Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

This past weekend our friends flew in for a fun-filled couple of days.  We packed in the activities!
After spending Thursday and Friday evenings after work together (I don't have any vacation leave yet), we were all prepared to hit the road on Saturday.

Our friends were up early to check out the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building.  This is a place I love to show non-Californians, because it is just surprising how much colorful produce is grown in California during the winter.  They picked up some tasty breakfast snacks and coffee, and the four of us headed out for Napa Valley.

Our first stop was Grgich Hills, where we were scheduled to take a tour and taste their wines.

Even though I had learned a fair amount about wine making in the past, I thought the tour was informative and well-led.

We had watched the movie Bottle Shock only a month ago, so learning more about the winemaker behind California's triumph over French wines was especially relevant and exciting!  A few years after the famous Paris Tasting, Mike Grgich left Chateau Montelena to found his own winery: Grgich Hills.

After relaxing a bit longer at Grgich Hills Estate, we wandered around Yountville for some lunch.  

We stumbled upon The French Laundry and their garden, and we even saw Chef Keller sitting in the courtyard of his restaurant!  White coat and all.

Fancy Chicken Coop!
The weather was sunny and reminiscent of Spring, and when we had the option of eating at the dark bar inside a nearby restaurant (since we hadn't made reservations anywhere) or winging it elsewhere, we opted for the latter and stumbled upon....a taco truck.  Tacos Garcia, right in a nearby parking lot.  A few people who appeared to be Yountville locals on their lunch break were waiting for their food, and after gathering some recommendations from them, we ordered some food and took it back to the French Laundry garden, where we had seen picnic tables.  
I'm sticking with the story that we saw Chef Keller and ate at the French Laundry (garden).

After lunch and a bit more time spent strolling through charming Yountville, we made our second winery stop at Chimney Rock.

It was fine...not as great as our first or last stop, though.

Our last stop was Paraduxx, a winery known for their blends, where we relaxed for a few hours and enjoyed the wine, cheese, and outdoor patio as the sun began to set.  The one white and all four reds were really nice--I especially liked their red wines, which were dominantly Zinfandel grape (the only native grape to California, we learned.)

We toured the property to kill some time.  We had dinner reservations that weren't for 3 more hours!

Finally, after a quick caffeine fix (where we also watched the coffee bean roasting process), we made it to Mustards Grill in Yountville for dinner.  This place is know for helping initiate the foodie culture of Napa Valley, and our dinner did not disappoint!  Neither did the dessert--someone mumbled between bites that it was the best brownie ever tasted.

After a full day, we headed back to the city.  More to see and do tomorrow!

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