I was lucky enough to have last week off for the holidays. While it meant finally catching up on laundry from our trip to Tucson for Christmas, baking some doggy treats for the first time in about a year, and general cleaning (I think I am finally ahead of Wrigley in the vacuum-shedding battle), I was also able to spend some time reflecting on 2015. It was a fast year, and a really long year. It had lots of great moments laughing with friends and family, but also some really tough days. Instead of letting those hard days define the year, I’m hoping to share some of my favorite memories from the last few months while this blog sat neglected.
One of my favorite memories of 2015 is a trip Chip and I took to San Francisco and Napa in October. It was a bit of a spontaneous trip, but we were so excited for some time together in a part of the country we love so much. I’ve mentioned this before, but we are so glad we decided to start setting aside a little money each month for the sole purpose of traveling. We love exploring new places together and seeing what life looks like outside of our bubble in San Antonio. We flew in to San Francisco on a Tuesday evening with the plan of renting a car and then driving to Chip’s favorite place for dinner – Tacolicious. We had two smooth flights before landing in San Francisco and patiently waited for the team at Enterprise to help get us a car. Since the wait took longer than they expected, they graciously upgraded us to a sports car. We were pretty excited about that! We left the airport around 7pm and started the drive into the city…
Less than 10 minutes into our drive, one of the dashboard monitors starts beeping. A lot. And loudly. We had a flat tire. We took the first exit we could and pulled over while we called Enterprise. And called and called and called some more. Y’all. We could not get anyone at the airport office to answer the phone that entire night. We eventually spoke to one of the road side assistance reps on the general help number and they called in a tow truck for us. In the meantime, we sat in the car in a thankfully very safe neighborhood while continuously trying and failing to get in touch with someone at the Enterprise airport office. We wanted to make sure that we should tow the car back to their office instead of a mechanic, and we also wanted to see if they could have our next car ready for us. We were getting pretty hungry for dinner by that point. Fast forward over an hour later (we still haven’t talked to anyone at that Enterprise) and we’re getting the rental car towed back to the airport while riding in the truck with the driver. Fast forward a bit more, and we’re finally leaving Enterprise once again, this time in a convertible since that was just about all they had left by that time (we really didn’t want to ride in a big SUV/pay that much in gas). We quickly checked in at the Coventry Motor Inn and walked to Tacolicious for dinner around 10:30.
Airplane selfie! We would soon both feel how Chip’s face looks…
Towing the first rental car back to the airport
Late dinner at Tacolicious
We decided to spend the first few days of our trip in Napa with the hopes of avoiding the big crowds that fill the wineries for weekend tastings. So after walking to breakfast at Home Plate, we loaded up the car and made the drive out to Napa.
Morning view from the hotel
Getting ready for the afternoon winery visits with a big breakfast
Driving the streets of San Francisco
These pictures just don’t capture how STEEP some of the streets are!
Love my travel buddy
Taking advantage of the convertible to enjoy the sunny day
Golden Gate Bridge
View of San Francisco from the other side of the bridge
On the other side of the bridge
Crazy hair on the drive to Napa
In serious need of a Thelma and Louise head scarf
It took us about an hour to drive from San Francisco to Napa. It’s been a warm year across the country (doesn’t feel like it right now!), so we didn’t see the amount of fall colors as we did the first time we went to Napa a couple of years ago. That didn’t stop us from enjoying the view, the wine country is really one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to. Once we got into Napa, our first stop was to get a quick lunch at Oxbow Public Market. Chip got a burger while I couldn’t resist a hot dog. Keeping it classy.
Sometimes, I have the palate of a five year old
Planning a trip to Napa can be a little overwhelming. Did you know that there are over 400 wineries in Napa? If you’re also looking at Sonoma, there are over 600 total wineries to choose from. To help pick our tours for this trip, we focused on getting a different experience from each place we would visitt. As much as we enjoy wine, it can be difficult to differentiate one tasting and tour from another unless there is something unique offered. When we first started planning this trip, I was really intrigued by a blind tasting offered at Elizabeth Spencer Wines. We had never done a tasting like this before and liked the idea of competing against each other while also learning how to get more from a wine tasting. We had 1:00 reservations at Elizabeth Spencer and we lucked out by being the only ones on this tour. We were taken into a private room with our tour guide, Dana, and had four glasses of red wine ready for us to taste. Dana walked us through the four wines, teaching us how to compare the shades of red between the wines, where you feel tannins, and more. Dana was so great and patient with us and probably spent an extra 30 minutes on our tasting, walking us through the different regions of Napa Valley and even showed us some dirt samples from each area. Unfortunately, Chip correctly guessed two of the four wines, while I was only successful with one. I’m waiting for a rematch!
Blind tasting at Elizabeth Spencer
So focused on the wines
Dana walking us through the different regions in the Napa Valley
Who knew grapes could grow in these types of soil?
Dana gave us one more sample of each wine once we finished the tasting
Elizabeth Spencer was definitely one of the highlights to our trip!
We had such a great time at Elizabeth Spencer. We loved the unique tasting experience, which was both fun and extremely informative. Out of the different wineries we’ve been to in California and Fredericksburg, this was by far one of the best tasting experiences we’ve ever had. Dana did a great job answering our questions and made us feel so welcome there. We can’t wait to do a blind tasting with my family sometime soon!
Leaving Elizabeth Spencer
After Elizabeth Spencer, we drove to our next winery: Pride Mountain Vineyards. We decided to visit this winery because of their Facebook page. Like everything social media related, a lot of wineries would post just beautiful and perfectly lighted pictures, beautiful glasses of wine with the perfect backdrop. But Pride Mountain had a lot of fun, behind the scenes posts. We loved seeing how the staff has fun while making great wine, and that they give so much credit to their field workers. We had the last tasting of the day, so it did feel a little rushed, but we loved the casual feel to the winery and seeing some of the wine-making process in action. Since the staff was wrapping up for the day, we also got to see them cleaning out some of the equipment while they joked with our tour guide. It was nice to see such a transparent picture of what life on this vineyard looks like. I have to admit, they made all that hard work look really fun.
Driving to Pride Mountain Vineyards
Chip wanted to smell the barrels outside of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Spoiler: they didn’t smell like wine.
Not a bad view from the parking lot at Pride Mountain Vineyards
Can I work here?
Grape vines for the win
Chip found some grapes. They smelled better than the barrels.
Ready to tour Pride Mountain Vineyards
In the tasting room at Pride Mountain Vineyards before the tour
You bet we bought Wrigley a bag of these treats
Speaking of Wrigley… this could have been his long lost cousin in a book at Pride Mountain Vineyards.
Part of the wine making process
More of the wine making process
On one side of the brick line is Napa. On the other side is Sonoma.
In the cave at Pride Mountain Vineyards
Pride Mountain Vineyards
Leaving Pride Mountain Vineyards after our tour
Can we live here?
More to come on our time in Napa, a concert in Berkeley, and our weekend in San Francisco!
And now to end this post with a funny picture…
Even guys get convertible hair