Kelly, my sister in law (and one of my fave people on earth) planned an incredible trip to Napa this past June to celebrate her big birthday! All three brothers and their wives went. So grateful for family who has so much fun together AND enjoys travel! Since Southwest doesn’t fly into Napa, we flew into Oakland and stayed in Berkeley for the night. We had a yummy Korean food at Berkeley Social Club before going to bed early. Let’s be real. We’re no spring chickens and we needed all the rest we could get before a couple of fun but long days!
The day started bright and early with our drive to Napa. It was just under an hour with the most gorgeous views. We had breakfast at Southside Century and obviously used their cute patio for this photo op.
After breakfast, Hotel Indigo in Napa allowed us to store our bags before check-in. Then we grabbed sandwiches and sides from the authentic Italian Genova Deli to take with us for lunch later. My brother in law’s friend and wife live in California and they joined us for this first day. We hit it off immediately and had the best time!
For the Platypus Tours, you can choose between a private tour or a join-in tour. Because there were 8 in our party, we chose the private tour. You answer a questionnaire about your wine preferences, budget, dietary restrictions, winery type etc. You can either have the tour pick your 3 wineries, or you can request specific wineries. We asked to go to Chateau Montelena since it was high on our list but also the furthest from our hotel. Then, we let them choose the other 2 and surprise us! Our main input was that we preferred smaller, boutique wineries for this day vs large well established wineries. Our tour lasted from 10am to 4pm. They picked us up and dropped us off.
The grounds of Chateau Montelena were absolutely stunning! It’s at the top of Napa Valley in Calistoga and is known as one of the oldest and prettiest wineries in Napa. The estate was established in 1882 and includes a castle, Chinese garden, lake, and vineyards that go all the way to the base of Mt. St. Helena. Michael told us the story of his over 45 years ago, a Chardonnay from this winery actually beat out the top whites of the Burgundy region of France during a blind tasting. It involved only French judges and is known as “Judgement of Paris.” Many think that this honor made Chateau Montelena the winery that put Napa on the map. While the grounds were stunning and the wines were good, they were very expensive and the tasting felt a bit impersonal and cold overall.
Our next winery was the charming Bremer Family Winery. It couldn’t have been more different from the Chateau! The tasting with Bill was great. He was down to earth and humble as he shared all about the family wines and even took us on a tour of the cave! They were hospitable and thought nothing of letting us stay and eat our lunches at the large picnic table.
Our final tasting of the day was at ZD wines. The view was beautiful and the wine was good. But by Winery #3, the giggly party I was with was my favorite part!
We had our Platypus driver drop us off in downtown Napa at Sky and Vine rooftop bar for drinks and apps. Then for dinner, we walked down the road to Gott’s Roadside, a yummy diner where I had a burger and onion rings that I’m still thinking about to this day. We said goodbye to Lauren and Dave and Ubered back to our hotel.
We Ubered to breakfast at Bouchon Bakery and walked around adorable downtown Yountville. It was like Star’s Hollow, but on a champagne budget. Totally on my shortlist of towns to buy a second home in if we ever win the lotto. Bouchon is well-known and now has locations as far away as NYC. Apparently the line is outside the door no matter when you go, but I can honestly say it was worth the wait! They have pastries, sandwiches, and fun desserts. I had a chocolate almond croissant and grabbed macarons for later!
Then we took an Uber to our first winery of the day, Peju, where we had a 45 minute tasting. The estate includes beautiful gardens, a koi pond, and fun “Dr. Seuss” trees, which were sycamores the owner weighted at the tops for his daughters when they were young! We really enjoyed our snack (cheese, nuts and crackers) and tasting with Mari and brought home a bottle of their Carnivál!
We took a casual 1.5 mile stroll straight down Saint Helena Highway to Oakville Grocery for lunch. The chicken salad sandwich and bottle of Coke hit the spot!
Our second winery of the day was Stag’s Leap Cellars (not to be confused with Stag’s Leap Winery). It’s first release in 1973, a Cabernet Sauvignon, beat world-famous reds at the “Judgement of Paris” and in turn put Napa Cabs on the map. There are floor to ceiling windows that provide the most gorgeous view of the mountains, but we sat on the patio where we could enjoy it even more.
Our final winery of the day was Whetstone. It has a prime location on two acres in the heart of Napa Valley. The tasting salon is inside a French-style chateau built in 1885. Giant cedar and oak trees surround the chateau and property. The combination of the trees and the ivy-covered chateau create the most charming setting! For reference, the Historic Del Dotto Winery (there are 3 total Del Dotto properties) is right next door.
THIS was my favorite winery of the trip! We were their last tasting of the day and had the place to ourselves. The hostesses were so kind and attentive, yet they made us feel like we could really take our time. Their soulful playlist was everything and Ace, the wine dog, hung out by our table and made me never want to leave. The restroom is inside the chateau and upstairs. We were invited to look around the apartment. The shutters opening out for a breeze reminded me of Provence and the vintage double ovens were so cool! We brought home a 2016 Syrah that we’re saving for a special occasion.
Dinner was Italian at Il Posto Trattoria. My pasta was ok but honestly, I regretted not getting the carbonara.
For our final day in Napa, we started at Piazza Del Dotto Winery & Cave for a tour of the vineyards and a tasting. There are three Del Dotto wineries. We wanted to go to their Estate Winery & Cave, but it is closed on Tuesdays so we chose their Piazza Winery & Cave location instead. This tasting was 90 minutes. All of the décor was imported from Italy. The grounds were beautiful, including multiple oversized arched trellises covered in vines. We started with a pour of white, then we entered the marble cave where we had our reds taken directly from the barrels. The end of the tasting included a last pour with a snack of homemade sourdough pizza!
Our last winery of our getaway was at Cosentino Winery. The property here was gorgeous as well. The building was covered in ivy and there is a gorgeous, large, paver patio with an oversized stone fireplace. We did our tasting on the patio which was near the road and didn’t overlook a vineyard, but with the pretty patio we almost didn’t notice! George did our tasting and was so great. He was knowledgeable and witty. The wines were delicious and really reasonably priced. Our group shipped a total of 10 bottles back home (3 of which were ours). We all loved the 2019 Cigar line and purchased the bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet and the old vine zinfandel. We also grabbed a 2019 Sangiovese. Shipping was free and our tasting fee was waived. Jackpot!
The girls said goodbye to the guys and we were off to SF separately! The brothers had several more guys fly in to join them for a few days of Royals games and sights in San Francisco. The sisters had a day and a half there to do the stuff we thought looked like fun!
None of us had been to Napa before and we had the best time! I think about the gorgeous properties, laughs, Yountville, and wines every time we open ANY bottle of wine! What is the one thing I would do differently next time? I’d honestly skip the Platypus tour. This was probably essential pre-Ubers, but it just doesn’t make sense financially anymore. Our driver was kind but it was a VERY pricey service. I’d prefer to share Ubers and spend the extra cash on more bottles to bring home!
- Whetstone Winery
- Cosentino Winery
- Del Dotto
- Bouchon + downtown of Yountville because it’s the absolute cutest!
- Gott’s for delicious diner food and drinks!
- Honestly, if you’re in the Calistoga area, I would say don’t miss Chateau Montelena. It is beautiful and you can walk the grounds for free!