Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Today was a more leisurely day for us.

We hung out by the pool until close to noon. Then we headed toward St. Helena, making our first stop at the Louis Martini Winery.

When we came to California in the 1970s, there were just a handful of wineries in the Napa Valley. Louis Martini, dating back to 1933, was one of them. As the number of Napa Valley wineries started to multiply rapidly, we tended to visit the new ones and to forget about the old standbys.

It's been years since we have stopped at Martini and now, we were happy to discover that, under the auspices of the third generation of the family, it is still thriving and a lot more upscale than it used to be.

For the first time ever in the Napa Valley, we were told that Louie could not be in the tasting room. But we were offered what turned out to be a very nice alternative; to do our tasting in their outdoor picnic area.

We tasted three red wines and relaxed for about an hour.

What we especially liked was that we had three different glasses for the wines which enabled us to taste comparatively, rather than tasting from one glass sequentially.

When I complimented the tasting room staff on the multiple glasses, he told me that this is how they do their tastings during the week but on weekends, when it is much busier in the Napa Valley, they have to go back to the one-glass sequential tastings.

By now, it was time for lunch. After all the eating and drinking this week, a shared sandwich from the Safeway in St. Helena was just what we wanted. We took it to a park for our picnic lunch.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in St. Helena.

I got a new skirt at Daisy, Louie got cookies at Fideaux, and we got some tabletop items at Vanderbilt. Our last stop was at Napa Valley Olive Oil for their olive oil, some Molinari salami, and a few other Italian specialty food items.

Dinner tonight was at the new Bardessono. We walked through this new Yountville hotel and spa when we were in the Valley this Spring and were curious about it and its restaurant. Yesterday at the Yountville Tasting Station we got to talking with the staff about dining in Yountville and the owner of Cornerstone Vineyards highly recommended Bardessono. So we reserved for dinner tonight.

The dining room is large and elegant in a simple Zen sort of way. There is also outdoor seating but we thought it was too hot to dine out tonight.

As we experienced last night at Bottega, we were offered complimentary water, still or sparkling. I like this current trend away from bottled water and respect all restaurants who realize that we have very good water in most of Northern California, right out of the tap. Restaurants who give up the profits from selling imported bottled water, in the name of ecology, are worth patronizing.

While Bardessono's menu is pretty high end, with main course prices between $25 and $35, the dining room does offer a three-course fixed price ($29) menu which is a something of a bargain. Tonight's fixed price menu consisted of a green salad, Chicken coq au vin style, and an ice cream sundae.

We ordered à la carte, starting (both of us) with the Onsen Tamago, a gazpacho with a soft poached egg. It was garnished with fresh tomatoes, cucumber, olives, and edible flowers...beautiful and delicious.

Once we had ordered, we were treated to an amuse bûche of Eggplant Soup. I am inspired to try making this from the eggplants in my garden; it was wonderful!

Jim's main course was the Day Boat Alaskan Halibut.

I chose the Hook & Line Atlantic Cod.

Four of the eight Main Courses were fresh fish. I like menus like this!

Our soup was tasty and creative. We both enjoyed our fish choices but I found that the butter sauce on my cod was too rich for my taste and could not finish it. The breads accompanying our meal are all baked in house and are outstanding.

In the spirit of slowing down a bit today, we ate less and did not order dessert.

After dinner we discovered that Wednesday nights at Bardessono, from 6 to 9 p.m. is Dive Bar night at the pool. The rooftop pool is usually open only to hotel guests but on Wednesday nights, it is open to the public. For Dive Bar, the pool bar serves special cocktails and a special sandwich is sold for $5. We walked up to the pool just to see it and there sure was a party going on here, in and out of the pool.

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