Reverse Californication

wine at Sterling
Day 2 begins in the Valley of Napa. This is a vacation worth waking up early for – especially knowing that a tasty breakfast is on the horizon. I wish I had pictures of the first breakfast but just imagine a poached egg atop an herbed potato with more diced herbed potatoes scattered about. Topped with a lemon-thyme-pepper cream reduction. Let’s not forget the first course – they always have a “buffet station” with fresh fruit, homemade granola, and cereal along with some additional homemade treat such as a scone or muffin. Makes me feel a little healthier to grab some fruit, except when I dump creme anglaise on top!

We had a number of wineries planned for today, so we really had to get crackin’. The innkeepers had warned us against a winery called V Sattui. They don’t distribute their wine, so it’s a popular place for tourists to hit up and apparently it can get extrememly busy to the point where you are standing in line to get to the tasting bar. We decided at the last minute to go there first thing, since one of Chris’ coworkers recommended this one. To our surprise, the place was dead! And the wine host was so awesome. We knew right away he’d be delightful after he turned around and was wearing a sweater vest with a grateful dead patch. He was a hoot! The next couple at the bar was an older couple from North Carolina – how ironic, right?! We talked for a few about the sad basketball team of NC State and then they started talking about how much they liked Merlot and then the conversation was over. Their wine was great. WBT: 2 (6).

V Sattui winery

Next up was Sterling. We’d heard they had a tram that took you up to their tasting room. Fancy! There was a $20pp price attached, but during my trip looking-up, I found a $5 off coupon as long as you go in the morning. No brainer! The tram was really cool – it reminded me of the one we took in Barcelona last year. They had a neat tasting balcony complete with sunshine and warm weather. The wine host was more of a waiter and brought us our 5 tastings as we finished each one. He was the cutest frenchman (aside from Chef Pierre from school!) and was such a jolly guy. They had an unbeatable special for their entire flight. Sold to the lady with the big shades. WBT 5 (11). So back down the tram we go and on to more wine!

Chris at Sterlingme at Sterling

We’d planned to head up to Alexander Valley for the remainder of the day, but traffic was thick as could be on 29 and we’d sat in traffic for some unknown reason for about 10 minutes with our stomachs growling like mad. With no thanks to the horrible turning radius on the Eclipse, we finally managed a 3-point turn for lunch. We passed a burger/diner joint we’d heard about called Taylor’s Refresher. Good call. We tore down like starving mad tigers, or something. Grabbed an espresso milkshake for dessert; figured since we’d passed on the fries we could “make up” for the “lost” calories with a milkshake. Hit the spot.

Taylor's Refresher

Since for some reason we weren’t meant to head up north, we headed around Napa and then west instead. Chris’ coworker had recommended Miner. The wine host was really nice, but this just wasn’t our cup of tea. Seemed like everyone was there to do business or something. Weird. We did buy a bottle – which apparently is an unsaid rule we had throughout the trip, and the host gave us a free tasting, which we found out later was probably because we used AMEX. WBT 1 (12).

Rutherford Hill was next on the list since it was fairly close. This one was well-hidden, but that wasn’t stopping us! After many a winding road, we found it. The wine host their was too freakin’ funny. I think the first thing he did, after throwing a free tasting pass at us, was scratch his balls. Ha! Totally nonchanlant about the whole thing too, as if he’d done it his whole life. Wait… Anyway. We really loved their wines. One of them, Angel’s Peak, was what was given to a winner on Top Chef. We ended up liking Devil’s Peak better as well as a Petit Verdot and a Cabernet. Turns out he didn’t charge us for either tasting, and he threw in a little cloth bag and wine glass. Wetzels:1; Rutherford:0. WBT 3(15).

Rutherford Hill winery

West we go. I’d read about Matanzas Creek and their lavendar fields in a Food & Wine magazine, so we ventured on a gorgeous road trip through some tight twists and turns over to Bennett Valley. Now this guy was into the wine – he could talk for hours, but he was really helpful. We didn’t venture out to the lavendar fields but got a good look and unfortunatley forgot to take pictures here. But check out their website – you’ll be talked into visiting this one from the pictures alone. This place threw us for a loop though, because we tasted Merlot that we liked! Lesson learned – stay open minded about wine varieties. Point taken :). WBT 3(18).

For our final tasting of the day, we headed to Sonoma to a winery I’d found as a result of insisting on finding Malbec in California, Ty Caton. I’d emailed what I thought was a generic address for the winery, and was contacted by the winemaker himself who gave me a free tasting pass. Turns out they had a great Malbec AND we discovered a new variety that we both absolutely loved, Sangiovese. Go try this – it is so good. I won’t pretend I’m so into wine that I can describe all the “tasting notes” or whatever (which I’ll prove on Saturday) so I can’t really tell you what it tastes like. But if you buy a bottle you can figure it out on your own. Chris found his own special bottle to drink when he finishes grad school too. Too bad we won’t be opening that any time soon!! tee hee hee! WBT 3(21).

wine purchases

With almost 2 cases of wine in 1.5 days of tasting, day 2 winery-ing has come to an end. But the best is ahead – dinner! We’d made reservations at Celadon, which is known for their “global comfort food”. And again, we had to go for apps, entree, and dessert. I had the coconut fried prawns (yes, fried=fatty; shut it, i’m on vacation!) with mango, cucumber and greens with citrus vinaigrette and chris had the pear and endive salad with blue cheese, walnuts, and mustard vinaigrette. Mine was prettier 🙂 and look at the size of those prawns! Yipers!

my prawn appetizer at CeladonChris' salad appetizer from Celadon

For dinner we both opted for the nights’ specials – of which they had three to choose from! Chris had fresh fettucine with rock shrimp which also had a hunk of mahi mahi on top. I had the scallops with banana curry. Sounds good eh? What’s not to like about banana and curry in one sauce?!

Chris' fettucine and shrimp at Celdaonmy banana curry at Celadon

We did learn a lesson from the first night – while stuffing your face is pretty darn fun and fulfilling (no pun intended) at the time, it kinda hurts later, and it’s harder to walk home when you are carrying some extra poundage. So we shared this time. Turns out that dessert was plenty big to share! We again opted for the special, which was called “Chocolate Gooey Cake”. How could anyone in their right mind resist that? Wanna make it a little tastier and tempting? Try adding CREME FRAICHE icecream. What a lovely, creamy taste that had. I could have eaten another bowl and I WILL find a way to make this at home.

cake with creme fraiche ice cream at Celadon

You may be wondering (and even if you’re not I’ll tell you anyway because I’m an informative person) – what’s with the title of the blog? I love the Chili Peppers, as you know from a former post. I have always wondered what the term “Californication” meant, so one day I looked it up. Turns out it has something to do with the movement of Californians into other parts of the country. That’s not what I thought it meant…. And so, with two days of Napa in the pocket of my suddenly tighter jeans, I have already begun picturing myself here on a permanent basis. It’s a place that seemed to fit with me, and I never thought I’d say that about a TOWN that isn’t jam-packed with skyscrapers and public transit. Will the feeling pass by the end? Am I in vacation la-la land? We’ll see. But at this point I close my eyes in great anticipation of waking up on Saturday and once again finding myself in Napa.

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