Tag Archives: Napa

Farewell, Napa. Hello, San Francisco.

Friday was our last morning in Napa. I’m sure there are a lot of great breakfast/brunch spots in Napa, but we could eat at Oxbow every morning and be perfectly happy. We ventured from our regular tacos at C Casa for their awesome breakfast burrito and cinnamon roll. We ate it all before I could get a good picture of our meal.


Leaving RiverPointe – it really felt like a little home!


Walking around Oxbow one last time


Learning about bitters for making Old Fashioned’s at home

Before driving back to San Francisco, we decided to head back to Domaine Chandon for a quick stop. We had such a great tour there the day before, but had rushed out to our next tasting that we didn’t get to fully explore the grounds. We initially thought we would just go take a few pictures and walk around, until I remembered that as new wine club members, we get free tastings every time we visit. Twist my arm, I guess I’ll have a glass of sparkling wine at 10am. One observation while we were there Friday morning: As we got out of our car, we saw a group of 20 people getting ready for their tour. I’m so glad we visited on Thursday and had been in a small group of four people and got to ask our guide a ton of questions. I highly recommend visiting the wineries during the week for this reason.


Walking up to Domaine Chandon


At Domaine Chandon


One of our new favorite places in Napa


I could stay here all day


…Especially with a glass of sparkling rose


The right way to do a Friday


Domaine Chandon

Before we left the wine country, we had to take the funny video below outside of Chandon. Hey, cutie.

After our stop at Domain Chandon, we drove back to San Francisco for the weekend. I’m sure locals get used to it, but I am always blown away at how tall the towers are on the Golden Gate Bridge. While we usually stop for pictures at the lookout point coming out of the city, we decided to try a new spot this time as well: Fort Point. If you can only pick one place to stop for pictures, I would choose this one over the lookout spot right after the bridge. Yes, you do get the city behind you with the lookout spot, but I love how you get such a sense of how tall the bridge is from Fort Point. We took more than a few pictures there and enjoyed the water crashing up against the rocks before check in at the Coventry Motor Inn one more time.







Fort Point







Alcatraz out in the distance







Now, when we were first deciding if we wanted to take this somewhat last-minute trip to San Francisco, we saw that Of Monsters and Men would be playing in nearby Berkeley that same weekend. This sealed the deal for us. We had to make this trip. Chip and I both love music, but we don’t always enjoy the same artists. I’m a sucker for catchy pop music (I’ll always fan girl over boy bands, no shame at all), and I tease Chip about his alien music full of weird synthesizers. But Of Monsters and Men is a band that we both really enjoy and love listening to together. Certain songs from their first album will give me serious nostalgia for our first trip to Nantucket. While Chip was at his conference, I would sit out on the porch at Century House, working on emails and listening to “Little Talks,” “Dirty Paws,” and “Love Love Love” nonstop. Their new album Beneath the Skin came out in June and was pretty much always on at home and in the car for a few months. Once we realized this concert was happening Friday night, we planned our entire trip around it. So after checking back in at the Coventry Motor Inn, we hung out at the Ferry Building for part of the afternoon before driving out to Berkeley for the concert at The Greek Theatre in the UC Berkeley campus.

It wasn’t until we parked our car near UC Berkeley that we realized we hadn’t locked the doors while we were at the Ferry Building… and someone had stolen my American Giant hoodie and Chip’s sunglasses. So not cool. They left behind the blankets we had packed, so we fortunately still had those to sit on during the concert. After I got over being insulted by this petty theft, we went to Eureka! for dinner and enjoyed some great burgers before walking to The Greek Theatre. Now, this outdoor venue is designed to look like an old amphitheater with a round seating plan. The seating is unassigned and broken into three sections: the pit (where you stand the whole time), the orchestra (where you sit on cement steps, which is why we packed blankets), and the lawn. After reading online reviews from veteran concert goers, we decided to sit in the orchestra section. We wanted to get some good seats in this section, so we finished our dinner and walked a mile through the UC Berkeley campus, checking out all the buildings along the way and got to the concert gates before the doors opened. The line was longer than we anticipated when we showed up, but most of the early comers went straight to the pit, so we got a great spot in the middle of the orchestra section.

I can’t say enough good things about the concert. The opening act, Amason, was great and did a great job setting the tone for the night. Chip and I had been debating over what we thought would be Of Monsters and Men’s first song. Would it be from the old album? The new album? We went back and forth on it, but neither one of us expected it to be “Thousand Eyes.” We didn’t even think they would perform this song. I’m so glad we were both wrong because this was AMAZING live. It was so dramatic with the lighting and the drums. The song ended and we just looked at each other and laughed. We knew the rest of the concert was going to be incredible and we were not disappointed. There are songs that I liked before, but after hearing it live, I love them. Who would have thought an accordion would make “King and Lionheart” sound so good live? Looking back on the concert four months ago, some of our favorite memories are singing along to “Dirty Paws,” following the drummer’s lead to clap the beginning of “Slow and Steady,” and listening to “Crystals.” They did such a great job interacting with the audience and we loved comparing how the lead singer Nanna sways as she sings while fellow band member Ragnar bobs his shoulders up and down as he plays the guitar. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can see them again another time.


Dinner at Eureka!


Walking the UC Berkeley campus


Walking the UC Berkeley campus


Picking our seats for the concert


We loved The Greek Theatre





Ready for the concert


Of Monsters and Men


Of Monsters and Men


Of Monsters and Men


Of Monsters and Men

Listen to that accordion!

As soon as they started playing “Little Talks,” the sweet preteen in front of us started dancing like crazy. It was awesome.

The pictures below are from the Of Monsters and Men Facebook page. Love the view they had of the audience!


Of Monsters and Men Facebook Page. The fancy blue arrow is the area where we sat.

Thursday in Napa

After our tasting at Pride Mountain Vineyards, we drove back into downtown Napa to check in at our hotel. We originally hoped to find a place through airbnb or VRBO, but we couldn’t find anything in our price range. If you’re traveling to Napa with a larger group, I highly recommend a rental home. We went that route last year with my family, and had a great time having a home to spend time in. Since we couldn’t find any for this trip that worked for us, we considered our hotel options. There aren’t many chain anythings in Napa, save for a Starbucks and Panera Bread, so it felt slightly out of place to consider staying at a Best Western or other chain hotel. Napa also has a few really nice four to five star hotels, but these were definitely out of our price range. Reading through reviews on TripAdvisor took us to RiverPointe Napa Valley and we couldn’t have been happier with it. It was the perfect middle ground between a hotel and a rental home. We loved how close it was to downtown Napa, giving us the option to walk to Oxbow Public Market in the mornings for breakfast and quick access to some great restaurants for dinner. These mini condos/mobile homes gave us our own space, complete with a kitchen and living room, but still offered some of the amenities of a hotel, like a wine tasting our first afternoon in Napa. We weren’t expecting this tasting, so we were pleasantly surprised when we checked in just before the event started. And yes, we were by far the youngest couple in the room but we had such a great time getting to meet some of the other people staying at RiverPointe. Everyone becomes a friend when you’re having a glass of wine, right?

After our tasting, we drove to dinner at Bistro Don Giovanni. We had visited Don Giovanni for lunch during our first trip to Napa a few years ago and really enjoyed it. When we told friends we were going back to Napa for this trip, we heard more than a few recommendations to go to Don Giovanni for dinner. One look at the menu solidified our decision. It was crowded there, so be sure to make reservations if you want to make Don Giovanni part of your Napa experience. Everything on the menu looks great, you really can’t go wrong there. We also had a super sweet waiter from Croatia. He loved hearing that we spent a day in Dubrovnik during our honeymoon, and then showed us pictures of his family while we ate.

Thursday morning started off with breakfast at Oxbow. Seriously, we love this place. We considered a few options for breakfast, but in the end went with C Casa. You can’t beat their breakfast tacos.


C Casa – please send us tacos


Pumpkin latte to get the morning started

After breakfast, we grabbed a few snacks there at Oxbow before driving to our first stop for the day: Chandon. Over the last year or so, I’ve really started enjoyed sparkling wine. We went to Mumm during our last trip and thought it would be fun to check out another place that specialized in sparkling wine. It didn’t take much research to find Chandon. Y’all. This place was amazing! We may or may not have joined their wine club… any friends want to join us for some sparkling wine?



Ready for our tasting


The tour at Chandon


The flight at Chandon


Fun fact: Chandon also makes still wine


Set up for the tasting


Starting our tasting…


Bring on the bubbles

Our tour at Chandon was one of our favorites of this trip. We were a small group of just four people, so we got to spend a lot of time with our super sweet tour guide, who was great at answering all of our (mainly Chip’s) questions. The grounds were incredibly beautiful and we had a great view of the lawn as we had our final tasting. Our tour ran a little longer than we had planned, so we had to rush out to our next tour after signing up for the Chandon wine club. Don’t worry, we stopped by the next morning for some pictures!

After Chandon, we had our tour at Frog’s Leap. This was our third time at this winery. We had done their garden tasting during our first trip, and the tour during our second. For this third trip, we decided to do the signature seating tasting. I’ve said it before, but what we love about Frog’s Leap is how casual the environment and how beautiful the grounds are. It’s a unique combination to enjoy some really great wine while also feeling really comfortable in the laid back setting.


I really love the Frog’s Leap logo


Signature Seating Tasting at Frog’s Leap


The lawn at Frog’s Leap


Tomatoes everywhere


Love the Frog’s Leap chickens


In front of our favorite wall at Frog’s Leap


One of my favorite places with my favorite guy


Little more fall colors compared to last year


Frog’s Leap


House goals

On our way out of Frog’s Leap, we decided to make a quick pit-stop for some food at Gott’s Roadside. Let me tell you, nothing goes better with wine than a good hotdog and chocolate milkshake.


Gott’s Roadside

For our last winery, we went to Sterling Vineyards. We had someone recommend Sterling to us, and after reading about the winery, we decided to check it out. A highlight to Sterling is their gondola with views of the wine country. We were excited for these views, but we were worried it was a tourist attraction and that the tour wouldn’t be that great. Maybe it’s because we did the self-guided tour, but we were underwhelmed with our time at Sterling. We enjoyed the gondola and took tons of pictures from up in the air, but the tour itself was made of videos at the different “stops, ” so there wasn’t much room to learn more or interact and ask questions. I’m glad this was the last tour of our trip so it wasn’t the first time we were learning about the wine making process.


The view at Sterling Vineyards


During our tour at Sterling Vineyards


In the gondola at Sterling Vineyards

We drove back into downtown Napa after our tasting at Sterling for dinner at Torc. It was easy to see why this restaurant has such great TripAdvisor reviews. The ambiance was festive, without being too loud, and the food was delicious. I would definitely go there again if we ever had the chance. More to come on our last morning in Napa and our weekend in San Francisco! I promise I’ll try to get those posts done sometime in the next month…


Ready for dinner at Torc


Traveling back to San Francisco and Napa

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

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


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!