Napa, Oaked or Not

A couple of months back, I was lucky enough to be spending some glorious days in the glamorous Napa. Although my recollection of every little nitty gritty details of the trip is very vague; the lasting good impression remains (maybe the wines are partly responsible.) I remember overindulging in every possible way – how could anyone resist when everywhere you turn you see beautiful sceneries, you smell the delicious food, and all that while your senses are being awaken by the delicious bouquet of the Napa Valley wines.

Since I don’t remember the exact details, I will let the pictures do the talking. But I could still remember my favorites from the trip and one of my not so favorite. Schramsberg winery was by absolute favorite, not only because their sparkling wines were very enjoyable (I liked it a lot more than Chandon,) but the property was breathtaking and the cave tour was extremely informative. We were taught how sparkling wines are traditionally made using the famed “methode champenoise.” Although they use the same method to produce their bubbly, their sparkling wines can’t be called champagne since they are not made in Champagne, France. Anyone who is in Napa should pay a visit. The wine cave is beautiful!

forgot to ask the signifigance of this frog
one job application, please?
Inside the cave
our guide demonstrating how to riddle a bottle
Pretty cool atmosphere, right?
the top left is mine!

If you want to learn about barrel aging and how different oak affects the taste and the aroma of wines, visit Del Dotto. Again, similar to Schramsberg, Del Dotto has a cave tour. But they focus mainly on barrel tasting and let you taste the different of many of their vintages side by side to compare. You get to taste A LOT of wine here. So if you are the designated driver, this might be your only tasting. Most of the tastings are of their reds, I thought their Pinot Noir was pretty good, but I don’t remember if it’s the 06, 07, or 08. I was too busy trying to absorb all the information (yeah, right!)

the entrance to Del Dotto
See all the barrels?
Inside the wine cave

We also visited Opus One, the property was very beautiful in an over the top kinda way. Although the design and the size of their property were exciting, I didn’t find it as charming as the ground of Schramsberg. Domaine Chandon holds many tastings of their bubbly and would be a lot of fun to visit with a group of girls since you can taste at your own pace while you wander around their beautiful garden in the sun.

Domaine Chandon
Some of the tastings being offered
You can't have too much, can you?
Fill it up!

Some pictures of Opus One

Opus One
Pretty impressive, huh?
The courtyard where you can find the tasting room
Did 2 tastings there

On their roof, what's not to like?

The place that did not impress me much was Castello Di Amorosa, everything about it was very commercialized – very rehearsed tour, fake Italian castle, and wines aged in stainless steel tank. I could tell that most of the people that were on a tour with us had a great time, yet it was way too impersonal for my family. As we toured the property, yes, we were impressed by the fact that the owner got every brick and every single piece of their furniture shipped straight from Italy. But it felt more like we were walking around Disneyland rather than a winery in Napa – to each their own, I guess!

bricks flown in from Italy
A pretty fake castle…literally hahaha
The castle cat called Lancelot


the blue napa sky

the tanks they use for the wine

I wonder if the owner had himself painted in there too

Now, onto the food – we were not lucky enough to get a table at the ever-so-famous French Laundry. So we went to Bouchon, which is a more casual restaurant by Thomas Keller. Before our meal, I also ran next door to get some delicious pastries at Bouchon Bakery too – YUMMINESS! Another great meal we had was at The Mustard Grill. Their onion ring is a must! They were more like onion straws with long stips of thinly-sliced onions are only just barely coated with flour before frying. This method gives you the most crispy and, not at all oily, “onion rings.” And, not to mention, you get a mountain of it!

Some pictures from Bouchon:

Yountville's sky
the lovely Bouchon
love, love, love!
nothing compared to Laduree but pretty good
only one almond croissant left
The seafood bar at Bouchon
The menu came wrapped around our napkin, cute!
Another cute touch on the butter
A lil too tough for my taste
caramelized onion and pancetta tart
onion soup - my fav
lobster bisque
country-style pate
duck something
Steak and Frites
hazelnut pot de creme
yummy little "bouchons"
From the bakery - Milk chocolate covered riice crispy and salted caramel

Some pictures from the Mustard Grill:


Mustard Grill
the menu
the onion "rings"
Mac 'n Cheese
Goast Cheese Polenta
clam chowder
BBQ rib and corn bread
Crab Cake
they had Laotian quail, on the funny!
Too decadent
Lemon Meringue Pie

Another meal we had was at Calistoga Inn. We sat outdoor in the sun and had another lovely meal here. Their sandwiches were delicious!


Since this visit was my first, I chose to visit the more famous wineries just to get an idea. If I had a chance, I would love to go there again so that I can enjoy the smaller-scale vineyards. Now that I don’t have much more to write since I don’t remember much else, so I hope the id a good enough job portraying what a good time I had there!

Some pictures from Sausalito


On the way back to SF

Bon Appétit!