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A Long Weekend in Napa Valley

Sep 16, 2009  Wine Tasting and Foodie Weekend
5.0 of 5 stars based on 8 votes

A couple's first visit to Napa. On Friday, we visited Napa's downtown tasting rooms. On Saturday, we visited Artesa, V. Sattui, Del Dotto, and Van Der Heyden. On Sunday, we visited Plumpjack, Mondavi, and Cakebread.

  • 1. Embassy Suites Hotel Napa Valley
    Embassy Suites by Hilton Napa Valley, Napa, Napa Valley

    Read my review. Overall, this is a great hotel with a great concierge and free breakfast.

  • 2. Taqueria La Esperanza (Taco Truck)

    I heard about this taco truck on the forum and we set out to find it when we arrived in Napa Friday afternoon. It was right where they said it would be, at Soscol Ave and Napa St. across from the Westin and Wine Train.

    You just walk up and order and take it to go or stand around the truck eating. We opted for the latter as it was such a nice day. We ordered tacos: shrimp, fish, pork and carnitas. I'd have to say the carnitas were pretty darn good. They serve seeded jalapenos with them and they are soo good too.

  • 3. A Moveable Thirst

    This book was recommended on the forum. which I read before our trip. It it helped me learn a lot about wine and winemaking. It is a great book that is informative and funny at the same time. The book goes through 2 guys' personal experience at several tasting rooms, but then will break away to educate you about wine.

  • 4. Downtown Napa Tasting Rooms

    We bought the tasting card online for $20 which allowed us tastings at 14 places in the downtown area. The tasting you would get by showing the card varied at all the places, but it was usually 2 tastes.

    We decided to visit the downtown tasting rooms on Friday, it was a nice way to get acquainted with tasting wine and asking questions. It was nice that we could just walk all over downtown as well. We tasted at:

    Wineries of Napa Valley - 3 tastes. We ended up buying a bottle of 2006 Goosecross Syrah here for dinner that night. The card allows you to have the corkage fee removed, just have the winery put a sticker on the bottle too.

    Trahan Winery and Olabisi Winery - 2 tastes. We liked their tasting room, it was all black with some barrels and a big mirror. We bought a bottle of 2005 Olabisi Petite Sirah from JW Warehouse. I may have become a fan of Petite Sirah because of this wine.

    X Winery - 5 tastes, they'll let you taste whatever is open basically. Our least favorite wine though. I wanted to drink a lot of water afterwards.

    Ceja - 2 tastes. Nice tasting room with bar and menu. We overheard the pourer talking to another couple about some "liquid gold" and we asked nicely for a taste and he gave us a little of the port. Another couple came in to buy some chocolate sauce and we asked about that as well. He let us have a taste as well. We are buying a case of that for Christmas presents!

    Napa General Store - 2 tastes. These were quick and small pours. Not really impressed by anything although the pourer was really nice.

    Silo's - Either 2 tastes or 1 big pour. This is a cool place that is a night club with a doorman, black decor, and black table clothes. We sat at a table and the server brought us our tastes. There was a guy playing guitar and singing. They have various performers in the evenings as well.

  • 5. Allegria
    Ristorante Allegria, Napa, Napa Valley

    We made a reservation for 6:30 on Friday night on OpenTable about 2 weeks in advance. I checked in with the hostess although she wasn't too interested in checking my reservation. When we got there it was pretty empty. It was full when we left, however. We'd received a free appetizer coupon while tasting at the Wineries of Napa Valley room, but it was just a very small bite.

    We ordered Beef Carpaccio for an appetizer, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, and Linguine Fruitti Di Mare. For dessert, we had a Macadamia Brownie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. I don't normally eat much chocolate, but it was needed with all the wine I'd had that day.

    The food and service was excellent here. We spent about $50 on our meal.

  • 6. Napa Farmers Market

    Located on the north side of the Wine Train. It's 730 - 1200 Tues and Sat from May to Oct.

    We wanted to check it out to get snacks and fruit while we were there and to take with us when wine tasting in the valley. There was one stand that had awesome nectarines. One of the guys was yelling he had the best fruit in town and had pieces out for tasting. We ended up buying his fruit and some hummus from a lady. This is a great market with several booths of fruit, veges, eggs, etc.

  • 7. Artesa Winery
    Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Napa, Napa Valley

    We went there to check out the views and to see if we could see San Francisco from there. We could make out the buildings downtown, but it wasn't completely clear. We didn't taste here, but the grounds are pretty cool and modern.

  • 8. V. Sattui Winery
    V. Sattui Winery, St. Helena, Napa Valley

    Wow, this winery gets crowded! They also only sell their wines there. Our friend with us had VIP passes, so we got to go into the tasting room in the basement. They say you get 6 tastes, but you could really have whatever you asked for. It was a little busy in there as well, but I didn't see the tasting room upstairs to compare.

    At first, the pourer wasn't interested in explaining the wines to us and would pour us all the same thing when someone wanted something different. We finally got him engaged when we asked about making Maderia and ports. We bought a bottle of the Maderia and 2007 Zinfandel.

    They supposedly have great grounds for picnicking. It was so crowded there and in the store to buy sandwiches. We ended up having to rush off to a tasting appointment and eating our Margherita and Mozzeralla Turkey in the car.

  • 9. Del Dotto Vineyards & Winery
    Del Dotto Vineyards & Winery, Napa, Napa Valley

    We had a 3pm Sat reservation for the cave tour ($40 pp). We got to taste several (6 or 7) wines from the barrel. Our tour guide made it a lot of fun, but his ways of trying to sell you the wine at the end were a little humorous, a little pushy. This is a place to go for fun and it gets a little loud. At the end of the cave tour, they give you some cheese, meat and crackers and pour you more wine. The last wine they poured was actually pretty good. It was a 2007 Giovanni's Tuscan Reserve (75% Cab, 25% Sangiovese) $85. We just aren't the type of couple to spend more than $40-$45 on wine.

  • 10. Van Der Heyden Vineyards

    We left Del Dotto with some friends that didn't go on the tour, but waited for us. They wanted to hit another winery. We decided on Van Der Heyden, because it was one of the few wineries close by that were open until 6pm. Most wineries close by 5pm.

    When we arrived there were only 2 other groups there, when we left it was packed. The tasting area is outside next to the house under an old car port. We decided to share a tasting at this point ($10). They poured 5 wines outside. Then, we went into a little air conditioned room where the winemaker, Andre, poured us a late harvest Cabernet. It's sweet like a port. You can buy a small bottle of it right there for $55. Online you can only get a whole bottle for $125.

  • 11. Celadon
    Celadon, Napa, Napa Valley

    We made a reservation for 7:15 on Saturday night, also on OpenTable 2 weeks in advance. They ended up filling up completely that night. It's a small restaurant with a closed in patio and bar seating inside. The hostess and our server were super friendly. The wine pro on the other hand seemed a little stuffy. They have this guy on site that will go around and recommend wine for your dinner. He recommended Pinot Noir, which I'm not a fan of. I opted to get a White Sangira to change it up from drinking wine all day. The wine guy wasn't too happy about my choice. Oh well.

    We ordered and shared the mussels for an appetizer. They were the meatiest mussels I've ever had! It was also a huge portion that could easily be someone's entree. We both ordered the sea bass special served in an awesome spicy plum sauce. The sea bass was excellent and was served with garlic mashed potatoes and spinach. We both shared the peach crisp a la mode for dessert. I was soooo full when we left. For everything, our meal was about $100. It was well worth it though as it was my favorite meal of the trip.

  • 12. Plumpjack Winery

    The grounds here are pretty cool. They have a long driveway leading up to the tasting room that goes through the vineyards. We ended up sharing the tasting here, $10 for 3 tastes. The servers were super nice.

  • 13. Oakville Grocery
    Oakville Grocery, Oakville, Napa Valley

    We headed here for lunch. They have a deli and sandwiches and lots of snacks. I asked the guy behind the counter what he recommended. We ordered the Mediterranean Chicken and Beef and Bleu based on his recommendations. We started out sitting in front of the store, but the traffic from the road was a little loud. We went around back and found a picnic table under a tree...much nicer. The Beef and Bleu was probably the better sandwich.

  • 14. Robert Mondavi Winery
    Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley

    Robert Mondavi's Cabernet was my first favorite wine and we used to drink a lot of it, so I really wanted to visit the winery.

    I called and made a reservation for 12pm a month and a half in advance, but somehow it got messed up or lost or something. We ended up getting a 1230pm Signature Tour ($25 pp). Our tour started in a room telling us about different regions of wine in CA and some history on Mondavi. We went out to the demo vineyard and was told about the vines and harvesting. We went into the cellar and saw wine fermenting in hugh barrels and then went to where the barrels are stored to sit for a couple of years. We ended the tour in a room with a huge dining table for a sit down tasting of 3 wines plus a port.

    The tour group was 16 people and went 1.5 hours. I thought it was a little too long. Our group liked to ask questions though.

  • 15. Cakebread Cellars
    Cakebread Cellars, Rutherford, Napa Valley

    This was probably our favorite winery on this trip. We had a 2pm reservation. When you turn into the place, you are stopped by a guy that has a list with your name on it.

    After checking in, we were given a glass of wine while we waited for everyone to get together. Our tour guide took us in to see their barrels and up to a room overlooking vineyards to have a sit down tasting. We had 5 more wines. For someone that doesn't like Pinot Noir, I have to say their 2006 was pretty good. We really liked their wine. And, we got to keep our glass that has Cakebread etching.

    I'd have to say this was probably the best tasting experience on this trip. It's only $10 pp and you get information, a small tour, several pours and you get to keep the glass.

  • 16. Bottega Napa Valley
    Bottega Napa Valley, Yountville, Napa Valley

    We could only get a reservation for 5:30pm on Sunday night on OpenTable. We decided to sit outside when we arrived as it was a nice evening and there was a wedding in the courtyard that I wanted to watch. Our server was a little pushy to get our order at first, but we think it was because he was trying to get our order in before another large group. We weren't in a hurry at all, so we told him to give us some time.

    We ordered the Caprese with Heirloom Tomatoes and Balsamic Balls for appetizer, it was soo good. We both had Chiarello Family Vineyards wine, a Petite Sirah and a Cab. I really liked the wine.

    We ordered the Porchetta special and the Tagliarini Clam pasta dish. Both dishes had some great flavors, although the clam dish was very powerful. Our entrees were delayed, but we were enjoying the wine and the mariachi band at the wedding. We ended up getting free dessert for the delay. Our dessert was a lemon torte with creme brulee and berries....mmmm,...so good!

    We had another expensive meal that was about $100, but it was very good.