Napa Weekend Getaway
Have you ever planned a spur of the moment Napa weekend getaway? When presented with the opportunity to travel anywhere within the U.S with my daughter, we decided on Napa. I’ve been a wine hack for several years writing about Texas wine here on my blog. Our first mother daughter trip as adults, we chose to traverse into the California wine country and taste some world class wines.
Napa Weekend Itinerary
We landed at the SFO airport and took the train out to where we could pick up our rental car. We talked about using Turo, a new car sharing app. Frankie found a nice Porsche and at the same time I had already booked a rental. Old school to the core I am.
San Francisco Arrival
We checked into our hotel later than expected at the King George Hotel near Union Square. We had planned to walk to dinner detouring through China town, but opted to call a Lyft and go directly to our dinner reservations. A fun drive through the streets of San Francisco all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Dinner is at the Palette Tea House. Frankie made us reservations that we were 30 minutes late to, yet they still honored, and I was introduced to the art of Dim Sum. Frankie has become quite the foodie living in Dallas, so I let her order. A sampler of soup dumplings, Wagyu beef pot stickers, and steamed barbecue pork bao buns. Delicious! The bao buns are a must try. We passed on the last call as the kitchen was closing. What a creative and fun dim sum experience.
We strolled around Ghirardelli Square to walk off dinner and dipped into the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory to look around. The line was winding outside the store, not a fan of lines we called a Lyft and headed back to our hotel.
King George Hotel
A quaint boutique hotel decorated as we had been in London Town itself. The Union Jack was adorned all around, an old Telephone booth and portraits of King George abound. The bar was closed and roped off, but I ducked inside for a photo-op with my London football club t-shirt, Arsenal, on. It was our starting point to crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.
Spectacular Golden Gate Viewpoints – Day One
Leaving San Francisco to a few spectacular Golden Gate Viewpoints. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and take Conzelman road up the hill and you’ll notice three turnouts with small parking areas on the side of the road. With each turn out the views became more stunning.
Battery Spencer is a crumbling artillery battery, built in 1897, that sits on the cliffs close to the northern end of the bridge. On our last stop we climbed the path to over look the traffic driving to and from San Francisco.
Traveling North on highway 101 hugging the San Pablo Bay up through the fields of farmland on to Santa Rosa, on backroads through Calistoga to the infamous Welcome to Napa sign. We made it. A quick photo op by the sign and continued on to the heart of a picture-perfect wine-country town.
The sign says, “Welcome to this world famous wine growing regions – Napa Valley” ~ …and the wine is bottled poetry. Indeed.
I first came to the California wine region way back in 2003 when we lived in Salt Lake City, UT. We drove with our neighbors and stayed with their family in Sacramento. A lot happened in that time frame, harsh weather and fires destroyed a significant part of the wine region. But that is nature and they continue to prosper.
As we approached the small town of St. Helena we parked and walked the half-mile of shops, art galleries and ate lunch at one of the cafés. We had a bougie salad and white wine. The weather was perfect, not as windy as it had been in San Francisco, perfect for sitting and strolling the main drag of boutiques and gourmet shops. We saw one print of Napa Valley for only $40, we should have bought it. But, we had to move along to our first tasting at Rombauer winery.
On my first visit to Rombauer circa 2003, I tasted the Chardonnay, and it was like butter! Butter no more. The malolactic fermentation process is long gone as they’ve gone to a fruit forward wine. We arrived early and wondered around the property taking in the beautiful views. Rombauer is located at 3522 Silverado Trail N, St Helena, CA.
Our tasting was with a group of other tasters and we chatted about the Joy of Cooking cookbook and it’s ties to the midwest. As the author of the incredible cookbook, Erma Rombauer, was the great aunt of the owner of the winery and from St. Louis, MO. Another table had roots in Wisconsin, and you betcha I talked about my Minnesota roots too, ya know.
Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable.
On our drive back to our hotel we stopped at little Italian restaurant called, Il Posto Trattoria, just off the main highway in Napa.
Domaine Carneros – Day Two
We started day 2 with a 10:00 am tasting at Domaine Carneros.
Carneros is set in both Napa and Sonoma counties, the appellation is cooler than other regions, enduring cool wind and fog blown in from the Pacific Coast. Domaine Carneros was founded by the family behind Taittinger, a family Champagne house in France. Carneros produces much of what it was founded on, sparkling wine.
The term Cuvée is commonly used in sparkling wine production and has several different meanings. Depending on who you ask, some say it refers to the early stages of extracting juice from grapes. Zak Miller, sparkling winemaker for Domaine Carneros was quoted, “It’s our first cut from the press, the best juice.” Cuvée can also be a term synonymous with “blend.”
We had a 10:00 am tasting reservation at Domaine Carneros. We tasted the Sparkling Wine Sampler and the Château Sampler.
Tasting flights, 2 ounces of each wine, A Proper Glass of Wine.
Sparkling Wine Sampler
- 2017 Ultra Brut
- 2017 Estate Brut Cuvée
- 2018 Brut Rosé
- 2017 Verméil Demi-Sec
- 2017 Blanc de Noir
- 2018 Brut Rosé
- 2020 Avance-Garde Pinot Noir
- 2019 Estate Pinot Noir
Lunch in Sonoma
Surrounded by culinary marvels in this “small town”, we stopped at a little cafe called BASQUE, actually the Basque Boulangerie Cafe. The Basque country in northern Spain can boast about its Michelin rated restaurants, and is also well known for its pintxos. Pintxos are like tapas but easy to eat with your fingers. But a boulangerie, in France, is a French bakery, as opposed to a pastry shop. They sell fresh baked bread sandwiches. These bakeries must bake their bread on-premises to hold the title of ‘boulangerie’ in France. While a boulangerie may also sell pâtisseries and viennoiseries, their main trade will be in traditional French breads.
Walking around the town plaza we visited Pangloss Cellars Tasting Lounge. The setting of the lounge is in a historic stone property built over a century ago, offering wine flights paired with bites like caviar, cowgirl creamery crème fraîche, and capers on crackers. Perfectly posh, envision a luxurious stop in this small town square, a little out of place, but not really.
We tried a glass of the Pangloss Cellars 2019 PINOT NOIR from the ANDERSON VALLEY.
- Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
- Aging: 30% new French oak for 14 months
- Cellaring: 5-7 years
- pH: 3.57
- TA: 5.7 g/l
- Alcohol: 14.4%
- Production: 361 cases
Barrel Tasting and Winery Tour at Buena Vista
The historic Buena Vista tasting room, dating back to 1857, is located one mile from the Sonoma Square. We toured the original winery and tasted the wines of Buena Vista in the Press House built in 1862. The Cellar was chiseled out of the surrounding hill with a spoon! Imagine. This old stone cabin, with exposed limestone walls, was built into the original caves dug out of the hillside. It has survived several family and corporation ownerships to bring us all a bit of California wine history.
At the start of the tour, our tour guide came out dressed in character, we had this skeptical stare. Was this about to be a kitchy touristy gig? It was actually done well, very informative and interactive, not just herding us through the motions. One of the couples on the tour with us was from the UK, Frankie explained tipping percentages in the US to them. I mentioned my dad was from London and he called me British. Lol, that was a first. Bollocks!
Francis Ford Copolla – Day 3
Started our day driving through Sonoma, up through Santa Rosa, and onward further north to the Francis Ford Copolla Winery. A very beautiful venue, complete with a Francis Ford Coppola Movie museum. Located in Geyserville, CA, well worth the hour long drive.
The tastings were first come first serve so we arrived as they opened and had no problem getting seated for a tasting. We were familiar with a few of the Coppola wine as they are sold by most national sellers. We tasted the Reserve Pinot Noir, A Claret, A Director’s Cut, and the last was a Sofia. Their award-winning wines are affordable, drinkable and uniquely created for every wine occasion, the most popular are the Diamond Collection and sparkling Sofia wines.
And the added bonus of the quaint boutique and movie museum complete with the desk from the infamous Godfather scene. Bonasera, Bonasera! Be my friend? Godfather? Where’s the kitty?
Revenge is a dish best served cold – Don Vito Corleone and pare that with a light, crisp dry white wine
Tasting at Sunce
This was a recommendation from a Californian. Driving through a neighborhood we truly thought we were pulling into someone’s home. A home turned into a family winery located in the Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County.
Sunce specializes in small artisan lots of vineyard designated varietal wines and classic blends. The tasting room is tranquil and romantic, yet has a down-to-earth atmosphere. Outside there is a rose garden and a family dog waiting for you to pick up a bocce ball tournament. We had the tasting room to ourselves and gathered much information from the sommelier. I noticed several of the same wines that we have in Texas wineries. One that we tasted and purchased was the 2019 Barbera.
Barbera is an Italian variety wine that is considered a lesser wine to Nebbiolo, the highest of the Italians. It is the quintessential ‘wine of the people,’ and is meant to be enjoyed young. A step above the kitsch basket covered Chianti’s of old.
Lunch at Jack in the Box, then off to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
Schulz, creator of the beloved Snoopy and Peanuts cartoon made Santa Rosa his forever home. He is a native Minnesotan and the Mall of America use to hold his theme park, which is a memory Frankie and I share of Schulz. As she was too young to enjoy the Sunday funny pages. Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty, Linus and a whole cast of characters forever changed the landscape of the Sunday comics.
The Peanuts Tile Mural by Japanese artist Yoshiteru Otani measures slightly larger than 17 x 22 feet, and covers the south wall of the Great Hall. It features an image of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown and is composed of 3,588 Peanuts comic strip images printed on individual 2 x 8 inch ceramic tiles.
Charles Schulz’s studio was the center of his working life; a refuge, a place where he often talked with friends and fellow cartoonists … and the place where he created Peanuts.
This permanent installation, on the second floor of the Museum, is a re-creation of Schulz’s working area in his studio at One Snoopy Place in Santa Rosa, California. It contains the drawing board he used almost from the beginning of his career and his desk. The shelves and walls include his personal books, gifts, photos, and memorabilia. And across the street he installed an ice rink so he could take breaks to go and play hockey.
from the Museum website.
That’s a wrap for day 3.
We had a late flight on Tuesday, so a day for more exploring in San Francisco. Traveled the waterfront street with immaculate homes to pier 33. Pier 33 is Alcatraz Landing where you can catch the Ferry to Alcatraz Island.
Island of Incarceration, Island of Freedom
This small island was once a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. In 1969, the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights. We learned many things on this radio guided tour.