Napa Valley Winery Trip

Happy Belated New Year. I’m still trying to recover from the holidays and vacation and get back on east coast time. I’m really looking forward to what this year has to hold, but must admit, I’m feeling the post vacation blues a little. How could I not? Napa Valley is amazing! I will definitely be going back someday. In fact, I would like to go back in every season. It was so beautiful, even with no grapes or leaves on the vine. I can just imagine it in bloom with the mustard color flowers, and full of plump grapes and green leaves.

We rang in the New Year in a low-key way knowing we had to be out the door the New Year’s day at 5:30 am. So we had an early dinner at our most frequented restaurant of 2013: Cooper’s Hawk. I ordered the chopped pesto caesar salad and the filet and lobster, and 2 truffles for dessert:

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We watched the ball drop from the comfort of home then promptly hit the hay.

Early morning flight:


January 1st was a long day of travel, with a layover in Phoenix where we split a lovely plate of the Southwest for brunch, Huevos Rancheros:


We flew into San Fransisco and checked into a hotel there so we could spend the evening with my best friend from high school! I have not seen her in almost 8 years!!! Way too long. We met for an early dinner at Rocco’s Cafe which was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. We had the calamari, and I ordered a shrimp pasta which was very good, but I found myself doing a lot more talking than eating:

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We spent the rest of the evening at Shannon’s place reminiscing. My beautiful friend has not aged a bit! Must be all that pilates. She owns a pilates studio, so if you are in the Bay area, check it out: Shannon Brown Pilates Studio

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After a good night’s sleep, we checked out of the hotel and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf to do a little San Francisco sight-seeing. I really wanted to see the famous sea lions of Pier 39 which my girl Shannon does an uncanny vocal impression of 🙂

We also saw Alcatraz, grabbed lunch at In and Out Burger, and bought a loaf of sourdough bread:

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After lunch we headed north to Napa Valley and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge:



After we checked into the hotel in Napa Valley, we didn’t waste much time, we headed straight to our first winery stop, Artesa Winery. We found this one and several others through this Winery and tasting Pass finder App. They offer 2 for one tasting on many wineries.

Artesa Winery was beautiful, built into a mountain!

038 039 040 041 1463898_10202895376295526_1837764822_nNext stop, Micheal Mondavi Winery. Michael is the son of the famous Robert Mondavi. The winery is much smaller than the now corporate owned Robert Mondavi, and we got personalized service and a great host to pour their wines and tell us some family and winery history. We bought 2 bottles of wine here.

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Final tasting of the day was at Ceja Vineyards, which was a little tasting room in downtown Napa. We got some dinner recommendations and chatted with our tasting neighbors.

Dinner was at ZuZu’s, a tapas restaurant. We were not crazy about it to be honest, we had paella, stuffed squid, shrimp, and fish spread, just meh:

We were in bed EARLY!

The next morning we decided to grab a cup of coffee at Oxbow Market. A cute little conglomeration of restaurants, and shops.


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And we grabbed some breakfast at Model Bakery which I have been wanting to try since I saw their English Muffins described on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”, and they lived up to the hype, we came back every single day for breakfast.

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After breakfast, we headed up to the Northern part of Napa Valley to Calistoga. What drew us to the area was a Winter Winery Passport they were promoting. Basically, for $75 you get tastings at 14 wineries as well as discounts for lodging and restaurants. Considering each tasting can range from $10 to $20, we thought this was quite a bargain. And we were able to just buy one and split most of the tastings, which was a perfect way to try more wines and not get too tipsy. There were a couple of exceptions, Sterling Winery and Castello di Amorosa both charge an entrance fee which includes a tasting, so we went ahead and purchased an additional one at those 2 wineries.

First stop of the day was Sterling Vineyards and Winery. A big winery with breathtaking views, an interesting self guided tour, and a scary gondola ride:

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Just up the road was Twomey Cellars:


Next stop Cuvaison Winery and then to downtown Calistoga for lunch at Calistoga Thai Kitchen:

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After lunch we stopped at a few tasting rooms downtown. First was W.H. Smith:

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Then August Briggs Winery where we bought a good bottle of Pinot Noir:


I kept seeing these grape vines used in decor and I love them. I want one!


And finally, my favorite winery of the day, Madrigal Family Winery. Great service here and a personal tour:

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And check out this awesome picture I snapped from sitting inside the winery, I love the soft colors:


A beautiful sunset:


We snacked our way through dinner with an arepa at Pica Pica Bar at the Oxbow Market (also on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive ins and Dives)

1489248_10202902836202019_1187533328_nA couple of chocolates at Anette’s Chocolates:


Then an olive oil and vinegar tasting at Lucero Olive Oil:


Finally a meze platter at Tarla Mediterranean Grill:


Another early night to bed 🙂

The next morning was a repeat breakfast at Model Bakery and then back to Calistoga for more winery visits:

First stop Castillo di Amorosa:

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Next, we discovered our hands down favorite winery and wine of the trip, T Vine Cellars. This is where I have had the best wine of my life thus far. The 2010 Zinfandel rocked my world, and I’m so sad I only got 1 bottle. And I love, love, love, the potted grapevine. Must get one!

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Next stop Lava Vine Winery. I think what I like most about winery hopping in Napa Valley is that each winery is so unique and stepping into each one is like entering a new little world. Lava Vines was very laid back:

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Zahtila Vineyards was literally like sitting at Laura and Micheal’s (the owner’s) house and hanging out with them. They had the cutest black lab named Rocki who met us in the parking lot and led us to the tasting room.

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We were more than ready for lunch at this point, so we headed to Buster’s Southern BBQ for an amazing tri tip sandwich:

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This hit the spot and soaked up enough alcohol to continue our adventure.

Chateau Montelena Winery was next:

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Then Bennett Lane Winery:

1011261526605_10202909524209215_1757621112_nOne final stop at Sutter Home Winery (free tasting) before we snagged a pizza and wings to eat in the hotel room. We had definitely reached our limit at this point. So another early night to bed for us.

The next morning started pretty much the same. I have no idea how I escaped a headache or hangover this whole trip, but luckily I did. At this point Matt probably would have been happy with or without anymore winery visits. I on the other hand, could spend the rest of my days happily winery hopping 🙂

After another Model Bakery English muffin breakfast sandwich, we stopped at Beaulieu Vinyards (BV).

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Then to Frog’s Leap Vineyards. I really enjoyed this seated tasting. We sat out on the back porch, and the gentleman poured all 4 wines at once, which was nice that we could enjoy them at our own pace, in privacy. He also brought us a little snack plate with delicious cheese, crackers,dried fruits, and nuts.

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The weather was beautiful! In fact, the whole trip was unseasonably warm and dry. Not a bit of rain, and chilly mornings, but highs in the upper 60’s to low 70’s. We sat outside, sipped, talked, nibbled, enjoyed the view and got a little silly:

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We were able to stroll around the property and the vineyards. Although there are no grapes on the vines, it still is beautiful! I lied, we found a couple of shriveled up grapes and I ate them 🙂 They were just fresh picked raisins.

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Next stop Heitz Cellar, where the tastings are always free 🙂

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Next it was time for lunch and our favorite meal of the trip at Mustard’s Grill. It was featured on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” where Bobby Flay raved about the Mongolian pork chops, so that is what I ordered. It was quite amazing as was Matt’s lamb burger. And the T Vine 2010 Grenache rocked my world again. I’m seriously considering signing up for their wine club:

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After lunch we went to Hagafen Winery:


117 118 121 124 123I’m feeling it here 🙂

And finally, our last winery of the trip was Black Stallion Winery Estate. I must have been done at this point too, because I didn’t get a picture 😦

After 21 wineries in 3 and a half days, it was time to go home.

Chinese food take out and another early night to bed for us:


The next morning, we were off to San Francisco airport. Then a long layover in Houston. Dinner in the airport was bruschetta and salad, I was more than ready for some vegetables.

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And now we are home trying to adjust back into our routines and focus on our goals for the year. What a way to start the year!

2013 Reflections, 2014 Goals

This has been the single best year of my life so far! And from where I sit, next year looks to be just as good. Let’s take a moment to reflect over the year, count our blessings in the Now, and ponder the greatness of the coming year, shall we?

Just 2 short weeks after the beginning of 2013, Matt popped the question (Click on pictures to read each post):


A venue was chosen and wedding planning was underway:

I ran my 3rd half marathon:


I celebrated my first Passover:


Talked to a dolphin:074


Got married!!!!!!! 🙂


Honeymooned in Barcelona:


Then Paris:


Then Amsterdam:


I turned 37:


I had a brief moment of insanity and dyed my hair red:


I decided to go back to school and change careers, and I ended my wedding planning career the week of Halloween:


Had a lot of fun celebrating with family and friends:


My sister and I went to Ohio to celebrate Thanksgiving with Dad:


Evan and Grace turned 4:


Matt turned 35:


We celebrated his birthday and Hanukkah:


Celebrated Christmas with some of my favorite people:


I am so very grateful for this life God has blessed me with. I usually only write about the good stuff on here, and it’s a great way to acknowledge my blessings and be grateful. Of course there are hard times and challenges, but even through those I truly believe God has a great lesson built in there for me. I’m basking in all the Love bestowed upon me. Thank You.

As I look forward to 2014 I’m beyond excited for the possibilities it can hold. I’m kicking the year off right on a bucket list trip to Napa Valley 🙂 When I get back it will be time to focus on some big goals for the new year. I’m going to call them goals rather than resolutions, because I’m pretty good at achieving my goals. Just for fun, let’s set 14 goals for 2014.

Goal 1:

Start a family. This makes me so excited and nervous all in one. I finally found the love of my life and want so much to have a little family together.

Goal 2:

Buy a house.

Goal 3:

Build a new career. I don’t think life should stop with a baby, and I am excited to build a new career.

Goal 4:

Get a new car. It’s just time.

Goal 5:

Do more yoga.

Goal 6:

Do a barre fitness class.

Goal 7:

Do pilates.

Goal 8:

Run a race.

Goal 9:

Floss my teeth everyday. This one is going to be hard. I’m really bad about it 😦 We better just say every other day, that will be an improvement to my once a month. Or, how about once a week? 😉 Let’s go with that for now.

Goal 10:

Monthly dates with my girl friends. You know who you are.

Goal 11:

Eat at the Elevage Restaurant at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa.

Goal 12:

Attend more blogger functions.

Goal 13:

Visit family in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Goal 14:

Focus on balance in all areas of my life.

I wish you all a healthy,  blessed New Year filled with positivity, love and light. Happy New Year!!!!!!