Travel & Adventure – Napa Valley, CA ? ?
Food, Wine & Shopping Le Voov! Style
We had a few beautiful days to spend in Napa during the month of January. Our inspiration you ask? Seventy degree weather in the middle of winter! Frequently I forget that Napa Valley is just over an hours drive from the San Francisco Peninsula (approx. 70-miles). So, my partner in crime and I packed a small overnight bag and headed to the wine country!
Our first stop along the way was at Domaine Carneros for a sparkling wine tour with Al, the Senior Wine Educator. There were many reasons why we had decided to begin our visit to the wine country with a tour of Domaine Carneros by Taittinger. One, they make several fantastic sparkling wines which we enjoy on a regular basis.
Another aspect that is in alignment with our Le Voov! values is the commitment Taittinger has dedicated to creating an environmentally friendly, organic estate vineyard that favors the craft of old-country wine making. We were thrilled to learn that Domaine Carneros has the largest photovoltaic solar collection system of any winery in the world.
They also access caves to maintain their cellar temperatures, eliminating the carbon footprint of refrigeration. Finally, we were drawn to the formal gardens and the glorious, expansive view of the Napa Valley from the outdoor terrace. What a Voovacious way to start our journey!
The sparkling wine selection provided for our tasting was the Ultra Brut, Vintage Brut Rose and the Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs. I must admit I’ve never had an appreciation for rose sparkling wine prior to tasting the Vintage Brut Rose. This wine represents the perfect blend of fruity Pinot Noir and bold, yet floral characteristics of the Chardonnay grape. The Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs was my personal favorite. I truly enjoyed the blend of both the bright, citrus flavor and the deep, yet delicate texture as it danced on the palate.
At the end of our sparkling wine tour, we had the great privilege of tasting the Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir, as well as the Avant-Garde Pinot. Both were beautifully representative of the fruity berry tones characteristic of the Carneros region. What an absolutely fabulous way to finish off our tour of the winery.
Helpful Tips: Several of the best wines created at Domaine Carneros are not available in stores and only can be purchased directly through the winery. Their wine club offers members complimentary tours and tastings, and special prices, making it an excellent choice. Reservations are recommended. Call (707) 257-0101 ext. 150.
Napkins Bar & Grill
We asked our fabulous taste master Al, at Domaine Carneros, if he had any recommendations for wines we should treat ourselves to while in Napa. He strongly suggested we try the 2010 Black Stallion Estate Winery Chardonnay available at many of the restaurants in Old Town Napa. So, we stopped into a restaurant called Napkins to watch the last half of the 2015 NCAA National Championship game between Ohio State and Oregon and have a glass of wine, while we waited for our table at Zuzu. Al was spot-on in his recommendation! The Black Stallion chardonnay was a wonderful, medium-bodied white with a fruity blend of apple, citrus and nuts, which was perfectly offset by the rich, creamy texture of lingering oak flavor at the finish.
Napkins dinner menu looked lovely. The couple seated next to us ordered the tamarind and apple pork chop, which smelled heavenly! We’ll stop in next time we’re in town for a full dining experience and share our thoughts with you….
Zuzu Tapas & Wine Bar
829 Main street, Napa, 94559 (707) 224-8555
Zuzu, located in Napa’s historic Old Town, has masterfully blended the culinary traditions of Spain and South America with the warmth of Mediterranean décor to create a true gem. The complex layering of flavor and spice in each dish was uniquely divine.
Our server Darlene was very knowledgeable and made some fantastic suggestions for our maiden voyage at the restaurant. Zuzu’s signature sangria was delightfully fresh and fruity. Given the ease with which the first glass went down, I had a great appreciation for the speedy arrival of our first plates!
Everything we ordered was truly amazing with the exception of the Gambas al Ajillo, which was overly salty. This may have just been an oversight that evening, so we’ll order it again the next time we visit and provide you with an update. Our biggest dilemma is how to enjoy all the incredible dishes we loved on our first visit, and still have room to try all the other items on the menu…
Here’s what we ordered along with the descriptions from the menu:
- Sangria – Strong wonderfully fruity flavor!
- Coconut Rockfish Ceviche – Ceviche del Dia; Citrus Marinated Seafood with Jicama, Avocado and Tortilla Chips
- Gambas al Ajillo – Gambas al Ajillo; Fresh Gulf Shrimp with Garlic, Piquin Chili & Smoky Pimenton
- Colorado Lamb Chops – Colorado Lamb Chops with Moroccan Barbeque Glaze, Mint & Curry Oil
- Flat Iron with Chimmichuri – Flat-Iron Steak from Niman Ranch with Roasted Jalapeño Chimichurri
- Brussels Sprouts – Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onion, Bacon & Sliced Almonds
- Basque Cake with a Seasonal Fruit Compote (raspberries)
**Next time we’ll try: Paella del Dia, Braised Pork Cheeks and the Roasted Beets.
Boon Fly Café
4048 Sonoma Hwy, Napa, CA
We began our second day in Napa with breakfast at the Boon Fly Café. This contemporary roadhouse restaurant has a fun, bubbly atmosphere and an eclectic menu full of scrumptious culinary options. Our morning dining delight started with an order of the signature Boon Fly mini-donuts. These cute, mini-sized wonders proved to be an excellent dipping partner for their rich, dark roast coffee.
For my meal, I ordered the Chilaquiles with scrambled eggs. To my surprise, the eggs were outrageously light and fluffy, pairing beautifully with the deep seasonings and the freshness of the accompanying salsa. This combination made the dish a true winner in my book.
Brian ordered the Boon Fly Benedict with the Jalapeño Hollandaise. This plate featured wonderfully thick-cut ham, and the eggs were perfectly poached. The jalapeño hollandaise didn’t have any real kick (heat) to it, but it was quite fresh and creamy tasting just the same.
**Next time we’ll try: “Green Eggs and Ham”
Prager Winery & Port Works
1281 Lewelling Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574. Call for reservations Ph# 707 963-7678
As we entered Prager Winery & Port Works we found ourselves surrounded by lush green gardens. Not the manicured, stately gardens of Domaine Carneros, rather, the kind of gardens surrounding a sweet country cottage far, far away. The dirt road leading to the winery is very narrow and easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled as you approach on highway 29.
Prager Winery & Port Works, located in the famous growing region of St. Helena, is family owned and operated by three generations of the Prager clan. Upon entering the charming old wooden cottage tasting area, we were warmly greeted by our taste master John Prager, son of the founder.
The tasting room walls and ceiling are adorned in currency from around the world with personal messages scribbled on them. During our tasting, Brian and I attempted to count just how many countries were represented therein, but became delightfully distracted by the absolutely Voovacious selection of wines we were sipping. John treated us to a delicious selection of six wines, four ports (2010 Port, Royal Escort, Aria White Port, and the Noble Companion 10-year Old Tawny), a 2009 Petite Syrah and the Sweet Claire’s Reisling.
John carefully explained the complex characteristics of each of the wines we would be tasting, walking us through the various pressing processes, bottling, aging, etc. Each of the wines we tasted was a unique experience on the palate, which made it difficult to decide upon just one bottle to take home. So, we ended up with both a 2009 Royal Escort Port as well as the Noble Companion 10-year Old Tawny Port.
Prager Winery & Port Works offers a wonderfully unique, eclectic Napa Valley experience. We truly enjoyed talking to the friendly, knowledgeable family behind these delicious wines along with the welcoming, relaxed tasting experience we had at Prager’s. We will definitely be back as soon as we finish the two bottles we purchased!
Dean & Deluca
607 St. Helena Hwy S, Saint Helena, CA 94574 (Just off highway 29!)
After our wonderful tasting experience at Prager’s Winery & Port Works, we stopped into Dean & Deluca for a bit of
epicurean perusing. Dean & DeLuca is a chain of fabulous gourmet grocery stores for foodies. The first store was established in New York City in September 1977, in the SoHo district, a rather upscale area in lower Manhattan.
Known for it’s unique selection of meats, cheese, freshly baked bread, and of course, the vast array of gourmet chocolate truffles, this is the perfect place to pick up all the fixins for a decadent picnic in between visiting wineries.
I was introduced to Dean & Deluca over 20-years ago while visiting the Manhattan area. As I recall, it was like stepping into an epicurean paradise of amazingly fresh, high quality, healthy food, all displayed with absolute perfection. This store is a ‘must’ for fellow foodies visiting the Napa area. The layout is open, spacious and airy with racks filled with everything from cooking utensils to oils/vinegars, handmade pastas, chocolate bars, honey, jams, nuts and a deli that cannot be beat. The meat and cheese sections are alluring in their own sense and I gravitate towards them every time, even if it is just to get a petite piece of cheese that must be eaten in the car on the way home.
We picked up some Chili Crunch after being provided a taste of this marvelous condiment atop a piece of rustic French bread. It has a brilliant, crunchy blend of chilies and roasted garlic with a subtle heat that engulfs the mouth just after you swallow. Yummm! If you are interested in experiencing Chili Crunch for yourself, you can find it at our Amazon Store.
Dean & Deluca’s takes some time to go through, so plan on being inside for a little while. (Hint: It’s a marvelous place to stop and escape the heat during the summer months!)
I wish we had the pleasure of a Dean and Deluca store in the San Francisco Bay Area, but until we do, it makes our trips to Napa that much more enjoyable!
3522 Silverado Trail North, St. Helena, CA 94574, Phone: (800) 622-2206
We headed North on the Silverado Trail for a tasting at Rombauer Vineyards. After driving up the curvy, narrow road to the winery, we were greeted by a few colorfully painted cow sculptures and gorgeous landscaped gardens. The winery is located atop a sunny knoll surrounded by giant trees that offer the perfect shield from the bustling valley below. As we stepped from the car, a tranquil, quiet peacefulness overcame our senses and the playful sound of songbirds danced through the air.
From the woods emerged the Head Gardener of the Rombauer Estate (I didn’t get his name). Smiling, he approached and handed us an orange from one of the many fruit trees on the property. He told us to slow down, enjoy the wine, the expansive gardens, and feel free to stay a while. He also shared with us that there were over 100 varieties of plants and flowers and plenty of whimsical artwork throughout the estate. So, while the rest of the country was deep in snow and frigid temperatures, we headed to the outdoor tasting area to enjoy the 70+ degree sunshine!
As we walked along the wooden deck to the tasting area, we inhaled the breath taking view of the forest surrounding us, Napa Valley below, and the majestic Mayacamas mountain range in the distance.
Our taste master Susan P. greeted us warmly and explained to us the two tasting options available. They offer a Classic Flight of five commercially available wines for $20 (the wines you can get in stores), or a Proprietor’s Flight of four wines for $30 (these wines are only available through the winery). Susan suggested the Proprietor’s Flight after carefully listening to our personal wine preferences. Our tasting included 2008 Le Meilleur du Chia, 2009 Stice Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, to finish with the 2013 Proprietor’s Selection Chardonnay.
I enjoyed the classic characteristics of both the Le Meilleur du Chai and the Proprietors Selection Chardonnay best, though the Cabernets were lovely as well. The rich, deep berry aromas present in the Le Meilleur du Chai rose from the glass to greet the nose, followed by a long, roasted vanilla finish. In contrast, the Chardonnay possessed a vibrant blend of melon and honey fruitiness with a spicy finish of oak and sweet vanilla, which played well together on the palate. I look forward to creating a beautiful meal to pair with each of these fabulous wines in the coming months, so stay tuned…..!
Throughout the tasting, Susan shared with us much of the history behind the winery. We learned that Rombauer Vineyards was founded in 1982 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, and has remained a family-run operation to this day. As reflected in the beautiful gardens throughout the estate, the Rombauer family nurtures the land where their grapes are grown. The winery also accesses over a mile of underground caves to create the optimum temperature and humidity for aging their wine, while minimizing their carbon footprint. Apparently these values were established in Germany, where Koerner’s ancestors made wine in the Rheingau region.
But the most interesting fact I learned that really curled my toes, was that Koerner’s Great Aunt, Irma Rombauer authored the book ‘The Joy of Cooking’ in 1936. I ask you, what more Voovacious pairing could be made, family, fine wine and good food?!!!
From the beautiful flow of the gardens cascading down the hill, to the relaxed atmosphere in the tasting room, Rombauer Vineyards is a treasure in Napa Valley. ‘The Joy of Wine’ embodies the philosophy at Rombauer, and honestly, you can taste the quality and the care that goes into creating all of their fine wines.
Helpful Tips: As noted above, many of the best wines created at Rombauer Vineyards are not available in stores and can only be purchased directly through the winery. Their wine club offers members complimentary tastings, guest passes, and special prices, making it an excellent and affordable choice. Reservations are recommended. Call (707) 963-6606.
***A closing note from our dog Otter-Pop: Both the winery and the tasting room are dog-friendly!!!***