I’ve wanted to go to wine country for years and years and years.
Dave and I had been planning to venture to Sonoma Valley this weekend for our maiden voyage to the vineyards. Coincidentally later in the week, we were offered a great opportunity to attend an event in Napa Valley, so we went there instead.
First of all, the drive to Napa Valley is just gorgeous. There are lush hills, green trees, amazing scents of grapes and some very fresh air. It’s a quick trip, and we arrived at our first stop, Sutter Home Family Winery, in just a little more than an hour after leaving our apartment.
We were there to attend “Live in the Vineyard – An Intimate Pairing of Music, Wine & Food”. The long name certainly does this event justice!
Not open to the public, this event was exclusively for winners of radio station contests and other VIPs (clearly we were the only randoms not falling into either category, but we did our best to blend). The first event included complimentary tastings of all the Sutter Home family of wines from the Trinchero Family Estates, including Ménage à Trois, Napa Cellars, Folie à Deux and even a lovely white wine that comes in a juice-box-carton called Bandit.
This tasting gave me the opportunity to try quite a few new things — one item of note was the pink pinot grigio. I can certainly see that wine, with its pretty color and light taste, being a staple at bridal and baby showers.
All of the wine was complemented by a few tables of food, where you could help yourself to various meats, cheeses, dried fruit, desserts and other tasty nibblies. My favorite food item was the fig. True story. Figs are just so delicious.
After circling the spreads, we filled our handy wooden plates equipped with cut-out wine glass holders, and set up at a cocktail table before the music performance began. This was our first “socializing” of the day, where we chatted with two ladies, who were from Connecticut and Martha’s Vineyard. This was the first of many times throughout the day when people asked where we were from, and I had to qualify it each time: “We’re from San Francisco, but we just moved here, so we’re somewhat from Orlando.”
After a cocktail hour (which began at 11 a.m. by the way), it was time for the “live” part of the event. The performer was Paloma Faith, a soulful young singer from the U.K., who has an album coming out in the U.S. in December. She had a great voice and put on an entertaining show, perfect for the small crowd. It was such a close, intimate performance, where she even walked out into the audience and tried to start a dance party during one of her more catchy numbers. I took a picture with her after the event, just in case she really makes it big one day!
I truly enjoyed the atmosphere of the event, it was unlike anything I had ever been to before. You could see the rolling hills of Napa in the background and even walk out into the vineyard to touch the grapes, all the while enjoying food, wine and music.
After the event we had some free time to explore Napa before the evening’s activities. Having received several recommendations, we only had time to fit in two stops, so we had a plan of where to head.
We went to V. Sattui, which is a winery as well as a deli and a store. It was such a cool place, with people sitting outside having picnics and local artists selling their work in the courtyard. We did a tasting inside in the tasting room, which was only $10 for six different wines. As a note, we’ve now learned that some wineries charge for their tastings and others don’t. Our barista just so happened to be part of the owner’s family, which we noticed by seeing the last name of Sattui on her nametag. She told us about where the wines were made, and she offered descriptions of each before we tasted … don’t you love when they use trees, nature and material objects to describe how something is supposed to taste? She also took our picture and insisted we hold the product during our pose. See below for that one.
After V. Sattui, it was time for our next stop, which was Alpha Omega winery. This place offered us a completely different wine tasting experience. Alpha Omega is much smaller, with just one main tasting room and outdoor seating in front of a huge infinity pool. There was no deli, no food, and no store in sight, it was much more upscale and less busy. We asked for a particular person who was recommended to us (also named Ashley) and she was a wealth of knowledge about the wine and local area. After finding a seat outside we relaxed for nearly an hour-and-a-half watching the beautiful scenery and trying the Alpha Omega family of wines. My favorite of the day was the oaked chardonnay, which was some of the best white wine I’ve ever had. I’m a fan of most wines, so I don’t discriminate if it has color and was also partial to the Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon. I honestly couldn’t describe a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than to sit at a little winery, learn about great wine, chat and taste different varieties. We could’ve stayed at Alpha Omega all day, but we had to quickly get to our hotel, change and head out for the night.
The evening’s events for “Live in the Vineyard” included a concert at the Uptown Theatre in downtown Napa. This old theatre only seats about 800 people, so it was a pretty close concert setting as well (however much larger than the daytime performance). We saw Grace Potter, Alanis Morissette, Adam Lambert and Delta Rae. I really enjoyed all of the performances, but mostly Alanis Morissette because her songs bring me back to my middle school days. She belted out the lyrics, played the guitar and filled the venue with teenage angst. 🙂
The night wasn’t over there. In fact, the last stop was a late-night concert at The Westin, which once again was a totally different experience.
I should probably leave out that we completed our fabulous day in wine country by going to Denny’s at 1 a.m., but there, I’ve said it.
There are more than 400 wineries with tasting rooms in Napa Valley, so there is a whole world of places to explore. Having wanted to visit the area for so long, I had so much anticipation, and yet it was even better than I expected. It was very much laid back, very much relaxing, and very much pleasing to the senses.
However, there is one thing we would do differently on our next visit to wine country, and that’s make a plan to hop in a party bus or group limo so we could be chauffeured from stop to stop.
We left Napa in the morning on Sunday knowing we would be back again soon.
Cocktail hour starts before lunch, everyone has a smile on their face and there’s plenty of fun to be had. Oh, and there’s a Denny’s.