Hello! Bunker and I just returned from our now annual trip to the Napa Valley. It was a very restful and relaxing trip, filled with delicious food, beautiful scenery, a slower pace, and of course...wine! I thought it might be fun to share some pictures of this beautiful place and hopefully tempt some of you to go...perhaps with us next year!
Here are our recommendations:
-Hotel: Hotel Yountville. In the center of it all (five star restaurants line the streets of this quaint town) rests this peaceful retreat. For a reasonable price (especially during off season...the time of year I will only go so that we can avoid the crowds) you are given a luxurious over sized room with vaulted ceilings, a fireplace, sumptuous bathroom, a nicely sized patio, incredibly comfortable bed, and restful turn-down service every night. It is the perfect retreat at the end of your day of touring (or...for an afternoon nap...we took one everyday). The shared spaces are also comforting, with fires and heaters around every corner, we were able to enjoy all of the outdoor spaces (even the pool!) despite the rather chilly temperatures. The spa, Spa Acqua, was a peaceful and warm space with a nice list of treatments. All in all, a perfect place to stay, and a place that we will stay again.
-Shafer: Come on, you knew Shafer would be at the top of the list! Yes, this is the famous winery that gave us the idea to get our precious puppy and name her Shafer. This place is breathtaking, from the vineyard views, to the spectacular tasting room with floor to ceiling windows (of course leaving room for the roaring fireplace), to the sweet puppies, and of course the wine itself. This is a sensory experience as well as an educational one, taking about 2 hours to taste about eight wines. We were even lucky enough to watch the bottling process, fascinating! We LOVE this place for so many reasons.
Bottling in action.
One of the many reasons we love this place...the Chardonnay.
-Far Niente: Charming is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this winery. The building looks as though it should be nestled among the Swiss Alps, and the wines are as stunning as the vineyard views. A fun extra at this winery is the garage filled with vintage cars. I am not a huge car person, but even these beauties were a treat to explore. The tour includes caves, so bring your sweater, but the caves are beautiful...perhaps someday we can taste wines in the exclusive tasting room down there.
Fancy tasting room in the caves.
Sugary sweet prom pose in front of the Dolce cave, their dessert wine.
My favorite...just the most expensive car there...
-Lambert's Bridge: I think this was our favorite winery of the trip this year. We discovered the wine at dinner one night in Dallas, and the sommelier, Chad, was so excited that we liked the wine and just gushed over the owners and the vineyard, well, we just had to go and see for ourselves! Chad was right, the owners (and their beautiful pups) are delightful, and chat with you like an old friend. I loved the atmosphere, the people, the pups, everything. We actually had a picnic lunch on their beautiful front lawn, what a treat!
-Stags' Leap: If you want to experience a bit of Napa Valley history, then you must go to Stags' Leap. Very important side note: Notice the placement of the apostrophe, it is on the right side (as they like to say correct side) of the "s." This is a very important distinction because of the rather similarly named Stag's Leap. Anyways, this is a sprawling historic estate, dating to 1892, features the original manor house, one of the first in ground pools in California, gardens, vineyards and a speakeasy! My favorite part of this place was the original family crest motto, "Ne Cede Malis," which translates to: do not yield to misfortune.
Speakeasy in the basement!
I thought this was pretty cool. They used to light a fire at the bottom of these...and then the rocks would radiate the heat for outdoor events.
Family crest. "Ne Cede Malis," which translates to: do not yield to misfortune.
-Bella: This place is adorable and enchanting. You really should go and taste the wines, and then sit outside on their Adirondack chairs and relax while listening to the music, soaking up the fresh air, and admiring the gorgeous views.
I could have stayed here all day.
View from seats.
-The Model Bakery: Oh my gosh, I would move to St. Helena for this place alone...well a lot of reasons...St. Helena is my favorite town in the world...but a lot of that love has to do with this bakery. We went to this bakery last year, but in Napa. It is perfectly fine in Napa, but you must go to the original location in St. Helena. It is charming, adorable, comforting, nostalgic, lovely. Oh, and the baked goods are amazing too! Our favorite thing there is the English Muffin. I know that might sound odd, but these are not your average run of the mill English Muffins, these are doughnuts disguised as English Muffins. Eat them warm with fresh jelly, and yummy, they just melt in your mouth, I want one right now! Perhaps that will be my next cooking challenge, mastering the doughnut/English muffin. They also have a huge selection of breads, pastries, cookies, sandwiches and small salads, all freshly made each morning. We went each morning to delight in breakfast and gather our baked goods for our afternoon picnics.
-Bottega: We went here last year as well, and it certainly stood up to our memory. Our favorite part about this place is the wrap around patio with cushy seating and the cool Napa night air warmed by crackling fires and heaters. I don't know what it is about outdoor fires, but they warm my heart and soothe my soul. The interior is just as warm and inviting. The food is just as warm and comforting as the atmosphere. Our favorites were Polenta Under Glass, Shortrib Meatballs, and the Pan Roasted Gnocchi. What made this evening extra special was that it was Bunker's birthday, and his sweet sister Anna picked up the tab all the way from Chicago :) Thanks Anna!
-Redd: I think our favorite night was the night we dined at Redd. Just down the street from our hotel, this little gem packed huge flavor and imaginative dishes! I had perhaps the most delicious pork tenderloin dish I have ever eaten, a spice rubbed tenderloin contrasted against sweet apples and sweet potato puree. Bunker had something a bit more adventurous, duck confit, foie gras meatballs and crispy spaetzle. The food and service were impecable, but the most memorable part of the evening, the reason we will remember this dinner forever, is because we dined with Bunker's cousin KC and her husband Tom, two people I admire and look up to. Not only does Tom have the coolest job in the world, wine maker (!!), but they have shown us that you can still smile after sadness.
-Auberge du Soleil: Wow is all I can say about this place. We looked into staying here (it is a hotel) but then we looked at the prices...wow again is all I can say. We decided instead to have a long relaxing lunch on the patio, and it was the best decision. It is up a bit of a windy road, so lunch seemed a bit more appealing, also, the huge draw is the view and sitting outside, and so again, lunch seemed perfect. The dining area is rather intimate and provides sweeping views of the valley. Our waiter was delightful, and we ordered from the more casual menu, a burger and a pizza! They were amazing. But to top it all off, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, really and truly the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I loved this lunch, two hours of chatting, eating and slowly soaking in the experience. We even got to see a proposal (it ended in a happy yes!)!
Anyways, we loved our trip and were sad to leave, but we are already looking forward to our trip again next year! But I will say...I was pretty happy to get back to our girls :)