Monday, April 29, 2013

A Trip to Wine Country - Napa Valley (Part 2)

Picking up where part 1 ended after our first vineyard tour and tasting, we headed up to Calistoga for a couple of more tastings that day.
Stop 1 in Calistoga was Chateau Montelena:

Montelena earned a reputation for "putting Napa on the map" when its Chardonnay won in a French wine tasting competition in 1976. Personally, I think they've let this go to their heads, because I didn't feel particularly welcomed here, nor do I recall their wines being very special. This is the one winery we did not buy a bottle from... But we did enjoy walking around their beautiful grounds:

After strolling around a bit, we headed into downtown Calistoga for some lunch. We didn't have any particular destination in mind, but stumbled on a cute little bistro (All Seasons Bistro) that fit the "need to soak up some wine" bill perfectly. We split a pulled pork sandwich and a chicken caprese sandwich - both were very tasty and elevated a bit beyond the typical "sandwich joint."

Then we headed off to our last tasting of the day - at a real, live castle!

Castello di Amorosa translates, appropriately enough for an anniversary trip, to "castle of love." Though it looks perfectly medieval, the castle was actually built in the 1990s by the owner of another local winery, V. Sattui. Castello di Amorosa has its own vineyards and wine label, with wines only sold here at the castle itself. Fortunately, we enjoyed by the scenery and the wines at this stop.

Much less stuffy than the last tasting - we just enjoyed ourselves here and even hammed it up a bit:

Though I had originally planned on 4 wineries per day of our visit, we had our fill at 3 and headed back to the inn  to enjoy a couple of hours at the pool before dinner. Dinner was back up in Calistoga at the Michelin-starred Solbar. When I made our reservation, they asked if we were celebrating anything, so I mentioned it was our 5th anniversary. And when we arrived for dinner, they greeted us with champagne - a lovely surprise!

The chef at Solbar focuses on fresh, seasonal choices - with as many local ingredients as possible. There's even a garden on the restaurant grounds. We enjoyed every bite we had at Solbar - from the tangle of raw spring vegetables to the steamed halibut and roast duck and finally to the amazing tamarind semi froddo. All of the food was very fresh and flavorful - served in just the right portions to allow you to try (or at least share) something from each course. The staff was very attentive and helpful with menu suggestions, and the atmosphere was warm and romantic. It was the perfect choice for our anniversary dinner, and a great ending to a great day.

Stay tuned for 3 more wineries, a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge and more!


curly purplepig said...

wow this place looks gorgeous! lovely photos!

David Macaulay said...

This place really looks awesome - reminds me a lot of Tuscany - sigh

Solon said...

Except according to the author of this blog, Chateau Montelena's wine isn't anything special and She didn't feel welcome there. Wonder why? Doubt this comment will be approved by the blog author.

I've been there several times and both the wine and the welcome were exceptional. Of course, I didn't have an attitude when I went there.

Amber Gabrenas said...

Hi Solon. I am posting your comment because I believe that wine tasting is personal and everyone has a different opinion. I'm glad you enjoy your experiences at Chateau Montelena.