When traveling without your first born kiddo, you might as well drink–especially if that drinking happens to be in an environment as beautiful as Napa Valley, California.
We’ve only been away from Ava a couple times, the first time we went to Whistler (and we had to go back with her) and a quick trip to the Comal River. We just spent another three nights away, with our best friends, celebrating our birthdays in Napa.
Some things we learned:
- Don’t fly into SFO. Get across the bay into Oakland, or even better, fly into Sacramento.
- Book your hotel with points. We ended up staying some place much nicer than originally planned, and all for free since we used our Chase Sapphire Reserve rewards points.
- If you’re going to go in February or March, bring shoes and a jacket that can withstand the rain.
- Limit yourself to 3 to 4 wineries a day.
- Eat breakfast.
- Make sure you take an opportunity to enjoy sandwiches from Sunshine Foods Market and burgers (specifically the California burger) from Gott’s Burgers.
- Make reservations for dinner early.
- Nap after wineries and before dinner.
We hired a driver (by recommendation from a fellow Style MD doc) through PFWineTours. Anjanette and Michael were fantastic drivers. Anjanette was very knowledgable about the area and even brought a couple pups to enjoy the day with us. Don’t worry, she asks if its ok before she brings them. She will help you develop an itinerary that fits your palette and your experience, and you destined to have a great time.
Now onto the wineries and our own opinions:
Frog’s Leap. This was our first stop. Our host, Laura, was great. The vineyard itself is beautiful. The wines were decent, but the porch tasting and environment were truly enjoyable. This was a great way to start our trip.
We then went to Aonair. This stop was our favorite. Our host, Chad, was laid back and just our type. He was the complete opposite of snooty. We enjoyed our sandwiches from Sunshine Foods while sipping on their wines inside by the fire. The view from here is pretty spectacular. If you get a chance to visit, you really should.
We followed Aonair with a trip to Larkmead. Larkmead was very professional and the decor was just fantastic. Granted, it was exactly my kind of thing. One of the owners is also an artist which makes for some neat art on the walls as well. The tasting room offers some pretty amazing views and would be even more wonderful to enjoy on a warm day. We really loved the white wines here (which is probably the only place we felt this way about).
We finished our first day at Hans Fahden. This is a very small boutique winery and one of the few in Napa that can host weddings. Their reds are very tasty. We enjoyed the tasting in the caves–laid back and not at all over the top.
On Saturday, we visited four more wineries.
We started our day at Del Dotto‘s St. Helena location. They have three locations and this is sort of a combination of the other two. Our host, Mike, was outstanding. He does great impressions, is super knowledgable about wine, unpretentious, and made it a lot of fun. Not to mention you taste straight out of the barrel, in the caves, and finish it all off with cheese, salamis, and pizza!
After a big start at Del Dotto, we visited Reverie II. This winery is owned by the same owner as our favorite, Aonair. The home on the winery property is available to rent to members and may make it worth the membership just for that purpose! We enjoyed the wine and the views by the fire on a rainy day and had a fantastic, laid back host as well.
Continuing on the boutique winery tours, we visited Keenan next. Their winery grounds and the view from the balcony are to die for. You get to taste 10 (yes, 10!) wines here which can be slightly overwhelming when it comes to choosing one. This was a laid back place where you pull up to a bar to enjoy the wines with your friends.
Last, we finished at Hall Wines. This was the most commercial feeling of all the wineries–you can feel it as soon as you pull up to the winery. The grounds are beautiful and you can enjoy the view from the large patio with a nice long fire pit that everyone can enjoy. Then to top it off, their cabernets are just fabulous, every one of them, but they get better as you go.
Before we left town we enjoyed a dinner date at Bouchon. This is a lovely French restaurant with great takes on fresh seafood, cocktails, and steak frites. I thoroughly enjoyed the mussels in saffron sauce. I wish I’d had a chance to have a cocktail (or two), but I was too busy enjoying the wine.
What’s your favorite place to travel sans children? Do you have favorite wineries too?