West Coast Adventures: Napa & Yountville

October 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

When our adventure left off, we had just completely a whirlwind two days of cycling, imbibing and eating of Healdsburg. From Healdsburg, we heading towards Napa with a few specific tastings scheduled based on the wonderful suggestions of my friend Mark at Terroir. We left just after breakfast and on our way out were sure to go back for a bottle of Alexander Valley Zinfandel from Quivira and a few picnic items at the Dry Creek General Store. We also stopped by Ridge’s Lytton Springs facility for a quick tasting and marveled at their eco-friendly straw bale construction. At this point several wrong turns may have ensued and some may recall a bit of bickering over directions, but we quickly got back on track and en route to Napa.

Stony Hill

Our first stop was  Stony Hill Vineyard, a fantastic family-owned vineyard tucked away in the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park not far from St. Helena. In fact, their location is so remote that we were sent incredibly detailed instructions from Owner Willinda McCrae and were told to call her back if we didn’t receive them in email or we would never find them! This alone was an incentive to go and explore! The McRae home and surrounding vineyards were spectacular, definitely the most serene and beautiful of our entire trip. Willinda was kind enough to walk us through the aging barrels and tell us about the history of this small but wonderful winery which produces some lovely Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon and Gewurztraminer. After the tour, we sat down to taste several of their current vintages and were given several printed recipe pairings to take home with our wines. During our visit, Willinda inquired about where we were heading next, and we told her we’d be staying the night in Yountville and dining at ad hoc. As it turns out, ad hoc serves several Stony Hill wines and the crew had been up for a visit/cookout not long ago.


After winding our way down the narrow, twisting roads of the State Park, we quickly came upon the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus where we detoured to have our picnic and explore. We found a nice picnic bench for lunch and then strolled through the gift store. Luckily we didn’t have much time before our next apportionment or space in our suitcases or I could have done some serious shopping for kitchen gear. Soon after, we arrived at Corison, another recommendation from Mark, ready to sample Cathy Corison’s legendary Cabernet Sauvignon. We had the place to ourselves and had a great time chatting with Bob while tasting. One of the most unique wines we tasted and took home was the Corazon Cabernet Sauvignon Rose, which we opened a few weeks ago before summer ended in New York.


Before setting out, we asked Bob for a few other recommendations and he quickly suggested Quixote. “Even if they aren’t open for tasting, you have to check this place out for the achiteture alone,” Bob explained. Intrigued, we made our way to Quixote and quickly understood Bob’s comment. Quixote, part of Stag’s Leap Ranch, specializes in Petite Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting room itself was designed by Viennese architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and certainly stands out in Napa. As we tasted, we were shown a binder documenting the correspondence and sketches during the construction, which certainly illustrated Hundertwasser’s passion and devotion to his style and vision. The wines was as delightfully unique as the building itself and we bought one bottle of Panza Petite Syrah to add to our collection.

Not your average California architecture...

Yountville (The Land of Thomas Keller)

Finally, after a day-long journey, we arrive in Yountville and dropped our things at the Napa Valley Railway Inn. Relative to some of the pricier options right in town, this hotel was a great find. While it felt slightly Chattanooga Choo Choo-esque, we had a great stay and enjoyed being right in the heart of town. We spent an hour or so browsing Washington Street, picking up a quick snack at Bouchon Bakery and checking in to see if The French Laundry had any last minute openings (never hurts to ask, right!?).

Luckily, we were more than happy to stick with our original plan and dine later that evening at ad hoc. The 4-course family style menu that night featured an incredible salad with fresh corn, radishes, and heirloom tomatoes, a delicious hanger steak with fingerling potatoes and padron peppers, a mild semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with hazelnuts nad peaches and finally a chocolate peanut butter bar with ice cream. Everything reflected Thomas Keller’s immaculate, refined cuisine but felt as though we were eating in someone’s living room thanks to the friendly, approachable staff and warm, lively ambiance. When we order a glass of dessert wine from Stony Hill and mentioned our visit, our server informed us he had been at the party they hosted for ad hoc just a few weeks earlier. Small world!

Stuffed from a delicious dinner, we walked home reflecting on our favorite parts of the day. The next morning we were up early to grab pastries and coffee to go at (again) Bouchon Bakery for our drive to San Francisco. Not surprisingly, the blueberry muffin was one of the best I’ve ever had, and the almond croissant met my high standards instituted from studying abroad in Paris. While we have a Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center in New York, the original is certainly a bit more quaint (aka not located in a mall) and welcoming. With plenty of pastries and caffeine to fuel our journey, we set out to Oakland to ship our wine before returning to the airport to drop our car.  In the next and final chapter of West Coast Adventures, it’s on to San Francisco!




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