Where the adventure begins…
Allison arrived at the CIA Thursday afternoon in this fun yellow cutie.
Meet Lucy. (and Allison).
Here we are in front of our room at Meadowood.
Lucy did not come accessorized.
We had to pick up a little flower for her along the way (which became a nice souvenir for Gina).
First stop on the wine tasting adventure, Hall Wines
(they were good…but not sure about crazy good).
After a not so substantial parking lot breakfast of trail mix, half a cereal bar and a plum followed by a wine tasting, lunch was definitely a priority. Bistro Don Giovanni’s came highly recommended and we couldn’t wait to check it out.
This place was awesome! The atmosphere was bustling but charming. It was described to us as very “Napa”. Everyone who worked here was super friendly…both owners stopped by our table to chat and ask how we were doing…it was a fun place to people watch too.
Carrying these name cards around with us may have helped in the friendly people department. Everywhere we went, everyone knew our name!
Oh…and the food? Unbelievable! We enjoyed some appetizers and a big bowl of vegetable and farro soup (perfect for the chilly day)…
Bruschetta – Fresh grilled bread topped with white bean puree and sardines caught in Monterey Bay. First time eating sardines for both of us and we loved this!
Carpaccio – Thinly sliced filet of beef, capers, arugula, parmesan and a bistro breadstick. Melted in our mouths…I may have to learn how to make this at home.
Autumn Ravioli – can’t remember exactly but I believe the pasta was made out of butternut squash or pumpkin and filled with ricotta. It was in a sage and butter sauce. Heavenly.
Why oh why did I not take pictures of the food???
Next on the agenda was a random stop at Sawyer Cellars. A small quaint farmhouse with delicious wine. We both ended up going home with a couple of bottles here.
The wine taster was fun and kept us entertained while he gave us a little history of the property. Oh and I have to mention how unbelievably “grapey” it smelled there. It hit us the minute we walked in the building. We asked about it and he said it was the fermentation of the grapes that we smelled (it’s “crush” season in Napa right now)…I had a huge moment of deja vu bringing me back to my very young days in NY where my grandpa used to make wine in our garage every year. I am on a mission to find some pictures of that, it was always fun and what I would do to get my hands on some of that wine again!
Sawyer Cellars farmhouse:
After some quick texting back and forth with Allison’s parents, we ended up at Del Dotto Estate Vineyards. Allison’s dad visited there and raved about it…we had to go. So glad we did.
This place was GORGEOUS. Del Dotto has two locations, one in St. Helena and one in Napa. Our Friday afternoon visit was to the St. Helena location.
Everything about it was beautiful, they really have a nice set up. Lots of tasting tables scattered throughout the rooms with a very Venetian feel to it. And their little complimentary breadsticks were good too. Addictingly good (maybe it was the wine?). I think I may have eaten a whole basketful, dipped in olive oil….along with some chocolate. Good stuff and VERY good wine!
What’s unique about Del Dotto is the caves. They have cave tours held at both locations. We were told the cave at the St. Helena location is the “Vegas” version of the old cave at the Napa location. We opted to visit the ancient cave and booked ourselves a tour for first thing the next morning.
(the “fancy” cave at Del Dotto Vineyards St. Helena)
Dinner Friday night…
and where we slept…
Saturday morning we started with a much more substantial breakfast from Bouchon Bakery
(pumpkin brioche, almond croissant, regular croissant and some much needed coffee…)
and a run in with Thomas Keller’s garden scarecrow on our sunrise walk through Yountville (gotta love the East Coast/West Coast time difference…probably the only time I get out of bed that early with that much gusto!)
(isn’t he so stinkin cute? he was nestled in a field of corn, alongside the road, in a big garden used for The French Laundry and Bouchon restaurants)
After our walk and breakfast, off we went to the ancient caves of Del Dotto.
We had a few issues finding the place but if you ever find yourself “lost in Napa” you will quickly realize that there is no way to stress while driving around aimlessly in wine country. It’s just too beautiful. We were meeting up with our friends Bonnie and Steve and finally caught up to them in the dark cave…
(Allison, Bonnie and myself with our wine taster Chris…he knows his stuff!)
The wine tasting in the cave was a little different…we focused on the oak barrels more than the wine itself. All the barrels were made from different oaks, and in turn brought different flavors to the wines. It was so interesting! I would love to do a tour like this again…hopefully one day Larry and I can sneak off to Napa together for a weekend.
Wine tasting notes: It is VERY okay to share wine tasting flights. It’s economical and Allison and I realized it was essential to split the tastings in order to maintain our stamina if you know what I mean. And go ahead and eat the complimentary crackers and bread sticks. And toss the wine in the dump bucket if you aren’t that into it. And don’t forget to drink your water. These are all very important wine tasting survival tips.
Driving into this place, I immediately became awestruck. The grounds are beautiful, their home is beautiful and it is exactly how I picture it to be to “live in Napa”. There were pumpkins and colorful flowers everywhere and it felt very homey in the tasting room. Lots of family pictures and a fat happy cat lounging on the cushy chair. I just loved it.
Just a typical backyard in wine country…
We ended our tastings at Regusci Winery. Another small family owned winery…very quaint and charming.
We really enjoyed their wines, especially their Zinfandel. It was one of my favorites of the entire trip. Allison and I both took home a bottle…wish we could have fit more in our luggage! (13 bottles might have been enough…that was a fiasco in itself…oh my.)
The Regusci family dog, Trixie. She took a liking to me and stayed by my side after we met. Such a sweet girl (I think she might be 11 years old…).
It was definitely time for lunch at this point. We made our way to Bouchon and had the most unforgettable meal. The bread, the service, the atmosphere, our plates of food…it was all more than wonderful. It was honestly the perfect way to end our trip.
Allison ordered Croque Monsieur and I had the Tartine du jour (Halibut salad served open faced over crusty Thomas Keller bread)…and of course lunch was complete with some crispy Pommes Frites and Heirloom Tomato Salad. Sigh…just thinking about it is making me so hungry and almost sentimental.
Until we meet again wine country…I will miss you.