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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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October 24, 2013

Napa Valley - a winery on every street corner!

Well, not actually - they're out in the countryside, but WOW! what a lot of them!

Heather did an impressive job of getting us through the insanity of San Francisco’s traffic where almost every street is one way and the traffic is basically in grid-lock mode always. We arrived at our hotel in Napa just in time for a free wine-tasting and discovered that since she is a rewards member with the hotel group, we were also invited to a free happy hour with wine and hors d’oeuvres – how great was that?!  So with that and unpacking and getting settled in, we pretty well took care of the remainder of Saturday. The wine tasting was provided by Raymond Vineyards – one of the oldest in Napa – and the woman conducting was one of their sommeliers who told us she was conducting a blending event at the winery the next day. That sounded like pretty much fun so we said “sign us up! We had to be there by 10:30 so after our (also) free breakfast off we went. The winery is owned now by a French vintner who also has a winery in France. He is apparently quite a character and his winery reflects that. Many different tasting rooms and most of them quite over the top. (Note:  There's a real hoot of a video on the vineyards website).

Frenchie is a mascot I guess and there were five kennels in this domicile.  I never did see any dogs but there must be some.  But this is a little taste of what awaits in the winery itself.
They have a "theater" that explains their biodynamic apparoach to the vineyard and farming.  It's outdoors and you walk around the various stations observing miniature versions of the practices they employ throughout their acreage.  Interesting and attractive too.  Well, the chicken/goat yard may not be attractive, but it's all part of the process and they had some fancy chickens.
This and the next picture were taken in the Crystal Cave - the walls are brushed aluminum, the tables are mirror-topped, there's a huge crystal chandelier (or maybe more than one?) hanging above everything...
 and these scantily clad mannequins scattered here and there throughout.  Fantastic!
This was my station in the blending room where a lot of wine went down my gullet. Between Heather's and myt station were four small bottles of "pure" wines - a new oak Cabernet Sauvignon, a neutral Cab, a Merlot, and a Cabernet Franc.  Our assignment was to make three different blends using these wines, tasting as we went and keeping track of the amounts of each wine in each blend (hence the beaker, pipette, etc.) and then decide on our favorite.  The formula for that favorite was then used in the next room to make an entire bottle of "my" wine and - having sent them a picture I selected from photos I had available in my netbook the night before - it was labeled with my winery name and the wine's name.  Pretty darned nifty and pretty darned fun!  But before we even started that, we had tasted one wine in the tasting room and then Rebecca (the sommelier who assisted us with the blending) gave us a lesson in wine tasting and we tasted all four of the wines in the small bottles.  That's what the four glasses on the left were for.  As we mixed our three blends, we, of course, had to taste those also - that's what the three glasses on the right were for.  But with great courage and gusto, we worked our way through it all and ended up with a bottle of our very own wine as seen here in the Red Room (with our poor frazzled sommelier who had a rambunctious crew to deal with!)  Mine is a Foggy River Cabernet Sauvignon (to be called a Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine must have at least 75% of cabernet grapes which I didn't know when blending but the blend I chose when I was finished just happened to be the only one in which I had put exactly 75 percent of the two cab wines)
These last two pictures are also from the Red Room.  I don't know why, but we were the only two invited in to the room and here we sampled yet more wine.  We were obviously feeling very mellow when we finally tore ourselves away.  I'd highly recommend a blending experience for any wine afficianado!

By the time we left there, it was well past lunch time and we'd had nothing to eat since a fairly light breakfast.  We drove into the town of St. Helena and searched for parking - finally found a little lot behind some of the storefronts and the spaces were reserved for certain businesses, one of which was Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.  So that pretty much helped us decide where we would eat and oh my goodness, was that a good decision.  It was and so far is the best meal I've had on this trip.  Absolutely, positively scrumptious!  It was a piece of grilled pork tenderloin served over a wonderful puree of I think pear and parsnips, sprinkled with toasted (almost to burnt stage) hazelnuts, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and pretty much swimming in a brown butter pool.  Oh my gosh!!!!  And, of course, a delicious glass of wine with that.  After all, it had been going on an hour since we had had any. :)

Did some window and browsing shopping after that - the main street of St. Helena is one neat shop after another and walked some of that wonderful lunch off.  This is one building that especially caught my eye.  It looks like it would have been a hotel back in the day, but the plaque at the top is a Mason's insignia so I'm not sure what it started out as.
Isn't it pretty?  And very unique on this street - all the rest of the buildings were fairly standard, old-timey buildings, attractive, but not especially decorative.  And all the stores were pretty high-end too!

I am now going to stop this even though I think we did another winery on Sunday.  I'm sitting in my internet friend's condo from which I see a snick of the Pacific Ocean (which I listened to last night as I fell asleep), I haven't had breakfast, and I'm going out and about.

I am really behind with this blog!

9 comments:

Christopher said...

Wow... what a first winery experience!! Sounds like so much fun, and such a buzz ;) Glad you had such an impressive "unplanned" Lunch find...!

January said...

This all sounds great but I can't focus on any of it because Mom, what is happening in the Crystal Cave?! How come none of those legs have torsos and that one guy who does have a torso doesn't have any legs?!
(But everything else does sound lovely)

Mary Lynne said...

January - I KNOW!! I thought myself it was a strange photo but it was the only one I had that sort of showed what an insane room it was. And you know what? I looked at it again now, based on your question and I know exactly what it is. On top of the table, running it's whole length is a mirrored back drop...(wait, let me go look again, I'm losing the thread...)well, I thought I had it but my theory isn't perfect. However, I think it DOES have something to do with reflection somewhere. And the legless man is in a different place than all the topless people. Very strange... If anyone figures it out, be sure and let the rest of us know. :)

Christopher said...

I particularly like the hanging lighting -- just a single arm from a presumably bigger chandelier---very avante garde somehow...

Christopher said...

I think I got it (on the mystery of the split humans.)
It appears there is mirror running BELOW the tables -- reflecting the legs of people standing near mom. The man in red is BEHIND the tables.

January said...

I'm pretty sure they're all vampires, mom. You were at a winery with vampires, and the parts of them in front of mirrors weren't reflecting back to you.

Elga said...

The crystal room photo, it must be a bar counter or something with mirrored doors, hence you can see everybody standing in front of it's legs in the mirrors and the legless guy is standing on the other side, his legs are hidden by the counter.

Mary Lynne said...

Chris - actually that is just hanging from the electrical wire and I think may be meant to be a wall sconce, although maybe not. Maybe it is an arm from some chandelier that is now missing an arm. A very mysterious room...

Mary Lynne said...

And Chris - I think probably right (aren't you always?) and in fact those are my legs in the center in the khaki slacks. But it does raise the question of why those chair bases which I would think are pushed up to the table would also be reflected in the mirror. If my legs are behind them, why wouldn't the tops of ithe chairs be in the picture too? Which may mean January is right - and her theory is certainly more exotic!

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