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Newbie in Napa

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Erin, Wendy, Craig, Corryn, Me and Dave after a private wine tasting sesh at Trinchero Family Estates.

Wow…can I just tell you that wine tasting in Napa with some of your favorite people is a crazy good time?

I don’t remember when Dave and I last got to leave the kids for an extended weekend that didn’t involve work, so having my amazing sister and her husband take them for a 4-day weekend was so cool! (Especially since my brother in law was also juggling the pain of a tooth that had been waiting for a root canal for over 2 weeks prior.  Ouch!)

We left home after work on Friday, dropped off Kid 1 and Kid 2 and then dashed back on the freeway to head to our dear friends’ house in Vacaville.  When we got there, we got to claim which guest room we wanted (mwah ha ha…the advantages of arriving FIRST!) and then got to relax and try our hand at some homemade pińa coladas.

The Next Morning – Wine Tasting Day!

After a luxurious shower in a shower stall that did not involve a)Doing a back bend to cram my head under the faucet and b) Was bigger than my cramped phone-booth shower at home, we ate our weight in eggs, bacon, coffee and sugar-free Red Bull and were on our way out the door to Napa.

Fashion Side Note: We had planned ahead for this getaway, and part of my planning process is imaging what I would wear as I gallivanted through the vineyards.  (Isn’t this how everyone plans for a trip?) In my mind I pictured the perfect outfit that I had seen years ago in a J. Crew magazine, back when I still received that catalog and actually thought that I may have had the disposable income to actually purchase something from there that was not actually purchased on eBay, like I do now.


My dream Napa outfit would have been perfect: exquisitely tailored, loose-but-not-too-flowy-like-Stevie-Nicks, linen pants (alabaster) with a polished navy top.  I’d complete the ensemble with a wide brimmed hat and my normal stunner sunglasses that I am convinced add a little polish to my everyday attire and in no way draws any attention to my rather large nose.

This dream outfit did not actually get to happen, but I did manage to see another woman wearing something similar, so I guess it’s a good thing it didn’t work out.  No one wants to end up playing “Who Wore it Best?” while under the influence of wine.

This dramatic wine pose would have been pretty awesome in my dream wine-outfit…

Our first stop in Napa was at a delightful boutique neighborhood to pick up our wheels for the rest of the day’s journey.  Our friends are pretty likeable, and they met some people who lent us their minivan for the day so all 6 of us could pal around together.  My friend, Craig, offered to be the designated driver for the afternoon then grabbed the keys to our merlot-colored Honda Odyssey and we were off!

On our way to Napa!

Dave and I claimed the back seat, since we figured that’s where the cool kids sat on the bus.  What we didn’t have in our bus-riding days, were the two speakers that were featuring loud tunes directly into our ear holes.  We spent most of the drive saying, “WHAT?!” to the others who happily chatted about, honestly, I have no idea.

Dave and decided that parents must love the speakers-in-the-kids-faces feature so they can have a private conversation up front without the risk of having young ones overhear anything potentially sensitive to little ears.

Soon, Dave put on his “I’m a Genius” hat and put my big purse in front of one of the speaker and a long wrap/scarf thingy I had brought (to help with my whole, dramatic Napa-ensemble thing) over the other.  Sigh…we could hear!  Oh, but we had just arrived at our first stop: Castello di Amorosa.

We were greeted with a young man holding a ridiculous umbrella with bright yellow happy faces all over it, and I immediately felt bad for the guy’s hipness level.  I mean, I guess you could say it helped keep him safe because there was no way a car could accidentally hit him with that annoying thing over his shoulder, but it also kind of took away from the whole ‘rustic castle’ feel of the place.  Shouldn’t he be dressed like a knight or a wizard?  That could also help him stand out, right?

Castello di Amorosa – Look! Real stone sent over from Italy. (I hear their stone is fancier than ours…)

The castle was such a neat place.  We walked around as a group, and only got caught in a mildly restricted zone once!  I was even greeted by the Director of Marketing who wanted me to join the castle’s Instagram campaign.  Pretty smart, of them, actually.  I complied, happily, although, I’ve gotta tell you, the hastag “#castellodiamorosa” is not the easiest thing to spell correctly.  Maybe next time go for, #napawinecastle or something else that I can manage with a slight wine-buzz…

Not sure if we were allowed to go inside here or not, but we got to idea from some other people we saw doing it and figured, ‘Why not?’

Down we all traipsed, to the royal tasting room, complete with flattering warm lighting and a castle-themed gift shop!  We were given five tastings with the cost of our castle admission, and I was starting to get bummed out with my selections after the first 4 were only deemed so-so.  I was also distracted by the growling of my stomach by this point, since it was well after lunch time, and our lunch plans were still hours away.  Crazy long, spaghetti-like breadsticks to the rescue!  Now I was ready for wine number 5.

Sweet heavenly gates!  Wine 5 was awesome!  What was it? Oh, just a little taste of heaven that had rolled off an angel’s wing – that’s ALL!  It was called “2011 Fantasia” and was described by our educated pourer as tasting a little like ‘strawberry soda’.  Awesome!  And totally not what I expected from my hoity-toity Napa trip!   We’ll take a bottle, please!

We glanced at our watches long enough to realize that we would probably be late to our next private tasting at another heavenly location back up highway 12 called the Trinchero Family Estates.

Putting On Our Fancy Pants

It was quite the transition from the old (it’s kinda hard to get any older than a castle with a drawbridge) to the new and shiny at the Trinchero place.

Our friend, Craig is kind of a super-rad dude with mysterious foodie connections and he finagled a private tasting in one of the most spectacular private rooms.  It had a wall of windows that overlooked the vineyard, a fully stocked cheese tray and enough chairs for all of us!  No standing at a crowded bar for these people anymore!

Our private tasting table at Trinchero. Wow!

It was delicious…I was also ready to gnaw on the table by this point as well, but it made the fancy cheeses (I heard that one of them could have come from a goat) and dried cherries taste fantastic!  What a fun treat!

Soon we were snapping pictures again and loaded up into our wine-ride for a drive down to Gott’s, also known as, “The best restaurant in the world.”  Well, to me at least.  We opted for their St. Helena location and managed to grab a table under some shelter, just as a huge blustery wind came blowing in.  The skies darkened and we were convinced we’d get a crazy thunderstorm or at least some rain, but it held off until we were finished and loading back into the van.

But please. Let’s get back to the amazing food that blessed my taste buds and has been haunting my dreams ever since.

YUM!!! Gott’s garlic fries. Photo courtesy of Flickr user “pengrin”.

Yes, Gott’s has amazing burgers and their buns are super fresh and delicious, but what knocked my socks off and tempted me to elbow my husband and declare, “MINE! MINE!” was their garlic fries, paired with their signature ranch dipping sauce.  Forget your previous connotations of ranch dressing, my friends.  There is nothing like Gott’s ranch dressing.  It has a slightly greenish hue, but it’s ok.  It was out-of-this-world-amazing!    Sigh…I have added Gott’s two other locations to my bucket list.

Back in the van we went as the rain came pouring down.  We made a few little stops here and there before arriving in Yountville, where we would be eating dinner.

Yountville was a very picturesque place, but I will say that we were all a little surprised that at 6:00 on a Saturday evening, 99% of the shops and boutiques were closed, even on Memorial Day weekend.  I would think that the shops would want to be open, since most of the wineries in the area closed around 5:00 and all those people would be looking for something to do next.

The shops may have been closed, but at least we were able to see this unicorn stained glass art installation. Nothing says, “Classy wine tasting” like a unicorn in stained glass, am I right?

We had reservations on the patio at Hurley’s, which we were assured by the seating hostess, was actually warmer than being sat on the inside.  I’m not so sure I believed her after about 5 minutes.  We were also seated by the open entrance, so the cool Yountville breeze could blow right in behind me.  They turned on heaters and later even brought out blankets.  I think next time, we’ll aim for indoors.  Or maybe I can just talk them all into going back to Gott’s for more burgers and fries!

Dinnertime at Hurley’s. I was going for the “dramatic-wrap” effect here, but I was also freezing.

I also think that our next wine tasting getaway will need to be extended to a two-day wine-a-palooza.  I woke up the next morning feeling a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be going back for day 2.  There were so many beautiful looking places that I would love to try, plus getting to feel fancy and spoiled with Craig’s foodie connections is always a fun treat!

Have you been wine tasting in Napa?  What wineries should we go to on our next visit?

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

3 responses »

  1. Sounds like a super-fun trip. So glad you guys got to get away and do something really cool for your anniversary. And I love that the wine you liked most tasted like strawberry soda. That sounds like a wine I might like. And I want some garlic fries.

  2. The question is, how many glasses of wine did it take to do the ‘wine pose’? =)


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