July 4th…
Saturday July 09th 2011, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Jibber Jabber

There’s no question we heart Napa Valley; the sun, the people, the food and obviously the wine. As July 4th approached we realized that we didn’t exactly have plans, why not head up to Napa Valley? Another so-called ‘home-away-from-home’?

We had few rules for this trip, one was to maintain exposure but had no desire to over-expose. There was no power tasting, our sole goal of this trip was recovery. With this in mind we arrived at Quintessa early in the morning for a private tasting.

They poured a vertical of 2005 through 2008 and was also privileged to taste the 2007 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon. Although delicious the Faust could never stand to the iconic blend known to the rest of the world as Quintessa. Amongst its vintages, the 2007 shown heads and shoulders above the rest. This, as expected, would remain one of the best wines we would taste this weekend.

After Quintessa we headed into St. Helena for some breakfast. Model Bakery makes some of the best english muffins I’ve ever snacked on, and if you turned those into eggs benedict, you’re surely in for a treat. We explored St. Helena a bit, and decided that we’d have to spend more time in Northern Napa. Then we headed up HALL’s private residence in Rutherford.

The view was astounding. Drop dead beautiful, and what an experience this HALL, away from HALL, was. HALL does have a tasting room in St. Helena but few and far take the time to find HALL’s Rutherford residence, and I’m glad we did. Their collection of art, and eye for design was inspirational - I really wanted to go home with a few of these chairs. Carved wood, padded leather, designed to grace with age.

Did I mention the view? Drop dead.

After a lengthy introduction to how and why HALL exists, we visit where the winery magic happens and just like their residence it has its own personality. The sculpture above the group is called ’sunbursts’ and added to it’s sci-fi feel.

As we headed to HALL’s tasting room we were all in for a treat, this is hands down one of the most impressive tasting rooms I have ever been in. Above us a massive replica of a 300 year old zinfandel wine, it’s root system made of copper which conducts electricity to the uncountable led’s which light up the hundreds of Swarovski crystals just below.

We literally tasted under the ’stars,’ and the experience certainly enhanced the wines we tasted.

After a few glasses…well you get the idea. As we wrapped up HALL we decided to visit our favorite winery collective in St. Helena, ACME Fine Wines. Karen was on hand and poured us some Passenger, and Favia. This definitely was a treat. Thirst quenched, we decided to check into Villagio in Yountivlle but as luck would have it, the tread separated from the sidewall on our loaned Jetta.

A relatively small inconvenience turns into quite the adventure. Just put the spare on right? Well, it turns out that the entire tool kit was missing from the back of this car. Never fear, I’m an AAA member I proclaim! Andy the tow truck driver arrives and we’re excited to get back on the road…another surprise, this thing has wheel locks and the key was in the tool kit. Aw skittles. So, after quickly running through a few options we decided to drop Crystal off at Villagio to decompress while us men deal with the situation at hand.

We headed directly to Hanlee’s VW in Napa where they were kind enough to open ever new car on the lot, and used cars as well so we could check the wheel locks. No luck. With time getting late, and our options limited, they rip through the mechanics area only to go through 3 sets of wheel locks - finally a matching key was in the last set. After 2 hours, the help of Hanlee’s and the ever patient Andy I was back on the road. The weekend was saved, and upon arriving at Villagio I knew we were home.

I had about an hour to lounge around, clean up and prep for our dinner at Farmstead. This is probably my most favorite restaurant in Napa currently. It’s a fantastic farm to table type of restaurant tucked just off the freeway in St. Helena. Locally sourced food, simple preparations served on bone white working china, and well thought out libations. All this for not an entire paycheck and the fact I felt at home in a ringer tee, shorts and sandals was a huge plus. Where else would this be possible? Somewhere between the restaurant and my rediscovery of our bed, I completely passed out…I didn’t even hear fireworks.

Our bed was that comfortable, and waking up to Yountville sunshine? I could see how Crystal loves this neighborhood. Heck, I loved it.

We really didn’t have any plans today except to lounge around and be as unproductive as possible. However with the room came a complimentary breakfast - Crystal somehow scrounged up chicken & waffles, I was quite amazed.

Then we literally took a few steps and took refuge by the pool as the thermostat rose. Sparkling champagne with grapefruit kept our spirits alive as we baked in the sun’s rays. The hours melted away, and pretty soon I was too. A quick swim remedied that, and we decided it was time to take our ‘melting away’ into the spa.

When I had enough of the pampering at the spa I retreated back to our room to taste that Favia Syrah again and what staying power this wine has. After 24 hours it’s still going on strong. Dark, inky, rich and tasted like a resume that goes on and on and on. Truly amazing wine, but one would expect nothing less of Erickson.

This being said we didn’t hermit the entire day in our refuge, eventually we had to check out or possibly be booted out. With this in mind we packed up and headed north to Rutherford. Elizabeth Spencer was on our minds, her wines are always a pleasantry.

A swoosh here, and a swish there…Sonoma Coast swished around our palette leaving their ever inky impression around our tastebuds. Maybe it was the weather, but the wines tasted sweet and hot today. The rose was the only wine I really wanted more of. After Elizabeth Spencer we used our tasting token at Long Meadow Ranch then walked across to Merryvale.

Both were really interesting experiences especially LMR where we literally tasted olive oil. Amazing range of aromatics, taste, and viscosity. Although I have a deeper appreciation and understanding of all things olive oil now…I am not to keen on literally drinking oil.

With the day dragging on and us soon to becoming intoxicated under this sun, we decided to cut the day short and headed on back, but not before a quick tour of Rubicon Estate. Interesting place, but we both had home on our minds. With this we passed on Julie of Tres Sabore’s invitation to Louis Martini for bbq & fireworks and ended up back in the south bay.

Enjoyed every minute of this trip, even the tire mishap. All smiles, as it should be.

-Wallace

Places we visited:

Quintessa
1601 Silverado Trail
St. Helena, CA 94574

Model Bakery
1357 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

HALL Rutherford
56 Auberge Road
Rutherford, CA 94573

ACME Fine Wines
1080 Fulton Lane
St. Helena, CA 94574

Villagio Inn & Spa
6481 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Farmstead Restaurant
738 Main Street
Saint Helena,CA 94574

Elizabeth Spencer
1165 Rutherford Road
Rutherford, CA 94573

Bouchon Bakery
6528 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599

Long Meadow Ranch
738 Main Street
Saint Helena,CA 94574

Merryvale
1000 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Rubicon Estate
1991 St Helena Hwy
Rutherford, CA 94574

Panda Express
5075 Main St # 120
American Canyon, CA 94503