Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wine Wednesday!

Today we bring you a special edition of Wine Wednesday, in anticipation of Cristi's upcoming trip to Napa Valley.  Our friend Carissa, a Napa resident, guides us through America's famous valley and offers insider recommendations in a special two part series!  Thank you, Carissa!

My parents moved to Napa when I was a senior in college, which means going home is a wonderful treat!  Each trip brings new adventures, and I can’t wait to share my favorite places and new discoveries from my April visit. I’ll start with my favorite wineries and then fill you in on my preferred dining locales.  I told Ana I have about 100 “favorite” places, so I tried to narrow it down to the places I would be deeply saddened if they closed.

Best wineries for sparkling wine (because let’s face it, there is always a reason to celebrate):
·         Mumm: Mumm is one of my favorite wineries to go in Napa, especially on a nice day.  There is nothing better than sitting outside enjoy a glass (or two) of bubbly.  My favorites include the Brut Prestige and the Santana Brut.  Mumm also has an amazing photography exhibit, including a great collection of Ansel Adams.
·         Schramsberg: While Mumm is great enjoying the sun and the breathtaking views, the Shramsberg cave tour is unforgettable.  Richard Nixon first started serving Shramsberg (the first American wine served at any White House event), and their wines have been served by every subsequent presidential administration.  As an FYI the road up to Shramsberg is incredibly narrow, windy, and steep.  I have to close my eyes every drive up (and down) the hill, but the wines are worth it!

Best wineries for the view:
·         Sterling: One of my favorite things about Sterling the aerial tram you take to the winery.  The views are to die for!  The tour at Sterling is self-guided, and I adore walking around and enjoying the sun.   I often bring visitors to this winery because the views from the top of the hill are just stunning.
·         Artesa: My other go-to winery to bring guests is Artesa, which is also located atop a hill.  Artesa has a resident artist, who does gorgeous glasswork. 

Favorite winereies for the wines (1/2):
·    Frog’s Leap: Nothing makes me smile more than a Frog’s Leap cork that reads “Ribbit.”  Frog’s Leap is a gorgeous property with divine wines.  Frogs Leap’s is very green, and I adore the L.E.E.D. certified building that utilizes gorgeous reclaimed materials.  If you have the chance to visit, make sure you hear about the Frog’s Leap label. 
·    Cakebread: While they are famous for their chardonnay, I loved their merlot during my April visit.

Famous Frog Fountain

Now to move to my favorite places to eat, starting with the casual and moving to the more formal.  While everyone obsesses over French Laundry, I’m going to tell you about the places I love to go again and again (and can afford to do so!)

Casual eateries:
·    Bouchon Bakery: The bakery is owned by Thomas Keller (one of his many places in Napa).  The tuna salad sandwich at Bouchon is my second favorite in the country.  The hazelnut macaroon is fantastic.  Makes me want to eat Nutella as I type!
·    Oakville Grocery: This place is great for picking up food for a picnic.  The salads and sandwiches are great for a quick lunch, but we warned it will be swamped!

Fancier dining locales:
·         Bistro Don Giovanni: By far my favorite Italian restaurant in town.  The fritto misto is really good, but I need a trip to the gym before I indulge in this treat.  The silk handkerchiefs dish sounds a bit odd, but is amazing pasta.
·         Bistro Jeanty: My option for fun, French dining.  It’s a bit loud, so beware!  The mussels are excellent.

After all of that eating and drinking, you will certainly need to relax.  I recommend a mud bath and then soak in a mineral pool at Calistoga Spa Hot Springs.  I’ll raise a glass to having fun in Napa any day!

All photos, Carissa's own.

Thank you, Carissa for your thoughts on how to properly enjoy a trip to Napa!  Z and I agree that Cakebread is fantastic!  We even joined their wine club to remind us of our beautiful visit!  The winery also offers amazing recipes if you're planning on pairing something special with your wine!  Stay tuned for more of Carissa's recommendations, previewing Jackie's visit this summer! A.

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