Friday, July 15, 2011

Napa Honeymoon Review Part 2: Lodging & The Big Wineries

Happy Friday! I'm so thankful that the weekend is finally here and we start summer hours at work (1/2 day Fridays) and most importantly, my husband comes home.  He's been working at the base this week, so it's just been me and Oliver.  Husband. I'm still not used to calling him that.  I joked with him that I'm just going to keep referring to him as my boyfriend (I didn't like the word "fiance" either) just to keep things spicy ;-) 

So today, I bring you part 2 of our honeymoon.  When I started looking for lodging in Napa, I knew that we (well, I) didn't want to stay at a standard hotel.  I wanted this to be a special experience so I started looking at bed and breakfasts.  Eh. Although they are quite charming, I just didn't like the fact that we would be sharing the house with other people.  I wanted something a bit more private.  BUT I did like the fact that they offered a prepared breakfast every morning.  The Cottages of Napa Valley offered a little bit of both: privacy & breakfast.  Kate, one of my favorite bloggers, had recommended this place to me.  I'm so glad that we ended up staying here.  It was perfect for what we were looking for.  There are 8 cottages on the ground and I swear, we were the only couple there.  It was so quiet and relaxing which is just what we were looking for.  And every morning, we had a little breakfast basket waiting on our front doorstep with baked goods from Bouchon bakery :-) (How I didn't gain any weight on this trip, I'll never know).       

The "living area" of our cottage.  I told LC that I could stay here all summer.  I absolutely loved it.

Little kitchenette area...

And a s'mores basket for our firepit right outside our front door. 

I would definitely stay here again.  We were greeted with a sparkling bottle of champagne, the cottage was spotless, we had so much privacy, and they even mailed back all the stuff that I forgot there.  Which ended up being quite a bit for me.  I almost usually never forget stuff at hotels.  If you're looking for a romantic place to stay in Napa, this is my suggestion.  We stayed during the week which is their "off-time" so we were able to get a 10% off discount.  They also gave us a military discount :-)  Now onto the important

The (BIG) Wineries 
I didn't want to spend a lot of time tasting wine that I knew we'd be able to find back home.  The one big winery that I knew that we both wanted to visit was Robert Mondavi.  Because this one was on both of our lists, I booked tickets in advance for their tour our first day there.

The big wineries we visited:
  • Robert Mondavi
  • Mumm
  • Beringer
  • Domaine*Chandon
Robert Mondavi-So many people told us that if we take one tour in Napa, it should be at Mondavi.  So, we followed their advice.  This was the first stop on the Maria & LC wine adventure.  Their grounds are beautiful.  Acres & acres of grapes waiting to be turned into wine.  We signed up for signature tour & tasting.  Our tour guide led us into a room and we started out by doing awkward group introductions and getting a little bit of history of the vineyard and Robert Mondavi himself.

Then he guided us through the whole process on how the grape gets from the vineyard and into my hands :-)   Below is a picture of the aging room.  Lots of wine getting ready to be consumed.
After the tour was over, we got to do the tasting of three wines.  One white, one blush, and one red.  This was the most helpful part of the tour because it actually taught us how to taste wine.  What you look for and smell for to determine whether or not it's actually a good wine.  When LC and I would order a bottle of wine at a restaurant, we would do the whole smelling thing because we felt like we had to, but we honestly had no idea what we were doing :-) Our tour guide was very knowledgable and funny.  We decided that one tour was enough because, more than likely, they would give us the same information.  So for the remainder of the trip we stuck to tastings.
Mumm-Ahhhh sparkling wine :-)  LC's not big into sparkling wine, but I wanted to visit at least one vineyard specializing in sparkling wine.  We ended up at two.  At Mumm, there is no tasting room.  It's set up very much like a restaurant where you can choose to sit outside or inside, choose your tasting selections and then sit and enjoy them.  The server will come over introduce the wines to you, and be around in case you have any questions.  LC and I sat and enjoyed our selections, talked with a few locals to get more recommendations, and looked over our travel books.  Overall, it was a pleasant experience.  We sat outside so that we could enjoy the scenery, but the day that we went it was scalding hot outside (like in the upper 90s which is very hot for Napa & for LC).  I'm sure the inside would've been just as enjoyable as it had floor to ceiling windows surrounding it.  And air conditioning.  
The portions aren't as big as they look.  These were mini glasses...

Domaine*Chandon- The second sparkling wine place we went to.  LOVED it! The grounds were gorgeous.  It was almost like being in the middle of a wooded park.  And I wanted to buy everything in their gift shop.  From cookbooks to decorative candleware, they had it all.  Also, they had free sparkling wine recipe cards set up through the gift shop.  I grabbed them all.  The person who did our tasting with us was the nicest lady and man, did she know her sparkling wines!  She walked us through the whole process of how sparkling wine is made vs. regular wine.  We got all the tour information without having to take the tour :-) She was so nice and generous with her pours that we joined their wine club.  Actually, what made us join their wine club was their Bubbles & Baseball event that was being held at a Wrigleyfield rooftop.  Soon after we signed up, we learned (online) that the event was sold out :-( Domaine definitely trumps Mumm when it comes to sparkling wine tastings.  I recommend this one hands down.  We also recieved little signature flutes and wine glasses, which was included with our tasting. 

Beringer-I really like the way Beringer was set up.  It was almost like a small campus.  The house shown below is where the giftshop and the reserve tastings were held.  They had two types of tastings: one where we could try wines that we could buy back home and another that were "reserve" wines, special releases & wine club member-type wines.  We decided to spend the extra money and do the reserve tasting.  It was worth the extra money.  Beringer was also another winery that wasn't stingy with their pours.  Or maybe we just had really good servers.  Anyway, we got to try about 4 or 5 wines from their menu.  We enjoyed our experience so much that LC & I also joined this wine club too :-) The grounds at Beringer are beautiful and very peaceful.  It was definitely one of my favorites out of the big wineries, because it didn't "feel" like a big winery.  The employees there were more personable than at Robert Mondavi.  Just our experience. 

That's it for now.  I'll be back to recap smaller wineries & good places to eat :-) I'm off to enjoy my Friday!

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