THE 2019 CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: DAY 4 (NAPA VALLEY DAY 2!!)

As you all may recall from my last post, wine. You may recall wine.

And all that wine lead to an altogether not all that unexpected situation the morning of Day 4. Yerp.

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That was me. I was like Brian Fantana. Except not as cool.

The good news is this was the only day I actually felt hungover the entire trip. The bad news? Matt and I had plans to go for a run this morning. I woke up at around 7ish and texted Matt to see if he was ready to head out for a run. And I hoped in my heart of hearts he wouldn’t answer.

But the universe hates me. So he answered and I dragged my hungover self out of bed. The hotel gave us a map of a 3-mile run around the area and we hit the road, neither of us sure of how this would turn out.

And we made it. Without one drop of vomit. Matt had to stop in the middle but I made it! Pretty big achievement. And all before 8AM.

We went back up to our rooms, got ready, and the 8 of us headed out for breakfast. I had to get rid of that whole “healthy” thing quick.

Breakfast this morning was in Yountville at Bouchon Bakery, which was an exciting situation. Not only did the food look amazeface, but we were also really excited for our first Thomas Keller restaurant. Thomas Keller is kind of a big deal.

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Everything inside looked INCREDIBLE.

Owen got the cinnamon roll. And seriously? These may be the prettiest cinnamon roll I have ever seen.

CINN ROLL DAY 4 CA 2019
Now THAT is a cinnamon roll.

Myles went for the éclair. Which he said was good, but a tad small.

ECLAIR DAY 4 CA 2019

Nickie went the savory route with the ham, cheese, and egg croissant. Super flaky. Translation: super messy.

CROISSANT DAY 4 CA 2019
I believe its pronounced “cwahssant.” Or “cwassandwich.”

I got the pork belly fouee. On account of I didn’t know what it was beyond the fact that it was pork belly. Which was really all I needed to know. For those that don’t know (which included me before Day 4), fouee is a round, airy bread from Western France. This particular fouee was filled with yumtown pork belly.

FOUEE DAY 4 CA 2019
And this is pronounced “phooey.”

This was a legit fouee. I mean, I don’t know as far as fouees go. But this one was legit.

I also got a birthday cake macaron. Though Jack assumed this was for Laura and gave it to her when she got outside. So this first bite? It’s Laura’s.

MACARON DAY 4 CA 2019

Of course, this was pretty much the end of Laura and I’s friendship. It was a good run though.

Pfft, kidding. Of course she could have a bite. I also split it with Nickie, Myles, and Owen. Thing was GOOD though. Maybe the best macaron I have ever had. It deserves a second picture.

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Holy macaroni.

Being that we were in wine country, we made the decision to do a post-breakfast pre-noon wine tasting. When in Rome, right? We hopped in the car and headed to Calistoga.

DRIVING WINE COUNTRY 1 DAY 4 CA 2019

On the way, everyone humored me and stopped to take a pic at the Napa sign, which was something I had been wanting to do every time we drove by. Which happened a lot.

NAPA SIGN DAY 4 CA 2019
I’m not superstitious or anything, but I think this is is a sign.

Our next stop was Sterling Vineyards. The full ride from Bouchon to Sterling was probably like 30 minutes or so. So we were at the vineyard a little after 10:30 AM. For wine. Napa=best.

The road into the vineyard was a beautiful, tree-lined drive.

STERLING TREES DAY 4 CA 2019

We pulled in, parked, and checked in for our experience.

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STERLING CHECK IN 2 DAY 4 CA 2019
Disco balls are always a good indicator of good things to come.

We had heard Sterling was a good vineyard to visit with kids. And right at check-in, we could already tell this place catered to families. The kids were all given a “fun bag.”

FUN BAG DAY 4 CA 2019
See? Doesn’t that look fun?

The picture doesn’t really convey it, but this was a cool addition to the experience. The bag contained a Gatorade, Chex mix, crayons, an activity book, and a pair of sunglasses. Pretty cool. Plus, the fact they called it a “fun bag” was a present for the adults as well. Heh. Fun bag.

The full Sterling experience starts with an aerial tram ride up to the tasting.

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It seemed like this sign was made for Nickie. As she asked ALL these questions.

Since each tram holds four, we split into family units. The Nerneys in one…

NERNEY TRAM DAY 4 CA 2019

And the Goodys in the other.

WAYNE AND MYLES TRAM DAY 4 CA 2019

Nickie was a bit freaked by the whole thing.

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So much nervous.

The tram gave us some pretty incredible views on the way up. Sterling has some beautiful grounds.

TRAM VIEW 1 DAY 4 CA 2019

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The Sterling wine tour was a self-guided (though they do offer a guided tour as well.) I think we all really liked this as it allowed us to sip on our wine while taking in the scenery and architecture. Our first wine was…erm…I don’t remember. Sauvignon Blanc? Pinot Grigio? No clue.

This is pretty much me right now.

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But here it is being poured. So that’s something, right?

STERLING 1 DAY 4 CA 2019

As we were walking with our wine, I wanted to get a picture of Nickie and I with the scenery behind us. Matt graciously offered, so Nickie handed him her phone. As he was taking the picture, he really was trying to get a good angle, capturing the vista behind us. He squatted down but was still struggling to get the full background. So he tried to angle the phone up but, unfortunately, forgot he was holding a glass of wine in his hand.

Thankfully, he was quick enough to save his wine and all was good.

Pfft. No. Why would I tell you that story if it had a happy ending?

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The scene of the crime. The wine crime.

Thank goodness there was more wine to come.

I also still got the pic. Selfie-style.

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The tour had a bunch of stops throughout to fill up on wine and took us through not only Sterling’s grounds, but also the winemaking process. See? Education. We aren’t terrible parents.

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I think the full tasting was 5 wines? Maybe 4? Does it even matter at this point? It was like 11AM. I do remember, barely, the last was out on the outdoor patio.

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The views from here were pretty breathtaking.

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We relaxed on their couches for a little while, sipping our wines and Gatorades. And reflecting on the fact that IT WAS STILL THE MORNING. Yeah.

But it was approaching noon and we had some plans at 12:30 back in St. Helena so it was time to leave. Back on the tram…

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If you are heading to Napa with the fam squad, Sterling is pretty much a must-stop. Is it the best wine I’ve ever had? No. But the views, the tram, the…fun bag…, and the overall relaxing nature kept the kids’ “I hate this” meter on low.

Like I said, we had 12:30 plans back in St. Helena. So we headed back that way.

Now, a little about these plans. My manager at work, being from the Napa area, knows a few winemakers in the area. So he hooked us up with a private tasting and lunch at Taplin Cellars, which is one of his favorites.

We drove up to the address they gave us, which took us through these sprawling vineyards…

TAPLIN VINES DAY 4 CA 2019

…up to a small farmhouse next to this big marble slab table.

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We got out of our cars and looked around, not seeing anyone or anything like a typical wine tasting. It was pretty much us for the first couple minutes until our host, Bill Taplin, walked up holding a picnic basket filled with sodas for the kids and a bottle of their Melinda’s Rosé, which honors Bill’s sister, Melinda, who the family lost to cancer. Bill said she was always fond of the French Rosés and dreamt of one day producing one herself. All the profits from the wine go to breast cancer research. It was a delicious wine anyways but having such a story behind it made it even more special.

It was a beautiful day and we all sat enjoying our wine and sodas as Bill told us the history of the vineyard. As he was telling us his family’s story, he informed us the Redwood next to us was planted by his grandfather. So cool.

TAPLIN REDWOOD DAY 4 CA 2019

We expected this would be where the lunch and tasting would take place, but Bill informed us we would be walking over to their main building for the tasting. We got up from our seats and as we were making our way over there, he pointed out the giant Jenga game, which immediately grabbed the boys’ attention.

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And he led us into the main room…

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TAPLIN BARREL DAY 4 CA 2019

To our left was our lunch from Market. When I first saw them, I was like, “Hey, sandwiches…”

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But my attention immediately shifted to my right, where we found this waiting for us.

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Then I was like, “Hey, wine.”

Bill took us through three of Taplin’s wines, their 2008 Terra 9, their 2015 Terra 9, and their Reserve.

TAPLIN 2 DAY 4 CA 2019

All of them were incredible. We decided to get a couple bottles for the rest of the trip – a bottle of the 2008 and a bottle of Melinda’s Rosé, to enjoy later in the trip. He then asked which we would like more of to enjoy with lunch and poured us each a glass. The boys came in to join us, and we each grabbed a plate.

LUNCH DAY 4 CA 2019

Lunch was a chicken breast sandwich, side Caesar salad, some kind of pasta salad…and Rice Krispie treats!! It was rull good. Even Owen ate his. Which was a shock to all of us. On account of it wasn’t Kraft macaroni and cheese.

After lunch, we went out to take some pictures in the vineyard before departing.

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It was unfortunately time to leave as we had to check into our next hotel, but we all felt like we could have stayed all day. Amazing wine, an incredible setting, and great conversation. This was definitely our favorite Napa experience of the weekend. I mean, well. There was the hungover run with Matt. So many great memories.

The riding groups were me, Matt, Myles, and Will in the Mustang and Nickie, Laura, Jack, and Owen in the Suburban. I remember this because our car was blaring Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” It was kind of an epic ride. Stellar car jamz.

Our next hotel was UpValley Inn & Suites. We all pulled in, went in to check in, and proceeded to wait for what seemed like an eternity for someone to actually come to the front desk. Thankfully, there were drinks in the lobby. And couches. Both were appreciated.

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This hotel was…ok. It was more of a motel and being on the second floor, it was a hot walk to bring up the luggage. When we showed up, the pool was packed with what seemed like some sort of Bro Convention. So. Many. Bros.

We went up to our rooms and then, well, then began

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GlassesGate 2019: Chapter 1

As we entered our room at the UpValley, I noticed my eyes were hurting a bit so I asked Nickie where my glasses were since she had packed up earlier. She thought maybe they were in her pocket book. No glasses. We checked the duffels. The backpacks. No glasses. Walked out to the Mustang. The Suburban. Nope, no glasses.

I started getting a bit freaked out so I called everywhere we had been. Bouchon. Sterling, Taplin. The Hilton Garden Inn. No one had seen my glasses anywhere.

While I was freaking out, Nickie made some calls to some local LensCrafters as well as our local store to see if we could get my prescription and frames somewhere out in California. But she got different stories from everyone she talked to. She even enlisted her mom, who was willing to go to our local LensCrafters and have my frames shipped to me. But that didn’t seem to be an answer either as they needed to fit them to my head.

It seemed like maybe I would have to go without. Or would I? Will Wayne get new glasses? Will his original pair turn up? Will anyone even care? Will is the name of one of the boys on the trip.

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of…

GlassesGate 2019

I sulked for a good hour or so, both in the room and at the pool, which had by now emptied of the bros. It wasn’t quite as empty as this picture I took the next day, but at least we could find some chairs.

UPVALLEY POOL DAY 4 CA 2019.jpg

The pool was pretty nice. Both the pool and hot tub were fed by Calistoga mineral waters. So there was that. But I still had no glasses. So.

Ah well. It was almost time for dinner so we all went back up to the room and got ready. Then headed downstairs to grab the free shuttle into downtown. The shuttle was parked on the grass right outside and led to this amazing exchange:

(we knock on the shuttle door)

Shuttle driver: Hi!

Us: Hi, are you the shuttle driver?

Shuttle driver: Yes.

Us: Great. Can you take us into town?

Shuttle driver: (confused look) Um. Erm.

Us: (walk on the shuttle)

We could tell that last question really threw her so the best thing to do was just get on the bus and hope it all started making sense. Thankfully, it did. And we were on our way.

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It wasn’t a space shuttle, but we were still happy. For some reason.

Dinner that night was at the Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery.

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The waitress sat us out on the patio, which was perfect because it was a super nice night.

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We started with some drinks. I only got pictures of Nickie’s, which was a Cosmopolitan.

COSMO DAY 4 CA 2019

And mine, a lovely Manhattan.

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Actually, that’s not true. I did get a picture of one more drink. Laura attempted to order three Shirley Temples for the boys, but Jack quickly corrected her that there would be three Shirley Temples ordered as he wanted a Bitburger Drive Non-Alcoholic Beer.

Yeah. He really wanted to try it.

The assumption was that he wouldn’t like it so we decided to get four Shirley Temples and 1 Bitburger Drive for the four boys to each have a sip. Each of the boys were handed shot glasses to try the beer.

And as I am writing that sentence, even I am questioning my own parenting skills.

This all really happened so fast. The waiter, to his credit, didn’t bat an eye.

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I only ended up getting pics of Myles and Owen trying it.

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But no matter. The experience was the same for all four. None of them liked it, claiming it was “too bitter” and making yuck faces at every sip. To be fair, I tried it as well. And it wasn’t very good. Don’t worry boys…you’ll like it someday.

To start, we got the Garlic-Crusted Calamari to share.

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Which was very good. And I managed to take pictures of more meals than just mine tonight. So selfless am I. For example, both Nickie and Laura got the wilted spinach with gnocchi. Which Nickie says was fantastic.

CAESAR SALAD DAY 4 CA 2019

Matt went for the Skirt Steak with Bearnaise.

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In this picture, it looks like Owen (and I think Myles) got the cheeseburger, Will got the wedge salad?

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No idea what Jack got. It looks like his plate was empty. He was probably full. You know, from the beer.

I went for the Mixed Grill – Niman Ranch Pork Chop & Duck Sausage with polenta and broccolini.

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It. Was. Delicious. That duck sausage was like whoa. Seriously, this was a great dinner. Afterwards, we headed out into the streets of Calistoga, in search of ice cream.

CALISTOGA 1 DAY 4 CA 2019

As we walked over the bridge, Matt played some Pooh sticks with the kids.

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But, unfortunately, the sticks never made it to the other side of the bridge, getting caught up in some rocks.

Pooh sticks? More like poo sticks. Amirite?

Ah well, we still had ice cream, right? We walked a little ways up the street to the Calistoga Creamery.

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This ice cream was some of the best I have ever had. Insanely creamy and the flavors seriously popped.

CREAMERY 2 DAY 4 CA 2019

The kids all seemed to enjoy it, for sure.

CREAMERY 3 DAY 4 CA 2019

I got the salted caramel in a homemade waffle cone.

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Soooo good.

While we were at the creamery, Matt and Laura walked into a liquor store to pick up some supplies. Matt grabbed some cigars as well and, for some reason, rum and erm…orange juice. Laura said there was Coke, but nope. He went orange juice. Crazy. But eh….we made it work.

Well sort of. We decided to try and avoid another shuttle mishap so we walked back to the hotel. We lit our cigars, poured some rum into the orange juice, and let the others move on ahead. Matt informed me that he got two orange juices but Laura had it in the bag. So we ended up sharing our rum and orange juice. It wasn’t bad…it just wasn’t good either.

We made it back to the hotel with some cigar still left so the two of us hung out in the courtyard, smoking, while the boys hung out in the Nerneys’ room and the girls watched Big Little Lies in our room.

The two of us hung out for at least an hour. Smoking. Conversing. That sort of thing. It was a great night, actually.

However, next day, as we were leaving the hotel, we did notice this.

SMOKE FREE DAY 4 CA 2019.jpg
Oops.

Literally right next to where we were smoking those cigars. Yeah. Hotels love us.

But that was Day 4. A pretty epic sendoff to Napa. It was a jam-packed two days full of awesome. Though I think the kids were pretty excited to get out of there and onto our next stop…

See you guys on Day 5!

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