I came back from my trip to Napa, CA and was excited to post pictures, but I brought the flu back with me. After laying low, and then uploading all my pictures, I’m ready to share my trip!
We drove up to Berkley the afternoon we arrived. Chez Panisse was on my list to vist.
Chez Panisse- new American Gourmet. Known as one of the inspirations for California cuisine. Restaurateur, author, and food activist Alice Waters co-founded Chez Panisse in 1971 with film producer Paul Aratow, then professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The restaurant focuses on ingredients rather than technique, and has developed direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers, and dairies. This is where farm-to-table began.
The service was outstnding, the food was simple and divine.
Roasted Turnip soup with sorrel and creme fraiche.
Grapefuit and avocado salad with kumquats.
My mom and I both had the halibut. It was baked perfect with butter and white wine. I wanted to lick the plate (but I didn’t).
I came to eat, so I wasn’t going to leave without dessert.
Rhubarb Galette with vanilla ice cream.
Here is a picture of the open kitchen.
We then headed up to Napa.
A great doccumentary movie (that I also find funny- but it’s not a comedy) is Somm. It follows four guys who are studying to be a Master Sommelier.
We had a tour scheduled at Beringer.
This was a great first stop to learn about the history of the area, the types of soils that the wine grape varietals grow in, how the wine is harvested and made. This time of year is bud season. The grape vines are just beginning to bud, the weather is perfect (70’s) and it is not crowded. We toured the wine caves, had a barrel tasting, and did a food and wine pairing. Since I am not much of a wine drinker, the pairing was fasicnating. I really noticed how much the taste of the wine changed based on what type of food we were eating with it.
As a side note- I couldn’t help but think about this book series I read. Secrets (The Michelli Family Series Book #1): by Kristen Heitzmann
To have a wine label that says Napa Valley, 95% of the grapes have to come from Napa by law. Other wines label California- come from somehwere else.
Next stop was the CIA, which was next door in the Greystone (old Christian Brothers Winery).
We had lunch here. There is a student run restaurant. I had a lentil soup and a goat cheese salad. My mom had an roasted eggplant sandwich.
The rest of the afternoon we drove around a just stopped at some smaller wineries like Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, Elizabeth Spencer, and we did an olive oil tasting at Round Pound. We stopped at V. Sattui, which has an amazing deli to grab some “snacks” for dinner. Our hotel was serving wine from Mario Andretti’s vineyard (can’t say much for celebrity wines).
This was truly the “vacation day”. We headed up to the northern part of Napa towards Calistoga stopping by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. They won the Paris Blind Tasting in 1976 (that was a good year!) for their Cabernet Sauvignon. This was a HUGE deal because the vines were only 3 years old. We also visited Chateau Montelena which won the 1976 Paris tasting for their Chardonnay. Without boring you with a bunch of wine knowledge and history- there is a good movie about it called Bottle Shock.
Chris Pine plays Bo.
This is Bo now.
This was the wine.
We also stopped at Castle Di Amarosa. It is modeled after a Tuscan Castle.
Did I mention how wonderful Napa smells? There was jasmine, orange blossoms, and flowers blooming everywhere.
Calistoga is know for their mud baths, so how could we not try a mud bath?
Yes, it was awesome. Then there was a mineral bath soak, steam room and a massage. AND………..dinner at Bouchon. Bouchon is the Bistro to the French Laundry.
We had this amazing French dinner, and stopped by the bakery to get some treats for breakfast the next day. Since restaurants are like museums to me, I wanted to go see the French Laundry and have my picture taken there. (The French Laundry is one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world). This is where my birthday trip is frosted and has a cherry on top.
So, I take my picture by the French Laundry- Thomas Keller’s restaurant- and I think “I’m just going to ask for a clothes pin” (it’s like grabbing a match book- it’s a souvenir). When I ask the Marte’ D, he was so friendly and hospitable, that he not only got me a clothespin, but the menu of the evening, a magazine they publish twice a year, short bread cookies, AND invited me to go back to the kitchen and meet the chef and tour the kitchen!!
DO you see the stars above us? They are a 3 star Michelin restaurant. I got to talk to Chef David for about 15 minutes. It was incredible. If you like movies here are a few other favorite restaurant related movies….
Day 4: Etude, drive through Sonoma, Sausalito, San Francisco for the afternoon/evening.
Those are the highlights……….a very memorable trip and a great vacation destination- even if you don’t drink wine.