Thanks to the wonder that is Facebook, I’ve now learned that February 18 is National Wine Drinking Day. If you ask me, whoever created this holiday was just looking for an extra excuse to say “cheers,” to which I say…genius. What better day to share the last details of our girl’s trip to Napa?
After grabbing another breakfast from Bouchon Bakery on Monday morning, we made our way to HALL Rutherford for an artisan tour and tasting. Big thanks to Madison for the recommendation – it was yet another amazing Napa experience!
The HALL Rutherford location involves a winding road up a mountain, but upon reaching the top it’s totally worth it. As you walk into the tasting room, you are greeted with a picturesque view.
We were the first tour of the day and, as it turned out, the only two people attending (one of the perks of visiting a winery on a Monday during the off season). Our guide, Devin, poured us a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and encouraged us to check out the patio before the tour began.
The Hall family loves to support living artists, which was evidenced by the many sculptures and paintings that adorned their property, both inside and out.
Their flair for art was also exhibited in the machinery they use during the wine making process. The gorgeous three-to-six-ton fermenters below were literally designed and custom built within the room where they’re housed, much like a ship inside a bottle.
The caves were designed and built by hand and feature Austrian brick recovered from sites in and around Vienna, with each brick featuring the Hapsburg crest.
But perhaps most impressive of all was the chandelier inside the caves’ private reception room. The “trunk” base is made with bronze while the “leaves” are made from hundreds of Swarovski crystals.
No picture can do it justice, that’s for sure.
The tasting featured a variety of red wines, with my favorites being the Kathryn Hall Cabernet and Ellie’s Cabernet Sauvignon. Devin did an excellent job with both the tour and the tasting – it was nice to have such a personalized experience!
Following our time at HALL Rutherford, we made our way over to the Rutherford Grill for lunch.
The queso dip special immediately caught our eye. It was really good!
We also shared an iceberg wedge with blue cheese, tomatoes and pickled beets…
…and the “bangers and mash,” which was comprised of locally made sausages with spicy, deli-style mustard served with mashed potatoes colcannon.
Our next stop was Del Dotto for an estate tour and barrel tasting.
Drinking straight from the barrel was such a unique and fun experience! Basically, a tool called a wine thief (I won’t let my inner 13-year-old comment, but you can click that link to see what it looks like) pulls the wine from the barrel and puts it into your glass. I lost count of the number of wines we sampled (oops), but one of the cool things about Del Dotto is that they purchase barrels from all over the world. We were able to try three wines made from the same grapevine that had been placed in barrels from France, Missouri and Minnesota, respectively. The difference between them all was striking, which just goes to show how much of an impact the oak barrels have on the final product. There is something to that whole aging thing.
Yet another interesting Napa fact: the winter season is also mustard season. Gorgeous yellow flowers were in abundance everywhere we looked! Since the grapes only grow in the spring and summer, the ground is cultivated by planting mustard flowers along the rows between the grapevines. The plants help stimulate the soil, helping the grapes grow better when their time comes. Looks like a relaxing spot for a nap or picnic if you ask me.
Mama Bender and I relaxed outside for a while before making our way to the final stop of the day: Terra Valentine. This tasting room also involves an uphill trade for amazing views.
Our tasting was paired with a selection of cheeses and chocolate, which once again brilliantly played their role of enhancing the flavors of the wines. I enjoyed the Cabernet Franc and Marriage blend (clever name, huh?) the most.
Not long after we left Terra Valentine, the sun began to set on our final day in Napa. We made our way back to Yountville for a little shopping before dinner at another highly recommended restaurant: Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega.
We started out with some bread served with olive oil and balsamic vinegar…
…as well as an order of grilled shortrib meatballs. These were incredibly rich and flavorful with their Sicilian heirloom tomato sauce, coal roasted eggplant passata, cucumber, grapes and housemade ricotta accompaniments.
For my entrée, I had the roasted potato gnocchi with pumpkin fonduta, roasted root vegetables, “holiday” zabaglione and grilled ricotta salata. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it. We need to add gnocchi to our pasta options at home!
The next morning, Mama Bender and I made good on our promise to return to Domaine Carneros for one final glass of champagne. I chose the Brut Cuvée while Mama Bender went with the Verméil Demi-Sec. They were the perfect send off.
It was bittersweet to say goodbye to the rolling green hills and rows upon rows of vineyards, but we feel so fortunate to have had this time to spend with each other and definitely took the memories back home with us.
If you are ever planning a trip to Napa and have any specific questions about the tours and tastings from these recap posts, please don’t hesitate to email me! I don’t claim to be an expert by any means (a lot of what we did was inspired by others), but we did have ourselves a really good trip.
Big thanks to Papa Bender for all his help in planning and making this trip a reality. And big thanks to Mama Bender for being my wine drinking partner-in-crime for four glorious days. I love you both!