We’ve made something of a ritual of heading down to California in late winter for a Vitamin D fix. And you know what pairs perfectly with Vitamin D? WINE! Jack and La Verne recommended a long weekend in Napa in lieu of repeating the Santa Monica trip we took last year and Shane and I jumped at the chance to wine-taste with our aficionado-friends. We landed in Oakland last Wednesday after an uneventful flight and made a quick stop at In-N-Out for burgers and fries before jetting toward Napa.
We rolled up to Artesa Winery mid-afternoon after winding our way through sun-kissed vineyards. I forgot how beautiful this valley can be…
I wasn’t sure how the kids would fare at these grown-up venues, but they were troopers – Juliette used her carton of milk to toast to Shane’s Chardonnay and remained (relatively) well-behaved while we tasted our way through the menu.
Just when I thought we’d had our last round, another four glasses would appear. MAGIC.
Finally, after sipping the range from bubbly Brut to rich Cabernet, we’d had our fill and were ready to head out. Run free, Jules!
Cabernet makes you jump, jump…
Thick as thieves…
Dreamy, isn’t it?
Even Shane couldn’t resist the pull of that wide-open lawn!
(photo by La Verne)
(photo by La Verne)
Cheers to a very promising start to this trip!
We checked into our vacation house in Sonoma and promptly changed into our swimsuits to hit the hot tub.
This girl loves a good long soak, apparently!
Jack had packed a jar of homemade pesto in his suitcase because, well, he’s Jack, and he whipped up a decadent pasta dish for dinner, perfectly paired with a bottle of Chardonnay we’d picked up at Artesa.
The kids went down with very little struggle and the grownups stayed up later than we should have, drinking and talking and settling comfortably into vacation-mode.
The guys headed out early on Thursday for a run while La Verne and I stayed back to feed the munchkins.
After breakfast, we sent the kids out to the backyard to burn off a little energy before heading out for our grand tour de wine.
It was a longer-than expected drive out to El Molino due to an accident and a re-route, but nearly two hours after we set out, we arrived!
We were all eager to stretch our legs.
This little gem of a winery is run by a couple that does it all and the owner/winemaker/grape-stomper, Jon, spent a couple of hours graciously showing us around.
Juliette carefully arranged pinecones while the rest of us intently listened to Jon about his process (i.e., schemed about how to run our own winery someday).
While Jon poured us a tasting, the kids got friendly with the chickens. Seriously, this place was a dream.
As was the Chardonnay!
With a bottle of Chardonnay under one arm and a bottle Pinot under the other, Jack left there a happy man.
We grabbed sandwiches to-go from a deli in St. Helena and blazed onward.
We landed at Pride Mountain mid-afternoon and opted to skip the hour-long cave tour due to the dubious looks cast Juliette’s way by the host. We settled on a patio tasting and a romp through the vineyards.
When we booked this trip, there was a part of me that wondered if it was fair to ask Juliette to come along on a wine-tasting excursion. Looking back at these photos, I’d hardly say she suffered.
Sufficiently wined, we headed out, making a quick stop at the Napa outlets and then settling in at the house for crafts, hot tubbing, a very active round of Simon Says, and takeout burritos.
We awoke Friday to the sound of raindrops – a storm had moved in and the forecast called for a soaking-wet day. We grabbed a bite at Bouchon Bakery and then took our seats at the tasting table at Sullivan Vineyards.
Juliette was stoked that this place actually served something she could consume – she pounded about eight of these breadsticks!
(photo by Jack)
We leisurely sipped our way through the menu while the kids got their daily dose of screen time.
And then we all spent awhile looking longingly out the window while the skies gushed – this definitely wasn’t vineyard-strolling weather!
(photo by La Verne)
We lunched on burgers at Gott’s and then treated Juliette to ice cream at the Oxbow Market.
The upside to a pouring wet California afternoon? No shame in holing up indoors for a good long nap!
The house was pretty quiet all afternoon – most of us dozed and then La Verne and I did a little living room Barre3. Jack and La Verne prepared another mighty-fine meal and we were joined by Jack’s mom and sister for dinner.
I almost went to bed with Juliette at 8:00 but rallied – as this was our last night there, we had wine and snacks to polish off (Cabernet and Cool Ranch Doritos for the win!).
The skies had cleared on Saturday morning, so Juliette and I took the hot tub for one last spin. When I asked her what her favorite part of the trip had been, she quickly replied, “The cave!” (at El Molino). But a moment later, after glancing around the yard, she changed her mind and said the vacation house was her favorite. I wasn’t too eager to leave, either…
A rousing game of Ring Around the Rosie…
And then we said farewell to the Chens as they headed to the airport.
Shane and I were sticking around California for a couple more days to visit our friends in Turlock. Before heading to the Central Valley, though, one last winery… We popped into Ravenswood for a 10:30 am tasting (!).
This girl…I’m so proud of her for hanging with us while we imbibed. You’re a good sport, Jules.
And on that note, we said good-bye to Napa’s rolling green hills. Next stop, T-Town!