Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wine Trip 2010: The Itinerary, Day 3

9:00am  One reason why Calistoga Inn will remain on my go-to list for affordable, comfortable lodging in Calistoga: their complimentary continental breakfast.  From 8 to 10am, they put out fresh OJ, coffee, water, apples, pears, bananas, homemade granola (delicious), english muffins (with toaster, peanut butter and blackberry jam), and coffee cake.  

9:30am Coffee at Calistoga Roastery. Clem and I checked out the Farmer's Market where there was an abundance of gorgeous produce (yes, gorgeous) and local crafts.  We bought a container of strawberries for later.  
And an antique car show was going on in Calistoga, so Daniel made it his goal to leave No Car Left Behind with his photography- which, much like the legislation I'm referencing, was a silly distraction from the real work that has to be done (for us, that work was wine consumption). 

10:30am Tofanelli Vineyard tour with Vince. A bottle of wine in a DC wine bar inspired me to contact him for a tour of his small family vineyard.  I didn't know what to expect really, but that visit was hands-down my favorite part of the trip (like whoah).  First of all, Vince is a really laid back guy whose passion for his work shows.  He's the grandson of an Italian immigrant who scraped pennies to purchase some acres of land to grow grapes and sell them to winemakers.  They managed to survive the Prohibition which killed many Napa vineyards. Vince grew up working the land of the family vineyard, left to get an education, returned when his grandfather fell ill, & decided to stay on to continue cultivating his family’s land.  While many vineyards have changed their methods to increase profits, Vince uses the same tried and true methods his grandparents used - dry farming (which is also organic) - to grow the grapes.  Decades later, he decides that he can make a wine that’s just as good as the wine that other winemakers are crafting with his grapes, so he starts bottling and distributing his own wine.  

I can't describe how incredible it was to walk around this vineyard, sipping wine that was handcrafted by the man we're talking to.  It shed some light on what the wine industry looks like from the perspective of someone who is nearly singlehandedly working the land, growing the grapes, & crafting the wines.  Further, his passion for maintaining the integrity of the fruit, by following "old world" methods (despite the fact that he could bring in more money with newer methods), was really inspiring and remarkable.  On top of all that, his wine was reeeeaaaally good - so good that we called for a tour, and even better with this whole experience.  Just the smell of his Charbono makes me want to  jump in my wine glass and swim around it in.  Srsly.

12:00pm From there, we met up with Dan & Christine at the Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon 07 Release Party.  On our honeymoon in October, Daniel & I had a great experience at Alpha Omega and became members of their wine club.  So when we decided we wanted to do a follow up trip, we wanted to build it around one of the Alpha Omega events to which we, as members, were invited.  So this was the release party for their 2007 Cab, and they also served up appetizers and tastings of several other wines.

The crew (Sam photo)

Napa Valley Wine Train passes through.

It was great to kick back, enjoy the great weather and beautiful scenery with the crew.  BTW, upon entering, someone asked us which band we are with - which is indicative of the fact that most other folks at this winery (and others) were much older (and whiter).  We were definitely the young people at most of the places we visited.

1:30pm Bouchon Bakery.  After all the delicious food I've described thus far, I'm kind of at a loss for more creative descriptions.  We had mushroom paninis, a pistachio macaron, iced coffee, and some of Christine/Dan's pastries.  All of it was mouth watering.  Like, I might throw down with someone if they took too big of a bite of my pistachio macaron. Without hesitation. And our farmer's market strawberries were so juicy and luscious.  What can I say?  This trip was one self-indulgent thing after another. 

4:00pm  Mumm Napa was our next self-indulgent visit.  Tastings of their refreshing bubblies on a patio with a view.  This was a slightly different tasting - they seat you, and you order one of their tasting flights from a friendly server. The system worked well. We ordered a bottle of Sparkling Pinot Noir for the road.

7:30pm  The final act of ridiculous self-indulgence came that evening: dinner at Ad Hoc, another Thomas Keller (French Laundry, Bouchon) establishment.  This restaurant offers a daily menu of one four-course meal, based on seasonal and local ingredients.  You get what you get and you don't get mad (unless you don't eat meat or pork, in which case they have alternatives).
It was at this restaurant where a seriously intense food/wine coma set in. As in, we could not form sentences (ex: the bread. give me it.).  The food was, of course, delicious.  Service was unpretentious and friendly.  We were without words and overstuffed.

We made it back to our respective hotels, and I, for one, slept like a baby. We woke up the next morning sad because we had to leave paradise. We dropped Clem and Sam in SF (lucky!!!!) and caught a flight home (went to the right airport too).  I'm still coming to terms with the fact that we are back in DC, the land of the blackberry, and not California, the land of self-indulgence.  But who can really live there with all the extraordinary scenery, weather, wine and food? I mean, really??

Apparently, lots of people can. I polled them. They grow up there and they don't leave because its that awesome.  I want to hate those people, but I can't. I want to be them. The end. 

Upcoming: Lessons Learned post.

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