Girls’ Weekend in Northern California, Part Two…Napa!

Hi everyone! Before we head to Napa, I want to wish my beautiful daughter, Caroline, a very happy 26th birthday! It is hard for me to believe she is all grown up and on her own, and now into her second "quarter" of life! I love you, Liney!
This is a very long post, but I had SO much I wanted to share, I couldn't help myself. So, if you want to be transported to the beautiful Napa Valley (now MY favorite place in the United States), grab yourself another cup of coffee, sit back, relax and head to wine country 
with me...

First stop...St. Helena – for brunch at Archetype. To quote my sister - "This is the food they serve in heaven"! Our favorite was the lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes…they were 
to die for!
Backtracking down to the Carneros region, we had an appointment at Saintsbury – a winery started by two friends in the early 1980’s.  My niece, Ashley, is friends with the daughter of one of the owners, so we were given the royal treatment! If I could have described my pre-conceived notion of the quintessential wine tasting experience, this would have been it. We tasted surrounded by the French oak barrels where their latest vintages were aging. The distinctive feature of Saintsbury wines are that the grapes for each variety of their wine is from a single vineyard. Every wine we tasted was excellent, but I fell hard for their French style Chardonnay…needless to say a case of Saintsbury is on its way to my house!
We headed back up to Yountville to check into the Poetry Inn. After winding our way up and up and up the hills above the valley, we found ourselves in a little slice of heaven. One of the innkeepers, Daniel, met us at the car and took us to a table on the verandah, with views over vineyards as far as the eye can see. We knew we were in for a treat when Daniel us brought glasses of wine, a cheese board and blankets to snuggle in to watch the sunset.  We were all speechless when we saw our spectacular room – the Robert Frost Suite. The Poetry is such a special place, I am going to dedicate an entire post to it. For now, let’s just say, if you are going to Napa and you can snag one of the five rooms at the Poetry Inn, 
go for it!!
The view from our room...
After every single person we talked to said Tra Vigne was a “must”, we knew we had to try it so we made a reservation over a month ago. The “mozzarella al minuto” made in house and served on bruschetta may be one of the best things I have EVER eaten! Each one of our pasta dishes was excellent as well. I will now be joining the chorus of voices singing the praises of Tra Vigne.
Sunday morning, we woke up to the sun rising over the valley and watched hot air balloons drifting below us.  Ashley had arranged our day with the help of her “in the know” friends and had a driver waiting to whisk us off to our tastings for the day. We went to four vineyards for tastings – each one a different experience.

Our first stop was for bubbles…Domaine Carneros is owned by the French champagne maker, Taittinger. As we had a long day ahead, the three of us shared a tasting, which was the perfect sampling of their range of sparkling wines.  Sitting in the warm California sun sipping bubbly was a perfect start to the day!
After winter in Connecticut, those flowering trees were a sight for sore eyes!

Next up, a true family run winery, the Fontanella Family Winery. It was a pleasure to have our tasting with the actual owner of this vineyard. We learned so much about what is involved in wine making, and tasted directly from the barrel learning how important soil is to the flavor of the wine. Karen Fontanella also shared her personal story of the heartbreak of last year’s devastating earthquake in which they lost quite a bit of their production. My favorites here were the incredibly rich and complex Cabernets – surprising from me, a sworn “white wine only” girl.
Tasting directly from the barrel via "the thief"
A rare bottle that survived the 2014 earthquake.
Our next stop at Baldacci Vineyards offered us the opportunity to visit a wine cave. Our driver picked up sandwiches and we had a picnic lunch, followed by a tour of the cave. The smell of wine inside the cave was intense and divine at the same time. Our guide there was a former chef at French Laundry so we talked food AND wine while visiting the cave…yet another learning experience.
Our final stop was the Cliff Lede Vineyards – the owner of the Poetry Inn. After a leisurely tasting, learning about the connection of Cliff Lede’s wines and his love of classic rock music, we wandered through blocks of vines named for his favorite songs...most vintners number their blocks, Cliff Lede’s are named “Dark Side of the Moon”,“Born to Run”, “Moondance”, etc. Any music lover would really enjoy a tasting here, but his excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir make it a “must” for any Napa visit.
No girls’ trip would be complete without a little retail therapy, so we made a quick trip up to St. Helena to check out the many beautiful shops. I could have spent hours at Vintage Home, Jean de Luz and Olivier.
After much deliberation, we chose Bottega in Yountville for dinner. We could not have chosen better! Everything was excellent but the melt in your mouth ricotta gnocchi was my favorite.
Two days in Napa (and with two of my favorite girls) was not nearly enough…I would recommend four days to get the true experience. Please check back next week, when I dedicate a post to the Poetry Inn…one of my best hotel experiences EVER!