OkieWineGirl

A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Category: Napa Chronicles

Napa Valley Remembered

One year ago this very weekend, we celebrated  our 20th anniversary by exploring that magical wine country ~ Napa Valley.

So I thought I’d post a little trip down memory lane . . .

We're finally here! Legendary Wine Country

We’re finally here! Legendary Wine Country

 

Lunch at Azzurros

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Judds Hill Winery

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Castello di Amorosa

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Gotts Roadside

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Duckhorn

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Mumm

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Frogs Leap

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TORC

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Chateau Montelena

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Happy Saturday!

 

 

 

A Bubbly Toast to Choice -MWWC#19

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The winner of last month’s ‘Monthly Wine Writing Challenge’ (put on by the Drunken Cyclist), Elizabeth of Travel Wine Chick, picked the word CHOICE for the next theme (#MWWC19). Interesting that she should choose this word. It’s a daily activity in everyone’s life. We continually make choices both large and small, spontaneous and planned. My little tale isn’t so much about wine but an experience in wine country. However, the choice of the wine at the end of my adventure, albeit unplanned, was remarkably fitting.

 

 

The trip was in celebration of a marriage milestone. One of those ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures. Months of planning and preparation had gone into it and every activity was carefully chosen. We’d compiled lists of tourist spots, researched various wineries and made notes of significant landmarks. Finally each list was divided into two categories. The first was wineries, tasting rooms and vineyards and the second was well-known restaurants and eateries. A schedule was made for each day to maximize our time with a small margin of flexibility but for the most part we stuck to the plan.

 

Unfortunately, our last evening was rapidly coming to a close and thus our celebratory weekend. There was one place left to visit on our list of ‘go to’ spots in wine country. It was a famous local tavern. As we walked closer to the landmark destination, loud music grew and filled the area. The outdoor patio was packed with boisterous patrons and several spilled out onto the street. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and it appeared to be the ideal place to wrap up the weekend.

 

However, maybe it was the late hour or the frenetic pace we’d kept, but the combo of noise, lights and crowd was a bit overwhelming. Dismayed, I turned to my husband. His face reflected my feelings. Our choice for a memorable ending didn’t look particularly appealing. A tiny cloud of anxiety began to form between us. Taking my hand, my husband suggested  a short walk down the block to give us a better perspective. The temptation to just leave was strong since all the wine tastings, rich meals and early hours were rapidly taking a toll. But by bailing on the last place would we to miss out on the capstone of our trip? Unfortunately, there seemed to be only two options: go back to the noisy tavern or go home.

 

While standing on the quiet corner debating what to do,  piano music floated seductively out onto the sidewalk. It brought a soothing calm to our spirits. Where was it coming from? A brightly lit door, angled at the corner, beckoned to us.  The word ‘methode‘ hung above it. While walking around downtown earlier in the evening, we hadn’t given it any attention. Our goal had been to complete the list.

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A quick glance inside revealed a guy playing a white baby grand piano. Next to him was a small area reminiscent of a cozy living room. It had a couch, two chairs and a table. An older couple sat contentedly in the chairs. It looked peaceful and inviting. With the element of time pressing in on us, we needed to figure out what to do and quick. Should we stay? Should we go? Maybe we should try the tavern? In the meantime, the piano music pulled at us. A waitress approached and invited us to come in saying the place was a ‘Bubbles and Bites’ bar. Sparkling wine and appetizers. Dinner was served at tables farther in and a lounge with a bar was in the back for hanging out. As we stood there deliberating, the musician suddenly looked up, smiled, and nodded to the couch next to his bench. That clinched it. We plopped down and ordered glasses of Champagne.

 

Courtesy of methode

Courtesy of methode

 

At the end of the extremely enjoyable music set, the piano player picked up his glass of champagne and turned around to ask if there were any requests. The other couple didn’t have one. He turned to us. Surely there was something? A favorite?

Well, maybe. Did he know “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” by Frankie Valli?  You guessed it. Our song. He might be able to play it, he said, but it’d be a little rough.  The “rough” version of “our song” was lively and touching. It filled the air and danced out the door  into the night causing passers-by to pause and listen.

The piano player finished and thanked us for joining him and ended the set for the evening. As we sat there in the glow of the moment quietly lost in old and new memories, I couldn’t help sighing. What a remarkable evening.

And then it hit me. What was the one traditional element in every momentous occasion? A Champagne Toast. Thanks to a talented musician playing our song and a lovely flute of champagne, we’d just been given a perfect ending to our very special celebration.

It’s amazing what a choice can create.

 

p.s. The musician that evening was Napa Valley pianist, David Ruane.  Click on his name to hear this extremely nice and wonderfully talented guy.

Happy listening! – Allison aka Rose

The Napa Chronicles: Devilish Green Eggs and TORC

TORC green eggs

The silky green filling calls to me. Creamy, salty bacon covered goodness.

If Sam I AM had tempted his fellow Suessians with these mouthwatering creations, there’d have been no annoyingly long children’s book.  Perhaps a cookbook, but . .

However, we’d heard a rumor.  One of the Napa restaurants on our list, TORC a hip, contemporary eatery, served unusual deviled eggs.

And being raised by a Southern mama, who’d impressed upon her children that a  good Southern cook’s repertoire always included outstanding deviled eggs, I had to try them.

So, after scoring comfortable seats at the bar, we chatted with the bartender who amazingly enough recommended the

 ‘farm fresh DEVILED EGGS, pickled onions, bacon’ .

Of course, we ordered a few drinks, too.

 Me:  2014 Anne Amie ‘Cuvée A Amrita’, VIOGNIER/RIESLING/PINOTBLANC, Willamette Valley

or as the bartender cheerfully quipped when I ordered another “the wine that has everything but the kitchen sink” .

My dear Husband: BLOOD AND SAND – scotch, heering cherry, orange, sweet vermouth.

He felt like branching out.

We visited with the kind local couple next to us while waiting for the fabled eggs. They shared a charming peek into their Napa life and what it was like to raise kids in wine country.  (I think I could make the sacrifice!)

Anyway, I bet, you’re wondering about those green deviled eggs.

They were and are creamy and delicious. I asked the bartender if he knew the secret to their color.  He told me. Let’s just say the ingredient starts with an S  and ends with an H. Now you can play hangman to figure it out!

So if by chance you go to Napa, I suggest happy hour at TORC. Try the deviled eggs.

Topped with bacon. And pickled onions. You can share, but it’s a sacrifice.  My recommendation: get your own order.

The Napa Chronicles: A Snapshot of The Old World Inn

I had planned on posting snapshots of our anniversary trip earlier this summer but kids and plans got in the way. Maybe I’ll just post over the fall. Might be a bit ambitious with marching band and cross country season!

 

Choosing a hotel from 2000 miles away can be a daunting and stressful task. It’s not made any easier by the fact there are hundreds of fabulous places to stay in Napa. However, we wound up choosing a hidden gem: The Old World Inn. It’s a lovely bed and breakfast.

The Old World Inn. Courtesy of Old WorldInn.com

The Old World Inn. Courtesy of Old WorldInn.com

 

Merlot House was where we blissfully slept in “The Walk In The Clouds”.  It was on the third floor and typical B&B: homey, nicely decorated and  sporting a few charming oddities like quirky bathroom lighting. Try shaving your legs or beard by skylight. Challenging but doable.  

 

 

"Walk in The Clouds" Courtesy OldWorldInn.com

“Walk in The Clouds” Courtesy OldWorldInn.com

The staff was exceptional. They helped us out in finding gift shops, restaurants and wine shipping services. They even added a few personal touches to our room. The pièce de résistance was an Anniversary card hand-signed by the innkeepers and all the staff.  I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

 

The Inn was also in a great location. We had an easy 5-10 minute walk to downtown restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping. On a personal note, it saved us from flipping a coin to choose a designated driver each evening. One of us would have been cranky which is a real romance killer. It was nice having the freedom to walk to TORC for cocktails and then Atlas Social for dinner and finally Methode for after dinner drinks. The benefits of walking surely cut some of the calories we consumed. At least, I kept telling myself that mantra. “Walking = wine. Walking = another wine. Walking . . . .”

 

However, one tiny challenge to the Merlot house was also location. It’s on a very busy street. The adrenaline rush we got from trying to cross the street was invigorating. But we decided The Hotel Napa Valley, which is located on a quieter road, was better suited for non-sprinters. Plus, they host the complimentary wine-tastings for all the Old World Inn guests.  Walking down a flight of cellar stairs to taste wine seemed a bit safer than dodging speeding traffic.

"Wine-Tasting Marathon" Breakfast or what I like to call "Breakfast of Wine Champions"

“Wine-Tasting Marathon” Breakfast or what I like to call “Breakfast of Wine Champions”

In the mornings, we fueled up with the Inn’s “Wine-Tasting Marathon” breakfast. The Inn’s menu was delicious but this is a B&B which means eating in a group setting. It’s always a bit awkward eating with strangers. Especially when some are still in their pajamas, bed-head, etc. I never know if I should make small talk beyond a polite ‘good morning’. Fortunately, chit-chat was minimal since most of us wanted to get on the road and visit some wineries.

 

A little sidenote to the trip:

Each morning, after stuffing ourselves with the Inn’s breakfast, we walked to Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Co. and grabbed a second cup of joe. Sitting at one of the tiny tables outside the door, we reveled in the beautiful California mornings. For us, it was the best seat in town. There were locals to greet. Dogs to pet. Stylish Baristas brewing coffee with flare.

NV Coffee Outside

NVRC Cup of Joe

  NVRC Cup of Joe

Me. Checking on kids.

Me. Checking on kids

After a day of vineyard tours, we hustled back to the Inn to partake of their complimentary wine tasting. A Napa Valley winery/vineyard was invited to host a tasting in the wine cellar of the Hotel Napa Valley.  A winery rep poured wines from a renown winery while we munched on appetizers and chatted with fellow guests.

Pour a little wine and you meet a friendly face every time, I like to say!

 

Freemark Abbey was the first evening. The rep chatted about Freemark Abbey’s history while pouring chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and a few others I honestly can’t remember. He was an interesting and fun guy. We considered going by the tasting room and, of course, that didn’t happen, but we now have Freemark Abbey on our list of wines to buy.   

Wine Tasting for all!

Wine Tasting for all!

 On the second evening, we tasted an excellent selection of wines except I can’t remember the winery. The rep was really nice but only interested in sharing the tasting room hours. Basically, she was just there to pour. A fun gig I would love to have.  We still had a great time hanging out with the other guests and comparing winery tour notes. And who can pass up Free WINE!?

Sit, Sip, Relax. It's vacation.

Sit, Sip, Relax. It’s vacation.

In the end, The Old World Inn was the perfect place to make anniversary memories. 

Gotts and The Birdman

This is the first  in a series of Snapshots  from our Napa Valley Trip in April. 

Back in January, my husband and I decided to plan a trip to Napa Valley to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. To get acquainted with the area, I started following all things connected with Napa; wine bloggers, wineries, restaurants and winemakers on twitter.

One place that kept coming up was a local burger joint called Gott’s Roadside. Lots of people tweeted about the longing to go back to Gott’s. Some boasted of stopping by on the weekend. Others posted incredible pictures of burgers, tacos and trays of yummy food usually on a picnic bench.

The Famous Gotts Roadside

The Famous Gotts Roadside

I’ll visit any joint that claims to have great burgers so Gott’s went on the list of lunch places for the trip.

The month of April arrived and we went to Napa.

After a morning of wine-tasting, we headed to Gott’s for lunch. Earlier, we’d checked out their second location in downtown Napa but we wanted to eat at the original. It’s up Highway 29 in St.Helena.

Turns out, Gott’s is a total TOURIST SPOT. Complete with souvenir menus, red and white decor and picnic tables. There are patio tables in the front and two huge lawns filled with trees and umbrella-covered picnic tables in the back. It’s a fantastic outdoor place to eat.

As we were parking, a half dozen cars drove in. The line to order snaked around the edge of the patio and never appeared to shorten. In fact, later that weekend as we passed Gotts on the way to a winery, the line was the same. Just the people standing in it had changed.

After ordering burgers and fries, we sat on bar stools under the covered porch. It was across from the pickup counter and bar. A friendly college guy working there asked if we needed anything. We must of had goofy grins cause he remarked how he loved to see smiles! He told us that during the summer, the line could stretch around the building.

 

Gotts burger and fries

Gotts burger and fries

 

Our seats were perfect for people watching. The bachelorette parties, the college guys on a road trip, families, couples on romantic getaways, even locals. For lunch, this was the place to be. However, there was one particular group that stood out.

Two couples came around the corner and I could barely suppress a giggle. I think my husband was having the same trouble.

All four were dressed from head to toe in what could only be considered the official Birdwatcher’s uniform. Strictly LL Bean. Matching vests, hats, and high-powered binoculars hung around their necks.

My husband pointed out the ones with fanny packs. (They weren’t hard to miss.) He’s still sore at me for not letting him get one when we took the kids to Disneyland. NO. No fanny packs. He likes to bring it up whenever he needs to be hands-free for something. I just glare at him. Absolutely not.

I could barely stop myself from asking them if they were doing “The Big Year” (click to see a clip). Or saying, “Seen any yellow-bellied sapsuckers?”  Meanwhile, The Birdwatchers ordered and went to find a table among the trees. The ideal place for spotting birds.

 

The Birdman and Beer

The Birdman and Beer

One lesser attired Birdman wondered back toward us and ordered a beer. Birdwatchers drink beer? They were so smartly dressed, I would of expected them to order a Chablis 1982. Apparently even sophisticated birdwatchers  prefer beer on a warm day! Who knew!

They were a treat to see. I hope they saw lots of rare birds in between a few wine-tastings. At least, I hope they did some wine-tastings. Although, they seemed so serious maybe the birds kept them from it.

 

 

 

 

Anyway, despite Gott’s being touristy, I’d go back. The food was good but nothing special. The real draw was in the festive atmosphere, the friendly workers, and the fact everyone was excited to be there. It felt like we were at a cookout with friends on Memorial Day.

I love Memorial Day. It’s a lovely way to start summer!

I’m so glad we ate at Gott’s. The Coney Island of Napa Valley. A “must see” on the tourist list.

Next time, though, I’m ordering the tacos. The lady next to me had a tray of them with a beer and they looked outstanding!

The Napa Chronicles

The Napa Chronicles:

A series of posts about our trip to Napa Valley

 

We're finally here! Legendary Wine Country

We’re finally here! Legendary Wine Country

Our 20th wedding anniversary was upon us, so my sweet husband and I started brainstorming for ideas on how to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Ten years earlier, the plan had been to travel through the hot spots of Italy for our 10th. We’d explore Rome, Florence and Venice. See the Sistine Chapel. Wander through vineyards in Tuscany and sample wines. Sit in cafes and enjoy long meals ending with strolls through a piazza.

That was the plan until we were surprised with Baby #4.

Fast-forward ten years and life is quite different! Today, the baby is a 5th grader and we’re surrounded by 3 busy teenagers. Any getting away at this point is almost impossible. So, when the Grandparents stepped in and offered a golden opportunity, a long weekend, we took it. They’d see that our children stayed feed, in school and alive. We’d be free to go anywhere and do anything. Now for the fun part: Where?

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Since wine is one of our passions, Napa Valley came immediately to mind. Who could ask for a lovelier place. 

It’s loaded with unique wineries, vineyards, quaint and quirky towns, phenomenal restaurants and beautiful countryside. It is incredible. The pictures don’t lie. They’re real and really amazing.

Those who live there exude a sense of pride, care and passion for their home. Everywhere we went, the locals welcomed us and were eager to share why they loved living and working there. The enjoyment of the area was catching.

Well, needless to say the trip was heaven blessed and gave us great memories.

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We came home wanting to go again! So I thought I’d share a series of posts about the places we got to visit and our memories of  wine country. I hope you enjoy a snapshot of Napa.

 

 

 

 

 

Vineyard at Judd’s Hill

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