Not so Winter Wonderland

As a Bay Area native, and San Francisco resident, I lazily stick to the city’s 7 by 7 radius and unintentionally neglect the wonders beyond the city limits. Most San Franciscans will agree that it’s very easy to develop a city-centric weekend schedule with minimal effort, so the prospect of making an actual commitment and venturing elsewhere is easier said than done.

Of course, by exception, I will travel far and wide to experience a quality glass of wine, and perhaps a world famous chef’s culinary empire.

This past weekend’s miraculous 70-degree weather influenced me to cut the neighborhood brunch routine and venture to Napa Valley: San Francisco’s robust back yard with the finest food and wine in the country (or, arguably the world). The drive is less than an hour, and the location couldn’t be more enticing with sunshine and low-season crowds (the manageable kind).

I highly recommend the breathtaking views and serene surroundings of Alpha Omega winery. The outdoor seated tasting will take that crowded air-conditioned tasting room to a new level, offering a more relaxed and personalized opportunity to sample world class wines in a casual setting.

Try not to spend your entire day here, as it’s easy to get lost in the luster of the blue fountain, while sipping on hand-pressed wines (out of the barrel, if you play your cards right).

If you crave a more non-traditional winery experience, or frankly want something other than beautiful rolling hills, you must add Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley to your to-do list. Ma(i)sonry, located in Yountville, boasts tastings from a multitude of award-winning wineries, and an art gallery with eclectic, note-worthy pieces. The experience was like no other, and a preferred location among locals.

I’ve explored the Napa Valley in the past, but admittedly overlooked Yountville as a wine country destination. The small town, located a few miles north of Napa, is home to many tasting rooms, hotels, and restaurants, including chef Thomas Keller’s world famous The French Laundry. More to come on this restaurant in future posts, however, I was initially impressed with the building’s subtlety and adjacent farmland. I can’t wait to score a reservation to this place (my bank account feels otherwise).

Of course, I had to try one of Thomas Keller’s other restaurants in town (having recently become obsessed with his cookbooks), and made prior reservations at Bouchon. This French bistro had exquisite service with friendly staff, a comfortable atmosphere with plush red velvet seating, and the most memorable cuisine. I couldn’t stay away from the buttered poached lobster tail. The photo does not do enough to illustrate the deliciousness. Go ahead, give this restaurant a try. And while you’re at it, ask your server for some winery recommendations, as they may know a thing or two about the local gems. 

For those of us that need a little more chateau in our lives – fear not. Domaine Carneros, off of highway 12 (and on the way home!), will satisfy the “inner-castle” in you. Seated table service and sunshine make this outdoor tasting the perfect finale (or start here first) to any wine tasting trip.

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