The first time I went to the Napa Valley, it was in the middle of summer. My husband and daughter, daughter-in-law and I went over for a few hours to have lunch and buy a little wine. It’s only about an hour and a half drive from Terri and Emily’s house in San Francisco. It was pretty hot and full of tourists, but it was beautiful (well, that, and I’m a total wino!) and I fell in love with a few restaurant kitchen gardens while we there. I decided I needed to do the restaurant kitchen garden thing some day, after I graduate with my botany degree…I’m gonna need a couple acres, at least! In the meantime, I’m practicing in my backyard. Also, I cut my toe wide open on a nail sticking out of a wooden sidewalk at one of the wineries. So much excitement! (and NO I was not drunk!)
This time, Tom and I decided to spend a couple days for our 15th wedding anniversary, after visiting the girls in the city for some walking and book shopping (our favorite!). We had received an offer from a winery that made our stay at the Villagio Inn & Spa cheaper than if we’d hidden out at a Motel 6. Virgin Airlines took us up there for $39, how can you beat that?! This is why we love traveling in the winter. Also, the rain and cold makes the scenery seem more brooding and Bronte-esque, which is ultimately better than perky bright sunshine, unless you’re in Hawaii.
Besides, it was certainly time to get out of the house for a little romance. When you work at home, leaving the “office” becomes difficult, “closing” the office is entirely impossible, and you eventually just have to run away – before you start decapitating innocent bystanders.
It stormed the entire time we were there, which may ruin a trip for some but we LOVE stormy weather. Terri and Emily’s cats were very entertaining during one particularly CLOSE lightning storm. I never even saw them run and hide – they were just there one second and the next they were gone – POOF! Poor kitties!
The added bonus was a near empty Yountville. We practically had the entire village to ourselves and walked right in to all the restaurants we wanted to sample. It was so empty, that when we stopped at Carneros to buy the girls some bubbles, we were the only visitors – the parking lot was empty. Perfect for my misanthropic travel-tude!
One of my favorites parts of the trip was discovering that the yellow wildflowers growing under all the nekkid grape vines was wild mustard, which is a member of the brassica family and some consider it a noxious weed. I’ve read that letting different types of brassicas grow on fallow land, then grinding them up into the dirt, is really great way to condition the soil and put nutrients back in. Unfortunately, I was unable to corner any of the growers to find out if that’s what they were up to here.
Yellow mustard blooms were everywhere and added such a beautiful contrast to the neon-green grass and the dark, wet vines…well, I just couldn’t stop taking pictures! They even have a Napa Valley Mustard Festival and all the shops had tiny paintings of vineyards with yellow flowers. (maybe I’ll even attempt a sketch or watercolor one of these days)
Other nature highlights from the weekend:
We found these tiny red and white flowers while on a walk in the city with Terri and Emily…I’m still trying to find out what they are:
and this crazy looking snake tree, also a species unknown to me, in a canyon park near T and E’s house:
Food and wine favorites:
Stepped in to Hurley’s for lunch on a whim and had the best risotto of my life with an equally amazing 2007 Pinot from ZD Vineyards. Also at ZD was “Pearl’s Garden”, planted in honor of somebody’s Grandma, where I snapped a pic of this rain-soaked pyracantha.
Got to eat at Bottega, celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s restaurant a block away from our hotel. Even better, his bolognese sauce wasn’t so much better than mine that I felt bad :-) and Tom makes a much better steak! (sorry Mr C.)
Also ate at Bistro Jeanty, which was warm and welcoming and served the best beef stew – perfect on a rainy night! We sat at the community table since we didn’t have reservations, but I think it was even homier that way. If I ever own a restaurant, Bistro Jeanty will by my model. Yumm.
All in all, one of our most successful anniversary weekends away, and after more than 15 years of wandering the globe together that’s really something! Being able to visit our daughter and her wife while we’re in our favorite city makes the journey even more wonderful. I’m so proud of both of them, and they are totally kick-ass hostesses! Tom and I have decided to make an annual Napa-versary out of it. We used to go to Vegas, but for some reason Vegas has lost its appeal. Maybe it’s the newly discovered wild mustard blooms beckoning from a far away misty valley…