Oh, and as usual, none of the wineries / restaurants / stores / blah blah blah mentioned here are paid or solicited placements in any way, though I'm volunteering right here & now to be sponsored by any of the below. Pretty please?
After my decadent afternoon in bed and Bouchon dinner, I was a little afraid that our second day of vacation, devoted to wine tasting in the Russian River Valley area (approx. 45 minutes from our Napa lodgings), couldn't possibly live up to the first.
Darlings, I'm happy to report that I was wrong - though that could just be because the Anonymous Husband and I partook in only a light breakfast before hitting the vineyards with some local family, which is how things like this happen:
Ever seen those wine snobs who, with all the pomp & circumstance they can muster, taste a wine and then spit it out? Readers, the Prettys are not those people. Though the burgeoning wine connoiseur AH has me swirling and sniffing the stuff before I taste now, there's no way I'm (a) spitting in public (b) spitting out good wine anywhere, whether in public or private.
It was in that spirit that we - and our designated driver, praise be to her - hit up our first & one of the best wineries, DuMOL Wines. It has the esteemed distinction of being the one winery for which we're actually wine club members *waves jazz hands*. We were confused upon arrival, since instead of the rolling vineyards and foo-foo tasting room we expected, we walked into what looked like an industrial park warehouse:
Which was because we were, in fact, walking not only into where DuMOL's excellent small-production wines are stored and bottled, but also the most helpful education I've ever received on the subject. The apprentice winemaker herself took us around the facility as we
|That turkey baster thing you see was used to draw wine out of the barrels - who knew?|
You cannot go wrong any of DuMOLs choices, but I will say the pinots were uniformly excellent & my favorite. I highly, highly recommend the tour and the pre-order wine club *jazz hands*. If trying to book a tour here, check with the office first, since I believe they tour by appointment only; we weren't even charged a tasting fee, but I suspect that may have had to do with the wine club membership *jazz hands*.
Just to directly contradict what I've just said - because where can you be flagrantly inconsistent if not on your own blog? - I recommend our next vineyard mostly for its stunning scenery:
We started off our visit at Pezzi King, another small-production winery, with a poolside boxed lunch (insanely good, BTW - more on that later) and tasting, basking in the sun as we admired their hillside vineyards - and charming dog Riley. I may have pinched myself a time or two to make sure this was in fact my lucky, lucky life.
As if that wasn't enough, the winemaker then took us on an ATV tour of the grounds, giving us yet another education for the day on wine production - and Pretty views.
The wines here were too bold for my taste - if you can brace yourself for some pretentious wine-speak, I prefer a smoother merlot or pinot to their bigger, bolder cabs and zinfandels - though the "big red" drinkers in our group adored them. Between the customer service and the views I recommend this place. Again, call ahead to book your tasting and tour ($20 per person, with fee waived if you buy); at the smaller places like this without a dedicated "tasting" room per se, that seemed to be the usual practice.
In what proved to be a bit of foreshadowing, that potent cocktail of sunshine, scenery and wine resulted in our (and by "our" I mean "the AH") buying too much wine. Which continued at our next stop:
Arista Winery, home to my favorite wine of the day and at least one of my future weddings (Kidding, AH! Unless you buy any more wine anytime soon! Exclamation point!). This place combined the best of the pinot I love and scenery, with a friendly, non-foo-foo tasting room staff to boot:
For the mere price of $10, you too can do a tasting here and sample (read: buy - ahem, AH) entirely too much of the pinot:
|Enter mid-afternoon hangover - can you tell how badly we need one more nap and one less pinot by then?|
Skipping the next, mediocre place we visited and heading directly to . . .
The food, the FOOD! For the love of Nordstrom, did we ever have some excellent food that day, thanks to that hotbed of good food and the yuppies who worship it, Healdsburg.
That incredible boxed lunch I mentioned before came from Oakville Grocery, which is only a so-called grocery store in the same sense that Halle Berry is a normal human being - it's much Prettier than whatever you've experienced back home. Our tasting troop leader helpfully called in our order ahead of time & the vineyard picked it up for us, voila.
And then came BarnDiva for dinner, a restaurant dedicated to the "slow food" concept and provider of one of my finest meals in recent memory. You know when you can not only recall what you ordered at a meal, but your mouth starts to water at the very memory? That. Yes:
This crab cake with the California avocados on top was just . . . was just . . . and the lobster risotto that followed, with just the right, elusive sticky factor to the rice was . . . beyond. Between that and the delightful cougar scene at the trendy bar, I was in my happy place.
Quite tragically, we arrived in Healdsburg just after most of the wee, darling boutiques on the main square closed, but this prepster place looked like it had a TDF selection of Operation MILF-y clothes I could have happily bankrupted myself over.
After a long drive back to Napa, we were ready to collapse in preparation for Day 3, braving the Silverado Trail - and the entertaining eccentrics who work there. More tomorrow . . .