Monday, April 27, 2009

Birthday Trip: Napa Valley - St. Helena/Rutherford - Day FOUR

Before departing the Napa valley last Saturday - Brian and I spent the morning in St. Helena/Rutherford.

We drove north from American Canyon to St. Helena and had breakfast at the Gillwood Cafe - fresh local ingredients producing excellent food (my huevos rancheros was wonderful with homemade salsa).We did a bit of window shopping along main street and picked up some wonderful trinkets at Olivier Napa Valley. Great mustards, olive oils, dipping sauces and kitchen items. Brian and I both commented that next time we will spend more time in St. Helena - checking out smaller wineries and exploring this cute little town.
We then decided to wrap up our Napa adventure by each picking a winery. I chose Franciscan Estates Winery (I liked the look of their grounds, well manicured, large fountain and large tasting room) and I had heard of their wines before but never have tried them. Most of the wineries along highway 29 are the larger commercial wineries that you know by heart. Their tasting fee was $15 and they actually threw in a port for Brian to try (which he didn't care for) and I had several reserve reds on top of the 4 tastings for my fee.

Good solid wines - but nothing that jumped out at me. I liked their Chardonnay (and the wine master even threw in a reserve Chardonnay), but they were not as good as Friday's Clos du Val or Rutherford Hill.

Brian choose Grgich Hills Estate - a winery he was familiar with. I am not a big fan of stainless steel aging - so their Chardonnay was too light for me (no oak). They also had a Fume Blanc which would pair nicely with a summer seafood salad. The reds were unimpressive. Their vineyards are certified organic and Biodynamic which uses the earth’s natural cycles and organic preparations to grow balanced, healthy vines without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides. You gotta love that!
I still felt like we were leaving Napa on a sour note (taste-wise) as on Friday "off the beaten path" we experienced so many wonderful wines.

We decided we had enough time to slip into Domaine Chandon for one last glass of bubbly. Again, I was disappointed. Their grounds are so immaculate - but their tasting area was extremely crowded and very loud (several large groups), plus the place was dirty (bathrooms, especially) and lacked the personal attention we'd had on Friday. Brian and I stood in the sunshine, snapped a few pictures and hit the road south.Our drive took us back over the Golden Gate Bridge as we reminisced about our favorite Napa experiences. I especially loved the Silverado Trail, Sterling Vineyard tram ride and Zuzu's for dinner.

Saturday afternoon was spent in Sunnyvale, California with friends Jenny and Brent and 2 year-old, Carter's birthday party in the park. A perfect opportunity to connect with them (it's been ages). It was a mild day - the air was clean and it was a relaxing way to wrap up our trip.They invited us over to pizza at their place - which gave us more of an opportunity to chat and play puppets (Sesame Street) with Carter Peanut. Very adorable little guy. Great made our trip that we could connect again!
We said goodbye to the Bay Area early on Sunday. I am so grateful for the wonderful time with Brian. We had a wonderful adventure.