For better or worse, here I am—trapped in paradise. As long as I continue to live in this vital, inimitable spot on the globe,

I will continue to seek out the unique…the delicious…the innovative products, services and traditions of San Luis Obispo County.

Stay posted for a few of my favorite things.

About Me...

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A wanderlust at heart... captivated by the California Central Coast. Join me on my culinary and vino-infused adventures as I explore and discover the regional novelties of San Luis Obispo County that make living here...easy to stay...and hard to leave.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Elizabeth in Napa, Day 2

Day 1 Abridged: After driving from San Luis Obispo to Napa Valley and tasting at five wineries, a friend and I ended our long lasting day by indulging at Bistro Jeantry—a charming French bistro in Yountville. Tucked away in a cozy corner, we pleasantly fussed over their world famous cream of tomato soup in puff pastry (this amazing recipe is posted on their website and I vow at some point to recreate it and pair with a SLO County wine), slick oysters, rich pork belly with a lentil and foie gras ragout, hearty cassoulet, and a gorgeous coq au vin. The next day brought more overindulgence, some of which is highlighted below...

Day 2 also brought a blanket of fog. After a short car-ride ascending a winding, scenic road that took us high above the misty view, we reached the pinnacle and glimpsed the spectacular landscape of Sonoma Valley covered in fog below. Descending into this cloud-like miasma, our first tasting stop of the day began at the Mission style setting of St. Francis Winery & Vineyards.

St Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of animals and ecology, greeted us near the entrance to the winery, where a bell tower hovers above the tasting room. The bell was blessed in the Piazza Della Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy.

We opted for their "Zin Fanatic Tasting" and started our cold, foggy Sonoma morning with a flight of some of their tasty, spicy Zinfandels to warm up our palates for the long day ahead.

At Arrowood Vineyards & Winery, we opted for white varietals in their tasting room, and enjoyed a fragrant, luscious, creamy 2007 Viognier, Russian River Valley. Lovely views dotted the landscape throughout the day, including Arrowood's Petit Verdot vines.

These knarly Zinfandel vines, planted in 1924, grow outside Wellington Vineyards and Winery's tasting room, part of their 21-acre estate vineyard that includes 24 different varieties. Of particular interest in the tasting room is their bold 2008 Noir de Noirs, Old Vines—a deep, dark blend of Alicante Bouschet, Lenoir, Grand Noir, and Petite Bouschet (some of these rare varietals are estate-grown).

Towards the end of our Sonoma visit, we stopped at the inviting, picturesque grounds of Chateau St. Jean and visited their reserve room for a flight of Pinot Noir. This was our fifth winery stop and we were ready to head back to Napa Valley.

Much like the first day, another sparkling respite was in order. Seated in a room overlooking auburnesque Napa vineyards dotted with new grass and cascading mountains in the background, we relaxed and sipped some bubbly in the late afternoon at Mumm Napa, recharging our weary bodies and palates.

Our final stop at the end of the day brought us to Darioush Winery, noted for its Bordeaux style estate wines. Their tasting room was formerly housed in a double-wide trailer; now the marbled visitor center provides tasters with a grandiose experience, tastefully executed...Napa style.

As we left Darioush, the setting sun brought the wineries to a close. But our day of excess wasn't yet finished.

Excellent wine—and food—replenish the soul. Our last dinner found us in St. Helena, at Tra Vigne Restaurant, an establishment Julia Child used to frequent. Their appetizer, seasonal fritto misto, delivered a fried assortment of gulf prawns, calamari, artichokes and a first for both of us—fried lemons. Thinly sliced, breaded, deep fried and served with chile aioli, this tangy new discovery caught our attention and we looked forward to choosing our entrees.

Our friendly waiter helped us settle on two choices that proved excellent. For me, sage infused papardelle with braised rabbit ragu and wild mushrooms. My friend chose smoked and braised beef short ribs with three cheese polenta and horseradish gremolata. Both were amazing—my dish proved one of the best pasta dishes either of us had ever enjoyed.

And the wine?

After two days of tasting in Napa, a trunk full of bottles purchased, and an excellent wine list at Tra Vigne, we settled on the obvious: we brought a favorite bottle from San Luis Obispo County with us.

Claiborne and Churchill Vintner's 2007 Pinot Noir, Edna Valley AVA

A satisfying SLO taste from the end of an indulgent Napa weekend.

All Text and Photos Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth in SLO. All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

Fresh Local and Best said...

Elizabeth, your photos are stunning! You visited many of my favorite places. Bistro Jeanty is such rustic and impressive restaurant. My husband and my favorite winery is Arrowood, we are long time members. You should also check out Dick Arrowood's new winery Amapola. We just opened a couple of bottles recently, and they were incredible!

Also I can't tell you how much I love the gardens at Chateau St Jean! We thought about having our wedding at the winery, it was so beautiful!

Thanks for taking us along on your visit!

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