Tag Archives: Wine Country

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.

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Leaving RiverPointe – it really felt like a little home!

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Walking around Oxbow one last time

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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.

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Walking up to Domaine Chandon

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At Domaine Chandon

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One of our new favorite places in Napa

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I could stay here all day

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…Especially with a glass of sparkling rose

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The right way to do a Friday

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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.

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Fort Point

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Alcatraz out in the distance

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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.

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Dinner at Eureka!

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Walking the UC Berkeley campus

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Walking the UC Berkeley campus

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Picking our seats for the concert

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We loved The Greek Theatre

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Amason

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Ready for the concert

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Of Monsters and Men

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Of Monsters and Men

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Of Monsters and Men

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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!

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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.

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C Casa – please send us tacos

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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?

 

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Ready for our tasting

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The tour at Chandon

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The flight at Chandon

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Fun fact: Chandon also makes still wine

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Set up for the tasting

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Starting our tasting…

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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.

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I really love the Frog’s Leap logo

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Signature Seating Tasting at Frog’s Leap

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The lawn at Frog’s Leap

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Tomatoes everywhere

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Love the Frog’s Leap chickens

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In front of our favorite wall at Frog’s Leap

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One of my favorite places with my favorite guy

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Little more fall colors compared to last year

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Frog’s Leap

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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.

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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.

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The view at Sterling Vineyards

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During our tour at Sterling Vineyards

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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…

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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.

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Airplane selfie! We would soon both feel how Chip’s face looks…

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Towing the first rental car back to the airport

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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.

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Morning view from the hotel

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Getting ready for the afternoon winery visits with a big breakfast

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Driving the streets of San Francisco

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These pictures just don’t capture how STEEP some of the streets are!

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Love my travel buddy

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Taking advantage of the convertible to enjoy the sunny day

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Golden Gate Bridge

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View of San Francisco from the other side of the bridge

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On the other side of the bridge

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Crazy hair on the drive to Napa

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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.

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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!

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Blind tasting at Elizabeth Spencer

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So focused on the wines

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Dana walking us through the different regions in the Napa Valley

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Who knew grapes could grow in these types of soil?

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Dana gave us one more sample of each wine once we finished the tasting

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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!

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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.

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Driving to Pride Mountain Vineyards

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Chip wanted to smell the barrels outside of Pride Mountain Vineyards. Spoiler: they didn’t smell like wine.

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Not a bad view from the parking lot at Pride Mountain Vineyards

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Can I work here?

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Grape vines for the win

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Chip found some grapes. They smelled better than the barrels.

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Ready to tour Pride Mountain Vineyards

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In the tasting room at Pride Mountain Vineyards before the tour

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You bet we bought Wrigley a bag of these treats

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Speaking of Wrigley… this could have been his long lost cousin in a book at Pride Mountain Vineyards.

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Part of the wine making process

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More of the wine making process

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On one side of the brick line is Napa. On the other side is Sonoma.

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In the cave at Pride Mountain Vineyards

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Pride Mountain Vineyards

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Leaving Pride Mountain Vineyards after our tour

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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…

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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

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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

 

 

Napa and Sonoma: Part Two

Sunday was the last day of our belated two-year anniversary vacation in San Francisco (you can read about the rest of our trip here, here, here, and here). Originally, we had planned on Sunday being our laid back day to explore whatever we wanted to spend some more time on or just hadn’t gotten to yet, like Golden Gate Park and other parts of the city. However, while having dinner Friday night, we decided to use Sunday as a day to go out to Napa and Sonoma one more time. Like I said before, we had a great time out there on Friday with our tour, but were left wanting more and also a little bummed that we hadn’t been able to go to some of the wineries we had read about online and had requested during our tour reservation process.

You’d think it be an easy decision to go out to the wine country again, but we actually did do a bit of back and forth on this decision over dinner Friday and even again part of Saturday morning. Would we be upset we weren’t able to see other parts of the city? Would the day cost too much? In the end we realized: 1. We didn’t want to leave this vacation wishing we had done something different or spent more time somewhere and we already felt that way about Napa and Sonoma, 2. We had been paying for this trip with our travel budget and would be able to cover the costs of a 24-hour small car rental (last summer, we decided to set aside a little bit each paycheck into our travel budget; it’s been such a great decision, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to take this trip otherwise), 3. We would need to take a cab anyways to the airport on Monday so riding out on Sunday to get the rental car would be a sunk cost (and then we would be able to drive ourselves to the airport instead). So with all of this under consideration, we decided to go ahead and plan on spending Sunday in the wine country.

Saturday afternoon then turned into a planning session; we quickly reserved a car online through Enterprise and then looked up different wineries that we had originally wanted to go to and tried to make tasting reservations wherever we could. It took a bit of juggling between different websites to see who would be open for us at this short of notice, but thankfully a lot of the wineries are pretty casual and will take walk-ins for tastings (at least the ones within our budget do this).

We took a cab out to the airport around 8:30 Sunday morning and picked up our rental without a problem (they even gave us a free upgrade since we were one of the first customers of the day). With that, we got on the road! It was fun driving around the city together and making our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which we had a much better view of compared to the foggy drive on Friday morning.  Once we got into Sausalito, we stopped at a Starbucks to get some breakfast before getting into Napa. I have to say that the drive through the wine country has some of the most scenic views you can get on the road.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Driving into Napa

Driving into Napa

Vineyards on all sides

Vineyards on all sides

Our first stop of the day was Frog’s Leap, which was the one winery we had really wanted to go to during this trip. It definitely did not disappoint. We split their garden tasting since their other tours were already booked. This turned out to be the best thing for us. While it is nice to have someone walk you through the different wines you’re trying and the vineyard’s wine making process, we just really enjoyed getting to walk around their grounds and take our time. Their property was so calm and adorable that we could have stayed there all day.

We pulled over to take some pictures before getting to Frog's Leap. Not sure what vineyard these grapes are from!

We pulled over to take some pictures before getting to Frog’s Leap. Not sure what vineyard these grapes are from!

Hooray for grapes

Hooray for grapes

I could totally live on a vineyard

I could totally live on a vineyard

Exploring Napa with Chip

Exploring Napa with Chip

The view from Frog's Leap

The view from Frog’s Leap

Ribbit

Ribbit

Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day

Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Walking around Frog's Leap

Walking around Frog’s Leap

Visiting some chickens on the Frog's Leap property

Visiting some chickens on the Frog’s Leap property

That's one angry eye

That’s one angry eye

Beautiful fall colors

Beautiful fall colors

I love fall and wine

I love fall and wine

We loved the backdrop of the different colored leaves, but no one was around to take our picture. Soooo we strapped my camera to a tree branch and used the timer to take a picture. I'm so bummed this one came out blurry, I think it would have been great!

We loved the backdrop of the different colored leaves, but no one was around to take our picture. Soooo we strapped my camera to a tree branch and used the timer to take a picture. I’m so bummed this one came out blurry, I think it would have been great!

At least this one worked!

At least this one worked!

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Can I live here?

Can I live here?

A great tasting at Frog's Leap

A great tasting at Frog’s Leap

After Frog’s Leap, we went down the road to Caymus Vineyards. We weren’t too impressed with the staff (they were a little cold when we asked about their tasting options), so while they were talking to a big group that was also in the room, we slipped out and decided to move on.

While at Frog’s Leap, one of the staff had recommended Miner Family Winery, so we went there next since it was also pretty close to where we were. This was another nice, casual tasting which allowed us to sit out on their patio and take in the view of the wine country. There was also a family there with a couple of dogs, so we got to pet them while enjoying our wine and talking about how much Wrigley would have loved Napa. That’s right, we’re those dog people.

The view from Miner Family Winery

The view from Miner Family Winery

Miner Family Winery

Miner Family Winery

After Miner, we went to Gundlach Bundschu out in Sonoma. We had made reservations online for their tasting tour at 2:00 and got there with a few minutes to walk around and take a few pictures out on their property. This was our only tour of the whole trip and we’re really glad we were able to do it, especially at this vineyard. They’re they oldest family-owned winery in California and they had plenty of history to share, like how they illegally brought in Tempranillo grapes back in the day (that was a fun story to hear!).

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

One last picture in front of the Gundlach Bundschu vineyard

One last picture in front of the Gundlach Bundschu vineyard

They have quite the name

They have quite the name

On our tour

On our tour

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

We were hoping to go to one more winery after Miner, but by this point in the day most of them were closing. So instead we grabbed a very late lunch before driving back into San Francisco. We then spent the evening having dinner at Coqueta on Fisherman’s Wharf. The tapas were delicious and we enjoyed sharing their seafood paella. Probably my favorite part of our time at Coqueta? Being just tables away from Carlos Santana. That’s right. He was totes at the same restaurant! And yes, I shamefully stared at him occasionally.

Driving back into San Francisco

Driving back into San Francisco

One last view of the Golden Gate Bridge

One last view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Coqueta

Coqueta

Seafood paella

Seafood paella

My wonderful husband and Carlos Santana just behind him

My wonderful husband and Carlos Santana just behind him

Cheers!

Cheers!

We are so thankful for the trip we were able to take to San Francisco!

Napa and Sonoma: Part One

When Chip and I first talked about planning a trip to San Francisco, we knew we couldn’t be in northern California without going to Napa or Sonoma. While researching day trips to the wine country (staying the night just looked way too expensive with this short of notice), we thought the most cost effective route would be to go with a tour company that could pick us up in San Francisco and take us to a few different wineries throughout the day, and then bring us back to the city in the evening.

Of course, I turned to Trip Advisor for this part of our trip. After reading about half a dozen different companies, we decided to go with Green Hills Wine Tours. We liked that this company took small groups on their tours and that you could include notes in the online reservation service about what kinds of wines we like most so the company can then pick wineries accordingly.

Having visited some wineries here in Texas, we knew we had to get the day started with a hearty breakfast. We wanted to go back to Mama’s and left our hotel around 8:00 (we took the bus this time). We thought Mama’s wouldn’t be as crowded that early in the morning, but we were wrong… the line was even longer when we showed up around 8:20 on Friday morning compared to the line the previous day. We were worried that we wouldn’t get inside, seated, and finish breakfast before our pick up time of 9:30, so we walked down a few blocks to Caffe Roma where we ended up having a great meal. We finished in plenty of time to walk back down to Mama’s where our guide and company owner Aloys was able to pick us up. We then went to pick up two other people that would be joining us for the day before making our way out of the city.

One thing I liked about Green Hills is that they stop for a scenic view after driving out of the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge. This allowed us to get a few pictures with that famous landmark as our backdrop. The bridge was so much bigger than we had expected in both length and height!

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Little bit of fog over the San Francisco skyline

Little bit of fog over the San Francisco skyline

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

Our selfie attempt.... can't really see the bridge

Our selfie attempt…. can’t really see the bridge

That's better

That’s better

Fun fact: did you know the Golden Gate Bridge can withstand winds of more than 100mph and can sway up to 27 feet? Yikes.

After checking out the Golden Gate Bridge for about 15 minutes, we were pretty cold so we got back in the car and drove up into the wine country. Our guide asked us all some more questions during the drive about our wine preferences and then suggested a few wineries we could go to. I was a little surprised how flexible our day was proving to be, I had assumed that with the popularity of Napa and Sonoma that we would have had to make reservations for the entire day. But it turns out that when he brings smaller groups, Aloys can get into certain places where he has good relationships, so that was a nice perk during the day.

Our first stop was Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma. It was a great place to start and we also really liked that they do free tastings. Jacuzzi is nice and small and known for their white wines, although we really liked their Pinot Noir.

Ready for our first winery of the day

Ready for our first winery of the day

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi also had an olive oil bar complete with homemade dog treats. We got one for Wrigs and he's already devoured it.

Jacuzzi also had an olive oil bar complete with homemade dog treats. We got one for Wrigs and he’s already devoured it.

After Jacuzzi, we drove to Napa where we would spend the rest of the day. Our next stop was Stag’s Leap. They had really good red wine, but it was all way out of our price range. Chip and I split our tasting and then walked around the grounds for a bit since we wouldn’t be making any purchases there.

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Wine tasting at Stag's Leap

Wine tasting at Stag’s Leap

Not exactly in our price range...

Not exactly in our price range…

He sure looks classy

He sure looks classy

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Our third winery was our favorite of the day: Jessup Cellars. They are a boutique winery and we had a great experience there. It’s one of our guide’s favorite wineries and he has a great relationship with their staff, so we were able to have a guided tasting with one of the staff members. They also had a yummy snacks plate for us to munch on while trying out the different wines (who doesn’t love some wine and cheese?).

A delightful snack tray

A delightful snack tray

We liked their wine so much that I quickly signed us up for their wine club while Chip was in the restroom. When he came back and asked me why I looked so excited, I replied with the following face:

Cute, right? I’m sure he’ll thank me when we get our discounted case of wine in December ;)

By the time we left Jessup, we were more than ready for lunch. We all went to Don Giovanni for some great pizza and pasta, which was the perfect meal to balance out the wine from the first part of the day.

After lunch, we went to our last vineyard of the day, Trinitas Cellars, which is part of a resort in Napa. This one was our least favorite winery we went to. It was really small and after the great wine at Jessup, we just didn’t like their selection as much. It also just felt weird to be touring a small part of a resort compared to the beautiful grounds we had seen throughout the day. On the plus side, we found a really cute coffee table book there about winery dogs.

Trinitas Cellars

Trinitas Cellars

A great coffee table book, don't you think?

A great coffee table book, don’t you think?

After Trinitas, we drove back into San Francisco and our guide was able to drop us off at Panta Rei where we had made some reservations for dinner. Their food was good, although I felt we had a better meal at Cotogna. While we were having dinner and talking about how great the day had been, part of us felt that we hadn’t fully experienced Napa and Sonoma. We knew that by going with a tour company we wouldn’t have 100% freedom in choosing which vineyards to go to and how much time we would get at each place, but we thought that the structure would be worth it compared to the costs of renting a car and trying to get around by ourselves. But the more we talked about it over dinner, the more we began to consider going back out for a second time on Sunday just the two of us. There were some wineries we had read about online that we were really interested in going to and we were bummed we hadn’t been able to check them out. In the end, we decided to go ahead and rent a car for the day on Sunday; after all, we didn’t want to leave California wishing we had experienced more of the wine country.

More posts to come on our day in the city on Saturday and our trip back out to Napa on Sunday!