A Signature Welcome to: Wine Country
It's no secret that wine country is a sensory overload. See the sights, listen to the history, taste the vintage, smell the fruit, and touch the glassware to your lips. The vines, plants, flowers and rolling hills will take your breath away and the delicious food and bold wine will keep you warm and satisfied. Emily and I have been traveling to wine country the last 10 years for fun, and now traveling to the area for work is even better! We feel so fortunate to work with many wonderful brands, brides, planners, and venues over the last 4 years in this beautiful part of the country. We compiled a list of our favorites spots to stay, sip and eat below! (Next up on our travel series is Carmel, CA and we'd love to hear any of your recommendations!)
EAT LUNCH: Archetype- it's like a Nancy Meyers' movie up in here. We shared the fish and chips and it was the best fried fish I've ever eaten. The fish is sole, the vinegar is powdered and the breading is so light.
MID DAY BREAK: Stop in the infamous Oakville Grocery for local cheeses, olive oils, sandwiches, desserts, gifts and more.
EAT DINNER: French Laundry is Thomas Keller's culinary masterpiece called "the best restaurant in the world, period" by Anthony Bourdain. (Funny side note: Emily and I "interviewed" Thomas Keller together when she worked at a food and wine publication 10 years ago...hey TK, remember us?!). When you can't get into FL, other great options include Farmstead, Ad Hoc, Redd, Redd Wood, and Mustard's. We enjoyed everything at our Farmstead dinner, and the mini ham sandwiches really stood out! Shaved prosciutto on top a homemade jalapeno cheddar biscuit with a red pepper jam...delish! With a 9.5 rating and known as the best meal in St. Helena, this farm-to-table new American fare exceeds expectations.
TASTINGS: We recommend you make all your reservations at least a month before visiting
Domaine Carneros- situated atop a knoll surrounded by estate, and inspired by the classic 18th century château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France - home of Taittinger. The château brings to Carneros the elegant style of the french wine country. With its grand staircase,
formal gardens, expansive outdoor terraces, marble-floored fireside salon and breathtaking views
of vine-covered hills, it is an incomparably royal setting for savoring fine sparkling and still wines. We enjoyed 4 tastings of their sparkling wines and ended up shipping a few cases back to SC! On a warm Charleston night, we can't wait to pop these open in our courtyard. My favorite was the 2011 Late Disgorged Brut Rosé and second the Blanc de Noir.
Kamen- everything winemaker Mark Herold touches turns to spectacular! Kamen wine is full of rich flavor, while the private vineyard tour to the top is just beautiful. We were greeted at the top of the vineyard with a private sommelier. We sipped fine wines and ate perfectly paired cheeses with friends as we overlooked Sonoma.
Del Dotto winery, Napa- Emily and I have done the Del Dotto cave tour three times because it is such a cool experience. Walking through cool, dark, candlelit tunnels, tasting unbottled wines, barrel after barrel is so much fun. We enjoyed the Napa tour more than the St. Helena tour.
Joseph Phelps- Family owned and operated since 1973, the Phelps family owns and farms 390 acres of vines in Napa Valley. Their “Insignia” wine is widely recognized as one of the most iconic wines in Napa Valley. The 2002 vintage was awarded “wine of the year” by wine spectator magazine. During our tasting, we sat outside under the canopy, overlooked the vineyard and we enjoyed 2011 and 2013 Insignia side by side. Robert M. Parker, jr. awarded Insignia a perfect 100-point score for the 2013 vintage (alongside the perfects from 1991, 1997, and 2002). The Phelps family's background before wine was in construction and the tasting room is full of interesting architectual details.
Sterling- This vineyard is great for the views and the gondola lift entrance and exit. We rode up to the hilltop vineyard and tasting room by gondola and enjoyed looking down on the entire Napa Valley. It is hard to rival these views!
Opus One- Show. Stopping. Wine. And, one of the most famous vineyards in Napa! We did a private tour here and were given the opportunity to survey the estate’s entire production of wine, starting at the vines and ending with a pour of cabernet. In the last 10 years, 2010 was the highest rated wine at 97 points so make sure you pick a tasting with this on the menu! A little history: Opus One was co-founded in 1979 by Robert Mondovi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. It’s hard to imagine just how revolutionary it must have seemed when Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild decided to make wine together in Napa Valley. The Mondavis were a hard working, up and coming family with roots in central Italy, while the Rothschilds were among Europe’s elite. Their partnership would go on to bring an unprecedented amount of visibility and attention to Napa Valley. In 1984, Opus One’s first release, the wine became known as America’s first ultra-premium wine, establishing a category of wine priced by the bottle at $50 and above.
Here are some shots from some other vineyards we enjoyed!