Tannins, Caves and Smokey Oak - Oh My

1.12.10 Ali Moore 6 Comments

This post is excessive.  It must be the holidays creeping into my system when it's so hard not to go overboard.  People expect it, even.  But as excessive as it is, it's really doesn't even do the fun we had in Napa nearly enough justice.

I am not exaggerating blog peeps.  Plan your next vacation for Napa.  Everything about it is wonderful.  Our weather, 75+ and sunny, was beautiful.  The wine was sooo good.  The scenery was amazing.  Literally, everywhere I looked I saw hundreds of possibilities for pictures.  Best. Vacation. EVER.

Admittedly, Andrew and I haven't gotten to spend a ton of time with Adam and Emily since we got married, moved to Wichita and they got married and moved to Denver.  But we just had the best time with them.  We talked about everything, the boys bonded over ESPN (maybe a little too much), and we all just really enjoyed the experience of being in a new place, trying new things and drinking A LOT of wine.

Props to Emily.  She had the idea of renting a house instead of reserving a hotel room like we normally would have.  Napa Yellow House, I miss you.

You and your charming exterior, cozy living room and huge king-sized bed.  Heaven.  Don't tell Andrew about the bed, though.  I told him we can never have a king-sized bed because then I can't tell if he's sleeping in it or not and there's zero chance to cuddle.  Ha, needy much?  :)

Monday morning we drove the surprisingly short trip north from San Francisco to Napa for our first wine tasting appointment at Del Dotto.  A previous co-worker had recommended this winery to me and raved about the historic caves and a-mazing Cabernet.  It didn't disappoint.

These caves have been used to ferment wine for over 100 years.  Sure, they give an impressive effect, but more importantly, they keep the wine the correct moisture level and temperature to produce very expensive wine.  (Maybe I did learn something about wine...)  This was our most expensive tour/tasting, but worth it.  It's the only place we got to taste directly out of the barrel and our guide, a Fort Worth native, could probably tell we were not super knowledgeable, a.k.a. clueless, and let us ask a ton of questions to prepare ourselves for the rest of the trip. 

First winery tour and tasting - great success (say this in your best Borat voice.  It's more fun that way).

Quick stop in downtown Napa to grab lunch (grilled cheese, yes please) and a little regroup to plan the rest of our first afternoon.

We knew we were heading further north on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it only made sense to stay close to home.  Next stop, Silver Oak.  (Recognize this from their bottle?)

Great wines, super commercial experience.  That's okay, they had great scenery, and I got some great pics.  This is going to be how I start judging vacations.  Good pictures = good vacation.

Also, Andrew was pretty pysched since their facility was constructed from limestone salvaged from an old Kansas mill.  Holla!

Plus, on the way there (or maybe on the way back since we passed it and had to turn around...whichever...), we found this.  Ahhhh.

Just one of those moments you have to document.  Too bad Andrew and I look super awkward and like we only kind of like each other in this picture.

Especially compared to these two.  Geez, get a room.

So excited to be on vacation.  Wee!

Last stop of our first day, PlumpJack, just because Emily liked the name.  Glad she did.  Because we made a friend.  Meow.

Learning more about our new friend from creepo Emily.  (It was a girl.)

PlumpJack had good wines, good tunes and good picture possibilities.  Yes, please.  What a way to top off the day.

This is also when things got weird.  

Who crouches between grape vines?  Together?  Looks like they had a good time.

 Not that I have room to talk.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Haha.

Pulled it together.  Barely. 

Italian for dinner at Napa Yellow House, plus Cade wine we bought from PlumpJack and off to bed.  On Tuesday, we traveled north for our first tour/tasting of the day at Jordan Wineries.  I felt like we were driving up to a castle.  Their grounds were so stately, and I totally had to get my wobby face on.  (New word we made up on the trip...wine snobby.)

Jordan has great wines that were served with some pretty delicious food, except for what I think was goose liver.  I'll stick with the cheese.

And, wouldn't you know?  Snagged some good pics.  I really feel like the sun just shines better in Napa.  Everything I photographed was stunning, and I know it wasn't my amateur skills.

As much of a wobby Cecil was (our Jordan host), he gave great recos for the rest of our day.  Maybe he could just tell we were more into casual than over the top.  Doesn't matter, I loved our next stop.  Bella wineries is on a beautiful stretch of road in Napa.  And it just gets prettier and prettier as you get closer.

The fun doesn't stop there, folks.  The tasting room is located in a cave, but the best part of our visit was buying a bottle of wine to share on the hillside.  This is when I just kept thinking over and over, I love my life, I love my life, I love my life.


Cecil was on the money as he suggested we hit up Geyserville when we asked for an off-the-beaten-path lunch spot.

Yum.  Andrew was obsessed, as I'm sure you're not surprised by this since you know my hubs would eat pizza every day if he could.  Especially because this was brick oven pizza.  So good.  Much to his dismay, they import their flour from Italy.  Yikes.  Don't bring it up.

Bonus!  Cats were on on TV.  K....S.....U....WILDCATS!  Wine and a win; it's a great day.

Especially when the guys surprised us with a stop into Locals next door.

It's a co-op store where wineries with small productions are able to provide a venue for tastings with other brands like theirs.  The wine was really good, and I think we all really liked supporting the smaller, local wineries.  And, I loved the funky feel.

We spent a good chunk of the rest of the afternoon walking around Healdsburg Square, a cute little town with a lot of shops and eateries.

Obviously, we are super mature and can totally pull off being wobbies.

After a day full of wine, we obviously needed to splurge even more.  Adam found a bakery with some pretty convincing brownies, and I got frozen yogurt at a shop down the street.  Dang you, sweet tooth (as I am literally eating chocolate as I type this).  By the way, best picture I took of Adam the entire trip.  :)

Called it a day and made our way back to Napa.  I'm not the only one who likes to take pictures.  Photography by Andrew.  Website coming to a computer near you.  :)

It gets better, just you wait. 

On Wednesday morning, we decided to go all out.  It was our last full day in Napa, and we wanted to hit up as many wineries as we could.  After a quick run to the local coffee, we were on our way.

To a flour mill.  What can I say, my hubs loves his work.  Unfortunately for us, this old mill is only open on the weekends.  Whoops.  Guess we'll have to come back.

I must admit, I do think it'd be a pretty cool addition to your Napa Valley tour.  Just something different to throw into the mix of wineries.

Our first tasting on Wednesday was at St. Clement.  This winery had a lot of interesting history and centralized around a very old beautiful house.  Again, great wine, beautiful views, etc. etc.  Seriously, have you planned your trip yet??

Hello, rainbow.

Next stop - the Franciscan.  Again, a reco from a coworker, and although it was pretty commercial, our host made it seem more personalized.  Fred gave us way more tastings than we were supposed to have, plus a mini-tour and a ton of coupons for free tastings down the road.  Yes, please.  And, the really fun part about this winery is that we actually have distribution here in Wichita.  So we can enjoy it over and over again.

Fred also suggested we hit up Sequoia Grove, which just turned out to be Andrew's favorite winery of the trip.  They had these amazing wine glasses that made everyone look like a professional wine swirler.  (Wish that was my job...)  Seriously, they were really cool.  So cool I didn't even take a picture of them. I was too busy swirling.

This is how a lot of the trip went.  Andrew giving me "the look" to hurry up and get in the car and put away my camera.  Just trying to document the vacation for everyone!  Talk about pressure.

Our next stop at Cakebread was fantastic.

Everyone suggested we go here.  Everyone.  They do have great wines, and they do their tasting in more of a tour/tasting fashion which is pretty great for people like me.  People with cameras who take too many pictures.  Everything was just so pretty.  It's that crazy Napa light again.

Our guide.  Really into the wine.

Learning, learning, learning...

Picture of Andrew and me.  Except minus me, plus Adam.

And this may have been where things started to go downhill.  Or up, however you look at it.  I prefer up.  I'm a glass half-full kind of gal.  We had been to four wineries in one morning.  We needed to eat lunch.  Fast.

 Another Andrew Moore original on the way to downtown St. Helena.  Except I am really jealous he took this and not me.  It's one of my favorites from the entire trip.

Maybe it was the wine talking, but Ana's Cantina was some of the best food we ate throughout our entire vacation.  Or maybe it was because I miss Tex-Mex since I moved from Dallas.  Whatever, who cares.  This totally hit the spot.

The salsa was great, the guac was made fresh for the table, and I don't know who forgot to pass me the memo, but these burritos that everyone else got but me were so, so good.  So good.

Car is stopped, photo opp!

And, then something great happened.  On our way to our final two stops, Andrew pulled the car over.  We found it.  The golden hour.  The best part of the day where the sun makes everything you shoot magical.

Andrew is a great assistant.  This find was all his.  Until four other photographers showed up.  :)  Must have been a good spot.

One of the best parts of the trip for me, hands down.

But let's find some fun for my fellow travelers.  Let's do this.

We had really only intended to stop at Jessup Cellars in Yountville.  (By the way, SUPER cute town.  Would definitely recommend stopping for at least lunch here.)

But, Girard was just across the street.  And they were open late.  Like until 7pm, which is super late by the valley standards.  And, we had such a good time with Jeff, especially Emily since she asked him a lot of questions (maybe more than once).  Why stop now?

We didn't.  It was our last day.  Hit up both. 

I probably should have sat this one out.  But, when in Napa...

Another Andrew shot...I seemed to have a lot of these...

And, our tour de Napa ended at Bistro Don Giovanni for some delish Italian food.

Andrew's pizza was topped with French Fries.  So, Italian with American flair?  Whatevs, it was good.  What's a meal in Napa without a pic?

Maybe how we felt...

...but a little more accurate on how we actually looked.  The camera doesn't lie.

Capped the night off with a heart-to-heart with Emily in the hot tub (creepy?) and that was it.  Minus trying to find a redwood forest the next day where I may have gotten car sick and may or may not have thrown up after the curvy, hilly roads. 

Miss you Yellow House.

Miss you Emily and Adam.

Miss you vacation.


  1. This look SOOO fun! I want to go! I love the pics. And most of all.....I LOVE CAKEBREAD wine! Isn't it soooo delicious? The few times I have had it was when I worked at Deloitte because it's rather pricey. AH- so jealous!

    PS Love the leave/tree pictures! Gorgeous!

  2. These photos are beautiful!! I've seen pictures of my aunt's trips to Napa and have always wanted to go, and now I REALLY want to go!

  3. BEST POST EVER!!!!!! you are my hero... I am not working tomorrow so I can read this over and over!!! love you guys!

  4. A-MAZ-ING!!! Awesome pictures! Now I have the travel bug! I think you, Linnie, and I need to have a photo travel weekend!!

  5. These pictures are SO SO amazing! Definitely makes me want to book a trip today.

  6. Love your pictures! We have some pretty talented photographers from Hiawatha! I just live vicariously through you all...and am sure to travel to Napa at some point!