It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, I could say I was busy (aren’t we all) but I think more importantly I was spending time with my family. We are getting ready to start trying for a 2nd baby and I know even more now that I need to seize every moment of it being just the 3 of us. However, this past weekend I spent alone with my husband on a long weekend trip to Napa Valley. This was a first for both of us, however we have both been wine tasting before in and around Paso Robles. I decided to post the details of my trip in case anyone is interested in going up there that might read this blog! I’ve also included a ton of photos… Enjoy =)
After dropping our son off Thursday morning, we headed up north to Santa Barbara for lunch. I had heard many people talk about this Mexican place called Free Birds and so I knew we had to try it for ourselves. It was good, similar to Chipotle; I enjoyed a salad with brown rice, black beans, guacamole, and loads of pico de gallo. We sat outside watching the college students around us ride their bikes and skateboards to class, reminiscing about the ‘good ole days’ when we were in college. This trip was actually planned in honor of my 30th birthday. My actual birthday is in July but we decided to celebrate a few weeks early. As I look back on my 20’s I have to admit, those were some good years! Now on to the 30’s which I’m sure will be even better…
After lunch we headed up north a little further to San Luis Obispo (SLO) to visit our friends and stay overnight. I understand its not ½ way to Napa, but we hadn’t seen our friends in months and they are expecting their 1st little one very soon so we wanted to make sure we visited while it was just us adults. We look forward to seeing them again as they become a family of 3. We also got lucky because on Thursdays SLO happens to have a big farmer’s market downtown, where we ran into another friend from high school soccer (who also happens to be pregnant). So many babies around was making me miss my own and I was definitely getting a little sad that mine wasn’t there for the trip up north. But I knew once we got to Napa it wasn’t going to be so family friendly.
Friday morning we woke up early, said good-bye to our friends, and headed up north to Napa. It was about a 4 ½ hour drive to our first destination.
Now let me tell you something about Napa, you have to make reservations everywhere. That means for lunch, tasting, dinner, tours… it gets very busy and everything gets booked so it’s important to remember this before you head there on your trip. So do your research because there are lots of different options…
Our first destination on Friday was Auberge Du Soleil. It’s a beautiful resort and restaurant in Rutherford (just outside of Napa) overlooking the vineyards. When I was doing my research I wanted our first meal to overlook the vineyards and enjoy sparkling wine and delicious food. This restaurant was at the top of a lot of lists I researched and it definitely did not disappoint. Before our meal they served warm rosemary bread and creamy butter with sea salt on top. For our entrees, I enjoyed the scallops, my husband the halibut, and for dessert we had a strawberry tart. We also enjoyed their house sparkling wine which paired very well with the meal and the warm weather. Overall I’d give this restaurant an ‘A’ because of the food and most importantly because of the view. After lunch we headed to our second destination, Sterling Vineyards.
Sterling Vineyards is located in Calistoga, which is just north of our lunch destination in Napa Valley. Our friends recently got engaged there so we were looking forward to seeing the place in person for ourselves after hearing the stories. We each got the reserve tasting which was $35/person (after a $5 discount each). This included about 8 different varieties of wine, a souvenir wine glass, and a trip on the gondola which took you up to the winery itself. The grounds were beautiful and the self-tour offered a lot of history of the winery. Unfortunately, it appeared that some of the hosts pouring the wine didn’t seem to like their jobs or maybe they were just having a bad day and took it out on us guests. But by the end of the tour we had had enough wine and the hosts were much friendlier that I can say it was a good experience at the end of the day.
Matt was still hungry after our petite sized lunch so we stopped at the Ox Public Market in downtown Napa to browse the food selections. He ordered a fancy chicken taco from a food stand and it looked delicious. They had all these different varieties of tacos including fish, shellfish, beef, chicken…. Now it was finally time to check-in to our hotel which was located south in the heart of Napa. After hitting some afternoon traffic we made it to our place – Best Western Elm House Inn. Now you might be thinking, a Best Western? Really? This is a unique place to stay because it is independently owned. So therefore it was basically a bed and breakfast. The owners and front desk hosts were so friendly and helpful throughout our stay. We were greeted with cocktail hour which included champagne, crackers and cheese, and the most amazing chocolate chip cookies. On a side note: My husband considers himself the expert when it comes to chocolate chip cookies (we even served them as our wedding favor at our wedding from a local cookie shoppe) and he said, and I quote, “these are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world.” I enjoyed some champagne and we headed to our room to rest for a few minutes and get ready for dinner that night. The room was very large; it even had a separate vanity for getting ready that was not in the same room as the shower and toilet. It also included a flat screen television, large chairs for sitting, desk, and overall it was very quiet.
Dinner that evening was at a place called Brix located just north in Yountville. We were seated in the outside patio with a gorgeous view of the vineyards. We each ordered a glass of wine and were served rosemary bread with creamy butter and Hawaiian sea salt on top. For a starter we ordered battered (green and yellow) beans with aioli dipping sauce. It was all just too delicious. For our entrees, Matt ordered the Filet and I ordered scallops again. I just love scallops whenever I get the chance to order them. After dinner we walked around the garden and took a few photos. It seems like a lot of food but the portion sizes were always smaller than what we were used to at the typical ‘chain restaurants’ back at home. The price of course was also much higher than we were used to at home. Overall I’d give this restaurant an ‘A’ and recommend if you are looking for a romantic dinner in Napa to check this one out.
After dinner we came back to the hotel, changed into our bathing suits, and went down to the Jacuzzi. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a hot tub, and since I plan on getting pregnant soon, I probably won’t get to enjoy one again for at least another year. At the hot tub we chatted with a few other guests and they all agreed that they found this hotel through Trip Advisor (it was ranked #1 in case you wanted to know). They also shared a few tips that they had researched for restaurants and wineries. One that I really liked was the ‘Winery Finder Application’. We were able to get 2 for 1 tastings at almost all the wineries we visited using this application. It also helped me pick our wine tasting ‘route’ for the next day’s adventure – Napa Bike Tour.