We left San Francisco (after another visit to Manzetti’s Bakery for more croissants!) andheaded for Napa. We took the 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and then the 37 over to Napa. It was a quick and beautiful ride – less than two hours in all.
We arrived at the Napa Valley Expo – combination fairgrounds and RV park. The park was small, but well maintained with nice concrete pads for parking the trailer and grassy areas for the kids to play. There was no pool or playground in sight. This was most unfortunate, as the temperature was climbing and it soon got hot. In the 90s hot. We turned on the forty-year old air conditioner in the trailer and hoped for the best. We set off for one winery – Silverado, with one cranky three year old in tow.
Silverado Vineyards is located off Silverado Trail, just north of our RV park. Our goal was to visit wineries close to the park, in case of bad behavior from the munchkin crew. The winery was lovely. And air conditioned. We walked in, snagged a corner where Sophia could sit and watch her dvd player, while we hopefully tasted some wines. Gabriel had woken up and wanted to be held the entire time. And it worked. Somehow. People at the winery were friendly, happy to have the whole family present, (especially Gabriel), and generous. We elected to do the basic tasting, where you received four tastes of their wine – this is Cabernet Sauvignon country! Thanks to Gabriel, the gal helping us not only gave us the basic tasting, but included the premiere as well. Then the manager wandered over to see how we were doing – and gave a taste of the $100+ bottle he had open and would we like to try it? All the while, Sophia was happily eating snacks and watching her dvd, and Gabriel was content to watch from my arms. What an experience! We ended up buying one of the Silverado wines, mostly because of how wonderful the wines are and how great the service was. It was worth it!
The next day, we visited three wineries: Judd’s Hill, Clos du Val, and Goosecross Cellars. Judd’s Hill was a lovely little place and we had a private tasting out on the patio. We didn’t want to break out the dvd player too soon, so we had a saying for Sophia: “Mama and Daddy were going to drink some wine”…she add “and Sophia will drink apple juice!” Works for us! She sat with us on the patio and played with her legos. The gal doing our tasting was a grandmother-type who didn’t have any grandchild yet. She was enchanted with Gabriel and Sophia. The wines were good, but nowhere near the quality of Silverado, except for the zinfandel we bought.
Clos Du Val was next and we planned on having a picnic on their grounds following out tasting (they had been awarded “Best Picnic Grounds” for that year). The wines were good, the service was spotty. I think they didn’t particularly care for us to grab a corner and set up Sophia with her dvd player – we were just a different clientele than they catered to… We decided to picnic under the olive grove, at a large table nestled on grey pea gravel. It was warm outside, but pleasant enough in the shade of the olive tree. We had hummus, pita, salami, yummy cheese, and some snap peas. And the magical strawberries. Let me tell you about them.
As you drive up Silverado Trail, you’ll see a sign for fresh picked strawberries. We needed some fruit for the picnic and decided to stop and get some. Jon brought three pints of the most perfect looking strawberries I have ever seen. And the smell. They were divine! The tasty – well, let me tell you – I have never tasted strawberries like these in my whole life. We gobbled them down and only had a few left by the end of the day. I think the fairies picked them and sprinkled magic on them. Just like some flowers, these berries were good only for one day – hence the term “magic strawberries”. We bought an even larger batch the next day.
The last winery of the day was Goosecross Cellars. They mostly had white wines, which we were not as fond of. But, that didn’t matter so much and we had a lovely visit. Sophia sat by some wine barrels and happily watched Charlie and Lola. They even had a juice box for Sophia!
After all that wine tasting, I had promised Sophia an ice cream. We went to the Three Twins Ice Cream at the Oxbow Public Market. The market was jammed with people and a bit overwhelming. It would have been fun to explore, but not with so many people there. We bought our very expensive ice cream and headed back to camp. With no pool, we took several showers over the course of several hours each night to stay cool. Napa had record heat while we visited, naturally.
Our last day of wine tasting found us at Pine Ridge winery. Such a lovely place – we picked out our picnic spot as we went in, near their demonstration vineyard. Sophia knew the drill: Mama and Daddy were going to drink some wine…and I drink apple juice!”. We set Sophia up with her snacks and dvd and we were off. Such great Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. We did the basic tasting, but the gentleman helping us gave us tastes of the premier because, as he put it – how will you know if those more expensive bottles are worth it unless you can taste them and decide? My thoughts exactly…on the tasting side, that is. I don’t foresee us buying those expensive bottles any time in the future, but they were tasty!
We had our picnic lunch outside in the shade of a very large tree and drank our Trader Joe’s wine. Afterwards, Sophia and Jon played tag in the demonstration vineyard while I fed Gabriel.
We decided we could try one more winery before the day was done. We headed to Hope and Grace – which turned out to be a tasting salon – located north in Yountville. This place was a bit pretentious and the wines were not as good as the others we had had. The town area was touristy, but we did find a small neighborhood park that had a water fountain. Sophia and I got right in and cooled off! We played for awhile before heading back to camp. It was nice in the evenings when the sun set and it began to cool down. The next day we were off to Fallen Leaf Lake by Lake Tahoe.