While enjoying my coffee on our balcony over the river, I waited for the knock on the door that would announce our custom breakfast had arrived. Such is life at the Milliken Creek Inn and Spa in Napa, CA where we recently spent three nights. The previous evening we sipped local wine and ate cheese in the garden, compliments of the Inn as well. And when we arrived, there were cold beverages and warm cookies available in the lobby. So far, so good.Despite leaving Palo Alto in bright sunshine to head north for Napa, our excitement for the photo opportunities as we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge were quickly squelched as the fog rolled in.Lunch at FISH on the harbor in Sausalito was delicious but we were freezing. Since it wasn’t really strolling around weather we got back in the car and watched the temperature soar as we headed to Napa.
By the time we made our first vineyard stop at Domaine Carneros, it was a beautiful, sunny, dry day! The chateau at the winery is incredibly picturesque and we stopped just because we saw it from the highway. Despite requiring reservations, we were able to squeeze in and wisely chose to split one wine tasting. We still had a few miles to drive and didn’t want to risk any damage to our rental car.
Speaking of rental cars…we rented a Porsche through Turo, a car-sharing business — something like airbnb for cars. We rented from a woman named Janet and her husband met us at the Turo lot near SFO. On our return trip, he met us at the airport terminal. We pulled up, unloaded our small bags (not much trunk space in a Porsche!) and were in the terminal in less than two minutes. It was easy and fun…except when I was yelling at Ron to slow down!Since we had been so well fed by our machatunim (a Yiddish word for our son’s in-law’s) over the weekend, we decided to skip dinner and share a late afternoon soft serve espresso ice cream with toasted coconut from Miminashi and then relax and enjoy the complimentary wine and cheese provided by our Inn.With over 500 wineries in Napa Valley, it can be overwhelming trying to plan your day. We ruled out wineries that required advance appointments and decided to start at Robert Mondavi Winery since they provide a tour as well as tastings. Our guide led us through the vineyard, to the cellar and then to the tasting room, providing basic information to our small group. His talk was fairly scripted and superficial but still worthwhile. As we finished tasting our 5th glass, our guide asked a woman in the group if she liked the wine. She replied in a southern accent…“I don’t really like wine, I only drink it when I am getting my hair coloured…” I thought that was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time!We had lunch at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. It was just what we needed after a morning of wine tasting! Great food and a fun place to wander with tractors and vegetable gardens and a general store.Our plan was a second winery visit after lunch but we just couldn’t muster the interest in more wine! All the wineries charge for tasting so we decided to spend our money on gelato instead at Kollar Chocolates in Yountville and bought a baguette from Bouchon Bakery to augment the daily wine and cheese at Milliken Creek Inn.
Day two, and breakfast was once again delivered to our door so after enjoying it on our riverside balcony we set off for more daydrinking!This time we chose HALL wineries, they didn’t require an appointment, the Inn gave us a 2 for 1 card and recommended their sculptures. From Hwy 29, the thirty-five foot tall Bunny Foo Foo designed by Lawrence Argent was easy to spot. We really enjoyed HALL. The wine was delicious and they encouraged you to wander around the playful grounds, with your glass and enjoy the winery!
By the time we finished tasting 5 reds at HALL, we were ready for lunch! We decided on Gott’s Roadside in St Helena and enjoyed their burger and citrus & avocado chop.
By now we knew we couldn’t do two wineries in a day so we continued on Hwy 29 to wander around the town of Calistoga. It felt like an old Western town with lots of charm and character. We found some interesting shops and our afternoon ice cream at Calistoga Creamery.One evening we walked the riverfront in Napa and found this sculpture Moonrise catching the early evening light. On our last evening, we found our way to the grape crusher statue who sits atop a hill at the southern end of Napa. A 16 foot bronze statue by Gino Miles was installed in 1988 as a tribute to vineyard workers. The features were incredibly realistic, particularly as the sun set and highlighted the ash in the air from the recent fires in Northern Napa county.I had a list of places that we didn’t get to which is always an indication to me that I’d like to return to a place. We did a quick walk through the gift shop at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) and wished we had time for a meal at The Boon Fly Cafe. We stopped at the Oakville Grocery but we had just finished lunch so we had no room for their fantastic looking sandwiches. We only visited 3 of the 500 wineries in Napa and didn’t do any hiking… I guess we will have to return!