Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today I got some insight into how my European friends can go off on holiday to some little village in France or Italy and stay there for a week or so with no car and never get bored or want to get out of town. We Americans are so accustomed to frantically driving from place to place when we vacation that we forget to take time to smell the roses or, as was the case with us today, taste the wine.

We never left Yountville today and we had a busy day, all by just walking around town.

What inspired today's activities was an ad I saw in this week's "Yountville Sun" (August 6, 2009) with a map of Yountville's Wine Walk. The map showed 7 wine tasting rooms along Washington Street on a stretch than can't be much more than a mile long, maybe less. The ad even mentioned that if you get too tired to walk back to your lodging, you can phone the Free Yountville Shuttle to come pick you up. This intrigued me even though I am usually skeptical of wine tasting rooms that are not right at a winery.

So after my workout at the Yountville Fitness Center, I joined up with Jim and Louie for our first mid-morning wine tasting at the Hill Family Estate.

There is a real Hill family who have been growing grapes in the Napa Valley for many years but who only in the past decade or so have been making their own wines. Their Yountville tasting room was an antique store and part of the space remains the antique store. The tasting room is set among antiques and wine-related memorabilia...be sure to have a look at the surf board stained with their wine.

We tasted, and purchased, at Hill Family and then walked across the street to the Yountville Tasting Station where the wines of Page Cellars and Cornerstone Cellars are featured.

It was here that we realized that the many tasting rooms that have sprung up in Yountville are a way that smaller wineries can showcase their wines. From the standpoint of a visitor like myself, the tasting rooms offer me a convenient way to sample many wines without having to drive from winery to winery and, in the case of the smaller boutique wineries that I often seek out, make a special appointment for a private tour and tasting. I know I tasted a lot more today because I was on foot than I would have had I been driving.

We finished out the morning at the Yountville Tasting Station and came away with Page's Revolver Red Wine and a Sauvignon Blanc. We also purchased a bottle of Atlas Peak Olive Oil...there is Olive Oil tasting here too.

The Tasting Station has plans to open a fromagerie on this same site in the near future (specialty cheese shop).

We made a quick stop by our room to leave off our wine and then walked up to the parking lot at Pancha's, a local bar, to get lunch from the Tacos Garcia Taco Truck.

The Taco Truck is a whole story in itself. According to our friend Jerilee, who has a house in town, the Yountville locals have been bemoaning the lack of affordable dining spots in town. Pancha's got a Napa Taco Truck to set up in its lot and on day one, a month or so ago, it sold out in a few hours. The truck is such a hit that locals are actually bringing their own tables and chairs over there to dine in the lot. We never would have discovered the truck on our own as it looks like just another "roach coach" and is parked far off the street. But today, ordering off the highest end of the menu we had a Torta Cubana (Cuban sandwich) and a Meat Quesadilla for $12.

We took our food to a nearby park and ate well! The Taco Truck arrives every day but Sunday at about 11 a.m. and stays into the early dinner hour.

After lunch we walked through the extensive gardens of the French Laundry restaurant across the street.

One day Chef/owner Thomas Keller will build his own inn here but for now he raises vegetables and fruits for his restaurant on this land.

By now it was time for more tasting. We stopped at Maisonry, Jessup, and finally Hope & Grace. Maisonry features the wines of several boutique wineries.

Jessup and Hope & Grace feature their own wines.

Hope & Grace is a four person operation. We got to meet the owners when they stopped in.

At each place there was wine, art, and a lovely space for tasting.

Just about all the tasting rooms charge for a tasting of three to six wines. Most charge $10 to $20 and it is refunded if you purchase wine. We were impressed with the beauty of the Yountville tasting rooms and the knowledge of their staffs. It was a true wine tasting experience with everything but a tour of the winery and grape vines in the back yard.

While tasting in the afternoon, we passed Thomas Keller twice as he walked around town checking in at his restaurants and bakery...French Laundry, Bouchon. Ad Hoc, and Bouchon Bakery...in much the same way we've seen chefs in France strolling around their towns.

We strolled through Van De Leur Park, one of Louie's favorite walking destinations,

before heading back home to the Vintage Inn and afternoon tea.

Dinner was at Chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega, one of the Valley's newest and "hottest" restaurants.

Chef Chiarello was the chef who opened Tra Vigne in St. Helena many years ago. Since then, he has remained involved with food, wine, and his Napa Style stores and catalog sales. Bottega was so good, I am already planning my return visit.

We shared a Warm Frissée Salad.

Jim's main course was Alaska Salmon with honey roasted tomato sauce. The salmon was on a bed of zucchini that was cut like fettuccine and sauced with the tomato sauce.

I had a Rattatouile Tart in a Marscarpone Crust; it was served with an Arugula Salad.

Our shared dessert was White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Fried Rhubarb strips and fresh rhubarb garnish...amazing!

Just as we were leaving, Michael Chiarello came by to say hello!

Can't have a much better day than this one...wine, good food, seeing two famous chefs...all this and more and we never left town.

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