It felt amazing to be traveling again! We had to cancel multiple trips during the lock down but now that the country was opening up we wanted to do one of our favorite things; wine tasting! Napa Valley here we come…
The flight wasn’t one of our best flying experiences, wearing masks for six hours and not being served any food, but at least we were back traveling. And Napa was so welcoming. We stayed in Yountville, my favorite town in Napa, at a lovely hotel, North Block. I recommend Yountville over the other towns as it is the most attractive, less touristy, and has multiple great restaurants within walking distance (and will all the drinking you will be doing, walking home from dinner becomes a necessity).
North Block Hotel – Arriving at North Block Hotel, we were warmly greeted with a smiling face and a glass of wine! And complimentary wine is served at the reception desk all day & night. A great plus as you lounge by the beautiful pool between your last wine tasting and dinner reservations! Rooms were lovely and spacious, and the service / staff was all you could wish for.
We visited both small, under the Radar vineyards, and larger more commercial ones . We made reservations prior to our trip (needed) and did private tasting at them all. We really enjoyed each unique experience.
Rudd Estate – 500 Oakville Crossroad, Oakville ($125 / person tasting fee) – Very personal and eclectic tour. Founder Leslie Rudd built a Burgundy-style clos – family owned and operated, with all the estate grapes – right down to the stones enclosing the vineyard. It is a multigenerational winery handcrafting small production wines. Leslie’s daughter, Samantha overseas the some of the most beautiful grounds in the valley. She loves gardens and they abound and are magnificent. You get a long walk through them before you head back to a lovey tasting area, a boathouse overlooking a lake. Great wines and a really enjoyable tasting.
Favia Wines – 2031 Coombsville Road, Napa – (No Cost) Husband and wife team, Andy Erickson & Annie Favia, are the Napa Valley power couple. He is a major winemaking consultant in the valley and she a famous viniculturist. The tour was very intimate, with the couples home sitting directly above the restored stone cellar. We met Annie, and she is warm, welcoming, and charming. This is a definite under-the-radar vineyard, and the first question I was asked when making the reservation is who was our mutual friend as not many people know about them. We loved their wines and purchased a few bottles.
Brion Vineyards – no address, no signage – A very knowledgeable staff member from our hotel booked this private tour for us. It was an adventure finding the winery and once you arrive you would have no idea that this was a premier producer until you walked into their tasting room. They own / manage a few other labels in Napa and Sonoma (B Wise was one of them that we visited) but this was their high-end, small production wines. And they were lovely. Purchased a couple of bottles that we savored over dinner that evening.
Plumpjack Estate Winery – 620 Oakville Cross Road, Napa ($60/person) – Gavin Newsom and Gordon Getty stumbled upon a magical piece of land in Oakville, Napa Valley. Inspired by one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters, Sir John “PlumpJack” Falstaff, who’s fun-loving, down-to-earth disposition is only rivaled by his fierce loyalty to Prince Henry V, with whom he shares more than a few goblets of sack (wine) at the local tavern. Great tour and wines to match.
Stag’s Leap – 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa ($45 – 175/person) – Probably the most spectacular views of any tasting we did; expansive and dramatic. There are four levels of tours, from basic introduction to a high-end food and wine paring. We did the food and wine paring in the woods by their lake. The lake and surroundings were beautiful, the wines quite nice, and we were visited by a doe who also seemed to enjoy the scenery.
Chappellet – 1581 Sage Canyon Road ($50-95/person) – You are greeted with a smile, a glass of white wine, and a tour of the vineyards and grounds. Heavenly. The tasting is in the cellar where Donn and Mary Chappellet used to reside on visits until they built their home on the grounds. Mary is an interior designer and the space certainly reflects that; it’s beautiful. As were the multiple wines we tasted. It’s well hidden and GPS doesn’t work well this far off the main roads, so make sure you have good directions before heading there.
B Wise Estate – 396 London Way, Sonoma – Another out of the way vineyard (and they tell you that due to the conditions of the roads Uber & Lift aren’t an option). It’s located on top of a ridge that looks down over the Sonoma Valley. While this was partly a vineyard decision, it’s also Brion Wise’s home. Enjoyed the tour, wines, and the friendly staff.
Not only did we drink well, but we also had some great dining experiences. Every morning we walked to Bouchon Bakery, waited in line, and were rewarded with a warm baguette with butter and an almond croissant. YUM! Listed our favorite restaurants below.
Bistro Jeanty – 6510 Washington St., Yountville – our favorite place, traditional French bistro, casual with great food. Don’t miss the Coq au vin, Rabbit, and Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry.
Bouchon Bistro – 6534 Washington St., Yountville – dined there for lunch twice, no reservations but the walk-in wait was short (and they allowed you to order a glass of wine to drink outside as you waited). The oysters were incredible and we ordered them both times. Also loved the Tartare de Saumon, Daurade, the Fricasee de Légumes Printanières (leek croquettes with radishes, fava beans, spring garlic & morel mushroom cream), and the Profiteroles.
Coqueta – 6526 Washington St., Yountville – Spanish tapas and great cocktails. Enjoyed the Shrimp (Gambas), Duck & Pork Grilled Meatballs (Albondigas), Padrons, Grilled Octopus (Pulpo a la Parrill), and the Potatoes (Patatas Bravas). And don’t miss the Gin Cocktails, creative and delicious.
Tasca Tasca Tapas Restaurant – 122 W Napa St., Sonoma – After our tasting at B Wise we headed to this wonderful, small tapa restaurant and had a great lunch. We did the Tasting Plates, 7 items for $35, and enjoyed the Dungeness Crab Empadas, Piri-Piri Chicken Wings, Dry Cured Chouriço Pork Sliders, Goat Stew and the Chouriçinhos – Shishito Peppers.