Posted by: Shannon @ A Dash of Sparkle | November 27, 2013

San Francisco/Wine Country Trip: Part 2

During my previous two trips to Wine Country, I hit up Sonoma once and Napa once, but only spent a day in each. I knew my mom, godmother and I were going to want a bit more time to explore, so we spent two days and two nights in beautiful Napa Valley as the second part of our Girls Trip.

I used to work at a fine dining restaurant in Tampa called Mise En Place (which I still love for special occasions) that included a lot of wines and therefor wine education, and I’ve wanted to get to some of my favorite wine makers’ wineries ever since. Finally, my wish came true.

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We headed out over the Golden Gate Bridge in the mid morning…

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And we arrived before lunch in Napa, so we stopped at our first winery, Stag’s Leap, to eat our sandwiches we brought with us and then began our wine tasting experiences!

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Something that was different from my last trip was the tasting prices. I swear the prices were around $10 for your normal wine flight (not the reserved flights), which includes 3-4 wines usually), but this time the cheapest one I saw was here at Stag’s Leap for $15. Typically you have someone that will be standing behind a bar that pours your wine and bounces from different groups of people tasting wine. Stag’s Leap was very right on par with that norm.

Our wine guide was friendly and knowledgeable though, but he pretty much just stuck with the menu – no adventurous deviations. To save on money and ensure that we wouldn’t be drunkers after our first stop, the three of us actually split one tasting flight (which included four wines) which was about 50-50 white and red.

Overall, it was a great first stop, but I think the location and landscaping was more impressive than their wines.

We were in Napa to taste wine so we didn’t venture too far after Stag’s Leap winery before stopping at our second winery, Pine Ridge Vineyards, which was sort of a spontaneous stop as we were driving along. This was very different from our first stop, since this Vineyard came across as a bit smaller and more personable.

You park right next to their “teaching vineyard” which allows visitors to get up close and personal with the vines…

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They even host special events in this section of their vineyard too, which was really cool.

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Our tasting experience here was very different because we sat outside on their patio, which was gorgeous, and a wine host/server tended to our shared tasting flight and provided a ridiculous amount of information about the wines and vineyard. He even gave us a taste of a wine off our tasting menu, which we really appreciated.

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By halfway through our tasting we were all feeling pretty good, especially when our wine host dropped off some bread sticks, which was just a fabulous little touch. We learned that they did offer a cheese, fruit and bread paired wine tasting flight, but you have to make reservations for it beforehand. If I ever go back, I shall definitely be doing that again.

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(All smiles from my mom and godmother)

We didn’t do any tours here, but I did get to peak inside the cellar that sits right next door to the tasting room, which was pretty cool…

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I also bought some fun custom seasonings and salts from here… hello early holiday shopping!

After two wineries/tastings, we were ready to check-in to our hotel and locate a dinner spot. We chose a highly recommended restaurant in downtown Napa called Carpe Diem Wine Bar, which was totally and completely a home run.20131125-221105.jpg

Not only did we score a FREE bowl of their truffle popcorn (thank you Foursquare check-in special!), but they had great wine flights and amazing food.

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I ended up getting a salad and flat bread, followed by yummy dessert, so I left very full and satisfied. Highly recommend this fun stop for a dinner if you find yourself in Napa.

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On our second day, we fulfilled my wine dreams and visited TWO of my favorite wine makers…

The first, and probably my favorite from the trip, was Robert Sinskey Vineyards where we indulged in some of the best cabernet souvignon I’ve tasted.

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Their tasting room is setup so that you can see the kitchen they prepare the little bites that go with your wine tasting (profiteroles, cheese, seasoned oil almonds, and olives), among other meals they cater, which was pretty neat.

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This was my favorite tasting because our wine guide was super friendly and let us taste a couple wines that weren’t on our tasting flight menu. He definitely let us have more fun and gave us a lot of useful information about the wines and the vineyard.20131125-221124.jpg

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All three of us ended up actually buying some wine here, since it was just too good to leave.

Our fourth and final stop was at Honig Winery, which was the most interesting tasting experience we had. This wine maker has a very sustainability-focused approach to wine and business and they’re very up front about it. They also take a more unique one-on-one approach to wine tastings. You have one person that sits down with you to teach you about the history of the winery and each of the wines you taste. It’s pretty incredible, especially since both hosts we saw sitting with people (yes, you get your own table beneath the trees outside), were actually part of the family-owned business!

Honig only makes sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, but boy oh boy do they know how to make those two wine varieties. Totally delicious.

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I was the only one that really insisted on buying more wine, but I felt like the prices were well worth it and I know I have something to look forward to for when I crack that bottle open.

We capped our day off with a stop at Mustards Grill, which is a super cute restaurant that actually has a whole garden they let visitors meander through, and a very farm-to-table approach. We actually perused their gardens before going inside for dinner.

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(Not really sure what these are, so if you know, please let me know in the comments.)

Plus, they have this super cute sculptural water fountain out front that absolutely everyone (including me) had to stop and take pictures of…

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The food was amazing (with an impressing – and funny – wine list, of course) and we all left with happy bellies.

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The morning we left Napa, we had one final stop to make to round out our wine country visit. We had to stop at Carneros Inn’s Boon Fly Cafe for breakfast.

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I had the privilege of staying The Carneros Inn one night a while back and it was pretty cool, but I didn’t get to eat at their Cafe, so this was something I really wanted to try. All the ingredients were super fresh and the atmosphere is bright and energetic. So, even though you may have to wait a little while (they had us down at a 25-minute wait when we got there), it’s worth it. Their flat breads (at breakfast and lunch) are especially delicious and come highly recommend if you read reviews online.

Needless to say, we left Napa after two days feeling totally relaxed and well-fed.

The ride back to San Francisco went by really fast, even though we made a quick stop in the Marin Headlands, where we got some spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. You can even see the racing sail boats in the Bay (sort of)…

We did have to make one more last stop at The Ice Cream bar too…

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By the time my mom and I checked into our hotel by the airport on our last night of vacation, we were both so happy and tired. Not bad tired, but the kind of tired you get at the end of a trip where you’re satisfied, but also kind of ready to head back home.

We both agreed that the best part of the whole week long vacation was the time we got to spend with “just the girls.”

It was a truly amazing trip and even though I had a ridiculous amount of things to catch up on once I got home, it was such a memorable experience in so many ways. It was one of those trips that leaves you feeling like a better, wiser and well rounded (though I’m not sure why) individual.

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Responses

  1. Just now sitting down to enjoy this second blog of our time together! It truly was an awesome get-together! How did it get to be December though? Love you!


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