California Wine Country

As I mentioned in my previous post, the “meat” of our Northern California vacation sandwich was Napa and Sonoma.  After our legs were sore from traipsing up and down the hills of downtown San Francisco, we were looking forward to the leisurely pace of its neighboring wine country.

We spent our first afternoon at Sonoma Plaza, the historic “downtown” square.  By recommendation, we had lunch at The Girl and The Fig, where we sat on the lovely outdoor terrace and enjoyed a classic Croque Madame and a pulled pork sandwich with a glass of wine. Dave and I love a good sculpture garden and not far from the square was Cornerstone Sonoma.

After checking into our hotel in Napa, we had pre-dinner cocktails at Cuvee, a nearby establishment that served wine out of barrels, reminiscent of a keg.

Since Dave was the reservations secret keeper, unbeknownst to me, our first dinner in Napa was at La Toque, located in the The Westin Verasa Napa resort. It was pretty empty when we arrived and stayed that way throughout our meal. We both tried antelope for the first time and their “drowned lobster” dish was excellent, but otherwise I’m not sure how this place has a Michelin Star.

The next day was filled with wine tastings at Silver Oak, Caymus, and Cakebread. We drove through Yountville on our way to the wineries, where the renowned chef Thomas Keller is basically the mayor. We grabbed breakfast at Bouchon Bakery, Keller’s Patisserie. This is where we started our love affair with French macarons. The other baked goods we ate, a piece of coffee cake and a blueberry muffin, were also to die for.

Our winery selecting strategy was based on which wines were expensive enough that we wouldn’t buy them at home. That’s where we want to go. We started out with a tour at Silver Oak, since Dave had never witnessed the wine making process and I find it fascinating.  These are the steel barrels where the grapes are processed and made into wine

Here are the oak barrels where the wine ages

Next was a tasting at Caymus, where we tried a Cab and Sauvignon Blanc from the original Caymus brand, and a Rose from their Belle Glos brand. After consuming plenty of wine for the morning, we took a break for lunch before our last tasting at Cakebread. We stopped in Brix, a restaurant on the main highway, Rte 29. Again, we were able to sit outdoors on the back patio and admire the beautiful landscape of Napa. As oyster lovers, we dined on Hama Hama oysters from the Pacific Northwest and a juicy lamb burger. One thing we noticed during our time in Napa is that the food was consistently fresh.

Cakebread was our last stop for the day, and it was our favorite. On our way back to the hotel, we happened to drive by the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. I wanted to get a peek of what the CIA is like. The building and facilities put my culinary school to shame!  It was absolutely beautiful.

We loved Bouchon so much that we stopped there again for a late afternoon snack. More macarons.

Dinner was at Lucy Bar and Restaurant, in the Bardessono resort. This restaurant was the epitome of fresh. Some of the vegetables were picked straight from Lucy’s Garden on the premises, including the carrot confit salad I ordered.  The dungeness crab Thai coconut curry and lobster risotto were phenomenal, and Dave deemed his short ribs the best he ever had.

The theme of the day was “my favorite wine from the tasting was the most expensive.” We splurged on bottles at Silver Oak and Cakebread (both Cabs), and bought mid-range bottles of Rose and Sauvignon Blanc from Caymus.

The next day we headed back to San Francisco.  As Dave snapped pictures between winery visits, he kept saying the landscape in Napa doesn’t look real.

Doesn’t this make you want to go and visit?