Our recent visit to Phoenix was the beginning of quite a trip that also included Oakland, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Hollywood/LA, Newport Beach, and San Diego. The trip itself was a master scheduling feat. We planned the dates around baseball games, a work conference, grad school classes, and family plans. Somehow, calendars came together perfectly and we were able to navigate all of these constraints with success.
When Chris and I went to Napa two years ago (see here and here), we never thought we would have the opportunity to go back again so soon! Wine-tasting with Kimberly and Walter was especially fun because they have been to Napa several times. We tried some new wineries (more below), but we also unashamedly went back to many of our old favorites such as Round Pond, Frog’s Leap, and Alpha Omega.
I get just as excited about the food experience in Napa as I do about the wine. We went back to Ad Hoc for a fried chicken dinner this time around, tried out dinner at Mustards Grill instead of lunch, and fell in love with Oxbow Public Market for some quick, delicious meals. I’ll elaborate a bit more:
Alpha Omega is a high end winery with a beautiful outdoor seating area and an array of good quality wines. As one of the few wineries that chooses to stay open until 6:00pm in Napa, Alpha Omega unfortunately attracts a lot of visitors late in the day after they’ve hit a few wineries already. With this in mind, we decided to make it our first winery stop on our first day in Napa. Walter and Kimberly are members at Alpha Omega, and since they aren’t able to make most of the member events (since it would be quite a trek from Virginia!), the staff arranged a special barrel tasting for our visit.
What an experience! We spent almost two hours tasting beautiful reds with light food accompaniments in a private room, then walked around to taste straight from the barrels. Our host and pourer was spectacular and felt like a close friend by the end of it all. On our last day in Napa, we decided to stop by Alpha Omega once more for a few tastes to finish out the trip full circle.
I really love Alpha Omega’s branding scheme. Their “AO” logo is sharp and attractive. They sell jackets, wine glasses, shirts, and more with the sleek logo. It makes you feel like you’re at a spiffy place that really has their act together.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is not the same as Stags’ Leap Winery down the road; unfortunately, the similar names can be quite confusing! Both wineries were founded in 1970 and a legal dispute over the names did occur in 1986. However, because both places are named after the area, the California Supreme Court ruled that they should be allowed to keep their names. The ruling did include an interesting provision that mandated different apostrophe use in each name though.
In any case, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars boasts some pretty amazing red wines. As we tried the Fay Cabernet Sauvignon, the S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, I was blown away more and more with each elevation in the tasting. If only we could have tried these with some steak!
Regusci Winery was just a fun time. We did leave with a bottle of the Merlot, but in reality, it was the environment and the pourers that made the experience. Our hosts were two heavier set guys, a quieter one who would chime in with a great joke here and there alongside a sarcastic, slightly inappropriate British man. This pourer was rarely serious and answered the winery’s phone with phrases like “Regusci Winery. It’s snowing in Napa today! How are you doing?” We had a lot of fun learning more from them about the Regusci family business while taking in a gorgeous view of the valley.
Oxbow Public Market
My contribution to our travel planning was Oxbow Public Market. As we researched and laid out our itinerary, I knew I had to find a way to get to this place. We had time to stop by for breakfast on Monday and lunch on Wednesday… and ended up deciding to do both!
Oxbow Public Market reminds me of Chelsea Market in NYC, Union Market in DC, and the Ferry Building in San Francisco. From gluten-free paninis at Cate & Co. to pizza at Ca’ Momi to burgers at Gott’s Roadside to cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes to olive oil at The Olive Press to coffee at Ritual Coffee Roasters… we tried a lot between the four of us and two visits!
My favorite place, by far, was C CASA for the incredible tacos. If there was a C CASA here in DC, that would be so dangerous! The exploding flavor in these little, artisan tacos is something I still dream about.
Our final dinner in Napa was at Mustards Grill — the perfect end to the trip. We sat near the windows with light streaming through. Mustards is an interesting mix of white tablecloths, local ingredients, and a relaxed vibe. Our waiter filled us in on the latest gossip going on around town. An older couple next to us beamed with decades of marriage experience, sharing their dinner and family stories. We tried an array of foodie-worthy dishes, stuffing ourselves, but feeling good about the quality meat, fish, and vegetables that we were consuming.
Our trips to Napa have always felt a bit indulgent. While it’s conflicting to spend the money it takes for wine-tastings and dinners in the area, there are some ways to make it less expensive (meals at places like Oxbow, friends’ wine club memberships, sharing tastings, etc.). It really is a special place that makes you amazed at the kinds of wine and culinary delights that the locals devote themselves to creating. I feel blessed to have experienced the area twice now.