Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NAPA day trip 101

So, I was hoping that we would do Napa on a budget. Well we didn't. But we didn't do too bad! I'm gonna be honest here, we had more fun than we worried about the budget. Plus I got in trouble at the deli at V. Sattui winery, which I will get on about in a hot second.

I planned the entire day literally hour by hour, because I knew we would get distracted and waste the day if we didn't have a set schedule. But even then, good road trips always go a little off track or they wouldn't be road trips at all.

Napa is on a scenic highway that does a loop through the Napa Valley, this is helpful in planning a trip because you can do the entire valley in one day if you plan it right. We drove through Napa, up the scenic 29 through St. Helena, Rutherford, and Calistoga and then looped around onto the Silverado Trail to go back down because it's faster, there are no traffic lights; and I actually thought it was prettier. So now, on to the fun stuff.

We started the day off at the Napa Valley Outlets, And it was fabulous. They have a Barney's outlet. My take on the whole thing, was that it was outlet shopping, so we were saving right?! That's how it works for me. The boy had fun too; he bought more than I did.

After the hard work of shopping, we were hungry. Of all the recommendations of things to do in the valley, I heard that having a picnic at V. Sattui winery should be on the top of the list. They have a deli there, where you can buy gourmet foods (delicious sandwiches, cheese, olives, chocolate etc. and wine) and then sit on their grounds and have lunch.

Let me say this, V. Sattui's deli is AMAZING (it made Dean and Deluca across the street look like a joke). It was so fantastic I almost barfed. We bought so much food, got salami and homemade mustard as gifts and ate to our hearts content.

They have the most incredible cheese selection I have ever seen; and this is where I get in trouble. I have a weird love affair with cheese, I can't get enough. I bought 6 different kinds from 6 different countries, all cheeses I had never tried, nor heard of. And so far they're delicious. People, you need to go here, period. No discussions. It's worth it, just keep an eye on your spending, it can get expensive if you're a foodie, like me.

On to downtown St. Helena, where we walked around and looked in all the little shops. It's a really charming town, and a good time to spend walking off lunch. We got chocolates at Woodhouse, which was according to reccomendations, the Tiffany's of chocolate. If they mean overly priced for nothing that spectacular then they were right, but chocolate is chocolate. St. Helena, is a lovely town, and you drive right through the downtown on the 29.

Ok, if you want to go on a winery tour, MAKE RESERVATIONS. I don't care if they don't say anything about making reservations online, do it anyway. This was my mistake and both the tours I had planned were killed, due to my poor knowledge of the winery industry. Most places charge for tours, but Frogs Leap, which is an organically grown, family owned winery will give you free tours, if you MAKE RESERVATIONS.

So instead we went wine tasting down the street which was just as nice.

Afterward we went to Mumm Napa, the champagne company, where we were going to have another tour on how they make champagne (free tour, btw, not very common) but we missed the last tour by 30 min. so we sat out on the patio overlooking their vineyards and had a glass of champagne. This was the highlight for me. The view was incredible, the weather was perfect, the champagne was delicious and it was very relaxing. Nice people, and romantic. Totally reccomend this if you're going to do anything in Napa.

We had spare time so we drove to Castello di Amorosa. Literally a castle (apparently been featured on the travel channel) modeled after the castles in Italy. A wine castle?! They had just closed so we still got to wander around and look in the gift shop. We wish we'd come here earlier so we could see the whole thing. It was pretty epic. I heard they have an actual dungeon.

Went to dinner at Rutherford Grill, which according to the locals we told about it, all said we'd made a good choice. Here again, MAKE RESERVATIONS, and do it way in advance, they only do limited reservations and the rest walk in. We were too tired to go looking around for anywhere else, though there are fantastic restaurants all over the valley. We decided to commit, and even though I tried and failed to make reservations the day before, our wait was 2 hours. But we went on a walk, got a glass of wine and an appetizer outside, and soaked up the scenery.

All in all, it was a gorgeous day, and great memories. Napa makes a great day trip if you're in the area, if not, come down anyway it's a great place to visit.

Have a lovely day.

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