Travels & Exploring

Exploring Napa Valley’s wine country

We woke to a beautiful morning in Calistoga. The downtown was quiet when we walked to find a breakfast place. We came upon a great little place called Café Sarafornia. The family owned restaurant offers a delicious variety of breakfast options.

After filling up on food, we headed out to enjoy one of the best parts of Napa Valley – wine! Our first stop was Clos Pegase. My friend is a wine club member, which provided a tasting and tour of the winery. What a place! The winery was created by a couple who appreciated art, nature and wine. The owners hosted an architectural competition to design Clos Pegase. Designer Michael Graves won the competition. There are sculptures and art throughout the grounds, although there were more when the original founders owned the winery (he sold it a few years ago when his wife died from cancer). One of my favorite parts of the grounds were the 52 cypress trees in the courtyard, representing every week of the year, and lined in four rows to represent the four seasons. The buildings blend modern and ancient Mediterranean architecture. Our tour took us through the grounds to see the vineyards, then the production facility. It was impressive to see the massive storage, bottling and labeling lines. We then were able to walk into the 20,000 square feet of caves that house wine and a large theater where special events and tastings are held. Our tasting was here! We tried several great wines and enjoyed some cheeses, fruit and nuts. It was a wonderful visit!

After Clos Pegase, we headed to Chateau Montelena Winery. Another great recommendation. It’s an incredibly impressive site to drive onto the grounds, see Jade Lake and surrounding landscape, then the chateau. Built in 1882, the chateau was converted to a wine making facility and tasting room in the early 1970s. It resembles an English Gothic castle gatehouse. The large arched windows and door, stone walls and (faux) arrow slits make for a neat building! We enjoyed our tasting inside the chateau. The wines that we sampled were very good, although the reds were a tad too dry for me.

Wandering outside and down the steps in front of the chateau led us to the peaceful area of Jade Lake. There are footbridges that connect to two islands (used for private tastings), built crooked to honor Chinese legend that says evil spirits can only travel in straight lines. Lawns, vineyards and mountains are just beyond. It was so quiet and serene here that I could have easily sat on the bench for hours enjoying the view, light breeze and warm temps.

As we left Chateau Montelena Winery, we passed an awesome landmark – Old Faithful Geyser! The Old Faithful Geyser of California park is a neat place where you can see one of only three geysers in the world considered “faithful” because it regularly erupts. The geyser also has proven to be a predictor of earthquakes in the area as scientists note when the geyser’s regular eruptions are delayed or lessen, an earthquake is likely within a few weeks within 500 miles surrounding geyser. Entrance is $15 for adults, but we thought it was worth saying we saw “Old Faithful.” Plus, there’s more to see – the park is also home to a goat farm (so cute!), gardens, geology museum and outdoor activities like bocce ball. There is a picnic kitchen in the gift store that offers wine corks and more so you can enjoy a bottle of wine in the park while watching Old Faithful.

We were hungry when we left Old Faithful so stopped at Dean & Deluca, a nice market type restaurant offering freshly made sandwiches, salads, baked goods and more. My sandwich was huge! Our next stop was Yountville, where we found the Girard Winery tasting room. My friend’s membership at Clos Pegase also gets her complimentary tastings at other wineries by the same owner (although we learned that she is ‘grandfathered’ in and this doesn’t apply to new memberships. Lucky us!). The tasting room has a rustic feel, which I love! The staff was nice and funny. And the wine was delicious!

We wandered around the area after our tasting, then headed back to Calistoga. We shopped a little more, then ordered a takeout dinner from Puerta Vallerta Restaurant. It was delicious ‘authentic’ Mexican. The evening weather was amazing so we enjoyed our food and some drinks on a table near the pool of our resort.

It was yet another awesome day of vacation. We once again packed a LOT into a day. I loved the scenery, wines, friendship, meeting new people and exploring so much of the area. I went to bed once again a tired, happy girl ready for the next day of fun!

(Don’t miss reading about our previous days’ adventures in San Francisco and Calistoga!)

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