Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to live in the Bay Area.
We just got home from a 19 hour anniversary vacation in Calistoga (Napa Valley), surrounded by people from Europe, New York, Minnesota and other (over there) places, we remembered that not everyone lives in heaven.
We dropped the boy off with his cousins and he was THRILLED to be there. He knows them well (we babysat them for three days last weekend) and got cozy immediatly. Fourty minutes later, Bubbs and I were in Calistoga. Our room wasn't quite ready, so we got a wine map and took off.
We started at August Briggs Winery. This was a recommendation from our hotel and it was great. We got some cork trivia there (that cork shortage you keep hearing about? TOTALLY FALSE), bought a bottle of somethin or other (not my favorite, but Tim was a fan), and got to do a little barrel tasting. Their 2010 Pinot Noir knocked my socks off - we're heading back when that gets bottled.
As we walked in we made up rules:
1) no bottles over $30 unless we both LOVE it. Bubbs must say "That is fantastic" and I must say "oh my god - amazing"
2) no tasting fees over $10
We shook on them...
We drove down "the trail" (the silverado trail) and stopped in at what looked like a small tasting room. Quaint twinkle lights and a cat strolled along. All I can say about this place, Dutch Henry, is that the pourer was NOT there to sell wines. That they were the most INTENSE wines I've ever tasted and we didn't buy a thing. Their tasting fee was $15. We broke our rule.
After that we got a recommendation from the hotel (after asking for "no castles" small, family owned wineries) for Twomey. We knew walking in it would be a mistake and should have walked out...they all had on uniforms, no smiles, and we decided their wine tasted like "next door neighbor wine" or like something you could buy at the grocery store for $10 bucks. Almost everything was over $50 a bottle - not worth it to us.
We then pulled up to our favorite winery of the trip - Casa Nuestra. Funky farm-like tasting room, gravel driveway, fantastic wines. We ended up buying one red, one white, and two dessert wines. The added bonus is that the owner is a San Francisco civil rights attorney :) I love supporting people with the right politics (which is SO hard to find in the wine industry).
Our final stop on this trip was Frank Family. It was a recommendation too, but ridiculously pretentious, the wine wasn't great and there was a tasting fee. Everyone tasting here and working here acted as if we should know who they were.
We decided that only places with bad wine have tasting fees. People go there and don't buy the wine so they have to charge. The higher the tasting fee, the worse the wine.
We always bought where there weren't tasting fees.
We got back to our hotel, the Mount View Hotel and Spa, and they let us know that they were upgrading us to a King Suite (and I used a coupon to book the room - so whoo hoo) for our anniversary! The room was fantastic, clean, well decorated, and there was a pillow top on the bed!
One of my favorite things about our last Calistoga trip (I was 36 week pregnant) was the warm pools - so we suited up and headed down. We did what any couple does on their anniversary.
Raced. No hands swimming races, no feet swimming races, all the good ones. You know the drill. Good old fashioned mature grown up fun :)
We then headed out to Ochoa winery's tasting room and bought a bottle there (an 05 Cab! - 05 was a fantastic year and its all gone in most places) and then headed to dinner at JoLe.
JoLe is supposed to be a super fancy place - I was less than impressed, but we're now inspired to eat at great restaurants in the city.
Chocolate Banana dessert for me, and two cheeses for Bubbs - and we headed up the stairs to our room to watch friends episodes and eat our dessert in bed :)
I was hoping to eat at Miguel's Restaurant and get their Huevos Rancheros (the best I've ever had and what inspired me to learn how to make it), but we were awake at 6am (per our usual) and just wanted to head back to get our boy.
All in all 19 hour vacation was all we needed - and our wine rack (when we get around to making it) will be stocked :)