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Foray: Napa, Day 2

September 10, 2011

Sometimes I look at my cat, who is on her third nap of the day at 10am, and say something like “wow, it must be really tough to be you. You have a really hard life.”

Today, DoSB and I had to keep a tight schedule of three wine tastings and lunch at Bouchon. It’s really tough to be me in Napa. I have a really hard life.

We started with breakfast at the Oakville Grocery, one of those specialty shops with everything -wine glasses, olive oil,  chicken salad, sweatshirts, wine, fresh strawberries, and muffins. You can’t go to a 10:30am wine tasting without something in your belly.

strawberries at oakville grocery

 Crocker & Starr, our first visit of the day, is an unassuming site – no huge granite sign promoting their brand. They don’t need it – their wine is *that* good. Mark Simon spent over an hour with just my dad and I, talking earnestly and excitedly about the history of Crocker & Starr, the wine maker Pam Starr, and Napa in general. Unfortunately the winery is sold out of their Sauvignon Blanc, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying a tasting glass, or from purchasing some of their impressive Cabernet Franc.

Next stop, Bouchon for lunch, in Yountville.

Ok here’s the thing: when you know you have a highly coveted reservation at The French Laundry for dinner, it’s really hard to care about food for the rest of the day. So I have to apologize to Bouchon, which has an awesome attached bakery, a gorgeous looking raw bar, and a really cool Parisian atmosphere. The rich, French dishes everyone around me was ordering looked amazing, but all I could manage was a Croque Madame – grilled ham and cheese with a fried egg. And my primary reason for ordering that sandwich was to get some fries. And the fries were among the best I’ve ever had – the aioli alone was worth the price of admission. But no one should go to Bouchon the same day that they have French Laundry on the brain.

After lunch, we continued our wine tour with Chateau Montelena. Montelena was featured in the movie Bottle Shock for its then-surprising win at the 1976 Paris wine tasting, so I was moderately worried that it would be too commercial, to ubiquitous, too full of itself. Make no mistake, Chateau Montelena thinks highly of its wines, but the head of our library wine tasting – the lovely Jennifer – made it clear that it’s all in what you like. If you prefer their $26 Sauvignon Blanc over their $145 estate Cabernet, then that’s what you should drink. My choice was their Chardonnay, but I particularly liked the folder of materials and interactive nature of the tasting. What can I say, I’m a student at heart.

And if that weren’t enough, we rounded out the day at Cade. LEED certified, Cade is nothing if not visually impressive. Sitting around a large wooden table, a group of us were treated to a string of excellent wines. But, more interesting than the wines, were Cade’s environmental politics. An upscale winery, they’ve taken a stand on the cork issue, choosing to bottle many of their wines with screw caps, even though the cost is greater (to put the screw marks on the bottle) and those that aren’t in the know may immediately dismiss them as “cheap.” I really appreciated their committment to a green mission, and look forward to visiting their sister winery, Plumpjack, tomorrow.


view from Cade

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