It was that time again, jacks went up and off to Napa Valley we went. We reconnected with Keith and Jenn Russell, whom we met while in Arizona. They are likewise full timers who write a blog, post on instagram and upload videos about their year-long country wide adventures on youtube under the name of Empty Nest Nomads. We have become friends and enjoy their company. So when it was time to research wineries and the vicinity, the Russells and the Lindstroms made a small dent on the area for sure. We had certain vineyards in mind to visit and then we happened upon other ones which we really enjoyed.
Napa Valley has a beautiful rolling landscape with over 300 wineries ranging from boutiques to large corporate operations. We also wandered around St. Helena, home of the Culinary Institute of America, referred to as the “CIA”, beautiful old homes and upscale shopping. We began our tasting journey by traveling along the Silverado Trail all the way to Calistoga, the northern end of this 19th century mining road, widely known for its mineral baths. We visited Mumm, Stag’s Leap, Sterling Vineyards, Trinchero and even enjoyed our very own private wine tasting at Lindstrom winery.
I certainly enjoyed Mumm. I got to taste a variety of sparkling wines and learned that out of respect we should not refer to sparkling wine as Champagne as all sparkling wine is not Champagne. Champagne only comes from the region of Champagne, France. It is a region, not a grape or style of wine. Champagne has a strict way on how it grows, produces and maintains the quality of its grapes and its name is extremely protected.
Our visit to Stag’s Leap
When visiting Sterling Vineyards we had to take a short air tram ride, to reach the top of the mountain, and upon arriving, the views were beautiful and very enjoyable.
We enjoyed a private tasting on our tour of Trinchero. Out host took around their property, but most interestingly, she allowed us into their caves. These were not air conditioned but as they were below ground they stay cool year round.
After having made reservations months in advance, we visited the guest house for Lindstrom Winery and enjoyed yet another private tasting of some amazing wine.
There were so many more vineyards and locations we could have visited, but we did have to eat, shop and occasionally, sleep. Speaking of shopping, I absolutely loved the markets in California. We were able to find fresh fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese everywhere we looked. We did find many small markets and when frequented, the gave me a feeling of community and comfort, which the large grocery chains usually do not offer.
We did have the opportunity of visiting some eateries in St. Helena but one in particular stood out. Farmhead at Long Meadow Ranch, with a farm-to-table fare was absolutely incredible. I can not recall having a more delicious meal.
The Russells joined us for brunch at Osteria Divina in Sausalito, a very pretty little harbor town with a marina, waterside boutiques and hillside mansions and there we met our daughter, Ashley’s, college roommate, Sara de la Vega and her boyfriend, Patrick and had a fun time reconnecting.
After brunch, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and drove around Presidio, Pacific Heights, North Beach and the Financial District of San Francisco and what a surprise, it was a cold and foggy day in the bay! As Mark Twain said “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” So true!
Finally, before returning we just had to stop at Napa Valley Distillery. This was the first distillery to open its doors in the city of Napa since Prohibition.
Visiting Napa Valley was so much fun. The weather cooperated nicely and, again ,I was reminded that a week’s time was simply not enough. On the bright side, we have yet another reason to return!