July 28, 2010

Napa Valley

Obligatory picture of grapes

After four nights in San Francisco, Marshal Mike and I were ready for a slower pace and warmer weather. Enter Napa Valley! We instantly felt relaxed as we passed over the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline slowly disappeared behind us. We stayed at a great little hotel called the River Terrace Inn (and yes, they did have a terrace right on the Napa River).

Photo from Deandeluca.com

My friend Molly had recommended a restaurant called Press for dinner, with the promise of "the best steak you have ever eaten." We were not disappointed. Unfortunately I filled up on our starter, a delicious and fresh green bean salad (with fennel!), so didn't get to enjoy much of my halibut. MM said his filet mignon was one of the best he has ever had. Success!

The town of Yountville is located just north of Napa and is home to one of the most famous, well-known, and well-respected restaurants in the country: Thomas Keller's French Laundry. If MM and I had nearly a grand to drop on dinner and if MM considered the perfect meal to be more than steak, potatoes and broccoli, then we would have tried to get a reservation (which is close to impossible anyway). But, we don't, so we didn't.

Instead, we tried one of Keller's other Yountville restaurants, called Bouchon. (The other is Ad Hoc, which only has one 4 course menu per day and I was worried we would get there and the menu du jour would be calf's livers, sweetbreads and uni, or some other ridiculousness we would not want to eat.)


Bouchon is modeled after a French bistro, so the menu has all items you would expect from a French bistro. MM had Gnocchi a la Parisienne, which he enjoyed. And I had the mussels, which were cooked with white wine, chorizo and peppers. They were delicious! I wanted to stop in Bouchon Bakery on the way out (it is next door) to pick up some bread to take home, but by the time we were finished with lunch the line was out the door, down the block. No thanks!

Bowl for the mussel shells.

At the end of it, we wished we had another day in Napa to keep exploring and I definitely want to go back to check out Sonoma and the other wine areas. Unfortunately someone (ahem, me) didn't read in the guidebook that the wineries all close at 4:30 or 6pm, so we only made it to two on Sunday and three on Monday before we went to the airport. Here is a list of the wineries we tried, in the order in which we tried them:

Trinitas Tasting Room at the Meritage Resort: I only tried their Sauvignon Blanc, which was ok. The tasting room is in a cave, which is what drew me to it in the first place.
Peju: MM's sister asked us to pick up two bottles of one of their wines, so that is why we tried this winery. We did a full tasting here (4 or 5 wines, I can't remember) and I didn't love any of them.

Grgich Hills: I did a full tasting here, which was also either 4 or 5 wines. I loved their Chardonnay and Fume Blanc! I usually find Chardonnay to be too thick and oaky, but this one was nothing like the Chardonnays I have tried in the past. Delicious!

Heitz Cellar: This was the only tasting we went to that was free. (Trinitas didn't charge me for the one wine I tried and Peju and Grgich waived the tasting fee because we bought bottles. So kind of them.) I think this tasting was 4 wines, and the real stand out in my opinion was their Ink Grade Port. It was so rich and smooth and fruity!

Del Dotto: This was the last winery we tried. It was so over the top opulent (bordering on the ridiculous if you ask me): marble columns, trompe l'oeil paintings on the walls, huge chandeliers and the tasting was $30! But our pourer (is there a proper term for them??) was British and we were her first tasting she did alone. She was the best and the wine was delicious too!

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