I know I know. It’s been a little while since I wrote one of these posts. As you guys have seen, though, it’s not like I haven’t been writing any posts since my last California pre-trip post. So that, plus like life and doing a job I actually get paid for have gotten in the way.
And just in time. I mean, we don’t have a ton of time left to get the rest of this trip pre-planned.
For this post, we will be talking about the next two days in the trip – Days 3 and 4, which will bring us actually North before we begin our trek south down the coast. And I know. Why go North if we need to go South? The answer is simple…
But before we get to the actual trip deets, let’s talk about the theme night we did to get us excited (well, even more excited than the insane amount of excited we already were) for Days 3 and 4…
Eh, I use the term “night” loosely. On account of it was day. So I guess I shouldn’t use the term at all. But it’s already out there. So let’s just move on.
Since this night was to celebrate our trip into wine country and the boys are less than thrilled for that portion of the trip, we decided to make this theme day a two-person affair. Well, to be honest, we actually didn’t decide this. The boys wanted no part of it. So yeah, super accurate depiction of how Days 3 and 4 will go.
So we decided to make pair our movie with a couple of whites we had in the fridge (leftover from an event Nickie hosted at work) and some snacks, such as pretzel crisps, carrots, and hummus.
Pretty tame one, I know. I also love how I would categorize two bottles of wine at like 3PM on a Saturday as tame. But such is life.
We ended up trying a couple different wines. First up was a 2017 La Petit Perriere Sauvignon Blanc.
And then we moved onto a 2017 Casalini Pinot Grigio.
And not to give too much of the movie away, but we tried to act like pretentious wine snobs and pretend we could detect notes within the wine, like “freshly opened can of tennis balls” or “freshly cut garden hose.”
I really don’t know what a freshly cut garden hose smells like so. But it ended up being really fun and I mean, while we missed having the boys around, it was kind of fun to have it just be the two of us. And in all truth, we are really the ones that appreciate this sort of thing anyways.
As you could probably see from the image above, we chose the movie Somm for our Napa night.
A brief synopsis first. Somm is a doc that centers mainly on four wine connoisseurs looking to earn the title of Master Sommelier. It’s designed basically as an inside look at a test most have never heard of and what it takes to become something few have actually become (there are currently 255 Master Somms worldwide and the test has been running since 1969.)
So what did I think of the film? As a whole, I enjoyed it. I think it’s expertly edited and I love when a movie can introduce me to something new – that of the whole Master Sommelier process. As with most docs like this, I do like how it balances the surface focus on process with the more in-depth personal look at each individual’s personality and their interactions with one another – juxtaposing, say, the uptight studyfreak Ian Cauble with the more laid back “bro” Brian McClintic.
And the process to become a Master Sommelier is legit. It takes an insane amount of studying, memorization, and natural ability to pass the exam. It’s pretty impressive.
So overall, I would recommend it to anyone interested in wine and the culture that surrounds it. For sure.
However, there is also something there that just irks me about this movie. Well, not really about the movie. But about the subject matter. I love wine. I really do. And I like trying different kinds of wine and looking for ways to appreciate it. It’s why I am so excited we have not just this trip but also another Napa trip planned for later this year. And I get that the amount of studying and work that goes into becoming a Master Somm is staggering.
But ugh, with the pretentiousness. It’s sometimes hard to deal with the pretentiousness and snobbery associated with this whole wine culture. I made a joke earlier in the post about comparing a wine’s bouquet to that of “fresh cut garden hose,” but that is honestly how Ian in the film describes a wine he’s trying. And to be fair, the movie does poke a little fun at this description but it does sort of encapsulate what drives me nuts about wine snobs. I mean, what even is fresh cut garden hose? Does it smell different than a standard non-cut garden hose?
Some of it feels more show than substance to me. And the pretension that goes along with wine and wine appreciation is hard to swallow sometimes (pun intended.) I walked away not sure if this film is celebrating the pretentiousness of it all or shunning it. Which can frustrate a viewer, no matter what side they sit on.
But maybe it’s a good thing. Somm just lays it all out there without really forming an opinion. It presents an argument and a dichotomy but never really solves it. Should we walk away thinking these guys are completely pretentious egomaniacs? Or should we be impressed with the amount of work and dedication it takes to achieve something like this?
#CaliFriendsYeah2019 – Days 3 and 4 – In which we visit Wine Country
So where did we leave off? Right, right. We were in San Francisco. And the Nerdys had arrived. So, if we lose no one at Alcatraz, it will still be the eight of us waking up on the morning of Day 3. Obviously, this is a big “if.”
We will wake up….guess when? C’mon, take a wild guess.
If you said “late so we can sleep in,” then you obviously don’t know us. We will of course be waking up early. 6AM kind of early.
Our Holiday Inn – Fisherman’s Wharf hotel has free breakfast that includes cinnamon rolls. Which are things I very much like. Like cinnamon rolls are great. But when they be free? It’s on.
After breakfast, we will hit the road because our first stop is a little under an hour away and opens at 8AM – Muir Woods!
Which I am still excited about, despite being lied to about Return of the Jedi being filmed there. Place is full of Coastal Redwoods, which are like. Big trees. I mean I think I am excited about it. More exciting than small trees, I suppose.
I think the plan is probably to do one of the main loops out to Cathedral Grove and back. The reason I think this is the plan is because numerous websites tell me this should be the plan. And I mean…
After leaving Muir Woods, it will be about a 90-minute drive or so to Napa proper. After all that walking around, I am obviously going to have worked up an appetite. Which is probably why I will have stopped for a snack on the way to Napa. But by the time we reach Napa, 30 minutes might have passed since said snack so I am sure I will be hungry for lunch. And the current plan for lunch is to hit up the Oxbow Market for either Gott’s Roadside or Hog Island Oysters. Or, most likely, both.
I actually had the pleasure of trying a Gott’s burger a little early at the San Francisco airport when I was out there for business.
And it was delicious. So I can only imagine what a non-airport, non-midnight-eastern-time Gott’s burger will taste like. I am imagining it’ll taste like a mix of dead cow and rainbows. That’s a good thing, by the way.
After lunch, our original plan was to hit a specific vineyard but just recently, we took it off the spreadsheet as even for Napa, it was looking a bit pricey in comparison to the others we were visiting. So our plan is a little more open. Not much. But a little. Actually, it was much looser literally 5 minutes ago. So scratch that. It’s not really loose at all.
After lunch, we will probably check out Oxbow a little more. Grab some free samples, do some shopping. Drink some wine, obviously.
And at around 2:30 or so, we will go check into our hotel for the night – the Hilton Garden Inn Napa. And I think it would be nice to relax for a little bit at the pool or hot tub before heading out for the rest of the day. It will be a good opportunity for a little down time.
And at 5:30, our hotel offers a complimentary wine tasting from so we are planning on taking advantage of that. I also heard that when you get there, if you like them on social media, they will offer up a free bottle of wine for the room. So, like free wine abounds.
At around 6:15, we are on the calendar for a tasting at the Vintner’s Collective to try a range of different wines in their tasting room for $40. Seems to be generous pours and from the look of the website and it appears they have a nice variety of boutique vineyards. Also each tasting is customized to each person, so that seems like it will be a really nice experience. I have already spoken with the woman, Katherine, that works there and she seems really nice. Looking forward to it!
For dinner, we have a 7:30PM reservation at Napa Valley Bistro. This place gets great reviews for food AND value. And it’s right across the street from Vintner’s so it works out perfectly. Katherine at Vintner’s already informed me we can hang there until our reservation. To eat, it’s gonna be a tough choice. I think the menu rotates and our reservation mentioned something about empanadas. Which sounds real good – something about empanadas. If ever the menu features something about empanadas, I am in.
And while there is no kids’ menu there, there are options for pickier palates like fried chicken or fish n’ chips.
Then, maybe it will be back to the hotel for a night swim, maybe play some pool out on the patio. Who knows?
But yeah I know. Day 3 is pretty great right? Wait until Day 4.
Well, actually you don’t have to wait. Here it is.
Day 4 has us waking up a little later. And by “a little” I mean like 7AM. So, don’t get too excited.
But if the wine hasn’t left me feeling cloudy, this may afford a trip to the fitness center before hitting the road. Maybe. But also, probably not.
But it looks like we are on the road by 8AM, checking out of the Hilton Garden Inn, and driving to Calistoga. But first – breakfast! On the way, the spreadsheet says breakfast at Bouchon Bakery, which is a Thomas Keller restaurant. We are going to French Laundry in the Fall so this would be a nice precursor. What will I eat? Well, there is a cinnamon bun. And there is some sort of pork belly sandwich. Soo…..
Once in Calistoga, the plan is to get right to our hotel – UpValley Inn & Hot Springs. More on the hotel a little later as this will just be a quick stop to check in (if we can) and drop off the car. Calistoga offers a shuttle service free to use if staying at one of their lodging partners so we will be hopping on that thing toot sweet and grabbing a ride to Sterling Vineyards.
While we are for sure looking for wines to taste, we picked our vineyards for the day also based on what might be good for the kids. And Sterling definitely looks to fit the bill. The grounds look beautiful and there is an aerial tram that takes you from the lot to the hilltop winery.
I think the kids are also offered juice and the general admission comes with a tasting and self-guided tour of the lower portion. Which leaves us and the kids to move at our own pace, enjoying the grounds.
At around 11:30AM (I love Napa as we will have already had multiple sips of wine before noon), we will order up an Uber (as the shuttle won’t travel to St. Helena) to take us over to Taplin Cellars, where we have a tasting and a picnic-style lunch scheduled for noon.
Looking especially forward to this one as my boss at work got us into this vineyard, which is not usually open for public tastings. We will get a wine-accompanied tour of the grounds and then sit down to taste 3 wines before our catered picnic lunch.
And then we have one more winery to visit so we will grab another Uber to take us over for a 3PM tasting at Castello di Amorosa, which is like…a legit CASTLE in Napa.
While there, we will taste some wine (obvs squad) and go on a self-guided tour of two levels of the winery. Will we upgrade to either include the premium wines or accompany our tasting with handmade Belgian chocolates? Well, we will probably be a little tipsy by this point so the answer to that question is most likely, “Or?”
Once done with our tasting at Castello, we will call for our shuttle back to the hotel to officially check in and get some time in their pool and hot tub. Both of which are fed with mineral water direct from their onsite well. Seems like a really cool hotel. And the interactions I have had with the staff there so far have been great…super nice.
Dinner that night is sort of up in the air. We are between Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery and Buster’s Southern BBQ. I think it may all come down to time. While both look like they offer great food, I have a feeling we will end up at Calistoga Inn. Word on the street is that Buster’s closes at around 7:30PM and they often run out of food by that time. And I mean, food is the number one reason we will be looking to go to a restaurant.
Plus, Calistoga Inn has a duck confit risotto. So.
After dinner, it’s right back to the hotel as we have to get to bed early. Another early morning on Day 5. Get excited.