Three Days in Napa
I recently spent three days in Napa - a trip that combined many of my enthusiasms: traveling, eating, drinking wine, taking bubble baths and ordering room service.
I booked this trip a while back as a surprise for my boyfriend’s birthday, knowing that every month or so I need a good vacation (who doesn’t?). Based on a recommendation from a friend with discerning taste, I booked a cottage at The Carneros Inn. I knew she had good taste in hotels (having spent a few nights with her at the George V in Paris a few years back, I also knew she appreciated good room service - like their club sandwich served late night), so I trusted her recommendation unequivocally.
What I found when I arrived was an idyllic setting of manicured paths exploding with rose bushes and rustic fountains surrounded by rolling hills that reminded me of Tuscany. Our cottage boasted a fireplace, completely private outdoor patio with lounge chairs (under a heat lamp), an indoor shower that led to an outdoor shower and a soaking tub. It pretty much summed up all the things I need in life and hotels.
Napa is the ultimate destination for the lazy and indulgent traveler. There is not much to do besides drink wine, eat world class food (I’m including in-n-out in that category as well) and if you’re staying at The Carneros Inn, soak in the 24-hour hot tub overlooking the hillsides or sit out by the outdoor fireplaces that dot the property.
But obviously first thing first - drinking was our primary objective. We started with a private vineyard tour at Chimney Rock Vineyard. Being ferried around the quiet vineyard in a golf cart by our guide, Eric, was the best option for me (being active is most definitely a part time enthusiasm). He gave us a taste of each wine as we came to where its grapes were grown and he brought us into the production facility and capped off the tour with a private cheese and wine tasting. This tour is not available to everyone (thanks to my boyfriend’s parents’ patronage of Chimney Rock, we were treated as some version of VIPs which suits my ego quite well), but I highly recommend trying to secure a tour of a vineyard, production facility that pairs with a tasting when in Napa.
I learned a lot of the basics on the tour and henceforth considered myself somewhat of a oenophile. Some of the best things I learned from the tour however were things that every part time wine enthusiast should know:
“Legs,” the marks that the wine makes on the glass after you give it a swirl are somewhat irrelevant to wine quality (I was taught differently in France) but Eric explains that all it really indicates is alcohol content. That being said, alcohol content is clearly a priority for me but not, perhaps, for a true connoisseur.
Cheap red wine can be masked if you put it in a decanter (to hide the bottle) and serve it alongside cheese. The chemical interaction of cheese and red wine on your taste buds makes most red wine taste good (fool proof cocktail party trick that I will be sure to test out on my friends).
Napa meant we could pretty much go to vineyards and wineries all day and maintain the perfect buzz without getting too drunk to function (or in many cases, so drunk where I fall asleep). Perhaps being a wine aficionado is the key to moderation!
Other trip highlights included:
A visit to Cade Winery, which sits on Howell Mountain overlooking St. Helena and has some of the most magnificent views in wine country. The wine isn’t horrible either.
A visit to Hall Winery, a unique, family-owned winery that boasts a pretty extensive modern art collection.
Dinner at a Thomas Keller standby, Bouchon, in Yountville.
In-N-Out double doubles and animal style fries
Taking a bubble bath while eating room service (top-notch french fries) and drinking a bottle of cabernet, topped off with a glass of champagne.
If you are, were or ever plan to be a wine, food, or travel enthusiast, Napa is a must.