Napa Valley. Open, with reservations.

Our trip to Napa was a planned trip, so we had already made reservations at several vineyards for tastings. September is harvest time, and we expected it to be busy. It was difficult to find a B & B with vacancy, so we ended up renting a home in St. Helena through VRBO. It turned out to be a good central location and a nice home, although a bit pricey. But most hotels were booked.

We flew in on a Thursday. On our drive from the airport to Napa, I thought I’d call a few places to see if we could fit in a tasting on our way to the house. Every place I called was “booked to capacity.” In fact, they were booked all weekend. Thank goodness we had planned several in advance. We called Hall Wines, and only got a spot on Sunday due to my travel companion’s club membership.

The house we rented was walking distance to the main street in St. Helena. It’s a nice little town with a fabulous bakery, cute shops, and quite a few restaurants. We found the same issues in Napa as in many places, lack of wait staff. Restrictions for indoor capacity and the lack of wait staff have made planning essential. All the shops in the Napa Valley had signs in the windows that face masks are required indoors. Most people complied.

Kelham Vineyards

Friday we had our first tasting scheduled at Kelham Vineyards, early enough that we were the only guests. Susanna has a beautiful property. One of my travel companions is a club member there, and that was the only way we got in. All tastings at Kelham are reserved in advance, but Susanna, the owner, told us the only way we got in was Tucker’s A List status and that she answered the phone.

Kelham has very good wine and beautiful grounds. Susanna, the founder, is very interesting and full of information. She is working on a new food and wine experience, of which she graciously gave us a short demonstration. It combines a dinner with her wines, and a virtual theater experience. The table top, the walls, and even the plates are the screen. It was amazing and we cannot wait until it is complete. Like most other employers, she has found it difficult to hire staff. Other guests started arriving as we left. It was a great way to start the day.

Susanna gave Tucker a piece of her wine label art for his 65th birthday. The original art is made in France from wine foils and then used as labels for her wine.

Also on Friday, we had seats at the table of a Vintner’s Dinner at Tamber Bey in Calistoga. This was planned well in advance. As a matter of fact, our first attempt to get into the dinner months earlier was too late, and they were fully booked. Luckily we got in when someone else cancelled.

Tamber Bey’s winery and tasting room are also stables. It’s a fun place to visit, and they have my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, Lizzy’s Vineyard.

The tasting area is also horse stables.

We started with one of the most amazing appetizers I’ve ever had. It was fresh mozzarella, really fresh. Thirty seconds old. The chef was there making it, and it was good.

The chef making fresh mozzarella.

Barry entertained the diners with a great story about their new Friesian horse while we sampled their wonderful wine and great food.

The Tamber Bey vintner dinner.
The mushroom ravioli was wonderful.

Saturday morning we walked the 0.7 miles to the Model Bakery. It was worth the walk. A sign on the wall said that the Model Bakery made Oprah’s favorite english muffin.

We had nothing scheduled for Saturday, so we spent some time driving the area, visiting the little town of Calistoga and looking for grape pictures. We also checked out the cute shops on the main street in St. Helena, and found a consignment shop, Lolo’s. I bought a very pretty sequin top for $8, the deal of the weekend. There is evidence of the fires, mostly in the hills on the north-east side of Silverado Trail. You can see areas of blackened trees and the remains of some homes no longer there.

The local grocery, Sunshine Foods Market, was well stocked with fresh local veggies, fresh bread, pastries, and cheese. It also has a very large selection of local wines.

A pastry at Sunshine Foods Market

Sunday was another day of reservations. We got a Sunday brunch reservation at Brix with only one week’s notice. I would highly recommend their brunch. It is in a beautilful setting and the food was excellent.

The outside dining area at Brix.
These were hands down the best deviled eggs I’ve ever had. They are called “crispy lobster deviled eggs.”
The Brix gardens.
Brix vines.

After brunch and wandering the Brix gardens, we headed to Hall Wines. Calling on Thursday got us a Sunday members area reservation. At first I was told they were at capacity for the weekend, but with a wine membership we got a Sunday slot. The member’s area was not over crowded, definitely less people than on a previous visit. So they are restricting the number of guests and all tastings are outside.

The Hall rabbit
Hall Wines outdoor members tasting area.

We took our time, relaxed, and had a nice tasting.

The reflecting pool at Hall.

Leaving Hall Wines we headed to Quintessa, our last tasting for the day and the weekend.

The view at Quintessa.

The tastings and tours are all by reservation. The view above is from the hill behind the winery. We got a tour and then the tasting.

The three of us were in agreement on our opinions of three varietals. We all liked the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs better than the California Savs. California does a superb job with Cabernet Sauvignon. Oregon makes the best Pinot Noir in the world.

It really was a fun three days. I could always spend more time here, three days is not enough, and planning tasting stops well in advance would help in these current times.

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1 Response to Napa Valley. Open, with reservations.

  1. Teresa Favazza says:

    Great vacation for all of you, love the grapes pics and
    Yummy looking mushroom ravioli!
    But no pic of the Friesian 🙁

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