12 Hours in Napa, California
24 hours in Napa. You don't see much, but what do can do is vastly different from one activity to another.
Two best friends, a rental car and a clear path to Napa. We landed at SFO around 8 am local time and headed to get our car. We love renting from Hertz on our girl's trips because we can grab a car and go. Simple, no fuss, grab a car and get out of there. With the terminal that Virgin America fly's into being full of fresh bites to eat, we didn't need to stop for brunch. So off we went. The drive to Napa took us about two hours from SFO. When we arrived the clock ticked to 11:00 am. Our first stop was a small family winery that we found on the Yelp app before we left. As we went into a small town and through a few winding roads we came upon Hendry. Sitting amongst the vineyard was a beautiful, big white home with a wrap around porch and acres of grapes. We drove to the tasting room, and unfortunately someone else with my name took our spot for the tasting, so the girls there gave us a private patio tasting. It was better than we could have asked for. They told us the history of the winery while giving generous pours. The winery wasn't always a winery. They tended to root vegetables and other crops until the late 1960s and early 1970s when there was a shift in Napa’s wine industry. The price of grapes was rising rapidly, the focus of wineries was shifting from quantity to quality, and vineyard plantings were on the rise. The owner, George, was an engineer and with his earnings, he built a reservoir, and in 1973, 74, and 75 replanted most of the ranch to a vineyard. Some of these plantings returned vineyard to land that had been fallow for nearly 100 years.
One of my favorite stories from our tasting is how George named the wine. Because he was an engineer he is very literally and his wines were named after the plot of land where the grapes came from. For example, Block 7 & 24 Zinfandel, and possibly my favorite was his red blend simply named, Red. It was one the best stop of the day, and I would have stayed there forever if I could have.
Knowing we had an appointment at one of the wine meccas, Joseph Phelps, we had to say goodbye to Hendry after our flight tasting and brief time learning about this fantastic winery. We purchased a couple of bottles of wine, which they shipped back home for us and headed back to the winding roads.
The vast difference between a family winery and a mecca is known the minute you pull up to the vineyard. Joseph Phelps was nestled amongst a hillside full of crops with the most extensive set up I've seen. There were huge barrels and wine corks as decor adoring both inside and outside. The gardens were full of beautiful flowers and buzzing bees. There was a bustling storefront and numerous options for tours and tastings. Our tasting took place outside overlooking their "bone" vineyard. The way the vines were planted, formed the shape of a dog bone when looking at it. The wines all had a spice to them, it wasn't the type of wine I like, but the atmosphere and service were top notch.
As the day started to tick down, we knew we didn't have much time before heading to our hotel for the evening, so it was off to have an early dinner and of course a couple of glasses of wine. We knew our hotel had a dinner, but with one of us being vegetarian, we wanted to eat somewhere we knew the menu. So, we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in St. Helena. We ordered a cheese platter, wine and shared a vegetable risotto which was garnished with fresh basil. It was exquisite.
When the wineries started to close (it is a shame they close early), we drove through a couple of cute towns looking at the architecture on our way to a unique place to lay our heads that night, Safari West.
Safari West is essentially glamping. If you are unaware of glamping, it is a way to enjoy the outdoors with the comforts of being indoors. You stay in a large tent with modern amenities like a working toilet and my favorite, heated blankets. After we checked into Safari West, we were taken via jeep to our cabin and given a quick verbal tour of the animals they have on the property, when dinner was and what to do in the cabin. Since we had just eaten, we decided to go for a walk around the property to see the animals which included three brand new baby giraffes. With most people staying longer than our quick overnighter, they do have options to go on actual safari's to the more significant part of their property to see more animals. It was an experience we wouldn't have in everyday life, that is for sure. Dinner was family style, outdoor by the fire pits. They served a lot of variety including beer and wine for those who wanted it. The hot brownie dessert was a crowd pleaser. After dinner, we settled in for the night reading the previous notes guests left in the book. Although you could hear the animals while you slept, it was a welcome pace from hearing cars and sirens like back home.
We woke up to see the sunrise and drink hot chocolate before heading to San Francisco for the rest of our girls trip. Napa, I'll be back!