23 November 2016

Napa is my Happy Place (Long Recap)

I recently went back to Napa for a work trip. I left home a little before 5am and 2 flights and a short rainy drive later, rolled into Napa County at exactly noon.

Aw Yeah!

I was amazed at the color of the foliage in Napa and the cooler temps. It actually felt like Autumn there. Back in Oklahoma, things were green and brown and the kids were wearing shorts to school (temps in the 80s).

Napa Marriott Fall Colors

After I unpacked, I headed over to Gott's Roadside in the Oxbow Public Market hoping to enjoy the Tuesday "burger and beer" special for $10. I was disappointed to hear that I was a few hours too early for that special because it was on my list of things to do...and I was also very hungry.

So I headed over to Trader Joe's to get munchies (I hate being in a hotel without food!), candy for the kids and a dark chocolate advent calendar for my love. I ended up buying some mead too because I thought I might like it. I like honey and I like beer so.... I brought it back to Oklahoma to share at Thanksgiving.

After my TJ salad for a late lunch, I went over my work checklist and then took a catnap. My co-worker arrived later and we went to a spot we've been to before for dinner, Bistro Don Giovanni. I had snacked on apples and hummus in my room so I wasn't really hungry but I wanted to try a Moscow Mule to see if I liked it.

Moscow Mule
Verdict: I did!
I also helped take down an order of Broccoli Rabe with mozzarella, green olives and garlic toast and Grilled Octopus with marble potatoes, frisee, olives, chilies, and lemon-olive oil. How could I resist?

Topside View

The next day after work, we hit Gott's Roadside for a late lunch. The burger and beer special was not available (bummer) but the experience is still what I'd consider a "must do" while in Napa.

Gott's Roadside Garlic Fries

I got the Wisconsin Sourdough burger with griddled mushrooms, bacon, cheddar cheese, mayo and BBQ sauce on toasted sourdough. It was so good, especially the garlic fries which I shared with my new friends.

Gott's Roadside Birdie
The little birds had no shame in their begging. This guy got away with several of my fries... I didn't mind. 

Later we visited Artesa Winery to stock up and take in the gorgeous vistas. This time was better than last time as there was no "Sonoma Aroma" in the air.

Artesa Winery
View heading out of the Winery

Artesa Winery

We didn't stick around for a tasting because we wanted to hit Saddleback Cellars before last call. On the way to SBC we saw a lot of pretty post-harvest vineyards.

Isn't this gorgeous?
At SBC, we sampled some wines sitting at a huge barrel table from the 1840s.

I Want Barrel
Very, very cool, no?

(Something that did not come across in the photos are the fruit flies. We were told that there were a lot of fruit flies after the harvest. Luckily they don't drink much...)

Later, I found Chloe and loved on her a bit. She's so sweet!

Me and Chloe
I have a bottle of her wine (Chloe's Blend) in the fridge at home...
And I also got back on this horse.

Saddleback Cellars
Hoping to do a better job at emulating this guy for our Derby Party.

Barrel Riding at Saddleback Cellars
After we got the good wine, we headed to BevMo! to get wine packaging and snacks.  A couple of bottles of water, a meat and cheese tray and a hot bath later, I was fast asleep...

The next day after checking in with the site and the office, we headed to our favorite lunch/picnic spot, V. Sattui.  I found a spot under a gorgeous Chinese Pistache to enjoy my arancini and stuffed olives.

Fall Colors at V. Sattui #favorite
My Chinese Pistache in Oklahoma is not nearly as colorful as this one...
As I was enjoying my lunch, I made a mental note to move some of my outdoor furniture around so that others could have a similar view (under the Pistache) while visiting my back yard.  After lunch when I walked the grounds, I saw Christmas decorations out ready to be hung. I would love to be here in a couple of weeks when the place is decked out.

Christmas Decorations at V. Sattui #favorite

Next up was a place I'd found that offered a more intimate (and complimentary) wine tasting, Heitz Cellars. It was basically next door to V. Sattui and you cannot miss it because of the 35-foot-tall, stainless steel “Bunny Foo Foo” leaping up into the Hall Wines vineyard across the highway. (The bunny is made of 3.3 metric tons of stainless steel.)

Heitz Cellar
Little Bunny Foo Foo
Hopping through the forest
Scooping up the field mice
And bopping 'em on the head
We were greeted by a ninja dog when we entered the tasting room. He seemed to be everywhere, like savoir faire.

Sweet Doggie at Heitz Cellar
He finally settled by the fire...noiselessly, of course...
The tasting at Heitz consisted of a smaller group around a large table with just a few of us listening to the history of the grapes and the wines. I like these more intimate tastings.

Heitz Tasting
Loving the extra long table and the wines were really, really good too.
I would have loved to hang out in the back yard a little but I think it was too chilly for the natives. #nexttime

Heitz Cellar

Next, we decided to visit another of Nils Venge's vineyards,  Envy Wines, in Calistoga.

Envy Wines

The last time I was there 3 years ago it was during the harvest and the smell of grapes permeated the air.  Now that was a treat! This time was after harvest and there were fruit flies galore. But there was also Kathy, the sommelier, and she was great.  She taught us the proper way to say "Thank you" in Japanese; women generally say "arrigata" and gentlemen say "domo arrigato" (no "Mr. Roboto"). Kahty poured us some great Envy wines and gave us good advice on places to see and where to get a good quality wine suitcase (Chateau Montelena, FYI).

Envy Wines

She mentioned people biking around and I wished we'd had more time to rent bikes and bike around the valley, but we had limited time. Maybe on the next trip.

Envy Wines
The Old Faithful Geyser is just out that window 
We set out for Chateau Montelena to find suitable protection for wine transportation. We were there just long enough walk the grounds and I snapped a ton of pictures because this place is gorgeous and so peaceful. Another winery on the list for next time.

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena
Barrel Chairs?
After our mission was complete here, we headed to another place I heard was a "must-see", Hurley's, for the Wild Boar Sliders.  This place was a cool and seemed to feature a lot of locals. We sat in the bar area and ordered a few items to sample from the menu.

Hurley's Bar

We got the boar sliders (yum!).

Wild Boar Sliders at Hurley's Restaurant
Wild Boar Slides with Onion Rings
We also had the mac n' cheese and roasted turnips and carrots, and squash risotto! That was a pretty and tasty dish.

Squash Risotto at Hurley's (So Yummy!!!)
Squash Risotto!
The meal ended with Hurley's Bread Pudding (which was delicious).  Hurley's was a quaint and cozy place to end the day of exploring Napa.

This trip was a great one experiencing a few firsts (we saw moss in California - Sonoma - this trip!) and a few of the great regulars. I look forward to the next one.

I was very glad to get home, but I could probably have used a couple extra days in Napa to feed my soul (and my belly).

Side note: While I was driving through Woodland on my way to the Sacramento airport the next morning, I smelled a very strong odor of onion. I recalled that I smelled onion in that same area before on my way through Woodland. I made a note this time to research what and where and here is what I found: I was driving down the 5 through Woodland and Culinary Farms is located 2 blocks from the highway.  They make onion puree (among other things) at their facility. Mystery solved.

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