The two days of indulgence at the Napa Valley was heaven! We arrived on Wednesday at Napa early afternoon and immediately called into the Premium Shopping Factory Outlet – not the way I expected to kick off in the wine region but the girls rule and it is one of the better outlets as it focuses on the NY and other tops brands. The girls and Kerrie came out well clothed, luckily the credit card was somewhat assisted by Clark, Ezna and Franks birthday money for Molly and Emily (don’t worry mum and dad your birthday money has taken a beating in San Francisco). They both picked up new outfits and Emily partly satisfied her shoe fetish with some new shoes – however, as she keeps reminding me, we still need to find her some new sneakers.
We recovered from this shopping misdirection quickly and had lunch at Rutherfords Grill which is on the Napa Valley road about half way between Napa and Calistoga. The lunch was superb – Kerrie was happy to be eating off proper plates and cutlery – a larger number of general restaurants seem to use plastic or melamine. Highly recommend the lamb roast which both Molly and myself had. It is slow roasted over an open fire and has a subtle birch flavour.
Following lunch we went onto Calistoga to check in and have a swim (there was another shopping stop between lunch and Calistoga – argh!). Accommodation at Carlin Cottages in Calistoga was good. The place is nothing flash but the cottages did provide separate bedrooms and a separate kitchen. After two weeks of bunking in a room with the kids it was good to have a room of our own. After such a big lunch Kerrie and did a bottle of Zinfandel and some local cheese for dinner outside the cottage while the sun went down – a nice way to finish the day.
Thursday morning we went to the Old Faithful Geyser – one of those many things on this holiday that you have to do once, but only once. We hit four wineries for the day being Beringer, Grigich Hills, St Supery and Domaine Chandon. It takes a while to get around the wineries in Napa as it was very busy – bumper to bumper traffic up and down most of the valley. Beringer was the pick of the wineries. Obviously Domaine Chandon was very good but as it has nothing under $100 per bottle it doesn’t count.
Old Faithful Geyser
The wine to try at all is their Zinfandel as it is only grown in Italy, Croatia and California. Most do a Cabernet Sauvignon and few do a Merlot or Shiraz. They tend not to blend so most of their Cab Sav are straight up and if hey do blend it is generally only 3 to 6%. This appears to be the French influence as a large number of wineries are French owned. Obviously they do whites but I was focusing on reds as I had to drive.
Lunch on the Thursday was at Mustards Grill which once again is found along the Napa Valley highway. Only one meal to have at Mustards and that is their famous pork chop with their homemade Mustards. Mustards has a great reputation with locals but my pick was Rutherfords. I ate at Rutherfords last time I was in Napa and the meal was fantastic both times.
Yes – we also squeezed in another visit to the shops in between the wineries – Molly had to pick up some singlet shirts and Kerrie some PJ’s.
Friday we were off to San Francisco. We decided to drive down the Sonoma Valley to look at their wineries. At the end of the valley we swung across the bottom of Napa to go visit the Jelly Belly factory. Lucky we did as we managed to visit the pick of all the wineries being Domaine Carneros which is owned by Tattinger. I asked Kerrie if 10:30am was too early to try a sample of champagnes to which of course she answered NO! The girls had a glass of non-alcoholic wine soda each and we sat on the veranda drinking merrily.
From there we went onto the Jelly Belly factory and found a mini oasis for Kerrie. A manufacturing area where factory tours were being offered by all. We took the Jelly Belly factory tour and then the Budweiser factory tour – why because nothing goes better with a belly fully of jelly beans than free samples of Budweiser!!!
The Jelly Belly tour caught Kerrie out as just after Kerrie had told us (overheard by others) that the centres of jelly beans are not flavoured it is only the outer coating that is flavoured the tour guide announced that Jelly Belly jelly beans are the only ones where the centre is also flavoured. Kerrie’s expert advice went quiet after then!!! However her barrage questions didn’t stop!!!
We now have a car load of jelly beans samples but unfortunately I couldn’t take any of the Budweiser samples with me!!!