Whenever we share our love of wine with friends, family and colleagues, the inevitable question comes up– “So, have you been to Napa?” Well, we can finally answer that question with a resounding, “Yes!” It may have been one of the quickest trips to Napa Valley that a pair of recreational wine bloggers has ever taken, but we were there. We came, we saw, we tasted, we cried (well, one of us cried), and we loved every second of it.
The trip came to be thanks to a work trip to San Diego. As we were making plans to head to the city a few days prior to a conference, we thought, “Hmm..maybe we should spend a few days in San Francisco instead…and maybe we should rent a car….and maybe we should head to wine country for the day.” And that’s exactly what we did. We arrived in San Francisco on Saturday and spent the day exploring all things San Fran– we went to the Golden Gate Bridge, walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf, climbed the hill to Lombard Street, had drinks at The Buena Vista, took selfies on a trolley, and had a delicious dinner (and more drinks) at Fino. It was the perfect day, only to be capped off by the fact that were heading to Napa in the morning.
On Sunday (which also happened to be Easter) we rolled out of bed bright and early– being on eastern time does have its perks at the front end of a west coast swing. We hopped in the car and began the most amazing, scenic, peaceful and gorgeous drive over the Golden Gate Bridge towards Sonoma and Napa. Side note– we had the strangest rental car that kept turning off to save gas– somewhat scary when navigating the massive hills of San Fran. The hour long drive was quite possibly the most serene hour we’ve ever experienced. The sheer beauty of the mountains, the water, the fog looming in, the rain, and the vines in the distance was quite honestly more than we could handle.
Knowing that we shouldn’t spend a day tasting wine without some carbs in our bodies, a few of our friends recommended that we stop at the Boon Fly Cafe for breakfast on our way to Napa. It did not disappoint. We walked in and although the place was packed we managed to grab seats at the perfectly quaint and energetic bar. After coffee, a delicious bloody mary and one of the biggest breakfast burritos in the world (with hash browns of course), we were stuffed and ready to set out on our wine tasting adventure.
Because it was Easter Sunday, many of the wineries were closed, but we did some research ahead of time and had three tastings lined up. Our first stop was at Mumm Napa in Rutherford. Mumm is known for its great selection of sparkling wines– they offer more traditional blanc de blancs, sparkling rosés and even a sparkling cuvee red. The winery gives you the option of choosing from a few pre-selected flights, creating your own flight or simply enjoying some glasses overlooking the gorgeous vineyard. We each selected a flight and spent the morning enjoying the bubbles. We loved tasting the subtle differences between the Classic, the Reserve and the Santana versions as we talked about the drive in and watched the rain fall outside. It was quiet, romantic and relaxing and although we were both thinking, “Really, the one day we’re in Napa and it has to rain?”, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day.
From Mumm we drove right down the road to our second tasting of the day at Caymus Vineyards. We were so excited that Caymus was open as we love the Wagner family and their many wines, and the tasting had been highly recommended by a friend. The grounds of the winery were beautiful, but the tasting room was relatively simple and small, which was quite refreshing. We were seated in the barrel room– just a bit bigger than most of the Virginia wineries we frequent. The tasting consisted of six wines, both whites and reds, all delicious. Our favorite by far, was the Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. This is the flagship wine of the Wagner family and is crafted with the best barrels of the vintage by Chuck Wagner himself. That Cab Sauv was literally, yes literally, the most amazing wine we’ve ever tasted– it was full of fruit on the nose, complex and bold, but oh so smooth on the finish. The bouquet had us off the bat, but the wine somehow formed a perfect marriage in the mouth. We’re not going to say which one of us cried upon tasting it (it was Amy), but there were tears of happiness and utter delight that were shed. Wiping away the tears, we walked away from Caymus with a promise to return the next time we were in Napa for another good cry.
Heading back towards San Francisco, we made our way through Yountville and towards our last stop of the day at the Hess Winery, where art and wine come together under one roof. The drive up to Hess was beautiful– a small road surrounded by the greenest redwoods (amazingly, California is not in a drought this year) and a slight climb to the top made for the most picturesque journey. With this winery you not only have access to a great tasting but you can peruse the current exhibits within their art collection. Their wines showcase the different regions where their fruit is grown from the high altitude of Mount Veeder down to the Valley in a Small Block series and Reserve series. They have several tasting options but the most common one is selecting four of their wines to sample– many of which are exclusive to the winery. We each selected 4 different wines but we were particularly fond of The Lion Cabernet Sauvignon and the Small Block Series Pinot Noir.
With that tasting our day in Napa was coming to an end. We wanted to head back to the city early so we could explore Sausilito and enjoy our last night on the rooftop of our hotel watching the sun set over the bridge. On the way out we made a somewhat questionable stop at the “Welcome to Napa Valley” sign to take one last look around and grab a photo. It was still raining, it was still cold, our car was still shutting on and off at will, we were both exhibiting signs of a sinus infection to come, but it was fabulous. It was one of the best days we’ve had on this wine loving journey of ours. As we drove out of the valley we both said, “Yep, this was totally worth it.”
Amy & Alli
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I just learned today that Boon Fly was Missouri guy who came to Napa ages ago and bought land, now Bouchaine Vineyards. Love that name, fun history!