Thursday, August 14, 2008

Napa Valley...Day Four

'Tis our last full day in the Valley and I am wishing the real world was not calling me back.

I got up before 6 a.m. in hopes of seeing some hot air balloons in the sky, but, it was not be be...a bit of fog that burned off by 8 a.m. but by then the window of time for ballooning had passed. Many ballooning companies take their guests out toward Davis or other places outside the Valley to balloon on foggy or cloudy mornings. This is a picture of the fog starting to lift over our pool this morning.

The highlight of today was an Olive Oil Tour and Tasting at Round Pond Vineyards in Rutherford.

We heard about this tasting last year from some friends who do not drink wine. I've had it on my list to do and this morning was the time. The tour/tasting lasts about an hour and a half. First our guide Mary Dee took us out into Round Pond's vineyard and olive grove...their olive trees grow all over the property, whereever there are no grape vines.

Then we saw the production facility and learned how olive oil is made.

A bit of Olive Oil info: Did you know that it is a waste to cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil because the oil loses its nutritional and taste properties at 300 degrees? Better to just use Pure Olive oil or some oil that is not as pricey, as long as it is fresh.

Then we went into the tasting room where we sampled, out of special Olive Oil tasting glasses, 4 made with Spanish Olives, one made with Italian Olives, a Meyer Lemon Oil, and a Blood Orange Oil.

Mary Dee instructed us in tasting technique. We used apple slices to cleanse our palate between tasting. The glasses are blue because tasters should not be influenced by the color of the oil; color does not matter.

After that, we tasted Round Pond's wine made with Italian grape varietals, the other made with French varietals.The sugar cubes are for the vinegar tasting; we poured vinegar on the cubes and sucked it out.

Our final exercise was to pair tomatoes, salad greens, fresh mozzarella, basil and bread with our own choice of mixes of oils and vinegars. Also, Mary Dee suggested we try fresh strawberries dipped in the Blood Orange Oil...that was so good that I bought a bottle of the Blood Orange Oil.

A last "treat" before we left was a spoon of freshly-made vanilla ice cream, topped with Spanish Olive Oil and sea salt...very interesting!

The cost of the tour is $25 per person. Reservations are required. Each group...there are three tastings a up to 6 people. I highly recommend scheduling this tour/tasting on your next Napa Valley visit.

We then spent the afternoon wandering around St. Helena, mostly shopping. We always stop at the fabulous home furnishings and gift shop, Vanderbilt & Co. We also sipped coffee on the patio of the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company and I discovered that they have free wifi as well as good coffee and pastries. Of course, Louie insisted on some shopping at Fideaux, his favorite Napa Valley dog boutique...he did a cookie sampling before purchasing a mixed bag of cookies.

Our final St. Helena stop was at the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufactury

where we have been buying our every day olive oil for more than 30 years...there is nothing as good as this is and the price is oh so reasonable. I always stock up here on Italian specialty foods I got anchovies in a jar, tiny ravioli from Italy, and a Molinari salami...the salami always tastes best from the Olive Oil Manufactury.

Dinner tonight was at the Rutherford Grill where Louie is welcome to dine with us on the outdoor patio.The Rutherford Grill is another place where the locals congregate. On this balmy summer night, we had to wait about half an hour for a patio table. With glasses of wine in hand, we sat on a wall and indulged in people watching. Time passed quickly as we realized that just about everyone here was with either family or friends from the area. Once seated, we started with the night's special appetizer, Queso Dip with Tortilla Chips...this cheese and chile dip was just the thing to start our dinner. J ordered the roast half Chicken which came with Very Wild Rice. I ordered the night's fresh fish: Loup de Mer (Mediterranean Sea Bass). My fish was a whole fish, split in half and boned before being grilled. The accompanying fresh vegetables were perfectly cooked Romano and Yellow Beans, dressed with Olive Oil and Parmesan Cheese...a cold bean salad that I will attempt to duplicate at home. The Very Wild Rice that accompanied J's Chicken was mixed with fresh corn, almonds and what tasted like a spicy oil. For dessert we shared the two Oreo Ice Cream Sandwiches with Chocolate Sauce...these were not your ordinary Oreos...more like Oreos on steroids. We devoured everything.

And, while we tried to eat our meals, Louie made great sport of catching the flies who were attracted to our food...he missed more than he caught, but he sure kept busy.

One final image: Isn't this a unique wine country bicycle rack? There are two of them in front of the V Marketplace.

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