By 8:00 am the Napa Valley sun is shining warm and the air is still damp from the coolness of the night. It is my favorite time.
We started our second day of the Napa Vacation with breakfast al fresco. There was yogurt and fruit, and if you have never had avocado in your yogurt, try it! It's a revelation. We had goat's milk and a glass of bubbly brought at Shramsberg the day before. The morning was warm and perfect.
Ridge Vineyards was our first stop for the day. We drove into the hills and were thrilled to discover the trellised porch where we had our tasting. The view is spectacular here and the breeze cool and relaxing. One of the most surprising things I discovered after many trips to Napa is how incredibly "non-touristy" it is. Of course, we all hear it's a tourist trap, and with 4.5 million people visiting each year, you can understand where that comes from. My experience however, is the complete opposite. Maybe it's a matter of choosing the right spots and time of year to plan your trip.
It can get overwhelming. There are so many vineyards to see and wine to taste. So, I thought I'd share a few tips I've gathered for a great "non-tourist" trap 3 days in Napa:
1. Try to arrive as early in the day as possible. This means leaving Boston at a ridiculously early hour of the morning, but it's worth it. Driving into Napa at night when your tired is no fun.
2. Rent a house with a kitchen. The farmer's markets in California are always stocked with amazing produce you don't want to miss. Restaurants in Napa are expensive, so this will not only be a great treat but will save you a lot of money.
3. Pick ONE vineyard you really like and want to visit on each day. They should be in different areas. Schedule that visit and then explore small unknown vineyards that surround it.
4. Limit yourself to 3 per day! Ya, did I just write that? It can get overwhelming and I find that my taste buds are shot after three.
5. Dine out at least once at an amazing restaurant! A few of our favorites; Mustards, Farmstead, Ubuntu, Solbar, JoLe.
Finally, and most importantly, go with someone (or a group) who likes wine...and have fun!
We are clearly having a great time in the photos above at Ridge Vineyards. And it's no surprise, the wines here are incredible! Ridge wines are available in New England so next time you are at your local liquor store grab one...any one, they are all amazing. You won't regret it.
The last two vineyards where great unexpected stops. Mazzocco Vineyard and Winery is renowned for its Zinfandel. The wine did not disappoint and with SEVEN different zins to taste, we were glad we went. And then there was Mauritson. That's us sitting outside the tasting room after a lovely couple of hours with Ken. He was the guy who did our tasting and told the most entertaining stories about the vineyard. See what I mean about "non-touristy"? You just have to get off the main drag and explore a bit. There are hundreds of tiny, family owned vineyards that no one talks about. Those are the ones you leave remembering.