This past weekend my girlfriend and I traveled to Napa and San Francisco for a little girls weekend. Like most people, Napa is one of favorite places to go and try to make it out there at least once a year. However it was my friend’s first time, so I really wanted to make it special for her.
The valley runs about 30 miles long, and is cooler at the bottom and temperatures rise as you get further north. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grow in the lower region. Where as Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grow in the upper region.
We arrived Thursday morning, picked up our rental car and drove a little over an hour to our hotel. The weather was overcast and rainy. Of course. Check out where we stayed and our full itinerary.
SpringHill Suites Napa Valley: not my preferred hotel, I’ll be totally honest. The location was 15 minutes south of where Downtown Napa is. So it was difficult to get around without our rental car. Overall the hotel is cute and has a nice bar inside, plus it has free breakfast. I was able to use some of my points to cover one out of the two night stays.
Thursday: I found an awesome company called Beau Wine Tours, which I cannot rave anymore about. We reserved a car to drive us around to different wineries. It’s super important to have transportation scheduled for yourself. We reserved the car for five hours, which was a total of $442 which included all tax and gratuity. Probably one of the less expensive private cars I was able to find and it was all-star quality service. Our driver, Michael had texted me as soon as we landed to make sure I had his number and to let us know he was ready for us. Here are the wineries we went to:
Raymond Winery– not your standard winery. Known for their Cabs and the “Red Room”. Special to club members decorated with weird red velvet furniture accented with leopard print and black chandeliers. Total S & M vibe. Wines were nice, but not enough for us to purchase. I would check out the Frenchman Merlot. Super tasty. Tasting Fee: $25.00
ElevenEleven– relatively newer winery. Our tasting was paired with a cheese tasting. This was definitely one of our favorites. The Chardonnay and the 2012 Cabernet were delicious! I can’t tell you anything about the cheese except that it was so tasty I didn’t really care what I was eating. However the first cheese that you see in the picture paired with the Chardonnay and it totally brought out new flavors in the wine. Wine and Cheese Tasting: $45.00
Domaine Carneros-every girl needs to visit this gorgeous property. I’ve been before and it is truly stunning. We choose this place because we wanted to finish off with some bubbles to keep it light. We loved the Estate Brut Cuvée and the Estate Pinot Noir. The Avante Garde was way too dry for a Pinot. Also because we’re fat, we got another cheese plate. The Swiss and the dried Pears were fabulous. Wine Tasting Fee: $30. Sparkling Wine Cheese Plate: $19.00
Friday: I used the same company for our Small Group Tour. It’s $125 per person, does not include gratuity, approximately six hours, includes lunch and sparkling line. I decided to do this because typically you go to smaller wineries owned by families, and it’s a little more personable. Plus sometimes they’ll waive the tasting fees. I was a little worried about this one because the last group tour I went on wasn’t all that great. Our lunch was complete shit. Like she went to Costco and picked up some sliced meat and cheese for sandwiches we had to make. But I couldn’t have been more pleased with this tour! We were picked up at 10:30am in a luxury Mercedes Van. Enough room for 10-12 people. We went to four different wineries and had lunch for about 45 minutes. We had a wonderful group and got along well with everyone.
Trefethen– this place is special because their facility where they held wine tastings was damaged from the 2014 earthquake and have to hold tastings in this beautifully decorated inside. We had a flight of five different wines, which we could select. Our host even let us try a few extras 🙂 The rose and Malbecs were some of my favorites and I typically do not drink either of those.
Wine Tasting Fee: $25.00
Rutherford Hill Winery– probably one of my favorites. I enjoyed pretty much all of the wines except the Cabs. Our host of course let us enjoy a few extra samples which is just nice customer service. Wine Tasting Fee: $25.00
Since the weather once again was rainy and overcast, we couldn’t eat lunch outside, so our drive made sure it was nicely prepared inside. Lunch was catered from Girl and the Fig. I’ve been there for dinner a few years back and I cannot rave about it enough. Organic ingredients and bold flavors. So I was pretty excited when I saw the name on the bag. We had several different types of sandwiches, orzo pasta salad and potato salad. I was kind enough to my body and had two servings of everything. This pretty much killed whatever buzz I had instantly. But it was so worth it.
I don’t remember the name of the third winery we went to, and I don’t care because every single wine was gross.
Madrigal Winery– our last and final stop. Our wine tasting was inside the fermintation room, which was pretty neat. We got to chat with one of the winemakers and listen to him explain how he came up with some of the flavors for the wines. Wine Tasting Fee: $25.00
Villa Corona– Located in St.Helena, this place is extremely authentic and a total local spot. We picked this place because the menu looked good, prices were cheap, and it was right where we wanted to begin our tour. While we thought it was going to be more of a sit-down place, instead it’s a walk-up window where you order, find a seat, and then they bring it to you. I asked for quest dip and instead she brought Nacho cheese…a little weird. But my enchiladas and tacos were on point! It was exactly what we needed to prepare ourselves for a fun day of drinking.
Bottega– a very popular chef in the Napa area created this restaurant. The Yelp reviews were mixed. We ordered the grilled octopus, short rib meat balls and pasta for our entrée. The octopus was really the only thing we enjoyed, well that and the entertaining conversation next to us. My pastas had zero flavor and the noodles were undercooked. The short rib had a strange texture and almost seemed raw on the inside. Prices were bad, but I would maybe try the fish next time.
Brix– I was super excited about this place! The garden in the back is stunning and I literally wanted everything on the menu. We ordered the crab fondue, pork and shrimp pot stickers, and I had the half chicken with black truffle spinach and mushroom risotto. Drool. We literally licked our plates clean. Afterwards we went to the bar and chatted with the bartenders and they gave us some pretty god suggestions as to where we should go out. Check out Downtown Joes for live music and drinking with the locals.
Model Bakery-I saw this on Instagram and I figured this would be great local spot for breakfast and we could check out the town. Model had makes fresh bread and pastries every morning. When we arrived the line was out the door. I ordered the Chipotle Sandwich, scrambled eggs, bacon, avocado, tomato, pepper jack cheese, chipotle sauce on sourdough bread. Soooooo good! Sauce kept dripping down my chin, but ask me if I cared?! So buttery and perfect for a hangover.
If you love wine, food, rolling hills, and being driven around in fancy cars, Napa is the place to be. Below are some of my Napa tips for a first timer:
1. Arrange car service or do a group tour. Use Beau Wine Tours! Seriously the Concierge team is amazing and extremely responsive.
2. Do not go to more than 4-5 wineries in a day. You won’t be able to taste what you’re drinking be the end of the day.
3. Do not become a member of a vineyard. If it’s your first time, you should really make sure to experience multiple vineyards before making a pretty pricey commitment. Instead purchase a bottle and bring it with you to dinner. A lot of places will do that. Only if they do not carry that particular wine.
4. Visit at least one time during harvest season (early August-Early October). Watching all the vines grow and the beautiful colors bouncing off the mountains and the grapes, it’s just stunning. Plus the weather is perfect. Just be prepared for hotel rates to be around $400 a night as it’s the most popular time to visit.
5. Ride the Wine Train. Totally touristy thing to do. But you feel so classy and the food so delicious! Sip wine and ride through the valley and get a glimpse of all the vineyards.
Check out my next post to see our adventures in San Francisco!