Thursday, August 30, 2012

California Trip - Day Two: Napa Valley

On Day Two we woke up at 5:00am. Yes, 5:00am. Luckily, it was 7:00am Texas time, so it wasn't too terribly bad. 

The reason we got up so early? Hot air balloons! We scheduled a sunrise hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley, so we had to get up early to drive to the launching location in Yountville. 

Of course, after we got up, got dressed, drove out there, and sat there for half an hour... the pilots informed us that there were thunderstorms outside the valley, and there was a lot of fog in the valley, and we weren't going to be able to fly that day. We were SUPER disappointed. Luckily, we were able to reschedule for the next morning.

So, we drove around Yountville for a while, then we went back to the B&B. 

Breakfast was from 8:30 to 10:00 at the B&B (and it was still only like 6:30am), so we spent a couple of hours just sitting in bed reading before we went to breakfast. Breakfast was AWESOME. First there was a buffet of pastries (delicious scones!) and coffee and juice. Then they started with a fruit course (pears poached in red wine with amaretto cream, and some kiwi and berries). Then we got to pick between the "sweet" and "savory" options (french toast or a polenta dish). We decided to get one of each and split them. SO delicious!

After breakfast, we organized our list of wineries to see for that day, and we got in the car to go! We started off at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.

Joseph Phelps has a beautiful terrace overlooking the vineyards where you can stroll around and sip your tasting wines. We both really liked the wines there, and we bought two bottles of their sauvignon blanc. At this point we were seriously laughing at ourselves because we're big red wine fans, but we had so far bought only white wines and sparkling wines. 

Beautiful view from the terrace!

We had so much fun!

Next up was B Cellars, which ended up being our absolute favorite (based on how much we liked the wine). They had a nice little tasting patio that overlooks a little koi pond, so it was nice, but the building/facilities weren't super impressive compared to Domaine Carneros or Joseph Phelps.

They had a rodeo belt buckle from the wine competition at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, which made these two Texans feel right at home. :)

Whatever B Cellars lacks in beautiful buildings/facilities, it makes up for with the wines. They were amazing! We really like red blends, and B. Cellars makes three, all of which we loved. But we also loved their cabernet. And the syrah. And the white blend. Sooo... we spent a large sum of money on an entire case of their wine! It was too much to bring back on the plane, so they're shipping it to us. Of course, we live in Texas, where it's entirely too hot to ship wine (it would go bad in transit), so they're holding it until October. It's going to be like Christmas in October! :) 

Winery #3 was Cakebread. It was highly recommended by various people, so we went! It's totally inconspicuous from the road... we almost missed it! 

This is all you can see from the street! 

To be honest, Cakebread didn't live up to all the hype. The tour included with the tasting was nice - they took us to see the barrel storage, bottling machines, etc. But the wines themselves? We didn't really like any of them. 

The last winery of the day was Silver Oak. Silver Oak has quite a reputation for their cabernets, so we were excited. The building and scenery were really pretty there, but it was so crowded that it took us forever to get to the counter and do a tasting! 

We weren't super impressed with any of their wines (especially with how big of a deal everyone makes about Silver Oak), so we left there empty-handed as well. 

After Silver Oak, we went to church at a Catholic church outside of Napa. I think I've said this before, but I just love little churches. Everyone is always so welcoming to visitors, and I just love how everyone knows everyone. This church was totally like that.

Check out the wine grapes on the sign! 

Of course, since this is Napa Valley, the priest had his own vineyards right next door to the church! Too funny. 

"Father Matthew's Vineyard"

After church we drove back to the B&B, and we sat on the porch for a while with our happy hour wine and snacks. Then we went to dinner - again within walking distance in downtown Napa - this time at Celadon

Celadon was pretty fancy, with a great ambiance, but we both thought the food was just okay. It was fun to walk around downtown Napa though!

Since the hot air balloon thing was rescheduled for the next morning, we went to bed early again so we could wake up for the sunrise! 

Up next - Day Three in Napa! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

California Trip - Day One: Stanford and Napa

I had some time off between the end of my summer job and the start of my fall classes, so Jeff and I took advantage of the time and took a wonderful trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley! We did so many things that I'm going to have to split up the trip posts into at least a few different ones! 

So, to start us off - here's Day 1 of the California trip!

We flew out of Houston really early in the morning on a Friday, and we landed in San Jose around lunch time (thanks to the time difference!). After grabbing a quick bite to eat, the first order of business was to head out to the Stanford campus.

I was actually born in Stanford, California. My dad was finishing up his Ph.D. at Stanford when I was born... I was baptized on the same weekend as his graduation, and we moved away pretty soon after that. I've always known that I was born in northern California, but I never was able to remember anything about it. So, I really wanted to just go see everything! 

The Stanford campus is really beautiful...

Here's the "Main Quad." We walked all around it...

Here's the first place I ever went to church: 

One of Stanford's "big attractions" is the Rodin Sculpture Garden, so we made sure to find it and walk around. 

Lots of headless bodies and bodiless heads.

Here are the most famous ones: Adam, Eve, and the Gates of Hell. 

After we saw the Stanford campus and my first church, we set out to find the hospital where I was born. Here it is! 

Once we had all my early childhood history must-see items checked off our list, we drove to Napa Valley! We got to cross the Golden Gate Bridge! 

After a reminded-us-of-Houston experience with San Francisco rush hour, we finally made it into Napa!

There are vineyards everywhere, and it was just so pretty! 

We arrived early enough in the day to squeeze in a winery visit before the end of business hours, and we went to Domaine Carneros. It was one of the prettiest wineries we visited! 

Domaine Carneros specializes in sparkling wines, so we split a tasting that included two sparkling wines and two reds. Our waiter was nice enough to bring us a third sparkling wine as a bonus! 

We were so happy to finally be in Napa (and out of the San Fran traffic), and the weather was perfect, and the view was just so pretty! Such a lovely afternoon! 

We bought two bottles of their brut cuvee, and then we drove off to find our bed and breakfast! 

We stayed at Churchill Manor in Napa, which we absolutely loved! We heard that bed & breakfasts were the way to go in Napa, and we picked this one based on the rave reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor, but we were still surprised by just how great it was. 

We stayed in the "Carneros" room (all the rooms are named after wine-growing regions of Napa Valley).

The room was so adorable... full of lovely antique furniture (including a super cute bathtub and a beautiful carved mantle and fireplace)!

Churchill Manor puts on a little "happy hour" every evening, so we went into one of the parlors to get some wine and snacks, and then we sat on the big front porch and just relaxed while we drank our wine. Isn't Napa just the best place ever?!? 

Eventually we left the porch to get ready for dinner. We had reservations at an Italian restaurant called Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa, which was just a short walk from the B&B. So, we went out the cute little gate at Churchill Manor and walked to dinner!

After a nice leisurely dinner and some wonderful Italian food, we walked back to the B&B and went to be early to prepare for our early morning the next day! Next up - Day 2 in Napa Valley!