Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wine is sunlight, held together by water - Gallileo

Ahhh- the sun, the sweet vines, the savory cheeses and the silent breezes.  We were on to our next adventure all around the Napa Valley area.  We began at the Oxbow market and then on to some of the quaint wineries all in walking distance of downtown Napa.

The Oxbow market is made up of gourmet shops, tasting rooms, restaurants and all kinds of whimsical distractions.  

My favorite was Napastak which just opened this past spring and I am pretty sure  I would have bought one of EVERYTHING if my husband had let me.  

Gourmet treats and gadgets overflowed here- too much to take in for any foodie!

Elderflower Syrup is always a great addition to prosecco, I was pretty sure that was going into my shopping bag.

My take home finds from the market were some wonderful freshly dried pasta, some beautiful olive oil and balsamic, that elderflower syrup, and the most delicious porcini and truffle spread you will ever have melt in your mouth!  I also purchased some  delicious handmade chocolates to bring home to friends at Annette's Chocolates!  

Downtown Napa has some other quaint shops and beautiful views of the river with flowers blooming year round right on the river.

Cute artwork is around every corner, even on the sidewalks!

There was a tremendous classic car show going on when we were in town- very impressive!

One of our favorite tasting rooms in the walkable downtown area was Mark Herold Wines.  This shop was quite small but don't let it fool you.  We had a TOP NOTCH tasting here at the bar and brought home some delicious Acha and Metaphora.  The decor was fantastically fun with a huge "infant" trap under the sink and other fun touches.

A few other places we stopped in for a sip that I found worthy of mentioning were Capp Heritage (very art deco decor but very friendly people with some good wines).  Waterstone was also enjoyable albeit a little more low key.  They were gracious enough by the way to make a wonderful lunch recommendation of dining at The Pear -which I highly recommend.  Thank you to Jesse at the Pear who even sent over a complimentary appetizer which was absolutely fantastic - as far as I am concerned this is a Must Try next time you are in Napa:  their Potato, JalapeƱo & Cheddar Cheese Croquettes

These "tator-tots" of sorts were so crunchy and yet so cheesy and tender inside - heavenly!

Their crispy chicken and waffles were amazing as well! Can you taste it....  Buttermilk Fried Boneless & Skinless Breast over a Bacon-Spiked Belgian Waffle with Pear-Bourbon Maple Syrup!

It was time to head just south of Napa to Domaine Carneros and try some tiny bubbles and beautiful views....

At last we drove up to Castello di Amorosa
- known as being the captivating castle on the mountain.  

Thousands of feet of cave after cave were filled with barrels, bottles and tastes!  Lots of history here! 

My final post about our great trip to wine country is coming soon which includes our exclusive tasting at Francis Ford Coppola Winery and Museum and our fabulous stay at a beautiful manor!  Stay tuned! 

*This post is dedicated to the Napa Valley community who just endured a 6.1 earthquake this past week - glad to hear that everyone is ok and the cleanup is underway.  Keeping you all in our thoughts across the country!  

Wine Vacation Tip:  When purchasing various bottles at multiple wineries, ask around to purchase a shipping box and buy some packing tape.  It was much cheaper and very protected for us to pay the extra $35 for another checked bag and have our wine intact when we got off the plane than having it shipped home.  We bought ours for $12 at Uncorked at Oxbow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sonoma Wine Country - Pour yourself into it!!!

Whatever you do, pour yourself into it.

 -Robert Mondavi — 

Our journey on the Coast Starlight Express train from Portland, Oregon down to the Napa Valley area was a blast and we were ready bright and early to get into wine country!  (Check out my previous post HERE to learn more about the beautiful and scenic train ride we took).
From the train station, we rented a car and made our leisurely way up into Sonoma County less than an hour away for some tastings and lunch before checking into our inn for the evening.  Our first stop was Cline Vineyards and we had the pleasure of having Carolyn help us with our tasting.  Turns out working at wineries runs in her family and we so loved the wines and her hospitality that we joined their wine club!  By the way be sure to check with your inn or hotel as many times they have complimentary tasting coupons- there are also apps you can download too and it exposes you to some places you might not have known about!  
Artistic photo at Cline taken by Robert Billoni
Pretty property at Cline, interesting caution signs ;)
We were off to a fun start already..... so many choices, so many wines, so little time it seemed.  

Another great winery worth mentioning was the Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves... sparkling goodness and bright vistas!  

We took a stroll through downtown Sonoma as well and enjoyed a fantastic lunch at The Girl and The Fig. Here was a delicious sparking cocktail flight - and their quiche was out of this world!!

Then we ventured into Velle Cheese Company- not on the main square but a five minute worthwhile walk!  
Here is Robert at Unti Vineyards playing around with the wines.

At last we were delighted with the beautiful place we chose to stay for the night, just under ten minutes north of downtown Sonoma is Glenn Ellen- a great little town with wonderful wineries.  We had stayed here before but at the Olea Inn up the street and loved it.  This time we found a super great price at the Glen Ellen Inn which has a wonderful restaurant and martini bar onsite and seven cottages to choose from.  I recommend cottage 7 or cottage 5 for the most peaceful, comfortable and romantic stay!  
Room 5 view from the jacuzzi from
Room 7 view of wraparound fireplace between bedroom and sitting room from
Here we are in their beautiful courtyard enjoying the twilight before the chill comes into the air.  We would definitely stay at either place next time we are sipping our way through the area.
Good morning sunshine!  Woke up to the fireplace, a basket of goodies and ready for another fruitful day! 
Check back soon for my next post all about NAPA!!
Napa coming right up...... champagne flight at Domaine Carneros