For our annual “birthday visit,” which was slightly later than our birthdays this year, Mary and I discussed several options. When we realized that she’d never been to wine country, our itinerary sort of planned itself. We booked a room at my all-time favorite hotel, made reservations at Ad Hoc, and hit the road. Even after almost eight years, I still can’t believe that I can drive for an hour and be in the middle of vineyards. We hit seven wineries in two days — a record for me! — and had nothing but great experiences.
Glasses at Alpha Omega
Domaine Carneros — one of my favorite places to enjoy a glass of something
Sunset from the Domaine Carneros terrace
Make-them-yourself ice cream sundaes at Ad Hoc
May I make a recommendation? Visit wine country in the winter. The hotel deals are outstanding, and the tasting room folks have time to really talk with you, and explain the different varietals and processes. The photo just above is of one very kind sommelier giving us a taste of something incredibly expensive and yummy, straight from the barrel.
I’m not an authority in any way, but here are the places that I particularly enjoy in Napa and Sonoma.
Domaine Carneros – Bubbly and pinot noir. Beautiful views. This is a fun place to relax on the terrace and take in the scenery while you enjoy a glass or flight of something.
Jacuzzi - Yep, like the hot tub. Italian-style wines, and really great olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting. This was the first time I let the olive oil people guide me through the tasting, and it was awesome. Highly recommend.
Alpha Omega – The new front-runner. Adam was our Certified Sommelier, and he was fantastic. Not only did he give us a generous tasting, but his (very educational) discussion with us was littered with hilarious song lyrics. The wine here was my favorite.
Merryvale - Another new favorite. We both really enjoyed the wines here. I brought home a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, which I plan on saving until our anniversary.
V. Sattui - Complete honesty: I love the lunch and grounds here. The wines are not necessary my favorite, but they are nice. The picnic experience is so lovely, though, that I always insist on stopping here.
Ad Hoc – Thomas Keller’s Southern homestyle place. It’s a prix fixe every evening, at a price point that I can wrap my head around. We had a delicious kale/barley/persimmon salad, a braised pork shank with savory bread pudding and roasted parsnips, and ice cream sundaes. There is always a cheese course, which is one of my favorite parts. I never remember the details of that, but it is always excellent.
Bouchon bakery – Another Thomas Keller special. We stopped here in the morning for quick breakfast. The croissants are ridiculously good.
Gott’s Roadside – I’ve eaten at their Ferry Building location over and over and over. Yummy burgers, fries, and the best milkshakes of my life.
Hotel Yountville – I would move into this hotel right now if you asked me to. I love everything about it. A splurge in the warmer months, but totally manageable in the wintertime. If you do go for the summer reservation, mid-week saves you big bucks, and you get to enjoy the pool. Mmmm, the pooooool.