Wednesday, January 31, 2018

San Francisco and Napa Valley

Yesterday was our last day in Napa which theoretically meant that it was our last day to start tasting wine drinking before noon, but gosh darn it, we still had a bottle of Taittinger to take care of (because I don't check luggage) so......

(Oopsy.....I started writing this on Saturday)

We all agreed over a fabulous meal at SPQR last night that this was our best trip to Napa by far.  A combination of mostly perfect weather, a laid-back, just-the-right-amount tasting schedule, an inspired choice of wineries and restaurants, Exclusive Resorts accommodations, and MAYBE the fact that one of is now a restaurant owner which means complimentary tastings and discount wine prices.  MAYBE!

Let's start with the ER properties

I love the Ghiradelli property in San Fran because of the location.  Although it can be a little loud, the Bay views and easy accessibility to walking is the best.

This is a view from Unit #306 which the bellman claimed was his favorite of the ER units.  We also stayed in #400 before heading to Napa and I much prefer the ones in the main building.  

Ghiradelli is extremely convenient if you enjoy a morning walk along the water.  You can head one direction for a walk up through Fort Mason towards the Golden Gate Bridge or the other direction along the wharf towards where there are tons of restaurants and shopping and if you go far enough you'll end up at the Ferry Building.

While in Napa we opted for the Carneros Resort and Spa location.  Our friends had stayed here several years ago when Plumpjack owned them and loved the little one bedroom casitas.  Since then it's sold and expanded including the two and three bedroom units of which ER owns four.  We had originally booked #12 for Monday through Thursday but when we checked into the unit, we immediately felt so comfortable we decided to ask if we could stay until Friday morning.  If we'd be willing to move to unit #3 we were welcome to stay.  I'm so glad we did this because....A) MORE WINE TASTINGS and B) we got to check out another unit.  This proved valuable.....while #12 has three bedrooms and is on the backside of the property, #3 has two bedrooms but an extremely comfortable den/tv room and is nearer to the front side/road.  I'll take #12 all day/everyday.  I'll give up the comfortable den/tv room for quiet any day of the week.  Unit #3 backs up to Sonoma Highway and that SOB is busy ALL NIGHT LONG.  And we were there in January.  I can't imagine the noise during the Fall/busy season, let along during harvest with the semi's trucking fruit.  Oh and there's a water fountain running all night right outside your bedroom.  If it hadn't been 30 degrees I'd have gone out at 2:00am and unplugged it.

The courtyard of unit fountain!!

The rest of the property is very pituresque......a great place to walk with views of the rolling valley, plenty of places to eat, drink wine with friends, relax and use as a great home base for days of exploring the Napa Valley.  The spa was undergoing renovations while we were there so I can't report on that.

The Inn is on the south side of the Valley close the downtown Napa, so it does require a bit of a commute to most the the wineries we visited, but it's worth it.


San Francisco.

Hubs and I arrived on Saturday and our friends weren't joining us until Sunday afternoon, so after we checked into Ghiradelli, we headed to the Ferry Building to stock up on charcuterie, cheese and vino for the week.

We bellied up to the bar at boulettes larder and chowed on some anchovies and then we might have hit up Humphry Slocombe.....

Prather Ranch Mat Company, Cowgirl Creamery, and WINE

Our friends arrived on Sunday afternoon and we drank Champagne and snacked on cheese and charcuterie while watching Philly eviscerate Minnesota and Brady stage yet another comeback.

Dinner was at the charming Sons & Daughters.  Be warned that the only serve a nine-course tasting menu either with or without a wine pairing.  Tasting menus are usually way too much food for my taste but these were small portions and I didn't leave feeling miserable but was thankful for that lycra in my jeans.....

Monterey Bay abalone with charred limequat and creamed burdock root

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McFarland Springs rainbow trout with smoked clams over bomba rice and saffron butter

Meyer lemon ice cream in a waffle cone with juniper marmalade

The next morning we were off to Napa with a quick spin through Berkeley hoping to score a table for lunch at Chez Pannise.   (The main restaurant is not open for lunch so we were seated in the upstairs Cafe.)   We got there shortly after they opened and walked right in.  BOOM!  This has long been a bucket list item for me, so I was stoked.

Our friends, the Rose's....

For heaven's sake get the Rocket Salad.  So delish.

This guy knows how to put on a show!

As you can see the place was full when we left, so we got lucky by getting there early.  It was also a Monday so that may have helped.  If you're in the area, go.  It more than lived up to all of the praise that's been heaped on it through the years...the food, the service, the atmosphere....well done.

We took the liberty of walking into the main dining room on our way out and the staff was prepping for dinner.  They invited us in to take a look around......OK!!!


Because we started our "day drinking" every morning with a 10am tasting, by lunch time we were in need of some substantial chow.  Also because we continued those tastings into the afternoon.  Three of the four places we lunched I'd highly recommend.  The fourth, Tra Vigne Pizzeria, wasn't bad really.....just not that memorable.  Farmstead, which is part of the Long Meadow Ranch winery, was absolutely memorable.

We may have ordered every item in the "For the Table" section.  What?  I said we needed substantial sustenance.

The concensus favorites were the Mini Ham Sandwiches with Pepper Jelly, the Deviled Eggs with Pimento Cheese, and the Wood Grilled Artichoke.

We got a second order of these babies.

We also tried their ribs......a little on the dry side.

I told you we enjoyed it

The next day we bellied up at Bottega.....Michael Chiarello's place in Yountville.  Oh man......

Octopus chandeliers

Shaved Brussels Sprout salad


Buratta with Baby Artichokes

There's a really cute gift shop across from the restaurant that took a lot of restraint on my part.

biggest wine glasses evah.....dilly dilly!!

After our last tasting on Friday, we stumbled upon a tasty little greek place called Tarla in downtown Napa where hubs and I had THE most delicious octopus salad with crunchy chickpeas that I have to try to recreate someday when I'm brave enough to attempt cooking octopus.  

Perfectly cooked octopus, crunchy chickpeas, beets, arugula, and citrus.  O..M..G..

Our last night back in the city we were able to score an early reservation at SPQR.  A very popular Italian restaurant that I'd tried and failed to get into the last time we were in the city.  

Horrible pic but damn delicious....housemade smoked pasta with sea urchin and a softly poached egg.  To die.

And that pretty much sums up why all of my pants are a little snug and why I've committed to doing a burpee challenge everyday for the month of February.  Ugh.

Let's get to the vino, shall we.

Your first stop in the Napa Valley should always be Domaine Carneros, because....BUBBLES!!

Our first reservation on Tuesday was with Sal at Frank Family Vineyards.  What a pleasant little surprise!  Highly recommend their Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine.

Check out those Emmy Awards in the background!

Someone had trouble hitting the dump bucket!  We won't be invited back.

Like I mentioned earlier it's handy to take friends to wine country that are restaurant owners because they can get you a private tasting and tour at places like Bond.  This was most def the highlight of the trip.

They greet you with a bottle of Krug and incredible views!

And then they let you taste the 2007 vintage of St. Eden.  Actually, we finished the bottle!

It cleared up enough by the end we got a view of the Harlan property.

My other favorite had to be Cardinale.  Our guide, Marcelo, had a long history in the restaurant industry and was extremely knowledgeable about putting together wine lists so it was fun for our friends to pick his brain a bit.  Oh.....and their wines ain't bad either!  If you come across the Mt. Brave Cab, give it a try.

We also tasted at Schweiger Vineyards, Cakebread Cellars, Elyse, Far Niente, Robert Sinskey (Lurve their Rosé).

Oh and Cade.....where the dude allowed us to taste while never letting us forget that they don't do walk-in tastings.  Love their wine, but they probably won't get anymore of my $$$.

There you have it!  
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