Saturday, February 16, 2013

our great grape escape

A and I traveled to Napa for his first cycling race of the 2013 season, the Cherry Pie Criterium. The weather was perfect...a sunny yet brisk day in the wine country. I'm always really excited when his races are in locations that make good weekend getaways.

Our hotel was conveniently located between the race event and the wineries for easy access to both. We got an early check-in at the Ivy Hotel Napa, dropped our bags and headed to our first winery.

V. Satui, in St. Helena, was the right choice as it has tons of picnic tables with a view of the vineyard. It is also one of the few wineries that has a gourmet deli on premises and we were starved. The pesto sandwich, pasta salad, crab cakes and broccoli salad we enjoyed for lunch were delicious.

But the best part wasn't even the food, it was the breathtaking scenery. January through March is mustard season which many believe is the best time to visit Napa. The valley floor is blanketed in a vibrant carpet of bright yellow mustard flowers.

Despite many visits, I was ignorant to the winter phenomenon known as mustard season in the Napa Valley. As locals tell the story, Spanish friars who established missions up and down the state in the 1700s sprinkled mustard seeds as they went, leaving a canary-colored path in their wake so that others could find their way. 

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Next stop: Castello di Amorosa just outside of Calistoga. 
This winery has a castle with 107 rooms on 8 levels and covers 121,000 square feet. Among many other features it has a moat, a drawbridge, defensive towers, an interior courtyard, a torture chamber, a chapel/church and a knights' chamber. It is like stepping back in time to the medieval period.

As spectacular as the castle is, my favorite part was cruising through the vineyard and hanging with the sheep and goat roaming on the property. I know, I'm a wierdo!

To end the day, we visited one of my all-time favorite wineries, Mumm Napa. Located in Rutherford, they are renowned for their seated patio tasting room. It was so relaxing gazing at the rolling hills and grape vines while enjoying some of the best sparkling wine in the region.

Then after a long day of wine tasting, we dined at Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa because it had many positive reviews on Yelp. And let me tell you....I had the best meal I've ever eaten - hand's down. Homemade wild mushroom ravioli with sautéed bay scallops, tomatoes, fresh baby arugula with a light roasted garlic sauce. 

The next morning, we woke at 4am to prepare for race day. It was a freezing cold 39 degrees so A had a hard time warming up. But I'm so proud of him for giving it his all. He didn't place as well as he hoped he would. But if it isn't first place, he's not satisfied with his performance. However, the race motivated him to train harder for next time.

my man in third position
Before we hit the road to head back home, two more stops were on the agenda. Domaine Carneros, which sits on a hilltop, reminded me of an estate that you would see in the South.

It was nice to sit on the patio and enjoy some sparkling with an amazing cheese pairing. However, I wasn't impressed with the location. The view overlooks the most travelled road in Napa with tons of cars driving by.

However, the sparkling wine did not disappoint. My favorite was the Le Reve Blanc de Blancs which is French for "the dream" which it was.

Afterwards, we went to Robert Mondavi to do a wine tour. A was interested in learning about the process of winemaking. However, the history of Robert Mondavi was fascinating to me. He was kind of the godfather of Napa Valley, whose technical improvements and marketing strategies brought worldwide recognition for the wines of the region. 

Love his famous quote "whatever you do, pour yourself into it".


Amy Lynn said...

What a nice trip! That looks like it was a lot of fun :) I would love to take a trip like that someday!

jAllen said...

You hit a lot of my favourite places! I took pictures of the chickens who were roaming around at the castle!

Amber said...

I love the castle! Especially since it has it all - moat, torture chamber, etc. that is awesome! I also really love the quote at the end. Sounds like a great weekend escape, with a size tour of a race.

JenS said...

I just love going to wineries. Looks like a great trip. Have you seen the movie "Bottle Shock"? It's about a winery in Napa and how they helped put California wines on the map in the 70's. Not the best summary, but if the Robert Mondavi history interested you than I think you will like it.

Team Harries said...

What a fun trip! You are gorgeous!!! I signed up for a triathlon, and rode a bike outside today for the first time in foooorever! I didn't crash! wahoo.. baby steps! Congrats to your husband for finishing :)

ousoonerchick said...

Looks like a really nice trip! Wish I could go on a vaca. LUCKY!

lo @ crazy ever after said...

There is no doubt in my mind that you enjoy the crap out if your life. There really is no other way to do it. Get it, girl.

Emily and Jake said...

Such a fun trip. I love the napa valley. It is gorgeous! It is my favorite part of the drive to go and see my family. So glad you had fun.

Lindsay said...

Looks like such a beautiful weekend! And that hotel looks amazing!

Alicia said...

You guys are so cute. Like seriously the cutest couple ever!

Carpets of yellow sound lovely!

Charleston Hokie said...

Love Napa Valley and I had no idea about the "mustard" season. How beautiful. Looks like a good trip full of wonderful beverages! :)

Hapa Hopes said...

That looks like such a beautiful trip! And congrats to your man! Finishing is awesome if you ask me! :)

Sarah said...

Aw, what a fun trip Jessah! I love Napa. :)

kharini said...

What a wonderful weekend! I love Napa! Beautiful photos!

Laura said...

Wow, this sounds lovely! :)

Whitney B. said...

What lovely pictures, glad y'all had a nice trip! Food and fun!

Brooke said...

Looks like a beautiful time! I love the Napa Valley!

Your newest follower,



Nathalie Willmott said...

Looks amazing!!!

LB said...

I just found your blog and love it! Slash Mumm Nappa is my favorite champagne! :) I look forward to following you!


Katie Broderick said...

It's so lovely! Your pictures really capture it all and it makes us reading feel like we were there!


Nicole Marie said...

i love love napa. can't wait to take more weekend trips when i move back

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