Saturday, June 16, 2012

Vacation Recap: Day 1

We're back! And with lots of pictures and a few fun stories (and harrowing adventures).

The first day (last Friday), we flew into San Francisco and grabbed our rental car (which might be its own harrowing adventure, but let's move on to something more fun). After navigating San Francisco for a few much needed, forgotten items like a camera card (duh!) and a pair of jeans (another duh!) we took our little rental car up north to Napa wine country!

We immediately drove through Napa where we would be staying and eating that evening to the town of Yountville about 10 miles north. Yountville, I knew, was home to Thomas Keller's many restaurants. Keller has to be one of the most famous American chefs today (and I sold countless numbers of his cookbooks and culinary items while working at Williams-Sonoma, which was started only miles away itself) so I was pretty excited to get to see and maybe eat at his restaurants Ad Hoc, The French Laundry, and Bouchon Bakery. But before we did any of that, we had to find our bike rental shop in Yountville, which led us to explore the town's unbelievably compact usage of wealth. That little town was like Disney's version of wine country. In fact, one of the reasons we couldn't find the bike shop was because they said they were near a "gas station"...

Well, besides the nicely hidden pumps, this super nice cafe didn't read "gas station" from the road. We passed it twice without realizing its indented purpose. 

After grabbing our tandem bike, which was incredibly nice, we began our first adventure: how to put Megan at ease on a bicycle she couldn't control. As many of you already know, I had forgotten how to bike after not getting on one since age 9. So last year when I finally retried the two-wheeler, it was a little scary. I did ok, but I didn't ride again until last week. So not only did I have to get used to being on a bike again, which wasn't that hard, I had to get used to being on the back of a bike I couldn't control.... and my pilot was used to going 20 miles per hour on a bike while zipping through lanes of taxi cabs. So when we first began pedaling away, I might have been a little nervous. 

We began to pass beautiful stretches of vineyard in the valley as we made our way to our first winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, which I had to focus on so as to not drive Bill crazy with my screams of "Too fast! Too fast!". 

Luckily, it began to get a little easier to trust Bill and our speed and the biking actually started to become quite fun! It only got better after our first winery. 

Robert Sinskey Vineyards was simply stunning. Their beautiful, Mediterranean-style building incorporated amazing vistas into its charm. The simple tasting we did inside, called a flight of wines, was a good introduction. It provided a nice breath of wines, a few little companion bites, and a very nice and informative hostess. 

But that was nothing compared to our next stop: Silverado Vineyards. 

(Bill and I walking the bike up the steep road to Silverado Vineyards) 

I had signed us up for a winery tour here simply because their facilities looked really nice and, more importantly, their winery tour cost the same as most tastings. We really lucked out with more than price, however, as no one else signed up for our tour time, giving us a private tour of the winery from our tour guide Jenn, who was a sweet and entertaining woman who looked a lot like Julianne Moore. 

We started the tour with a few glasses of wine out on their patio balcony which had an incredible view... 

Jenn soon joined us on the patio to give a little background to the winery. Normally history lessons are interesting enough but this one was especially fun. Apparently, Silverado Vineyards was one of the first wineries in the valley started by none other than Walt Disney's daughter! (Apparently they get a lot of crazy Disney fans there that they have to screen who they give tours to. We passed). The story goes that Diane Disney married Ron Miller who at the time played professional football for the L.A. Rams (now the St. Louis Rams!). He got seriously injured one season and so Walt Disney asked him to come work for the family business. Soon Ron began to run the show and is apparently responsible for all of the great things to happen to Disney over the last twenty years, namely, Pixar. However, when the current CEO came in and kicked out Ron (and Pixar), the Millers washed their hands of the entire thing and retired to California wine country. At the time, they were one of the first property buyers and were encouraged to buy by Mrs. Disney herself (who bought her own property here as well). Thirty years later, they still run a family business that doesn't advertise itself as a Disney vineyard at all (except for the original Ratatouille poster which was based on Thomas Keller's The French Laundry!). 

Anyway, after getting a better idea of the story behind the production, we went on to view the works- everything from their large storage areas with thousands of oak barrels of wine to the bottling process... 

All in all, it was a pretty incredible tour with a great host. We promptly bought two bottles of wine after our after-tour tasting and started on the bottle of Rose that evening. 


Unable to get reservations at The French Laundry or Ad Hoc, I found a great little restaurant called Angele in Napa. I was smitten. The french country style was paired with modern touches to create the most beautiful eatery I've seen in a while... 

(Photos courtesy of Angele Restaurant because we didn't bring our camera to dinner) 

We sat next to that little blue, French-country window with the darling olive trees which looked out over a quaint river and looked at the bar with these amazing yellow-covered bentwood chairs. 

And don't get me started on the food. Amazing. I had quail and the skin was done to such a perfection that it tasted like butter in my mouth. Oh! So good. 

And we did finally get to try a little Thomas Keller after all when we headed to Bouchon the next morning for  breakfast. 

Obviously I got a few macaroons and savored them the rest of the trip. 


So that was Day 1 in Napa. Stay tuned for Days 2 and 3 in Yosemite for a few stellar pictures and some entertaining stories. 

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