Thursday, December 26, 2013

West Coast Wedding Extravaganza - Day 5

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One of the things I was most looking forward to with our trip to California was spending a few days in Napa Valley and Sonoma.  A family friend went on her honeymoon to Northern California, so I took some of her suggestions, along with inspiration from Kate (and vol. 2!), Andrea, and Beth. The drive up to Napa on Wednesday morning was easier than most of our other drives had been, possibly because we purchased a convertor that allowed us to charge (and thus use the GPS on) our phones.  We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, which was gorgeous, and made our way to our hotel, the River Terrace Inn, in not too much time at all.  The hotel was lovely, and even though we decided not to upgrade (to a room with a jacuzzi and balcony), our room was comfortable and perfect for our one-night stay.  It's also right near the Napa Wine Train, which we didn't use, but which sounds really convenient.

Then, we hit the road.  We checked out the Hess Collection first, which turned out to be a perfect first stop.  One of the most affordable vineyards, they also have an extensive art collection, which of course Roger loved.  In fact, one of the first pieces we saw was from an artist that Roger instantly recognized.  The wines we tried there were all great, and the wine educator who served us was friendly and knowledgeable, and also made some great suggestions for other vineyards to try out.  We didn't buy any bottles, but I would definitely recommend a visit!

Our next stop, despite being warned away by our wine educator, was Domaine Chandon, just because I really love champagnes.  They had some special bottles commemorating the America's Cup,  and the champagne was nice (as was the complimentary champagne flute!), but it was a little corporate.  I've heard good things about the restaurant, but for just a tasting, I think there are better spots to choose.  We did, though, buy a bottle to take back to the hotel, because why not?!

Roger champagne tasting!

We headed to Silverado Winery next, and figured out how to actually taste wine in Napa Valley - by taking our pours, one at a time, outside.  We're so used to tasting in New York, where the pours are free and the weather is sometimes chilly, that we usually go from vineyard to vineyard really quickly.  In California, though, things are meant to move a little slower.  We took each of our pours outside onto their terrace, and took in the beautiful warm weather and the delicious wines.  We ended up buying a bottle here too - one to bring back to Kristin and Drew as a thank you for letting us stay with them all week.
The view from Silverado Vineyards

Me, enjoying our time on the patio

Another view from Silverado

After Silverado, it was time to stop for a late lunch.  We headed to Mustards Grill, which had some delicious bites.  Even though it was later in the afternoon, the restaurant was still pretty crowded, so if you go, you may want to make reservations.  I can't remember anymore exactly what we ordered, but I believe it involved macaroni and cheese and maybe a chardonnay.

After we sated ourselves, we headed to our last vineyard of the day, Sterling Vineyards.  This was probably my favorite stop of the day, since it involved a tram, gorgeous views, and a nicely guided tour around the building and through the winemaking process.  After your tram ride up, you walk around the building in a self-guided tour, stopping along the way for a number of wine samples.  At the end, you can order a cheese platter and glasses of wine, and enjoy them out on the patio.  And with the spectacular views they had, who wouldn't want to do just that?  We were on one of the last trams up to the top, and we never felt rushed at all while we were up there.

Roger on the tram to Sterling Vineyards.

Gorgeous views from the top of Sterling Vineyards

Me enjoying some wine!

The two of us on the Sterling Vineyards patio.


The staff was incredibly friendly, and with just a few other couples at the vineyards, Sterling Vineyards was a perfect place to enjoy a quiet drink before heading back to our hotel for a sunset dinner.  We went to Celadon for dinner, and it was lovely to sit on their riverfront patio and take in the sunset, and then watch the enormous moon rise over the mountains.  Ideally, we would have been eating at the French Laundry, and while this food was certainly nothing close to what we would have had there, it was a nice experience nonetheless.

Sunset from our hotel.

I wish I was a better photographer so I could have captured how gorgeous this moon was.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and popped our bottle of bubbly for the evening.  We poured ourselves each a glass and headed downstairs to sit by the fire.  A perfect way to close our day exploring Napa Valley.


Sitting outside the hotel.

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