Napa Valley mini vacation, day one

When I couldn’t come up with anything I wanted for my birthday, Jan decided we’d take a last-minute getaway to Napa Valley, taking advantage of his mid-week days off to experience it without the crowds. Neither of us had been to Napa Valley before, so we did some research on bed and breakfasts in the area, Jan found a good deal at Napa’s Old World Inn, and we booked a room for the next night. 

We arrived a few hours before check-in, but the innkeepers graciously took us to our room (which had Ghirardelli chocolate squares on the pillows, they really knew how to win me over!) and informed us of the various items on the inn’s schedule: freshly baked chocolate chip cookies would be put out in the library at 3 p.m., appetizers and wine tasting in the dining room at 5:30 p.m., desserts at 7 p.m., and breakfast served the next morning at 9 a.m. Just as I was starting to think I should be writing this down, they offered their suggestions for places to visit that afternoon and circled those on the map.

Grapevines at Goosecross

For me, wine tasting is one of those things that’s better in theory than reality, as I’ve learned I can’t handle tasting at more than one winery without feeling the need to curl up for a midday nap. The next solution would be to taste the wine without drinking the wine, but that, along with all the wine sniffing and glass swirling, seemed a bit too much for me. I just want to drink good wine. So, without aspirations to be wine connoisseurs, we headed north on the Silverado trail for an afternoon drive. 

Bread selection at Bouchon Bakery

 I was also curious to see Yountville, a town with probably more fine dining restaurants per capita than any other place I’d experienced. Right away, we saw celebrity chef Thomas Keller posing for pictures for tourists in front of the French Laundry. We peeked into Bottega and Bouchon, both often referenced on Top Chef, but they offered far more than the small snack we needed, and we finally settled on the wheat-stalk-shaped epi baguette with butter and jam from the more modest Bouchon Bakery.

Old World Inn wine tasting

 We arrived back just in time for the inn’s happy hour, but we weren’t the first ones there, as the other guests seem to have had the same idea. While tasting a Merlot from winery Folie à Deux, we met Lindsay and Joe from Ottawa, Canada who seemed just as excited as us to take advantage of the complimentary happy hour.

After exhausting the allotted supply of the tasting hour’s wine and appetizers, we wanted to continue the party, and our new friends invited us to drink a bottle of Syrah they had purchased at Burgess Cellars during their wine tasting earlier. 

Shrimp cocktail on the balcony

 While Jan ran to the Safeway across the street for a baguette, some brie, strawberries, and shrimp cocktail, we set up on the balcony outside our friends’ room. Before we knew it, it was 7 p.m. and time for the desserts to be put out in the library. Lindsay and I returned with chocolate covered almonds, chocolate covered apricots and brownies. After enjoying the extended wine tasting and finishing the bottle, we said goodbye to our new friends and set out to find some dinner in downtown Napa.

Cheeseburger at Buckhorn Grill

After all that wine and cheese, we weren’t looking for something too big, so we shared an avocado-swiss-bacon burger and onion rings from the Buckhorn Grill, a place that reminded me of Fresno’s own Doghouse Grill. Now thoroughly stuffed, we walked back to the inn to rest up for another day in wine country. To be continued.

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