After a brief glimpse of San Francisco – we were on the road to Napa Valley. Now those who know me probably know that I am partial to a good glass of red … or two … so Napa was definitely on my ‘must do’ list and I was most excited about what we’d see, taste and experience!
However there was one thing I was not ‘most excited’ about – and that was the weather! When we started coming into the San Francisco area – we experienced some of the most torrential rain we’ve seen. And then it cleared a little … and then came back … and left … and came back with a vengeance! Turns out we arrived as the tail-end of one of four current storm systems passed over the area! We took one or two hairy detours to avoid the major traffic and finally arrived to our accommodation for the weekend … right next to a river! :S
As it was super rainy and miserable – dinner for the first night was care of the local WholeFoods (which was amazing – so happy to just eat broccoli!) We tucked in for the night in our giant bed hoping that the river didn’t flash flood overnight and that we could get to some wineries!
We were happy to see that the river we were next to hadn’t broken its banks overnight and hit the road into the valley – proper. The first stop was the famous Castello di Amorosa – an honest-to-god castle. Now this is truly a magnificent site and for those keen on reading up on how the castle came to be – you can check out the owner’s story here. We had an excellent tasting with a very knowledgeable (and generous) staff member. It really felt like a medieval castle complete with 2 cats waiting for a mouse to come out from his hiding hole.
The next stop was up a very New Zealand-like windy road to Pride Mountain Vineyards. Now this was a bit of a gamble … as Pride Mountain only took tastings via booking … and we didn’t have one … HOWEVER when we popped our heads in and outright told them we knew they didn’t take stragglers and could they possibly just take us two because we’ve come all the way from New Zealand … how could they refuse?? Well actually, to tell the truth, the weather had caused a few groups to cancel – so our tour guide Andy was more than happy to have us!
The tasting here is actually a tour through the cave – which was quite nice compared with the whole standing in a room and having it lined up in front of you. Andy was a great guide – full of interesting information and generally some great chat. The vineyard is spread over the mountain and even caters for ‘exclusive’ private tastings in a hunting-lodge themed room (complete with big leather chairs and a fireplace!) We stopped here to do some ‘mixing’ of wine and also to check that the toilet flush goes the other way in the states … you know – just as you do when you’re out wine tasting! We had a great time and got some awesome snaps:
After a smashing lunch by the fireplace (Tim had a foie gras burger! #Tim’s note: its duck in the states, not goose. Yes that makes it not as good) we were off on the road back to see more of what Napa had to offer. We made a brief stop at Beaulieu vineyards and shared a tasting – the Cab Sauv was quite tasty – but I was saving room for one of my faves … Mumm – Napa Valley style. Yes – you read right! Mumm has vines in the valley that are commissioned to make tasty Methode Traditionalle.
Now being Mumm – it was quite the popular tasting facility (with several Hen’s parties separated from the rest of the punters…) but we managed to grab a table. We tasted 7 different bubbles and Tim also had a glass of their Pinot Noir. Our guide had cottoned on to the fact I was partial to a glass of bubbles or two – so was generous with the tastings 🙂 After picking up a bottle of the Pinot (I know!) It was time to head home and figure out what was for dinner!
Turns out that my family friend Mark was in the valley that night too and we caught up with him and his partner for oysters, grilled cheese and Champagne – great combo! It was a fabulous evening full of laughter and reminiscing – even if it was still raining 🙂