I spent last week in Napa Valley and was fortunate enough to arrive in the middle of the crush. If you have not yet enjoyed that experience, I highly recommend it. It usually happens anywhere from early September until mid to late October. This year was very late due to the crazy climate the wine country has been living with. The air is full of the smell of grapes and the roads are filled with trucks hauling grapes to and from the vineyards. I love to drive with the car windows open and sit outside for meals. I don’t know if there is anything quite like the sensuality of smelling fresh crushed grapes. During harvest, it’s best to go during the week because weekends can get crazy with the number of visitors. Most wineries have parties and celebrations and they invite lots and lots of people to come and enjoy. There are always great bargains as many of the wineries greatly discount some of their wines in order to make room for the new vintages. Rooms can be hard to come by so it’s best to plan ahead. I love flying into Sacramento instead of Oakland or San Francisco because the drive is so much easier and the airport is smaller and also it is just beautiful. They just opened a new terminal which houses Southwest Air and it is really first class.
We decided to seek out some boutique wineries that we had never visited before along with some of our all time favorites. A few of the new ones were Dancing Hares and Redmon. They both make incredible big reds that rival most wines I have tasted anywhere. They are very, very small and off the beaten path so not easy to find. Appointments are a must as they are just not open to the public like some of the larger tasting rooms.
Of course a trip to Napa just wouldn’t be complete without visits to our favorite restaurants. Bistro Jeanty in Yountville is a completely charming little French restaurant with a charming patio, a small friendly bar area and a community table in addition to regular seating. We always opt for the bar or community table where you are likely to meet lots of the locals who work or own the wineries. It’s always a delightful time with lots of laughter, good wine, great food and shared knowledge. Michael’s favorite is Steak Tartare and their version is a homerun for him. Mustard’s and Bistro Don Giovanni are a couple more stand by’s and they never disappoint. Good to know that wherever you eat in Napa you are welcome to bring your own wine so we always purchase a bottle of one of our favorite tastings and take it along to lunch or dinner.
I guess I am going to just have to dream about Napa and Sonoma and Dry Creek and Alexander Valley and Santa Rosa – – oh sorry – I started to get carried away there. At any rate, I’ll be looking forward to my next trip in the early spring.