Oh Napa, how I love you. I just returned from a somewhat impromptu (for me, the eternal planner) trip to Napa Valley with two of my best girlfriends. It was a much-needed break after the insane month of October where I juggled my full-time job along with the busiest month of the year for my photography business, as well as some other fun things mixed in. I think the consensus was that all three of us did not want to leave. We’re already dreaming of when we can return to wine country.
Upon the recommendation of a friend and her fiance who frequent the Napa/Sonoma area, we hired a driver for 2 days. Her name is Denise, and I’d gladly recommend her to anyone traveling there — she was amazing!! She really was so much more than a driver — she was more of a concierge. Denise was completely invested in our trip and truly wanted to help us make the most of each day. Without her, we would have missed out on some great little wineries, places to eat, photo ops, and just a general good time.
Winery 1:: Our first stop of the trip was Raymond Vineyards, which was one our friend Ashley’s (also known as Cheese) favorites on her first visit to Napa. The property is so pretty and even more interesting. Giant hanging frames make the best photo op outside, bronze sculptural hands hold wine bottles over the tasting bar, and there are several rooms to visit inside.
The Corridor of Senses allows you to smell a variety of different scents and flavors that you might find in different wines — our favorites ranged from berries to pepper. Least favorite was definitely the truffle! Some other experiences include the Red Room, Crystal Cellar, and Rutherford Terroir Room (filled with 16 different soil samples from around Napa, which each contribute to differences in the grapes grown in those areas). Such a neat place to introduce us to the Napa wine scene!
Winery 2:: On our way to the next stop, Denise suggested we stop by Cairdean Estate, a relatively new vineyard and winery. Our host Deano was so much fun, and we loved that he talked to us about the wines in a very unpretentious way. Plus, we had the place all to ourselves, which was a treat! Cairdean is Scottish Gaelic for “friends,” which reflects their belief that wine is meant to be shared by those held close to your heart…. that couldn’t have been more fitting for our little traveling trio. Of the 5 wines we tasted, I loved their Rose and Zin the most. Read more about this family-owned winery here!
Winery 3:: Ehlers Estate was on my friend Danielle’s list after having previously tasted one of their wines at a restaurant.This historic property dates back to 1886, and it has so much rustic charm. One of my favorite things we learned about Ehlers is the meaning behind both the heart in the “E” logo and the name of one of their wines, One Twenty Over Eighty. As you might guess, the meaning is related to the heart. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their wines go directly to the Leducq Foundation, which was created to support international cardiovascular research.
Lunch:: Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which turned out to be the dining highlight of our trip. The restaurant itself was rustic and gorgeous, and it was set on a beautiful property. We stuffed ourselves with a hot cheese and olive oil starter, as well as huge bacon cheeseburgers with home fries and the most delicious chicken and mac n cheese dish — and local wine, of course.
Winery 4:: The last stop of the day was Del Dotto Vineyards in St. Helena. This particular location is modeled after a Venetian Estate, and it was quite grand… maybe a tad ostentatious. We were really excited about the cave tour and the large number of tastings they’re known for; although it turned out to not be much of a “tour,” per se, it was still a fun experience. Aside from being in such a beautiful, candlelit cave, we really enjoyed tasting and comparing wines that were aged in either American or French oak barrels — and the charcuterie and cheese platter at the end was a nice touch!
Dinner:: Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa. I adored this fall decor surrounding the steps at the entrance to the restaurant. How fun is that wine opener sculpture? The restaurant was quaint, but very lively and homey. A kitty cat even took up residence there and was being fed dinner as we left. We started with the most delicious, homemade ciabatta bread dipped in spicy olive oil and continued the meal with three different pasta dishes. I was far too full from our day of tastings to make a dent in my bolognese pasta, but what I did have hit the spot.
Day 1 in Napa couldn’t have been more perfect! Wine country in the fall is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to share our adventures in biking and wining with you next!