Day 1: Three Perfect Days in Napa and Sonoma Valley

Sally and I have just returned from our annual tasting trip to Napa Valley and the surrounding regions. This year, we spent two days tasting in Napa Valley and one day in Sonoma Valley. As always, it was a terrific trip with lots of great wine, food, and adventures!

We spent most of Day 1 tasting at wineries in the town of Napa.

Jarvis. It's worth the trip up here for the tour itself! They are located in the hills east of downtown Napa and you can get some impressive views from the grounds. The entire wine-making operation is located in caves dug into the mountain, so it is a very unique experience. We half-expected Oompa-Loompas to appear while we were on our tour because it has many Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory qualities. Their wines are incredibly flavorful and delicate and the wine maker has clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. This comes out in the taste and the price ($90+ for most of their wines).

Details: $40 per person for a 1.5 hour tour. Call 1-800-255-5280 ext. 150 or book online.

Cosentino. We visited their Napa wine room (they are also in Lodi) and enjoyed some big, very drinkable wines. Our favorites were the '07 Napa Chardonnay (crisp without being too acidic, very nice for every day drinking), a '06 Sangiovese (smooth and well-balanced to go well with a variety of meals), the '07 Zinfandel ("the Zin", jammy and yummy), '06 Estate Zinfandel (peppery taste with a smooth finish, a good pair with 'earthier' food), and the '05 Cabernet Sauvignon (a solid cab with soft tannins that would go well with food).

PlumpJack. Their Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a special treat. We always stop by for a bottle of their current release when we are in Napa.

Jessup Cellars. We got a hot tip (and a coupon for a free tasting) from the Napa Valley visitors center. What a great experience! We were offered a cheese plate as we walked in and were invited to sit down at a table. Their wine room has a lot of small tables in different nooks and corners and everything is surrounded by art. Our host sat down with us and explained the wine as she poured and we tasted. The highlight for us was definitely their '06 Zinfandel Port, which was sweet with a pepper finish. Yum!

We stayed at the Napa River Inn. This place is a real gem. It's located in the heart of downtown Napa, so there are many restaurants within walking distance (important after a long day of wine tasting). Their service is excellent and the rooms are comfortable and nicely appointed. Spend a couple extra bucks to upgrade from their standard room and you'll get a fire place and/or a balcony (we had both). Their complex also has two restaurants (Celedon and Angele), a wonderful bakery (Sweetie Pies), and a wine and jazz club (Silos).

Breakfast: We always start our days in Napa at Sweetie Pies for three reasons. First, their light pastries and coffee is outstanding. Second, its a good source of scoop since many locals drop by in the morning and are happy to share some tips. Third, we get a free breakfast with each night's stay at the Napa River Inn.

Lunch: Our lunch was at another favorite stop - Oakville Grocery in Oakville. Their deli is amazing and the bistro tables and picnic tables scattered around the grounds are a great way to enjoy a light meal while taking in views of Napa Valley.

Dinner: We dined at Ristorante Allegria, which offers good "comfort" Italian food at reasonable prices and is stumbling distance from the Napa River Inn. Their service is always warm and friendly and their bar will serve up your favorite cocktail or a nice glass of wine. What's not to like?

Posted on February 3, 2010 and filed under Adventures.