Two Travel Diaries in one week??
I know, I know, you can hardly believe it. But it’s happening, folks! I’ve been traveling to so many amazing places lately that it’s been hard to keep up. And I’m finishing this Napa and Sonoma post just in time to jet off on my next adventure….to Quebec! I can hardly wait to eat poutine and drink beer and see all of the Christmas lights (and snow!) and maybe give tobogganing a shot? Has anyone done that? OMG it looks like so much fun, I really hope we can squeeze it in!
But before I take off on this next adventure, I feel that it’s absolutely necessary for me to share all about my latest trip to Napa/Sonoma with my gal pal and fellow blogger Hana-Lee of Wander & Wine (check her out!) Seeing as I’m a food/travel blogger and she’s a wine/travel blogger, we figured it was absolutely necessary to plan a joint trip up to Wine Country and really do it a solid. We pooled our resources, reached out to our contacts and before we knew it we were headed north on our quick, two-day excursion!
We left Santa Barbara early on a Tuesday morning and made it to Sonoma by lunch. We spent the day in this more western valley before driving over to Calistoga to check into our hotel for the night. We spent the second day on the Napa side, mainly focusing on the Calistoga area so we didn’t have to do quite as much driving on our one full day there.
I know that in my last Travel Diaries post I shared a lot of photos as well as where we ate and what we did in pretty much bullet point format, but today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of everything because there is so much to talk about. Literally every person that hosted us at all of the wineries and restaurants we visited had such a wealth of knowledge, it would be a shame not to pass it along to you. So here goes!
Day 1: Sonoma
Lunch at The Girl & the Fig
Even after having lived in Napa for three years AND getting married in Sonoma last summer, I had never been to this iconic restaurant in the Sonoma square. Boy had I been missing out! The food is typical wine country fare, nothing too creative, but what makes it special is the quality of ingredients used in every dish. They even make their own charcuterie here, and I’m kicking myself for not asking if they sell it so I could take some home with me!
Tasting at Kutch Wines
We were so lucky to get hooked up with a special tasting here, as it’s most definitely not your typical tasting room experience. Johanna, the assistant winemaker, showed us around the winemaking facility (which is shared with a few other producers) and told us how they make their whole-cluster Pinot Noirs. We then headed up to the “offices” to taste through a slew of 2014 Pinots from various vineyards. Unlike Kutch, most wineries remove the grapes from the stems before fermenting, so the whole cluster technique that they are using is very unique. If you ever get the chance to try wines made using this method, you’ll notice it tastes earthier and a bit more tannic, more similar to the Burgundian style.
Tasting at Three Sticks Wines
Three Sticks has been getting a decent amount of press lately, and deservedly so. We visited their (somewhat) new tasting facility, The Adobe, located right in the heart of downtown Sonoma. The Adobe is hardly new though, it was built in 1842! It’s been lovingly restored by the Three Sticks family, which you can see in every single detail from the wallpaper in the bathrooms to the original kitchen. Being in Sonoma, Three Sticks is also heavily focused on Pinot Noir, however we were duly impressed with the white blend and Chardonnay as well. I have to say that this was my favorite winery of the trip, and I can’t wait to bring family and friends back to try!
Dinner at Evangeline Napa
After our tasting at Three Sticks, we headed back to Calistoga to check in to our hotel (more on that below) and grab a late dinner at Evangeline Napa. This restaurant is fairly new and wasn’t around when I lived in the Valley, but it’s just what Calistoga needed. Modern and intimate, showcasing French Creole cuisine, it’s a great spot for “fancy” comfort food.
Day 2: Napa (Calistoga area)
Breakfast at Sam’s Social Club
After hearing some buzz about it, the hubs and I had tried to make it here on our last trip to Napa, but to no avail. Since we were staying at the hotel that this restaurant is housed in this time around (Indian Springs Resort) there’s no way we could pass it up. We grabbed breakfast before heading out for a day of wine tasting, and it was the perfect filling, balanced meal to keep us going. Annnddddd….you pretty much HAVE to order the Candy Cap Churros. ‘Nuff said.
Tasting at Jericho Canyon Vineyard
Our tour started here bright and early, so I was grateful for a little tour of the property before we sat down to taste any wines. We hopped in the golf cart and made our way up the side of the canyon (they are the only canyon vineyard in the Napa Valley) and spent a good half hour just listening to the family’s story and taking photos. It didn’t hurt that we were there at the perfect time of year for all of the leaves to be changing color, but the property is gorgeous and I’m sure it would be photogenic at any time of year. Plus, it’s a family-run winery with great values, a talented winemaker, and no ambitions to get really huge. Definitely worth a visit, just be sure to make an appointment in advance!
Tasting at Davis Estate
Four words to describe this place: Ralph Lauren rustic chic. Designed by the well-known Wine Country Architect, Howard Backen, this newly opened tasting room just off of the Silverado Trail leaves no nook or cranny untouched. There are numerous locations to host tastings here, and we just happened to be lucky enough to snag the couch-sized outdoor swings on the patio overlooking the entire Napa Valley. Each wine in our tasting (a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Franc and Zephyr, a Bordeaux blend) was paired with a small bite, which complimented the wines’ flavors beautifully. I kind of wanted to stay there and swing gently on my chair, sipping wine the whole afternoon, but we had more tasting to do!
Tasting at Larkmead Vineyards
At our final tasting of the day, we were greeted by Dan Petroski, who has been the head winemaker at Larkmead since 2012. It was such a treat getting a tour of the winery from the winemaker himself, and hearing about his journey from working in the high-paced media industry to now not only making the wine for Larkmead, but also for his own label, Massican. Our tasting immersed us into the world of Cabernet Sauvignon, with Dan showing us three different Larkmead cabs, made from three different vineyards with three different soil types. It was fascinating tasting all of these side-by-side and being able to notice the differences in palate firsthand.
Happy Hour at Sam’s Social Club
After being teased by such a delicious breakfast (and not having eaten a real meal since then) we decided to pop in again for a quick cocktail and some appetizers before heading to dinner in St. Helena. Yum! We sat at the bar, ordered a drink, and let the bartender choose which appetizers to order us. Let’s just say the blue cheese-stuffed dates we had were reincarnated by yours truly for Thanksgiving appetizers last week 🙂
Dinner at Press Restaurant
Yet another place that I am ashamed to say I never visited while I lived in the Valley, even when it was right in my own backyard and directly on the route I took to and from work. So sad, because I now know that I was really missing out. The wine list alone is to die for, which is conveniently presented to you at your table on an iPad. And, even though it’s technically a steak place, let’s not look past the amazing appetizers, salads, and soups. In fact, we were way too full to even order a steak, but you can bet it’s at the top of my list for the next time I go back there!
Day 3: Homeward Bound
Breakfast at Dean & Deluca
We hit the road early on Thursday morning to head home, but not before stopping for a quick breakfast first. Dean & Deluca is the perfect place for a gourmet grab-and-go (because, when in Napa, right?) There’s a full espresso bar, baked goods and (my favorite) breakfast burritos. If you’re looking for a quick, transportable breakfast or lunch, this is the place you need to go!
Where We Stayed
I have to admit, back in the day, I always brushed this place aside, thinking that it was old and run down. Well, after a 2014 expansion and renovation, I’m happy to say that this is no longer a place that should be overlooked or ignored. Not only does the resort now boast a hip and happening restaurant (see above,) it also has every activity under the sun (we’re talking bocce, bicycles to rent, ping pong and, of course, the naturally-heated mineral pool!) plus a full-on spa. We didn’t have time to make it to the spa during our short time there, but we did take a dip in the mineral pool and, boy, was it a treat after my long run in 39-degree weather that morning. The entire grounds are very peaceful and relaxing, so I’d definitely recommend this place as a relaxing, quiet getaway with a significant other or couple of gal pals as opposed to a hip, wild party scene (but then, do you really ever find that in Napa?)
So that was our trip in a nutshell! As always, we barely felt like we scratched the surface and already have a long list of other places we need to try the next time we are up there. What about you? Do you have any recommendations of places we need to check out (whether eating, drinking, or some other activity) the next time we’re in Wine Country??
And if you’re headed to Wine Country and looking for even more suggestions, be sure to check out the Travel Diaries: Napa post I did a couple of years back. A lot of the great places I recommended then are still around and as tasty as ever!