Tour de Northern California: Napa

Since I was based in Napa for three weeks, that’s where my boyfriend and I started our journey. I was beyond excited to show him everything that I loved about the town of Yountville and the surrounding areas that I had already explored and since we had only a small amount of time there, I planned an itin that was pretty much down to the hour. We had a lot packed into one evening and a full day/night, but we did it right and by the time Yountville was in the rearview mirror, he said he had a total feel for the area and felt as thought he had received the complete Napa experience. Success!!

 He didn’t arrive to Yountville until 10:30 pm so he quickly changed clothes and we went to Michael Chiarello’s, Bottega, which boasts a chic, but cozy outdoor lounge area complete with cushioned couches, a fire place, gas heaters and even fuzzy blankets (temps can drop 40 degrees in just one day!). We took a seat on the couch outside next to the fire place, split a bottle of wine and enjoyed their polenta appetizer (caramelized mushrooms, butter butter butter, and topped with a delicious balsamic game sauce-to die) and equally delicious basil pesto arancini. We sipped, noshed, talked (and kissed!) until the last waiter was closing up in the dining room. It was the perfect start to what would be an unforgettable trip.

The following morning we enjoyed a lazy start complete with a fire and vanilla lattes and chocolate croissants from Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon Bakery, where the line starts early in the morning and doesn’t fade until the afternoon. If you are in the Napa area, it’s a must and the proper way to indulge is if you are in your jams, parked in front of a fire with the windows or balcony door open to let that oh so cool morning air drift in. MORNING DELIGHT!

Early that afternoon we took 29 north to St. Helena where we stopped at Tra Vigne  for a glass of wine and a another incredible appetizer, the mozzarella cheese “al minuto” paired with the heirloom tomatoes….if there is one thing you should eat in St. Helena, it’s this. An entire presentation in itself,  they bring out the mozzarella and then stretch it out in front of you and put it on this delicious toasted bread. The tomatoes come separately and MAKE the dish, so do not order the mozzarella sans. It will cost you around $65 for the app and 2 glasses of wine, but hey…when in Napa!

After, we headed south down 29 to Rutherford and stopped in at Inglenook  which is owned by Francis Ford Coppola (director turned wine maker) and is simply stunning. We toured the small museum and then sat outside the bistro and sampled a wine flight. The grounds and estate are reason enough to stop in…the delicious wine is just an added bonus.

At 4:00 that afternoon, we had a reservation at Hill Family Estate to have a VIP tour of their family garden followed by a tasting. What made this tour so special is that Ryan Hill and his sister Carley drove us in their car over to the garden where (it gets more special) their family sells all of their herbs, fruits and vegetables exclusively to the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group (The French Laundry, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc)! Ryan took us throughout the garden having us taste various herbs, vegetables and fruit that are used in the dishes prepared at The French Laundry (does that mean I have kind of eaten there? I think so!). We ended the tour back at their store with an amazing wine tasting and a plate of brie, Bouchon bread and tasty prosciutto. The experience was incredible and they even got me to like and purchase a bottle of merlot (I swear).

That evening we went to the famous Auberge du Soliel for sunset drinks followed by a incredible dinner at Thomas Keller’s, Bouchon Bistro. The restaurant is small, warm and cozy. A perfect place to split a bottle of wine and indulge in my favorite, french onion soup, followed by dinner. We went to dive bar Panchas for a nightcap that we didn’t come close to finishing (wine tasting is exhausting!) and strolled home ready for some serious rest. It was a long, but satisfying and successful day in Napa.

The next morning we were packing the car and heading south, ready for a change of scenery from valleys of vineyards to the cliffside coast, I had no idea what was coming, but excited to explore a new part of Northern California…with a very handsome boy.

TdNC: Carmel-by-the-Sea coming soon…

California Dreams

Being in a long distance relationship is hard. Traveling an average of 280 days a year for your job is hard. Put the two together and there is nothing but a whole lot of time and distance between you and the person you want to be with the most. My boyfriend lives in Aspen and I, in hotels all over the world, which makes it even harder for us to find time to see each other but when we do, we are always reminded of how blessed we are and why we continue to make the constant effort through all the miles and time apart.

The one upside to all the time apart is that Aspen is an incredible place to visit (summer, fall, winter, spring) and I usually have the opportunity to extend my work trips so we have had the opportunity to share some great experiences in some incredible destinations.

 Last week after I wrapped up a three week program in Napa my beau flew out from Colorado to join me on the road…we called it our Tour de Northern California, it was the perfect trip. Besides our Napa agenda, we had no real plans so we could stop whenever, sleep wherever, and eat whatever…it was fun, easy, relaxing, and adventurous.

Often, when coming home from vacation (non beach) people say they, “need a vacation from their vacation”, which is true, vacations are exhausting! You wake up early, get ready for the day, head out sometimes for 10-12 hours exploring and touring, eat, pass out and do it all over again day after day of your trip and by the time you pack your bags and travel all the way home all you want to do is hibernate for a week. Although we did a LOT of moving, we felt relaxed knowing we could do whatever we wanted. All of our belongings were in the car and we cruised at our leisure. I highly recommend taking a trip like this once in a while. No time frame, no reservations, no plans…just you, your person, and a map (I used my iphone GPS until I had zero service for two entire days while cruising the PCH). So pick a region and explore…trust me on this.

More to come on the TdNC which included Napa, Carmel by the Sea, Big Sur, San Simeon and San Francisco…