Weekend Eats ATL

…because calories don't count on the weekends

Travel Eats: Napa Valley

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In addition to my restaurant bucket list, I also have a travel list…

At the end of August, Chad and I went to Napa.  It was one of my favorite trips to date, and I’m already planning our next visit (FYI, Chad).  We spent 2 days drinking our way through wine country and one day exploring San Fran via bike and foot.  Oh, we also just missed that 6.0 magnitude earthquake by a few hours.  Lucky break (no pun intended).

Day 1: Hello, wine country

Side Note – We used My Napa Valley Driver for our two days in Napa, which was well worth the money spent.  Our driver, Linda, picked us up at 10 am sharp at our hotel and drove us around to the wineries of our choice for the next two days.  She was so pleasant, provided tidbits of knowledge as we drove around, and had great suggestions to improve our itinerary.  I would highly recommend MNVD to anyone planning a Napa trip.  Linda also happened to be a Georgia Bulldog from Atlanta, so it was clearly meant to be.

Stop 1: Robert Sinskey

The Details:

  • $25 tasting fee (4-wine flight & plate of small bites)
  • Tasting room open 10:00 am – 4:30 pm; no appointment required for parties smaller than 5

The winery was undergoing some construction when we visited, so there wasn’t much in terms of scenery.  In fact, we didn’t venture outside of the tasting room.  The wine was good, not great.  The small bites were a really nice and unexpected touch, and timed perfectly given that we never got around to eating breakfast.  The super-pretentious tasting room attendant, however, was not my cup of tea.

Robert Sinskey Winery

10 am & ready to taste

I think I enjoyed the bites more than the wine here.  The cheese & spinach tart was the perfect breakfast bite.

I think I enjoyed the bites more than the wine here. The cheese & spinach tart was the perfect mini breakfast.

The Verdict: The wine was eh.  If it weren’t for the tasty bites, I’d skip Sinskey.

Stop 2: Baldacci Family Vineyards

The Details:

  • $50 reserve tasting fee
  • Tasting room open 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, by appointment only

Baldacci is a small and charming family-owned winery.  We showed up sans appointment, but Linda charmed them into squeezing us in for a tasting.  We loved everything about Baldacci, especially the fact that we arrived early enough to enjoy our tasting on the quiet and serene outdoor patio.  The wine was spectacular (we purchased our first bottles of the trip here) and the outdoor area was beautiful and relaxing.

The Verdict: Definitely worth a stop.  Enjoy the sunshine & wine on the patio.

Stop 3: Rombauer

The Details:

  • $20 classic flight of 4 wines
  • Tasting room open 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; no appointment required

Prior to embarking on our trip, I reached out to a few seasoned Napa veterans for some itinerary assistance.  Rombauer was recommended to me with the statement: “if you like buttery chardonnay, enjoy.”  Um, is the Pope Catholic?  Of course I like buttery chardonnay.  All of the wines in our tasting flight were enjoyable, and Rombauer definitely delivered on the chardonnay front.  After three wine tastings and no lunch, it didn’t take much arm twisting to convince me to join their chardonnay club.  Oh, and the view from Rombauer’s balcony wasn’t too terrible either.

Rombauer chardonnay

Hello, wine country

Rombauer Napa

Pretty.

The Verdict: “If you like buttery chardonnay [and gorgeous views], enjoy”

Stop 4: Lunch at the Soda Canyon Store

By the time we left Rombauer it was after 2 pm.  We were starving and kinda tipsy, or maybe that was just me?  Linda took us to the Soda Canyon Store, where we picked up tasty sandwiches on fresh baked bread.  We enjoyed our lunch at a quiet picnic table outside, which turned out to be just what we needed before our final stop of the day.

Stop 5: Del Dotto

The Details:

  • $65 cave tour & barrel tasting
  • Tours daily by appointment at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm

Our 3 pm cave tour & tasting at Del Dotto was the only scheduled appointment we made for day 1, and we were definitely glad it was the last stop.  The tour lasted for 1.5 hours and was both informative and unique.  There was also a LOT of barrel tasting involved.  We heard a rumor that Del Dotto had “generous pours”, also known as the understatement of the century.  I couldn’t keep track of how many wines we tasted, but they were all good.  The tour ended with a much needed spread of meats and cheeses, as well as our credit cards, to purchase more wine, of course.

Del Dotto cave tour

Wine tasting in a cave: check that one off on the list

Verdict: As close as you get to bottomless wine in Napa

Stop 6: Dinner at Celadon

After Del Dotto, we headed back to explore downtown Napa.  We dined at a table on the outdoor patio at Celadon.  After a long day of wining and dining, we weren’t super hungry.  We shared a Caesar salad, some calamari, a really tasty pork belly dish, and then called it a night.

Celadon Napa

Pork belly & watermelon: the perfect combination of hot & cold and sweet & savory

Day 2: Rise & shine, time for wine

Stop 1: Domaine Chandon

The Details:

  • $20 classic flight of 4 sparkling wines
  • Tasting room open 10:00 am – 5:00 pm; no appointment required

Another piece of itinerary advice we received was to start the day with bubbles, so we eased into day 2 with some sparkling wine for breakfast.  We enjoyed everything we tasted, but the best part was the picturesque backdrop.  Domaine Chandon’s tasting room had stunning floor to ceiling windows that opened up to show off the beautiful grounds.  We enjoyed most of the tasting outside while taking in the beautiful scenery.

Domaine Chandon

Good morning, Napa.

Domaine Chandon

Bubbly.

The Verdict: Start your day here.  You can’t beat bubbles for breakfast.

Stop 2: Nickel & Nickel

The Details:

  • $65 tour & tasting
  • Tours daily by appointment 10 am – 2 pm

When we arrived at Nickel & Nickel, we were escorted into the living room of an old farm house and presented with a glass of chardonnay.  Off to a good start.  For the next hour, we learned about the winemaking process as we explored Nickel & Nickel’s grounds with a small and intimate group of 8.  Following the tour, we moved into the formal dining room for our tasting.  Nickel & Nickel’s wine was spectacular, and I actually learned a lot about wine tasting during the process.  I did feel slightly pretentious when our tour guide urged me to stick my entire nose into the glass to really capture the aromas of the wine, but I got over myself quickly enough.

Nickel & Nickel

Would you like some cheese with that wine? Why yes, I would, thank you.

The Verdict: The tour was a little long for my short attention span.  The wine was worth the wait, though.

Stop 3: Cakebread Cellars

The Details:

  • $30 white wine flight
  • Tasting room open 10:30 am – 4:00 pm; by appointment only

Cakebread is one of my favorite California chardonnays, so there was no question that we’d stop here for a tasting.  The white wine flight progressed perfectly from a light sav blanc to the rich and buttery 2012 Reserve, which I just couldn’t not buy a case of.  Other than my personal affinity for the wine, Cakebread’s tasting wasn’t much of an experience.

The Verdict: Visit Cakebread for the chardonnay, although it’s not quite as buttery as Rombauer’s.

Stop 4: Lunch at the Oakville Grocery

Conveniently, Cakebread is right around the corner from the Oakville Grocery.  We picked up delicious sandwiches, a handful of gourmet goodies, and enjoyed another picnic lunch outside while soaking up the California sunshine.

Stop 5: Silver Oak

The Details:

  • $20 current release tasting
  • Tasting room open 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; no appointment required for parties fewer than 8

We had 45 minutes to spare before our final appointment of the day, so naturally, we stopped at another winery along the way.  Silver Oak’s tasting room was super crowded, so we enjoyed our tasting outside with a gorgeous view of the vineyard.  After the formality of Nickel & Nickel, it was nice to taste and wander the grounds at our own pace.

Silver Oak

California wine & sunshine 🙂

Silver Oak Napa

It’s wine o’clock somewhere

The Verdict: Worth a stop if you’re already in the area, but I wouldn’t plan my day around a visit.

Stop 6: Frog’s Leap

The Details:

  • $20 signature seated tasting
  • Tasting room open 10:00 am – 4:00 pm; by appointment only

If Del Dotto was the perfect way to end our first day, Frog’s Leap was the perfect way to end our second.  We sat outside on the back porch for the signature seated tasting and enjoyed the afternoon breeze with our wine.  Afterwards, we took a casual stroll around the property.  Frog’s Leap didn’t necessarily have my favorite wine of the trip, but they were a top contender when it came to atmosphere.

Frog's Leap Napa

Strolling the gardens

The Verdict: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the porch (and wine).

Stop 7: Dinner at Mustards Grill

Located in Rutherford, Mustard’s is a restaurant that came highly recommended by several Napa experts.  The food was delicious and the atmosphere was casual and unpretentious.  It was just what we needed to end our second evening.  Mustard’s famous pork chop was highlight of our dinner, followed closely by the warm chocolate hazelnut truffle tart.  If you’re not wined-out by dinnertime, you can also BYOB and enjoy some of your purchases from the trip.

Day 3: Goodbye Napa, Hello San Fran

On day three, we left wine country behind and crossed the Golden Gate into the beautiful city of San Francisco before heading back east.

Golden Gate Bridge

And then we biked back over the Golden Gate

Golden Gate Bridge

But first, let me take a bridge selfie

I guess Travel Drinks: Napa might be a more appropriate title for this post?

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Author: Weekend Eats ATL

Living life one meal at a time!

One thought on “Travel Eats: Napa Valley

  1. Pingback: Travel Eats: San Francisco | Weekend Eats ATL

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