California Dreamin’

My first trip to the Napa Valley area will forever be one to cherish. My dear friend Jason was celebrating his 50th birthday, and what better way for a wine aficionado to celebrate than to visit the wineries? That said, along the way I met some wonderful, knowledgeable people who help make this a memorable experience of a lifetime.

First and formost, our group stayed at the Bardessono resort in Yountville, a newly defined experience in hospitality that weds living “deep green” with Luxury. My kind of place – and yes, I had something to do with coordinating this. Named after the Bardessono family farmstead, this hotel’s gardens and design captured my heart and will forever be the iconic foundation of my memories of the wineries. For example, a majestic two hundred-year-old oak tree was saved to become the anchor and focal point of the courtyard. That’s my kind of hotel. Plus the design aesthetic of the rooms, spa, and common areas was unique, upscale, and with a modern rustic feel.

One morning, I met Noel in the lobby watering the walls decorated with Illandsia, which are also known as Airplants Tilly’s. These amazing plants created living art on the walls of the lobby. I learned from the best as Noel was extremely helpful and dedicated to follow-up with all the information I needed to start my own collection.

Drink, drink and drink some more, as the days were filled with 3-4 wineries, too many names to mention, so I will highlight those that were a must-see/must-do while in Napa.

The Wines of Robert Sinskey Vineyards are fine wines from organic vines and Becky was our pourer and could not have been lovelier. The Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 was my favorite and of course, knowing my ability to always spot the expensive stuff, it had a price tag of $90.00.

The Rubicon Estate was a stone Chateau built in 1880, and – fittingly, since it is now owned by famed film director Francis Coppola – had a wonderful sign from the road reading “proceed to the red carpet.” Here one was given a passport style booklet with room for note-taking and information on the winery. Sofia, a Rosé 2009 was a must-have.

The Beringer Estates winery took my breath away the moment we arrived. The Rhine House, built in 1883, was recently renovated to its former glory, and the gardens became an inspiration for even me. I must recreate the outdoor fireplace seating area!

While being shown about by our excellent guide, Bill, and wandering into the ancient caves where the wine was originally aged, we learned that Beringer was one of two wineries which were still allowed to produce during the six years of Prohibition: for sacramental wine, and also to make wine for “medicinal purposes”. Turns out it was not uncommon for wise (and crafty) doctors to prescribe 3 glasses of wine a day to their patients as a slick way to get around the prudish laws of the time. Luckily, today any Napa Valley visitor merely has to show ID!

It was time to drive to San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge. I was able to see all the way across, then stopping at a viewpoint in the adjacent park. Atop some steep – and apparently dangerous – cliffs, I gazed out across the opening to the bay, standing only a few feet away from the remains of gunnery placements that were constructed during WWII after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I parked my car and jumped on a Cable Car. My conductor, Cassandra, had my safety in mind so much so she had to be firm with a few people when getting on! Ok, truth be told it was me, I broke the ice by commenting “You’re firm with us and you’re so pretty too.” We got talking, and it turns out she has a wicked sense of humor, and our chat really made my cable car experience even more special.

All in all, my trip was exciting and special and momentous. I can truly say there was nothing, not one thing to “wine” about.