Heather’s witty sarcasm and Remy’s relaxed embrace of all things adventure were just what I needed my senior year of college. We’d chat about our future plans at Dave & Buster’s every Thursday night. There was usually beer and the occasional splurge on shots!
In our 20’s, we ate Starbucks pastries to help us study. When we weren’t studying, we wanted to get away from campus, so there was Dave & Buster’s. After we graduated there was even a trip or two to Vegas. A lot has changed since senior year, yet here we are, 8 years, still friends.
With my birthday in July and theirs this month, we decided that August in Napa Valley would be the perfect way to celebrate our friendship passing into the next chapter of life. We’ve traded shots for wine, donuts for macarons, and Vegas for Napa, but we still have each other.
Napa Valley Wine Country Tours
It is harvest time at the vineyards. The perfect time to visit any wine country! For $100, Napa Valley Wine Country Tours picked us up at our hotel and drove us to four wineries and a shopping trip to Yountville. Lunch was included and our driver, Paul, educated us on the history of Napa Valley, wine growing and harvesting.
We got to stomp grapes at Grgich Hills Estate, which came with a souvenir T-Shirt and a tasting.
After the tour was over, we got a complimentary extension thanks to a flat tire, which allowed us to continue to get to know our tour mates. It was pretty awesome to share the day with new friends and get to know them between sips.
Wines We Tasted
I walked away with a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc for me (that pairs well with goat cheese) and a 2012 Burke’s BBQ Old Vine Zinfandel “for J”, along with it’s namesake in sauce. J is more likely to appreciate a wine if it’s presented with flavorful pork ribs. Justified!
This was my favorite winery. They do tastings by appointment only and I highly recommend you make one if you’re in Napa! Our tasting guide, CJ, learned from Tim Hanni, master of wine, and shared the most interesting little tidbits about wine, tasting and pairing. I could’ve listened to her all day.
- Food doesn’t improve wine, it changes it. Whether the change is an improvement or not is up to your personal taste preferences.
- Also, you don’t pair wine with meat, you pair it with the sauce the meat is cooked in. So red wines with red meats is not a guaranteed win.
- Aggressively swirl your wine for about 10 seconds before sniffing. Don’t burry your nose in the glass unless you want to sniff alcohol. Instead, approach the glass until you can just smell it and try to connect what you smell with any flavor memories you have.
- Then take a healthy sip and chew the wine so it touches all the flavor receptors in your mouth.
CJ had us taste a Zin with a BBQ sauce to connect the spicy flavors of both. Then she had us chase a salt lick with a another sip of wine to experience how the salt blocks your bitter receptors and softens the wine.
Miljenko Grgich is credited for putting Napa Valley on the wine map of the world with is award-winning Chardonnay that beat out every French wine in 1976.
I’m not a big Chardonnay fan but theirs was the best I’ve tasted (that I remember). My favorite wines from Grgich were the 2008 Croatian Red and the 2009 Merlot. I didn’t take any with me, but I can see why Wine Clubs are so tempting! Theirs sends you bottles selected by Grgich himself.
We sampled all the wines at Rutherford, splitting two tastings between the three of us. I walked out with an unreleased 2013 Pestoni Family Rose and a heavenly bar of Napa Vally Soap.
Our last winery stop was a gorgeous chateau owned by Francis Ford Coppola. We didn’t do any wine tastings here, but instead settled in with a sparkling white wine, fresh goat cheese and crackers, and took in the view.
By this time I’d start to have my fill of wine and was glad that I’d made it through the day without spending more than I had planned! The chateau, with it’s imposing wooden staircase and earthy stone tasting rooms, was just a touch majestic and the perfect place to end a day of fancy wine tasting. If I come back here I’ll actually try some of their wine.
Before our flights home on Sunday we had ample time to visit another winery. This place was recommended by Melissa (TheValentineRD.com) and my second favorite stop of the entire trip!
I should’ve walked out with a 2012 The Iliad, a crisp white with a buttery feel not quite like anything I’ve had before. But I left all the wine buying up to my friend who shipped tons of bottle home for herself, including the 2009 The Oracle, a $90 bottle of show-stopping red.
Food We Demolished
Our first night in Napa and we drove up to Yountville for dinner at Bottega, another recommendation from Melissa! We wanted to do one fancy dinner and this was it. This place is one of celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurants. We decided to just enjoy and not count the pennies!
After drinks and appetizers were ordered, our main dishes arrived. I ordered the Maiale “Spagnolo” alla Griglia: Grilled acorn fed pork shoulder loin with stone fruit mostarda, parmigiano potato passata, crispy prosciutto. Then of course, dessert, which was a ridiculous chocolate mound of foodgasm.
The last thing did on our wine tour was stop in Yountville. They have lots of great shops and tasting rooms. They also have Bouchon Bakery! Remy has been working through a Thomas Keller cookbook, so this was a fun stop for her.
What do you prefer? Fancy pastries or fancy wine?
After a full day of wine tasting we went to downtown Napa for dinner. This street corner cafe-esque restaurant was recommended via a tweet from Cheryl Forberg. I went through her cookbook last year and remembered she lives in Napa. If she likes this place, I figured it had to be good.
It was. All of it. The lavender butter on the corn bread was wow. The scallops over risotto changed my life! Well, in the sense that I’m now going to be trying to recreate this dish myself. I’m determined to make scallops and risotto part of my kitchen repertoire. Even the gnocchi was delicious and I don’t usually find that very interesting.
We had just checked out of our hotel and were ready to do a few last stops around the valley before heading to the airport. I was about to start the car and Heather announced some crazy news. A girl we’d all known in college, who was our age, had just died. The news was hardest for Heather who had been her roommate for two years.
While the sobering news definitely changed the tone of our morning, it was a blessing that we were all together and able to remember Janesse. We took our memories to one of the most stunning views in Napa Valley – Auberge du Soleil sits on the eastern hills above the valley.
Our last stop of the weekend was Oxbow. We bought fancy oils and had a rushed lunch before speeding to the airport.
I’d heard great things about Oxbow, an indoor market place with small, open shops selling culinary ingredients and tools, fancy little eateries and local produce. On a Sunday at noon this place was packed. Had we not been rushed I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more. Still…I’m glad we stopped because I’m soooo looking forward to cooking with these oils!
Happy 30th, girls.
I’ve wanted to taste wine in Napa for years but have always just “ran through” on a relay and never stopped to enjoy it. It was AMAZING to go there with these two friends of mine. It was a rare kind of vacation for me, but one that I’ll treasure for a lot longer than these wines will last me!
Questions For You:
- Do you do wine tasting? Beer tasting? Chocolate tasting?
- Would you rather buy a fancy wine or a fancy dessert?
- What is the best restaurant you’ve ever been too?
- Do you have a favorite winery in Napa?