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Napa Valley Trip Report as Requested 9/3-9/7

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by kboltwkreations, Sep 8, 2015.

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  1. kboltwkreations

    kboltwkreations Low-Roller

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    My Trip Report

    This was our first trip to Napa, a trip that was booked thru Winspire from a charity auction.
    My husband and I are fairly "new" wine drinkers but have advanced to a love of cabs very quickly.
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    When planning this trip we booked the basics first (flight, hotel, big events) and then I overwhelmed myself by booking tours and tastings to the point where I canceled everything except the castle tour and Cakebread tasting. Napa has so much to offer I would suggest somewhat "winging it" for a first trip, as time flies by fairly quickly and appointments can be missed quite easily.

    Day 1:
    Things Reserved today: 1pm tour and tasting at Del Dotto
    6AM Flight out of MAF to Denver on a regional jet was easy and on time. Arrived in Denver with enough time to grab a quick bite at McDonalds or so we thought. Our flight ended up being delayed due to plane "maintenance" and ended up being a nightmare for us. 1.5 hour delay and we were bumped from first class because they ended up changing planes (20 first class seats down to 16 and we were 2 of the lucky 4). It was upsetting and disappointing at first, but ended up having a decent flight to San Francisco with the onboard drinks and a movie to keep us occupied. Got travel vouchers for the inconvenience not that it will do us much good. Grabbed a rental car from Avis and took off to Napa. I had booked the Del Dotto cave tasting for 1pm and whew did we barely make it. Had to grab a Subway sandwich right outside of Napa because we were starving and in such a hurry! Not what I had in mind but it worked!
    Del Dotto was a great "first" winery to visit. Tasted right out of the barrels in the cave. My favorite here was the Sangiovese, and they had some excellent cabs. If you are looking for a great tasting, this one gets you 12-15 different wines and the cave experience. It is worth the money I think. There were only 4 people in our tasting so it went rather quickly. The caves are amazing to see, hand dug in the 1800's i think.
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    The other couple in our tasting suggested we try Artesa for the amazing views. Well worth the drive up (it’s pretty hidden but easy to find with GPS). Wines were not anything to brag about but the views and art on the premises was stellar!
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    Final stop on our short day was Jamieson Ranch. It’s a fairly new winery at the south end of the valley. We really enjoyed our glasses here. Opted for a glass of Merlot for me and my husband had one of their cabs. It was later in the afternoon so not many people still hanging around here. Great western feel, with a great patio area.
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    After all the wine tasting we finally checked into our hotel at the Meritage Resort. The reviews I had read were not exactly great on the place, but I was very satisfied. We were in a patio king suite. Thought we would use the patio more, but with all the things to do and see in Napa we were NEVER in the room except to sleep. Room has a great setup with small bar area, vanity outside of bathroom which I LOVED, and a large desk area. This resort is huge but we did not take advantage of any of the ammenities to speak of.
    We had dinner downtown Napa at Ristorante Allergria! This place is fabulous, its in an old bank and if you have a large party you can even eat in the old vault room. Food was fantastic, I had mushroom ravioli that was excellent and husband had pomodoro.. Decent wine list here and the service was decent also. After this, I had been up so long I was ready for bed!
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    DAY 2
    Things reserved today: Cooking with Julie and Castello di Ameroso
    We were really looking forward to cooking with Julie. I cook alot at home and my husband would love to learn more so this was a great experience for us. The morning started out with a drive to St. Helena where we met Julie at the farmers market. On the way there we saw tons of hot air balloons out for the morning rides. Very pretty.
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    At the farmers market they have a cute little coffee stand that serves delicious pastries. Coffee here was decent and the people were all so friendly. There ended up only being 6 in our cooking class so it was more intimate than we had ever imagined. We were able to shop with Julie and pick out all the fresh produce for our lunch. We have nothing like this in West Texas so it was an experience in itself! Headed back towards Napa and stopped in to buy other supplies at Dean & Deluca! Great Gourmet Food! Back in Napa, at Julie's estate we were treated to wine tasting while cooking a 3 course meal and then lunch on her patio.
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    It was excellent and learned so many tips and tricks from her. The experience did run a little long and we had to leave right after dessert to make our 4:00 tour at Castello di Ameroso.
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    The drive up to the castle from Napa was so busy. Took Silverado Trail and it still took us about an hour to arrive, but we made it right on time. You would never know that this castle only opened in 2007, it looks like it has been there many many years. Great tour through many rooms and places you would not expect to see in Napa. Tasting at the end was also fabulous! I cannot imagine the money and man hours spent on this place! Took the drive back down the main road to Napa and saw all the gorgeous wineries and just took in the beautiful scenery. We were lucky enough to have a convertible rental car so it made the drive even better. Right around Yountville you can smell the grapes and wine in the air, its great!
    Went back to the hotel to drop off some things, and then to the Oxbow Public Market to eat at Ca Momi. Very good food and all fresh, authentic ingredients.
    After dinner we bowled for an hour in the Crush Ultra Lounge at our hotel. It was a good ending to a great day. Not crowded at alll here and it was quite late.

    Day 3:
    Things reserved today: Cakebread tasting
    Started out with breakfast at the Meritage which was quite good, and then we drove up 29 towards Cakebread. We were a little early, so went into Dean & Deluca to buy some olive oil, balsalmic, and spices. Very expensive store but worth it for gourmet foods. We saw Turnbull wines right by Cakebread and opted to stop in here as we were still early for our tasting appointment. These wines are fabulous! We ended up buying a bottle of everything we tasted! Smaller winery with great wines, and worth a stop in for sure. They dont sell much to the public so wanted to grab some while we could!
    Next stop was Cakebread Cellars, which is our go to wine. We tasted most of the current releases which were all fabulous except for the Pinot Nior.. everyone in our tasting poured it out so im thinking it was a bad bottle or just not up to Cakebread standards. They do their tastings outside which was a nice change of pace and great to see part of the winery. Ended up buying a mixed case here of some current wines and library wines. Cant wait for that box to arrive :)
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    Lunch was the BBQ picnic offered at V. Sattui, the same people who own the castle. This place was SOOOOOOO crowded. I was glad we went for the experience and the food was great, but I would not stand in that line again for food. I think they probably tell everyone who visits the castle to check this place out, and that might have added to the hustle and bustle. It was so bad, it was the only spot that I didnt take any pictures.
    I was very excited to see Black Stallion Winery, since we are horse people and their winery is in an old equestian complex. When we got here I was dissapointed there was no tour to see the grounds and the people were a little off putting who worked there. Just seemed like they could care less about serving you a tasting. The wines were Ok, but not my favorite. I was going to buy a bottle of chardonay here, but decided against it. Just wasnt my cup of tea.
    Our last stop for the day was Silverado Winery. We passed it on the way to Black Stallion and thought it might be worth a try. Oh my are we glad we did! Loved all the wines, their cabs are fabulous, the winery is gorgeous with some great views, and we loved it so much we joined their wine club. We had been looking into all the clubs and this ones seemed like the best fit for us. Smaller shipments, and less shipments per year which is great. And you have a terrace all to yourself to taste wine if you are in the club. Also, our host for our tasting was Brett and he was fabulous! So knowledgeable about all the wines and the history of the winery. I was impressed all the way around.
    Stopped for an afternoon snack at In N Out Burger since we had never had one before... split the double double and I have to say IT IS pretty darn good!
    We had the Wine Train booked for the evening and went to the station, but ended up not doing the tour as it just seemed like it may be boring to sit on a train for 3 hours. Ended up having dinner at The Pear Southern Bistro and it was fabulous! The french onion soup here is TO DIE FOR! Loved it! This place is downtown Napa on the water and has a great vibe! Wine list was decent, but we ended up drinking a white Cakebread since we were pretty full of reds for the day. Went back to the Meritage and packed up to depart the next day. OFF TO VEGAS!

    Day 4:
    Reservations for today: Dinner at SW
    Got up early and drove back to San Fransisco, dropped the car off and headed to our terminal for our flight to Vegas. The Southwest terminal here is pretty sad. Grabbed a bloody mary at a very small sports bar and then a sad sandwich at some other place, but wanted to get out of there quick! Smooth quick flight to Napa. We arrived early, grabbed our bags and a limo from the kiosk outside and off to the Wynn.
    This was our first time staying at the Wynn (we are usually Mlife loyal) but they gave me a teaser off so I took a free room for the one night we would be in town. Check in was easy and the room they gave us was great! Basic King rooms at Wynn give you alot of bang for your buck it seems like. Lots of space and great bathroom. I would say they are comparable to the Salone Suites at Bellagio, just lacking the great view. We freshened up from our flight and headed down to play a little before dinner. Craps, 3 card, roulette, and didnt hit much of anything. Not too bad since it was time for dinner and I had been looking forward to this meal for a while! SW is our favorite place in Vegas! Now that is a bold statement for a town with so much to offer, but its our place! Always can count on great food, great service, and friendly staff. Had a great bottle of Realm Dr Crane 2011 here to start off the night! It was a great great wine! Oysters, Salad, Chile Rubbed Double, another bottle, and dessert later and I was stuffed!! Solid meal to seal a great weekend.
    Played some more after dinner and finally got on some wins! I hit trips on 3 card, big win on a number at roulette, and won a little more at blackjack. Could never get up on a craps table though! Ended up $1500 for the night so for a one night trip with some day gambling left the next day I was happy to go to bed!

    Day 5:
    Sad to go home.
    We woke up and went straight to the spa for some 80 min massages to get our last day started on the right foot. Massage was ok, but I have to say it wasnt top notch and I think Wynn might have their spa a little over priced. For a holiday weekend there was no one using the facilities which surprised me.
    After this, had breakfast at Tableu (sp ??). It was good, but so crowded we had to eat in the bar area. I have never seen somewhere so crowded for breakfast. Food came out fast and it was great to get the day going. Bloody Marys here were not so good though. They are made with Wasabi and not great.
    Got on first craps table after breakfast, nothing. Played 3 card, then roulette, then blackjack, No wins. Finally hit a slot machine for a small win of $450 and then $200 on flaming 777's. Then FINALLY got on a craps table that was paying. Started with 300 and cashed out around $1000 only because we had to go grab bags and check out.
    Ended up walking away around $1300 up which is great for us doing a single night trip! Got to the airport and hit four 4's on VP, so again happy happy happy!
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    This was one of the best trips we have ever taken. Napa is a wonderful place and we will make sure to plan for 3 full days or more next time to not feel so rushed. I think Napa for us will always be a fly by type trip because it is so hard to stick to an iteniary!
    Trying to post some pics! Hope you enjoyed reading!
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2015
  2. Ernie Vegas

    Ernie Vegas Low-Roller

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    Looking forward to it. Thanks!
     
  3. ken2v

    ken2v This Space For Rent

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    You did right getting rid of the timetable-like schedule! I'd say I miss the Napa of 30+ years ago, but then I'd just be another cranky old whiner. lol Hands-on cooking experiences are bueno!

    Thanks for sharing.

    We'll be doing a little at-home wine excursion in the Sta. Rita Hills this weekend.
     
  4. tringlomane

    tringlomane STP Addicted Beer Snob

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    Nice report! Great pics and wins!
     
  5. bardolator

    bardolator Lifelong Low Roller

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    Thanks for the report. I'll probably try a few places you mention. Yes, things have changed a lot, and seldom for the better, but it's still a fabulous place to visit.

    I should have warned you about V. Sattui. Used to be a fun visit but not lately.
     
  6. bshowell

    bshowell VIP Whale

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    Sounds like a great time. Beautiful views, too.
     
  7. Aces and Eights

    Aces and Eights VIP Whale

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    Thanx for posting photos! Loved the report. Make it a one-week trip next time.
     
  8. Ernie Vegas

    Ernie Vegas Low-Roller

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    It's certainly not the place of my youth, but I'll admit Napa proper has benefitted greatly from the crush of popularity. We are willing to taste at all of them, but there's just something more enjoyable to me about visiting those family places who have some history here. I was sad to see the Milat brothers give up making wine, as that was always a must stop just for the stories.
     
  9. Suekel

    Suekel VIP Whale

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    We did the V. Sittui weekend picnic a year and a half ago and had a similar experience. Our tasting was good because my niece is a member and we got to use the members only tasting room, but the grounds and food stands were way too crowded to enjoy, and the bathroom situation was awful.

    Our favorite visits in Napa were Regusci, with it's wonderful wines and incredibly friendly staff (I joined the wine club there) and a Farm to Table tasting at Robert Sinskey that was amazing.
     
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  10. kboltwkreations

    kboltwkreations Low-Roller

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    We will for sure be making a longer trip next time! There is just so much to see and do I didnt even get to relax!
     
  11. kboltwkreations

    kboltwkreations Low-Roller

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    Thanks for the suggestions! I will add it to the "must-do"s for next time!
     
  12. Suekel

    Suekel VIP Whale

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    Here is a pic of the food plate we got at Robert Sinskey for our tasting at the end of the tour. This was for 3 people.
    [​IMG]
     
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  13. ken2v

    ken2v This Space For Rent

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    Good point on the city itself. This stuff never is an either/or proposition. Wannabe-ism and crowds suck, but more wineries, better travel amenities do not. You can plop us down in Yountville any time and we are happy. There just was something back in the early '80s essentially driving in most anywhere and it was so chill.

    We're off to the Bay Area this week for a conference, and tried to squeeze in an overnighter in Napa/Sonoma, but it's just not in the cards. We'll make a stop or two in the Santa Lucia Highlands on the way home, however. And I'm playing golf in Monterey or Pebble on Th so that will be cool.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Nice!!!!
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2015
  14. kboltwkreations

    kboltwkreations Low-Roller

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