They say that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Well, sorry, but this is one addiction I'm OK keeping! In fact, now that we've gone mainly paleo, wine is my ONLY vice, and Napa remains a favorite vacation destination!
*Remember to check your Winery Finder app for discounts and BOGO's at different wineries when you are driving around!
We were finally able to take advantage of our wine club membership with The Terraces and rented one of their houses for three nights with four other people. The two houses are only available for rent by wine club members, so most people probably wouldn't even realize they have guest homes on property. We loved the location because it was much further north than where we've stayed in the past - on Silverado Trail a quarter mile south of Zinfandel Lane.
|View Coming in from the driveway to the right side of the house.|
|Rows of Cabernet Sauvignon|
The Terraces - I'm totally biased, but I think everyone should visit! Currently, tastings are $25pp or you can take a tour for $45pp. While I was talking to Sharon, one of the owners, she said they may be raising their prices so check the website. Newly learned fact: they lose money on tastings and make money on wine purchases. In other words, check the prices when calling to book your appointment! While we were staying there, Terraces was bottling some of their wines. What a neat experience! The bottling is done in a giant semi-truck trailer built AROUND the equipment.
Peju - Returned to Peju for another visit. This time, our wine guide was Alan - the well-known singing entertainer. The wines here are still solid - recommend a visit. Tasting is waived with purchase and no appointment is necessary.
Black Stallion - Spent a bit more time here on our second visit. I bought another bottle of the Viogner, and I'm sure you will find something here you like. The tasting room is spacious and comfortable.
Madonna Estate - We stopped by Madonna on our way into Napa. It's located in the Carneros region, so further south than Napa itself. A big tour bus of about 30 people had pulled in right before us, but the tasting room staff accommodated us within a few minutes and took us to a different tasting room. We appreciated the customer service. The winery itself is cute, but nothing spectacular - same with the wines. I ended up buying a Gewurztraminer that will be perfect for Thanksgiving, and it was unique enough for the Napa region that I couldn't pass it up. It's not a wine you see often. In summary, it's worth a visit if you are down in the area, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.
Lava Vine - This place was recommended to us by a couple other wineries. The website says that reservations are needed for groups of 7 or more, but that is not the case - it's groups of 6. They were very busy when we walked in with our group of 6, and the guy seemed a little caught off guard. He served us, but we kind of got an unwelcome feeling. After the drunk tour group left, he admitted that he had his hands full with the group and had to monitor their alcohol intake. Knowing that and seeing his demeanor change for the better, I'd say it's a cool little stop if you are up on Silverado Trail. It's super close to Lincoln Rd in Calistoga.
Chateau Montelena - If you have ever seen the movie Bottleshock, then you know why we just had to go. The property is absolutely gorgeous and has many opportunities for great photographs. The wine, though, is not stunning. We didn't buy anything here. Go see it once and you're good.
|Chateau Montelena - Calistoga|
Rutherford Hill - Great views and interesting wines. Located on Silverado Trail, it is a sister to Chimney Rock with less stuffiness. It's a nice place for a picnic, but I wasn't bowled over by the wines.
Tank Garage - This new place absolutely blew us all away, and it provided the perfect reason why you can't ever judge a book by its cover. Tank Garage literally sits just feet from Hwy 29 in Calistoga and looks like NOTHING from the outside except for an old garage. It's not until you step up to the bar that you realize this place is legit. Heath, our wine guide, explained that the winemaker will never replicate a wine - all of their releases will be different from the last. There is a wine worth mentioning that is called Golden Era of Roller Derby, and this wine is freaking awesome. It starts with a pineapple nose and front on the tongue before turning into banana in the middle and finish. Truly unique! This is a quick, unpretentious stop - highly recommend a visit if you are up that way.
|Tank Garage Winery|
Franciscan - I had consumed a Franciscan Chard before the trip and instantly decided that I had to go there! Unfortunately, we couldn't get in to either Rombauer or Markham, so Franciscan's Chardonnay kind of made up for it. The wines are solid, but this winery definitely has a Mondavi-commercial feel to it. I had no idea that they were part of a huge wine conglomerate, and that was disappointing to find out. Visit if you like their wines or are curious about them. Skip if you want small-winery service.
Paradigm - We met Mary Ann, the hospitality director, while hanging out at The Terraces. A beautiful black lab greeted us when we parked and ushered into the very tiny tasting room. The wine is good, and the property is cute, but it's a little pricey. They do have an interesting rose if are into that - it's 100% Merlot.
Wineries - Sonoma
Buena Vista Winery - This was our first stop of the day, and I had super low expectations going in because I knew that it would be much more commercial due to its history as Napa's first winery. Well, I was right about the commercial part, but what I didn't expect was to love it so much. The wines are great, and you get to taste while on your tour of the old facilities. The new owners are very eccentric so expect to see the unexpected. The sparkling rose at the beginning of the tour was fantastic, and I'm neither a sparkly nor a rose person. I think that it's definitely worthy of a visit.
|Buena Vista Winery|
Robledo - Famous for being the first latino-owned winery in the area, Robledo is a small place with a fantastic port. Other than the port and the story, the winery underwhelming. Consider skipping.
McKenzie-Mueller - Family owned winery with a tasting room that is literally in a garage - sometimes these are the best places! The property itself is beautiful, and the wine carries wonderful qualities. Definitely worth a visit if you are looking for a family-feel with absolutely no airs.
Torc - We booked a dinner reservation at Torc via Open Table following our Sonoma tour. The food is excellent and the atmosphere interesting. I wasn't entirely blown away, but I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever about this restaurant.
Carpe Diem - Oh how I love, thee! Their restaurant and bar are back in service following the earthquake that shook down some bricks (and did a lot of damage). Happy hour remains delightful (I swear that I dream about the truffle parmesan popcorn!) with a nice selection of apps and a constantly rotating happy hour wine offerings.
Gott's Roadside - It only took our fifth visit to Napa to try Gott's for the first time! Every other time we have wanted to go, the lines were insane! When we went for dinner Wednesday night, the location near Yountville was reasonably busy with almost no wait. The selection of burgers is more than adequate, and I love that you can ask for a lettuce wrap instead of a bun - one of the only times I really tried to stay paleo on this trip.
Platypus - We broke form and actually hired a tour company to take us around Sonoma. For $110pp (+ automatic 15% gratuity attached to groups of 4 or more), we had a great driver, comfortable van, cheese board, and picnic lunch for our full-day tour. We were picked up at the Napa Valley Visitor's Center at 10AM and were so happy to learn that we were the ONLY people on that tour - we could have had up to 6 more people with us. What a pleasant surprise first thing in the morning. For me, handing over the planning reigns to someone else (our driver) was absolutely freeing. I usually obsess over every little thing, especially when we have friends with us, and I didn't have to do that at all on this tour. SO WORTH IT! Besides Robledo, which was a bit of a let-down, the winery choices were awesome. One other thing to note, they keep your records on file if you have used them before and also take notes of wineries you tell them you don't wish to visit. This helps guests from repeating places they've already been to.