Vacation 2014 – Part 3 (Napa)

Getting to Sacramento was a very early morning arrival. I think we got in about 6:15 am but had to be up and moving about 5:30 that morning. Sacramento was beautiful though from the railroad tracks. Untitled

Once we arrived, we picked up our luggage and talked the lady into holding it for us for an hour so that we could run and get our car. We walked the 5 to 6 blocks to the car rental place to get our car. We did get a little bit of an upgrade too. Sean definitely enjoyed the upgrade 

After getting the car and loading it up with all of the luggage we headed to meet Sean’s brother for breakfast at a place called Bacon and Butter. Don’t worry we ordered a full pound of bacon for the table and it was amazing. Waayyyy too much food for that early though. I don’t think we even thought about having lunch that day.


Then it was off to Napa. We were on the road a little earlier then what we thought we were going to be and we arrived in Napa about 10:30 that morning. We both realized that we were completely exhausted so we tried checking into the hotel but the lady looked at us like we were crazy when we tried to check in that early. She really tried but it just wasn’t possible. 

So we drove around for a little bit, walked around downtown Napa and got some water before heading back to the parking lot and sleeping in the car for a while. About 2pm we were able to check in before we headed off to our first tour and tasting, Domaine Chandon. This was one of the places that I was really, really looking forward to visiting. This is one of my absolute favorites and it turns out the property is absolutely beautiful!

This is where the magic all starts in these large vats.

I never know how many different types of sparkling wine they made. The only way you can buy a lot of these is through their wine club. 

Let me tell you, the tasting wasn’t bad either. We had four types of sparkling wine that day. It was awesome!

Dinner that night was at a little place in Yountville that had really great happy hour pricing so we went and did that before heading back to the hotel. We were completely exhausted. Hitting the bed that night never felt so good.

The following day I hadn’t done a very good job of planning how we were going to make it from winery to winery, so Sean, being oh so good at finding amazing things on Google, found a tour company with awesome reviews. We ended up finding Platypus Tours. They drive, plan the trip and bring lunch along. What more could you want?!?!!?


About 10 am the bus pulled up to our hotel and we jumped aboard with another couple from Canada. We soon met another couple from New York and quickly began talking. We bonded very quickly and chatted away so much that our tour guide probably didn’t get to tell us everything she wanted because we were so chatty. It was such a fun way to spend the day.

Our first stop was Judd’s Hill. There were still a section that had grapes hanging so we went over and tasted a few of the grapes right off of the vine.

We ended up buying a couple bottles of the wine because they were soooo good. We got to talk with the wine maker and he explained to us the process that was going on behind him with the smashing of the grapes for the juice. It was really neat to see the whole process happening in real time and not just a demonstration of the equipment.

Next up was Grgich Hills. Here we learned a lot about the history of winemaking in Napa Valley. Mike Grgich was the one who took the Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena, where he was the winemaker, to France to what has become known as the Judgment of Paris. (If you ever watch the movie “Bottle Shock” it is loosely based upon the story. The only thing is Mike Grgich didn’t want to be in “Bottle Shock” so he is never mentioned in the movie.)

On from the short history lesson, we got to see more grapes in the process here. Not only were all of the grapes coming in huge bins but we also got to see the cycling of the red wine, where they take the bottom of the barrel and put it on the top by pump. That is what is happening below.

Another cool thing about this winery was the way they store their barrels. They actually think that this helped save their wine during the earthquake back in August. Typically the barrels are just stacked but they have a system that helps to rotate the barrels and keep them from falling. 


This was our awesome group on the tour. New York. Canada. And us. Such an awesome group and soooo much fun.

This was also where we stopped to have lunch. The spread that Platypus puts together for their tours was awesome. They were even sensitive to my newly found gluten sensitivity and worked with me on that one. I really appreciated it and the food was awesome!

Next up was David Fulton. This was an interesting experience. The guy serving our wine was absolutely hilarious and we were having a great time until this other group walked in and dominated conversation from there. That was the key for us to go. 

Last stop was a chocolate pairing at Rutherford Ranch. It was really interesting tasting chocolate with the different wines. We actually got to taste one extra wine there that they don’t typically serve and it was awesome. I am typically a white drinker but I have found some red wines that I now really enjoy. California wines are a little bit different then the widely distributed reds available in liquor stores. Predator was an awesome Old Vine Zinfandel.

Below is Sean with a cork tree. They had a bunch of these trees around. It is a very different looking tree but very neat and very old.   Don’t worry we and our eight bottles of wine made it back to the hotel just in time for happy hour at the hotel. Each night they had a wine tasting for a couple of hours with a couple of different wines from the area. The couple that we were with all day joined us and we ended up inviting them out with us to our dinner at Bouchon. This was the first restaurant of world famous chef, Thomas Keller, that we got to visit on our trip and the food really was a masterpiece.

We were able to get them in on our reservation that night and it was sooo much fun. We had already had a great day and dinner that night was amazing. We got a couple bottles of wine and had a fantastic dinner. Hopefully someday we can meet up with them on the East Coast and have dinner again.

The next day we weren’t exactly sure what all we wanted to do but decided to go on a drive, visit Oxbow Public Market for lunch, and then visit Castello di Amorosa before heading to Ad Hoc for dinner.

We drove the main road through Napa and then the Silverado Trail on the way back into Napa. It is about a 30 mile trip one way so we saw a ton of wineries and ones that we recognized a lot of the names along the way.
Let’s also talk about the smell of the Valley during our visit. Everywhere we drove it smelled like grapes and wine. It made me want to stay and just smell. It smelled so good.

We then headed to city of Napa for some food. We knew that we wanted to try out some of the food at the Public Market and boy we were not disappointed. 

First stop was Hog Island Oyster Co. Sean was super excited about visiting because they had lots of different oysters he hadn’t had before. I went for the grilled oysters and a glass of Curvee.

Next stop was the PicaPica Bar. This place is famous for being on the show “Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins”. They were featured for their arepas that they make and it was worth every bite. It was sooooo good. 

Our last stop for the day was Castello di Amorosa. This was a much different winery experience then we had the day before. It was much larger and a lot less personalized. Very neat castle but not as much fun tasting.


That night is was off to Ad Hoc. This was the 2nd Thomas Keller restaurant we visited on our trip. This was a 4 course pre fixed menu restaurant and it was Ah-MA-ZING. I loved every bit of the experience. The food was sooo simple but so yummy. 

The next morning it was back to the train station for the last part of our trip. I was a little sad that it was coming to a close but I was oh so excited that we were going to get to see parts of the United States that I had never seen before.

2 Responses to “Vacation 2014 – Part 3 (Napa)”
  1. Mom says:

    Great pictures and makes me want to go….
    Where is part 3 though. All I saw was part 1 and 2 then part 4 popped up.

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