Thursday, October 8, 2015

Day 18- Wine Country

I laid in bed listening to music until a little after 8:00, Anna got up to get breakfast downstairs; and shortly after that's when I got up to shower. It was so nice to wake up in a bed, walk 50 feet to the bathroom and shower, and have all of my clothes clean, and breakfast waiting downstairs. I was out of the shower maybe 5 minutes before Anna returned, and I headed downstairs, wet hair and all to eat. I toasted up some cinnamon raisin bread, put cheese on top of some scrambled eggs, got some fruit, juice, and a yogurt for later. I sat by myself enjoying my eggs, even if they were instant, and excited for what the day would bring. After I was finished with all but my yogurt, I grabbed a spoon, made a peppermint tea, and headed back upstairs to the room. Anna was finishing getting ready, and I noticed my white pants now had a faint stain mark outlining the existing oil stain from the night before; seems I should have washed the pants to prevent the stain removal discoloration. I rinsed the pants under the sink and hung them to dry while I dried my hair with a blow drier provided by the hotel. After, I used the hair drier on my pants hanging in hopes to dry them in time. It took awhile, but finally they were dry. I finished getting ready, and we were out the door; a little later than planned but we should make it in time. It was a short, one road, 30 minute drive to the majority of the wineries and Cakebread was our first stop. Excited, I grabbed my camera and we headed for the tasting; not knowing exactly where that was. Following the people that were walking towards their cars, we found where the entrance was. As we walked up to the desk to confirm our reservation; I asked the young guy if they took Discover, he fumbled a moment and replied no. No problem, as I reached back into my wallet and he notified us; our tasting was on the house. Do they even do that sort of thing? I couldn't believe it, we thanked him graciously and he led us to our tour. Again, we were the youngest here by 15-20 years and we joined right in; listening to how the Cakebread family studied under neighboring Mondavi. The grounds were beautiful, we walked around hearing the history before settling in at an outdoor bar for our tasting. There was a woman who was either rather tipsy, or very friendly; either way she was very nice. Coming over talking with us, giving us recommendations for another winery we should stop at, a wine app for the iPhone, and such. The tastings were great, and before we knew it, we were out of wine and the tour was concluding; of course in the gift/wine store. This time however, I was happy since I would be buying my mom a bottle in thanks for the hotel. We got to our next stop with plenty of time before our reservation, considering it was about a minute down the road. I snacked on something in the car while re-hydrating with some water while we wait. The Robert Mondavi grounds were even more beautiful than Cakebread and I didn't think that was possible. I felt like we were at a five star hotel and yet there were grape vines all over the property. Our tour was quaint and personal with only one other couple. We walked right out to the grape vines and pulled a grape from their oldest vine; it wasn't tart or tangy at all, I could have sat and ate them like table grapes at a cost of course. After our tour outside, we entered the de-stemming area. It was much cooler in here; around 54 degrees if I remember correctly, and I enjoyed it. We watched as huge machines de-stemmed the grapes and sifted through them. Another employee came over with a handful of the grapes we had tried outside for us to taste once again. We were getting the special treatment since not everyone who visits the winery gets to see this process. It is only done at select times in the fall. Next, we headed down to the cellar where we saw the imported oak barrels from France. Some were new and empty, and others full and a couple years old. We walked through the bottling process before entering a private room for our tasting. There was a large wooden table with wine settings; We each took a seat and our host brought us three wines to taste, one of which was a reserve at $145 a bottle. The wines were also paired with an appetizer that the chef prepared for us which was equally delectable. This concluded our hour and a half tour which made us late for our next tasting. We called to inform them and they said it wouldn't be a problem which was good since it was about a 20 minute drive away. We arrived at Benessere which reminded me of wine tastings back in Connecticut; it was a smaller more personal setting and our reservation was under a Groupon that Anna's mother had gotten for us. Tastings in Connecticut are anywhere from free to $10; in Napa Valley, they are $20 and up, per person! This Groupon included a tasting for the both of us and a bottle of wine to take home. Since we didn't have a proper lunch (or any at all) I was starting to feel the wine a bit; I asked if they sold any cheese plates here, but since it was such a small vineyard they didn't. Our pourer did offer up some mixed nuts however; that after grabbing a handful I was notified they were his lunch. I felt bad and insisted I didn't want to take his lunch; he was like a father to us, pouring water and insisting we eat the crackers and nuts. We talked for awhile about why we didn't eat lunch and if we planned on eating after we left. He was quite the charmer that Dennis, and though I didn't care for their wine; I did enjoy his company. I asked him to take a photo of Anna and I, and he proceeded to take many photos; including some candids and photos of our feet. Very casual, and I of course had to get a photo of him for making us laugh so much. We said our goodbyes, and that we would drive safe; and headed on to our final destination; Beringer. My first question was if they sold cheese plates; and they did, for $18. A little steep, but we both agreed we should share one, and I am glad we did! The cheeses were phenomenal with olives, and nuts as well, paired great with our three tastings. As we stood finishing our wine and cheese, we knew dinner was a priority; we looked online at the last tasting and saw The Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch to be appealing. Both wineries recommended it as well so we set our destination to there. Not before stopping to take photos of the gorgeous Victorian house on the way in of course. It was an ideal spot even now, and I can only imagine back when it was bought. The Farmstead was busy; indoors, outdoors, they even had wine tasting here. We put in our name and it was going to be about a 45 minute wait, not terrible; but not ideal. The very beautiful hostess; like most here in Napa, advised us that the bar was first come first serve if we wanted to check that out. To our surprise, there was two seats open. We sat and both ordered waters, we were all wined out. Deciding to share the gnocchi which had meat ragu as well as garden vegetables was the best idea ever, we got a side of cheddar biscuits as well to share. Our dinner tonight, was what I wanted last night's to be; outstanding. The flavors were bold and savory yet balanced and not over powering, a great farm to table restaurant to say the least. Back at the hotel, I had no motivation to write; big surprise. I laid in bed listening to music, now full from dinner and slightly comatose from the lingering wine left in me drifting off to sleep to do it all over again tomorrow. 

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