May 12, 2015

Napa Valley: Part 1

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa

Vineyard

Last month my husband and I escaped to Napa Valley for a much needed vacation without the children. We love our little maniacs, but everyone needs a break once in a while! My parents bravely stepped in to care for them while we flew west for some wine and sun.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

We decided to use Yountville as our base of operations and stayed at the Bardessono. It is LEED certified and has a fantastic zen, earthy vibe. The moment we drove onto the property we felt calmer. They greeted us with a glass of wine, walked us to our room, showed us how to use all the extremely efficient amenities, and left us to relax. I’ll post more about the hotel itself later this month but, suffice it to say, we loved it. We especially enjoyed that the location enabled us to walk everywhere in town. Plus, there was a garage of bikes at the ready in case we went to explore beyond the sidewalks.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Bouchon

Our stomachs were still on East Coast time so, after we checked in at noon, we descended on Bouchon for what felt like a late lunch. Since it was mid-week we were ushered in immediately and chose to sit at the bar. We love sitting at bars and chatting with bartenders when we don’t have the kids with us. It somehow feels more adult and less formal. The classic French interior was charming and our meal was excellent, especially my asparagus buratta salad paired with a glass of crisp rosé.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

YV2

We didn’t make any vineyard appointments the first day so we walked around town and took in the atmosphere. Then we camped out by the pool to let our extraordinarily pale east coast skin soak up some vitamin D. Dinner was at Lucy, the zen gorgeous restaurant at our hotel. I later found the kitchen garden and photographed it. This explained why my salad was so fresh – the lettuce had been picked just an hour earlier! After a wonderfully filling meal of chicken, lamb, salad, and a strawberry rhubarb avalanche (with fresh garden strawberries and rhubarb, of course), we retreated to our room to sleep off the jet lag.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Oxbow4

Oxbow3

Oxbow2

Oxbow1

The next morning we checked out the Oxbow Public Market for breakfast per a recommendation and I am so glad we did. New Yorkers will understand when I compare it to Chelsea Market. It is essentially a big open warehouse with little shops and food vendors in a giant circle. We had delicious coffee from Ritual Coffee Roasters and the best ever breakfast tacos. We also browsed the Napa Valley Distillery and a picked up some Italian pastries for a mid-day snack. There are so many vendors we wanted to try we made plans to come back again later during the trip.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Stag's Leap 5

Stag's Leap 3

Stag's Leap 2

Stag's 1

Our tasting plans for our first full day were aggressive: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Chimney Rock, and Pine Ridge. I am so glad we chose these wineries in this order. The Fire & Ice Tour at Stag’s Leap was extremely informative and a great way to start off the vacation. We learned so much about the region, wine-making, and Napa history that it set the tone for a very interesting trip. I was especially happy to learn more about the California malolactic fermentation – it makes the buttery flavor in white wine I love so much.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

CR3

CR2

CR1

Chimney Rock was gorgeous. There is a unique South African history to it that you can see in the architecture. This was the first of many vineyards I noted that has beautifully maintained, flourishing gardens. I could’ve relaxed on the patio all afternoon.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Oakville 5

Oakville 4

Oakville 3

Oakville 2

Oakville 1

For lunch we decided to skip a formal restaurant and grab sandwiches at the Oakville Grocery. It is an institution in the area and I am so glad we went. It is filled with all kinds of gourmet goodies and would be the perfect place to pick up sundries for a picnic. We opted for yummy sandwiches and chips, and some water to cleanse our palate.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Pine Ridge 3

Pine Ridge 2

Pine Ridge 1

Our last tasting of the day was at Pine Ridge Vineyards. This is more of a boutique operation and they provided us with a gorgeous cheese plate while we tasted wines. My personal favorite was the rosé which tasted like watermelon in a glass. Even though we were stuffed from our sandwiches we still ate everything. (I mean, when on vacation, right??)

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

MG

Mustard's Grill

We were pretty wiped by 5pm so we went to Mustard’s Grill based on the recommendation of so many of you. It was the perfect casual meal to cap our exceptional first day. I had salad and tamales with a glass of sparking wine, while my husband indulged in the famous pork chop which he declared delicious. After a quick strawberry rhubarb dessert (you know how I am about rhubarb) we headed off to bed nice and early.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Model 2

Model

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

The next morning we wanted to explore a little so we swung up to St. Helena. It is the most adorable town with a quaint main street and lots of pretty shops. For breakfast we decided to try Model Bakery for their famous homemade English muffins. We each ordered an egg sandwich and honestly considered a second. I’ve eaten English muffins all my life and have never, ever tasted one so good. It is the size of a large bagel with a crispy exterior and spongy, buttery interior. Stuffed with egg, avocado, and tomato, it was the perfect way to start the day.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

VS4

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VS

Tasting-wise we wanted to shake things up a bit so we drove back south to V Sattui since friends had recommended it. This vineyard is known for only selling their wines at the store – no distribution at all! Their tasting barn features the world’s longest cheese case (I don’t know if this is an actual fact, but it is the largest one I’ve ever seen), a gourmet deli, and a huge bar to tasting. We tasted some delicious wines then roamed the grounds admiring the roses. I swear, Napa Valley has by far the most beautiful roses I’ve ever seen.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Our second tasting of the day was out the beautiful boutique Baldacci vineyard back in the Stag’s Leap district. Since it wasn’t too busy we were able to relax at a high top and chat with the staff about the wine and history of the area. I couldn’t get enough information about the wine, I loved learning all about the details and intricacies of the wine making process.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Yountville

By the end of the day our ambitious wine tasting schedule had made us pretty pooped so we were happy to soak up the rays at the pool and enjoy more wine. Then we met up with some dear friends at Redd for dinner, enjoyed a plate of pasta, and were, once again, early to bed.

Napa Valley | The Naptime Chef

Napa Valley | The Naptime Che

Stay tuned for more details from our trip next week!