Tag Archives: Wine Tasting

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


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!