Cue the theme song for the Beverly Hillbillies, just kidding! So, I turned 40 in September, and I’ll have to admit, I was dreading it! Earlier in the year, I told Greg that we had to do something fun to celebrate my birthday or I would end up being super depressed. No pressure, right? I was completely surprised when he suggested we go to California to visit Seth and Cheryl, and then spend a couple days in Napa. Umm, I’m not gonna lie, I was excited, but if I’m going to be honest, I was intimidated by the thought of going to Napa. This girl is drinking boxed wine most nights! I don’t spend $25 on a bottle of wine…ever. I had very important questions running through my head like how do you taste wine without looking like a fool, and what the heck do I wear???
For someone who had never been to Napa, I was relieved to find out that NONE OF THIS MATTERS! First of all, there is an art to tasting wine, but you can save that for impressing your friends at home. It’s really a no-pressure environment and here’s the scoop…no one cares what you wear. You see everything from jeans to dresses, shorts and tank tops to khakis. You won’t be overdressed or under-dressed. The dress in the pic above was $3 at the Goodwill. Take that Napa!
**Funny side note – We flew into Oakland and headed to the rental car center. Our sales guy was taking us around the lot and I jokingly told him to find me something good because it was my birthday. We wandered around the lot for a while passing by lots of options. Finally, he turned around and said, “I can’t find anything good enough for your birthday, so you can have that BMW or the Caddy…no upcharge.” I was totally freaking out and all I could say was, “Seriously!?!?”… I grabbed the keys to the BMW and we hurried up and took off before he could change his mind! Happy Birthday to me, right?!**
We had been up since 3 am EST and it was now 10:30 PST. However the math works out, we were crazy hungry and had a day of wine tasting ahead, so we had to find a place to eat. We were driving to our first winery by this time, so on the suggestion of a friend we stopped at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena. I was afraid that they weren’t serving food at 10:30, but very relieved to find out they were! I have to say, maybe it was because I was starving, but probably not…I had the best burger of my life! Go get one if you’re there. You won’t regret it!
Let me say something about the food – there are no adequate words to describe the food in Napa. That’s a whole other post. It’s incredible, and every meal we ate was amazing…even breakfast at the hotel!
Here’s a run-down of the wineries that we visited.
CASTILLO DI AMOROSA
At Castillo Di Amorosa, the views were absolutely incredible as you can see! We went on a self-guided tour of the castle before our tasting. It truly is a castle complete with a great hall, chapel, courtyard, knights’s chamber and defensive towers. It was constructed over 20 years ago to look like an authentic 13th-century Tuscan castle. You do not need a reservation unless you want a guided tour or food and wine pairing. We read up on the history of the castle beforehand so that we could explore on our own. Our tour ended with a wine tasting in the cellar.
Our next stop was at V. Sattui Winery. We didn’t schedule a tour and no reservation was required…just walk right up to the bar for your wine tasting. They have a gift shop/deli where you can create your own picnic. The picnic grounds are beautiful and you can sit under the trees while enjoying your picnic lunch with your favorite bottle of wine. What’s not to love?! It’s completely casual and relaxed.
We squeezed in one more stop for the day at Robert Mondavi. We hadn’t planned it, but we were on our way back to our hotel and the winery was just so beautiful from the road that we had to pull in. The thing to note here is that you can do this just about everywhere. You really don’t need an itinerary unless there is somewhere specific you want to go and/or you have a reservation for a tour/tasting. I really liked Robert Mondavi because it’s super casual and you can opt for a tasting or just have a glass of wine. They pour your tasting (4 glasses) and you can take that wherever you want. You don’t have to hang out at the bar the whole time.
I think Frog’s Leap may have been my favorite. We scheduled a guided tour and tasting for $25 per person. They gave us hats and our tour guide filled our wineglasses as we toured the grounds. Frog’s Leap grows a variety of fruits and vegetables which we were able to sample as we toured the grounds. Nothing like pulling a fresh fig off of the tree to eat while you’re tasting your wine!
Just like at Robert Mondavi, we were driving down Highway 29 and had to stop when we saw Beringer. It was literally calling to us from the road! The house is free to tour and they have a gift shop inside. We chose to do the Legacy Cave tour (really is a cave!) which was $30 per person and we just bought our tickets on site.
Last, but not least, we traveled about 30 min from Napa to Sonoma to spent half of the day. We strolled the downtown streets, wandering in and out of shops looking for souvenirs for the kids.
Sonoma Plaza Park
Mission San Fransico Solano
That’s a mannequin in the booth! And this is another dress from the Goodwill, ha!
Our last winery stop was at B.R. Cohn in Sonoma. We didn’t know much about the history of the winery until we struck up a conversation with our server. The winery is owned by Bruce Cohn, manager of The Doobie Brothers. Evidence of The Doobie Brothers hangs all over the walls of the winery. Tastings are$20 per person and we did book in advance. There is a gourmet shop is right around the corner where you can get a quick snack. So cute!
This was our trip to wine country and these wineries are a great kickoff for those visiting Napa/Sonoma for the first time. If you’re looking for a place to stay, Cheryl and I both stayed at The River Terrace Inn on separate trips and we loved it. Cheryl even got a crazy deal on her room through Hotwire.
We had the best time in the Napa and Sonoma! Driving through wine country was like heaven, seriously! I’d go back just to drive up and down Highway 29, but I might pull in and have a glass of wine while I’m at it.