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Jun 18, 2013 12:43 PM

Napa Valley recs please - activities, lunches, wineries

I've searched the forum and have a few notes, but would appreciate any further or more detailed input. I'm taking my wife to Napa Valley for her 40th; it's our first weekend away from the kids - ever! We're staying at the Calistoga Ranch (indeed, all out) and having dinners at Redd and Ad Hoc. I've also scheduled a massage for her Saturday morning. Driving up Friday to beat traffic and coming back early Sunday.

Can you recommend a lunch spot for Friday (to kick off the weekend) and for Saturday (something lighter or maybe a picnic)? And if we hit a winery or two what would you suggest? To be honest, we are not that into the "California style" of fruit-forward wines; we like dry, earthy reds. But we're absolutely open to new things and frankly I'd love to be re-introduced to Napa Valley wines. A single informative wine tour might be fun. Also, any specific hikes or activities that you suggest.

Otherwise, we plan to relax a lot.

Here is the list I collected from my search.

Possible lunch spots
* Goose & Gander
* Farmhouse
* Backyard
* Cafe Lucia
* Bistro Sabor
* Bounty Hunter
* La Luna market for a burrito
* Sunshine Foods for cheeses
* Boon Fly (doughnuts?)

Thank you!

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  1. On the valley floor, Corison (appt only) and Frog's Leap do lighter earthier reds. I really enjoy Corison - Frog's Leap, for whatever reason, just doesn't taste that great to me.

    Up on Spring Mountain (all appt only), Keenan and Smith Madrone do earthier/less-ripe wines.

    BVs (Beaulieu Vineyard) reserve wines can be beasts but they are also masculine. Lots of earthy green notes.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Excellent, thanks! Will check them out tonight.

      1. re: andrewteee

        Calistoga Ranch has a brilliant concierge who will work with you closely to arrange winery visits, wine education opportunities, and a plethora of activities.

        Before and during your journey, please consult the Calistoga Ranch concierge and their Activities Director. Their sister property is Meadowood, just down Silverado Trail a bit, which offers a wonderful wine program that you will also be able to tap into. (I have worked with both properties so I'm aware of what they offer.)

        Call ahead and express your wine-tasting preferences so that they may guide you and arrange visits for you. The concierge will be able to arrange visits at the very, very finest Napa Valley wineries with ease.

        I want to help you fine-tune what you may be seeking: Most Napa Valley wines are fruit-forward because of our climate, but are well-balanced in terms of both top (fruit) and bottom (grounding) notes, and also acidity.

        What you may not want are "fruit-bombs," wines made with over-ripe fruit so that they have little/no acidity, spice or complexity, and are usually high in alcohol.

        Earthiness is a quality difficult to come by in wines grown in the United States, however, Napa Valley wines often have beautiful deep grounding notes. Sometimes forest floor notes (subois), but more often other "bass" or bottom notes.

        Which is why, to me, the red wines of Frog's Leap could not be described as earthier, in contrast to what Goldang writes. Nor are they lighter. They are very well-made, and truly in balance, and this is a very fun and smart winery to visit. However, as a guest at Calistoga Ranch, you will be downwind of the very, very best wineries here in Napa Valley, and will probably have a variety of other (perhaps more glamorous/exclusive) options.

        I'd never recommend BV to anyone; the wines are lackluster compared to what is available.

        You may wish to focus on the mountain AVAs within Napa Valley because the fruit is clear and direct, and the acidity is refreshing and keeps the wines lively. Seek out the wineries in the Spring Mountain District and on Mt. Veeder, for example. Again, the wine educator or concierge will be able to guide you expertly.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Thanks for the detailed response! I'll have to study it a bit : )

    2. On your way up on Friday, I would stop at Oxbow and wander downtown Napa before driving up-valley to Calistoga. You can taste at Backstreet Wines and Vintner's Collective, have a great lunch at Oxbow, Bounty Hunter, or whatever strikes your fancy. Don't decide until you have wandered and let serendipity be your guide.

      Then, for Saturday, consider getting picnic supplies from Sunshine Market or Dean & DeLuca instead of filling up at a place like Goose & Gander (which I adore).

      If you are going to leave early on Sunday, make Boon Fly your exit eatery - hit is early enough and there is no wait but it is a great bon voyage to a lovely weekend.

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        I had the same thoughts... to keep it sponatneous. The whole point is to relax. And the way you phrase it the picnic sounds much better : ) Two heavy meals in one day is not appealing.

      2. We had a fantastic weekend - just the ticket! Although it was HOT!

        Lunch at Hog Island Oyster started things off right. Dinner at Redd was fantastic - pork belly, tomato/bread salad, skate wing and halibut. A seafoodie day for sure.

        Next day we had lunch at the CR pool after massages and it was surprisingly delicious. Dinner at Ad Hoc was our favorite meal - beef short ribs along with chopped salad, mussels and pluot financier, and the cheese course. Would definitely go back there. Casual, fun atmosphere with delicious food and wine (a wonderful cab franc) - we liked it.

        Our only winery visit was to Vincent Arroyo, which we had learned about years ago. Great red wines - we tasted from the futures casks and bought some bottles to pick up in the fall.

        A great 40th weekend!