Touring Napa

Napa… a love affair

Miner overlooking Silverado Trail
We had three days to see everything we wanted to see and do everything we wanted to do in Napa and Sonoma.  I decided it would be more enjoyable to relax, visit and “experience” Napa instead of trying to winery crawl.  I wanted to enjoy the people, the scenery and the legendary wines and experiences.  That was a great plan for us.  It was truly unforgettable.  It was truly unforgettable.  Next year I will run a tour there.   I plan to return every year, as long as I am able.  I fell in love with Napa…

The drive out from San Francisco is beautiful once you cross over the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate.  The traffic is tough but the views are incredible. Mr M and I kept pointing out, “look over there”, “Oh my gosh, that is amazing!”.

We soon rolled through the town of Napa with its beautiful downtown, bridges over the river, shopping, restaurants. I had read reviews that Napa is overdone, glitzy, but I enjoyed the quaint streets and shops.  I am not really a bright lights big city person and I could have spent months in downtown Napa.

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At about 5pm we arrived at our initial destination just 12 minutes outside of Napa, the Silverado Resort and Spa.  As we drove down the expansive driveway, the estate was grand and had the backdrop of Atlas Peak and several hills dotted with vineyards.  Just beautiful!  We drove up to the grand house and checked in.  The bar and restaurant were packed and the views from the bar over the golf course and then the mountains were breath taking.  It felt like a throwback to another time.

 

We headed to our room.  It was a fairly small room, king bed, no balcony or outdoor sitting area and it backed right to the Silverado Trail, one of the main roads to the wineries, so it was very loud.  The bed was really comfortable and the room was well made up, but you could tell it was a lock out to the front room with an outdoor balcony overlooking the pool.  They were very busy with weddings that night (Saturday night), so I assumed this was one of the last rooms available with our last minute booking.

After unpacking, we decided to head downtown to try out one of the famed Michelin star restaurants and we lucked out with a last minute open table reservation at Charlie Palmers in The Archer Hotel in downtown Napa.

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As soon as we drove up, I knew I was going to love this place.  When we valeted the car, they mistakenly sent us to the 6th floor.  We stepped out of the elevator and saw that they had an amazing roof top bar.  The bar was lit up, the views were incredible, the tables were set out for comfort and socialization and I knew I wanted to spend some time here.  Mr. M persisted in wanting Charlie Palmers steak, so I reluctantly headed downstairs with him vowing to return.

 

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We were greeted warmly by the hostess downstairs and were sat at a sweetheart table, perfect for the two of us on this special vacation.  The atmosphere was warm and the food was stellar. We shared a tomahawk steak, twice baked truffle potato and the bread was amazing (though I don’t typically eat bread)!!!  The Sommelier was fantastic.  I asked a few questions on the wine selections so the waitress sent over the Somm.  David came over and poured several selections for me to try.  I passed on the 1997 French special wine he was pouring, but the 2004 was stellar.  The waitress even shared an extra glass of wine with us just for fun.  Superior service!  The couple next to us was jovial and we had a great time learning about the area from them.

 

On the way out, I chatted with one of the Representatives at reception and mentioned how much we loved the hotel.  He told me if we wanted to stay he would take care of us.  We still had two nights left without a set plan, as I was deciding between staying in Napa vs. Sonoma.  We left and walked the beautiful downtown of Napa, stopped in a shop open late and agreed we would prefer to be downtown in this vibrant area, lit up at night, couples walking, very romantic.

Back at the Silverado they agreed to let us out of our booking and I booked the next two nights at The Archer.

Day 1:  We had a quick night’s sleep and then headed out on the Silverado Trail.  Our first destination was Atlas Peak.  I had followed the devastating fires on the internet and read as much as I could about them, but I wanted to see first hand what had transpired during that awful time.  Driving up Atlas Peak, the views were absolutely incredible.  You could definitely see the fire damage under the yellow brush and new growth, but the area remains stunning.  Every turn there was something new to see and nearly all of the wineries were intact.  The burn patterns amazed Mr M.  There would be a tree burned, and then everything around it fine, and then an entire meadow gone, but a house right there totally fine.  The views of the surrounding area was outstanding.

 

Driving down the Silverado Trail we decided last minute to stop at Miner Vineyards before our first appointment of the day at 11.  Miner opens at 10 and we didn’t need a reservation during the week this early in the morning in the summer.  The Wine Consultant sat us out on the deck and brought the wines out to us, as we were the only ones there.  I have to say, I love everything Miner!!  We started with the Viognier, which was outstanding – flavorful, crisp, a touch of minerality.  The Wine Consultant brought us out several head to head tastings as we sat out on the deck overlooking the valley floor vineyards.  It was wonderful.  I would have brought everything we tasted home, but luckily they ship to MA and NH.  Emily’s Vineyard Cab was my favorite, aside from their stunning red blend, Oracle.  It was an amazing impromptu stop.  Luck was definitely with us.  Chardonnay, Emily’s Vineyard – outstanding service and they really made us feel like we were part of the family.

 

Our next stop was Caymus.  We were early so we ducked into the wine shop were we learned about the wines they only hold for local distribution.  We then visited a side tasting room and Tracy shared their Plumerie Sauvignon Blanc with us.  It was outstanding!  Plumerie is a term Caymus’ daughter came up with.  As she thins out her vines during the growing season, she walks through and brushes the vines with her hands.  This removes grapes to help strengthen and fortify the bunches of grapes remaining.  In most vineyards it is done manually by pruning the grapes back.  This seems to be a gentle, more careful and targeted approach.

Our name was then called and we were sat at a table in the garden under a trellis.  Our first wine consultant was not very chatty and we enjoy the connections we make when we travel.  Therefore we were fortunate to have Tracy relieve our wine consultant shortly after we began. She was generous and helpful and really took care of us.  I LOVED all of the wines we tasted, particularly the Plumerai Sauvignon Blanc, the Zinfandel and their Cabernets that they are known for.  I am always interested in people around us as I love to hear the stories of what brings people to various place. On one side was an ER doctor and his wife from the San Francisco area, visiting with the aim of building out their new 6000 bottle wine collection.  They were in Napa to round out their collection.  On our other side was an older couple from VA.  They visit Napa every year and always ship home a few cases they cannot purchase on the east coast.  They gave us some great recommendations for restaurants – Mustard Grill, Brix. We finished up after about an hour and a half at Caymus and headed back to The Archer hotel to check in.

As I mentioned before, The Archer Hotel is absolutely beautiful.  The lobby is modern but warm and inviting.  There is a really cool black and white mural in the lobby of all of Napa.  When we opened the door to our room we were completely stunned.  We went from a small backroom hotel room to an amazing king suite with a wrap around deck with a fireplace on the deck.  The room was clean, spacious and very generous.  We stayed for there for the duration of our trip and I would love to come back and stay again.  The roof deck, the staff, the view, the location.. it was all spectacular.

After check-in and much Archer appreciation, we called an Uber to get us to Conn Creek for a blending class.  The Uber was really convenient and was about $40 with tip.  We arrived and were served a Conn Creek Cab and headed down to their blending classroom.  There were kegs of wines from different regions and varietals along the walls.  We were pre–poured six wines that we would use to blend the bottle that we would take home.  Compared to the class I had taken at Northstar in WA, I was surprised they had less wine for us to choose from and that the amounts were pretty monitored. At Northstar we pretty much poured out of all of the kegs in the room. At Conn Creek  we were poured the glasses we would use to determined our blends.

 

Our “teacher” was great and shared that he had actually helped set up and train the Northstar blending team as well as a few other Ch. Ste  Michelle wineries, as Conn Creek is part of that collective of wineries.  He was a veteran and had returned from several tours in Afganistan and had decided to work at Conn Creek.  We were really fortunate to have him guide us in this class.

The class overall was really fun. We had glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon labeled with Napa regions and their characteristics like bold, mild, fruit forward.  We also had Merlot and a few others and we worked with the teacher to determine what the various wines would do to our blend.  In the end, mine was a bit too round but Mr. M’s was my favorite.  The teacher corked up our wines and we named them and then colored in our labels.  I can’t wait to try ours head to head at a wine party.

We then Ubered back to The Archer and went up to the roof deck to enjoy the sunset while we ate dinner.  It was a great end to a fantastic day of tasting!

Next up, my Day 2 post.  Special invitation to Flanagan Winery and Riley’s Row.

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Miner Vineyards

About Author

After graduating from Brandeis University, Alison worked as a teacher at two of the top high schools in the country and spent her summers traveling the world. On one of her adventures, she visited Stellenbosch and Paarl in South Africa, which ignited a lifelong passion for learning about wine. In 2004, she worked as a Wine Consultant for the Traveling Vineyard and began to study wine more intensively. While working as a high tech recruiter, she completed her Advanced Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust in the UK in 2018. Her wine travels have taken her to the wine growing regions of the US, Europe, Africa and Australia. Alison is a member of the Boston Sommelier Society, a member of the Guild of Master Sommeliers and is a Wine, Travel and Lifestyle Media Influencer. Currently, after leaving her recruiting career, Alison is running her business, Artisan Wine Group, teaching wine courses, running private and corporate wine events and organizing wine tours.

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