We had friends getting married in late September, and they had chosen a destination wedding to Napa Valley, California. It just happened it was also my birthday weekend, we had never been to Napa, and I LOVE WINE! We also have friends that live in the Sonoma/Russian River Valley area nearby, we could visit them while there. Sooo.. Napa, here we come!
We arrived at the rental car agency, and after a few minutes, the worker came out and said they only had minivans available, and the rest of the customers would have to wait. I explained we needed something that could go up a very steep mountain (to get to our friends’ house), and a minivan wouldn’t work! After a few minutes she asked if a Tahoe would do, at no extra charge. Well yeah!! This was a loaded, nearly new one too!! Yah!
Wally’s sister Monica had tagged along with us, and had never been to Muir Woods to see the redwoods. We had been, but it was raining, and didn’t walk far into the park. So we hit the road, navigating to Muir Woods. Along the way we saw a trailer full of just-harvested grapes. Wine country, we’re coming… It had been several years since we had visited Muir Woods, and luckily I had gotten online to visit the park webpage before we got there. They are now REQUIRING paid parking reservations or shuttle service to get into the park. So be sure and make your reservations online before you arrive! Here’s the link: https://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htmI was happy it was a pretty day for our visit this time! We were starving, so our first stop was the canteen/gift shop to get some lunch. It was a pretty good lunch for a park, and we were re-energized and ready for our walk. The trees in this little valley are just stunning to walk under – you feel like you’ve stepped back into a prehistoric forest! We heard some people mention lots of ladybugs near the creek, and we finally found them. Ladybugs were covering plants near the creek in massive clusters for their mating season. I love ladybugs, and it was really cool to see them in such big numbers!
After our walk in the woods, Muir Beach is just a five-minute drive from the woods, so we got in a bit of beach time. This is such a peaceful cove, and I imagine from all the fire pit areas it must be an awesome place to hang out! We played along the rocky edges, looking for sea life in the tidal pools, and neat rocks to add to our collections. Here’s more information for your visit: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/muirbeach.htm
We realized it was almost rush hour in San Francisco, and it was time to get to Napa. Our gps took us an alternate route to avoid some of the horrible traffic, and we finally arrived at our hotel for the weekend. We had gotten a good deal at the American Canyon Doubletree Hilton Hotel and Spa, and when we were checking in, a local vineyard was giving wine tastings and they had fresh cookies out. Ahhh… https://doubletree3.hilton.com/en/hotels/california/doubletree-by-hilton-hotel-and-spa-napa-valley-american-canyon-OAKACDT/index.html
This was a great hotel for our stay – just a few minutes drive from downtown Napa, and we loved the little lagoon in the middle. Our room had a patio, and we enjoyed watching the white birds fishing along the edges.
After getting unpacked, it was time to go meet the wedding party for welcome drinks and dinner at Basalt in downtown Napa. We ordered a variety of things to eat, and it was all delicious!! This is a really cool restaurant with a nice patio area outside. http://www.basaltnapa.com/ Monica and I with the bride-to-be, Merry Morgan.We were tired from our long travel day, so headed back to our hotel for the night. We had a big day of wine drinking scheduled for the next day! Refreshed the next morning, we decided to try our hotel restaurant for breakfast. The Table 29 Bistro was very good – we ate there for breakfast, and a late lunch another day.
Armed with a filling breakfast of large portions, it was time for our Winery Tour Day with the wedding party. We had a bus full of eager drinkers, and some not so eager ones that had drunk a bit too much the night before. Unfortunately it was a cloudy, dreary day, but luckily it wasn’t raining. Driving through Napa Valley, there’s vineyard after vineyard… So sad it wasn’t pretty weather for better pictures! For more information to help plan your trip, here’s the Napa Valley website and their winery page: https://www.visitnapavalley.com/
We had three places to visit on our itinerary, based on who could accommodate our almost 80 people. This was a diverse group, with friends traveling from Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and everywhere in between for Morgan and Nic’s wedding.
Our first stop was V. Sattui Winery, established in 1885 by Italian immigrants, and we felt like we were back in Italy! This is a lovely winery with loads of charm. I loved all the antique wine-making equipment scattered about the grounds, and the flowers were gorgeous! They had a tent set up out by the vineyard for our tasting, and everyone loved taking pictures with the beautiful almost ripe grapes cascading from the vines next to our tables.
And then the wine started to flow… and conversations began among previous strangers, soon to be new friends, and more laughter began to be heard around the tables as the wine did it’s work. We had several rounds of delicious wines to taste, and then those wanting to make purchases moved to the marketplace and deli where you can buy all sorts of delicious things. https://www.vsattui.com/visit/
Time to load up and move to our next destination! We were beginning to see blue in the sky, and the bus riders had taken on a cheery buzz.
Our next stop was the Domaine Chandon, home of sparkling bubbly wine and champagne, the perfect destination for a wedding party! Chandon was established in 1973 by Moet et Chandon, famous champagne producers, and was the first French-owned sparkling wine producer in Napa. https://www.chandon.com/
They had an assortment of sparkling wines and champagnes chilled and awaiting us on their back patio, and I’m pretty sure we drank every drop! They had a tasty food buffet for us with charcuterie, cheeses, and small sandwiches that hit the spot.
We like the Chandon delicious sparkling selections so much that we later purchased it for our New Year’s Eve celebration.
As we were straggling and gaggling out to the bus, these Oakland birthday girls were on their way in. I took their picture for them, and had to snap one for myself – they were cracking themselves up! I’m pretty sure they had already hit some wineries before they got to Chandon!
So now the bus was really rocking… good thing we have a driver!! And the sun was out!
So our third and last stop was at the Andretti Winery, which according to their webpage is “Modeled after a rambling Italian village, the winery conjures up the boyhood home of its namesake, Mario Andretti, the finest race car driver of all time.” https://andrettiwinery.com/
This was the most casual tasting of the three. They had a table set up outside with different wines, and we sampled different vintages as we walked around the vineyard. With sunny skies and drifting fluffy clouds, it made a dramatic and lovely backdrop for photos. The sumptuous grapes awaiting harvest were soo pretty! I have to admit that by this point, I’m not sure which wines I tasted and whether I liked them or not…but I’m sure they were great!
We had our group picture made before we loaded the van for the last time, and drove back for naps before more revelry in the evening. We had a fairly early night as we had plans the next day before the wedding. After breakfast the next morning, Monica and I drove to the Napa Farmer’s Market to see what they had to offer. As we drove down the road, hot air balloons were rising into the air! What a lovely sight!
We were going to be having a cookout at our friend’s house the next evening, so we wanted to take some fresh produce along. What a delicious and colorful array of produce and flowers, and there were lots of artisan-made items as well. We ordered French crepes and fresh ground and brewed coffee for our breakfast – perfect! I loved the furniture made by the artisan using old wine barrels, especially his rocking chairs! Wally needs to make me some! After surveying all the vendors, we went back through and chose large rosy heirloom tomatoes, plump ears of sweet corn, crimson strawberries, and homemade snack items. We picked out a cheerful bouquet of flowers for our friends, and with our hands full, decided we had enough. https://napafarmersmarket.org/
Next up on the itinerary was spending a few hours at the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort in Napa. Wally’s a golfer, and he and Monica were keen to see the course and players. I was happy to sit under the huge ancient oak trees, and collect acorns like a squirrel. We made our way down the course to one of the holes with cheering crowds in the stands, and beer was flowing with specials as the players made good shots. https://www.safewayopen.com/
Time to get back to the hotel to eat and get ready for the late afternoon wedding! We ran down to our Table 29 hotel restaurant for our late lunch, and it was delicious.
The wedding was at the Chardonnay Golf Club, just a few minutes from our hotel. http://chardonnaygolfclub.com/ It was sunny with the chill of fall in the air as we drank champagne and awaited time for the nuptials. It was a beautiful short and sweet ceremony, and everyone moved into the reception tent for the party – really just a continuation of celebration from the previous several days!
We ate, drank (a lot), danced and had a big time until the management closed us down. They moved the party on to their hotel, The Meritage, and done for the night, we went back to ours. https://meritagecollection.com/meritage-resort/accommodations/resort-amenities
It was travel day the next morning, and I pulled the blankets over my head, moaning… too much champagne and wine…. but gotta hit the road! After a bit, I started to recover, and since we were driving through Sonoma to our friends’ house, we decided we should do some wine tasting along the way. What a way to shake off the hangover…
Valley of the Moon Winery just happened to be the first winery we came to that was open. Their vineyard was started in 1863 by George Whitman, and has a long history in the valley. Although plain on the outside, once you walked inside the winery showroom, it has a really cool and welcoming atmosphere, and the workers at the bar were very friendly. We noticed they had a wood-fired pizza oven outside, and when we asked about it, they said it would be ready shortly – Yah! Just what I needed to recover, a delicious pizza! So while we waited, we did a flight of wine tasting, with two of us doing the regular wine flight and one reserve flight. Monica and Wally liked several, but my taste buds still weren’t recovered enough for me to fully appreciate the flavors of the wine. The pizza was ready by this time, and we ate out at their nice patio area out back. It was sooo good! Now I’m on the road to recovery!
They were running a special on their wine luggage travel cases, and we needed something to get our wine home in, so Happy Birthday to Me! Now we can take it to Europe with us to bring back our favorite wines and olive oils! http://www.valleyofthemoonwinery.com/
Onward… We wound through the Sonoma hills, and then saw a sign by the road saying “Fresh Oysters.” We quickly turned around, and headed up the driveway. We love oysters, and it’s a winery… and olive oil company!!! Score! We had arrived at BR Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company, and we immediately noticed all the music memorabilia on the walls. Monica asked, and was told the owner was the manager for the Doobie Brothers for 45 years – how cool was that? Be sure and read up on their history on their website to learn more about this lovely place. https://www.brcohn.com/
There was a couple of guys playing Doobie Brothers music outside, and lots of other visitors sitting on the patio, relaxing, drinking wine, and soaking in the amazing day. The oyster vendor was taking orders for his special Tomales Bay oysters, so we ordered a half dozen to sample them. Yowsers, oysters in California are expensive! While we waited on him to prepare our order, we browsed through the olive oil and gourmet food shop, getting several varieties to take home, and for gifts for our friends we were on the way to see. Our oysters were ready, so we decided on a wine flight to accompany them. And man on man… these wines were extraordinary! We bought several bottles – on average the ones we liked were around $40, but divine! So glad that pizza revived my taste buds in time for this stop! If you are in the Sonoma area, I recommend both of these fantastic wineries!
It was getting later in the afternoon, so time for us to get to our friends’ house. They live on top of a very tall mountain on the divide between Sonoma and the Russian River Valley. Going up…
It’s a nail biter getting to their house, but look at the view from their porch! So awesome!
We loved catching up with all of them, and since it was my birthday the next day, our cookout turned into my birthday party. All of the fresh-made food was delicious, and making it together made it even more special. They made a yummy pie, and their granddaughter sang me the sweetest happy birthday. What a perfect last night for our weekend of celebration!
The next morning it was hard to say goodbye, but we usually just say “until we meet again!” One night just wasn’t enough!
We loaded up the car – amazing how much stuff we bought in just a few days, and started down the mountain to catch our flight.
We got to the bottom and the electric company had a pole down, and the road blocked! At first they said it was for all day – Oh no! We have a flight to catch! After we explained, begged, about cried, the foreman said if we could wait about 30 minutes, they could let us pass before continuing with their work. We chatted with one of the workers, and I started collecting redwood tree cones that were scattered along the road. These were youngsters compared to Muir Woods, but still glorious! They let us through, and luckily we had left a little early. We got to the airport just in time to return the car, check our luggage, and make our flight. What a whirlwind weekend in California Wine Country!! We’ll be back!
And on that note and in celebration of finishing my blogs for 2019… I think I deserve a glass of Sonoma wine! Salut!