Mother's Day trip to Napa County (kinda long, sorry)
Took my mom and MIL up to Napa County yesterday (Thurs) as a Mother's Day treat. They had a lot of fun; I was tired after the driving and wine but glad that everything worked out well.
Please note - I don't drink wine, and definitely don't have much experience with it. My mom and MIL are not (from what I can tell) particularly sophisticated wine drinkers; they just know what they like. :D Here's what we did:
Cakebread Cellars - Food and Wine Pairing ($20 for non-members, about 1 hour 15 min)
Really nice, friendly winery in Oakville. They offer different tours and tastings, as well as cooking classes. We did the food and wine pairing. They give you a quick tour around the facilities, then a walk through the vineyard (about 5 min) to a separate small building by the "pond". Really pretty scenery. You sit down at a table with 11 others; the tour guide talks about how different wines will taste with different foods. They presented 4 wines (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon) and 4 food tastings:
- shrimp with jicama and orange with chili sauce
- empenada with spinach and raisins
- wild boar sausage with potato cubes
- blue cheese with port walnuts in endive leaves
I took small sips of each wine (and gave the rest to my mom) - it was interesting to taste different wines with the different foods (the tour guide encourage us to mix). I think someone more accustomed to drinking wine may get "more" out of this - my mom and MIL certainly seemed to enjoy themselves. I thought it was fun; a good value.
Then we drove a few minutes to Rutherford to Round Pond.
Round Pond - Tour/Olive Oil Tasting ($20, about 1 hour 45 min)
My second time here, and we were lucky to again have Mary Dee as our tour guide. She's friendly and knowledgable, and obviously loves what she's doing. My mom and MIL, who knew very little about olives and olive oil, seemed to enjoy the tour. At the end of the tour, they present their food products, accompanied by veggies from their garden and local bread and cheese.
Olive Oils (3) - Italian, Meyer Lemon-flavored, Blood Orange-flavored
Vinaigrettes (2) - Merlot/Cabernay blend, Sangiovese/Nebbiolo/Petit Verdot blend
To taste these, we had: crusty baguettes, sliced mozzarella, carrots, lima beans, tomatoes, spring greens. Really fun to try different combinations, and I've never been a fan of lima beans but am now!
Syrups (2) - Meyer Lemon, Blood Orange
To taste these, we had: aged gouda, gorgonzola, and strawberries. The gouda and strawberries were amazing with the syrups; I thought the gorgonzola was a little too strong.
My mom and MIL really liked this. I think it's a great value, and plan to bring a group of co-workers next time. (Mary Dee says I can start conducting the tour myself, LOL.)
Our next stop was Mumm Napa.
Mumm Napa - Tour (free, about 45 min); Tasting ($ varies, no time limit)
The tour is free, several times a day on the hour. Very informative, especially for someone who doesn't know much about wine or sparking wine. (Anyone know the reason for the foil on the neck of a champagne or sparkling wine bottle? I do!) There's a gift shop (neat items, fairly highly priced, but check out the different flutes) as well as a tasting room and patio. We opted for inside - the menu shows a variety of single glass tastings and combinations. Some of the wines offered are only sold at the winery, so this is a good chance to taste them.
If you go Mon-Fri, you can use their coupon (go online) for a 2 for 1 tasting. My mom and MIL opted for the Brut Prestige - a pink sparkling wine with peachy fruity scents (I had a fruity juice drink - sparkling too). They liked it, and with the coupon, it was only $6 for us ($5 for the wine, $1 for the juice). Great value, especially with the free tour.
Lastly, we stopped by Bouchon Bakery for some treats. I picked out the epi baguette (same one they give you at Bouchon). I love this baguette - crusty and tasty. My mom and MIL picked out the cheese danish and chocolate macaroon - I haven't asked them yet how it was. I also picked up 2 of the chocolate bouchons (brownie-like) for the boys; they thought it was great (mini chow hounds, I guess!) Interesting note while we were there (about 4pm); my mom observed the prep of something to be baked in the room next door, and said "look, they're making more baguettes." The counter girl said "actually, they're making rolls for the French Laundry." Yum!
Hope this helps someone else planning a trip.
re: Ruth Lafler
Thanks, Ruth! I spent months agonizing (okay, maybe an exaggeration) over our itinerary - the tours, the logistics, the timing. For example, Peju Winery also does a tour/tasting similar to Cakebread, I believe, but it just didn't work out with everything else. I also thought a trip to Copia or the CIA for a demo class might be fun, but there really weren't any yesterday. In retrospect, it would have been too much (at least for me, Mom and MIL) so it all worked out. :)
re: Morton the Mousse
I thought they were good; MIL and Mom who love blood orange thought both oil and syrup were amazing.
Maybe we should do a chowhound thing in March; as you know, Round Pond's spanish olive trees were messed up last May (2006) so no spanish olive oil this year. Hopefully (keeping fingers crossed) the weather will cooperate this year and they will harvest in Dec/Jan which means bottled Spanish olive oil available starting around March 2008. More mild, mellow and buttery than the Italian version, I'm really curious to try!
Also, if you call ahead of time and ask when they're harvesting (Fall for Italian olives, Dec/Jan for Spanish olives) you can go and watch through those glass doors.
I suggested to them that they should put out a cookbook (why not, everyone else does) since they have such a variety of food products. Mary said that was on the list AFTER the new building (across the road) is finished in the summer.