour, we stumbled upon (pun totally intended) Darioush. This was not part of our plan, but it was impressive and we’re so glad we stopped.
The backstory here is amazing. Darioush Khaledi was born in Iran, where the country has been in prohibition since 1979. Darioush found his love of wine through his father who made wine in their basement. When he was able to, he emigrated to the US and eventually opened Darioush. (Follow more of his story in the Visual Adventure Gallery!) The wine here is so good and our tasteur, Toni, walked us through every last drop. Virtually impossible to find through retailers in Ohio and rare to find on fine dining menus (we found one at M at Miranova in Columbus!) this wine was worth the visit. We shipped home two bottles of Chardonnay – one for us and one as a gift.
After our three amazing tastings, we were finally headed to the 2016 Napa B&B Holiday Tour. You’ll have to check out the Visual Adventure Gallery for all of the highlights of this tour, but we definitely had some favorites. The B&B I took the most pictures at was Churchill Manor – it was a massive property with unique furnishings, cool rooms and good food. I also loved the unique grounds of the Arbor Guest House, the arbors lit for the holidays. There were so many fun stops, be sure to check them out.
All of that wine and we were ready to EAT. We made reservations at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery. Our food was amazing. I had the Gnocchi with butternut squash, spinach, mushroom and truffled turnip coulis – YUMMO. I would argue this was one of the “hardest” days of my life. So much wine. So much food. We were drained. We were so happy we could retreat to our perfect little inn for a good night’s sleep because we were doing it all again the next day!
I mentioned earlier that Calistoga appeals to hikers. I searched for a place we could get a hike in and was pleasantly surprised to find a trail head leaving from downtown Calistoga. The Oat Hill Mine Trail was literally one of the prettiest hikes I’ve ever been on and I’ve been on some pretty cool ones, including the Boiling Lake Trail in Dominica. Anyway – this trail is 8 miles each way, but you can do a mile in or so and have a great hike. I recommend doing this at sunrise or slightly thereafter while the fog is burning off the vineyards. I just have to take a minute to flood you with beautiful pictures from our hike…
Now that I’ve fed your soul, let’s move on to your belly! One of the best features at our hotel was a wonderful (complimentary!) breakfast. I believe on the weekends they add an egg dish, as we had a quiche awaiting our arrival in addition to the continental spread. Then, we kicked off the morning with a stop at my ALL TIME FAVORITE winery – Mumm Napa. I visited
Mumm on my first trip and fell
Inn Love with the experience of sipping fantastic bubbly on a cool fall morning with a warm sun shining on your face. Mumm has done a remarkable job at tailoring this experience just for that. The view is amazing. The wine is amazing. If you get a chance, visit Mumm before 11AM and it will be quiet and peaceful.
After Mumm, our driver took us to Sunshine Foods, a great little market in downtown St. Helena.
There, we were able to grab some picnic items for our final wine stop of the day – Sherwin Family Vineyards. The Sherwin Family has quite a story. Situated on top of Spring Mountain, this vineyard is private and hard to find, but well worth the adventure. We sat for a private picnic overlooking
their vineyard where we had a tasting paired with stories from the staff.
The Sherwin Family coined themselves the Patriotic Pour, due to the fact that they’re the only company in the U.S. with permission to print the American flag on their bottles. The story is pretty neat and the custom bottles are gorgeous. You’ll have to stop for the story! But if you do, make sure to try the Cellar Scraps. We bought two bottles!
We wrapped our wine tasting a bit sooner so that we could indulge in a few more Napa Valley specialties – mud and food.
I knew from my last trip that mud baths in Calistoga were super popular. We booked ourselves at the Golden Haven Hot Springs and Resort for a mud bath for two. I know a lot of people are skeptical of the process and probably laughed at me when I told them we did this, but it’s a great experience. The mud is really relaxing and does wonders for the skin. Next time you’re in town, go outside of your comfort zone and give it a try!
FINALLY! Dinner time. If you know anything about Napa Valley dining, you’ve probably heard of
Yountville, or at least the famous French Laundry. Sorry gang, we didn’t eat there, but we ate at the next best place – Bouchon. Also a repeat from my last trip, but with different company, Bouchon is definitely at the top of my list for best places I’ve ever eaten. One of the interesting items we tried was recommended by our waiter – Fried Pig Ears. Never would I have ordered this on my own, but I’m so glad we did. TJ must have been feeling particularly adventurous that evening! Bouchon has excellent service. Seriously, some of the best service I’ve ever experienced in a restaurant. The food is, of course, phenomenal. I cannot wait to return.
By now, I’m guessing you’re hungry and you’re already looking at flights, but we aren’t done yet.
Thus far, I planned everything. The food, the wine, the rental car. TJ had one request – “can we go to a brewery?” TJ’s cousin told him about this “great place” he needed to check out. But of course, it was an hour in the wrong direction. TJ was such a good sport with the mud bath, how could I say no? We packed up our things and headed to Santa Rosa. The good news is, we met a lot of locals on our trip and one local told us if we wanted to see the Redwoods, we should avoid Muir Woods and go to Armstrong Redwoods. Guess where that is? Right around the corner from Russian River Brewing. TJ lucked out.
This trip was so far been extraordinary, but the Redwoods? Magical. Make sure to check out all of the pics in the Visual Adventure Gallery, but here are a few to get you started!
After taking in the majesty of the forest, we headed to Russian River. Surprisingly, the food was superb and Santa Rosa is an adorable little hipster town! I would definitely go back.
In all, we had a whirlwind trip to California, but I couldn’t have asked for nicer wine, better weather or a more perfect travel partner. Until next time, California…
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck