Tag Archives: Napa Valley

Farewell, Napa and SF

Finally, it’s here! The last post on our vacation to California back in August! If you missed any posts, here are parts one, two, three, four, five, and six. I could have sworn I just wrote four posts. Whoa. Six? Maybe next time I’ll take fewer pictures and take less time to write about our trip. Mm, probably not.

Thursday was the last day of our vacation. We had one final breakfast at Oxbow (shocker, I know) and let me tell you, I really miss those C Casa breakfast tacos. I know San Antonio has breakfast tacos at just about any restaurant, but these were so different from what we have here. Don’t worry, fellow San Antonians, I won’t be turning down any bacon and egg tacos anytime soon. Unless, of course, C Casa opens up a location here in town.

Now that's a breakfast taco

Now that’s a breakfast taco

Mom at breakfast

Mom at breakfast

Another of my "alright, Chip, put the camera down" faces

Another of my “alright, Chip, put the camera down” faces

My dad does breakfast right

My dad does breakfast right

After breakfast, we got the car loaded up and started the drive back to San Francisco. We made really good time before our flight back in the afternoon, so we were able to have one last meal at Tacolicious as well as do some sight seeing around Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf before heading to the airport.

Foggy view on the Golden Gate Bridge

Foggy view on the Golden Gate Bridge

With my mom at Ghirardelli Square

With my mom at Ghirardelli Square

My dad loves selfies

My dad loves selfies

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B - taking a selfie with my mom

Exhibit B – taking a selfie with my mom

IMG_5001

Last year, we put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. This year, it was the Pacific. And it was cold.

Last year, we put our feet in the Atlantic Ocean. This year, it was the Pacific. And it was cold.

Really cold

Really cold

Really, really cold

Really, really cold

Dad wasn't phased by the cold water

Dad wasn’t phased by the cold water

Neither were these (crazy) swimmers

Neither were these (crazy) swimmers

I am my father's daughter

I am my father’s daughter

Farewell, California

Farewell, California

In case you couldn’t tell from all of these pictures and somewhat lengthy posts, we had a really great time on this vacation. If you haven’t visited Northern California before, you should try to make it out there sometime! I promise  you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday in Napa: Frog’s Leap and Mumm

When my mom and I started planning this year’s family vacation to Napa, she asked if there was any winery Chip and I had visited during our anniversary trip last year that we would want to go back to. It was an easy answer for us: Frog’s Leap. We really enjoyed our time at this winery last October and appreciated how relaxing it was, how beautiful their grounds are, and how great their wine was (and more affordable than other wineries!).

Frog’s Leap was booked on Monday and Tuesday, so we made reservations for our tasting tour on Wednesday morning. We started the day off with breakfast at Oxbow again before we made the drive out to Frog’s Leap in Rutherford (where wines are known to be “dirtier”). We got there a little before our 10:00 tour started, so that gave us time to walk around the grounds, which seemed to have more flowers and garden space since our visit last year.

There was another family in our tour group and we had a great time touring the grounds and seeing their wine barrel room with them. With this being our third winery of the trip, it was really interesting to see how each of them differ in their wine making process, from whether or not they irrigate their vines (most don’t, when the vines have to “work” to get to water, you typically yield more quality vs quantity grapes), to how many times a single barrel is used to age wine.

No other vineyard compares to the beautiful grounds at Frog's Leap

No other vineyard compares to the beautiful grounds at Frog’s Leap

Our tour guide encouraged us to try a couple of grapes from the vines while we were out on the property (not that we needed any encouragement). We were there a few days before the harvest started, so we were lucky the grapes were still out on the vines for us to see (and taste!).

Slightly overexposed, but I love the colorful wildflowers at Frog's Leap

Slightly overexposed, but I love the colorful wildflowers at Frog’s Leap

They have an amazing garden at Frog's Leap, here's the garlic they had recently harvested.

They have an amazing garden at Frog’s Leap, here’s the garlic they had recently harvested.

Testing out my lighting with my very willing subject

Testing out my lighting with my very willing subject

My dad could totally live on a vineyard

My dad could totally live on a vineyard

At the end of the winery tour

At the end of the winery tour

At Frog's Leap last year...

At Frog’s Leap last year…

And now this year!

And now this year!

Checking out the different fruit trees... can our garden look like this, please?

Checking out the different fruit trees… can our garden look like this, please?

Our chicken friends

Our chicken friends

We didn't want to leave Frog's Leap

We didn’t want to leave Frog’s Leap

I also didn't want the wine samples to end...

I also didn’t want the wine samples to end…

Refill, please?

Refill, please?

Love this guy

Love this guy

My new friend, Abbie

My new friend, Abbie

I let her check out my new Frog's Leap hat. She approved.

I let her check out my new Frog’s Leap hat. She approved.

Oh, Abbie. Someday I will have a dog with a scruffy face like yours (don't tell Wrigley).

Oh, Abbie. Someday I will have a dog with a scruffy face like yours (don’t tell Wrigley).

Abbie liked my dad, too

Abbie liked my dad, too

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Loving my new Frog's Leap hat.

Loving my new Frog’s Leap hat.

Leaving this place was not an easy task

Leaving this place was not an easy task

Frog’s Leap is a great casual, friendly winery. Each of the wineries we went to were all unique and different, and we loved how accessible Frog’s Leap is in how laid back the tours are as well as in price. They even sell a few bottles at HEB every now and then; Chip and I like keeping our eye out for them so we can have some Frog’s Leap Cabernet on date nights at home.

After our tour at Frog’s Leap, we drove down the road to Mumm Napa, a sparkling wine winery. After enjoying the four vineyards of this trip, it was a lot of fun to end the trip on a little bit of bubbly. Our tour guide there was a lot of fun and walked us through all of the differences between the regular wine and sparkling wine making process.

The view from Mumm

The view from Mumm

Looking at the different grapes at Mumm

Looking at the different grapes at Mumm

The beginning of the harvest at Mumm - grapes are picked earlier for sparkling wine

The beginning of the harvest at Mumm – grapes are picked earlier for sparkling wine

After our tour at Mumm, we drove to Sonoma for lunch at The Girl and The Fig. We were pretty hungry by this point and the food did not disappoint. It was pretty easy to see why so many wine country blogs mention this restaurant. After our late lunch, we walked around downtown Sonoma for a little bit before driving back to our rental home in Napa.

The view on the drive from Sonoma to Napa

The view on the drive from Sonoma to Napa

 

 

Del Dotto Vineyards

Remember that trip to Napa we took last month? Don’t worry, the last couple of posts on this trip are on their way.

Like most of our mornings in Napa, we got the day started with breakfast at Oxbow Public Market. Over the course of our time in Napa, we loved spending our mornings and free evenings at Oxbow. There were plenty of little shops to check out and great places to grab food. There was actually a farmers market there on Tuesday morning, so we were able to have some fruit and pastries outside before heading back into Oxbow for breakfast tacos at C Casa.

Whole Spice - Chip's favorite place at Oxbow

Whole Spice – Chip’s favorite place at Oxbow

Oxbow Public Market

Oxbow Public Market

With dad at breakfast

With dad at breakfast

"Okay, Chip, that's enough pictures for now"

“Okay, Chip, that’s enough pictures for now”

"No, really. Stop."

“No, really. Stop.”

After breakfast, we drove to Del Dotto Vineyards where we were scheduled to do their barrel tasting at their Napa location. Del Dotto is a family-owned winery that focuses on small production of premium wines. A large amount of the wine at Del Dotto is already “sold” by the time it is aging in a barrel. We were really excited to tour their cave where many barrels are kept and try the wine straight from these barrels. Our tour guide Adam was great and like Cristhian at The Hess Collection, he gave us some hearty samples as well as a few extra ones. Our favorite samples were when we could try the same type of wine aged in two different barrels and see how differently they turned out. If you want to have a great experience at any winery, do your homework. Learn the basics about the wine-making process so you can ask the guides questions and get more from the vineyard experience. Adam taught us a lot not only about the wine making process, but also tips for a better tasting. For example: don’t hold your wine glass around the bottom of the glass, but at the bottom of the stem (just hook your pinky underneath so it feels more stable). When you keep your hand around the actual glass part, you’re unintentionally warming the wine. He also encouraged us to share whatever it was we thought we were tasting in the wine. I was so surprised when a wine reminded me of breakfast sausage and he told me I was correct. I know it sounds weird, but it was tasty.

Outside of the Del Dotto caves

Outside of the Del Dotto caves

My dad's a goof

My dad’s a goof

Ready for the cave tour and barrel tasting

Ready for the cave tour and barrel tasting

First wine sample of the day

First wine sample of the day

The wine thief: this is how we were given samples from the barrels

The wine thief: this is how we were given samples from the barrels

Wine thief, part two

Wine thief, part two

This is when I stopped taking pictures of our cave tour and barrel tasting. It was pretty dark in there and the amount of time I needed to stay still for the slower shutter speed on my camera in this lighting just wasn’t happening by the time we got through our first few samples. Looking back, we should have put my camera on auto focus after our first half hour there. Let’s just say that by the end of the tour, it was like we had had several full glasses of wine and our manual focus was a bit sub-par. Oops.

Really should have used auto focus...

Really should have used auto focus…

We left Del Dotto in very high spirits and decided that we now only do tastings from barrels. We’re such a classy bunch. We had been planning on grabbing lunch at Melted, but since we were pretty full from our wine session, we went back to the rental home to relax. Alex and Teresa had to fly back to Denver that evening, so after grabbing their suitcases, my parents dropped them off at a shuttle bus that would take them directly to the San Francisco airport. Chip and I said our goodbyes to Alex and Teresa at the house, and while my parents dropped them off at their shuttle, I took one epic wine-induced nap.

We took it easy and hung out in the cozy backyard when my parents got back and eventually went to dinner at Pearl. I really can’t give a thorough review on their food. I still wasn’t very hungry, but everyone else seemed to really enjoy their meal. we did some more walking after dinner and went to bed early for another full day in Napa on Wednesday.

Don’t worry, just two more posts to go!

Monday in Napa: Kayaking and The Hess Collection

If you’re still reading these posts, thanks! If you’re distraught over missing the earlier part of our trip in San Francisco, fret not. You can read them here, here, and here.

Monday was our first full day in Napa, and while we were looking forward to visiting a few wineries, we were also excited for some warmer weather. It was a bit cooler in San Francisco than we had expected! When my mom and I first sat down to plan this trip, we couldn’t decide if we wanted to do Napa first, and then go to San Francisco or vice versa. Looking back on the trip, I’m really glad we did SF first, and then the wine country. It was nice getting to do the “busy” things first, doing a lot of walking and sight seeing, and then taking it easy in Napa.

Wineries would of course be on our itinerary, but we thought we would take advantage of the beautiful scenery and get in an outdoor activity, too. We had thought about going on a hiking trail, but with the Napa River so close to our rental home, we decided to do a kayaking tour. We did our TripAdvisor research and booked a tour with Kayak Napa Valley. From the time we booked our trip, to showing up on Monday morning, we had a great experience with their staff. It was so clear to see that our tour guide Laurie (who is also one of the founders) values the beauty of the area. This company even schedules clean up days to keep the river clean and beautiful. Our time kayaking was so peaceful and relaxing, the complete opposite of our rafting in Colorado a couple of years ago (right, dad?).

Our kayak tour started at 9:00 and ended around noon, so we drove to Oxbow to pick up some lunch from Gott’s Roadside. Talk about some delicious food. Everyone enjoyed their burgers while I ate one awesome hot dog (#keepingitclassy). It was the perfect lunch to fill our stomachs before our first wine tour of the trip.

There are over 400 wineries in Napa Valley. That’s right 400. Chip and I visited six last year, and with this trip we were able to see four more. Clearly we need to make many more trips back to Napa to cross the rest of these off our list. Okay, maybe that’s a little unrealistic…

Our first winery was The Hess Collection. You won’t find it while driving down Silverado Trail, it’s nestled up a windy road surrounded by mountains. While it is a great winery, it is also an art museum and you can walk around their gallery after your tasting. I was sad to hear that as of now, they are open only by appointment while they make repairs to their visitor center following the recent earthquake in the area. If you’re in Napa, make an appointment here. You won’t be disappointed.

We did their wine and cheese tasting and had a great afternoon with our guide Cristhian. As good as the wine was (and it was really good), Cristhian made the experience. He shared so much about the history of the winery, answered all of our questions (and we asked a lot), and let us take our time getting through everything. He even gave us an extra sample at the end after we had talked about how much we like Pinot Noir.

Don't these grapes look like blueberries?

Don’t these grapes look like blueberries?

These are all red grapes, but stay green until they've received enough sun

These are all red grapes, but stay green until they’ve received enough sun

The Hess Collection lets their grapes grow a little bit more like trees instead of having the branches on a wire trellis

The Hess Collection lets their grapes grow a little bit more like trees instead of having the branches on a wire trellis

Ready for our tasting

Ready for our tasting

Loved the outdoor space at The Hess Collection

Loved the outdoor space at The Hess Collection

This stone building was constructed back in 1903.

This stone building was constructed back in 1903.

Cristhian told us that by the time we got to the "barely buzzed" cheese pairing, we should all be barely buzzed... well, maybe slightly more.

Cristhian told us that by the time we got to the “barely buzzed” cheese pairing, we should all be barely buzzed… well, maybe slightly more.

Our wine flight

Our wine flight

Cristhian also brought my parents a plate of cookies for their anniversary. Now that's my kind of anniversary gift.

Cristhian also brought my parents a plate of cookies for their anniversary. Now that’s my kind of anniversary gift.

Group picture with Cristhian

Group picture with Cristhian

We got along great.

We got along great

Love these two of pictures of my parents

Love these two of pictures of my parents

After our wonderful afternoon at The Hess Collection, we made the drive back to downtown Napa for dinner at Ca’Momi, one of the restaurants at Oxbow Public Market. We were all pretty stuffed from the wine and cheese, so we kept dinner pretty light. After we ate, we went inside Oxbow to get a few cupcakes from Kara’s Cupcakes before going home and playing some Heads Up! I can’t remember who won, so we’ll just say the girls did. More to come on our time in Napa!