Napa is a stones throw from my grandparents backyard, literally 35 miles. Napa has always seemed like an unattainable destination that was designed for the rich to bask in the shade of vineyards while sipping a vintage Merlot. Never did I think I could afford a trip to the world famous Napa Valley.
First misconception is that it’s far, it isn’t far at all, traffic is the main obstacle. Depending on where you are in the Bay Area, a trip to Napa can be less than an hours drive. Problem is, there isn’t a main highway, you are on a two lane back road and in some areas the speed limit is 35 miles per hour. My suggestion is to get up early and drive up so you can appreciate the small town loveliness the closer you get into wine country. This also gives you room to do a winery hop before the crowds. Check the opening times prior to leaving but as I observed, many winery’s opened as early as 9:30.
The second misconception is that it is expensive, I always plan to spend a little more in California. The cost of a bottle may seem a but pricey, but you aren’t required to buy a bottle, work within your budget. Many vineyards allow you to explore the grounds at no cost, and purchase wine by the glass, you do not have to do a full tasting. So if you wanted, you could drive up, have a 10 dollar glass of Zinfandel, relax in nature, and go home. Since I was visiting, I wanted a full castle tour, tasting and to see a few vineyards because who ever knows if they will return to any destination.
Castello di Amorosa
Who wouldn’t feel like a princess walking into this castle. Castello di Amorosa has the type of rustic beauty that encourages you to walk the halls and dream about how you could spend your time in the rooms you are allowed to explore. For 30 dollars I was able to explore 2 sections of the castle, the full castle grounds and enjoy a wine tasting that included 5 selections.
A Wine Lovers Dream
Meet the winemakers, view a short video and see the wine making process. Explore the temperature controlled areas and see how wine is stored, yes those barrels are full of wine. No I wasn’t able to open the tap, but just being in a room with that much wine at my disposal was comforting. Not only can you sip wine, but I planned a full Game of Thrones themed party after seeing the dining hall.
For whatever reason I forgot to take pictures while in the tasting room so I will paint a visual picture for you. The tasting room is on the bottom floor of the castle, this is also where the shops are located. Not only should you sip, but buy a few wine infused soaps, the Cabernet Soapignon was my favorite, I also found lavender sage smudges . Tasting requires you to spend some time enjoying the use of all your senses. The room is dimly lit, the bottles are glowing, the glasses swirling with sweet reds and dry whites, the slight hint of garlic waifs around the room, people stand around all smiles, taking sips, pondering, and nodding their heads in agreement or indifference. I know for me personally after the third tasting, all of the flavors blended together. I also ate an impolite amount of bread sticks to minimize my buzz since I didn’t eat much prior to the trip. Nonalcoholic options are available, and the kiddies enjoy superior quality sparkling grape juice in champagne flutes.
Do Not Kiss The Animals! I Tried!
Roam the gardens after your tasting, have some fun with the animals. Though this ostrich isn’t smiling, I know my company was enjoyed. Yes this is a vineyard and yes the goal is to sip wine, but this can be a great family outing for all ages. I would also recommend this as a date option if you want to get romantical, anyone who doesn’t enjoy the day here, isn’t the one for you!
The Vineyards at Castello
The view driving in was just as splendid while driving out! Off to the next vineyard!
This vineyard is a perfect place for tranquility. If you want to sit amidst the gardens and sip, while listening to birds, and smelling the flowers in bloom, this is the vineyard for you. No formal tour was needed, we simply purchased a glass of Zinfandel and roamed in isolation. This vineyard is the perfect place to spend the day doing a lot of nothing, if I thought I could get away with it, I might have laid down for a nap. The cellars were nothing short of spectacular, very cool, full of light, and I enjoyed the display of bottles, wish I could say I was responsible for drinking all of the wine. The simple beauty is reason enough to return to Rombauer.
My Favorite Moment
Even though my son made sure to tell me that he “wasn’t a middle aged woman, so why should he be excited to be in Napa, but it’s cool” I know he enjoyed the day and will look back on this tender moment. Many times we put love in a box and make determinations about how others should express their love. To over hear my cousin who has always been more like a big sister, speaking love into my child, warmed my heart. It is always good for children to receive wisdom from someone other than their parents, and the conversation was priceless! This despite all of the events of the day, the beauty, the wine, the food, this was my favorite moment.
Dinner at Rutherford Grill
Nothing could have been a better addition to this day except a spectacular meal before the drive home. Rutherford Grill is well worth the price for any selection. I decided to go with a vegetarian option because they believe in providing fresh seasonal selections. Meat was not missed, and the vegetables were crisp, flavorful and delicious. Though not pictured, the Rosemary Focaccia and Olives is a great starter, especially if you are having a drink while waiting on your meal. My only suggestion, if you have a teen who loves steak, please know that The Hawaiian is forty dollars before they order. I made the mistake and forgot my son has an expensive pallet!
Recomendations and Suggestions
- GO EARLY
- EAT A FULL BREAKFAST OR YOU WILL BE DRUNK BEFORE 10
- YES TAKE YOUR KIDS
- PREPARE FOR MOMENTS OF PEAK TIME TRAFFIC
- SMELL THE WINE BEFORE YOU SIP
- TAKE A MOMENT TO ENJOY NATURE IN ISOLATION
May we all enjoy a day full of Merlot, living, loving and calming our nerves~Ny