Tag

wine

We spent this past 4th of July weekend in Napa Valley. H and I had been before, but it was the first time our daughter (almost four). We also met with friends that also have a son (three yrs old). So we had to keep that in mind when choosing the hotel, restaurants and wineries to visit.

Napa Valley airport

We decided to fly to Santa Rosa for a few reasons:

  • It’s the closest airport (mileage wise). Oakland is a bit farther (60m iles), but it’s an easier drive, which makes it fairly comparable in terms of travel time in the car
  • It is small airport. It takes only 20-30 mins to go from landing to being in a rental car
  • You can checkin a box of wine for free!

 

Napa Valley hotels

We decided to stay in Yountville. It’s right in the middle of the valley, it has phenomenal places to eat, and we found a great hotel there. We stayed at the North Block. We wanted something that was kids friendly (or at least not kids unfriendly). The hotel has a great pool, great facilities, and it is walking distance from most restaurants. Overall we were super happy.

A quick tip. If you go with friends (with kids) make sure you get rooms across from each others (or adjacent). We were able to put the kids asleep in the rooms and meet up in the courtyard with our friends being able to keep an eye in the rooms.

 

Wineries

Being with kids we knew that some of the fancy wineries would be out of reach. But there are plenty that are kids friendly and are still great places to visit (both for the wine and the winery).

We had received lots of suggestions from friends. We ended up visiting Paraduxx, Robert Sinskey, and Sterling. Paraduxx was my favorite. Sinskey was good and a worthy stop. Sterling was the least favorite (and would not recommend to others).

 

Paraduxx

The Paraduxx winery is awesome and their blends are excellent. It’s $25 for a tasting. The opening rose was complementary. The main flight had two of their popular blends and two of their estate wines. My favorite was their Howell Cab and Zinfandel blend

Tip: they gave us 10% off on the wine purchase for a checkin on Facebook.

20130713-142606.jpg

 

20130713-142615.jpg

 

Robert Sinskey

The flight at the Robert Sinskey winery came with food tasting. I believe it was about $30/person. I actually liked their white blend (riesling, pinot grigio, and sauvignon). It has a summery fun factor to it. Ideal for a casual summer night dinner with friends. Our friends liked the Pinot.

20130713-142621.jpg

20130713-142558.jpg

 

 

 

Sterling

The waitress at French Blue suggested to go to the Sterling vineyard because of the tram and the views. In theory the idea to take the tram for the kids was great, in practice the kids didn’t care that much and it ended up being a big overhead to taste some average wines. Below couple of pix of the view from the winery.

 

20130713-142741.jpg

20130713-142723.jpg

 

 

Napa Valley restaurants

As mentioned above our hotel was  walking distance from many great places (French Laundry, Bouchon, Bottega, and others).  Although not all kids friendly we did find some great places.

 

Redd Wood

Redd Wood is the casual and pizza restaurant owned by Richard Reddington.   To us was mostly the “hotel restaurant”.  We had lunch there, grabbed drinks, and a late night pizza.   Pizza was good (say between a 7 and 7.5 out of 10).  Salads were very good.  Overall it was very fairly priced and drinks were surprisingly well priced ($4 for a beer, $10 for a cocktail).

20130713-142629.jpg

 

Bistro Jeanty

Overall bistro Jeanty was great.  Unfortunately my dinner picks were a bit underwhelming, but everything else my friends ordered was great.  So just make sure that you stay away from the rabbit and the artichoke terrine! 🙂

20130713-142635.jpg

20130713-142641.jpg

20130713-142652.jpg

 

 

French blue

Sunday morning we decided to venture up to St Helena.  We had couple of breakfast spots, but only one was opened at 9am.  It happened to be one of the top 10 most beautifully designed restaurant in 2013 according to Architecture Digest.  Indeed the place is great, it’s open, lots of light, perfectly french-ly decorated.  Most importantly food (farm-to-table) is excellent.  Menu has a few choices, but all great.

20130713-142551.jpg

20130713-142700.jpg

 

20130713-142707.jpg

20130713-142714.jpg

 

 

Ad-Hoc

Ad-Hoc is the latest Thomas Keller restaurant.  You can read the story here.   I loved it.  Loved the concept, loved the atmosphere (relaxed and friendly), and of course the food (fresh, simple and delicious).   They adapted the menu for H (replaced the pork with salmon), brought a nice extra dessert for my daughter (who loved her pasta dish).  I highly recommend Ad-Hoc.

20130713-142542.jpg

 

 

20130713-142749.jpg

 

 

[wrote this almost a year ago…we just came back from walla walla and thought of reposting it here]

Hellai and I spent the 4th of July weekend in Walla Walla.  Now the first reaction that many have is: “why would you go to Walla Walla?”

Couple of reasons:

– Molly, one of Hellai’s friends, recently moved there.  She leaves with her boyfriend Joe.  We were due for a visit 🙂

– We have wanted to go there to checkout the local wineries for sometime.

Walla Walla is a little more than 4 hours drive from Seattle.   The drive was very nice.  We drove up to Snoqualmie pass and through the East Washington desert before Yakima.   We arrived in Walla Walla around 9pm on Friday and we checked in our hotel, the “Marcus Whitman”

On Saturday we met up with Molly and Joe, went to the Farmers’ Market, got some coffee and got going with the wine tasting!

We started with a visit at Seven Hiils, located in downtown next to our hotel.  We tasted:

  • 2004 Pinot Gris, Oregon
  • 2004 Riesling, Columbia Valley
    • Joe’s quote: “This is the best Riesling in the valley”… you gotta believe him, he knows what he talking about!
  • 2002 Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2003 Ciel du Cheval, Red Mountain, Columbia Valley

I actually liked the Merlot, but we ended up buying a bottle of the Ciel du Cheval…which of course Hellai liked better!  As a side note, Seven Hills does not charge a tasting fee. 

Right after Seven Hills we headed out of town with destination PepperBridge Vineyards.  During the drive Joe gave us a great tour of the local vineyard and a very good overview of the different charasteristics they have.

Pepperbridge is what you would expect when you think about a winery: rolling fields of vineyars with the big “old looking” house right in the middle.  Very pitoresque overall.  Pepperbridge does charge a 8$ tasting fee to try the house specialties: merlot and cabernet sauvignon.  We tried:

  • 2002 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley
  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley

I really liked the 2001 Cab…rich and on the spicy side.  The only issue is that it was 50+ dollars…so we passed.

 After all these tasting we needed some food.  We drove by one of the many Taco Tracks in town and got some food (I got the Walla Walla Burrito = there are lots of onions).  With our food bags we drove to Dunham Cellars, the winery where Joe works as winemaker. Along with the food we got going with another round of tasting

  • Dunham Cellars Three Legged Red
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Turtina
  • 2001 Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon VII
  • 2002 Dunham Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley
  • 2004 Dunham Cellars “Shirley Mays Chardonnay

 I really liked their Three Legged Red…

At this point we were ready to go rest for a bit, before moving on to the evening program.

We started off the evening with…surprise…surprise…a wine tasting party!!!  The party was in an appartment in downtown WallaWalla.  The host was great, with good food and a great wine selection.  The highlight was that we were actually able to finally try a Cayuse!  It was pretty good…but honestly speaking I was expecting more given the “mystic” around this label.

After the pre-dinner party we headed for dinner.  The restaurant “Whoopemup” is in the remote “Waitsburg“.  Of course we had never heard of it, but the restaurant was really really good.  They serve Southern comfort food and the portion are definitely on the generous side.  Bottom line…if you go to Walla Walla you gotta try this place.  Make sure that you get a reservation!

With our bellies pretty full we call it the night.

On Sunday we made a visit to a couple of other wineries.  The first stop was at the Waterbrook tasting room in downtown.  We tried couple of wines only:

  • 2004 Viognier
  • 2004 Merlot

I had never had a Viognier before and they sold me on the fact that it was only on sale at the tasting room (would you believe them?).  So, I ended up buying a bottle of it.

After some local fruit&vegetables shopping we hit the road.  But, before leaving WallaWalla we made the final winery stop:  Woodward Canyon.   We went all out and tasted 7 different wines.  The Artist Series was definitely a very good one (we tried 9 and 10 if my memory serves me right)!  Woodward has definitely the best deal…no tasting fee and a great selection!

It was time to head home.  We really had a great time.  Special thanks to our hosts Mollie and Joe, they are so good that I think they should get into the B&B business with optional Tours.  Joe has some great stories about the wineries and especially the people…

Is WallaWalla going to be the next Napa?  I don’t know…it is fairly isolated from the main cities and flying there is still very difficult.  But the potential is there…70 wineries and counting.