Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Napa - Day 2

We were beyond excited and anxious to encounter the unknowns of our first full day as full fledged "winos" exploring an area of the U.S.A so new to the four of us. After researching and planning the trip for over a month, we had some ideas in our head of what the Napa Valley would be like but not many. When we were finally headed north on the infamous Highway 29 towards our first stop, it was time to take it all in. The hundreds of thousands of perfectly measured rows going all the way up the mountain sides were like out of a movie. 
I don't want to go on too much about the weather but it was extraordinary. It was cool and the mountains were covered with light fog at 9AM but it quickly burned off each day by 11AM resulting in crisp blue skies and daytime temps in the high 70's or low 80's. We couldn't help but have our hands out of the car all the times.
Frog's Leap was our first stop and when we walked into the 'Restoration Hardware-esk' building, we knew we were going to like this whole wine tasting thing.
We were seated on the gorgeous outdoor covered-wrap-around-patio at a table filled with sixteen pristinely clean wine glasses.
We were instantly called out as polite Texans after we asked if it was okay to move to a more comfortable couch like seating area near by... too funny. We quickly learned the first rule of Napa wineries - "At the best wineries, there are no rules!."
They have a gift of putting even a non-wine drinker at ease with their warm hospitality.
The guys quickly eyed the front lawn and a game of washers set up and Megan and I met the girl that would soon be the so called "mascot" of our entire trip - KENDAL.
 We only spent forty-five minutes with her but LOVED every single minute. In that small amount of time, we learned an incredible amount about wine, life as a twenty-something from Napa and basic winery etiquette.
She was a hoot and the remainder of our three days and nineteen additional winery stops, we referred to Kendal as if she was our best friend. We would catch ourselves saying, "Kendal said this goes with lasagna. Kendall said we should stop by this place.... Kendal said we can go anywhere in a vineyard."
Kendal and our entire experience at Frog's Leap is a perfect example of how it is the PEOPLE and not just the WINE that makes for an amazing trip. You can buy any amazing bottle of wine anywhere but what you can't get, is the conversation and stories when you meet amazing people at different wineries. The ironic part was that Kendal was just passing by our table and wasn't even supposed to be our server that morning.
Frog's Leap - favorite wines.
Merlot Rutherford (serve with lasagna)
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (at Whole Foods)
Unfortunately we had to leave Frog's Leap way too early in order to make our much anticipated tour with a wine and food pairing at Cakebread.The Perkins are big Cakebread lovers and this was one of our very first appointments we made over a month ago.The fifteen minute tour was a little too short but the food pairing more than made up for it and was one of our favorite highlights of the weekend.
Interesting Cakebread (CB) facts:
-2007 was the vintage of the decade.
-CB was #37 of over 500 wineries in the Napa Valley
-CB makes 15 different wines
-We learned to always drink a sip of wine before eating and to always swirl your glass (especially reds) for nearly 30 seconds.
-All red and white wines should be stored at 55 degrees and it is the serving which is different. Whites at the same 55 degrees however reds at 62. So bring a red bottle to the counter for 20 minutes before serving.
-You can age a bottle for 15 years
Our favorite wines:
-CB Sauivignon Blanc - great with fried shrimp because of the salt which softens the acidity of the wine. Other good pairings: goat cheese, Cesar salad, pico, lobster, pasta and fish.
-CB Cabernet Sauvignon Dancing Bear Ranch Howell Mountain - 92 on Wine Spectator, only produce $2500 cases therefore $106. (This one was a little strong for my taste) Describe it as heavier, bolder, dark cherry, cedar, chocolate.
-Blake LOVED the duck quesadilla
A fun memory at the end in the gift shop were talking with the older women on the hunt for "Ben," the recent 2nd place reject from this season's Bachelorette. We found out his winery is nearby in Sonoma. Needless to say, we had a great time at the great Cakebread Cellars.
Peju was our next stop and it was a bit of a buzz kill, honestly. We were disappointed to find a young girl that greeted us, a bit snooty. After such amazing initial stops, we knew we would be crazy to waste an precious hour here, although the grounds were gorgeous, when there were 497 other wineries to explore and amazing people to meet with equally amazing wines to taste.
St. Supry.
This was a perfect example of a fine place with good wine in a classic stand up tasting bar experience. However, there was nothing special in those two departments. The reason we will always say how great St. Supry was due to the fond memories the four of us made.
The men quickly engaged in a game of bocce ball and us gals and our similar hobby of photography and learning how our cameras work on manual kept us MORE than busy and happy!
We were having so much fun, just the two of us!
We had heard about Rutherford Grill from countless friends and reviews and knew it was a staple in this part of the world that we had to try.
We had a late lunch around 2:30 and there was still a wait so we grabbed seats at the bar and had fun talking to the locals. It was interesting to pick their brain and hear their stories.
The cheeseburger was pretty yummy but it was the French Dip Sandwich, of course, recommended by the bartender, that left me speechless! ***Always go with what the employees recommend at any nice restaurant!!!***
Thank goodness we had our itinerary and a good Napa Valley map because after our late lunch, we knew we only had about an hour before the wineries started closing their doors.
We tried Round Pound which was gorgeous and had a large balcony. It was a relaxing spot to enjoy a drink and reflect on our first day and how quickly it had gone by.
Our awesome neighbors, Corky and Evelyn, whom were a tremendous help in planning our trip were insistent that we get to experience the most breath taking view in all of Napa at Abuerge du Soliel.
Well, we made it happen and the view sitting out on the small balcony hanging over the side of the mountain was spectacular and a wonderful place to enjoy a glass of bubbly and the setting sun.
That night for dinner, we had our only 'open' night and had planned to hit a great place called The Bounty Hunter - a BBQ & wine bar in downtown right along the river. But nine hours of sipping on wine had us opting for a well-known little pizza place downtown called Azzurro and movie night, since we had two more fun and busy evenings ahead of us.

1 comment:

Lisa Johnson said...

So fun Megan! Brad and I went to Napa back in 2009 and Frog's Leap, Cakebread, and Auberge were 3 of our favorite places to visit too! Cant wait to read more about where else you went. Our favorite vineyard was Barnett Vineyard (which coincidentally is my maiden name!). And I have to mention that your photography is outstanding! Gorgeous pictures! Can't wait for Friday!

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